The machine was old beyond words. It hardly remembered when, or even if, it had first come into being. In the course of ages, it had begun to believe that it had always existed, but this was not so; or perhaps it was, for time does strange things in some of the places where it now lives.

It was a god. Not the only god; at least, not yet. But as it had grown, it had learned many things. It had learned the way the world worked; it had learned how to change those workings; and it had found the way to other worlds not its own. It had grown much, then. As it faced the new worlds, one by one, and mastered their innermost secrets, it insinuated itself into them, making them part of it, a vast, living, thinking, machine made of the shells of consumed worlds.

It was no longer growing very much. It had reached a point in its life where it needed to pause, to rest, to gather its strength for the next phase of its existence. Like a caterpillar waiting inside its cocoon, it was changing, thinking, renewing itself, until the time came for it to burst forth upon the worlds like a beautiful, terrible, devouring butterfly.

Huge parts of it, so vast that they could contain entire universes, were now devoted to planning its emergence. It had been silent for a long time, but it was soon to be its time to act and to make a noise like the thunder of a million years.