IN A CHILDíS EYES

Southofoz

Summary Ė As Vincent grows from an infant to a child and then an adult he discovers what life will hold for him. This story is the sequel to ĎTale of Orpheusí. It is a Classic rated G.

In a childís eyes there is a world of hope
In a childís eyes there is the purest love
In a childís eyes there are dreams to fulfill
In a childís eyes all things are possible.

YEAR ONE

Elizabeth was woken by a deep hungry cry and remembered it was her night to look after baby Vincent. She opened her eyes to look down at the new addition to the tunnel family, who lay in a carry-basket beside her bed.

Elizabethís chamber was not really conducive to the care of an infant. It was sparse, with the simplest of furnishings and the faint aroma of turpentine seemed to permeate the very walls. The floor was covered with drawings and imprints of the artwork which she wanted to transfer to the walls that were becoming known as ĎThe Painted Tunnelsí, however these were all forgotten when Vincent came into her care.

The child was now thriving in the loving care of the women of the tunnels, and of course Father, and all the other children loved him; especially Fatherís other charge, Devin. There were so few adults able to care for the growing number of lost children in the tunnels. Elizabeth thought it was the least she could do to take this unique child for a night, to give Father some respite.

After the babyís illness and his growing responsibilities, Father was beginning to wilt under the strain, even though he would not admit it. Besides, in this case the old adage Ďit takes a village to raise a childí was true and that was what this world was becoming, a village below the city streets.

Elizabeth got out of bed, put more wood in the small metal bucket she used to keep the chamber warm, and picked up the three-month-old baby. He was still undersized, according to Father, but was now quickly growing out of the hand-knitted baby clothes he wore. They were made from thick cream wool, with the tunnel touch of leather fastenings. His thick hair was escaping the bonnet in red-gold waves about his beautiful face.

While she changed him, his bottle warmed on the small portable gas stove that traveled with Vincent from chamber to chamber. When she offered the bottle to him, his little furred hands clung anxiously to it, the tiny cleft lip latched on to the teat with ravenous enthusiasm, and with low growl-like gulps he proceeded to consume its entire contents.

As this remarkable child fed, Elizabeth watched him. She was now well into her fourth decade and had never been one for babies, but Vincentís story had touched her heart. This small miracle seemed to wash away all the sorrows of the past. He was so filled with beauty and promise that she felt so overjoyed being near him. This was a sentiment often repeatedĖ and even simply holding him Ė fulfilled something deep within her. Hours had passed tonight as she held him, staring down at his precious sleeping face, and she was surprised that so much time had gone by, when he began to fuss for his next feed.

 

After his stomach was full, the babe lay quietly and contentedly looking up at her, making soft purr-like coos. Elizabeth wondered if he would be able to speak when he grew older and what kind of child he would be. He was such a solemn child and Father had said that Vincentís life wasnít expected to be a happy one or even a long one, if his illness was any example of his state of health. Elizabeth began to wish for such a different future for this little bundle of possibility, a future filled with hope. She began to remember her own childhood and began to speak to him about the happy times before she came here. She was laughing about some silly thing she had done then and his bright blue eyes were watching her intently. Then his unique top lip quivered and suddenly his entire face lit up as his mouth broke into a smile. Elizabeth tickled his chin and spoke to him softly and the smile broadened. Her heart soared at this precious gift; it was so overwhelming that it brought tears to her eyes.

She examined the tiny face with her artistís eye for detail Ė a soft touch and sensitive fingers traced his soft curved cheek Ė smoothing the same downy fur that covered his entire body. Then she ran a finger down the flat bridge of his nose to his kitten-like lip. He made a sound, not quite a purr, more like a deep throaty sigh and then closed his eyes. She continued to smooth his nose from just below the red-gold curls on his forehead to the tip of his nose.

"You are such a beautiful child," she murmured with love. Although she had never had children of her own she had known love and she had enough of it to give this unique child. She made up her mind to paint this little miracle on the walls, perhaps in his Fatherís arms.

*****

Father was in his study Ė or what would one day be his study, when the chamber was finished, and more books and furniture could be scavenged from the world above. He was reading a battered and dog-eared copy of Homerís Iliad as he watched over the unique and beautiful child he had adopted almost a year ago. He heard a thud and looked up to see Vincent struggle to his feet yet again, take a few steps and then plop down on his padded behind once more. He was dressed in sturdy rompers made from an old coat and a cream woolen sweater that had been lovingly knitted by Mary, one of the newcomers to the tunnels.

