The Rise And Fall of Luke CastePleat: The Revenge of the Sixth
The Rise and Fall of Luke CastePleat
By SF Hades
Chapter One: Edward Emily Breaks And Enters
Alright, let’s do this one last time. My name is Mac Astley. And up to- what is it now- six months, yeah, six months ago, I was Pleaty Jackson. I think you know the rest by now, got accused of theft, fell in love with my archenemy, got a new archenemy in the form of Sebastian Merrick i.e. Luke CastePleat, defeated me after I made some questionable choices, broke my leg, still hasn’t healed by the way, and the patch of swollen skin under my eye now looks like a pride parade. But I’ve handled it like a champ.
Because, y’know, I’ve reflected on who I am a lot, and what my place in this world is. I’ve made some new friends, root beer, taco bell shredded cheese, and my own sweat, so yeah, I’ve been really productive.
That explains where I am now. In my apartment, it’s my Mom’s birthday. Mr. Willigens brought the cake but the party has since died down. Now, I was left to finish my red velvet cake alone in my room, in a way I’m sure the original inventor intended it to be enjoyed. Tears seemed too well in my eyes for no clear reason.
Normally, when sad, I go and boot up my computer, maybe I’d play some Undertale or edit a video, but well… those require computers, which are not in my possession. Nor is my phone. Or Playstation.
Or books. Real counter-productive thinking there, Mother.
I laid my locket on my windowsill, no, not the locket dear old Dad nabbed. This was one that came in the mail, from Ximena, of course. It had a picture of her in it. It was a long night and I was about to get ready for bed, so I patted my pockets down. Half of Pleaty Jackson, a kleenex, and the apartment key. Pleaty Jackson’s corpse brought back memories, memories that I didn’t really want to think about. I opened the windowsill, and stepped out onto the fire escape. I looked at the planter box my Mother had gotten me to “keep me balanced”, whatever that means, it was peaceful, however, I will admit.
I leaned down and tended to my lotus flower.
“Nice plant,” a voice said from behind me.
I jumped. Edward Emily was standing on the fire escape right next to me. He laughed without humor.
“Sorry, babe, I uh… didn’t mean to startle you, there.”
He’d grown about an inch taller. His hair was a shaggy black mess, and he wore a trench coat over his black vest and white dress-shirt. In other words, every character played by Keanu Reeves as one person. And Jeff Bezos.
“I’ve done some exploring, Astley. I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve come a long way to make you an offer.”
He had my interest, but now he had my attention.
I took a breath, “I’m listening.”
He glanced around the room, his eyebrows furrowed.
“Is that… red velvet?”
He sounded hungry, maybe a little wistful. I wondered what kind of birthday parties he had had with a Dad like Charles Emily.
“Come inside for some cake and ice cream, it sounds like we have a lot to talk about.”
Edward really seemed to enjoy the cake, and despite my Mother’s skepticism, she took an odd liking to the boy, promptly nicknaming him Eddy, which he wore like a badge of honor. Pretty sure I caught him calling her “Mom” a few times. When Mom left to go pour him some lemonade, Edward leaned in really close. “So, wanna hear my plan?”
“I want to make one thing as clear as I can. I can’t be at Athens, I’m expelled, remember? I could probably be arrested if I showed up on grounds.”
“Well, that’s just the thing. You don’t have to physically be at Athens.”
“Listen, I’ve been searching. Through these secret archives at Athens, Ximena nicknamed it the labyrinth, anyways, I found Sebastian’s lair. And more importantly…” he rummaged through his backpack and pulled out a gray notebook embroidered with gold, “…This.”
“Stop right there, I’m in. That random notebook I’ve seen at Walmart like a dozen times changes everything. Sorry for ever doubting you.” My voice had so much sarcastic venom it scared even me.
“Silly inferior,” he said, “Do you know what this is?” He flipped through the pages, “This is Sebastian’s diary, an older volume, of course, but I realize, you can’t defeat an enemy if you don’t understand him. So, what if we were to understand Sebastian Merrick, find out just what makes him tick.”
Mother brought him the lemonade. “Ai, gracias, Ms. Astley,” he said.
I shook my head.
“Why can’t you be as generous as your Mother here?” He looked at my Mother, “Thank you, by the way.” He sipped away at his lemonade. “Brain freeze,” he noted. “Nice.”
“Astley, please, back me up here, I need you, man.”
“Let me guess, I’m all you got?”
“Yeah, actually, yeah. And do you wanna know why that is? You’re the only person capable of doing this, Astley. I’ve tried scraping off the bottom of the barrel, but man, you’ve floated to the top.”
I sighed. “Say if I go along with your plan, and again, that’s a big if, what’s the plan?”
“Homedawg, I’ll tell you all in good time. Just trust me, it all points back to this.” He pointed his bony finger at the diary.
Edward seemed so confident, so ready, and I realized then that he was perhaps the only person I had, despite us getting off on the wrong foot, at first.
“I’m in.” I said.
He fired a finger gun at me, “That’s the spirit.” He said cheerfully.
“Ayo, Miss Astley!” He shouted, “It okay if Mac Aroni here stay the night at my place?”
“Edward, if you ever refer to me as Macaroni again I will end you.”
“Sounds fun, when can we start?”
Sleeping at the Qwikpick is an interesting experience. Especially after walking the entire block in crutches.
The night security guard, Charonigami stood outside the door, and when he saw me he grimaced.
“Easy, Walter,” Edward said, “He’s with me.”
At night, the Qwikpick always had mood lighting, last time I had been there it was pink and blue like some kind of rave, though tonight the lights were a much fainter red, the piano in the back had gotten softer. Edward brought me to the backrooms of the establishment.
There, the piano man, the Origami Cerberus who keeps people out of the back office through the sheer magnitude of the screeches he erupted played with such grace I wondered if he actually got those lessons from Ximena.
“Ah, Mac! Nice seeing you!” Mr. Emily said, stepping out. He hadn’t changed a bit, the spitting image of his son. He kind of looked like Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman.
We sat down in the breakroom, the only light being emitted from the aquarium, and a lava lamp in the back. Edward told me his plan. “Listen, dude,” I said, “Sebastian’s been rallying for a year now. It’s not like he’s going to stop doing it now. And besides, what’s in it for you? Weren’t you always some greedy clown?”
“Alright, listen here you little %*(#A^,” he snarled, “Contrary to your one-sided belief system, I have a moral compass, I know right from wrong, and I know that people can change, dirtwipe, and you should too. And word to the not so wise here, buckeroo, I think OrigOlympus should go. But if CHRONOS wins, then we’ll have even bigger problems. Besides, I want revenge.”
“Revenge?” I asked. “For what?”
His eyes got dark. He grimaced. “They got my sister expelled. Now she’s at Caesar, and trust me, Athens will look like a Pre-School compared to what’s supposed to go down.”
“You said “supposed to.” What do you know?”
“I’ve talked to the OrigOracle. We’re trying to stop The Dark Ages.”
Sadly, he had a point. Not about the dark ages, that was nonsense. But Sebastian needed to be stopped. Edward had lost more than I imagined.
“I’m in.” I said.
His cold, creepy smile made me wish I never had agreed. “We need to retrace Sebastian’s footsteps. Learn more about his past, like I said before. But Sebastian was sloppy, he had rages, and bad ones at that.” He lifted up the notebook, and up close I could see where Sebastian had dug his nails into the leather cover, “There’s literally two chapters of knowledge in here, we have a lot of footsteps to trace, so, Mac,” he tossed the diary over to me, “Read up, loser.”
Chapter Two: I Make Quite An Impression
I sighed. New town. New me, I guess. Dad got fired from his job as a track teacher, which really hurt my family’s reputation, though he claimed to be close with Athens’ principal. God, I miss McQuarrie. I miss my friends.
But there is… one thing, one thing that I never would’ve accounted for. The origami. It feels like there’s some big tapestry, an untold story, all dating back to greek mythology. I want to know more, but it feels like they don’t want me to, I feel, in essence, repressed, trapped, even, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start over, god, I can’t do anything right.
The party, the one at the beach, I remember it vividly. I couldn’t really find a clique to hang with, I made it with the jocks until I started correcting their pop culture references. God forbid the cheerleaders, I’d be labelled for life. The nerds seemed to fear me, probably because I looked like a bit of a jerk, the mannerisms, the glare in my eyes. I stayed away from the goths, for my safety. But there were two people, people sitting across from each other on a towel.
