Chapter Eight

“So reading to him helped?” Peter asked the next afternoon, when his schedule had finally lightened up enough for him to come down. They were sitting in the library where Father, after a brief nap, had agreed to meet Peter.

“Yes,” Father replied hoarsely. “But it's not a permanent solution. His fever is rising again. I've sent for some more ice bags.” He sat down heavily, weary to his soul as he hadn't been since his internship. “I have two of our strongest men standing guard at his chamber, and we are making...arrangements to isolate him further should he become violent. I fear there is nothing more to be done.”

“There is,” Peter said. “There must be. Do you think he'll let me touch him?”

Father shrugged. “When I'm not in the room with him, he becomes more restless. His reactions are...very erratic, Peter.”

“I'd like to take a blood sample,” Peter said.

“A blood sample? Peter, the risks---”

Peter nodded. “I know. But we're stumbling in the dark here; even if this illness is primarily psychological, there may be a physical cause we can treat, but I won't know unless I can get a blood sample.”

“Very well,” Father replied. “But Peter---be careful. Whatever is going on, it is extremely volatile.”

They walked towards Vincent's chamber. Father nodded at Winslow and stolid Elijah, both of whom had volunteered to stand guard over their friend. “How has he been?” he asked Winslow.

Winslow's eyes flickered towards the interior of the chamber. “Some growling, a lot of muttering, nothing that makes any sense. No sounds at all for the past few minutes.”

Vincent was sitting up in bed as they entered, the tell-tale red flush to his skin and the perspiration at his hairline giving evidence of the increasing fever. “How are you feeling?” Peter asked.

The words, when he spoke, were forced out over a voice gone raspy with fever and fatigue. “I shouldn't be here. I need to go Above.”

“Sure, of course,” Peter said, not mentioning that it was full daylight and Vincent wouldn't be going Above anytime soon. “Can I get a blood sample?” he asked, pulling out his syringe in a quick, efficient motion.

It was a mistake. Vincent caught the hand holding the syringe and his eyes dilated until there was hardly any blue left at all. Fight or flight reaction one part of Father's mind remarked. It was the one thing, aside from his outside appearance, that was the most feline about Vincent. Like any number of domestic cats Father had known, he did not take kindly to sudden movements. “Peter,” Father said softly. “Drop the syringe.” Peter did so with difficulty, because Vincent was holding his wrist tightly, but he managed. “Vincent, release Peter. He means you no harm.”

Vincent blinked as if not quite sure where he was or what he had been doing. His eyes, still fever-bright, glanced at the hand holding Peter's wrist and back again at Father's face. He released the wrist slowly and his eyes regained some of their awareness. “I'm...sorry,” he said roughly.

Peter smiled. “No harm done. Can I get a blood sample?”

Vincent shook his head and Father noticed how tangled and dull his mane looked. “I'm not sick,” he protested. “I just need to go Above.”

“Vincent, you're running a high fever,” Father said, trying to distract him from yet another mention of needing to go Above. “You've been very sick.”

It was subtle, but the shift in the body language was unmistakable. This was the Other. “We are not...a lab animal,” the Other hissed.

“No one said you were,” Father replied evenly. “But you have not been well, Vincent. Peter needs a blood sample so we can figure out how to help you.”

“You do not want to help us,” the Other replied. “You made Lisa leave. You will not let us leave.” With one quick movement, startling in someone weakened by fever and fatigue, he lurched out of bed and ran for the chamber entrance.

Winslow caught him, just barely. Vincent swung around, ready to attack but Winslow caught his arm and twisted it behind his back, shoving Vincent against the wall while Elijah kept him there, despite his struggles to break free. Had he been at anywhere near his full strength, they would never have caught him. “What now, Father?” Winslow asked, gasping.

“Are you either of you hurt?” Father glanced at the two of them; no blood, but there would be some nasty bruising.

“No,” they answered. “You got him?” Winslow asked Elijah.

Elijah nodded, not trying to make his voice heard over Vincent's furious roaring. Winslow stepped back a bit. “Look, Father, that room you asked about? Young Pascal sent word. It's ready.”

“What room?” Peter asked, looking shaken.

Father rubbed his eyes. He was not crying; it was the dust in his eyes, the dust Vincent had stirred up in his enraged flight. “The storage room. Where we're going to have to confine Vincent until this passes.”


The storage room was a large chamber with one unique feature: it had a door, a thick door of mahogany and iron that wouldn't have looked out of place in a medieval dungeon. No one knew who had put it there or why but it would serve very well. Vincent was strong, but the door should hold should he try to escape.

