In the Beginning


Sean is co-founder of the Collective Inkwell and Realm & Sands imprints, speaker, and author, with breakout indie hits such as Yesterday’s Gone, WhiteSpace, Unicorn Western and The Beam, as well as traditionally published titles Z 2134 and Monstrous. Follow him on Twitter @seanplatt

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“In the beginning, there was nothing,” said Adam. “There were no animals, no creatures, no flowers, no ground, no up and no down — or at least no up and down that stayed fixed when you flipped end for end, which you couldn’t tell you were doing because there was nothing around for reference.”

“So it was just a big empty world?” said Edward.

“Nar,” said Adam. “There was nothing. Nothing at all. It’s hard to remember, as much as the world has thickened since, and even harder to describe. But no, there was no world. Nothing solid. No air. No light. But it wasn’t bright white and it wasn’t precisely black, either. There was just me. So I floated that way for a really long time, but I don’t know how long because when you’re just a unicorn floating in the middle of nothing, time doesn’t pass quickly. So I taught myself to whistle. That may have taken years; I don’t know. And I know what you’re thinking — unicorns don’t normally whistle. But what would you do if you were just hanging there in space with nothing to do?”

Edward turned to Eve. “Is that true, Grammy?” he asked.

“Nar,” said Eve, giving her husband a look.

“Yar, it was!” said Adam. “I’ve forgotten the trick of whistling since, but it’s true just the same. Don’t listen to your grammy, Edward. She wasn’t there. I was floating for a long time, becoming the world’s first whistling unicorn, the world’s first unicorn, and the world’s first object all in one. And after a very, very long time, I started to hear this voice in my head. And the voice said, ‘Adam. Whistle me a ditty.’ ”

“Adam,” said Eve.

“All right, all right. What the voice said wasn’t important anyway. What matters is that there was a voice, and because the only thing I’d ever known was the sound of my own whistling and this voice, I wanted to talk to it. But I didn’t understand about talking, so I just kind of thought at it. Now, this was in the time before thoughts…”

“Adam,” Eve said again.

“… but if you were to translate what I thought into a modern thought, it’d be this: ‘Hey! Voice! Give me something to do!’ But the voice must have been a unicorn, because it just laughed at me and vanished for a while, and when it came back, I tried again, and again it mocked me. And so on the third time, I said, ‘Well, at least stick around and talk to me!’ But instead of listening, the voice said ‘Alakazam!’ and there was a popping that put your grammy beside me.

“At first, I was really excited — but not because there was another unicorn. Remember, there was nothing, so I didn’t know what a unicorn was or that I was one myself. I seemed to see these white sticks under me, and if I turned my head, I saw this huge white butt. But I didn’t get that they were a part of me, just that they were the only thing to look at. So when I say that I was excited when your grammy showed up, I mean that I was excited because I could tell when I was upside-down. Suddenly there was a point of reference. And for a long time, I was totally engrossed with knowing when I was sideways, backwards, spinning, moving, rotating around her, and so on. It was an exciting time.”

“That’s not exciting,” said Edward.

Eve was still eyeing Adam, but Adam just looked down at Edward and said, “Oh, but it was! You’re spoiled these days. Back in my day, rotating and turning around was all the rage. After so long in nothingness, the ability to change what I saw was amazing. Sometimes I couldn’t sleep because I was so excited to find new ways to turn.

“Anyway, we didn’t have light then either — and don’t ask me how we could see each other without light, because your generation would never be able to understand the answer. We didn’t know we were sitting there in the nothingness like two seeds in the dirt, waiting for light, because we didn’t know what light was. But we were waiting, and when light arrived, we knew it. The voice in my head showed up and said, ‘Alakazam!’ and then whatever blackness or almost blackness we’d been in shattered, and then there was light, but it was everywhere. It didn’t come from the sun or from magic, but from all over. And then we were just in a giant white space, and in a way it bothered me because when I looked at your Grammy, she blended right in with her background.

“But after a while, the light diminished and night came, except that it didn’t come from the sun disappearing, because there was no sun. The light simply bled from the world and we were back as we had been. I thought the light was gone forever, but a while later, it returned. That was the first day and the first night. Now, you thought rotating was exciting? Day and night had us beside ourselves. Literally, because we were beside each other in the void. And we said, ‘This is amazing! Let’s name these things! I vote that from now on, when it’s dark it will be “night” and when it’s light, it will be “day!” ’ I took a vote and it was unanimous. And so the cycle began, once it was official.”

