Escape from the Island of Aquarius, pp. 117-128
Just to clear something up—I looked back at the section where Lila was prepared for the sacrifice, and it says she put the dress on over her hiking fatigues. This means she’s still wearing clothes after the giant snake rips her white ceremonial gown off. This was somewhat unclear last week. Oops!
Anyway, Lila is running through the jungle with The Dude, who just rescued her from the jaws of the giant snake in the ceremonial pit. Meanwhile, her father and brother and the Real Adam MacKenzie are climbing through lava tubes on their way to the sacrificial pit, battling earthquakes as they climb through the island, in attempt to rescue the already-rescued Lila.
“I think I see daylight,” said Adam.
The three of them hurried toward it, and then froze.
A long slithering tail with thick, leathery skin lay in the tunnel like a huge log.
Whoops. They got to the sacrificial pit after the giant snake did. Moments after this, the snake’s tail disappears, only to be replaced with its head.
The snake’s enormous, ugly dinosaur-head passed by them, blood still apparent on the jaws as the monster slithered down into the depths of the quaking island.
The snake ate the meat, which the Coopers and the Real MacKenzie naturally think was Lila—and when the Coopers head to the pit after the snake exits (they hide in a nook as it goes by, and it apparently cannot smell them), they find the white dress—and Lila’s necklace.
There is no description of Lila losing a necklace, but ok. I’ll buy it. The point is, they have proof that this was Lila, and not some random other sacrifice.
Let me pause for a moment to say that the section that follows this has two purposes: First, to establish that revenge is never, ever, ever an okay motive for a Christian; and Second, to establish that Dr. Cooper is a manly macho badass who totally could avenge his daughter if he weren’t, you know, a good Christian.
Dr. Cooper folded the little gown once, twice, again, gathering it up in his trembling hands. He held it close to his chest, and then he just stood there, motionless, for a long time.
“Dad …” Jay tried to say, but his throat was so dry and his voice so weak he could hardly get it out. “We don’t really know.”
Dr. Cooper stood there, motionless and silent.
From deep below, the rumbling started again. The earth quivered a little.
The Real MacKenzie tries to bring Jacob out of his frozen state, reminding him that the island is collapsing and they don’t have much time.
“Jacob, we must try to warn these people. We must try to save them. We must do it, Jacob.”
Jay says the people “don’t deserve it” and the Real MacKenzie responds that “God loves them” and that “he saved us” when “we didn’t deserve it.” Because you know, being selfish sometimes or going off on your sister when you’re stressed is totally the same as murdering someone.
Jay says the Real MacKenzie is only saying this because he’s a missionary, which, yes! Good point, Jay! This is how Peretti writes missionaries—they’re little more than cardboard cutouts that spew Bible verses.
Suddenly Dr. Cooper came alive again, drawing a deep breath and looking all around the walls. “We’ll have to form a human ladder to get out of here. Between the three of us we should be able to do it.”
But Adam saw something in Dr. Cooper’s eyes that he greatly feared. “Jacob, are you all right?”
Dr. Jacob Cooper is not alright.
While he doesn’t say so directly, it’s clear from the way this is written that we’re to believe Dr. Cooper has suddenly become very, very dangerous. He’s out for blood. Kelno’s blood. He’s out to avenge his daughter.
“Jacob,” Adam said, his voice full of concern, “are you sure about your motives?”
“Let’s get going!” Dr. Cooper answered, thumbing the hammer and turning the chambers on his gun.
Meanwhile, Lila is “following the massive Polynesian” through the jungle. They ultimately arrive at the half-submerged village and stop. This broken English when everyone else has complete mastery of English is really getting to me. And what the heck is this “Mee-Bwah” thing?
“Mee-Bwah!” he said, and then pointed to his heart.
Lila understood that right away, and she wondered … “You … you know Jesus?”
“Mee-Bwah!” he said, poking the palms of his hands to imitate nail wounds and then pressing his palms together as if praying. “Jesus! Mee-Bwah!”
Lila could not believe it. She could feel the joy washing over her! “Candle, you really know Jesus?”
He nodded, and then said, “Adam.”
“Adam? You mean, Adam MacKenzie?”
“Adam, he Mee-Bwah.”
“Adam is a Christian?” Lila pointed at the cross in the dirt to make sure she was following what Candle was saying. Candle nodded with a big smile.
What the hell.
What does Mee-Bwah mean??
It doesn’t seem to mean “Jesus.” It might mean “Christian,” but if so, why? The Real MacKenzie isn’t the kind of person to have any problem teaching native populations the English words for terms like “Christian.”
“But where is Adam MacKenzie? Is he dead?”
Candle shook his head. “No! No dead! Adam …” Candle ran out of words, and started scratching out a picture in the dirt.
Somehow, painfully, The Dude makes Lila understand that Adam went through the whirlpool, like her father and brother, and survived. Lila realizes that this means her father and brother may also be alive. Lila “felt like she was going into shock again,” which seems accurate.
