Chapters 8, 9 & 10
Part 2 of the Oblivion Trilogy
“He sits in an ambush of settlements
From concealed places he will kill someone innocent
His eyes are on the lookout for someone unfortunate
He keeps lying in wait in the concealed place
like a lion in his covert
He keeps lying in wait to carry off
some afflicted one by force...
And the army of dejected ones
has to fall into his strong claws.”
(Psalms Ch. 10 v 8 & 9)
Johannes Kogler scanned the newspaper at breakfast. It never really appealed to him, reading about life in a city that he knew little about, so when his eye caught the article, he at first turned over the page, before it registered in his brain.
Slowly turning back the page, as if he had imagined it, he was pleased to see the headlines jump out at him once again. “Is There A Lion At Large In The City?”
Reading the column eagerly, Kogler found much to his delight, that the carcasses of many dogs had been found in a derelict basement in the rumble tumble part of the city, where even vagrants were afraid to go. For it’s notorious reputation for being the dumping ground for victims of murderers.
The report showed that the way the flesh had been torn showed that a large predator fitting the description of a wild cat was thought to be the cause for the deaths. And that special infra red camera’s had been set up to try to capture the ‘lion’ on film, when it made its next kill.
Kogler knew the newspaper was that day’s, so when the report referred to ‘yesterday, the last body, no more than a few hours old, had been found’, he knew that tonight would be the night for another kill.
Breakfast forgotten, he picked up the telephone to call Mich’ael at his hotel, but the call went unanswered, even though Mich’ael was there to hear it. He too had read the article, and he too wondered just as Kogler had, if the wild cat was none other than Geraldine. A deserted basement, that led, through tunnels, the report said, far beneath the city streets, would be the perfect hiding place for Geraldine and Marie. Obviously, if Chandler and Wells weren’t stopping them from killing the dogs, then there had to be only one explanation, that Geraldine, and possibly Marie too, had got free, and were living as best they could somewhere beneath the city.
Mich’ael was in no mood to play into Kogler’s hands, for a certainty knowing that Kogler would ask him to ‘just go along there tonight will you and see if you can spot anything’, it would be just like Kogler to expect Mich’ael to take all the risks. So if he remained unavailable all day, he could expect to sit in his car someplace safe, and watch while Kogler took the risk himself, and he didn’t doubt that he would, the findings were too important.
Sure enough late that night, dodging the camera’s as best he could, Kogler made his way stealthily to what he considered a good vantage point to wait, all night if he had to, for the emergence of the beast.
*** *** ***
The red mists were forming in his mind again as he woke from his slumber and he knew only that he must kill again, though it seemed to him, that life was not as he had hoped it to be. Kill, eat, sleep, kill, eat, sleep, it was all his day consisted of. For being so far down beneath the city, it took many hours just to travel Above and back and Haid’es was oh so tired of the uneventful life he led, seeming only to need something he could not grasp. For as the thought was born in his mind, it died just as swiftly, and Haid’es never seemed able to capture the thought long enough to know what it was his heart cried out for.
He had the freedom he had always been denied, but it was not the bliss he had expected. In his aloneness he cried out for companionship, knowing full well there was none. And what was worse, was that each time he let down his guard, especially in sleep, the image would claim him, and give freedom to the voice, that in his subconscious, cried out relentless day and night, ‘let me out, let me out, let me out’.
When he had first heard the voice, he thought it was only an echo from the past. The very same words he had uttered constantly over the years, and then he realised that this was not so, for the voice was felt not only in his head, but in all his members, as if something within was forcing its way against his body from inside. Straining to erupt through his skin, striving for freedom. Shaking his mighty head he tried to clear the red mists from his mind. His stomach growled of its own accord. He had to kill and eat again. Rising, unsteady, to his feet, he made the familiar journey Above once more.
*** *** ***
Catherine too, had seen the same newspaper. Lying in the hospital bed, her hand flew to her stomach, as a sickening jolt of realisation came to her mind. Was it Vincent? Surely not! Surely he would not stoop so low. Would he? And if not him, then who, what? How? How was Vincent living, eating, so far beneath the city? Catherine had tried with all her might to break down the barriers Vincent had put firmly in place to their Bond, yet she could not shift them. She needed desperately to get through to him; she had to tell him about the babies.
Peter had performed the operation, successfully to standard, whatever that meant, and Catherine had spent her first week of many in bed. Already she was tired of doing so, having read through all the magazines, done all the crosswords, evaded all the nurses prying questions to a point at which she wanted to scream.
And for what, despite what she had told Peter, to bring forth the offspring of, of this! Flinging the newspaper across the room where it crashed and fell apart in a slithering heap, Catherine burst into tears. The same old feelings engulfed her as before, when she had left Vincent for London, she did not believe she would ever feel that way again. Not so long ago, everything had been perfection, what was it Vincent had said, when she told him she thought she was pregnant? “Before your life was unstable, you didn’t know where you belonged, now you are secure....” those had been his words. A sinister laugh escaped her lips, ‘why does everything always have to come back to this’ she asked herself, ‘never knowing for sure if we should be together or not, how much more can I take of it, how much more should I take of it?”
Placing her hand upon her stomach again, Catherine wondered about the babies.
Would they live? It would be a while before she knew, for a certainty, but even as she thought it, a tiny little voice inside her whispered, ‘maybe it would be better for you, if they died.’
*** *** ***
As Haid’es made the upward trek to the world Above, he kept stopping to incline his head to listen. Something deep inside was pushing through his conscious state, as if it were calling to him. Catherine’s barrage of emotions were assaulting the Bond on the other side of the door that Vincent had firmly closed before allowing the beast his freedom, and as Haid’es walked along tiny little fingers eased the door ajar, and probed inside. And the man that had been sent to rest was awakening as she called to him.
Shaking his large head as if to free himself of the burdensome fingers that grasped his mind, Haid’es stopped and lay down to rest, upon the silver sand of the chamber floor, food now forgotten.
And though his task remained incomplete, the man inside stirred and began to listen as Catherine filled her mind with thoughts of him, and he allowed himself to listen. All this inner conflict was too much for Haid’es and he lay down his great bulk with a sigh allowing them access through him. Catherine made her appeal again and again, “Vincent hear me please I need you so much. Return to me Vincent please. Peter was wrong. Vincent I am pregnant, please Vincent answer me.”
Slowly the words penetrated, were heard and understood. Haid’es lifted his mighty head and roared though he knew not what for, the roar had been spontaneous, nothing he had control over.
Suddenly he realised, the man was awakening, before time, someone was reaching out to him through the Bond before time, it was too soon. The transformation was not complete! He could not allow it.
*** *** ***
Catherine wasn’t certain, but she felt just the minutest stirring of emotion that did not seem to come from her. From beneath the depths of an abyss it came, so far that she was unable to grasp it, as it fluttered and fell like a feather swirling in a cross-wind, and though it was difficult to reach, nonetheless her heart soared with fresh hope.
Lying in bed was boring, but it afforded her the opportunity to meditate on Vincent, desperately trying to break open the seal on their Bond, to force her emotions through to him, and make him return to her. Such was the power of her love for him that bit by bit she was succeeding, though had she of known then the damage this could do to him, she would never have ventured to try.
For when Vincent had laid down his life so to speak, and allowed the beast to gain sovereignty over him, he had done so from an instinct that he could not grasp. Knowing only that in allowing the beast to dominate for a time, that he, Vincent could rest in the eternal womb and from it could be re-born as a man. Yet the transition took time, as the beast slowly died and took from Vincent every last vestige of his presence, including all the outward features that went with him.
Just as the fairy story tells the tale of the beast turning into the prince, thus could be the way for Vincent, if only he could surrender himself long enough for the complete transformation to take place.
