I want to sleep the dream of the apples, to withdraw from the tumult of cemeteries. – Gacela of the Dark Death by Federico Garcia Lorca
“Catherine, you’re having a nightmare.”
She was trying to rise to Vincent’s soft but insistent voice before she seemed to realize she had escaped.
Vincent had been sleeping before her dreams awoke him. He had placed a long cot next to her, not willing to leave the hospital chamber but so achingly tired, the sleepless, searching nights finally catching him. She had moved to the very edge of her own bed, as if sensing his presence. She curled around their child, still wary it seemed, still trying to keep the baby safe. For long moments Vincent watched her, contemplating the miracle, before exhaustion finally took him.
Vincent had thought he was dreaming of light, of day, but he experienced a vulnerability, a susceptibility so unfamiliar, even the light had never caused him this much dread. At once he realized it must be her dream, the fears her own. He never realized such a difference could exist between her psyche and his, but then he had never carried a life within him either.
“Vincent?” Catherine scanned the room disoriented, still half in dream, but slowly the sound of the ringing pipes, the underlying smell of the Tunnels, candle wax, dust, cool damp and time, eased her. She was with Vincent, and the Man couldn’t hurt her here. She had made sure he could never hurt them again.
Vincent helped her to sit at the side of the bed, and at this point she needed all the help she could muster. She hated this room – the hospital chamber, the small beds and metal tools – too many bad memories, too much death, blood and recrimination, and a reminder that she wasn’t whole, that she couldn’t control her reactions. Poor Eric, all she could remember of the child’s homecoming hug was his confusion when he encountered her swollen belly, then black. She was not “in control” of herself. A woman should be “in control.” It was a bred in belief of an East Side girl.
She rubbed her face with her hands, trying to let go of the dream…for herself, for the baby, and for Vincent’s sake. “How long have I been asleep?” She saw that another bed was pulled close to hers. He must have been resting, and she awoke him with her nightmare. She knew her agitation distressed him and their son. She placed her hands on her belly and felt the baby kick to remind her awake together was better than alone within.
“A day through, it is morning now.”
Vincent kneeled in front of her, taking her hands. “What did you dream, Catherine?”
“I….” Not knowing where to begin. It was easy to recall the dream. Her dreams played like living movies inside her mind, so real since becoming pregnant – too real. “I was in the park, I think. It was daytime, but it was…quiet. I was in a field surrounded by trees on a clear day. The sun was so bright and hot, I felt like it was burning me, reflecting from my body. It was just…too much light.” She still felt the searing sun, and the light radiating from her skin.
“Then these men were there, and I couldn’t get away from them. I don’t know who they were, but they held me down, and I knew…I knew I was going to have the baby, and I was terrified because this monster, like a dragon almost, appeared, but it was Him. I couldn’t scream. I think that was the worst part. I knew, just over the hill, just behind the trees, there was help if I could only call out for it, but I tried and tried, and…nothing. I had no voice and He came close, waiting for our baby to be born. He was going to take it, and…and then you woke me up.” She shook her head, trying to shake off the vision of open jaws and a thousand teeth.
“I can feel your dream, Catherine,” he told her. “I can sense the images on the edge of my mind, the heat of the sun, your fear of captivity…” teeth like swords reflecting the blinding light in a gaping maw, “almost like a faint taste on my tongue.”
“I’m sorry,” she said as she placed her hand on his cheek. Did she cause him worry? She already felt dependent on him, too dependent. There were many things she would share with him. This was one she wished he had no part of.
“No!” He cradled her hand upon his cheek. “I feel…blessed…that I am bound to you again. Since its return, the Bond we share seems stronger than before; it is welcome, no matter where it leads. After so many days and nights without you…” He could not finish describing the hell of groundlessness and loss the last months had become.
“It is stronger for me, as well. I feel it too…your presence in my heart….” She sighed. “I need it,” a fact, “but I worry….”
He studied her again. She seemed a shade more open to him than before, but she was still wrapped within herself, a tangled string.
