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Vintage comic panel.

Ghost Orchid: The Lengthening

By Mark Abraham · Nov 13, 2013

Title: The Lengthening
Series: Ghost Orchid (Book Two)
Author: Jeanie Huff
(Platelet Publishing; 2000; ISBN: 364-3423422-3)

“I can only hold her for a second. You need to run.”

Chrys Anthemum jerked towards Gimmick. He nodded to his mother. She looked back towards Ianthe Alder and saw that the woman was frozen in place, but that she was straining against whatever Gimmick had done. Chrys’s father, Buck, looked sleepy; he was barely aware of his surroundings.

“Take Buck and go.”

Chrys felt the world around her, drawing in the energy. She felt Daisy in the back of her head: “Weave those threads together.” Vines, at first tentative, began to poke through the floor boards. And then the walls began to fall apart, as vines and roots and flowers burst through the floor, ceiling, and walls. It was a torrent of foliage. For some reason it had a very autumnal theme, Chrys thought. She also swore she could feel Ianthe raise her eyebrows. Was that fear?

Chrys didn’t have time to consider. She needed to get her father out of that room. She grabbed him with the vines and pulled him towards the backdoor. Towards her greenhouse. Daisy spoke: “Good. Don’t forget the orchid. Go to it.”

Chrys began to move after her father, but stopped as she passed Gimmick. He turned: “You can’t help me. Let me help you.”

“But….”

“Go,” he screamed, sweat streaming down his brow. Chrys ran to the kitchen. Buck was already halfway across the yard, cradled in a nest of vines. Chrys could feel Ianthe starting to move behind her. Vines and roots began to wither around her. She bounded across the yard and through the greenhouse door towards the ghost orchid. She grabbed her father’s hand and the orchid at the same time, with no idea what she should do next.

Her mind exploded into colors. A great pain stabbed through her body. She could feel herself moving somehow, but she wasn’t in control. As she passed out from the pain, she willed herself to hold onto her father.

“You’re safe here.”

Chrys heard the words as if they were from far away. Her body felt exhausted.

“Wake up! Geeze. I don’t have all day.”

Chrys opened her eyes. Daisy stood in front of her, holding the ghost orchid. Buck was sleeping next to them. They were in the middle of a grassy meadow, beautiful flowers and giant old willow trees everywhere. It looked like a scene from those 19th century novels that Chrys had never really read for class. Chrys struggled to sit up. “Where are we?”

“We aren’t really anywhere. This is your glen. We each have one, those of us with the touch.” Daisy smiled. “Yours is very…pretty.” Chrys was pretty sure Daisy had been about to say something nastier.

“What about Ianthe?”

“She can’t reach us here.” Daisy set the ghost orchid in front of Chrys. “You’ll have to go back, of course, to defeat her. But right now you can relax. There’s no way for a Lengthener to follow a Seeder—especially an anamorph—to this world.”

Chrys rubbed her eyes. She barely understood most of Daisy’s words. “Can you tell me—”

Daisy smiled again. It was so strange to see her own face smile such a different smile back at her. “I can tell you everything.”

Hours later, Chrys lay on her back staring at the sky. According to Daisy, the Lengtheners and Seeders had been involved in a battle for the control of nature for hundreds of years. Lengtheners sought control over nature, while Seeders worked to protect it. The Lengthening that the Alder sisters spoke of was a moment in time every ten years where their powers were at their fullest. There was this, plus a bunch of other naked exposition Chrys couldn’t believe Daisy was only telling her now.

“But why do we look like one another?”, Chrys had asked.

“Nobody knows. Some Seeders say it’s to reflect nature. Like, how flowers look alike, but just at different angles. Each anamorph is a mirror image of the each other.”

“But—”

“Oh, bullshit, obvs, but they came up with this shit in the Dark Ages, so what are we gonna do? We’re 21st-century kids stuck with a 10th-century birthright. We’re lucky it isn’t described as an imbalance of the humors or something.”

“So…we are and aren’t the same?”

“I should fucking hope we aren’t the same. I wouldn’t be caught dead in that outfit!”

Chrys blinked, deciding to ignore Daisy. She was dating Daisy’s ex-boyfriend after all. “So what do I need to do?”

“I dunno. You need to kill Ianthe, but after the Lengthening, the only way to do that is to ‘wrap a villain’s heart inside the ghost orchid.’ Which…I’m not sure what that means. I was trying to find out when Delphine and Violet killed me. I think Gimmick knows, but I could never really get a read on him. He’s conflicted. It’s super-annoying.”

The sky was darkening. Chrys heard Daisy walk up behind her. “It’s time. Are you ready? I mean, whatever. You don’t have a choice. So close your eyes.”

When Chrys opened her eyes, she was sitting in her green house, the ghost orchid in her lap. Thick knotted entrails of bright green vines wove their way around the green house. She breathed in, and they moved, opening a way out. She could feel Ianthe sitting in the house. She could feel Ianthe feel her. Chrys moved quickly, closing the vine barrier to the green house behind her.

It was dusk, and the light was beginning to fade. Chrys could taste the heavy air; it smelled like both life and death. She walked through the back door of her house to find Ianthe sitting at her kitchen table, a tea pot and two cups sitting in front of her. “Have a seat,” Ianthe breathed.

Chrys sat down. Ianthe peered at her. “I don’t really want to kill you, y’know? I merely want to tap your power. You could just…submit, and we could all walk away from this.” Chrys remained silent. Ianthe looked her in the eyes. “I understand that the actions of my less patient sisters have freaked you out, but…I’m far less desperate than they are.”

Chrys considered for a moment. “What do you need my power for?”

Ianthe gave a slight smile. “Immortality. Eternity. To keep the level of power I feel right now all the time.”

Chrys nodded, but said, “Except…that doesn’t really answer my question. Like…everybody wants to be immortal. You’re saying this to an avid consumer of vampire fiction. What do you want to do with it?”

Ianthe lowered her eyes. “Isn’t power enough?”, she sighed. “I’m more powerful than you right now, so it would be best if you simply accepted my offer.”

Chrys picked up her tea, which she was sure was drugged. “I’ve gotta say, Ianthe. I’m just trying to have some fun in high school, and this bullshit with you and your sisters? I’m pretty tired of it.” As Ianthe opened her eyes in slight shock to that, Chrys threw her tea in Ianthe’s face.

As Ianthe screamed, Chrys lunged forward, feeling the biology of Ianthe’s body and focusing on allowing the flesh around her rib cage weaken. Her hand, a fist that clenched the ghost orchid inside it, punched straight at Ianthe’s chest, right into her heart. In the back of her head, Daisy laughed. “Close enough.”

Ianthe’s body dropped to the floor. Chrys felt like a Transformer! But then she looked through to the dining room and saw Gimmick’s body slumped in his chair. She rushed forward. She could feel that he was barely alive. She called some vines, and took him back towards the greenhouse.

She looked around before she entered and shuddered. Her father was going to make her do chores forever to clean this shit up!

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