Following a skiing accident in Alaska Devin is rescued by a mysterious race of people whom are like no other except one - his brother Vincent
An untrained eye would never have seen it for only those in the know could tell that the gentle sway of a lower branch and the wind in the other direction would signify that someone sat near the trunk of the great fir tree that towered upon the mountainside. Closer inspection by anyone with knowledge of such things would have revealed a small group of men discussing the finer points of a collaborated plan that had been in existence for the past four years and with every clan around the entire world, thanks to its helpers.
Still there were disputes, the clan had never revealed themselves to society, and though some thought that these people were more than figments of the traumatised imagination nothing had ever been available to prove that was so.
Now, only now, it had become a necessity, for as Sarah had told Devin, the habitat that these people had relied upon for the past few thousand years was widely being eaten up by the need for sport or housing or both.
Their language though was not what Devin had heard. That had been purely for his benefit only. They did speak in tongues they did know animal sounds and their meanings and they did use these to confuse new and un-trusted helpers, but it was not their language although what was, was difficult to decipher. It was a language all their own. However for the purpose of this tale, a translation is provided.
Within the clan, the men folk were the head of the family, just as the Bible conditions families to be for their own benefit, the men were looked up to and respected by their wives and their children. Grandfathers were respected as elders and in each family everyone knew their place. Due to that there were few arguments as in its own time the wheels of motion were so precise that life was as easy as it could be for people that resided in caves and tunnels throughout the mountains around the world.
Four years ago though, a problem arose. A family had died through malnutrition. It should never have happened with a clan as close knit as these people could make it, but pride is apparent in every nationality and no one was made aware that the family in question were starving and cold and slowly dying until it was too late, and as one they were found huddled in death around the meanest campfire any of the clan had ever seen, and the question was proposed – how had we let this happen? How did we not know that a family among us needed our help?
The answer came swiftly and was not an option, times were changing for the clan, and each found that food was not as abundant as it once was. Illegal hunting had taken from them animals that they had relied on for food source, and logging rights sold by governments meant that much of the natural habitat was quickly disappearing. With that precious bees were lost, bees that had previously pollinated bushes that bore fruit that in turn fed the clan and their little ones. Thus drastic measures were sought and the ultimate answer found, the clan had to make themselves known to society as frightening as that may be. Hopefully land could be apportioned to them for their own protection and interference would be minimal once the first journalists had had their fill. For there was no doubt in the minds of the clan, their ‘coming out’ would make world headlines. They would be made spectacles, but sooner that than face the loss of the clan, and perhaps in many respects it might prove beneficial to the survival of their race if they could present themselves to mankind and if they continued to adhere to their own lifelong rules.
Only the older men were not so comfortable with the idea. For thousands of years they had overcome obstacles, had lived a secret life in a secret world seen rarely and then only by some weary traveller or someone lost and injured on the mountain. At such times when stress was at a maximum trauma made the mind believe that all manner of impossibilities were so, just so. And therefore, the first of many arguments were heard among the clan until it became necessary to appoint leaders and for the first time ever in the generations of the ‘clan’ two leaders to each clan were appointed all around the world. And with the aid of the helpers databases were established with family names each to a clan, so that an individual could be called upon wherever they be to put forth their arguments and have them cushioned and smoothed away, until only contentment was left and the belief that yes, the way forward was open and they had no choice but to go through that particular doorway into a new world of their own making. Except, the older men argued that once they were beyond those ‘doors’ life would not be of their own making. The world would step in and take over and they would be come spectacles in an alien world where hostility would become rife.
“Yet what should we do?” It was a question heard often these days, as the clan disputed the matter.
“We’ve discussed this. There is no other way! You’ve seen how the rest of mankind is forcing his way beyond the fringes of our world and why not? If he does not know we exist how can he know that he is trespassing? How can those that cut the trees and hunt the animals know that they are doing anything other than ruining the environment without a care in the world? They do not worry about such things but bring them a man another of their kind and maybe it will stop their constant onslaught of those things. Are they not kin? In some way, we are all a part of the same mould, and once they recognise and know what they are doing to their ‘family’ maybe they will stop and we can survive as before.”
“And maybe they will make specimens of us. And put us up for public display! You have to understand that not one of us has ever been seen literally by mankind. They will be amazed by what they encounter and everyone will want to look.”
“That’s not strictly true. Remember that family that had a baby stolen?” Members of the clan looked to the speaker. He was big as they all were, his golden hair covered by thick layers of wolf fur, as was his back and legs, chest and arms. Each used animal fur to cover him - it was warmest and on their feet they wore boots made from hide.
“I do not remember this.” Another member spoke up. “A baby stolen? What from one of us? When did it happen? How long ago?”
“One question at a time. It was about forty years ago, maybe less. And it was here, in Alaska and caused much distress at the time. A traveller was found, lost and with hypothermia it was not expected that he should live. The family of Prowling Cat took him in. They were unsure what to do if he should die and it looked very likely that he would. Prowling Cat chose to leave his pregnant wife and children and come to the elders to seek advice, but in his absence though it was less than the time it takes for the sun to rise and set, the traveller recovered enough to aid Prowling Cat’s wife to give birth, and then steal her child away into the twilight before she had realised what was happening. We searched for the thief, but he was as careful as concealing his tracks as were we. Hence the child was never found even though the thief’s checkbook had revealed a name. One that eludes me now, but Prowling Cat would know.”
Another of the clan nudged him then, a question in his eyes. “It doesn’t matter.” He was told. “That part of the story is immaterial here.” He turned to his fellow clan, “Prowling Cat has all the details, but for now there are more important things at hand.”
*** *** ***
“Is that why Prowling Cat so against travellers? Why when he saw that last lost soul out on the mountainside, he almost left him for dead. It was only thanks to one of his children remarking on his moodiness that alerted us to the fact that he had seen someone in time for us to act on and rescue that poor fellow Devin Wells.”
“That’s another thing, while we are on the subject, would we have reached this same conclusion about our future had it not been for the pressure of our helpers? Though they do good in many ways they are a thorn in our sides. Have you seen or have you heard of some of our clan becoming romantically involved with such ones? We have to keep ourselves clean! Once we allow others to sully the clan we will never be the same again, it would be impossible for it to be so, and we will not have helpers living among us. Therefore that would mean our children being exposed to the helper’s world, and then where would that leave us!” The old man’s voice rose higher and higher as he became more indignant. “I’ll tell you shall I? It would leave us where we are now, facing an unwise situation and one such as we have never encountered. If we face the world it will be the end of the clan, you will see. We will not be accepted - we will be misfits in an evil world that we are no part of. I say that we forget this foolish idea and find another way. We have existed for thousands of years and we will go on for thousand of years and if we don’t…then what would it matter? Times change and maybe its time for the clan to die, maybe we have done our bit and its time for us to perish…maybe…”
“That’s enough, old man!” The elder looked up to see who had spoken stunned to the core to find it was his own grandson. Never before had a younger member of the clan spoken so disrespectfully to an elder and a huge gasp went up among the people. Even so the elder fell silent, listening with antagonistic interest to what his grandson had to impart.
