CHAPTER II

Schmecleosis 2

 

Bohideus crouched low in the bottom of the canoe. It felt very light against his backside, so he pushed his hands and knees against the rungs to hold himself in. Still he fell. He fell, fell, fell, and then fell some more. In fact, he fell so long that in time his fear drifted away in the wind. Why be afraid when you KNOW you're going to die? There was nothing Bohideus could do but accept it and make the best of it. After all, he couldn't STOP himself falling! And so his mind began to wander.

His first thoughts were about his canoe. Bo was glad he had been able to hold onto it. It was almost comforting to have something solid between himself and the immense nothingness below. Besides, it blocked out the worst of the wind. Soon Bo found that if he moved his weight toward one end or the other, the canoe would begin to point downward. 

 

This seemed to make him go faster, he figured, or at least the wind began to hit him harder. He couldn't be certain he was speeding up, for there were no stationary objects around for him to be able to judge how fast he was going. He just felt that when the canoe pointed downward he speeded up, for the wind would yank his breath away. Bo found that as long as he stayed in the center of the canoe, its streamlined shell would keep upright and stable. It was like riding a boat which floated on air, and it would have been fun if he hadn't known he was heading for certain death!

          Next Bo thought of his mother. "Be careful!" she had said, as she always said as he left the cottage and strolled to the inlet where his canoe was tied. "And don't be late for dinner! We have plenty of greens from the garden if you don't catch a fish." Now he would never see her again. Soon Father would return from the hunting trip, full of stories and adventures, and find no Bohideus to tell them to. Well, at least now he'll wish he had taken me along, Bo thought grimly. He didn't think I was old or strong enough to make the journey!

He'll think twice about that next time. But now there won't ever be a next time, Bo realized, and began feeling a little sorry for himself.

          How long will I fall? he wondered. Will I just keep falling forever? If I've fallen off the edge of the world, where will I land? Is there another world under this one? And what would be past the edge of that one? Maybe I'll just fall until I die. Then my bones will stay in this canoe and fall forever!   

          Bo's mind continued to wander. I've always wondered what happens to the river, he thought. Where does all the water go? Does it just fall off the world, and fall forever? Why does it never run out of water?

          Of course, Old Man Schmoe had told Bo that it came from huge glaciers high in the mountains far, far away. The glaciers came from snow, and the snow came from clouds. And the clouds came from...that's it! Schmoe had told him about this! There WAS a bottom to this cliff! That is, if Schmoe wasn't crazy, at least. Everybody thought he was. He acted normal, and talked as if he were normal, but many of the things he said just weren't what anybody else believed. And so the people had decided he was crazy. Was he?

          Still, Bo knew that Old Man Schmoe had been right about the fishing holes. Hadn't he, too, warned about getting too far from the shore if you went down there, the same as Father had? Everything Schmoe had ever said--at least that Bo had a chance to test--had proven right...so far, anyway.

          Once Old Man Schmoe told Bo and his friends about a thing he called a "parachute." With enough cloth to catch the air, he had said, it would make a heavy object, or even a man, fall so slow that both could fall a very long way and still not be hurt at the landing. Bo's friends had simply laughed and walked away, but not Bo. When Schmoe saw that Bo stayed to listen, he showed him how to make a parachute. They made a very small one, first, and Bo had tested it. He hung a small stick from its strings and dropped it from the top of his house. It worked!

          Another time he made a larger parachute and tried it out on a small rodent. How the animal had scratched and hissed as Bo tied it into the harness! Then he carried it to the top of a tree, and tossed it into the air. Schmoe had scolded him for that. "That was a very unkind thing for you to do to that poor little fellah!" he had said, telling Bo to experiment with non-living things in the future. Still, the little creature had sailed quickly and safely to the ground, without a bruise or a scratch!

          After that Bo and Old Man Schmoe had become friends. Bo's other friends sometimes made fun of him for wasting time with the "goofy old man." But Bo didn't mind. Schmoe was full of strange and exciting stories. There was something very mysterious about him. He was older than anyone else in the village, and no one knew where he had come from. No one knew who his parents, or brothers ad sisters, were, for surely he had to have them.

