Under the Tree Chapter I
The Explorer’s tires found the ice hidden beneath the fresh dusting of snow and lost traction, sending the SUV into a skid: nose right, ass left. The driver, accustomed to wintry driving conditions, corrected. The SUV came around, then kept on going: nose left, ass right. The driver corrected again but with no success. Physics had taken over – momentum and ice conspired, sending the vehicle hurtling off the mountain. Gravity pitched in, accelerating the descent of the doomed Explorer. For the driver, that would have been the end of the story – if not for a lone pine.
The impact shattered the tree’s trunk, but it remained standing. Though bent and shattered, and certain to perish, its sacrifice halted the Explorer’s descent. A moment later the engine cut out. The driver, blood trickling down his forehead, moaned one last time. Then tranquility once again blanketed the snow-covered mountain pass.
Inside the SUV, dangling from the mirror, a doll – a plump miniature monk – rocked back and forth, as though praying.
Under the Tree Chapter II
The path twisted up the slope, crested over a rise, then carved its way through a meadow dappled with vibrant, psychedelic yellow and purple wild flowers.
The hiker’s cranium pounded with his pulse. The thump thump in his head was driven by a heart gone mad trying to deliver oxygen to his brain in the thin mountain air. He slowed his pace.
That was when he saw her – sitting cross-legged under a tree, at the far end of the meadow. The sculpted folds of her diaphanous blue dress pooled on the ground. Her hair was pulled back, framing her pale face set off by strikingly intense blue eyes.
For a moment, the hiker imagined he had stumbled upon Alice – in Wonderland.