The fire itself was a miracle.
The woman and the boy were the only two still awake. They warmed their scarred and dirty palms as the rest of the tribe slept nearby. Deep in the darkness of the night, strange howlings and insect trills echoed in the distant air. Primal creatures loomed.
The boy stared past his glowing fingertips at the tendrils of flame, transfixed, watching as they rose and fell with chaotic grace. All around him was the Unknown. A darkness so total and complete it was incomprehensible. He did not know where the circle of light in the sky went every night, or whether it would always come back again. He felt a familiar chill of fear clench the beating organ in his chest.
The fear and the darkness settled somewhere deep within him. Deep enough that it would inhabit him forever.
“Tell me a story,” the boy said. “Tell me a story about me. Who made me?”
The woman pointed at the naked man sleeping by her feet.
“Him… and me,” she said. “We,” she interlocked her undulating fingers—their nimble shadows playing across her face—and then rubbed her belly. “You.”
The boy pinched the bottom of his lip and pulled, exposing the tender pink of the inside of his mouth. This is what the boy did when he was deep in thought.
“Who made you?” the boy asked.
The woman did not know the answer to the boy’s question. She tilted her neck and gazed up at the sky. The large white circle, dwarfing the dark sea of other smaller white circles, was full tonight. A few nights ago, however, it had appeared differently. It had taken the shape of a crescent-shaped sliver—and it had reminded her of her body, the way it grew before the boy had emerged from between her legs in a wet and sticky clump of limbs and hair. It was in that moment when a mysterious image formed in the darkness of her mind, milky and intangible: the sky giving birth. She did not know where it had come from. The story. What she imagined, there was no word for. This was a common enough phenomenon, as she was constantly confronted with the strangeness and newness of the world. She simply allowed instinct to speak for her, and a sound kicked itself out of her throat.
“Ghod,” she said. “It was Ghod.”
The boy was confused. The fire crackled.
“What is Ghod?” the boy asked.
“Ghod made you and me,” the woman said, placing her hand on her breast. She then lifted her arms above her head, forming a circle. “Ghod created the whole world.”
“Where does Ghod live?” he asked.
The woman pointed up into the endless black sky.
“Up there,” she said.
The boy gasped, his eyes wide with amazement. For a moment, he forgot where he was and lost himself.
The woman brushed the boy’s hair back out of his tired eyes.
“Time for sleep,” the woman said.
“Can you tell me another story tomorrow?” the boy asked.
A being who lived in a sea of stars—in an infinite galaxy—with the power to create something out of nothing: it was the most incredible thing the boy had ever heard. The woman felt a tinge of regret for deceiving the boy, for creating a fiction, but she was also strangely moved by the obvious wonder and awe it had elicited from him.
“Yes,” the woman said. “Now, it’s time to close our eyes.”
The boy curled underneath a thin blanket made from animal hide and tried to sleep. But his mind burned with questions: What did Ghod look like? Was Ghod alone? Was Ghod like the white circle in the sky, a far and distant shapeshifter? Why did Ghod create the world? Did Ghod fear the dark too? If there could be something like a Ghod out there, what other secret mysteries were waiting to be discovered?
He began to imagine.