Chris was not having a good day. He had gone into work tired, looking forward to the weekend. Before he had finished even his first cup of coffee, a trouble ticket had come across his desk. The end user had labeled it "minor," but end users never knew how big a problem was. This one turned out to be a doozy. It had been a scaling issue, a flaw in the basic architecture that was introduced long before Chris ever saw the product, but his problem now. The solution he'd implemented was no solution at all, would break in a few uses, but had still taken almost twelve hours to fix.
He'd had to call Amanda, the pretty girl in human resources, and tell her he couldn't meet her after work for a third time. She'd been so understanding the first two times, but this time she had declined to commit to a firm date to try again. Chris couldn't blame her. By the time he finally got home, all he wanted was a beer, something to eat, and maybe a little TV. At least he had the weekend to look forward to and could catch up on his sleep.
The last straw had been turning on his sink and, instead of the nice clear stream he expected, getting a tiny trickle of brownish-looking water. He cursed to himself, but welcomed the distraction. This, at least, was a problem he knew how to fix and could apply a genuine solution to.
Pulling his toolbox out of the shed, he headed down into the cellar. The moon was full and huge in the sky that night. Somewhere from off at a great distance, he heard the sounds of a party. He wished he could be there. He never seemed to talk to anyone about anything but work anymore. He'd bought this house almost a year ago under the premise that it would make him a more appealing catch to women, but so far, he hadn't even had a nibble.
In the basement, he turned off the main valve, then began to tap his wrench on each segment of the intake pipe, listening for which was the first to sound hollow. The one before it would have the clog.
The one that had the clog gave a very odd tone, not a clank, but a high, clear tone like a tiny silver bell. He wondered if he would have to replace the segment. Ah, well, he thought, patch today, bug fix tomorrow.
The nut took some force to start. Chris smacked his knuckles once or twice, cursing loudly. Finally, it began to turn. Once it started turning under the wrench, it began to turn of its own volition as if under great pressure. Chris quickly rechecked the main valve and the segments before and after the one he was working on, but everything seemed normal. Just as he approached the segment, the nut gave way, spewing water on the basement floor.
Chris had only a moment to worry about whether he had just flooded the basement when a bigger problem occurred to him. The water was not behaving as water should. Instead, it coalesced into the form of a woman, beautiful and waifish, with a lily worn in her long brown hair. To Chris (whose full name was Cristopolos, ) she looked Greek. She was also stark naked.
Chris, too stunned to move, looked back and forth. The first words out of his mouth were, "If this is some sort of elaborate joke, someone is going to need a proctologist to remove this wrench from their..."
"Excuse me," the woman said in a voice reminiscent of a waterfall Chris had found once, far back in the woods where no one ever seemed to go, "Are you a god?"
Chris knew he should answer yes. He remembered what happened in Ghostbusters when the answer had been no. But, he suspected there would be follow-up questions that only a god could answer, so he said truthfully, "uh... no."
The woman fell to her knees, taking his hand in hers, "Forgive me, then," she begged, "for you have rescued me and I, unknowing, have struck you blind."
Chris looked down at her. In spite of the absurdity of the situation, he couldn't keep prurient thoughts from rising to the surface. Here was a beautiful, naked woman kneeling in front of him, begging his forgiveness. His mind reeled at the possibilities. Still, he had to say, "What are you talking about? I'm not blind."
She looked up at him, puzzled, "You must be blind. Any mortal man who gazes upon the naked beauty of a naiad is instantly struck blind."
Chris helped her to her feet. Whoever she was, she was very pretty, maybe even movie star pretty, but he'd seen prettier. He said as kindly as he could, "I have cable. Maybe I've built up a tolerance."
The naiad looked a bit put off, but before she could speak, Chris found enough of his wits to ask, "Wait a second. Did you or did you not just come out of my intake pipe?"
The naiad nodded.
"How did you get in there?" Chris asked.
"I do not know," she said, "I was being chased by Apollo for his sport, but I fled him. My sisters, the oceanides, took pity on me and carried me away from him. How long I stayed with them, I do not know. Then, I came to another river with no spirit of its own. I followed its path upstream. When I paused to sun myself, a god I did not know, who rode a horse that made a great noise and belched smoke, pursued me. I fled him, following the river until it got smaller and smaller. Soon, it passed underground and it was cut off from the sky. Eventually, it got too small for me to pass and I was stuck."
Chris looked at her, "You're trying to tell me you're some kind of water spirit, then?"
She blinked at him, "I am Oneone, daughter of the river Cebren. I am a naiad."
"And this Apollo that was chasing you, he was Apollo, the sun god of Greek mythology?" asked Chris.
Oneone nodded. She seemed about to speak, but instead jumped backwards, pointing a trembling finger at one corner of the basement, "You have one of the horses, too. Surely, you must be a god, hoping to trick me into thinking you a mortal man."
"Listen, On-and-on," Chris said, "You're a long way from home. Apollo hasn't been much of a concern for at least two thousand years. I am not a god. I'm a software developer. It's an obvious mistake. And that is not a horse. It's a motorcycle. Now, why don't we get you upstairs and find something you can wear?"
"What?" Oneone asked, "Aren't you driven mad by my beauty? Won't you pursue me for your sport?"
"Actually," said Chris, "I'm pretty tired. Maybe if I got some sleep, I could pursue you tomorrow."
Oneone stared at him, imperious at first. Then, her resolve seemed to crumble. She started crying, great sobs wracking her body. The tears fell from her eyes, slid down her face, fell to the ground, then slid across the floor to rejoin her form.
"There there," said Chris, trying to comfort her without touching her, "Come on. Stop crying. Look, you're getting dirt mixed in with your corporeal form. Come on. It's not that bad."
"Not that bad?" Oneone cried, "What do you know about it? I've been in this godsforsaken land for three summers now. Not one man has pursued me for his sport. I have let them approach close, enticed them with my charms, but as soon as I bolt, they let me go. Or they give half-hearted chase, or they shout for me to come back, offer me clothing or psychiatric help, whatever that is. What has happened to me that I am not worth pursuing anymore? Is it erosion?"
"No, no," said Chris. Even in such absurd circumstances, the sight of a naked, crying woman did something to Chris that make him feel atavistic, wanting to own and protect her, to keep her away from anything that would make her cry again. He laid his hands on Oneone's shoulders, drawing her into a hug, "You're quite beautiful. Any man in his right mind would want to pursue you. I would pursue you myself, but I had a really long day at work."
"Liar," she shouted, pushing against his chest, "I know what it is. It's the competition. I don't know when mortal women became so beautiful, but it's damned near impossible for an allegorical manifestation to compete these days. All I used to have to compete with were ancient Greek girls, little hairy things who never shaved anything, didn't brush their teeth, and rarely bathed. I give up." She sat down on the steps leading down from upstairs with a miserable sounding splash, "Maybe I should just return to the sea and dissolve into it like so many of the other naiads have done.
.... There is more of this story ...