“Godzilla” doesn’t open in theaters until May 16 — with the novelization not hitting bookstores until the week after, on May 20 — but you can read the second chapter of the book, right here right now.
And massive spoiler warning from here on out, because having seen the film, we can confirm this is exactly what happens, beat for beat, in the opening minutes of the Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros. movie:
Dr. Ishiro Serizawa gazed out the side door of the helicopter as it soared over a lush green landscape. Below him stretched a sunlit tropical rain forest clinging to the rugged slopes of the Philippine highlands. Pines and other evergreens dominated the pristine mountainsides, while mahogany and bamboo groves thrived at the lower altitudes, painting a scenic portrait of pure, unsullied nature. A distinguished-looking man in his early forties, with receding black hair and a neatly trimmed mustache and beard, Serizawa enjoyed the view—until he spied his destination.
The strip mine cut like a gash through the verdant wilderness. Acres of natural beauty had been torn away to expose barren ridges of rock and soil. Ugly metal structures crouched upon shelves of naked bedrock that had been carved, blasted, and bulldozed into the side of the mountain. Shanty towns spilled down the slopes, providing housing for the thousands of laborers toiling in the hot midday sun. Mining, for copper, zinc, nickel, and other minerals, was a growing industry in the Philippines, but it came at the expense of the nation’s precious flora and fauna. Instead of abundant greenery, the mining complex was dirty, brown and lifeless. Serizawa winced at the damage done to the environment. The older he got, the more he thought that Nature was sometimes best left to its own devices.
His eyes narrowed as he spied what appeared to be a caved-in section of the mine. This was what had drawn him to this desolate location, all the way from his native Japan. He eyed the collapsed mine with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. The early reports had hinted at something truly remarkable, well worth this exhausting journey. Serizawa couldn’t wait to see for himself.
The chopper touched down on a flattened stretch of mountaintop, not far from the cave-in. Outside, sweaty laborers operated mucking loaders, scoop trams, and other heavy machinery as they hurriedly excavated loose gravel and sludge from the collapsed mine. The logo of Universal Western Mining was emblazoned on the machinery. Filipino workers backed away from ‘copter, raising their arms to shield themselves from the dust and debris thrown up by rotors’ wash.
Finally, Serizawa thought. He unbuckled his seatbelt and climbed stiffly out of the ‘copter, followed by his colleague, Dr. Vivienne Graham. An attractive Englishwoman in her thirties, she had a dark brown hair cut sensibly short. She had been at Serizawa’s right hand for many years now. Her practical attire was rumpled from the trip.
Three other members of their team also exited the chopper and immediately got to work unloading duffel bags and gear. Serizawa took a moment to get his bearings. It felt good to set foot on solid ground and stretch his legs again. He glanced around, looking for someone to escort them to the discovery.
A stocky, middle-aged American emerged from the chaos surrounding the mine, shouldering his way past busy workers and machinery alike. Perspiration shone on his ruddy face and had soaked through his clothes. Serizawa recognized the man as Oscar Boyd, one of the men in charge of the mining company. He and Serizawa had been in touch earlier.
“Thank God you’re here!” Boyd shouted over the whirr of the rotors. He joined Serizawa and his team. “It’s just a mess, I’m warning you. Just a total mess.”
A squad of armed guards, toting automatic weapons, accompanied Boyd. The men had the stony expressions and ice-cold eyes of hardened mercenaries or guerillas. Not exactly the most reassuring of welcoming committees. Serizawa and Graham exchanged worried looks. The presence of the guns and guards was unnerving, but they had come too far to succumb to second thoughts now. Serizawa trusted that the soldiers were only on hand to provide security, even if the amount of firepower on view struck him as excessive.
“They picked up a radiation pocket out here last month,” Boyd said, getting right down to business. He sounded anxious for whatever advice and assistance the scientists might be able to offer. Serizawa’s understanding was that Boyd was from the company’s main office and had not personally been on hand when the disaster struck. He sounded flustered and out of his depth. “And got all excited thinking they had a uranium deposit. They started stacking up the heavy machinery and…”
As he spoke, he guided them down a slope toward a nearby ridge. Serizawa stepped carefully over the rough, uneven terrain.
“The floor of the valley collapsed into the cavern below,” Boyd continued. “Just dropped away. Best guess right now is about forty miners went down with it.”
He stepped aside to let Serizawa and the others see for themselves. The team found themselves on a rocky ledge, looking out over the valley below—or what was left of it. A jagged chasm, at least a hundred feet long, had swallowed up the floor of the valley. Mangled machinery, shacks, boulders, and other debris could be dimly glimpsed within the shadowy rift, which appeared to descend deep into the Earth. Serizawa gazed down at the wreckage for several moments, taking it all in, before speaking again.
“I need to speak with the survivors,” he said.