Mary had lost her own children and husband in a fire and she seemed to want to mother everyone Ė even Father on occasion. Her thoughtfulness fit in so well with the growing cocoon of this blossoming utopian world. Being with the children seemed to be helping Mary a great deal. She also had a way of turning old clothes into new ones for those in the tunnel community. Much of what had been found, Mary had remade into something quite different and a new style of clothing was emerging. She especially enjoyed making clothes for Vincent, who was inclined to grow out of his clothes overnight and while crawling had been going through the knees of his rompers very quickly. The pair he was wearing today had already been repaired once with dark brown patches of corduroy on the knees. Vincent was also wearing a tiny pair of sheepskin boots Ė which had also been made from an old coat and strapped on. Perhaps once he was walking Vincent might be a little gentler on his clothes, Father hoped, but he doubted it, as he watched the boy. Whatever Vincent seemed to do he did with a thoroughness that held no bounds, be it exploring every inch of this chamber finding what he could and could not touch. He was a well-behaved child and would only need to be told once or at the most twice, what he must not touch to leave it alone in the future. Vincent was a refreshing change from Devin, who was constantly getting himself into interesting and sometimes alarming situations.

As Father watched, Vincent crawled over to the nearest piece of furniture, an old faded red fabric and wood chair, and pulled himself up to again stand on his sturdy little legs and he turned toward his father for approval.

"Well done." Father declared, clapping his hands with pride and Vincentís mouth turned up in a bright smile. His bright blue eyes filled with a babyís innocent joy, and his unruly hair glowed in the candlelight like a thick red-gold halo about his head. He had all of his teeth already, unusual for one so young. They were strong and some were more pointed than usual, but Father saw this only as one more of the many differences in this child. Vincent had never bitten anyone, even in play Ė another clue to his gentleness of spirit and Father hoped that his son would never have a need to change.

Father put down his book and held out his hands and encouraged him with, "Well, come on then. You can do it."

Vincent was not very vocal, even when highly excited and he was yet to speak his first word, which concerned Father greatly. Would he be able to speak? But he had great hope for this child for there was great intelligence behind those wide blue eyes and he knew that one day Ďlittle Vincentí would surprise everyone.

The kitten-like face fixed on him and Father spoke again. "Come on, come to Daddy," and without hesitation the child let go of the chair and took three steps to the man who in all intents and purposes was his father.

Vincentís fur covered hands, tipped with tiny claws, touched his fatherís and with one swift movement he was scooped up over Fatherís head, emitting with a deep throaty chuckle as he was spun around in a circle. Father reveled in these moments as he believed each one was a miracle.

Vincent had had a rough first year. There were many times when he would come down with some unknown malady that would have him feverish and weak for days. Then it would suddenly pass and the child would recover and leap forward in his development.

He seldom complained or cried unless he was in great pain and Father even with his extensive knowledge of medicine was at a loss to know what to do at these times, since normal medication was useless and sometimes even dangerous for Vincent.

The other tunnel dwellers had dubbed Vincent their miracle child and some even said that he was the tunnelís lucky charm and as long as he lived the tunnel community would prosper. And so far, it had done just that. Since John Paterís banishment, the community had bonded together tighter than ever and Vincent was the symbol of that bond that they clung to.

When Father brought Vincent down from his high perch, the boy put both of his arms around his neck and laid his head on a shoulder and cooed his love.

Father was always touched by the extent of the love this child expressed, and the patience he exhibited as he tried to hold things with his tiny clawed hands. It was becoming apparent that he might be left handed. Even when he was teething as an infant it was his left fist he would force into his mouth.

When Vincent hadnít moved or made a sound, Father realized the baby had fallen asleep. There was no tired tantrum, no sign whatsoever that he was getting tired Ė another example of this childís placid nature. Father slowly rose from the chair and carried the sleeping child to the chamber he shared with Devin, where a crib had been set up, and placed the boy gently onto the thick mattress. His little head turned to the side and he sighed. Father smoothed the thick hair away from his second sonís eyes and bent and kissed his brow. He covered him with a thick quilt and left the room.

*****

She climbed the winding staircase from her safe haven far below, and the darkness where her eyes saw everything clearly. In this light of many candles and torches she did not see as well, but even the discomfort it caused was worth it to answer her questions. She had heard rumors and it was time she saw for herself. Only something as amazing as this new child would bring her away from her home and her work.

