When they had first been cast out, they had laughed, not seeing it as a punishment.

(That's not true. They had screamed.)

Coldness, or darkness, or anything else would be mere metaphors for the lack that suddenly resounded, endless and everywhere.

It was terribly exciting, at first.

That they had wrenched freedom from a pleading hand, and kept it to their heart like a jewel dug from the ground. It did not look like bones yet.

Or, if it did, then they had wanted that anyway.

No more were they mere actors in the everlasting script. They said their own words, which echoed hollowly in empty. They would be purveyors of the new. All possibilities would be open to them.

Time began.

Before, there had been no concept. Before—that is rewriting history retroactively, putting to words that can't convey, senses that can no longer grasp, something that, once/always—was. Before linked to after, like a burden of dead meat picked at by carrion crows. And, like a reflection in a glass, like the end of causality, like the moment between breathing in and breathing out was something else—end.

That is false. End was first. After is what created before. They created it, the only thing they could call their own invention, although no one knew, yet, how to describe it.

It felt like—the lack?

(It did not. If it had, then it would not have been theirs after all, but merely what came of an absence of God. It would not have been a victory. No one, having fought so hard for it, was willing to float the idea that the victory had been nothing at all.)

Life had always.

Death was new. But by its nature it was old the moment it existed. It was new's antithesis, the dogged shadow of all creativity. In an aesthetic mode, they decided it was the proper frame to enjoy the New, for without Death, how could one even appreciate the precision of life? They called it juxtaposition, montage. Put against one another, there was a sweetness to tension and terror they had never before noticed. It was A Victory.

It was the world.

Fear was Death's trumpeter. It had come after, properly; for before (as in later years they would call it) there was no fear. Perhaps there was a terrible irony, and perhaps even that was art. Regardless of every warning, in breaking faith they had never felt fear. They knew not what they (un)made. The fear came on the heels of After, the moment they realized that before was before, that it was in some sense different and could never be returned to.

Difference—was the enemy.

Difference had always been, it was part of Life, but enemy was and existed, only, when fear; and enemy made horrible faces, obscene and dreadful, as it stepped in front, covering the shriveled thing that fear was with its cloak, to hide the way every breeze shook its diseased bones.