Disclaimer: do not own the Endless, Neil Gaiman does. But you knew that already.

1 The First Gift

Open the book.

No, don't be afraid, it's just a book, it doesn't bite.

No, it won't close on your fingers, either.

I'm sorry, I didn't write it. It's as long as it's supposed to be. And yes, I know it's monstrous – I've studied from it myself. I was your age once, too, you know.

Yes, you have to. All our children do this one day.

I know what they say, I know what they think. I don't care, you shouldn't, either. They're blind men, one and all, they have their own false beliefs. They can't hurt you for what you believe in, that's the wonderful part about this country.

Weird, they call you? Weird is positive. After the Reading today, you'll probably agree with them, too.

No, I can't tell you what's in that book. That's what the Reading is for, you've got to find out for yourself. Open it, this page, you can do it, I promise it wouldn't harm you in any way.

No, there aren't any monsters in this story.

Superheroes? Are you kidding me? Kids these days, that's all they can think off…

All right, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that.

Will you open it now? Please?

I told you I can't. It's sacred. It's the law; you have to read it yourself.

I can tell you it's the truth.

Now… read.

"In the beginning, the globe of the Earth was smooth and clear, and no life lived on it to give it a soul. The Earth was an empty world, an empty, silent world, spinning in the Great Void devoid of creation and meaning.

And so it happened, that in the higher planes, certain forces took notice of the empty globe, with its rich planes and towering trees and primitive flowers, and found it good and fit for That Which Creates. Thus they have kept watch of the spinning Earth and let it be in its silence, looking upon it from the higher planes as life have torn the silence of the planet and began running their course, their millennia's course toward the ultimate goal of life; the manifestation of That Which Creates. They have waited, for the Higher Forces are patient, and in the meanwhile life spread and took on many strange shapes and the Earth was given a soul to be its own.

Still it spun, incomplete, awaiting meaning, awaiting creators.

Until it came to pass, that one day, after eons and eons of silent waiting, the first of That Which Creates was brought forth into the air of the new world and walked it as did all other life before him. Yet when the Higher Forces looked down at this new being, they were content. He was new, a being of pure potential, and he was first and unique and true, and he was everything they have needed, and everything the world needed. And they have named him "Man".

Thus did the Higher Forces call upon the Lurkers in the Mist, those same beings that have watched with them on the world as it spun, waiting for its silence to be broken. They have called upon them to come and behold the new Creator, to come and give him soul and spirit beyond the soul of the world he was given as his own (for all life share the soul of the Worlds, and only That Which Creates has spirit beyond that of theirs).

They have called the angels from their city of spun silver, and the demons from down under and their fallen leader. They have called the gods of the Worlds and the Weird Sisters of fate, called the older than old, darker than dark and brighter than light. All those they have called forth to the Earth to behold the Creator Man. And they have called the Seven.

They have called, through unseen emissaries and whispering winds, the Seven, which are not gods but not mortals, which came to life with life itself and will not rest until all life is done. They have called Destiny, the Watcher, in his garden of diverging paths, and Grandmother Death in her sunless land. They have called forth Dream, the Prince of Stories, from his castle and the Lady Delight from her flowers and songs, called cruel Desire from its threshold, the gray Despair from her mirrors and the Lord of Destruction from his realm. They have called them to the Earth, and the Seven, bound by the oldest rules, arrived.

Thus stood the Higher Forces, the Lurkers in the Mist, and the undying Seven, on the ground of the Earth and beheld the new Creator. He was a naked, frail thing.

Generations upon generations, as eons flew past, life in each form won some trait to distinguish them from all other forms, to make them stand out on the world of their birth as more than mere parts of its own soul. But the new Creator Man had but days on the Earth, and as he was new, and has not found his part of that world's soul yet, he was an empty shell, small and searching. And in his search, he was no Creator.

The Higher Forces then commanded the Lurkers in the Mist, as they gazed upon the first Creator, to end his search. And so they did.

The angels have given him kindred good and fellowship. The demons have given him daring might and an amount of selfishness. The gods of the Worlds have given him little seeds, to make gods of his own.

The Weird Sisters gave words of prophecy of greatness. They have ended the Creator's search, and the beginning was fine.

Then stepped forth the Seven, and they gave Man tools, to create, to shape, to form himself and others.

Destiny, the Watcher, gave him the power to deduct his future.

Grandmother Death gave him the joy of life.

Dream, the Price of Stories, gave him entrance to his realm.

The Lord of Destruction gave the power to last through pain and ruin.

Cruel Desire gave him a hunger – for knowledge, and beauty, and perfection.

The gray Despair gave him hope.

The Lady Delight gave a touch of herself.

And the beginning was fine.

The first Creator stood up from the ground, given power for life and creation. Still, he seemed helpless.

"What am I?" Asked the first Creator. "What shall I make? Who shall I be? What shall I be for?"

The Higher Forces, the Lurkers in the Mist, the Seven, could give him no reply.

And still Man asked for a purpose for the power given him.

"He is young," said the Lurkers, "he will learn."

"He requires guidance," said the Higher Forces.

So it was that the Higher Forces turned to the Seven, and they have declared a bargain to take place on the Earth. Each of the immortal Seven would offer the first Creator a true gift, and the gift chosen will grant its giver power over Man, to guide him.

The Seven agreed, for the Seven always crave power in this or other way.

They have offered many wonderful things to the first Creator, things only theirs to give.

"I offer you a glance into my Book," said Destiny, the Watcher.

"I offer you no fear of me," said Grandmother Death.

"I offer you eternity," said the Lord of Destruction.

"I offer you bliss infinite," said Lady Delight.

"I offer you power to reject me," said cruel Desire.

"I offer you unbreakable hearts," said the gray Despair.

Dream, the Prince of Stories, waited and considered the first Creator.

"I offer you art," he said.

The Earth held its breath on that day, as the first Creator and the Higher Forces made their choice in unison.

And on that day, Man, the first Creator, chose art.

And from that day forth, all men cannot tell their destiny, all fear death and face endings, all are unhappy at times, all struggle against their cravings, all break if pressed down hard enough. From that day forth, it was the gift of the Prince of Stories, dreams and illusions and aspirations – it is art, which guides Man through his life, which brings him to true meaning and creation. Which gives him spirit beyond that of the world, and a soul to call a Creator's."

Now, that wasn't that bad, was it?

Not any more strange than what they write in the Bible, no.

No, that does not mean you must be an artist, silly child. Scientists dream, and sportsmen, and every common man in his own right. It's a gift for all of us, after all.

It just means we have a Creator's soul. Make of that what you will.

The Higher Forces… I don't know if they're what you call a god. Not the Lurkers, either…

The Seven? They're an enigma.

Some scientists these days, studying our mythology, claim the Seven are supposed to be abstract manifestations of forces of nature. They say our ancestors have perceived those forces as granting them various traits.

But I don't know about that, really.

There's nothing creative in waving stories away.

Now, I'm not saying they're real, not at all, even I know how ridiculous that sounds.

But… if in one of your dreams, you might meet a tall man, one with ivory skin and eyes like two stars… if you do… you might want to thank him.