And So It Begins...
Sure her companions were just yards ahead Jamie hurried on, the way was lit thank goodness and she vaguely identified it as being the way down to where they had laid Vincent to rest. She dared not call out, and assumed that was why her friends did likewise, but she was a little peeved that they had not waited for her, until she decided it was possible that they did not know she wasn’t directly behind them. She had also to remember that they were running downward and the ground was steep, big men would run faster, take longer strides, the distance between them could be further than she assumed. Still as fast as she ran Jamie just did not see anything of them nor did she hear any sounds. Strangely the thought steeled over her that maybe she had taken the wrong fork. Straight behind the waterfall she could have taken one of three tunnels and had chosen the lit middle one assuming that Kanin and Winslow without lanterns would have gone that way. But as she dwelt upon that she realised that they may have considered that the intruder would have wanted to keep to the dark tunnels and so they had followed him into the left or the right or they might possibly have split up and have taken one each. If that were so it was good that she had taken the middle one, but on reflection a dangerous assignment, since they did not know whom they were pursuing. As she thought about these things Jamie’s feet slowed and ground to a halt and she looked around her breathing hard. She knew the area and guessed she was almost at Vincent’s grave and decided that since she was so close she may as well visit. She hadn’t been there since they’d buried him, though Mouse, she knew came frequently. Gingerly stepping into the brightly lit cave her eyes were drawn at once to the imposing tomb positioned to the left of her and she marvelled at the colours of the marble that Catherine had purchased to be fitted around the casket and they drew her forward without hesitation. Eager to touch the cool and rippled effect of the marble Jamie found its silkiness a pleasure to her fingertips and with palms flat she stroked the length of the tomb satisfied that Catherine had made the right choice. Such a tomb was fitting for a prince, Vincent would be proud if he knew…or maybe he did know? That thought in mind Jamie swung round imagining eyes upon her back and sighed with relief to find no one there, even so the thought once rooted would not go away and she was certain that she was being watched. Eyes boring into her through the very walls themselves and she looked up hastily sure that even the ceiling mocked her presence. “I don’t like it here, I’m sorry Vincent I’m going.” She spoke out loud, and at that precise moment froze when she heard what she thought was a whispered reply, ‘Stay.’
Looking all around her Jamie broke out in a cold sweat, goose bumps sprawled across her skin and she had to make her feet step forward, they felt like lead even though the need to flee had never been greater. Backing out of the cave her eyes were riveted to the cave within searching for anything any shadow, movement, any voice until she sighed with relief as her back finally met solid wall. Even so that relief was soon relinquished as the wall that she had deemed solid only seconds before suddenly fell away from behind her and she had the queerest feeling of falling through rock seeing it pass to each side of her yet she did not fall backward her feet kept her upright. It was almost as if she were on a moving platform taking her backward, the walls of the rock face passing to each side of her, the tomb and the cave getting further and further away. A phenomenon she had never before experienced and for the life of her she could not turn around to see what was happening. Seconds later the cave and its lanterns of light were shut away from her and she found herself in utter darkness completely trapped and encased by rock all round.
Heart hammering Jamie thought she had to be dreaming, nothing like this could literally happen, it wasn’t possible for who would have made such a structure, and why?
The answer was swift, as the wall behind moved again and a slither of light revealed to her a chamber she had never seen before a chair or two here and there, a table, some books, a bed and upon the bed a woman, an old Negro woman that Jamie recognised at once. “Narcissa!”
“She’s dead, Jamie.” Jamie twirled round realising as she did that she was free from the walls that had encased her and her eyes came to rest on a face she had known all her life, “Vincent!”
His smile was genuine and Jamie almost fainted the shock at seeing him standing before her when she had believed him dead, was almost too much, but wait…was he alive or not? “Are you dead too?” She had to know.
“Some would say so.” He seemed sad by the omission and Jamie frowned, “What kind of answer is that?” She sounded annoyed.
“It doesn’t matter. It is however, good to see you Jamie, although it grieves me to have you here, since you can never leave.”
