Above him a dim light came on. Bond squinted sideways and upwards, knowing what he would see. The slanting yellow eyes behind the thick glass looked keenly down at him. Slowly, behind the bulb, the head moved from side to side. The eyelids dropped in mock pity. A closed fist, the thumb pointing downwards in farewell and dismissal, inserted itself between the bulb and the glass. Then it was withdrawn. The light went out. Bond turned his face back to the floor of the shaft and rested his forehead on the cool metal. The gesture said that he was coming into the last lap, that the observers had finished with him until they came for his remains. It took an extra ounce of heart out of Bond that there had been no gesture of praise, however small, that he had managed to survive so far. These Chigroes hated him. They only wanted him to die, and as miserably as possible.
Bond's teeth ground softly together. He thought of the girl and the thought gave him strength. He wasn't dead yet. Damn it, he wouldn't die! Not until the heart was torn from his body.
Bond tensed his muscles. It was time to go. With extra care he put his weapons back in their places and painfully began to drag himself on into the blackness.
The shaft was beginning to slope gently downwards. It made the going easier. Soon the slope grew steeper so that Bond, could almost slide along under the momentum of his weight. It was a blessed relief not to have to make the effort with his muscles. There was a glimmer of grey light ahead, nothing more than a lessening of the darkness, but it was a change. The quality of the air seemed to be different. There was a new, fresh smell to it. What was it? The sea?
Suddenly Bond realized that he was slipping down the shaft. He opened his shoulders and spread his feet to slow himself. It hurt and the braking effect was small. Now the shaft was widening. He could no longer get a grip! He was going faster and faster. A bend was just ahead. And it was a bend downwards!
Bond's body crashed into the bend and round it. Christ, he was diving head downwards! Desperately Bond spread his feet and hands. The metal flayed his skin. He was out of control, diving down a gun barrel. Far below there was a circle of grey light. The open air? The sea? The light was tearing up at him. He fought for breath. Stay alive, you fool! Stay alive!
Head first, Bond's body shot out of the shaft and fell through the air, slowly, slowly, down towards the gunmetal sea that waited for him a hundred feet below.
Bond's body shattered the mirror of the dawn sea like a bomb.
As he had hurtled down the silver shaft towards the widening disc of light, instinct had told him to get his knife from between his teeth, to get his hands forward to break his fall, and to keep his head down and his body rigid. And, at the last fraction of a second when he glimpsed the up-rushing sea, he had managed to take a gulp of breath. So Bond hit the water in the semblance of a dive, his outstretched clenched fists cleaving a hole for his skull and shoulders, and though, by the time he had shot twenty feet below the surface, he had lost consciousness, the forty-mile-an-hour impact with the water failed to smash him.
Slowly the body rose to the surface and lay, head down, softly rocking in the ripples of the dive. The water-choked" lungs somehow contrived to send a last message to the brain. The legs and arms thrashed clumsily. The head turned up, water pouring from its open mouth. It sank. Again the legs jerked, instinctively trying to get the body upright in the water.' This time, coughing horribly, the head jerked above the surface and stayed there. The arms and legs began to move feebly, paddling like a dog, and, through the red and black curtain, the bloodshot eyes saw the lifeline and told the sluggish brain to make for it.
The killing ground was a narrow deep water inlet at the base of the towering cliff. The lifeline towards which Bond struggled, hampered by the clumsy spear in his trouser-leg, was a strong wire fence, stretched from the rock walls of the inlet ana caging it off from the open sea. The two-feet squares of thick wire were suspended from a cable six feet above the surface and disappeared, algae encrusted, into the depths.
Bond got to the wire and hung, crucified. For fifteen minutes he stayed like that, his body occasionally racked with vomiting, until he felt strong enough to turn his head and see where he was. Blearily his eyes took in the towering cliffs above him and the narrow vee of softly breathing water. The place was in deep grey shadow, cut off from the dawn by the mountain, but out at sea there was the pearly iridescence of first light that meant that for the rest of the world the day was dawning. Here it was dark and gloomy and brooding.
Sluggishly Bond's mind puzzled over the wire fence. What was its purpose, closing off this dark cleft of sea? Was it to keep things out, or keep them in? Bond gazed vaguely down into the black depths around him. The wire strands vanished into nothingness below his clinging feet. There were small fish round his legs below the waist. What were they doing? They seemed to be feeding, darting in towards him and then backing away, catching at black strands. Strands of what? Of cotton from his rags? Bond shook his head to clear it. He looked again. No, they were feeding off his blood.
Bond shivered. Yes, blood was seeping off his body, off the torn shoulders, the knees, the feet, into the water. Now for the first time he felt the pain of the sea water on his sores and burns. The pain revived him, quickened his mind. If these small fish liked it, what about barracuda and shark? Was that what the wire fence was for, to keep man-eating fish from escaping to sea? Then why hadn't they been after him already? To hell with it! The first thing was to crawl up the wire afld get over to the other side. To put the fence between him and whatever lived in this black aquarium.
Weakly, foothold by foothold, Bond climbed up the wire and over the top and down again to where he could rest well above the water. He hooked the thick cable under his arms and hung, a bit of washing on a line, and gazed vaguely down at the fish that still fed from the blood that dripped off his feet.
