“Vincent!” He heard her call his name. She sounded panicked, but the sound was fading. “No Vincent! No, not without me!” It faded on the last word and he found himself in total darkness and silence.
It was darker even, than the cavern had been before. Then he could see shapes in the grayness, and had seen Catherine when she entered. A part of him could feel her then too, she’d been frightened but determined. He knew that she had made the decision to bring him out alive and in one piece, or die trying.
Another part of him had only perceived a threat. He wasn’t even sure what kind of a threat, only that it was, she was. That part of him had urged him forward; right arm raised to strike what he knew would be a killing blow. In the short seconds before he struck, his two sides had warred, and the part that he considered to be him, the human side had won, and he’d fulfilled the promise he’d made to her father. He’d die before he’d see any harm come to her.
Now he lay in total darkness. Was he dead, truly dead?
As if in answer he heard a voice. A rougher version of his own.
“Dead? Do you want to be?” it asked, echoing off the stone walls.
“If it keeps Catherine safe, then that is what I would choose,” he answered, surprised to hear his own voice echo.
“But what of all the times you’ve gone to her, and saved her life or at the very least, saved her from more pain? If you are dead, who will do that in the future?” the voice asked.
Vincent sat up and tried to see into the smothering velvet blackness that surrounded him.
“Who are you? Where are you?” he asked ignoring the question.
“It’s just little ole me,” came the mocking answer as the atmosphere lifted and a diffuse gray light started to saturate a small area of the chamber.
It wasn’t really a chamber, he noticed. He couldn’t see much more than about five or six feet in any direction, but he could sense that he was in an infinitely huge room. The light only illuminated the small area around him and his standing companion.
He was taken aback at the appearance of that companion. It was towering over him where he lay on the cold smooth floor; the same beast that he’d been fighting before Catherine’s arrival. He’d know it anywhere, he’d fought it most of his life. He didn’t even know that it was capable of coherent speech, but seconds before, it had sounded at least reasonably intelligent.
“I’ve been with you always; I’ve benefitted from your education. I can quote Shakespeare with the best of them,” the creature told him in the same mocking tone. “When beggars die, there are no comets seen;
The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes*,” he quoted. “Do you think there will be a blazing comet in tonight’s sky or just the usual stars?”
“I’m dead?” Vincent asked. He sat up and absently ran one hand up his arm to his chest. He could feel his body, it was warm and his heart still beat under his hand.
“As I asked before: Do you want to be?”
“Is Catherine safe?” Vincent asked.
“She is right now,” came the answer, “but she isn’t happy. If I’m correct, she will never be happy again, and may soon follow you to the grave.”
“That can’t happen, she must live. She has her whole life ahead of her,” protested Vincent.
“As do you, and you should be living it with her, but you’ve stubbornly insisted that it cannot be. Tell me, is that you speaking or Father?”
“Father is wise,” mumbled Vincent. “He says that the kind of relationship that normal men share with women is not possible for me. I would hurt her, maybe even kill her, and if that happened I would die too.”
“Moot point, if you are already dead,” the creature pointed out.
“Why are you doing this?” Vincent suddenly asked, his head coming up so he could look at this nemesis that shared the small pool of gray light.
“Because you still have a choice.”
“Yes. There are several options actually: you can live, and continue in the way you always have; you can live and move forward in your relationship with Catherine, or you can die, and probably take Catherine’s life too, in the long run. Even if she lives, she won’t have much of a life.”
“You can see that future for her?” asked Vincent.
“I can’t see the future, but I know her, and I know that without you, she won’t want to live, but whether or not she will have the courage to live without you remains to be seen. I think she will, she will go on and dedicate her whole life to your memory, but then again, I could be wrong.” He lowered himself to sit cross legged a couple feet from where Vincent sat. “The way I see it, the ball is in your court.”
“But she deserves better...” Vincent began.
“Yeah, yeah, sing it again Sam...I’ve heard it all before. Have you ever thought to ask her what she thinks she deserves; what she wants?” the Other asked vehemently. “You say it’s for her own good, but she is a grown woman; she can make her own decisions. The way I see it, it’s a win-win situation. She loves you and wants you and you love her and want her, but you insist on parroting Father. You’ve even begun to act like him.”
“I could emulate worse!” snorted Vincent.
“You’ve always chaffed at the restrictions that Father put on you. You still go Above on a regular basis against his wishes, you have since after you recovered from you illness after the Lisa debacle.”
