Lo sleeps after all, but she’s awakened by Johann Nilsson the next morning. Lo, feeling seasick, regrets asking him to return so early. Nilsson tells her that no one has been reported missing among the staff, and she agrees to accompany him belowdecks to see for herself. As soon as they venture into the depths of the ship, everything feels different—“the walls were closer together and painted a dingy shade of beige, but it was the light that made me feel instantly claustrophobic—dim and fluorescent, with a strange high-frequency flicker that made your eyes tire almost at once.”
The staff areas of the ship contrast jarringly with the luxurious public areas. Everything’s darker and more cramped, with no attempt to cater to anyone’s comfort or taste. The wealthy get completely different treatment than the workers.
The staff mess hall, with its drab décor and smell of institutional cooking, reinforces the impression of difference between the upper and lower decks. Nilsson introduces Lo to some of the staff, and they speculate about the identity of the woman Lo saw. The staffers seem shocked by Lo’s mention of hearing a scream, and they claim they’re a tightly knit, happy crew who would have known if anyone was in trouble.
The lower areas of the ship plainly aren’t meant to be seen by its wealthy patrons. The distinction is further underlined by the way the staff close ranks when questioned by somebody from up above.
Lo can’t shake the feeling of “being hemmed in, trapped below” the ocean, but she pushes her anxious thoughts away, refusing to give up her investigation. When Lo is introduced to one of the Aurora’s chefs, she nearly panics, seeing dark hairs showing through his latex gloves. Though the staff is polite, Lo doesn’t see the girl from Cabin 10 or hear any clues to her identity.
Even though being belowdecks makes Lo feel trapped, she’s able to keep her anxiety at bay in order to focus on the matter at hand, showing her resilience. However, the gloved chef reminds her strongly of her apartment burglar, which nearly shatters her calm and shows how debilitating flashbacks can be.
When Nilsson notices Lo’s discomfort, he mentions that the Aurora’s staff accommodations are much nicer than those on rival ships. Lo thinks that what really shocks her is not the space, but “the graphic illustration of the gap between the haves and have-nots.” As they continue through the ship, Lo feels queasy and thinks of the work she’s neglecting for Velocity, but she reminds herself that “as much as I wanted to climb the ladder … some things were more important.”
The disparity between the extremely rich and those who aren’t bothers Lo; it contributes to a sense of disenchantment with the Aurora and even with her profession. She also cares more about the fate of one woman than she does about advancing her own career—showing her compassion and her eye for what’s most important.
Lo talks with spa therapist Eva and stewardess Ulla, but neither of them is the girl from Cabin 10, nor are they able to shed light on the girl’s identity. When she gets some fresh air on deck, Lo can’t help looking out at the ocean, thinking of a body falling through the “swirling blackness” to rest on the “lightless seabed.” As she and Nilsson chat about the ship’s northward course, Lo is startled to learn that there’s been a change of plan, and they’re headed to Trondheim instead of the expected stop at Bergen. She dislikes the feeling of being “a helpless passenger with someone else at the wheel.” She’s also troubled by the nightmarish sense that she’s going mad, since nobody can corroborate the existence of the missing woman.
Even as she finds relief in the open air, Lo keeps thinking about the oppressive darkness and depths below. She also hates feeling trapped by someone else’s itinerary, and isolated by the fact that nobody else shares her knowledge of the missing girl. Even though she briefly questions her grasp of reality, these things don’t deter her from her search, showing her determination.