“Maybe nothing!” The younger man stood in the centre of the group and made his presence felt. He walked pacing from the feet of one member where he sat on the ground to the feet of the next looking nowhere and everywhere at once, but never at any one of their faces as he continued his charade. “Everywhere, civilisation has changed, life is constant, flowing like the great lakes, moving onward except for us. We are a stagnant race, never altering, and for why? Life is passing us by, our little ones know nothing of what is outside their own stony world, and that is not right. Other children have everything, have you not listened to the tales told by the helpers? Children of the world have so much, and don’t you find that unfair? A child among us was lost, taken by the world into the world, absorbed, not forgotten true, but never found either. Out there…” and he extended an arm above their heads to convey the world, “is where we will find life…and if one of their little ones is lost, then they have all the means to recover him, the search is intensive and continued, all leads followed through. Why was Prowling Cat’s son not found? I tell you shall I, because the fringes of our world are such that none of us could go beyond it. That traveller…what?” He bent down as someone outside the group joined them and spoke and after he listened a moment the speaker went on to announce, “apparently the traveller was known as Pater, John Pater, he stole the child, and because we could not cross over the boundaries of our world into his, and because way back then we did not have the helpers we have now, the child was lost to us. John Pater knew that, and he stole from us something precious and where that child is today no one knows, because quite simply there has never been any coverage worldwide of that missing child. Even so, does it not make you realise that should it happen again we would be in the same situation? However, had we already presented ourselves to the world, then everyone would know where such a child belonged and it would be harder to keep concealed and more easily returned to us. What if Prowling Cat’s son is with kind people, what then? How is it possible for him to be returned to a race that as far as the world is concerned, simply does not exist? That child will be considered a freak of nature a one off, and if he has survived, does not your heart go out to him in his belief that there is no other like him in all the world?”
Members of the clan nodded, and the older men began to realise they were on slippery ground, besides though they would never admit it, the younger man had some valid points that they could not dispute.
“I propose that we ‘go forth and reveal ourselves to the world.’ The younger man told the group. “Those with me raise your right hand, those unsure raise your left and those against abstain entirely.”
From a group of thirty-two, there was a mixture of hands, but the vote was carried, twenty-three for, three against, six unsure. “Motion passed. I’ll deliver the word, the helpers can update the records and a date can be set for our ‘appearance’ and I for one cannot wait for that day. It will be day of days for the clan, the day that we set foot inside the real world, a world we have remained cut off from for far too long.”
There were cheers of agreement and some dissatisfied grunts with murmurs from those with mixed feelings, but the overall sentiment was one of apprehensive excitement. The clan were going to be exposed to the world and that would cause a stir such as mankind had never seen before and likely would never see again. The elusive yeti did exist, except…though this label would be placed upon them, the clan did not adhere to that name, and did in fact know of another group to whom it should be attached. But those ones were altogether another story entirely…
That Devin was subdued about something was clear to both Father and Vincent but both let him be, knowing he would reveal all in his own time and no amount of pressure would have him do so before he was ready. But he worried them. He had arrived with a broken arm and tales of how he had survived five nights out on the snow until rescuers had arrived. Anything else Devin felt unable to reveal to them. The magnitude of what he knew was beyond anything he had had to bear before but even so he could not even hint at what had happened to him up on that mountain. In fact on waking every morning he was so sure that it had all been a figment of his imagination that he had brazenly gone to his wrist certain of not seeing the snake like tattoo, and stunned each time to find it was there. One morning as he stared at the mark, Catherine walked into the chamber with a pot of boiling coffee in her hands. “What you got there?” Catherine remarked with an infectious smile that had Devin’s lips tweaking at the corners. “Chandler that’s the closest you have come to being outright nosy.” He told her, sitting up in the bed to retrieve the pot from her hands. He placed it on the cabinet beside him and drew his empty mug from the night before toward him. “Here, I’ll do that.” Catherine told him. “Is that what it is then? A scald from yesterday?”
*** *** ***
Devin wasn’t with her. “Sorry, me no comprehendi?”
“That.” Catherine indicated with a nod toward his wrist. “Did you scald yourself yesterday trying to juggle a coffee pot and a mug without getting out of bed?”
“Oh, that.” Devin half laughed, causing a frown of concern to furrow Catherine’s brow. “It’s nothing. And no it’s not a burn.”
“Then what is it? You got a rash or something, cut yourself maybe?” Again she smiled, cheekily so, she knew it and he knew it that she wasn’t going to leave until he told her what was so darn interesting about the underside of his wrist.
Devin sighed, wearily so, and Catherine raised an eyebrow. “That bad, huh? Infectious disease? Should I stand well back?”
“No.” If she had thought he would reply with light-hearted banter Catherine was wrong. A very serious expressioncrossed his face. “What’s wrong, Dev?”
“Wells.” Catherine corrected him.
“Sorry.” Devin apologised meekly.
“Besides,” Catherine told him. “Its Catherine, remember? We are all one big happy family here.”
At the mention of family Devin balked and Catherine clearly saw that expression. “What, you disagree? Has someone hurt you? Who? Come on, tell me and I’ll get Vincent to sort them out. And if he won’t then I will.” Devin laughed as Catherine hoped he would and she was happy when she noticed affection in his eyes. “You’d do that for me?” He asked as if unsure. Catherine nodded. “Course. You’re my brother in law and you’re Vincent’s brother and you love him, and I love him, and I’m talking in riddles.” She slapped her own wrist, and Devin laughed out loud. “I knew living down here would send you mad eventually Ch…sorry, Cathy.”
Catherine sighed. “So come give do tell, as Joe would say. What’s with the tattoo? Little small isn’t it?” Devin covered his wrist, slapping a firm hand over the top of the tattoo, his eyes wary and wild all of the sudden. Catherine grew concerned. “Don’t you like it? Did some one do it to you when you were sleeping is that it? I’ve heard of that sort of thing. Mind you, I would have thought they would have used the occasion to tattoo something much more embarrassing than a little wiggly worm.” She eyed him spectacularly “Or is it somehow a reflection on your manhood?”
Catherine laughed out loud. Devin grinned from ear to ear and sipped at his coffee that had rapidly grown lukewarm during their stilted conversation. Over the rim of his mug his eyes were bright with humour and mischief. Catherine awaited her retribution. None came. After what seemed an age of expectation, the look in Devin’s eyes changed and he lay down the mug fiddled again with the tattoo on his wrist as if undecided about something and then suddenly much to Catherine’s surprise told her, “Some people like Vincent put it there.” Catherine’s mouth dropped open, she was sure her bottom lip had hit her feet. Devin thought so too. “You look like a fish.” He laughed nervously still unsure about his confession.
Wide-eyed Catherine stared at him. “You’re serious?”
“I wouldn’t joke about this, Cathy.” Devin told her in as flat a tone as he could muster. “And you were right in a way, they did it while I was sleeping, or unconscious as the case happened to be.”
Crossing to the side of his bed Catherine sat down. “When, where?” She whispered hoarsely. “Were they really like Vincent?” His gaze focused on her eyes, Devin nodded. “Couldn’t believe it, Cathy.” He shook his head while remembering and his eyes took on a faraway expression. Catherine could see he was dredging up his memories. “They rescued me. Put my arm in a splint, cared for me until the rescuers came, and tattooed my arm for identification. Then when they knew the rescuers were on their way they slipped something into my coffee that made me unconscious then they were able to depart, and remove all traces of their being there. By the time the rescuers arrived at my side, there was nothing to show that someone else had been there keeping me alive. They even took the splint from my arm, leaving me exactly as they had found me, only in better condition. Cathy…there’s loads of them…all around the world.”
Catherine gasped. She felt as though she were in a dream. Reaching out she touched Devin’s wrist. “But for this, you would believe you had imagined it all?” Devin nodded. “They do this to everyone that comes into contact with them.” He laughed, “Ironically, they refer to such ones as helpers.” He laughed again. “Amazing, huh? Apparently once we are helpers of the clan, we can be called upon for all kinds of services when they are in dire need…pardon?”
“You said the clan, is that what they are called?” At this Devin really laughed and Catherine looked at him wryly. “Believe me, honey, if I told you what they were really called you would have me branded N-U-T-T-E-R rather than with this little wiggly worm as you call it. Knowing them as the clan will be good enough for you. Good enough for anyone come to that.”
