Deeper: A Novel [NOOK Book]

Overview

Hell exists. It is a real, geological, historical place beneath our very feet. And it is inhabited savagely.

In an intense and imaginative tour de force, New York Times bestselling author Jeff Long takes readers into the depths of the earth where a primordial intelligence waits in the darkness.

A decade has passed since doomed explorers unveiled a nightmare of tunnels and...
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Deeper: A Novel

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Overview

Hell exists. It is a real, geological, historical place beneath our very feet. And it is inhabited savagely.

In an intense and imaginative tour de force, New York Times bestselling author Jeff Long takes readers into the depths of the earth where a primordial intelligence waits in the darkness.

A decade has passed since doomed explorers unveiled a nightmare of tunnels and rivers honeycombing the earth's depths. After millennia of suffering terror and predation, humanity's armies descended to destroy the ancient hordes. Deep beneath the Pacific Ocean, a doomed science expedition killed the subterraneans' fabled leader, and suddenly it seemed that evil was dead and all was right with the world again.

Now Deeper arrives to explode that complacency and plunge us back into the sunless abyss. Hell boils up through America's subways and basements to take its revenge and steal our children. Against the backdrop of a looming war with China, a crusade of volunteers races to find the vestiges of a lost race. But a lone explorer, the linguist Ali von Schade, learns that a far greater menace lies in the unexplored heart of the planet. The real Satan can't be killed, and he has been waiting since the beginning of time to gain his freedom. Man and his pitiless enemies are mere pawns in the greatest escape ever devised.

Mesmerizing and concussive, this darkly brilliant work of imagination galvanizes Jeff Long's reputation as a prodigious talent. At once a love story, the ultimate thriller, and an extreme adventure, Deeper will leave you breathless.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Nearly ten years have elapsed since Long (Year Zero) took us on an imaginative yet terrifying journey to the center of Earth in The Descent. Apparently, this is the second novel in a planned "Descent" trilogy. We are reunited with linguist Ali von Schade a decade after she reemerged from the depths of Earth's subterranean world following her capture and assimilation by the indigenous species known as Hadals. Now von Schade devotes her life to the study of the artifacts, language, and peoples of that underground realm. When groups of children suddenly go missing and ritualistic massacres start happening, it becomes clear that the Hadals are responsible. Rescue expeditions ensue, and von Schade is drawn to the depths, haunted by personal demons made manifest by Satan himself. More horror/thriller in the tradition of Clive Barker than an intellectual tale of linguistics and symbology, Long's novel is extremely grisly and gory. Recommended only for popular fiction collections where the author has fans.
—Laura A.B. Cifelli

Kirkus Reviews
The old ones were right. Hell is a real place, underground, right where they said it would be. Time to fix that hole in the basement. Long, who flirted with the supernatural in The Reckoning (2004) and scared the bejeebers out of armchair mountain climbers with The Wall (2006), sends armies of characters climbing miles underground into the tunnels, caverns, trenches, streams and rivers comprising Hades, for millennia the home of Hadads, Homo sapiens' older, smarter cousins. Hadads, who didn't hesitate to chow down on their surface-dwelling kinfolk when attacked by the munchies, were civilized ages before anything like writing or arithmetic spread through Europe or China. As a matter of fact, it was Hadads who tipped us off to most of our useful "discoveries." None of that ancient savvy was, however, enough to protect them against greedy humans armed with 21st-century weaponry or good old fatal viruses, which wiped out the Hadads shortly after the family reunion. Or, rather, almost wiped them out. In the near future-as World Powers are busy carving out underground spheres of influence in order to tap the tremendous wealth beneath their feet, engendering competition as fierce and formidable as any in the cold war era-Hadads reappear. They stage a stunning raid on Halloween night, snatching nubile and nearly nubile girls and dragging them below to become mothers to a new generation of Hadads. But Americans don't surrender their daughters. Many sly references to present-day politics and postures keep what is essentially a very gloomy trip from total darkness.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416531487
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • Publication date: 8/21/2007
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 276,311
  • File size: 655 KB

Meet the Author

Jeff Long is the New York Times bestselling author whose novels include The Wall, The Reckoning (in development with Reese Witherspoon at Type A Productions), Year Zero, and The Descent. He is a veteran climber and traveler in the Himalayas and has worked as a stonemason, journalist, historian, screenwriter, and elections supervisor for Bosnia's first democratic election. His next novel, Deeper, is forthcoming in hardcover from Atria Books. He lives in Colorado.

Visit his website at www.jefflongbooks.com.
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Read an Excerpt


THREE YEARS LATER

1

BENEATH THE INTERSECTION OF THE PHILIPPINE, JAVA, AND PALU SEA TRENCHES

He snapped his fingers. Let there be light. And they popped the flares.