A tin-roofed storage facility had been converted into an impromptu triage center. Dozens of injured and dying workers occupied rows of cots. Serizawa saw at once that all of the men were suffering from severe radiation burns. Blisters and ulcers and raw red patches afflicted their flesh. Some were still conscious, while the luckier ones had been rendered oblivious by morphine drips. Agonized moans and whimpers echoed off the walls of the building, whose sweltering atmosphere lacked any sort of air-conditioning. Doctors and nurses, overworked and overwhelmed, moved briskly among the rows of patients, doing what little they could to relieve the men’s suffering. Unlike their patients, the relief workers had donned hazmat suits for their own protection. Gas masks covered their faces.
Still in his traveling clothes, Serizawa felt uncomfortably exposed.
Graham inhaled sharply beside him, taken aback by the scale of the tragedy. Serizawa shared her horror. From what he could see of the men’s burns, few of the miners would last the week, while any survivors would be doomed to years of complications, cancers, and deformities before they finally succumbed to the radiation’s pernicious effects. His heart went out to them, knowing there was little that could be done for them at this point.
Steeling himself against the heart-rending sights and sounds, Serizawa approached one of the patients. The man’s face was so badly swollen that he looked barely human. Scorched skin peeled and blistered. His hair was falling out. The burns and swelling made it impossible to determine the patient’s age, but a glance at his chart revealed that the dying miner was only twenty years old.
So young, Serizawa thought, even as he forced himself to focus on the task at hand. Now was no time for sentiment. He needed hard data and information if the root cause of this catastrophe was indeed what he suspected. Many more lives might well be at stake.
One of his aides had rescued a portable radiation detector from their supplies. The handheld device included an external wand. Serizawa unslung the detector from his shoulder and switched it on. Drawing nearer to the cot, he pointed the sensor at the patient.
The detector clacked rapidly. The needle on the monitor spiked upward, into the red zone.
Serizawa backed away warily, alarmed by the results. He flagged down one of the busy nurses, whose face was largely concealed by her gas mask. He grasped the shoulder of her hazmat suit.
“Can you ask this man what happened?”
The nurse nodded. Leaning over the patient, she spoke to him in Tagalog. A hoarse, whispery voice escaped his cracked and swollen lips, but was far too faint to make out. She leaned in closer as the man repeated himself, gesturing feebly at Serizawa with a bandaged hand.
“He says,” the nurse translated, “that people like you… you came here, you raped the earth. You tore holes in her flesh… and now she’s given birth to a demon.”
The miner slowly rolled over in his cot, using the last of his strength to turn his back on Serizawa and the others. Serizawa did not attempt to refute the man’s accusation. He was more concerned with the “demon” the survivor had mentioned. Just the delirious ramblings of a dying man… or a warning?
“Not sure there’s a box for that on the insurance form,” Boyd said.
The foreman’s attempt at lightening the mood fell flat. Lost in thought, Serizawa drew an antique pocket watch from his jacket and quietly wound the stem. He found himself hoping that this was a false alarm, but the evidence against that was mounting. The next step was to see for himself, no matter the risks.
A hazmat suit landed loudly at his feet.
Fully suited up, the team made their way into the chasm, steadying themselves on guide ropes that had been set up for the rescue operations. Their flashlights did little to dispel the darkness as they entered a cavern descending steeply into the earth. The sound of his own breathing echoed hollowly inside Serizawa’s protective hood, which felt heavy and unwieldy. The weight of the suit, and his limited visibility, did not make the downward trek any easier.
Keeping one hand on the guide rope, he held the radiation sensor out before him. The clacking was nonstop now, the needle pegging the dial. Serizawa couldn’t help wondering about the quality and integrity of his hazmat gear. He suspected that Graham and the others were, too.
None of them wanted to end up like those wretched souls in the triage center.
While Serizawa monitored the radiation levels, Graham documented the expedition with her digital camera. Periodic flashes lit up the cavern’s murky interior, exposing fractured stone walls and twisted metal debris. She gasped as a flash revealed a lifeless human hand extending from the rubble. Flashlight beams swung toward the hand, which belonged to a bloated corpse sprawled upon the rocks. A contorted face was frozen in an agonized rictus. Cloudy eyes gazed sightlessly into oblivion.
“They sent another fifty men down here to search for survivors,” Boyd explained, his voice muffled by his protective breathing apparatus. “Half the rescuers never made it back up, they were too weak.”
Serizawa did the calculations. That was over sixty-five fatalities so far, not including the doomed and dying men they had just left behind in the triage center. The death count was mounting by the moment and they hadn’t even confirmed the cause yet. He feared, however, that this was indeed far more than just a tragic mining accident.
Graham’s camera flashed again and again, finding additional bodies scattered in heaps through the cavern. Still more valiant rescue workers, Serizawa realized, who had perished before making it back to the surface. He admired their courage even as he mourned their sacrifice.
Squinting in the shadows, he looked away from the plentiful dead and studied his surroundings. Each flash from Graham’s camera offered a glimpse of roughly textured cavern walls and oddly curved calcite formations all around them. It was like exploring the interior of some alien moon or world fresh from the dawn of its creation. The rich, green splendor of the Philippine rain forest seemed very far away.
