Word Count: 110,000
Genre: Adult Fantasy
System(s) of Oppression: Abelism (Deaf protagonist), xenophobia (handled allegorically)
Author's Identity: Neurodiverse with Deaf family members, immigrant grandparents.
A Deaf woman lost in a magical otherworld must defy the Gatekeepers guarding her reality to return home, not to mention stay human.
Hearing-impaired Elle Tanning wanted a normal life after college. Instead she got conned into buying a statue from Jonah, an eccentric antiques dealer, who didn't warn her the statue might come to life and start cleaning her apartment. Things get even weirder when the statue drags them both into the Other, an alternate dimension filled with creatures from nightmare and fairy tale. It’s a good thing Jonah is a Gatekeeper, a magician who keeps the Other and the human world separate. As a Gatekeeper he is duty-bound to escort Elle safely home.
Or rather, he would’ve been duty-bound had Elle not worked magic in a moment of crisis and sprouted horns.
Gatekeepers like Jonah are forbidden from guiding magical beings out of the Other. Thanks to Elle's unexpected transformation and magical abilities, she's looking less human by the hour. In fact, Jonah suspects she's an inhuman creature called a Stanchion, and he isn't above violence if it means keeping her away from the human world. And this is bad, way bad, because every time Elle is exposed to magic she becomes and more like the creatures that populate the Other.
If Elle can’t convince Jonah to take her back to her world, she might lose her humanity for good—or worse. She could die in the dangerous Other before she gets anywhere at all.
Grandmother braided my hair before bed like always, unaware I meant to steal her car as soon as she fell asleep. I would’ve found the tugging at my scalp soothing on any other night. My fingers twisted the hem of my shirt until Grandmother covered my hand with hers.
“Something bothering you?” she asked, signing over my shoulder in the vanity mirror. She signed with American Sign Language grammar but spoke aloud in verbal English. When I shook my head she signed and spoke: “Cherry picking the truth won’t do you any good, you know.”
I didn’t answer. I tugged the hearing aids from my ears, instead, and set them on the vanity.
After she bound my hair in a tight plait she kissed the crown of my head. Her amber pendant bumped my nape, the resin sphere in its silver band cold like a January night. I studied her in the mirror, cataloguing the crow’s feet around her eyes and the furrows at her lips. She wasn’t as old as other grandmothers but silver hair marked her age. Though we both had blue eyes she had sky-colored irises with a midnight rim, mine were dark throughout and not nearly as expressive. We had the same oval face, though, and the same sharp nose. It comforted me to know when I looked in the mirror I could see her—even in small ways, like the curve of my jaw or the way we braided our hair.
Soon the echoes of her face in mine would provide my only way of seeing her.