The flight across Canada takes a little over an hour. We descend to the ground and a city appears through the fog. It isn’t a large city by any means, but if it means salvation, it doesn’t matter.
Then I see them. They are magnificent. Water tumbling over rocks. So simple, yet at the same time, they are one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. The air is thick with mist coming up off the rushing water. The closer we get to the ground, the more it feels like it’s raining.
We’re handed ponchos as the helicopter lands on a small building which overlooks the falls. The view from here is perfect. I can’t look away. It’s much more amazing than I would have ever imagined.
Standing above them, I can’t help but think we’ve reached the edge of world, as though if one were to walk past the end of that falling water, they would simply cease to exist. The foggy mist aids in that image, making it difficult to see the ground below.
Unfortunately, the world does continue on past that point. It’s dark out now, well past 9pm, but it’s not very difficult to make out the telltale signs of our impending troubles. Through the mist I can see those same hundreds of flashing lights I saw when we took off.
They’re here, separated from us by hundreds of gallons of falling water.
“Think they can see us?” I ask.
“Seems unlikely,” Eve responds.
“Oh, they know you’re there,” The Geek chimes in. “They were tracking your chopper.”
“Oh, hey Geek. Kinda forgot about you there.”
“Yeah, I noticed. Thought it was as good of a time to take a nap as I’ll be getting for a while.”
“Good idea. Could get interesting.”
“Yeah. So, taking the Niagara Tunnels, huh?”
“Yeah, why?” I ask, smiling at the image before me.
“Nothing, I guess.”
“Umm, well, aren’t you forgetting about the tunnel part of the Niagara Tunnels?” he asks. “You know, as in fear number 1 on your list of fears?”
“Well, this is different, isn’t it? I mean, isn’t it?”
“Maybe. Maybe not, if you knew what those tunnels are used for.”
“He said for some kinda water electricity or something.”
“Right. How do you think they get water electricity?”
“Don’t worry him, Billy. He’ll figure it out soon enough.”
“So you know, Eve?” The Geek sounds surprised. “Doesn’t it concern you?”
“A bit,” she answers quietly. “But we’ll make do.”
“Oh, yeah, Geek, almost forgot. Thanks for the shoes. They’re great.”
“Thought you might like them,” he laughs. “You needed something to replace the action figure, right?”
“Yeah, sorry about that.”
“You could have just handed him an empty envelope and it would have done the same, but I’m not sore or anything.”
“I just thought that if there was something bulky in there he might think it was a bomb or something.”
“And why would you want him to think there was a bomb in there?”
“I don’t know,” I say honestly.
“Ready?” a man asks as he walks out a door in the side of the tower.
“Sure thing,” Eve says. He ushers us inside and to an elevator. He inserts a key into the panel and we are taken down very fast.
The ride takes much longer than I expected, considering the speed we’re moving.
“Have either of you ever been to Canada before?”
“Nope,” I say. Eve shakes her head.
“Well, I’m sorry this is your introduction to our country.” The doors open and we are greeted by a very wet version of an aircraft hangar. We step out onto a grated walkway. Below us, a great river of water is flowing at high speed. “You’ll have to make sure to come back and visit us after all this is over.”
“Sure,” Eve says breathlessly.
“As you can see, the tunnel’s currently in production mode.”
“How are we supposed to make it across to the other side?” Eve asks. I’m still unable to move.
The man gestures behind him. “With this.” He smiles. The item he indicates is a large rubber raft, something I’ve seen in pictures of people doing something called white water rafting. “The water should do most of the work; you just have to hold on.”
“Wait,” I exclaim, “you want us to ride that thing down an underground river in an underground tunnel? Is that even safe?”
“To be honest, no one’s ever tried it before. But I don’t see why it shouldn’t be. We did manage to lower the water level to give you a few feet of clearance. I believe you’ll have about five feet above the water once you enter the tunnels.”
“How deep is the water?” Eve asks, always the one thinking of the more reasonable questions.
“Somewhere around 40 feet.”
“Forty feet!” I yell. “You want us to ride this flimsy raft on top of forty feet of raging water in a tunnel under the ground?”
“He’s got a thing about tunnels,” Eve apologizes.
