Lisa descended in the elevator to the cellar. Exiting, she saw Professor Vartanian standing by the steel door to Canergak’s laboratory and hurried over to him, having received his summons to attend another session with Myn. He seemed a little distracted, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, and glancing back toward the lab. Without a word, he gestured for her to follow him inside.
They went through the outer room, down the hallway, and into the main lab, where Myn was once again strapped to the metal table, already mostly unconscious. As Professor Vartanian dragged a chair over to the the foot of the table, Lisa bent down over Myn and mrred softly. Myn replied with a soft, but definitely upset, sound.
“Beryl was able to give me enough of a descriptor of her own experience to go on, I think,” the professor said, glancing around the room. “If we can help Myn, releasing her from the prison in her own mind and helping her past the growlers will only be the start of her journey to a sound mind.”
Lisa nodded as she watched him remove the same small satchel from his pocket and slip it under Myn’s collar. He then opened the case with the two doses of anesthetic, and prepared one for Myn. Lisa purred at her reassuringly, but Myn still growled unhappily, and flinched as the needle entered her arm. Professor Vartanian gave Lisa an intent stare for a moment as he pushed home the syringe’s plunger, but wordlessly turned aside and sat down.
Lisa watched as Myn slowly fell asleep, wondering what it was that could have both Myn and the professor so on edge. She watched as he injected himself with the other dose, and then settled back in the chair. ‘Ah, well,’ she thought as she curled up on the floor beside the table. ‘I’m sure I’ll find out in the Dreamfields.’
Having found the way once to Myn’s prison, she didn’t need to wait for the professor this time, but confidently ran the path in her Feline form until she emerged into the courtyard. Myn was still there, still trapped behind bars. But this time, there was another figure there–one that seemed… familiar.
“Ah, my little pussy!” it exclaimed, dancing back and forth in front of the bars that separated it from Myn. “We will soon have you out from your enforced incarceration!” It looked back as Lisa stepped into view, and she took in the form–a fox’s head and tail, but standing upright, and wearing clothing. Myn roared and shot her claws out at the dancing fox, who continued, “Worry not, my furry feline. We come as friends, and friends will keep you safe!”
“This is… unexpected.” Professor Vartanian came to Lisa’s side, once again in his older, straw-filled form.
Lisa was still staring at the fox, trying to understand. She sniffed the air, catching a familiar scent that teased her. When she focused on its hands, and saw the rainbow-colored gloves it wore, the familiarity suddenly snapped into place. “Tepic?”
“Tepic?” The professor lifted an eyebrow at her. “That boy who let her loose in the lab before?!”
“Tepic by name, Tepic by nature. The fantastic Mr. Fox at your service!” He bowed to them both.
Professor Vartanian gave him a long stare, but then turned a concerned gaze down on Lisa. “You should not have come this time, Lisa. I couldn’t tell you before. Canergak is watching.” She hissed in surprise and consternation, and he continued, “He hid himself in the lab to see if you would attempt anything while I worked with Myn.”
“Well, he’ll have a long wait,” she growled, shooting her claws into the crumbling masonry of the courtyard. Just as quickly as it had come, though, she let her anger drain out of her. It was too late to worry about that now, and she knew anger could be a dangerous state of mind here.
“Ah, the monstrous Canergak,” crowed Tepic, “author of this abominable assignation! Worry not–we shall lead that miscreant a merry dance, and fool him beyond his own foolishness!”
The professor frowned at the capering fox. “He is at least half right. You are very nearly like the outsiders. All rhyme and song even as you kindly slit a throat.”
Lisa, however, was wondering if she could trust her own identification. “How do we know it’s you,” she asked, “and not the Growler we met here before?”
“A dream is a dream, and what you see it what you get. Am I here, or am I not? Who can tell what is in the mind of the tormented?”
“Essence,” mused the professor.
“Essence of fox–the most delightful of all!”
“That is your opinion,” Vartanian said dryly.
“And the only one of importance, would you not agree?” The fox smiled impishly.
“I would not.” The professor looked back down at Lisa. “Regardless of his presence, we are here for the cat.”
Lisa, though, heard a sound from behind, and whirled in time to see a familiar shape step out of the shadow of a column. “Ahh–there you are.” Her nose wrinkled at the scent of the blood that now covered the form of the wolf they’d met in their previous excursion here. “You come again, straw and feline,” it snarled at them.
“Growler,” said the professor, turning to face it, his scythe now in his hand. Myn roared in fury, making Lisa jump, though she kept her attention on Growler.
“Another actor arrives to activate the activity!” cried Tepic.
“Except this one is certainly of the cat’s own dementia,” Vartanian replied.
“Are we not all images in the mind of the demented?” The enigmatic fox asked.
The professor frowned. “Do not try to confuse us, Fox.”
“Confuse you? I bring clarity to those who listen, and who can see.” Tepic’s tone, for the first time, was quite serious.
“You can’t trust anything here,” Growler said. “Go ahead – open that gate. It will kill you as it killed the mouse.”
“It might try,” replied the professor. “But I’m certain it will try to kill you first.”
“She doesn’t know what to think. She’s dangerous,” Growler said. “Leave her to me.” He glared at Tepic. “Leave the Fox to me.”
((To be continued…))
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