Sleep could not reach the mind of Sameela that night. There were far too many troubles bouncing around in her head. That was something else in common between her and Emmaline, besides their reddish hair: once something entered their brains, it was next to impossible to forget it for many, many months. And this had only happened today, so there was no way it was leaving her memory that night—no way.
She rolled over again, rustling her unfamiliar sheets as she did. Sam hated leaving home, even though it was safer to stay in Skyglass. She and her family didn’t live in the inner core of NeverSeen. They lived in their own tree on the outskirts of it, close to a small village on the edge of the forest. With nearly everything in and throughout the tree handmade or crafted, the house itself felt like a community of talents and friends, all gathered into one place by a single family. It felt wonderful to be separate from the big city, but at the same time still surrounded with the sensation of living, breathing beings, even when it was only their pieces of workmanship that were really there.
But here, everything was different. There was no community. Only people crammed together in a small space of a single tree, trapped inside with no space to breathe. Just because you were surrounded by people didn’t mean you knew them or cared for them. The isolation was astounding to Sam. Never had she felt more choked off from civilization than when she was engulfed by it, suppressing her very ability to think.
Exasperated, she finally sat up, staring blankly at the floor beneath her feet. She replayed the restricted conversation with Emma in her head.
“Wait, so you’re saying that you more or less dreamt the end of civilization, of specifically NeverSeen as we know it?”
She’d sighed shakily, replying, “Yeah, pretty much. It was terrifying. To watch everyone dying. And then I think I died, too.”
“I’ve had bad dreams like that before.”
“None like this, Sam. You’ve never dreamt one as bad as this. Ever. And I don’t think you ever will…” Emma had trailed off, like she had something more to say, but either couldn’t say it or find the words to say it.
“Maybe it’ll get better, Emma. Maybe when you’re done growing. You know, with hormones and all and stuff…”
Emma stared at Sam briefly. The dead tiredness of her hazel eyes gave her the appearance of being much older than the nearly fifteen years she was, even older than how maturely she tended to behave.
“Sam, nobody’s done growing until they’re dead.”
Sam had tried to think of something, anything, to say to give her friend hope, but she couldn’t. Then the seven-thirty bell had rung, the mandatory call to return to their quarters for the evening under the current storm threat. They had hugged good-bye, but it felt more like the kind of hug that you gave somebody you wouldn’t see again for a long time, if ever. Like a child clinging to its father before he leaves for the front line.
Why would Emma feel that way? What did she know? What should I know? questioned Sam, almost angry she couldn’t help her friend. Sam knew how horribly real dreams could feel, but Emma—she hated herself for even thinking of it—seemed on the verge of being paranoid about her dreams, like somehow they were real. She’s got to be hiding something. Either that or she’s nuts, but even if she is, she’s no more nuts than Raven or I or anyone else in this dungeon of a tree.
With that final thought, Sam crawled back into bed and promptly fell asleep.
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