Let's start with a blank slate, shall we? Picture a place completely white with nothing in it. A three dimensional piece of paper that stretches on forever. No ground, no sky, no scenery, nothing. It's boring. You think so and I think so, which is why I'm going to add a hill. Picture a bright green knoll in the middle of this whiteness. It's boring, too. There's nothing but grass on this hill. I'll add a patch of clover. No, this hill is so big, I'll add several patches of clover; and a few daisies. A slight warm breeze. That's nice.

This knoll has hardly any life. I'll add an anthill. And a small, wispy tree with enough branches to sustain a bird's nest. The tree has red leaves, and the bird's nest is one suitable for a family of robins. There are two blue eggs in the highest branches standing over nine feet high. There is a mother robin perched in the tree, chirping slightly. She ruffles her feathers once. She's not going anywhere.

There is still blankness around the knoll. We won't add anything quite yet. Are you still following me? Good. Now I'll add a sky. A light blue sky with big, white cumulonimbus clouds. This sky stretches as far as the eye can see. The mother robin can take flight, now. There is a gander of geese flying in a V formation just overhead. The sun is rising behind the clouds.

Let's add a pond. A sparkling, silver-blue pond right beside the hill. It stretches eight feet wide and twenty-five feet long. The bottom is lined with pebbles and moss, and gem-encrusted goldfish shimmer just under the surface. There are ferns lining the edge of the pond, some droop into the water and make a cool, dark hiding place for the fish. They need some shelter from the beating sun which is floating higher into the sky.

Our little world needs some color. Let's add a few crimson tulips off to the other side of the hill that look as if they're just about to spill their color onto the whiteness. Mix in some sun-yellow tulips. We need a variety of flowers. Pink roses, a few stalks of bamboo just to be crazy. The bamboo needs some shallow water to swim their roots in. The flowers will be happy in a soft, moist soil. Scratch that, let's put them in grass and have it rain.

Let's have the clouds turn gray and gather some water. Have it mist the hill, pond and flowers, but let there be enough sun shining through to create a clear, sharp rainbow. Let's add a few spider plants and some emerald colored bushes with wide, stone-age leaves. They can be spread randomly about the hill, flowers and pond.

I'll now add a background. We need to be able to look far off across the land and see something other than whiteness. I'll create a mountain pass in the far distance. A nice rounded chain of mountains. We need something to fill up the space between the mountains and our hill. I'll put in grass. A giant long plain of grass. Why don't we add a long plain of grass in every direction? And a forest. We want a beautiful fall deciduous forest. We don't want a coniferous forest. Those rain pine needles and get sap all over the place. Best stick with oak trees. Giant, white oaks. It is fall in the forest, but summer on the hill. I'll say spring in the flower patch and the pond.

Let's place the forest behind the pond. Yes, that's nice. It creates shade for the fish and doesn't block the mountainous view. So now we have a hill. Staring at the hill from my position, the pond is on the left, with the woods spanning to the very left of it all the way to the mountains and all the way behind me into the bare grass. The flower bed is on the right side of the hill, climbing it, surrounding it and stretching all the way to my feet.

I want the forest to come around behind me. Yes, I want it to become wider than it already is. There we go I like this world. Let's add some butterflies. Some beautiful golden and blue butterflies. And a few black and orange ones; monarchs. I'll add five hundred purple and silver ones just for fun. Now they can go wherever they want.

I'll add some animals to the forest. A few packs of white-silver wolves with thick paws and elegant movements. Several families of deer. Strong buck with slick, brown antlers. Graceful, russet-colored does with intelligent faces, and soft-brown fawns with white spots and dewy, innocent black eyes. Playful sun bears with caramel underbellies and blunt claws. Polar bears with shaggy, hanging fur and long, black claws. Panda bears with masks around their lazy eyes.

Let's get creative. How about a unicorn? We can make this. A sleek, white unicorn with a sparkling mane and silvery tail that hangs nearly to the ground. A long, spiraling horn in the center of her forehead and green - no - blue eyes. Piercing blue eyes with long black eyelashes. This horse has to have completely white fur, though. No brown or speckles to blemish her coat. This animal has to be so white that it almost hurts your eyes to gaze upon her. Black hooves. She must have shining ebony hooves that look carved of granite.

