The Tin Man was sitting rather awkwardly on a tree trunk between two unlikely looking bushes. “You took your time getting here.”
The boy squeezed Ellen’s hand tightly. “It took me awhile to face my fears.”
“You mean the Tree and me?” the Tin Man asked. “Why should you be afraid of us?”
“Because you both represent to me the parentheses of my rational existence, the ends of my ability to reason,” the boy answered, “the final absurdity that lays to waste everything I’ve labored to create.”
“Why? Just because we have a sense of humor?” a voice boomed from the tree top behind the Tin Man’s stump.
Ellen looked intently at the boy, wondering at the dislocation of his mind and body.
“You know what I mean,” the boy said quietly. “I created you all. There can be no misunderstanding among us.”
Yggdrasil tried to counter, “There are many races of creatures who misunderstand their creator.”
“But I am not a god,” the boy replied. “I’m just a person who populates his mind with the avatars of his needs and desires. There’s no room for misunderstanding.”
“What about the needs and desires of your avatars?” the Tin Man interjected, apparently pleased with himself.
“Well, I suppose so,” the boy allowed.
“And the avatars of your avatars?” Yggdrasil added. “Even your thoughts have thoughts. Hmmm … The point is that there will always be plenty room for misunderstanding, even in a world of your creation.”
“You’re not helping me,” the boy said morosely.
“I’m sorry,” Yggdrasil answered, “was I supposed to be helpful? I’m just a tree.”
The boy looked at Ellen, then at the Tin Man, and finally at the tree. “I …”
“Look here,” the Tin Man said kindly, “you can’t make a universe solely from rational components. Every rational point you see is surrounded by an infinity of irrational points. The entire structure of rationality is grounded in irrationality. You’ve said it yourself many times: all our proofs are based on axioms which you just have to believe. All one can do is to reduce the number of axioms to the barest minimum.”
“I suppose I haven’t done a very good job of that,” the boy looked down at the ground.
“But you have created characters who do exactly that,” the Tin Man answered. “That’s something, isn’t it?”
“That’s just it,” the boy said sadly. “What will happen to you all before I was born? I mean … after I cease to exist.” He looked at Ellen with tears streaming down his face.
Ellen found the parallel notches in the tree bark at the edge of the clearing. They walked up the path. She put her arm around his waist and drew into him so that they walked together as a single being.
They came to a second clearing. They walked around the clearing inspecting the trees closely, looking until they found the second set of double-notches on the tree. They followed the new path for some time until they came to a tree on their right with a third pair of notches beside a wall of branches with thorns. They turned to the left and walked down that path. The trees were dense and over-arching so that they could not see even a sliver of the night sky above them.
They came to another tree with parallel notches. After a few steps they could see the promontory of the cliff and the cave lights through a gap in the trees. The boy saw the first set of parallel notches he had made in one of the trees next to the gap. They walked out of the forest into the open night air.