Chapter 4: Once Upon a Dream
The pipe repair took longer than expected and left Vincent exhausted. It was no surprise since he did the work of three men, though most of the Tunnel men would say it was ten. All he wanted was to have a bath and rest until dinner. He went to his chamber to grab clean clothes and toiletries, and then headed for the bathing chambers.
Once he arrived, Vincent set his clean clothes on a shelf and proceeded to place the dirty clothes he was wearing in the hamper. As he removed his shirt, it pulled on the leather pouch around his neck. Placing his shirt in the hamper, Vincent stared at the pouch. He sighed as he gently took the small token in his hand. It was the first anniversary present Catherine had given him. Inside held the white porcelain rose that once belonged to Catherine's mother. Vincent could still here the words Catherine spoke as she presented the precious gift to him:
"Until you came into my life, Vincent, I'd forgotten how it felt to know that there is someone thinking of me. Someone who knows who I am." Then she placed the pouch around his neck and looked deeply into his eyes. "Someone that I am connected to."
Vincent opened the pouch and let its contents slip into his hand. Along with the rose was a crystal necklace. The necklace had come from the mysterious Crystal Cavern. Vincent had gifted the necklace to Catherine on their first anniversary. He remembered the day he found it.
When he'd awaken from his illness he had forgotten the past three years of his life. Since then he regained all of his memory except for that night in the cavern where he battled his demons, and nearly lost. After Catherine's funeral, Vincent had gone back to the cave where Catherine had saved him. He had decided to return to the desolate place in hopes of triggering a memory. It was there he battled the Other once more, and nearly lost his life. However, Vincent won, and found something: there, nearly buried in the sand was Catherine's necklace.
Vincent, it's beautiful. Her words were such a bittersweet memory of that night.
Somehow Catherine had brought him back with her love. Only he could not remember how or what transpired that night.
As he placed the rose and crystal back in the pouch, a memory crossed his mind. He could still here Catherine's voice.
Another time. Don't worry.
Vincent held the leather pouch tightly in his hand. A small tear escaped and traveled down his cheek. What did you need to tell me Catherine? Vincent slipped the pouch off his neck and placed it on top of his clean clothes. It seemed now he would never know. He slammed his fist against the wall.
"I should have known!" Vincent chastised himself. "The way she spoke; her voice was troubled, her eyes spoke volumes. Yet all I could think of was the loss of our Bond." Tears freely flowed from the corners of his eyes. There was no use in grieving over it now. Catherine was gone; the Tunnel community needed him, Father needed him, and Catherine's son needed him to be strong. The boy had lost his mother, but Vincent would be there to tell him everything about her.
Thoughts swirling in his head, Vincent shed the last of his clothes and entered the bathing pools. The warm water and handmade soap washed away the day's dirt and grim, but did nothing for Vincent's aching heart. He continued to soak for a long time. He just couldn't get Catherine's last words out of his mind. He kept thinking of all the ways he could have saved her.
If only there were some way to go back in time. Maybe then I could've prevented Catherine's death. But now, I'd have to be a spirit or… Vincent jerked forward.
Yes, why didn't I think of it before? Quickly finishing his bath and dressing, Vincent headed off to the lower tunnels in search of the one person he knew could help him. Someone he should have visited after Catherine's death.
Vincent made his way down the dark tunnels. He hadn't visited Narcissa since the Winterfest when Paracelcus had tried to blow up the entire Tunnel community. It had been Catherine who saved them by figuring out which Helper Paracelcus had disguised himself as. Shaking the memory from his mind, Vincent continued to search for his old friend. Soon he reached her chamber, and there he found Narcissa working on a new potion.
"Vincent!" The old woman smiled. "Come in, Child. It has been a long time since you come to see me. Does the Father keep you too busy to see the crazy old woman?"
Vincent chuckled. Father did not approve of Narcissa's strange ways, but Vincent had always felt comfortable in her presence.
"I apologize for not visiting you sooner. My mind has been… on other things."
"I know, Child," Narcissa said in a low voice. "You miss your Catherine. A child cannot replace the love of his mother."
