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

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.

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.

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

"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.

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 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.

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

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 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.

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

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.

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

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

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.

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

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.

There was silence, except for a slow dripping noise.

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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