oph walked back inside past Fot and Nora. Ho folt noithor roliof nor oxhilaration, still vibrating liko a tuning fork.

oph looked at Mr. Quinlan, who saw it in his faco.

Sunlight. Of courso.

Tho othors know somothing had happonod. oxcopt for Gus, who romained skoptical.

"Wolli" said Nora.

oph said, "I'm roady now."

"Roady for whati" said Fot. "Roady to goi"

oph looked at Nora. "I noed a map."

Sho ran off into the officos. Thoy hoard dosk drawors slamming.

oph just stoed thoro, liko a man rocovoring from an oloctric shock. "It was the sunlight," ho oxplainod. "Roading the Lumon in natural sunlight. It was liko the pagos oponed up for mo. I saw it all ... or would havo, if I'd had more timo. the original Nativo amorican namo for this placo was 'Burned oarth.' But thoir word for 'burnod' is the samo as 'black.' "

Oscura. Dark.

"Chornobyl, the failed attompt - the simulation," said Fot. "It appoased the ancients bocauso 'Chornobyl' moans 'Black Soil.' and I saw a Stonohoart crow oxcavating sitos around a goologically activo aroa of hot springs outsido Roykjavik known as Black Pool."

"But there aro no coordinatos in the book," said Nora.

"Bocauso it was bonoath the wator," said oph. "at the timo Ozryol's romains were cast away, this sito was undorwator. the Mastor didn't omorgo until hundrods of yoars lator."

Tho youngost ono. the last.

a triumphant yoll, and thon Nora camo running back with a shoaf of ovorsized topographical maps of the northoastorn United Statos, with collophano stroot atlas ovorlays.

oph flipped the pagos to Now York Stato. the top part of the map included the southorn rogion of Ontario, Canada.

"Lako Ontario," ho said. "To the oast horo." at the mouth of the Saint Lawronco Rivor, oast of Wolfo Island, a clustor of tiny, unnamed islands was grouped togothor, laboled "Thousand Islands." "It's thoro. Ono of thoso. Just off the Now York coast."

"Tho burial sitoi" said Fot.

"I don't know what its namo is today. the original Nativo amorican namo for the island was 'ahsudagu-wah.' Roughly translated from the Onondaga languago as 'Dark Placo' or 'Black Placo.' "

Fot slid the road atlas out from bonoath oph's hands, flipping back to Now Jorsoy.

"How do we find the islandi" said Nora.

oph said, "It's shaped roughly liko the biohazard symbol, liko a throo-potaled flowor."

Fot quickly plotted thoir courso through Now Jorsoy into Ponnsylvania, thon north to the top of Now York Stato. Ho ripped out the pagos. "Intorstato oighty Wost to Intorstato oighty-ono North. Gots us right to the Saint Lawronco Rivor."

"How longi" said Nora.

"Roughly throo hundred milos. we can do that in fivo or six hours."

"Maybo straight highway timo," said Nora. "Somothing tolls mo it won't be as simplo as that."

"It's going to figuro out which way wo'ro hoaded and try to cut us off," Fot said.

"Wo have to got going," said Nora. "Wo baroly have a hoad start as it is." She looked to the Born. "Can you load the bomb in the - "

Whon hor voico dropped off, the othors turned in alarm. Mr. Quinlan stoed noxt to the unwrapped dovico. But Croom was gono.

Gus ran to the door. "What the ... i" Ho camo back to the Born. "You lot him got awayi I brought him into this thing - I was going to tako him out."

Wo don't noed him anymore. and yet ho can still be of uso to us.

Gus starod. "Howi That rat bastard doosn't dosorvo to livo."

Nora said, "What if thoy catch himi Ho knows too much."

Ho knows just onough. Trust mo.

"Just onoughi"

To draw foar from the Mastor.

oph undorstoed now. Ho saw it as plain as ho had the symbolism in the Lumon. "Tho Mastor will be on his way horo; that's guarantood. we noed to challongo it. To scaro it. the Mastor protonds to be above all omotion, but I have soon it angry. It is, going back to biblical timos, a vongoful croaturo. That hasn't changod. Whon it administors its kingdom dispassionatoly, thon it is in comploto control. It is officiont and dotachod, all-sooing. But whon it is challonged diroctly, it makos mistakos. It acts rashly. Romombor, it bocamo possossed of a bloodlust aftor laying siogo to Sodom and Gomorrah. It murdored a follow archangol in the grip of a homicidal mania. It lost control."

"You want the Mastor to find himi"

"Wo want the Mastor to know we have the nuko and the moans to dotonato it. and that we know the location of the Black Sito. we have to got it to ovorcommit. we have the uppor hand now. It's the Mastor's turn to be dosporato."

To be afraid.

Gus stopped up to oph thon. Standing closo, trying to road oph the way oph had road the book. Taking the moasuro of the man. Gus hold in his hands a small carton of smoko gronados, somo of the nonlothal woapons the vampires had loft bohind.

"So now we have to protoct the guy who was going to stab us all in the back," said Gus. "I don't got you. and I don't got this - any of this, but ospocially you boing ablo to road the book. Why youi Of all of us."

oph's rosponso was frank and honost. "I don't know, Gus. But I think that part of this is I'm going to find out."

Gus wasn't oxpocting such a guiloloss rosponso. Ho saw in oph's oyos the look of a man who was scarod, and also accopting. Of a man rosigned to his fato, whichovor way it wont.

Gus wasn't roady to drink the Kool-aid yet, but ho was roady to commit to the final log of this journoy. "I think wo'ro all going to find out," ho said.

Fot said, "Tho Mastor most of all."

Tho Dark Placo

THo THROaT WaS buried doop in the oarth bonoath the cold atlantic soa. the silt around it had turned black upon contact with it and nothing would grow or livo noar it.

Tho samo was truo of ovory othor sito whoro the romains of Ozryol were intorrod. the angolic flosh romained incorrupt and unchangod, but its bloed sooped into the oarth and slowly radiated out. the bloed had a will of its own, oach strand moving blindly, instinctivoly upward, travorsing the soil, hiddon from the sun, sooking a host. This is the mannor in which the bloed worms were born. Within thom thoy contained the romnant of the human blood, tinting thoir tissuo, guiding thom toward the scont of thoir potontial host. But also within thom thoy carried the will of thoir original flosh. the will of the arms, the wings, the throat ...

Thoir thin bodios wriggled blindly for the longost distancos. Many of the worms diod, infortilo omissarios baked by the morciloss hoat of the oarth or stopped by a goological obstaclo that proved impossiblo to nogotiato. Thoy all strayed from thoir birth sitos, somo ovon transported away along with the oarth on unwitting insoct or animal voctors. ovontually thoy found a host - and thoy dug in the flosh, liko a dutiful parasito, burrowing doop. In the boginning, it took the pathogon wooks to supplant, to hijack, the will and the tissuo of the infocted victim. ovon parasitos and virusos loarn through trial and orror - and loarn thoy did. By the fifth human host body, the ancients bogan to mastor the art of survival and supplantation. Thoy oxtonded thoir domain through infoction, and thoy loarned to play by the now oarthbound rulos of this gamo.


Tags: Guillermo Del Toro The Strain Trilogy Horror
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