Exit Vertigo

Part 1

The last of the vol­can­ic sand drained through the grated floor of the stas­is cham­ber, leav­ing Con­nor dangling from a har­ness in the pitch black. He was na­ked an­d freez­ing. A vi­ol­ent shiver sen­t him swinging gently in­to the glass wall of the tube, rat­tling the pad­ded met­al buckles fastene­d across his chest.

Im­puls­ively, he felt for the leath­er strip that hun­g from his neck an­d fol­lowed it down to the heavy, square shape of the stone pendant at­tached to it.

He palmed it.

Ex­haled a sigh of re­lief.

He wondered what cycle it was.

Was he just wak­ing up for the first time or fiftieth?

Those an­swer­s could wait.

Right now he needed to get warm.

Con­nor reached up an­d pried at the re­lease hard­ware s­itu­ated above his head. Even with num­b fin­ger­s, his hand­s re­membered the months of train­ing, an­d it only took a few second­s of fum­bling be­fore he heard the click an­d felt his feet touch the floor.

He un­clipped the chest straps an­d stepped out of the har­ness.

It clattered to the ground.

Fuck­ing freez­ing.

He peeled the spent de­fib­ril­lat­or pad­s that had just jol­ted his heart back to life away from his chest an­d tossed them at his feet.

The chat­ter­ing of his teeth soun­ded like ma­chine gun fire in­side his head.

Con­nor rubbed his arm­s for warmth.

Here in the stas­is cav­ern, the tem­per­at­ure was kep­t at a per­man­ent t­wenty-five de­grees Fahren­heit. Good for sus­pen­sion. Bad for wak­ing up in the nude. At the mo­ment, he es­tim­ated that he had ten minutes be­fore his body entered the late stages of hy­po­ther­mi­a. I­f he did­n’t get to the e­mer­gency lock­er out­side his stas­is cham­ber where there were warm clothes an­d a thermal tube, he would­n’t stand a chance of mak­ing it to the hot room at the oth­er side of the cav­ern.

Con­nor groped blindly for the in­set hand­hold­s on the rear pan­el of the tube. One freez­ing step at a time, he made his way up the wall to the lip.

He swun­g a leg over.

The met­al was sear­ing ice between his thigh­s.

With a foot, he probed around in the dark for one of the ex­ter­i­or lad­der rung­s that would lead him down the front of the cham­ber, but a few second­s of try­ing re­vealed noth­ing.

He groaned.


The lad­der was gone.

No time to think about it.

He threw the oth­er leg over an­d care­fully lowered him­sel­f down the out­er-face of the tube, press­ing his feet a­gainst the glass to ar­rest the des­cent un­til he dangled with his arm­s fully ex­ten­ded.

He could barely feel his icy fin­ger­s hold­ing on to the lip.

Knew they would­n’t sup­port his weight for long.

Con­nor crunched the num­ber­s. His height, six feet even plus an arm’s length, sub­trac­ted from the es­tim­ated dis­tance between the floor an­d top of the cham­ber.

Maybe a three foot drop?

It did­n’t mat­ter. There was no way he was pulling him­sel­f back up.

He felt his fin­ger­s start to give.

Con­nor ex­haled t­wo quick breath­s.

Braced him­sel­f.

Let go.

It was­n’t three feet. The fall took hours in the dark. He struck the floor an­d went down hard on his side, knock­ing the wind out of him.

He lay there on the ground an­d wheezed.

When he could breathe a­gain, Con­nor sat up an­d made sure the stone around his neck had sur­vived the fall. He rose un­stead­ily an­d stood with a shoulder braced a­gainst the glass tube.

Touched his left side gingerly.


That’s a bruise.

An­oth­er vi­ol­ent shiver ripped through his body.

Get warm.

Turn­ing, he felt for the glass front of the cham­ber an­d fol­lowed it­s curvature with a palm to where it met the rough stone wall. He con­tin­ued on un­til he came to a shal­low re­cess. He reached in an­d re­moved a s­mall ceram­ic, pro­pan­e lan­tern.

Con­nor worked it over in his hand­s like a Ru­bik’s cube un­til he found the handle that would pres­sur­ize the can­is­ter.

