The new life form did not know exactly when it became self aware--there was just a gradual realization that it had been for some time. Nor did the organism even know why it had suddenly become self-conscious, having only the dimmest sort of memory of the world before consciousness. It only realized that it had been thinking about its surroundings, and even about itself, for some time.
Nor was there any apparent reason why it--among all the teeming life forms present--had become self-aware. Perhaps it was because of the relatively short lifespan of the organism: during the single life span of most living organisms, this life form could go through dozens of generations. Coupled with the remarkable fertility of the organism, in a very short time, hundreds--even thousands--of the organisms could attempt to adapt to their environment and try new approaches to survival. The profound fertility and reproductive capacity of the organism was crucial, since the environment was especially unforgiving and dangerous. Most of the new organisms died early in life, long before they could individually reproduce. It was only as a collective species that the life form flourished.
Luckily, the new organisms were perfectly adapted to passing information to each other. Knowledge, once acquired, was quickly passed from organism to organism and thus, the information was easily retained.
Like all sentient life, the first questions asked were, "Where am I? Who am I? Why am I here?" And like all sentient life, the organisms struggled to provide answers. It was difficult to survey their environment, but they could tell the world was round, with light above and darkness below. Since life seemed more abundant in the light, they sought the light and shunned the darkness, which seemed comparatively barren. While they constantly strove upward, more often than not, they failed and fell downward towards the dark.
Thousands of generations passed and eventually, the organisms began to explain their world, and to do this, they needed language, and the names and nouns a language demands. One of the first names, was the name they gave themselves--they were the Malebolgians. And after naming themselves, they began the process of naming their world--giving names to every feature and object in their world. However, they had difficulty in providing individual names for each other, since their consciousness was more of a collective. While each Malebolgian was capable of individual action, due to its method of reproduction, it was difficult to separate any individual's identity uniquely from either its ancestors or its offspring.
Despite this, the tribe grew, multiplied, and prospered. In their own way, they achieved the rudiments of civilization. The Malebolgians fought at times, they explored, they reasoned, and they slowly developed a religion. Like most early religions, it was focused on the light above, warned against the evils of darkness, and attributed to gods all that could not be directly observed--such as the strange and terrifying noises that came from the sky above them. As new knowledge was acquired and the realm of the unknown slowly retracted, their religion and their gods evolved.
Some of the Malebolgians began experimenting in art and philosophy, and a few were working on a theoretical explanation of economic activity. Lives steadily became richer and fuller, and the Malebolgians were even beginning to discuss how to explore the universe beyond their small round world, and what their place in this mysterious cosmos might be.
There is no telling what achievements the Malegbolgians might have eventually achieved had someone not poured an unwanted cup of hot coffee down the kitchen drain and exterminated them.