The faces of his crew sprang from the darkness, flinching. The flare light hurt their eyes. It painted them green and hungry.

The city of stone materialized around them.

Clemens gave a nod. The clapboard snapped shut like a gunshot. In grease pencil: "HELL, scene 316, take 1. IMAX."

"Dead, all dead," he intoned as the camera panned across the city. It was a bony thing, hard and empty, ancient long before Troy was built, before Egypt was even a word. Walls stood cracked or breached by geological forces. Arches hung like ribs. Windows stared: blind sockets. The camera stopped on him.

Clemens turned his head to the lens. He gave it the tired bags under his eyes, and his shaggy salt-and-pepper beard, and the greasy hair, and the bad stitch job along one cheekbone. No makeup. No concealment. Let the audience see his weariness and the marks of five months spent worming through the bowels of the earth. I have sweated and bled for you, he thought. I have killed for you. And for my cut of the box office. He put fire in his blue eyes.

"Day one hundred and forty-seven, deep beneath the deepest trenches," he said. "We have reached their city. Their Athens. Their Alexandria. Their Manhattan. Here lies the center."

He coughed quietly. The whole film crew had it, some low-grade cave virus. Just one more of their shared afflictions: a rash from poison lichens, fouled stomachs from the river water, lingering fevers after an attack by crystal-clear ants, rot in their wounds, and headaches from the pressure. To say nothing of the herpes and gonorrhea raging among his randy bunch of men and women.

Clemens approached a tall, translucent flange of flowstone. It had seeped from the walls like a slow, plastic, honey brown avalanche. A carefully placed flare lit the stone from behind. The dark silhouette of a man hung inside, like a huge insect caught in amber.

Clemens glanced at the camera -- at his future audience -- as if to ponder with them. What new wonders lie here? He pressed his flashlight against the stone, and peered in. Through my eyes, behold.

He moved his light. Inch by inch, the shape revealed its awful clues. This was no man, but some primal throwback. A freak of time. The camera closed in.

Clemens illuminated the pale, hairless legs covered with prehistoric tattoos. His light paused at the groin. The genitals were wrapped in a ball with rawhide strips, a sort of fig leaf for this dreadful Adam. That was the creature's sole clothing, a sack tied with leather cord from front to back across the rump. Leather, in a place devoid of large animals...except for man. These hadals had wasted nothing, not even human skin.

"We were their dream," Clemens solemnly intoned to the camera, "they were our nightmare."

He scooted the light beam higher. The beast was by turns delicate, then savage. Winged like a cupid, this one could not have flown. They were more buds than wings really, vestigial, almost comical. But this was no laughing matter. Like a junkyard mutt, the creature bore the gash marks and scars of a hunter-warrior.

Moving higher, his headlamp beam lit the awful face. Milky pink eyes -- dead eyes -- stared back at him. Even though he'd seen the thing while they were setting up the shot, it made Clemens uneasy. Like the crickets, mice, and other creepy crawlers inhabiting these depths, it was an albino. What little facial hair it had was white. The eyelashes and wisps of a mustache looked almost dainty.

The brow beetled out, heavy and apelike. Classic Homo erectus. This one had filed teeth and earlobes fringed with knife cuts. Its crowning glory, the reason Clemens had picked this over all the other bodies, was its rack of misshapen horns. Horns upon other horns, a satanic freight.

The horns were calcium growths, described to him as a subterranean cancer. These happened to have sprouted from its forehead, which fit his film's title to a T. Every hell needed a devil.

Never mind that this wasn't the devil Clemens had come looking for. This was not the body of Satan, said to be lying somewhere in the city. Never mind that through the millennia man's demons had been ancestors of a sort, or at least distant blood cousins. Clemens would deal with the family tree later, in the editing room.

"Now they're gone," he spoke to the microphone clipped to his tattered T-shirt. "Gone forever, destroyed by a man-made plague. Some call it genocide, others an act of God. This much is certain. We have been delivered from their reign of terror. Freed from an ancient tyranny. Now the night belongs to us -- to humanity -- once and for all."

Clemens stood back and gazed upon the horror, like Frankenstein contemplating his monster. He held his pose to the count of five. "And cut," he said.

The cameraman gave a thumbs-up from behind his tripod. The soundman took off his earphones and signaled okay. A clean take.

"Get a few close-ups of our friend here," Clemens said. "Then break down the gear and pack up. We're moving on. Up. There's still hours in the day." A running joke. In a place without sun, what day? "We're heading home."

Home! For once the crew jumped to his command.

The exit tunnel lay somewhere close. It would lead them to the surface in a matter of weeks. For the millionth time, he pulled a sheaf of pages from a waterproof tube and studied its hodgepodge of maps.

