We swam side by side to begin with. Below us, occasional shoals of parrotfish and bright red snappers swept across the sandy bed. When the channel narrowed, I swam ahead, slinking along the silent passageway. The ground soon became uncluttered: clear golden sand beneath us, the sun shining down, almost directly above our heads. Two silhouetted mermaid figures gliding along below the surface, our shadows came and went, appearing briefly before suddenly growing distorted with the splash of a tail breaking the water's still surface.
We came to the curtain of reeds draped down the channel's walls and the algae-coated wooden plaques. That's when the feeling started inside me. I didn't know what it was. A quivery kind of sensation jiggling around in my stomach. Nervous. Waiting for something - and a feeling that there was something waiting for me, too. Trying not to let Shona see my quivering hands, I parted the curtain and looked through the hole in the wall. The water sparkled and fanned out into a wide lagoon. Ferns hung down over cracks and gaps in the walls. A white tropical bird flew into a hole behind me, its long tail disappearing into the rock. Nothing else moved. Shona stared.
I turned to her. "Ready?" My voice shook.
She broke her gaze to look at me. "Let's just get this over with."
I glanced around to check that no one had followed us, then I squeezed through the gap and swam into the lagoon. The sun burned down, heating my neck and dancing on the water. Its light rippled below us in wavy lines across the sea floor.
As we slid across the stillness, the water grew colder and murkier. When the lagoon narrowed back into a channel, I couldn't see my reflection swimming along below me anymore. The walls lining our trail had lost their hardness. They were like chalk. I stopped and scraped my finger down the side. I made myself focus on the walls, almost flicking a switch to turn off the nagging wordless worry in my mind. Rock crumbled in my hand. The channel walls stretched upward, cold and gray and deserted.
"Emily!" Shona was pointing at something ahead. An engraving on the wall: a perfect circle with a fountain spiraling out from the center. It looked like a pinwheel, full of energy, almost as tall as us. I had this weird feeling I knew the picture, recognized it. Had I seen it in a book? Dreamed about it? What was it?
"Look at this!" Shona had swum ahead while I stared at the engraving.
I joined her in front of some ferns loosely covering a hole in the rock. The hole disappeared below the surface. We dived down. Under the water, it was just big enough to swim into.
"Cool!" I grinned at her. A secret tunnel reaching into the rock! "Shona, we have to see what's in there."
EMILY WINDSNAP AND THE MONSTER FROM THE DEEP by Liz Kessler. Copyright © 2006 by Liz Kessler. Published by Candlewick Press, Inc., Cambridge, MA.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Emily Windsnap and the Monster from the Deep by Liz Kessler. Copyright © 2006 by Liz Kessler. Excerpted by permission of Candlewick, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.