Sometimes, I just need to write. This lengthy short story was inspired by a comment made by Anne J. on my post about Katniss & John Wick…What if? She invited me to tell an alternative Cinderella story, and so… here it is.
The world had become dark and grey. With the sun blotted out by permanent radioactive cloud cover, all life forms were condemned to a life indoors.
Mostly, this was not so bad. Cities had become an intricate web of covered bridges and tunnels, much like the charming yellow hamster tubes of yesteryear.
Hamsters were, of course, extinct now, just like all other domestic pets and all of the wildlife that needed an outdoor environment in which to thrive.
Except for cats. The occasional feral cat could still sometimes be seen, an urban legend slinking around the corners of toxic buildings without a care for the bone-melting gamma rays soaking through fur and tissue with every step.
Every morning, Kara would pause on the J Street pedestrian overpass to scan the deserted roads, half hoping she would see such a mythical creature. Yet the barren cityscape that met her eye remained the same–a child’s doll abandoned on the center stripe, a compact car with the door left wide open, an overflowing trashcan, all of it dusted a deep, metallic greenish-gray color. For much of humanity, the warnings had come too late. There were other streets, usually inaccessible due to government intervention, where there were skeletal remains in agonizing death poses, propped up against doorways with entreating hands wrapped around locked doorknobs.
The world had changed since the failure of the proposed Great Peace Treaty of 2025. The new reality was an oligarchy that controlled the buildings, the tunnels, even the precious clean air. This shadowy group sometimes made announcements via the ever-present monitors posted in every corner of every hallway, but mostly there was nothing but a pervasive grey silence.
After all, there was work to do.
Kara reported to her cubicle at precisely 8:00 a.m. each cycle. There were five work cycles and two recreational cycles within each week. Rather recently, the Government had redacted the words “day”; “night”; “morning”; “evening”; “sunrise”; and “sunset,” along with any others that referenced the passage of time according to a solar circuit.
There was no reason given as to why, and no one dared to ask. Instead, that vocabulary simply ceased to exist, along with “hippopotamus,” “zebra,” “lion,” and so forth.
Logging into her terminal with practiced speed, Kara began the necessary computations that comprised the bulk of her ordinary work. She, and dozens of others like her, moderated and modified real-time gaming simulations that depicted the most violent deaths imaginable–by zombies, monsters, irradiated skeletal warriors, and thousands of other gruesome variations.
ZeroEternity was, of course, owned and sanctioned by the Government. It was not yet mandatory to participate, although the majority of the population played relentlessly by choice, trying to achieve the Nirvana Objective. This was impossible, purely because people like Kara existed to ensure that it did not happen, and therefore everyone stayed obsessively engaged within the game when not productively employed during their prescribed work cycle, trying to be the One to break the system.
In two hundred and three years, this had not happened.
At 5 p.m. Kara stood up and stretched, flexing her fingers. Pushing in her chair and neatly squaring her keyboard to align with the edge of her desk, she left her station and began the three-tunnel commute home. The elevators were crowded, as usual, with each person very careful not to touch another. (It was the height of rudeness to impose one’s physical presence upon a fellow human form, even to the point that a formal complaint could be filed.) There were marked silhouettes on the floor where one’s feet should go, which determined the exact number of persons who could board and the precise distance at which each should stand in order to remain separated at a politely regulated distance.
“Home” was an assigned room roughly 400 feet square. There was a sink, a tiny refrigerator, a bed, and not much else. At 6:15 p.m. she would be required to report in to the common hall cafeteria, but after that she would have time of her own.
Because Kara had a secret.
Of all the people left on Earth’s scarred crust, there was only an infinitesimal number who still possessed a spark of creativity.
And Kara… Kara could dream.
She dreamt of wide blue skies and lying on green grass, watching white clouds morphing into the shapes of dragons and unicorns. She could taste the soft wheat bread and savory roast beef of an overflowing sandwich; crunching a red apple between her teeth, she wandered into a forest with twenty shades of green, all dappled in warm yellow sunlight.
Every night, Kara dreamt of the world that was, a world full of forbidden memories she was too young to possess.
Nevertheless… she dreamed them anyway and knew them all by name, words long outlawed and then forgotten.