“No, Devin come on, I believe you, thousands wouldn’t, but I do and this is important to me. Its bad enough Vincent believing he is some sort of misfit of nature, but…” she patted her abdomen. “In here, I carry Vincent’s child…and if he or she…”
“Whoa! Cathy!” Devin’s eyes sparkled. With one arm he bear hugged her hard. “You’re carrying Vincent’s child? That’s wonderful news. Does he know?” With tears in her eyes Catherine nodded but her lips trembled, and Devin was quick to ask, “He’s not happy about it, is he?”
“That’s the whole point, Devin! Don’t you see, he’s only not happy because he believes this child if born in his image will be just another misfit, with all the loneliness to bear that he has had, smoothed slightly by the fact that our child has both parents but nonetheless not a happy occurrence, being how Vincent feels about himself. But if he isn’t the only one, if what he is was meant to be, then it changes everything…don’t you see?” Now Catherine’s eyes sparkled. “Devin, Vincent is one of many, he’s not alone anymore and our child will not be living in a hostile world where he or she has to grow believing they are the only ones of their kind. It changes everything, Devin, and for the better. So what are they called? Please tell me.”
Devin relented. “Well as far as they are concerned, their name, that is the name of the clan is unpronounceable to us. You see they have a language all their own and though there were some translators of their kind among them they still could not tell me the names of each member in their own tongue, but rather only a translation of it in ours. The fellow that spoke to me told me to call him Singing Jay, he introduced others to me by names I could understand, and in general were much like those of the Native American Indians. However, I met another helper at the hospital and she filled me in a great deal. Apparently, mankind refer to the clan as…” Devin paused to test Catherine’s response. She nodded eagerly in expectation. Taking a deep breath Devin told her, “They are referred to as the Yeti…The Abominable Snowmen, Cathy…” He half laughed, and watched her wide-open eyes absorb that piece of information.
“You have to tell Vincent.” She whispered hoarsely. Devin nodded. “I plan to.”
Devin shook his head, “I don’t know. Soon.”
“When soon?” Catherine was still whispering. Devin understood, she was reacting just as he had with excited disbelief, if they were the words for such an emotion.
Looking at her face full of eager expectation, hope and excited apprehension, Devin couldn’t resist. “Not sure, Cathy, but I’ll tell him I promise…only not yeti.”
Catherine laughed, a nervous kind of hiccupping laugh and she hugged him tightly. There was a wealth of comradeship in that hug, Devin felt it right through to his bones. “I want to be there when you tell him.”
“Of course. Now will you let me drink my coffee before it goes stone cold.” Catherine smiled. “I’ll do better than that, I’ll bring you another pot of hot coffee, while you get dressed and then we can go find Vincent together.” She hurried from the chamber in an excited flurry. There really were people like Vincent? He wasn’t all alone in the world? How would he take that news? She hoped he would be delighted…at least…her footsteps faltered…he wouldn’t really leave her would he? When he found out, he wouldn’t really leave the tunnels and go off to find his family and never return, surely not? Catherine shook her head speaking and laughing out loud, ‘Don’t be silly, Catherine Vincent loves you more than life, he’ll never leave you, not for anything.’ Even so deep down inside a tiny bit of her was unsure and made her apprehensive of Devin telling Vincent his news.
Devin hadn’t planned on telling his brother this soon, but oh well, what the heck? He sighed as Catherine exited the chamber. ‘She took it well enough,’ he decided. Surely his brother would do the same?
Pacing was something Vincent was notorious for but roaring, though sometimes done was only in extreme circumstances, however, Catherine had heard a lot of it lately ever since her pregnancy had been confirmed, so she did not wince quite as much as Devin did, who eventually had to cover his ears and shout, “Quit that, Fur Ball you’re deafening me!”
Vincent stopped in mid stride, a half roar leaving his lips as he stared at Devin who had risen from his seat his intention to stride over and shake his brother senseless, only stopping when Vincent went suddenly quiet.
Strangely Vincent grinned. “You haven’t called me that in years.” Devin grinned too, and Catherine having not heard the expression before waited in nervous expectation for Vincent to get mad at the reference to his being or something, pleasantly surprised when he did not.
“Well at least you remember it.” Devin told him. “And when I used to use it.”
Vincent sobered, remembering his days of frustration at being what he was, at the boundaries that were imposed and the unfairness of it all. When the other kids, his brother included could go up to the park in daylight…when he was made to stay behind…he had roared then just as he had roared now, and Devin had called him Fur Ball thus reminding him that he only emphasised his uniqueness when he roared.
“I’m sorry.” Vincent apologised. “But…” Words were difficult and he had so many questions and so many thoughts raging through his mind. Devin awaited questions that did not come, stunned when Vincent told him, “Its just as I saw then. I dreamed this, Devin. I saw you on that mountain with those people around you.” Rather than feel elated that there were people like him out there, Devin was surprised by the flat almost dismayed tone that the knowledge brought him. “What’s the matter, Vincent? We thought you would be happy to know that you aren’t alone anymore. That is, that you aren’t the only one like you in this world.”
“I am.” Vincent said flatly as if he was anything but.
“Then what gives? What’s wrong?” Devin ventured to ask. His brother was a time bomb. Devin could feel it as a brooding atmosphere wove its way around him - Vincent was set to go off any minute. Catherine too recognised the signs and she winced when Vincent took up his perpetual pacing once again. Arms out palms upturned fingers splayed Vincent tried to express his feelings into words. “I know I should be glad.” He began walking to the desk and turning on a dime to return to face his company only to turn on his heels and walk back toward the desk again. Devin was given a glimpse of power he had almost forgotten his brother possessed. Catherine was reminded of lions she had seen caged in the zoo as Vincent’s long mane of hair twirled around his head cascading down his neck and shoulders, tangling where it fell in trying to keep pace with his rapid movements.
“Yet, how can I be?” Vincent stopped to stand and stare at his companions as if they should know the answer. They said nothing, and he never expected them to as he took up his narrative once again. “I belong. Don’t you see? I now belong. I have a family. People I have been alienated from by the works of a kidnapper, for how else did I become estranged from my parents? And why should they continue to be without me? All those years, they thought me lost? All those years I believed I’d been abandoned…I had a family, probably one that loved me…and grieved for me…my dream…” He splayed his hands again in a helpless gesture. “It has to come true…I must leave here…go to them…go to where I belong.”
Catherine rose to her feet and ran to him. “No!” She cried hugging him tightly. “I will not let you go.”
Expecting his arms to come up and around her, Catherine was dismayed, and distraught by the look of pity in his eyes. “What have I done to you, Catherine…its not too late…you can terminate this pregnancy.”
“No! Vincent! No, you don’t mean that?” A look of pity formed in Vincent’s eyes. “You should never have loved me, Catherine. I’m not worthy of your love.”
“You are! I love you with all my heart.”
“Its not enough.”
“It is and we were married, Vincent don’t forget that. You and I belong together.”
