Oblivion 2

Chapters 4, 5, 6 & 7

Part 2 of the Oblivion Trilogy


Chapter Four

The only time Vincent and Catherine allowed themselves freedom from the world Below, was when darkness fell. Walking hand in hand beneath the stars in Central Park, they reminisced on their holiday, of the time when they had floated naked in the deep ocean, beneath the starry heavens.
“But for you being here with me now, Vincent, I would feel so alone, every time I saw the stars again, after that night. It will stay in my mind forever.”
“Yes, though much can be loneliness Catherine, but for the love we share, we could be two people side by side and still be alone.”
“What is it you are trying to say Vincent?”
“I am thinking of my mother, Catherine. Sometimes I look at her, and I feel she is so alone. Gerry has Devin; I have you, who does Marie have? This man, Mich’ael Reidel you spoke of her fondness for him, did it go deeper than that do you think?”
“I don’t know, Vincent, it never crossed my mind. She does speak of him often; he was good to her. But in love with him, that way, why...” Catherine shook her head, “ I never thought of that. Do you really believe she is lonely for him?”
“She has many friends around her all the time, and she loves our son, yet I don’t know Catherine, something in her eyes from time to time tells me that she is far away. Perhaps she is, no doubt she misses her old home.”
“No, Vincent, Sonn Alp was never home to her, but it could be that she misses the sunlight, and being up Above. If nothing else the mountains were spectacular, and the scenery fantastic, perhaps this is what she misses.”
Vincent was thoughtful, “Yes it could be that, but somehow I think it goes deeper. I don’t know this man Reidel, but you watch her eyes the next time she speaks about him, or hears someone else say his name, they seem to light up. Perhaps she isn’t aware of it herself, but I would say that she is in love with this man.”
“Mich’ael Reidel was the nicer of the three, and he did show Marie compassion. I guess with being alone so much, and having one person care for you, it would make you close to them, but love, well I’m sorry Vincent, I can’t help you there, it is something you may have to ask her.”
Vincent shook his head, “No, I don’t think I would feel right in asking her this. Perhaps if I had grown up knowing her things would have been different, but we are only just getting to know one another, it would be improper to ask her something so personal.” “Yes, you are right.” Catherine put her arms around Vincent’s waist laying her head against his chest, and he enfolded her into the warmth of his cloak.
“Do you seriously think Reidel and Kogler will come to America looking for Mama and Gerry?”
Catherine looked up into his face and nodded, “I think it is more than a possibility. Devin and I stole more from them than two people. As far as they are concerned, we stole Strasser’s idea, and will gain the ability to re-produce more like yourself with that knowledge. They aren’t about to let that go in a hurry, plus there is the little fact of Strasser’s death to avenge. I only hope that if they do come here, it is Reidel that approaches us first, out of the two, and he is as Marie claims a very good man. Personally I saw no sign of it, myself, but Devin claims to have got on well with him.”
“I don’t know what to say or think about it Catherine, it would be nice to conclude that everything will be all right now, that Mama and Gerry can live out their lives with us Below, and be happy, but something keeps reminding me that this will not be so. From the little you and Devin have told me, I can see that being at Sonn Alp was not an experience you would chose to repeat in a hurry, and though you say nothing untoward happened. The fact that the sinister undertones were there just enforces the feeling that something ominous is looming. Somehow, I cannot shake the feeling off.”
“I’m sorry darling, perhaps you are getting those vibes from me. For that is exactly how I feel about it. I suppose in time the feeling will fade, and we will just have to hope that neither Reidel or Kogler ever suspect where Gerry and Marie are. After all they can’t stay in America forever, even if they do come over here. And look how long you have escaped them for.”
Vincent exhaled a short sharp ring of laughter, and hugged his wife closer, “Yes perhaps we are being unnecessarily paranoid, Catherine. Life is a gift and we should not waste it on wondering if something terrible will happen, nonetheless we should be prepared and not take risks, so I think it is best that the security around the underground world remains tight for quite some time.”
“There is just one thing Vincent, something I have just thought of. What if, Marie has a similar Bond with Mich’ael as you have with me, and Gerry has with Devin, would that give cause for Mich’ael to be able to track her. Perhaps unknowingly, but track her nonetheless?”
Slowly Vincent nodded, “Maybe. It depends how strong it is on his side, how much affection he has for my mother.” Vincent stopped and sighed.
“What is it?”
“He smiled, “That word, mother, it is something I never dared hope to have, to hear my own voice telling my own ears the words my mother, it has such a lovely ring to it, and I owe it all to you, my love.”
Catherine shook her head, “No, you owe it all to Devin. It was after all his idea, it was something he wanted to give to you, and it meant so much to him, finding your family. If ever you feel like thanking anyone, make sure it is always Devin. I do believe he deserves the title of dream maker now.”
“Yes, I have so much to thank him for, most of all for having you in my arms now. I have always loved Devin, but now, you know he is even more special in my eyes, and it is wonderful to have him live Below with us again.”
“Yes, he’s an adorable clown isn’t he. I consider him to be the brother I never had.”
“Perhaps you should tell him that.”
“What and have his head grow bigger than it is now?”
Vincent laughed out loud, and turned her towards the tunnel entrance, it was growing chilly, for a moment words eluded him, then he thought of something nice to say in reply, “I want to thank you Catherine.”
“For what?” She turned loved filled eyes to his.
“For being who you are, for accepting me as a man, for marrying me and giving me children, for accepting Gerry as a woman, Mama too, and for coming to have a special affection for my brother and my Father as if they were your own. You are a very special person Catherine, and I love you very much.”
Catherine sighed with pleasure his words made her feel soft and warm, cherished and loved, and as Vincent felt her feelings via the Bond, he hugged her tighter and led her back to the security of their home Below the city streets.

