((Writing muse apparently went on a world tour for the past several months. Finally managed to get it back, so we’re catching up on things.))
Lisa rocked back and forth on her knees, dipping the brush in the water-filled bucket, then reaching out to scrub at the floor. It was just one part of the routine she had followed all summer–work, work, and more work. Canergak was away much of the time, but the asylum kept taking in more and more new patients, including some sent to them by Canergak during his travels. Everyone in the asylum was kept busy.
And Lisa, of course, was still on probation, confined to the asylum grounds except for the occasional message run. The only time she deliberately broke that was to attend the monthly meetings of her cat family and friends–and even that wasn’t always possible. She felt stifled, wanting to break out somehow, but she didn’t dare. Not with the Beryl-like cat still kept in Canergak’s laboratory down below. Any rebellion now would cost both of them dear.
So she kept to the routine, and kept on scrubbing, and wondered if anything would ever change now.
But today, there was, finally, a change. She heard the front door open, and claws clicking on the tile floor. Hardly daring to hope, she sat back on her heels, and saw Beryl come around the corner, peering from side to side. “Lisa?”
“Beryl!” she cried, catching his attention. He quickly scurried over to her. “Are you all right?” he asked. She nodded, though she knew her face belied that.
Beryl sighed and gestured to a table. Not caring who might see, she threw down her brush and joined him, watching him push into the corner seat, away from casual sight. She sat down beside him.
“I’ve been… busy,” he said, somewhat apologetically.
“So has everyone,” she replied. She couldn’t entirely keep her resentment out of her voice. She hadn’t even seen Miss Hienrichs in nearly two weeks. It felt as if the outside world had forgotten her.
“Well, some of them are more dangerous than others for… our whiskered friends.” His voice dropped at the end of the sentence, and Lisa leaned in. “Did you hear about the cats going missing in Port?” he asked quietly.
She growled under her breath. “Yes.” Her friends had told her that cats from all over the city had been going missing throughout the summer–dozens of them. Even quite a few dogs had disappeared, to the consternation of their owners. Lisa tried to advise them, but there was little she could do, given her situation.
“Well, Mr. Underwood was bragging about that the other day in public,” Beryl continued grimly. “Apparently, they were taken for animal testing.”
Lisa hissed angrily, her fingers flexing as if trying to shoot out claws. “And I must still stay in here…” Her voice, though quiet, carried a weight of frustration.
“Well… there was someone who approached me about a… related issue.”
“What do you mean?
“Some of the Moreau seem to want to organize a protest. A possibly violent one. And they intimated that animal testing labs might suddenly… catch on fire.” Beryl shrugged.
Lisa looked thoughtful. “Do you think that would be good?”
“Silence changes nothing. Protests always cause violence, but sometimes they change things.”
Nodding slowly, she replied, “I hope they can create that change, then.”
“What about you?” Beryl asked. “How long will you still be confined?”
“I do not know.” She sighed. “I’ve not seen Canergak in a long time.”
Beryl looked sour. “Maybe he’s just preparing some new….’test’ for you to fail.” His tone implied that failing might be a good thing.
“Perhaps. I did, at least, persuade Professor Vartanian to bring me to the lab from time to time. So the cat there will know she’s not completely forgotten.”
Beryl sighed. “I’m living proof that she can be helped, but she isn’t… ‘right’ yet.” He inched away from the wall, and Lisa slid out of her seat to let him out. “She never will be, here.” He looked up at her. “Be careful.”
“You, too.” She watched as he trotted down the hall to the front door, lost in thought. Finally, she gave herself a little shake and went back to her bucket. Kneeling down, she picked up the discarded brush, dipped it in the water, and began her rhythmic scrubbing, rocking back and forth on her knees.