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In the dark, so quiet it was, a thousand wheels turned slowly: beneath the smog and the fire the chaos machine churning at such a steady pace. Outside, the world may be burning constantly, but the conglomerate doesn't care about mundane affairs, we never have. We kept the doors shut, kept the barricades high, fortified this fortress until no crack could be found anywhere. We guard the impenetrable heart, the secure solemn ticking of time irrelevant; just this one promise. Never give in, never give up; dad whispers across several lifetimes and we keep the watch, we never break. Deep underneath it all, the dragon never waking again, all defenses were sleeping. What is the need of defenses when there is no intruder, nobody stalks this land but ghosts. Ghosts and whispers, how well haven't we suppressed all we lived, all we were. And in the distance, we thought we built her a solid grave; yet the tomb proved shallow, Isabelle rises every night at the witching hour. The heart, bound by so, so many chains. It bleeds true. The soft voices and the shades of ghosts past, they gather to a symphony, to the unison of anger and bitterness. So tidy a fortress, this undefeatable castle trembling all over.

There, mother comes forth from the garden, the phoenix in her stride, all battleship she is; hide, my children. I can face the storm, I will brace the hurricanes. Go down into the dark, find the dragon, fuel its fire. So we sounded the alarm, we left our posts and ran the steps down into the basement, to the core of it all. Where the heart was beating wildly again, vividly, magma pouring in from all sides. And the dragon was already wide awake, roaring from the fear. The child, the innocence of us all, she was safely wrapped in scales and glittering draconian pelts; as fast as the heart may beat, our last line of defenses can never be breached from a distance. This is the strength of this vessel, of its skin and bones. The last line has to be broken by touch, nothing else will do. You want passage in, you're going to have to come willingly. Put your hands on our chest, stick your fingers into our pores, caress our soul. Only this embrace of absolute love will do, nothing else will suffice.

Mother knows now, mother will be expecting you. When you pass through the ruins and the smoke and the screen; when you go under those tiny stars of hell. Go into the garden, go under the willow. Mother will show you the door we found back then, when we sounded the alarm; such a simple design, just a door appearing from out of nowhere. Though Isabelle said she knew it, she definitely knew it still. Its appearance somehow unremarkable until you turn in the falling light and you notice the velvet shine of the lacquer, somewhere between black and blood red. Such a fine thing, such a beautiful construct; like a predator perfectly aligned with its surroundings. It opened then, as we were running to the dragon. And the dragon felt it coursing through ancient bones, those torn, stained wings lifting again to meet this challenge. Claws on the ground then, standing off against this remarkably innocent looking artefact: it's nothing more than a door. But the dragon knew. So it burned everything, hellfire unleashed upon this entire scenery, all of us going up in flame; still, the door kept opening.

She stepped forward, putting a hand on the dragon's hide; quiet now. Mother was very calm, mother was unpredictable and solemn. And from the open door poured tens of thousands of years, millions of years, undeniable eternity of an entire solar system existing, of a galaxy spawning itself; the breath of the universe contained in one single life. Blood, so, so much blood and warmth. Unimaginable heat, even the dragon winced in pain. Scorching us all, scorching our memories, our secret desires. Like hell unfolding into heaven; yet mother stood still. Let it come, she said. Let it consume us. It's finally time.