Much later within the warmth of their chamber, Catherine marvelled once again at the thoughtfulness that had gone into the ornamentation of the room. From the moment Vincent had shown it to her she had fallen in love with it. And while she and Vincent, Devin and Gerry had been soaking up the sun on their idyllic desert island; Cullam had been adding the final touches.
Not only was the entrance fitted with the most exquisite polished oak door, but the same oak panels had been fitted to walls, so that instead of waking up to the sight of jagged grey rocks. Catherine awoke instead to these marvellous panels in which had been carved fruit, flowers and animals. The chamber was in fact lovingly boxed off, to appear as much like a room in her apartment as possible, rather than a chamber beneath the earth.
Since their return however, Vincent had insisted that they use his old chamber for a while, for he had another surprise for her, and it wasn’t quite finished upon their return.
So it was an excited Catherine, who came in from the park that night, to be taken by Vincent down to their own chamber, having been told that the room was now ready for her surprise.
A long blue drape had been fastened to one wall, hiding her surprise beneath its folds, and Catherine looked eagerly up at Vincent. “Can I peek?” She asked him.
“No, my love, not peek. What is behind this drape is now ready for your full gaze to lie upon it, are you ready?”
Catherine snuggled up against the man she loved beyond all else, showing that she was indeed ready, as her eyes grew bright with excitement, and nodded.
Vincent was savouring every moment, withholding the surprise from her, loving the thrill it gave him to see her this way, knowing he held in his hand the key to her happiness on this and every occasion.
“Oh come on Vincent, let me see it please.”
“And what might be my reward if I should comply with your wishes Catherine, my love, my heart?”
Catherine turned in his arms to face him, searching his eyes, she saw he was laughing at her, “You get a kick out of this don’t you, Vincent, this mental torture you bestow upon me?”
“Yes my love. Your excitement thrills me. The expectation in your eyes as you wait to behold the sight to be unveiled makes me want to capture the moment forever, to hold on to it. Do you not remember receiving a gift and turning the package over and over in your hands, revelling in the feel of the silken paper, tantalised by the thoughts of the gift inside? In many respects the greatest joy comes in the expectation of the gift inside, rather than the gift itself.”
“Sometimes Vincent that can be true, especially when the gift comes from someone that doesn’t like you very much, but feels obligated to give something, but I doubt on this occasion this will be the case. Whatever lies behind that drape Vincent, I will treasure, because you thought of it, and in your love you gave it to me.”
“Flattery will get you everywhere my Catherine, but still I am not relinquishing my hold upon the drape just yet, I am going to continue to torture you my love, and make you wait, for the longing in your eyes, has set off a longing in my members. And it is not for what’s behind this drape.”
“Oh, Vincent!” Was all Catherine could manage as she fisted his chest in desperation before his lips claimed hers.
Releasing his hold on the corner of drape, to let the gathering drop and hang straight once more, Vincent enfolded Catherine into his arms, as her tiny hands crept into the thickness of his mane behind his head, and clasped him to her. If they could have crawled inside one another’s skin they would have, so close they needed to be.
The closest they could come to that was to join as one, and taking her across to the king-size bed, Vincent laid her gently upon it, without his lips ever leaving hers. His tongue slid into her mouth, tantalising the insides of her cheeks, the tip of her own tongue, until a low moan erupted from her, and Vincent felt triumphant, that he could make her feel this way. Never quite accepting that Catherine found him desirable, to Vincent every next time was a first time, as he explored her body anew, fascinated as the touch of silken fingers around his own burning, pulsating flesh, threw her into wild abandonment, whereby she opened herself willingly to him. Offering him everything.
Each time he entered her, the feeling intensified, knowing only the total loss of control as mists engulfed his mind, and he felt he was somewhere far off on an open savannah running wild, running free.
To Catherine the feeling was much the same only in the height of his loving, he took her to distant plains far above the earth, through the universe to infinity and beyond, so that she soared on wings of eagles as bright and as pure as refined gold.
In the aftermath of their lovemaking, Vincent continued to lie within his Catherine, holding her close to him in the foetal position, two beings wrapped together like twins within the same womb, safe, warm and loved.
Catherine stirred, and instantly Vincent slid from the warmth of her, feeling suddenly alone once again. Reaching out an arm he drew her back to snugly fit against him, but she was not to be appeased. Opening her eyes, her gaze once again alighted upon the blue satin drape, and instantly she struggled to free herself of his arms, to sit up and will the drape to fall of its own accord so she could view the delights beneath.
Unable to make the drape obey her command, she rocked Vincent violently, “Come on sleepyhead, I want to see my surprise, haven’t you tortured me enough?”
“Did you believe that what just took place between us, was torture my Catherine?”
Catherine smiled at him exhaling laughter in one breath, “That depends how you look at it,” she told him gaily.
Sitting up, Vincent shook the fleeting tendrils of passion from his mind, and came back to earth. “Then my love, may you continue to torture me all the days of my life, for it was exquisite.” Exasperated Catherine sighed, “Vincent, please, be serious.”
“Am I ever anything less my love?” he asked her enjoying the game at her expense.
“Vincent, will you get off your butt and show me what my surprise is.”
Vincent roared with laughter, and Catherine actually blushed as he complied to stand in front of her naked, allowing her once again to see the mounting of his passion.
“Oh Vincent you are incorrigible, whatever am I to do with you?”
Tilting his head, in the way that only Vincent can, he looked intimately down at her, “Do you really want an answer to that?” he asked her, softly.
Slipping out from the other side of the bed, before he had time to reach for her, Catherine raced naked across the room to grasp hold of a corner of the satin drape.
“Am I going to have to pull this down myself Vincent, or are you going to do it for me?” she teased him. Slowly, deliciously he padded towards her, eyes glinting mischievously, coming to rest at the side of her; he slipped his hands around her waist drinking in her laughing eyes.
“My Catherine but I love you, oh how I love you,” he sank his head to claim her lips once more, but she struggled against him, “I get a distinct feeling of daja vu, don’t you Vincent?” she teased him, “ Please Vincent, please show my surprise.... I mean what ever is behind this drape,” quickly changing the content of her words, as his eyes lit up again at the mention of her surprise.
Raising his eyes to the roof, Vincent let out an exasperated sigh,”” Oh if I must,”
He teased her, as he turned her to face the drape and took the corner of it from her grasp.
“Are you cold my love?” he queried, feeling a shiver ripple through her body.
“You know I’m not, quit delaying, Vincent.”
Laughing at her, he gently pulled the drape and delighted in its silken smoothness gliding through his hand, as he placed it around Catherine’s naked body.
Catherine gasped in pleasure at the sight that beheld her eyes. A scene of orange Dolomite Mountains, interspersed with jagged grey crags, dominated the backdrop; while in the foreground lay the perfect Austrian day. Little traps pulled by Haflinga ponies, golden bodied with creamy white manes and tails, trotting along the mountain passes, taking visitors up to a tiny taverna perched high on the mountainside, where tables bedecked with red and white cloths, stood awaiting the weary traveller. And upon one table, invitingly waiting stood a long cool glass of Apfelsaft. Its bubbles rising in the glass to soak up the sunlight shining through, appealing, refreshing, so real that Catherine felt she could reach out a hand and pick up the glass to partake of the delicious taste of apple juice, that she loved so much. The scene was beautiful, and painted, just like the one that adorned the tunnels, with Elizabeth’s loving hands, for Catherine to treasure all her life. It was just perfect. “Oh Vincent, this is beautiful, thank you so much.” Turning in his embrace, she kissed him, noticing his eyes were wet with unshed tears. “What?” she asked him.
“Your letter painted such a perfect picture Catherine, and now every morning when we wake up we can wake to the sight of your special place together.”
“Almost as if we are there. Its perfect Vincent, and just like the real thing. I can never thank you enough. Vincent’s eyes grew impassioned, “Oh I’m sure we can think of some way.” he told her, and as his lips descended to hers, she was left in no doubt as to what he meant.