Edward turned to Eve. “Is Grappy telling the truth?”

“Shh,” she said.

“Well, the problem with night and day, once we got over the excitement of it, was that it marked time for us. We became very aware of evenings and dawns, and of the passage of days. And so the invention of light was also the invention of boredom, because there was absolutely nothing to do. We couldn’t drink from rivers and lakes or eat sweet grass — not that we understood that we might ever want to — and we couldn’t run through fields or stand in the shade or talk to anyone other than each other. We couldn’t play magic games. We couldn’t magick objects around.

“That went on for a while, and the voice in my head — and in your Grammy’s head — said as the light returned, ‘And behold, for this is the first day!’ And I thought back: ‘Um, no, there have been like fifty days,’ and the voice said, ‘Nar, you’re wrong’ and I was like, ‘Nar, I’m not wrong’ and the voice was like ‘Those were practice days and don’t count,’ and so I just said, ‘Hey, I’ve been here watching it and getting really bored despite this whatever it is I have to talk to (remember, identity and romance were in wait for creation) and so I’m totally sure that this isn’t the first day,’ and the voice just said, ‘Well, let’s just see whose story becomes the official version,’ and that was the creation of creative accounting.

“Well, once the voice started keeping score, things happened faster, which was nice. On the second day, magic smeared the world like color on canvas, then hung a beautiful blue sky on top of it. Our feet finally felt the ground as gravity bloomed. We started to notice that we could feel the magic in our horns, and although we didn’t know what it was, the urge to use it felt so obvious. It just came out of us. We painted the world with dandelions and daffodils, peonies and lilacs, and other flowers… the best of which were the forget-me-knots. Those were my invention, and with them, we saw the creation of a male first truly impressing a female, because your Grammy looked at the forget-me-knots and said, ‘That looks tight.’ And that was the creation of slang.”

“Grappy!” said Edward.

“It was an amazing time, Edward,” said Eve, taking over. “Right now, even with your small horn, you know what magic feels like inside you. We learned that too, but only afterward. At the time, all we knew was that it felt normal, and right, and simply ‘how it was.’ We knew we could create, but we didn’t realize at the time just how powerful that first magic was.”

“I told you earlier about how the total amount of magic in the world never changes,” said Adam. “Well, this was the first burst of it. In the beginning, all the world’s magic was together all in one place. We were using it — or perhaps we were being used by that phantom voice in order to use magic on the voice’s behalf — to create everything you see around you and all that has ever existed. And as we filled the world, the magic spread out to find its corners. Magic went into the daisies and the daffodils. It went into the other plants, and then into the other forms of life. It went to the Core once there was a Core. And when that happened, we were left with what would become our normal allotment of magic — which, considering we were the first and only unicorns, was a lot. But looking back, even compared to what we have at our disposal today, that diminished magic we were left with seems fathomless. It was as if we were guided. We created rocks and mountains and rivers and seas. Clouds appeared in the skies, and the winds came, along with animals and bugs and all of the tiny things in the soil. We lost track of it all, so powerful was that time. The magic was beyond our control, all of it in our hooves as it flew out to the world’s crevices. We spent those first days in a fugue. We don’t know what we made and what was made for us by the magic as it careened out with a mind of its own. But after a while, the magic our horns wielded started to thin. By then we were exhausted, and so we slept. The voice said, ‘Good week, unicorns.’ I said, ‘If every week is like that, I’m going to create unions.’ ”

“What’s a union?” said Edward.

Adam plowed forward: “After the seas and skies and ground and caves and fields and mountains were teeming with life, we both felt that the magic was on its ebb, though we still had a final burst left. And so to use that magic, we created something for ourselves. Something we did on impulse, because it seemed like we might enjoy it. It was the creation of selfishness, because we’d worked so hard. And so we created, in the middle of what became Mead, a gigantic peach tree bursting with fruit.”

“Mmm,” said Edward. He absolutely loved peaches.

“Yar,” said Eve. “But this tree didn’t bear the peaches you know today.”

“Why not?” said Edward.

“Because up until that point, we’d operated as the agents of creation. We were purely benevolent beings, doing work for the other purely benevolent beings that would follow. We did what the magic told us to do. But in the end, we created that tree for one and only one reason.”

“What reason was that?” Edward asked.

“Because we wanted it,” said Adam.