The rushing winds of ice and fury hit my flesh like a thousand needles. All around me, only a vast plain of nothingness—a barren wasteland. An endless tundra stretched out before me as far as the eyes could see. The whole world held never-ending shades of gray.
My body was numb—chilled to its core. Was this what it felt like to be dead? I continued my ceaseless march straight ahead. The wind fought me every step of the way—cutting into me—slicing me with its wicked ferocity. But I kept on marching. Kept on walking the path of desolation. Would I ever find my salvation?
I was utterly alone. Only the fierce wind and the cracking of frozen mud beneath my feet kept me company. The sky above me was the color of ash. There was no sun—no horizon. And this world emitted almost no sounds. Only the crunching of my boots against the frozen earth and the ravenous howling of the wind let me know I wasn’t deaf. Despite this, I continued to march on.
Step after step and my legs grew more and more weary. The delusions of false progress kept my battered and worn down body moving forward. But it could not last. I could not last. Man was not meant to traverse this realm of existence.
A tremble rose from my left leg. A series of spasms infected the right. My back locked up with a violent assault. I fell to the ground with a hard thud—my body had nothing left to give this world. It was over. The wasteland had bested me.
I could feel a thickness building upon my closed eyelids. The skin of my hands and face took on a hard shell. Ice had gripped my failed body. There was nothing more to do but let the world take me. I would become just another speck of frozen dirt on the endless tundra.
An immense pressure started building on top of my body. How long was I lying there? It felt like eons. The ice pushed me deeper and deeper into the frozen earth. I felt nothing but its pressure. Eventually, I was fully submerged into the ground—I became one with the nothingness.
Warmth. It kissed my skin with a gentle caress. Orange beams of heaven washed over me. My body slowly regained life. I could see high above me the soft glow of an orb, hovering in a milky-white sky. The calm rays reinvigorated my tattered soul; almost immediately I felt whole again.
I stood up to see a field of fresh wheat stretching on for eternity in every direction—the stalks rising and falling with each passing breeze. And right in front of me—grand and proud—stood a willow tree of ageless brilliance. Its magnificence beyond anything of my comprehension. I was drawn to it like an infant to the sound of its mother’s beating heart. And the rustling of its leaves spoke to me. It told me what I was supposed to do. It wanted to show me the beauty of this life. But I couldn’t go to it. I wasn’t yet worthy of its message.
For in my soul I knew I had failed. I had given up in the face of suffering. Therefore, I deserved not the glory of paradise. I had not proven my worth and was unable to claim the wisdom of the great tree erected before me. It has stood for countless millennia—observing—collecting knowledge. I still needed to find my own truth before I could accept that of the wise willow.
I started walking.
The rushing winds of ice and fury hit my flesh like a thousand needles.