*** *** ***

Chapter Five

“The path of life is upward
to the one acting with insight
in order to turn away from She’ol
down below”
(Proverbs Ch.15 v 24)

Mich’ael Reidel stepped from the aeroplane, eyes searching beyond the airport buildings for his first glimpse of America. It had been a long flight and he felt weary, desperately in need of a shower and a rest before embarking on his reason for being there.
Hans Kogler, as always had other ideas. “At last, I though we would never get here. You collect the luggage Mich’ael, I’ll go sort out a taxi, the sooner we check into a hotel the sooner we can start our search.”
Irritated, Mich’ael faced his colleague, who since the death of their leader Ignatz Strasser, had taken over in authority from him. “No. The first thing I intend to do is wash, change, eat and rest in that order. Tomorrow is soon enough to start searching.”
Hans Kogler was furious; “You will do as I say!”
“Or what?” Mich’ael challenged him.
Seething with rage, Hans Kogler backed down reluctantly, not wanting to be making a scene in front of the other passengers. “Then I shall go by myself.” he did not think Mich’ael would seriously consider allowing him to do that, a stranger in a strange land, but Mich’ael’s curt, “As you like”, quelled that thought.
America was too big a place to be searching for two people, especially as neither Mich’ael Reidel or Hans Kogler knew which city to begin with. All they knew were the names of those they sought, and so each armed with a piece of paper showing the names, they set off, Kogler on the first day, Reidel joining him on the next, asking every person they could stop, to see if they had heard of them.
It took them into many days before they got their first breakthrough. Sitting stirring coffee at a bar, a man they didn’t recognise came over to them.
“You the guys looking for Catherine Chandler?” he asked them bluntly.
Kogler stopped stirring abruptly, and nodded, hardly daring to breathe.
“Then you’re in the wrong city. She doesn’t live in LA. At a price I could help you find her, you interested?”
Mich’ael looked at the grubby fellow. Unkempt, unshaven, thin and dirty, smelling of alcohol, he wondered how much they could trust him.
“Maybe”, he told him, “First tell us what you know about her. What does she look like?”
“Don’t trust me eh? Too bad, look I ain’t bothered none, either you want to know where she is or you don’t, but just for the record, she’s kinda small, pretty, got blondish hair, grey green eyes, a scar about here, that do ya?”
He could have been describing anybody, of course, but he was right. “How do you know her?”
“Let me see some cash first, anything I tell you could give you a further lead, without me getting anything out of it. Nope, lets see some hard cash, and then we’ll talk.”
“How much are we talking here,” Kogler found his voice at last.
“$500 too much.”
Kogler spat out his coffee, spluttering, “It certainly is!”
“Oh well, lets hope you have some sturdy shoes then, ‘cos you’re gonna need them traipsing around America until you hit on the right city. See ya.”
He made to leave, “Wait,” Kogler called after him, “Okay, we’ll give you $500, but I don’t carry that kind of money around with me. Will you take a cheque?”
“Gee mista, do I look like the kind of guy who would have a bank account? Get real. Look I ain’t going no-where, meet me back here this evening with the money and we’ll talk.”
“Do you have a name, so we can ask for you?”
“Nah, you won’t need it, I’ll be watching for ya.”
Mich’ael watched him leave through a side entrance, “What do you think Hans, can we trust him?”
“We have no choice. He is the only lead we have. But before I part with the whole $500 I want to know a bit more.”
Mich’ael nodded, “Good, that’s what I was thinking.”
The evening wore round slowly, as time always does when an hour is anticipated with longing, but it came at last and Mich’ael Reidel and Han’s Kogler were met at the door by the grubby fellow once again.
“I’m starving” he told them, “You gonna spend some of that cash on me first and buy me a meal, go sit over there, I’ll go and order, say you want something to eat too?”
Mich’ael looked at the grubby fingernails, “No, its all right we have already eaten.” He lied.
They waited, as he came to join them with a tray piled high of burger, chips, beans apple pie and cream, and a steaming cup of coffee. Kogler paid the waitress, and by the time she had brought the change and left the table, the fellow had wolfed down most of the meal. Letting out a huge belch, he wiped the remainder of food from off his beard, and scrutinised Kogler and Reidel in turn.
“Where you from?” he asked them.
“That’s not your concern.” Kogler told him, “Now here is $100, don’t worry I have the rest here, but you have to earn it.”
“Okay, five questions, $100 at a time, that do ya?”
“Not necessarily.”
“Take it or leave it. More questions more dollars, have we a deal?”
Reluctantly Kogler nodded, hoping he could get all the information he needed in less than five questions.
“Right then fire away.” “Tell us how do you know Catherine Chandler?”
“How do I know her? My that’s a good question. I wish I had never heard of her name. She put me away for sixteen years, if it weren’t for me parole, I’d still be inside now.”
“She works for the police force?”
The tramp held out his hand, “That’ll be another $100 first.”
“But I didn’t ask my next question”. Kogler shouted at him.
“Maybe not, but you asked a question, so that’ll be another $100.”
Exasperated Kogler handed over the money, and the tramp went on, “No.”
“No what?” Kogler asked him.
The tramp smiled, it was after all question form, but as it related to the previous question he thought it better that he didn’t ask for more money just yet.
“No, she doesn’t work for the police force. Well not exactly.”
“Then what does she do?”
“Another $100 please”.
Reluctantly Kogler handed over the money, and glared at Reidel, “Aren’t you going to ask him anything?” he moaned.
“Can’t afford it.” Reidel replied, amused. He stroked his chin thoughtfully, his mind working overtime on the answers they were receiving from this man.
“She works for the D.A.’s office”. came the reply.
“D.A. what does that mean, what’s the D.A.’s office.”
The tramp held out his hand.
“Oh blast,” Kogler was really angry, much to Reidel’s amusement, as Kogler handing over another $100, waited for the answer.
“Its the District Attorney’s Office. She’s a lawyer.”
Without thinking Kogler asked his last question, “Do you know where to find her?”
Groaning he handed over his last pile of $100.
“Gee man, do you think I’d still be sat here, if I knew where that bitch was. If she is on your hit list too, you have to get past me, I’m first in line.”
Kogler looked at his empty wallet. What had he learned. Next to nothing. He hadn’t even asked which state Chandler could be located. He felt an idiot, and more than that had the distinct impression that Reidel thought he was too. The tramp looked enquiringly at the pair, “You got anymore questions,” he asked hopefully.
Reidel spoke at last, “Yes, I have one, but I don’t have the dollars. I see you haven’t got a watch, would you take mine in exchange for an answer”.
The tramp, turned Reidel’s wrist over, this way and that, “Okay”, he answered him, lets have it then.” For some reason, he liked this quiet man.
Kogler’s eyes nearly popped out of his head, the watch was a cheap one, not worth more than $20, he realised he’d been robbed.
Reidel worded his question carefully, he couldn’t afford to give away anything else, and needed a substantial answer from the man. “Which city can we find her in now?”
“New York. That is where she was last seen. She left her job, and seemed to drop off the face of the earth, she hasn’t been seen for over a year, believe me, I know, I have people looking for her too.”
“Then we have been luckier than you. We made her acquaintance just a few months ago, she and her brother came to Austria where her brother worked for us, now we need to trace her.”
“Wow, her brother you say, then maybe we are talking about the wrong woman, for the Catherine Chandler I know, has no brother or sisters. What was this chap’s name?”
“Should I ask you for $100 for my answer?” Reidel asked cheekily.
“Na, but you can have your watch back, it’ll only get nicked while I’m sleeping tonight anyway.”
Passing back the watch, the tramp waited for the answer, it was now as important to him, as it was to them, in knowing all there was to know about Catherine Chandler.
“His name was Devin Wells.”
“Devin Wells, na, he ain’t her brother. Master of disguises though, I wonder how she knows him? I ain’t heard of Devin since he left for Alaska, so I can’t help you there, and there isn’t a lot I know about him anyway. He’s one of those guys that remains elusive. Well, before you earn back your cash, I am going to split, if you want to know anymore, I am always around here, bring some more dollars, and we’ll speak again. See ya.” And with that he was gone.
“No chance, I have heard all I need to know.” Kogler told his colleague, “Come Mich’ael if we hurry we can get to New York tonight.”

