Copyright © 2022 Norma Rrae.
Luci landed hard. Her head spun. Then she slipped into
She’s in the car. It’s night-time. The lodge sitting in the
headlights is Toad River, and her mother is bringing the suitcases
into their number nine cabin. It sits in a row across from a
ferocious river, high in the Northern Rocky Mountains. Icebergs
crashing downstream create the bass, mixing with the late-night
songbird’s treble to make a northern melody. Tall evergreens,
coloured teal, sage, and emerald, waving glistening snow under
the moon whisper tenor for the north song. Frozen crystals cling to the shifting blades of long grass behind the cabins. Beyond
the field sits a frozen manufactured lake that reflects the glorious
Now she’s walking the circular track with her mother, keeping
pace, step for step. Luci is snapping pictures of suspended air
bubbles beneath the water’s surface. The lake is brimming with
enchanted jewels under the moonlight.
It’s daytime. Luci’s hiking the wooden pathway to the springs
with her mother ahead. There is no railing to prevent them from
stepping off, but there are signs asking people to respect the
foliage. The electric green ferns are steaming, sprouting between
clumps of melting snow.
They arrive at the change room. It’s an open-concept wooden
structure with an archway that acts as a peephole to the beauty
of the natural springs, squared off with walkways and wooden
structures. A winding bridge off to the side sits closed. A warning
of “bear attacks” hangs over stunning hand-carved wooden planks
and overgrown flora.
She changes in the electricity-free, vaulted-ceiling, rough-cut lumber
building, inhaling the woody smell before stepping down
the broad steps into the steamy sulphur pool with her mother.
Evergreens hang over the edges with massive snow piles and
spicy pine cones. Cloistering the water are wooden handrails,
elegant benches, and artificial waterfalls. Luci wades to the superhot
water spilling out from between millions of tiny pebbles.
Natural ice formations cling to every surface, melting winter’s
fortune back into the pool. Geometric patterns are etching into
sheets of ice that cover the tree bark from root to crown.
Her mother bounces from one foot to the other to prevent
her toes from freezing to the icy wooden planks. She mermaid
dives into the pool and swims to where Luci is standing. They’re
Luci is swaying her hands through the water at the warmest spot she can manage. Any closer to the natural hot spring, where
the water boils and spits from between rocks, she would scorch
some skin. Her mother is kicking up the silky bottom into plumes
of dirt that float to the surface of the mulberry-green water.
Now they’re investigating a manufactured wooden waterfall.
It separates the warm pool from the cold pool. Her mother is
sliding like a penguin over the slippery wood. Luci is calling for
her mother to wait. She’s clambering over the waist-high barrier
to avoid dipping her face under water. Her mother is swimming
to the pool’s far end where a fallen tree lays, making a doorway.
Luci doesn’t notice the tree-root-made tunnel until her mother
The sapphire water smooths, wiping away the ripples from
her mother’s kicks. Luci sees her mother’s head pop up far down
the tunnel. There are rows of grottos, darkening into an abyss.
Luci ducks into the first chamber and swats at frosty branches,
grabbing her hair. They scratch her skin in the cool water. The
level is dropping lower.
She hears something distant.
Tree limbs are drawing malevolent silhouettes along the
surface of the shallow water. Branches close into a wall behind
her. The sound again. Vines cling to the roots of ancient trees.
The same roots have grown out of the banks and drape over the
dirt edges into the water. Wave after wave smashes into Luci’s
chest. She sees her mother ahead for an instant, on the other
side of the assaulting trees. Then she sees her mouth open in a
silent scream. Luci tries to reach out for her mother, but the tree
branches push her back.
They pull her under the water and hold her to watch. Darkness
pulls off the banks and enfolds her mother. More shadows
stretch through the waves, driving straight at her mother. Luci is screaming, but the waves swallow the sound and her oxygen. Her
mother is getting pulled away.
Luci woke with a start on a muddy bank. She rubbed the back
of her head. The harness remained tied around her waist but had
snapped off the vine rope, which was left dangling in the air.
The dream left her skin cold from the dried sweat. Correct
that—it was a memory. A memory of a daymare from her last day
in Liard Hot Springs. Where was she now? Halfway between Bear
Lake and Prince George in an alternate dimensional world called
The Otherly. Did the daymares follow her?
Luci furrowed her brow as she glared at the mute blue sky.
The solo cloud had drifted down, so close she could almost reach
up and touch it. She clambered back to her feet, determined the
day at the springs wouldn’t be the last time she saw her mother.
She palmed water from the falls into her mouth. It was
fantastic and bit through the soreness of her throat. Nothing felt
broken, but the adrenaline she’d been running off of after the
car accident was gone. Luci wished for something she could put
water in. Or food.
She looked up the cliff. The doe stared back.
“Grentsth?” She yelled.
No answer. Then Luci remembered why she’d fallen. Why
did Grentsth say her mother’s name was Keres? She hoped it didn’t
mean Grentsth brought her to The Otherly looking for the wrong
woman. There was one way to find out.
The broken-faced woman was gone. Luci peeled herself
off the muddy bank. Her muscles ached, but she managed the
distance to the fawn. He didn’t even lift his head to acknowledge
Luci, if it was a “he.”
“Hey, little guy,” she said.
She crouched to the ground to appear less intimidating. Wild
animals, she knew, could be dangerous, especially injured ones.
His eyes opened with strained effort and followed her movements.
He whined when Luci reached out to him. He sniffed at her hand,
then placed his head in her palm. The fawn even let Luci lift him
without a fight. He stared into her eyes as she carried him to the
base of the waterfall. Tying the fawn snug in the harness, she
hoped the ropes would hold.
Luci looked up and met the doe’s large eyes. She dug her toes
into the mud. Then, like with a pulley system, she yanked down
on the rope so the fawn would travel up. Her knuckles turned
white with the effort. The fawn’s life depended on this single viny
lifeline. And as much as Luci needed to find her mother, this fawn
would die without his.
The task of having the deer move smoothly up was daunting.
As the fawn passed Luci’s face, she thought the baby smiled. More
rope pulled down, and the baby broke through the cloud on its
way to his mother.
With control, Luci pulled no more than a handful of moss
rope at a time. But one rock slid past her face. Then, numerous
rocks cascaded around Luci. She ducked, but the rope slid some
through her palm.
The vines jerked, and she saw the baby deer crash back down
through the cloud. He was going to fall.
READ MORE HERE