The Magic Lamp Trilogy
The Magic Lamp Trilogy was inspired by Kindra King a batb fan in the USA
Kindra inspired me to write the following story when she said that Mouse is always finding things, so just think what would happen if he found a magic lamp. Certainly the possibilities were endless if that was to happen. Mouse and a magic lamp! Can you imagine it? The following story developed with that idea in mind. By the way, the incident about the British couple with the metal detector is true - because one of them was me that it happened to!
‘Mouse! Put That Thing Down!’
Whether or not it had been a blessing or a hindrance was hard to say as yet, but certainly buying Mouse a metal detector wasn’t one of Catherine’s choicest ideas in the long run.
However, as far as Mouse was concerned, it was the best gift anyone could ever have given him. In fact, better than best.
From the moment Catherine had attempted to show him how it worked, and in so few words too, Mouse’s face had been transformed and he had jumped to his feet from where he had been sitting with the delightful shout, ‘Know it! Seen it! Got it!’ Making Catherine and then Vincent laugh out loud.
“You spoil that boy,” Vincent had told her, as their hair-brained friend had scampered away just like his namesake clutching his new gift tightly.
“He’s worth it,” Catherine told him. “You all are.” She gazed up at the man she loved with adoring eyes, causing Vincent to look away in embarrassment.
Catherine detected his discomfort but couldn’t help adding, “and some more than others,” with a mischievous grin.
Bringing himself back to the matter at hand with some difficulty and passing her remark off as misheard, Vincent went on softly. “Let’s just hope that he doesn’t dig the whole place up.”
Catherine laughed. “At least Father’s bright idea of making him aware of all the pipe systems first was a good one. We don’t want Mouse following pipes for miles on end.”
Vincent grinned at the image that thought represented. Mouse, detector in hand, walking along tunnels with the earphones glued to his head, listening as the bleeper sounded and the light flashed, anticipating digging up treasure only to find it was a pipe network that he had discovered, but not before he had dug them all up!
“I heard of a couple in the United Kingdom,” Catherine began, “that took a metal detector to a country park, and the bleeper went off indicating something large. They started digging, and digging, and found what appeared to be a large metal box. Convinced they’d struck gold or some sort of treasure-trove, they lightly covered their find, and returned the next day with larger tools. They resumed digging, and suddenly the woman decided that all was not well, and that perhaps they should check the site out before they continued digging up the entire park. So they re-covered the site, and went along to the library. There they discovered that before the park was a park it used to be a scrap yard for old cars, and what they had been convinced was a treasure box, was in fact the roof of an old car!”
Vincent burst into laughter, picturing this, then sobered somewhat. “Let’s hope Mouse doesn’t have a similar experience.”
Then he linked his arm with Catherine’s and the pair left Mouse’s chamber together, convinced that the boy wasn’t returning. Obviously he might not return for some time.
“Should be peaceful around here for a while at least,” Vincent mused, thinking of Mouse’s absence with his new toy.
“Quite so, until the floors cave in, of course.” Catherine replied impishly.
“Such a pessimist,” Vincent retorted, grinning from ear to ear as they walked arm in arm back towards the main hub.
*** *** ***
Swirls of dust filled the tunnel as Mouse dug swiftly into the floor, his excitement high as the shovel delved into the ground again and again in quick succession. “Find it, must be here,” Mouse chattered to himself, remembering the time he and Cullen had found the treasure-trove that Vincent and Catherine had eventually left outside the convent, for the discovered treasure had caused a visit by the green-eyed monster with the tunnel dwellers Below.
Mouse had always been convinced that they had missed something, and with his love of glittery things, he aimed to find it, whatever it was.
He dug avidly for about an hour, conscious of the fact that he mustn’t make too much mess or Father would have his throat, but content nonetheless with the thought that, if he found something remarkable, Father might praise him too.
At last, as he broke into the second hour, his work was rewarded. A handle of something protruded out of the ground, and carefully Mouse dug around it, deeper and deeper until he could free whatever it was.
Then, there by the light of a torch, Mouse held up his treasure, and wondered what it could be, but even through the dirt that encased it, Mouse could see a chink here and there of gold sparkling through.
He was overjoyed!
Setting down the metal detector for a moment, Mouse rubbed the dirt off from his find, and exclaimed with delight when, bit by bit, some kind of jug was revealed before his eyes.
“This is great!” he murmured to himself. Picturing returning to the main hub and finding Catherine to show her, he exclaimed, “I wish Catherine could see it now.”
*** *** ***
Vincent looked up from his reading of Jane Eyre, one of Catherine’s most treasured books, and looked down at her. “Catherine, is something wrong?”
She had been listening to his reading, happily leaning against him as they had lain together on the love seat, when suddenly she had stilled, her breathing became shallow, and Vincent grew afraid.
Probing the Bond, he could tell that she seemed to be waiting for something. Her breath held, and then without a word, she got up from her place and started to walk out of his chamber.
“Catherine!” Vincent jumped to his feet, and followed her out. Fear coursed through him; he had seen Catherine behave in such a way once before, but then there had been a reason.
“Catherine?” he called to her, but she didn’t seem to hear him, as trance-like she walked purposefully onwards. All he could do was follow with fear shuddering through his entire being.
Before they passed Father’s chamber, Vincent called out, “Father, are you in there?”
“Yes, Vincent, what’s wrong?” The older man detected Vincent’s anxiety from his tone and arrived at the entrance to his chamber just as Catherine, and then Vincent, were passing by. “Father!” Vincent wanted to halt, but had to keep up with Catherine, whose footstep hadn’t faltered from their course once. “Please come with us. Catherine seems to be in some sort of a trance.”
For a moment, a stunned Father just stood and stared after his son, and then he too called after Catherine.
“Catherine dear, wait.” There was no response. Nothing to even indicate that Catherine had heard him.
Father ran back into his chamber gathered up his medical bag and hurried outside again, just in time to see Vincent’s frame disappearing into the gloom of the tunnel ahead.
Hobbling as fast as his hip would allow, Father caught up with them and leaning on Vincent for further support, the two with great trepidation in their hearts followed Catherine, who obviously was going somewhere.
*** *** ***
Back with his find, Mouse was delighted. He could clearly see the item now, and knew it to be some sort of lamp rather than a jug. In fact, reminiscent of ones he had seen in ‘Once Upon A Time’ books. He was ecstatic.
As he lifted it to the light this way and that to make it sparkle, a movement caught his eye, and he snatched the lamp away from the light to the safety of the shadows behind him.
Exhaling a breath of relief, Mouse sighed. “Oh Catherine, it’s you. I wished that you would come.” He smiled at her delightfully. Catherine was his best friend, next to Vincent.
“Come see what I’ve found, Catherine.” He hastened to show her, bringing the golden lamp from behind him, and holding it out to her. But for a few seconds, Catherine seemed miles away, and that worried Mouse. “Catherine? Are you all right?” He shook her arm. “Catherine?” He sounded afraid.
“What? Oh! Er hello, Mouse.” Catherine came back to earth with a jolt looking around her in a daze. “How did I get here?”
Mouse seemed not to hear her, but a sound from behind her caught his attention, and swiftly he hid the lamp from view again. “Vincent!” he exclaimed, seeing Catherine whirl around to look behind her.
“Father!” His voice plummeted. “You’re here, too?”
“What’s going on, Mouse?” Father asked breathlessly.
“Nothing.” Mouse mumbled.
“Catherine, how are you dear?” Father came to stand beside her.
Catherine looked confused. “I don’t know.” She turned to Vincent. “Why are we here?”
“Don’t you know?” His concern was evident and Catherine became frightened.
“What happened? Vincent, tell me!” Her voice rose. Mouse looked from one to the other in confusion and anxiety.
“You just sort of went off in a trance. You came straight here from my chamber. Nothing either I or Father said would stop you.”
“That’s ridiculous!” Catherine stared first at Vincent, and then at Father as they both nodded. “But why? How?”
“I know neither the answer to either question, my dear.” Father told her with concern written all over his face, “but since you seem yourself again, perhaps you should come back to my chamber and let me examine you. How are you feeling?"
“Strange actually, like I have just lost a part of my life.”
“Well, in effect you have. What do you remember?”
Catherine took only moments to answer. “Sitting with Vincent in his chamber as he read to me.” She would never forget that, it had been too perfect and too infrequent an experience as far as she was concerned. Nothing but nothing would have made her get up and walk away from that.
“And you were happy doing that?” Father knew he was asking an outrageous question, but he had to know.
“Perfectly happy. Do you think I would want to up and leave such comfort to come here, to this draughty tunnel and…” Catherine looked around her, something jogging her memory. “Mouse called me,” she whispered looking at the boy with disbelief.
“Mouse called you!” Father and Vincent exclaimed at once.
“I heard you.” Catherine looked accusingly at the boy, who stared at her in amazement. Even he could see the futility of that.
“Have you been here all the time, Mouse?” Vincent asked, “or were you near my chamber?”
“Here,” Mouse told them timidly while trying to shield the dug up floor from their eyes, afraid that Father might tell him off. But his attempt proved futile when Father asked, “Isn’t this where you and Cullen found the treasure, Mouse?” Father looked around him, recognising the place.
Mouse hung his head sheepishly. “Yes.”
“Then what are you doing here?” Father looked around the boy; he could clearly see the metal detector, and knew the answer at once. “Arh.” In that one word his tone belied his anger. “Mouse, you know not to unearth anything else. Look what happened the last time!”
“Know it,” Mouse murmured, making Catherine feel sorry for him. She jumped to his defence. “You can’t really blame Mouse, Father; finding treasure is what detecting is all about. Up Above...” she began, but Father cut in. “Up Above, men seek treasure all the time with these things, but down here, we have already found it. Catherine, I was afraid of this, its all very well giving gifts to others, but in this case, my suspicions have been proved true. Mouse just can’t be trusted to use such a tool wisely. You will have to take the detector back from where you got it, Catherine."
Mouse snatched up the tool at once, guarding it fiercely, the detector in one hand, the lamp in the other. Father saw the gold glinting in the lamplight. “You’ve found something, haven’t you? Mouse, give it here.”
Mouse drew away, holding the lamp behind him, and shook his head. This was his find; he didn’t mind showing it to anyone, but he wasn’t about to give it up.
Fortunately, Vincent understood this and used a bit more tact than his parent. “What is it, Mouse?” His tone showed his interest, and Mouse softened.
“Can I see it?” Vincent asked, tactfully aware of Father’s escalating temper beside him.
Mouse gingerly held it out. “It’s a lamp,” he mumbled.
Father drew in a breath as the material of the lamp became apparent. “Mouse, that’s solid gold!”
Mouse snatched it back, hiding it behind him again.
