The Day I Met Miss Fortune by Henry Young

When I came to, my muscles seized in pain and my head throbbed. Looking around, I couldn’t see much. The murky darkness made it difficult to see anything, but I could hear the lapping of broken waves against hard rock, echoing. I was in a cave; a sea cave by the smell of it. There were traces of seaweed and spoilt fish, which no doubt had been trapped there like I was. I would have thought I was already in Hades if, when I tried to move, my whole body didn’t scream at me from every fracture. In that moment, I kind of wished I was dead, but the Fates had woven something different for me. This day, I met misfortune.

Regardless of the state of my body, I rolled over to my front, pushed myself up to kneeling, and saw deeper into the cave; my limbs felt like they had sandbags tied to them. It didn’t help that I still had the broken apparatus my dad made strapped to my back. The cave didn’t go much deeper, so I twisted back over and collapsed. One of the struts jabbed hard into my spine. I let out a hiss of pain as I resigned myself to the thought that my injuries, left untreated, would be an eventual end to my brief nineteen years of life. Who knew there was something worse than captivity? I thought. My dad always taught me there was something better, that’s why he planned our escape from Crete. I’d probably still be with him if I wasn’t an idiot who failed to listen.

“Why are you crying?” I heard a voice say.

“I’m not crying,” I replied, “Wait, what? Who is that? Where are you?”

I looked around, wincing with each movement, but whoever spoke must have been invisible.

“I’m over here,” the voice said.

Having heard it again, and clearer, I looked to its source and saw who it belonged to. Sitting in a shallow pool of water, a few arm-lengths away, was, by all appearances, a girl. She was cross-legged, leaning on what looked to be a discarded rudder.

“What are you doing here?” I asked.

“Waiting.”

“For me?”

“No, silly, for the tide,” she said, as if it was the most natural response. “The water level needs to rise before my friend can come in.”

Whoever she was, she was perfectly at ease, but a clenching in my stomach told me something strange was going on.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“My name is Tyche,” she said with a toothy smile.

Tyche? That sounds familiar, I thought to myself. I knew I had heard that name before but couldn’t recall at that moment from where.

“Are your parents nearby?”

I stiffly looked around to see if by chance I had missed anyone else in my initial survey. She guffawed.

“What’s so funny?” I asked, “What if they’re looking for you? Won’t they be worried?”

“Worried? No,” her voice bounced rhythmically as she chuckled. “They’re much too busy to fret about me. I tend to keep to myself anyways.”

“Except for this friend of yours…”

“Well, yeah. He isn’t much for conversation, but he’s a reliable chum.”

“Who is he?”

“Oh, you’ll see.” Tyche winked.

I was curious to see who her friend was and why they would need the tide to come in, but she seemed adamant to keep it a surprise; I didn’t like surprises. She looked harmless, but there was something under the surface of her cheerful expression that told me to be wary.

“And how high does the water get exactly?” I asked.

The rock I was on was dry, but in the time since I’d awakened, the cool water was already licking my heels.

Tyche tilted her head side-to-side, making a face as if she were trying to remove a grapeseed from between her teeth, then she raised the rudder above her head, leaving barely enough room for a fist to fit between it and the cave ceiling.

“About here,” she said, with no change in her happy-to-be-here tone.

“Wonderful,” I exhaled.

“I know! It’s going to be great!” she exclaimed as she sat back down.

I would have been more concerned by her response if it didn’t also mean I had limited time. I started to consider my options, assessing my strength and capacity to move myself. If I could bear the pain, I might’ve been able to swim to the entrance before the tide covered it.

“Who are you?” she asked, interrupting my stream of thought.

“I’m nobody.”

I wasn’t about to give her my name. She stared blankly back at me.

“Well, Nobody, what are you doing here?”

“I was on the run with my dad… but we got separated.”

“Oh no. What happened? Did you two have…” She bent down and pulled a feather out of my hair, “a falling out?” she finished with a giggle.

I groaned, “You saw what happened, didn’t you?”

“Mmhm.”

The water covered my ankles.

I sighed.

“I did enjoy flying, while it lasted.”

