Chapter Three – A Step of Faith
The Sociopaths paddle along after Jere. Sarah and Josh exchange some more expository dialogue to remind the more clueless readers that if this is going to be a trap, they’re really screwed. Personally, I just wonder why they keep repeating the exact same thing over and over again. Unfortunately, that’s kind of a theme for this chapter.
The river broadens out and Josh isn’t as scared. Because of this stupid quote:
The roar of the water had been the most terrifying of all (page 23).
No….the fact that the ceiling was closing in on you and you thought you were going to drown was the most terrifying of all. It happened two chapters ago, Morris.
They paddle for another twenty minutes. And suddenly they see light ahead. They shoot out and are blinded by the light for a few seconds, but when they can see again…they’re at the ocean! The river dumped out into a lagoon, but that’s the ocean, right there.
Right. So. Looking back at Chapter One, they went along the river for roughly half an hour before finding the spot where they spent the night, and where Jere found them. Then they’ve been following Jere for just a bit over twenty minutes. So, I think it’s safe to say they’ve been traveling along this river for about an hour. Lest we forget, where they first accessed the river, they were underground in the middle of the desert. Judging by the map and dialogue, they were also hundreds of miles from anywhere, including the ocean. Regardless, I find it a little difficult to believe they could get from the middle of the desert all the way to the ocean in one hour.
Anyway. For some reason they land their boats and get out and walk over to Jere, who has also gotten off her porpoise. Abbey flirts a little bit with Dave and tells him how wonderfully he’s been doing to get them out of the cave. Jere tells them that for the next step they have head out on the ocean. Everyone starts to panic a little bit, because it’s the ocean, and no one (except Josh) knows how to swim, and everyone (even Josh) is afraid of water. But Josh stops them and says they already agreed to go, but how are they going to go, since they can’t swim? Hell-o? Perfectly serviceable boats that you just climbed out of thirty seconds ago?
Jere pulls out a horn and blows it. This horn is rather like the button in Padme’s spaceship in Star Wars: you just press it and the right thing happens, all the time. This time, after a short interlude, a killer whale pops to the surface. And it’s pulling a boat. Which looks like a large, sled. And Morris shows his genius for description:
It looked very scarey (page 26).
I kid you not. And no, my spell check does not recognize ‘scarey’, it’s usually ‘scary’ for me.
Abbey starts to panic. Dave is terrified. But before they can start arguing again, Sarah reminds them that they’ve all voted. And then Josh draws a parallel to the Nantucket Sleigh Rides, and tells everyone to just pretend that this is a sleigh ride. Which is great, except I doubt any of our beloved Sociopaths are really big on playing pretend, and I doubt even more that any of them have ever taken a sleigh ride, behind an enraged whale that wants to kill them or not.
This, I think, would be the perfect time for Jere to jump in and explain that the killer whale is well-trained, these things are perfectly safe, and her people journey this way all the time and there’s nothing to worry about. Except that would make sense, so instead, she just tells Josh that he’s very smart. Again.
Everyone gets in the boat. Jere climbs aboard Captain – you know, strike that, I’m just going to call him Flipper from now on. She gets on Flipper and starts out into the ocean, and the killer whale follows. Josh points out that you can see the whale’s tail. Why yes, Josh, you can, how about that? But then Reb notes that it’s on sideways, which sets Josh off on a little mini-lesson where he explains that whales have horizontal tails and they breath air, instead of having gills. And we get what could be the stupidest quote of the chapter, or maybe even the book:
“I never knew that,” Reb muttered (page 27).
I could be wrong about this, but I think it’s common knowledge nowadays that whales breathe air and they don’t have gills. Even in Arkansas.
Immediately after this, the whale suddenly starts going a lot faster…and we get another quote:
Reb pulled his hat off and let out a wild cowboy yell. “Whoo-ooo!” he bellowed. “Ride’em, cowboy!” (page 27)
And then Josh looked at him and said “Reb, what the hell is wrong with you? No one talks like that in real life.” Or, at least, that is what Josh would say if I wrote this book. Then again, if I wrote this book Reb would not constantly say random and nonsensical things.
After a bit they stop and Jere circles around. She explains that the next stage will require even more courage. And Morris comments again on how pretty she is. I’m getting the feeling that he’s a bit of a sexist, since the vast majority of his female characters are either just pretty, or slutty, or bitchy. But Jere says that her home is in Atlantis, twenty fathoms down. Which, for those of you in Arkansas, is 120 feet. Jere further explains that after the nuclear war, it sucked to live on the earth, so they discovered Atlantis and learned to live beneath the ocean’s surface.
Of course, if Atlantis is only 120 feet beneath the surface, it begs the question as to why it wasn’t discovered back when we had extensive technology at our fingertips. I admit, it would be quite clever if Atlantis was actually a preexisting coastal city that slid underwater during the nuclear war and then became inhabited – but that’s not ‘cool’ enough for Morris. So this is actually the ancient, mythical Atlantis.
Now, I don’t expect everyone to be psyched about this – I don’t even expect half of the people to be psyched about this. But I do think that after being informed that these people have discovered Atlantis and live in an underwater city, at least one of our Sociopaths would pump his fist and say “Hell yes! Let’s do this!” But unfortunately, this chapter is where the Sociopaths must gather their courage in Goel and shoulder onward into the unknown, and therefore, reason, logic, and common sense must be cast aside to properly achieve this.