“Father won’t take it, I promise.” Catherine intervened now, glaring the older man down, and Father nodded. “Yes, I promise, Mouse, just show it to us. Would you…please?”
Again, Mouse brought it to the forefront holding it up for all to see.
“It’s beautiful, Mouse,” Catherine exclaimed breathlessly.
“It is,” Vincent remarked, as the gold glittered despite the fact that it was still very dirty. “And I should think very valuable too,” he added.
“Keep it?” Mouse asked, looking defiantly at Father.
Father nodded, “I suppose so, but you must promise me, Mouse, not to dig anything else up from here. Do you promise?”
Mouse didn’t want to do. What was a metal detector for, if not for finding treasure?
“Mouse?” Father asked impatiently, adding, “you know the trouble such things cause.”
Mouse nodded, unwilling to reply.
Father should have stopped while he was ahead, but he went in for the kill. “And Catherine, I don’t suppose you will get your money back fully on the detector, but no doubt they will give you most of it. It’s hardly been used after all.”
Mouse sucked in a breath. “Want to keep it!” He exclaimed, holding onto the detector for dear life as Father reached for the instrument.
“Now, Mouse, you promised.”
“Mouse, let it go.”
“Catherine gave it to me!” Mouse exclaimed, as if that was the answer to everything. Vincent understood that was so. “You’re right, Mouse, and only Catherine can take it back from you.” He looked at her, his eyes appealing to her conscience, but Catherine saw it from Mouse’s point of view. “What harm can he do? He’s promised not to dig up anymore treasure.” Catherine winked at Mouse, so only he could see. Mouse warmed to that wink. Catherine was on his side. Two against two, that was fair in his estimation.
But Father had to get up on his high horse; besides, he was cold and wanted to get back to his chamber and examine Catherine. “Now, Mouse!” Father drew himself up to the level that Mouse considered Father’s mighty mode, and Mouse saw red!
“Mine!” He bellowed. “Gift from Catherine. Keep it!”
“MOUSE!” Father’s voice rose.
“Oh, I wish you’d get lost!” Neither Catherine nor Vincent could stop the corner of their mouths from twitching at this. Mouse never said anything like this to Father. NOBODY ever said anything like this to Father!
Father’s face reddened with fury, then as suddenly, it relaxed, and Father turned and walked away.
The three left behind gave a sigh of relief and watched him go.
“You will have to apologise, Mouse.” Vincent told the boy.
Mouse nodded, grinning sheepishly. “I know,” he told them, hugging his precious lamp and metal detector to him. “But later.”
All three laughed out loud.
*** *** ***
He should know this place, but nothing seemed familiar. Yet that was ridiculous. Father knew these tunnels like the back of his hand. They had to be familiar.
He walked in endless circles, looking for something that he knew, but everything seemed alien to him. Hobbling along, and growing more and more exasperated, Father finally admitted defeat. Somehow, and he hadn’t a clue how, he had become hopelessly, foolishly lost. IN HIS OWN HOME!
Distastefully, he reached for a stone and began tapping out an SOS.
*** *** ***
Depositing Mouse safely back to his chamber without mishap, Vincent guided Catherine back toward the main hub. “I expect Father will be waiting for us,” he told Catherine, as he steered her into his father’s domain, and stopped dead to find it empty. “That’s strange...well, maybe he’s waiting in the hospital chamber.” Taking Catherine’s arm, still uncertain that she wouldn’t wander off again, he led her there, but that too was empty.
“Curiouser and curiouser,” Catherine couldn’t help commenting, mimicking Alice in Wonderland. Vincent stared down at her; she really was in a strange mood today.
“You know, we never quite established why you left my chamber and went to Mouse, did we?” he asked her, as he steered her now toward the guest chamber, in the slim hope that Father might have gone there. “Mouse called me, I told you,” Catherine replied. It was a perfectly good answer, after all.
Vincent shook his head. “No, Catherine. Even if he had, he was too far away for you to hear him. Why, even I didn’t hear him, and I have acute hearing, as you know.”
“Silly,” Catherine prodded him in the ribs with one slim finger. “Not out loud. I heard him in my head.” Catherine clapped a hand to her mouth, realising what she had said. “But that doesn’t make sense.” She stared up at Vincent her big grey green eyes a mixture of disbelief and confusion.
“No,” Vincent agreed, “it doesn’t make any sense at all, Catherine, and neither does the fact that Father isn’t here either.” They had arrived at the guest chamber and found that empty, too.
“Perhaps he’s at your chamber?” Catherine suggested.
Vincent nodded. “Perhaps, but why go to mine, when he has to pass his own? He may as well have waited in his own for us, especially as he didn’t know how long we’d be.”
“Then maybe he went to use the bathroom, and we missed him,” Catherine offered.
“Mmm maybe.” Vincent wasn’t convinced. Something rankled at the back of his mind, but he didn’t like to bring it forward. He didn’t like to think of it at all.
*** *** ***
Back at Mouse’s chamber, Jamie had turned up. “Hi there, Mouse. I heard you were back. How’d the metal detecting go?” She hurried into his chamber to find him absorbed in his find. “What’s that?”
A man of few words, Mouse answered, “Lamp.”
“I can see that, Mouse; where’d you find it? It’s unusual, kinda gothic. Say, it sparkles well. Have you been polishing it?”
“Yes. It’s gold, see?” Mouse rubbed the lamp to show off its brilliance.
“It’s lovely. Can I hold it?”
Mouse held it out to her. “Don’t drop it.” He trusted Jamie with his life, but this lamp was special to him.
“I won’t.” Jamie took it from Mouse’s hands, delighted by the way the lamp shone, as the candlelight picked up its many facets of brilliance. This way and that she turned it, allowing it to catch the light. “It’s wonderful, Mouse. I wish I had one like it.” She handed it back to him.
Mouse continued to study the lamp; he loved it. He had never seen anything sparkle so much. Jamie watched him avidly. “You gonna sit and play with that thing all day?” Mouse didn’t seem to hear her.
“Do you want to hang out, you know do something, go somewhere?”
Jamie despaired. Since she had recognised the fact that Mouse was handsome in a cute kind of way, she had hoped to get closer to him romantically speaking, but sometimes he seemed just plain childish.
“Mouse, sometimes I just wish you’d grow up.” She told him sighing.
“And I just wish you’d grow down,” Mouse told her with a wry grin.
They glared at one another for a moment, and then Jamie’s expression took on a distant look. Mouse seemed to expect this, but it surprised him nonetheless that it had actually worked. He’d been wondering about that. How had Catherine found him after he’d wished to see her? For a person that often seemed a dimwit, Mouse was remarkably intelligent. And he had an assumption about the lamp.
“Want to play hide and seek?” he asked Jamie now, knowing this was a game they had once played many times, but of late Jamie had considered it childish playing it with him.
“YES!” Jamie’s shout of delight startled him. Mouse beamed. It was working!
*** *** ***
Extremely chagrined, Father was rescued.
He had no words, nor would he attempt any as a group of tunnel residents escorted him home. And what made it worse was the fact that Mary awaited his arrival, and put a hand to his brow to see if he was unwell.
“I’m all right, Mary!” he snapped at her, exceedingly embarrassed.
“But Father, you were lost, and you never get lost. At least not there...why you must have walked that route a thousand times.” She looked at him with some concern.
“I know. I know. Don’t you think I’m not aware of that?” He snapped again, intensely ruffled.
Mary hid a smile behind her hand.
“First Catherine and now you.” Vincent’s voice came from the entrance, making Father swing round on the spot and glare at his son.
“Well, it’s true, Father. Catherine wandered off in a trance and you seem to have done the same. Father, if I may, would you permit me to offer an explanation, although somewhat unbelievable as it may sound?”
Father collapsed into his favoured chair, as Mary poured some tea and handed him a cup.
“If you must, Vincent.” Father passed a weary hand over his brow.
“Well, the long and the short of it is, Father…” Vincent hesitated, this was going to sound impossible, stupid, and ridiculous.
“Yes, yes,” Father spat, “spare us the drama, Vincent.”
Vincent grinned. “I do believe Mouse found a magic lamp this morning.”
Father, who had at that moment chosen to take a sip of tea, spluttered on the liquid, and had to undergo further embarrassment of Mary banging on his back. He shrugged her off, turning in his seat to glare at her, before staring back at his son.
“You are joking?” He finally asked Vincent.
Nonplussed, Vincent stared back, and shook his head slowly. As puzzling as it sounded, that was the perfect answer.
“You think about it, Father. Mouse said he wished that Catherine could see his find, and she went to him. In fact, she said she heard him call her, inside her head...” he paused, allowing time for that to sink in before continuing, “...and then he told you to get lost... I rest my case.”
Father shook his head in denial. “I know, Vincent, but a magic lamp... Why, they only exist in fairy tales.”
“With all due respect, Father, so should someone like me. Yet I am larger than life.”
“Well, you’ve got a point there, but Vincent, a magic lamp? Why, Mouse could wish for... Oh, my God!” Father leapt to his feet. “Vincent! Do you realise what this could mean?” Up until that point, Vincent hadn’t. He had now! Mouse with a magic lamp. It didn’t bare thinking about!
“No, no,” Mary pushed Father back into his chair. “It’s ridiculous, Father, a magic lamp indeed. That’s just a fable, a myth, look at it logically.”
“I’m trying to Mary, I’m trying to, but my mind won’t rest on the matter until I have made certain. Vincent, go to Mouse, will you? Just come back and tell me your assumptions were wrong... Please?”
Vincent nodded and started to exit when he stopped to ask, “Did you still want to examine Catherine, Father?”
“She’s still here?”
“Yes, in my chamber.”
“Maybe later, Vincent, when you discover anything, if anything is to be discovered. I can’t work against magic, Vincent. If you are right, there is nothing I can do for Catherine; besides the effects seem to wear off after a while, don’t they? At least if you are right, no one has to suffer too long under the wishes’ effects.”
“Then I’ll have Catherine accompany me. I’d rather keep my eye on her.”
Father nodded. He suspected there was more to it than that but refrained from saying so.
*** *** ***
When Catherine and Vincent arrived at Mouse’s chamber some half-hour later, Vincent’s suspicions were confirmed, if his domain was anything to go by.
Used to the clutter of his living quarters, even Vincent was struck dumb by the sight that met his eyes. Only Catherine’s cry of, “Oh Vincent!” freed his tongue.
“MOUSE!” Vincent roared, spinning his hair-brained friend round on the spot as Jamie ran past chasing half a dozen racoons. Catherine burst into laughter. “Where did all these come from?”
“Ask a silly question, Catherine,” Vincent chuckled, nodding toward the lamp held fast in Mouse’s hands.