Freitag was the last required unit of the work-week cycle. Between after-dinner and next breakfast, Kara was free to indulge in her own hobbies. Library access required nearly the highest government clearance, but Kara liked to visit a friend whose room was directly opposite those locked gates. Sometimes at night she would try to dream herself inside, but she was too young to remember books and the purpose of fairy tales. She only knew that she was attracted to the idea of what might be hidden there.
Still, it would not do to be caught staring at the eternal blank-faced guards posted outside the tall, chained gates. One glimpse, once a week as she turned smartly to rap on Pala’s door at precisely 7:30 p.m. was all she allowed herself.
But in her mind, she imagined a hoard of gold, coins and goblets and plates cascading from shelves and overflowing in an opulent waterfall onto the floor, each item activated by touch to tell the story of its creation and its history.
Samstag began with the comforting sameness instilled by standardized routine. Kara awoke, showered in the community lavatory down the hall, and consumed two protein units in the cafeteria. She regularly rotated who she associated with in order to broaden her social circle, and this time she sat with a bright, brown-eyed girl named Tolya. Tolya worked in the Undersphere, the darkest and deepest tunnels that housed all of the machinery that kept the city running. Still, Tolya was immaculately neat and lively, her conversation soothingly bland and civilized. They agreed to meet midweek on Mittwoch at dinner.
Within her room once more, Kara sat on the edge of her mattress and waited. It was only 7:58 a.m. Her schedule for the remainder of Samstag would appear on a ticket from the black machine embedded like a wart into the wall by the door at exactly 8 a.m.
And so it did… but it was a ticket unlike any other she had ever received, in all her years of service.
“9 PM: Report to the Grand Library for a ball.”
“A… ball?” The word was foreign and unnatural in her mouth. She could not immediately access an image to associate with such a term.
Perplexed, she frowned at the small slip of paper.
It was otherwise entirely blank.
No sports? No ping-pong or racquetball or backgammon or tennis on any of the indoor courts from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.?
No required community service from 11 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.?
No mandatory social etiquette training from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.?
Kara stared in wonder at the ticket. There were many hours to fill before her presence was required–at the Grand Library, of all places.
A sharp knock startled her; automatically she got up and answered the door.
An anonymous trooper dressed in the usual grimy white fatigues with a black visor shielding his face stood smartly at attention. Kara blinked, twice, as he began to speak by rote.
“You are required to dress in accordance with the formality of this great occasion, the first Government Gala of its kind in over a century. Costumes will be made available to you, and all other eligible maidens, in Building C2 Quarter 3 Room 15 from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m, after which time if you have not selected the proper equipment, you will be out of compliance. Do you have any questions?”
Kara knew better than to answer with anything than the standard response, “Understood. Thank you.”
Curiouser and curiouser–the strange words swirled through her mind like an old-fashioned fantasy. Quickly she gathered her requisite ID badge and slung a small bag over her shoulder, should the “equipment” be cumbersome to carry.
With a quick step Kara proceeded down the hall, seeing the elevator ahead of her blinking its departure signal that indicated there were only ten seconds left before the metal doors would shut until the next arrival in exactly fifteen minutes.
For the first time in her twenty-four years, Kara began to run.
“They are all the same,” the young man sighed, shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot in his very shiny, very tight black boots.
“Of course, m’lord,” his senior advisor replied, with a tinge of surprise. “There are some factors that are altered to provide variety, such as height and hair color, but for the most part they are all products of the same mold with identical circuitry.”
“I know, I know.” The King’s son rubbed his jaw, scraped clean for this event with the hoi polloi.
“May I remind His Highness that this is the tradition of your family, passed down from father to son these many generations?” The older gentleman raised a black eyebrow at the heir apparent, who straightened up automatically.
“No, Alfred, you may not. I know my duty.” His Excellency Charles Munn turned on one heel and began the long descent down the curved staircase leading to the highly polished dance floor. The Duke of Quarter Four watched him with the slightest frown creasing his bushy eyebrows. There were no real flesh and blood women left in the world, but technology had thankfully been preserved and refined to the point where these impersonators were as close as man could make them.
Better, really, the Duke mused, following His Excellency to the ballroom floor. The consorts provided stress-relief in multiple methods with invariably perfect technique, as well as providing the right degree of companionship to alleviate depression. They would not age, nor question authority. They provided a sense of normalcy in a male-dominated society, allowing most people to forget that the world had changed.
