The Night Butterfly

or

A Tale about the Power of Love

By Marianne Mercenary

 

 

It was the 12th of April – Vincent and Catherine were celebrating their 3rd anniversary. They decided to celebrate it in an unusual way: after lighting candles on Catherine’s balcony, they met at the park entrance of the Tunnels, and went for a walk, hand in hand, in Central Park. They both thought that it was wonderful: they were looking for the stars and the moon.

“Oh, Catherine, that night”, said Vincent with a deep sigh, “I found you here, in this place...”“

“I think”, smiled Catherine, “I have to thank those thugs that threw me from their van here...because otherwise I wouldn’t have known you, my love...And you know that I didn’t fix my last scar, because it reminds me of you!”

Vincent looked very touched – he couldn’t say anything, just gave Catherine a big hug. Then, suddenly, a night butterfly appeared in the air – the first one of the year.

“Look, Vincent,” cried out Catherine, “a night butterfly! How big and beautiful!”

The butterfly was floating slowly, and then changed its direction towards the entrance of the Tunnel World. Vincent hurried after the butterfly, and shepherded it in the opposite direction.

“Fly away, little butterfly,” he said. “Go home, and be careful! Maybe our children Below would have been glad and surprised to see it, but it would be bad for this poor night butterfly to lose its way, or to be caught Below. It’s not nice and gentle to catch butterflies – they can be really beautiful and happy only if they are free!”

“Yes, you are right, Vincent.” Catherine nodded, and smiled. “Well, it is interesting...You always try to be careful not to be caught Above – and the butterfly should be careful not to be caught Below!”

“You are absolutely right, Catherine,” Vincent smiled, too, “and...well, it seems, if this little night butterfly was a sign...”

“A symbol of our love...” whispered Catherine gently.

*****

Nobody saw that – as before, the previous Winterfest – a cloaked figure went into the chamber of the evil mask-making woman, Tamara.

“What do you want from me again?” asked Tamara of that cloaked figure. “You know that I can’t do anything without the appropriate face!”

“This time,” answered the cloaked man, “we don’t need any faces...is it enough if I say only a name...VINCENT!”

“Oh, yes:” Tamara gave her visitor a dark, evil smile. “Our dearest Vincent...there is nobody who doesn’t know that name.”

“And his face,” nodded the mystical visitor, “I suppose you can make his face from your own memory!”

“So you want to be him...why?”

“Don’t you know,” asked the cloaked man wryly, “what happened to the curious cat? Just do it!”

“All right,” grinned Tamara. ”You should know that I gladly support every kind of monkey business!”

*****

A few days later very strange things started happening in the Tunnel World. Mouse was just sitting in his chamber, talking to his racoon, when suddenly Vincent appeared there.

“Vincent,” said Mouse, with a happy smile. “You here! OK, fine, OK, good! What do you want from Mouse?”

“Nothing,” answered Vincent “...just, I think you have too much trash here! For example, thi...and this, and this!”

After that, he grabbed the “Eye of the Storm”, and some bottles and flasks...and threw them against the wall! Mouse couldn’t believe his eyes.

“Vincent...Vincent...Vincent...” he mumbled in disbelief, frozen and stunned.

 “That’s my name, don’t wear it out!” laughed Vincent roughly, and rushed to the entrance of Mouse’s chamber. Before he left the chamber, he turned back, and looked scornfully at Mouse. “You pathetic little idiot...” he said, and then stormed out of the chamber.

Poor Mouse was just staring after him slack-jawed, and then his eyes brimmed with tears.

“That is bad...,” he whispered, and starting crying. “Worse than bad...Worse than worst! Vincent, what have you done to Mouse...?!”

*****

Pascal stood beside one of his favourite pipes when he suddenly glimpsed Vincent. “Vincent, it is good you came,” he said gladly. “I have already shown you some of my abbreviations, but now I have new ones! Just listen!”

Pascal then started knocking with his sticks on the pipes, but he couldn’t finish, because Vincent grabbed the sticks out of his hands.

“Nothing is so annoying as this grating, stupid clinking,”, he said rudely. “It’s high time to stop it, once and for all!”

And after that Vincent lifted one of the sticks, and hit Pascal on the head so he collapsed.

*****

Elizabeth, the gentle, but firm, fragile old lady, was just working on a new painting in the Painted Tunnels – Vincent and Catherine, embracing. She was almost finished when Vincent came into sight.

“Oh, Vincent, dear child,” cried out the old lady, “look at my newest creation! I bet you will like it!”

Vincent took one very strange look at the painting.

“Not bad,” he said sarcastically, “but it could be even better.  Leave it to me, I know how!”

After that he picked up one of Elizabeth’s paints – a dark green one – and sprinkled it onto Elizabeth’s painting!

“Well,” asked Vincent abominably,” isn’t that much better, old woman?!” and he hurried away with hysterical laughter.

Elizabeth, like Mouse earlier, was staring after him, stunned.