“He wished it,” Catherine commented dryly. “Father will have a fit.”
“Jamie, slow down.” Vincent grabbed her arm as she sped by a second time, surprised when Jamie replied in a babyish tone, “Let me go, Vinnie.” He hadn’t heard her call him Vinnie in a decade.
Catherine burst into laughter. “Seems Jamie has been subjected to wish-victim status too.”
“Mmm,” was all Vincent could say. “As much as I am against this, I think Father should come down here.”
“You’re sure!” Wide-eyed, Catherine stared up at him. “Vincent, if Father sees this lot it could give him a heart attack.”
“That’s probably truer than you think.” A grim voice sounded behind them, and they turned as one to find the person in question standing there.
“Father!” They exclaimed, trying to shield his eyes from the view beyond with their bodies.
“I just had an idea that if I stayed where I was and something had happened, I was never likely to hear about it. I decided that I should see it for my own eyes. Stand aside please, I’m a big boy now.”
Vincent looked at Catherine and back at Father. He shrugged and stepped aside.
The view that met Father’s eyes made him instantly wish he hadn’t been so inquisitive. It was absolute bedlam.
Gizmos of every description, even though now-finished products for a change, lined the walls in wonderful disarray; mountains of cookies and cakes were piled on every conceivable shelf and table, these being consumed with relish by a dozen or more racoons. Racoons! Father hated the little furry things. One he could just stand, but a dozen?
Mouse ran by, darting into the shadows with the lamp firmly held in his hands.
“MOUSE! PUT THAT THING DOWN!” Father bellowed, causing Vincent to cover his ears. He had never heard his parent shout so loud, and he’d heard him shout often!
Mouse shook his head, grabbed Jamie by the hand and together they tried to side-step the trio in the entranceway to make their escape. A well-aimed walking stick saved the day. Mouse went sprawling, Jamie tripping over him, and Vincent deftly caught the lamp as it spiralled in the air.
“Good catch,” Father exclaimed, thinking more of the lamp than the two winded people on the floor, but he helped them to their feet nonetheless. “Next time, do as you are told,” he scolded Mouse, as he brought the boy to his side and went on, “Mouse, what is the meaning of all this?” He now used his stick to convey his meaning, waving it around the mess in Mouse’s chamber, not to mention the livestock.
“Wished it, got it,” Mouse told him meekly, shrugging his shoulders and taking the lamp back from Vincent.
“Jamie, you seem to be in on this, what have you to say for yourself?” Father turned to the young woman, surprised to hear her giggle childishly. “’Swhat Mouse says,” she grinned sheepishly.
Catherine giggled. “I think Jamie is under the influence, Father.” She attempted to lighten the situation, but Father just glared at her.
Getting his humour under control, Vincent sobered enough to think logically. “Mouse, give me the lamp back,” he asked the boy in a no-nonsense tone.
Mouse obeyed albeit reluctantly.
Turning it over in his hands, and feeling very foolish, Vincent said, “I wish that everything should return as it should be.”
“Won’t work,” Jamie giggled. “Tried it. Only Mouse makes it work.”
Father’s exasperated cry of ‘Good Lord’ from behind did not help matters. Vincent handed the lamp back to Mouse; “You do it,” he told the boy, “you make everything right again.”
Mouse hesitated; even beneath Father’s watchful eye, he really didn’t want to do this.
“Mouse,” Father told him sternly, “wish for all the racoons to disappear.” Father held his breath hoping against hope that Mouse would echo those self-same words, he hated ALL racoons. But Mouse showed his aptitude once again, when he re-phrased the request. “I wish for all the racoons except Arthur to disappear.”
As usual, it didn’t happen straight away, but one by one the amount of racoons in the room grew less and less, until only one remained that being Mouse’s pet racoon Arthur.
“What about gizmos?” Mouse asked, downhearted.
“Are they complete now?” Father asked; they looked to be. Maybe they could put some of them to use at long last.
“Then they can stay,” Father told the delighted lad, “but as to this...” he indicated the lamp with his stick, “this has to go.”
“NO!” Mouse cried, so distressed it sounded as if someone had torn his heart away. Father blinked rapidly, forcing back the tears; he could feel the boy’s pain. “I’m sorry, Mouse. But you know this lamp is like the treasure you found. In the wrong hands, it could become an instrument for evil.” Mouse scowled, determined to hold on to his treasure for dear life.
Father went on, determined to succeed. “Mouse, just imagine if Paracelsus were to get hold of this lamp, just imagine what would happen. Why, knowing Paracelsus, he knows that you have it already.” Large eyes looked up from Mouse’s face. This fact had hit home. Such a weapon in their enemy’s hands could prove the end of their world. And that to Mouse wasn’t worth it. He held the lamp out to Father, who sighed with relief.
“What will you do with it?” Mouse asked.
“I don’t know yet, Mouse. We can’t take it back, or we are just tempting evil. Wherever we put it now, Paracelsus could find it. It has to go somewhere where he could never reach it.” Mouse nodded. He accepted that fact, but it was a bitter pill to swallow. Out of Paracelsus’s reach meant it was out of his too.
“I have an idea.” Everyone looked around as Jamie, now back to her former self, spoke up, the effects obviously having worn off. “We could drop it into the abyss.” She looked at Mouse sadly, hoping he wouldn’t think her a traitor. It didn’t work, he did.
“That’s an excellent idea!” Father exclaimed, “but I think that Mouse should do it.”
Mouse looked up with disbelief. He already felt wounded; did they have to twist the knife too?
“I’ll come with you, Mouse,” Jamie ventured.
“We’ll all go,” Father told her, “and there’s no time like the present. But first, Mouse, have you undone all your wishes, save for the gizmos?”
Mouse nodded, words eluding him. He felt so sad.
“Then let’s go to the abyss.” Father told him, feeling somewhat relieved. The sooner they’d get rid of the thing, the better, as far as he was concerned, for he truly was concerned that walls had ears and Paracelsus would be coming forth from wherever he resided, even as they spoke, to take the lamp from them. Even stooping low enough to kill for it if the need be, which was the reason Father would not allow Jamie and Mouse to go to the abyss by themselves.
Even so, it was a sullen party that made their way to the abyss, neither finding anything constructive to say.
The lamp in the wrong hands could well prove evil, but in the right hands... well each to his own, there were many things each would have liked to wish for.
At the edge of the abyss, each person congregated with the other while staring into the swirling mists beneath them as though seeing into the furthest recesses of their own minds.
“It is a shame,” Catherine spoke her thoughts out loud. “There’s certainly something I would wish for if I could. Many things, in fact.” Catherine thought about her parents, how wonderful it would be to have them alive again, but knowing that wish to be impractical. If her parents suddenly reappeared, the questions would be unending. But there was one thing that she would wish for above all the rest — that she could understand Vincent better, see things from his point of view and basically to be able to find a chink in his ever-present armour against a future with her.
Vincent reflected on his chance so close at hand, yet so far from reach of wishing that he could be the man he had always longed to be. To see the world as did Catherine, to be accepted in its light. And ultimately have a real future with the woman that he loved.
Father wished for many things, seldom any of them for himself, yet the top of his list was for the two people either side of him, that Vincent and Catherine would have their happy life together.
Jamie just wished that Mouse would notice her as a man would notice a young woman, and that they might fall in love and live happily ever after.
Mouse wished for nothing, but as he watched all the faces around him he anticipated that each of them were probably wishing for different things. And right now all he wished for was that the lamp would land somewhere where only he could find it again, and that would give him the chance to make everyone else’s wish come true.
“Mouse?” Father gently scolded, watching the boy’s face and knowing the signs. “If you would please, Mouse.”
Slowly Mouse held the lamp over the great hole in the ground. The abyss was bottomless; no one knew where it might end. It was unlikely the lamp would ever be seen again.
Suddenly a voice rang out. “STOP!”
Everyone knew that voice; Mouse trembled - Father had been right. He turned to find Paracelsus at his side intent on snatching the lamp from Mouse’s grasp.
With a roar, Vincent leapt at his enemy, wrestling the man away from Mouse, as Mouse realised what he must do. He let the lamp go, watched the swirling vortex gobble it up, but only Jamie heard Mouse utter one last wish, or maybe it was two.
“May everyone’s wish come true,” he said as the lamp left his fingers, “and may Paracelsus disappear forever.”
As the golden lamp disappeared, so did Paracelsus, and Vincent found himself wrestling with thin air. Everyone stared after the space where they had last seen their enemy, with mouths agape.
At last, Father put an arm around Mouse’s shoulders and hugged him tightly. “If I never thank you for anything ever again, Mouse, please know that for this, I thank you greatly, that you wished our greatest enemy and contender for our world out of our midst. May it be that this wish never wears off.”
“Won’t,” Mouse told him, still looking despondently into the great vortex before him. “Wished it forever.”
Father didn’t ask any more questions, the answer was good enough for him.
Forever. No more Paracelsus and his wickedness, forever.
“Come everyone, let’s go home.” Father turned Mouse from the abyss, and though he should be proud for what he’d wished, Mouse knew that it might be some time before he could feel happy again.
And as they walked back towards the home chambers Mouse found himself wishing fervently with all his heart that his wish to find the lamp again someday would actually come true.
*** *** ***
Something was itching. Something was tickling her nose and groggy with sleep Catherine raised a hand to scratch the itch away. “Ouch!” She exclaimed, “that hurt.” Bleary eyes opened one at a time to examine the nails on her hand convinced that they needed cutting.
For a long moment, Catherine stared at the hand held before her, then blinking rapidly, she stared some more, and quickly sitting up, she pulled back the sleeve of her night gown and... screamed!
Some yards from where she was staying in the guest chamber, Vincent stirred in his bed, then awoke with a rush as the sound of her scream split through his turbulent thoughts. Catherine was in trouble!
He roared, leaping from the bed to stand for a split second to analyse where she might be, confused when he realised that last night she had stayed below.
Between the two chambers, Father alighted from his own bed troubled by both the scream and the roar and met Vincent as he ran passed the older man’s chamber entrance...at least it looked like Vincent...but then it did not.
“Vincent!” Something in the older man’s tone had Vincent stopping in his tracks.
“Father, what is it?” As he turned, Father stumbled, reaching for the tunnel wall to steady himself… “Vincent, is that really you?” His voice was ragged, harsh. Perhaps he was still dreaming?
“Of course it’s me, Father. I heard Catherine scream.”
“As did I Vincent...” Father managed, “but if you go to her like that and she’ll scream again.”
“Like what?” Vincent looked down at himself. In his haste, true, he had not donned his cloak, but he was respectfully covered, only his feet were bare...his feet!
Vincent stared and stared...
Where was the fur?
Where were the claws that donned his toes?
Where did all that smooth skin come from?