*** *** ***

Peter descended the steps to Vincent and Catherine’s chamber, finding to his delight that both were inside, playing with their son.
“Peter”, Catherine’s soft voice welcomed him, “How nice of you to visit us. I thought I was to come to see you for the results?”
“You were, only there is a problem, and I wanted to see you both. Catherine, first of all my dear, the pregnancy test was negative.” Catherine groaned with disappointment, “I’m sorry Catherine, you too Vincent, I know how you love children, but really it would have been too soon, Catherine you know that don’t you, eh?” he lifted her face to his own to see into her eyes. She nodded, “So what is the problem Peter?”
Vincent felt a cold hand clutch his heart, Peter’s face gave nothing away, but he could tell that he was stressed.
“Catherine, I would really like you to go into hospital for a few days, I need to run some further tests on you. The iron level in your blood was awfully low, and I fear your inability to conceive, could mean another problem is lurking out of sight. Nothing to worry about, but something that may need attention.” “Vincent’s eyes were troubled, and Peter noticing these things from years of experience, went over to him, “Don’t let it worry you Vincent, Catherine is as strong as an ox, really there is nothing to fret over.”
“Is the problem caused by me?” Vincent wanted to know, “Is it something I have passed on to her?” Peter looked away, unable to meet Vincent’s eyes, “That’s it isn’t it, Peter, its me, I have caused Catherine this problem.”
“I cannot say Vincent, for now its just mere speculation, I cannot say until I have scanned her by means of a laparoscopy.”
“That’s where you insert a camera through the navel isn’t it?” Catherine wanted to know.
“Yes. I want to take a look at your fallopian tubes.”
“Why. I mean if you want to do this, you must know what it is you are looking for. Tell me, tell us?”
Peter drew in and exhaled a deep breath, “All right. The time Jacob was conceived that was the first time the two of you had made love right?”
“Yes.” Vincent came to stand alongside Catherine, taking her hand in his.
.“I hate having to say this Vincent, especially to you, I am sorry. Our own bodies are such marvels of creation, and our defence system’s perfect. When we have a cold or a virus, our immune system kicks in, and kicks out the germ, and when a man makes love to a woman and leaves within her his seed, her body reacts in the same way, forcing out the alien. Which is why nature has it that with each ejaculation millions of sperm are released so that some do actually make it past the soldiers, and up into the fallopian tubes to meet the egg. I believe that the first time, you made love, Catherine’s body was not alert enough to respond to prevent your sperm from fusing with her egg and conceiving a child. Her body could have rejected the infant, but the great love you have for one another possibly acted as a deterrent, in this case. Since then however, just in the same way our bodies build up an immunity against another dose of measles, chicken pox, mumps etc., so too they can build up a mechanism that prevents the foreign, and I mean this in a liberal sense Vincent, the foreign sperm from gaining entry. And a way to do this is, I believe, to block off the opening to the fallopian tubes, thus preventing conception.”
“But why, Peter, is this usual?” Catherine asked.
“No, but then you aren’t the usual couple are you. Your body knows that Vincent’s sperm is stranger than most, to you, ordinarily it would be protecting you against, against... Oh, how can I say this...” His eyes were tortured as he looked beseechingly at Vincent.
“Would you prefer it if I went outside, Peter?” Vincent asked him quietly.
“Yes, to my shame, yes.”
“NO!” Catherine cried, “Vincent stays, I want him to hear what you have to say to me.”
“I’m sorry Catherine, while I don’t want to be the bearer of secrets between the two of you, neither do I want to cause Vincent anymore stress than he already knows, hearing this will be painful to him, I cannot do that to Vincent.”
“Then you cannot do it to me either. Whatever you wanted to say, I think we have both guessed, please Peter don’t put it into words, I don’t want to hear it. Vincent is a man to me, more not less, don’t degrade him by that word.”
Peter nodded, the word bestiality, was horrid in the mind let alone upon the tongue, he was grateful he didn’t have to utter it.
“So, what are we to do from here Peter, if my tubes are blocked?”
“That depends largely on the two of you, do you want more children? It’s not something you need to tell me, yet. If you do, we will have to operate to unblock the tubes, only it has a very limited pass rate, and if you don’t, then you can leave them blocked, they will not harm you, and will act as permanent contraception.”
Catherine nodded, and squeezed Vincent’s hand, did she just imagine it or did she feel him withdraw from her through their Bond?
Peter left them and went to talk to Father; keeping their confidence safe by not telling Father what he had been to see them about.
For a while after he had left, neither Catherine nor Vincent spoke. Unable to look at his wife, Vincent was in great turmoil, “ Perhaps you should have married Elliott after all, Catherine,” he spoke quietly, the words wrenched from him.
Quickly crossing the room, Catherine took his arm and turned him round to face her, “No, Vincent. Don’t push me away. Don’t start that again, it is you I love, you know that, I love you.” Her heart hurt as tears slid down her cheeks.
“Your heart and mind tells you that, but your inner members speak against you.”
“My inner members love you too, Vincent, every fibre of my being loves you, every cell, every atom, every particle, they all love you Vincent. You heard what Peter said, it is the same with every man and every woman, the cells rebel against one another, are in constant conflict, your sperm is alien to my body, but in no way anymore than Elliot’s would be.”
“NO!” he roared, “You heard Peter, you know what he was getting at, you should have let him say it.” Vincent buried his head into his hands.
“No, Vincent, no. It was the wrong word to use, he should never have dared.”
“I would have killed him if he had, Catherine.”
“I know, I know.” Catherine propped her chin upon his lap, trying to raise his head to look into her eyes, but he would not look up. “Vincent, look at me, please my love, don’t let this thing eat you up.”
“How can I not. Do you want me to say the word he could not utter, before your mind tells you what I am, what I really am Catherine?” his agonised words slipped out.
“No, unless you think in so doing that I would change the way I feel about you Vincent. Try me Vincent, say the word, see then if I turn away from you, see then if the veil is lifted from my eyes, and I see before me the person you think that you are. Try me Vincent. Test me out.”
“NO! I cannot.”
“Why because you are afraid you’ll be right?”
“No, yes, I don’t know. It is a horrible word, it goes against everything I have been taught to believe about myself, especially since I met you, since you let me love you.”
“Vincent, we are not going to get around this unless we speak of it, get it out in the open, we have to put it behind us, there are more pressing problems to be discussed.”
“Due to it.”
“Vincent, please, stop making it harder than it has to be. Say the word Vincent”.
“I cannot utter it.”
“Just let it slip off your tongue.”
“You do not know what you are asking Catherine. The tongue is a little member ...Look! how little a fire it takes to set so great a woodland on fire.” James Ch 3 v 5.
Catherine understood, he was right, such a little word could so easily destroy them if they ignited it and fanned it into flame, she regretted trying to force it out of him. “Yes, okay Vincent you win, but promise me, we will talk about this. There is so much we have to talk about, before I see Peter for my appointment in two days time.”
Vincent did not reply, his body heaved beneath the onslaught of great sobs, he had hurt Catherine, hurt his beloved Catherine, as he had always known he would.