One was a girl, she seemed to talk with her hands a lot, fidgeting with her fingers. The other sat on his hands. I walk up to the happy couple.
“Ah love, I say. Y’know, my Ex-wife still misses me,” I joke, “But her aim is getting better.”
The two look at me like an idiot, but slowly it softens. They got the joke. The girl laughs, “We are not a couple.”
The homedawg frowns, then extends his hand. “Hi, I’m Dennis Redwood,” he points at Lina, “Lina, care to introduce yourself?”
“Lina. Lina Kemp.”
“Anyways,” Lina says as Dennis scootches over, allowing me room in-between them on the towel, “I personally didn’t care for the finale, Star basically commited mass genocie.”
“She sacrificed being with the boy she loved-” Dennis began to argue.
“To commit mass genocide,” Lina interupted.
I smiled and kicked my shoes off, I had found my people.
That’s when Anastasia Wisley came in. “Ah, how’s life, guys?” She asks, putting her arms on me and Lina’s shoulders, while her words were, well, very clearly words, she was able to twist them into stinging like bees. “Doin’ just fine, Wisley.”
“Y’know, Kemp, I didn’t actually ask you. I’m here to talk to Redwood and the new kid. Redwood, my guy, so I talked to Cross, you know what she said? You didn’t get the work done.”
“Look, I’ll get it to you Monday morning.”
She stole one of Dennis’ shoes and hit him with it. “Dennis, homeslice, listen, I need time to copy the homework over, my sweet, sweet friend. Do you know what’ll happen if I hand in my papers in your handwriting? Kemp’s gonna have my &*@ in no time.”
“Ight, ight, fine, I’ll swing by Sunday morning to give you time.”
“Not too early, I sleep in on Sundays.” She walked away.
“Y’know,” Lina said to Dennis, “You really should stand up to her some day.”
“Yeah, yeah, I will, I will.”
My first day of actual school was easy, though I did end up engaging in this whole new origami trend. My puppet was of this book character I grew up in love with, Percy Jackson. I inspired Dennis to fold himself an Origami Grover. There’s never really been the stereotypical “villains,” but we were happy with how things turned out.
Until one September afternoon. There was this one girl, and she seemed to be in a frenzied panic. There were people, chasing after her, in the halls. She hit a dead end.
“Hey!” I shouted, yeah, I know, I’m very articulate. I pulled Origami Percy Jackson out for all to see. They laughed.
A fight scene later, they were on the ground. I asked the girl if she was okay. She groaned, straightened her hair, and walked away. “Hey, wait up!” I pleaded.
I jogged over to the girl who was already halfway across the hall at this point.
“Listen, you can’t just walk away like this.”
“Sure I can.” She said, “That’s what I’m doing right now.”
While I tried to come up with a witty retort, she continued walking. “Listen, could you- could you at least tell me your name, maybe how you got into… that… whole… ordeal?”
“Name’s Strohm, Ximena Strohm,” she said, like I should know this already. As she turned around. When she caught a glimpse of me she jolted up, “And you, my masculine friend, will be helpful!”
I stopped. “Miss- um- with wh- what exactly?”
I looked through my backpack for a pencil, and she continued to evaluate me, scanning me down. It seemed that every time she noticed something she didn’t like her eye twitched. I pulled out a really old chewed up pencil with Clone Wars characters on it. I tossed it at her. She sketched an address down, “Meet me at this location after school.”
“Whatever time works best for you, so after MythBowl, good luck on the tournament next Saturday, by the way.”
“How did you-”
“I’m very perceptive,” she said, walking away, a smile on her face.
The address in question was a dojo, Debbie Don’s Dance Dojo. he was leaning on the glass window outside, cleaning out her nails with a pencil. She flashed a smile when she saw me. I blushed. She was very pretty.
“So, um, Miss Strohm, what exactly is it that you wanted to talk to me about?” My voice cracked. I’m sure that my voice did not match my body, in fact, I sounded like a total dork.
Her eyes shifted, “Listen, you’re new here, right, I know that because your eyes seem to wander around, I’m new here too, and well, I’ve already gotten mixed up in things, and it involves my parents, and well… I think it may involve yours, too. I know, I know, it’s going to sound crazy, but there seriously is something going on here in Athens, a conspiracy.” Her eyes continued to shift across the street, never once locking with mine, though the shifting of her glassy beads seemed to lock me into a trance.
She snapped at me, “It’s best we come inside.”
We sat down at the dojo, in the lobby. Light filtered in the windows illuminating the checkered floor. The woman up front with poofy black hair’s eyes darted at me, though she continued mixing a packet of Kool-Aid into her water bottle.
Ximena pulled a sheet of paper out of her pocket, it was folded up, though I couldn’t make out the details because it was flipped over. There, she had jotted down several notes, though before I had a chance to start reading them she lifted up a magazine to shield them from prying eyes.
There was a triangle at the very center, the three points branched off, in the center of the triangle, in wild cursive read “THE TRIUMVIRATE.”
On the branch at the top there was a series of rambles, some of which included “Caesar Student???”, and “Leader???”, as you can tell, there were a lot of question marks about this guy, but I got the idea.
On the bottom two branches, there was a heart connecting them, and the word “Dating” was crossed out. Towards the far left, circled, was a bunch of question marks, question marks everywhere, though circled and underlined it read “Brains of the operation”. Finally, on the far right, the so-called spouse of the other entity was much less mysterious. “Alexander, The Puppet”, it said underlined, next to it, it read “Athens Student”, and “very dumb.”
As you can see, it was incoherent.
“So,” she whispered, like she was about to get into a political debate, “I overheard my brother talking on the phone to,” she circled the far left entity, “this person. And my brother was reporting that he had accessed Athens’ social hierarchy, which, well, he has. He talked a lot about Neroigami, and he mentioned Alexander, The Puppet once, leading me into a frenzied google search. I found an instagram account with that name, it just got active this month. I was able to find out that he called his girlfriend “witty,” and, “hilarious,” which perfectly matched the mystery woman who my brother was on the phone with. She seemed to be dealing out orders, though she constantly referred to a higher-up, this Neroigami individual, and whenever she talked about Neroigami, she also mentioned something called Chronos. And something about angels. But the biggest deal buster? They talked down about the OrigOlympians, the OrigOlympians being-”
“The council of teachers that rules this school, yeah, yeah, I know, I know.”
“But do you know of my connection?”
“Yeah, my Mom’s Arthena. The librarian, part of the reason why we moved here, that, and my Dad.”
The way she said ‘Dad’ made me want to pry for more, though it seemed she was inviting me in just to shut me out, “but the real question is… what is your connection? What is your purpose, Sebastian Merrick?”
Her lips tensed together inquisitively, her eyes seemed to plead for an answer. What exactly is my purpose?
She interrupted my existentialism by producing a yearbook from her backpack. It looked like it was from the nineties, maybe a few years before, though as she rooted I saw many faces that seemed oddly familiar, though I couldn’t quite place my finger. Then I saw myself, or more accurately, I saw my Father. He looked sort of like a young Owen Wilson. He held up something on his finger, a little guy with wings protruding from some sort of helmet.
“Meet Lucas Merrick. Your father.”
And it clicked. My father was always a bit of a weird guy. He grew ecstatic when I told him I started reading the Percy Jackson books. Weirder yet, was how he said he had unfinished business here at Athens, and that that was part of why he moved here. I never felt the obsessive need to look into this, though the measures seemed extreme enough to warrant it, in hindsight, of course.
“So do you really think my Dad is involved in this, in danger somehow?”
“I’m sure of it. And I have a feeling, just a feeling, that you’ll be the one who stops all this nonsense. That’s why I brought you here, to Debbie Don’s.”
“Yo hold up what-”
She grabbed me by the arm and walked me to the lady up front. “Miss Youmans,” Ximena said, “I have a new candidate for Debbie Don’s. Meet Sebastian Merrick.”
Chapter Three: My Reaction To Reading A Fever Dream
“Ok, yeah…” I blurted out in the middle of the night, once I was done reading, “But like… what?”
“I’ll explain in the morning, my guy.” He said, reaching over to turn the lamp in his room off.
“No, no, no, don’t pull any of that crap here,” I snapped, “You dragged me into this mess, and I am not waiting ‘till morning to see how it ends.”
“Actually, you are.”
The room was engulfed in darkness, ending the conversation.
My sleeping bag was fun. I never really had anyone to go camping with, so it was a new experience. I wondered what would happen if I covered the bag in vaseline and pretended I was a slug. That thought put me to sleep.