Yet Catherine was calling him back, she needed him, and suddenly, suddenly Vincent knew it did not matter anymore that he looked the way he did. For Catherine saw beyond his looks, and he was beautiful in her eyes. She could not love him any more if he were to look like a man. The realisation hit him like a thunderbolt! What was he doing here, so far from her, allowing the beast his freedom? He had seen through closed eyes, the sickening reality of the beast’s existence, and knowing he was bored with his uneventful life, would only pursue still greater killings, in a quest for excitement. Vincent had seen where the beast was headed, even though the beast had not yet brought the idea to mind. Like one would sit back and watch a play unfolding knowing the outcome before anyone else.
Grasping the knowledge to him, he made a conscious effort to stand, yet as Haid’es came to the realisation that the man had woken from his unconscious state, he fought against him with renewed vigour. For despite his dull existence he knew that the pacing of freedom was far better than the pacing of a prison cell. And he wasn’t about to relinquish it.
Roaring his agitation at the ongoing battle within, Haid’es, got up from his place and headed faster now Above. The hunger continued to gnaw at his gut and intent only on the kill, Haid’es plunged through the basement entrance without first checking beyond.
He stopped. Breath caught in his throat, something was wrong here, something had altered. A strong scent lingered in the alleyway, left behind by the many men who had worked there earlier, installing the many cameras in various points of vantage. Yet there was something else, another scent, stronger, fresher and like the cameras, hidden from view.
Haid’es advanced, cautiously, ears pricked for the slightest of sound. A barrage of smells invaded his nostrils. After-shave, sweat and fear, human fear. Haid’es growled softly in his approach, and Kogler stiffened. Unable to see the beast, for he was in another section of the alley, Kogler shuffled forward for a better view, trying hard not to make a sound, but Haid’es had heard every slight movement, the turn of the head, the rustle of the clothing. Even the hairs that started to stand up upon the man’s body. Haid’es heard them bristling against the cloth.
From across the street Reidel, waiting in his car, could not believe his eyes. Along one section of alleyway, Kogler shuffled nervously forward, and right around the corner a huge animal, was it animal? advanced with courage towards him. Reidel could not move a muscle; he sat staring, unbelieving, as this thing prepared to strike his colleague.
And as each turned the corner to come face to face, Reidel jumped from his car, and fled across the street waving his arms, “Hey, hey” he shouted, and Haid’es took flight, back down the alley, through the basement opening and out of sight.
Kogler remained rooted to the spot; eyes bulging with fear, mouth drooping wide, and as he came to recognise Reidel he whispered hoarsely, “Did you.... did you... see that?”
Mich’ael Reidel nodded, unable to voice a word if he had wanted to, and helped his colleague back to his car.
*** *** ***
The following day the newspapers were full of it. “Good God,” Father buried his face into his hands, then lifting it again to look across at Devin and Gerry, “Tell me this isn’t Vincent?”
Gerry leaned across and took his hands in hers, “I did tell you, the way it would affect him, I’m sorry you were unable to grasp my words, Father, this is a terrible shock for you.”
“But this, this thing is a monster, there is nothing about it that resembles Vincent in any way, save for the fact that the back legs are longer than the front, more like a man walking on hands and feet really.”
“Because that is what it is, Father. Obviously Vincent is trying to break back through, perhaps his transition is complete, there may be no need for me to go to him if this is so.”
“No need! There is every need, more so now. Why, within the next few hours the whole place will be swarming with reporters, zoologists and the like, we have to find him before they do. You must still go down there.”
“ I shall have to go too Father,” Devin spoke up, gravely, then pulling the newspaper over to his side of the table, pointed out a photograph to Geraldine.
“Gerry look at this,” he said pointing to the picture of the stage when the unknown man came face to face with the beast.
Geraldine gasped, “It’s Kogler”, she said, “there is no mistake.”
“Kogler? You mean the man you escaped from in Austria?” Father enquired.
“Yes, none other. And if he is here, none of us are safe. I would not have allowed it before, but now I insist that you allow Devin to come down there with me, its a pity Catherine wasn’t indisposed, she would have been a great help too, so instead I propose that Mama comes with us in her place.”
“Marie! No she would never make the journey, it is too far, and very difficult, I cannot allow this.”
“You have neither the right to say yes or no, to what Mama and I wish to undertake, this is my brother we are talking of here, Marie’s son, and if she is prepared to make the journey, then she will come with us.”
Defeated, Father bowed his head, “I do apologise Gerry, I did not mean to offend you. Forgive me, put it down to too many years of governing everyone and them allowing this silly old fool to get away with it. However, please humour me Gerry, and not allow your mother to undergo this perilous journey. Believe me these tunnels can be so tiring when one is older.”
Gerry patted his hand, apology accepted, “I’ll put it to Mama, and she can make the choice, don’t worry I’ll tell her of your fears too.”
But Marie was adamant that she should accompany Devin and Geraldine down to the core of the earth, in search of her son. For though she had not seen the newspaper, she knew in her heart that Vincent needed help, and she wasn’t about to sit by and let others go without her. Too many times in the past she had been unable to help when he would have needed her, she was not going to allow that to happen again, not now that she was so close to him.
And so it was a troubled Father that watched as the three set out upon their journey, hugging each one in turn, showing more affection for Devin, almost unable to let him go. Gently, Devin untangled the fingers that grasped his arm, and tried to make light of the situation, “Father, please, why are you so afraid, this is Vincent we are talking about, have we not brought him back on every occasion before?”
Father smiled weakly at his son, trying to look serene, “Yes Devin, it is only Vincent, I am again being a silly old man to think such dreadful thoughts, nonetheless Devin hurry home, and keep the old man happy, eh, use the pipes whenever you can to relay a message.”
Devin embraced his father tightly, “I love you dad”, he said, then before Father could see the tear that Devin brushed hurriedly away, Devin had turned and walked out through the chamber to join his wife and her mother.
*** *** ***
“Not a very good likeness of you Hans.” Mich’ael placed the newspaper into his colleague’s hands, “Still under the circumstances, who would expect it to be?”
Johannes Kogler took up the paper nervously, “If I live to be a hundred, I will never, never forget those eyes.” he shuddered, “I can tell you Mich’ael, that definitely was not Geraldine.”
“Nor Marie, Hans, I have never seen anything like it in my life. You didn’t see all that I did, why the brute was more lion than man, what Ignatz would have given to see it.”
“Yes, that’s something I have been meaning to ask you. What were you doing there last night?”
“The same as you I guess. I saw the report in the newspaper, decided that last night the beast would need to feed and went along there, every time I rang your room the line was engaged,” he lied, for he had not tried calling Kogler at all.
“Then you must have tried calling me at the same time as I tried your number. I was practically trying all day.”
‘I know’ thought Mich’ael, ‘I was there, the phone sent me half-mad.’
“It was as well Hans, that we were both of the same mind, for your sake anyway.”
“Yes, thank you, I believe you saved my life.” Mich’ael was incredulous, that was the only time he had ever heard Kogler thank him for anything, but then this really was something else.
“So, what are we to do from here. I expect the whole place will be sealed off by now, do you think there could be another way in?”
Hans Kogler just stared at his colleague. “I take it you are making another attempt, aren’t you?” Mich’ael asked him.
“Well no, I wouldn’t Hans, but you know as well as I, that you are the one that is hell bent on pursuing this more than I am, I just thought you would be wanting to do so that’s all.”
“But its not Geradine, is it. Unless she is there too of course, do you think she may be?”
“With that thing, hardly! Even Geraldine would be no match”.
“My thoughts exactly. Still, we mustn’t forget that obviously what we both saw was the original lost beast that we have searched for, for years, our only problem would be getting to him before anyone else, and as they probably know the area better, what chance do we have Mich’ael?”
“So what about my idea of another way in, do you think its possible?”
“I’ve been thinking about that. The report yesterday showed that the basement leads into some underground tunnels that link up and run the length of New York, even beyond, and I think perhaps we could get some maps of the underground system, and find another way in. We would need to be well prepared, in case we got lost, and we probably shall, but it’s all for a good cause, and in a funny kind of way it could be exciting.”