His eyes rested on Father…”I don’t understand?”
Following his gaze from the ground upwards, Father’s eyes settled once again on his son’s face. “It’s not just your feet, Vincent...”
At once Vincent reached out hands to touch his face, hands that met his eyes with absolute incredibility... ” My hands!”
Gone were the claws, the fur... instead they were replaced by nails and smooth satiny skin. Gingerly, Vincent touched his cheek with those hands, and what he felt there astounded him further... ”Father!” He did not understand it...could not comprehend it...but overnight...he had miraculously...become...a real man!
Torn now with going to Catherine and staying put, Father sensed his predicament. “I don’t know how Vincent...but I do know Catherine can’t see you like this. Return to your chamber, I will see that she is well...maybe she had a dream. I will come to you as soon as she is settled again.”
Wordlessly, Vincent turned... he was grateful...but his mind was no longer on Catherine...his mind was on...other things...miraculous things...things for which he had wished a million times and more...wishes that had at last come true.
Turning the corner into the guest chamber, further shocks awaited Father. “Catherine, are you all right?” He began, and stumbled against the wall for the second time in so few minutes.
Bright anxious green eyes stared back at him, from a face he knew so well, but never before had seen in the feminine form.
“Oh, my God!” He stumbled across to the side of her bed reaching for her hands.
“Tell me it’s not true, Father?” Catherine whimpered, “tell me that I don’t look like Vincent?” Tears fell down her cheeks, as the enormity of what being like Vincent would do to her life.
Unable to speak for the moment, Father’s mind went into overdrive...what on earth had happened?
“Tell me?” Catherine whimpered, nudging Father back to the present.
“My dear, what can I say? Yes, you look like Vincent...” He hesitated as she brought fur-covered hands to her fur covered face and sobbed.
“That is, my dear, you now look like Vincent used to look.”
Slowly Catherine’s tears ceased and timid eyes looked at him through slits in her fingers. “Used to look?”
Father was shaking his head, “I don’t know how or why Catherine, but somehow you and Vincent...well, your roles have been reversed. I met him on his way to you, and sent him back to his chamber...” He allowed his words to sink in, then went on. “Catherine...Vincent looks like a man…a real man…” At last his words penetrated and Catherine cried, “No! Oh no...Oh no... Please tell me this isn’t happening?”
*** *** ***
Word soon spread and visitors came timidly first to Vincent to bring him their congratulations and then to Catherine bringing their commiseration’s.
But neither Vincent or Catherine could find the courage to visit the other.
When all the visitors had left and gone about their way and Pascal’s pipes had announced the news, neither Vincent nor Catherine could bare to face each other.
It tore them apart not having the courage to do so...but as the first evening was reached, neither could bear the other’s absence any longer.
Donning the cloak with the hood that Mary had thoughtfully left out for her, Catherine pulled it on, disgusted with herself to feel the need to hide her features from Vincent. The very person who would understand...yet knowing that for him to see her like this would in all likelihood break his heart.
Aware that she was coming to see him, Vincent sat in his chair his body trembling while awaiting her arrival.
Catherine hesitated at the entrance...”Vincent?” She spoke softly and Vincent detected the fear in her voice...and the soft huskiness unassociated with her tone.
“Come in, Catherine.” He beckoned with head in hands.
Catherine hesitated, his voice sounded alien to her. Gone was the gravely husk; now his voice sounded rich, deep and manly.
Understanding her hesitancy, Vincent stood, moved around the table and went to meet her. This was hard on the both of them, but more so on her. She was the different one now, and he knew how that felt.
In the dimness of the entrance they met, eyes upon eyes, the only feature visible in Catherine’s face. Vincent was happy to see that they hadn’t altered. They were Catherine’s eyes through and through, yet a certain tilt of her eyebrows now made those beautiful Catherine eyes appear larger and Vincent detected the fear within their stormy green depths.
He put out a hand grasping her arm through the folds of her cloak, “Come, Catherine.” He beckoned her gently, drawing her into his chamber, watching as she stepped ahead of him, keeping herself from view within the folds of the cloak.
“I understand how you feel,” he told her. “You do not need to be afraid of me.”
Without turning, Catherine replied softly, “I’m not afraid of you, Vincent, I’m afraid for you. To see me like this...it will break your heart.”
Vincent nodded, though of course she could not see that but his silence told her of his affirmation.
“Yet I love you, that will never change.” Warm, firm hands reached for her shoulders, turning her to face him, as his hands left her shoulders to reach for the edges of the hood that framed her face.
Halting him, Catherine reached out to grasp his hands; her eyes pinned to those ordinary human hands, her heart grieved by the sight.
Vincent gasped as fur claw tipped fingers caught his arm and he fought back a cry of anguish.
Slowly Catherine lifted her eyes from his hands to his face and burst into tears.
Great wracking sobs tore from her soul. “I’m sorry,” She apologised over and over as she crumpled to the ground, “I’m sorry...”
Desolate, Vincent could only stand and stare at her. For what was she sorry?
His answer soon came.
“I should be glad that you look as you do...” Catherine hiccuped, “I should rejoice for you...but I cannot. Forgive me, Vincent.”
That new face had imprinted upon her memory wiping the other clean away... Catherine sought to bring it back, the memory of that dear and different face that she loved so much, but every time she tried, that other, that new one rose to meet the old and swept it clean away.
“Let me look at you, Catherine.” In his voice Catherine detected pity and sorrow. How could she allow him to see her, even though he would know what it felt like to look like this? “It’s so unfair...” Catherine was sobbing again. “Why did it have to be like this? Why could we not have looked the same, either with you the same as me, or me the same as you? Why did we still have to be different? Why?”
A hand on her chin, another on her upper arm, Catherine felt Vincent pulling her to her feet. “Be brave, my love,” he told her, though his heart pounded with nervousness.
He settled her in front of him again, and reached out to remove the hood as before. Catherine stood rooted to the spot, though the need to flee was utmost in her mind. As Vincent lowered the hood, he cried out, tears gushing from his eyes before he dragged her into his embrace holding her face to his chest and the two sobbed their hearts out.
For a long, long time, neither could move, though bit by bit each felt the differences as they held the other. Vincent’s chin against her brow was no longer rough, but smooth, Catherine’s hair was no longer silky soft but rough and ruffled, framing her face in wild disarray. Her body was firmer, more muscled, his leaner and smaller framed. Slowly with great courage, each stepped back to survey the other.
Eyes met eyes, at first holding there, refusing to cast away, to look and see any other feature. Catherine held his gaze, determined not to be the first to look elsewhere but his eyes. Those eyes she knew, even if her own did not want to acknowledge that smooth pink skin framed them now.
Vincent shifted his gaze slowly, his mind very positively looking for the good things about a face he recognised but then he did not. He tried hard not to gasp as each new feature met his eyes. He knew what such gasps did to a person. Hands reached out and touched her cheek and Catherine drew her face into his palm turning so that she could kiss the warm smooth skin there. Her acceptance of him came slowly, though her eyes were still fastened on his, but Vincent could not accept this Catherine... Though he loved her...though he knew what it was to look this way... he could not accept these changes, and his heart bled for her...and for the beauty she had lost.
He drew her against him again, knowing she needed his comfort...he physically ached for her. His pain ran deep. He wanted to comfort her, but no words would come…and yet deep inside, a tiny voice kept whispering that Catherine should be thrilled to look this way...hadn’t she told him so many times that his differences to her didn’t matter? Why then did she grieve so, when now the tables were turned?
Catherine seemed to understand... by his stillness and the Bond...
Instantly they recognised its existence together... each drawing back to gasp...It throbbed vibrantly between them, but did not seem to belong to any one person anymore. For the first time in her life, Catherine knew what it was to feel the emotions of another...and what she felt there grieved her so. She had to make him understand the way things were... “I meant every word Vincent... I do love you as you were, and though I may never get used to seeing you as you are now, and though I should be happy that the restrictions on your life are now lifted... I want to be selfish Vincent...I want the old you back...but...” She hesitated knowing her words could cut him to the core. “But...I don’t want to look like this...it’s not right...not for me...it’s not right...” Her words caught on a sob thinking she would hurt him so much but Vincent understood and knew she was right.
“Hush now, Catherine...I understand...truly I do. You’re right, you should not look like this...neither of us should.” He fell silent as joy filtered through his veins, and he tried to squash the feeling, but too late — Catherine felt it rise within him.
“You can’t hide it from me my love. I know what it is to have freedom...I cannot prevent that from you...take it, Vincent for as long as it lasts, take to the skies...see the sunshine...the world...while you can.”
Drawing back from her, Vincent was compelled to ask, “You don’t think it will last?”
“Do you?” Catherine stared wide-eyed at him.
“I haven’t thought about it. I don’t even know why it happened...how it happened...I have wished many times...”
“As have I, but yesterday wishes came true...don’t you see Vincent...yesterday Mouse had that lamp.”
Vincent groaned and his world this New World fell in on him crushing him with its mightiness. “You mean I will return as I was?”
“Mouse’s other wishes wore off, Vincent...do you seriously believe this won’t too?” Her eyes showed her sorrow. She would gain so much from the wish wearing off, but he would lose so much when that time occurred.
His anguish stunned her.
“NO! I don’t want to turn back...I want to stay as I am...it is what I have always dreamed...”
Catherine hung her head sadly, “I know...” She also knew that if he stayed the same then she would too. Surely to reverse such a wish then both parties had to want it.
He didn’t want that though...and thus her fate was sealed.
*** *** ***
As three days went into four, each morning Catherine touched her cheek with her hand as she awoke and as on the three previous mornings gasped at the sight that met her eyes. Clawed, furry fingers, meeting a similar covering of fur clad cheek.
Was there to be no end of this nightmare?
Each day had been much the same. Holed up in the guest chamber, refusing to go any further than to Vincent’s, Catherine thought she would go stark raving mad if something didn’t alter soon.
At the end of the fifth day however, Catherine seemed to accept the inevitable fact that things may never change. Or in the likelihood that they would, it might take some time. So she broke her own golden rule and sought out Father, the only other person she trusted right now, save her beloved Vincent.
As usual the pair were together, sitting quietly over a game of chess, and unaware of her presence until something triggered the Bond in Vincent to be conscious of her visit. He looked up surprised to see her watching them silently. “Catherine?”
Father followed his gaze, pleased and a little unsure of Catherine’s visit as she stepped into his chamber.
Her first and initial response to their gazing at her was to shield her face from view, but these two above anyone would know how she felt, would understand what it took for her to come here. But suddenly she felt lost and alone and she wanted her daddy.
It had been a long time since she had felt such desire to curl up on a large lap and be cuddled. The feeling overwhelmed her and tears fell rapidly from her eyes.