On the other hand, my dreams were not fun. I stood in a corn field, as all the best symbolic dreams did. There was a tree, just out in the distance. Giggles erupted from there, ones of childlike glee. A voice seemed to pull me in, like a siren. The wispy strands of wheat and barley brush up against my legs, and a second voice chirps in, this one much deeper and slightly jaded.
The corn grows taller the further I walk, obstructing my view of whatever is speaking. I push past the corn fields and see but one person. Myself. Staring back at the way a mirror does, though, the mirrored version of myself stands in a void of inky black. Just as I reach out to touch the mirror, Edward jolts me awake from my slumber.
“Wake up, seaweed brain, we have work to do.”
The sun filtered in through the windows, slightly blinding me. I grabbed my crutches, and Edward directed me to the bathroom, which had a bunch of weird vending machines in it. After brushing my teeth, I was ready. When I stepped out of the bathroom, Edward stood dressed in workout tights. Why wouldn’t he be?
He silently ushered me over to a closet where he handed me a green version of whatever he was wearing. I tossed it into the trash can.
Edward pulled a VHS tape out of where his underpants should’ve been, and he plugged it into one of those big televisions. I think I’ll just describe what I saw.
In big silver letters behind a purple, old-timey, background read the words “HERCUPLEATS: WORKOUT SESSION”
This was going to be a long day.
A boy, maybe fourteen, appeared in front of a stock image of ancient Athens, he looked like he’d be a heartthrob in his era. “So,” he began, “You broke your leg…”
I looked to Edward who munched on his popcorn, then back to the young man on the screen, who seemed to be awakening something. “First, we gotta get those tendons movin!” He said, faking cheerfulness. “Find yourself a partner, preferably with intact legs,” which made me realize how weird it was that Athens archives would’ve held such a specific artifact.
I looked to the only partner I could find, Edward. He smiled, gleefully.
“First,” Hercupleats said, “Let your partner lift your leg up, as far as it could possibly go, that’s important, remember that.”
Edward awkwardly lifted my leg up. Good news guys, my legs were not completely limp. Which brings me to the bad news, I could still feel pain. Eventually, my legs locked, almost decapitating Edward in the process.
I was now able to stand on one leg, barely, I still couldn’t walk yet, but it was a start.
Eventually, we managed to get the other leg standing, although slightly hunched. For future generations, never ask Edward how he got the scar on his neck.
HercuPleats’ next exercise was much more cruel than the last. Edward had to simulate my walking, which led to more uncomfortable positions, though I could waddle. Next came the moment of truth.
I was able to walk again, albeit with a little bit of help from Edward, his arm wrapped around my neck.
I began to wonder if Edward had an ulterior motive, though that’s no matter, because I could technically kind of walk, at around, say, eleven.
I was hungry, and more importantly, ready to get back to Athens. To end all of this.
Edward stopped me from exiting the room, this time with a doctor’s coat over his workout outfit, drenched in sweat as mine had been. “Upbupbup buddy boy,” he stopped, “You gotta pay your medical bill.
He tossed me a name tag. I read over it, it said “Hi, My Name is… Mac Astley”, next he threw me a suit like the one he had worn.
“Welcome to the Qwikpick team, Mac.”
I was confused, until I wasn’t.
“Listen, I’ll make you lunch and dinner, but there’s crap I gotta do, ight man?” Before I could respond, he left.
Edward, come back. Don’t leave me here. Please.
Chapter Four: The War Council Comes To A Realization
Now, I’m sure you’re thinking by now, what exactly are you talking about, Dennis?
I must finesse about ten people, or so.
At the same time.
I had asked Mr. Alexander for the house captains to hold a meeting. My goal was simple: we needed as many of these perfectly trained, agile, people there for the final battle.
That morning, we all gathered around a ping pong table in the rec-room.
Serene was the first person I spotted. Giving her credit, Serene is far from a bad person. She’s just a bit of a jerk, but she’s loyal if you get on her good side. After Mac left, Ximena was able to make amends with her. She was in the middle of arguing with August Hunter, the brother of one of CHRONOS’ members. He was a nice guy, really loved music. They were bickering about something really stupid, Serene wanted to transform the Loyalty Cabin into something else, maybe knock down a few walls and expand combat, I don’t know. Between the two’s bickering was Ximena, who looked like she had been crying. I couldn’t believe they were arguing about this in front of Ximena, especially when our school is on the line like this. She sat vacantly across from me, simply staring at the ping-pong net. Her eyes were red and puffy.
“STOP IT!” I yelled, instinctively, the way I would’ve back when we were still close. It just sort of came out.
Serene glared at me, “Tell August not to be a selfish jerk.”
“Coming from you? Wow, Serene, wow…”
“Silence,” Lina interrupted, Leader and only member of Honor, stepping out of the doorway and slamming it with a crack of thunder. “I have a word from Laura. She’s worked with her associates, they believe they have a prophecy.”
“Oh, really?” The Growth House leader interrupted, “Are we really supposed to believe in witchcraft all of a sudden?”
Lina looked to Ximena for guidance. Nothing, just the cold, dead stare she often gave us. Sometimes it feels like she’s gone mute, heck, sometimes we forget she’s there.
“Listen, Vegs, at the moment, there’s no better ideas, and she has many sources.”
“Oh, and what’d she cite? A tin foil hat?”
“Nah,” Adam from the Travel Cabin joked, “She probably got into the fun dip if you know what I mean…”
“Again, ladies and gentlemen,” Lina said, raising her voice. It was then, and only then, I realized how well she took charge. She was like a less stuffy version of her Mom, incorruptible in loyalty to her people’s honor, “We don’t have anyone else to trust.”
“Lina,” Ximena interrupted, silencing the entire room. The only thing more powerful than Ximena’s silence was her words, “Not to discredit my dear friend, but I truly do believe that there are errors in your logic. In no way do I intend to diminish her credibility, she’d never knowingly share something that she doesn’t believe to be true, and her prophecies have been shown to be helpful in the past, but wouldn’t you say that stepping from grafiti and secret tunnels to witchcraft a bit extreme?”
“Then what do we do?” I asked.
“Well,” Ximena said, “I say we hear it out, sure, but we look for other options, tactical ones at that, it could all just be parlor tricks, and remember how her prophecies revolving around the Triumvirate worked out?” She smiled dryly, “Yeah, I thought so.”
There was an awkward pause, which Ximena interrupted by snapping her fingers. “Prophecy?” She reminded me.
“Oh, yeah, yeah,” Lina blushed, “uh… uh….” She pulled up a sheet of paper that looked exactly how you’d imagine it to look.
“You shall fight with the one who has turned,” Ximena nodded, it felt like one of the thousand bricks she lifted up on her shoulders was finally put onto a wheelbarrow.
“You shall make what was once destroyed finally restored,” Again, the room eased. Restoration is always nice.
“Mac Astley, helpless to fight,” that’s a given, heck, it probably already happened.
“Left unable to turn darkness to light,” we decoded that one pretty easily, no one- not even Mac- could save Sebastian from himself, he was too far gone now.
“Two sides of a coin, leaving Athens at its death,” OK THIS IS NOT GOOD GUYS.
“And Kings and Queens, take their first or final breath,” That raises a red flag in me. I’d spent my last few weeks before the quarantine searching, and I realized that some of the minor OriGods have started siding with CHRONOS, if the teachers are joining them, then we’re truly screwed.
All in all, we were left more confused than before. Ximena sighed, “On that happy note, Lina, could I borrow that there sheet of paper, and while you’re on your way out could you stop by The Hunters of Art-emis’ place, I heard that Mr. Alexander was letting them stay at the independence house, ironic, isn’t it? And Dennis, you called this meeting together, and seeing as the only good you did for this meeting was refusing to participate in it, you may as well be the one to adjourn it.”
“I- I do not know how, actually.”
Lina put her fist down, and for a moment she looked JUST like her Mom, tyranny and all. “I, Lina Bush Kemp, to hereby adjourn this meeting, may the OriGods bless us, hail Debbie Don’s.”
“Hail!” The rest of us followed.
I loved how Ximena ignores every single problem she ever has, makes her a real optimist.
Chapter Five: Keana Makes My Day
My dream started like this:
I was in my parents’ room. Dad looked much younger, so did Mom. It couldn’t have been after two thousand and twelve
I hear screams erupt from a room far out of my air view. “Chase is screaming again.” He groaned.
