Beyond the sparkling Hawaiian beaches, masked by the deceptive beauty of the rainforest, evil awaits sixteen-year-old Michael Sundquist and his mother, Katharine, an anthropologist who has come to the Islands to study the unusual skeletal remains unearthed on the volcanic flanks of Haleakala, Maui.
Yet far below the black depths of the Pacific a mysterious substance snakes through undiscovered fissures in the ocean floor, as nature itself seems to portend the terror to come.
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April 29, 1998
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Excerpt from The Presence by John Saul
From above, the day was perfect.
A sky of sapphire blue, a sea of sparkling turquoise. A scattering of marshmallow clouds drifted across a vast expanse of azure.
The wind had died, and the ocean rose and fell gently against the shattered end of a lava flow that extended from the sea to a vent nearly halfway up Kilauea on the island of Hawaii ...
The kind of day for which the diving team had been waiting.
An hour after dawn, they were aboard the tug and barge that carried them out of Hilo Bay. Now the barge was anchored two hundred yards off the end of the lava flow, held in place by three anchors chained to heavy hawsers. The tug itself needed nothing more than a lunch hook to hold its position, and the surface crew -- with little to do until the divers in the water signaled them -- relaxed on the deck, drinking beer and playing cards, as somnolent as the weather itself.
Perhaps if the wind and the sea hadn't conspired against them, someone would have felt the seismic blip and realized that the idyllic day's serenity was an illusion ...
One hundred feet below the surface, the two divers, a man and a woman, worked with intense concentration to retrieve the object they had discovered a week ago.
Embedded in the layer of lava that covered the ocean floor, it was almost perfectly spherical, its color so close to that of the lava itself that the divers, coming upon it for the first time, almost missed it completely. Its shape was what had caught the woman's eye -- a curve caught in her peripheral vision ...
On the tug, the crew set to work to lift the geode from the ocean floor ...
As they concentrated on operating the crane, none of the crew noticed the smoke that was starting to drift through the first tiny rifts in the face of the cliff two hundred yards away.
A hundred feet down, the two divers backed thirty feet away from the geode, then turned to watch as the cable from the crane tightened. For a breath-held moment nothing moved. Then, the geode -- nearly three feet across -- abruptly came free of the lava....
The crane was just swinging the geode onto the deck of the barge when the face of the cliff gave way. As a gout of brilliant lava spewed out, exploding into millions of fragments when it hit the surface of the sea a split second later, the crane operator screamed a warning. Within seconds the hawsers had been cut, the anchors and their chains abandoned, and the tug was running directly out to sea.
The water, dead calm only a few seconds before, churned around the tug, reacting to the explosive force of the fast-growing gush of lava now pouring forth from the crumbling face of the cliff.
"What about the divers?" someone yelled.
But even as he spoke, the terrified crewmen knew the answer to his question....
Using binoculars, the crew scanned the water for any sign of the two divers, but even as they searched, they knew they were bound to fail. They had barely escaped with their own lives. As the storm built and the seas became great, heaving swells, the captain of the tug turned back toward Hilo and the safety of the harbor.
On the barge, three men secured the geode to the deck, silently wondering if it had been worth the lives it had cost to collect it.