Lisa followed Professor Vartanian’s trace, and finally found herself in a stone courtyard. She looked around, and saw barred openings on two sides of the courtyard. On the other side of one set of bars, trapped in a room, was a large black cat, which she guessed to be Myn. Inside the courtyard, Professor Vartanian stood staring through the bars at Myn. Though he looked similar to his waking self, he was clad in clothing that looked very old. Lisa thought, too, that she saw straw poking out of him, and stitches in his skin.
“A monster in a cage,” he mused. “Or is it because you’re caged that you’re so monstrous?”
Suddenly, he glanced around. Lisa crouched down, trying to hide in the shadows, but the professor’s eyes went unerringly to her. “So this is how you knew of it. Come out… Lisa.”
She hissed a little in frustration, but stood up and paced forward. “A cat in the dreamscape,” the professor continued. “I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. It reveals what we all are, doesn’t it?”
“Yes,” she replied. “This is what I was, before the man Ambrose changed me.”
Professor Vartanian nodded, then looked back at Myn. “Well, I should say this explains why you haven’t been able to reach her, doesn’t it? I wonder, though, if unlocking this cage would change anything.”
Lisa padded closer to the bars. “Do you see?” she said to Myn. “Can you understand now?”
Myn, though, suddenly looked beyond them. “Growler!” she yowled. Lisa spun around, in time to see a wolf-like creature leap down from the roof surrounding the open courtyard, growling.
“Now, what is this doing in here, hmm?” Professor Vartanian mused. The creature stared at the two of them, and started to slowly stalk them. Lisa hissed and yowled, shooting her claws at it, and suddenly the professor had a scythe in his hand. “Keep your distance,” he said warningly, and the wolf shied away. “It belongs in there,” it said.
“Does it? What makes you say that?”
“It must be. It is a cat. That is what Growlers do. Hunt the cat.” Its gaze traveled from Lisa to Myn, and back again.
The professor frowned. “And from what did you form?”
“From here. I was born the day the Growlers came. She escaped, but there was no escape. We caught her. It’s what we do. We are everywhere.”
“What happened that day? Outwardly?”
The wolf gestured to the ground. “This is the blood of Growlers that drenches this floor. Blood for the cats that were lost. We came in the night with fire and burning metals.”
“To what purpose?”
The Growler replied simply, almost patronizingly, “To bring an end to the cats.”
“Simply because they are cats and you are not?”
“They had harmed Growlers before. The Growlers attacked. It is the way of things.”
Lisa’s ears came up in surprise. “No. She said she’d not seen Growlers before that day.”
“She may not have, but there were the outcasts.”
“Outcasts?” she asked.
“In her mind I have seen the one of Beryl colored eyes, now tainted with orange,” the wolf replied. “They kill. The Growlers come. We stop them. We cage them. We kill them. It is the world. I ensure she knows it.”
“Not if I can help it,” Lisa growled, with warning and promise in her voice.
“It’s an invaded taint on the mind,” said the professor. “The growler is the disease.”
“Then let us rid her of it.”
“Not so hastily.” The professor held up a hand, and Lisa turned her attention back to the wolf, which waved a hand in front of its face. When the hand passed, it suddenly looked human. “I am a Growler,” it said. It waved its hand in front again, and changed into another Moreau, more bovine in nature this time. Lisa stared, amazed. “I am a Growler,” it said again. “Everything but cats are Growlers. That is the way of the world.”
“Yes, so I see,” answered the professor. “We can rid her of the one here, but who’s to say her waking up to see us in our human skin won’t cause another to form?” He glanced back at Myn. “I would let loose this beast to kill the growler now if I wasn’t sure it would just put her through the same trauma all over again. I will have to explore Beryl’s mind, if I can convince her to let me, to see if I can find what was changed there.”
“You speak wisdom,” the wolf replied. “The longer you stay, the easier to see…”
“To see what?” asked Lisa.
“Your own Growlers.” The wolf fixed its gaze on her, then passed its hand in front again. When the hand passed, she saw that it had taken on the features of Dr. Ambrose Martel. She jumped back, yowling in surprise… and fear.
The wolf turned its eyes to Professor Vartanian, and hesitated. “I feel a strange kinship,” it mused. But then, with a wave of its hand, it took on the form of a beautiful woman in black. “All the same, you have your own concerns.”
“I am nothing like her,” the professor said, his angry tone coming between gritted teeth. “I have set myself apart from their kind!” He swing his scythe wildly, nearly hitting Lisa.
Lisa hissed. “Your days are numbered, growler. We will find a way.”
Another hand wave, and the wolf was back. “It’s dangerous to walk here.” It howled suddenly, and they heard answering cries from above. Lisa’s cat hearing picked up the sound of scrabbling claws on the roof, and she looked up at the professor, eyes wide. “We must wake now!”
“Go! I’ll be behind you.” His eyes were on the wolf, which was crouching down, ready to pounce.
((To be continued…))