          Father had told Bo that when Schmoe was younger, he would leave the village for months at a time, returning with incredible tales of his long journey, the places he had seen, and his many adventures. That was when the people began to believe he was crazy. He had begged them to go with him, but why should they? There was plenty of food close to the village. They had clothing and shelter, warmth, and an endless supply of water. What else did anyone need? Why risk their lives going off with Schmoe on his wild expeditions?

          Now Schmoe was old. Too old to build a parachute large enough to allow him to jump off a cliff. Neither was Schmoe willing to suffer the wrath of Bo's parents by making a parachute for Bo to try it! Maybe when Bo was older, he had said. Bo had spent many, many hours with Schmoe. Who cares if people think Schmoe is crazy? he had decided. His stories are fantastic! Besides, Schmoe was always working on new inventions and gadgets.

          After the parachute experiment, Schmoe had helped Bo build a strange little contraption he had called a hang glider. Schmoe had explained that it used some of the same ideas as a parachute, but instead of being round, it had wings like a bird. When it was finished, it was just a small one, too small to carry even the smallest animal passenger. Schmoe had told him that the same design--built on a large scale--would carry one, or even more, passengers! "People, or animals?" Bo had asked.

          "People!" Schmoe had answered. The glider wouldn't be able to take off like a bird, he had said, but the passenger could jump off something high and glide for a very long distance. And if he found the right air currents, the hang glider could carry him higher than he was when he started!

          Bo had thought that the idea was a little far fetched, even though he had said nothing at the time. "How I wish I had a parachute right now!" he whispered sadly as he continued falling, falling, falling to whatever lay below. This would be a good time to test it! he thought, trying to cheer himself up.

          Bo knew that eventually he would come to an abrupt stop somewhere, and then he would be dead. He pushed the thought away. He didn't want to think about things like that. He let his mind return to the parachute. Better yet, I wish I had a hang glider! There is plenty of wind for it to float on! He remembered what Schmoe had said about the strong air currents which rose upward around the waterfall. If Bo had a big hang glider, he could ride those currents all the way back up and home again! What a great thought. He tried to hold onto it, but soon the thought slipped away and disappeared in the wind.

          Bo sighed wistfully. He wished he were home now. He pressed himself against the bottom of the canoe, wishing he was in his own warm bed in his own warm house with Mother and Father. Maybe I don't want to be out on my own yet, he thought. Maybe they are right. I am still too young to go hunting with father. That thought hurt, so he let it float away as fast as it came. Still he kept falling. Falling and falling. Maybe Schmoe was wrong. Why should he be right and everyone else in the village wrong? Maybe this really was the end of the world. Maybe there was no bottom.

          Either way, it's certainly the end for me, Bo thought sadly. Perhaps he would know the truth for just an instant before he died. He was no longer frightened, what was there to be frightened of? His doom was sure. Either he would fall until he starved, or Schmoe was right and he would hit the bottom. Either way was certain death.

          "But there are so many things I will never get to do!" Bo mourned aloud. "It's not fair! I'll never get to go hang gliding! Never parachuting! I'll never get to go across the river, never get to see a woolly mammoth or a dinosaur! I'll never even get to see a humongor, much less ride on one, like Schmoe did! And I'll never get to travel to the great mountains and see the glaciers!" All these were things Old Man Schmoe liked to talk about. To everyone else it was foolishness, but Bo had thrilled with excitement as he thought of the adventures he would have someday. He would see for himself the things Schmoe told him about. For now, however, he could only fall. There is no hope for me, Bo realized. I am as good as dead already.

          And still he kept falling. The waterfall was as high as a great mountain, he realized, many Schmoe miles high. (Bo called them Schmoe miles, for Schmoe who had taught him to measure distances in a different way from the villagers.) Since there was nothing else to do, Bo again let his mind wander. He thought of his parents and of home. He thought of the questions he always asked...about the world, about the sky, about everything. What were probably only minutes seemed to pass like hours, for there was nothing to do but fall and think...and think and fall...and fall...and fall...

