In the beginning, there was only darkness, and all was silent.

Whim stepped forward and a gust of wind kicked up around her feet. Light shone from the heavens and grass sprouted from the earth. She conducted the leaves of the trees in a brilliant orchestra. They danced and sang with a natural grace, the likes of which cannot be mimicked nor outdone.

Whim looked to the sky and from the droplets of rain there came all manner of creatures, both great and small. A chorus of songbirds, accompanied by the rhythmic ocean waves, joined the wind and the trees in their music making. Together their voices carried far beyond the great spires of the western edge of the world.

Whim stepped past, and all was silent. Only life remained.

The air was biting and freshly fallen snow covered the forest floor. The trees stood leafless and the wind howled in its loneliness. Footsteps. A young boy disturbed the snow, crunching it beneath him, and looked around. He empathized with the desolation of winter and stopped briefly to look up at a cloudy, starless night sky. The world was dark.

"Perfect," he muttered sarcastically. "Isn't this just so cheerful?"

The boy continued walking; wondering just where he was, how he got there, or where he was going. Not that he really cared. Despite his musings, he loved the cold; it was far too warm where he lived, it never snowed. It was almost enough to cheer him up. Almost. Amidst the bitter frost, however, he felt quite depressed.

The boy simply could not recall what he was doing before he arrived in this place. He knew that something had upset him, though—that had stayed with him. His surroundings were doing little to cheer him up; the hollowness was nearly overwhelming. The landscape was bleak and lifeless, packed densely with naked, colorless trees. There was not a creature in sight and the sky wept with frozen tears. The emptiness was fitting.

At length he reached a clearing in the forest. The boy was surprised to find such a place amidst the crowded trees. He was even more astonished to find that it was perfectly circular and enclosed a small lake, which was frozen over completely. The lake's surface shimmered so brilliantly with colors the boy could not even begin to describe. Awestruck and breathless, he approached the scintillating ice, his troubles forgotten, if but for a moment. Eyes aglow with wonder the boy sat at the frozen water's edge. He looked across the lake, admiring the scenery.

His eyes fell upon an extraordinary white lotus growing out of the ice. He scrabbled onto the frozen surface and crawled hastily towards the center, towards the beautiful flower. His hand slipped and he fell face-first into the ice. Shaking it off with a laugh, he picked himself up and continued to the source of his wonderment. It took some time, for he was clumsy on the sleek surface, but eventually he reached the flower. The lake seemed far larger now, staring out from the center. Returning his attention to the matter at hand, he looked down at his prize. The boy ran his fingers across the lotus petals; they were smooth like silk.

He sat there for the longest time, his breath coming out in wispy puffs of frost. The petals were so intricately arranged. The boy wondered if he could pluck the flower and take it with him. Should he even try? The flower might not last long once he uprooted it. No, he thought, it would be fine. The cold would preserve it, at least for a time. He reached down to the base of the lotus and pulled gently—the flower didn't move. He pulled a little harder, but still nothing. The boy was afraid to be any more forceful as he did not want to damage his precious find.

He didn't get a chance to try again, though. As he was just about to give another tug there was a great cracking sound. The boy froze in place, suddenly very fearful. His fears were well founded; an instant later the ice gave way and the boy was plunged into the frozen lake. He flailed about under the water, not sure which way was up. Too shocked to move and a weak swimmer anyway, the boy sank pitifully in the frigid water. He was quickly becoming lightheaded. Panicked thoughts raced across his mind. Surely he would drown then. There was no hope for him. He would die, cold and alone, with nobody to comfort him. You would never know it, since he was underwater, but he cried.

And he woke up crying, too. The boy shivered as though he were still covered in frost. He felt drenched. There was most certainly something dripping down his back. He rubbed his hand against the nape of his neck, thinking it was just a cold sweat. He was severely mistaken; when the boy returned his hand to take a look, he saw blood. Immediately there was a sharp, piercing pain. It felt as though the back of his skull was being split open. The boy cried out and clutched at his head. He rocked back and forth as tears streamed from his eyes.