“Ah,” she sighed too, “I love flying. It’s probably my second favorite way to get around.”

Lost in my reminiscence, I continued, “Yeah, it was the most alive I’ve ever felt.”

“I get that. It’s so freeing when you put your trust in the air, and it just… carries you,” Tyche closed her blissful eyes, her words finally making sense to me.

“Wait, you’ve flown before?” I looked at her and raised an eyebrow, another safe movement.

“Well yeah, that’s what these are for, silly…”

She twisted to the side and flexed her own pair of wings. The silvery feathers quivered like the ocean waves I saw from the air.

“Wait, you’re not human!”

“Nope,” she answered, smiling.

I could feel the cool ripples at the back of my knees.

“Then you’re…,” I started putting the clues together: Tyche, the water, the rudder, the wings… “You’re an Oceanid! A water nymph!”

“Eureka!” she shouted, tapping her nose with one finger, and pointing at me with her rudder.

“You’re the Tyche,” I remembered, “the goddess of good fortune! My dad would whisper your name under his breath while he worked!”

“He would? I’m flattered!” she said, still smiling.

My butt was wet.

“Where were you when I was falling to my death? I could have used your good fortune then.”

“That’s not really how it works,” she said.

“It isn’t?! Then tell me, how does it work?!”

“Well, it considers many factors; stupidity in your case: you weren’t listening to your father, you were flying dangerously, you got too close to Helios, you—”

“I get it! I get it. So, because of my stupidity, you couldn’t step in?”

“Pretty much. Plus, I felt you could stand to learn a lesson.”

“Yeah, thanks! Lesson learned!”

“You’re welcome!”

Her joviality defied my sarcasm. Why did I have to be trapped with her? My frustration was boiling up inside me. I always felt indifferent to the gods in general, but this had become personal. The water was already up to my shoulders, submerging my lower half completely. I yelled at the ceiling. I wouldn’t be surprised if all of Mount Olympus was having a laugh at my expense that very moment. Assuming my affliction stemmed from the tide and not her presence, she stuck the end of her rudder into the water, next to my head. The brine tickled my ears.

“I’d say we have about ten minutes before the cave is half full,” she said cheerily and returned to her puddle.

“Great! Does your optimism know no bounds?”

“I don’t think so.”

The last thing I wanted was to ask her for help, but my options were already limited, and dwindling. It took every ounce of my will to force down my irritation and pride without vomiting it back up.

“Listen, Tyche…”

“Yeah? What is it?”

“I can’t move my body very much at the moment, and, well, once the cave fills up, I won’t have much air to breath.”

“Oh, shoot,” Tyche said. The reality dawning on her face was both relieving and irritating. “I always forget mortals need air to breath,” she continued, “I don’t know how you live like that.”

“Barely, at the moment.”

I effused a stifled laugh. I felt an ache in my side, as if a knife were lodged between my ribs. It was more likely an actual rib perforating my lung, but there was nothing I could do to remove it. Only my face was dry above the waterline. The coolness of the tide brought some numbing relief, subsiding the pain enough for me to continue. “Yeah, so…could you help me out?” I asked.

“Totally!”

“Great, do you think you could heal me with some of your godly power, so I can be on my way?”

“Nope, sorry, I can’t. I never got the knack. My sister Chryseis is amazing though, very talented.”

The water was spilling over my mouth. “Fine, then,” I spluttered, “where is she?”

“Oh, she left home ages ago. She’s living in some mountain spring north of here. Can you believe that? Freshwater! Gross! I would never­—”

“Hey! Hey, please. Could you at least pull me out of the water?”

“Oh, definitely.” She stood up once more and heaved me further up the rock. I knew that I would have to be moved again as the tide came further in, but Tyche started jumping with excitement: “He’s here! He’s here!” she shouted, “Look!”

Following the end of her rudder, I saw the unmistakable tip of a dorsal fin. It stood up a full sword’s length out of the water and meandered side to side in a menacing dance toward us.

“Wait, Tyche, I thought the water came up higher?”

“It does.”

“I thought your ‘friend’ needed the cave full to come in?”