“What is it, Catherine? You know you can tell me anything.”
Could she tell him? Would it hurt him, the truth of her pain which she knew must be so small, dwarfed compared to the torment she had caused him?
Calling from her tower cell, the taunting voice haunted her even here. “You didn’t keep his baby safe – all your risks, all your stupid mistakes. He will hate you for them.”
“I’m sorry,” she began. “I don’t want to burden you,” she whispered.
I don’t want you to hate me.
“Please, Catherine.” Vincent spoke with a need, an earnestness she had rarely heard before. He stood, walked away a few feet and then turned to her. Would he keep walking if she told him how unstable captivity had made her, the ordeal that she knew he would blame himself for? He had turned from her in the past, when the truth was too much for him to bear. She could take his anger, his sadness, but not his distance.
“I…I’m not sorry that He’s dead, Vincent,” she began, trying to find a balance she did not feel. “He hurt me, he hurt our….” She couldn’t finish that. “But I feel…I feel cut off from myself, like part of me was born and died in that building, in that office, and that part , the part that’s lost, keeps me from being here…with you…I feel….” She tried to find the words.
She looked at him, shocked he would speak so bluntly, so openly. In the past, a truth like this, it would have sent him so far from her.
He went on, “You feel the human measure fading, and that truer portion is laid bare for the world to see. Nothing can fully touch the images of the killing, the pain, and nothing will wash away the stain of it, even when you know the person you killed deserved death. Part of you wishes there was another way, but the other half rejoices in your dark power, and glories in what you’ve done.”
“Yes…,” she whispered.
“I have felt this,” he answered.
“Yes…” – astonished that he was so understanding, astonished that he was brave enough to say the words – “and I put you through that! I forced you to save me. We did good together, I know, but you have killed for me, so many times, and it nearly destroyed you, Vincent. How can you love me…after I made you…after I….”
…after I put myself, and our child, in danger, and then killed out of anger, yes, but, also, out of shame. The words remained unuttered, her fear of losing him too great to speak aloud.
He sat next to her on the little bed. “For you, Catherine,” he took her hand in his, he stroked it, and she wondered if he was trying to rub away the violence she had committed, “…for our child, I would do so again.”
These were not empty words meant to appease her. Catherine’s return, their child’s life, had codified an identity within his heart. He felt no guilt, no sadness even, for what he had been forced to do to get her back. He would keep them safe. He was their protector, the lover, the father, and he would be that until the end of his days.
He went on, despite her anguish. She needed to know. “Your dream wasn’t wrong, Catherine. The man that held you was a monster. You killed a monster.” Slowly the anger rose in Vincent’s voice. “I knew from your reaction to him, from what he said, and from what my own senses told me, he was wrong…as Paracelsus was wrong, twisted within his own world on his own truths. He was everything malevolent, selfish….”
He paused, hoping his words reached her.
“You and I have killed with our hands; we share that pain.” He stroked her hand again. “For that, I am sorry.” He stopped and looked her in the eyes. “But Catherine, know this: he was already dead, from the moment he took you….”
In a low, fierce growl, he spoke with his hatred, “The only thing that you did was save him from me.”
For a moment she would not move, ingesting his words, but then her head fell slowly to his shoulder and she let her tears fall. He was adamant she had done nothing wrong, and a small part of her was assuaged by his words and by his love, but a part of her that still bled with shame, bled on.
“For you,” she echoed, past the knot of pain and guilt living at the bottom of her throat, “I would do so again.”
He sighed. They would own this, together. He twined their hands, his claws and her fingers intermingled, woven as one. They were so different, he had always thought, but that was before….
“We do what we must, Catherine, for each other; we always have, and now…Catherine, this is what mothers and fathers do…” he whispered to her, trying to touch the disgrace he knew she felt, but he still could not touch.
“…we kill the monsters.”
[Painting at the beginning of chapter – The Great Red Dragon and the Woman clothed with the Sun , by William Blake, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.]