The volcano threw us into the sea. Hans saved us again with his amazing strength. But where were we? It looked like the surface of the earth. There were small boats in the water and olive and fruit trees on the land. Behind us was the huge volcano. We saw a little boy. We tried to go near him, but he was afraid of us. After all our underground adventures, we looked horrible. The professor spoke to him in German, French and English, but he did not understand. Finally, the boy spoke in Italian.
«What did he say?»
«He said we’re in Stromboli, Italy.»
«You mean we went in one volcano in Iceland and came out of another in Italy?»
«Yes, and that one there is Mount Etna.»
And that was how our journey ended. The professor was not happy that he didn’t get to the centre of the earth, but when we got back to Germany, he felt better. Martha told everyone in Hamburg about our journey, and when we arrived, there was a big celebration for us. Everyone in Hamburg was at the train station when we arrived, but the only person I looked for was my Grauben. And I saw her, like a white light, moving past the others, until I could hold her.
«Oh, Axel, I’m so glad you’re back. I thought of you every day and sometimes I was afraid, but somehow I knew you were all right.»
«Well, I never felt that I was safe, but I did want to come back to you, every minute of every day.»
There was a stage set up in the station, and the journalists who were there asked the professor to talk about our journey. Uncle Otto was tired, but he agreed.
«My nephew, Axel, and I are now back from an incredible journey.»
We saw things that scientists still do not know about. There is life in the heart of this planet. There is water and beaches and trees. Arne Saknussemm, a famous scientist from the sixteenth century, was the first to travel under the earth. We are the second. I do not know if others will try this dangerous adventure in the future. If they do, they need someone like our guide Hans with them, or I’m afraid they will not survive.
For a moment, I thought I saw a smile on Hans’ face as the people clapped and cheered. But, as usual, the quiet Icelander didn’t say a word.