“I belong to no one. Except maybe I belong to a family that has been forced to live without me all these years. I must go to them, with luck my parents will still be alive.” He was planning then, the look was obvious in his eyes, he foresaw brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, mother and father, uncles and aunts, grandparents maybe…his heart raced for the things he speculated and the unfolding of a dream he had known would bear fruit. “Will you take me to them, Devin?” He asked hoarsely abruptly leaving Catherine standing in the centre of the room, dismissing her, their love, their dream, all that they had shared, turning his back on his wife and child to be. He was like a different man. Catherine stared after him unwilling to accept that he could be like this, disbelieving all he had said to her. And as she saw him going out of her life Devin stepped in with one very firm, “No. No, Vincent, you have a life here, and a family. If I take you, it will not be under these terms. This isn’t like you, not the Vincent I know. It’s more like that other. Are you sure he hasn’t taken you over?” Vincent roared and Devin ducked as a mighty arm passed over his head, almost giving Devin a matching scar on the other cheek as Vincent ran from the chamber. Catherine quaked in a corner by the desk. She had never seen Vincent act so callously toward those he loved before…and too late she realised her own mistake, and that of Father’s. They had taken his dream too lightly. They had made him believe that it was just that a dream, but it had been real, and now in the aftermath of Devin’s revelation, Vincent’s frustration of who he was, was only just coming to light.
Tears slid down Catherine’s cheeks. Her husband she might be losing, but their child she never would. She would remain steadfast and faithful to the baby within her womb. Vincent’s child…the child of the love of her life…that would never change… Come what may she knew she would love Vincent forever.
Walls had ears. Though eavesdropping was strictly forbidden in the tunnels something like this was bound to get out, and Vincent marching through the tunnels stopped dead when he deciphered the coded message ringing out on the pipes that Vincent wasn’t the only one of his kind, that there were others, thousands, possibly millions of them. Rather than amuse Vincent, it caused anger to bubble up beyond any that he had known before and reaching for a stone he tapped out his own message ‘mind your own business! Stop discussing this, its nothing to do with you!”
*** *** ***
Even so, for the slight feeling of pleasure announcing this Vincent also harboured a great deal of displeasure deep down in his gut, and Vincent balked at the sudden silence upon the network of communication, as though everyone were caught stone in hands in mid stride of tapping something as his announcement caught their ears. Feeling bad, Vincent rolled the stone between his fingers and slowly tapped it against the pipe once more. “I’m sorry. Forgive me. I’m not myself right now.” There was a moment’s silence and then everyone started to speak at once, apologies came first, and then encouragement and offers of help, until Vincent found himself heading toward Father’s chamber where he knew everyone would be congregated within a very short time.
He arrived as they did, moving through the chamber entrance wary eyed, unsure of their welcome and Vincent’s mixed feelings, and when the great man sank into his usual chair with a ragged sigh their hearts went out to him, however it was Father who spoke first.
“I was going to ask, is this true? But I see from your face, Vincent, that it is so.” Father turned to Devin at his left. “You told him this?” There was accusation in Father’s tone and in response Devin was defensive. “He had a right to know.”
Father fumed, by the redness of his cheeks and the tightness of his lips, and the firm set of his jaw everyone cowered where they were in silence awaiting an outburst that was sure to come. However each jumped when Vincent roared, “I know what you are thinking, Father! That you would keep something this important from me, to save what? My feelings? Yours? Our community? Devin did right to tell me, however…” His anger died away, and he rubbed tiredly at his eyes as if he hoped when he reopened them again everyone would have vanished and he would be as he always was living in blessed ignorance, but it was not to be. The look of expectation on the faces of all those around him caused Vincent to sigh heavily. “I have to leave here.” He stated flatly, amid cries of dismay and denial. “Yes,” Vincent told them. “I must. Though you are all family to me…” His eyes searched for and found Catherine’s face among them and he smiled pitifully at her, begging her to understand. “There are others to whom I truly belong.” He spoke to Catherine for the benefit of all. “And I have to go to them, they have missed me, their grief has been great. I know it…here.” He placed a hand over his heart. “I have to return home, to where I truly belong.”
The sadness in his tone was apparent, but what could not be overlooked was the sight of hope shining from his eyes and Catherine knew in that moment she had lost him. This was not the Vincent that she knew he was someone else. Devin’s declaration had freed the man inside the beast and the hope of expectation was vivid in his blue eyes.
“When will you go?” Father knew when he was beaten. All he could do now was be there for his son to let that son know he was welcome back at any time. Now would not be a good time for them to part in bitterness and as much as he balked at the words he had spoken he had known he had no option but to have uttered them.
“Just as soon as Devin can take me.” Vincent appealed to his brother, his eyes hoping for an affirmative. Devin slowly gazed in the direction of each tunnel member and finally at his father. He nodded and felt fit to explain. “I do this under duress, Vincent, but…” he nodded slowly. “I’ll take you…though how we will get there beats me. You’ll need a passport for one thing for we have to go into Alaska. Give me a few days, huh? I shall perhaps have to consult Sarah the only other helper I know…” His gaze went around those gathering before him and he felt fit to explain. “Vincent’s family…his fleshly family…they have helpers too…I know one of them, but apparently there are dozens more…without their help I could not re-locate Vincent’s family…” Then looking back at his brother he went on, “So give me time, huh? I may need to return to Alaska if I can’t get hold of Sarah by phone.”
Eyes bright with hopeful expectation, Vincent agreed with a nod of his head. Now it looked as though he might just actually get to play out his dream his great heart thudded ninety to the dozen as he realised the things he would encounter. Going out of the tunnels, going right out, not just to the park, or Catherine’s apartment, or to Brooklyn or Queens, but beyond there, to the wilds of Alaska…snow and ice, mopuntains…to…home…where his family were…his real family… excitement did not even come close to describing how Vincent was feeling at that moment. Unbounded joy might help, apprehension, nervousness, elation all of those were rolled together in Vincent’s heart, but most of all…he couldn’t wait…couldn’t wait…he was almost bursting at the seams…for… Vincent shook his head, there were no words for what he waited, he only knew that the exhilaration of the changing of his life course was…. beyond words…beyond anything he had ever known in his life before.
Hearing from Devin again so soon, was no surprise to Sarah. She had expected it. New members to the helpers of the clan always had questions, hundreds of them, although what perhaps had amazed her was how slow they were in coming from this particular new member. And when he asked if he could meet her someplace, because there was something remarkable he simply had to tell her, Sarah agreed readily, something that surprised her even more.
She shouldn’t have been surprised for ever since they had met she had been drawn to his handsome good looks and had thought about him constantly since they had exchanged their farewells eleven days before. “Where shall I meet you?” Sarah asked her mind racing, her heart trying to outrun it. “At my house, at the hospital, where would you like us to meet?”
“If it wouldn’t put you out, could you come here, to Manhattan, New York? There’s someone I should like you to meet.” Devin asked hopefully from the other end of the telephone line. Reaching Sarah had taken ages, he just hoped that Catherine’s apartment telephone bill wouldn’t show too costly a price, but then he was certain on such an occasion Catherine would gladly pick up the tag, even though Vincent was still being hostile with her she did not condemn his need to return to his family, only the way he was pushing all those that loved him out of his life to do so.
“Oh?” Sarah’s heart sank as a sudden thought of a wife that needed to thank her rose to the surface.
“Yes, my brother.”
“Oh!” Sarah’s surprise and delight came over the line all too clearly and Devin frowned. “What did you think I was going to say?” He asked her.
Flustered, Sarah said the first thing that came into her head. “Haven’t a clue, but I wasn’t prepared for a brother. So what’s he got to do with all of this…oh, Devin…you haven’t told him have you?” Sarah asked dismayed. A new helper Devin may be, but he knew that he should not discuss the clan with anyone other than another helper.
“Oh, Devin, No!” He could hear the sadness and dismay in her tone and he rushed on in, eager to dissipate it. “You don’t understand…” he began.
“Oh, I do, believe me I do…I thought you weren’t like that, Devin…I thought you could keep this a secret.” Sarah sounded dismayed and heartbroken in one go. Again Devin frowned, he was seeing her standing there, all her hopes dashed and for what? For why? That’s what he couldn’t understand. Well he could, but the emotions he was hearing behind her words belied more than the broken promise of keeping this particular secret, it was almost as if she herself was outright annoyed with him and he couldn’t understand that. “It’s not your secret, Sarah, its not mine, it belongs to the clan…and I had a very good reason for telling my brother about them.”