*** *** ***

By morning Vincent had gone.
Unable to cope with his greatest fear coming true, he had got up in the night, packed a few things and left for the deepest tunnels, down to where the dark one resided.
For it was no use pretending anymore that he was more man than beast, as a man there was nothing left that drew him to that status. All his dreams had been made full. He had known the love of a woman, had loved her in return, had known the delights of making love to her, had fathered a son, and had walked in the sunshine. There was nothing left to reach out for now, as a man, all his needs had been fulfilled.
And all his life the people who loved him had fitted him into that human mould, while his inner-self had fought against it. And a few times his dark side had won, but the love of his family and of Father, the doctor, had always rescued him, and brought back the man.
Now was time to confront the beast, to shake off the shackles that held him in the human mould, and be the beast. It sickened and frightened him, but he knew deep down that this confrontation was long overdue, and in order to find his true path he had to know what it was like to have been both. Only then could he make the choice.
He took no books with him, no reminders of the man, only enough food for his journey, and no spare clothing. He was setting free the beast, and he would not have need of covering.
He shook away his name from his memory, there was no connection here between the human name Vincent and the dark one, he would know his new name when the beast revealed it.
He did not know for how long he would remain in the bowels of the earth, it did not matter anymore, and the only thing he momentarily left intact was the Bond, because the Bond belonged to the dark one. And Vincent wanted to flood Catherine’s senses with the knowledge not to follow him this time. Not to seek him out, and to prevent any of his family from doing likewise. The beast did not know them; the beast would see them only as food. And after he had used the Bond in this way and was certain of its success, he would close it off from her, and use it only as a guide for his animal instinct.
The way below took many days, and along the way, a frightening metamorphosis took place, as every last vestige of Vincent slipped away with every forward footstep, until naked and on all fours more often than on two feet, the dark one matured, and his appearance became formidable.
Anguished roars resounded along the tunnel walls, which as the days passed, grew more and more confident in their length and vibration, and by the time the dark one emerged into the deepest subterranean world, he was totally beast in sight and sound. And he knew his name, ‘Haid’es, the power of death!’ ... (Matthew Ch.16 v 18).

<*(Haid’es is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word She’ol and means the ‘the abode of the dead’)

*** *** ***

Chapter Six

“And the first living creature is like a lion,
and the second living creature is like a young bull
and the third living creature has a face like a man’s,
and the forth living creature is like a flying eagle.”
(Revelation 4 v 7)