Understanding at once, Vincent turned in his seat and opened his arms to her, and Catherine crawled onto his lap folding herself into a ball, feeling very much like the neighbourhood cat in need of petting.
Vincent’s arms closed around her as his own throat choked back the tears that threatened to claim him and waited as Catherine calmed. He did not touch her other than to hold her tight, and Catherine was thankful, in fact she even mellowed, finding a touch of humour enough to say, “Don’t you dare stroke me.”
The ice was broken. Both Father and Vincent couldn’t help but chuckle, as large green eyes emerged from a feline face to gaze up at them both with a grace of a smile.
Then drawing a deep breath, Catherine wriggled out of Vincent’s lap to stand alongside the table on equal ground with the two men.
Really, it was the first time Catherine had actually taken in Vincent’s new features, and she could not deny that he was handsome.
His hair was short now, sandy coloured and silky, not rough, in fact just as human hair would be. His rugged good looks perfected by the blue eyes that now shone with a brilliance that had never been there before. Vincent waited as she scrutinised him so openly, and watched as she raised a hand to cup his cheek and he deposited a kiss into the palm of her hand.
Father watched breathlessly, the love still open and shining between these two, nothing had altered that fact, but there was more to it now, a self-sacrificing of kindred spirits. Father waited in expectation for Catherine to speak.
He didn’t have long to wait.
“You know what we have here?” She asked neither one of them in particular and went on before either could reply. “It’s a chance that might never come again. Look at you two. Playing chess when you could be seeing the world. I ask you!”
Taken aback, Vincent stared at her incredulous.
“Catherine, I hardly think... I mean how can I leave you?”
Folding her arms over her chest, Catherine’s demeanour brooked no argument, “I mean it, Vincent. You don’t have to nursemaid me. Why, I know these tunnels almost as well as you, I know my way around almost blindfolded, but what do you know of the world above? I’ll tell you...moonbeams and star dust and night owls... Father, I demand that you show your son the Seven Wonders of the World at the very least.”
For a moment Father looked flabbergasted, but he knew she did have a point. Vincent had a chance here; he shouldn’t waste it, no one knew how long it might last.
“I have the money...Peter will help you obtain your passports...now scoot make plans...and do them soon...before I change my mind.” Catherine turned away then unable to let them see her face that was growing fearful by the second at the thought of being alone and of being without Vincent for an indefinite period. But he had to take this chance...it might never come again.
“Catherine.” Vincent stood and placed firm hands on her quaking shoulders, and with a backward glance at Father steered her back to the guest chamber.
Wordlessly they walked, until at the entrance Catherine shook herself free from his grasp, and without looking back told him, “It’s all right Vincent...I’ll be okay...go make some dreams come true.”
But he caught her shoulders again, and turning her to face him drew her to him and this time stroked her hair and she didn’t protest. “I love you, Catherine.” She was surprised by his words, even more surprised when he tilted her face to his and kissed her lips. Surprised that he could, even more surprised that he would. When she had been beautiful he had never attempted it. Tears broke from Catherine’s eyes, and she pushed him away. She didn’t want his pity, couldn’t stand that... Placing her hands upon his chest she pushed him back from her, and turning she stumbled blindly into the guest chamber her heart more broken now this day than in all the days that had proceeded it.
Vincent returned to Father, his heart filled with great sorrow, intermittently overridden by great excitement. “You said that you missed the colours, Father... Please show me why they meant so much to you.”
“You’re going to take her up on her offer?” Father seemed surprised.
“I have to. Catherine is right — I might never get another chance.”
“But to leave her here?”
“She won’t be alone Father. And having you with me, you won’t worry that I might suddenly revert back to my old self in the middle of the Sahara Desert or somewhere.” Vincent's eyes shone with excitement.
Father nodded. “I see your point Vincent, but these old bones of mine have seen their day in the world Above. I cannot accompany you, as much as I’d love to show you the sunshine...but I am certain I know a man who would.”
Together they voiced that name. “Devin!”
“Yes, Vincent, Devin. I will send word to him at once.”
Less than two days later Devin came, disbelief warring with humour at the changes in his brother, and ever respectful that no one knew how much time there might be...and extremely sorry for Catherine too... though even Catherine seemed to have accepted her fate.
“Just show him the world, Devin...show him everything until the money runs out...or until something changes...” Pitying glances rested on Catherine a minute as her brave attempt not to crumple in front of them became more and more obvious.
She had to make sure that Devin promised before she left for her chamber. Had to know that Vincent would see everything he had longed to see before the pair of them left later that day, their first trip booked to Niagara Falls for that very afternoon.
“Sure thing Cathy, I’ll take him everywhere South of Oz and North of Shangri-La.” That did it, Catherine crumpled right there in front of them, those words so painfully tragic to her. She turned and left them, waving her hand. “Just see that you both have a great time,” she murmured, “and don’t come back until you do.”
*** *** ***
Her sorry state lasted only only two more days after that. Without Vincent, strangly things seemed somewhat better.
Somehow, without his presence, Catherine was able to tackle the problem fate had thrown at her, and she began to live the life for which she had inadvertently wished.
Still pitying glances befell her, but Catherine knew that she had to change all that, and that could only happen if she showed everyone that she would not be beaten. Vincent had lived this life all his life, and he was making the most of what he now had, and so could she. A twisted bitter laugh of irony filled the chamber, but Catherine knew it would be the last she would utter.
From now on, she too would make the most of these changes. Perhaps they were for the best after all, in fact, perhaps nothing would change until she got a true understand of how it really felt to look this way. For how well did she really know Vincent...how well did she really understand what it was to look like this?
It was the eleventh day...and Catherine stood tall. Vincent had been gone three days and this was her first day of acceptance...
And Catherine vowed that she would not look back.
*** *** ***
'Beyond The Abyss'
Since Vincent and Catherine had changed positions, Mouse had kept a very low profile, and believing that since the lamp had been thrown into the abyss nothing could alter them anyhow, Catherine had found it impossible to blame the boy. If anything, the fault lay in the joint decision with Father to discard the lamp in the first place… In fact, since the council had got to hear about it, a great deal of dissension had taken place...and save for the fact that Mouse had wished Paracelsus removed from their midst forever, no one was right pleased about the lamp’s disappearance.
One afternoon, almost a month after it had all begun, Father was sorting through the many postcards Peter had brought Below, from the trips both his sons had taken, when Mouse entered his chamber.
Father looked up and from Mouse’s obvious discomfort, Father expected the worst.
“Mouse, what have you done now?” Father passed a weary hand over his brow.
“Nothing yet,” Mouse replied, his lopsided grin showing Father in no uncertain terms that Mouse was about to say something completely and utterly outrageous.
“Sit down, Mouse. Tell me what’s on your mind.”
Catherine chose that moment to enter behind Mouse; she stopped when she heard Father address the young lad so, turning on her heel to exit and leave them undisturbed.
“Catherine, stay.” Mouse had turned at the sound from behind. “Hear what Mouse has to say?”
Her eyes caught Father’s, and she relaxed when he nodded and waved her to a chair alongside him. Wordlessly she came into the chamber and took it, sitting down to face the young man, who began to nervously shuffle in front of them.
“Out with it, Mouse!” Father told him sternly, and Mouse started to speak out all of a rush. “The lamp...wasn’t the only wish... Vincent and Catherine...wished to find it again...might have happened...might be possible...maybe could find it.”
Father tried to decipher the young man’s chaotic reasoning...he’d had years of practice and soon had it done.
“You mean you might be able to find the lamp and undo all this...” He looked at Catherine, “mess?”
Mouse nodded his eyes bright.
“But Mouse, we threw the lamp into the abyss.”
“And the abyss is bottomless, it could go on forever.”
“And it might not.”
“No one knows that, Mouse.” The young boy’s idea was becoming more and more outrageous not to mention disappointing, but Catherine was still interested. Her eyes bright, she asked, “Mouse, what do you know? Is there a way to retrieve the lamp?”
Her breath caught and held, and for the first time in many weeks, hope seared Catherine's soul.
“How?” She asked breathlessly.
From his pocket, Mouse produced a map. It was a proposed drawing of the abyss, spiralling through different levels of rock, down and down, Lord knows how far, but each level opened out onto the abyss, and Mouse pointed to them all in turn. “Might have landed here, or here, or here.” He tapped them with a finger one after the other. “Could be long way down, but then again might not be. Vincent and Catherine’s wish came true, maybe Mouse’s did too.” He looked up at her hopefully.
Looking at it logically Father couldn’t fault it, but beyond the abyss? Why, that could be impossible, and no one had ever attempted to go that far down before; he didn’t even know if the way was open.
“I have the metal detector,” Mouse ventured, as if that were the answer to everything. Father glared at Catherine. “You do realise, my dear, that due to that blasted gift you bestowed on Mouse that you are in this predicament right now?”
Catherine actually smiled, revealing very white and very long fangs. Father was quite taken aback, he’d only ever seen those teeth on one other person, and suddenly he realised how much he had missed that side of his son.
“All right, Mouse, if you think it’s possible then you must try. Go and see if your lamp can be found.” Mouse liked the sound of that — ‘your lamp’ it made it his.
“I’ll go with you,” Catherine told the pair.
“Catherine, no, it could be dangerous.”
“All the more for two of us to go.”
“No, Catherine. Vincent would never forgive me if something happened to you; besides, I will see that Mouse does not go alone.”
“With all due respect, Father, something has already happened to me, and I am used to dangerous situations, besides which, I’ve missed risking my life. I need this adventure.”
Father exhaled a deep sigh. “All right, my dear, you win, but there is one finality... We must locate Vincent first — if you and Mouse should be lucky and find the lamp, I don’t want Vincent being wished back to his former self in the middle of an aeroplane flight or something.”
Catherine nodded — Father was right, but that would mean wasting more time, when it was going to take long enough to find the lamp as it was. “Tell you what, Father. Mouse and I will go, perhaps with one or two other members of the tunnel community, but we will not linger. We will go at once and not waste time, but we promise not to wish upon the lamp until Vincent is back home again.”
Father agreed, albeit reluctantly; secretly he wished that Vincent was going on this trip with Catherine, for despite what she said, Vincent would never forgive him if something more terrible than that which already had should happen to her.
*** *** ***
Laying atop a mountain beneath a September sky in the Alps, Vincent sighed. “This is bliss, Devin,” his voice trailed away, making Devin look at his brother expectantly. “But?”
Vincent inclined his head to his brother. “Does there have to be a but?”
“It was in your tone, I got the impression that it was there.”
“Yes,” Vincent hung his head. Outwardly he may have altered, but inwardly, his mannerisms were the same. To those that knew him well, he was still the same old Vincent.