“Handle it.” My Mother said.
I knew then what this dream was about to entail. It was a night that kept coming back to me, my earliest memory, one that is a fitting summary of my life even now.
The dream cut to my room, or, me and my brother’s room. My little brother, two years younger than me. Chase. My Dad always called me the most mature little girl in the world, and it showed that night. My brother was in tears, likely from a nightmare. I tried to comfort him, honestly, but Dad had to intervene.
Chase’s nightmare wasn’t anything much, but it would probably scare a then… what, three year old? Four year old? I’m bad at math. Chase had been looking all over the mansion, and Mom and Dad were just… gone. Mom being gone was never much of a surprise, during those days she was just one of Athens’ top teachers, ironically more busy then she was these days. But Dad… he’s always there.
Dad gently patted my head when he walked to my bed, and he gently asked me to loosen my arms from around Chase, consoling him in a hug.
“Chase, Lina, did I ever tell you two a story? Your Mother met me in Middle School, and she brought me into this OrigOlympian nonsense, suppose that makes me Hera or something? I never much cared for the character so much as I cared for her, if seeing me with a paper puppet made her happy, I wasn’t willing to deny her of that, though I knew she’d grow out of it, and I know that someday, I don’t know when… or where… but you two will one day join it, and when you do, you’ll grow out of it as well.
Ironically, that’s what the origami helped us do. Grow up. And growing up meant losing what you care a lot about, sometimes losing is a good thing, sometimes winning brings us more trouble than it’s worth. But when you two lose what you love, remember that I’ll always be there with you, I used to think that love would be fun, now look at me, look at what loss brought me, brought your Mother too. All our stories have been told, except for you two. Without me, no matter if OrigOlympus collapses, you will be okay, because I will be there, when the day is my last, it will be your first,” and he finished his story, and as his hand reached to Chase’s blankets, he realized that we had already fallen, fast asleep.
Man, I wish things were still as peaceful.
Screaming from my Mother and Father awoke me. “Morning’ bro,” I say to Chase from the top bunk.
“Morning,” he answers from below, not looking up from this letter to this girl or something. The expulsion hit him hard, as it hit me, dang, that felt like a bajillion years ago.
I put my earbuds in and search for a song to listen to, my phone already in the pockets of the hoodie I slept in.
I put in The Force theme, and it goes well with the mood, I guess.
Mom and Dad are mid-argument, as per fricken’ usual. Me and my brother have gotten used to living this way, casually dodging what Mother throws in her fits of rage, without giving a second thought to it. Mom storms out of the room in a fit of rage, stomping into one of the massive rooms in the hodgepodge of other massive rooms we call our house.
“GOOD MORNING, LINA!” Dad shouts, “Did you sleep well, deary?”
“Yeah,” I say, “Thanks, Dad.”
I sit and eat breakfast. Once I’m done, I ask Dad if I could go for a walk outside. I put the Baby Yoda facemask on- he bought it, of course, and stepped outside. He said I should promise to stay on our property lines, but I had someone who I needed to talk to.
Y’know, I love Keana McDaniels. Everyone these days is kinda just, well, the worst. Keana has somehow been left untouched by all this stupidity, and I think there’s something magical about that.
I first met this lovely bubble of charm at the local gym where a lot of Ms. Hunters Hunters of Art-emis met on the weekends. It was unofficial, but she had a friend group.
The place had this sort of stench to it, like sweat and fragile masculinity. In the back of the gym, they were all just sort of resting on equipment no one was using, heck, the place was mostly empty, as Athens naturally is. Most of our population are shut-ins.
“Howdy ladies,” I casually say.
“Oh, howdy Lina, wassup?” Keana asks, extending her hand. I shake it.
“So, I believe that you’re aware of the current situation revolving around Sebastian Merrick’s rebellion.”
“Yeah,” one of the Hunters interrupted, “We already chose not to get involved in stuff like this.”
The rest’s eyes shifted around, it seemed that this other Hunter had had an argument brewing with Keana for a long time now.
“No, don’t “listen, Anastasia” me. Ms. Hunter made me the leader after Kaitlyn, I don’t care if you’re her “spiritual successor” or whatever.”
“I understand that, and no one here is diminishing your credibility, but I truly do think that this is a good idea and Kaitlyn said that most good leaders listen t-”
“I DON’T CARE WHAT KAITLYN SAID, NUMBSKULL.”
“Anastasia, Sebastian could potentially destroy OrigOlympus, meaning there would be no Hunters of Art-emis left for you to lead, and I’m sure no one would want that.”
“Guys, guys,” I interrupted, “Listen, we could make some other arrangements, maybe do a bit of bargaining.”
If there’s one thing my dysfunctional family is good at, it’s bargaining.
“What do you have that The Hunters could possibly want?” Anasatasia asked. And then, hearing her voice, seeing her face, I remembered Anastasia. If she was leading The Hunters of Art-emis, then they truly are doomed.
“Nothing, actually.” I said, already walking away, “Forget I asked.”
“Forgotten,” Anastasia said.
As I walked home, Keana caught up with me.
“Hey, so, uh, sorry about Anastasia.”
“Yeah, wonder what crawled up her butt and died.”
“I don’t know, but ever since Ms. Hunter personally assigned her a puppet and the leadership role- after Kaitlyn left, she’s sat on a high horse.”
“She always has. Also, wait, she got a puppet?”
“Makes sense, never really liked her myths. She is always a bit stuck up.”
“Listen, Lina, I want to help you, but there’d probably be consequences if I did. So I give you good luck, okay, because you’re a good person, I can sense that.”
“You are too.”
She wrote a number on a napkin and handed it to me.
As she walked back to the gym, she shouted.
“Hit me up!”
So, the day wasn’t a total failure.
Chapter Six: I Learn A Valuable Lesson In Patience
McDonald’s prides itself on being the best first job.
After working at the Qwikpick, I now know I can neither confirm nor deny those claims.
So, first of all, people con you. Like, a lot. Not in bad ways, but for instance, they pay for the slurpee cup when they CLEARLY are using the double gulp cup, these people honestly have no shame. Most of the time I let it slide but sometimes… sometimes it gets to me. Charles owned two stores, one was the one I was at, and one that was sort of part of a gas station at Walmart. That one had more patrons, so Mr. Emily spent a lot of time there.
And you would not believe the weird stuff that you can find at these places, in the random shelves that are FOR jewelry, but worst of all, there was one customer. Let’s call her, Karen, yeah.
She comes in, a mask above her mouth and nose, of course.
“Ma’am, we have a mask policy, you’ll need to-”
“I’m sorry but you’re infringing upon my civil liberties.”
“Actually we’re obeying New York state law, you know, other human beings matter and… y’know… exist.”
“Yeah, but if they get the virus then it’s god’s way of telling them that they need to be put down, that’s why I keep my kids pure and unvaccinated.”
At that moment I wanted to punk her. “Sorry miss, but we ARE willing to blacklist you from this establishment if you actively break state law.”
She puts her mask up. “Could I order some of the spicy ‘kickin chicken?”
I turn to the chicken guy, he’s around thirteen or fourteen, doesn’t speak much english, Pablo. “Yo, ve a tratar con este cliente, quiere pollo.” I say to Pablo.
Karen taps the table, “Hey, so umm, you’re in America. I’d prefer it if you speak English, thanks.”
“Oh, Ma’am, I’m sorry, he just recently imigrated here and he’s still learning.”
“Well, then why does he have a job here and not in Mexico?”
“Because… he- he doesn’t live there, ma’am.”
“I’m sorry, but I just don’t want to hear you take my order when you could be saying anything behind my back, I know you people like to talk in your ‘secret language’ but-”
And I mentally tuned her out from there.
“Miss,” I say when she’s done, “This man here is making your chicken. He promises not to spit in it-”
“I’m not worried about spit, I’m worried you two might not be part of a cartel or something.”
“Miss, I assure you that no cartel would do business with you.”
“I don’t like your tone, could I speak to your manager, I’m sure he’d take my side in this. What’s his number?”
I gave her the number. The look of surprise she gets when Pablo’s phone rings will forever go down as one of Mac Astley’s greatest moments.
“Hola, habla el gerente de Qwikpick, en qué puedo ayudarlo?”
“Wha-” she stammers.
He hands the phone to me, “Hi, this is his translator speaking. This is the Qwikpick junior manager speaking, how may I help you?”
She storms out of the room. I highfive Pablo.
Edward returns before sunset. “So, Mac, what did you learn from today?”
