A VISIT FROM THE WATERS
It sounded as if the Gulf of Mexico was out there hurling waves against the front of Granny Clo’s condo. I was still barely awake, but I knew I wasn’t supposed to be hearing this. White Dolphin Villas Retirement Estates was about as far away from this kind of water as you could get and still be in St. Petersburg, Florida. I left my bagel in the toaster and ran for the door.
It wasn’t the Gulf of Mexico I saw when I made it onto Granny Clo’s front stoop, but there were definitely waves out here. The whole front yard had disappeared under a lake of dirty, gray, angry-looking water that thrashed and heaved and hurled itself at the stucco and over the steps onto my bare feet. I stared at it.
Normally Granny Clo’s yard was exactly like all the other ones in White Dolphin Villas—a square of short-cut grass with a dinky fish pond in the middle and little strips of pretend-wood fence along each side to sort of divide it from the adjoining units. The only water was in the fish pond, and that was barely big enough for the five bored-looking goldfish that circled around in it. Now the pond and everything else was swallowed up under this.
I peered into a sky that was a clear morning blue. If there had been a storm overnight there was no trace of it now. Besides which a storm would have to be hurricane-level to do this. Then I noticed something else. Only Granny Clo’s yard was under water. The lake ended exactly at the curb in front and exactly at each fence—just stopped, as if there were invisible glass walls around it.
Was I the only one who saw this? I looked around. Nobody driving by, nobody in the other yards. Except for a few morning golfers, people in White Dolphin Villas didn’t get up till hours from now.
In the middle of the yard, where the fish pond used to be, the water had started thrashing around even more violently, shooting up in all directions, hurling out bits of gravel, hunks of torn-up lawn, and even one of the fish, which splashed down, flopping desperately, not far from where I stood. Then in the center of the turmoil I saw something slowly rising up. Something that wasn’t a fish.
Not something. Somebody. I saw the top of a head, then the whole head, facing away from me. Silvery long hair with a clump of dark green weeds caught in it. Then the shoulders appeared, then bit by bit the rest of her. A woman. The tallest woman I’d ever seen, and definitely not a human one. She was wearing one of those draped robes like you see on statues of the old goddesses. Maybe it had been white once; now it was the mud-gray of the water. Weeds had pasted themselves all over the cloth, and there was a smear of yellow-green down the side that looked like pond scum.
She was out of the water now from her lower legs up, and that seemed to be as far as she intended to go. She shook her head hard, spraying drops everywhere off that long hair, then she turned and looked straight at me. Her eyes were like Aunt Lacey’s and Aunt Attie’s, and mine, too, now that I’d been Qualified—greenish blue, and that electric look.
She raised an arm and pointed at me. “YOU!” she roared in a voice like a storm coming up. “YOU ARE THE ONE!”
The door banged open behind me and Granny Clo was there. She had on the floaty peach-colored bathrobe with the lace, and her hair was wrapped in a purple towel. “Tethys?” she asked. “Tethys of the Waters?” What in the name of ever-living Athena are you doing here and why are you yelling at my granddaughter? And I need you to get rid of this filthy mess.” She waved a hand at the lake.
The woman combed the weeds out of her hair with her fingers, and looped it into a knot at the back of her head. “Well, Clo,” she said. She’d notched down her voice a little, but it was still loud. “Or I suppose I should go back to calling you Abigail now that you’ve retired. Are you saying this meddlesome Fate is your granddaughter?”
“Of course she is,” Granny Clo said. “As you must certainly Know—or you would if you ever paid a speck of attention to anything outside of those waters of yours. And as you also certainly Know, I’ve been retired for nearly a century, not that you bothered coming to my retirement party. Now send all this sludge back to wherever you brought it from. It looks polluted. And those goldfish belong to White Dolphin Villas Retirement Estates. If you’ve killed any of them you’ll hear from the Appearance Committee.”
“I’ve killed nothing,” Tethys said. “And it’s perfectly good clean mud in this water. Those poor fish are just getting some freedom for the first time in their lives. But if it bothers you that much …” She made a rippling motion with her hand and the water shrank in a little from its edges, leaving a rim of wet grass around it. It was still mud-brown, though, and looked deeper than it could possibly be in this flat yard. It sloshed around Tethys’ legs as she scooped up the fish, which now was stranded on the bottom step. She held it close to her face and murmured, “Did-ums get lost? Swim away now, little dear. Straight down, then turn left and you’ll come to a nice creek.” She slid it into the water, then she picked something black and slithery off her wrist—something that looked like a leech—gave it a kiss and dropped it in after the fish. Then she said, “We’ll go inside now, Abigail. We have to talk.”
“We’ll stay right where we are,” Granny Clo said. “I’m not letting you bring that muck into my condo.” She squeezed her eyes shut for a second. When she opened them, two plastic lawn chairs stood on the grass beside her, and a third was in the water next to Tethys. Tethys ignored it and remained standing.
Granny Clo gathered her robe and sat down. “As you do seem to know, Tethys, my granddaughter is Clotho, of Those Who Hold the Threads. She has only recently come into her destiny, so she’s still more used to her human name, Jane Smith. She’s here this summer for her training.”
“Jane what?” Tethys looked at me as if I had dog doo all over me.
“Smith.” Granny Clo stared at Tethys with what I call the Angel-of-Death glare—the one that tells you that you’re in big time trouble. That glare runs in our family. Aunt Lacey does it best, but Mom isn’t bad at it. This was the first time I’d seen it on Granny Clo, but she had it down.
“Ah, yes, your little Jane Smith is Clotho now.” Tethys lifted a dripping bare foot out of the water long enough to kick the lawn chair onto the grass. “The place that used to be yours, Abigail.”