She finally came to a place she had not seen since long before this new man had taken it as his own. Not since before when the ĎEvil Oneí had used it as a meeting place, but it looked stark and ugly then. Now, as she stopped at the top of the small flight of steps, even her failing eyesight saw a warm chamber with an old red carpet on the floor, old but comfortable chairs and a large table with books scattered upon it.

In one corner, wood burned brightly in a large metal drum. She knew that the wood was collected from all over the city to fuel it, and others like it. It would never be allowed to go out, or these chambers and rooms would soon become too cold to live in.

In one of the chairs a man sat, and on his knee was a child of perhaps one year, avidly listening as the man read a story from an old book. As she listened she realized that the book was not a childís story, but about a man named Odysseus. All she could see of the child was a mass of copper curls as he looked down at the book. She knew he was not an ordinary child.

Although she had not made a sound suddenly the child looked up, and she was struck, not by the face which she had been expecting, but by the intelligence in his large blue eyes. She felt a shiver go down her spine as those eyes seemed to see into her very soul.

When he realized the child was no longer listening, the man also looked up, and his expression asked a question which she decided to answer.

"I have come to see the child," she declared softly, in a musical, lilting accent and unhurried manner.

"Oh?" the man asked, as she made her way slowly down the stairs.

"I mean no harm," she asserted with a smile.

"You are welcome then madam, come in, please. I am Father." The man gave a friendly smile and there was an expectant pause as he waited for her to introduce herself. She did not to so, there was no need. This ĎFatherí knew who she was.

"Father," she declared as she came closer, "Not of the child Iíll warrant."

"No, Vincent is a foundling."

"Hmm," she murmured as she stopped before them.

As they had spoken, the child had not taken his eyes from the newcomer, and when she spoke to him it was as though he was not a child at all.

"And you, young sir, what secrets hide behind those angel eyes? What demons do you harbor within you, I wonder?" with the last word she bent over and her dark face came close to that of the child, who looked at her with curious innocence.

"Hmm," the old woman murmured again, watching the boy intently "You perceive no threat from me, then?"

Still the innocent gaze held hers, but when she drew a long bladed knife from its hiding place, in her voluptuous skirts and held it in a threatening manner, the child reacted instantly. His top lip quivered, and he bared his sharp canines, as a low, yet immature growl came from his throat.

"Ah, there it is," she declared with triumph.

"Vincent! Madam, stop this at once!" Father demanded, but Vincentís growl continued. His eyes fixed on the knife in the old womanís hand.

"He is not listening to you Ö Father. He hears the voice from within. It tells him there is danger. But he does not protect himself. Look, he is protecting you." There was admiration in her voice.

"Me? But thatís impossible. Heís only a baby."

"Babe perhaps, but well able to protect himself and you too Iíll warrant. Look at him. His eyes are on me, but he protects you, seeÖ" She moved from side to side, with the knife held high. Vincent moved with her, keeping himself between the knife and his father. His growl began to grow louder and more threatening.

"Stop this at once!" Father demanded angrily.

Even though his father had raised his voice, Vincentís attention never wavered from the weapon, and the threat, until the woman put the knife away. Then blue eyes met brown and Narcissa smiled for the first time and Vincentís expression settled into the calm inquisitive stare again.

Father stood, lifting the infant into his arms, cradling him protectively, clearly shaken by what had just occurred. The child laid his head on Fatherís shoulder and put his arms around the manís neck.

"Heís tired, I will put him to bed, and then madam, you and I will have words."

"I am not going anywhere," Narcissa stated, unfazed by the threat. Turning, she wandered about the chamber, touching this and that. When Father returned a few moments later he was behind her, she spoke without looking in his direction. "You have made this place a home, Father" She picked up a book, bringing it close to her face to read what was on the cover. "Rikki Tikki Tavi. Hmm Ö Do you think that child understands these stories?"

"Of course he does!" Father declared defensively.

Narcissa was still for a moment with her back to him. When she turned to face him she declared with conviction "That is not all he understands."

"What do you mean?"

"He is more than what he seems."

"Well yes, he will have a very different life than the rest of us."

"More than you know Ö Father" Her voice was questioning on the last word.

"Madam Narcissa, I know you have a way of seeing things that others do not, but this cryptic way of speaking is really annoying. Please get to the point."

Narcissa walked slowly across the room to where he stood. "The child has the power to become a force for great good or great evil. Do you think you will be the one to help him overcome his evil nature?"

"There is not one evil bone in that childís body!"

