It was a tiny, circular pink room, and simply furnished: there was a washbasin, a wardrobe, an armchair near the window, and a bed with a frilly blue canopy. A crying little girl with long, ankle-length blonde hair and a diadem on her forehead sat cross-legged on the bed, a black cat resting his head on her knee. He'd lived seven of his nine lives, which were longer than those of ordinary cats, and it was beginning to show: he was a thin creature, with bald patches all over his body.

The golden-haired girl gently stroked the cat's back as tears continued to stream down her face.

"Barnabas?" she whispered.

The old cat opened one eye. "Yes, child?"

"Did you really know my mother when she was my age?"

"I've known her since she was a baby."

The girl became quiet again for a moment, then asked, "Has she always been...you know...the way she is?"

"No, child. She was eerily similar to you."

"Then how-?"

"It all started because of a vegetable."