Copyright © 2022 Norma Rrae.
Luci scrambled to grab hold of the ropes.
She wrapped the vine around her waist and slammed her body weight down to get the fawn up over the brow of the cliff. The waterfall seemed
to glare at Luci. But she succeeded.
One last twitch of the baby deer’s tail as he disappeared
over the cliff edge. A spray of water sailed from the pool like a
celebration of Luci’s achievement, causing water crystals to dance
in the air.
Luci held the rope tight until she felt the weight disappear
from the opposite end. That’s when she knew the doe had
collected her baby.
She was alone again.
The only way down the valley was a narrow grass strip next to the river. There was no other way to go. But the idea of being close to water made Luci’s stomach roll in sickness, so she popped the last piece of gum in her mouth and focused on each bite. The water flowed, unrelenting, with waves beating along the banks.
Bulky chunks of sand crashed into the river, making her feel less
Luci walked hunched over, weighed down by her thoughts of
her mother. Her sore feet dug toe marks in the dirt as she pushed
forward, and her gum was losing flavour.
She was comfortably warm, but that made her feel more off.
It had been cold on the highway where she lost her mother. Here,
there was no sign of snow. She glanced at the sky. Where was the
sun? She searched the sky but to no avail.
The high ridged mountains forced Luci to stay in the valley.
The boulders on the river banks shrank, making her feel optimistic
she would be away from the water soon. Maybe even find help.
Unfortunately, she hadn’t seen another person yet, which sapped
that faint thought of promise. The mountains shifted to rolling
hills that sat like unbaked dinner buns. The air was fragranced
by exotic flowers, which Luci saw growing in apparently tended
patches. She touched the velvet petals on the purple galaxy spiralled
flowers and yellow spikey buds. There were pink and
green tall grasses that bordered the flowers. A bird swooped in
for nectar and startled Luci. She felt silly for getting spooked by
a sweet little bird. Chipmunks stuffed their cheeks with f lower
buds with their eyes concentrated on her.
Woes distracted by the fairy tale landscape, she thought. At least
here, the daymares didn’t seem to reach her.
It was all too perfect, an unnervingly serene landscape with
no electricity poles, houses, or roads. There wasn’t a sign of other
people anywhere. Of course, her mother would love it, but that
was a reminder of how miserably alone she was.
Luci’s footsteps were the sole marks of man in the valley, so when she found a game trail, she felt a thrill of hope. Her tense shoulders relaxed.
The ground shifted to a downhill slope. The raging water broke apart the river banks in front of Luci’s eyes. Spray flew as pieces of rock crashed into each other, ripping chunks out of the bank. Ahead, the river poured into an enormous lake. A shudder of realization made her gasp: she had to cross the river here. There was no way to follow this moving water unless she were in it, but swimming meant drowning for Luci.
A fallen tree lay randomly across the river. There was no
Luci crouched in front of the tree that created the bridge. She
wasn’t sure about this idea. She had rappelled down a cliff with no
problem. But tiptoeing across a river on a half-rotten tree? That’s
a whole different picture, and one she didn’t want to develop.
She tested the stability of the tree bridge by chucking large rocks
at the centre. The log didn’t budge from the attack, which was a
good sign. But secretly, she hoped the tree would crash into the
water, forcing her to find a different way to cross. Yet, here she
was. She had to cross. Luci pushed on the dirty roots trampled
into a perfect foundation, inviting her first step. The crown sat
on the opposite bank, waving branches full of leaves like a hand.
The river raged and spat debris at the log bridge.
Luci tied her hair in a curly knot behind her one ear, told
her stomach to stay still, and took her first step on the log. She
felt dizzy and nearly fell straight away. Luci jumped back to solid
ground and took an extra moment to collect herself. Then she
decided she needed something to help her balance. Driftwood!
The one thing she was good at finding. Luci looked around and
spotted a sizeable petrified stick with a smooth top that fit nicely
in her hand.
She stabbed the stick straight into the water, which increased
her confidence. But she still hesitated before her first step up.