"Not in the body, Father Ė the soul. If you can strengthen the man, teach him, guide him, he may be saved. He is made up of two beings Father, one good, and one evil. They will struggle forever, Father. They are not like oil and water. No they are fire and ice. One must always be kept from the other, for if they should ever mix, one will be destroyed. And not even Narcissa can know which will win."

"I have never seen Vincent behave in such a way before. Was that the fire we just saw? Is that what you mean?" Father was finally beginning to understand what Narcissa meant.

"The blood lust must not be permitted to rise in him. When it showed itself here Ė " she pointed at the chair where Father and Vincent had been sitting, "the child was able to suppress it quickly when the danger passed. He is young and his instinct is strong. You are a good man Father. Love, peace, beauty Ė these things you must teach the boy, so that the man will be strong enough to keep the beast at bay. He must be taught to show only the man."

"How do I do that?"

"You will know how. You are already giving the future man what he needs, but the beast is mindless and cannot be taught. It will try to escape in time and if the boy or the man releases the beast, it could one day destroy him." Her dark eyes impaled the man before her. "But this you must remember, Father. If the passions rise within him, that too will bring forth the beast. Make him aware of the beast at all times. Let him beware of it, fear it. Never let him forget it, for it will never rest. For him there must be no expression of love. For him passion and the beast will go hand in hand. You must tell him this. For as a man can lose himself in the act of love, so it will be with the child, especially when he begins to become a man and only the purest love can tame the beast. Time will tell if he will ever find it." She lifted a finger to Father as she finished, "Watch him close, Father, or you may both lose the man."

She turned away then, her warning given, and began to climb the stairs. Without another word, she made her way out of the chamber and back to her world, leaving behind a man determined to put her warning into action, in the only way he knew how.

*****

It was the twelfth of January Ė the anniversary of the day that Anna Pater found the tiny bundle behind St Vincentís hospital. And the entire community had assembled in Fatherís study for the celebration of Vincentís birth.

The speeches had been made, the cake cut and the guest of honor was enjoying the undivided attention of the entire room. He toddled unaided from one person to another, almost falling several times, but quickly regaining his balance to toddle off in a new direction and a new adventure.

Vincent had sat on his fatherís lap as the candle had been lit and then encouraged to blow it out. He had laughed in the way only he could; with a deep rumbled in his throat, and his face had lit up as much as the tip of the tiny candle, sensing the excitement in the room, all directed at him. Now he was merely bathing in the love of his family.

Later that evening, Father and Devin, were reading at Fatherís desk after all the excitement had died down. Vincent, who had been playing on the floor with brightly colored blocks, pushed himself to his feet and made his stumbling progress to his big brother, holding a wooden horse in his hand. Lifting it toward Devin he said, "Dev?" The one word spoken in a soft, yet throaty voice.

Father looked at Vincent and then his son, who at five was full of joy. "He said my name! Vincent said my name!" Devin said excitedly.

"Yes, Devin and it was the first word he has ever spoken." Father replied looking down at his son with a hand on the top of Vincentís bright head.

"And it was my name," the boy repeated happily, overwhelmed.

Vincent, unaware of the momentous occasion, turned and waddled back to his other handmade toys, scattered all over the floor.

******

YEAR THREE

"Vincent! Come back here!" Mary called, as she came hurrying down the tunnel after the boy.

Vincent ran into the study and hid behind Fatherís chair. Mary paused at the top of the rough stone stairs, breathing heavily from the chase.

"Whatís the matter, Mary?" Father asked, confused as to why Vincent would be hiding from her.

"That child is very hard to catch" Mary replied, with a soft laugh.

"Why do you want to catch him?"

"I thought it was time he had a haircut. Look at his hair. Itís almost to his shoulders, and itís so untidy."

"No Father. No haircut," Vincentís deep murmur came from behind him.

Father turned to Vincent and saw the determination in his blue eyes and then back to Mary, who he knew was only concerned for the boyís appearance.

He drew Vincent from behind the chair to stand before him. "Mary only wants to make you look tidy Vincent. She wonít cut you."

Vincentís chin firmed and his eyes searched his fatherís face. "No Father. Please?"

A child of few words, but the meaning was clear Ė he didnít want his hair cut. Fatherís gaze went first, to the boy and then Mary, "Would it be so bad if Vincentís hair was worn longer than the other children, Mary?"

"Well," Mary murmured as she looked at the pleading look in Vincentís eyes. "I suppose not. But you must allow me to at least trim the ends occasionally, Vincent. It keeps it healthy,"

With a reluctant look, first at Mary and then back to Father, Vincent nodded.