          Schmoe had once explained to Bo that a falling object would continue to speed up faster and faster. "The farther you fall, the faster you fall," he had said. That was why you could fall a little ways and not get hurt, but falling a long ways would hurt...or kill. Then he had explained. What really mattered was not how far you fell, but how fast you were going when you landed. "It's not the fall that hurts. It's the sudden stop at the bottom that gets you!" That was the time he had been explaining how a man could fall safely in a parachute, Bo remembered. "You either have to not fall so fast, or not stop so fast. Since we can't do much about the stop, we have to do something about the fall. Hence the parachute."

          Bo's mind was thinking very clearly now. In fact, clearer than he had ever thought before. It was as if he and Schmoe had had the conversation the day before. "But if something falls far enough," Schmoe had continued, "the air will slow it down even without a parachute. It's called terminal velocity. If you were falling in a vacuum, which is a place where there is no air, you would just keep speeding up. And a feather would fall just as fast as a rock!" Once again Bo's friends had walked away muttering about the old man's crazy ideas, joking about "feathers falling as fast as rocks!" Even Bo had a hard time with that one.

          Schmoe didn't care if the village children teased him. He had kept right on talking then just as he always did, and Bo had hung onto every word. "But when you fall through air you, eventually you reach a speed where your body is pushing against the air just as hard as gravity is pulling you down. After that you don't speed up anymore. That is your `terminal velocity.'"

          Pushing against the air? Bo hadn't fully understood but he had been fascinated, and his eagerness to learn only fed Schmoe's eagerness to teach. "Different objects can have different terminal velocities, depending on the ratio between (1) how heavy they are, and (2) how much air has to move out of their way for them to pass. A feather's terminal velocity is very slow, while a man's is very fast, around one hundred and twenty miles per hour, depending upon your position in the air!"

          Miles per hour, feet, inches, velocity. All these were words Schmoe used which meant nothing to the villagers, Bo knew. The villagers measured distances with hand spans, foot spans, or how far an average man could throw a spear. Or how far he could walk, jog, or run in a certain amount of time. They measured time with common deeds, such as how long it took an egg to boil, or the length of time between seasons. Schmoe had explained his own measurements, and carefully measured each one for Bo until he had understood. After all, you can only walk so many miles before you begin to get a good idea how long one is!       

          The trouble with terminal velocity, Schmoe had explained, is that at a hundred and twenty miles per hour, a sudden stop will kill you! "The nice thing about a parachute," he said, "is that it catches far more air than your body does, and slows your terminal velocity to a speed where it won't hurt you when you stop!"

          Bo realized that in his canoe his terminal velocity was probably slightly slower than it would be without it. But certainly it was not slow enough to do him any good. And still he fell. He thought of the many things Old Man Schmoe had taught him about the world on which he lived--the "planet," Schmoe had called it. As wild as Schmoe's explanations and stories were, they did explain a lot. Like where the sunlight came from, and why the sun seemed to move in a circle around the world, and why sometimes it got dark and cold. Schmoe had even told him that there were other worlds besides this one, although it was difficult to imagine. All the villagers called the world Earth, but Schmoe called it Schmecleosis 2. He called it `Schmeeky 2' for short. He said everyone calls their own world `Earth,' though, since whatever language they spoke, the word for it would be translated as earth.      

          "Things are very different on other worlds," Schmoe had said one day. "On some of them you can see a very bright thing in the sky called a `sun.' It is a great, hot ball of fire which gives off warmth and light." Bo had thought that very unlikely. After all, a ball of fire hanging all by itself in the sky? But it made a good story, so he let it pass.

          "The worlds are called planets," Schmoe had continued, "and they are round like balls, spinning on and on in space. `Space' is a great place that goes onforever, and everything else is within it."

"Within what?" Bo had asked.

"Within space."

"But what is space?" Bo asked again. He hadn't understood.         "Space is what everything else is in...the planets, suns, stars, sky...everything!" Schmoe had explained. "You mean space is the air?" Bo had asked. "No, there is no air in space," Schmoe had answered. "But you said EVERYTHING is in space. So how can there be no air in space?"  

"Well, there is air around the planets, but not in space. Space is a vacuum. It is empty!"

"But how can space be empty if everything is in it?" Bo had asked. Schmoe had ended his story then, saying he would finish it another day. Bo sometimes wondered if he asked too many questions.