“Hmm, I can think of better things to excite me Hans, but if you are sure, I am game to try this. The only thing is, being on his territory so to speak, we are somewhat at a disadvantage, and loath as I am to say it, we really ought to take some firearms to protect ourselves.”
“Yes, we should, and a video camera, for if we come out of this alive, I want to make certain people believe us.”
“So first things first then, let’s see where we can lay our hands on those drainage system maps and get moving shall we Hans?”
Going into the drainage system proved harder than either Kogler or Reidel had imagined. Armed with the maps, the packs, the camera and the guns, they had been annoyed at how many of the entrances were sealed thoroughly from the inside, with no way of finding an opening. And they had to trudge right around the city before they found a convenient entrance that seemed to have been derelict for centuries, before they found a way into the dark and smelly tunnel.
“I shall have to tie something around my nose and mouth, before we go any further Hans, the stench is killing me.”
“Me also, someone must have been dumping toxins down here, my eyes smart too. Perhaps that’s it, this beast could be the victim of mutation caused by toxic gases.”
“I think you have been reading too much science fiction Hans.”
“Actually no, do you know where I got that from Mich’ael?”
“No, but I have a feeling you are about to tell me.” Kogler looked sharply at Mich’ael, sometimes the man was hard to fathom. They tolerated one another that was true, but these last few days they had become united in a mission, and the sarcasm that Mich’ael had usually used with him, had dissipated.
“I actually got it from one of those darn assignments that Ignatz set for Wells, it was from one of his answers.”
“That’s interesting, can you remember much else of his answer?”
“Yes, it’s actually coming back to me now. In the main he was talking about the toxins that have been dumped into earth’s rivers thus polluting the water and killing the fish both in rivers and oceans, but he also spoke of the toxins that were washed off the roads into drainage systems. He made a very detailed sketch of the various tunnels the toxins could pass through and how far they could go, even as deep as subterranean. Now doesn’t that sound interesting to you?”
“Maybe. As I remember it, all of Well’s answers were remarkable. He impressed Ignatz greatly. You, I think, are just sliding him into a slot now to fit a purpose, just because the guy knew a lot about underground systems, doesn’t mean he makes a habit of going down them.”
“Maybe not, but still, it is funny don’t you think. Look weigh it up in your mind. Forget the, what ifs, just see things as they are. These two Americans come out of nowhere, befriend Marie, as if they have seen her kind before, somehow, somehow, convince Geraldine to go with them, without her injuring them, I assume anyway, and bring them both to New York. Where miraculously for the first time this amazing beast is sighted. And dead dogs are found all over the place. I don’t know Mich’ael, to me there has to be a connection, don’t you think?”
“Or an amazing coincidence Hans. We also have no proof that, one, Wells and Chandler came to New York, even though that’s where they obviously live, and two, that if they did, that they brought Marie and Geraldine here with them. All we can do is tackle the task in hand, and see if we learn anything further along the way.”
“Mmm, especially as the elusive Ms. Chandler seems to have vanished off the face of the earth, Wells too, come to that. The enquiries we made drew a blank every time. It certainly is well worth speculation, and not only that, its that feeling you get, you know the one in your bones that tells you instantly that something is right or wrong, depending on what the case may be. Ever since we arrived in America I have had that feeling. How about you Mich’ael?”
“Yes, I have had that feeling also. I think had I not, I would have given up this fruitless search weeks ago. There certainly is something, it can’t be seen, but it can be felt, like you say, in the bones, and I’m going with intuition.”
“Good, let’s get moving then shall we, it’s so cold down here, the faster we walk, the warmer we will be.”
Walking along in, strangely for them, companionable silence, they were grateful for the huge flashlights that they had purchased, which had cost a fortune but were well worth it. The wide beams encircled the complete tunnel and shone a long, long way ahead. The tunnel walls were green with slime, edging upwards to a dusty parchment about waist high. Overhead, the tunnel ceiling was smooth, and for a time covered in graffiti, until they had walked about a quarter of a mile when the crude artwork tapered off and came to an end. “Looks like no-one but us, has ever ventured further than here, Mich’ael.” Kogler remarked shining his torch upward to view the end of the tapestry of spray can art.
“At least those that have, obviously found their way out again, since we haven’t stumbled across any skeletons.”
“Perhaps the beast has crunched them up though, Mich’ael.”
Mich’ael shivered, “ I never thought of that, do you honestly believe that he comes this way then?”
“If he has, then not recently, I have been watching for tracks, there have been none, though having said that...” Kogler turned around and shone the beam back the way they had come. “Look, even our own have disappeared in the grime already. So I can’t rely on that theory can I?”
Walking on, they noticed that the tunnel grew damper. It was felt in the air, and could be seen with the flashlight that the walls were indeed very wet, as was the floor. “Its eerie here isn’t it, Mich’ael?”
“Have you got the map ready, Hans, look the tunnel forks here, which way should we go now, do you think?” Mich’ael deliberately changed the subject. It was indeed eerie and cold like the grave.
“Let me see, I marked it off before we left. Right now we should be turning left. Here I brought some chalk; I’ll make an arrow here, pointing to the way back, and call this section number one. If we do this at every section, we shouldn’t get too lost, if at all. As far as the map goes, we should be entering some chambers a few miles up, through which run some subterranean rivers, we can stop there to rest.”
“What do you call a few miles. I know you, Hans?”
Kogler half smiled, “Fivish, maybe six, it shouldn’t take us more than a couple of hours Mich’ael”.
“Assuming its flat all the way?”
It wasn’t. It soon became apparent by the strain to the calves that they were making a gradual ascent, and their breathing was laboured, from want of fresh air.
“I have to rest Mich’ael. It’s no good.... I never realised... how unfit I was ‘till now.” Kogler leaned against the tunnel wall, and closed his eyes, there was no-where to sit, for the floor was still slimy, Kogler marvelled at that, “these tunnels must leak... from above Mich’ael, or the walls... and floor would.... certainly be.... dry as in.. the first.... length...of tunnel.” he said breathlessly.
“We should have carried a mile’ometre with us Hans, we have no way of knowing how far we have come. Give me the chalk, I’ll write on this piece of wall, First Resting Place, that way we will know how long it takes from point to point.”
“Good idea, Mich’ael.”
Resting quietly the two men leaned against the tunnel wall, and turned off the flashlights. “No, use wasting the batteries.” Mich’ael had said, “We know where we are.”
In the total darkness, with only the sound of breathing from one another for company, the two men, could not tell if their own eyes were open or closed, so dense was the blackness.
“This is how it must be to be dead.” Mich’ael spoke as if to himself.
“Do you not believe in an afterlife then, Mich’ael?”
“No.” came the simple answer.
“Why is that, I thought you were religious?”
“So then tell me, why do you not believe?”
“Because the Bible does not teach it.”
“Surely it does?”
“Then where do we go after death?”
“No-where, except to the grave of course.”
“What the good as well as the bad?”
“God is not partial Hans, neither does he delight in everlasting torture, or any torture.”
“So when we are dead, that is it, nothing, finito?”
“Yes. For the living are conscious that they will die, but as for the dead they are conscious of nothing at all.”
“Was that from the Bible?”
“Yes, Ecclesiastes Ch 9 v 5.”
“That you can quote it and know from where just like that.”
“Some scriptures are easy to remember, some I have made a mental note of for I use them often, others come with little rhymes that help me remember.”
“Such as, when in a fix, remember Proverbs 3 verse 5 and 6.”
“And what does that say?”
“I’ll tell you later, listen can you hear anything?”
Kogler listened. Somewhere, far away, just very faintly could be heard the sound of gentle tapping.
“Sounds like a form of Morse code.” Kogler replied, straining his ears to hear.