"Good. Now go with Mary and then come and show me when sheís finished." Then to Mary Father added, "Let him have his hair as long as he wants it, Mary. He asks for so little."

As Vincent passed her Mary smoothed his golden head. "Yes, Father," she conceded, and then she turned and followed the boy out of the room.

*****

YEAR FIVE

Vincent was running through the tunnels trying to find his brother in a game of hide and seek. He could sense someone up ahead, but it didnít smell like Devin. In fact it smelt more like Father Ö

What was Father doing down here in the lower tunnels? Then Vincent realized what it was. Devin was probably wearing one of Fatherís old coats, to put him off the scent. Laughing softly to himself at Devinís ingenuity, even though it wouldnít have worked for long, Vincent was thrilled; it had almost caused him to turn his attention in the opposite direction.

Devin was feeling very proud of himself for having outwitted his little brother, and then suddenly out of the darkness, a tawny shape pounced on him, and with a yell, and then a laugh, Devin rolled over with Vincent tickling him until he cried Uncle.

*****

YEAR SEVEN

The children squealed as they jumped naked into the freezing water. Vincent stood on the rocky shore, watching, fully clothed.

"Címon Vincent!" Devin called from the waterís edge as he treaded water.

"No." Vincent murmured softly, suspiciously eyeing the dark waters.

Devin came out of the water dripping and shivering. "Címon lilí brother, what are you afraid of? Itís only water."

Vincent didnít look at his brother, He looked down at his feet. "But Iím afraid, Devin."

"Afraid? What of?"

"Iím not sure," Vincent didnít look up.

"Look little brother, since we found this place weíve been swimming in it, and thereís nothing in there to hurt you. Iíll teach you to swim if thatís the problem."

Vincentís eyes lifted to those of his brother. "Itís not that. I can swim, I know I can. Itís just that I wonít be able to swim with the others Devin."

"Why not?"

"I am not like them Ö"

"With all that hair on your body you mean?"

"They will laugh at me."

"Yíknow sometimes you drive me crazy, Vincent. Yeah you are different and youíve been different all your life. So whatís new? Youíve been hiding how you look long enough. Weíre all the same. You have two legs and two arms and youíre just like the rest of the boys. I think you worry too much about how others will look at you. Besides, you should be able to swim better than anyone. Youíre stronger than they are. Címon." He took his brother by the arm.

Finally willing, but not totally unconvinced, Vincent began to disrobe. When he was fully undressed, he stood for a moment beside his brother. "Ready?" Devin asked

With a long sigh, Vincent replied, softly. "Not really." But he walked with his brother toward the waterís edge. The other children were having so much fun they didnít even notice that Vincent had joined them.

When Devin jumped in, Vincent took a deep breath and plunged in. It was like floating on a cloud, and he began treading water like the other children, to find he had natural buoyancy. When Devin dove under, his white behind was the last thing Vincent saw before his brother disappeared. He laughed with joy bubbling within him and without another thought, Vincent did the same.

The experience was breathtaking; his entire body seemed to glide though the water with ease. His long hair flowed about his face, and he found that holding his breath was very easy. He opened his eyes and saw the beams of light lancing down through the water, from the fissures in the ceiling above, and the franticly kicking legs of the other children swimming around him. It was fascinating.

He felt a tug on his hair and surfaced to see Devin treading water beside him. "Well, lilí brother?"

There were no words, and Vincent grinned and dove beneath the water again, going as deep as his lungs would let him, knowing that his brother followed only half way. But Vincent kept going deeper and deeper and still he could not see the bottom of the pool. His lungs began to burn and he knew he must surface; he made up his mind that one day he would keep going until he touched the very floor of the pool. Then with bubbles cascading about his face, he slowly rose to the surface to meet a group of frightened faces.

"Vincent!" Devin called, swimming over to him, "we thought youíd drowned, when you didnít come up with us!"

Looking around him at the faces of his friends, Vincent felt guilty and confused; he hadnít realized they would worry. "Iím sorry, I just kept going deeper and deeper."

Devin, more relieved than frightened, pushed Vincent under the water, "Do it again little brother, and show us how deep you can really go. Weíll see who can go the deepest."

With a challenging grin, Vincent submerged, and all those who wanted to try followed, but Vincent always went the deepest.

 

YEAR TEN

"Címon," Mitch whispered

They were in the rail yard looking for metal scraps to sell. It had been Mitchís idea. Suddenly, Vincent sensed something, and then the smell hit him like a blow. He left the other children and followed his senses to a railcar. It was loaded with three huge wooden crates and there was something alive inside.