“No silly, there’s plenty of water now. Come on. This is how you get around! I’ll get you to someone who can help!”

To be honest, I don’t know all that happened next. Tyche lay me across the back of her thalassic friend, and I blacked out from pain.

When I came to the second time, it was night, and I was lying in a bed. The room I was in was open on two sides, thin curtains were tied back to columns to let the cool sea breeze in. The apparatus lay in a heap at the foot of one of the columns, looking like the discarded carcass of a winged animal.

“Tyche?” I said, “Where are we?”

Most of my body was bound by bandages and splints, but I tried to sit up. A hand stopped me before I got far.

“She’s not here, she left.”

I looked up and saw a woman. It took a second, but I realized I knew her. It had been years ago in Crete, but she sat at the table once with me and my dad. She left shortly after, but I never forgot how she made my father laugh, and he her. “Circe,” I could hear my father saying. She looked exactly as she did then, even her penetrating eyes hadn’t lost their luster.

Laying back down, I asked, “Circe? Where’s Tyche? Where’d she go?”

“I do not know. My aunt is fickle and does not like to stay anywhere too long.”

“Will she be back?”

“Probably not. Like I said, she likes to keep moving.”

“How will I thank her? She doesn’t even know who I am.”

“And what if she does?”

“Yeah?”

“Perhaps you will cross paths again.”

“I guess, but that feels so… uncertain.”

Circe walked over to a table, lifted a pitcher, and filled a cup before coming back to the bedside. “Reunions often are.”

She handed me the cup and asked me to drink. I brought it up to my lips but paused, suddenly remembering the rumors I heard about Circe, the queen’s sister, long after she visited the palace.

“Do drink,” she said, “it will make you feel better.”

“Is it true?” I asked. “What they say about you?”

“That I am a witch and not to be trusted?”

My throat tightened at her bluntness, but I cleared it. Warily, I replied, “Yes…”

“How about you drink and find out?”

I was afraid, but I heard my dad’s laughter in my mind and felt the fear melt away. I pressed my lips against the brim and took the draught.

“So,” she said, “how do you feel?”

The cool liquid ran down my throat but turned warm when it hit my stomach. I instantly felt the warmth flow through my body to the extremities of my limbs. It made me feel light and whole.

“Wonderful! What was that?”

The corners of her mouth lifted in a smile, but it was significantly more cryptic and cunning than Tyche’s. “A special concoction I made. It will not heal you completely, but it will accelerate the process.”

“Thanks.”

She took the cup and made to leave, but I called to her. “Wait, Circe, why are you helping me?” She paused and looked out to the sea, somewhere beyond the horizon, before turning back to me.

“Because your father once helped me.”

She made to leave again, but I stopped her once more, “And Tyche, why did she help me?”

“I suppose because she saw what happened and knew that she could help. Do you think it was a coincidence that you woke up in a cave instead of drowning to death? I could say that she was just being kind, but honestly, she does not get involved in mortal affairs unless she anticipates some worth coming from it in the long run. I would be wary regardless. When a god or goddess chooses to help a mortal, the ramifications are…monumental.”

Her words terrified me, but I had one more thing to ask before she left. “Have you heard from my dad at all? Do you know where he is?”

“I do not. From what Tyche told me, you two were flying towards the mainland. I doubt he would go to Athens; they would not welcome him there. My guess is he would land somewhere in Sparta and go on from there. For you, though, get some rest. You can worry about how you will find him after you have recovered.”

She left the room, and I was alone with my thoughts; wondering whether I would see Tyche again, wondering what she chose me for, wondering where my dad was and if he would be okay, wondering if I would ever see him again. These thoughts chased me into my dreams, where I ran scenarios back and forth about how I would find my dad and what I would say when we would meet. In the best case, Tyche was there smiling, giddy with the excitement of meeting the famous inventor in person. My dad, embracing us both, would cry, saying he would be forever grateful for the day I met Miss Fortune.

 

About the Author

Henry Young is a writer who enjoys reading and exploring myth. While he has a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, he finds more joy in pursuing writing and will be beginning his master’s degree in English at Brigham Young University in the Fall.

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