“Yes, forgive me if my conversation back then was a little stunted, but I kept hearing that sound, and thought exactly the same thing, it does sound like some sort of code, but I have been unable to make any sense out of it.”
Turning on the flashlights, Kogler and Reidel ventured further into the underground world, hearing intent on that sound. Where was it coming from?
“Maybe its an airlock in a pipe do you think Mich’ael?”
“At first I thought so, but not now. Not unless airlocks answer one another. Listen, every time the closest tapping is raised, there comes an answering one further afield.”
“Could be an echo, Mich’ael.”
“No, the sound is different every time, it is not an echo, I believe its a message. If only I could understand it.”
“If then it is a message, who would be sending and receiving it, do you think the sound is coming from below ground or above?”
“That I can’t be sure of, but for a certainty, it is an unusual way to converse above ground surely?”
“Beasts can’t tap out messages to one another can they?”
“Who knows. When the beast is half human, Hans, who knows what they are capable of?”
Kogler shuddered. Since his confrontation with the beast a few days ago, his mental faculties seemed to have gone from bad to worse. His usual challenging, dictatorship disposition had crumpled, and he felt as if he had a split personality. One moment courageous and forthright, the next a slithering, gibbering wreck.
It was because he had seen those eyes. Though dark in the alley, the eyes had shone with a malice and a light of their own, deep sapphire blue, like nothing he had ever seen before, save for a wolf that was.
Thinking about that, he stopped dead. “Perhaps it was a werewolf!”
“What was?” Mich’ael unable to fathom the line of his colleague’s thinking, was surprised.
“In the alley that night. Its eyes, they were deep blue, like a young wolf, I have never seen eyes like that before, except on a young wolf of course.”
“You my friend, really have been reading too much science fiction whatever you say to the contrary, and by that statement, I would say you have listened to too much Austrian folklore also. Werewolf indeed!”
“Well it was just a thought, no need to bite my head off.”
“That’s an apt remark, Hans, bearing in mind our situation. Listen, there’s that tapping again, I am certain it is growing louder the further we go, and hey, just a minute, isn’t that light I can see ahead. Turn off the flashlights?”
It was so, once the flashlights were off, the darkness was not all consuming as before it had been, for far ahead a tiny pinprick of light flickered on and off.
“Another flashlight do you think, Mich’ael?”
“No, I believe it is candlelight. See how it dances. Come let us get closer.”
Leaving their own lights turned off, and keeping their gaze resting upon the pinprick of light, they were eventually rewarded, not only in finding it was indeed a burning candle, but also that it burnt brightly among many others in a large chamber through which run a warm river. There were even steps leading down from where they stood to the cavern floor some thirty feet below.
“Who would have put them here?” Han’s indicated the candles, turning around and around in wonder to view them all.
“Ask me another. Obviously someone who frequents here often, for the candles are fresh, and see the wax that lies upon the floor has created quite a pile, these candles are replaced periodically.”
“You mean someone actually lives down here, but that’s crazy, the beast lives down here too, god, Mich’ael the more I see the more I don’t want to see. I wish we could go back.”
“You can go back if you like. It is a straight run after all, no turn off’s, except at Point One, and you would easily find that, plus it will be a downward path, if you really feel uneasy about this, I don’t mind if you want to go back.” Secretly Mich’ael hoped that he would.
“Yes, but I will be staying of course.”
“What, and continue alone?”
“You forget Hans, I am religious remember, I am never truly alone.”
“Then may God go with you Mich’ael for I find that I cannot. This...” and he gestured all around him, “gives me the creeps, more than the darkness back there ever did.”
“Okay. But first you must rest, eat and drink. That river looks inviting too, don’t you think, perhaps you would benefit from a wash in it, I know I intend to do.”
“Do you really think I will get back all right by myself, Mich’ael?”
“Yes, I do. Look I know what you are thinking, and you needn’t worry, it will still be daylight above, and so you can rest assured that the beast did not enter after us. And that right hand fork, well you said yourself its a dead end, so there won’t be any problem, will there?”
“Unless the beast is hiding in that right hand fork?”
“Why would he, if it’s a dead end, he would never go anywhere where he may be trapped.”
“No, you’re right I am just putting obstacles where there are none, I’ll be okay, what could possibly happen to me after all?”
“At the least nothing, at the worst, your flashlight could go out, but then its an almost straight run, and you will see the daylight snaking through towards the last half mile, you’ll be all right, Hans.”
Re-assured, Kogler ate his meal, washed and prepared to leave, “When shall I see you Mich’ael, will you contact my hotel?”
“Don’t worry about me Hans, I’ll be fine, its well lit here, probably will be the rest of the way, wherever that is, and yes when I return I’ll call you at your hotel.”
“I hate leaving you by yourself, Mich’ael.”
“Do you seriously want another run in with that beast then?”
Kogler shuddered, “No. I cannot believe how he has got to me, perhaps if I saw him under the light, I’d feel differently, but if the tunnels do come dark again, and I change my mind, it wouldn’t be so easy for me to turn back.”
“Exactly. So, make up your mind then as I want to press on. Are you going on, or going back?”
Kogler thought about it, taking his time, reasoning this way and that. Finally he said positively, “I’m going back, I’ll see you when I see you.”
“Yes, and look, don’t worry.”
“No, Bye then.”
However, all Kogler’s bravery subsided, as once again he stepped into the eerie tunnel. Chiding himself for acting like a child, he put one foot in front of the other, and continued the descent, swinging the beam of the torch this way and that, concentrating on the part of the tunnel furthest away from the light. And reaching it safely, thus setting little milestones for himself.
He felt he had walked for a couple of hours when he reached the arrow that he had drawn on the tunnel wall indicating the left and right forks. ‘Funny’, he thought to himself, ‘I didn’t even spot the place where Mich’ael had written first resting place, yet I must have gone right past it.’ ‘No matter’ he thought, ‘It wasn’t important, and I’ve arrived here sooner than expected, just another half mile to go now.’
Turning into the straight run, he was comforted by the pinprick of light ahead, and walked onwards faster.
As the light became closer, he thought he heard voices, and stopped to listen.
Sure enough someone was outside the tunnel, two, perhaps three people, though he could not hear their words Straining to listen, their voices were suddenly drowned out by the rumble of a noise that sounded very much like an articulated lorry. Followed by a deafening grating sound, and before his very eyes the opening to the tunnel grew smaller and smaller and the light slowly shut off. Shouting out, Kogler ran forward, and reached the now blocked off entrance just in time to hear the lorry start up and drive away. No one heard his cries for help.
*** *** ***
“T hat’s them all covered Sir.”
“What every last one of them, are you sure?”
“We have had men out all day, Sir, all over the city and interstate. All the entrances that weren’t already sealed have been done, and those already in place have been checked for security.”
“Good. And the only one left open?”
“Just as you wanted, Sir, the one breaking out into Dead Men’s Alley.”
“And that’s the one where he was seen?”
“That is correct Sir.”
“Good. Now all we have to do is sit and wait, he has to come out eventually for food. I’ll have the marksmen in place by tonight.”
“Have the public been made aware Sir?”
“ What’s left of them, yes.” The President of the United States had flown in to New York, cutting short his holiday in the South of France, he was annoyed to think that the story of the beast had leaked out before he had a chance to decide how to handle it. “Its public outcry out there. We should have maintained maximum security on this, however the lid came off I do not know. The airport is packed with people flying out, and few are coming in, and the roads, well you ought to see them, chock a’block with traffic, you can’t move out there, and the subways the same, jammed solid. No-body wants to be in New York right now. Since the publics have started keeping their domestic animals inside, it’s become common knowledge that the vagrants and hookers will be next. I have had it on all the bulletins of our intention for tonight and every night until we have shot and killed the beast. Those that can’t leave for one reason or another, have stock piled their food and will be glued to their sets, I can tell you, until they hear from me further, with some good news.”
