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datatime: 2022-11-27 17:38:54 Author:bFYIJYgO

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.

"I'm Colonel Matt Rhodes, United States Air Force" he said. "Who are you?" The silence stretched. He sensed a figure, standing just beyond the light. "God don't like naughty boys," the old woman's voice answered. "Don't like liars, neither. Who's the guardian?" It was the question that Vance had told Rhodes the Dodge Creech creature had asked, and now the colonel knew for sure it was no crazy old lady down there in the dark.

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.

"I'm Colonel Matt Rhodes, United States Air Force" he said. "Who are you?" The silence stretched. He sensed a figure, standing just beyond the light. "God don't like naughty boys," the old woman's voice answered. "Don't like liars, neither. Who's the guardian?" It was the question that Vance had told Rhodes the Dodge Creech creature had asked, and now the colonel knew for sure it was no crazy old lady down there in the dark.

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

"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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

"What guardian?" Rhodes asked.

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

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.

"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.

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.

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.

"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.

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

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

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 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.

"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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