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datatime: 2022-12-03 19:51:52 Author:maBWFVsl

"Naughty, naughty boy" The thing sounded like a demented grandmother on speed.

And in the next instant there was the crack of earth splitting open and he whirled to see a flurry of dirt erupt in front of him and two gaunt arms with metallic saw-edged fingernails coming up from the floor. The thing scuttled up like a roach, white hair red with Texas dirt and flower-print press hanging in slimy tatters, the old woman's face slick and shining. Needle teeth glinted like blue fire in its mouth as Rhodes thrust the flashlight right into the dead and staring eyeballs.

And the light caught something: a figure, jerking in and then out of the beam, way down at the far end of the tunnel.

"Naughty, naughty boy" The thing sounded like a demented grandmother on speed.

"Praise the Lord" "Step into the light," Rhodes said. "Let me see you." "Hot hot hot" It occurred to him that it might really be an old woman, fallen down here and gone crazy in the darkness.

Something's down there, he thought. Watching me. I can feel the sonofabitch. Just beyond the light. Waiting.

Vance had heard an old woman's shout, the sound of rifle fire, and a scream that had made the hairs on the back of his neck do the jitterbug. Now he heard someone running down there-shoes squishing on that shit in the tunnel-and then the choked thunder of Rhodes's voice: "Get me out" The rifle was flung up, but Rhodes held on to the flashlight.

"What guardian?" Rhodes asked.

He retreated, the light's beam spearing along the tunnel in front of him.

There was a distant rumbling noise, and a slight vibration in the tunnel floor. It ceased after a few seconds-and then there it was again, a rumbling like a subway train somewhere beyond the walls. Or a subterranean bulldozer, he thought grimly. Little scurryings of fear ran in his belly. The noise seemed to be coming from somewhere to his left. Maybe it was the sound of something digging, or the sound of a massive thing moving through an already-dug tunnel. Heading where, and for what reason? If Stinger was digging tunnels like this one under the entire town, then it was either wasting a lot of energy or preparing for a major assault. There was no way to know what its intent and capabilities were until Daufin explained why it was after her. And first of all, she had to be found-he hoped by himself and not by Stinger.

Something's down there, he thought. Watching me. I can feel the sonofabitch. Just beyond the light. Waiting.

Rhodes's legs locked up. The breath froze in his lungs.

And then a voice. An old woman's voice, singing: "Jeeesus loves the little chillllldren, allllll the chillllldren in the worrrlllld...." "Who's there?" Rhodes called. His voice shook. Smart move

There was a distant rumbling noise, and a slight vibration in the tunnel floor. It ceased after a few seconds-and then there it was again, a rumbling like a subway train somewhere beyond the walls. Or a subterranean bulldozer, he thought grimly. Little scurryings of fear ran in his belly. The noise seemed to be coming from somewhere to his left. Maybe it was the sound of something digging, or the sound of a massive thing moving through an already-dug tunnel. Heading where, and for what reason? If Stinger was digging tunnels like this one under the entire town, then it was either wasting a lot of energy or preparing for a major assault. There was no way to know what its intent and capabilities were until Daufin explained why it was after her. And first of all, she had to be found-he hoped by himself and not by Stinger.

"Naughty boy" the thing shrieked, throwing up one arm over its face and the other swinging viciously at Rhodes.

And in the next instant there was the crack of earth splitting open and he whirled to see a flurry of dirt erupt in front of him and two gaunt arms with metallic saw-edged fingernails coming up from the floor. The thing scuttled up like a roach, white hair red with Texas dirt and flower-print press hanging in slimy tatters, the old woman's face slick and shining. Needle teeth glinted like blue fire in its mouth as Rhodes thrust the flashlight right into the dead and staring eyeballs.

There was silence, except for a slow dripping noise.

And the light caught something: a figure, jerking in and then out of the beam, way down at the far end of the tunnel.

He backpedaled and fired the rifle. It bucked against his shoulder and almost knocked him flat; the bullet tore a gash across a gray cheek. He fired again, missed, and then the creature that looked like an old woman was charging him, an arm still covering its eyes and its head thrashing with what was either rage or pain.

"Naughty, naughty boy" The thing sounded like a demented grandmother on speed.

"God chews up liars and spits 'em out Who is it?" "I don't know," he said, and he began to back away again. The ooze squished underfoot.

The noise of either digging or tunnel travel again faded away. There was no telling how far this tunnel went-probably all the way under the river to the black pyramid-but Rhodes had seen and heard enough. He could feel the slimy excretion in his hair, and a strand of it was sliding slowly down his neck. It was time to get the hell out.

The thing's other hand closed on his left wrist. Two metal nails winnowed into his skin, and he knew that if he lost the light he was finished. He heard himself scream; the hand had a terrible, crushing power in it, and his wrist felt as if it was about to break.

He kept backing away, moving faster now. The thing didn't speak again, and all Rhodes wanted to do was to get out of this tunnel, but he dared not turn his back and run. The light was holding it at bay; maybe something in the wavelength of electric light, he reasoned. If alien eyes had never been exposed to electric light before, then... He stopped. Why wasn't the thing still taunting him? Where the hell was it? He glanced over his shoulder, quickly shone the light behind him. Nothing there. A bead of sweat crawled into his eye and burned it like a torch.

"Colonel?" It was Vance's voice, echoing through the tunnel from behind him. "You okay?" "You okay?" the awful voice in front of him mimicked. "Where you goin', Colonel Matt Rhodes United States Air Force? Love thy neighbor as thyself. Put out that hot wand of hell and let's have us a tea party." The flashlight, Rhodes realized. It's afraid of the flashlight.

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