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After a few hours, the young woman was about to stop for lunch, when she noticed something that made her heart stand still. On the ground, a few feet away, she saw the distinct markings of a small footprint. With a furrowed brow, Charlie walked over and bent down to get a closer look. The sole of the shoe had been molded with a flower and a heart.

"This is the sole of a girl's shoe," concluded Charlie, taking a good look around her before returning to the track.

A little further on, Charlie saw where the other foot had come down on the soft ground, giving the teenager a good gauge as to the height and gait of the child.

"What do you think, Daddy?" she muttered under her breath, as if Chuck were standing over her, waiting to test her judgment as he had done in the past. "I think I'm looking at an eight year old girl."

Charlie employed the skills Chuck had taught her, and set about to ascertain whether the child was alone or not. If there were tracks of an adult present, then there was no cause for alarm. Still, it bothered Charlie that the girl wasn't wearing footwear appropriate to the terrain they were in, for the tracks were those of sandals, and not hiking boots. After making a visual marker where the tracks began, Charlie walked a small circumference around the marker, making her circles larger and larger as needed, to determine what direction the girl was going, and the possible presence of any grownups. To her horror, the girl was alone.

"Daddy," Charlie exclaimed in shock, "she's headed for the badlands!"

For a moment, Charlie felt the panic well up inside her. This was obviously a child that had become lost, and in her disorientation, was headed straight into some of the roughest country Charlie and Chuck had ever ventured into.

"Dear God," prayed Charlie, securing the straps of her backpack, "stop her before she goes too far!"

With that, Charlie began to follow the girl's tracks. It wasn't an easy job, for the mountainous region was littered with rocks that left no impression or clue as to which direction the girl had gone in. Whenever this happened, Charlie would set down her backpack near the last footprint, and make a wide circle around the marker, until she could pick up the girl's tracks, further on. This was time consuming, and took a great deal of patience. With every hour, Charlie could feel the girl getting further and further away from her.

By early evening, the teenager was exhausted, for she had forgotten to eat any lunch-- an oversight she knew Chuck would have scolded her for. Charlie knew she needed to preserve her strength, and was glad for an excuse to stop and make camp, for she couldn't follow tracks in the dark. Rest was a luxury that Charlie felt she couldn't make during those precious hours of daylight. After a hasty meal, she crawled into her sleeping bag and promptly fell asleep.

Some time later, Charlie was suddenly awakened by an odd sensation on her face. In a knee-jerk reaction, she jumped up, and brushed her face with both hands.

"Aaaugh!" she cried, as the squirmy object finally let loose of her face.

It was pitch dark, making it impossible for her to see what the thing was. Suddenly, Charlie realized just how dark it was. She could barely see her hand in front of her face. The teenager had fallen asleep under a partially lit sky, only to wake up in a vast, dark room. Charlie had seen this before, but tonight, it was different. She was alone in the wilderness, and surrounded by a darkness that seemed to smother everything. Charlie gathered the sleeping bag up around her ears and closed her eyes.

"I wish you were here, Daddy," she thought to herself. "The darkness never seemed so heavy, when I was with you."

Charlie looked up, trying to find the starry sky that she knew must be there. But, no matter how hard she strained, she couldn't see a single star, or any visible sign of the firmament above.

"Did I camp under trees?" she asked herself, scrambling for a rational reason why there was no sky.

Charlie had been so tired, that she could remember little of her hastily chosen campsite.

"How can you strain your eyes so hard," she wondered to herself, "when there's nothing to see?"
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