The pages came from the daybook kept by a nun, one of only two survivors to emerge from this region three years ago. It was the ghosts of her doomed expedition that Clemens was chasing on film. Hers had been one of the most audacious journeys in all history, one to rival Marco Polo's or Columbus's, a six-thousand-mile passage through the tunnel system riddling the bedrock beneath the Pacific Ocean. It had been a journey with a punch line, a journey of scientists who bumped smack into an unpleasant article of faith. For here they had found the home of Satan, or the historical Satan, the man -- hominid, take your pick -- behind the legend. The leader of the pack.

The nun, a scholar cunt named Ali Von Schade, had written of meeting him. The city had still been alive back then, the plague not yet released. The last she'd seen of this Satan, he was wearing a warrior's suit of green jade platelets. For three days now, Clemens had been scouring the city for the body or skeleton, looking for his film's money shot, the one that would shock and amaze and bring the story all together in one image. He'd found a suit of jade armor all right, but it was empty, discarded, ownerless, not a bone in it. Despite his disappointment, he kind of liked that. In the end, Satan had been nothing more than an empty suit.

Clemens had made numerous requests to Von Schade for an interview, all in vain, always meeting the same polite refusal. I don't wish to share the details of that disaster. As if the story belonged to her. As if intellectual property had some sacred protection. Cunt.

He and Quinn, his film partner, had needed her maps and clues to plan this journey. Clemens had tried flowers, dinner invitations, offers of money, even a percentage of the film's net profit, yeah, net, not gross, an old Hollywood joke. Nothing worked with her. Zip. Nada. Quinn said to leave her alone. Instead Clemens had hired a burglar to steal her journal, copy it, and then return it. What was the harm? If she wouldn't talk, her diary would.

Von Schade's maps were as much memoir as cartography, laced with fanciful tales and ink-and-watercolor sketches of the Helios expedition's progress. Along the way, every time Clemens was sure she must be wrong or had made something up, her maps would prove to be right.

A waterfall thundered in the darkness, hidden in the distance. That was on the map, too. Bound and blindfolded at the time, Von Schade had later recorded it in her daybook, an acoustic landmark. Through the waterfall lay their shortcut to the sun.

Long, ghostly strips of clouds drifted overhead. The cavern was so big it generated its own microweather. Geologists theorized that millions of years ago great bubbles of sulfuric acid had eaten upward from the earth's deeper mantle, carving out this labyrinth of cavities and tubes known as the Interior. The perfect hiding place for a lost race.

Clemens rolled up the pages of Von Schade's diary and switched off his headlamp. They were running low on batteries, and everything else, for that matter. But the shoot was largely over. His crew had reached its summit, so to speak, this dead city in the deepest reaches of the sub-Pacific cave system. Now they could ascend, back to the surface, back to the sun. Back to Clemens's faded name and glory.

Most of the kids on this crew hadn't even sprouted pimples when he'd won an Academy Award for his documentary, War High, about jackass athletes braving international war zones in their search for the ultra-extreme. After that, he'd coasted on his Oscar laurels, getting work as a second-unit director on Hollywood action vehicles.

Then the earth's Interior had been "discovered." Overnight, everyone's attention had shifted to this vast, inhabited labyrinth right beneath their feet. The market for movies and books about adrenaline junkies had gone out the window. Clemens learned the hard way that there was no competing with the demons and fiends of religious lore. Within a year, he was bankrupt, divorced, and shooting porn videos for $200 per day.

Around that time, Quinn had come into his life. Quinn was an old-fashioned explorer who had dipped his toe in the subterranean world and had a film in mind, this film, about an expedition following in the footsteps of an expedition into hell. In a coked-up revelation, it had occurred to Clemens that in order to beat the devil, he needed to be the devil. And so -- fifty-two years old -- he'd convinced Quinn to partner with him on the production. Together they had assembled this desperate, calculated slog through the earth's basement. Clemens figured that if "Hell," splashed upon giant IMAX screens, couldn't revive his career, nothing would. He'd have to go back to work for the skin mafia.

Unfortunately Quinn had proved to be a problem. Quinn the decent. Quinn the grin. Quinn the Real McCoy. Quinn for president! The crew had loved Quinn's easygoing style and his insistence on safety. And his sense of story and scriptwriting that made Clemens look like a dumb-it-down hack. Which Clemens was. But which he didn't need to have the little people snickering about. Thus, Quinn the scream. Quinn the dead.

After his partner's disappearance, Clemens had assumed things would get better. But the crew only grew more disrespectful of him. They suspected him. Idiots. Murder didn't exist in a wilderness with no laws. And besides, no body, no crime. Quinn had chosen a bottomless pit to fall into. It had been easy, the slightest of nudges from behind, barely an ounce of adios, amigo. Clemens had made a few attempts at placating the crew, even giving them two days to search for their fearless leader. Then it was crack-the-whip time. On with the show.

