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The End of the Line


forest floor.
"It's all over," Soma said. "The forest world is over. Nothing lasts forever, after all, not
even this," she added, waving her arms around. "You can walk out, right now, in any
direction, and you'll leave this place.”
Edeline gasped.
“Since when?” she asked. “How long has it been this way? “
“Since today,” Soma said with a gentle smile. Ember sniffed. She did not believe it.
Suspiciously, she wondered why she had not seen Soma glance up at the treetops even
once, whereas the old Soma had made her home way up there, hardly ever coming
down to step on the soil. Ember squinted her small brown eyes even tighter to
scrutinize this potential impostor.
“But,” Soma continued hastily, “the problem is we only trade one prison for another.
Out there it's not the forest, but it might as well be. The difference is that in here, time
was long. Out there, time is short, and getting shorter. We need to hurry.”
Ember burst out laughing at this last statement. It was all too absurd.
“Hurry?” she snorted. “What is hurry? Why should we,” indicating Edeline and herself,
“every need to hurry about anything?”
“It's all going to change,” Soma said, “and this kind of change is rapid change. Look at
me! How old do you think I am? I mean my body.”
“How should I know?” Ember shook her head, but Edeline said,
“Thirty?”
“More or less,” Soma nodded, “and how long has it been since I left the forest?”
“Again,” Ember snarled, “how should I know? We don't track time in here. There's no
point. It could be a hundred years since you left. We don't even know what a year is
anymore. It means nothing.”
“It's been a little more than two weeks,” Soma said. “Fourteen days since the change
began, and it began three days after I left the forest.”
At this revelation both Ember and Edeline sat back, stunned into silence. They didn't
know what to make of it. Obviously Soma and Squee had been missing far longer than
a mere seventeen days. It had to have been at least several months, if not many years.
There had been no Mind Ball in a long time, not since the Hidden One had mysteriously
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