Vincent sighed, lowering his head to hide his pain with a curtain of hair. It always amazed him how Narcissa knew what was troubling him. "It seems unfair that Catherine's son should be robbed of her love and never know her for himself." And it is my fault.
"Do not worry, Child," she said with a chuckle. "You should not be melancholy. Your son loves you very much; do not blame yourself for what has transpired. Besides, your Catherine is not as far away as you think."
"What do you mean?" Vincent asked.
"The spirits have told me your Catherine is well, but unhappy. She wanders in a fog of longing, yet she remains trapped by guilt that crushes her spirit."
"I have dreamt of Catherine many times," Vincent told her. "Each time she has always begged that I forgive her. But I don't understand why? Narcissa, I was the one who failed her. Had my thoughts not been poisoned with my own self-loathing, I would have done everything in my power to stop it. So tell me, why does she ask me for forgiveness?"
"Too many questions, Child," Narcissa said. She tried to calm him. "But I understand. You have been feeling your Catherine; you feel her pain. But only she can answer your questions."
"How can I do this? Catherine is dead," Vincent pointed out.
Narcissa stood up from her potion and began to search around her room. She retrieved a variety of items before returning to her seat. Vincent watched as she mixed the ingredients together before poring them into a vile. Turning to him, Narcissa stared at him with her vacant eyes.
"Here Child. Return to your chamber, pour this into your tea and drink."
"What will this do exactly?" Vincent was slightly apprehensive about drinking the strange concoction. It smelled of fresh flowers on a grave.
"With this, you will be able to cross the spirit realm. Once you enter the plain, you will find you’re Catherine and your questions shall be answered." Narcissa placed the vile into his hands. Vincent had been too stunned to react. Her blind eyes seemed to stare into his soul as her voice became serious.
"But, be warned. The place you go is devoid of all hope. Your Catherine is tormented by fears, guilt, and a great shame. To reach her, you must help her face these."
Taking the vile, Vincent felt a small spark of hope reignite in his heart. He gripped the vile in his hands and turned back toward Narcissa.
"I will do all that is within my power to help her, even if I must travel beyond death," Vincent vowed.
"Do not worry, Child," Narcissa encouraged, leading him toward the exit. "It will not be as far as that. Soon your questions will be answered, and you will find peace. Once you and your Catherine are reunited, please come visit me with your whole family."
Vincent didn't really listen to the old woman's last words. Once Narcissa had escorted him out of her chamber, Vincent's body worked on autopilot. He arrived back at his chamber without running into anyone. He sat down on the bed without removing his cloak, staring down at the vile. All he had to do was drink this and he would be with Catherine. Vincent's heart raced at the thought of seeing her once again.
Vincent poured the contents into a cup of tea he found on his table. He assumed Mary or Father had brought it while he had been with Narcissa. It was cold, but it didn't matter. He took the cup in his hands and drank. The cold tea was normally tolerable, but combined with whatever Narcissa mixed together made Vincent nauseous.
He gagged with the first sip, and could barely finish half the cup when a wave of exhaustion overwhelmed him. He fell back on his bed, the rest of the cup's contents spilling onto his bed and cloak. He lie there trying to fight the blackness that was slowly overwhelming him, but after a minute he surrendered and plunged into the unknown.
There was nothing but darkness. The sound of pounding rain was heard but not seen. Then a faint light appeared and Vincent followed it outside. The valley he stood in was devoid of life and color. Shades of grey covered the landscape and rain poured down from an angry sky. The only thing keeping Vincent dry was his cloak.
Where am I? He thought to himself. A small sound caught his attention, and he finally found her. But his joy was soon replaced with sorrow when he saw the state she was in.
Catherine was standing alone in the rain. She was dressed in a hospital gown and her skin was slightly blue from the cold. Her eyes were red from crying, and her beautiful smile was lost in her sadness. He longed to take her in his arms and hold her, to take away all her pain. But he feared that once he took a step toward her, she would disappear just like all his other dreams.
No, not this time! Narcissa said that I would finally have my questions answered. Taking a breath, he stepped toward her. When he was a few feet away, he spoke hesitantly, barley sure she would hear him. "Catherine?"
She looked up and could not believe her eyes. She had lived through this nightmare many times before, but never had she dreamed of Vincent being there.