Joshua. There it was again, that whisper. Clemens whirled around.

He jabbed his light left and right. As always, no one was there. It had been going on ever since they'd entered the city. The crew was screwing with him, whispering his name with Quinn's voice, winding him up.

"Fuck ya," Clemens said to the darkness.

"Likewise," said a woman's voice. Huxley came striding into his light. "What do you think you're doing?"

"Was that you?" said Clemens.

"Yeah," she said. "It's me. You said we were making camp here."

Huxley was a veterinarian Quinn had hired to be their medic. It was the pet doctor's unsteady needle that had sewn together Clemens's cheek after a rockfall in the tunnels system. He could guess what she wanted.

"Those wings," she said. She went to the creature suspended in flowstone, the mineral seepage. "I need to take his measurements and get tissue samples. And I want those wings for my collection. The wings of an angel. A fallen angel. This specimen is unique."

My ongoing rebellion, thought Clemens. The crew was an inch away from outright mutiny. They couldn't wait to get out of here. Daylight was waiting up top. They could practically taste it. And Huxley wanted them to stay?

"You've been saying that about every bone and body we've stumbled across," Clemens said. "We're done here. Onward. Upward. Miles to go before we sleep, all that."

"You don't understand," Huxley said. "Wings on men? And we saw that one yesterday with amphibian gills. And the reptile lady last week."

"What do you want me to say?" said Clemens. "They're hadals. Mutants. A dime a dozen down here. A dime a thousand. Besides, you've got your degree, Doc. What more do you want, the Nobel?"

"I don't know," she said. "What more do you want, another Oscar?"

It wasn't Huxley's ambition that Clemens resented. Once this was over, each one of them meant to squeeze the lemon for all it was worth. He'd been hearing their big plans for months. The kayakers were going to buy ad space in Outside and Men's Journal to lure adventure travelers. There were dark, class IV tube rapids down here, and river beaches made of polished white marble. The cinematographer wanted to open an art gallery and publish a coffee-table book with her still shots of the Interior. Three of the climber types meant to incorporate, raise venture capital, and return to prospect the outrageous veins of gold they'd all touched, but left behind.

In short, there was money and reputation to be grabbed down here. Huxley was no different from the rest of them. Having suffered the darkness, she wanted her piece of the pie. But the thing about Huxley was that she didn't have manners. Just because she'd been Quinn's girlfriend didn't exempt her from the rules. This was Clemens's show. Everyone else, even the hotshot climbers, had asked his permission to capitalize on the expedition. Not Huxley, though. She treated him like he was stealing the descent.

"We had a deal," she said.

"What deal was that?"

"I came along as a scientist."

"You came along as a medic," Clemens said. "That's your job, to tend the sick and wounded."

"You said we were camping here one more night."

Clemens stared a hole through her. "End of discussion," he said. "We're leaving."

"I'm staying."

"By yourself? In this place?" The flares were dying. The shadows loomed.

"You're not a man of science," Huxley said. "You wouldn't understand."

Clemens thought for a minute, not about staying with her, but about getting shed of her. He wasn't born yesterday. She was going to try to bring a murder charge against him once they got up top. That or slap him with a lawsuit. Lien him to death. This was his retirement she was threatening here.

Clemens shrugged. "You got to do what you got to do, Doc."

Huxley blinked. She'd been bluffing. Too late now. Clemens gave her his crocodile grin. "That's right," she said. "I've got to do what I've got to do. With or without you."

"We'll be on the trail leading up," Clemens told her. "You go through a waterfall and there will be a tunnel. Don't forget."

Huxley lifted her chin. "This won't take more than a few hours. I'll be right behind you."

"You'd better be. I'm telling you, man, don't miss the bus. Because nobody's waiting for nobody anymore. It's dog-eat-dog, Huxley. You hear me?"

She stared, as if he'd just confessed. "I'll catch you before night."

Night. There it was again, their strange conceit. Even, in this lightless place, they clung to convention, calling their wakefulness day, and their sleep night. Never mind that their bodies had forgotten the sun and they dreamed in shades of blackness.

They left Huxley in a tiny puddle of light. Good night, sweet princess, thought Clemens. Fantasizing, he began to write the sad loss of Dr. Huxley into his mental screenplay.

For three days they had been meandering through the city, gathering a bounty of images. It was like Pompeii among these ruins, with this difference: instead of being locked inside volcanic ash, the dead hung in translucent flux. The plague had killed them; the mineral ooze had made them immortal. You could see them underfoot, suspended in the flowstone, hundreds, no, thousands of them. For three nights they had slept atop the last resting place of the ultimate barbarian. Now they were done with it.

