He was unsure what had happened, and he never liked that, but he took up his shift and moved on with his day. At least he had started to when he received a little visit from Beatrixe who’d brought the sample of the ore they had mixed into the asylum. He put the bottle-sized specimen into the pocket of his coat. Even if it was harmful to normal
people as he was beginning to suspect he’d been inside a giant version for weeks. It couldn’t make that much of a difference by tonight.
Arnold had received a telegram that had been very odd, short, and unexpected. It was from Erehwon saying that she was coming and apparently her flight would probably arrive late this evening. He was slightly confused by her timing, but he decided to meet her there anyways.
By the time Dr. Sonnerstein returned sometime in the afternoon he felt very tired though. Very stretched and thinned out…and he was starting to lose focus easily.
They greeted each other and talked about the patient for a few moments before Sonnerstein requested that he take the night shift and that Arnold watch over her during the day.
“In fact, Arnold…I would prefer if you stay away from that place as much as possible for the time being…it seems to be making you ill…”
“I noticed,” Arnold said, and in fact that had been taken care of that yesterday with a short talk with Maddox. She had insisted he stay outside till he had improved and she was there now taking care of their patient, though she’d promised to try to stay in the ward or in
her room while she was there till they found out more.
“Good, I was afraid you wouldn’t trust my word on that, considering my…discomfort towards such places.”
“No, I think that Canergak undersold the material used.” Arnold said feeling at the material in his pocket and pausing for a moment. “I think it’s harmful to all life.”
“It would not surprise me if his purpose for the asylum was far more than it seems…but no, not all life… I think it’s more you that is undersold, Arnold…”
Arnold glanced at Sonnerstein and slowly raised an eyebrow.
Kristos was looking at him with his head cocked to one side examining him, “You don’t even stop to consider your own heritage and ancestors, do you?”
Arnold and Sonnerstein argued back and forth for some time like this saying things such as:
“Your ancestry, Arnold. You’re more than a simple cat. You walk on two legs, wear clothes and speak English.”
“I learned English later, we never spoke it. If you’re talking about how we evolved though…” another thing he’d learned about after he was cast out, “well apparently we just did, and I had always thought everyone would look like us.”
Dr. Sonnerstein was frowning, he didn’t like the way the conversation was going and Arnold liked it even less. He was starting to lash out without realizing it.
“You say you came from cats.. JUST ordinary cats?”
“Well except for the curse I’d say yes. We never did anything that would make me think otherwise. Maybe that’s how we evolved so quickly.” He knew that wasn’t exactly how evolution worked, but at the moment he didn’t care.
“And what is your curse exactly?”
“I wish I knew, but I don’t think anyone knew.” That knowledge had probably died with his ancestors during one of the hundreds of disasters, natural or otherwise, the curse had brought on them. And they had never had a written word to pass on information.
“And it never made you stop and wonder perhaps it isn’t a curse? At least not in the manner of a foul working placed upon you.”
“I’ve…considered the fact the curse wasn’t real for a long time, but I’ve seen a lot of evidence to the contrary…But if not a curse, then what would you call it instead?” Arnold waited for Sonnerstein to answer, he was slightly annoyed by the way the conversation was going but he was still intrigued despite it all.
“Misdeveloped ability perhaps. Misdirected. Uncontrolled, misunderstood, not properly explored or focused on.”
Arnold frowned as he tried to make sense of what the doctor was trying to tell him, “…Tepic recently told me all cats in town can walk through walls….but….I’ve never done that.” Not consciously at least, he thought to himself. “And I don’t see how that would have anything to do with this…”
“You have all the signs of an erupted nova where I come from. A mutated human with strange ability, not yet learned to control it.”
Arnold was about to respond when his body involuntarily spasmed, a light twitch on the outside, but while it went on that stretching feeling became almost unbearable…it passed almost as soon as it came and Arnold’s mind became an exhausted whirlwind of horror at what he had just experienced and heard.
Sadly it wasn’t over, Dr. Sonnerstein went on to add, “Cats everywhere all over the world bear tales of ability beyond human comprehension, Arnold. Even if simply seeing what humans cannot see. Do not be surprised if that’s what this is.”
“I…” Arnold paused as he thought what that would mean if Sonnerstein was correct. At the very least it meant that almost his entire life had been built on a lie. He had no idea what had just happened either and Sonnerstein usually knew what he was talking about…but… “No, I’ve never seen anything like that.”