Her lips mumbled the words but no sound was emitted. Her eyes though told of her incredulity, they were big and wide with disbelief and horror. “Cannot leave, why not?” Immediately she charged forward pressing against the rock from where she had come and found it to be solid, with no way out.
“You cannot go back.” Vincent told her, “Not yet.”
“I don’t understand.” Jamie’s lips quivered. Fear was galloping fast behind. Then suddenly she did, “I’m not dead am I?”
Vincent said nothing, but there appeared a sadistic look to his face, one Jamie did not care for and she shuddered. “I am, aren’t I? I’m dead and you’re dead and Narcissa….” Just before she fainted…Jamie screamed.
*** *** ***
As soon as Mouse heard that Jamie was missing, he headed one of the search parties, for despite his earlier sightings of Vincent’s ghost Jamie meant a great deal to him and he would force aside any other fear to help look for her. Back behind the waterfall Kanin was telling the three parties of men and women, “Winslow and I took the right hand tunnel. Jamie could have taken the centre or the left so we must search those, though just in case she has since wandered out and gone into the right one we must also search there. I suggest that a party take each tunnel but that we return come what may after three hours. If at that time we find nothing we will need to go back to the hub collect some overnight things and be prepared to come out here to search thoroughly for however long it takes. Jamie carried a crossbow so she was well armed but since she might well be skittish by now, we should call out a greeting if either of us feel that she is nearby. Are there any questions before we start?”
There were a few, and Kanin dealt with them, then the three groups made their way steadily into the three gaping holes. Two dark and one light, Winslow disappearing with his group into the lit one where he knew Vincent’s tomb to be.
*** *** ***
“So we have a visitor, or should I say a new occupant?” Derisive laughter followed and Vincent looking up from his book watched Dominic move from the entranceway to where Vincent had laid Jamie upon another bed in the chamber, one furthest from where Narcissa lay.
“Yes, I know her. Her name is Jamie. She is in shock but all will be well when she awakens. I will explain the way it is here.”
“Good, good. Till then though it will be best if I administer the protein she will need to sustain her through the transition, and I must remind you that your next dose is about due. Would you like me to do it or do you think you can manage it yourself now?”
“I’d like to try. I only wish Father had known about this protein when I was with him, there was nothing that he could give me when I fell ill, all drugs had an adverse effect upon me, but this…this is wonderful.” Vincent rolled up his own sleeve and from a small medicine cabinet extracted a brown bottle and a syringe. With the needle intact he had soon injected himself as out of one eye corner he saw Dominic do likewise to Jamie. She flinched as the needle pricked her skin but she did not awaken. “Let her sleep.” Dominic straightened flicking back long tawny hair to lie over his shoulders “Call me when she wakes naturally by herself. Though I warn you it might be a good eight hours till she does.”
“Was I like that?” Vincent asked. He’d not known with Narcissa as she hadn’t gone through transition, they had found her too late.
“Yes, though you slept an awful lot longer, days in fact. There were times when I thought…” Dominic hesitated, “Well let’s just say that I thought you might have been like Narcissa here, leaving us immediately. Talking of which, I think it is about time that we buried her, do you have any preferences?”
“No. Narcissa was a very private person her burial should be likewise I would like to accompany you though perhaps you should place her in the cave where I was buried?”
“Yes good idea.” Dominic was thoughtful a few minutes and Vincent looked back to his book believing that Dominic would soon move away so he was startled when he suddenly asked, “Vincent, I must remind you that you should not be seen round about. I know that you went out today.”
“I’m sorry, but I find it so difficult. It was hard enough to stay below when I was living on the other side, but now even harder and especially so knowing that I cannot be seen, I miss my family.”
“I know, but you have to stay here for your own good. Look at me. I’ve been here all my life. You did not even know that you had a brother, yet I did. I knew about you and there were times when our father promised he would bring you home, and I was so excited but then…he would come…home alone…and my hopes would be dashed time and time again. Vincent I am your family now, have always been your family…you should stay with me now.”
With a deep sigh Vincent relented, “Yes you are right. You have waited a long time to have me with you. It is just a pity that both of us had to be on this side before we could meet. If only things had been different.”