A gigantic waterfall seemed to block the end of the cavern. They shot a flare into the heights. As it drifted down, the spray lit with rainbows in the blackness.

"Lord," one of the kayakers said. That said it all.

Just as the nun's daybook promised, a tunnel lay behind the central waterfall: caves within caves within caves. It was like Swiss cheese down here.

Clemens tried to get his crew to set up the camera and take a shot of him entering the falls tunnel. But they pretended not to hear him. He had been waiting for their muttering and scowls to spill over into actual defiance, and now that it had, now that they had broken from his command, he was relieved. Finally he could quit lashing them deeper. He could just float back up to the world.

The path led up and up in giant circles. The stair steps, carved from solid stone by a subterranean civilization that some scholars dated to twenty-five thousand years ago, had been worn to faint corrugations. The stone was slick from the humidity that blew at their backs on a warm, steady draft.

It didn't take long for Huxley to change her mind about staying behind. Clemens was at the back of the line for a reason. Her voice began echoing up to them after the first hour, but Clemens was the only one to hear it. He couldn't make out her words, but her distress was clear. Maybe her batteries had run out. More likely she couldn't find the tunnel entrance. Bummer.

Soon her echoes grew almost faint enough to ignore. Almost. The whisper still reached him. Joshua. How did she do that?

The tunnel walls tightened. The current of warm air quit rushing from below. Clemens could sense the space closing around him by the change in his hearing. Things just sounded closer.

Joshua. He ignored her.

As they went on, Clemens kept looking for debris, bones, or other signs of the original expedition. Funded by the Helios conglomerate, the party of scientists, soldiers, and porters had numbered over two hundred at their start beneath the Galapagos Islands.

Following their lead, Clemens and the crew of nineteen had hiked, climbed, and rafted some six thousand miles. They had retraced the Helios expedition's route by its remains, finding clues to its long breakdown in their graffiti, trash, dried dung, and, near the end, their bones. Quinn had likened the doomed explorers to Lewis and Clark crossing America, except the sub-Pacific journey was almost three times as long, and they had been slaughtered by the natives, these so-called hadals of this geological Hades. Only Von Schade and the expedition's scout had lived to tell the tale, though they had barely told it. The scout had vanished without saying a word about anything. The nun had gone into therapy, and then academic seclusion. Which had left their story ripe for the picking.

Finder's keepers, thought Clemens. It was his now, the scraps of diaries and logbooks, the rags of uniforms, the broken instruments, the forlorn skulls mounted on stalagmites, the hadal bones lying where the plague had felled them...all collected and digitized on large-format tape.

Climbing higher, they found hadal symbols cut into the walls or floor. One, in particular, suggested they were on track. It was a simple, recurring spiral shape. For months, they had been seeing different versions of it, like a blaze mark, only more beautiful and ornate. The closer they got to the city, the more elaborate the spirals had become. Here, for instance, the spiral was woven so deftly into an arabesque engraving that it seemed to be hiding.

Clemens still found it hard to believe the brutish hadals had once conducted an empire that extended throughout this tubular maze. While humankind was still learning to make fire, the hadals had been busy constructing a metropolis far from the sun. Some experts even claimed the hadals had tutored man at the dawn of agriculture and metallurgy.

A lot of people objected to the notion. Us? Schooled by them? Now that he'd spent time down here, though, it made terrible sense to Clemens. Why not get your meat to grow its own food, to breed, and to cluster in villages and cities? Fatten them up before bringing them down.

At a fork in the trail, the group halted for the night. Without a word, the men and women shucked their packs and laid out their sleeping pads. The daybook said nothing about a split in the trail. Indeed, it said almost nothing about the ascent from the city. Apparently the nun had been in shock after her captivity and rescue there. That or she had intentionally concealed where the tunnel exited in New Guinea.

Bobbi, another one of the alpha females, took it upon herself to reconnoiter ahead and determine which of the two trails they should follow in the morning. Within minutes her shout for help rang down the tunnel walls. Immediately everyone got to his or her feet. No hesitation. Out came their motley collection of rifles and handguns.

Not once in eight months had they needed to fire a single shot. There was nothing left to shoot down here. The darkness had been sterilized. The Interior was scrubbed clean of threats. Exorcised, as some put it. The pandemic had erased the hadals from existence. Haddie was out of business.

They found Bobbi in a broad hollow, speechless and pale beneath her subterranean pallor. She pointed up the trail. Clemens watched as the women gathered around their sister and the men flocked ahead with their firearms. They rounded the corner.

"God help us," barked a man.