She turned those electric green eyes on me, and when she spoke again it was in the storm-voice. “CLOTHO OF THOSE WHO HOLD THE THREADS,” she said, “KNOW THAT I AM TETHYS OF THE WATERS. I AM OF THE ANCIENT AND HONORED RACE OF TITANS, THE OLD ONES, AND WITH MY HUSBAND OCEANUS I RULE THE WATERS OF EARTH. YOU HAVE OFFENDED ME DEEPLY, LITTLE FATE. YOU MAY FEAR ME.”
Since she wasn’t sitting down I kept standing too. “I don’t see any reason to be afraid of you,” I said. That was a mile from the truth, but I wasn’t about to let her know it.
“YOU THINK NOT?”
Then she lowered her voice again to a normal loud. “As I told your grandmother, I have far too much to do to waste my time Seeing every one of your trifling events in the world above the Waters. However, I visited one of my Naiad daughters yesterday, she who takes care of the Everglades. It was she who told me that her sister Tyche now has a son. My grandson! And at the same moment I learned that you Fates have banished the boy from Earth.”
“Adam?” I could hardly get the name out. “You’re talking about Adam Night? You’re his grandmother?”
“I most certainly am,” Tethys said. “Tyche didn’t bother to share this news with me herself. She takes after her father’s side of the family—all storm waves and riptides, no sense of responsibility. Still, she is my daughter, and this boy is of my blood.”
“Blood schmud,” Granny Clo said. “That boy is a monster. And I thought Zeus was Tyche’s father, not Oceanus.”
Tethys shrugged and picked a weed off her chest. “One hears those stories. But I assure you that all of my daughters are full-blooded Titans. As is this grandson, whom your little Jane Smith has helped to banish from Earth.”
I wasn’t sorry for sending Adam Night away. Alcor 3 was the right place for him, circling its suns out there in the tail of the Big Dipper. He couldn’t do any harm there, and he’d get the friendship he needed. Our only other choice would have been to end his life, but I wasn’t about to tell Tethys that.
As it happened, I didn’t have to tell her anything. The air next to Granny Clo started doing that shimmer, like air over hot pavement on a summer day, and a moment later both Aunt Lacey and Aunt Attie took shape there. They’d been for their morning swim, I saw. Aunt Lacey had on her no-nonsense black swimsuit and Aunt Attie was in the one with the little skirt and big red and yellow flowers that looked like a swimsuit version of everything else she wore. Both of them had towels around their shoulders.
Granny Clo opened her mouth, but before she could say anything Aunt Lacey put a hand on her arm. “We Saw what’s happening, Mama,” she said. “We’ll handle this.”
Aunt Attie wiggled her fingers, and when two more lawn chairs appeared she spread her towel over one of them and sat down on it. Aunt Lacey sat down too, leaving her towel where it was. I pulled my chair closer to theirs and perched on the edge of its seat.
Tethys of the Waters folded her arms and glared. She could do a pretty good Angel-of-Death herself.
“We don’t owe you any explanations, Tethys,” Aunt Lacey said, “but for your information, Jane saved your grandson’s life. If it had been up to Attie and me, we’d have snipped his life thread in two before we took the next breath.”
“That boy was trying to take over the Threads,” Aunt Attie said. “For a while he actually managed it—had control over every human life. Not the way we have, of course, through the Universe, but it was bad enough. It was all that new human business—codes, programs—oh I don’t know all those terms.” She flapped her hands. “Technology.” She said it, as if it was a bad word.
“He wants power,” Aunt Lacey said. “Total power. And he knows how to get it, on a human level. What Attie’s saying is that he can do real damage, even if he’s not Joined with the Universe the way we are.”
“Nonsense!” Tethys said. “Adam Night is a child. He’s no older than this Jane Smith you’ve gone and made into One of you.”
“Jane is fourteen,” Aunt Lacey said. “Old enough, and destined. Her Qualification was not our decision to make. What is given cannot be ungiven. It does please us, however.”
“And you can keep calling Adam Night your grandson all you like,” Aunt Attie put in, “but that’s hardly what he is. He did come from Tyche—that much is true—but he’s not a real son of hers, or a real anything. He’s a Shadow-being, who seized his life from a dream she had. Now he’s out of her control.”
“So you say. The fact remains that you have sent him away from Earth.”
Tethys turned to me again. Another leech was running up her arm. I watched it wriggle into that long silver hair. Either she didn’t notice or she didn’t care.
She examined me from head to feet, then up again. Her gaze stopped at my chest. “You wear the cornucopia. It is the symbol of my daughter Tyche.”
My hand went to the pendant that hung from its chain around my neck: the horn of plenty, with its carefully carved fruits and nuts and breads. “She gave me this for my birthday,” I said.
“She did, did she? Well, it’s not likely to help you now.” Tethys waded a step closer. “Now hear what I have to say.”
She raised her arms to the clear Florida sky, and when she spoke again, it was with a voice like the roar of a hurricane. “HEAR ME, LITTLE FATE. HEAR ME, ALL YOU FATES OF THE PRESENT AND OF THE PAST. HEAR ME, O GREAT AND NOBLE RACE OF TITANS. THIS I SWEAR: I WILL GET MY GRANDSON BACK!”
Then so swiftly I barely saw it happen, she sank into the dark water and was gone.
Immediately the water itself began to go. I stared as the lake grew smaller and smaller, as the stones that circled the fish pond came into view. Then the little pond was all that remained, as clear as bath water, and, shallow enough that I could pick up gravel from its bottom and not get wet above my elbow. The goldfish swam their slow circles around it as if nothing had happened here at all. Except that there were four goldfish now, not five.