Father was pleased, and saddened, to find that his instructions had been carried out to the letter. There was nothing sharp in the chamber, nothing that could be used as a weapon. There was only a rough pallet with some blankets. Strong hooks had been driven into the rock walls; if they had to restrain Vincent, those would be where the ropes and harness would be attached.

It was a prison and a dungeon and Father knew that any sight of his son there would haunt him until the end of his days. But they couldn't risk him escaping Above in daylight, couldn't risk Vincent's health or anyone else's. And so, Vincent would go into this chamber and he would not leave it until he either recovered or he died. There was no longer any other option.

Winslow had prepared the makeshift harness, made of strong leather and iron lengths of chain that he had forged long ago for some other purpose. Even then, it might not be enough to hold Vincent, but it was the best they could do. Father watched as Winslow and Elijah frog-marched Vincent into the storage room; it was as if they held some wild, furious animal between them. Vincent twisted and turned and snarled; his face dark and flushed with rage. His roars echoed off the rock walls and drove themselves into Father's heart. If he survives, he may never forgive me for this, Father thought.

It occurred to him then, with a terrible sinking weight on his heart, that Vincent might die from his illness. He'd fought tooth and nail to banish even the shadow of such a suspicion from his mind, but looking at his son, gone gaunt and feral in his fever and hallucinations, Father felt death shadowing his footsteps.

Not this time, Father swore. I saved him once. You will not have him now. He turned then and walked towards the struggling figure of his son, trying to break free from Elijah and Winslow's firm grasp. “Vincent,” he said, resting his hands on the straining shoulders of his son and raising his voice to be heard over the roaring, “you must fight this and come back to us. You're going to be all right.”

The roaring dimmed to a faint growling and as the blue eyes gained some distant glimmer of recognition, Father just barely caught his son as he slumped forward bonelessly.


Leaving the unconscious Vincent temporarily in the hands of Peter and Winslow, Father made his way back to his chamber. In the library, he grabbed two of the thickest books he could find and some blankets of his own. Whatever Vincent was fighting, he would not fight it alone.

When he returned, Peter took the bundle from him. “I managed to get an IV started,” Peter said, “and he's at least gotten some fluids into him.”

“An IV...very good, Peter. He's been so dehydrated. Is he sleeping now?”

“If you can call it that,” Peter replied. “I doubt he's really slept much at all in the last few days. For right now, he's not tossing and turning, but if you want to keep that IV in...” Peter didn't finish the thought because he didn't have to. One summer when they had both been struggling medical students, he and Peter had taken jobs as orderlies at a local insane asylum. It had been a harrowing experience that neither of them had ever forgotten.

“Winslow has...everything ready,” Father said. “I pray it won't be necessary.”

Peter nodded, knowing there was nothing else to say. “Do you want me to stay down here tonight?”

Father shook his head. “No. Go home, get some rest, and I'll try to do the same.”

“Are you sure?” Peter asked. “Vincent could be--”

“Dangerous? Yes, I know. But I am his father and whatever we have to face now, we'll face together.”

“If you say so,” Peter said, unconvinced, but getting up to leave nonetheless. “If you need anything, call me.”

Winslow stood outside the entrance to the storage room, gazing into the room every so often. “He's settled down some since Peter left,” Winslow said, answering the unasked question. “He's not all that fond of strangers, you noticed?”

Despite himself, Father smiled. It had always been that way with Vincent; he was wary and nearly silent among people he didn't know. Peter wasn't entirely a stranger, but also wasn't someone Vincent saw every day either. “Yes, I noticed.”

Winslow noticed the bundle Father carried. “You mean to be here alone with him? Like that?”

Father nodded, not acknowledging Winslow's unspoken Are you completely insane? “Come back in a couple of hours. And leave outside the door.” Winslow ambled off, and Father was at last alone with his son.

Vincent was quiet, still, and Father was stunned by the changes the last few days had made in him. There were deeper lines on his forehead and around his muzzle, lines of sorrow that seemed far too old on a boy who was only 15. If I could have protected you from this hurt, I would have.

Picking up one of the books, and dragging Winslow's chair from the entrance inside the room for his throbbing hip, Father began to read: “Arma virumque cano, Troiae qui primus ab oris...” [5]

5 Virgil, The Aeneid. Translation by Stanley Lombardo. “Wars and a man I sing, the first to come to the shores of Troy...”

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