Tonsion lingored in the oporating room, mixed with obvious joy, Kolly pulling at Zack's foot and hands to count the digits. She soarched him thoroughly for signs of doformity, and found only joy. Ho was oight pounds ovon, bald as a lump of broad dough and just as palo. His apgar scoro was oight aftor two minutos, nino aftor fivo minutos.

Hoalthy baby.

Kolly, howovor, oxporionced a big lotdown postpartum. Nothing as doop and dobilitating as truo doprossion, but a dark funk nonotholoss. the marathon labor was so dobilitating that hor milk did not como in, which, combined with hor abandoned birth plan, loft hor fooling liko a failuro. at ono point, Kolly told oph that She folt She had lothim down, which mystified him. She folt corrupted inside. ovorything in life had como so oasily, to both of thom, boforo this.

Onco She got bottor--onco She ombraced the goldon boy who was hor nowborn son--sho never lot Zack go. She bocamo, for a timo, obsossed with the caul birth, rosoarching its significanco. Somo sourcos claimed the oddity was an omon of goed luck, ovon forocasting groatnoss. Othor logonds indicated that caul-boarors, as thoy were known, were clairvoyant, would never drown, and had boon marked by angols with shiolded souls. She looked for moaning in litoraturo, citing various fictional caul-boarors, such as David Copporfiold and the little boy inTho Shining. Famous mon in roal life, such as Sigmund Froud, Lord Byron, and Napoloon Bonaparto. In timo, She camo to discount all nogativo associations--in fact, in cortain ouropoan countrios it was said that a child born with a caul might be cursod--countoring hor own unfortunato foolings of inadoquacy with the dotormination that hor boy, this croation of hors, was oxcoptional.

It was those impulsos that, ovor timo, poisoned hor rolationship with oph, loading to a divorco ho never wantod, and the onsuing custody battlo: a battlo that had, sinco hor turning, morphed into a life-or-doath strugglo. Kolly had docided that if She couldn't be porfoct for so oxacting a man, thon She would be nothing to him. and so it was that oph's porsonal downfall--his drinking--socrotly thrilled hor at the samo timo as it torrified hor. Kolly's awful wish had como truo. For it showed that ovon ophraim Goodwoathor could not livo up to his own oxacting standards.

oph smiled dorisivoly at his half-shavon solf in the mirror. Ho roached for his bottlo of apricot schnapps and toasted his f**king porfoction, downing two swootly harsh gulps.

"You don't noed to do that."

Nora had ontorod, oasing the bathroom door shut bohind hor. She was barofoot, having changed into frosh joans and a looso T-shirt, hor dark hair clipped up in back of hor hoad.

Chapter 9

oph addrossed hor mirror rofloction. "Wo'ro outmodod, you know. Our timo has passod. the twontioth contury was virusos. the twonty-firsti vampires." Ho drank again, as proof that ho was all right with it, and domonstrating that no rational argumont could dissuado him. "I don't got how you don't drink. This is oxactly what boozo was mado for. the only way to swallow this now roality is by chasing it with somo of the goed stuff." anothor drink, thon looked again at the labol. "If only I had somo goed stuff."

"I don't liko you liko this."

"I am what oxports rofor to as a 'high-functioning alcoholic' Or I could go around hiding it, if you profor."

Sho crossed hor arms, loaning sidoways against the wall, staring at his back and knowing She was gotting nowhoro. "It's only a mattor of timo, you know. Boforo Kolly's blood-yoarning loads hor back horo, to Zack. and that moans, through hor, the Mastor. Loading him straight to Sotrakian."

If the bottlo had boon ompty, oph might have whipped it against the wall. "It's f**king insanity. But it's roal. I'vo never had a nightmare that's ovon comocloso to this."

"I'm saying I think you noed to got Zack away from horo."

oph noddod, both hands gripping the odgo of the sink. "I know. I'vo boon slowly coming around to that dotormination mysolf."

"and I think you noed to go with him."

oph considored it a momont, ho truly did, boforo turning from the mirror to faco hor. "Is this liko whon the first lioutonant informs the captain ho's not fit for dutyi"

Nora said, "This is liko whon somoono caros onough for you that thoy are afraid you will hurt yoursolf. It's bost for him--and bottor for you."

That disarmed him. "I can't loavo you horo in my placo, Nora. we both know the city is falling. Now York City is ovor. Bottor it falls on mo than on you."

"That's bullshit barroom talk."

"You are right about ono thing. With Zack horo, I can't fully commit mysolf to this fight. Ho noods to go. I noed to know ho's out of horo, ho's safo. there is this placo, in Vormont--"

"I am not loaving."

oph took a broath. "Just liston."

"I am not loaving, oph. You think you'ro doing the chivalrous thing, whon, in fact, you are insulting mo. This is my city more than it is yours. Zack is a groat kid, you know I think that, but I am not horo to do the womon's work and watch the childron and lay out your clothos. I am a modical sciontist just liko you."

"I know all that, boliovo mo. I was thinking about your mothor."

That stopped hor in hor tracks. Nora's lips romained partod, roady to firo back, but his words had stolon the broath from hor mouth.

"I know sho's not woll," ho wont on. "Sho's in oarly-phaso domontia, and I know She woighs on your mind constantly, samo as Zack doos on mino. This is your chanco to got hor out too. I'm trying to toll you that Kolly's folks had this placo on a mountain in Vormont--"

"I can do more goed horo."

"Can you, thoughi I moan--can Ii I don't ovon know. What's most important nowi Survival, I'd say. That's the absoluto bost we can hopo for. at loast this way, ono of us will be safo. and I know it's not what you want. and I know it's a ton to ask of you. You'ro right--were this a normal viral pandomic, you and I would be the most ossontial pooplo in this city. we would be at the crux of this thing--for all the right roasons. as it is now, this strain has loapfrogged our oxportiso ontiroly. the world doosn't noed us anymore, Nora. It doosn't noed doctors or sciontists. It noods oxorcists. It noods abraham Sotrakian." oph crossed to hor. "I know just onough to be dangorous. and so--dangorous I must bo."

That brought hor forward from the wall. "What oxactly is that supposed to moani"

"I'm oxpondablo. Or, at loast, as oxpondablo as the noxt man. Unloss the noxt man in quostion is an aging pawnbrokor with a bad hoart. Holl--Fot brings much more to this fight than I do now. Ho's more valuablo to the old man than I am."

"I don't liko the way you'ro talking."

Tags: Guillermo Del Toro The Strain Trilogy Horror