Home > The Strain (The Strain Trilogy #1)(2)

The Strain (The Strain Trilogy #1)(2)
Author: Guillermo del Toro

Abraham gulped down the end of the story with the remains of his soup.

"Much of Sardu's village was eventually abandoned and became an accursed place. The Gypsies, when their carriage train passed through our town, told of strange happenings, of hauntings and apparitions near the castle. Of a giant who prowled the moonlit land like a god of the night. It was they who warned us, 'Eat and grow strong-or else Sardu will get you.' Why it is important, Abraham. Ess gezunterhait! Eat and be strong. Scrape that bowl now. Or else-he will come." She had come back from those few moments of darkness, of remembering. Her eyes came back to their lively selves. "Sardu will come. Pick-pick-pick."

And finish he did, every last remaining beet string. The bowl was empty and the story was over, but his belly and his mind were full. His eating pleased his bubbeh, and her face was, for him, as clear an expression of love that existed. In these private moments at the rickety family table, they communed, the two of them, sharing food of the heart and the soul.

A decade later, the Setrakian family would be driven from their woodwork shop and their village, though not by Sardu. A German officer was billeted in their home, and the man, softened by his hosts' utter humanity, having broken bread with them over that same wobbly table, one evening warned them not to follow the next day's order to assemble at the train station, but to leave their home and their village that very night.

Which they did, the entire extended family together-all eight of them-journeying into the countryside with as much as they could carry. Bubbeh slowed them down. Worse-she knew that she was slowing them down, knew that her presence placed the entire family at risk, and cursed herself and her old, tired legs. The rest of the family eventually went on ahead, all except for Abraham-now a strong young man and full of promise, a master carver at such a young age, a scholar of the Talmud, with a special interest in the Zohar, the secrets of Jewish mysticism-who stayed behind, at her side. When word reached them that the others had been arrested at the next town, and had to board a train for Poland, his bubbeh, wracked with guilt, insisted that, for Abraham's sake, she be allowed to turn herself in.

"Run, Abraham. Run from the Nazi. As from Sardu. Escape."

But he would not have it. He would not be separated from her.

In the morning he found her on the floor of the room they had shared-in the house of a sympathetic farmer-having fallen off in the night, her lips charcoal black and peeling and her throat black through her neck, dead from the animal poison she had ingested. With his host family's gracious permission, Abraham Setrakian buried her beneath a flowering silver birch. Patiently, he carved her a beautiful wooden marker, full of flowers and birds and all the things that had made her happiest. And he cried and cried for her-and then run he did.

He ran hard from the Nazis, hearing a pick-pick-pick all the time at his back...

And evil followed closely behind.


N323RG Cockpit Voice Recorder

Excerpts, NTSB transcription, Flight 753, Berlin (TXL) to New York (JFK), 9/24/10:

2049:31 [Public-address microphone is switched ON.]

CAPT. PETER J. MOLDES: "Ah, folks, this is Captain Moldes up in the flight deck. We should be touching down on the ground in a few minutes for an on-time arrival. Just wanted to take a moment and let you know we certainly 'preciate you choosing Regis Airlines, and that, on behalf of First Officer Nash and myself and your cabin crew, hope you come back and travel with us again real soon..."

2049:44 [Public-address microphone is switched OFF.]

CAPT. PETER J. MOLDES: "...so we can all keep our jobs." [cockpit laughter]

2050:01 Air-traffic control New York (JFK): "Regis 7-5-3 heavy, approaching left, heading 1-0-0. Clear to land on 13R."

CAPT. PETER J. MOLDES: "Regis 7-5-3 heavy, approaching left, 1-0-0, landing on runway 13R, we have it."

2050:15 [Public-address microphone is switched ON.]

CAPT. PETER J. MOLDES: "Flight attendants, prepare for landing."

2050:18 [Public-address microphone is switched OFF.]

FIRST OFFICER RONALD W. NASH IV: "Landing gear clear."

CAPT. PETER J. MOLDES: "Always nice coming home..."

2050:41 [Banging noise. Static. High-pitched noise.]



JFK International Control Tower

The dish, they called it. Glowing green monochrome (JFK had been waiting for new color screens for more than two years now), like a bowl of pea soup supplemented with clusters of alphabet letters tagged to coded blips. Each blip represented hundreds of human lives, or, in the old nautical parlance that endured in air travel to this day, souls.

Hundreds of souls.

Perhaps that was why all the other air-traffic controllers called Jimmy Mendes "Jimmy the Bishop." The Bishop was the only ATC who spent his entire eight-hour shift standing rather than sitting, wielding a number 2 pencil in his hand and pacing back and forth, talking commercial jets into New York from the busy tower cab 321 feet above John F. Kennedy International Airport like a shepherd tending his flock. He used the pink pencil eraser to visualize the aircraft under his command, their positions relative to one another, rather than relying exclusively upon his two-dimensional radar screen.

Where hundreds of souls beeped every second.

"United 6-4-2, turn right heading 1-0-0, climb to five thousand."

But you couldn't think like that when you were on the dish. You couldn't dwell on all those souls whose fates rested under your command: human beings packed inside winged missiles rocketing miles above the earth. You couldn't big-picture it: all the planes on your dish, and then all the other controllers muttering coded headset conversations around you, and then all of the planes on their dishes, and then the ATC tower over at neighboring LaGuardia...and then all the ATC towers of every airport in every city in the United States...and then all across the world...

Calvin Buss, the air-traffic-control area manager and Jimmy the Bishop's immediate supervisor, appeared at his shoulder. He was back early from a break, in fact, still chewing his food. "Where are you with Regis 7-5-3?"

"Regis 7-5-3 is home." Jimmy the Bishop took a quick, hot look at his dish to confirm. "Proceeding to gate." He scrolled back his gate-assignment roster, looking for 7-5-3. "Why?"

"Ground radar says we have an aircraft stalled on Foxtrot."

"The taxiway?" Jimmy checked his dish again, making sure all his bugs were good, then reopened his channel to DL753. "Regis 7-5-3, this is JFK tower, over."

Nothing. He tried again.

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