A long row of human mummies stood tied on either side of the trail. There were thirty of them, still wearing pieces of military webbing, boots, and uniforms...with the sun and wings of the Helios corporation logo on their shoulder patches.

"Finally," said Clemens.

They looked at him. "Finally?"

"The lost patrol," he said. "I wondered where they went."

For the past three hundred miles, Clemens's crew had been finding what was left of the Helios scientists, but always absent their hired guns. Here at last were their bodyguards, dried and arrayed for public view, complete with arrows and darts and various death wounds. A black obsidian ax blade with a broken haft jutted from a skull.

"What is this? What happened here?"

"Stone Age taxidermy," someone said.

"Custer's last stand, dude."

Their soundman murmured, "Like sinners burning in hell."

Bound with ropes, their jaws agape and flesh shrunk to the bone, they did look tortured. A chorus of the damned. No wonder mankind had feared the underworld. The subplanet really had contained the torments of legend.

The money shot, Clemens was thinking to himself.

They walked up and down the line like visitors in a darkened art museum, shining their lights on different mummies. The soldiers looked alien to Clemens, like barrel-chested insects with bulging eyes.

Then he saw the incisions. Their rib cages seemed so huge because their abdomens were so small. The men had been gutted. Their eyes had been scooped out and replaced with round white stones that stared into eternity. Their shriveled thighs and biceps all bore the same cut marks, some kind of ritual mutilation.

Their assault rifles lay at their feet, stocks splintered, so much kindling wood. Except they were plastic. Broken into pieces. Clemens could almost see the hatred in it. The hadals had despised these men.

"What's this?"

"Christ, it's his heart. They tied his heart into his beard."

Clemens went over. Sure enough, the dried fruit of muscle was a heart knotted into a man's black beard. "But why didn't they eat it?" Clemens asked. "That and the rest of their bodies?"

Bobbi stared at him. "What are you talking about?"

"There must have been two thousand pounds of meat here when they were fresh," Clemens said. "But instead of eating them, they dried and displayed them. I mean, why go to all this trouble preserving them?"

Hunger ruled this world within the world. No protein went wasted. From what they'd seen, the remains of the scientists, and even of the hadals, were always eaten to the bone, and the gnawed bones broken open for the marrow. And yet these bodies were whole, or mostly so.

Clemens's crew was somber. He listened to them trying to make sense of the atrocity.

"It's a warning," a climber said. "Keep out. Beware of dog. Here dragons be."

"The Romans used to do this. Crucify prisoners on the roads leading into the city. Behave, or else."

"No, no. It's like a trophy case. These are their war souvenirs."

"Why did they do that to their eyes?"

"Jeez-is, would you look, they're castrated, too. The bastards cut their nuts off."

That got them, the men especially. "There, but for the grace of God, go I."

"You think any of them are still around?"

"You saw the city. They're extinct. Dead and gone."

"But what if some of them survived?"

"Impossible."

"There are always survivors."

"She's right. The place is one giant hiding place."

Their lights spun this way and that, scouring the blackness.

"Impossible."

They were freaking themselves out. "Go get the camera and sound gear," Clemens said. "The least we can do is record them for posterity."

This time no one balked at his command. When they went, it was all together, leaving Clemens alone with the bodies. He began framing camera angles and composing narrative.

Pan left to right. "These few, these lucky few, this band of sons and brothers."

He edited himself. People didn't go to IMAX to hear Shakespeare. Give the crowd their boom, bang, kapow. He started over.

Shock cut to a mummy's face. Pull back to show the dead. I step from their midst.

"Since the beginning, man has been at war with the dark side..."

He walked down the line, shopping for the right face. Their bared teeth gleamed. The stone eyes stared. Blackbeard, he decided. The one with the heart dangling from his chin.

He strode on and picked his mark, and backed between two bodies. The wall was cool. They smelled like a tanner's shop, and a gym, too. Even dead, their different body odors clung to them. Leather and sweat. Dry as cornhusks.

Joshua.

The whisper jolted him. How could Huxley's voice reach him here? Or was it another one of them messing with his yin/yang?

He shoved away from the wall, out from the carcasses. "Who is it?"

He thrust his light beam up and down the tunnel, hunting for the trickster. But he was alone.

Joshua. Again.

He splashed light across the faces, each grinning his death grin. The air, he decided. It moved in these tunnels. It made them whistle and moan sometimes. That was all. The whispers were just air.

In the middle of the night, Clemens woke with a start. He sat up and shook his head, looking around. This evening's choice of chemical night-light was orange. His little tribe slept all around him in a jumbled orange clump, their limbs tangled and heads pillowed on one another, breathing each other's breath. A fortress of snores and twitches. And guns.