It was all scientific, right down to each and every detail.
The Grand Library was a huge disappointment. Carefully lifting the hem of her wide blue dress with each hand, Kara stood on tiptoe trying to see beyond the parquet floor to the shadowy shelves towering twelve deep on either side. The fringes were very crowded with spectators and other mandated participants; slipping under a fringed gold rope, she took two steps, then three up a long flight of stairs, craning to see something magical.
“Oof!” Kara collided into a large, bulky someone as she teetered on the brink of the stairs.
“Watch out, there,” a husky voice advised, catching her elbow and pulling her back from the edge with one hand on her waist.
“I do apologize, I am so… embarrassed,” Kara whispered. The unusual word tasted strange on her tongue, like a flavor without a name.
Like… strawberries–the thought came unbidden and went just as quickly.
Smoothing her dress she turned to the stranger, looking up into his intense blue eyes as her ingrained manner programming took over.
“Hello, may I introduce myself?” she asked. Then, for reasons entirely unknown, she laughed and shrugged her shoulders, dipping her chin down and then peeping up at him through her eyelashes.
The man looked quite stunned, which indicated a high success rate of said behavior. With a shrug of her white shoulders, she tucked her arm through his.
“My name is Kara. Would you please escort me to the floor? It is my first time in these tiny shoes,” she continued.
“Yes, indeed. Er, yes, you may–” the flustered young man took a deep breath, staring at her intently. “My name is–Charles. You may call me Charles.”
“Well, Charles, I do declare,” Kara said, tapping him on the forearm. An image of a dark-haired woman in a green and white dress layered with flounces and frills materialized in her mind’s eye, improbably sitting outside and discussing barbeque with many well-dressed suitors crowding about.
Yes, that is correct–the thought was hazily indistinct.
Charles escorted her to the floor as waves of people stepped aside, following the impeccable propriety protocols.
“Do you–” Charles bit his lip, his face suddenly bitter and downcast. Kara watched this transformation with some concern, as he roughly grabbed her hand and swept her out to the center of the floor.
Somewhere, recorded music began to play, the same tune used in the required etiquette trainings.
“Charles? Do you know what lies in the dark shadows, over there?” she asked after a few moments of strained silence. “I used to–I used to think there might be dragons in here.”
Jerking his head around to look straight into her blue eyes, her partner stopped and nearly tangled them both into a heap in front of everyone before resuming the waltz.
“What did you say?” he asked, and she looked down at her toes before remembering, again, the pretty brunette with the vivacious sparkle in her eye.
“I said I thought there were dragons, behind these locked doors,” she replied airily, “and maybe hobbits and a hoard of golden treasure.”
Unlike all the men to be decanted from a test tube before him, Charles was the sole governmental heir to harbor a deep love of reading. At the age of sixteen he had formally annexed the Grand Library as part of his bedroom suite, and thus this great party was actually being hosted within the chambers of his living room.
“What would we even do with treasure,” he murmured, relaxing for the first time as he felt the shape of her back under his palm and noted the nearness of her heart-shaped face.
In twenty-six years, he had never felt this welter of emotion–confusion, wonder, delight, accompanied by an accelerated heart rate and an increasing awareness of the female form swathed in icy-blue silk before him. Other couples, selected officials chosen to provide partners to the hundred plus guests, swirled around them in a riot of color and precision.
But for Charles, there was only one other person in the room.
“How goes it?” the King said, one blue-veined hand gripping an ebony cane.
“Well, very well, Your Majesty,” the Duke reported.
“Did he choose the blonde?” the old man asked.
“Yes, the very one,” the Duke answered.
“Hmphf. Good. Give the programmers a raise–or a girl, if they want one in particular. They’ve earned it.” With a sigh he sat back in his plush wheelchair, outfitted with every comfort imaginable, and surveyed his kingdom.
Finally, the lad was going to get with the program, raise some clones, and continue the business of ruling what was left of the land.
At midnight, ceremonial bells tolled throughout the Grand Library. Kara, who had been walking hand in hand through the stacks with Charles, suddenly stopped in horror.
“It’s late!” she cried, looking around for an exit.
“But, surely–” Charles said, watching as she carefully replaced Peter Pan onto the correct shelf. It wasn’t until he saw her walking determinedly in the direction of the gates that he realized she was actually leaving.
