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Vintage comic panel.

Ghost Orchid: Anamorph

By Mark Abraham · Sep 18, 2013

Title: Anamorph
Series: Ghost Orchid (Book One)
Author: Jeanie Huff
(Platelet Publishing; 2000; ISBN: 36443423422-1)

“You need to come with me now.”

15-year-old Chrys Anthemum felt the seriousness of Gimmick’s words in her gut. Deep in her gut, like a seeded plant bursting through the earth to find sunlight. It was explosive. It was almost too much, after a much too stressful week: Chrys’s father Buck moving her from New York City to Covington, Kentucky; all her worries about fitting in at Holmes High School; a strange feeling she had surrounded by all of this…foliage. Chrys had always loved gardening—her mother, 5 years dead, had taught her how to grow flowers in rooftop pots, and Chrys had always had a knack for it—and her new home’s large backyard and functioning green house were the two things that had truly excited her about moving to Kentucky. The only things. Because: she was a city girl! Where would she wear her hipster threads in Kentucky? Would anybody else like the Crystal Castles? Could you even get sushi in Kentucky?

At first she had though that it was her clothing that had provoked all the weird looks she had gotten from her new classmates. Sure, they had seemed friendly enough, but the way they looked at her cut right through her! She hadn’t understood what was going on. Was it her La Roux pins? Was it her messenger bag? She had leaned against her locker, deep in thought, when an answer came her way.

“You look just like her. It’s unnerving.”

The way Tym Rosemary, the captain of the school’s football team, had said that had made Chrys wince. The look on his face was absolutely haunted. Who was he talking about? What did he mean? When he walked away from her his friends had given her more weird looks and huddled around him, sympathetic hands on his arms and shoulders, trying to comfort him. She had never felt more alone.

It was only when she turned around that she saw Col “Gimmick” Wormwood staring at her inquisitively. “You don’t look that much like her. I mean, physically, yes, but style-wise? Nah.” She shivered despite herself when he reached out to brush aside her blonde, shoulder length hair, to untie her scarf, and to look at the scar on her neck. “Plus, the scar’s on the wrong side.” She had started to mumble, “what are you talking about?” when he interrupted her: “you need to come with me now.”

Later, they stood outside a church at a makeshift memorial. Surrounded by flowers and votive candles was a picture of a girl named Daisy Hedge that Chrys could barely process: they did look exactly the same! Oh, Gimmick was right: they looked nothing alike—Chrys could never be this polished, luminescent cheerleader in front of her—but the resemblance was uncanny! How could this be? Chrys barely remembered running home, away from Gimmick, to her father, who was just as astonished by her revelation. “I don’t know, honey, I don’t know how that could be.” Chrys didn’t know, either, but she had felt a connection immediately upon seeing Daisy’s picture: in her gut, in her heart, and in a sudden throbbing in the scar on her neck. Chrys’s mother had always told her that scar resembled the roots of a plant: intricate and beautiful. Chrys had only taken to wearing scarves to hide it once her mother had died.

The next day at school, Gimmick approached her. He explained that Daisy had disappeared one morning and had never been found, and that the town had been in mourning for over a year since. “She was special,” came a voice from behind her. It was Tym. “I’m sorry, Chrys. You just look so much like her.” Gimmick smiled. “Maybe Chrys is special too?” Tym looked blankly at Gimmick, and walked away. “Just give him some time,” said Gimmick. Then his eyebrow arched. “Maybe you’ll give me some of your time too?” He winked and walked away. Chrys smiled despite herself.

That night, Chrys had dreams like she had never experienced. She saw Tym and Daisy together; she could feel the strength of their love for one another. As she began to think about how hurt Tym must be, a tear began to roll down her cheek. And then, suddenly, Daisy looked right at her!

“What are you crying for? It’s your fault I’m dead.”

Chrys awoke with a start to a noise outside her window. Somebody was throwing rocks at it. She peered outside and saw Tym! She ran downstairs and opened the door. He looked grim. “I think they might be coming for you.”

“Who?”, she asked.