"Vincent?" she asked hesitantly. "Is that really you?"
"Yes, I'm here." He tried taking a step toward her, but she drew back. The reaction frightened Vincent a little. She had never been afraid of him, but he could sense no fear from her. Instead what he felt was shame.
"Catherine, what's troubling you? Please tell me."
The desperation in his voice broke Catherine's heart. Tears started to flow harder and Catherine could no longer hold back. She fell to her knees and covered her face, ashamed of what she had done.
Vincent couldn't stand to see his beloved Catherine like this. He rushed to her side and gathered her into his arms, holding her close to his heart. How he loved feeling her weight in his arms again. As he held her Vincent tucked his cloak around them, sheltering her from the pouring rain. His head bent over hers, his hood acting as a covering. Vincent rested his check on the top of her head and nuzzled her wet hair. How he'd missed her, everything about her. At that moment, nothing could tear him away from her.
Suddenly, shadows emerged from the fog. They were shaped like men but had no faces, no distinct features. Then one by one they spoke:
"Just keep your mouth shut and come with us, and you won't be harmed."
"What a pain. But like they say, 'curiosity killed the cat.'"
"The longer you resist, the more drugs I will have to use, Ms. Chandler."
These men were unfamiliar to Vincent. All he knew was that their voices made Catherine whimper like a frightened child. Instead of pulling away from Vincent, she pressed herself deeper into the folds of his cloak.
What did they do to you? Vincent wondered as the shadows drew closer. They reached for Catherine and Vincent growled as the figures stepped closer. One shadow managed to grab Catherine's shoulder, his icy touch making her cry out. Vincent wrenched her from the grasp and, lifting her bridal style into his arms, he stood to face the attacker. He snarled and gnashed his teeth, daring any of the shadows to dare and try that again
Slowly they backed away and disappeared into the shadows, until only one remained. Vincent stood ready to fight, while still cradling Catherine in his arms. I will not stop protecting her, he vowed silently, even in death, until my last breath.
The fourth figure spoke and a cold chill ran through Vincent's blood as its feature began to form and spoke: "Finish it off, quickly."
At the sound of his voice, Catherine screamed and tried to run, forcing herself from Vincent's arms in an attempt to escape the man who caused her so much pain. She ran and Vincent followed as best he could. Vincent tried to reach for Catherine, but suddenly his wrists were chained and a cage dropped on top of him. He recognized this as the cage from Gabriel's mansion. He snarled at the chains and tried to free himself. Then he heard another scream. Turning and looking around, his eyes widen in horror at the sight a few yards away from him.
Catherine struggled in the arms of the shadow with Gabriel's voice. He had his arm around her neck and she was choking for air. Meanwhile, the shadow of Gabriel began to shift in form, taking on a phantom, nightmarish creature. The monstrous form raised a claw-like hand and drove razor-sharp claws into Catherine's abdomen. Blood splattered and poured out from Catherine as the shadow ripped a glowing orb from inside her.
Vincent watched as the shadow laughed maliciously, tossing Catherine aside as if she were a rag doll. Her body lay limp on the ground as blood pooled around her. The shadow creature paid little attention, marveling at the orb in its hands. Blood trickled down past Vincent's knuckles as his claws dug into his palms, his teeth grinding as his rage intensified.
Catherine started to moan in pain. She knew what would happen next. The monstrous form her subconscious mind made for Gabriel would grab her once more. This time it would hold her up by her gaping wound and rip out the second orb, gaining her two most precious treasures: her children. Only this time, her mind had brought a version of Vincent to watch her suffer and die.
She turned her head back toward the man she loved. Why? Why in a cage? she thought as she watched Vincent pull at the chains.
The creature dared to step over Catherine once more, to finish what it started. As it drew closer, it seemed unconcerned with the raging man trapped inside the cage. It made a low hissing sound while trying to keep the glowing orb in its claws.