“Tell me?” Devin prompted, while playing with a blade of long, seedy grass. He snapped it from the root and placed one end in his mouth, laying back again to look up at the gorgeous blue of the sky.
“I can’t help wishing that Catherine could be here with me.”
Devin in no way felt offended; he had presumed days ago that Vincent wished she had been there to see the sights with him.
“It is a most unfortunate turn of events, Vincent, I have to admit...but Catherine has already seen most of the world...and fair’s fair. Besides, it was her suggestion that you saw as much of it as you could while you could.”
“I know, Devin, but that’s not why I feel so bad. Here I am enjoying all this beauty when I know that Catherine is stuck beneath the city feeling trapped. You forget, Devin — I know how Catherine is feeling.”
“And how exactly is that?”
“At first she felt relieved when I went away. That hurt until I realised that it was her way of coping with this problem, and then I felt her acceptance, and she has encountered some problems but has overcome them, and is slipping into her new way of life as well as can be. But Devin, it shouldn’t have to be like that. Catherine has a right to be free, she has a right to live Above...it is what she was born for...” Vincent hesitated, and again Devin prompted, “But?”
“But...” Vincent found it so hard to say, "But if Catherine could be altered back to how she should be, then being a joint wish... that is in similarity, then I should alter back also...”
He found the next painful to say, but managed it nonetheless. “...But Devin, I don’t want to revert back to what I was before!”
“And you think that at the cost of Catherine returning to her former self that you would have to do so too?”
“Yes.” Vincent sighed heavily.
“Perhaps it wouldn’t be like that. Perhaps you could each have your wish. Perhaps Catherine could be re-transformed but leave you like this.”
“But there is something else?”
“Tell me.” Devin smiled, they seemed to have gone full circle, back to that question again.
“Supposing Catherine reverted back to her former self...supposing I stayed as I am now...then Catherine might not...might not...” he paused, unsure of how to say it, but as always his worldly-wise brother was one step ahead of him. “She might not fancy you anymore?” His eyes twinkled with merriment.
“That is a possibility.” Vincent spoke quietly, a trifle embarrassed.
Devin laughed out loud. “I shouldn’t worry about that, Vincent! Why if the amount of girls that have followed you about this past few weeks is anything to go by, then you have absolutely nothing to worry about.”
Vincent smiled ruefully. He’d had difficulty thwarting a great deal of attention by numerous women, something he could never quite get used to and had wondered very much on how Catherine might view all the attention he was receiving. Devin, on the other hand, was only too happy to help out when Vincent so obviously did not want to have anything to do with this female attention, saying that he would never be untrue to Catherine. Although he had to admit that even Devin had changed. Though he met one or two women for drinks in the bar, Vincent noticed that he never went so far as to date any one of them. He concluded that Devin didn’t want to leave him on his own or have him play gooseberry.
His silence perturbed Devin. “But it’s not hoards of other women that concerns you, is it? It’s Catherine?”
“Yes. How would she react to me staying as I am now?” Vincent bowed his head, so often wishing as he did so these days for his old curtain of hair to hide behind. He had allowed it to grow a little but it was still very short.
“Together you would be able to see the world, together you could have your happy life,” Devin attempted, but could see it was not the answer Vincent sought. “What is it, Vincent?”
Exhaling a deep sigh, Vincent then drew in an even deeper breath before continuing. “Outwardly, I am different, but inwardly...who knows...does my outward appearance mean that inwardly I am capable of reproducing someone like my old self, or someone like my new self?”
Devin sat bolt upright. “Whoa! Whoa, Vincent! One step at a time...does this mean what I think it means?” Vincent grinned wryly, saying nothing.
Wide-eyed Devin asked him, “You’d contemplate a future...that sort of future with Catherine now?”
“Why not? I am now on an equal footing with Catherine...or I would be if she changed back and I stayed like this.”
“Way to go, Vincent!”
A short burst of laughter followed both of them, then Vincent continued. “I love Catherine, and she deserves to have all of her dreams come true, and I know that among those dreams Catherine wishes to have a child. But how can I be sure, when deep down inside I feel the same as I always did?”
“That’s because you haven’t had enough time to assimilate the changes. You will, eventually you will, and the outer man will re-educate the inner person...assuming this is what you want?” Devin looked at his brother questioningly.
“I don’t know. It is my inner person that Catherine is drawn to. And what of the Bond, what if we should lose it in time?”
“It would be a small price to pay for being normal Vincent, and having Catherine live her life with you forever.”
“Yes.” There was some truth in that. But never to know the emotions of each other again, Vincent didn’t want to think about that possibility. The beauty of their Bond was something he treasured.
“Do you want to go back, Vincent?”
“To the hotel?”
“No. Home. Do you want to go home? We’ve seen the Seven Wonders of the World, we’ve been South of Oz and North of Shangri-La, perhaps it is time we returned.”
“I never thought I would expect to hear you give up the chance to travel so readily.” Vincent smiled at him.
“I’ve enjoyed every moment of it Vincent...showing you the world...it made my dream come true also... I could fulfil my promises made to you when we were boys. But I think it is time we returned, if you agree?”
Vincent gazed up at the sky once again, knowing that it could be his last chance for doing so. If he went back, if there was a way to return Catherine to her former self, then he might have to sacrifice his new-found freedom for that to happen. He didn’t want to alter, but he didn’t want to prevent Catherine from having the chance to do so either. One way or another, a sacrifice had to be made.
He nodded, albeit very reluctantly, and Devin visibly relaxed beside him. For the first time, Vincent wondered if he had been too wrapped up in his own way of life to notice if Devin had plans of his own that he had to get back to.
“I expect you will be eager to return back to whatever it was we dragged you away from?”
Devin grew silent, his gaze looking out over the mountains as if seeing somewhere far more distant. Then he began to speak. “There’s something you don’t know Vincent. No one knows.”
Vincent waited, his gaze resting upon his brother’s face showing his interest.
Devin went on. “You were right to mention that you wouldn’t have expected me to give up my chance to travel. Once that would have been true, but see, dear brother, you aren’t the only one in love.”
Incredulous, Vincent cried, “You’ve found someone?”
“Yes, she means the world to me, and I miss her.”
“You should have said.” Instantly, Vincent felt terrible. He’d dragged his brother around the world and never knew he was keeping him from someone.
“It’s okay, if I had of told you, you might not have enjoyed yourself so much, with thinking about me and Sophie.”
“Sophie. That’s a lovely name.”
“Yes, and there’s more.”
“Yes. We have a son.”
“You have a child? And you never told me?”
“I’m telling you now, aren’t I?” Devin’s voice rose, and it wasn’t because he was cross with his brother’s accusations, more that he was cross that he had taken so long getting back to his family. Children grow so quickly, and his son might be walking already and he would have missed those first few precious stages. But Devin had known how important it had been to show Vincent the world, believing that he might not get another chance. Now though, Devin started to wonder if it had been worth his own loss. If Vincent was inclined to feel that he never wanted to change back, then Vincent had all the time in the world to see the world, so to speak.
“What have you called him?”
“Joshua. He’s ten months old.”
“Soon to be walking,” Vincent mused, half to himself.
“You must go back to him and Sophie...and you are right it is time to go home.” Devin could not help but notice how hard it was for Vincent to say the last...he felt for him, he really did...like a man going to his execution, or a blind man having seen the light being made blind again... That would be so painful.
“I understand why you want to delay, Vincent...but you can’t stay away forever. You have your future to think about...one way or the other...and what if the way things are now, will be the way things will stay. Have you thought about that?”
“I’ve thought about little else,” Vincent groaned. To think of Catherine, his dear sweet Catherine living the rest of her days looking like a lioness grieved him terribly.
“Then could you seriously leave her alone like that while you saw more of the world?”
“No. That is one of the reasons I am so reluctant to return. I doubt that I would find the courage to go away and leave her again. It would be very selfish of me, despite the fact that I used to tell her to leave me and see the world...this is different. Catherine has already lived this other life...I cannot expect her to accept this new turn of events indefinitely.”
“All the more reason to share it with her. It’s time to go home, Vincent, like it or not; it’s the right thing to do.”
Devin’s heart ached for his brother. It was a difficult situation, and one he was grateful not to have to endure. Whatever happened now, Vincent would have regrets, there were no two ways about it, the only all-win situation would be for both Catherine and Vincent to be normal human beings, but then would Catherine want that? And would all those others that loved him?
Whatever happened, someone was going to have to accept some major changes.
*** *** ***
It was hard to hear your own voice against the sound of the wind.
They had been travelling for five days, lower, lower, always lower. The cold was teeth chattering unbearable, and seemed to penetrate through the layers of clothing right down to the bones.
Catherine had never expended herself like this before. A risk taker she might be, but this journey deep into the belly of the earth robbed her of her strength, her sanity, her courage, and every ounce of warmth she had ever possessed. What’s more, the further they went the less likely it appeared that they would ever find the lamp.
Every tunnel they entered bordered the abyss, with winds sucking and hurtling in at them at amazing speeds. Cross winds that tugged at their tattered clothing, spiralling them around and around on the spot so that any handhold that could be grabbed at became the only thing to save them from being sucked away. It was like hiding under a bridge during the onslaught of a tornado, except that there was no end to it.
Sleep was impossible. Only exhaustion allowed them to nod off while anchored with ropes and leather straps to outcrops of rock. With this in mind, Catherine could never imagine how the possibility of finding a magic lamp lying at the foot of any one tunnel would ever be likely. For surely it too would have been swept back inside the raging abyss?
Still, a tiny spark of hope drove the four people onward. Jamie, Mouse, Catherine and Cullen. Slithering through hellholes into the unknown, harnessed to one another for safety, which in itself became a risk since the harness was known to become held-fast around outcrops of rock and almost hang the last or the first person in line. Still they continued on relentlessly as if on an expedition.
It was so dark down here. They’d carried lanterns at first but the ever-present wind had blown these out repeatedly. They now resorted to the one torch that Catherine had been determined to bring, just in case they’d needed it. And boy, had they needed it. Thankfully she had packed replacement batteries. This thought of at the last moment, one of those things that people do as an afterthought and were forever after grateful that they did.
Overlooking Mouse’s map at the end of the fifth day, they knew that they had entered the nineteenth level. It was nothing. The underground world went down as far as eighty levels, and not just levels, in fact as far as eighty stories, some one thousand, two hundred feet at least.
Here some two hundred and eighty-five feet beneath the home chambers, it was becoming increasingly obvious that not one of them had the stamina to withstand much more of the journey and they would likely suffer for a long time on their return. Certainly all of them were sniffing with runny noses already, and Jamie had developed a rather bad sore throat and a hacking cough.