“I was beginning to wonder,” the man says, smiling gently.
“How far is it to the end of the tunnel?” Eve asks.
“From here, it should be a little less than six miles. I’d wager it will take you less than 30 minutes.”
“That’s insane,” I yell. “Thirty minutes? How in the world are we supposed to get off this thing? Ram into the wall at the other end?”
“We had to rig something up quickly. I’m not entirely sure what they came up with.”
“That’s reassuring,” I say angrily.
“Thanks,” says Eve honestly. “Cyrus, we don’t have any other choice.”
“I don’t like it. Geek?” I say. Nothing in response.
“I doubt Billy would be able to hear us this far underground.”
“Radio transmissions?” the man asks. Eve nods. “Yep, there’s no chance any radio signal would get in or out of here.”
“Great,” I say. I want to turn around. If there’s one thing that comes anywhere near to my fear of tunnels, it’s water. It’s not like I can’t swim or anything, but something about being stuck in the middle of a river frightens the crap out of me.
“So?” Eve asks.
“So what?” I ask, hoping some magical alternative will come out of nowhere.
“You ready for this?”
“By this, do you mean taking a trip down this raging river of death?
“Yes,” Eve says slowly, obviously getting some pleasure out of watching me squirm.
“Fine, let’s take a trip down the raging river of death,” I repeat the phrase, hoping it will cause her to agree this is not a good idea.
“Perfect,” the man says. He pulls the raft to the edge of the grating and attaches it to a chain. “Alright, get in.”
“Already?” I ask.
“Now’s as good of a time as any, right Cyrus?” Eve asks as she jumps into the raft.
I don’t want to let Eve be more fearless than me, but I’m struggling to find the willpower. Every single cell of my body is telling me to run, to leave this evil place. I look at Eve and she smiles brightly as she gestures for me to get in. This calms me for some reason and before I know it, I’m in the raft.
“Alright, I’m in,” I say with a frown. “Let’s do this before I change my mind.”
The man walks to a console and presses a button. The raft lifts above the ground and swings out above the water. “You’ll probably want to hold on as tight as you can,” he says. I firmly grab the hand grips and my hands lose feeling from the pressure I put on them. My knuckles turn white immediately.
The raft lowers slowly, swinging back and forth as it goes. Then it stops, inches above the water. “Good luck!” the man yells down to us. And the raft drops, hitting the water roughly, splashing our faces with a wave of the stuff as we speed away from the only visible piece of solid ground.
The raft spins uncontrollably, bouncing from wall to wall. Because of the low clearance, our heads hit the ceiling every time our raft makes contact. I lay in the bottom of the it and hope to keep safe. Eve reaches into the back and pulls out a paddle.
“I took some kayaking lessons when I was a kid,” she says as she places the paddle in the water behind us. We straighten out. My anxiety lessens, but only barely. “See,” she says, “it’s not so bad.”
The water is loud, echoing through the cavernous tunnel as it goes. I couldn’t think of anything worse than this. We’re careening down a river with a fairly short margin of error. Looking at Eve, I see she’s struggling against the strength of the current. She won’t be able to last long.
Hopefully she can last long enough.
And, as if to tell me this is supposed to be the worst moment of my entire life, the lights go out.
“Cyrus, I can’t see anything!” Eve yells to me.
“Yeah, I know.”
“I can’t steer if I can’t see.”
“I know,” I repeat.
“What do we do?” She sounds scared.
“I don’t know.” I try to sound confident, even though my fear is crippling. My mind scrambles for ideas, anything to keep us from hitting the walls. Hitting them at this speed, especially not knowing they are coming, could topple us or worse.
“I’m thinking, I’m thinking!” I yell back. I’m not sure what she thinks yelling my name is going to do. “Hey, is there another one of those paddle dealies back there?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
“Okay, can you get it for me?”
“Umm. . . I’m kinda busy right now.”
“Okay, sure.” I fumble around in the back of the raft. I feel something firm and warm.
“This isn’t the time to get fresh with me, Cyrus.”
“Oops, sorry.” We hit a wall and I tumble into the back seat. I feel Eve pulling on me to keep from falling over. I reach up to find her hand and pull her in.