A work crew from the mine, drafted into service by Boyd, set up globe lights around the spacious interior of the cavern. Serizawa and Graham both gasped out loud as the first of the lights flared to life, giving them a better look at the scene in whole. Thick bands of a porous, calcite-like material ribbed the grotto.
“The rocks, right?” Boyd said, as though anticipating the scientists’ reaction. “I’ve been digging holes for thirty years, but I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Serizawa’s eyes widened as he grasped what he was seeing.
“No,” he said, his voice hushed in awe. “Not geological. Biological.” He raised his flashlight, concentrating its beam on the huge shield-shaped calcite formation that made up the ceiling of the grotto. At least twenty meters in length, its contours were clearly recognizable if you knew what you were looking for. “The ceiling… it’s bone. It’s the sternum. We’re inside a ribcage.”
Before Boyd could process that, the rest of the globe lights popped, flooding the vast cavern with cold white light. Serizawa turned about, taking in the entire scene. Now that he knew what to look for, the impossible truth was right before his eyes. Gigantic rib bones, curving upwards like the buttresses of a medieval cathedral, formed the walls of the “cavern.” A bony spine, composed of huge, boulder-sized vertebrae, ran across the floor beneath their feet, stretching the length of several football fields. Serizawa realized that he was literally standing on the long-buried backbone of some incredibly gargantuan lifeform.
Graham stepped away from Boyd, before the speechless foreman could start pelting them with questions. Like Serizawa, she rotated slowly to absorb the full magnitude of what they had discovered. Her eyes were wide behind the visor of her gas mask. She drew closer to Serizawa.
“Is it Him?” she asked quietly. “Is it possible?”
Serizawa shook his head. “This is far older.”
A hush fell over the cavern as everyone coped with Serizawa’s stunning revelation. Boyd shook his head in disbelief, while some of the work crew looked like they were on the verge of bolting. Serizawa recalled the myth of Jonah and the whale, as well another legend native to the small Japanese fishing village where he’d grown up…
“Guys!” a voice called out from deeper within the cavern. It belonged to Kenji, a young graduate student who had recently joined Serizawa’s team. “You gotta see this!”
The urgency in Kenji’s voice could not be missed. Serizawa and the others hurried toward him, while trying not to stumble over the rubble and vertebrae. They found Kenji standing under a beam of natural daylight shining down from above. The sunshine lit up more of the cavern’s interior, allowing an even better view of the colossal skeletal remains, but that was not what immediately caught Serizawa’s attention. His eyes were drawn to yet another astounding discovery.
Two gigantic sac-like encrustations hung like barnacles from the colossal breast bone that formed the ceiling of the cavern. Each the size of a large boulder, the sacs had a rough, gnarled texture that might have formed from some kind of hardened resin or other secretion. Even more than the skeletal structure of the cavern, the sacs appeared unmistakably organic. Serizawa, whose background was in biology, thought that they resembled the egg sacs of some unknown organism, albeit of unprecedented proportions.
He aimed the radiation sensor at the closest sac, which elicited a flurry of clacking from the detector, but when he turned the sensor toward the further sac, the clacking died off noticeably. The detector registered only the pre-existing background radiation of the cavern.
Interesting, he thought. Theories and possible explanations began to form within his brain. Although he had devoted much of his career to the covert study of unknown megafauna, he had never encountered specimens like these before. Was it possible that…?
“That one,” Kenji pointed out. “The one that’s broken. It’s almost as though something came out of it…”
Indeed, one of the enormous sacs appeared to have shattered from the inside. Giant chunks of its husk were strewn about the floor of the cavern, dozens of feet below the ruptured specimen. Serizawa made a mental note to have every fragment collected for analysis. The nature of material might provide valuable clues into what sort of organism had produced it.
“Wait,” Kenji said. Fear entered his voice as the full implications of his observation sank in. “Did something actually come out of there?”
Serizawa refrained from replying. There were too many unsanctioned ears present and he had no desire to start a panic. Instead he headed toward the sunlight, joining Kenji in a wide circle of warm golden light. Tilting his head back, he peered upward.
High above his head, a ragged hole in the ceiling opened up onto the outside world—almost as though something had burst outward from the depth of the cavern, leaving the ruptured sac behind. He exchanged more apprehensive looks with Graham. This was far more than they had anticipated.
Hours later, as their chopper ferried them away from the site, Serizawa got a birds-eye view of the giant sinkhole that had broken through the floor of the jungle. Nearly sixty meters in diameter, the hole was even bigger than it had looked from below. But that wasn’t all that alarmed him. Beyond the gaping pit, a massive drag mark stretched across the hilly rain forest, leaving a trail of crushed and uprooted trees and foliage. Acres across, the trail gouged a disturbingly wide path toward the north end of the island—and the open Pacific beyond.
Serizawa could only wonder what had emerged from the pit.
And where it was heading now.
“Godzilla: The Official Movie Novelization” by Greg Cox will be available in bookstores everywhere on May 20, from Titan Books.