The next day, however, Schmoe explained until Bo understood, at least he thought he did, and Schmoe told him a great many other things as well. "As the planets turn around, sometimes the sun is on one side, and sometimes the other. If a world has only one sun, it is light and dark for equal amounts of time. The light is called day and the dark is called night. It would all seem very orderly instead of happening unpredictably as it does on Schmecleosis 2!" This was easier to accept, for Bo knew that the villagers tried very hard to predict when the dark skies would come, yet still no one knew for sure. This made it quite difficult to know when to plant crops.

          "In the night time on other worlds," Schmoe had continued, "you can see the light from other suns far, far away." He had called them stars. He said they were very beautiful, and that there were millions of them. Bo had never seen a star. He had never seen a sun, for that matter, but he could see and feel the hot light that Schmoe said came from a sun as it filtered through the clouds. Bo had never even seen a blue sky, he realized. On the other hand, Schmoe had said that there were many beautiful things on Schmecleosis 2 that couldn't be found on any other world. The sky here was almost always a beautiful, glowing, golden color. Sometimes an edge of the sky near the horizon would glow with brilliant colors of red, purple and violet. Wouldn't an all-blue sky be rather boring? Bo wondered. To him, `blue' meant `ice.' And `ice' meant `cold.' It sounded strange, and the thought made him shiver.

          "Another unique thing about this planet," Schmoe had said, "is its size. Schmeeky 2 is huge. The only other worlds as big as Schmeeky 2 have such strong gravity that people can't live on them! They would be crushed by their own weight. Except for Schmecleosis, your twin planet, Schmeeky 1."

          Schmeeky 1? Schmeeky 2? Twin planets? Bo shook his head as he fell. It took a very great stretch of the imagination sometimes to go along with Schmoe. Schmeeky 1 was supposed to be a lot like Schmeeky 2. No other worlds, he had explained, had mountains anywhere near as big as here. If they were, they would reach above the atmosphere clear out into space!

          `Atmosphere.' That was another one of Schmoe's words. He said that `atmosphere' was the air around a planet. If a mountain reached above the atmosphere, there would be no air there, and no moisture to make snow, glaciers, and rivers. On Schmeeky 2, the atmosphere extended upward for hundreds of miles, so that even on mountains that were hundreds of miles tall, there was still air to breathe and moisture to fall. Nowhere else in the galaxy were there cliffs so high, rivers so deep and wide, or mountains and waterfalls so tall. Galaxy? Another word.

          Old Man Schmoe had explained to Bo that Schmeeky 1 and 2 were great twin planets which spun around each other. They were so close together that they should have long since collided because of their gravity. Instead, they spun around each other so quickly that the centrifugal force kept them apart.

          Centrifugal force. More new words! To explain what centrifugal force was, Schmoe had Bo tie a rope to a bucket filled with water, and then swing it around in a circle. This was fun! Bo had been surprised to see that when the bucket was upside down over his head, the water didn't fall out! That was because of centrifugal force, Schmoe had said. Schmeeky 1 and 2 were two planets held close together by the pull of each other's gravity. They were whirling about each other so fast that they didn't fall together. But they were so close and their gravity was so strong that neither did they fly apart! They were locked in orbit so that the same side of one planet was always facing the same side of the other.

          "If you were on Schmeeky 2 and could see Schmeeky 1 in the sky," Schmoe had said, "it would appear to be holding still. It would also be so big that it would take up most of the sky!" Bo shook his head. It was still beyond his comprehension. He remembered as he fell what Schmoe had explained. He said that no one could see Schmeeky 1 because there were always too many clouds in the sky, and so much haze in the atmosphere.

          "That is another difference between Schmeeky 2 and other planets," Schmoe had continued. "On most planets that have an atmosphere, in only a few miles the air becomes thin and then disappears altogether in space. But Schmeeky 1 and 2 are only a few thousand miles apart! They each pull on the other so hard with their gravity that they share a common atmosphere!" Again Bo shook his head. Schmoe had explained that most of the atmosphere around the two Schmeekys wasn't very thick, but on the side where the two faced each other, which was the side on which Bo lived, the air went up thousands of miles, and almost all of it was thick enough to breathe! It did become thinner eventually, he had explained, but if you went high enough, it would start getting thicker again as you became closer to the other planet.

