"Maybe I was caught between the two worlds. I was having serious trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality."
While on a backpacking trip in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, nineteen-year-old Maddie Pearce finds her world has been thrown into a vortex and is madly spinning toward the impossible. Abducted by a mad psychopath, Maddie narrowly escapes with her life. Her mysterious rescuer introduces her to a world that Maddie has difficulty accepting as reality.
Maddie slowly cracked opened her eyes to see the brilliance of the morning peeking through her tent. Squinting, she poked her nose out of her sleeping bag to test the temperature, and just as she imagined, the frost in the air nipped at her. She knew she would have to get up soon to use the facilities, if you could call the outhouse that, and also to make her breakfast as well as break down her campsite.
She was so warm and cozy though, the thought of moving didn’t really appeal to her. But… it was Christmas morning, and she wanted to spend the day roaming the Smoky Mountains, enjoying the scenery. She knew that if she delayed too long, she would have limited time since it would get dark so early this time of year.
She quickly unzipped her toasty sleeping bag, slipped her boots on, threw on a jacket, and unzipped the door to her tent. When she got her first glimpse of the morning, her jaw hit the ground, and she sucked in her breath. She was standing in a winter wonderland, complete with a three inch blanket of snow. She broke out in childlike laughter and jumped around like someone had just handed her a million bucks. She ran around in a circle and then suddenly let herself plop backwards in the snow. She flapped her arms and legs wildly and then stood up to admire her handiwork. Out of her pocket came her camera, and she commenced to snap photos of the awesome snow angel she had just created.
Maddie was in heaven! This was the first time in her life she had ever awakened to a white Christmas, and she was going to milk this one for all it was worth. This was absolutely the best present she had ever received, and today was the first day since… well, she wasn’t going to let herself think of that. She simply felt sheer, unadulterated, uncomplicated happiness.
She took care of her outhouse business, headed back to her tent to make breakfast with some hot cocoa, and sat down to enjoy the view. She was still shocked at her luck. Snow hadn’t been in the forecast, so this was the greatest surprise… ever!
In a flash, she had everything packed up, and she was ready to head out of camp. She had spent the night up at Mount LeConte and was now going to head over to the Appalachian Trail. Her next stop would be the shelter at Peck’s Corner.
When she was all geared up, she headed for the trailhead, yet quickly, she realized that she may have some difficulty. The snow had completely covered everything, including the trail, and it might be a bit tricky staying on track. She worried about this until she noticed a single set of footprints that started right at the trailhead and led her in the right direction... down the Boulevard Trail. It was as if her guardian angel had been there and created it just for her. She paused to consider it for a moment, but then, she quickly moved on as she had a lot of ground to cover today and didn’t know the condition of the trails ahead. She said a quick thanks to her “trail guide” and headed down.
As usual, while she hiked, her mind wandered and started drifting in the direction of her parents. She could do that these days without getting weepy about it. She had college and her roommates to thank for that. It was Christmas though, and she felt she was entitled to think about her parents. That’s how she spent most of that day... until she passed the stranger coming toward her. She felt her first cause for alarm when she laid eyes on him, but never expected how that chance meeting would alter her destiny forever.