CHAPTER FIFTY-FOUR (draft)

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CHAPTER FIFTY-FOUR


The volcanic walls of the narrow vertical chute tunnel are pressing in around me, and there is no light, except the distant flickering shadows from other people's flashlights far up overhead, and the receding white glow of the huge cavern below.

It occurs to me, and I pull out my own flashlight that still has a faint amount of charge left in the battery. The flashlight casts an erratic, sickly yellow glow on the walls of the chute around me, as I rise and rise . . . up, up, up . . . angling my board at a slightly elevated position on a 30 degree slope, nose up, as I straddle it.

"Logan!" I cry out a few moments later. "Gracie? You there?"

"I'm here!" I hear Logan's strong voice coming from directly below me. "Keep going!"

And then a few seconds later, I hear Gracie reply.

"Watch for a hard curve up ahead!" The voice belongs to George.

Oh, thank the lord! George is here, is okay!

For the next few minutes we yell out things in the near-dark, just to hear each other's voices, just to know we're all still there.

The curves are wicked. The chute branches here and there, so that it is so easy to run head on into a wall or rock incline. I sing new hover commands every few seconds to correct for the changes in direction and movement.

This crazy vertical roller coaster ride goes on and on for interminable moments. . . .

At last, about fifteen minutes later, the chute tunnel straightens out and we are inside a long and wide concrete tube that rises like an arrow straight up, piercing the Atlantic Ocean.

With the end to the old volcanic portion of the chute, the rise becomes easy, and we all pick up speed.

The air whistles around us as the boards meet wind resistance. I have no idea how fast I am going now, but it's fast, and the rounded tube walls of concrete blur into a streak around me.

The air is still frigid cold, but there's a new freshness to it, as the musty depths of the earth are left behind.

I close my eyes momentarily, reeling with exhaustion and remember that I am supposed to be afraid of heights and that I suffer from vertigo.

It is gone now.

The stunning realization comes to me-the fact that I am no longer bothered by height, by any of this at all, that fear had receded because of so many other things taking its place. . . .

And just as I realize it, I suddenly burst through, out of the great tube chute, and into a great wide expanse of sky, filled with golden light. . . .

And orange sunset.

I soar up heavenward, my eyes blinking in the sudden radiance, my lungs bursting with the fresh clean air. Dots of Candidates on hoverboards fill the sky all around me, like rising distant birds. Or maybe, it occurs to me in a silly flash, we are Halloween Witches, riding crazy brooms, straddling the boards in black silhouette against the sunset.

I let out a wild laugh, followed by a scream of exultation.

"Gracie! Logan! George! Gordie!" I scream out names, and laugh, like I am insane.

And then I turn my head and look higher up in the direction of the Eastern darker portion of sky, and see the hundreds of Atlantean shuttles.

* * *

In the same instant I see right below me, Blayne is flying next to Gracie, and she is clutching him by the hands and barely hanging on to her own board with her legs.

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