by: Terri Talley Venters
“Finally!” Yvette said, handing over thirty Euros to enter the Catacombs beneath Paris, France. She tucked her black hair behind her ear and then dropped her change into the zipper compartment of her hot pink cinch sack.
“I can’t believe we waited four hours in line for this,” Yvette’s lover, Antoine, complained.
“I’m sorry, my love, but I hear it’s to die for.” Yvette turned on her heel with a flirtatious smile. Her yellow sundress twirled around her summer-tanned legs.
Yvette descended over two-hundred stairs with Antione in tow. She walked briskly to the main “display areas” of the Catacombs.
“This is creepy.” Antoine stuffed his hands in his pockets and grimaced at the macabre display of skeletons. He snapped a few photos to commemorate their visit.
“Don’t be a ‘fraidy cat, you wuss.” Yvette admired each morbid pattern of human bones decorating the winding tunnels of the Catacombs.
“I’m not a wuss, I’m just hungry. Can we go soon?”
“No way! We waited four hours, we may as well make the most of the time we have left until closing.” Yvette stopped in front of a wrought-iron gated door blocking a side tunnel.
“Don’t even think about it,” Antoine put his foot down. “See the sign? ‘Do not stray from the main tunnel’.”
“Oh, now you want to obey the signs. I noticed you didn’t have a problem taking flash pictures.” Yvette pointed to the “No flash photography” sign.
“I just want to see what’s back here.” Yvette tugged on the gated door and stepped back, pleasantly surprised that the door wasn’t locked.
“What if we get caught?”
Yvette shrugged with a wicked grin. “I don’t see any cameras or guards.” Yvette stepped through the open gate and used her phone as a flashlight.
“Arrghh, okay, you win.” Antoine begrudgingly followed his truant girlfriend into the forbidden tunnels of the Catacombs.
“Wow, this is fascinating! Look at all these hallowed out niches in the walls. There’s dozens of skeletons here. I wonder why they don’t include this as part of the tourist path.” She stepped through an opening and into an enormous cavern.
“Wow! It must be at least fifty feet high.” Antoine gazed up in awe.
“Are those stairs up there?” Yvette pointed towards a crumbling staircase.
“It looks like they lead to more tunnels.” Antione, now committed to the adventure, led Yvette up the narrow brick stair case. “Better let me test them first. If I fall, don’t try to grab me or you’ll go down with me.”
“Ahh, how valiant.” Yvette cooed.
Antoine gingerly ascended the stairs, using the decorative bones as hand rails. “Careful, this part is tricky and we’re almost at the top.
“Give me a break, I’m not going to…..” Yvette’s foot slipped as she reached her hand to grab the skull imbedded into the wall. “Help me!”
With quick reflexes, Antoine grabbed her arm and tried to pull her up. “I got you, don’t look down.” Antoine’s calm tone tried to soothe her, but his panicked eyes revealed his fear of losing her.
“Antoine, let go or we’ll both die.” Yvette’s mind worked rationally to sacrifice her life for his.
“No, I’d rather die with you than live without you!” He pulled her arm up and slowly lifted her torso to meet his.
“Oh, Antoine! You saved me.” Yvette hugged her lover with relief.
‘There, I got you, my love. Let’s go home.”
Rumbling noises vibrated through the cavern. Rocks and bricks crumbled beneath their feet and they fell five stories, still entwined in each other’s arms.
“Here’s two more, Andre,” Yvette heard a Catacomb worker sigh. His tone dripped with a combination of disdain, exasperation, and just a tad of sympathy.
“How awful, Philippe. Why do we bother to post signs warning tourists not to veer off the carefully tunneled path?” A younger worker asked rhetorically.
Oh, thank goodness you found us. Yvette’s comment went unnoticed.
“Stupid Americans.” Philippe started to pull the lifeless forms out into the center of the aisle.
I’m not American! I live in the south of France. Yvette retorted, defending her nationality.
“How long do you think they’ve been down here?” Andre asked.
“Years. The rats ate the flesh. Just bones and tattered clothes left.”
“Should we report it?” Andre asked?
“No, it’s almost closing time. I’m too old to deal with the hassle and paperwork. Besides, you’re meeting that sexy Mademoiselle, at the café in an hour.
“Great point, my Manon, does not like to be kept waiting, especially since she is always late herself.”
“That settles it, then. Here give me a hand with this skull.” Philippe pulled the head off of Yvette.
Nooo! What are you doing? That hurts. Yvette screamed as loud as she could. Her head snapped off of her spine and the older worker meticulously stacked it on top of the pile of hundreds of other skulls.
“Did you hear something? It sounds like a faint scream.” Andre said. He crossed his arms and warded off a chill.
“Yeah, sometimes the spirits lingers, like they don’t realize they’re dead,” Philippe said. He pulled apart the rest of the bones and removed the tattered clothing.
“Toss ‘em in the back?” Andre asked, even though he knew the drill.
“Yeah, then we’ll split the loot.”
Philippe and Andre pulled apart the big bones, and tossed the partially dismantled skeletons behind the neatly stacked rows of skulls.
The bones of Yvette and Antoine, now forever rest with the millions of bones in the Catacombs beneath Paris.