*** *** ***
Kogler had no choice but to backtrack. He was weary, having walked around thirteen miles all told, and now he wanted to run to get back to where he had left Mich’ael and hoped that he could catch up with him.
The tunnel had now become familiar to him, and he felt more at ease, so as he hurried he looked about him more, and wondered about things.
The wet walls interested him. Why were they wet so deep into the ground? They were after all unused drainage tunnels, and should have been dry. Casting the beam of light overhead, he was surprised to find tiny droplets of water suspended upon the tunnel ceiling, and without really thinking about it, he turned the flashlight around to prod the roof here and there with the handle, basically to see if it sounded hollow or solid.
Blinded by the glare of the flashlight, Kogler, gasped as he felt rather than saw a light trickle of water run over his fingers and cascade down his arm, followed by a surge of cold water that completely covered him. A loud creaking sound signalled the start of a large crack that appeared overhead and spread quickly the length of the tunnel ceiling. Water dripped, oozed and cascaded as it seeped through the widening crack, until suddenly with a thunderous noise the entire ceiling caved in before his very eyes! Kogler leapt backwards as the walls crumbled and fell inwards into the tunnel, the bricks splashing into the now knee-deep water and Kogler scrambled over the debris, in a bid to escape. Confused and frightened he rushed into the right hand fork by mistake and watched in horror as the entire entrance became blocked within a split second. A rock caught the flashlight spinning it from his grasp, to smash on the floor, and as the light ebbed and died, Kogler found himself in complete darkness once again. The sound of falling rocks deafened him, and the air became choked with dust, as the water continued to rise around him. Petrified, Kogler’s only thought was to run. Turning and stumbling in the darkness he tripped and fell headlong up a flight of steps. Confused, he wondered why they were there; he had not noticed them before. Then as his mind made a mental calculation he realised he had gone into the right hand fork when he had run, instead of the left. Horrified, he groped ahead. There were five steps, and then the tunnel went into a straight run again. Getting to his feet, he climbed the steps, and walked with one arm outstretched in front, and the other arm outstretched at the side, following the line of the tunnel wall. In the total darkness, he picked his way carefully, the floor here was dry, at least that was in his favour, but where did it lead? The map had shown a dead end, but was it really?
In answer to his thoughts, his arm suddenly reached the end of the tunnel. Fingers scraping along the wall, he found there was no way around it. Slipping to the ground he refused to believe what his mind cried out, he was trapped! Mich’ael’s words came back to haunt him, “This must be what it feels like to be dead. No!” he screamed, “No!”
*** *** ***
Mich’ael had watched Kogler’s receding back with some trepidation. He didn’t really want to continue by himself, but knowing Kogler’s intentions, to shoot first and ask questions later, he had not wanted this either. Besides, somewhere, he was certain in this tunnelled underworld, he would find Marie and Geraldine, and Kogler had made it plain that he wanted them dead. So then, if he could evade the beast, and find them first, then they would stand a better chance if he could warn them about Kogler’s intentions.
He stayed for some time in the brightly-lit chamber. It was restful there, and he allowed time for Kogler to change his mind and return if he wanted to do. After a few hours, he felt satisfied that his colleague had indeed gone back out, and so gathering his pack, the camera and flashlight, and putting the gun where it was easily accessible, he made to move onwards. Finding a lighted tunnel, Mich’ael followed it, noticing as he did so that the sound of tapping grew not only louder but more rapid. He accepted that it was a message, and that someone was announcing his arrival. He could only wonder now as to who or what did so.
Suddenly a movement caught his eye and he froze. A tiny Negro woman stepped into view, wrapped from head to foot in a long cloak, that shielded her face. He guessed she was old, by her stature, and by the cane that she leaned upon, but what surprised him the most was that she knew who he was, when she said, “Welcome Mr. Reidel, I have been expecting you.”
“How do you know who I am? Who are you?”
“My name is Narsissa.” she replied, deliberately evading his first question. “Where is your colleague?”
“Kogler? He went back to the hotel. Is it you who have been tapping out those messages?”
“Yes. I cannot allow you to go any further; someone will come down to meet you. Until they do, come talk to me, tell me what it is you are doing here.”
“If you know my name old woman, then you know what it is I seek.”
“And are they here?”
“Don’t play games with me old woman, you know who.” Mich’ael found the woman got under his skin, she was different, strange somehow, and he could tell that she was almost blind.
She unnerved him as she read his thoughts, “I’m not so blind that I cannot see, Mr. Reidel, you come here searching for the foreign women, those that speak with your own tongue.”
“Yes, I do, so you do know them, are they here?” he asked her again.
“That is not for me to say. Listen the pipes are talking, I must answer them. Wait here.”
As Narcissa tapped back the message, Mich’ael watched her nervously. Though she had turned away, he felt she was still looking at him. It felt creepy.
Narcissa turned to him once more, “Devin will be here soon, he will decide what to do with you.”
“Devin! Devin Wells?”
“Arh yes, but you two know each other, then you will not need me to do the introductions.” Her laughter, like a witch’s cackle, nearly made him lose hold of his faculties, and that she knew this, made her laugh even harder. “I shall leave you now Mr. Reidel, wait here, Devin is not too far away.” And with that she was gone, merged into the shadows, like an apparition, leaving Mich’ael Reidel shivering uncontrollably.
*** *** ***
“Who is like the wild beast, and who can do battle with it?”
(Revelation 13 v 4)
“Please let me see the monitor, Peter, please.” Catherine begged. It had been three weeks since the embryo’s had been taken from the fallopian tube and transplanted within the uterus, three long weeks in which Catherine had obeyed her doctor and not got out of bed, not even to use the toilet.
It had been such an embarrassment to have to use a bedpan, and succumb to a bed-wash, and Catherine could have screamed with frustration at the boredom. Few of her friend’s could visit her, unknowing of her present state, and those that knew, were indisposed, the only visitor she had was Jamie, who on occasion had sneaked Jacob in to see her.
“Be patient Cathy, I can’t let you see, until I know there is something to look at.”
“What do you mean Peter, I haven’t had any bleeding, surely that means the babies are safe.”
“Not necessarily, Cathy. They were so tiny, they could have passed through you, without your ever knowing.”
“Nonsense Peter, I feel pregnant, they have to be all right.”
Placing a big blob of cold gel onto Catherine’s midriff, Peter chuckled when she flinched, “Well we will soon know Cathy,” he told her as he placed the receiver upon the gel and moved it around.
Peter’s anxious face, creased into a smile, as the monitor showed up movement inside Catherine’s womb, “Well, Cathy, we do have something, look.” he turned the monitor towards her so she could see, “There, and there, and there, little hearts beating do you see them?”
“Yes.” Catherine whispered, as a great well of love gushed over her, ‘Three babies, Vincent’s babies’, she thought to herself, then cried aloud, “But Peter, there were five.”
“Yes, Catherine, there were, only I am afraid we lost one, during the operation, and it would appear that another has died since.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because, I didn’t want you grieving, and your unhappiness transmitting itself through to these others. They know and they respond to their mother’s feelings.”
“How did you come to lose one during the operation?”
Peter turned his eyes from her, what could he say, “It happens Cathy.”
“It happens!” she flared at him, “It happens! Peter this is a life we are talking about, somebody’s life, how could you have been so careless?” Tears filled her eyes, and threatened to overflow, “I will wonder about that life for the duration of my own.” She told him, sadly.
“I’m sorry Cathy, I don’t want to go into details, but believe me we really did try to save it.”
“Just how much, Peter. I wonder, did you think oh, Cathy could never handle five babies, so I’ll relieve her of one or two, she’ll not notice when she has her hands full, in fact she would probably thank me!”
“CATHY! How can you think me so callous, I would never, never take a life like that.”
“But you would have terminated the life of all five, if I had not of insisted you try to save them.”
