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As a serious swimmer, Robert Langdon had often wondered what it would feel like to drown. Henow knew he was going to learn firsthand. Although he could hold his breath longer than most people, he could already feel his body reacting to the absence of air. Carbon dioxide was accumulating in his blood, bringing with it the instinctual urge to inhale. Do not breathe! The reflex to inhale was increasing in intensity with each passing moment. Langdon knew very soon he would reach what was called the breath-hold breakpoint—that critical moment at which a person could no longer voluntarily hold his breath.

Open the lid! Langdon’s instinct was to pound and struggle, but he knew better than to waste valuable oxygen. All he could do was stare up through the blur of water above him and hope. The world outside was now only a hazy patch of light above the Plexiglas window. His core muscles had begun burning, and he knew hypoxia was setting in.

Suddenly a beautiful and ghostly face appeared, gazing down at him. It was Katherine, her soft features looking almost ethereal through the veil of liquid. Their eyes met through the Plexiglas window, and for an instant, Langdon thought he was saved. Katherine! Then he heard her muted cries of horror and realized she was being held there by their captor. The tattooed monster was forcing her to bear witness to what was about to happen.

Katherine, I’m sorry . . .

In this strange, dark place, trapped underwater, Langdon strained to comprehend that these

would be his final moments of life. Soon he would cease to exist . . . everything he was . . . or had ever been . . . or would ever be . . . was ending. When his brain died, all of the memories held in his gray matter, along with all of the knowledge he had acquired, would simply evaporate in a flood of chemical reactions.

In this moment, Robert Langdon realized his true insignificance in the universe. It was as lonely

and humbling a feeling as he had ever

experienced. Almost thankfully, he could feel the breath-hold breakpoint arriving.

The moment was upon him.

Langdon’s lungs forced out their spent contents, collapsing in eager preparation to inhale. Still he held out an instant longer. His final second. Then, like a man no longer able to hold his hand to a burning stove, he gave himself over to fate.

Reflex overruled reason.

His lips parted.

His lungs expanded.

And the liquid came pouring in.

The pain that filled his chest was greater than Langdon had ever imagined. The liquid burned as it poured into his lungs. Instantly, the pain shot upward into his skull, and he felt like his head was being crushed in a vise. There was great thundering in his ears, and through it all, Katherine Solomon was screaming.

There was a blinding flash of light.

And then blackness.

Robert Langdon was gone.