The beauty of the mountains was unrivaled in the glow of the morning sun, perhaps because the scene before her didn’t exist.
That isn’t exactly true, Susannah thought to herself. Because it did exist. The mountains were right there in front of her. She could feel the warmth of the sun on her skin and breathe in the fresh, pine-scented air through her nose. She could reach out and touch the trees and the cool clear water of the large, slow-moving river that wound its way through the mountain valley. And yet none of it seemed real.
Am I dreaming?
Because that was what it felt like. The colors seemed more vibrant and saturated, as if she could pick up every detail of the world around her in a way she’d never been able to before.
One moment she’d been wandering along a road by a grassy field in northern Minnesota. The next a blinding flash of silver light had filled her world and she’d found herself on a mysterious forested path. Behind her, she somehow knew, was the world she’d just left behind. Ahead, through a gateway filled with silver light, she couldn’t even begin to imagine.
Never sure what possessed her to venture forth, Susannah had gone through the gateway of light and ended up here, in these strange mountains.
A soft but strong voice suddenly rang out from behind her. “I thought I sensed something.”
Susannah jumped at the sound and whirled around. A woman, who was somewhat tall and had long, flowing golden hair, stood behind her near the base of some trees. But her face was the most striking. She was remarkably beautiful, with red lips and clear skin. And her crystal blue eyes held both a great joy and a great sorrow, as if she had seen into the core of reality itself.
“W—Who are you?” Susannah gasped, unable to think of anything better to say. “Where am I?”
“You’re in the Dream-Like State, a small pocket universe within our main one. My name is Maria.”