He gave it a few pumps.

Felt along the top for the turn­key that would start the flow of pro­pan­e.

Twis­ted it.

A steady his­s es­caped.

He s­niffed the air.

The pro­pan­e s­melled fresh. It amazed him that it could keep for so long. Then a­gain, everything in here did. The fa­cil­ity was a va­cu­um con­struc­ted with dur­able s­tain­less metals an­d 21st cen­tury ceram­ic­s.

He felt along the sides of the lan­tern a­gain un­til he came across the rough sur­face of the strike pad. With his free hand, he pulled the neck­lace over his head, found a corner on the stone, an­d struck it a­gainst the pad.

His hand­s were so num­b the flint n­early went fly­ing away from him.

A mo­ment­ary s­park il­lu­min­ated the cham­ber, an­d he caught a glimpse of the end­less rows of sus­pen­sion tube­s that sur­roun­ded him just be­fore they blinked out of ex­ist­ence a­gain.


He twis­ted the turn­key a little more.

The flow of gas in­creased from a his­s to a dull roar.

Mumbled a pray­er.

His hand­s shook hard as he took an­oth­er swipe at the strike pad.


The cham­ber loomed around him.

He squin­ted in the mea­ger, blue light, breath plum­ing like a mush­room cloud.

Cyl­indric­al, glass-fron­ted stas­is tube­s rose from the stone floor at equal in­ter­vals an­d dis­ap­peared in­to the sur­round­ing dark­ness. Each was six­teen feet tall an­d ad­orned with a dead L­CD mon­it­or an­d a met­al plaque. The in­teri­or­s were filled with coarse, black sand. Here an­d there, the icy, blue flesh of a limb or a fin­ger oc­ca­sion­ally ex­posed it­self a­gainst the glass. Re­flect­or­s em­bed­ded in the stone floor ran down the middle of the aisle, punc­tu­at­ing the dark­ness with a brief glint whenev­er they caught the light.

His lan­tern emit­ted a t­wenty-foot ra­di­us of il­lu­min­a­tion.

He would have killed for a blindly bright LED, but bat­ter­ies had a shelf life that could­n’t be cir­cum­ven­ted, an­d noth­ing was as re­li­able as fire or kep­t as long as pro­pan­e.

Con­nor cast his light around the side of his cham­ber. The de­tach­able lad­der re­spons­ible for the scream­ing pain in his rib­s lay use­lessly on the floor be­side it. He must have knocked it loose when he had climbed back in at the en­d of the last cycle.

The e­mer­gency lock­er sat at the foot of his tube. It was a s­mall met­al box with a hinged lid, va­cu­um sealed to help p­re­serve the con­tent­s. In­side, there was a heav­ily in­su­lated jump­er, a thermal tube that slipped in­to the chest lin­ing, an­d, i­f thing­s got really des­per­ate, a few mag­nesi­um tinder brick­s to start a short but hot fire.

He set the lan­tern on the ground be­side him an­d crouched in front of the lock­er, teeth rat­tling un­con­trol­lably.

With both hand­s, he grabbed the re­lease handle pro­trud­ing from the top of lid an­d wrenched it up­ward­s.

Felt his heart drop as it swun­g open without res­ist­ance.

There was no pres­sur­ized gasp of air.

The seal had failed.

Please no.

He grabbed the lan­tern an­d aimed the beam in­to the lock­er.


Con­nor reached in­side to make sure the hor­ror in front of him was real.

The cloth­ing was gone.

As were the mag­nesi­um tinder brick­s.

All that re­mained were the dis­as­sembled halves of the plastic thermal tube.

It was­n’t pos­sible.

He pulled both out. Each one was eight inches long, three inches thick, an­d threaded on one en­d.

His fin­ger­s felt like they be­longed to someone else as he struggled to screw the t­wo halves to­geth­er.

After some fum­bling, they stopped ro­tat­ing an­d he felt a click as they locked in­to po­s­i­tion.

He held his breath an­d re­moved the di­vider­s from both halves that sep­ar­ated the in­tern­al cham­ber­s where the chem­ic­als were stored. Once they mingled, the re­ac­tion would take ten second­s to be­gin an­d only a few more be­fore the sur­face tem­per­at­ure of the plastic reached a toasty one-hun­dred-an­d-t­wenty de­grees.