The clustering had become a reflex. By day they were a bold bunch, all muscle and trash talk, itching to beat every cliff, river, or squeeze chute that got in their way. But when it came time to sleep, they huddled like children lost in a forest.

Joshua.

It slid in from the outskirts, a kitten of a sound, barely a breath of a word. He scanned the sleeping pack. None of them was the culprit. The whisper had come from beyond their bubble of orange light.

And then again, Joshua. So soft it might have been in his head. Was he dreaming? No. He was wide awake now.

"What?" He kept his voice low.

Joshua. It called to him. Someone was out there.

He counted them and, sure enough, came up one short. Then he remembered Huxley. She'd never shown up. In all the excitement about the mummies, they had forgotten about her.

"Huxley?" he whispered.

One of the women stirred. She lifted her head. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," he said. "Go back to sleep."

Her eyes closed.

He sat there for another few minutes, listening intently. But the tunnel was silent again. He lay back and tried to sleep. No dice. Voice or not, Huxley was in his head now. She was alone down there, terrified no doubt, probably lost. She'd asked for it, staying back. Accusing him with her glares.

At the end of a sleepless half hour, Clemens sighed and stood up. He didn't believe in conscience. But the voice had him going now. Screw it, he thought. Bring her in. Maybe she'd show a little gratitude.

He stood up and tiptoed from their orange halo. No sense waking anyone. By morning, he'd be back, with Huxley in tow. One more rebel to add to his collection.

As he headed down the tunnel, the image came to Clemens of an immense throat about to swallow him, and for a minute he almost returned to get his sawed-off shotgun. But his knees were bad enough without the extra weight. Besides which, for the past six thousand miles they had found nothing alive larger than a lobster. Satan is dead. Long live...whatever.

Down he sank through the tunnel. The thunder of the waterfall grew louder.

Huxley was waiting just inside the entrance. Her pale face appeared in Clemens's light. The whites of her eyes bulged. She looked indignant.

"I told you not to stay behind," he said to her.

She didn't say anything. Sulking. Probably hungry. It was going to be a chore prodding her up the trail.

Just the same, Clemens was glad he'd come to fetch her. He would work it into his script, the tale of his midnight rescue. Never mind that it had taken him less than three hours to descend. He'd make it eight hours. Hours? Days. Milk it for all it was worth. People would hail his compassion. Reviewers would note his guardian care of the crew. Couldn't save everyone, poor Quinn, but not for lack of trying. Everything helped during awards competitions.

Huxley went on staring at him. She didn't make a move to come up the trail. "So let's go," he said, descending the final stretch.

She glared at him.

"Can't we just get along, Hux?"

Clemens stopped. Now he saw the blood painting the spike between her legs. Her mouth was sewn shut. She was impaled on a stalagmite. "Jesus, mother," said Clemens. He stepped back from the mess.

Huxley's eyes followed him. Impossible. She was still alive.

Joshua.

Clemens knifed at the shadows with his light. The darkness parted. It sealed shut again. The walls glistened with waterfall sweat. There was a crevice. Something moved in there. He thrust the light at it.

Eyes glittered back at him. A face in there. It spoke his name again. But this time it was out loud. "Joshua."

Clemens jumped. "What?" The thing didn't answer. For a moment, he thought his buddy in the flowstone had come back to life and broken free. But the eyes weren't pink. There was no rack of horns. He had a tattered, greasy cowl of hair and a ragged beard, years long.

The beast eased from its womb of a crevice.

Stone scraped on stone as it emerged. To Clemens's shock, it was wearing that suit of armor made with green jade Clemens had found on the ground. The green platelets tinkled like chandelier glass.

The stone tube began crying from above. They sounded like puppies. The men's screams were even shriller than the women's.

Reject. Refuse. Make it go away. Clemens tried to pace his breathing. This couldn't be happening. The city was dead. Killed. Just bones.

Clemens remembered his camera. Even as he backed away, he could not help thinking what a great shot this would have made. In the belly of the abyss, in a city of lost souls, out of sweating stone...Satan was resurrecting himself.