With reference to the creature like a lion and another with the face like a man’s Father lay down his copy of the Bible that he had been reading, and buried his head into his hands. Vincent had been gone so many weeks, and there had been no sign of him. Father’s heart ached, as if a deep chasm had been gorged there with the passing of time, each new day bringing the rift wider, the pain stronger, so that his restless body knew no sleep and his mind knew no respite.
Catherine had left also, returned to the world Above, having given up on Vincent, unable to take any more of his conviction of being anything to her but a man, and being unable to live Below, and not to have him with her.
Still re-coiling at the venom of her words, Father had not been able to stop her as she had fumed,” How could he Father? I thought we were past all that. All we have done together, been to one another, and the first little thing that rears its ugly head, to which Vincent is able to say ‘I told you so’, he grasps with all his might, and slaps me in the face with it. I’m sorry Father, but I am through with him. I would never have taken so much from any other man, I would have dumped him long ago.”
Father had listened to her ranting with concern and sorrow. “Vincent is no ordinary man Catherine,” he said softly. “You knew that from the onset”.
Swinging round she confronted him again, “And don’t I know it! Do you not think I have made enough allowances for that,” she seethed. “ Vincent is everything to me, but he just isn’t capable of believing that. And I am through trying to convince him.” Flopping into the chair, Catherine sat, chest heaving, unable to say another word.
Father had looked across at Devin, at Marie and Geraldine as they sat dumb-struck across the table from him, shocked into silence by her outburst, and finally when he was unable to take the silence any longer, Devin spoke up. “Perhaps we should try to find him, make him see how badly he is behaving.”
“No!” Everyone was surprised by Marie’s sudden outburst. And then Catherine felt her own senses reel as a flood of emotions passed through the Bond, reaching out to her for understanding. Devin saw her face, “What is it Catherine, can you feel something, is he calling to you?”
“Me too”, Marie added, “I feel him too.”
Catherine sank into the comfy chair and visibly groaned.
“Cathy what is it?” Father encouraged her gently as her eyes filled with first sorrow and then horror.
With Catherine unable to utter a word, Devin turned to Marie, “What is he saying Marie, do you know?”
“Only see him, not hear him.” she replied softly, and as her thoughts grasped the image she withdrew into herself, unable to believe what she was seeing.
At last Catherine was able to speak, “Vincent.... He has gone Below, deep below into the bowels of the earth. He asks that no-one follow him, or try to see him. He,” she wiped a hand across her weary brow, as one would a violent headache, “he is setting the dark one free.”
“NO!” I don’t believe it! but why Catherine, why?” Father exclaimed.
“He feels that all his life, the dark one has been taunting him while held at bay, now is the time to confront that side of his make-up, to set him free, to be the beast.”
“Then we must go to him bring him back, reason with this folly, his heart cannot withstand the conflict, the dark side will surely kill him.” Father replied.
“No, it will not.” Geraldine spoke with conviction. “Only if he were the two beings at once, would one try to outwit the other, only if a conflict went on between them would he find his heart had not the strength to complete the conquest. But as it is, to release the beast, he will have only the lion’s heart, and it will not harm him.”
“Then perhaps you should go, you have this same make-up, you can reason with him, make him understand.” Devin asked her.
“No! you do not know what you are asking of me, Devin. You, all of you, must stop thinking of the man Vincent, for the time being he no longer exists, you have to think of him only as the beast. In doing that Devin, would you have me sent into the lion’s den?”
Devin laughed, “You make it sound so serious, Gerry. Vincent has done this before. The dark one has taken him over in the past, but we have always managed to bring him back, we can do it again.”
“Not this time.” Catherine spoke up softly. “To go down there to where he is would be a danger to us. He means it this time Devin, he has set free the beast, there is no turning back, until he says so. This time he is lost to us.”
“I cannot believe that Catherine. I mean no disrespect, but neither you, nor Gerry nor Marie, know Vincent the way Father and I do, we can go down there and bring him back, and I believe I am right, that Gerry and Marie would have a better chance. Being as it were, more equipped to deal with him in this state.” And so as to enforce his meaning he stroked the scar upon his face that Vincent had wielded there many years before.
“You still don’t get it do you?” Exasperated, Gerry took his hand. “My love, I know how you are thinking, but you are wrong. In the past it would seem that Vincent has had an inward fight with the beast within, I know this fight. Mama knows this fight, we have three ways open to us, we can be half a cat and half the human, or be the cat or be the human, no more and no less.”
Catherine allowed her words to sink in. Realisation slowly dawned, “Just a moment, Gerry, what did you just say? There are three ways open to you, tell me again, and explain as you go.”
Geraldine smiled, glad that Catherine at least, was beginning to understand.
“You have seen, all of you, within Vincent and within ourselves” she indicted herself and her mother, “the half human half cat creature. Neither whole in either, always at conflict within ourselves, the dominant side at the time always cursing the other side. In my head I hear two voices, one which says I should, one which says I shouldn’t. It is not a question of conscience, when your mind tells you yes or no, it is not like that. The voice is in the members and not just in the mind. It is a constant warring, sometimes frightening, sometimes exciting, and it doesn’t take much to evoke a stronger direction to either one within us.”
She paused, allowing for a response, none came, so went on, “ Then there is the complete cat side, to be totally tiger, or in Vincent’s case, totally lion, as with Mama, the same, and believe me this is not something I have ever had the courage to try. One has to be in a great deal of anguish with the daily conflict of both to even consider it. This is, I fear what has happened to my brother.”
She paused again, and waited, surely now would come some questions. She wasn’t disappointed; Catherine was the first to speak. “Then, let me get this right, Gerry, if you can be both, and then can be one, or other, and Vincent has been both and now...he, has given in to the beast... what then?” she hardly dared to hope.
Geraldine smiled, “Yes Catherine your thoughts are running along the right lines. By allowing oneself to become the beast, the total beast without the intervention of the human element, to actually come through that, though, do not be miss-lead, believe me this could take years, then and only then can emerge the total human.”
“Do you mean in every way?” Devin asked in disbelief, “ I mean in features as well as thoughts?”
“Does not the dark one come to the fore when allowed to do so, completely?”
“I do not know Gerry, I have only ever seen half and half.”
“Then know this Devin, Vincent will have, by now, become the total beast, or in his case, the total lion, you will not know him and he will not know you. Nor will he know Catherine, or their son. This is a frightening quest he has undertaken, and you should admire him for finding the courage to try it, and I’ll tell you this, if I find it works for him I too will attempt it.”
“You still haven’t answered Devin’s question” Catherine anticipated her answer.
“No, I’m sorry, I lost track. So, Vincent has allowed the beast to rule, and when he is satisfied that he has achieved all he can achieve as a lion, he will embark on the final metamorphosis, to become totally human.”
“Yes, but how total?” Devin repeated his earlier question, almost afraid to ask, to believe.
“So that no longer will he be different from any other man, no more different to you, or to Father, to Pascal or to Mouse, just as the fairy tale tells it Devin, the beast will become the Prince.”
Catherine drew in a sharp breath; “You mean his face... his hands...”
Gerry nodded, “Yes, human.”
Father exploded! “Rubbish! This cannot be! It is wicked, wicked lies!”
Geraldine looked pityingly at him, but Devin believed, and so did Catherine.

*** *** ***

“Oh God, Cathy, I’m so sorry, I was wrong, so dreadfully, dreadfully wrong. You are pregnant after all, but there’s still a problem, one far worse than I could have possibly imagined. Oh, Cathy, what are we to do?”
“Peter, for god’s sake, tell me?” The words erupted from Catherine, whatever could be worse than being pregnant after all?
“Cathy, its the babies, they are growing inside your fallopian tube, its not blocked after all, except by the babies of course. Its really serious Cathy, life threatening, do you know what I am saying to you.” Peter’s dear face was etched with worry, as he tried to make Catherine understand the situation, while all she seemed to want to do was smile.
“Backtrack Peter, what did you say?”
Exasperated, Peter sighed, “Cathy, haven’t you heard a word I said, this is a dangerous medical situation, you could die, we have to operate at once.”
“No, Peter, not that bit, what did you say before that, did my ears deceive me, or did you say babies as in two, rather than baby as in one.”
Peter counted the living forms upon the screen, and let out another great sigh, “I mean babies as in five. Cathy, you’re expecting a litter!”
Catherine wasn’t the type to swoon and faint, but this time she made an exception. Coming round to smelling salts held beneath her nose, she choked, and hoped that the past few moments had been some ghastly dream. Staring open eyed at Peter, she whispered, “Tell me, it isn’t true?”
“Which bit?” Peter asked her, relieved to have her back.
“Five babies, Peter, what will I do with five babies, I don’t even have Vincent with me anymore.”
“Yes, I’m sorry about that too, Cathy, if I had kept my trap shut, that would not be a problem for you, and neither I am afraid will you have to worry about bringing up five babies. Catherine, you have to understand, that when it comes to eptopic pregnancies, only one party lives, either the mother or the baby, but in a case like this, there is no choice, for we cannot allow five embryos to develop in the fallopian tube.”
“What are you saying Peter?”
“We have to terminate Cathy, it is the only option.”
“No! Peter, No. I won’t let you, there has to be another way, there has to be, I cannot allow you to destroy Vincent’s children.”
“There is one other such a way, Cathy, but inadvisable. We have to operate no matter what, or the babies will grow and grow until the fallopian tube explodes and then you will surely die, there is no two ways about it. So all I can suggest is that we try to transplant the embryos into your uterus and hope that some if not all of them survive the transition. That is the best we can hope for.”
“Then this you must do Peter.” Catherine begged him.
“There is only one drawback, Cathy, it will mean complete bed rest for you until the babies are due to be born. Which means of course that you will have to remain Below until that time, do you think you can do that?”
“Do I have a choice, Peter. You know full well that since Vincent left, I could not bear to be there without him, not knowing where he is, what he has become. It is painful to me, to think of him in that depraved state. If any of his powers of reason are still intact, it must be degrading to him to have to be that way, I fear even if Vincent should return, it will not be the same Vincent, this experience will have changed him forever. I don’t know if I ever want to see that, its a frightening thing he is undertaking, and know one knows how it will turn out, least of all Vincent.”
“And yet you shown such possessiveness toward the life of his unborn children, and here I am offering you the chance to be completely free of him, of all traces of him.”
“Peter! how could you say that. It is unthinkable. These are my children too, born of the love Vincent and I shared after our marriage. No matter what Vincent has become, I still love him; I will always love him. No-one will ever come between that love, my possessiveness is not just for our children, it is for Vincent too, he belongs to me, as I to him.” The tears flooded unchecked down Catherine’s face, as great sobs shuddered through her body, and Peter thought for the thousandth time, that this dear young girl had taken more of life’s knocks than most. Yet could pick herself up, brush off the dust and still stand tall and erect with pride in her heart. Yet this forthcoming problem would be a great test for her, and he could only wonder at the eventuality.
“All right Cathy, I’ll perform the operation, you have to realise though that this has to be done in a hospital, and after the operation you must rest in the hospital for at least a month, and then we will have you transferred Below. And then the best we can hope for is that nothing goes wrong during the transfer, for this will be the greatest risk.”
“Can I not stay at the hospital?”
“What until the babies are due?”
“Yes, surely you could arrange for a private room, I have the money.”
“Perhaps Cathy, but what about Jacob?”
Catherine groaned, dear Jacob, she had forgotten him in all of this. At present with living in her apartment, Jamie brought him to see her every day, and some nights he would stay with her. He could not survive the strain of being without both his father and his mother for any length of time; he was no ordinary child.
“Then perhaps I could stay at my apartment, and bed-rest there.”
“Cathy, do you take me for a fool. After a few days, maybe a few weeks, you will get fed up of all this bed-rest, and you will act careless. Perhaps a few steps here, a few steps there, more as your confidence grows, and you take the risk of undoing all my work in trying to save these babies. Only if I feel it would be safe to get up and walk about a little could you do it, but I won’t be able to ascertain this until at least two weeks after the operation. So Catherine, you have the choice to either stay Below, or we will see about getting you a private bed at the hospital, and move you Below as soon as possible.”
Catherine’s pain filled eyes met Peter’s concerned ones, “I have no choice Peter, not at the risk of forsaking Jacob, I have to go Below.”
“Then, wait here, while I re-arrange my day, and bring in a locum to cover my appointments, and I’ll drive you to the hospital myself.”
“So soon.”
“Yes, Catherine, there is no time to lose, every minute those embryos are growing is a risk you cannot afford to take. I will get word to Father at once.”
“Make sure he knows to tell Jamie not to bring Jacob to the apartment tonight, its a long journey for one so small, to only get there to turn back again.”
“I will, now if you would wait in reception for me, I’ll only be a few minutes, I have some calls to make.”