Vincent put a hand flat on the box and heard a sniff, and then a questioning grunt. Through one of the five holes in the front of the crate he saw an eye. It was night, but Vincentís night-sight showed him clearly, that it was a big, golden, catís eye.

He stared at the eye, and the eye stared back, and Ďsomethingí passed through him, a feeling of familiarity, of knowing this creature. Vincent gasped as with a deep purr, the lion slipped its tongue through the hole and licked his face.

Startled, Vincent jumped back startled and stared at the crate. A feeling of rage began to rise from deep within him. These creatures were being treated dreadfully they should be out in the plains of Africa, free and happy, not caged and surrounded by wooden crates. He began to feel angry at this terrible injustice, and then out of his control a growl rumbled from his throat. Before he knew it, the growl had turned into an immature roar. The three lions joined him as his angry exaltation echoed through the yard.

Vincent seemed to lose a part of himself, as the roar went on and on. It was as if a part of him that had lain dormant all his life, had suddenly awoken. He had never felt so wonderful. His skin tingled, his heart pounded, and the blood in his veins felt like liquid fire spreading throughout his body as the roar rose and fell. It was exhilarating. He felt free, as though awakening from a long dark sleep, to a world of light. Then he heard his name being called from a distance, and menís voices. As though coming out of a dream he sensed danger, and reluctantly but abruptly ceased his exaltation.

Vincent saw the other children running toward him and in moments he was running for his life. The other boys Mitch, Frankie, Winslow and Pascal, were all in front of him, but the men were closing fast. Looking back for an instant, Vincent saw the glint of a knife in the nearest manís hand, and began to run faster, fear fuelling his escape.

"Címon, Vincent!" Mitch called, as he held open the grate that was the entrance to the tunnels.

The others having disappeared Below, all that Vincent needed to do was get there before the man with the knife caught him. Suddenly he felt a hand clamp down on his shoulder, and without thinking he swiped his claws across the manís hand. The man screamed and let go, and Vincent ran to the grate and slid into the safety of the tunnels, with Mitch following swiftly behind. They ran as fast as they could to get far away from the entrance, in case the men followed them.

When they were safely away, Mitch yelled angrily, "You stupid little freak!" pushing at Vincent from behind, "You almost got us killed!"

"We wouldnít have been there if you hadnít said it was safe Mitch." Pascal declared in Vincentís defense.

"Well, I didnít expect lion-boy here to go all animal on us!" Mitch complained.

"Donít call Vincent that!" Pascal commanded.

"Iím sorry, Mitch. I got distracted," Vincent apologized.

Mitch turned on Vincent, "Those cats are going to some zoo Vincent. Maybe we shoulda left you there to go with em. If you wasnít petting them in the first place and getting em all worked up, those guys would never have noticed us. But you had to go all jungle on us! If youíd have stayed away, they wouldnít have seen us, and nothin like that woulda happened, and weíd have gotten away with somethin to sell. Now we got nothing, and theyíll be lookin for us in the future, so we can kiss that money makin scheme goodbye!" He pointed a finger at Vincentís nose, "And itís all your fault!"

"Leave him alone, Mitch!" Winslow threatened, "Or Iíll bust your nose!"

Mitch backed away from Vincent and hurried down the tunnel, away from the others, with Frankie running after him. Winslow turned to Vincent, "Donít let him get to ya Vincent."

Vincent was silent. The way Mitch always spoke to him hurt sometimes, but what had happened had revealed a part of himself that Vincent had never experienced before, and his mind was in turmoil. The other children tried to bring him out of his melancholy mood on the way back to the home tunnels, but they were not successful. Vincent knew he needed to talk to Father.

He walked into Fatherís study. It had been only months since Devin went missing, and Vincent wished he could speak to Devin, as Father was still taking it very hard. And although he didnít wish to bring Father any more pain Vincent had to speak with someone about what had happened.

"Father,"

Father lifted his head from the ever-present book he was reading and spoke softly. "Oh hello, Vincent," Noticing that the boyís mood was solemn he asked, "Is something wrong?"

Vincent came into the room and sat in the chair next to his father. "Father something happened tonight Ö"

Father sat up straight, an old fear rising from deep within him. "What happened?"

Knowing that to tell his father where they had been that night would only bring trouble, Vincent tried to make where he had been as vague as possible.

"I Ösaw some animals tonight and was drawn to them Ö and something happened to me."

Father seemed to be more interested in what had happened to Vincent, than where the animals were. "What happened to you?"

