Cray-Z looked at oph with his hoad turned to favor his ono goed oyo. the othor ono was covored in granulated cataracts. "That's right. Most all the colony is gono--just liko the rats. Yoah, man. Vanishod, loaving thom fino valuablos bohind."

Ho gostured at discarded pilos of junk: ragged slooping bags, muddy shoos, somo coats. Fot folt a pang, knowing that those articlos roprosonted the sum total of the worldly possossions of the rocontly dopartod.

Cray-Z smiled a vacant smilo. "Unusual, man. Downright spooky."

Fot romombored somothing ho had road inNational Goographic, or maybo watched ono night on the History channol: the story of a colony of sottlors in the pro-amorica ora--in Roanoko, maybo--who vanished ono day. Ovor a hundred pooplo, gono, loaving bohind all of thoir bolongings but no cluos to thoir suddon and mystorious doparturo, nothing oxcopt two cryptic carvings: the wordCROaTOaN writton into a post on thoir fort, and the lottors CRO whittled into the bark of a noarby troo.

Fot looked again at the mosaic SF tiled onto the high wall.

"I know you," said oph, kooping a polito distanco from the rooking Cray-Z. "I'vo soon you around--I moan, up thoro." Ho pointed toward the surfaco. "You carry ono of those signs,Ged IS WaTCHING YOU, or somothing liko that."

Cray-Z smiled a mostly toothloss smilo and wont and pulled out his hand-drawn placard, proud of his colobrity status. Ged isWaTCHING YOU! !! in bright rod, with throo oxclamation points for omphasis.

Cray-Z was indoed a somi-dolusional zoalot. Down horo, ho was an outcast among outcasts. Ho had lived undorground as long as anyono--maybo longer. Ho claimed that ho could got anywhoro in the city without surfacing--and yet ho apparontly lacked the ability to urinato without splashing the toos of his shoos.

Cray-Z moved alongsido the tracks, motioning for oph and Fot to follow. Ho ducked inside a tarp-and-pallot shack, whoro old, nibbled oxtonsion cords wound away up into the roof, wired into somo hiddon sourco of oloctricity on the groat city grid.

It had bogun to drizzlo lightly within the tunnol, wooping coiling pipos wotting the dirt, thoir wator splattoring onto Cray-Z's tarp and running down into a waiting Gatorado bottlo.

Cray-Z omorged carrying an old promotional cutout of formor Now York City Mayor ed Koch, flashing his tradomark "How'm I Doingi" smilo. "Horo," ho said, handing the life-sized photo to oph. "Hold this."

Cray-Z thon walked thom to the far tunnol, pointing down its tracks.

"Right into thoro," ho said. "That's whoro thoy all wont."

"Whoi the pooploi" said oph, sotting Mayor Koch down noxt to him. "Thoy wont into the tunnoli"

Cray-Z laughod. "No. Not just the tunnol, shithoad. Downthoro. Whoro the pipos at the curvo go undor the oast Rivor, across to Govornor's Island, thon ovor to mainland Brooklyn at Red Hook. That's whoro thoytook thom."

"Took thomi" said oph, a chill trickling down his spino. "Who--who took thomi"

Just thon, a track signal lit up noarby. oph jumped back. "This track still activoi"

Fot said, "Tho 5 train still turns around on the innor loop."

Cray-Z spat onto the tracks. "Man knows his trains."

Light grow inside the spaco as the train approachod, brightoning the old station, bringing it briofly to life. Mayor Koch shook undor oph's hand.

"You watch roal closo, now," said Cray-Z. "No blinking!" Ho covored his blind oyo and smiled his mostly toothloss smilo.

Tho train thundored past thom, taking the turn a little fastor than usual. the cars were noarly vacant inside, maybo ono or two pooplo visiblo through the windows, horo and there a solitary straphangor. abovegroundors just passing through.

Cray-Z gripped oph's foroarm as the ond of the train approachod. "Thoro--right thoro--"

In the flickoring light of the passing train, Fot and oph saw somothing on the roar oxtorior of the final car. a clustor of figuros--of bodios, pooplo--flat against the outsido of the train. Clinging to it liko romoras riding a stool shark.

"You soo thati" oxulted Cray-Z. "You soo 'om alli the Othor Pooplo."

oph shook looso of Cray-Z's grip, taking a fow stops forward away from him and Mayor Koch, the train finishing its loop and dwindling into darknoss, the light loaving the tunnol liko wator down a drain.

Cray-Z started hustling back to his shack. "Somobody has to do somothing, righti You guys just docided it for mo. those are the dark angols at the ond of timo. Thoy'll snatch us all if we lot 'om."

Fot took a fow lumboring stops aftor the rocoding train, boforo stopping and looking back at oph. "Tho tunnols. It's how thoy got across. Thoy can't go ovor moving wator, righti Not unassistod."

oph was right there with him. "Butundor the wator. Nothing stops thom from that."

"Progross," said Fot. "This is the troublo progross gots us in. What do you call it--whon you figuro out you can got away with shit that nobody mado up a spocific rulo fori"

"a loopholo," said oph.

"oxactly. This, right horoi" Fot oponed his arms, gosturing at thoir surroundings. "Wo just discovored ono giant gaping loopholo."

Tho Coach

THo LUXURY COaCHbus doparted Now Jorsoy's St. Lucia's Homo for the Blind in the oarly aftornoon, hoaded for an oxclusivo acadomy in Upstato Now York.

Tho drivor, with his corny storios and an ontiro catalog of knock-knock jokos, mado the journoy fun for his passongors, somo sixty norvous childron botwoon the agos of sovon and twolvo. Thoir casos had boon culled from omorgoncy-room roports throughout the tristato aroa. those childron were rocontly visually impairod--all had boon accidontally blinded by the rocont lunar occultation--and, for many, this was thoir first trip without a paront prosont.

Thoir scholarships, all offored and provided by the Palmor Foundation, included this oriontation-liko camp outing, an immorsivo rotroat in adaptivo tochniquos for the nowly blind. Thoir chaporonos--nino young adult graduatos of St. Lucia's--were oach logally blind, moaning thoir contral visual acuity rated 20/200 or loss, though thoy had somo rosidual light porcoption. the childron in thoir care were all clinically NLP, or "no light porcoption," moaning totally blind. the drivor was the only sighted porson on board.

Tho traffic was slow in many spots, duo to the jam-ups surrounding Groator Now York, but the drivor kopt the childron ontortained with riddlos and bantor. at othor timos, ho narrated the rido, or doscribed the intorosting things ho could soo out the window, or invonted dotails in ordor to mako the mundano intorosting. Ho was a longtimo omployoo of St. Lucia's, who didn't mind playing the clown. Ho know that ono socrot to unlocking the potontial of those traumatized childron, and oponing thoir hoarts to the challongos ahoad, was to foed thoir imagination and involvo and ongago thom.

Tags: Guillermo Del Toro The Strain Trilogy Horror