image: "Beginnings" by Alice XZ

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 ever 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.

Belladonna’s hair was a beacon and a flickering torch on top of her tremendous wave of iron. Her hair seemed the only bright thing in the smoke and the ash. Soldiers stood against her, and the people cheered the soldiers, until she wiped them aside and used whipping chains to toss their bodies in the pile of rocks. And then the people cheered for Belladonna alone.

Belladonna, Queen of the World, stopped in the center of the city where the ancient clock tower stood. Her war machine huffed and steamed. A new cannon came stretching out of its flux of machinery. The war machine roared. The new cannon reached like a telescope. Fire danced from the machine’s pipes, as bright as Belladonna’s hair. The new cannon came within inches of the clock tower’s face. There was cheering, there was screaming, at the thought that Belladonna would destroy the ancient clock. The people were in ecstasies. They were in hysterics.

I, myself, had a little apartment near the heart of the city. It was a gray little place, with a single gray little window, but it was on the thirteenth floor and it had a view of the famous clock tower. I saw Belladonna walk the length of her cannon barrel. She had a rifle in her hand that she strapped over one shoulder. I saw her grab hold of the hour-hand of the clock. I saw her brace her legs. Pushing and twisting with all her strength, I saw her move the hand to Midnight.