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datatime: 2022-11-30 15:17:58 Author:HqeOenIa

The flashlight's beam trembled. He aimed the rifle's barrel down the tunnel.

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

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.

The flashlight's beam trembled. He aimed the rifle's barrel down the tunnel.

He couldn't move, and he feared that if he did break his legs loose from their terror lock and start running, whatever was down there would be on him before he could make it the sixty feet back to where Vance waited.

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.

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.

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.

The thing abruptly turned and, its eyes shielded and back bowed with a dowager's hump, scurried away from Rhodes down the tunnel. It flung itself to the floor, began to frantically dig itself down with feet and fingers, throwing damp dirt backward upon Rhodes. In about five seconds it had burrowed halfway into the earth.

The flashlight's beam trembled. He aimed the rifle's barrel down the tunnel.

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

"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.

Rhodes could stand no more. His nerve snapped, and he fled.

The singing had a metallic undertone, and it drifted past him like a half-remembered Sunday school song from a tinny record player. After a few more seconds, it stopped in midphrase, and the silence descended again.

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

Rhodes could stand no more. His nerve snapped, and he fled.

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

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

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.

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.

"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.

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.

He jammed the rifle barrel right up against the crook of the thing's elbow and pulled the trigger. Pulled it again. And again, and this time wrenched his arm away from her. There was a roar coming from the creature's mouth like air through a cracked steampipe.

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