A herd of horses to graze in the grass, too. The unicorn needs some similar companions. Black, brown, golden horses. Mustangs, Clydesdales, Arabian, Exmoor ponies, Shetland ponies, tan horses with brown legs, black horses with socks, spotted, calico, every kind you can think of.

Big cats. We need big cats. Spicy orange jaguars with midnight spots, husky blonde cougars, and why not a griffin? A lion with a sun-streaked bushy mane and a thick, gigantic body with wings spanning twenty feet. Large, golden bird's wings. Add a few tigers, orange ones and white ones, and lions, black panthers, lynx, snow leopards. I love snow leopards. Let's add twenty snow leopards, with big, bushy paws and glittering, scheming eyes.

Savannah animals. Lumbering, mighty gray elephants with large, fanning ears and ivory tusks. Long, delicate giraffes with slow, powerful movements. Galumphing rhinoceroses and slippery, brown and gray hippopotamuses.

Kangaroos with springing feet and beige fur. Gentle, round koala bears with white tummies in eucalyptus trees. Now, a million birds of all sorts. Colorful parrots, long-beaked cranes, peacocks, blue jays, mockingbirds, ravens, everything you can think of, and some things you've never seen before. Red and golden phoenixes with magical tears and gorgeous, shimmering wings.

We need some change in scenery. Let's add an Asian jungle, a tropical rainforest, a savannah and an Australian forest for the animals. Yes, across the plains. Rocky deserts filled with rattlesnakes and cacti; mountainous arctic, frosty tundra. An ocean beyond the mountains, and hundreds of islands.

Now, an animal that can wander throughout the whole world. The biggest lizard imaginable; an enormous tromping beast with five long claws on each foot, each foot as big as a windowpane. A graceful, thick tail, as long as his humongous body whose silver belly nearly brushed the ground. His neck stretched to the heavens and his large snake-shaped head bears two beautiful cat-like green eyes with long, black pupils. His red tongue licks the air and he feels fire on his breath, as hot as the sun. His roar shakes the very earth, and he expands his wings menacingly. He is the color of deep pine. His scales are as small as a fish's, and billions cover his whole body, causing him to look like he was formed of green water.

Let's be done with that and come back to the hill. The knoll in the middle of everything. In the middle of the forest, the tundra, the millions of animals, the mountains, the caves, the islands, the ocean. This tiny hill we started out with. The one thing we're most familiar with. Let us add a few characters to this hill.

Let's put a fantastic humanoid creature here, first. He has to have the face of a young, dark man with black hair and gray eyes. His hair will hang close to his ears as he doesn't care whether or not it is tidy or cut. He is a contemplative, thoughtful fellow; a bit quiet, but intelligent. He is easily frightened, although looks fierce, as he has large, black bat wings with claw-like endings at each point and has eight-inch claws for fingers. His name is Alexandyr and he stands atop the hill, frozen as if in ice in fear, for he had just been swept away from his home to this strange earthly place he was not familiar with. He instinctively tucks his wings close to his body and waits for something to happen. He knows something will happen soon. It does when a young girl appears beside him.

The girl's name is Sylvie and she is about six years old. She came from a comfortable home in France, and stands less than four feet high with long, brown hair and deep chocolate eyes. She is wearing a cute little, pink jumper and her wide eyes become even wider as she takes in her surroundings, her face paling considerably.

A used car salesman appears in the pond, scaring the fish, his boring business suit soaked up to the waist. He wears a striped tie and expensive black shoes that are now ruined. The middle-aged brown-haired man (with gray flecks throughout) peers around in confusion with his green eyes, sloshing his way out of the pond and kicking the water out of his shoes. His name is Thomas and he has just fallen into a pond from the car lot he'd just recently been in.

A teenage girl stands among the flowers, her short blonde hair whipping back and forth as she gazes about in panic. She stands about five foot three and has a deep tan suggesting she had recently been on vacation to a sunny place. She wears jeans and a tight-fitting green t-shirt that reads "Pan Jeans 58" in darker green lettering. Her white and blue shoes are of a name brand and her name is Rachel.