Now there was nothing much left of Bond, not many reserves. The last dive down the tube, the crash of impact and the half-death from drowning had squeezed him like a sponge. He was on the verge of surrender, on the verge of giving one small sigh and then slipping back into the soft arms of the water. How beautiful it would be to give in at last and rest-to feel the sea softly take him to its bed and turn out the light.
It was the explosive flight of the fish from their feeding ground that shook Bond out of his death-dreaming. Something had moved far below the surface. There was a distant shimmer. Something was coming slowly up on the landward side of the fence.
Bond's body tautened. His hanging jaw slowly shut and the slackness cleared from his eyes. With the electric shock of danger, life flooded back into him, driving out the lethargy, pumping back the. will to survive.
Bond uncramped the fingers that, a long time ago, his brain had ordered not to lose his knife. He flexed his fingers and took a fresh grip of the silver-plated handle. He reached down and touched the crook of the wire spear that still hung inside his trouser-leg. He shook his head sharply and focused his eyes. Now what?
Below him the water quivered. Something was stirring in the depths, something huge. A great length of luminescent greyness showed, poised far down in the darkness. Something snaked up from it, a whiplash as thick as Bond's arm. The tip of the thong was swollen to a narrow oval, with regular bud-like markings. It swirled through the water where the fish had been and was withdrawn. Now there was nothing but the huge grey shadow. What was it doing? Was it...? Was it tasting the blood?
As if in answer, two eyes as big as footballs slowly swam up and into Bond's vision. They stopped, twenty feet below his own, and stared up through the quiet water at his face.
Bond's skin crawled on his back. Softly, wearily, his mouth uttered one bitter four-lettered word. So this was the last surprise of Doctor No, the end of the race!
Bond stared down, half hypnotized, into the wavering pools of eye far below. So this was the giant squid, the mythical kraken that could pull ships beneath the waves, the fifty-foot-long monster that battled with whales, that weighed a ton or more. What else did he know about them? That they had two long seizing tentacles and ten holding ones. That they had a huge blunt beak beneath eyes that were the only fishes' eyes that worked on the camera principle, like a man's. That their brains were efficient, that they could shoot backwards through the water at thirty knots, by jet-propulsion. That explosive harpoons burst in their jellied mantle without damaging them. That... but the bulging black and white targets of the eyes were rising up towards him. The surface of the water shivered. Now Bond could see the forest of tentacles that flowered out of the face of the thing. They were weaving in front of the eyes like a bunch of thick snakes. Bond could see the dots of the suckers on their undersides. Behind the head, the great flap of the mantle softly opened and closed, and behind that the jellied sheen of the body disappeared into the depths. God, the thing was as big as a railway engine!
Softly, discreetly, Bond snaked his feet and then his arms through the squares in the wire, lacing himself into them, anchoring himself so that the tentacles would have either to tear him to bits or wrench down the wire barrier with him. He squinted to right and left. Either way it was twenty yards along the wire to the land. And movement, even if he was capable of it, would be fatal. He must stay dead quiet and pray that the thing would lose interest. If it didn't... Softly Bond's fingers clenched on the puny knife.
The eyes watched him, coldly, patiently. Delicately, like the questing trunk of an elephant, one of the long seizing tentacles broke the surface and palped its way up the wire towards his leg. It reached his foot. Bond felt the hard kiss of the suckers. He didn't move. He dared not reach down and lose the grip of his arms through the wire. Softly the suckers tugged, testing the amount of yield. It was not enough. Like a huge slimy caterpillar, the tentacle walked slowly on up the leg. It got to the bloody blistered kneecap and stopped there, interested. Bond's teeth gritted with the pain. He could imagine the message going back down the thick tentacle to the brain: Yes, it's good to eat! And the brain signalling back: then get it! Bring it to me!
The suckers walked on up the thigh. The tip of the tentacle was pointed, then it splayed out so that it almost covered the width of Bond's thigh and then tapered off to a wrist. That was Bond's target. He would just have to take the pain and the horror and wait for the wrist to come within range.
A breeze, the first soft breeze of early morning, whispered across the metal surface of the inlet. It raised small waves that slapped gently against the sheer walls of the cliff. A wedge of cormorants took off from the guanera, five hundred feet above the inlet, and, cackling softly, made out to sea. As they swept over, the noise that had disturbed them reached Bond-the triple blast of a ship's siren that means it is ready to take on cargo. It came from Bond's left. The jetty must be round the corner from the northern arm of the inlet. The tanker from Antwerp had come in. Antwerp! Part of the world outside-the world that was a million miles away, out of Bond's reach-surely out of his reach for ever. Just around that corner, men would be in the galley, having breakfast. The radio would be playing. There would be the sizzle of bacon and eggs, th smell of coffee... breakfast cooking...
The suckers were at his hip. Bond could see into the horny cups. A stagnant sea smell reached him as the hand slowly undulated upwards. How tough was the mottled grey-brown jelly behind the hand? Should he stab? No, it must be a quick' hard slash, straight across, like cutting a rope. Never mind about cutting into his own skin.