          Bo thought of Schmeeky 2's mountains. Schmoe had told him that on other planets the biggest mountains were only a few miles high. Here they were hundreds of miles high! This boggled Bo's mind. Such distances were beyond his comprehension. How could anything be so big? Then he remembered what Schmoe had told him about the cliff, THE cliff, he now realized. The cliff over which the river had dumped him. No one had ever seen the cliff nor the Great Waterfall except Schmoe, and no one believed he had really seen it. He had told Bo that it was over a hundred miles high as well! The river was several miles wide and hundreds of feet deep, and it fell in what Schmoe said was probably the biggest waterfall in the entire universe. Great, Bo thought, as he kept falling, falling, falling into the emptiness below.

          Not too many miles up river from the village were more mountains, so high that none of the villagers had ever seen their tops. They seemed to go up forever, disappearing into the clouds. If you wanted to, you could climb hundreds of miles up with plenty of air to breathe, Schmoe always said. But nobody ever wanted to, and he didn't blame them. It was too dangerous. There were a great many cliffs...enormous cliffs...plus huge glaciers, endless lakes, and treacherous rivers. And there were endless avalanches, landslides, and storms.

          Schmoe had told Bo that most planets which had people living on them were about 25,000 miles around, but not Schmeeky 2. Schmeeky 2 was hundreds of thousands of miles around! These numbers were incomprehensible to Bo, but they sounded good. Normally that would mean that the planet's gravity would be too strong for humans, Schmoe had explained, but the twin planet, Schmeeky 1, made Schmeeky 2 an exception.

          There were two reasons why it was an exception, Schmoe had said. Bo's thoughts continued crystal clear as he remembered exactly what those reasons were. The first was because Schmeeky 1 was so close that its own gravity pulled up on a body at the same as Schmeeky 2's gravity pulled down, though not quite as hard. If you were on the side of the planet away from Schmeeky 1, your body would weigh more, but the centrifugal force would help lessen that weight.

          The second reason Schmeeky 2's gravity wasn't too great for humans was that it was hollow.           "Hollow!" Bo had exclaimed. "Like a gourd?"

"Exactly," Schmoe had answered. "That makes a person's body weigh less, for two reasons." Bo loved Schmoe's reasons. His reasons had reasons, which had reasons, which had more reasons. How he loved Schmoe's stories. It didn't matter to him how far-fetched they were.

"Since Schmeeky 2 is hollow in the middle," Schmoe had continued, "it doesn't have as much mass as most planets its size. Also, the mass it has is more spread out, making its gravity weaker. All of these things combine to make it so that on this incredibly huge planet you weigh about the same as on a normal world for humans!"

          "And, my, it is a huge planet!" Schmoe always said, shaking his head. Thousands upon thousands of miles of continents, oceans, mountains, deserts, swamps, rivers, and lakes the like of which could be found on no other planet in space, Schmoe was sure. He said that this was a strange combination of things not found very often in the galaxy. "Lots of suns and lots of planets make up our galaxy," he had said on more than one occasion, "and this planet is less stable than most."

          Bo could understand that part. There were often earthquakes so powerful that no one could stand or crawl for several minutes, and these frightened the villagers, including Bo, very much. Whole mountains would rise up or fall down in one great earthquake! Rivers, lakes, and even oceans often changed their courses or their boundaries. The villagers had many old stories passed down from their ancestors about having had to move because of these calamities.

          Schmoe always said that Schmeeky 2 was a very curious place that people from other planets would want to know about...if only there were a way to tell them. But there was no way to tell them. Besides, the people of Bo's village didn't know of any other place, or any other people. True, it was rumored that there were other villages like Bo's on their world, but there had been no visitors in anyone living’s memory.

          The people of Bo's village lived a simple, pleasant life. Nature provided them with everything they needed to live. They hunted and fished, and had small farms and gardens for food. They made their own clothing, boats, and canoes, and the few simple tools and hunting weapons they needed. Their houses were made of wood, notched and latched together, with the foundations staked deep into the ground. Generations of experience had taught the villagers what structures would remain standing with the ground-shaking earthquakes and violent storms. One of the village's favorite traditions, around which many contests were held, was seeing who could take down a house and erect it again the fastest.