“That’s different. He bases his advice on his experiences and his fear of what could happen.”
“And you base your conclusions on what could happen between you and Catherine on what? A small incident from your adolescence that Father blew all out of proportion? Hell, the scratches didn’t even leave scars. Not like what you did on Devin, who, by the way, probably deserved what you did.”
“But Catherine is so small, and delicate...” Vincent began to protest.
“Small, maybe, but delicate my ass. Have you seen that woman fight? When she has been taken down it has only been because she was outnumbered or shot. And if you are worried about sex, do you remember the size of a baby’s head? You’ve assisted Father and Mary at enough deliveries to know that with enough time and proper preparation, that particular area of a woman’s body can accommodate a lot.” The dark entity chuckled. “And don’t flatter yourself, big boy, you aren’t that huge.”
Vincent could feel himself blushing, and sputtered, flustered. “I know all that,” he protested. “I’m just as worried about these!” He held up one hand with its lethal claws.
“You can do something about those,” his alter ego pointed out. “File them down, clip them or wear mittens.
“You have an answer for everything, don’t you?” asked Vincent sarcastically, sounding more like the figure across from him than he cared to admit.
“I aim to please,” he answered with a cocky grin. “But I think we’d both rather be pleasing Catherine.”
Vincent jumped to his feet in outrage. “I will not sit here and exchange lewd comments about Catherine!”
The Other also jumped to his feet. “You’ve had those thoughts,” he commented matter-of-factly.
Vincent just turned his back on the Other and tried to ignore him.
After a time, the Other spoke in a more conciliatory tone. “You do have a decision to make,” he reminded him. “And there is a time limit on it. If you don’t do something soon, it will be taken out of your hands.”
Vincent turned back to face the Other and folded his arms across his chest.
“If I choose to go back and continue my life as it has always been?” he asked.
“Then it will be as it has always been. You will continue to fight your darker side...that would be moi,” he pointed jauntily at himself, “and you would have very little peace or joy in your life.”
“And if I choose to move toward love?” Vincent asked dubiously.
“Then you will have much peace and joy. I for one, will be mollified and won’t plague you,” the Other told him.
“And why is that? You just want Catherine where you can abuse and use her? I’d never...”
“Whoa!” shouted the Other as Vincent started to pace in the small patch of light. “Don’t you get it? I’m you. You’ve always considered me a beast, called me the Other, but I’m you! Catherine herself told you that everyone has a dark side to their personality. I’m your dark side, but just because I’m your dark side, doesn’t mean I’m your evil twin. I love her too. It was me who gave you the strength to save her all those times. You’ve released me, and I’ve helped you save her. We’ve done it together. You’ve always pushed me down into a small, dark box in a corner of your soul, and I’ve let you, but now I can’t let you keep doing it. We are about to lose everything. Not just our life, but the woman we both love.”
Vincent stopped and looked at the creature who stood facing him only inches away. In spite of the dark that seemed to exude from it the eyes that met his were his own: clear blue, sincere and swimming in tears.
“I won’t hurt her?” he asked, unbelieving.
“You couldn’t,” he told him. “I wouldn’t let you and neither would the bond. Remember, you feel everything she does. You would know almost before she did.
“And if I go that way, you won’t be there to torment me any longer? How is that?”
“You haven’t been listening, have you,” the Other sighed and shook his head. “I’m part of you. If you decide to move forward, then I won’t be a separate entity any longer. Together we can be the man Catherine deserves.”
“And if I choose to die?”
“Then she may well do the same,” the Other told him resignedly.
Vincent sat back down abruptly, and the other sat across from him.
“You know what you want,” urged the Other.
“But if I choose to move forward there is the possibility of a child. I wouldn’t want to wish this on any child, much less my own.”
The Other sensed that victory was at hand and that Vincent was only throwing up token arguments.
“Has your life been so bad?” he asked. “You’ve been loved, taken care of, and you know that your child would be the same, plus he or she would have the benefit of your experience. Besides, have you ever heard of birth control? Nothing is fail safe, but it all works pretty well.”
Vincent was silent for a few more seconds.
“All right, if I choose to live and move forward, what do I do?” he began to ask. Then the Other’s face before him began to fade, and he heard Catherine’s voice.
“No Vincent! No, not without me!” Then he felt her lips on his.
He was stunned for a moment before his hand came up to hold her head, and his other arm went around her waist and he kissed her back.
*Julius Caesar, Act II, Sc. II