She walks the endless halls, newly alone, but unafraid. Why should she fear? Her path trails behind her, bright as a beacon, unmistakable, unbreakable. She is warm, and fed, and it is quiet here.

Something sweet and familiar on the air, so she pushes forward, the clew tangled against one of her legs an alien weight, but not unpleasant. She rubs her teeth together, thinks about what she will tell her sister-sisters, if and when she returns. Something lived here once, vast as a city block; she can taste its labor in the walls and floor, bones of a strange and foreign body now absent, and it comforts her.

No corners here, no crosspaths, no doorways or chambers, no factories nor birthing rooms, just curve after gentle curve. A light grows ahead of her and she makes for it, turning through ever wider arcs until she breathes in deep the syrup-rich smell of the open air.


She is never far from her sisters, always awash in their loving scent, always pressed against their sibling skin: a leg, a shoulder, kissing mouth-to-mouth. Her sister-sisters she knows best: engineers, farmers, hunters, and explorers. She has been each of these: now working in the great factories that spin the city on, now walking in her sister-sisters’ footsteps to gather food, now pushing outward, almost alone, looking for new roads, new fields, new enemies to flee or fight.

Her toothsome sisters she knows less well. She meets them, now and then, high and singing from some hard-fought victory or defeat, dragging their dismembered foes behind them, leading slaves, carrying their severed legs upon their shoulders for the vats. They kiss, in passing, as is right, but there is no friendly passion there, merely work. They are burly, her toothsome sisters, and young. They do not live long lives.

Her bloody sisters she knows least of all. She has seen them stirring once before, and never seen her mother, but she tends them still unborn. She turns them to the heat and wonders what it must be like to rule in glory or die unknown. Her sister-sisters labor on.