It was the damp air and the dust that they were forced to breathe as the abyss whipped up winds in excess of five hundred miles per hour, throwing particles of rock and sand in its wake. This caused their lungs to feel as though they were on the verge of imploding, and the tight feeling in the chest just wouldn’t go away.
Down here, their ears felt as though only repetitive swallowing would clear them for sound, as time and again they popped and hearing became difficult and painful.
“Talk of twenty thousand leagues under the sea...” Cullen tried to laugh at their predicament one day.
“At least they had oxygen.” Jamie had retorted gasping for air.
“We should have thought of that,” Over the sound of the wind Catherine shouted back at her her. “We should have realised that even though the abyss provides wind, it is the variety intent on sucking us dry.”
“Want to go back?” Mouse had cried; he would understand if they did.
Jamie had come to mean a great deal to him of late and he didn't like the way she was suffering so on this journey. It worried him greatly. And though he wasn't certain, he thought perhaps that he loved her; just as Jamie had wished he would.
“You ask that as if you’d continue alone?” Catherine told Mouse.
He nodded. He would too. He was convinced that the lamp lay around the next corner, or maybe the next one.
He would never give up until he found it. They might only be one more level away.
“I have to go on,” Catherine told the others, “but Jamie and Cullen, I would understand if you wanted to return. You would have to go together, it wouldn’t be wise to return singularly, the same as it wouldn’t be wise to continue the same way.”
Jamie and Cullen thought about it hard. The desire to return was so strong. “I can manage another level or two, if Jamie can,” Cullen told Catherine. Jamie nodded, just. She was being brave; Catherine knew it, but Catherine was worried about the young woman’s health.
“Father would never forgive us if your lungs were ruined, Jamie.” Catherine turned to Cullen. “Please take her back, will you? Tell Father not to worry; Mouse and I will be fine.” Her words gave more encouragement than she felt and everyone knew it, but Cullen and Jamie were both visibly grateful for the chance to return.
And so on the morning of the sixth day, just bordering the twentieth level, the four shook hands, hugged one another tightly and parted company.
And Mouse and Catherine went on alone.
*** *** ***
Four days later Cullen and Jamie emerged from the subterranean level to find that Vincent and Devin had returned, except that Devin had gone again, leaving Vincent in a frantic state of mind.
Jamie and Cullen literally walked in on the argument between Vincent and Father. “How could you let her go!”
“Vincent you have to understand that Catherine needed to do this...if there is the slightest chance...”
“But to let her go...Father!”
“She isn’t alone, Vincent...with Jamie and Cullen...rest assured as a team they should be fine.”
Overhearing Jamie looked at Cullen guiltily. Since their passage through the warmer levels, their breathing had returned almost to normal and though Jamie’s nose still streamed, she was feeling almost her old self again. Thus stepping through into Father’s chamber, her heart was very firmly in her mouth.
Vincent spun around at the intrusion. “Jamie! Cullen!” He looked past the pair, hoping he would see Catherine and knowing by the Bond that he would not. “You left her!” He spat at them accusingly. “You left Catherine!”
Jamie felt like retorting, ‘so did you,’ but refrained from doing so. When Catherine had suggested that Devin showed Vincent the Seven Wonders of the World, Jamie suspected that Catherine hadn’t meant it literally. Just her humble opinion, of course...she may have been wrong.
“We couldn’t continue...Catherine insisted that we return. She went on with Mouse. Vincent, it’s cold down there.”
Father stood and walked around to Jamie’s side, pushing her gently down into a chair. “Let me look at you, my dear.” Jamie might have felt better, but to a doctor’s trained eye, she looked anything but.
Vincent paced the old worn carpet, knowing to interrupt Father in one of his examinations would not be taken lightly.
“It’s as well you returned when you did, young lady, and I want you to get yourself to bed at once. In my opinion, any longer down there and you might not have returned at all.” Vincent did not want to hear this; it only emphasised the danger Catherine was in.
“Show me the map, Cullen. I’m going down there. I must make Catherine see that this is sheer folly.”
“You won’t do that, Vincent. She’ll not come back with you. Mouse is convinced that they will find the lamp, and Catherine clings to that hope. What else has she to look forward to?”
Vincent slumped into a chair. Cullen was right. What else did Catherine, looking like that, have to look forward to? Why, her life might as well be over.
“I’m still going to go. If she won’t return, I won’t pressure her, but I’m still going. We’re in this together after all.”
Jamie said nothing. Father just nodded; Cullen was the only one that spoke. “Get some sleep first, Vincent, for believe me, you’ll need it. Catherine and Mouse, well they’ll be some, at a guess, twenty five levels down by now, about ten days journey, and with each day you travel, they will be getting that much further ahead. You will need to have plenty of stamina if you hope to catch up with them.”
Vincent knew the truth of this, and suffering from jet lag he was already tired, but he couldn’t wait another moment. Right now he could gratefully sleep for a full day, but that would take Catherine another day further from him. “I’ll be all right,” he told them. “Don’t worry about me. Besides I can use the Bond to contact Catherine and have her wait for me.” That relieved Father. “Yes, all right, Vincent, but before you go is there anything Catherine or Mouse may be needing? Cullen? Jamie?”
*** *** ***
Armed with as much as he could carry considering the tightness of some of the crawl ways he would have to endure, plus more batteries and extra torches as well as more food and water, because Jamie had told him clean water lower down was scarce, Vincent set off a few hours later.
He scolded himself on the length of time it had taken to prepare for the journey, but consoled himself with the fact that through the Bond he had made it known to Catherine that he was coming. He knew she would rest now, go slower and wait for him.
Father saw him off. “Go with great care, and don’t take untold risks.” He told his son, unable to give up worrying about this unique man no matter his years.
“I will, Father. Try not to worry.”
“And bring Catherine back safe and sound.”
Vincent met his parent’s eyes. “And as before?”
It was a difficult subject to broach, Father had been unable to attempt it, but now his son had brought it up, he smiled. “Yes, bring back the old Catherine if you can.”
Vincent nodded but could say nothing more; inside, though, he screamed ‘And what of the old Vincent? Should I bring him back too?’
Father never heard his thoughts, but he knew them nonetheless, and silently, deep inside where no one but he could hear Father affirmed, ‘Yes, bring him back too.’
For he had missed that old Vincent very much, far more than he cared to admit. But that was a selfish thought that must never be voiced.
*** *** ***
“Vincent has returned.” Catherine’s tone was flat without emotion.
“To the tunnels?” Mouse’s excitement was real.
“Yes. And he’s coming after us.” Again she spoke in monotone, but Mouse didn’t seem to notice. That his friend was coming on the journey with them delighted him.
Jamie’s assumptions had been correct, though up until now, Catherine hadn’t truly stopped to think about her feelings. Now she was suddenly faced with them.
Vincent had returned true, but his heart was not in it. Oh, he wanted to make certain that she was not in any danger, and his love for her hadn’t altered, but beneath all that there was something else. Already Catherine could detect that Vincent had come to love his new way of life and was feeling very much like a man on his way to his own self inflicted execution. Catherine knew that Vincent never had a selfish bone in his body, but she could not help thinking right now that for once he seemed to have uncovered one that had previously lain dormant, because she still believed that she could not alter if he didn’t.
Yet she could not blame him really! How could she blame him? He had been given a life...a life for which he had dreamed and been denied all of his thirty four years so far. But the fact remained that in pursuing that life, that life he had now been given, he was leaving her behind...leaving her to suffer the aloneness that he had been forced to endure for so long. That to Catherine felt selfish. They needed to be together, to see it through together, not apart. How he could ever have expected her to leave him and follow the life she had been born for beat her. Well obviously he had been made of stronger stuff.
Over the next few days, as Vincent picked up the pace with his stamina and longer strides and as Catherine and Mouse travelled at a slower pace and moved deeper into the earth’s core, the physical gap between them lessened.
Now just three days apart, Catherine detected Vincent’s sudden flare of excitement. No matter the problems, the insecurities, the hopes and ambitions, love was drawing them in. Their love for one another was bringing them back together. And the thought of seeing each other again was suddenly thrilling and exciting.
They were down to the forty-first level now. The air down here was of poorer quality than ever before, and Catherine was beginning to lose hope. She knew the futility of going much further. If they attempted it, they could die.
Mouse, she knew, had said less and less these last few days, as his hope too had waned. She could see it in his eyes, in his stature; he was sorrowful, disappointed and extremely disillusioned. He’d believed in the power of the lamp, and he’d been certain that if three wishes were spoken all at once, they would have to come true, despite the fact that he’d had many others beforehand. But what he couldn’t understand was that he had wished his own wish before asking that Paracelsus disappeared forever, and if that could work, why not his... Why not his?
“Mouse, we’ll go down one more level... and that has to be it. I’m sorry, Mouse... but I don’t think it would be wise... to attempt any further.” Her voice had become as a mere whisper, as breathing became almost impossible.
Mouse nodded, his eyes as big as saucers, his own breathing laboured and harsh. His hopes had failed him, but he had to go on believing somehow. He had to do it.
“It’ll be there.” He said to her, nodding his head, “has to be.”
Catherine didn’t dare remind him that he had said this prior to the descent into each new level since they had travelled past the tenth one. She just hoped that this time he would be right.
As it happened, the drop into the forty-second level was different. Both noticed it immediately. For one it was a larger opening, and for two as they swung themselves down through the opening, suspended by a rope tied to a rock from above, the chamber was quieter. The relentless roaring of the wind was not present here.
Settling down to terra firmer on her end of the rope, Catherine waited until Mouse reached her side. As he landed there, already she could detect the change in him.
“It’s here,” he told her with certainty in his tone, something Catherine had to admit hadn’t been present on every other occasion, when they had landed in a new level.
“Where?” Catherine’s own excitement grew. The possibility that this time Mouse was right made a warm shudder of nervous expectation sweep through her.
As on every occasion at each new level over the last two and a half weeks, Mouse unwrapped his metal detector, putting it together carefully, almost with kid gloves, and placed the earphones onto his head.
Switching it on, he passed the detector from side to side in front of him as he walked.
On previous occasions the bleeper had remained soundless, the needle moving only slightly, as various metal in rock had been located.
Way ahead, Catherine recognised the swirling mists of the abyss, but there was no sound to it. It was eerie, ghostly, as if they had picked out its backbone and only the sight of its quivering flesh remained.
Before the bleeper sounded, two pairs of eyes saw by the beam of the torch Catherine carried a glitter of light shining from the ground near the edge of the tunnel entrance that opened out into the abyss, and two hearts soared.
Mouse dropped the detector, for once without care, and hurried forward, as the beam from the torchlight heralded his way. Throwing himself to his knees, he snatched up the lamp from where it lay on the sandy ledge, and clamped it to his heart, his tears falling swiftly blurring the gleaming gold to his sight.