          Suddenly Bo began to shiver. It was terribly cold, and the longer he fell, the colder he became. He forced himself to think about the earthquakes and storms he knew so well...to keep his mind from the cold. Bo's only experience with real darkness came from the blackened sky during these storms, with their brilliant flashes of lightning and ear crushing thunder.

          Fortunately, Schmeeky 2's climate--at least the climate he knew--was generally very mild, and it was almost always light. There was no way to tell exactly from which part of sky the light came. All Bo knew was that with the light came warmth, and depending upon the clouds, it was warmer at various times than others. There were also mild variations in the seasons, but no one understood why. Of course, Schmoe had some explanations, but Father had said his explanations were rather complicated and sounded terribly far-fetched.

          The climate that the Bo's village enjoyed was mostly mild. It was usually warm near the river, although the river itself was quite cold. Bo knew that the river came from the mountains, where it was always cold and wintery. Father had told him. Only rarely did the sky become dark, except for when it stormed. Then it would become very cold and sometimes even snowed. During these times the people of the village stayed at home and built fires while they told stories and rested, hoping it would become light again soon.     

          Bo knew that no one could predict when it would get dark, nor how long it would last, no matter how much they pretended they did. When the sky turned dark, it lasted for days, and when it finally grew light, the villagers would have to replant their gardens after the heavy snows melted. Most of the time, fortunately, it was light. Bo's village had special celebrations for teaching the children why a part of the time was called `day,' and the part during which they all slept, `night.' Bo had once asked Father why. He had answered that it created order. Bo hadn't understood then, but he did now. He knew that the villagers determined their days by which direction of the sky was lightest, since the brightest part of the light moved in a circle about the horizon. The villagers counted their years by keeping track of changing seasons, but these seasons were barely distinguishable, and they didn't always correspond with the darker periods of the sky.

          Father had said that the village days and years were consistent, and that was good enough for him. But it wasn't good enough for Bo. He wanted to know how Schmoe explained the darkness, even if no one else did. Schmoe had held two oranges up to the sky to help Bo understand. "When the sun goes behind one planet or the other," he had said, "its light and heat are blocked, and the air becomes cold. Then moisture in the air freezes, and it snows. It also becomes dark for a time. "When it is light, the sunlight is coming in sideways between the two worlds," Schmoe had explained on several occasions. "You just can't see it through the thick air and clouds!" Bo always shook his head. He still had a difficult time believing that a great ball of fire hung in the sky. But he wanted to believe Schmoe. And he had to admit that the brightness and heat plainly moved in a circle around the horizon. Still, a ball of fire? He had seen fire lots of times, but not in a BALL. And floating up in the sky? Sometimes Old Man Schmoe was even too much for him!

          Bo leaned slightly to the left to peer over the edge, but the canoe began to tilt and he quickly straightened himself. He was not about to be separated by the wind from his faithful canoe! How strange, he began to think, that here he was, falling off the edge of the world, and all he could think about was what Schmoe said! Deep inside something had always told Bo that there was more to Schmoe than met the eye, but he was such a funny old man.

          Several times Schmoe had explained to Bo how other planets orbit their suns. "This is a strange and interesting world," he had said, and then explained further. The pair of planets, Schmeeky 1 and 2, were orbiting around each other almost sideways to the sun. They were also spinning together with reference to the sun. Schmoe would ask Bo to hold one orange up while he moved two smaller ones around each other and around Bo's.

          Schmeeky 2's sun is much larger and more powerful than most, he had explained. He called it a blue giant. He said that usually people couldn't live on planets near such suns, for the radiation would be deadly. However, Schmeeky 2's thick, dense atmosphere gave it protection from the suns burning rays. In fact, a normal yellow sun wouldn't be hot or bright enough to shine through such a thick atmosphere, but on Schmeeky 2 it was just right.

          Bo was still falling. His fear had blown away with the certainty of his death, and he actually dozed off. But he dreamed about falling, and awoke with a start. His canoe had nearly tilted over! Bo shook his head sadly as he realized that this was no dream. He really was falling. Falling, falling, and still falling.

