It had begun with foreboding dreams of enemies he’d made in New Babbage and outside of it, which had started shortly after he returned from Germany. The headaches had slowly returned in January, a reminder that it had been a year since the asylum murders.
It was a cold February evening, the sun barely bleeding through the orange tinted haze as the lights came on, when he had started a conversation with Tepic on the bridge outside of the Imperial Theater. He shared his feelings and nightmares, and while his friend was trying his best to be helpful the headaches grew worse.
Then he collapsed into the snow and awareness, and Babbage, fell away.
Beryl opened his eyes groggily and looked around, trying to get his bearings as he woke up on an unfamiliar, cold metal floor in a small room. The walls and floors were barren; the room did not contain so much as a blanket or bucket. There was a metal door which was allowing in only a modicum of green light, which created a small shadow of Beryl on the wall behind himself. There didn’t appear to be a handle or any way to open it from this side.
Beryl slowly moved to a sitting position, his arms holding himself upright while he sat back and looked at his cramped prison. He shook his head and tried to remember how he’d arrived at this situation. The last thing he remembered clearly was talking to Tepic, and that was when things had begun to get blurry. Had he talked to Maddox? He didn’t think that likely if he was in a cell, but hadn’t she been speaking to him next to the side entrance to Darwins?
Beryl went to test the door to see if there was any way they could open it. He soon withdrew after realizing the iron door was well secured. Beryl shouted a few times to see if anyone could hear him, but there was no response.
The cat could hear things from outside his cell though, and it filled them with a growing sense of foreboding. Deep, monstrous snarls accompanied by zombie-like moans and hackle-raising screams. The wails always began shortly after a soft hum of electricity turned into a thunderous roar.
The cat went to a corner and crouched, tucking his paws underneath himself for warmth as he silently awaited his enemies arrival.
Beryl stayed there for what felt like several days in solitude, no one came to check on him, but he hoped it was more likely just several hours. He had been provided with neither food or water, and was only starting to feel the hunger pains clawing at him.
The shrieks outside his cell had only gotten louder and more pronounced as he sat in his dimly lit prison from the corrupted green light outside. Sometimes he heard fighting outside. Screams, cats hissing and yowling in pain, thunder, and tail-freezing wails.
He tried not to think about which of his nightmares were coming true, and the longer he was left there the more time he had to think and prepare himself for what was to come. The cat suffered in silence until finally the familiar sound of a cane hitting the metal floor came and he heard a small slot of metal opening. He blinked his eyes roughly as they tried to adjust to the green light that now filled his cell, blinded to whom had captured him for the moment.
“Do you know why you are here, cat?” came the deep voice of Canergak, and Beryl felt their hackles rise even higher as they struggled to see their captor. Questions about how they had gotten here, and how no one had seen it happen raged through his mind but Canergak continued, “You do not, obviously.”
“There is no need to be so harsh,” came another voice that shocked Beryl to their core. The familiar, patient voice of Dr. Thaddeus Solsen. “He has been through so much already, you should not antagonize him if we are to get any positive response.”
Now he was even more confused than ever and he got to his feet and looked out the small slot and blinked rapidly as his eyes adjusted. There were several people outside his cell looking in at him, but he couldn’t make them out. “Who’s there?”
The doctors did not respond to him directly, instead turning to themselves and discussing Beryl as if they had not heard the feline. He heard many doctors including Dr. Solsen, Viper, Footman, and Fade along with their nurses Evangeline Quinn, Kasa, and others.
As his eyes finally adjusted he saw that they were in a circular metallic room that was filled with strange machines that were occupied by deformed creatures of all kinds. Several were shackled and held down, one had even had their brain and tails removed. In the center was a giant beating heart that was shocked by lightning while he watched, which emitted that terrible piercing shriek of pain that sent shivers down Beryl’s spine.
The doctors appeared oblivious to the screams and torment that surrounded them. How could any of them stand there and see this and think that this was normal? Some of the others he could understand, but Kasa and Dr. Solsen? “Why am I here?”
The crowd of people finally looked at him with mixtures of sympathy, interest, fascination, and hate. Canergak stepped forward finally and responded, “You are being held here because of your own doing, cat.”
Canergak slammed the tiny opening shut and once again trapped Beryl in darkness. Just as he was sitting back to think about all of this the shutter was opened once again, this time by Dr. Solen.
“I’m sorry, Beryl,” He said apologetically. “But we cannot allow you to go free. Not yet.”
Dr. Solsen turned and walked away, leaving the hatch open and allowing Beryl access to the sickening green light here. Dr. Solsen’s cane sounding as if most of his weight was put upon it as he departed with the other doctors.
Beryl went back to his small window and studied the room carefully, trying to make sense of what was happening to him when he saw one person he had not expected to see there.
Lisa was hunched over by the weight of a giant pack that was spilling stones everywhere. She was cleaning the rocks off of the floor as best as she could, but the more she did this the more rocks fell as she cried in frustration.
Beryl could only gape for a moment before he shouted, “Lisa?!”
“Beryl,” Lisa said in a weakened voice as she slowly raised her head to look at him trapped inside the cell. Her eyes were red and her voice breaking as she tried to speak between sobs. “You were right Beryl…you were right…”
Beryl backed away from his window for a moment as he finally realized where he was. The twisted architecture and the way that everyone, especially Lisa, was acting was proof enough for Beryl: This was that dream Babbage he had been traveling nearly a year ago, where the Academy of Industry was now sanctioned off as part of the Old Quarter and Clockhaven had been been swallowed by the Gangplank.
The only difference seemed to be that he didn’t appear to be waking up…and that meant his body, his real body, could be anywhere. He would have to worry about that later since there was nothing he could do about it. He curled up for warmth and waited to see what this place intended for him this time.
((It isn’t necessary, but the previous story was compiled here.))