A short, white-haired old man named Nathaniel is standing next to the teenager, adjusting his spectacles and squinting in disbelief. He is accompanied by a red-headed lady in her twenties called Jackie whose blue eyes sparkle fearlessly and questioning.

Now that we have gathered these six people together - Alexandyr, Sylvie, Thomas, Rachel, Nathaniel and Jackie - the world is created, the characters are set, and their journey begins.

*

"Où est ma maman?" Sylvie asked in a tiny voice, gazing at Alexandyr and shaking slightly. "Etes-vous un monstre?"

Alexandyr turned his expressionless face toward Sylvie and concentrated on her form for a long time before responding slowly; "Vous me comprenez?" He asked her if she understood him.

"Oui," Sylvie said.

"Je ne suis pas un monstre," he informed her with a tender, deep voice. I am not a monster.

"Je suis content." I am glad.

Sylvie touched Alexandyr's hand and ran her fingers over the tops of his claws.

"Ils sont tranchants," he warned her, patiently. They're sharp.

"Je m'appelle Sylvie," the girl said.

"Je m'appelle Alexandyr," he responded.

A loud scream filled the ears of the people near the hill as Rachel saw Alexandyr. She pointed and screamed again.

"Where am I?" she shrieked. "What is that thing? Who are all you people?"

"Calm down," Nathaniel said, wincing against Rachel's cries. "That creature isn't going to harm us. Look at that little girl." Despite Nathaniel's reasonable observation, he clasped Jackie's hand and backed away a few steps.

"I don't like this place, Dad," Jackie said, squeezing the old man's hand. "How did we get here?"

"I don't know," he replied, simply.

"I'm freaking scared," Rachel said, her voice on the edge of another scream. "One minute I was in my bedroom, the next I'm here. What's happened?"

Nobody answered. Nathaniel gazed around as if in a daze and Jackie held him comfortingly. The only ones who seemed unfazed by this place were Alexandyr, and Thomas - who was emptying the water from his shoes as if he'd been there plenty of times. He didn't seem to notice the pair on the hill, and couldn't see the three on the other side.

Rachel looked around in horror for a few seconds more then unexpectedly burst into tears. She curled up on the ground and muttered between sobs; "This is a dream, just a rea-fricken-listic dream."

Thomas heard the girl crying and, squelching his shoes onto his feet again, made his way around the hill to meet the father and daughter, and hysterical teenager.

"What's wrong, Miss?" Thomas asked kindly to the crying child.

"Are you insane?" Jackie asked, rudely. "Do you have any idea what's just happened?"

"No, but let's be optimistic, shall we? You could be stuck in some dead wasteland all alone. Here we have company, the sky's clearing up, and our surroundings are actually quite beautiful," Thomas said jovially, approaching Rachel and patting her on the back.

"Get away from me!" Rachel shouted, pushing away from Thomas. She blinked and stared at him, weirdly. "I don't even know you. Don't touch me."

"You stopped crying. That's a start," Thomas said, ignoring her discourtesy.

"Yeah, well…" She sniffed and inched her way further from him. "Who are you, anyway?"

"The name's Thomas. Tom; call me Tom. How about you?"

"Rachel," she replied, distracted by Alexandyr. "What is that creepy thing doing with that kid?"

"Don't ask me," Tom said, squinting into the sun as Sylvie ran her fingers along Alexandyr's wings. The salesman turned his attention to Nathaniel and Jackie. "Tom," he said, extending a hand.

"Nathaniel Wallace," the old man grunted. "This is my daughter, Jackie."

"Jacklyn," Jackie quickly corrected, refusing Tom's hand after he shook Nathaniel's. Tom lifted an eyebrow and shoved his hands into his pockets.

"I want to go home," Rachel said in a quiet voice.

"Not me," Tom piped up, grinning. The others stared at him. "It was boring, though," he muttered.

"Let's go find a city or something," Jackie muttered to her father.

"No," he objected. "We should stay here until we figure out what's going on, where we are, why we are in the presence of some creature who can speak French."

