Beryl wouldn’t be sleeping in the clock that had been presented to them as a bed. The chimes would have kept them awake all evening and they had arrived early enough in the morning to find other arrangements. The cat was accompanied by the blonde/cream fured bunny, who it seemed was one of the few on the farm who had learned English. Her name was Conradine and she had a harsh way of speaking that made it clear her native tongue was German.
“We will find you new bed.” Before Beryl could move away from the clock Conradine began to look them up and down, openly sniffing and examining them. “Are you girl, or boy?”
Beryl didn’t answer, and Conradine repeated the question twice more before they replied. “I used to answer only to he, but now I’ll answer to either.” They didn’t expect to see Conradine again after they left Germany, so Beryl had just been more honest than they had been with any of their friends. “Right now, I think of myself as ‘they’.”
“That is no sense.” Conradine countered with her brightly colored eyes narrowing, “You are one cat. Not many.”
“Yes, I am one cat, but that’s not what I meant.” Beryl replied already feeling frustrated. They couldn’t blame Conradine, they knew that it was confusing for anyone, even they themselves got lost thinking about it too much. “Dickens and others often use ‘they’ instead of he or she so a being remains gender neutral, especially when talking about spirits.” The blank look that Conradien gave them was enough to say she’d never heard of Britain’s most renowned living author. “Part of the reason I am going on this journey, is I feel that I will find the answer out there, somewhere, along the way.”
There was no sign of understanding from the bipedal rabbit. Beryl hadn’t known why they thought she would, but they regretted sharing now. “You are not a spirit. You smell like girl. Were you born girl?”
Beryl sighed at the failure to be understood, but put it past them as they nodded, “Yes.”
“Then I shall call you, Girl.” Conradine said as if proclaiming that was Beryl’s new name. “Come, Girl. We find you bed for night.”
Beryl didn’t open up to anyone else on the farm, where their name began to vary between Frau and Girl among those present. After awhile they grew used to it and laid on the front porch for most of the day and just watched the men and women work until the sun started to go down. At that point Conradine invited them in to dinner. It had been an entirely vegetarian meal, no hint of meat of any kind beyond the fact Lester had some eggs.
The old man was seated at the front of the table while many bunnies and bovines were mostly enjoying the cabbage on the side. Beryl looked at their own plate which was mostly just a saucer of milk and what may have been an old dead mouse killed by a trap. The cat was disapointed as they had been hoping for some fish, but they had not seen a pond nearby they supposed.
The meal was not eaten in silence, but Conradine was selective in what they translated for Beryl. It had been decided that two of the cows and Conradine would take a wagon and escort Beryl to the edge of the forest, and then they would return in two and a half weeks to retrieve them near the start of November to a Moreau city that was near the forest. Beryl had that time to hopefully return or they’d have to go without protection against bandits, ruffians, or the Doberman’s.
Beryl remembered their dreams, dreams about bunnies and cows being attacked by a big three headed dog. Did that mean the farm? “What are the Doberman’s?”
Lester replied instead of Condradine. “Imagine that you have a pack of scavenging, starving, angry dogs that take whatever they can and seek out duels and marks with the intensity that a Lemming hunts their next cliff and you will have the nice ones.” Lester took a moment as another bunny offered them another bite of food, but he managed to drop most of the eggs into his beard. “According to their leader, Sandpersand or something, they claim that their ancestors were some of the first Moreau, being created and forged to fight Napoleon’s armies.”
“Well I wasn’t there, but I heard they were actually created to keep the gardeners in line.” Lester replied while awaiting some more eggs, which fell and was soon tangled hopelessly.
Beryl blinked in confusion, “The gardeners? What do you think the gardeners looked like back then?” Considering the meat trees and Babbage-bed…. “What did you think the gardeners back then were giant clockworks with a pair of killer scissors on top of their heads?”
“Of course not,” Lester said with a laugh, “It were the bunnies of course, and they was eatin’ all the roses.”
Lester nodded resolutely and Beryl nodded in understanding and continued the rest of the meal in silence. They said their thank you’s and at the end of the day they were escorted to one of the girls rooms to sleep in a small corner bed.