He turned his head away from her. “I don’t know. I just know Daisy was afraid of somebody. Afraid enough that she ran away. Or…got taken. You look so much like her. Like a mirror image.” He placed his hand on hers. Her breath caught in her throat. Their fingers were suddenly intertwined, like roots. Like vines. “I just thought you should know, okay?” Tym got up to leave, but lingered.

Chrys gathered herself. “I’m sorry I’m making you feel this way, Tym.”

Tym’s face softened. Then he spoke once more. “I’m not sure you should trust Gimmick. I…don’t really know if there’s anything to back that up, but I always got the sense that he was involved in Daisy’s disappearance. I saw them…talking a few times before she left.” His face suggested he had seen them do more than just talk.

Things seemed to get better at school. People were cautious around her, certainly, but friendly. She assumed Tym had told them to lay off. In thanks for that, Chrys was careful around Gimmick, though she saw no particular reason to be. He seemed harmless enough, and she felt herself drawn to him despite Tym’s warning. Plus, Gimmick was always so enthusiastic about the garden she had been working on in her greenhouse. “You should do something with plants for the science fair,” he grinned. So she did.

Her project seemed to be a big hit. One of the judges, Dr. Violet Alder-Black, a botanist from the University of Kentucky, seemed especially interested. She asked Chrys to interview for a summer internship, and invited Chrys into an office where they could talk privately. Chrys was excited, though she was a little unnerved by the woman. She seemed so…serious. Dr. Alder-Black pulled a container out of her bag, and opened it up to reveal a ghost orchid. A dying one. Dr. Alder-Black looked at her, an excited look crossing her face. “I need you to concentrate on life, and touch the orchid.”

“…what?”

“Just do it,” Dr. Alder-Black snapped. Chrys, uncertain, but feeling something well up inside her, did as she was told. She concentrated on life. She concentrated on intertwined roots, and as she did her thoughts kept turning to Daisy, and she could see that her doppelgänger bore a scar on her neck that was the mirror image of Chrys’s own. She felt Daisy’s scar throb, and felt hers throb too, beating together. Light filled her head.

When she woke up, the orchid was fully alive on the table in front of her. Dr. Alder-Black lay prone on the ground, with Tym standing over her. He looked at Chrys. “Are you okay? I didn’t know what to do.”

“…what?”, she stammered.

Tym circled around to face her and held up a bracelet. “She was trying to clasp this around your arm. She kept saying something about how ‘it wouldn’t hurt’ and ‘it would all be over soon.’ She got really angry when I came in. I…saw her talking to Gimmick earlier, so I followed you.” He looked somewhat ashamed.

“Is she…okay?”

“I don’t know. She just collapsed when I grabbed at the bracelet.”

Tym was very close to Chrys now. She could feel his body, excited. She started to reach up to touch his face, but she could feel him jerk when a voice came from behind them. “You must submit, anamorph. You must submit to us for the Lengthening.” Dr. Alder-Black turned to Tym. “And you, you interloper, must die!”

Chrys could feel Dr. Alder-Black surge with power. She saw Daisy flash before her eyes. Barely understanding what she was doing, Chrys pushed past Tym and touched Dr. Alder-Black, who screamed. Chrys felt like her body had become chlorophyll. Dr. Alder-Black shuddered and then began to decay. And then vanished in a spray of dust. The throbbing of Chrys’s scar stopped dead.

Tym stammered, “what did you just do?”

“I dunno, but she was going to kill you.”

Tym helped Chrys clean up, and then drove her home. They agreed to keep events secret, for the time being. Chrys knew she had just destroyed something, but she felt exhilarated as she left Tym’s car. Instead of going to bed, she placed the orchid in her greenhouse and lay down on the bench her father had built her, surrounded by her plants and flowers. She wondered whether she should trust Gimmick. She wondered about the way she felt when she was with Tym. She wondered about Daisy. And then she drifted off to sleep. Chrys dreamed again that night. This time, she saw Daisy sitting in a field of daisies that were growing unexpectedly fast around her. Daisy didn’t look at her, but she did speak.

“That’s one, Chrys. Two to go.”

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