"Dad…" Jackie trailed off. "You're right. It may not be safe to go wandering around just yet."

Tom, meanwhile, was climbing up the hill to greet Sylvie and Alexandyr. Sylvie, on seeing Tom, hid behind Alexandyr, who took a step backwards and stared at him, apprehensively.

"Hey there," Tom said, seeming not to care that Alexandyr was a creepy guy with wings. "Who're you?"

Alexandyr seemed to peer into Tom's mind before saying slowly with a strange, unidentifiable accent, "Iss this your lan-guayge?"

"That it is," Tom said.

"Aire you here to hairt Sylvie?" Alexandyr inquired.

"No."

"Aire you here to hairt me?"

"Never," Tom announced, warmly.

"Good," Alexandyr answered him. "I am Alexandyr."

"Tom," he said, extending his hand automatically as a salesman does.

"What iss that?" Alexandyr questioned.

"It's a handshake. You take my hand. It's a polite, nonverbal way of saying ''Sup?'" Tom's eyes laughed as Alexandyr stared at him.

"Iss this humair?" the creature asked.

"Sure," Tom replied, lowering his hand and gazing up at the sky. "How do you know English?"

"Iss that what your lan-guayge iss colled?" Alexandyr asked, innocently.

"Yep."

"I lairned it from you," the young man replied.

"Of course you did," Tom said, pretending to understand and glancing over at Sylvie. "Hello, little girl. Are you Sibyl?"

"Sylvie," Alexandyr corrected.

"Sylvie?" Tom asked.

Sylvie merely peeked from behind Alexandyr's wing at him.

"Can you talk?" he wondered aloud.

"Tu t'appelle comment?" Sylvie asked.

"Whoa. Sorry, hon', I don't know what you're saying," Tom said in a sweet, singsong voice he put on for young children.

"Sylvie wants to know your nime," Alexandyr said, informatively.

"You can understand her, too?" Tom asked. "I'm fairly confused. But, what the hell… Tell her my name is Tom."

"Il s'appelle Tom," Alexandyr told Sylvie.

She nodded her head and said; "Salut, Tom."

"Er… Salut. Sylvie," Tom grinned and ruffled her hair. "I see you're taking care of her nicely," he said to Alexandyr. "I'll go see what the others are doing."

Tom made his way down the hill again and found Rachel staring up at a giant oak tree covered in moss. She was looking at a strange bird with beautiful red plumage sitting in the lowest branch, his tail hanging low as he sang toward the girl.

"That is the weirdest bird I've ever seen," Rachel whispered as Tom approached her, trying with effort to keep her voice from rising in fear. "It's huge, and it has like an ethereal voice to it."

Tom stared at the creature in fascination. "Yeah. I don't know what it is. Where did Nate and Jackie go?"

Rachel, eyes still fixed on the bird as if in a trance, pointed toward the pond where the pair watched the fish in awe.

Tom approached them.

"What is it?" he asked, gazing into the pond. "That's where I came from, if you couldn't already tell from my pants."

"Just thought you'd wet yourself," Jackie said lightly yet with an undertone of disgust.

"These fish," Nathaniel grumbled, seemingly to himself, crouching next to the pond. "They're quite peculiar. Very strange. Their scales gleam like jewels. Literally. They have deep grooves in their skin as if they were just created by gems. It's fantastic."

"This place is different," Tom agreed, trying to make conversation. There are weird birds, too. We might be somewhere in South America."

Jackie snorted at him, but couldn't hide the confusion in her eyes.

"Well, it's better than any suggestion I've heard so far," Tom pointed out.

"That's because there haven't been any," Jackie retorted.

Nathaniel stood from his crouch with a grunt and adjusted his glasses. "So you talked to this creature, Tom?" he asked, gravely.

"Yep," Tom replied. "His name's Alex and he's one mysterious guy. That girl; her name's Sally."

"Sylvie," Alexandyr corrected calmly from atop the knoll.

"And our friend Alexandyr, there, has some magnificent hearing," Tom added as the pair next to him suddenly felt an iddentical sensation of fear of the unknown; that maybe this Alexandyr character was not just an alien who had a soft spot for children.

That maybe he was the reason for their being there.