My short story, Ink, just went live up at the Journal of Unlikely Cryptographybrought to you by the same people who have brought you Unlikely Entomology and Unlikely Architecture, and who are partly financially backed by a group organized out of the very unlikely Sealand.  Given all of these factors, it’s rather unlikely that this story managed to appear at all; I hope you enjoy reading it.

Happy Watermaidens Day

Once again, the fairy courts have met and declared that today is, by decree fee, Official Watermaidens Day.

Now, the trouble is how to inform the water maidens.

It is easy enough for the fairies to send out messages to mortals: a dream here, an enchanted drop of water there. Nothing spectacular, of course, nothing overt: just enough to let a mortal spend a moment or two, perhaps, thinking of water and dreams, shadow and light, or the sound of a drop of water falling on crystal. Nothing more than that; nothing that might let mortals know that fairies really are, well, real.  A moment, and it is done.

Water maidens, however, are harder to reach. They have never been ones to come to fairy courts, after all, which are, they explain, far too dry for their tastes. Even the ones concealed behind waterfalls, or filled with dancing fountains.   They are still filled with – how can the water maidens put this? – air.

And so the water maidens stay in their ponds, their rivers, their springs, climbing out only to explore a puddle or two, or perhaps snatch a luxury item or two from an unwary mortal, or even – for particularly bold water maidens – an hour or two of shopping.

Which means that the fairies must deliver the decree fee to the water maidens.

It is quite a daunting task: preparing messages that cannot drown in water or vanish in mist, yet cause no harm to the crystal clear waters some water maidens still jealously guard.  (Alas, other water maidens have found themselves guarding polluted waters – but that is something that impacts all fairy realms, not merely those of water.) Preparing messages that cannot be seen by mortals.

Preparing messages that water maidens will see.

Some fairies, it must be confessed, simply dodge out of the task entirely, decree fee or no decree fee. You must not blame them too much: they are, after all, fairies, and in some sections of the world it is simply too cold or too hot to ask anyone, especially a fairy, to do anything that involves getting out of a bed or that is not strictly confined to drinking tea brewed from moonlight or eating ice cream carved from starlight.

(This last, by the way, is a specialty of fairies from the Antarctic; should you ever be fortunate enough to taste some, be sure to have some restorative tea of pennywort and mint nearby – the effect on mortals is said to be quite devastating.)

Other fairies, either more diligent or more interested in saving their ears, noses and feet from the fury of the fairy queens (who can become quite creative when crossed) resignedly show up to their assigned clouds or caves or tall standing stones and set to work.

I fear that their precise methods are so secret that were I to attempt to list them here, not only would this blog disappear, but also every computer attempting to read this blog. Oh, not right in front of your eyes, of course. You would just happen to find yourselves distracted – just for a second – a cat, perhaps (fairies love to work through cats) – the scent of chocolate (fairies find this very practical) – a sudden explosion (fairies work with what they need to work with) – the sudden realization that you really, really have to call this person right away, like now (fairies also like to work through guilt) – only to find, when you turn back, that somehow you or someone else has moved your computer. Someplace. You’ll find it, of course. Very soon. In the meantime, you might as well head out and buy a replacement – you’ve wanted one for awhile, haven’t you?

By the time you return, or think to use a cell phone or table, this blog entry would be quite, quite gone.

So let us not risk your computers. Let us instead discuss what happens when these messages are released into the wind and the rain, or, in certain particular cases, delivered in person by fairy hands.

Don’t try to look for them: you will never see a fairy, much less a fairy message, when you are looking.

But you might see a quick swirl of air, a quick dazzle of light, a shadow where you should not see a shadow. Or hear a joyous tinkling bell or a howl of the wind, in a place without a bell or wind.

And if the drink you are holding in your hands quivers a little, for no reason at all; if you think you hear an echo of music while you stand in the shower, or see a rainbow as you pour water into a pot; if you see the wind spin up the falling rain into a whirl of water and dance, or find yourself dreaming of water; or simply feel your breath suddenly catch –

Well. That might be a water maiden, catching a fairy hand.

Watermaidens Day is the brainchild of folklorist, editor, poet, storyteller and scholar Nin Harris. I’m just borrowing it for fun.