“I’m so sorry, I have to go,” she called back to him. “I didn’t even meet His Excellency!”
“Kara, wait,” he said, weaving carefully around several tipsy couples clinging to each other in intimate embraces. “Wait!” She was unbelievably fast, already passing the guards as she waved goodbye with one last look over her shoulder.
Unwilling to make a scene, he grit his teeth and slid smoothly through the crowd, nodding and acknowledging nods in his direction as he went.
When he reached the exit, Kara was gone with only a single glass slipper left as evidence of her passing.
Back in her room, Kara carefully disrobed and shook out the beautiful blue gown. It was like nothing she had ever seen, much less worn, like the embodiment of one of her dreams.
She thought of Charles, his mussed brown hair and the way he fidgeted with the tight collar of his white dress uniform. She had encountered men before, on the way to or from work, but she had never interacted with one so personally before.
He had known about the hobbits and had told her a tale about wizards and talking trees. With each new word she felt a part of herself awaken and remember, somehow becoming more than she had ever been before.
With a sigh Kara hung the dress on the hanger specially assigned to this costume. In her haste to make curfew, she had lost one of the unique shoes loaned to her for this event. No doubt she would be fined, but at this moment she felt only a wonderfully light-headed sense of peace and happiness.
His name was Charles.
With that she closed her eyes and dreamed.
“You… lost her?” A fit of coughing interrupted the old man’s tirade, as the Duke stood ramrod straight with his mouth pursed in a tight line.
“It was quite unexpected, the reaction to the midnight bells, but–yes,” affirmed the Duke.
“Can’t you simply ask the programmers where she’s located?” the King asked acidly.
“Yes, Your Majesty, but that may lead to the, ahem, disclosure of the additional effort that was put into that particular model to appeal to the Prince’s specific interests,” the Duke explained delicately.
The King grunted, understanding the matter entirely. It had been difficult enough simply to leverage the Prince’s agreement to participate in a ball in the first place.
“If I may add, however, that the Prince has proposed that he will marry no one but the woman he danced with last night,” the Duke stated, watching the King’s apoplexy fade from bright red to a dull pink. He kept the detail about the glass slipper to himself, unwilling to provoke the King’s wrath any further.
“Marriage? He used that archaic term, huh?” Sitting up straighter, it seemed as if the Duke’s words had breathed new purpose into the decrepit despot. “Fine. Make a pronouncement that all eligible maidens will report for inspection on Montag, 9 a.m. sharp in their respective common halls.”
“Sir, there are several identical models in each Quarter,” the Duke warned, but the elderly King only smiled humorlessly.
“That, my dear friend,” he said, “is my son’s problem.”
The ticket that popped out of the wall machine early Montag read simply: “9:00 a.m.: Report to Common Hall.” Kara stared at it, unsettled by so many sudden changes to the mundane routine that was comfort and stability.
However, it was imperative to follow directions, and so she assembled in the Common Hall of her ward along with several other women her age.
“Do you know what this is about?” she asked Tolya as they stood near the back, but the cheerful brunette simply shrugged her shoulders.
The entire hall was painfully silent as a fully-armed trooper strode to the front of the room.
“Hear ye,” he intoned. “Each maiden shall in turn remove her footwear and be fitted with a replica of a slipper found at the Government Gala last night. That is all.”
Kara paled as the crowd assembled into neat lines and rows.
The shoe! Perhaps it was an… artifact. She had not known who to report the missing item to and had instead been waiting for instructions to return her dress.
Perhaps it was very valuable, she thought, moving forward in starts and stutters. No one had received training in the efficient removal of footgear, and thus each individual completed the task in a way that was uniquely her own.
One person was all that remained between Kara and the armed men when the monitors abruptly flickered to life in every corner of the room. A kindly faced gentleman appeared in a wash of static that gradually resolved into a clear image.
“Thank you for your cooperation. Please resume your regular schedule. That is all.”
The monitors went dark.
The soldiers stood up and gestured to the exits.
Each and every single woman spun around and began to file in an orderly fashion back to their respective duties.
Except for Kara.
In one fluid motion she stepped out of line and timidly approached the nearest armed guard.
“Excuse me,” she said.
“Return to your regularly scheduled duties,” the trooper said, his voice imperiously impersonal through the sound filter.