“Yet you were struck by lightning out of nowhere…”
“…what are you trying to say.” This conversation was reminding him too much of how Dr. Sonnerstein had questioned Akidami and he was becoming too tired to continue. “Just say it.”
“That you aren’t as normal as you think you are. That this curse is
not a curse, but an untrained ability.” Sonnerstein paused for just a moment and then he concluded, “And that that asylum was killing you…”
Arnold could only stare at Dr. Sonnerstein for a short time, and during the silence the Dr. took a moment to examine their patient again. Arnold took the time to think about what this meant. He couldn’t know for sure if Dr. Sonnerstein was right or not…unless…
“I don’t believe it.” Arnold turned towards the lift and got onto it, “Not without proof. I’ll be back with the proof.”
“Arnold, just what do you think you’re going to do?”
Arnold didn’t answer him as he reached the top he went looking for one of the only three groups of people in town that could help him. He couldn’t find the person he was looking for, not even at a get together at Brunel Hall which he’d attended hoping to see them there, so he ended up having to leave a note much later in the day even more exhausted and stretched than before. He’d experienced several more attacks like the ones he had when arguing with Dr. Sonnerstein, and they were becoming harsher and more frequent.
Sonnerstein couldn’t be right could he? That small piece of rock couldn’t actually be killing him could it? Arnold shook his head. He could not, would not believe that without more proof. He denied this the same way he denied the headaches he got when he got close to the Old Quarter. They were just normal headaches, and this was the affect the rock would have on any ordinary person. It never occured to him that it hadn’t seemed to have affected Beatrixe or the workers the way it was affecting him…
The last few hours passed slowest, but he stayed despite his rapidly declining health…she was the one he’d gotten the sample for in the first place and he wanted to be rid of it. He was having difficulty with everything now, and just staying conscious was starting to become a battle as the moment.
When she saw him she charged after him as if she meant to tackle him in a tear-filled embrace. He was too exhausted at this point to stop her, but he was glad when she didn’t and just asked, “When can I see her?”
Arnold was having trouble thinking about the answer at this point, and it took him a moment to respond, “We can…do that first.”
They didn’t talk much on the way to the sub outside the asylum, which carried them to the hospital. He told her how she’d been found in the canals and a few other details, but before too long they were riding the lift down to the hospital. “Here she is…Dr. Sonnerstein is probably upstairs…he’s on…call…” He lead her inside and she was soon reduced to tears as she saw her Sultana lying on the bed.
After some time, Erehwon gathered enough composure to request to hold her hand.
“Go ahead,” Arnold said, and she began to sing in Arabic, though she soon asked him to take her other hand and join her in a prayer. “That…might not be…productive…I brought the sample…”
“Oh.” Erehwon said, he wasn’t sure if she understood or not though. He made his way back to the waiting room, as she recited several more prayers he couldn’t understand before returning to him.
“Thank you,” she told him and he nodded to her weakly. “Forgive my falling back on…Arnold, you look worse than when I saw you last. What is going on?”
“I‘ve had…a very bad day.” It was difficult to tell her the story, he kept having to pause to think about what he needed to say next or where he was. He was having trouble recognizing his surroundings. He had another attack, worse than ever before. He felt like he was going to collapse. If he had been thinking rationally he might have told her what just happened, or thrown the sample as far away from himself as possible finally, but he was too far gone for that now.
“I saw something just now, Mr. Arnold.“ She pulled down her goggles and looked him. She didn’t like what she saw, but to lighten the mood she said, “That’s odd. You seem to have something causing an aetheric disturbance in your pants.” She paused for a moment waiting for a reaction, but Arnold stared at her blankly, as if there was nothing there anymore. “Well, your coat pocket actually.”
He still didn’t react, which was starting to worry her, “Would you mind, terribly, if you put that on the table,” Arnold’s hand moved very slowly towards his pocket, but he barely got the material out when he collapsed to the floor. “Mr. Arnold!”
She rushed to his side, and saw the hand that had been touching the stone wasn’t as solid as it should be…it looked like it was fading. “Hello! Is there anyone
Dr. Sonnerstein had already been making his way down, and they worked together and got Arnold to the Triage. But it was only when they noticed that Erehwon’s ears had transformed back to normal human ears that she started screaming and they put the sample away to find a lead box to place it in.