“I can’t believe it,” she mumbled. “It can’t be...I’ll go to Father, and tell it to him!”

Mouse had the same intention, too, and so had Rebecca, who had some candles in reserve for the next Winterfest, but Vincent broke them.

Mary wasn’t much luckier, either: Vincent tossed her to the wall of a tunnel. When she pulled herself together and continued on her way, she bumped into Narcissa – for her greatest surprise.

“Narcissa...what are you doing here?” asked Mary, because everybody knew that the half-blind old woman almost never left her place.

“Vincent...” Narcissa was panting, gasping for air, “Vincent made a big mess in my chamber...I thought it was the evil one...But he was so near that even I could see that it was him. He was laughing horribly, and was so...I don’t know...so evil, so rude, so strange...he wasn’t himself! Really, believe me!”

“Oh, yes,” answered Mary thoughtfully. ”I was walking here, and he ran by me, and tossed me against the wall...and he ran away without saying anything, didn’t even try to help me to stand up. I agree that he hadn’t been himself!”

“I’d like to tell Father this,” said Narcissa.

Mary tried to calm her, saying that she had no reason to worry, and offering her help. They continued on their way together – and suddenly they found the unconscious Pascal!

“Oh, my God!” screamed Mary. “What’s going on?!”

Pascal then opened his eyes.

“Where am I?”

“Here, Below,” answered Mary, “and don’t worry, we are here with you. But what happened to you?”

“Vincent...” moaned Pascal, starting to remember. “He hit me with my stick, saying that he was fed up with that ’grating, stupid clinking’ that I made!”

The two women were staring at him in horror.

“It can’t be true...” mumbled Mary. “Vincent, our kind, gentle Vincent...?”

Narcissa looked extremely frightened, and she told Pascal what Vincent had done to her.

“The best thing would be,” suggested Mary, “to go to Father!”

When they arrived at Father’s chamber, they found Elizabeth and Mouse there – complaining bitterly. They were more surprised than ever, and they told Father their own stories, too.

Father furrowed his brow, deeply troubled. “I don’t understand, I really don’t understand it,” he muttered. “I think the best thing is to ask Vincent himself!”

In the next moment, Vincent appeared with the children, Samantha, Geoffrey and Zach. Mouse fell on him immediately.

“Vincent, Vincent!” he shouted.  “What have you done?!”

Vincent looked very surprised.

“I don’t understand you, Mouse,” he said.  “What is all the excitement?”

“You are one to ask,” cried Mouse. “You destroyed Mouse’s things, and you were very rude! It was worse than worst!”

“And you hit me with my stick!” blamed Pascal.

Others listed their complaints, too.

Vincent looked at them in disbelief. “I understand you less and less,” he answered, shaking his head. “It is impossible! First: I could never hurt you – any of you! Second: I was, at that time, with the children. We were reading ’Romeo and Juliet’!”

“But Vincent,” Pascal was shaking his head, too, “look at my forehead! The person who made this big lump on my head hardly an hour ago was definitely you!”

“Like that person,” screamed Elizabeth, “who destroyed my painting, brutally! You are unmistakable, Vincent!”

“But it is nonsense!” Samantha stomped on the ground with her foot. “Vincent really was with us!”

“Yes,” justified Geoffrey, “it couldn’t be him!”

“We were reading ’Romeo and Juliet’,” said Zach. “We did not move from Vincent’s chamber!”

“But then who was that other Vincent?” murmured Narcissa.

“I don’t think,” said Pascal, “that you have a twin brother.”

“No, he really hasn’t.” Father shook his head. “He was found on that cold day absolutely alone! It is a very good question, that...”

But he couldn’t finish – a wild shouting was heard from the outer tunnel, and then William appeared.

“Now you will get what you deserve!” bellowed William, and – dear God! – he was pulling someone after him...reluctantly struggling: another Vincent!

“Father, Father!” shouted William at the top of his lungs. “I can’t believe it! Vincent went crazy, and tried to pour some poison into our soup in the kitchen!”

“No, no,” protested his prisoner. “It wasn’t me! I didn’t do anything!”

Then William stopped, and now he was the one who was staring slack-jawed, and then he wiped his eyes, and pinched himself. “No...,” whispered William, and he was very pale.  “Am I dreaming? How can it be?!”

The others were extremely shocked, too. No wonder: they now had TWO Vincents! And they were so similar, like real monozygotic twins!

“Jesus,” mumbled Mary, “two Vincents...No...No...”

“It’s bad,” said Mouse with deep conviction. “Worse than bad!”

“But it can explain the things that happened,” cried out Samantha.  ”I’m sure that the other Vincent did those terrible things!”

The other Vincent tried to free himself, but William’s large hand was holding him very tightly.

“We don’t have to be very clever,” said Father, “to guess that one of these Vincents is fake!”