"GET AWAY FROM HER!" The anger swelled in Vincent as he roared at the apparition. With all his strength, Vincent ripped the chains from the metal cage and attacked the bars with all that was in him. He didn't allow the electric current to throw him back as the electrified bars burned his flesh. Forcing the bars apart, Vincent sprinted from his metal prison; a red blood rage filling his vision as he ran straight at the being that threatened Catherine. Just as the monster's claws pricked Catherine's throat, Vincent threw one of the chains, still attached to his wrist, and caught the creature's left hand.
The creature turned its attention toward the attacker and screeched at him. Vincent only replied with a roar of his own and pulled the chain that held it. The creature resisted, but Vincent only pulled harder. Catherine is tormented by fears, Narcissa's words repeated in his ears. To reach her, you must help her face these. He would not allow this monster to cause Catherine any more suffering.
When it got close enough Vincent slashed at the creature with his claws. Black ooze dripped from the wound, and the creature let out an eerie shriek. It retaliated with a strike of its own, using the chained hand while the other kept a tight hold on the orb. Vincent used this distraction to his advantage; the creature was unable to properly defend itself. It attacked again and again but Vincent dodged every blow.
Vincent tore at the shadow relentlessly, slashing with his claws in the way he had wanted to do to the real Gabriel all those years ago. At last the creature dropped to the ground, desperately clinging to the orb as if to take it with it. Vincent snatched to orb out of its hand, and then looked back in disgust before ripping out the creature's throat. It evaporated into thin air and was gone. Vincent threw his head back and released a roar of triumph.
Catherine! Vincent turned around to see that she had stopped moving. Without a second thought he rushed to her side. He knelt down and turned her toward him. The sight was horrifying. That creature had torn a large hole out of Catherine's abdomen; blood pooled around her, staining the hospital gown she wore. Her face, arms, and legs were also splattered with her own blood.
Carefully, Vincent pulled Catherine on to his lap and cradled her head in his arm. Her eyes were closed and she wasn't breathing. Vincent didn't know what to do. He tried calling her name, begging her to hold on. Still she remained deathly silent. The rain continued to pour down, washing away the blood and pooling in Catherine's open wound.
"Please Catherine," he begged her. "Don't leave me. I can't lose you again. Not like this." Vincent bent his head over her lifeless body as his arms tightened around her small frame. His tears ran down his cheeks and dropped onto Catherine's face.
Suddenly, Vincent's hand began to grow warm. He looked and remembered he was still holding the orb he had taken from the shadow creature, the one ripped from Catherine's body.
Maybe… Vincent thought as he took the orb and replaced it inside Catherine's body. The orb began to glow brighter, causing Vincent to shield his eyes. Then an explosion of light erupted from Catherine and two small balls of light shot out of her, lighting up the sky. When they'd gone, Vincent returned his gaze to Catherine. He was shocked at the sight before him.
The torn material of her gown remained, but the fatal wound and blood were gone, revealing smooth, porcelain skin. Color slowly returned to her face, and Vincent felt a pulse in her neck. Her eyes remained closed but started to flicker. He lowered his face to the crown of her head, and kissed her lightly.
"I'm here, I'm here," he whispered into her ear as he rocked her.
Catherine slowly opened her eyes. The rain had continued pouring; only it was lighter, as if it was finally coming to an end. As her vision focused, she looked straight into a pair of tear-filled, blue eyes.
"Vincent?" her voice was weak and hoarse, but she was alive. His teary eyes brightened and a smile spread over his face, exposing his canines. Vincent drew Catherine closer, bringing her to a sitting position. At first, Catherine was unsure what to believe. Usually that second strike would mean the dream was over, and she would wake up alone in bed. Instead, she was once again in Vincent's strong embrace.
Realizing what she just went through, and that Vincent had saved her, brought fresh tears to Catherine's eyes. Vincent's grip grew tighter, wishing with all his might he had been able to stop this from happening. But it didn't matter; nothing mattered now. Catherine was in his arms and he intended to never let her go again.
"It's alright Catherine," he whispered, "you're safe now."
Slowly he stared rubbing her back, whispering comforting words to her, and Catherine calmed to his touch. Her sobbing subsided to silent tears and she began to relax, even snuggle into Vincent's embrace. She laid her head on his chest and wrapped her arms around his waist. For that moment, time stood still, and nothing could tear them apart. The rain stopped falling, and the sun began to rise for the first time.