Copyright © 2022 Norma Rrae.
Luci stepped onto the third wooden stair. The vines reached
out like a welcoming hug. She swatted them away, unnerved
by Zavian’s remark.
“Why’d you say Keres is my mother? My mom’s name is
Ruth,” Luci said.
“Is that what you think?”
Luci shook her head. She was done with games. “Where’s my
mother, Zavian?” she asked.
“Don’t I wish I had the answer?”
She hesitated at the door. “You don’t know?”
“Don’t I know?” he asked.
Why did Grentsth direct her to Zavian? Luci felt misled. She entered the cabin behind Zavian in the hope of getting more information.
Vines pulled from all corners of the house and set the table
for a feast.
“These vines, they’re alive?” she redirected.
One vine formed a hand and held it out to Luci. She accepted
the greeting with nature’s child.
“Isn’t everything alive?” Zavian asked.
The vines pulled a wooden chair out and waved for her to
sit. “I suppose. But common shrubs aren’t this helpful,” Luci said.
Zavian turned and moved towards the kitchen. “Would they
be accommodating if you were evil?”
Luci admired the glass sheet balanced on a tree-root ball that
made a table. She could see each twist of the roots beneath the
table. Around the cabin were open archways that exposed four
rooms: a bedroom, a bathroom, a room with a silver pot that held
hundreds of vines, plus the kitchen where Zavian busied himself.
Green stocky vines spewed from the corner of every room up
to the roof, then out into The Otherly. The last room was the
strangest, with a staircase that led to nowhere.
A wall concealed by vines and leaves piqued Luci’s curiosity.
She noticed a bunch of rock-creature formations that sat in piles
on the floor. Great, I’m relying on someone who builds friends from
rocks. Another notch for crazy, and now lonely too.
A chandelier made of silver dandelion with hundreds of
miniature candles lit up spontaneously and swung above her
head. Luci stood and reached out to touch the chandelier. A vine
curled around her wrist and waved a finger at her, a warning.
Something crashed in the kitchen. Luci tipped back on the
chair to see Zavian bustle around the kitchen. He accidentally
knocked a jar off a shelf, which bounced then smashed on the
compact dirt ground. The vines produced a dustpan and swept
the broken glass and bits of dried meat from the broken jar off the
floor. Zavian turned and caught her gaze. He held up a second
jar. “You want some tea, Miss Luci?” he asked.
“Can you tell me now how you know my name?” Luci
“Would I be able to keep you safe if I wasn’t told your name?”
“I get that, but who told my name? Who knew I was coming?”
“Wasn’t I told by your mother?”
Luci jumped, banging her knees on the table. “You do know
where my mom is!”
Vines slithered down from the chandelier to recentre the glass
“Doesn’t everyone?” he asked.
“Zavian, what is that supposed to mean?” Luci asked.
“What does anything mean?”
“Where’s my mother?” Luci demanded.
“Isn’t Keres the Keeper of Equilibrium? Doesn’t that mean
she’s in Equilibrium?”
“Keres! There’s that name again!”
Zavian appeared in the dining room with two steaming mugs.
“Are you angry? Isn’t your tea ready? Will tea soothe your rage?”
He pushed a mug to Luci. Then he took a massive gulp of his
hot tea without flinching. Luci saw tiny wisps of steam dance into
the air, holding shapes of stars, hearts, and moons, then dissipate.
“I just want to find my mother,” Luci said.
“Do you want me to show you how to get to Keres?” Zavian
“No!” Luci pushed the mug away. “I want to find my mother,
Ruth, and get out of here,” she said.
Zavian downed his tea in one gulp. The steam poured from
his nose. “What makes you think Ruth is your mother?” he asked.
“She raised me. Of course, she’s my mother.”
“Do women of Earth always birth and raise their children?”
The ground seemed to become quicksand, and she felt like she
was sinking. Nothing made sense. She silently asked the wilds to
assure her this was all a daymare.
“You’re telling me I was adopted?”
“Do I know this word?” he asked.
His eyes dimmed to a bright mossy green. His emotions
reflected in the colourful orbits as Luci’s feelings pulsed painfully
behind her eyes. As the only redhead in a family of blondes, she
had always felt like the sapling outside the forest. She supposed it
made sense. But she also didn’t want to believe it.
“Did you not know? Isn’t Keres trying to protect you?”
She snapped, “I almost died. How is Keres protecting me?”
“Wasn’t that Deryn’s shark?” Zavian shrugged. “How was
He pushed Luci’s mug closer. “Won’t you try your tea?”
Luci lashed out at the mug. “I don’t want tea. I don’t even
want to be here!”
The cup spun, causing the tea to spill onto the glass table.
The calamity echoed in the cabin for much longer than it should
have. Zavian’s eyes snapped royal blue, and he sunk back in his
chair. The ferret’s head popped up, twitching his nose. He jumped
onto the table, where he lapped up the spilt tea and swayed his
tail in the air.
Luci bowed her head. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do that. I
just want to find my mother, my Ruth, and get back to normal
“Didn’t your life become abnormal when you came to The
Otherly?” he asked.