“Yes,” said the Vincent who was held by William, and he pointed to the other Vincent. “It was him! I noticed that he wanted to pour the poison into the soup, and I tried to prevent it! He did it, and then he went to my chamber, pretending that he was me, to lead the reading group with the children instead of me!”

 “That’s nonsense!”  The other Vincent shook his head.

“He is lying!” shouted the one who was still held by William.

Father was looking from one to the other helplessly.

“Even I can’t decide which one is our real Vincent. Come, children, run to Catherine, and bring her here, quickly! I think she is the best person to recognize our Vincent!”

He didn’t have to tell them twice: the children hurried away, and shortly came back with Catherine. The children brought her to the Central Park entrance, where the others met her.

Catherine entered curiously, and she recoiled when she glimpsed two of her love.

“Oh, dear God...” she whispered, looking frightened as she gazed from one Vincent to the other.

The Vincent who was held earlier by William freed himself, and was standing baring his claws so that nobody could catch him again, and it seemed that he would like to escape, but he was afraid to be caught again by William or anybody else.

“Catherine,” said Father, “as you can see, a very strange thing happened to us.”

The others started telling her - cutting each other off - what happened to them thanks to Vincent.

“No,” Catherine shook her head, “it can’t be! Vincent could never hurt you!”

“That is why we asked you to come here,” said Father. “We all think that you are the one who could decide which of these two Vincents is the real one! Of course, each of them claims that he is the real Vincent – but needless to say, that is nonsense!”

“Yes, I see,” Catherine sighed deeply. “Well, let me see...Vincent, tell me, when did we meet each other?”

“On April 12th!” answered the right Vincent.

“In 1986! “ completed the left one.

“And where?” asked Catherine.

“Here, in Central Park!” answered the right Vincent.

“I found you very near to the park entrance of our Tunnels!” said the left Vincent.

“What did I do?” Catherine continued asking questions.

“You were unconscious!” answered the right Vincent.

“There were terrible wounds on you, and you were bleeding!” nodded the left Vincent.

“And who was the one who took care of me?” asked Catherine.

“It was me!” answered the right Vincent.

“No, it was me!” protested the left one.

Catherine became more and more puzzled. It seemed that she could ask anything, and both Vincents knew the appropriate answer. What to do, what to ask? What kind of cross-question could reveal the real Vincent? They were really so similar. And both of them looked at her very gently.

Catherine racked her brain desperately. Like it or not, she must discover which one was the real Vincent! She started to look into their eyes – perhaps she could read from them which one was her Vincent...

And then, as they were near the park entrance, to everyone’s surprise, suddenly a butterfly appeared, floating in the Tunnels.

 A night butterfly! Catherine was frozen, and then a broad smile appeared on her face.

“Look,” cried out Samantha. “What is that?”

“A night butterfly,” answered Catherine. “They frequently fly Above at night. I collect them, but it is hard to catch them! Vincent, please, catch me that butterfly!”

“All right, my dearest Catherine,” said the left Vincent willingly. “Your wish is my command, my love!”

And then the left Vincent started running after the night butterfly, but the right Vincent blocked his way. “No,” he said gently but firmly, “you mustn’t catch butterflies...because you don’t have a right to give its freedom away, and...”

“...and butterflies are beautiful and happy, only if they can fly and float freely!” Catherine finished Vincent’s sentence in tears – and she ran to him, and gave him a tremendous hug, sobbing.

Vincent, holding Catherine with one hand, reached towards the other Vincent with his other hand, grabbed the skin on his face, and pulled it. In the next moment, the whole face came off in his hand – and he revealed...Paracelsus!

“John!” cried out Father, while everyone was staring at Paracelsus in disbelief. ”John, it’s you again...We should have guessed it!”

A huge cacophony arose in the Tunnels...very similar to Winterfest. A blade sprang out of Paracelsus’ sleeve so that the evil man could keep all of them away from himself – and then he tried to escape. Vincent ran after him, but Paracelsus disappeared. Only his angry cry echoed in the Tunnels: “I’ll back! You will see!”

The tunnel dwellers gathered around Vincent and Catherine.

“Vincent,” started Pascal shyly, “Forgive us for doubting...”

“Yes,” agreed Mary, “we should have known that you could never mean harm to any of us...”

“It was Catherine again,” said Father, “who helped us...“

“It was a good idea,” said Elizabeth, “to bring her here!”

“It wasn’t me,” Catherine shook her head, “it was our love...and that beautiful little night butterfly!”

After that, she told the others their small adventure with the night butterfly. Fortunately, the evil man couldn’t prepare for it!

“OK, fine, OK, good!” shouted Mouse triumphantly.  “Long live butterflies!”

Everyone laughed.

*****

Vincent escorted Catherine to the park entrance.

“Do you think,” Catherine asked him when they stopped at the entrance, “it was the same butterfly?”

“I don’t know,” smiled Vincent, “but I know one thing: our love will be the same...always!”

They embraced, hotly and happily, closing their eyes – so they couldn’t see that little night butterfly, floating around them...

 

THE END