Peter bowed his head, “Yes, that is true, but believe me Cathy, when we operated, we had every intention of transplanting all five, because it was likely that some would die, if not all, and the more we started with the more we might end up with. Believe me Cathy, it’s not how you think.”
“Then how, how, did it die, tell me Peter.”
“Your knowing would not bring it back, Cathy.”
“Nonetheless I have to know.” Catherine was feeling guilty, remembering that tiny little voice that had told her the babies would be better off dead, she wondered if subconsciously she had caused the two to die.
“I’m sorry Catherine, I don’t believe you should know. There are some things best left unsaid. In time you will forget, whereas if you knew, it could haunt you all your days. I only have your interests at heart, and surely Cathy, the life of the remaining three, is worth more consideration than those that have gone.”
“All right Peter, you win. What chance do these three have, are they okay?” Resigning herself to the loss, Catherine let the matter drop, he was right; knowing would not bring them back.
“Three hearts are beating Cathy, that’s always a good sign, but we must keep a close check on you over the next week, and then see about getting you Below.”
“Does that mean I will be able to walk about.”
“Perhaps, but not too often, when I said you would need complete rest I wasn’t joking Cathy.”
“I won’t be going far, Peter. Without Vincent what will there be for me to do? I’ll probably stay in Vincent’s old chamber, then I can be close to Father, there are too many memories in the chamber Vincent and I shared.”
“Then you will be in a great position to play chess with Father frequently.” He told her smiling wickedly.
“That would send me mad.”
Peter laughed at her answer, knowing that she didn’t mean it, no matter what a good chess player Jacob was, no one ever tired of trying to beat him. Looking at Cathy, she looked so serene, but there was something he had to tell her now that might change all that. Taking stock of himself, he began gently, “Cathy there may be something that you do not know as yet.”
“Since the newspaper report about that, that thing they discovered, which I refuse to believe is Vincent, no matter what they believe Below, the president of The United States, has had all the entrances to drainage tunnels right across the city and interstate closed off. Save for the one that comes out into Dead Men’s Alley. The idea being of course to flush the thing out. I hope to god it isn’t Vincent because they intend to kill it. They have marksmen in place even as we speak.”
“I’m sorry to have to tell you this Cathy, but I am so afraid that once Below, you will do anything you can to find Vincent, and I cannot allow you to undertake that.”
“But Peter, someone has to go.”
“And they have, Father sent word, that Devin, Gerry and Marie have gone down there, with the intention of bringing Vincent back, unfortunately they left before they heard of the President’s intentions.”
“But that’s terrible Peter, they could so easily find themselves trapped. Peter, what are we to do?”
“Father has sent a search party down after Devin and the others, but there is something else.”
“I only heard this an hour ago, Pascal has had a message from Narcissa that a man named Reidel is in the tunnels, and I believe he is one of the three scientists that you and Devin met in Austria?”
Catherine’s eyes widened in disbelief, how many more shocks would she receive that day?
“Yes, thankfully Reidel is one of the nicer of the three, though I wonder where Kogler is?”
“The other guy?”
“Yes, believe me Peter, where there is one, the other won’t be far away. God Peter, its such a mess, and you tell me not to get involved! How can I not.”
“Cathy, I didn’t want to worry you with this thing. But Father tells me that you may be the only one who can lie in your bed and yet help the most. Cathy you have to work on this empathic Bond you and Vincent share. It may be the only way of bringing Vincent back. Cathy I am going to have you brought everything you need for the day into this room, and ask that you aren’t disturbed until evening, allowing you time to meditate with all your might, to bring Vincent home. Do you think you can do it?”
“I can try. Already I think I have made some progress. Being by myself all day will afford me better opportunity to concentrate. Thank you Peter.”
“Good girl. Now don’t fret anymore about the lost babies, nor the living, for nothing you can do will change things. Instead Cathy, try to reach Vincent, and try to do it before nightfall.”
Sensing the implications of that final word, Catherine shuddered, “Yes Peter, I’ll do my very best.”
*** *** ***
Marie was tired, and partly wishing she had not insisted on making the trip, “How much.... further?” She puffed.
Devin turned anxious eyes to her, “ Marie, you should rest. Gerry,” he called, “Your mother needs to rest, come back and wait for her.”
Gerry returned to her mother, her eyes resting upon the trembling frame, “Mama, you should go back, this quest is not for you, I am sorry I should never have assumed so.”
Marie nodded, “It is...too..much.” She agreed.
Taking a deep breath, Gerry looked at Devin, “My love, loath as I am to say it, I think you should take Mama back. Just point me in the right direction, and I will go to where my brother is by myself.”
“No, Gerry, I cannot let you. The way is too perilous; you could get lost, or fall down a shaft. I have to come with you. Look I have another idea. About a half-mile back we passed some of the pipe systems, if I were to go back while you and your mother wait here, I can put out a message for someone to come to take Marie home, what do you think to that?”
Gerry nodded, “Okay, but go now, I don’t want to waste anymore time than is necessary.”
Leaving the two behind, Devin set off back along the sandy tunnels. They were dark, but he carried a small lantern that lit the way. Though he had travelled them dozens of times in the past, he shivered; he had never once travelled them alone. ‘Could do with some of Elizabeth’s cheerful paintings down here’ he thought to himself, ‘ I must mention the idea to her.’ then he thought about the holiday he and Gerry had just returned from, ‘What I’d give to be back on that island right now.’ He told himself wistfully.
Thinking about the idyllic setting of the island cheered him they'd had such fun. He longed for the following year when they could go again. Trying not to think about whom would be there at that time, he let his mind drift back to the time they had just shared at the island, staying on a boat moored off of the bay. Every morning he and Gerry had played this stupid game of catching a fish for breakfast. The winner had to push the loser overboard, but they had to catch them first. Smiling as he remembered he had usually been the one to be tossed over by Gerry, he allowed his mind to rest upon the few occasions that he had been the victorious winner, and how furious Gerry had been when she had re-surfaced dripping wet from the ocean. He would tease her mercilessly, “And I was under the impression that tiger’s loved water.” Gerry would spring at him and in mock anger pretend to flay him with her claws, to which he would dart off with her in hot pursuit. The game always ended the same with both of them falling overboard, swimming to the beach and making tender love on the warm sand.
Devin sighed, how he loved his wife. Her beauty and her warmth. In his eyes she was stunning. His mind turned to the situation in hand, could she really turn herself into a real woman, with all the features of a real woman, did he really want her to? The world was full of real men and women. Vincent and Gerry were special with their looks and their compassion due to those looks, would being fully human change them?
He didn’t like to think of it. If it were important to Vincent and Gerry to be completely human, did he have the right to try to change their way of thinking? How was it to be a human misfit? He knew what it meant. To have to hide away from the rest of mankind. To never be able to do all the things that the rest took for granted. Look how it had been for Vincent, for Charles, and now for Gerry. Did he have the right to prevent them having the choice?
Thinking about what Vincent had become though, did he have the right not to stop Gerry from turning into something like that?
He finally reached the pipes, and tapped his message. He was totally unprepared for the reply.
Narcissa had sent word to Father that Reidel was with her down in her chambers, she was asking for someone to come and collect him, since all the tunnel entrances across the city had been closed off by decree of the president. Father tapped back to Devin that as he knew the man and as Devin was closest to Narcissa it should be he that brought him to Father’s chambers, where the council would be waiting to meet him. Devin agreed to do so, and told him, he would be bringing Marie back with him also.
Making the return trip back to his wife and her mother, Devin practically ran all the way.
Out of breath he tried to fill them in. “Reidel....” He puffed. “Here... with Narcissa... have to take him... back to chambers.... all entrances closed off by the government...they're trying to capture Vincent,” he went on catching his breath, “Gerry, there are marksmen waiting for Vincent to appear, they plan to kill him.”
