Arnold had still felt the nothingness that promised him safety, but he had to struggle against the grip that this realm had placed on him if he hoped to get there. Though he wasn’t clawing his way out literally, it felt like he was clinging desperately to a log as a great sea of rapids threatened to pull him over a waterfall. If he slipped at all he would be back in the submarine with the others and would either drown…or be eaten by an eel as he attempted to swim for the surface and shore.
With his growing desperation Arnold put all of his will into his escape and the realm lost it’s final grips upon him.
Dr. Maddox stared at him silently for a time, waiting for him to continue, but the cat was caught for several minutes in his own thoughts. She prodded him, “Why do you think that it was harder to escape?”
“If it wasn’t real, then the answer is obvious,” Arnold said as he stared out of the airship window again. “It didn’t want to let me leave till the scenario was over. If it was real…then Theodore, Sam, and all the others died that day.” He shook his head slowly. “Or I suppose they died either way.”
Dr. Maddox studied him for a few moments, and she realized something that he hadn’t been saying before, “When you think of the night the hospital collapsed you’ve also been thinking back to the men aboard Baha’s ship.”
Arnold looked up at her, and shrugged, “Sometimes.”
The doctor sighed and made another note, underlining it.
“But it wasn’t just there that I had trouble leaving, Dr.” The cat continued. “I noticed later that all of the realms that had time, physical laws, people…they were all like that. It was more difficult for me to enter a world like that from the outside and just as difficult to leave once I was there. For Tepic and…well I guess my people it was not impossibly hard. Probably even easier for them since they’re smaller…. anyway I could not just flee the moment I was endangered the way I did against the woman with azalea’s for hair,” Arnold explained. “I need a few moments, and honestly I don’t intend to ever find out just how long I would need. I never want to risk leaving this reality again…I do not want to run into Moriarty’s ‘old one’ again.”
“Old one?” Dr. Maddox asked. “The creature that was appearing at the Van Creed’s warehouse you told me about? The one I saw in my mirror?” Arnold nodded twice.
“I’ve often thought about why it couldn’t just enter our world the way me and Tepic do…why it needed the Van Creed and Moriarty’s help to come into our world. I think it can’t just slip into reality the way that we managed, because it was too big for such a method to be possible. Reality simply rejected it’s attempts to manifest here, or at least it does without someone creating a pathway for it on this earth.”
“Well…with that Moriarty fellow dead and the Van Creed gone we don’t have to worry about that,” Dr. Maddox said dismissively. Even as she said that Arnold couldn’t help but think of that sign about phloginistan in Wheatstone and the sermon they’d invited the public to hear at Dagon. “This is about you. What I want to know is how does Babbage make you feel…around the reality enforcers especially. Do they hurt?”
Arnold shrugged, “I was getting headaches in Clockhaven and ignoring them…assuming they were just normal headaches from the day we arrived. But once my body started to adapt to the realities I went to…that stopped happening.” Arnold paused and shared the other theory he had. “Or maybe it was after I held that cloud angel, I can’t be sure. Whatever the reason instead of pain I just get a…” Arnold struggled for a moment with how to describe the sensation. “A more intensified effect that I’m conforming to this reality I guess, especially around the enforcers.” Arnold breathed sadly. “Sometimes around them I no longer feel the void or anything else. I feel like I’m only a cat again.”
Dr. Maddox looked at him sternly, “You’re not thinking about wearing one again Arnold?!”
“Sometimes I think about it, yes,” Arnold admitted, but he quickly added, “But I won’t do it.”
She spent half an hour chastizing him, to his annoyance, bringing the session to a close with both of them bitter and upset. Glancing at the clock he told her that he would have to leave soon, because he had started to become worried about one of their patients and the construction. The new rooms wouldn’t be ready for another week at least, and the old ones were already demolished. Dr. Maddox told him she expected to see him again next week, and just reiterated his need to try to forgive Mr. Harvey as his current task…and to try to go out dancing more.