“It should have been me that mama took.” Vincent detected the bitterness in his brother’s voice, “I should have been able to go above, and you should have been here with our father. It was wrong that it was how it was. Look at us, Vincent, we are alike except that I would be accepted in the world above but father denied me that right because of our similarities and because people might mistake me for you. I will never forgive mama for that. Why, why did she take you instead of me?”
“You said that father told you that I was the nearest, she could have so easily have taken us both, but she didn’t know to look for another. She did not see you and I was closest to the entrance, so she just snatched up her baby and ran. It was only after she saw me that she tried to leave me above to die but her conscience got the better of her and she went back for me and told Jacob Wells that she had found me in the snow in the grounds of St. Vincent’s. A story I have believed all my life until you told me otherwise and until I read your father’s journals.”
“Our father’s journals, Vincent. Our father, never forget that. I know you and he never saw eye to eye, but then you were so smitten with the tale of your existence that you would not believe the truth, though I have to admit he became a bitter old man with violence at heart and toward the end did not even believe his own truth. But seeing is believing is it not, and you have seen with your own eyes that you and I are alike, that we are twin brothers and its good to have you with me, Vincent, even if it has to be on the other side now.”
“Or until we stop taking the protein.” Vincent looked down at the small puncture marks on his arm. With the protein they were the walking dead, without it they would pass away like Narcissa whom they hadn’t been able to reach in time.
“That will never happen. I have a lifetime’s supply, and know how to make enough for all the community that you know. As and when their time comes to pass through the rock I will be waiting and can administer the protein to keep them within the boundaries of this world. And it is so good Vincent, that you were the first to join me here, that is the first to join me that were from among those on the other side that you know. It could have been anyone but it was you, my own brother, how happy I was when I found that out, you cannot imagine how much.” Dominic’s face was radiant, leaving Vincent no room for doubts.
“Who are the others, I’ve been meaning to ask you about that. I know they were never lost travellers from our community.” Vincent asked thinking of the three men he had seen round about from time to time.
“They are from Brooklyn and since your arrival here, have reverted back to that area. They know how to administer the protein, and are building up there own community of people that do not yet wish to pass away completely. Many, like you have unfinished business to attend to, but unlike you can go above as and when they choose.” Vincent detected the warning in his brother’s tone but did not comment upon it. His being seen above was worse now than before, because before the few that might have seen him there would accept that it could be so, but now since they had buried him, he would cause stress and calamity that might even bring people he knew over to the other side, the side where he resided now, with his brother…and Jamie…Vincent felt sad about that. Jamie had had her whole life ahead of her…life was so unfair…took people when they least expected it…and if he had to be grateful for small mercies he would be happy that he had someone with him now from his old home someone he could talk over memories with. Though he dreaded the time during which he would have to make Jamie believe and except her new life…knowing that she might even chose not to accept the protein, might not wish to hang around to see who joined them next, might want to pass on through just as Narcissa had. Vincent hoped that she wouldn’t, he’d like to have her with him, she was his only connection to the world he had left behind. His brother might have been an amazing discovery, and it might have taken months to accept that they were related and even longer to believe the real story of his conception, birth and parentage but it did not stop him from missing the life that he had always known, nor the love of one another that he missed above all the rest. Still, he had to remind himself that Catherine had moved on now, she was with Elliot Burch, and he had found out this day that she was carrying a baby, Elliot’s baby. Vincent’s heart lurched in his chest and he had to turn his head away so that Dominic did not see his tears. His brother must never know that he had gone above to Catherine’s balcony, and intended to go again. He had to make certain that Elliot was being good to her, no matter how painful that might be to see. Instead Vincent mumbled his agreement and acceptance of the facts stated by his brother and Dominic happy to assume that Vincent would do as he asked moved away from the chamber and off toward his own. “I’ll bid you goodnight then brother.” He told Vincent as he stepped out into the tunnel that separated the two chambers, “Just let me know if the girl awakens, otherwise I do not wish to be disturbed.”