*** *** ***

A gnawing hunger filled his belly, down to his very soul, that would not be appeased by the mere hardtack in Vincent’s pack. More was needed.
A red sea engulfed his vision, dripping red waters, swirling through his mind, like a torrent caught in a whirlpool, bubbling in a frothy pink clot along its path of descent. The hunger grew and rumbled like thunder across the ocean of the sea, a red sea, and Haid’es knew that the time had come when he had to sate his hunger, despite how abhorrent that felt deep, deep down inside.
Leaping from crag to crag, silently, effortlessly, Haid’es moved. Muscles rippling in a lithe body, beneath taut skin, golden skin, shrouded by an ebony mane that merged into the shadows, so that any light at all, picked out only the golden fur and the glint of nefarious eyes.
Sure footed he padded, senses attuned to the hunt, listening, watching, sniffing, as he made his way Above.
In the darkened corners of New York’s city streets, Haid’es made his exit through a derelict basement, leapt upon a rooftop and waited.
The street was silent and dark, very dark, the lights from the neon lamps smashed long ago, their glass littered the floor, never to be swept away, for none had a care to enter this area, and for a few that did, would not care to sweep the glass away.
Haid’es waited, knowing his patience would be rewarded, and as the adrenaline coursed through his veins, his hunger subsided, now replaced by the excitement that stirred in the pit of his belly and filled his whole being.
A slight movement far ahead invaded his hearing so acute that it came like the sound of a thunder clap overhead.
Haid’es shuffled forward, craning his head to see around the corner of the rooftop, and his eyes were rewarded with a delicious sight, as a large dog came into view.
Somewhere deep inside him, a small sigh escaped at the sight of the dog. It was after all, favourable to a man.
The crunch of glass, followed by a yelp of pain, was nothing in comparison to the sudden bloodcurdling cries of the dog in death throes, as Haid’es tore at the unyielding body, and the smell of warm blood assaulted his senses. Dragging the body down into the basement, Haid’es gorged his fill, and appeased, returned deep down Below to sleep.
So were the nights of Haid’es, the desire to kill, to feed, the satisfaction of being free, free from the human body that had enchained him, free from the prison of solitude that had held him captive. He vowed never to return, never to allow the tiny little voice that rose through his sleeping subconscious’s, to invade the freedom he had been granted. The beast now reigned in glory as only a king can, and he roared in triumphant release.

*** *** ***

Mich’ael Reidel unpacked his belongings, preparing to stay at the hotel for some time. If he could have parted company with Johannes Kogler he would have done, for both wanted different things, he could see that now. On the flight from LA to New York, Mich’ael had been shocked to find that Kogler’s intention was only to seek Geraldine and Marie to kill them, whereas he, Mich’ael, had believed that they were to take them back to Austria, back to the institute, to continue Strasser’s experiment. Mich’ael did not want this either, but at least, he finally admitted to himself, there he could see Marie again, for he had truly missed his time spent with her, teaching her about life. She had been a very willing student, and he had hoped to turn his attention to Geraldine, to see if she could be taught also.
Perhaps, with Strassers quest to create a lion that could speak like a man, he had bypassed a great discovery, that of creating a man that had the thoughts and the instincts of the lion, vice versa instead, and in ways which they could have used to the full potential. All it would take was teaching human language to these creatures.
Mich’ael knew that what had been lost was a great advancement in science, and he wasn’t about to let Kogler terminate that, besides, a small niggling thought kept brushing tiny fingers across his heart, which he refused to acknowledge, that he loved Marie, as a man would love a woman.
And so the least he could do was insist that they had separate rooms at the hotel, and had been jubilant to find that with the approach to the 4th of July celebrations most of the hotels had been full. Leaving Mich’ael and Kogler to seek a room in different hotels. In different parts of the city and for this Mich’ael felt blessed.

