Vintage comic panel.

Ghost Orchid: Gimmickry

By Mark Abraham · Oct 16, 2013

Title: Gimmickry
Series: Ghost Orchid (Book Two)
Author: Jeanie Huff
(Platelet Publishing; 2001; ISBN: 36443423422-2)

“Are you…well?”

Chrys Anthemum was now 16, now dating quarterback and ultra-handsome Tym, now popular, and now having the best year of her life, for serious. She felt so great that she was sure her smile told Gimmick everything he needed to know, even though she tried to merely give a simple “yes” to his question; she really wasn’t trying to rub it in. She was so happy, she thought, that Dr. Alder-Black and the whole “the Lengthening” thing seemed like a distant memory. Except for the fact that her garden had grown so well since she planted Alder-Black’s ghost orchid, she could almost pretend that hadn’t even been her life. Except it was, because since planting the orchid Chrys was starting to feel things in nature that she hadn’t been able to feel before. She could, now, grow literally anything in the climate of Kentucky. She could hum and plants seemed to bloom at the sound of her voice. She could literally take plants through several cycles just by thinking about it. Her powers were such that she had even gained control over Daisy, which was great because Daisy seemed to think that Chrys was stealing her life, and possibly making the same mistakes that she herself had made. Chrys was too busy being happy to listen to that kind of negativity, so she had locked Daisy away in her brain. It kind of felt like a piece of gum wedged in behind your molar.

So everything was just perfect, except Gimmick, who was still friendly but had never really accepted her relationship with Tym, and she had to admit that she still felt vaguely suspicious about Gimmick’s whereabouts the night she and Tym had been attacked. Their strained relationship was not helped by the fact that Gimmick’s mother Ianthe was now dating Chrys’s father Buck. Chrys hadn’t seen Buck so happy in years, for which she was grateful—though if she was being honest with herself she wasn’t a huge fan of Ianthe, who was nice but could be cool and measured in a way that Chrys didn’t jive with—but that also meant that an unhappy Gimmick was around a lot. Sulking. Taking potshots at Tym. Complaining about the friendzone. Ugh.

“I need to tell you something.”

He said that one night, concern in his eyes, but then by the next morning he had disappeared. His mother had jovially noted Gimmick was simply and unexpectedly visiting his father, so Chrys forgot about it. She turned her thoughts to gardening and school and her happy little normal life. She had even started a botany club! They were entering a state-wide competition. And Tym was leading the football team to state too! Lexington, here we come, right?

It was then that she started receiving the notes. “Don’t trust Tym.” “Find Gimmick. He can tell you.” “Keep quiet, Daisy.” “Prepare for the Lengthening.” She found the notes in her locker, in her greenhouse, and once folded under her bill at the Covington Main Street Diner. The server had known nothing about it, and the notes were typed on yellow card stock; she had no idea who they came from. As Lexington neared, Chrys found herself increasingly distracted and confused.

Still, she was determined to win that competition. Which she did, handily, and Tym won his game too. Kentucky television celebrity Delphine Green—who did the gardening segments on the Lexington affiliate’s morning show, and who Chrys lurved—was the main judge at the botany contest, and she was every bit as amazing as Chrys had hoped: charming, smart, and hilarious. Except…when Delphine touched her arm, all Chrys could see was Daisy, and all she could feel was dizzy. The rest of the night flew by in a rush. Tym was also dizzy, so they left the reception early and snuck into Chrys’s hotel room, only to immediately fall asleep in each other’s arms.

“Don’t worry. I’m watching over you.”

In the back of her head, though, she could hear a voice. She could barely open her eyes, but she noticed little ferns pushing through the floorboards and from the headboard of the bed, all around her body. She had rolled onto the floor somehow? Why couldn’t she move?

“The ferns are yours. Your powers are fighting back against hers.”

She thought she recognized the voice, but she couldn’t quite hear or see. And then suddenly she felt her body become hers again. In front of her was Gimmick. He had what looked like a small thorn in his hand. Tym was still passed out beside them, hanging from the bed in a nest of thick, rust-colored vines. Chrys’s own nest had decayed mostly into dust, but she could still see the outlines of more vines around her. Gimmick looked at her with a knowing grin. “So…how did you find Delphine Alder as a judge?”

She shook her head. She didn’t understand. “Huh? Delphine Green, you mean.”

“‘Green’ is her married name. Her maiden name is ‘Alder.’ She Rooted you.”

Chrys gasped. “Alder.” She remembered Daisy’s words: “two to go.” Delphine was Violet’s sister.

Gimmick nodded, satisfied that she understood. “You better go. I’ll take care of him. Don’t worry.”

“How will I find her? I don’t—”

“Just let yourself feel it. Through the earth, I mean.”

So Chrys did. She found Delphine’s house. She could see her through the window. Suddenly Delphine turned. “Move,” she heard Daisy whisper. She did, just as an old tree suddenly toppled towards her. Chrys kept running. “Embrace the world” she heard Daisy’s voice. She didn’t quite know what that meant, but she tried reached out to the plant life around her. Suddenly she could feel it all, each entity waiting to commanded. She could feel Dephine commanding the old, the near death, and the dying, but new life? That was Chrys’s to command. She could protect herself. She could fight back.

She shot vines forward to latch onto a falling tree, using the momentum to swing herself around to the other side. She latched onto another tree, swinging forward, pulling and projecting herself towards Delphine’s position. As she landed right in front of the older woman, she could see Delphine’s expression of surprise.

“You shouldn’t know how to do that. I was supposed to teach you.”

Chrys had no patience for riddles. “Who are you?”, she screamed.

Delphine didn’t answer, though. Dead leaves scattered everywhere, obscuring Chrys’s vision, and suddenly Delphine disappeared. Chrys opened herself to the plant life around her, scared of an attack she couldn’t see.

She tentatively embraced the world around her, and could feel Daisy pointing her in the right direction. There. Delphine was inside the trunk of the tree right in front of her! Chrys moved quickly as another tree fell. She sent vines hurling around the trunk Dephine, weaving themselves into thick webs around any openings and fastening Delphine inside. Then she focused on Delphine herself. She didn’t want to kill her like she had accidentally killed Violet, so instead she probed Delphine until she found a kind of conduit. “There,” Daisy whispered. She snapped it.

She heard Delphine whimper. Moving leaves and trunks fell to the ground. Delphine was powerless now, Chrys could feel. She her vines recede, and dragged Delphine outside.

“Who are you?”, she asked again.

“You’ll never survive the Lengthening,” Delphine snarled. Suddenly, she jerked. “No.” Her eyes rolled into her head. “Noooo!”

Chrys watched as Delphine melted in front of her. She had felt…someone else, but only briefly, and only in the faintest way.

Suddenly, Daisy was in her head, no longer a wad of gum, smiling brightly. “That’s two.”

Afterwards, she found her room empty with a note from Gimmick. “I took Tym home. Don’t worry. He needed rest.” Though written in cursive, it was on the same cardstock as the typed notes she had received earlier.

When Chrys got home, Ianthe sat at the table with Gimmick and Buck. Buck looked…odd. Gimmick looked guilty, and not a little green. “How was Lexington? Did you find it a fulfilling experience?”, Ianthe cheerfully asked.

Gimmick noticeably exerted effort to raise his head. “There’s…that…Alder sister nosiness rearing its…head again.”

Ianthe and Chrys both froze. A look of anger that seemed utterly out of character for Ianthe flashed across her face. Chrys tried to move but found herself frozen in place. She saw Daisy run past her peripheral vision.

“One to go.”

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