“That’s what they all say.” She gasped, and Devin replied instantly. “They all say? What, have others broken their promise?”
“Yes, they have and they have been branded nutcases for their tale. Any that have been believed have made it hard on the clan. Explorers keen for a glimpse of the elusive yeti have searched in vain, or to their detriment among the mountains of Alaska. Don’t tell me you are going to be among them, Devin. You and your brother?”
“Yes, and no, look, Sarah, I know you can keep a secret, and I had wanted to wait until you got here, but since you appear to be disillusioned in some way, I’ll tell you over the phone…my brother…well…he is like them…he’s not my true brother he is adopted…he’s just like them, Sarah. They’re his family.”
There was silence at the other end of the telephone, no gasps of surprise or shock, just silence, and Devin was forced to ask, “You still there?”
Devin sighed with relief. “Good, I thought you had fainted or something.” He grinned and Sarah could almost imagine that, she grinned too, then whispered, “Prowling Cat’s child.”
“Your brother. He has to be Prowling Cat’s child. There’s been no one else lost, at least not from Alaska. I don’t know all of the story, Devin, but I can find out. Would you permit me to take this news to the clan before I meet you in New York?”
“How can I not.? So can I? Tell them I mean. You don’t know what this news will do for Prowling Cat…Lord, Devin…why didn’t you say something when you were there?”
“I had my own particular secret to keep. Besides I wanted to tell my brother first. Can you understand that?”
“I guess so. I just hope the clan will. So…Devin tell me, just so I can tell them…what exactly are your plans and those of your brother?”
“He wants to go home, Sarah, back to his roots. He wants me to take him to his family.” Sarah’s face lit up with joy, and though he could not see it, by her gasp of delight Devin pictured it was so.
“Then he shall. I’ll keep you posted, Devin, just give me a contact number and I’ll call you. Might be a few days, but believe me you will hear from me again.”
Devin sighed, wearily so. He had set the cogwheels in motion, anything could happen from now on, and he gave her Catherine’s apartment telephone number explaining that he didn’t actually live there, but anyone that answered the phone would know what she was talking about.” You see, Sarah,” Devin told her, “My brother has helpers too, lots of them, and they know all about this.” He almost saw her nod and he waited in expectation for her reply. “Then that’s great, Devin. Bringing the son back to his family won’t be as difficult as I thought then. Leave it with me, you never know, Devin…” Sarah knew something he didn’t…” it might be that we won’t have to take your brother back to his family, it could be that the mountain will come to Mohammed. I’ll be in touch. Bye.”
The line went dead before he had time to utter his own farewell, but for some reason Devin’s spirits lifted, and for the first time in a few days, he began to feel like he was doing something fantastic, in a way that was different to anything he had felt before in his entire life.
*** *** ***
Vincent was waiting for Devin’s return at the threshold bombarding him with questions before he had stepped down from the final rung of the ladder. “What did she say? Did you speak to her? Did you tell her about me? What did she say?”
“Sorry.” Vincent paced agitated from corner to corner of the threshold holding back further questions with clenched teeth, he wanted to rattle his brother, shake everything out of him and Devin was collecting his thoughts together painfully slow.
“Well!” Vincent demanded at length.
Devin grinned, he liked to rile his brother but he could see this wasn’t exactly a time when he should act so wickedly. Vincent was only eager for things that had been denied him all his life, after all. “She’s going to see them, she thinks you are the lost child of Prowling Cat.” Vincent frowned.
“Why the long face, I thought you’d be glad you have an identity?”
“But a cat!” Vincent exploded.
“That’s probably not his real name, just one we would understand. What did you expect, I did tell you the names they used were like those of the Native Americans.”
“Even so…” Vincent splayed out his hands in defeat. “A cat…I had hoped…”
“That you would get away from the animal side of things? Vincent, these people think very highly of animals, it is probably an honour to be given a name that denotes them. Maybe like the lion is the king of the jungle this Prowling Cat is a leader among the clan.”
“You mean I may have been a prince among my men?”
Devin nodded, hoping he was right for the mere thought seemed to please his brother immensely. “Anyway, Sarah is going to contact the apartment when she knows anything.”
“Then you should be there.” Vincent told him. “When will she call? Did she set a specific time?”
“No. I hadn’t thought of staying up there. Maybe I should.” Devin spoke thoughtfully.
“Yes, you should.” Taking his brothers shoulders Vincent turned Devin back to face the ladder that lead up to the basement beneath Catherine’s apartment building. “Off you go.”
“No time like the present.” Vincent reminded him.
“Tomorrow will do. Sarah won’t be going anywhere until she has made arrangements. She’ll have to get time off from work, make the trek into the mountains, locate the clan, impart the news and get back, it could take all week.”
Birdlike Vincent cocked his head and looked at his brother, as if to say, ‘you really believe that?’
“What?” Devin asked. “Do you disagree?” Vincent nodded.
“This woman, Sarah, has just been told the most fabulous news about people she keeps secret from everyone she knows, do you seriously think she is going to ask for time off from work before she can take this news to them? I bet as we speak her little feet are flying up that mountainside and she knows exactly how to locate my family. Take it from me, Devin this time tomorrow, she will have all the answers she needs for you, so turn around and get back up those stairs and don’t come back until you have something wondrous to impart to me, and not a second too late, you hear?” Obediently, Devin nodded. “I’ll just collect my things.” Vincent pushed his brother toward the ladder telling him, “I’ll have them sent up to you, now go!”
“I’m going, I’m going” Devin cried with a chuckle as he felt the sharp points of his brother’s claws against his back. However he was half way to the top when he stopped and looked back over one shoulder. “Just promise me something, Vincent?”
From the shadows, Vincent gazed back warily as something in his brother’s tone implied he might not approve of what Devin had to say. “Just be nice to Catherine. She’s your family now. She and your unborn child they are who what matter the most.”
Vincent said nothing just merged with the shadows until Devin could see him no more. Sadly, it was as though his petition had fallen on deaf ears.
*** *** ***
One thing Vincent had been right on though was his insistence that Sarah would go straight to the clan with her amazing news, and Devin pottering about in Catherine’s apartment the next morning was surprised not only when the telephone rang but to find Sarah on the other end.
“Devin?” The young female voice asked breathlessly.
“Its me, Sarah, hi.”
“Hi, Sarah, I never thought I’d hear from you so soon. Are you going to visit the clan today?” There was laughter at the other end of the line. “Done it, I’ve been already, and now I’m back. Devin they were ecstatic, I’ve never seen people so overjoyed, but then can you wonder at it?” She laughed. “Oh, Devin it made my day, no year, no make that my life to be able to impart such wonderful news to the clan, and Prowling Cat and his wife wow, you should have seen them, were they happy or what? Couldn’t stop crying at first, and then they hugged me and each other, and started relaying the news to their children in their own language, and their faces lit up, and oh, Devin I wish you had seen it!”
“I wish I had too.” He laughed caught up in the excitement of the moment.
“Mm.” Sarah replied thoughtfully. “That was the only fly in the ointment, they were not pleased that you had kept such wonderful news to yourself. But after talking to them they understood. Now the next move, I expect you’re thinking that they want you to bring their son back to them, huh?” Before Devin had time to speak she went on, “Not so. Devin, remember I told you about the clan revealing themselves to the world, well, that day has come sooner than any of us expected. They’ve set a date, Devin and it’s to coincide with the International Year of the Beast. Good huh? They feel its some kind of omen that next year is designated that title, not only here in the USA but worldwide. So they are marking the occasion with their own exposure, feeling that perhaps the world will accept them more next year than at any other time.” She paused, but still Devin said nothing knowing she intended to reveal next the crux of the matter, namely Vincent.
