Soft and precious in herself, she nestled in her house. There was one room. Very small, but cozy. So small, she could feel the walls all around press against her. They were comforting where they rested against her back. They were comforting beneath her. Better than any blankets. Smoother than the smoothest silk imaginable.
Dawn in the desert, and the sun was slow to wake. The sun burned on the far edge of the world while the desert rocks stayed cold. Out from the north, across the open wastes, the Manticore came padding to the valley of tombs where his love the Sphynx dwelt.
Belladonna rode into the city, her red hair like a flame. She rode on top of her huge war machine, like nothing the city had never seen. The people cheered as the giant wheels ground down the city walls. Children whose houses were chewed up in the gears chased Belladonna. They followed Belladonna as though the grinding and thrashing machine was making the music of a pied piper.
There was a grand old church mid-block, then a squat apartment building with no windows on the first floor. On the end of this building, near the subway entrance, was the little iron door, brown with rust, that led to the Exchange of Regrets. The iron door was brown with age, it looked like the entrance to a basement boiler room. It didn’t need to be locked or guarded. Its power to be overlooked was security enough.
It happened in my own house, in the Room with Seven Windows.
It was a porch really. Too cold to use in the winter, but warm enough for me by spring. The seven windows made the sides of an octagon so I could see the forest that surrounded us. The eighth wall connected to the house. There was a table in there for coffee-drinkers and smokers. My mattress was against the wall, and on my left there was an aluminum door to the outside, squeezed in next to the seventh window.
The backdoor made a creak and opened slowly. From the darkness, a shape emerged. It was a giant. Big, black, and formless, like the shadow of a tree. He ducked his head and came crawling into the room with me.