          Every once in a while Bo was surprised to find himself passing right through a cloud. It helped to keep his mind busy with the things Schmoe had taught him. It had made him forget that he was doomed. But now he remembered, and once again, he sat up to look around. Bo had to move ever so carefully to keep the canoe balanced so that the wind wouldn't send it wobbling and spinning helter-skelter. He caught a quick glimpse backward, and could no longer see the cliff! Nor could he see any sign of the Great Waterfall! He remembered what Schmoe had said about the hang glider's airfoil...

...the wings. He realized that it was probably the shape of the canoe that had caused it to gradually move away from the cliff while falling.

          Bo looked carefully down over the edge of the canoe with the wind screaming against his face, and strained his eyes to see below. Was something there? It was no longer simply sky and clouds. He couldn't see clearly, but there was definitely something solid showing through the haze. He cowered back in the bottom of his tiny boat. So Schmoe was right! This wasn't the end of the world. Bo sighed. This only meant that he would die sooner rather than later. I guess landing in a splat is better than starving to death! he thought.

          Bo peered over the side again. A faint hint of green showed through the haze now. How much longer do I have? he wondered. He thought of jumping out of the canoe as one might abandon a sinking ship. He knew it wouldn't make any difference. Instead, he crouched in the bottom, gripping the sides tightly with a false sense of security. For more than an hour he had been falling, yet still he fell.

          Bo was actually bored. He dozed off again and dreamed that he was flying. In the dream he flew just above the tops of the pine forests near his home. He couldn't fly very high, however, and every once in a while he would brush against the tops of the trees. A swish...then a brush...then a bump shook him. Suddenly Bo's eyes popped open and he caught his breath. The next bump yanked him wide awake. What was that!? Another bump and a crash, and the canoe began spinning. Bump! I'm awake! he realized. This is no dream!  

          Bo hung on with all his strength. The canoe spun downward through the air in a confusing blur of green, then flashes of white, brown, more green, and again white. More bumps. Crash! Bang! Bump! Finally the canoe stopped spinning but still it fell, bumping and crashing, back end pointed downward with Bo head first, clinging desperately inside. More bumps, crashes, and thuds! Enormous leaves and branches scraped at him, nearly wrenching his grip free from the canoe. Both he and the canoe were tossed about like a snowball in an avalanche, yet still he held on tightly.

          Suddenly the canoe was knocked upright, the way it would sit upon water. Bo's body bounced within the canoe, and as he looked up, he could barely see the sky. There were too many leaves in the way, such trees as he had never imagined! Huge sprawling branches stretching for what must be miles above him.

          Crash! Bump! And another crash! Bo gasped as an enormous leaf shot up into the sky above him. Or rather, he realized, it remained clinging to its branch as he fell away beneath it! For an instant he saw a hole the size of his canoe where he had smashed through the leaves, before the branches rushed back in upon the hole.

          Crash! Bump! And crash again, followed by more bumps and crashes. Bo's head felt like it would bounce right off as the boat slammed through leaves and against thin branches, gradually slowing down until it nearly stopped. But then it fell again. More bumps and crashes. The canoe broke through branch after branch, leaf after leaf of GIANT leaves...as big as a house! At last, with a soft scrape, crunch, and a gentle thud, the canoe came to a stop against the base of a gigantic leaf jutting out from a branch as thick as a tree. The leaf eased downward under the weight of the canoe, then sprung back up, slowly bobbing up and down. Bo allowed himself to breathe...very slowly...and let go of his grip on the canoe. He cautiously peered over the edge. The canoe leaned sideways, and Bo rolled out thrashing his arms about, desperately trying to regain his handhold.

          Too late! He slid down the leaf as if it were a giant slide, his fingers and fingernails scratching and clawing frantically for something to grab, something to stop his fall. He slipped off the edge, fell a few feet, hit another leaf, and slid again. Down he slid, from leaf to leaf, like a bug tumbling downward through a giant, monstrous plant. At last he grabbed a handful of offshoots at the base of a giant leaf, and pulled himself to a stop.

          He hadn't caught his breath before a noise high above startled him, and he looked up. First a crash, then a crunch, scrunch, and another crash. And then he saw it. He threw himself to one side as the canoe crashed down where he had been. Bo clung to the branch as it jerked and swayed. The canoe rested wobbly for a moment, then slid off the leaf and out of sight. He heard it bumping, crashing and banging long after it fell through the bushy leaves below. And then there was silence.

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