“Therefore, what has been suggested is that when they ‘come out’ so to speak, that your brother does likewise. Our helpers are arranging transportation from Alaska for Prowling Cat and his family to come to Manhattan and be reunited with their son and then as one the whole group can reveal themselves at a designated time and place when there will be worldwide coverage of the clan around the globe. Exciting stuff huh? Oh, Devin I can’t wait. These are such delightful people, the world is gonna love them. I can feel it in my bones, can’t you?”
Devin couldn’t agree, his mind and heart was racing…Vincent exposing himself to the world…to New York and Manhattan in particular? All those unsolved mysteries, all those occasions when victims were found ripped to shreds by claws…Of course one was innocent until proven guilty but such a thing would give his father a heart attack, even if nothing else detrimental to Vincent’s exposure happened.
By his silence, Sarah became concerned. “Devin? You still there? Is something wrong?”
“I don’t know, Sarah,” Devin began thoughtfully, he found that his hands were shaking, he was shaking, all of him, he reached for the nearest chair and dragged it toward the cabinet where the telephone was positioned sitting down gratefully before he fell down.
“You don’t know what? I don’t understand.” Sarah sounded troubled.
“I don’t know that my brother will agree to this. He has always been so careful about not being seen and there are some things that you don’t know that complicates matters.”
Sounding exasperated, Sarah replied, “What things, tell me?”
“I’m sorry, I can’t. Look, maybe I ought to go and see Prowling Cat and explain it to him.”
“No!” Now Sarah sounded really annoyed. “I’ll tell you what you can do, you can ask your brother before you assume anything, Devin. He has to have his own say in all of this, it’s his family, his mother and father we are talking about here, surely he wants to see them?”
“Yes, he does, it’s not that. There are other issues at stake, important issues revolving around my brother’s existence becoming public knowledge. I’m sorry, Sarah I can’t discuss this with you. I can only talk to my brother and meet with Prowling Cat and be the mediator between them. Will you take me?”
“No, absolutely not! You’re a helper now, if I can find them so can you. I’m sorry, Devin, I tried my best and this is how you repay me!” Devin was shocked he had not expected this and something grated at the back of his mind. “When the clan reveal themselves, Sarah, will you be playing any particular roll in divulging that fact to the media?”
“What if I am? I’m only helping.” Sarah was perturbed but saw no reason to be ashamed of being paid for such a massive story.
“And you’ll get money for it?”
“Yes, so what? Thousands of helpers are doing likewise.” Devin saw where she was coming from. “Sorry, Sarah, you won’t be paid for this part of the story. I won’t let that happen.”
“You can’t stop me, Devin, I already know that one of the clan, the missing son, is in Manhattan,” Devin balked wishing he had kept his mouth shut, he had acted too hastily in telling his family secret. “And I also know that you are the key to finding where he is.”
“I can disappear. That would be no problem. I do it often. I can’t be found that easily.”
“Well, okay, but since I do have a place to start it shouldn’t be too difficult finding John Pater, and then hey presto! I have it in the bag.”
Devin quaked, and nausea rose into his throat. “John Pater?” He husked into the receiver. “What’s he to do with it?”
“Do you know him?”
Devin decided the least said the better. “No. Just never heard you mention his name before.”
Sarah was doubtful, Devin had sounded like he had seen a ghost, or heard a ghost, or whatever he had sounded as if he had known of the fellow. “He’s the guy that stole the baby from Prowling Cat and his wife. So if we start with him, we’ll soon find the missing son.”
Devin wanted to shout, ‘he’s dead’, but refrained from doing so. If Sarah was letting him search for the clan on his own, well then she could jolly well waste time searching for a dead man.
“Well thank you, Sarah for your help, but I don’t think there’s anything more we have to say to one another, Goodbye.” Sarah laughed, “Sounds like I got you there, huh? All I have to do is find John Pater and then that will be that.”
“Good luck,” Devin told her and heard her reply, “And good luck in finding the clan,” before he replaced the receiver. However rather than feel glum about such a prospect he realised he didn’t need to find the clan. If they now knew about Vincent, then they would appoint some other helper to seek him out, and if Devin went back to Alaska and made some enquiries he might find another helper willing to…what? Help him? Help Vincent? He knew he couldn’t do it on his own but neither did he want to have anything to do with helpers intent on making money out of the clan’s existence. There was too much at stake. Devin sighed thinking, ‘well the longer it takes to reunite Vincent with his family the more time I have to work something out.’ Devin took comfort in the thought that maybe Catherine could help. She was a good investigator as well as an attorney, maybe she would be willing to help, and in that way Vincent would not be so antagonistic toward her if he knew she was helping to reunite him with his family. The only problem was would Catherine be willing to help? After all, doing so could cost her a husband, the father of her child and their dream. A dream that so recently had gladdened the hearts of the tunnel community by being brought to reality in their marriage. It was a tough decision, but one that could not be brushed under the carpet, come what may, the International Year of the Beast was almost upon them, and like it or not Vincent and hundreds perhaps thousands like him were about to be exposed to the world. The problem there was, one among them was a killer. A killer married to an attorney. What would Manhatten make of that? And if that wasn’t enough to handle then when Father found out about all of this he was going to explode!
And that was an understatement! Father was incensed, Vincent was ranting and Catherine fumed! And all that Devin had done was relate part of Sarah’s telephone call to them so wait till they heard the rest…”There’s more.” Devin told them feebly, he had an overwhelming desire to duck and run as he imparted this next bit of news. Three pairs of eyes swung to face him, breathless chests rising and falling three bodies antagonistic toward each other for varying reasons, and he, the culprit, at least he felt like the culprit, was standing in the middle of them.
“It was John Pater that stole Vincent from his family. Sarah knew his name. Believe me I didn’t mention it.”
There was utter silence for a long moment when the world seemed to stand still and then eruption! Vincent roared for all he was worth. “Then I’m glad I killed him!” He cried and swung round to face Father then Devin in turn his ebony cloak folding around him like giant wings defying them to argue.
“For once we agree.” Father thundered. “But it alters nothing. I forbid that you leave us, Vincent, even more I forbid that you treat Catherine so callously!”
“You have no say in this, any of you! They are my family! My real family, how can you all be so selfish? I’m going, and if Devin won’t take me then I shall go by myself.”
Derisively, Father laughed. “You’ll be seen. Alaska is quite a trek and its wintertime. Who will feed you? Who will give you shelter? Give up this foolishness, Vincent and listen to those that love you.”
“Love me?” Vincent sneered. “You call this love? Trying to prevent me from returning to my family?” Catherine began to protest and one look from her husband silenced her. Those eyes, they were not of the man she loved, they were cold hard, steely and she cowered beneath their frigid glare.
Yet Catherine could see, they could all see, this was not the dark one either. This was Vincent, like it or not, it was him, but in a way none had ever witnessed before. He reminded them all of a caged lion, his pacing was relentless, his fury unleashed, he was trapped and he wanted out, whatever way he could. The power in his loins was apparent, his strides lengthening, his cloak billowing out behind him matching the golden mane flying above. Suddenly he turned on Catherine. “And you!” Catherine crouched low stung by his temper, tears bedimming her eyes. “You should leave here, return to your world, and abort the child, Catherine… I want nothing more to do with you!”
That was the last straw. “VINCENT!” Father rose hobbled to his son’s side and thwacked him across the cheek all in one fluid motion. “How dare you!”
