THE TUNNEL CHRONICLES
PERCHANCE TO DREAM
Summary - This story is a Classic BEAUTY AND THE BEAST re imagining and rated K. It recounts Vincent's coming of age. It is set just after Lisa left, when Vincent suffers a breakdown and for weeks is in a state of near death. When he recovers, stronger and more at peace with himself, his sixteenth birthday approaches. At a coming of age ceremony, Vincent is given a special task that gives him hope for the future.
"How is he?" Mary asked, as she entered Vincent's chamber to see the weary figure of Father sitting beside Vincent's bed.
In the bed, an adolescent Vincent lay tossing his head back and forth, his long, thin frame wracked with fever.
Father looked up at Mary, his eyes tired and his features drawn. "There's no change."
Mary walked into the room and put a hand on Father's hunched shoulder. "It's been almost a six months since …"
"Since she left? Yes, I know, Mary. I don't think Lisa is responsible. Although I think perhaps it's more what Vincent inadvertently did to harm her than her leaving that has precipitated Vincent's illness. His guilt over what happened is immense. For the first time in his life he was forced to face what he truly is."
They both turned to the tortured young man in the bed, his face bright red with the flush of fever, his forehead and throat wet with perspiration, the long golden hair damp and clinging to his face and neck.
"What did Peter say?" Mary asked
"He's as baffled as I am. We don't know if this is a normal part of Vincent's adolescence or something else. Peter thinks that it could be the two halves of him, fighting for supremacy as he grows to maturity, a biological and emotional war going on within him."
Mary looked down at the young man thrashing on the bed. "What can we do to help him?" she murmured.
"Only what we've been doing. But we can never give him any kind of medication again. The effects were too dangerous."
"But the restraints …" Mary said with a catch in her voice.
Their eyes settled on the thick leather and metal manacles around Vincent's wrists, holding him to the bed.
"We have no choice, Mary. He almost threw himself into the abyss when he got away last time. It took six men to stop him and bring him back to safety."
"It's a good thing he's delirious so he doesn't know," Mary said with tears in her eyes.
His own eyes moist, Father said "We can only hope that he is unaware, Mary. We can only hope …"
Father's voice echoed through the chamber –
"To sleep, perchance to dream. ay there's the rub.
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled of this mortal coil
Must give us pause – there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time
Th'oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely.
The pangs of despised love, the laws delay.
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes ..."
"Father?" Vincent interrupted weakly. He lay in his bed. The fever was gone, and the red marks on his wrists, the restraints now removed, were healing.
Father lifted his eyes from Hamlet's speech.
"Did I die, Father?"
His father was silent for so long that Vincent didn't think he was going to answer. Then he said, "Your heart stopped, and you stopped breathing. Medically, yes you died, Vincent. Then with no explanation or warning, you just started breathing again."
"I could hear you reading to me, Father. Through the dreams I heard your voice …"
Father looked into the blue eyes of his son and said, "I wanted you to know you weren't alone."
A bruised hand reached out and took one of his father's. "Even through the dreams I heard you, Father. I knew you were there–but I couldn't find you–I searched and searched, but couldn't find my way out of the dark. Then, like a candle at the end of a long tunnel, I followed your voice–into the light."
Father bent forward and kissed his son's cool forehead. "It was all I had left to do, Vincent. I had tried everything else. The rest was up to you."
Vincent was silent for a long time as his father smoothed his hair, waiting.
"No one will ever love me, will they, Father?"
He knew the question would come. It was inevitable. Jacob had dreaded it, but he knew it had to be answered eventually. He tried to avoid it.
"We all love you, Vincent."
"Not like Ophelia loved Hamlet, or Juliet loved Romeo …"
Wishing he could lie to his son with everything he had experienced in the last three weeks, Jacob knew that Vincent deserved to know the truth. At last he said, "As much as I would wish it otherwise, Vincent, I'm sorry, no." Then to give him some hope of a full life ahead he added, "You must find another way to measure your life, Vincent–a way that will savor each joy and lessen the pain."
Vincent turned his head to the fan-shaped window overlooking his bed. "To sleep perchance to dream …" he murmured.
Father looked sadly at his son, and wondered if he was speaking of dreams or of death. He wished with all his heart that Vincent would find what he dreamed of. But he feared that, like Lisa, there would only be those who would break his son's heart. If he could stop that from happening, he would do anything in his power to accomplish it.
Winterfest was fast approaching, and Vincent had recovered physically but he was despondent and more solemn than before his illness. And he had taken to going off on his own for hours at a time. Father worried, but could find no way of brightening his son's mood.
