Worth a Thousand Words
"Mmm..." Catherine mumbled, rolling over on her side. Memories of the night before flashed before her eyes and she smiled, allowing herself to slowly awaken. The first thing she noticed was that she was cold. She must have kicked off the blankets. She reached out toward her legs, eyes still closed, searching for the blanket, not finding it, she reached next to her, and realized that Vincent wasn't there...and for that matter, neither was the bed!
Her eyes shot open in alarm when her hand met cold stone. She sat up with a jolt, eyes darting around her frantically. She was on the floor, in one of the tunnels. It was dark in both directions, the only torch she could see was right above her. She looked down at her clothes, she was wearing the sweater and jeans she had been wearing the night before, before bed, but she distinctly remembered getting up with Vincent, after their...activities, and taking a bath. Then she put on her favorite article of clothing to sleep in, one of his shirts. So how did she come to be in her clothes again? More importantly, how in heaven's name did she come to wake up in the middle of a tunnel?
"What the hell..." she muttered under her breath, rubbing her head and trying to clear her sleep-muddled brain. "All right, is this some kind of prank?" Catherine called out to the darkness, the empty echo gave her the shivers. "Vincent?" she waited, no one answered. "Come on, guys, who did this? Very funny. Mouse? Jamie?" still, no one. "Okay, this isn't funny anymore! Vincent, please come out!"
She stood up shakily, for some reason she felt a little hung over, but she hadn't drank anything the day before. Could someone have drugged her and brought her here? She knew some of the younger tunnel residents liked to pull pranks, and Vincent was often among them, but they never ever would have drugged someone, and even if this was a joke, they would have come out by now, Vincent would have felt the very real fear in her. So, if this wasn't a joke, what was it?
Panic began to rise, but she fought it down with a vengeance, forcing herself to stay calm. She looked up and down the corridor. This part of the tunnel didn't seem familiar, but many of the tunnels looked the same in the dark. She had to stand on tiptoes to reach the torch, then stood in the middle of the corridor, deciding which way to go.
Suddenly, relief hit her like a ton of bricks when she realized she could plainly hear the distinct tapping on the pipes. She was so used to the sound by now, in her panic she hadn't noticed it at all. It was the common, everyday relay of messages, an all clear alert from sentry post nine, a question Catherine didn't quite catch, and the announcement that breakfast was served. Good, she was hungry.
It still didn't tell her which way to go, and although she could hear the tapping, there wasn't a pipe here, so she couldn't send for help. She finally just eeny meeny miney moed and went left, using the torch to light the way. She could see lights ahead, and decided she must be in a rarely used tunnel, since there had been few torches, and ahead was the more populated section. She reached a pipe, but decided she didn't need to call for help, because she felt she knew pretty much where she was.
As she got nearer to the lighted path ahead, she felt better and better, and was thinking about how mad she would be at whoever's bright idea this had been. Catherine stopped cold, however, when a louder, sharper tapping began on the pipes. Intruder Alert. "An intruder?" Catherine thought to herself. "Where?" she hastened her pace, the nervousness, setting back in, along with the distinct feeling that something wasn't right.
She gasped and spun around when she heard footsteps, coming from somewhere behind her, or beside her, she couldn't tell.
"Hold it, right there," she heard a man say. She spun around again, facing foreword, she held the light up to his face. Real terror set in when she didn't recognize this man. It must be the intruder! He was an older, balding man, who looked oddly familiar in a way, but no one she knew.
"Who are you?" she said, trying to make her voice sound strong, and accusing.
"I was about to ask you the same thing," the man said. He didn't sound very threatening, almost friendly, like she amused him. That's when it dawned on her that he was wearing the typical tunnel clothing. What in the world was going on? "How did a pretty young woman like yourself get all the way down here?"
Catherine stared at him, completely baffled. "What are you talking about? Who are you? Why haven't I ever seen you before?"
The man stared at her, puzzled, but didn't answer. Catherine stared back, then finally broke out into nervous laughter. "Ha ha ha, very funny," she said, not without a bit of hysteria. "Joke's over now, I don't know who went through all this trouble just to fool me, but it worked," she directed the rest to the walls around her. "You can come out now! You got me!" she turned back to the man. "So really, who are you, are you new?"
The continued to stare, confused amusement now turned to alarm. He looked at her like she was crazy. "Are you all right?" he said gently, as if he were talking to a child. "Did you hit your head? Are you hurt?"
Either this guy really didn't know who she was, or he was a very good actor. "No, I'm not hurt," she fought down the tears that threatened to spill from her eyes. "This really isn't funny anymore," she said, in a whimper.
"What isn't funny?" the man asked, taking a hesitant step toward her, he seemed genuinely worried about her, he held out his hands, as if he expected her to faint. She felt like she might.
"Where's Vincent?" she said, her voice quivering as she took a step back.
The man froze, his eyes widened to saucers, and Catherine couldn't be sure due to the lack of proper light, but it looked like all the color drained from his cheeks. "WHERE IS VINCENT?" she yelled, her heart almost beating out of her chest. "Please..."
"Hey!" someone shouted from behind the man. "Ben, what's going on?" two other men appeared beside the man called Ben. She couldn't see their faces; it was too dark.
"Winslow, go get Father," Ben said to one of them.
"Winslow?!" she whispered harshly, feeling the world around her begin to spin. It can't be Winslow! Winslow is dead!
"Do you know her?" she could barely here one of the men ask.
"Never seen her before in my life," a younger one said. "Uh oh, she's going down!"
All three men leaped to catch Catherine as her knees buckled and everything went black.