“I–” Kara began, faltering. It was me, I was the one who lost the shoe! The words were clear in her head but her voice failed to come out.
“Return to your regularly scheduled duties,” the guard repeated, and this time his hand came down to rest upon the butt of the gun in his side holster.
Kara turned and joined the last line leading out the door, back to the hall.
Back to her regularly scheduled duties.
Within the week there was yet another Government Announcement. Kara was sitting in the commissary of her work building when the flat screens again blared to life with a fanfare of trumpets.
The kindly gentleman, who appeared in all public proclamations, was back.
“Dear citizens, we are pleased to announce the upcoming marriage of Prince Charles to Kara Thrace. All hail our beloved monarchy for embracing the common people. Schedules will be issued to those specially selected to attend the ceremony. Until then, remember: With Peace comes Prosperity, and with Prosperity we have Peace.”
There followed a picture of the Heir Apparent, appearing pensive and stern as he stared into the camera.
Kara dropped her mug of caffeinated stimulant. A sludgy brown pool spread out from the center of the white, circular table.
That’s, that’s the man, the man from the ball! The one who knew all those stories! Kara stared wide-eyed at the screen, which now changed to a still photograph of a blonde woman with vacant blue eyes and a very familiar smile.
Kara stifled a scream.
The brown sludge reached the lip of the table, teetering on the verge of splashing onto the pristine white carpet.
The woman on the screen had her exact same face.
The dark liquid oozed over the side, but with supernaturally quick reflexes Kara shot out a hand and caught the drop in her palm.
With an uncommonly fierce glare she stared at the screen, now gone dark again.
Who was that woman, with my face? And my name?
Like precision clockwork, the pieces suddenly came together.
The ball–the shoe–Charles–the line up in the common hall.
He was looking for her.
A warm feeling, utterly foreign and unknown, welled up in Kara’s heart.
There was no way she was going to miss that ceremony–invited or not.
“Did you send the invitation?”
“Yes! I put it on her ticket.”
“It reads, ‘Unreceived.’”
“What does that mean?”
“It means she didn’t receive it, dummy.”
Squinting at the tiny screens dominating two long walls in their wide-open office, two men in frayed lab coats searched in black and white for a tall blonde with blue eyes.
A very specific one.
“There she is!” one pointed to the screen monitoring the corridor near the Grand Library.
“But she doesn’t have a ticket!” the other screeched. Quickly he pulled a tablet close to his lap and began typing a directive to Trooper TK-421.
“Hurry!” breathed his partner.
“Abracadabra,” his associate murmured, his fingers flying through a complex series of Unix commands.
He tapped the last key, just as the blonde approached the gates.
Kara walked up to the Grand Library with a determined confidence she did not feel on the inside.
“Do you have an invitation?” the guard asked automatically.
“Yes, I do,” she said, pulling a ticket from her pocket and waving it casually in the trooper’s direction. The ticket was her original schedule for the ball last Samstag; she fervently hoped that he would not ask to look at it too closely.
“Move along,” the guard said, waving her in. He called to someone waiting behind her.
Had Kara turned around, she would have seen the trooper hold out his hand and scan the barcode on the bottom of the individual’s invitation.
But she didn’t turn around; she was single-mindedly focused on one thing and one thing only–
“She made it!” The programmers whooped and high-fived each other, spinning back towards the screens as the blonde disappeared into the crowd. Monitors were not allowed inside the Royal Residence; they watched her go knowing that this might be the last they ever saw of her at all.
“All we can do now is rely on all that deep programming,” sighed one man, stretching and rolling his shoulders. In the last seventy-two hours they had embedded a lightning stream of data into Kara’s consciousness, everything from Shakespeare to Gone With the Wind and The Hunger Games.
Her creation was extraordinary in that she had begun as an accident, when one weary-eyed man had accidentally cross-referenced Alice in Wonderland into her cerebral code. They had watched in wonder and amazement as she adapted, the first Artificial Intelligence to do so–well, ever.
And then she began to make memories, to express curiosity and wonderment, to form opinions.
The Grand Library was crowded but there were precise rows with the requisite feet silhouettes indicating exactly where to stand, each one labeled with a name.
Kara knew that her time was limited; she did not have an invitation or a pre-printed placeholder in this ceremony.
Looking over those already assembled, Kara grimaced, another strange new expression in a day full of strange new emotions.