“I- I don’t know, it feels like you just wanted an employee for your Dad-”
“No, my dear friend, I wanted you to do one thing. You needed to understand the hardships of others. Do you understand what every single day is like, on my part?”
“Good, because your services are no longer required. Now that you understand me, time you understand Sebastian, another blast from the past work for you, Aroni?”
“Shut up, please, just shut up.”
Side note: Pretty sure Pablo was an actor, overheard him speak fluent English with Edward. He has an Origami Thanatos. Nice.
“So, what are we doing now?” I ask.
Edward grins. “We’re going swimming.”
“It’s eight at night.”
“We’re breaking in.”
“The nearest pool is three miles away.”
“Not this one.” I quickly realized what we were doing, and who was standing outside.
My swim coach, Tyler Willigens, stood outside of the community center, shifting his feet.
“Edward, I could get fired for this.” Edward hands him a stack of cash and whispers in his ear. I can only catch the words “Caesar… Kaitlyn… phone.”
Tyler leads me and Edward into the building, and right in front of the pool.
“Hey, I’m dating your Mom.” Tyler says.
“Wha-” I’m cut off by Edward sweeping my leg, but before I pretty much just drown, he grabs me by the hair.
“Tyler, what’s up with you and my M-” Edward slaps me. “Better get those leg kicking, son of Poseidon.” And he drops me back in the water.
Chapter Seven: The Regularly Scheduled War Training
I did not want to be here. I didn’t think things would go this far, but the things you do for love, am I right, Ximena?
Ximena wanted the Debbie Donners- first of all, yes, that is the word, second of all, no, I was not already a member prior to meeting Dennis- to compete in an old game of Capture The Flag.
People yelled and cheered as Ximena carried out an orange silk banner, representing the good guys. From the other end of our small huddle in the forest, Serene and her buddies held a black banner, representing the enemy.
I turned to Dennis. “Those are the flags?”
“Combat and Wisdom always lead the teams?”
“Not always,” he said, “but often.”
He began to say something, but Serene and Ximena returned from the woods, they had hidden their flags. The conch horn rang, and the people who Combat had allied themselves with were off, meanwhile, Wisdom stayed behind.
“Don’t worry guys,” Ximena said, “I have a plan. We all have our special skills, don’t we. Speed, Brains. Strength of will. Adam, Luke, you were good against the Hunters, lead the Travel cabin on-”
“Foot brigade. Got it.” He said, already jogging off.
“Dennis, you know the usual.”
“Yep,” he said, “hide in the tree.”
“Mallory, you go with him.”
“Oh, what do we do after that?” I asked.
“Stay there, Mallory. You stay there.”
As I walked away with Dennis, Dennis rather glum, Ximena stopped us. “Dennis, I’m not trying to get you out of the action this time. I can’t be that selfish, not with what’s going on, not with us not even knowing what Sebastian is up to. I’m sending you into the tree because you have the wits, the stealth, and you’ve learned a thing or two from those trees. I trust you.”
Dennis smiled, then nodded. “I’m on it.”
Cut to us sitting on a branch, our legs dangling off of the branches. “So, Dennis, what are we supposed to do?” I whispered.
“See any of combat’s guy, jump ‘em, you good with your feet?”
“I’m on the cheerleading team.”
“Ohhhh, really, I didn’t know that about you.”
“Wow, I’ll have to show you some moves sometimes.”
Our on-foot guard, August Hunter, asked us to shut up.
From the distance, I saw some people marching up-front, all wearing the same masks as a sort of code. I wondered why I wasn’t let in on things, but the realization hit me.
“Hey August!” I shouted down, “We have a problem.”
Before he could ask ‘what?’ a girl wearing one of the face masks appeared from the shadows, wrapping her hand around his neck. “Hello…. brother.”
I got a better look at her mask. It was pure black, the details were made out of that weird glow in the dark material. There was an hourglass, though the sand was floating backwards. Shattering the hourglass was a scythe. CHRONOS had arrived.
The girl herself wasn’t all that intimidating, I mean, no one who wears a Reddit hoodie can be, but nonetheless, she engaged her brother. And won.
Us hiding in the trees, we had to hold back whatever noise we wanted to make. Dennis made a high-pitched noise I could only call a squeam. I put my hand over his mouth. I grabbed him by the hand and we dropped down.
We helped August up, and we managed to fend off the girl who we would later learn to be named Peyton, August’s sister, daughter of Artpollo. Because of course.
The three of us were hunched over, panting. We had a few questions, the second biggest of which being, ‘yo, what the hell?’
And what of the BIGGEST? Well, we learned that Sebastian had ambushed us. Some of us turned against each other, though we expected that. It’s hard with Xander and Xena blatantly here, though weirdly enough, Xena helped fight off Xander, so we may actually have an unexpected ally. A few people went missing, Adam and Luke, Serene, even. Worst of all?
Lina Kemp was gone.
Chapter Eight: An Oracle Serves Us Iced Tea
Mac’s training was going well. He nearly drowned a few times last night, but once he was back up on his feet, I had him wax the windows, paint the sides of the building, even restock a few shelves. But today is special. Why? It’s the third and final day of Mac’s learning process, though I requested Mac stay at the Qwikpick for four days, the fourth day being when he takes action.
Today was the hardest.
There was no killer quest to go on, no. Today we had to get information from the source. From Sebastian Merrick himself.
I helped Mac to Sebastian’s place. It’s this log cabin that’s barely in Athens’ city limits. Occasionally, he’d stumble, trip a bit here and there, but somehow Hercupleat’s training video worked… ? He needed a bit of exercises here and there, but it’s not like it was a traditional bone breaking. Sebastian somehow broke his nerves, it’s like a million to one or something.
Me and Mac stand on Sebastian’s porch. In greek, the door read “Merrick.”
Or, well, the best translation that could be mustered. I looked at Mac. “Ready?”
I barely tapped the door when it swung open.
“Se- Oh. Oh dear.” It was Lucas Merrick. Hermerrick.
“Hey kids,” he said, “Let me guess, it’s about my son. He’s not really in a good place right now and-”
“Mr. Merrick,” I say, “With all due respect, it’s rather important.”
“Look, would you say that Merrick is- erm- anti-social?”
“Yeah, I’d say so.”
“So what if we were to just talk in the living room, you and us.”
“Oh- oh is there a reason or-”
“Well we do have a few questions about your son.”
“Genie!” he shouted, “We have guests!”
A woman appeared wearing a sundress and a kind smile. “Oh? Are you two some of Sebastian’s friends?”
“Yeah, yeah, you could say that, but we actually came here to meet-”
But it was too late.
“Sebastian, honey! Your friends are here.”
Sebastian enters the room. He has this frenzied look on his face, like he’s panicking. It’s what I look like when my Dad arrives home and I didn’t get any of the work he told me to do. He wore a Nirvana tank top, with one of the album covers on it. You know, the famous one with the naked baby on it.
“Father,” he said, firming up his jaw. “These people shouldn’t be here. They’re a bad influence over me.”
Sebastian’s Mom looked us up and down. “Oh, See-See, they don’t look like they’d hurt a fly. You, on the other hand, desperately need to comb your hair. A shower wouldn’t hurt either.”
“Oh, am I embarrassing you? Sorry.”
All in all, Mrs. Merrick seemed nice.
Five minutes later all five of us had glasses of ice tea in our hands. Me and the Merricks were exchanging stories and they’re both just really nice stories, meanwhile Mac and Sebastian were crammed together on their lovely sofa in silence that was quite uncharacteristic for both of them. However, I did manage to get quite a bit of information out of them, so I present to you what I refer to as the timeline of Sebastian Merrick.
- Lucas Merrick was Hermes during what I refer to as “The Silver Age”.
- Genie Dodona-Merrick was the OrigOracle, the only know predecessor to Laura Delphi, though there may be a few more scattered through history
- The two claim to have met in High School whilst the former was on a quest. This has some interesting implications…. Do the OrigOlympians extend past Middle School(s)? High Schools? College? Is there some sort of mafia going on here, that the only way you leave is in a silver box, or am I just overthinking?
- Later on in life, the two got married and had Sebastian Merrick, his godfather is brought up alot, wonder what that’s about.
- Sebastian got into several fights and developed symptoms of bi-polar disorder during this period in which it is news to me.
But the weirdest thing was how calm Sebastian slowly became. The silence died away, he acted like our friends. It didn’t seem disingenuous. He seemed to like it, knowing that we know his past- that we can save him. Or does he truly believe he can’t be saved?