Luci looked again for an alternate route. There wasn’t any.
Over the river was the way to find her mother.
She took the first step over the water onto the fallen tree.
She puffed up her chest and pretended to be brave. “For Mom,”
Luci’s heart didn’t slam in her chest this time. Instead, it
stopped. Her knees shook, trying to prevent her from taking
another step. Animal traffic had beaten the bark on the tree down
to a smooth flat top. That made it slippery. She wiggled the stick
deep in the river to ensure she was steady.
She watched each foot placement, almost burning a hole
through the bridge with her stare. One step, then another. Slow.
Luci looked up to the opposite bank. The end stretched far away.
“Oh, my wilds,” she muttered.
The tree bridge moaned with each step, and the river smacked
beneath the tree. Even Luci’s breathing was scaring her. Luci
demanded that her legs remain slow and steady even though they
vibrated with nerves, wanting to run.
She was making progress.
A small bump against her balance stick made Luci wobble.
Then another. She risked a glance down to see hundreds of tiny
fish swim past.
“Really?” she grumbled. She lifted the stick and plunged it
back in for her next step.
A large fish jumped out of the water and slammed his grotesque
head into the bridge. It looked like he had a sword attached to his
head. However, these weren’t fish but small sharks with jagged
teeth, snapping out of the water. The petite shark shook his head
as if dazed, then dived under the tree and swam away. Luci tried
to ignore the realization that the snapping predators grew larger
with each step she took towards the bridge’s centre. Eyes glared
at her below the surface. Spiteful jaws scraped the underside of
the log. Luci yelled at the sharks and used the stick to swat them.
Her breath caught in her throat when she recognized them as
125-million-year-old goblin sharks. Of course, Luci groaned. But
she didn’t want to be chum. She calmed her nerves by counting
Past the centre, close now. The assaulting sharks had heads
so large they stuck out of the water. Their flesh was a pinkish
purple and wrinkled, and there was a snout beneath the swordlike
formation on their heads. Most piled upstream against the
tree with mouths gaping out of the water. The ones that did make
it under created an awful scraping sound with their teeth on the
Suddenly, the sound of water sucked into a tornado caught
Luci’s attention. Her head snapped up, looking farther up the
river. The sight was from a nightmare. A monstrous goblin shark
displaced half the river and all the smaller sharks. They f lapped
helplessly on the banks, gasping for oxygen.
The raging water shot rocks into the air. Bloodstained teeth
snapped as the shark swam straight for the bridge.
Luci was almost to the other side.
The shark was destroying the river on his approach, with
crashes and bangs to the side of her.
Her toes touched the tree’s crown. It was the end of the
Then the shark hit the tree.
The tree buckled, knocking Luci’s legs out from under her.
Her back struck the bridge when she fell.
The force of the river whipped the balancing stick out of her
hand. Luci grasped for something, anything, to save her. The
bridge shifted under her. The plunge into the cold river cut off
Luci gasped, and water rushed into her mouth. She breathed
in water and choked on it. Her eyes stung. It’s a daymare, she
hoped. But with lungs burning from the lack of oxygen, she
knew it wasn’t a daymare. A massive wave pushed her up for a
split second, where she gained half a mouth of oxygen before
Luci pushed water down with her arms. She tried to climb the
ladder of life to get above the surface, but more waves appeared.
Finally, the water swirled and slammed her into boulders.
The water stank of decaying fish and tasted of her failure.
A light broke through the water. Luci’s arms felt like jelly.
Something bright swam towards her in the river. She reached out
to grab hold, but the undercurrent denied her the luxury.
The bioluminescent object charged at Luci. Her throat felt
tight, but every breath rushed water into her lungs. The light
flickered between the strong waves that swept her downstream.
The current granted Luci a quick breath above, then dragged her
away from sanctuary again. Suddenly, a dazzling burst of light
announced the arrival of the object.
A dragonfly. Underwater? His wings were flapping in a
separated sequence. He stopped two inches from her nose, pushing
the water away, creating an air bubble.