Vincent nodded, closed his eyes and let the old memories wash over him and with no one to see he let the threatened tears seep beneath his eyelashes and run in rivulets down through the furry cheeks below. He missed Catherine so much and he couldn’t believe that she had turned to Elliot so soon after he had been laid to rest and now that she expected a child! It had all been too much for Vincent this day, and he longed for Jamie to wake up to hear what she could tell him. Was Catherine happy? Or was she only with Elliot because of the baby? He would not allow himself to ponder how Elliot had made her pregnant or when, perhaps Catherine had sought comfort in Elliot’s arms and things had gone further than she had intended. Vincent hoped that was so, for his mind refused to accept anything else. Catherine was his and that’s the way he hoped it would stay and he would keep taking the protein for one day she would join him here on the other side and they would have their happy life. For here Vincent knew that there would be no obstacles between them and he would love her the way that she had dreamed to be loved by him. Never would he deny her again. He was so grateful for this second chance and though he did not like to think of Catherine crossing over and leaving behind all that she knew just as he had done, he would make her happy and she would never have to leave him again. Until then he had to wait, and just hope that he didn’t have to wait as long as Dominic had for him. He didn’t think he could bare it if that were so, one of the reasons why he could not stop himself from visiting with her. Just to see her would have to be enough until they could be together properly again and forever.
*** *** ***
Distressed Mouse brought up his party from the left hand tunnel and found the other two parties had already arrived. His eyes scanned among them eagerly half expecting one group had found Jamie, but their wan expressions told him otherwise and tears forced their way from his eyes as he realised Jamie had still not been found.
“We will go back Mouse, collect the stuff we’ll need and look for her more intensively over the next few days. If its any consolation we did find the cross bow. Found it leaned up one side of Vincent’s tomb, so at least we know which tunnel she took. Shouldn’t be so hard to find her now. Will you come with us?” Kanin asked Mouse.
“Want to, will do.” Mouse told Kanin with a voice thick with tears. No one said anything, they all knew what Jamie meant to Mouse, only now just realising how deeply those feelings went.
“Come then.” Winslow placed an arm round Mouse’s shoulders, “The sooner we get back to the hub the sooner we can come out again. Don’t worry Mouse we’ll find her.”
Optimistic Mouse nodded, as did everyone. Jamie knew the tunnels well and it could be that she was even on her way back, and none knew the lower levels better than Mouse so they’d soon have her home again, no one doubted that. So it was an optimistic bunch that made their way back to the home chambers, with not one of them ever thinking that they might never see Jamie again.
*** *** ***
Ten full hours later, Vincent looked up when he heard a soft moan coming from Jamie’s direction and without first going to check on her he hurried to tell Dominic that she was waking up. Dominic followed Vincent back in haste, quickly going to the medicine cabinet to fill a syringe with protein and before the young woman had completely come round had administered it through a vein in her arm. Strangely Vincent frowned at that. It was with almost indecent haste that Dominic had injected her, as if he was frightened of something, and Jamie’s eyes had flown open even as one hand rubbed at the spot furiously where the needle had gone in. She struggled to sit up, only relaxing slightly when she caught sight of Vincent and then seeing Dominic at his side gasped, “Who are you?” when she saw the resemblance between them.
“Jamie, this is Dominic, my brother.” Vincent told her, “Don’t worry all will be explained.” Vincent grinned as Jamie’s mouth dropped open. “You’re brother? But how?”
“As Vincent said, my dear, all will be explained. First of all you might like to freshen up?”
Jamie shook her head, “No, I want to know everything first. What am I doing here? Where am I?”
“You remember nothing of before?” Vincent frowned, “About how you got here?”
For a long moment Jamie sat thinking, then shaking her head replied, “All I know is I was looking for an intruder and then I remember seeing you and…” Jamie glanced round quickly, “Narcissa was here and you said that she was dead!”
“Yes that is correct.” Dominic told her, “Now look not too many questions at once, don’t worry all will be revealed in time. Would you like some water?”
Jamie nodded, her eyes wide. This was a nightmare it had to be. Little things rose to remind her, they had insinuated that she was dead, and she knew that Vincent was dead, had heard that Narcissa had died so it had to be true, for how else could she be here, how else would she be able to see them? Head in hands Jamie began to cry, and she only half felt a strong arm steel around her shoulders an arm that she recognised as Vincent’s. Snuggling close Jamie sobbed against his chest. She couldn’t be dead, she couldn’t be but if Vincent and Narcissa were dead then she had to be and as much as it felt otherwise, simply, she had to be and strangely her greatest sorrow was that she would never see Mouse again.