I coughed and asked to be excused.
Once done with my business, I decided to be a bad house guest. I was going to go through Sebastian’s room- uninvited.
The room was what you expected it to look like. Messy. Stacks of papers everywhere.
I had just stolen a different notebook and his Origami Percy Jackson before the door creaked. Leaning on the frame was Sebastian Merrick.
He clapped his hands together. “Hey man, never really go to introduce myself to you.” He offered his hand. I didn’t take it.
“Just as well,” he admitted. “I just want to extend hospitality of course. Because sure enough, I care about Mac. About Ximena. Dennis. And in a couple of minutes, in fact, I’m going to have a conversation with Lina. Keep looking through my journals, keep showing them to Mac, keep doing all of that Emily. Because then you’ll be doing my job for me. You’re turning someone with incorruptible morale against the status quo. You’re repeating my ‘failures.’”
He put his jacket on and left the room the way he would if he were heading off for work.
I sat down on Sebastian’s bed.
Am I really doing his job for him? I thought. I had my own intentions in mind, and if I were slowly convincing Mac to turn- not the contrary.
No, I decided, because what’s the difference between Sebastian and Mac? Mac has hope. He’s willing to fight for what’s right.
I stood up. I looked at Sebastian’s puppet and realized Mac would need just a little more training.
Chapter Nine: Peyton, Shut Up And Abduct Me Properly.
“Guys,” a voice said, “we just DID that!” She sounded jumpy, like she was both excited and anxious at the same time.
“Is the whole trip going to be like this?” Another voice asked.
For context I was knocked out and two figures were dragging me by the legs. My immediate reaction was panic, of course, but it sort of became more of a huh. This may as well happen.
I’ve just stopped caring…?
“I hope so!” A third voice said, cheerful.
I felt good for these people, and glad I could bring them this happiness.
On the other hand…
“Look, we’re doing something right. We somehow found their woods.”
“Guys…” the girl said, “Could we go back I left my hoodie in the bush.”
“Sit tight, Peyton,” the cheerful voice said. I recognized it as Xander’s.
“Yeah,” the third voice said. Ben. “Calm down.”
“BUT MY PHONE WAS IN THE POCKET.”
“Look, let’s just drop off the scumbag and we’ll circle around,” Ben offered.
“Fine… “ Peyton grumbled. “But if a fox eats it or something you’re paying for it.”
“Me or Xander?” Benjamin asked.
“Well, I mean, phones are pretty expensive. You’d both have to pool in cash and it would probably be a whole thing given that you guys would have to handle the phone bill and all, so it’s probably not much of a good idea, maybe you’d just owe me the money the old one costed so I could buy a new one?”
“That sounds reasonable.” Xander said.
I smiled. I kicked Xander and Benjamin, the people carrying me at the legs. They groaned. Peyton was holding me by my head, freeing my arms. I used them to grab her by the legs and push myself up.
I look at Peyton and get into a fighting stance.
“Please let me live,” Peyton asked, “I hate working here. These people are so weird.” I tilted my hand assuringly.
She ran off.
That’s when I heard a slow clapping and a tingle shot up my spine.
“Lina- Lina- Lina- Lina- Kemp.” Sebastian chuckled. “Long time no see, my dear. You haven’t aged a day.”
“And you very clearly have.”
“Now tell me,” he said, “How’s life? I do believe it’s been a while since we caught up.”
“Cut the crap, Sebastian.”
“Whatever do you mean?”
“You’re trying to get into my head, never breaking character. You want to trick me into still being friends- trick me into thinking that you care.”
“Truth be told,” he said, “I do. And I want you to hear me out because I think someone could have a change of heart.”
I didn’t know if he was talking about himself or me.
“I’ll never turn to the dark side. Merrick, you failed. I am a Hero of OrigOlympus, like my Mother before me.”
“I find your faith… disturbing.”
He used Star Wars against me.
“Why, you stuck up, half-witted, scruffy looking nerf-herder.”
“In time, Lina, the suffering of your people will persuade you to see our point of view.”
I began to walk away, but Sebastian grabbed my shoulder. “What if I told you the OrigOlympian council was under control of the Triumvirate?”
Chapter Ten: The Triumvirate [As Compiled By Edward Emily]
By Sebastian Merrick
This is hell. This is actual hell.
I think I need to rewind time or something, given that I’ve like- destroyed all my files. I’m still debating if I won’t burn this one or not.
I introduced Dennis and Lina to Ximena. They hit off quickly, soon we became a unit. Percy Jackson, Grover, Annabeth, and Thalia. It felt right. The stars aligned or something.
And you’d bet we were obsessed with our mystery. Lina and Dennis weren’t into the idea at first but they warmed up to it as time went on.
But we had a bit of a problem. We learned who the leader of the Triumvirate was. This guy from Caesar Middle School, Flynn Macintosh.
The problem was what to do from here. We tried to tell Lina’s Mom- the principal. She wasn’t much help.
Ximena would often talk about people coming up to her and offering her hush money. Happened to me a few times, too.
We fought a few people off before, too. Nothing to major, however.
But today- today was rough.
I was walking around, sort of minding my own business. Some boys pointed at me from the other side of the courtyard, past the little street separating the two sides. One of them threw an empty coke can at me as they approached. I clench onto Origami Percy Jackson from inside my pocket. The boys walk up to me. I see they have puppets. Titans from Greek mythology. I try to walk away but one of them trips me.
The other kids crack up. I keep trying to walk away, to escalate things. They just keep tripping me, sometimes going to the point of kicking me. When I try to lift myself onto the ground, one pushes me back down. I fall face first into the sidewalk. They continue to laugh. I know who they’re working for.
They grab my casefile, this big binder. They grab it from my hands.
They’re booking it down the street. They’re laughing, whooping it up. At the last second they take a right turn. I hit a tetherball pole, it stings. Heck, it burns. But I force myself to push past it. They swing open one of the unblocked double doors and run into the school. I chase after them.
I’m running for what feels like hours, time slows down.
Then, time speeds up… just seconds before I’m hit in the face.
With my own binder.
They rip the paper out of the binder, some of them try to choke me with it. Others try to kick me. I’m getting my bejeezus beat out of me. Nobody stops to help.
Sweat beads down my face. The worst part is that I’m not in pain.
Suddenly, it all stops. I see a figure stop my attackers. It’s Dennis.
He pushes one of them into a wall. Then, there’s Lina. She pins another. Ximena’s busting out some Karate Kid level stuff. Dennis looked at me. He extended his hand and offered to help me up.
I realized then, that I had my friends. I had found my people, people who cared about me. People who would fight for me. I was happy.
We formed a circle, ready to face off against what’s left of these evils.
Thalia Plates, OriGrover, Annashred, and Percy all on our fingers.
We were %&*#*)@ ready.
But it’s too late. A voice, steely yet snively screeches through the halls.
“What the HECK is happening here?” The voice of Mrs. Strohm rang through the hallways, our attackers had disappeared into empty hallways. Ximena and Dennos had scurried off. Blood stained the floors, and there was a sharp tension between the three that stood in the hall, me, Lina, and Ximena’s Mom. I wiped the blood from my nose.
Lina sighed. She was up front, and she had this glare in her eyes. She looked fed up. With everything.
“I-” she pretends to stammer, “Me and Sebastian got in a fight,” she sounds defeated.
I knew that she was making the right call.
If we snitched on the boys then they’d probably leak our casefiles, the pages still littering the hallways.
But if Lina took the fall, then she could spin the story. We could keep fighting.
And in a way, I snapped too. If the OrigOlympians were somehow under the influence of The Triumvirate then they’re truly evil, they’re complicit.
Lina was pulled to her Mother’s office. She never returned.
There was a big blowout between what’s left of our little group . I was the leader so I could say that the team is still open, but a team without members- without Lina, or Ximena, or Dennis, isn’t really a team at all.
Lina could’ve defused the situation.
But of course, I don’t blame any of them.
I hold The Triumvirate to blame for this, and now, I’m out for blood.
Origami Percy Jackson is no more.
Chapter Eleven: I Am Given Riptide.
GUYS GUYS GUESS WHAT-
I GOT A PEN SWORD!
I was doing situps in the Qwikpick lounge while Edward yelled slurs at me.
That’s when there was a knock on the door.
And guess who it was? Guess! Guess! Sorry, I’m just giddy, guys.