Copyright © 2007 by Jeff Long, LLC

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Customer Reviews

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( 53 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 53 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2008

    Odd, violent, yet compelling

    Deeper: A Novel, by Jeff Long was reminiscent of Ted Dekker's Red, Black and White Trilogy. The book is a sequel to Long's book, The Descent, a decade later. I'll grant you, I don't remember all the details of Long's previous book, too many stories under the bridge in the decade past, but it really wasn't necessary to get the gist of the story. Fantastical and violent imagery abound in the novel. At times, I found myself wondering about the mind of the author that can conceive of these ideas. The book ends in a way that would make another sequel possible, which makes me wonder if Long is going to try for a trilogy. Due to the almost religious overtones of the book, and my own comparision of it with Dekker's work, I wonder if there is just some compulsion on the part of authors to make these types of books into a trilogy. Sort of an homage to the Christian Trinity maybe? Then again, maybe I'm over reaching a lot in my analyzing. I guess the sign of a successful book could easily be when the reader finishes it, says to themselves, 'hmm, that was...weird? odd? peculiar?...' And then proceeds to think about it for a while. I'm sort of having trouble moving onto my next book in my stack, and I keep reflecting back on this book while driving, doing mundane day to day chores, etc. I guess the book is a success, disturbing maybe, but a success.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2007

    A reviewer

    This book is great on its own,but the one before it THE DECENT helps.Really had a great time escaping into the phsical underworld. You''ll never walk at night by yourself the same again.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Enthralling

    Ten years ago, incredible inner earth labyrinths were discovered. A scientific expedition beneath the trenches of the Pacific Ocean occurred with most of the humans who came to explore Hades killed by the indigent predators who have terrorized the surface dwellers for millennia. The humans believed that they managed to kill the ruler.--------------- One of the humans, linguist Ali von Schade, survived captivity by the Hadals to eventually return to her home on the planet surface with a vow to never go inside the earth again. Instead Dr. von Schade, suffering from the Stockholm syndrome especially after her time with the glamorous Satan, studies anything related to the several diverse Hadal peoples.------------- As a great war seems imminent on the Asian continent, children suddenly begin disappearing and ritual massacres occur. She knows who is responsible. Unable to resist, Ali joins the children rescue effort as all the evidence points towards Hades. Ali knows Satan lives as her affinity to him from her incarnation remains strong she needs to see him as she remains attracted to Satan, yet also wants to kill him.-------------- This exciting sequel to THE DESCENT (not read by this reviewer) is a fast-paced exhilarating gory thriller that never slows down once Ali realizes that the devil in her dreams remains alive inside the earth. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action and more action. Ali is the only multi-dimensional character and much of her flaws come from real demons and not her exploration of the cultures of Hell, but fans of non-stop action will not care as hell comes to earth through subway tunnels and humans go to Hell.----------- Harriet Klausner

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2012

    Deeper...into confusion.

    I really enjoyed the first book much more than this. I found myself struggling to finish each chapter. What made the first book so great was all of the action and the horror that followed. To me, the last 100 pages were the best in terms of excitment with the first 300 building up to it. I also hated how the book ended! Is there another novel coming or are we left in the same dreamlike state that plagues the character at the end.

    All in all, i would only recommend this novel to those that read the first book to see what has happened to our beloved Ike and Ali.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2012

    Freaky!!!!!

    It was great. It totally freaked me out. I read around Halloween. Read it and you'll see exactly what I mean. Gotta read the first one though. It's really a deep book. Raises questions about where we come from and how it really all started. The human race I mean.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2012

    Satanic

    A devil of a tale.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2011

    de4we8

    A sequel as good as the first! Awesome.

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  • Posted April 30, 2011

    OMG

    I loved this somuch I would read it again if it hadn't disturbed my sleep so much. No caves for me!

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  • Posted February 13, 2011

    I love this book!

    This book kept me awake for a week...I could hardly sleep thinking about how true to reality this is, not just the "devil as man" idea but the back stories. It was the first book I bought for my nook and I HIGHLY recommend it!

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  • Posted December 27, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Great Read!

    I recently read this book having just finished the Descent for the first time a month ago. My dad had it on his bookshelf so I gave it a go and loved it. Deeper was great if in fact it is a bridge book. It kinda follows the same thread as the original, but paces much faster which I liked. There needed to be no setup like all originals. Loved the characters and am looking forward to the third one. Heres hoping it doesn't take several years.

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  • Posted September 8, 2009

    Weird, Strange and Confused

    This was a very sincere attempt to address the age old issues of good vs. evil, but the plot, characters and writer's talent fell way short of the mark. The premise seemed interesting, but was poorly written.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2007

    Neither heaven nor hell

    Though this novel is a sequel to The Descent, it almost is a retelling of the same basic plot line. As such, it falls prey to the same basic flaw. The concept of both books is great, as are the early sections. Unfortunately, both books tend to lose focus and stray a bit too far afield. Perhaps this is only a personal preference, but horror thrillers seem to work best when the main characters still have at least one foot firmly anchored in, if not reality, plausibility. Not so here, particularly in the last third of the story. Another minor flaw, one that slips unnecessarily into the realm of parody, is the references to actual people. By the end of the novel, you can pretty well predict what the next book in the series will be about.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted June 3, 2010

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    Posted February 18, 2011

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    Posted June 10, 2011

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    Posted April 5, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2010

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2011

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