Luci gasped in a mouthful of fresh air. She felt something like
a bead slide down her throat, and she was breathing underwater.
Her eyes locked on the submerged dragonfly. Enchanted by his
unnatural size and location, Luci didn’t notice the hand crashing
through the water’s surface.
A firm grip yanked her out of death’s grasp. She collapsed to
the grass with a hard thud.
Luci gasped, which hurt. She coughed and vomited, which
also hurt. It was pain and relief that made her laugh and cry.
A hand touched her shoulder, melting away the burning pain
stuck in her lungs. Air moved smoother in her chest, and she could
breathe normally again.
Luci rolled over to thank her saviour but screamed instead.
An Easter Island statue stood over her. His face was so close
that she could smell a sickening honey scent on his breath. He
blinked, and she scrambled away, sliding around in the wet grass.
Red lips spread into a wide grin, exposing square teeth the
size of Tic Tac boxes. “Are you alive?” His words on each syllable
were hard, like slamming cupboard doors.
His black eye sockets camouflaged his black pupils and irises.
A ferret was curled in a ball on his triangular head with its eyes
closed. Black hair covered his unnaturally long arms and his giant
hands hung on the ground from his three-foot stature.
She pushed herself to sit upright and struggled with each word
through a strained throat. “Yes, I mean, I think so.”
The sleeping ferret wrinkled his flat caramel nose and
growled. Or was it a chirp? Either way, it was an angry warning.
Luci tried to climb to her feet but slipped and fell on her back.
The man moved to help her up. She waved him away. “No, no,
Luci’s words caused the ferret to jerk awake. The ferret stood,
frowned, then rewound his little body and resumed sleeping.
“Are you sure you’re alright?” the man asked.
“No, actually, I’m not sure.”
His watermelon-sized palms covered his ears, the size of
peanuts, on either side of his head, then he yelled, “Can you
ask questions quieter? Don’t you know my ears are painfully
Luci frowned, “You’re the one yelling questions.”
Luci stood on wobbly legs. His behaviour reminded her of
copycat, a game Lane would play. “I’m too tired for games.”
She wiped the Rebel with her shirt bottom, but the cotton
was just as dirty as the camera. She sighed. The man took a
step forward, put his face in her personal space, breathed on her
camera, and then wiped the lens with his shirt sleeve, which was
also wet with muddy water from saving Luci. Then he turned his
face up and grinned with large square teeth.
Luci took a step back. “Thank you for saving me, but please,
can you give me some elbow room? Back up a step or two?” she
“Do you want one or two?”
Luci furrowed her brow, “One or two what?”
He didn’t move. “How many steps?”
She grumbled, “Two, at least.”
He grimaced and covered his ears again. “Do you remember
that time I told you my ears are sensitive?”
“Are you OK? You know, up here?” she tapped the side of
The man backed up a few steps. He tapped the side of his
head. Then turned his head and pointed to his tiny ear. “Do you
see how small these are?”
Luci chuckled. She considered him. He did save her and didn’t
appear threatening. Also, he didn’t fly like Grentsth. That was
The ferret snored.
“Are you tired?”
“Yes, very. I’ve been through a lot,” Luci said.
“Will you let me help you?” he asked.
“OK,” she said hesitantly.
The man held his hand out, and she placed hers in his. His
grip wasn’t rough like Grentsth’s had been. It was delicately
strong. Warmth seeped into her hand, up her arm and rejuvenated
her tired muscles.
Her weakness melted away like the smoothest sands on the
edge of a river. Luci’s fear dissipated as well.
She glared at the river where the massive goblin shark drew
silver lines in the water. The destroyed tree bridge sat in the river
like a sad troll.
“Do you want some tea?” he asked.
“No, thank you. I feel much better and must be going.”
She walked past the man towards the hills in the distance.
“Where are you going?” he asked.
“I have to find the yellow fields—”
“Yellow? Do you mean like canola?” he asked.
Luci stopped and looked back, “Yes, it could be canola.
There’s a man there that knows where my mother went.”