*** *** ***
“Vincent, there is so much I have to ask you.” Jamie began when after her sobs had subsided she looked up at him her eyes full of doubts and questions.
“I know there must be. I was the same, Jamie believe me. Firstly you have to accept that where you are now you can never leave. Although that isn’t strictly true. I should perhaps start at the beginning?”
Wide-eyed Jamie nodded and taking a deep breath Vincent exhaled and began, “It all started with Paracelsus.”
“Paracelsus! But he’s dead. You killed him!” Jamie exclaimed.
Vincent winced, “I wish no reminders of that, Jamie.”
“Sorry. Go on.”
“Well it would seem that at the time of my birth, Paracelsus and Anna were my true parents.”
“Anna? Paracelsus…no!” Jamie cried.
“Yes. As hard as it is to believe, Dominic is proof of that. So too are John Pater’s journals. You may read them later. For now I will explain the best I can. Both Anna and John are my n mother and father however what Anna did not know was that she gave birth to twins. John failed to tell her when he delivered the babies, seeing first Dominic then me come into the world, he had quickly hidden me telling Anna I was afterbirth being expelled. Thus Anna was none the wiser, and John finding himself presented with two babies one that looked human and one that did not, wanted to find out how such a thing had happened and told Anna that he needed to resuscitate the baby who was not breathing. Apparently true as it happens, and since I did not cry, but rather mewled Anna was none the wiser, believing the sound made by John’s boots, as ridiculous as that sounds, but nonetheless accepted by Anna as so. It was only later when Anna came looking for her child that she found me and snatched me up intent on feeding me at her breast, only when she saw me, she thought that was why John had taken me from her and she went above to dispose of me. The thing is her conscience would not allow her to carry it through and she brought me back and took me to Father, hereon spoken of as Jacob so as not to confuse you, and the rest as they say is history. Jacob believed that Anna had found me in the snow, and that her own baby had died. Anna did not know of her other child, and John spent forever after trying to get me back. Jamie, I was Paracelsus son after all and I killed my own father!” Vincent roared then, the pain almost too much and Jamie waited patiently and quietly until he settled down to continue, “Dominic tried to have father bring me back time and time again. When our family thwarted all of John’s efforts Dominic despaired of ever having his brother live with him and together he and John experimented down here and became quite the pharmacist developing all kinds of drugs many of which we saw Paracelsus use to our detriment. However, Dominic has produced a protein that sustains the dead, keeps them in a living state until they feel the need to pass away naturally, like Narcissa did, although in truth Narcissa was too far gone to revive with the protein, and Dominic has buried her now, while you were sleeping in fact. I believe he has placed her in the same cave as my tomb is.”
Jamie gasped, “Your tomb! That’s where I was. I went down that far, we saw you, Winslow, Kanin and I and we followed you only I got detached from them somehow and found myself at the cave where you died. Vincent, I did nothing, I was scared true, but I did nothing that would have led to my death. So how can I be here? How can I be dead?”
“You’re not. Well not completely. Dominic can explain it better, but you were crushed by the rock face or would have been but for Dominic, he issued you with the protein that keeps you from passing on, you are in limbo Jamie, in transition from one world to the next until such time that you chose to go onward. That’s what I was telling you, with the aid of this powerful protein you are able to stand on the fence between life and death and while you may not go back to life, you can live a merit of it and are able to finish things that you started before you leave all you have ever known behind forever.”
“Sounds like science fiction to me! Vincent, you believe that! Its ridiculous!” Jamie flared crossly calming only when Vincent reminded her, “Am I not living proof? Did you not attend my funeral? Did you not see me laid to rest? I am sure everyone went, so Dominic informs me. Even Catherine.”
Jamie nodded, then pinched herself, “Even so, that hurt, surely I wouldn’t feel pain if I were dead?”
“But you aren’t dead, not yet, as I say you are in-between.” Vincent told her.