For instance, right here, as all seven Sociopaths stare at each other with terrified expressions on their faces, this would be the perfect opportunity for Jere to come in and explain how safe it’s actually going to be and how they’re going to have swimsuits, compressed-air diving suits, oxygen, and ride down on dolphins. But she doesn’t bother bringing any of this up until after they decide to do it. Because it wouldn’t be Dramatic Enough. Likewise, this would be a perfect time for one of the Sociopaths to ask how, exactly, they’re going to get down there?, and is it safe?, and little things like that. But they don’t. Instead, we have Josh saying – again – how they already voted and have to trust in Goel and go on. So finally Token – the one who’s terrified of water – says that he’ll go. Hooray! The day is saved. Now no one else can refuse without looking like a wuss. (Morris, not me).
Jere opens a locker in the boat and pulls out a bunch of green scaled swimsuits. She has one for everyone. And compressed-air suits, and belts. That’s awfully convenient. I guess these boats just happen to have seven spares sitting around in them. But all the guys turn one way while the girls change and all the girls turn the other way while the guys change and it’s very appropriate and keeping in touch with conservative middle-class American Christian values, as this book will continue to be. Sarah thinks to herself that it’s just like the bathing suit she wore to the beach, which is important, because Morris will contradict himself next chapter. Then they put on the clear plastic suit and the belt, and Jere explains that not only is the plastic insulated against the cold, but the suit also contains a radio so they can talk to each other. And I wonder: if this society has radios, why doesn’t the all-powerful, all-pervasive government also have radios? Seems like they would come in handy, wouldn’t they? Sadly, we haven’t even scratched the surface of the idiocy this book contains.
Finally Jere pulls out her Magic Horn and blows it, again. And this time, it brings up a bunch of dolphins. Seven of them. It’s almost like the Atlantians knew exactly how many people were coming. Which would be acceptable if Morris had inserted a line somewhere about Jere knowing how many people she was coming to fetch, but since he didn’t, I’ll chalk it up to incompetence.
Jere tells them all to hang on tightly, not let go, and don’t try to hold your breath. And then she says “In the name of Goel, we go to Atlantis!” (page 32). It’s very dramatic and I almost wish I had some cymbals to crash. But mostly I just notice how different that sentence is phrased from everything else Jere has said. It’s like me saying “In the name of God, we go to Seattle!” Unless I was deliberately trying to act like an idiot, I would never say something like that.
But then again. This is Morrisland. You can’t expect things to make sense.
Chapter Four – The Lost City of Atlantis
Going underwater, for Sarah, was terrifying. Because she’s never swum in anything besides a swimming pool. Even though last chapter Morris mentioned she went to the beach. I suppose it’s possible to go to the beach and not enter the water at all, but kids generally don’t do that.
She looks around. It’s pretty. Josh talks to her on the radio. They go down and see fish and finally see Atlantis. It has high towers and turrets like a castle, except it’s built of something that looks like coral. So…it looks like sparkly rock? They get up to the edge, go through a tunnel, and pop up into an air lock. Everyone removes their hoods, and Josh comments that it’s fresh air. Jere says that it’s brought down from the surface via pumps.
Which, if you think about it for a second or two longer than Morris obviously did, means that it’s a significant technological advance and an extremely significant weakness, along with being the most obvious attack point if the all-powerful, all-pervasive government wants to destroy Atlantis…which they do. Will this ever come into play? No.
Jere leads them inside. She explains that they have a king and queen, but people can say what they want to and the king will listen. She further explains about how Atlantis used to be on an island but then it sank under the ocean. When her people came along, they went through the underwater city, sealing all the joints and pumping the water out. Which, I must say, is asignificant feat…especially after virtually all technology has been destroyed in a nuclear holocaust.
They pass by some windows and see some sharks and men riding on them holding spear guns. Jere further exposits that Atlantis is currently at war. And then she gives them rooms and tells them to rest and they’ll see the king and queen later.
Later, Sarah answers the door. Outside is a stud. He introduces himself as Valar, and mmm, I can just feel the Tolkien vibes. He explains that he’s going to escort them to the royal banquet. Sarah points out that they don’t have clothes for it. Which…yeah, I would agree, considering that they’re still wearing their bathing suits. But Valar assures them that the king and queen will understand and off they go. They get into the banquet hall and see the king and queen on the raised platform and see that Jere is sitting right next to them. That’s right…Jere is the princess! Okay…I realize that should have gone as assumed. She’s pretty, after all, and only royalty can be pretty. Still, it doesn’t excuse Morris. The Atlantians are at war. And because she had a vision of Goel telling her to find the Sociopaths, they let their princess – who would make an excellent hostage – leave, by herself, travel up an underground river, and encounter people they’ve never heard of before. Without, like, I dunno, sending fifteen or so armed guards with her? Yeah, that makes sense.
Jere introduces her parents – King Cosmos and Queen Mab. No, I’m not making up those names. They eat dinner…seaweed salad, turtle soup, endanger species steaks, stuff like that. It’s delicious. Then Josh gets up and gives the history of the Sociopaths. After that the King starts to tell them about a revolution here in Atlantis, but then everyone gets upset and stops talking. Finally the king explains that they’ll learn everything tomorrow. And Valar – his nephew – will take care of them. Valar immediately slides on over to Sarah and Abbey and leads them off. I’m guessing he’s a bit of ladies’ man.