It was Kaitlyn! The one member of the extended Emily household that I am yet to meet!
“Edward, are you yelling slurs at the employees again?” She said from behind the door.
“NO, SHUT UP ABOUT THAT!” Edward screamed.
Kaitlyn cracked the door, saw me, and swung it wide open once again.
“MAC!” She shouted.
“PERSON!” I shouted back.
Edward informed me that this was Kaitlyn.
“KAITLYN!” I shouted at her.
Then my eyes narrowed. “Hey didn’t you beat the heck out of that poor kid…?”
“False accusations spread, it’s kind of CHRONOS’ thing if you haven’t already noticed. According to them you spray painted some hallways.”
“Anyway, I never got to talk to you like… up close. What are you- like- like?”
“Well, a CHRONOS member who was at one point my best friend got me expelled and I’m adjusting to my new life now. You?”
“Oh, yeah, uhhh the exact same thing, actually.”
“Wow, that’s- heavy?”
“Yeah, but I did get into building little contraptions. And I designed something for you- or, well, really for anyone but since you’re Pleaty Jackson- or were- or-”
“Oh, that’s… good? I folded a puppet at my new school, too. But anyways,” she pulled a pen from out of her pocket. It was really awkwardly sized, big enough so that it would be uncomfortable to write with but small enough to fit in a pocket. She clicked the little clicky thingy.
Out came a balloon.
A really high quality balloon. But still a balloon. I mean, it looked like a sword, shape-wise and colors and stuff. But it was two inches above my hair and it sort of clung to it, static and all that. Ergo, a balloon.
She clicked the pen again and the balloon uninflated and went back into the pen.
“This… is RipTide.” She said.
“It looks great! Nice job!”
I was disappointed. It would be cool to have- like- a sword sword. I want to like- slices arms off and stuff. She saw that I was disappointed and perked up.
“There’s tactical advantages, too! I mean, you can’t hit people with it, but admit it. It looks a lot like a sword.”
“It looks a lot like a sword.”
“It can catch people off guard. If you see someone holding a sword it takes a special kind of crazy to not panic and run away.”
“Again, you are not wrong. But if I pull this out on a battle field isn’t it essentially terrorism?”
“What do you mean?”
“Doing something specifically to scare other people into submission?”
“No, no, it’s not like that, you’re just triggering that fight or flight response.”
“So now we’re taking advantage of nature and other people’s mental health?”
“No!” She said, “It’s not like that!”
“I’m just joshing with you. This is cool, thanks. Cuz.”
“You’re welcome. Cuz.”
There was a pause.
“How are the hunters doing?” I asked.
“Well, I’ve still been in contact with Keana. She says that the hunters have been pulled from the battle by the new leader, Anastasia Wisley.”
I paused. I recognized that name.
“Well, maybe you can get her kicked from the team. Because she forced Dennis to do her homework for a while now, that surely could get her kicked off the squad if fighting does.”
She nodded. “That could work.”
So that was fun.
Once Kaitlyn left, Edward darted his eyes at me. He gave me the evilest of all the evil looks he’s ever given me.
“You ready?” He asked.
“For… “ I paused, wondering how exactly to word this, “what?” I decided.
“It’s time we close the book. Time you learn what gave rise to Luke CastePleat. Time you finish your training.”
Chapter Twelve: The Revenge of the Sixth
He was sitting in his school’s yard, just the open grass, in the middle of the night. Calm as can be, he didn’t seem like the guy who could take away everything from someone in a few short months.
“Ah, Sebastian, Sebastian, Sebastian, I’ve been looking forward to meeting you for quite some time now.”
“You…. you took everything from me. You tore my friends apart.”
“You say that they’re your friends but truly think for a moment. Think about them, to Ximena you’re nothing more but means to an end. The only value she sees in you is the fact that you’ll be able to stop me, but you do doubt yourself. Why is that, exactly? Is it that you know you will be unable to stop me, or is it that you don’t want to? Because I know what you really want. Power. Because that’s how it starts, I didn’t get Lina expelled, I simply sent my men after you, and they went too far. I really am sorry for their actions. But think, in another world, it would’ve been you getting expelled. Or Dennis. Or Ximena. It could’ve been anyone, but it was Lina. Lina faced her own Mother. The OrigOlympians, they’re soulless. They don’t form attachments, because they’re less human, and more- how do I put this…”
“A force of nature.” I said.
He clapped his hands together.
“Exactly! But with all due respect, I would worry about Ximena’s status as a daughter of wisdom, if she didn’t pick you for such an assignment.”
I sort of smiled at that.
“Wait,” I said, “If the OrigOlympians are soulless, doesn’t that mean you’re worse?”
“Oh, and who fed you that? What makes you so sure that I’m the one in charge here, oh, no, no, no, no, no. We’re both puppets tangled in our own strings, unable to rely on the council for wisdom. See, I have an idea that, and again, I apologize for the behavior of my minions, is one that I think would at the very least intrigue you. Because I look up to you, and I want to bring you what you deserve in the end. And you deserve power, you deserve an army, Sebastian.”
And I understood, the OrigOlympians were manipulating all of us.
Remember when Percy Jackson denied the chance to become a god?
I understand that. I’m tired of being pushed around.
Everyone seems to judge me. But they don’t know that they’re the reason why I’m like this, that they’re the reason why I hate them, why I keep my past muddy, why I push people I care about away. I put the mask on to hide the scars. But now, I’m tired. I’m tired of hiding.
Flynn seemed to read my mind.
“You wanna… let it all out, don’t you?”
“Well, your friends aren’t here for you anymore, are they?”
I shook my head. He chuckled and stood. I hadn’t realized that I was kneeling.
“Well, Master Merrick. I’m the one willing to take you in. I’ll fix you up in a jif, doesn’t that sound enticing?”
I nodded, and realized I was crying.
“Good… good. Because I have an idea for you. You build from the ground up, but with a new puppet. A new intention. We’ll end OrigOlympus, and give you the power that I- er- you deserve. And you’re in charge, because I have big expectations for you.”
I stood. “And what of the new puppet?”
“Well,,, you’re giving rise to CHRONOS. You hate OrigOlympus. Maybe you could put two and two together.”
I’m tired of people pushing the little guy around, tired of that powerless feeling. So I need a new puppet.
Origami Percy Jackson was killed, now he’s buried.
This is the rise of Luke CastePleat.
Chapter Thirteen: Lina, You’ve Changed. Did You Get A Haircut?
Well, well, well. Hi. Ximena here. I bet you really haven’t missed me…?
Anyway, we were in a bad spot. We lost a lot, most of the people left I didn’t even remember their names.
Losing a Kemp is going to be a big thing here, guys.
And of course, we argued. Serene and August still just wouldn’t shut up.
Until, we got a knock at the rec room’s door.
Serene and August hushed up and got into a battle position, Bart Montez grabbed a trophy off the wall and held it like a sword.
I looked to Lina, she would be most likely to open it. Of course, she wasn’t there.
Ximena, the voice in my head rang, take the plunge.
I took the knob in my hand and turned it.
Standing on the other end of the doorway was Keana McDaniels. We collectively breathed a sigh of relief as she smiled.
“So guess what.” She began. “Anastasia left.”
There were hugs and greetings all around… or at least Keana was friendly. The other hunters didn’t seem to like us as much. Especially the boys, but they didn’t shoot any Zerf darts at Bart Montez’ attempts to flirt which was a pretty warm welcome.
“Where’s Lina?” Keana asked.
“Yeah, about that…” Keana realized that the room was mostly empty.
“Oh.” She said.
“Yep. But anyways, glad to have you here. How are you holding up?”
“Well, the Emily I was best friends with got kicked out of school and I’m left to clean up the mess left in the wake of that. You?”
“Oh, same, same.”
“Ah. Bet I’ve gone on crazier adventures, though.”
“Oh sweet summer child, you have no idea.”
“Oh, we’ll see,” she promised, “After this is all over, you and some friends. Wendy’s?”
“You buy me a frosty.”
“Oh, you’re on.” After a long silence, she shrugged.
“So where to now?”
“Now,” I grimaced, “We stop CHRONOS at its core. Tomorrow is the first day of school. We delve into the Labyrinth. We cut away at them from the core. The battle that’s been brewing for months will finally begin. For Lina.”
“For Lina,” we all said.
Ladies and Motherf<=@&÷=#, that was not fun.
So, first of all. Space was an issue. Boy, was space an issue.