“Then I must hurry, Devin. Mama, you wait here and rest, Devin and I will make the journey to Narcissa, and Devin will collect you on their return trip. Devin perhaps Narcissa can show me the way to where Vincent has gone?”
“Yes, she will be able to do, no-one knows these tunnels like Narcissa, but she won’t be able to move as fast as you Gerry, that will be your only drawback.”
“And time is the element Devin. Look don’t worry about me. You think I do not know when an area affords trouble, I have sixth sense about these things Devin if the ground were unsafe I would know ahead of time, and if Narcissa cannot keep the pace, I will go on alone. But please do not worry about me, and do not, above all come looking for me. If I do allow myself to transform, I won’t know you, and your life will be at risk. Promise me, you won’t come after me down there.”
Reluctantly Devin promised. Suddenly his future, their future looked ominous.
*** *** ***
He didn’t know how long he had sat there feeling sorry for himself. The darkness engulfed him. He could have been dead, save for the rise and fall of his chest, the only indication of his shallow breathing.
Johannes Kogler was stiff and cold, but alive.
‘How long will I be here?’ he thought to himself. Remembering the huge breakfast he had eaten before leaving, and knowing he had a day’s supply of water and a day’s supply of food in his pack, he could perhaps ration it out, and last three days, a week at a push. Would Reidel come looking for him? Would he come back this way, see the caved in tunnel, and know his colleague could be trapped. Or would he continue underground and go out another way. Come back to the tunnel entrance and seeing it blocked, conclude that he had gone someplace else. What if, wherever Reidel went the same thing occurred to him! Oh God thought Kogler, what if no one ever tried to rescue him. How long did it take to die?
Sitting there encased in his misery, knowing that the cold could kill him before his supplies run out, Kogler became half aware of a hissing sound from time to time, from somewhere above him, and a corresponding blast of fresh air hit his hands every time. Standing up, he reached high above his head, feeling with his fingertips for the ceiling. They made contact, it was smooth and cold.
Sliding his fingers across the length he waited, until the blast of air came again, and locating the spot, found the area to be open. Standing on tiptoe, Kogler could feel a ledge, just a small one, but it was solid. At some time, this part of the ceiling had caved in too. Using his pack as a step, Kogler eased himself up higher and carefully broke away parts of the ceiling, laying them at his feet.
Piling them up, he replaced his pack around his shoulders, and used the rocks to stand upon. Feeling upwards above his head, he reached into a hole about a foot across, and found that there was another tunnel above, for he could feel the sandy floor under his fingertips.
Gently he pulled more and more of the ceiling down, and piled it higher, until satisfied that he had opened up enough, he stood onto the pile of rocks, and heaved himself up, into the tunnel above. Sliding carefully, upon his tummy, lest he caved in the floor back to the tunnel below, he moved gingerly forward, until he was content that his weight would be held, and slowly rose to a standing position. The tunnel was every bit as dark as the one he had left, but he was optimistic that it led somewhere, and followed in the direction from where the air came in. Following the tunnel with his fingers against the tunnel wall, he made his way slowly in the darkness, only hoping that he was in fact making the journey to reach the outside world, rather than deeper into the earth.
*** *** ***
All alone in her hospital room, Catherine closed her eyes and willed the Bond to break down. In her mind’s eye, she visualised a huge oak door, like the one of her chamber, that she had to prise open with a feather.
Slipping the feather into the door jam, she wiggled it up and down, up and down until the tip started to edge inside. Jubilant, she pushed it further, and watched as a tiny little crack appeared, letting in a flood of closed off emotions that she knew so well, but had long been denied her.
Since that night when he had come face to face with the man, and been scared away by another, Haid’es had hung back from going Above. Living only on scattered bones, from previous kills, he had grown weak and could no longer make the journey Above as quickly as before. That and the fact that now tangible fingers that plucked at his core seemed to hold him back. The man had gone back to rest now, frightened by that night, had resumed his rest, and allowed Haid’es to complete his conquest. Yet Haid’es knew his time was limited, and life was not as interesting as he had dreamt it to be.
All his days he had yearned for freedom, believing that in attaining it, he could go anywhere, do anything that his ancestors had done. Instinct told him that somewhere out there was his world. A tireless savannah, filled with zebra, and elephant, giraffe and wildebeest, where a shimmering oasis through which passed a river of fresh water that was cool in the heat of the day, where he could slake his thirst and doze beneath the shade of a mighty tree. A beautiful place where being the king, he would have no need to hunt, for the lionesses would bring to him all he could eat. In his mind’s eye this unreachable perfect life which had been denied him so long would come to pass, when he eventually drew his last breath and his spirit joined those of his ancestors and together they would tread the tireless savannah together for all eternity. Haid’es sighed. At least then, at last he would be really free.
For now, the dream of all the zebra and the wildebeest only served to fuel his hunger, as the gnawing in his gut intensified, and he was compelled to go in search for something to satisfy the need.
Padding softly through the chamber, ears and eyes intent on any slight movement, Haid’es became aware again of a fleeting feeling somewhere deep within, that did not come from the man, but nonetheless roused him. Growling, Haid’es stopped to listen inwardly, to the gentle exchange, taking place therein.
“Vincent.... hear me.... it's Catherine.... Vincent respond please.... you are in danger.....”
Haid’es could not understand the language, it was the man’s language, and as such one that he did not share with him. They had a language of their own, that they used to converse with, still, Haid’es knew from the tone of the voice that it belonged to the one that the man called Catherine.
Shaking his great head, so that the ebony mane covered his glinting eyes, Haid’es roared again, louder than before, sending vibrating waves of echo around the cavern through the tunnels, to become faint ripples of menacing sound to as far as the world Above.
Catherine replaced the feather with her fingers, and forced them through that great oak door, reaching out, trying to touch Vincent within.
He was sleeping, deeply, dreamless, as though dead. Her fingers brushed lightly over his skin. In her mind’s eye, she could see him lying there, and she continued to call to him, urgently now, trying to rouse him from his slumber.
Spirit fingers caressed his body, tantalising, warm and loving. From deep within the abyss of time, Vincent stirred. Images of her flashed on and off in his mind, a face, smiling, eyes filled with need, with desire, longing for his touch. A shiver ran through the lifeless body, all the way to his fingertips, down through his feet, making his toes twitch.
Haid’es roared again. The man was awakening; he could not allow it. Laying down his great bulk, he closed his own eyes, and visualised that same oak door of the Bond, saw it was slightly ajar and forced it shut, tightly. Vincent resumed his sleeping, and Catherine was left frustrated, once again locked out.
*** *** ***
Just as Ignatz had done when confronted by Geraldine, Kogler wet himself when he heard the echo of Haid’es’ growl. He could not tell how far or how close it had originated. Frozen to the spot Kogler could only stand in his shame, with the acrid stench of urine coming to his nostrils, and tremble uncontrollably.
Padding softly forward, satisfied that she could not trouble the sleeping man further, Haid’es moved onwards. Something appealed to him. Curious, Haid’es sniffed the air. A delicious scent filled his nostrils, along with another, stronger more earthy smell.
Increasing his movements, Haid’es, body came to life with renewed vigour as he made his way towards the scent.
Kogler did not hear the footsteps, only the brushing of fur against the tunnel walls, and knew that with no-where to hide that death was imminent. Sweat dripped from his body, mingling with the damp left by his urine against his clothing. And such was his fear that tiny droplets of blood came through the pores of his skin to mingle with the sweat.
Haid’es made his descent quicker now, knowing the smell of fear and blood that filled the very air around him. It incensed him. The red mists engulfed his sight, inflamed his desire, and the hunger in his belly gnawed ever deeper, crying out to be appeased.
Suddenly an utter feeling of peace overwhelmed Kogler. In the total blackness, he felt he could see a brilliant halo of light, and momentarily for the first time in his life he believed in angels, yet it was not such, for angels saved did they not? And this one just stood by and mocked him.