With Devin’s arm around her Catherine sobbed, but Vincent just stood stock still glaring at the three. “What do you know!” He growled. “You know nothing of what it is to be me! You see only what you want to see! Catherine would do better in her own world…and I’m not going to be here. I must be cruel to be kind, don’t you see? Don’t any of you understand?” He roared loudly.
*** *** ***
“We understand all right, you selfish PIG!” Devin screamed at his brother. “You’re not even good enough to be a part of the family you were snatched from, if you asked me, they’d be glad you were if they knew how disgusting you’re being now! Certainly you have a wicked disposition, maybe Paracelsus was right to take you. Maybe the warrior he sensed in you has at last been unleashed!
Vincent roared mightily, and any tunnel member that had been eavesdropping quaked in his shoes and scurried back to his chamber trembling. This was awful, Vincent was awful…Devin was justified in what he said, but would Vincent let it drop there? They doubted it.
Inside the chamber Father fought greatly to unlock his two sons. Vincent the mightier, Devin the swifter, Vincent surer of foot, Devin smarter of wit, ducking and diving as Vincent brought down his fist again and again intent on killing his brother, there were no two ways about it, Vincent intended malicious harm. “STOP IT, STOP IT!” Catherine screamed until her lungs hurt. She ran between them.
Vincent’s clawed fists sent her reeling, once, twice when she rose to start over, three times, and she had had enough! Everything Isaac had taught her came into play and pregnant or not she launched a full out attack on her husband. ‘You can kill a man with a shoe’ she could hear Isaac saying and she took off her weapon and cracked it against Vincent’s head. He roared with pain and turned on her as Daniel in the lion’s den, his rage directed fully toward her. “Come on then. Come on then…” Catherine motioned him toward her with the tips of her fingers. “Come get me if you dare.” She raised the shoe a second time, her intent plain. Seeing the venom in her eyes Devin winced, the lady meant business, and Vincent for all his power…what would he do?
As a nightmare unfolding Devin watched in silent horror, Father too, as Vincent advanced on Catherine. It was clear now that the heel of her shoe had left a gash above one temple from where blood oozed and matted with his hair. Devin knew in that instance that the moment his brother advanced on Catherine, he would throw himself between them. His brother was crazed, mental, off his head and about to murder his wife. The wife he loved more than life itself. But Catherine had it all in hand. “Come and get me, you beast!” She spat brazenly, and when Vincent’s footsteps toward her faltered triumph filled her eyes.
“That’s what you are, you know?” Catherine mocked. “Call yourself a man when you use fingernails as weapons? Should I do that?” Taking one disgusted look at the shoe she held, Catherine flung it away, and with hands outstretched told Vincent, “They might not be as tough as claws, but boy I could scratch your eyes out with them, they’re that sharp!”
It was the animosity and the venom that had Vincent faltering in his stride toward her, he had supposed he might chase her away from his world back to her own with some hurtful words and callousness and he had assumed she would go with tears and pleadings, but this…this kind of fury…she portrayed was nothing short of animalistic behaviour…was that how he had seemed to her?
“Catherine?” She heard the catch in his voice, the uncertainty in his tone and marvelled that her idea might be working. She had hated doing what she had done, the blood trickling down his cheek made her wince, made her want to run to him hold him tight sooth away that hurt with kisses, but he was still yet an untamed beast…he might yet do her harm.
“Catherine?” He reiterated, dropping to his knees, his head hanging low. “What have I done to you?” He whispered raggedly. “Forgive me.”
“My love.” Catherine ran to him then gathering him close to her, her arms wrapped around his mighty frame, her eyes beguiling in her love for him, and beseeching Father and Devin to let them be. Tears bedimmed Father’s eyes and he and Devin wandered slowly from the chamber intent on standing outside to listen and wait should Vincent behave wickedly once more.
There was a long spell of silence, they guessed that the pair were hugging but slowly they heard whispers, things they could not decipher from where they waited but felt perhaps things had simmered enough that they could go and wait in Vincent’s chamber and hope nothing untoward would happen – now.
Inside Father’s chamber, Catherine rocked her husband in her arms while he burrowed his face into her shoulder softly crying. “Catherine…did I…did I hurt you?”
She understood what he meant. “Not physically, Isaac taught me well, but mentally…yes you hurt me…Vincent we have to discuss this…I understand truly I do…you want to be with your family…but you have other responsibilities, other obligations now…but I can share the newfound happiness with you…I want to do that…please let me?”
“I want to…” Vincent began hesitantly. “But its difficult…for reasons I cannot explain. I have to go to my family on my own…you cannot come with me, Catherine…and in all fairness I don’t know when or if I shall return. You must see it logically also… please, Catherine… return to your world and forget about me. I am not worthy of you. Marry someone like Elliot.”
“Vincent! No! How many times! It is you that I love. I will ever leave the tunnels. I want to be with you all my life.”
“Then you may face being here alone. Catherine think about this, if I am not here, if this child is like me, he or she and you will face restrictions I have battled all my life…”
“No, it won’t Vincent don’t you see, if the world is going to be made aware of people like you, our child will be accepted, there will be nothing to worry about.”
“There is everything to worry about, you will be the mother of a child whose father is a murderer, other people will know that you had relations with me!”
“I don’t care!”
“You should care. Please, Catherine, lighten my load, it is heavy enough already, go back to your world, find someone else to love, someone worthy of that love and terminate this pregnancy. It is for the best.”
“Never!” Catherine told him adamantly, “Never, Vincent, you hear me…never!”
Sadly, Vincent shook his head, “Then I’m sorry, Catherine for what your lot in life will be, and sorry that you chose to follow it alone.”
“You won’t be with me?” Catherine felt her world falling apart before her very eyes as her husband shook his head, his blue eyes pained deeply, “No, Catherine, I’m returning to my family, and whatever was mapped out for me there. I shall always be grateful for what I was given by Father, and my friends here, but I have to return to my family. Catherine, please try to understand, imagine you were me, surely you can see how it has to be?”
Catherine could not argue with that, she had given the fact much thought over the last few days. “Yes I can understand, but it doesn’t make it right. I’m your wife I should go with you.”
“Maybe you can come afterward, maybe all is not lost, perhaps the clan will allow you to join them as another helper. Oh, Catherine there is so much awaiting me out there!” Vincent threw open his arms as if to encompass everything that lay out in the big wide world for his taking. “Surely you cannot deny me that?”
Catherine shook her head. “You have always deserved everything, Vincent. Truly I am glad that it is now to be obtainable for you, I am just so very sad that you intend to leave behind Father and the others, people that love you, to turn your back on them perhaps forever.”
“I cannot be split in two, Catherine, as much as I would like it. What am I to do, make a choice? My family, my real family love me too, they have missed me all these years, I have to go back, I cannot not go back.” He said sadly.
Catherine understood that and said so, but it was not easy. “Then when will you go?” She whispered. Vincent’s eyes lit up at her question. At last she had accepted he would be leaving.
“In the new year, when the international year of the beast begins, I will leave then. I will meet my family up in the park, just as Sarah said, and then I will return with my family to my real home in the mountains.” His eyes at the mention of mountains took on such a far away blessed look that Catherine’s heart went out to him. This meant so much to Vincent, how could she even dare to stand in the way of such a dream?
“Then I wish you all the happiness in the world, my love.” She told him and before sobs prevented her from saying another word she buried her face in his shoulder lest he see the tears beginning to form.
“Thank you, Catherine, you don’t know how much that means to me. All I need now is have Father understand in the same way.”