Stooping to her knees alongside him, Catherine’s heart was lifted, and Vincent’s heart three levels above her was deflated.
He knew via the Bond that they had found the lamp. And now so near yet so far, he could only await his fate and wish.
Mouse wasted no time; he knew the promises Catherine had made to Father, but he felt that they did not apply to him. Besides Vincent was Below now.
Holding the lamp in his hands, he wished with eyes closed that Catherine and Vincent could be returned to normal. Then opening his eyes, and remembering that these things did not just happen, he hoped that over the next few hours he would see the changes for which he had wished. Then just to make sure nothing would revert back, he wished these changes forever.
*** *** ***
Able to rest for the first time in many a day, and content at heart, Catherine lay down at level forty-two, closed her weary eyes and soon fell into a deep sleep. Mouse intended to stay awake just to watch her, but found it impossible. As tiredness and fatigue washed over him he slept too.
Three levels above, Vincent paced the floor before making the decision to complete the last of his journey to catch up with the two below, knowing Catherine to be sleeping.
It took him all day, his abilities weren’t what they once were, and fingernails weren’t as adept as claws for scaling a rock face. And a month of doing nothing but travelling had weakened what muscles he’d had before. But at last he dropped himself down from the rope that Mouse had left behind onto the level he knew them to be, and skirting round, he detected the tiny beam of fading torchlight beside the sleeping pair.
Walking across to them, Vincent could not take his eyes from off the slighter of the two huddled forms. Hungry for the sight of her, yet afraid of what he might see Vincent looked first at her feet, his gaze gliding up from firm boots to denim clad legs, up higher to waist level, higher again to chest level, seeing nothing to disclose that which he sought, until in sleep Catherine turned her face to him.
Vincent gasped so loudly that Catherine’s eyes flew open... “Who’s there?” She scrambled to her feet, grabbing the torch at her side to shine it toward the figure looming nearby.
He was speechless, but more than that — holding his own hands in front of him he searched avidly, pulling up his sleeves frantically for any telltale sign that would signal the transformation to his former self, but there was nothing, at least nothing yet.
Catherine reached out a hand to him, and stopped. As her gaze met the skin on the back of her hand, she too followed Vincent’s actions, grabbing her sleeve from the wrist and pulling it back to the elbow, she saw not fur but the same creamy skin she had grown up with. A hand reached up and touched her cheek, it was smooth, perfect.
Catherine sank to her knees sobbing with relief.
Slowly realisation dawned, and Catherine’s eyes rose to the man standing in front of her, accusation and disbelief in her tone. “You haven’t altered.”
“No. Maybe it will happen though.” Vincent could hardly say the words, and even as he did he wished that he could be wrong.
Catherine stood, walked the few feet up to him, and drew her arms around him. “I’ve missed you so,” she whispered.
“I know. I’m sorry, but I...” he hesitated; what could he possibly say that wouldn’t sound selfish?
“But the world is a magnet from which it is hard to escape. I know, Vincent; I’ve been there, done that, as they say.”
“But you’ve never been there and done that with me.”
Catherine gazed up at him, at his new perfectly ordinary but gorgeously handsome human face, and agreed. “No, I have never done any of it with you.”
“Do you think I will alter back?” Vincent had to know, he needed to know above all else.
“Surely it would have happened by now?” Catherine told him, aware of how he held his breath for her answer.
“Maybe Mouse will know,” she offered by way of encouragement.
Together they rocked the other sleeping form, unaware as they did so that beneath the blanket something fell from his hands.
Mouse woke slowly, and then upon seeing two smiling but terribly anxious faces above him he came fully to his senses.
“Vincent, you’re here...and Catherine!” His voice rose, “Catherine, you’re back.”
“Yes, thanks to you... I thought we told Father we wouldn’t wish until we saw Vincent.”
Mouse hung his head. “Couldn’t wait...sorry.”
“It doesn't matter. I may not have been with you, but I knew the moment you had found the lamp and I just sat there wishing that I wouldn’t be reverted back to what I was until I felt you sleeping. I don’t think I have ever expended myself on wishing for anything so strongly in all of my life,” Vincent told them with a wry grin.
“Well, it looks like that for once you were heard, for you are still the same,” Catherine told him. She wasn’t entirely sure that she favoured this new Vincent over the old, but she had to admit, she rather liked the endless possibilities they were now faced with in light of it.
Suddenly, Mouse remembered the lamp and started searching for it. “It was here,” he told them as Vincent and then Catherine looked down with him.
“What are we looking for, Mouse?” Asked Vincent.
“The lamp. It was here.” Mouse scrambled to his knees searching in the sand around him.
“Yes,” Catherine told Vincent, “I can vouch for that. I saw it in Mouse’s hands before I fell asleep. It can’t be far away.”
They searched all around the place where they had been laying. “This is silly, there is nowhere it could have rolled, or fallen, this is so silly.” Catherine sat back on her haunches to stare at the area around them.
“It’s gone again,” Mouse told them sadly. “It’s nowhere to be seen.”
“I know, get the metal detector!” Catherine shouted and watched as Mouse jumped to his feet to run across to where he had left the machine.
He switched it on, and though he held it over the spot where he had laid, nothing happened.
“Battery’s dead,” he presumed.
“No, it can’t be. Look pass the detector over the chain that holds my crystal, that will test it out.”
Catherine unclipped it and held it in the palm of her hand as Mouse ran the machine over the place, and the bleeper sounded and the needle danced about. “See it’s working, but why won’t it find the lamp?”
Mouse passed the detector over the ground, and making certain the earphones were in place properly, he asked for Vincent and Catherine to be silent while he tried again. Three pairs of eyes stayed on the needle, and Catherine cried, “There, it moved! Just there, Mouse, just there.” Her eyes lit up but Mouse she could see was doubtful.
“It only gave a little bleep, Catherine. Can’t be the lamp. Must be some kind of metal.”
“Dig it up anyway; maybe the lamp has fallen through a crack beneath the sand?” she offered; it was all she could think of.
Laying the detector down again, Mouse used his hands to very carefully scrape away the sand, while Catherine shone the torch.
Though the batteries were low and the light somewhat faded, at such close quarters they had enough light to see, but when Mouse brought forth a tiny replica of the large lamp, Catherine raced to her bag for fresh batteries.
Installing them, she shone the light onto the tiny piece of gold held in the palm of Mouse’s hands. All three of them gasped and looked from one to the other. “It shrunk,” Mouse was the first to speak.
“But how? Why?” Catherine shook her head with disbelief, but then this whole thing was unbelievable from beginning to end.
“Maybe too many forever wishes,” Mouse ventured. “Shrunk it, you know, sucked it small.”
“It’s a notion, but hardly probable,” Catherine told the boy.
Vincent remained silent, his heart was racing, hoping...hoping...
And he still hadn’t altered back to his former self, and suddenly something told him he never would.
“I must have done it,” he spoke out loud. “About the time Mouse was wishing that you would be changed, I was wishing that I wouldn’t, and I was wishing that you would. And I was wishing that we could have our happy life and see the world together, to have children that looked completely human, to walk beneath the sunshine. Oh, Catherine, do you realise what this means?”
Catherine’s eyes shone. “Backtrack, Vincent.” She spoke breathlessly.
“Backtrack? What do you mean?”
Catherine spoke slowly reminding him.
“To...have...children...that...look...completely...human.” Her eyes gazed up at him filled with such hope and what she saw looking back at her sent her heart spiralling heavenwards on wings of eagles. “Oh, Vincent!”
Unaware of what was happening, Mouse spoke as if to himself, “And all those wishes shrunk the lamp, and now it won’t work anymore.”
Vincent and Catherine turned to him as one, “It will work, Mouse, I know it, but like you said, forever wishes made it shrink, and a little lamp will only grant little wishes from now on.” Vincent hoped he was right.
Mouse wasn’t convinced, but he carefully placed the little lamp inside his best pocket. The one he knew had no holes in. Even little wishes were better than no wishes at all.
*** *** ***
In retrospect, they could have wished for a quicker way to get them back home, but they didn’t, and after almost five weeks since Mouse and Catherine had first talked about the journey, Vincent, Catherine and Mouse finally emerged from the lower levels and walked into Father’s chamber.
In all that time, Vincent did not alter, and Catherine had resigned herself to the fact that now he never would.
She would miss his old way, true, but the possibilities stretching ahead at having him fully human were endless and Catherine found she could quite get used to that.
Father was surprised, but it took him a long time to come to terms with the fact that magic, myths and fairy tales do exist, and an even longer time to believe that the old Vincent would never likely return. That saddened him, as it saddened many, and a great deal more selfishly wanted to see the old Vincent return, but slowly, one by one, people saw it the way Vincent did, at how wonderful it was for him to be able to do anything, and go anywhere without limits.
And so eight weeks after their return Vincent and Catherine got married, not Below, but Above in a Cathedral, with all of Catherine’s friends invited and all of the tunnel dwellers and helpers looking on.
It was the grandest day of all their lives…but none more than Father cried so hard as he waved the happy couple goodbye as they left for their honeymoon.
Tears of regret, tears of disbelief...tears for all the lost years...tears for the things his son had once been denied...tears for the fury of the beast...at the heartache his son had endured...the aloneness...tears for all those things. He couldn’t stop thinking of all the reasons for more tears until Mouse sidled up alongside him. “I wish you’d stop crying, Father.”
Just a little wish...and it worked instantly. Father stopped crying, sniffed back tears of happiness and put one arm around the young boy’s shoulders. “Everyone cries at weddings, Mouse, it’s traditional.” Mouse knew that...but he also knew Father.
“Where are they going?” Mouse wanted to know, as Catherine threw her rose bouquet and Mary caught it with a shy sidelong glance in Father’s direction that was missed by no one but the man in question.
“I don’t know, Mouse.” Father told the boy as both watched the disappearing limousine negotiate the final bend as Vincent and Catherine’s happy life begun with them inside.
“I do,” came a voice alongside, and both looked up to see Vincent’s best man and brother beside them. “South of Oz and North of Shangri-La.”
“But I thought they’d both been there,” Father chuckled.
“Yes. But this time they’re going together.”
And just as Mouse wished it... Vincent and his Catherine lived happily ever after.
*** *** ***
The stories found within this website have been written by and for lovers of the American television series Beauty and the Beast and no infringement upon the rights held by Ron Koslow, CBS, Republic Entertainment, Witt-Thomas Productions or any other Copyright holder to Beauty and the Beast is intended.
Furthermore all the stories found on this website belong to Wendy Tunnard de-Veryard, are protected by copyright and none should be copied, added to or subtracted from or altered in any way, without the prior authorisation of the author.