"I Ö lost myself."

"Lost yourself, how?"

Vincent looked down at the worn carpet, his thoughts going inward. "I donít know, I Ö was separated in some way into two parts, it was as though I was not myself," he put a hand to his chest, "The part of me talking now was pushed aside in some way, and another part came forward Ö"

"I see, and it frightened you," Father was not surprised, and Vincent didnít notice this at first in his concern. He thought about Fatherís words for a moment, and then becoming excited he rose to his feet and paced back and forth. "No, Father I was not frightened, not then, it was only after when I realized what had happened. But when it came over me, I felt happier than I had ever felt before in my life, and I felt strong and angry at the same time, as though I could have torn the crates apart and released those poor creatures." He turned to face at his startled parent and then added. "Father, I felt I could do anything Ö anything. It was wonderful, but it felt wrong at the same time," He gave his father a quizzical look, waiting for an explanation.

Father well remembered Narcissaís words from long ago, and he sought out a way to convey her warning to the boy without frightening him too much. Vincent had felt for the first time, the power of his instinctive side, the blind, mindless part of himself that uncontrolled, could do great damage Ė not only to himself but to others, and Father had to nip his sonís enjoyment of this primal side in the bud, quickly.

He rose and walked over to the boy, putting a hand on Vincentís shoulder as he said, gently, "I know how exhilarating it must have felt to let that part of yourself free, Vincent. But you must never allow it to happen again."

Vincent felt like a bucket of cold water had been thrown in his face. He was confused, and he could see that his father knew the shock his words had caused.

"But Father it felt Ö"

"No, Vincent!" Father interrupted. The boy believed he had discovered a treasure but in fact it was a Pandoraís Box, and he had to be made to see this. Realizing he had spoken harshly, Father softened his voice, and tried to explain. He led Vincent over to a chair and urged him to sit. "Vincent, we have never spoken about your Ė differences." He looked down at his son, who looked away, "There comes a time in every boyís life when he begins to change and certain things need to be explained. What you experienced tonight is part of those changes."

Vincent thought this was Ďthe talkí Devin would often say that Father would force him to endure one day, and could not see any connection. "But whatís that got to do with what happened tonight Father? I know about Ė girls and boys. But this is different Ö" but his father held up a hand, halting his affirmation.

"No, Vincent. Not for you. Please listen, I know you understand about such things but this is not different. It is connected. As much as I have tried to spare you, you are not like other boys and for you some things can never be."

Vincent lowered his head again. This declaration of his differences was painful to hear, even though it was something he could only forget in his dreams.

Father put a hand on Vincentís shoulder, wishing he could have waited until the boy was older, but there was no knowing what was happening in Vincentís young body. "This exhilaration you felt tonight, must be denied, Vincent. It is connected to that mindless part of you, and it must always be kept under control it could become a danger to you and others."

"But I donít understand Father Ö"

Father understood how young Vincent really was, but he had to convey what was needed as clearly as possible. "Vincent, if you allow this part of you to surface it might try to intrude at other times." He lifted the boyís chin and gazed into his troubled blue eyes, speaking gently, knowing that what he was about to ask was going to be the hardest thing he had ever done. "You must overcome this pleasure you felt Vincent, and you must never give in to it. You must deny that part of yourself. Always."

There were tears in Vincentís eyes as he realized how extensive this denial must be, and asked softly. "Always?"

Feeling like a judge giving a death sentence to an innocent, Father stated gently, "Always Ö"

Feeling as though he had been struck, Vincent gasped and began to weep, as Father delivered the final blow. "I am so sorry but you can never have the same life as other boys, Vincent not ever." Then he bent and put his arms around the boy and let him cry.

 

YEAR THIRTY

Vincent walked slowly through the tunnels, reliving his farewell with CatherineÖ

"I owe you everything Ė everything," she had declared, and he could feel her gratitude.

"You owe me nothing," he had replied, and it was true. He had gained so much from knowing Catherine. "Iím part of you Catherine, just as youíre a part of me ... Wherever you go wherever I am, Iím with you." Then she had embraced him.

His heart had skipped a beat as he held her, hardly believing it was happening. Just as in the basement of her apartment building, when he had first taken her home, she had moved into his arms and thanked him. All his senses were alive with her, her fragrance, her warmth and her presence. The warm glow of that part of her that now resided within him. It was like a dream come true, and for the first time in his life he saw the world in a new way Ė not just his world but the world Above, because Catherine was there, and through her he saw things that heíd never seen before. He was changed. He would never be the same again.