*** *** ***

Chapter Seven

Now that the Bond between Catherine and Vincent had been closed off, Father relied more and more upon Marie’s sense of her son, to tell him all he needed to know, yet he felt her reluctance to tell him anything, and Marie only complied to ease his unrest.
On one such day as they were all sat around the table with the absence of Catherine and Vincent, Marie was relating to Father, Devin and Gerry just what it was she was able to see in her mind’s eye at the time.
She shuddered as images of him flashed through her mind, this beast was not the son she had grown to love, and without the bond such as he could open up to Catherine, Marie had no way of reaching out to him, to bring back the son she knew.
“What do you see Marie, please tell us?” Father beseeched her, as he did every day since Vincent had left.
Marie drew in and let out a deep sigh. “ I see only a lion,” she would say, day after day. Unrelenting, Father would not accept the answer, could not believe that Vincent could alter, so much so, that his whole outward appearance took on anything less than a man.
“I miss him so much”; Father said one day, voicing his thoughts. Startled Marie had looked up, and leaning across the table had taken his hands in her own, as Father went on, “ I never thought a day would come when my heart would grieve me so dreadfully. Not even when my dear wife died, did I feel such pain, such sorrow. I cannot possibly imagine Vincent the way that you see him, nor can I begin to hope that what Gerry feels is taking place down there, will come to pass. It is all I have ever dreamed for Vincent to be like any other man, yet this is reality we live in, not fictional fantasy, surely I would be wrong to place hope in it.”
Gerry leaned across and put her hands over Marie’s as they in turn continued to grasp Father’s hands, “Father?” she asked, upset by the sorrow in those pain filled eyes, “Tell me, have you ever seen the dark one?”
“Yes, but like Devin, in Vincent, only half and half.”
“At any one of those times, did the dark one ever attain dominance?”
“You mean did he ever appear to take Vincent over, so that the Vincent we know and love slipped from sight. Yes, Gerry, this too I have seen. It is not something I wish to recall to mind, it was, simply, frightening.”
“And when this occurred,” she asked him gently, as Marie’s hand slipped beneath hers, and Geraldine was able to grasp Father’s hand more fully, “Did his features transform before your eyes?”
“Yes. I was terrified.”
“What you saw has been experienced before by many others, especially in Africa, where the idea that a human can change into an animal or vice versa is deep-rooted. Have you never heard about the disappearing witch doctor?”
“Ho, ho, Gerry, what are you leading into, will you tell me next, that all his life, Vincent has been possessed?”
“No, or if he has been, then so have Mama and I. No that is not what I am aiming at all. I wanted to show you that it is not wrong to believe these things, as others most certainly do. For when the witch-doctor miraculously disappears at his death, it is very often a python or some other snake that is seen slithering out of his hut, thus showing that these things are possible, to those with the conviction to believe. For the ability to alter does not lie within the man, but lies within the beast. Have you not heard of werewolves? But as for Vincent, myself and Mama, we know that we were created in a laboratory, we know that we have been crossed with the blood of the mighty cat and the human, and therefore we cannot just change at will like that.”
“So what is it you are leading up to, I am afraid my dear that I have lost you.”
“Father, you spoke of Vincent’s heart not being able to take the strain of the dark one’s fury, and I told you that was because in the past the two halves fought mercilessly against one another, but as either one or the other, without the conflict, the heart would survive? Well that is true, but what I failed to tell you, what I deliberately held back because of Catherine being here then, was the fact that while the human side can hope for a life-span of seventy, eighty years, perhaps more. The life-span in comparison of a lion is as little as twenty eight or thirty years.”
Gerry allowed her words to impact, and Devin froze beside her.
“But Vincent is over thirty years old now.” He spoke quietly, reasoning.
“Yes, I know. This confrontation with the dark one, should have been allowed to take place long before now, now you will know the import of my words, when I said this thing my brother is undertaking, shows great courage.”
Father swallowed hard. What ever it was that Gerry was leading up to, he didn’t like the sound of.
Gerry looked at Marie, who nodded for her daughter to continue, not being able to find the words herself to explain this. Though it had to be said, they had to be made to understand.
“As a lion, my brother is old, well past his prime, and in many respects this only helps the situation, because the man within will not have such a fight as once he would have had. Yet the man within will only prevail if he has a reason for doing so, in that I mean unless Vincent wants to come back as a man, he could die as a lion, before he has made up his mind, to that of which he wants to be.”
“No!” Father and Devin shouted in unison, in shocked disbelief.
Gerry went on, quicker now to ease the situation, “If Vincent had not undertaken this thing, the lion within him would have eventually expired, when his life-span came to an end, and Vincent would have forfeited the chance to be the man. Because then the dead lion would have been trapped within Vincent for the duration of the man’s lifetime. And though that would have meant that Vincent would never have to undergo another alter ego. Vincent would also have lost the chance to free himself from the burden of this other side of him. And always he would look like half man, half beast.”
“I have noticed,” Father began quietly, “that of late the dark side of Vincent did not come to the fore quite so often. I thought it was simply because of the comfort that Catherine brought to him and of being able to do the things that have always been denied him.”
“Yes, that does not surprise me. The lion would have been growing old, and growing tired of never having his dream to be free of the man come true.” Gerry said simply.
Her total acceptance of all of this was remarkable, but then again not, considering her own genetic make-up.
“So what of yourself. Did you not say, that if it works for Vincent, perhaps you yourself would find the courage to try this.” Devin asked her.
“Yes, I am still young enough to do it, Mama is not, but then Mama would have no need to try, she is first born, and is more human than lion. Therefore Mama, though having the Bond, does not have the same deep conflict within her members that Vincent and I know, who have more of the lion and tiger genetic makeup within us.”
“Going back to Vincent, what you are saying bluntly put, is that having left it too late in setting free the dark one, he could die while in that state, and not ever return to us?” Devin asked her.
“Yes. Though he showed courage in doing this, I cannot imagine why he left it so long to try.” she told him.
“That’s because my dear, I don’t think Vincent ever knew of this, not even in subconscious thought, he never spoke of it, gave any indication of it. And I am sure that had he of known there was the slightest chance of being a man, he would have tried this long, long ago.”
Gerry shuddered, this she had not known, “Then Father that is unfortunate, for if Vincent does not know what he is doing, then really, there can only be one outcome.”
“No! I refuse to believe that. Surely there is something you can do Gerry. You must go down to him, must try this for yourself to save him, it is the only thing to do.” Father exploded, tears running unchecked down his face. He had never felt so wretched and helpless in all his life.
“Father, be that I could, I would. But what do you think will occur if I should do this thing, and I too become the tiger, or perhaps the lion for indeed I have both within my members, can you not see what would take effect here? Are you so blind as to see what putting a male and a female lion together will bring forth?”
“You cannot be serious, Gerry, he is your brother for god sake,” Devin almost laughed at the absurdity.
“When the human facet is lifted Devin, there is only the beast, does not a cat have kittens that she loves and adores, and yet when they have gone from her to a new home, and at some stage re-united, does she recognise them, as her long lost kittens? I think not, Devin. She hisses and lashes at them with her claws, seeing only a rival, or a mate, and nothing more. So too it would be with Vincent and I. Would you have me undertake this folly? Do you think Vincent could live with that, could Catherine, could you?”
Placing his head into his hands, Gerry could only hear him utter, “But he is my brother, if I thought I could help him, I would, if anything stood in my way of doing that I would crush it, but come what may, I would try.” Lifting his head, he spoke softly with conviction, “ I am going down there to him, I have to do.”
Placing a hand on his arm, as he made to rise, Gerry stilled him, “No, Devin. If your love for your brother is such that you are prepared to do this thing, then my love for you is such that I will go in your place. After all...” she said retracting and detracting her claws to enforce her meaning, “ I am so much better equipped.”
Devin did not know how to thank her, knowing her misgivings, it meant so much, he simply put his arms around her and hugged her, “thank you”, he said softly.

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To be continued in Chapter Eight – click on ‘Next’ below:



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