As he lay in the quiet and stillness of the sealed chamber, he experienced something new.

He was dreaming.

Imagination and reminiscence were not things he’d known before, but as his past drifted through his consciousness in ever-greater detail, the pieces assembled themselves in new and sometimes startling ways. The silent halls, for instance. Always before he’d avoided them, driven away by a sense of strange gravity, almost a pressure in the air; sent scurrying back to the familiar twists and turns of the nursery. And though he’d not much thought of it then, it occurred to him now that any of his playmates who had sought out these halls had never returned.

At least, not as he’d known them. But though the larger folk who’d minded him and his playmates wore unfamiliar forms, all tall and gaunt, and those who minded the silent halls were stranger still, they’d all had a familiarity to them that said they were of a kind. Perhaps those vanished kindred had left one life behind, but it might have only been to start another. Perhaps that was what had called to him, when the torpor had begun to creep over him and he’d been driven to seek out these very halls, to be sealed into one of the innumerable rooms and start his long sleep.

He was changing as he slept. Perhaps it was he who’d changed to begin with; perhaps the pressure was still the same, except that now he needed it to thrive.

Even as his ever-clearer memories tumbled past one another, he was aware of other changes. The silence no longer seemed so absolute; there was a susurration at the edges of his awareness, a murmur whose meaning became ever clearer as it washed over him. It told him of places outside the warrens – wide open places far above, without tunnels to impede him, full of warmth and light and wind and sound. There was an itch on his back as the voices whispered to him, as appendages he’d never had ached to be used.

As his thoughts pulled into focus, they circled tighter and tighter around one thing: hunger.

He stirred, trying to shake off the stiffness of long inaction. The chamber that had been comforting now was confining, but its seal was waxy and soft, and his newly-hardened claws found purchase there.

Attendants swarmed over him as he emerged, helping him to stand, offering him a vessel of sweet nectar. In the pale phosphorescence of the lanterns, he could see that gone was his squat, pale, soft form; he was, if not so tall, even more slender than the attendants, and his carapace gleamed with dark colour. Diaphanous wings fanned out behind him, still straining to unfurl to their fullest extent.

The attendants ushered him away from the cells, delivering him to the custody of others like him – slender, winged, carapaces shining with dark blues and greens; much bigger, but of a kind. One of them spoke to him, and though the sounds were unfamiliar, under it was the same sort of whisper that had reached him in the cell – inviting him to come along, to start his life in truth, to find his name and purpose in the places of the sun.

He didn’t know what the sun was. But he was suddenly eager to find out.