He walked slowly, savoring every look, every touch. He expected to never see her again, but he was certain that he would think of her every moment of every day for the rest of his life.

When he entered Fatherís study, his cloak brushing the steps behind him,

Father was still sitting at the chess board. He rose to his feet clearly agitated and demanded. "My God, Vincent where have you been? You rushed out of here in such a hurry. What happened?"

Vincent removed his cloak, folding it neatly over the banister then sat in the chair across the chess board from his father. He took one of the chess pieces, absently turning it in his hands

"Catherine Ö was in danger. I had to save her."

"In danger Ö What do you mean?"

"I Öfelt her fear and Ö"

"You, felt her fear?" his father interrupted, amazed and alarmed.

"Yes."

"I donít understand. This has never happened to you before."

"No." That one word held a world of meaning.

"I see." Father murmured. But he didnít see, not really. All he could see was the look in a young boyís eyes many years ago when he had been told a terrible truth. His mind was spinning with all the ramifications of this event. His heart was filled with fear for his son. There could only be sadness and pain ahead. There was silence between them.

When Vincent had said he still felt connected to this woman from the world Above, it was the first he had mentioned about any kind of connection. Vincent had developed abilities to sense a personís intent and emotions as he grew, but it had always been a tentative thing and only temporary. This Ė continuing connection Ė with this young woman was unheard of. It could only bring Vincent pain.

As the silence stretched between them, Vincent looked at his hands as he held the chess piece. These hands had just taken three lives to save one treasured one. He had never killed before, and the horror of this act was tempered only by the fact that those men would have killed Catherine, had he not acted. For the first time in his life he was faced with what that Ďhiddení part of his psyche could really do when let loose, and it disturbed and terrified him more than he could ever express. He well remembered Fatherís words when he was a boy, about what could happen if he allowed this Ďthingí within him free rein, but tonight he had no choice. It had happened so quickly, he acted without thought the instant heíd felt Catherineís terror. He couldnít have stopped it, even if heíd wanted to. Without it Catherine would now be dead, and that was something that he would risk anything to prevent.

He had washed the blood from his hands after saying good bye to Catherine. He did not want Father to know what heíd done to save Catherine, not yet. It was all still too raw, and Father would be appalled it he found out.

"Will you be seeing her again?" Father asked quietly, finally breaking the silence.

Vincent didnít answer at once. He was remembering how ashamed heíd been when he realized that Catherine had seen that part of him that heíd repressed for so long. He had expected her to run from him screaming, but instead she had come to him, taking his blood covered hands, fearful only at the sound of a police siren and had said, "We canít stay here," thinking only of him. He should never see her again.

He shook his head, looking at his hands. "I donít think so, Father," Although he could want nothing more.

Father bent forward and placed a hand over both of Vincentís, "Perhaps itís for the best."

Vincent stared down at Fatherís hand. It was much smaller than his, the fingerless glove fraying in places, but it had always conveyed comfort. Now it was only a reminder of how different Vincent really was. He examined his own hands with a detached eye, the hair covering the backs of each hand, the bare palm, and the claws, sharp and thick. These were weapons. The mark of what he was capable of; they had aided him tonight in doing good, by committing evil. He had released that which should never be released, to save the woman he loved.

Had it been justice or vengeance? Did the end justify the means? Where would it lead?

So many questions, and he had no answers. Only one certainty declared itself plainly. His life would never be complete without Catherine. In her presence he felt at peace. He was only alive when he was with her, but he couldnít be with her as a normal man could. Should he distance himself from her, to avoid this ever happening again? Would that be enough? It had to be enough? The alternative held only disaster. A vague memory surfaced suddenly.

ĎHe heard a scream, and suddenly the blood flowing hotly through his veins turned to ice when he realized what had happened, what he had done.

"Lisa!" He wanted to apologize, but she was looking at him with fear and horror, and her hand came away from her shoulder covered in blood.

"Lisa?" he pleaded, but she backed away. Then Father was there Ö

He closed his eyes, but it did not stop the memory replaying in his mind with Catherineís face instead of Lisaís.

He swallowed the lump in his throat and finally answered in a whisper, "Perhaps Ö"

When he left Fatherís chamber and went to his own, he tried to find the conviction he needed to carry out his decision. He lay on his bed, as deep within him a war raged. Placing an arm over his eyes, he tried to find peace, and unbidden Catherineís sleeping mind intruded on his. He calmed instantly falling into a deep sleep and began to dream an impossible dream Ö

THE END