“Which mother?” he asked.
“Do I grow canola?”
Luci decided she must have misheard his question, and this
new one sounded like an answer. But she was also getting irritated
with the veiled information. “I don’t know, do you grow canola?”
“Do I?” he nodded.
That was enough. Luci said, “Look, I don’t know who you
are or why you keep answering my questions with questions, but
I need to find my mom and get out of here.”
Luci turned to the hills and walked towards them. Footsteps
behind her told her the man followed. She glanced back.
The man stared at her with his black eyes. Then the black
Luci assumed was soot began to spin. The colour drained around
his eye sockets like water down a tub. She nearly tripped. His eye
sockets settled to a royal blue that sparkled with aqua crystals. Luci
gasped. “What are you?”
“Have you heard of Memegwaan?”
“No, a what?” Luci asked.
“Who is Zavian?”
“What is Memegwaan?” he asked, then added, “Who is
He grinned, and his eyes paled to a yellow. “Did I stutter?”
“Wow, OK, you don’t need to be rude. Memegwaan—”
He cut her off. “Who is Zavian?”
“Right, Zavian is your name. Got it. But look, you’re the one
following me. You can just turn around and go another way. I’ll
find the man with the canola fields alone,” Luci said and turned
back to the hills.
“Is that allowed, Miss Luci?”
She spun around, “How do you know my name?” she asked.
“Doesn’t everyone in The Otherly know your name?”
“But why?” she asked.
Zavian shrugged. His eyes shifted yellow. Then he mimicked
her tone. “Why not?”
“This is like everyone except me knows the punchline to the
joke that is me.” Luci sighed.
“Are you funny? Do you know a joke?” he asked.
Luci shook her head and moaned. “Can you only speak in
questions or something?”
“Is that what I’m doing?”
Zavian’s eyes blended back to black.
Luci rolled her eyes. “This is worse than dealing with Lane.”
“Who is Lane?” he asked.
“My kid brother.”
Zavian patted his chest. “Can I have a kid brother?”
“Look, I need help. But asking me questions is not helpful.
I was in a car accident, and now my mother is missing. Grentsth
brought me here saying my mother is in The Otherly, but then
she said something else,” Luci broke off. She remembered the name Keres. She didn’t understand why that name and her mother
ended up in the same sentence.
“What did Grentsth say?” Zavian asked.
“She said my mother’s here.”
“Why do you keep saying that?” Luci asked.
“Don’t you have two moms?” he asked.
“No. My mother’s name is Ruth. She has shoulder-length
blonde hair, glasses, and is shorter than me.”
Zavian sped up to walk next to Luci. “Are you here looking
for your mom?”
Luci glanced sideways at him, trying to decide if he was
messing with her. “Yes, my mother, Ruth,” she said.
He fell back in stride behind Luci. “Do I know Ruth?” he
“She’s lost, and I need to find her.”
“How do you find what’s lost?” Zavian asked.
Luci’s mouth went dry. They crested the hill, and she felt
relief when she saw a yellow field in the distance. Zavian stayed
two steps behind her. He moved like an elk steps in a forest. Luci’s
feet made enough noise to scare all the wildlife away. The yellow
field was in sight.
“Why do you only speak in questions,” she asked after some
time of silence.
“How do I know?”
“You should just try to make a statement. Be sure of what
you’re saying and state it. That would fix it.” Luci said.
“Does fixing a quirk change the person?”
Luci crunched her nose. Zavian was a smart man for one that
couldn’t even put a statement together.
“I suppose it does. I wanted to say thank you. For, you know,
saving me at the river,” Luci said.
“Why would I leave you to be eaten by Deryn’s shark?”
Zavian asked. His eyes faded to royal blue once more.
“Who’s Deryn?” Luci asked, then her jaw dropped. “Wait,
did you mean you stood there long enough to recognize the shark
before you jumped in to save me? I almost died!”
“Did you die, though?” Zavian asked, his eyes spinning
“You could have helped sooner if you saw that shark coming.”