Muffled against his shoulder Catherine did not raise her head to answer him. “If its want you want” she told him softly, “I will help you make him understand.” In response Vincent hugged her closer, not realising that Catherine balked at such an idea, it was heart rending enough that she should bid her husband farewell, let alone expect his father to understand and accept it, for she realised what it was doing to Father. For the first time ever, there was another parent vying for Vincent’s affections, and Father for one, was not prepared to share him, he wanted Vincent all to himself, and really who could blame him? After all, he had done so much for Vincent, cared for him from babyhood up, and he loved him unconditionally, yet in this there simply was no choice, fleshly or not Vincent was his son, and to know that his son was leaving and may never return would just about kill Father. Catherine hated the thought but she had to try and make the older man understand Vincent’s viewpoint. It was not going to be easy and there was going to be a lot of heartache for all of them in the coming months. Deep down she hoped his real family might reject him, but that was unlikely and if they did how would that affect her husband? If only there was a solution that would please everyone because without a doubt one way or another someone was going to get hurt. Catherine didn’t wish that on anyone for already she knew how deeply that particular pain went.
Celebration times were few among the clan. They lived their lives peaceably and though there were times for merriment and dancing around the campfires these were generally restricted to such things as the seasons Spring, Summer etc, a bountiful hunt, a rarity these days in itself hence the problems they now faced, and occasionally the birth of two children within hours of one another.
Such a celebration had taken place almost thirty-seven years earlier when Prowling Cat and his wife ‘Indigo Sky’ had announced that they were to have a child, days after ‘The Tongue of the Bear’ and ‘Only One’ had announced that they too were to have a child around about the same time. Preparations had been made for the birth of the two children, and as the pregnancies continued and the sex of the children expected was determined, a marriage had been arranged between Prowling Cat’s son and ‘The Tongue of the Bear’s’ daughter as was the custom of the clan.
However with the kidnap of Prowling Cat’s son the couple were never brought together, even though the ‘marriage’ had taken place before they were born, and The Tongue of the Bear’s daughter, ‘Radiance’ had remained single all her days.
Now all that would be a thing of the past, and a celebration was underway preparing Radiance for the moment when her ‘betrothed’ husband would finally return to the clan, and they could be married before the eyes of the elders. Joyous, was an understated emotion among the clan - they were ecstatic. Prowling Cat and Indigo Sky’s son was returning and Radiance was still young enough to have babies of her own.
During the celebration and amid the cheers at the announcement of Prowling Cat’s son’s return, The Tongue of the Bear raised his hand, it was customary for the two father’s to meet and discuss such things as where their children would live, whether with the daughter’s parents or with the son’s, depending on the livelihood of the fathers and the area in which they resided. Prowling Cat lived in a cave, with tunnels that extended deep into the mountain, while The Tongue of the Bear’s family favoured temporary residences, moving from place to place as the need and the food took them. The Tongue of the Bear argued that his daughter was a valued member, she knew how to hunt, gut and joint meat, she knew how to make clothing from fur and boots from hide, she knew how to mantle and dismantle hide dwellings quickly and efficiently as the need arose. Her absence in his family would be sorely missed, and The Tongue of the Bear insisted that she and her husband should live the life of his family. But Prowling Cat was naturally against this. For thirty-seven years their son, ‘The Best of Everything’ had been lost to them, and they wanted him home with them, with Radiance as his bride living in the caves with them, until the couple announced that their own child was due and from then on, a new home would be assigned to the couple as a gift from their parents.
The elders listening to both sides of the argument finally ruled in a way that would be beneficial to the clan. “Your son is not known among us.” The oldest man of the clan spoke directly to Prowling Cat. “It would suit that he travels with The Tongue of the Bear and Only One, so that he may come to know all of us across the mountain as time allows, and only when we hear reports from our members that they have met your son, should he return to the dwelling of you and your wife.”
“No!” Indigo Sky, had been listening, and was ashamed that she had spoken her thoughts aloud. She clasped a hand to her mouth and bowed her head in apology and the elders were kind, they understood and said nothing to her of her outburst. Prowling Cat however did. “Is my wife’s grief such that it can be overlooked? She speaks from the heart. As do I. How can you say that our son must go away from us, again, have I not the right to at least teach him to hunt, to track? He’s been brought up in the city and his boyhood stolen from him and from us. We have had not the time to teach him family things, and here you are having him coupled with Radiance and made to travel with The Tongue of the Bear and his family until all members of the clan have come to accept our son among us? Its not right!”
Heads together the elders sat whispering, discussing Prowling Cat’s valid points. As a group they looked like a long mountainous line of fur, sitting huddled wearing cloaks and boots made from hide and wolf fur, they were tall as well as having wide shoulders, the fur padding made them look even larger. Members of the clan were silent while the elders talked lowly among themselves.
It seemed an age, and Prowling Cat hoped he was sending Indigo Sky encouraging looks as she waited anxiously with Radiance and Only One on the boundary where the meeting was taking place. The celebration of the return of The Best of Everything was long over now, and the other women and children had returned to their dwellings as the important issues of The Best of Everything’s forthcoming marriage were raised and discussed.
Finally the older of the men raised his face to the crowd and clearing his throat his deep resonate voice filled the air, seeming to swirl around the campfire to touch the ear of every member awaiting the future outcome of Prowling Cat’s son.
“This is what we have agreed.” Prowling Cat stiffened, he hated it when they said that, had they of said ‘this is what we have decided’, he knew he could have found grounds for manoeuvre but that they had already agreed, he knew from old that dissuading them from any other course was nigh impossible.
“That when The Best of Everything returns to the clan he and Radiance are not married until Prowling Cat has taught him all that he needs to know about his family and our traditions, our way of life and that which is to come. It is possible that The Best of Everything may in turn teach us much, he has been brought up among society in a city no less, and there is much we can learn from him. Thus, a year from now, when the snow lays heavy in the valleys, Radiance shall be brought to him for the consummation of their marriage, and she will not see him before that day.”
Indigo Sky heard Radiance sigh wearily, it was not what she had wanted to hear, she had waited long enough already, and was not getting any younger, but Indigo Sky thought her own heart would burst with happiness. Their son was coming back to them and he would for one whole year live with them and his younger brothers and sisters, near his older brothers and sisters who lived in tunnels and caves nearby with their husbands and wives and their little ones. Indigo Sky felt joyous, for throughout the celebration of her son’s proposed return her heart had been heavy with the prospect of whatever the elders might decide regarding their son’s immediate future and his marriage to Radiance. Now it was merry, and encompassed that of her husband’s who at that moment was striding toward her his arms outstretched ready to enfold her in his embrace and share the joy of knowing that for once the elders had ‘agreed’ to do the right thing.
“Congratulations.” Prowling Cat looked up to see The Tongue of the Bear at his side, his words sounded sincere but his eyes portrayed other emotions that belied that fact.
“Thank you.” Prowling Cat spoke for both he and his wife.
A curt nod was all the response they got from The Tongue of the Bear who with his hand upon Only One’s arm and his other hand propelling Radiance away from the crowd, walked his family back to where their other children awaited to return to their camping ground on the far side of the mountain. Just before disappearing however, The Tongue of the Bear hesitated and reminded everybody, “When the snow lines the valleys a year from today I will bring Radiance to The Best of Everything and they shall be married. Teach your son well, Prowling Cat. I expect him to make my daughter an honourable husband.” There was no malice in the words that he spoke, and Prowling Cat nodded, he didn’t mind now, he didn’t mind anything now, so long as he and his wife had the year ahead to come to know the son they had lost and dreamed about every passing day for the last thirty seven years. It was a long time, and they could not make up for what was lost in one year, but it was enough. Their son was to be returned to them. It was all that mattered.
To be continued in Chapter Seven