“Rubbish!” Jamie flared, “and I don’t know how or why Vincent, but if it is rubbish then you aren’t dead either.”
Vincent chuckled, “Dominic said you would behave this way, I did too, and believe me it does take time to accept the truth of it, but believe me Jamie, it is true. Without the protein that Dominic administers we would pass over just like Narcissa, and I’m not about to do that. There are still things that I need to do first.”
“And what about him, does he need it too?”
“I assume so. He has never spoken of how he came to be on this side, and I have not asked.” Vincent told her. Jamie fumed quietly a moment and then surprised him by shouting, “I would never have believed you to be so dumb Vincent, but you are obviously blind as well as stupid. I’m not dead and although it stuns me to say it, I don’t think you are either and I don’t know what that drug is that Dominic administers but it’s not a protein to stop us dying completely.”
Vincent laughed out loud, “I said the same things when I first arrived. Don’t worry Jamie, you will soon realise the folly of that and come to accept that there are things that you wish to see fulfilled before you pass on, just as I do.”
Jamie almost laughed in his face, but could see he wasn’t ready to believe her, so she played along with him. Obviously whatever that drug was that Dominic used it wasn’t to keep ghosts alive and she would prove it, but she’d get nowhere while they believed that she hadn’t accepted it was so. Instead she asked, “So are you waiting around until you see the baby?”
“The baby? Catherine’s baby?” Vincent shook his head, “No, I am waiting until Catherine can join me here, then we can be together for always. I have no wish for Elliot’s child to join us.”
Jamie frowned, “Elliot’s child? Why do you say that?”
“Because it is so, Catherine is with Elliot now, although I know it was not by choice, otherwise why did she plait this into my hair.” Vincent lifted his hair to reveal the love knot plaited and tied with a tiny green bow just behind one ear. “Catherine loves me, only her life is with Elliot until she can be mine again.”
“You’re talking rubbish, Vincent! Catherine’s not with Elliot…she’s with…”
“Just in time…” A voice came behind Jamie, Vincent had seen his brother’s approach but had not warned the young woman believing it to be in her best interests, “She was talking gibberish, I’ve given her a larger dose. Will you carry her to the bed Vincent?” Dominic held Jamie’s limp and unconscious body in his arms.
“Of course.” Vincent chuckled, “Hard to imagine now, that I gave you the same sort of grief. I know it’s hard to accept death, but Jamie will understand eventually. When you are able to show her that her body has been buried as you showed me mine, then she will have no choice but to believe. You did right giving her a larger dose, it will lessen the time it takes for her to accept what has happened.”
“Thanks for not warning her I was coming, I wasn’t sure at the time whether you were listening to her or not, and what was that about a lovelock, have you been keeping secrets from me?” Dominic asked.
“Just something I discovered, it’s not a problem. Just proves to me that Catherine still loves me, why else would she put it there. I don’t believe for one moment that she loves Elliot, this is a forever knot, a promise to love me forever, and that she carries Elliot’s child will not prevent her from continuing to love me and someday we will be together, I know that we will. I feel it here.” Vincent placed a hand over his heart.
“Been meaning to ask you about that. Father said you had a connection with Catherine. Is it still there?”
Sadly Vincent shook his head, “No, and I have vivid dreams about Catherine and I things that just could never have happened, things that if they had would have made our connection stronger. But there is nothing, nothing at all, still I know that she loves me and I will wait an eternity for her if I have to do.”
Dominic said nothing, just looked at Vincent for long moments studying his face and the honesty of his words, then he walked across the chamber his intention to return to his own, “Just tell me when she wakes, Vincent. Might be two days, this time so don’t worry. In the meantime watch over her, keep her warm and try not to listen to anything she might say, she will be hallucinating.”
Vincent said nothing, as strangely all that Dominic had said, he accepted without question except for one thing…keep her warm…and over the next two days it grated on his nerves and worried him incessantly…keep her warm… and try as he might to understand why it bothered him so much he found he could not work it out, and for the first time since he had arrived on the other side Vincent accepted something he had refused to face before, his mind seemed befuddled as if it wasn’t his own anymore.
*** *** ***
To be continuied in chapter seven.