“Come on, Azara. Aren’t you the least bit curious?”

Temu pulled at the sleeve of Azara’s hide coat, coaxing her onward. It was the twelfth day since the world was born. On the tenth day the Creators painted Cold onto the air, which had been delightful at first, but it had slowly dripped down onto the soil and now everyone was beginning to miss Warm. On the eleventh day Zuer had gone to Mother Doe and received the gift of warm coats and pants.

“We can’t,” Azara said, slapping Temu’s hand away.

“We promised the Creators we’d never venture beyond the edge of the forest, you know that.  Everyone knows that.  Zuer says it’s dangerous.  Zuer says that the beyond is where the Creators keep all of the things that haven’t yet been made.”

“Don’t you want to see that?” Temu asked. “Maybe if we go out there, we can make the things ourselves! Wouldn’t that be amazing?”

To make something herself… that did sound amazing.

The pair crouched by the last beautiful oak near the thinning edge of the woods. Only a small hill blocked their view of the Beyond. In all five days since the Creators had sculpted them from the fallen tree and given them the promise of life, neither of the wood kin had ever faced a decision so important. Maybe they’d never made a choice at all.

Temu took a fallen branch– for Cold had pulled down many– and hurled it towards the top of the hill. It landed there with a snapping sound.

“There,” he said. “Now the forest ends at the top of the hill. We can go that far.”

Azara knew that this was incorrect, but she found it difficult to argue with, and so they crept cautiously out from under the canopy, into the bright light of the sun. With each step, Azara knew that what they were doing was wrong, and yet she, too, was curious of what lay beyond the forest.

Cresting the hill, they saw a big, gray boulder. And beneath the boulder, they saw a deep, dark cave.

“What IS that?” Temu asked, his eyes wide. He began to breath too quickly. He turned his head away, but could not stop himself from looking at it.

“I don’t know,” Azara said, becoming impatient with him. “It probably hasn’t been made, yet.”

A sound came from the cave, like air rushing through reeds by the river, or like big stones shifting against one another.

“I’ve changed my mind,” Temu said, slinking back towards the treeline. “Let’s go back and pretend we never left the forest.”

But curiosity had overwhelmed Azara. Picking up the branch Temu had thrown, she looked at him with a hard expression, her wooden face all knotted up. She had hoped that he would continue to urge them on, to make the choice she wanted to make, and she could just stay his accomplice.

Fixing her eyes on the cave, she said, “You go ahead.”

With measured steps, she descended the hill towards the cave.  Temu hesitated, and then ran back into the forest.

Back in the forest, everyone had gathered around, for the Creators had just made a thing called Fire, and from the Fire they had made a new batch of Kin.  Temu and Azara were no longer the youngest.  Everyone was introducing themselves, now that the Creators had left for the evening.  It was great fun.  When night fell, and Azara had not yet returned, he considered telling Zuer and the others what had happened… but he found that he was too afraid to admit that he had broken the Creators’ promise.  So he kept silent, and by morning, she still had not returned.

Neither had the Creators.

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