Kogler could feel the warm breath, the aura of presence of the beast and still not see him, yet he could remember those eyes, and knew that they would be glinting with malice. Immediately he thought it, he heard a whistle of air somewhere to his right and knew that the sound would bring with it the weight of a paw that would fell his life, as it struck his body. Strangely enough, as Kogler felt the fur upon his skin, the trickle of warm blood, his blood, run down his side, he felt only calm, and answered Reidel’s question, with the last thought that passed fleetingly through his mind, “No Mich’ael... This, is what it is like to be dead.”
*** *** ***
Undeterred Catherine tried again. She wasn’t about to give up. Knowing it had been the dark one that had worked against her made her all the more determined to get past him and reach out to Vincent, whom she had felt, respond.
Meditating fully, she assaulted her whole body against the great oak door of the Bond, and felt it give. Triumphant, Catherine, once again searched inside with her hand and stroked the sleeping form of Vincent. The beast seemed to be otherwise occupied, Catherine could sense he had let down his guard, and she took the opportunity to grasp hold of Vincent and shake him. In her mind’s eye, she saw Vincent’s eyelids flutter, and called urgently to him. “Vincent, Vincent, wake up. There is danger, you must return home, at once, do not delay.”
At the sound of her voice, Haid’es lifted his great head and roared, shaking his body in a bid to free himself from her prising. Again he saw the Bond was open, and again he made to close it. Catherine though had heard his roar through Vincent’s conscious state, and made aware of his intentions she willed the Bond to remain open, keeping the weight of her whole body against it. In her minds eye, she visualised Father, Devin, Gerry, Marie, Pascal, Mary, all those of the tunnel world who loved Vincent, and she bade them, ‘Come help me, together we can stand firm against the dark one. Together we can open the Bond completely. Together we can reach through to Vincent.” Drawing on all the strength she could muster, she attacked zealously with all her might against the strength of Haid’es, and was thrilled when she felt him weaken. The Bond had been his, but now in her victory Catherine had gained control over it. Calling again to Vincent, her heart soared when she heard him answer her, “Catherine.”
Haid’es crumpled to the floor, his body laying over that of the partially eaten man at his feet, his heart giving out with every slowly passing beat.
Vincent could now feel the life ebbing from the dark one, and he struggled against being sucked down with its death. He couldn’t do it alone he needed help.
Ethereal fingers tugged at Catherine’s heart, and she responded by reaching out to him with all her failing strength. “Vincent, I’m here, I’m here,” she called softly to him. “Come Vincent, come back to me, you can do it, Come Vincent, come.”
Vincent mustered all his life-force together in a moment, and pushing ever upwards through the spell that bound him, he broke through, roaring in his agitation as the last of Haid’es presence was erased from him, and he felt the dark one draw his last breath.
For long moments Vincent sat in the darkened tunnel, dazed, as one coming out of a coma, feeling the need to close his eyes and sleep, yet knowing another forced him awake. Fleetingly he did not know who he was, where he was, only that he could hear a soft lilting voice he thought he recognised, coaxing him to his feet, and drawing him towards her.
Catherine wished now that someone could literally take over, for her mind and body felt totally exhausted, but as there was no one, she willed herself to keep going. One step at a time, she told herself, I have to lead him home.
*** *** ***
Mich’ael Reidel stared at the man in front of him, not knowing what to expect and was the first to break the silence. “So, Mr. Wells, we meet again.”
“Yes. This time on my home ground.”
Mich’ael shuffled nervously, though he did not know why.
“Why have you come here, Mr. Reidel?”
“You surely know the answer to that.”
“Where is Kogler?”
“He went back to the hotel.”
“That is impossible, all the entrances have been closed off by the government this very day.”
“Yet only today we entered one Mr. Wells.”
“Then maybe Kogler got out in time.”
“Maybe he did.” Yet even as he said it Mich’ael wondered whether indeed Kogler had got outside in time.
“You seem unsure Mr. Reidel.”
“That is because I am, is there anyway of finding out if he got away safe?”
“Yes, but we cannot make the enquiry down here. Follow me, it is a long way, but I shall take you to my home.”
Mich’ael followed Devin, and did not notice when they passed Geraldine hidden in the shadows standing alongside Narcissa. Geraldine’s eyes watched them go feeling her hackles rising as she gazed at Reidel.
As they walked along Devin tried to keep the conversation light, but Reidel had a lot of questions.
“Does Catherine Chandler live down here too?”
“Yes, but she is Catherine Wells now.”
“You married her?”
“No, she married my adoptive brother.”
“Will I see her?”
“No she is unwell, and is away at present.”
“Will I meet her husband?”
“No. He too is away.”
“Mr. Wells, you know why I am here, I do not really care to know about your sister-in-law.”
“I know that, Mr. Reidel.”
“Are they here?”
Mich’ael Reidel caught hold of Devin’s arm, pulling him round to face him, “Mr Wells, did you and Chandler bring Marie and Geraldine down here to live?”
Reidel, sighed. “Thank God,” he expelled a long sigh of relief.
Devin thought it a strange statement to make, and raised his eyebrows in enquiry, “You are pleased that they are here?”
“Yes, they are safe here, are they not?”
“Yes, but I wouldn’t have thought you would have cared about that.”
“Well I do. I have great affection for them, especially Marie.”
“Really, then that would answer a lot.”
“Yes, Marie has missed you.”
Mich’ael felt his heart jump, “She has? I too have missed Marie. I did not know how I felt about her until she had gone away. But alas we can have no relationship.”
“Because of what she is.”
“Nonsense Mr. Reidel. The relationship can work.”
“If only, it could, I would like nothing more.”
“It isn’t impossible, you see, I know, for I married Geraldine, and Catherine married Marie’s son.”
Mich’ael stared and stared. If the world had come to an end, he could not have been more surprised.
“He is here then. Oh surely, surely not that beast that we saw?”
“Yes and No, it is a long story Mr. Reidel, perhaps we can help one another fill in many gaps.”
Walking along in silence once again, Mich’ael was disappointed when Devin finally told him, they were stopping for a while, for he was eager to get to the place Devin called home, and told him so.
“You will be pleased of the rest I think.” Devin told him. “Come just through here there is a small chamber, there is someone waiting whom I know you will be pleased to see.”
Mich’ael followed meekly like a lamb, eyes searching the chamber as they entered and a cry of joy left his lips as his gaze fell upon Marie, who hearing their approach stood arms outstretched toward him.
“Marie” He cried joyfully, going eagerly into her embrace, “I have missed you so much.”
Devin backed away into the tunnel outside, though he was delighted that Marie and Mich’ael were together again, their re-union made him long for his wife. He was still very unsure whether Gerry was doing the right thing. Yet it was from his insistence that she undertook this thing, he knew her reluctance, and he also knew that if she were going to do it thoroughly, she would come back different. He wished he could watch her, make sure that she was safe, and know if she found Vincent safe also.
Then almost as he wished this, he felt her response flooding through him. He kept forgetting the Bond; it never ceased to amaze him and it took some getting used to. An image of her passed fleetingly through his mind and he could see her stood talking with Narcissa, no doubt the pair would talk for some time. Comforted, Devin decided it was time he re-joined the other two, and found them sat side by side, arms linked, quietly talking.
Marie looked so relaxed, as if a huge weight had lifted from her shoulders, and Devin was in no doubt about the love that would develop between these two. He was grateful for Reidel to feel this way about her; Marie desperately needed love, as did everyone.
Coughing softly, to rouse them, they turned eyes towards him, and he told them it was time to go. It was a fair walk and the council would be waiting. Along the way Devin tapped out a message to say all was well, and he was amazed when Father replied that they should all come back, as Vincent was returning and Catherine was coming Below.
*** *** ***
To be continued in Chapter Eleven – click on ‘Next’ below:
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