This isn’t what Charles would have wanted, she thought to herself. All this empty pomp and circumstance.
For a moment, doubt seized her. How could she really know what Charles wanted? They had only had that one wonderful evening, and she had not even known that he was the Crown Prince.
“Please find your assigned stations,” a neutral voice rang out, and people began to fill in the lines and rows more quickly.
With a last desperate glance at the empty altar, Kara ducked into the shadows of one of the tall bookshelves.
He at least deserves a real chance at happiness, she thought, watching the crowd settle in. And so do I.
Soon a short priest with a towering golden hat shuffled to the front of the glittering assembly. Music began to play, and suddenly Charles stepped past her, so close she could have touched his sleeve. He walked slowly down the center aisle, his face impassive and bitter.
There were more speeches that blurred into nothingness for her as Kara debated what to do.
What could she do?
A preternatural hush fell over the congregation as somewhere a door opened with an ear-splitting protest of rusty hinges.
The bride, dressed all in white, advanced towards the altar.
This is it, my last chance, my only chance, Kara thought, but her feet were leaden and her tongue stuck to the top of her dry mouth.
“If anyone here objects to the union of these two beings, speak now or forever hold your peace,” the diminutive priest said, drawing in a long breath to speak the final blessing.
“I object!” Kara’s voice rolled out over the gathering, loud as thunder. All around guests turned to look for the source of this unprecedented interruption.
Seated nearly out of sight on the upper balcony, the old king curled his lip and snarled.
“What is going on, Alfred?” he growled.
“I don’t know, Sire,” the Duke replied. “I have no idea whatsoever.”
“Charles!” Kara cried, stumbling up the red-carpeted center aisle.
The man at the front turned to her with the cold face of a stranger.
“Do you, do you remember the dragons?” she asked, falling to her knees.
Behind her could be heard the steady beat of marching feet approaching at a rapid clip.
“I’m not sure I understand,” the Prince said. Unconsciously he dropped the hands of his bride who stared peacefully into a middle distance.
“The mermaid, the one who lost her song,” Kara gasped. “You were telling me about how she gave up her voice, because she was in love, and now–now–”
The boots were almost upon her.
“… I know how she felt.”
Strong hands seized her from behind, but Kara fought back, long enough to pull the matching glass slipper from her pocket and to throw it towards the startled Crown Prince, who caught it reflexively.
He turned it over in his hands as his troopers picked Kara up by the elbows and began to drag her, unresisting, towards the exit.
She had no idea what would happen to her after that.
“Wait!” Charles’ voice rang out loud and authoritative in the vast space.
Kara sagged between the two guards, her chest heaving. A soft touch on her chin tilted her head upwards, and she stared once more into the bright blue eyes of His Highness Charles Munn.
“You’re crying,” he said in wonder, and so she was, a single impossible tear cascading down the curve of her cheek, followed by another and another.
“Charles?” called out the alternate standing at the altar.
The Crown Prince looked back.
Watching the scene unfold from TK-421’s tiny helmet cam, the programmers nodded simultaneously.
“Cue the drop,” one said, while the other flourished his index finger in a quick whirl above his tablet.
“Salagadoola mechicka boola bibbidi-bobbidi-boo,” the other sang and pushed the button.
“What does that even mean, man?” snickered his partner.
“It’s magic, I’m bringing the magic,” his colleague said in reply.
The other Kara dropped like a rock in an apparent dead faint.
Fortunately she landed on the small priest, who squawked with disdain and landed flat on his bottom.
Charles stepped forward and ordered the troopers to release the real Kara Thrace.
“I don’t know how any of this happened,” he murmured, “but I’m so glad you found me again, Kara.”
And then he kissed her, while the entire audience sighed in mixed confusion and contentment.
The rule of King Charles the III and Queen Kara was written into the history books as the pivotal moment when mankind regained its humanity. In their lifetime they were single-handedly responsible for a resurgence in a respect for all life, including a re-institution of the natural family unit and equal rights for AI kind.
In addition, the king and queen devoted their lives to rebuilding the Earth’s animal population, in safekeeping for a future when human beings could once again safely return to the outdoors. One of their first successful experiments, which led to a repopulation of domestic animals, was the creation of a black cat that proceeded to terrorize the palace staff for the next fifteen years.
They named him Lucifer.