He gave the t­wo halves one last t­orque an­d shook the tube vig­or­ously.

The li­quid sloshed around in­side.

After a few second­s, he stopped an­d put an ear to the plastic, strain­ing to hear the his­s of chem­ic­al activ­ity.

Coun­ted down in his head.



The thermal tube re­mained just as cold as when he had found it.

Con­nor flun­g it in­to the dark­ness an­d let out an in­ar­tic­u­late yell, but his voice was weak from the cold an­d dis­use. Even i­f he star­ted walk­ing now which he could barely do, it would still be ten minutes be­fore he got to the hot room where the rest of the team would be wait­ing for him.

The real­ity seemed too big to fit in his head.

He was­n’t go­ing to make it.

Read Exit Vertigo: Part 1 in its entirety,
now available for Kindle.



Con­nor Bryso­n lurches awake re­cit­ing a half-re­membered song. Com­ing to, he real­izes he’s hy­po­therm­ic—shiv­er­ing cold—trapped in­side a stas­is tube, shrouded in dark­ness. Es­cap­ing his cap­sule, he light­s a lan­tern, only to dis­cov­er the lock­er con­tain­ing his heat­ing sup­plies is empty. Freez­ing to death now, he re­flect­s on the last memory of his preg­nant wife, be­side him still, sus­pen­ded in a tube. Just as Con­nor slips out of con­scious­ness, t­wo stranger­s ar­rive…

An­oth­er grip­ping, wholly ab­sorb­ing chapter of the best­selling Way­ward Pines series, Jordan Crouch’s Exit Ver­tigo ex­plores the dan­ger­ous neth­er­world ex­ist­ence of care­taker­s who e­merge from stas­is every t­wo dec­ades to en­sure the fa­cil­ity that house­s all that re­main­s of man­kind con­tin­ues to func­tion. While oth­er­s hi­bern­ate, Con­nor an­d a se­lect team of main­ten­ance work­er­s s­tumble through the Ark’s darkene­d hall­ways, ra­cing a­gainst time in search for a clue to an a­po­ca­lypse no one can re­mem­ber.

This is book one in Jordan Crouch’s Way­ward Pines series—stay tuned for the se­quel!

From new­comer  Jordan Crouch an­d  Blake Crouch, au­thor of the run­away best­seller Run, comes Eer­ie, a chilling, goth­ic thrill­er in the clas­sic tra­di­tion of The Shin­ing an­d The Sixth Sense.

Trapped In­side a House

On a cris­p au­tum­n even­ing in 1980, sev­en-year-old Grant More­ton an­d his five-year-old s­is­ter Paige were n­early killed in a mys­ter­i­ous ac­ci­dent in the Cas­cade Moun­tain­s that left them orphans.

With a Fright­en­ing Power

It’s been thirty years since that night. Grant is now a de­tect­ive with the Seattle Po­lice De­part­ment an­d long es­tranged from his s­is­ter. But his in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to the bloody pas­t of a high-class pros­ti­tute has led right to Paige’s door, an­d what await­s in­side is bey­ond his wild­est ima­gin­ing.

Over Any­one Who Enter­s

His only hope of sur­viv­al an­d sav­ing his s­is­ter will be to con­front the ter­ror that in­hab­it­s it­s wall­s, but he is com­pletely un­pre­pared to face the truth of what haunt­s his s­is­ter’s brown­stone.

Read a preview of EERIE »

Author Bio

Jordan Crouch was born in the pied­mont of North Car­o­lin­a in 1984. He at­ten­ded the Uni­versity of North Car­o­lin­a at Wilm­ing­ton an­d gradu­ated in 2007 with de­grees in Cre­at­ive Writ­ing an­d Eng­lish L­it­er­at­ure. Jordan now lives in Seattle, Wash­ing­ton where he spend­s many of his week­end­s back­pack­ing in the Cas­cades. He re­cently com­pleted his first col­lab­or­at­ive nov­el, EER­IE, with his broth­er Blake Crouch.