I resume searching wildly for the other paddle. My hands hit on something. Cold this time. The paddle. I grab it slowly, careful to not knock Eve over.
“What’s your plan, Cyrus?”
“Well, we need to find the walls before the raft hits them, right?”
“Okay, the ceiling’s not too high here, maybe we could steer using that. You know, put the paddles up in the air and use them to find out where center is.”
“Aren’t we going too fast for that to work?”
“You got any better ideas?” I lift my paddle in the air. I don’t even know which direction we’re heading. I stick my hand in the water and think I can feel we are moving sideways. I push my paddle out the front of the raft and it hits the wall, almost shooting out of my hand and causing us to spin wildly. “Alright, maybe not.”
“I’ve got an idea,” Eve says. “Put your oar down on the right side of the raft, holding it flat against the water. I’ll do it on the left. Hopefully it will slow us down, if we’re lucky.”
I shove my paddle down into the water and it leaps, trying to escape my hands. I grip tightly as the raft begins to spin again. Then we straighten out and slow. The pressure against the paddle is incredible, but I hold tight.
“I think it’s working,” Eve yells to me.
“Okay, how long do we have to do this for?”
“At most a half hour, if that guy back there was right.”
“I think I’ve got about 5 minutes before my arms give out.”
“I’ve got less,” she says.
The paddle shakes uncontrollably in my hands. Time passes impossibly slowly. I have no clue how long we’ve been down here. I accept the idea of death. We’ve gotten so close to our destination, but it just wasn’t close enough.
“Cyrus, look!” Just as Eve yells, my paddle snaps in half and the boat begins spinning again. I look ahead and see the lights are turning on in phases, beginning at the other end of the tunnel. Eve pulls her paddle out of the water and we both sit in the center of the raft. We bounce back and forth from one wall to the next until the tunnel opens up.
There’s a giant whirlpool in the center of the large room we are entering. Men on the grating above are scrambling, yelling something to each other. Just as we begin swirling in the middle of the room, the raft lifts into the air. A large net is pulled from beneath us and brings us out of the water. Eve laughs.
“What’s so funny?”
“Well, you gotta admit, that was fun, right?”
“Fun? We almost died!”
“But we didn’t. That was awesome!”
“You’re crazy, you know that?”
“Ah, come on, quit being such a wuss. It was fun.”
“Okay, fine, it was a little fun.” It wasn’t.
The upward momentum completes and the men yell at us.
“You’ll have to climb out of there,” one of them shouts.
I look out at the net he’s intending on having me climb. There’s plenty of space for me to drop a leg through. There might even be enough space for all of me to fall through. Below is nothing but a swirling mess of water. Eve’s already on the grating by the time I’ve completely let myself out of the raft.
“Come on!” she yells.
“I can’t!” I yell back.
“Sure you can. Look, I made it. I thought you were supposed to be the best around. You gonna let me beat you?”
I want to let her plan work, but I’m too scared to let my competitiveness win over. I make my way slowly, very slowly. The net bounces. I look up. Eve’s shaking it.
“Stop it!” I scream.
“No!” Eve yells back. “Every extra second it takes you, the harder I’m going to shake it.” I’m holding on for dear life, how could I possibly move any faster? The more she shakes it, the more I can’t move.
“Don’t worry, son,” one of the men yells. He climbs out on the net to me and attaches something around my waist. He gives a thumbs-up sign to the other man and I’m lifted into the air, swung over above the grated platform, and dropped on the ground.
“Look at that, you made it,” Eve says as she pulls me to my feet. “So, boys, where are we?”
“Just on the other side of the river from Grand Island, a little north of Tonawanda.”
“And where is that?”
“The great state of New York, miss. United States of America.”
“Great,” I gasp.
“So, how do we get out of this hole?” Eve asks.
“Elevator’s right over there, miss. Would you like us to escort you up?”
“I’m sure we can find our way up an elevator.” She’s beaming from ear to ear. I don’t like it. She grabs me around the shoulder and pulls me to the elevator. We step inside and she looks at me. “Going up?” she asks.
“I want to kill you, you know.”
“Aw, and here I thought you liked me.”
Go to Chapter Twenty-Nine