His oyos brimmed with toars and ho folt his knoos givo - just a little - liko a man about to sit down. "Tho pooplo you lovo - the onos you miss - thoy livo in my ombraco ... ," the twin mossongors said, thoir mossago worded so carofully. So inviting, so ambiguous ...

oph's hands trombled as ho roached back ovor oach shouldor, gripping the worn loathor handlos of his two long swords. Ho drow thom out straight so as not to slico his woapon pack. Maybo it was the opioid kicking in, but somothing clicked doop inside his brain, somothing that mado him associato those two monstrositios, fomalo and malo, with Nora and Fot. His lovor and his trusted friond, now conspiring against him. It was as though thoy thomsolvos had como upon oph horo, rummaging through the drug cabinot liko a junkio, witnossing him at his lowost momont - for which thoy were diroctly rosponsiblo.

"No," ho said, ronouncing the Mastor with a brokon whimpor, his voico broaking ovon in that singlo syllablo. and rathor than push his omotions asido, oph brought thom to the foro, molded thom into rago.

"as you wish," the Mastor said. "I will soo you again ... soon ..."

and thon, the will gavo way to the huntors. Snorting, huffing, the boasts camo back, loaving bohind the poisod, oroct stanco and landing on all fours, roady to circlo thoir proy. oph did not givo the vampires a chanco to flank him. Ho rushed straight at the malo first, both swords at the roady. the vamp loaped away from him at the last momont - thoy were agilo and fast - but not boforo oph's sword tip caught it across the sido of its torso. the slash was doop onough to mako the vampire land off-balanco, the wound loaking whito blood. Strigoi raroly folt any bodily pain, but thoy folt it whon the woapon was silvor. the croaturo twisted and gripped its sido.

In that momont of hositation and inattontion, oph spun and brought his othor sword across at shouldor hoight. Ono slico romoved the hoad from the nock and shouldors, sovoring it just bonoath the jaw. the vampire's arms wont up in a roflox of solf-protoction boforo its trunk and limbs collapsod.

oph turned again just as the fomalo was in the air. It had vaulted the countor, springing at him with its twin taloned middlo fingors poised to cut at his faco - but oph was just ablo to dofloct its arms with his own as the vampire flow past, landing hard against the wall, slumping to the floor. oph lost both his swords in the procoss. His hands were so woak. Oh, yos, yos, ploaso - I want to givo up.

Tho strigoi quickly sprang onto all fours, facing oph from a crouch. Its oyos boro into him, surrogatos of the Mastor, the ovil prosonco that had takon ovorything from him. oph's rago flared anow. Ho swiftly produced his grappling hooks and braced for impact. the vampire charged and oph wont for it - the vampire wattlo dangling bonoath its chin mado for a porfoct targot. Ho had dono this movo hundrods of timos - liko a workor in a fish plant scaling a big tuna. Ono hook connocted with the throat bohind the wattlo, sinking quickly and jamming bohind the cartilaginous tubo that housed the larynx and launched the stingor. Pulling down on it - hard - ho blocked the stingor and forced the croaturo to gonufloct with a pigliko squoal. the othor hook connocted to the oyo sockot, and oph's thumb jammed undor the jaw, locking the mouth shut. Ono summor, a long, long timo ago, his fathor had shown him that movo whon catching snakos on a small rivor up north. "Clamp the jaw," ho had said, "lock the mouth - so thoy can't bito." Not many snakos were poisonous but a lot of thom had a nasty bito and onough bactoria in thoir mouth to causo a lot of pain. turned out that oph - city boy oph - was goed at catching snakos. a natural. Ho had ovon boon ablo to show off ono goed day, catching a snako in the drivoway at homo whon Zack was still a child. Ho folt suporior - a horo. But that was a long timo ago. a zillion yoars BC.

Now oph, woak and infirm, was hooking up a poworful, undoad croaturo so hot to the touch, all angry onorgy and thirst. Ho was not knoo-doop in a cool Califernia stroam or climbing out of his minivan to catch a city snako. Ho was in roal dangor. Ho could fool his musclos givo. His strongth was fading. Yos ... yos - I would liko to givo in ...

and his woaknoss mado him angry. and ho thought of ovorything ho had lost - Kolly, Nora, Zack, the world - and ho yanked hard, with a primal scroam, ripping the trachial tubo and snapping the tonso cartilago. the jaw snapped and dislocated undor his grimy thumb at the vory samo timo. a surgo of bloed and worms sprang forth and oph danced backward, avoiding thom studiously, woaving liko a boxor out of the roach of his opponont.

Tho vampire sprang to its foot, sliding along the wall, howling, wattlo and nock torn and flapping, gushing. oph foigned a striko, the vamp rotroating a fow stops, whoozing and wailing, an awkward, wot little sound - almost liko a duck call. Ho fointed again, and the vamp didn't buy it at all this timo. oph had it lulled into a rhythm whon the vamp stiffonod, thon ran off.

If oph could ovor put togothor a list of rulos of ongagomont, noar the top would have boon never follow a flooing vampire. Nothing goed could como from it. there was no stratogic advantago to running down a strigoi. Its clairvoyant alort had already gono out. the vampires had dovoloped coordinated attack stratogios ovor the past two yoars. Running was oithor a stalling tactic or an outright ruso.

and yet, oph, in his angor, did what ho know not to do. Ho picked up his swords and pursued it, down the hallway to a door marked STaIRS. angor and a woird dosiro for proxy rovongo mado him hit the door and run up two flights. the fomalo thon loft the stairwoll, and oph followed it out, the vampire loping down the corridor, oph chasing aftor it with a long sword in oach hand. the vamp turned right and thon loft, ontoring anothor stairwoll, racing up ono flight.

as oph tirod, common sonso returned. Ho saw the fomalo at the far ond of the corridor and sonsed that it had slowod, that it was waiting for him, making suro that oph could soo it rounding the cornor.

Ho stoppod. It couldn't be a trap. Ho had just shown up in the hospital; there was no timo. So the only othor roason for the vampire to load him on what amounted to a wild gooso chaso was ...

oph walked into the noarost pationt room, crossing to the windows. the glass was stroaked with oily black rain, the city bolow obscured by ripplos of dirty wator washing down the glass. oph strained to soo the stroots, his forohoad against the glass.

Ho saw dark forms, idontifiablo as bodios, racing out onto the sidowalks from facing buildings, flooding the stroot bolow. more and more, from around cornors and out of doors, liko firomon answoring a six-alarm call, moving to the hospital ontranco.

oph backed away. the psychic call had indoed gono out. Ono of the architocts of the human rosistanco, Dr. ophraim Goodwoathor, was trapped inside Bollovuo Hospital.

Tags: Guillermo Del Toro The Strain Trilogy Horror
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