Valley of Shadows

Live and Let Die Chapter 19

James Bond is in the water, with the heavy limpet mine strapped to his chest, heading out towards the Secatur. As he makes the journey, Fleming provides vivid word pictures of the undersea life that he encounters on his swim.

Once the great streamers of a portuguese man-of-war floated slowly by. They almost reached his head from the surface, fifteen feet away, and he remembered the whiplash of a sting from the contact of one of their tendrils that had burned for three of his days at Manatee Bay. If they caught a man across the heart they could kill him. He saw several green and speckled moray eels, the latter moving like big yellow and black snakes along patches of sand, the green ones baring their teeth from some hole in the rock, and several West Indian blowfish, like brown owls with huge soft green eyes. He poked at one with the end of his gun and it swelled out to the size of a football and became a mass of dangerous white spines.

Once he gets past the reef, there is a hundred yards of open water in front of him. He takes a moment to rest and to reflect on the dangers ahead when suddenly he is grabbed around the ankles by an octopus. The beast pulls Bond down, and because of the weight on his chest, he is unable to reach out with his dagger to wound the attacker.

After a struggle of a few moments, he manages to get his harpoon gun and point it at the octopus. He pulls the trigger and is freed, albeit amidst a cloud of “viscous, stringy ink”. A stream of bubbles also rises to the surface, where they could possibly be observed by the people on the boat. He continues on, passing by a giant stingray. He also spots a shark and a number of large barracuda. He then spots the keel of the Secatur, and checks the time.

He looked at the Rolex watch on his wrist. It was three minutes past eleven o’clock. He selected the seven-hour fuse from the handful he extracted from a zipped side-pocket and inserted it in the fuse pocket of the mine and pushed it home. The rest of the fuses he buried in the sand so that if he was captured the mine would not be betrayed.

After he attaches the mine, he notices the pack of barracuda and sharks in a frenzy. “Extreme mob behaviour conditions” as the Navy Department had phrased it. Bond pushes through and gets to the giant screws of the ship and takes shelter there.

At the same time he noticed that it was getting darker. He looked up and saw with dawning comprehension that the quicksilver surface of the sea had turned red, a horrible glinting crimson.

Threads of the stuff drifted within his reach. He hooked some towards him with the end of his gun. Held the end close up against his glass mask.

There was no doubt about it.

Up above, someone was spraying the surface of the sea with blood and offal.