“So this is the Bad you were talking about?” Lilith asked.
“Well, that and the fact that Swiftwater has been gone for almost three weeks. I don’t know if his journey has taken a turn for the worst.”
Lisa sighed helplessly. “I don’t know, either. We Felines don’t often wander the Dreamfields for very long–just during sleep.”
“Another thing…” Janus gestured for them to follow him. He struck out away from the cave, heading toward the darkness in the forest. Lisa and Lilith followed, and were amazed to see that, instead of more trees becoming visible, the darkness became more and more apparent as an… edge, an ending to the space they were in.
“It was this way even when I came here with Tepic,” Janus said. “There’s nowhere to wander. But if you look closely enough, you can see beyond the darkness–to the padded walls of the cell.”
Peering closely, Lilith blinked, her ears twitching. “I… I see it.” Lisa lashed her tail in surprise, and shivered.
“This is why we could never speak before in dreams. I couldn’t get out. Even as a ghost, I couldn’t get through the asylum’s walls.” He growled, rocking back and forth on his heels. “If I had known as a man what I know now, I would have run from that facility as fast as I could! Another reason for me to get the body I’m in out of there.”
Lilith asked hopefully, “Do you know what Canergak is planning? Why he wants me safe?”
“He wants you safe?” Janus sounded startled. “Sorry–I have no idea.”
Lilith shrugged. “He knows what I am, but he never calls me a specimen.” She shrugged in reply to his continued surprise. “I agree that we need to get the body out. From there, we can worry about getting Rasend back. I’m not sure when I can get out of the clinic, but the sooner, the better.
Janus nodded. “Just get the others to tell me what to do. But come back if you need to.”
“How will you get into Swiftwater’s body?” Lisa asked.
“I am already in his mind. The body… I hope Tepic knows more.”
“I’ll tell him.” Lisa looked up, and saw Lilith watching her. “We should go,” the wolf said.
Looking around, Lisa felt an irresistible urge take hold. “Just a moment,” she said, and then took off running. She raced around the grove, leaping up and down trees, climbing the small cliff that cradled the cave. Finally, she dashed back to Janus and Lilith, slowing to a trot and finally coming to a stop in front of them. “Ahh, that felt good.” Her whiskers arched forward in pleasure.
Janus chuckled. “That long?”
“My nights in the Dreamfields tend to be taken up with study now. Not much time to stretch my legs.” Lisa suddenly wondered if she was giving too much away to Janus, and then shrugged. Not much she could do about it now.
Lilith suddenly stepped closer to Janus, looking into his eyes for a moment. He stared back. “Yes?” he asked softly.
She blinked. “Sorry,” she replied. “Just wanted to be sure. The eyes tell a lot.”
“That they do,” he mused. “That they do.”
Lisa suddenly felt anxious to get out of this dreamscape. “Follow me,” she said to Lilith. She mentally took a hold of her, and thought of the side path where she’d first found the wolf girl.
This time, perhaps because she’d been there once, it took very little time to go back there. Lisa felt the blooming of Lilith’s mind around her, heard Tepic’s music through the wolf’s ears, so she let go of Lilith and thought of her own body.
Lisa stirred, remembering not to stretch, as she was in a cramped corner. Tepic lowered his flute. “‘Ello–yer awake, then?”
She looked past him, to see Lilith starting to move. “All right, then?” she asked.
The wolf brought her head up and nodded, then reached up to her nose, feeling a trickle of blood. Tepic saw it and said, “Blimey–hold yer head forward, let it drip.” He reached into a pocket and handed her a handkerchief that might, long ago, have been close to white. She held the handkerchief to her nose, pressing down.
Lisa looked from Tepic to Beryl. “Well. This is what we learned. Rasend–or Tenderpaws–or Swiftwater, which is his true name–
“Swiftwater?” Tepic asked.
She nodded. “He has apparently gone on a quest to discover himself. Janus couldn’t follow him.”
“Oh. I had to do something similar,” Beryl said softly, to himself.
“So, Janus’s suggestion is that we let him possess Swiftwater’s body. And then hopefully we can pass him off as a healed Rasend, and get him out of here.”
“Possession?” Beryl pondered that a moment. “That might work.”
Lilith whimpered, and Tepic looked at her. “She’s worried old Metal-eyes will see through the ruse.” He looked back to Beryl. “Ain’t him we need ter convince, though, is it?”
“No–just Dr. Solsen.”
“If we can do it quickly,” Lisa put in, “before Canergak comes to check–”
“Yes, preferably,” Beryl replied.
“Janus is already in Swiftwater’s mind,” Lisa told Tepic. “He said you might know something to do to help him finish his possession.”
Tepic shuffled his feet. “Err…”
“Hold it,” interrupted Beryl. “He thought what? How would Tepic know how to possess someone?”
“I knows some stuff ter chuck ghosts out. Maybe that’s what he meant?”
“Wait.” Beryl paced back and forth outside the cell entrance. Finally, he said, “Don’t we know ghosts? I know I met some when I traveled through… another Babbage. They mentioned you by name, Tepic.”
“Me?” Tepic said, startled. “Well, there’s the ghosts down at the cemetery near City Hall–”
“Yes! There was a little girl…”
“Evie.” Tepic said, and Beryl nodded with an excited grin that was almost childish. “An’ Mac, an’ some others. I plays for ‘em sometimes.”
“So if they know something, they tell you, you tell him, and… we hope nothing goes wrong!” Beryl ended with a shout of satisfaction. Lisa and Lilith swiveled their heads from speaker to speaker, as if watching a tennis game.
“Err… one problem, mate. I can’t hear ‘em, I just knows they’re there.”
Beryl frowned. “Can anyone hear them?” he asked. “Anyone we can trust?”
“Hmmm.” Tepic was silent a moment. “Reckon Miss Bookworm might.”
“Bookworm! Perfect!” Beryl nodded to himself. “All right, everyone, feel free to exit the room. If anyone asks, you can say everything was taken care of.” Lisa wheeled Lilith out of the cell as he continued. “I’ll get Bookworm to get us help. And then Janus… and Solsen…” He sighed. “So much to do, so little time!”
Lilith nodded at that, and went into a coughing fit. She looked at Beryl, who nodded and pulled a syringe from his pocket. With the same uncomfortable sound of snapping, shifting bones, her form changed from wolf back to human. The second that was done, Beryl carefully injected the serum into her arm, even as she continued to cough, holding Tepic’s handkerchief to her mouth. For a few moments, she was tensed with coughing, but finally she began to relax, and her eyes drooped closed.
Beryl suddenly looked toward the staircase, realizing he’d been rather loud for the past few minutes. “Ahh, well, he can’t hear me down there,” he muttered.
“Tepic, you and Beryl should take Lilith back to the hospital,” Lisa said. “I’ll stay here with Swiftwater.”
Tepic nodded. “After that, I’ll need ter go visit my traps. I could swing by the cemetery an’ let ‘em know you’re coming, Beryl.”
Beryl nodded as he guided the wheelchair away. Lisa leaned back against Swiftwater’s cell door, ignoring the other inmates, who were now peppering the area with questions about what was happening, as well as their same old complaints.
((To be continued…))