Anyway, after this The Dude shows Lila around the submerged village; he has filled the huts with supplies stolen from the Cult Village, but also supplies from the Coopers’ boat—including all of their explosives. “No burn,” The Dude says of the Coopers’ supplies.
(Kelno burned the Coopers’ boat, remember.)
Lila was awestruck. She closed her eyes and said, “Thank you, Lord. You’ve answered my prayer.”
“Mee-Bwah,” said Candle, looking heavenward.
If you think it’s odd that this reaction and exchange comes when Lila finds out The Dude saved their stuff and not after she finds out that her father and brother might still be alive, that makes two of you.
Back in the Cult Village, the people are getting nervous—the quakes didn’t cease with Lila’s sacrifice as Kelno had sworn they would (what exactly was Kelno’s end game here?). So when Jay comes up the path to the Cult Village the two guards think they’re seeing a ghost, and freeze. That gives Dr. Cooper and the Real MacKenzie time to jump them, thereby opening access to the Cult Village. Which is where they’re going. To warn the people, or so the Real MacKenzie thinks. That’s not Dr. Cooper’s plan, though.
There’s lots of statements here about how “cold and determined” Dr. Cooper’s eyes were and such like. Dr. Cooper is about to go rogue.
We now come to the section where I have literally written in the margin “Team America! F*ck Yeah!” Because, I mean, that really was my first though. Seriously.
We’re going to do this with gifs. Because we’re going to need them. Badly.
Like a bullet from a rifle, like a cougar pouncing on its prey, Dr. Cooper shot across the village square and bounded up the cottage steps before either sentry could even realize what was happening.
One thug managed to grab his rifle, but a powerful hand rammed into him and flung his whole body against the wall. He was out of the game.
The other sentry only had time to take one step forward before a boot caught him in the center of the chest and propelled him over the rail.
The cottage door burst open, tearing the hinges loose.
The bodyguard in the living room only saw a blur that dove into his stomach like a torpedo punching him backward over a couch and through the rear window. He was out.
Kelno’s two personal bodyguards came bursting out of his private chambers. They were ready. One had his revolver drawn.
Boom! Dr. Cooper fired first with a blinding flash, and the gun went flying from the guard’s hand. A boot hit the guard in the chest like a battering ram, and the other guard got a rib-cracking fist.
OMG. What. What is happening. Just. What. I. I can’t.
In his chambers, Stuart Kelno jumped up from his breakfast. “What’s—who are you?”
The mad invader took hold of the breakfast table and flipped it up, spattering Kelno’s meal all over him and pinning him against the wall with a clatter of breaking dishes and a splintering of wood. An iron fist clamped onto Kelno’s collar so he could not move, and then there was an ominous click.
Stuart Kelno was looking down the barrel of a cocked 357 Magnum, and right behind that barrel were the cold blue eyes of a very deadly, very angry, very unkillable enemy.
I’m not sure I can go on. This section was one of the wildest things I’ve read in this entire series. There are other sections like this—plenty! But none that I am aware of lean so hard into personifying Dr. Cooper’s body parts.
And like. Everything else going on here.
Kelno was speechless and visibly terrified. He could only stare and tremble, gasping for each breath, his eyes glued to those cold eyes.
The animal holding him did not say a word and did not loosen its grip for what seemed like eternity.
We’ve spent time inside Dr. Cooper’s head. To go from that to this is just weird. We’re on the outside looking in now, and Peretti is describing Dr. Cooper as an “animal” and referring to him as “it.” It’s weird.
“Are you…” Kelno struggled to say, “are you back from the dead, Jacob Cooper?”
The big fist tightened its grip and a growling voice said, “Where is my daughter?”
Kelno knew he had no acceptable answer for that . “You—you are a Christian! You cannot kill me in cold blood!”
“You cannot kill me!”
Dr. Cooper lifted Kelno right off his feet with a powerful arm. “I can, Stuart Kelno. Right now, more than ever, I most certainly can.”
Kelno believed he was about to die.
Kelno was not, in fact, about to die.
But then, as if Dr. Cooper had been startled by his own words, the cold, fierce eyes mellowed and the grip loosened just a little. The look of anger on Dr. Cooper’s face melted into an expression fo deep sorrow. A silent, terror-frozen moment passed, and then, with a mournful sigh, eh turned the barrel of the gun safely away and returned the hammer to rest. He slipped the 357 back into its holster.
“You’re not going to kill me?” Kelno asked, starting to feel relieved.
Dr. Cooper could not answer right away. He was too disturbed by his own actions.
This is how Peretti can make his main character into a James Bond action figure and also ensure that he stays a good Christian. Dr. Cooper could have avenged his daughter. He wanted to, and he absolutely had the means to. He’s a manly ninja badass! He could have taken Kelno out!
Okay, that’s it. I’m calling it here. Now go back and reread that whole section, except this time, read it out loud to whoever you’re social distancing with—because, damn.
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