The pain died away very slowly, but at last it did. The boy looked at his hands again to find them soaked with his own blood. He woke up from a dream to find himself in a nightmare. What was happening to him? He tried to stand on shaking legs, hoping to carry himself to his bathroom and clean himself off. The boy was quite dizzy, so he had to lean against the wall as he walked. When the boy turned on the bathroom light and saw himself in the mirror he was nearly sick with fright. His face was deathly pale and there was blood all over. He looked at his feet and realized it was dripping down to the floor.

He turned his back to the mirror and felt around for a wound. After about a minute of not finding anything, he gave up. It was possible it had closed already, the boy thought in his haze, not considering the severity such a wound required to produce that much blood. Tired and dizzy, but in no apparent danger, the boy set to cleaning himself. He really just wanted to go back to sleep once he was done, but there was blood on the floor, so he decided to clean that as well. That's when he noticed it.

There was something shiny that had fallen off his bed. It glistened slightly under the pale moonlight coming through the boy's window. It, too, was smeared with blood, whatever it was. The boy mopped up crimson droplets with a paper towel as he trailed his way back to the strange object. He picked it up and rubbed at it with the towel. It was a very colorful shard of broken glass.

"Did I cut myself with this somehow?" the boy asked himself out loud. "Where did this come from?"

Then the boy saw something through the glass. At first he thought it was his reflection, but quickly decided the image in the glass looked nothing like him. He thought perhaps he was seeing through the shard, so he moved it aside, but what lay behind it looked nothing like what he first saw either. The boy was, in fact, looking into the shard. He poked a finger at the glass. It passed through as if he were looking into an open window. Then he held the shard sideways near his face and poked at it again. His finger went through one side, but did not reappear from the other. The boy stumbled back in his surprise.

He looked down at his hand to make sure his finger was still there. Satisfied that it was, but thoroughly confused, he looked again at the shard lying on the floor. Suddenly the boy felt a magnetic sensation, as if the shard were drawing him closer. He shook his head and tried to resist but the feeling only grew more powerful with each passing second. It grew so powerful the boy actually slid across the floor as he was pulled towards the broken glass. He tried to hold on to one of the bed posts but he couldn't wrap his hand around it well enough. With one final tug the boy was ripped from the floor entirely and sent hurtling into the shard.

He felt air rushing past him, like he was falling. Billions of colored points of light danced around him. They seemed to arrange and rearrange themselves in geometric patterns. Those patterns formed together into a tube of sorts, so the boy felt as though he were sliding through a tunnel. He was tossed about as the tunnel swerved in every direction at once. Then the lights disappeared and everything went dark. The tunnel was gone. The boy stopped moving. He blinked and found himself under a different sort of light.

The landscape was painted green and white. There was grass and there were trees. There was snow, too, but it was melting. It lay scattered in patches on the ground and dripped from the trees. The place seemed familiar to the boy. He gathered his wits about him as he climbed to his feet. Without a solid grasp of his surroundings, he started walking. What else could he do? He could not shake the feeling he had been here before but had no idea where here was.

The boy encountered various small creatures as he walked. A squirrel stopped in its foraging when it caught sight of the human. They looked at each other for a few moments. Maybe the boy was imagining it, but the squirrel held an almost human intellect in its unblinking stare. He took a step forward and the squirrel scurried off. Butterflies circled around him before disappearing into the trees. Starlings and bluebirds sang amongst the thawing branches.

It wasn't until he reached a clearing that he realized what this place was. There was an elk drinking from a half-frozen lake. Colorful wildflowers were blooming all around the water's edge. Floating on the last chunk of ice was a graying withered lotus. It was the forest from his dream. Was he dreaming still? The boy pinched himself. It hurt, of course; he was awake, as far as he could tell. The boy could only blink stupidly in his confusion.

He got over his surprise much sooner than he probably should have. His thoughts turned readily to what he would do next. Never much the practical sort but awfully curious, he was eager to explore his surroundings. He looked over at the elk still drinking and decided he was thirsty too. Walking to the water's edge he cupped his hands to drink; it was the most refreshing water he'd ever tasted. He drank some more. Once he had slaked his thirst, the boy was ready to move on. He decided to shut his eyes, spin around a few times, and walk off in whatever direction he was facing when he stopped. So he stepped away from the wildflowers, not wanting to trample on them, and started spinning.