The sound startled Bookworm out of a sound sleep. She had returned late last night from visiting her parents back in America, and had been looking forward to sleeping in. The level of light shining through the crack in her curtains, which she saw when she cracked open her eyes, told her it was only about six in the morning.
A repetition of the sound came through her window – a cat’s yowl. Bookworm, sighing, dragged herself out of bed and opened the window, ready to shoo away the offending animal. To her great surprise, her sleep-blurred eyes met those of Beryl, who was perched on the window sill, many feet above the ground. He waved at her jauntily.
Bookworm waved weakly back, not yet awake enough to cope with this surprise. But then she looked down at herself, in her nightgown, and blushed. Frantically, she made gestures telling Beryl to meet her downstairs and quickly drew the curtains closed. Throwing on what was handy – the dress she’d worn yesterday, now rather rumpled – she hurried downstairs and opened the front door.
Beryl bounded inside, looking up at her with an expression she’d not seen on his face before. Suddenly, he reared up on his hind legs and hugged her, purring. Doing her best to hide her surprise, she hugged him back. “Beryl – I’m so glad to see you up and around!”
He went back on all fours and moved to the fireplace, settling down there while she sat in a chair. “It’s good to be up and around again.”
“How are you feeling?”
“Relieved,” he replied with some emphasis. “I’ve been through a lot.” He cocked his head at her. “I heard you and Tepic and others were looking for me?”
“Of course,” she said, nodding.
“I still haven’t asked anyone quite what happened here while I was gone for three months.” He chuckled a little. “I have a general idea in some circumstances. The power station exploding, Tepic working himself sick. He’s better, now the chains are off.”
“The chains are off?” Bookworm pondered that a moment. “I… hadn’t thought of the situation as that, but it certainly fits.”
“Well, I can explain.” Book leaned forward, listening intently. “For the past few months I’ve been in a coma… but I dreamed. Tepic was wearing chains. Lisa was wearing a giant pack of rocks; she’d been caught. I even dreamed of the Power Station going up in smoke.” He looked at her, smirking. “You were there too. You were wearing a shining white militia uniform.” Bookworm coughed, taken aback at that.
“Beatrixe was there, too – Arm and legs off, and unable to awaken here. Like me.” He paused. “Coma dreams can be very interesting. But it taught me something.” His tone growing more intent, he leaned forward. Bookworm nodded encouragingly.
“I need to stop abandoning the friends I made. And,” he continued, before she could comment on that, “it looks like I’ll have to get my job back at the asylum.”
She was surprised at that, though also pleased. “I don’t know how easy or difficult that will be, but if you can pull it off, I’m sure Lisa would be glad.”
“It’ll be easy,” he replied, getting up and moving toward the door. “I just have to tell Canergak exactly what his friend Murgam looks like. That should pique his interest.”
She was confused, but nodded anyway as she walked with him. “As for the other… I’m glad you learned that. Even if you have to cut ties with a place, that doesn’t mean you should cut ties with the people. Friendship transcends place.” She smiled. “Even if we’re separated by thousands of miles, I’d be glad to always consider you a friend.”
“This may sound odd, Book,” he said, looking up at her, “but I never really considered you to be my friend. I believed that you had been Arnold’s friend, and I was just picking up in his life where he left off. Abandoning Arnold’s friends, and his old life, seemed the best way to live my own life.” He paused. “I’ve come to realize that just isn’t true.” He scratched at the door, and she opened it.
“Beryl, you are just as much someone I would like to be friends with as Arnold was,” Bookworm said as he went through the door. ‘Perhaps more,’ she thought.
He didn’t answer that, but just looked up. Finally, he said, “Have a good morning, Book,” and ran off on all fours. She watched him go, then looked down at her crumpled clothing, smiled wryly, and went upstairs to change into a fresh dress.