His eyes faded to steady black.
“I suppose, but this is a lot of information. How do I even
know any of this is true? My mom never mentioned adoption. So,
I could only have one mother. My Ruth,” Luci argued.
“Aren’t two mothers better than one?” Zavian asked.
Luci considered his comment, but her thought was of all the
mean stepmothers from Disney movies she’d watched as a child.
“Not always,” she said.
She pulled the mug over as her apology. The ferret retreated
to his place on the man’s head to sleep.
Luci bent over the mug. The tea smelled of honey and lavender.
She took a sip that burned her tongue. But it also brought a wave
Zavian wasn’t to blame. The car accident wasn’t his fault, and
neither was her mother wandering off. Wilds knew he didn’t even
have anything to do with her adoption. If Keres was her birth
mother, why had Luci not heard about this until now? Why hadn’t
Keres tried to come to see her before?
Zavian pulled out a blue tin. When he opened it, Luci smelled
black liquorice. He proceeded to roll a cigarette.
“Don’t you know those are bad for your health?” Luci asked.
Luci grabbed the tin from Zavian. “Yes. Smoking causes
cancer and other terrible diseases.”
She emptied the contents. Zavian’s eyes dulled to grey. Luci
dropped her eyes. “I’m sorry, I don’t know why I did that,” she
“What do I have now?” he asked.
Luci pulled a Kleenex from her pocket, which disintegrated
in her palm. “I have nothing as well. My camera and some trivial
pocket objects. But they’re soaked and ruined now. I’ve lost my
shoes, my mother, my whole world, it seems. I don’t know what
health rules are in The Otherly. Maybe you can’t get sick. But
that tobacco, you don’t need.”
“Why should I trust you about this?” he asked.
“I had to trust you pretty quick,” Luci said.
Zavian sulked as he got off his chair and walked to the
kitchen. Luci watched as he took jars of fruits and vegetables off
His voice carried from the kitchen. “Do you want food?”
“Wouldn’t a snack distract you?” Zavian asked.
Luci sighed. She watched from the table. The vines helped
Zavian as he worked, but they also formed bunny ears behind
his head and moved plates when he tried to reach for them. Luci
Zavian poked his head out. “What’s funny?” he asked. The
vines flapped for her not to say.
She waved him away, smirking. Another sip of tea warmed
her insides, making her feel comfortable for the first time in
hours. Or was it days? She frowned, not sure how long it had
been. The accident felt long ago already.
Zavian reappeared with a plate full of sliced fruit and charred
vegetables. Luci popped a pale-yellow carrot in her mouth that
burst with flavour. She ate two more before moving on to the
charred bok choy.
“Do you want clean clothes?” Zavian asked.
Luci nodded with her mouth full of lemony vegetable juices.
She felt full of energy, and figured clean clothing would make
her feel that much better.
Zavian disappeared through the archway of the room with the
vine pot. One step in, and the vines weaved closed behind him.
He emerged a few minutes later with an armful of clothing. He
handed the pile to the gaping girl.
Luci blinked at him. She wanted to ask so many questions
about how the magic of this world worked. But, instead, something
inside insisted she trust how it worked. It was magic, after all.
She walked to the bathroom and stepped through the
doorway backwards to watch the magic of the vines weave the
door closed. She turned to face the bathroom. An oval mirror met
her dishevelled appearance. She looked like wolves had raised her,
with curls twisted around sticks and clumps of mud dangling on
the ends. She glanced at the shower and considered the luxury
to wash away the evidence of nearly drowning, cliff scaling, and
highway scrambling. But when she looked at the dried blood over
her temple, she felt it was the last thing that proved this wasn’t a
dream. Or a daymare. Her mother was indeed missing, and Luci
needed to continue.
Luci lifted the camera off her neck and tried the power.
She pined deeply to see a photo of her mother right now. Tears
welled in her eyes when the camera did nothing. She set it down,
She stripped her dirty, tattered clothing and tossed them in
the hamper. She pulled on the clothes Zavian had supplied, which
freakishly fit. The outfit was a black shirt, blue capris, black
flats, and a baby pink knit hat. She wondered if Zavian shopped
at Ardene as she dropped the baby-pink hat on the side of the
bathtub next to her broken camera. A side glance in the mirror
made her change her mind. She pulled the toque on and stuffed
her hair inside to hide it.
Curiosity about a woman with the same fiery red hair made
her feel guilty and want to hide the hair more. She locked the
thoughts of Keres in a box in her head and left the bathroom.
Keres could have found Luci if she cared to.
Luci stopped at the kitchen doorway. “Zavian?”
He pushed a large pan of food into a clay oven. “Yes, Miss
“Do you know where my mother, Ruth, is?”
She’d asked the question already, she knew this, but the
answer seemed to be just out of reach. But, on the other hand, she was sure the information was in Zavian’s mind somewhere,
buried under questions and uncertainties.
“Don’t I know everyone in The Otherly?” he asked.
“Is my Ruth here?” Luci asked.
“What did Grentsth say?”
“She said you knew where my mom was,” Luci said.
“Don’t I know where Keres is?” Zavian asked.