Mary came to Father's study one evening. "Father?" she said as she came down the stairs.
He looked up from the book he was reading. "Oh, hello, Mary."
"Where's Vincent?" She stopped in front of him.
"I don't rightly know. He told me he would be back later. He's taken to exploring the lower caverns, but he checks in every hour of so to let me know he is well. Why, Mary?"
"Well, I've been trying to find a way to brighten his spirits, and I think I may have something. I wanted to talk to you alone."
Father put down his book and looked up at her. "That would be wonderful, Mary. What is it?"
Mary was full of excitement. "Well, I had an idea for Winterfest. You know how strong Vincent is becoming, and he seems to have grown taller and broader as he's recovered, and well, you know those huge doors into the Great Hall have to be opened by two men, and the beam is so heavy it takes three to lift it …"
Father sat up straight, catching on to her meaning. "Oh Mary, that is a fine idea." He rose to his feet and embraced her.
Flushing, Mary said, "Do you think he's strong enough?"
Father nodded and said. "Yes, Mary, I think by Winterfest he'll be more than strong enough. At the rate he's growing and filling out I have no doubt about it."
Vincent was exploring the tunnels under the park one warm summer evening when he heard music, faintly at first. He followed the sound until he came to a junction where two tunnels met. Above him was a grating, and through it drifted the strains of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata.
Vincent stood perfectly still, his head raised and his eyes closed.
The music was so beautiful it brought tears to his eyes. He stayed to listenen as more of Beethoven's works were played. He heard snatches of conversation as the audience drifted away and the musicians went home. Then all was quiet
As he made his way back to the home tunnels, Vincent felt lighter in spirit than he had for many months, and he made plans to return to the same spot the next night. He would ask Miss Kendrick if she could find a program of upcoming events so he could choose which ones to attend.
Above in the park a young girl walked with her Father. "Thank you, Daddy. It was a beautiful end to a wonderful day."
"It's the least I could do for my daughter. Even though I'm sure you would've preferred to be with your friends."
"There's still plenty of time to go to the disco, Daddy."
"I wish I had your energy, Cathy."
"You can come if you like," Cathy said with a twinkle in her eyes, certain of what her father would say.
"Not likely," He said with a laugh. "All that gyrating and arm waving is too much for me." He bent and kissed her cheek. "You go and have a good time honey."
She hugged him. "See you later, Daddy. I'll try not to be too late." Then she ran off, waving down a taxi.
Charles Chandler watched his daughter climb into the cab and wave. He sighed at the thought of his little girl growing up too fast, and then turned and made his way home.
The wind blew his hair and swept through his clothes as Vincent followed Father and everyone else down the steps to the huge doors of the Great Hall. They all stopped, and Vincent looked for Martin, Gordon and Luke, who were the men who lifted the heavy bar and then pushed the huge doors open. But they did not come forward.
Father stepped in front of the group and beckoned Vincent forward.
Confused, he made his way down the steps to stand beside his father.
The wind blew all around them, making it impossible for those higher on the steps to hear what he said, but Vincent suspected that they already knew what Father was about to say, and his heart swelled with pride.
"Vincent, from this day on it has been decided that you and you alone should officially open this ceremony." He stood back and lifted a hand to the closed doors with their thick beam.
Flushing slightly, Vincent turned to face the doors. He took a deep breath and approached the thick bar, positioned both hands under it for the best leverage, and instinctively braced his legs. His shoulders tensed, and he lifted the bar.
Surprise and pleasure filled him as the bar moved with little effort in his hands.
He lifted it clear from the cage that had held it in place for a year, as everyone preparing the feast within had used the two smaller entrances at the back of the hall.
His heart pounding with a feeling he couldn't name, Vincent carried the beam and laid it against the wall beside the doors. Then, with a look back toward his family and friends, he went to the doors. Placing a hand on each door, gave a mighty heave. With a loud creak, the doors swung inward.
Suddenly there was another sound accompanying the wind–cheers and applause.
Vincent turned and saw that everyone assembled on the stairs was smiling down at him. It was the happiest moment of his life.
Father came over to him, and with a hand on his son's shoulder handed Vincent his candle and said, "Vincent, will you lead us through the dark?"
His face beaming, and his heart so full it was about to burst. Vincent said "Yes, Father, just as you have led me."
Vincent turned with a new purpose and a new hope for the future as a new year for him and his world began. And as he strode through the doors and into the Great Hall he made a vow that from this moment on he would take each day as a new one, taking from it everything he could, and to never lose hope, and to never stop dreaming …