Blue eyes again. “Wouldn’t I drown in water?”
“Wouldn’t I?” Luci snapped. She felt sick. Her mother was
missing. And some “Deryn” tried to feed her to a goblin shark?
Luci slumped over. She badly wanted to sit down and pout.
Exhaustion mixed with nerves was overwhelming.
Zavian grabbed Luci’s hand, and she felt the same electric
energy rush through her arm. Her sadness and worry eased. She
pulled her hand away.
“Please don’t touch me. I don’t even know you.”
Zavian’s eyes sunk to black. “Don’t you?” he asked.
“No, I just met you. This whole place is new to me.” Luci
“Is it new? Didn’t Keres—”
Luci threw her hands in the air, exasperated. “There’s that
name again,” she said.
“Didn’t Keres send me to keep you safe?” Zavian asked.
“You didn’t do very well. A shark almost snapped me in half!”
Zavian sped up his march and passed her. Then he bent,
plucking mushrooms from between burned grasses. “Are these
morels? Don’t they grow after a fire? Did you ever know such
wonder produced after the near-death of a forest?”
Zavian stuffed the brain-shaped mushrooms into his pocket.
“Is your situation the aftermath of a calamity? What beauty will
Luci thought of the car accident. This other world. The
Otherly. “I suppose. But why did Keres send you to protect me?”
“Why did Keres send me to protect you?” Zavian retorted.
She replied curtly, “I’ve had a hard day.” She crossed her arms
but cringed at the shot of pain from her skinned elbows. She
looked at the torn sleeves. They were blood-soaked and now had
clumps of mud hanging from the cloth.
“Do you want my clothing?” he asked.
“Well, if I ever heard an awkward question before, it would
be that,” Luci replied.
Zavian ran ahead and crouched to the ground.
“Where do you live?” she asked.
He wasn’t paying attention. Instead, he put his hand on the
ground. As Luci approached his side, his other arm shot out and
crossed her body. She looked to where his hand sat planted in the
mud next to a muddy dog print. Deep claw marks warned of sharp
claws. “Not dog, wolf,” Luci corrected herself aloud.
“A wolf?” Zavian said, his eyes royal blue. “Are there wolves
“Looks like it,” Luci said.
Zavian’s eyes snapped to neon pink. “Can we go now?” he
Luci’s fingers explored the deep ridges in the paw print.
She recalled her father’s stories of blasting at Site C and
finding large wolf prints near their camp. He’d said the size of
the footprint estimated the animal’s weight. This wolf would be
possibly 200, maybe even 250 pounds. Luci cringed. “Yes, we
should keep moving.”
“Are wolves allowed in The Otherly?” Zavian asked.
“Wolves go where they please.”
“Will it come back?” he asked.
A squirrel chittered. Zavian’s eyes returned to black. Then
he turned to face the critter. Luci watched the two stare at each other. Then the man nodded. Great, he’s crazy. Maybe it wasn’t
such a good idea to allow him to follow.
She started walking again, faster this time. Zavian kept pace,
two steps behind, down the hill and through the yellow field
until she arrived in front of a cabin. Zavian was right behind her.
Two lumber pillars held up the awning over three wide stairs
that led to a vine-weaved door. They looked like the same vines
from the waterfall.
Luci wearily looked around. She expected the cabin’s owner to
appear and chase her away. With no sign of any angry huntsman,
she stepped on the first stair. The vines peeled away from each
other, uncreating the door, leaving her to see into the empty
cabin. She jumped back from the vine’s voluntary movement.
“Are those snakes?” she exclaimed.
“Is that what you call Cattywampus vines on Earth?”
“Um, no,” Luci said to the man behind her. Then she stepped
onto the second stair and called into the cabin, “Hello?”
“Hello?” Zavian repeated from behind her. Then he walked
past her up the steps, and the vines high-fived him.
Luci smirked, “You live here, don’t you? So, you’re the man
Grentsth told me to find.”
Zavian looked back at Luci, “Is it mother Ruth or Keres
you’re asking about?”
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