Luci breathed through her frustration. “I’m not asking about
Keres. I’m looking for my Ruth.”
“Did she get summoned to The Otherly?” he asked.
Luci considered the question. “I don’t know. Maybe?”
“Isn’t that the only way to enter?”
Luci’s chest felt tight. “Are you saying someone brought her
here on purpose?”
“Who would do that?” Zavian asked.
Then the realization. “Who wanted me here the most?” Luci
“Do you mean Keres?” he asked.
“I’m afraid I might.”
“But how could she from Equilibrium?”
“How do I get my mother and get out of here?” Luci asked.
“Didn’t Grentsth tell you about the trials?”
“Yes. But I’m asking about my mother, Ruth, right now.”
“Do I know something about your Ruth?”
“That’s what I’m trying to figure out,” Luci said. She rubbed
her temples. “Maybe this is all just a drawn-out daymare.”
“Do the daymares muddy your clothing and make your
stomach growl?” he asked.
She touched her temple. Maybe she wanted this to be a
daymare. Luci sighed. She ate a sugared strawberry which burst
with delicious juices, creating a perfect distraction.
Zavian held three plums out for her. “Won’t everything make
sense in its own time?”
“I hope so, but I’d rather know right now,” Luci said.
Zavian left the kitchen, went to the room with the pot and
vines, and retrieved a purple knit sweater. He said, “On Earth,
do you get all your combined knowledge at once?” and held the
pullover out for her.
“No, but I’m scared my mother is hurt. I ask for information,
and I keep hearing half stories,” Luci said. She finished her tea.
It had cooled to the perfect temperature and calmed the quaver
in her voice.
“Can I tell you anything to ease your woes?” Zavian asked
“Tell me that my mother is safe. Tell me I’m stuck in a
daymare,” Luci said.
“What if you are?”
“Then, well, it means I’ve gone off the deep end,” Luci said.
She thought of all the times Dr Premiate had speculated that
the cause of the daymares was trauma. Luci recalled no such
trauma. Now she wondered if being born in a place like The
Otherly, with strange creatures around, and ripped from her
biological mother would settle the issue.
“Didn’t you say you can’t swim?” Zavian asked.
Luci snapped the purple sweater out of his hand. “It’s an
expression.” She rolled her eyes. “You know, like insane. Mentally
losing grip with reality.”
“Isn’t that just a different way to live? Does everyone
experience life the same?” Zavian asked.
“I guess not.”
“What if these daymares are sightings into The Otherly?
Wouldn’t your true home want to call to you?” Zavian asked.
Luci walked to the cabin door. Her mind spun relentlessly.
“How is this place my home when my family lives 700 miles
away? Maybe I’m not the girl everyone is waiting for?” Luci said.
“Maybe you all have me mistaken for Keres’s daughter when
I’m not. Which is all the more reason I need to find my mother, Ruth, and if you don’t know where she is, I need to go and keep
Nausea bubbled in her stomach at the thought that she’d
potentially travelled far away from where her mother wandered
lost on Highway 97. The idea that she was looking in the wrong
direction and the wrong universe was sickness in Luci’s throat.
Zavian shook his head. His eyes spun to pink. “Do you think
we are all wrong?”
Yes, but Luci didn’t want to say that out loud. Instead, a
strange feeling unravelled in her chest. A rope, tightly wrapped,
that restrained something she’d sensed for a long time now. Like
the truth behind the daymares was tied up in there somewhere
with the strands of her real life.
“If I am this girl, why was everyone waiting for my return?”
“Doesn’t what is made in The Otherly belong here? Doesn’t
the missing limb always give ghost pain?” Zavian asked.
Did she belong here? She wasn’t sure she wanted to know the
answer. “Where’s Equilibrium?” she asked.
“Don’t you know it’s in the sky?” Zavian asked.
Luci threw her hands up, exasperated. “Keres is in the sky! Of
course, she is. This is all too much for me.”
She reached for the doorknob, which was missing.
“I want to go,” she said. The vines didn’t move.
“Where do you want to go?” Zavian asked.
“Into the sky. To find out if Keres took my mother.”
“Can you walk into the sky?” he asked.
Luci hung her head and said, “I need to get out of here. I need
air. Open the door, please.”
The vines opened the door, but Luci didn’t move. Her chest
felt tight. That rope pulled, knotted, and held her in place.
The sky was uneventful—no visible signs of someone sitting
up there watching. Still, Luci had yet to see the sun. A wall of trees cloistered the fields in front of Zavian’s home on two sides,
with hills on the third and raspberry bushes, towering like a
drive-in movie screen, on the fourth side of his property.
Zavian spoke behind Luci. “Maybe Efra knows where your
“If I find her, can I leave?” Luci asked.
“Will the gate open without three trials completed?”
Luci had her answer. She had to do these trials, find her
mother, and get out. Keres would fit in that mix, or not.
Zavian placed his hand on her elbow. This time, Luci didn’t
pull away. Instead, his touch seeped reassuring warmth into her
“Do you have a healing touch or something?” Luci asked.
“Don’t humans have a healing touch too?”
“I suppose with love,” Luci said.
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