Catherine Didn't Die
By Scrappy LeMonte
The tunnel dead-ended into a small chamber; he was there, pacing its length. Her mouth went dry. He caught sight of her, and roared. He charged at her, his hand raised to strike; she cried out, “VINCENT!”
He stopped, just inches away from her. He lowered his arm, slowly. “Catherine,” he whispered, but not the soft, gentle whisper of Vincent. It was a sinister whisper, filled with contempt. He leaned close to her, and inhaled deeply. “Catherine…” he repeated.
She was terrified. He pulled back, just a bit, and began to circle her, slowly. “You are scared to death…Catherine.” He chuckled. “Vincent won’t be running in to save you this time, will he?”
“Who are you?” she asked.
“I don’t know that I have a name,” he said, considering. He took off his cloak, and tossed it aside. He stopped in front of her, tipped his head to the side, and looked her up and down. He pulled off his vest.
“I am very warm,” he said. “Are you warm, Catherine?”
“No, I’m fine.”
“Take off that coat,” he snarled at her. He chuckled again. “Pardon me, my dear Catherine, my manners are not as refined as Vincent’s, I’m afraid. But I do so want you to be comfortable, and you just look so warm…”
Her clothes were drenched with sweat. He raised his eyebrows at the condition of her clothes as she tossed her coat aside. “My, my, Catherine…sweet, sweet, Catherine, you are terrified. But you love Vincent so much, so very much, you risked all to be with him.” He was mocking her, and he was cruel. He sighed. “Ah, your love…your bond…your dream…I can hardly speak, my throat tightens with emotion! ‘Things base and vile, folding no quantity,/Love can transpose to form and dignity:/Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind;/And therefore is wing'd Cupid painted blind--’”
“Enough,” she murmured.
“Your love overlooked his hideous appearance, his gruesome face that made babies cry, that made women swoon-”
“Enough,” she raised her voice.
“But you can’t forget how he ripped people to shreds, Catherine, to shreds with his claws--”
“Bastard!” she yelled at him. “You bastard! That is enough!”
He took a half step back. “Cathy—what’s wrong? Feeling a little guilty, maybe, about putting yourself into dangerous situations, because, after all, you had your own personal demon from hell that would come running--”
She spat in his face.
He leaned into her face, and she stepped back. He kept coming at her, until she was backed up against a wall. “Did you ever stop to think about how that made him feel, Cathy? Now, personally, it made me feel great. But Vincent, poor, sensitive, Vincent, working so hard to deny his animal nature, and here you had him, shredding these weak, helpless--”
“Murderers? Are you talking about the murderers he took down? We’ll never know how many people’s lives he saved from those killers.”
“Yes, Cathy, but that doesn’t wash the blood stains out of his fur, does it? No, he has to do that. You didn’t know that he can still smell the blood for days after the stains are gone, did you? No.” He sighed. “Then there are his feelings for you. Do you know how you make him feel, Cathy?”
“He loves me.”
“Yes, but do you know how that makes him feel?”
She expected him to grind his crotch into her pelvis, which would have been the perfect crudity to illustrate his question. But he didn’t. He hesitated.
What is that? She quizzed herself. What is that look, is it a blink? Is it Vincent?
She knew she couldn’t hesitate. She put her hands on his shoulders and whispered softly, “Do you know how that makes me feel?” She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him.
He yielded to her, kissing her back, softly, sweetly; he wrapped his arms around her, lifting her, holding her as tightly as she had longed for him to, for so long.
Suddenly, he was throwing her, she was flying, and then she was looking up at him from the dirt floor.
“Slut!” he yelled at her, and then he was on top of her. “You’re a whore, you’re trash from the gutter!”
“No, I’m not!”
“I’m not! And you’re not either! Our love is beautiful, Vincent, our feelings are natural, our desire for each other flows purely from our love, it’s not dark or evil! ‘What made me love thee? let that persuade thee/ there's something extraordinary in thee. I cannot: but I love thee; none but thee; and thou deservest it.’”
He stared at her, unable to speak. Finally, with a growl of frustration, he rolled off of her. He resumed his pacing, but slower now.
“You say you love Vincent; I say you love half of Vincent, and loving half is loving none. Your love is for the Vincent of poetry and literature, of classical music in the moonlight. But what of me? What of me, half of Vincent, the hidden half, the angry, violent half, does the mantle of your love envelope me as well? I think not.”
She nodded slightly. “Do you think Vincent loves my hidden half? My dark half? My shallowness, my greed, my envy? The measure of love is not whether we love the faults of our beloved, but rather if we accept our beloved with their faults, and help them grow to become better people.”
“So you accept me?”
“Yes, you are part of Vincent. But are you the hidden part, or are you the part he’s outgrowing?”
“Bitch! He will never outgrow me! He cannot outgrow himself! You pretend to know him; you don’t know him! He doesn’t know himself! Here is Vincent!”
He crossed to the end of the chamber and brushed the dirt off the wall. It was covered with carvings of beings with the bodies of men, but the heads of lions. They were portrayed as being engaged in activities, apparently within the tunnels.
Catherine rose and drew close to the wall.
“Oh, my God,” she whispered.
“My people were great, strong…proud…I am the last…alone” his words trailed off. He turned away from her. His breathing became irregular. She put her hand on his arm. He spun around, snarling at her. “Don’t touch me! Leave me!” He moved to the far wall of the chamber, sank down to sit on the floor, and hung his head.
In that moment, she could feel his pain. She didn’t merely know he was in pain, she actually felt it. It started as a cold, thin trickle running through her heart, and grew into a powerful, freezing current that took her breath away.
She had to go to him. She crept up stealthily, one step at a time. He had turned his face to the wall, and was leaning on it. She knelt down next to him, and put her hand on his shoulder. A wave of nausea passed over her as the full force of his emotions shot up through her arm: terror, shame, dread.
“No, Catherine,” he whispered, “please.” She put her hand on his cheek, and turned him to face her. Tears were running freely down his cheeks. They reached out for each other, and held tight. Vincent began to sob, deep, chest heaving, body shaking convulsions of pain.
Slowly, slowly, his agony subsided; his breathing slowed. He bent his head down, and looked into her eyes. “Vincent,” she whispered. Gently, he kissed her lips.
He rose up, retrieved his cloak, her coat, and shook them out. He spread them out on the ground. He crossed back to her, and held out his hand. She took it, and stood. They sank down slowly onto the garments, entwined in each other’s arms.
The fire was burning down. “It’s so quiet,” worried Mouse. “They’ve been in there for such a long time.”
Father looked at him, his brow furrowed. He looked down the tunnel, at the opening of the chamber. “I’m going in,” he decided. Just then, he saw Catherine and Vincent coming out, arm in arm. Vincent looked healthy! Perhaps a bit weak, but healthy! His heart soared as he watched them walking down the tunnel. They all began to cheer and celebrate: Vincent was well!