THIRTY-FOUR THOUSAND FEET above the dark expanse of the Bay of Biscay, Alitalia’s red-eye to Boston cruised westward through a moonlit night.
On board, Robert Langdon sat engrossed in a paperback copy of The Divine Comedy. The rhythm of the poem’s lilting terza rima rhyme scheme, along with the hum of the jet engines, had lulled him into a near-hypnotic state. Dante’s words seemed to flow off the page, resonating in his heart as if they had been written specifically for him in this very moment.
Dante’s poem, Langdon was now reminded, was not so much about the misery of hell as it was about the power of the human spirit to endure any challenge, no matter how daunting.
Outside the window, a full moon had risen, dazzling and bright, blotting out all other heavenly bodies. Langdon gazed out at the expanse, lost in his thoughts of all that had transpired in the last few days.
The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis. For
Langdon, the meaning of these
words had never felt so clear: In dangerous times, there is no sin greater than inaction.
Langdon knew that he himself, like millions, was guilty of this. When it came to the circumstances of the world, denial had become a global pandemic. Langdon promised himself that he would never forget this.
As the plane streaked west, Langdon thought of the two courageous women who were now in Geneva, meeting the future head-on and navigating the complexities of a changed world.
Outside the window, a bank of clouds appeared on the horizon, inching slowly across the sky, finally slipping across the moon and blocking out its radiant light.
Robert Langdon eased back in his seat, sensing that it was time to sleep.
As he clicked off his overhead light, he turned his eyes one last time to the heavens. Outside, in the newly fallen darkness, the world had been transformed. The sky had become a glistening tapestry of stars.