The biggest labyrinth entrance was a random freaking door in the band room that everyone assumed to be a storage closet. Towards the end of our last meeting I gave everyone trumpet cases allowing us passage into the band room that morning.
There were about… fifteen of us?
CHRONOS outnumbered us but to put it simply, we were better trained. We could’ve sent more troops, sure. But we needed to make an impact.
Sure, we’re from Athens. But we’ll win this like the Spartans.
And again, you try to fit fifteen people into a compact band closet. It does not work.
Everyone was a little grumpy, so I had to cheer them up.
“Guys, c’mon. Today we have a chance to take it all back. Remember, guys. For Lina.”
We delved into The Labyrinth.
Again, Sebastian knows just how to make us feel at home. CHRONOS’ lair had gotten a makeover. The desks now formed a U-shape, one table at the end of each of them. Meaning they were social distancing. Good for them, actually. Sebastian’s favorite- the smoke machine was on.
There was also one point I’d like to make. The floor. It had fake tiles over it and they glowed neon blue and pink.
It actually looked really nice.
Suddenly, a speaker screeched to life behind us.
There was a drum beat.
“Ready Steve?” A voice asked from the speaker.
I looked around. Well, well, well, we were surrounded.
Sebastian had completely dressed himself up. And somehow, though his troops surrounded us, he stood in the middle of our little circle. He looked like Freddie Mercury.
“Andy?” The speaker asked, the drum beat continuing.
An arrow fired out of nowhere.
I don’t know who these people are.
“Alright fellas, let’s gooooo!!!!!”
And that’s when it became an absolute crapstorm.
CHRONOS members punched, so did ours. Tables were knocked over, chairs thrown.
“It’s been gettin so hard, living with the things you do to me.”
Sebastian punched me from behind.
“My dreams are getting so strange- I could tell you everything I see”
He hit my shoulder, I forced that shoulder to shrug, pushing him off, I flashed a quick smile, distracting him. Meanwhile, I swiped at his leg.
“Oh! I see a man in the back- as a matter of fact, his eyes are as red as the sun. And the girl in the corner, let no- one ignore her, she thinks she’s the passionate one”
I pushed him back and Dennis grabbed him by the shoulders.
A voice behind me whispered, “How’s it going’, sis?” I turned and saw Xander sneering. I clenched my fist.
“OH! YEAH! IT WAS LIKE LIGHTNING! EVERYBODY WAS FRIGHTENING! AND THE MUSIC WAS SOOTHING! AND THEY ALL STARTED GROOVING!”
Xander was nimble, I admit. When Xena joined it, well, I was on the ground. But then, I looked behind me. Xena was gone, and Xander was howling in pain. Xena had betrayed him.
“AND THE MAN IN THE BACK SAID EVERYONE ATTACK AND IT TURNED INTO A BALLROOM BLITZ!”
Xena jumped to the corner of the room and pushed one of CHRONOS’ soldiers into the line of a Zerf arrow.
“AND THE GIRL IN THE CORNER SAID ‘BOY, I WANNA WARN YOU, IT’LL TURN INTO A BALLROOM BLITZ!”
I looked around for something I could use as a weapon. It was a school storage closet, so man, I had options. I reached behind me for some sand from an Egyptian history project and threw it into some schmucks’ eye.
“Uhhh… reaching out for something- touching nothing’s all I ever do”
The arrows were still firing. I needed to find the source of them, somehow.
“Uhhhh…. I softly call you over- when you appear there’s nothing left to do. Uh huh.”
I found the source. Someone was hiding behind a bookshelf. I snatched the Nerf bow and threw it across to Xena. She caught it. I’d handle whoever was behind the shelf when this was all over.
I had my own weapon now. A broken trombone slide.
Someone pushed Dennis into a table. I pulled him by the shirt and began to choke him with it.
“AND THE MAN IN THE BACK IS READY TO CRACK AS HE RAISES HIS HANDS TO THE SKY! AND THE GIRL IN THE CORNER IS EVERYONE’S MOURNER CAUSE SHE COULD KILL WITH THE WINK OF AN EYE! OHHHH YEAAAHH!”
“IT WAS ELECTRIC!”
“SO FRANTICALLY HECTIC!”
Someone hit the speaker. C’mon guys that was a bop.
But it did snap me back to reality. We were losing. And hard. And we hadn’t found CHRONOS’ captees.
I ran to Keana, first taking out the guy she was dealing with, Ben.
“Keana.” I said, “I’m calling a retreat. But I need you to do something for me. I need you to lead the retreat, to guide everyone.”
She grimaced. “And what will you do?”
I smiled. “I’m gonna face my fears.”
Because I knew where I could find Lina. Alex and Luke too.
I pushed over the bookshelf and found who I had deduced it to be, Lina, manning the bow. She clapped her hands. The betrayal was something I had seen coming, but still, it stung. I kicked Lina in the face, and managed to pull out Adam, Luke, and all the other captees.
But as I did that, I came to my own realization. Sebastian is being manipulated.
Hear me out. What if Flynn was a member of The Triumvirate? I mean, it would make so much sense. He was pushing Sebastian to do this whilst tricking him into thinking he’s in charge, he played all of us like a fiddle. But what if Sebastian was a stepping stool? A kid like Sebastian, now, he can be erased, he’s expendable and it seems like everyone but us knew that, the OrigOlympians included. So why didn’t they expel Sebastian? Because somewhere on CHRONOS’ roster, there is a member of The Triumvirate, playing both sides, and coming out on top. But Sebastian seems to fundamentally go against the OrigOlympians’ and the Triumvirate’s values. But what if he got an Emily on his side? Sebastian could build a relationship with an Emily, and then give them the chance to join CHRONOS. He tried this with Mac, and it failed. Sam tried it on Kaitlyn, and it failed as well, both were expelled. Flynn did the same thing at Caesar with Chase Kemp. Now, he had Lina Kemp at his side. Sebastian might not know it, but Flynn, or someone else might be trying to unite CHRONOS and the OrigOlympians to create a new OrigOlympus, one that can be controlled by The Triumvirate through this link, similar to how people would marry off princesses to strengthen relationships with other countries.
Mac has been defeated. Chase, too. Kaitlyn as well. Every single member of the Emily bloodline has been defeated or turned against OrigOlympus.
Except for one.
I needed to find Edward Emily.
Chapter Fourteen: Wax Astley. Edwax Emily.
I was waxing the floors when Edward rushed in. He keeps telling me “Wax on, wax off,” which isn’t wrong but I don’t understand why he says it so much and why he laughs right after.
He looked like Edward if he was physically spelled wrong. Like what I imagine Edwerd would look like.
A frenzied panic.
He kicked me in the stomach and into the cabinet. The door locked.
At this point I no longer play an active role in my own life, I just sort of let things happen now.
“Hey Ximena,” Edward said, “What can I do for ya?”
Okay, I’d like out now. Thanks.
“Edward, Lina’s turned.” I never really got to know Lina well, but I understood that she was a bit of a last reserve in the family bloodline. I mean, there’s Edward but he’s unreliable, I say writing this from a cabinet. “We need your help, Edward. You’re the last resort.”
Ximena I’m right here.
“Ximena, honey,” Edward said, “I’m right here.”
“So you’re coming.”
“OH NO NO NO NO NO NO, you guys are already a lost cause. Ah, the concept of winning as a whole. I don’t think there’s anything left for the loathsome ‘Lympians. The chance given was the time the diamond absolutes the ground up, this is the dust left of that. There is no undoing what is done, besides, it’s far from affecting me.”
Did Edward really believe this? Was he trying to push me to fight for something he thinks I’ll lose?
I had this sudden overwhelming sense of anger.
I thought Edward changed.
Some Things never do, some people are just bad eggs.
“Edward, please,” Ximena had an urgency in her voice. She sounded like she’d been through a lot.
“Xims,” Edward said, “No means no. Also bt-dubs could I call you Xims?”
I could physically feel Ximena shake her head and storm out of the room.
“I’m taking that as a no.” Edward said.
All this, all this training. For a lost cause?
I kicked my way out of the cabinet door.
“Mac, you do realize these things cost money, right.”
But I was already storming off into our workout room.
I stepped in wax.
Is this all pointless? Is this war worth nothing?
Why do we fight?
I realized that I stepped in wax.
Why do we suffer because of what the people before us do? Was Edward right, or was he pushing me to a doom? We never really got along but it was never more than a little bit of teasing.
Edward unlocked the door.
“You have wax on your feet.” He deducted.
“Why didn’t you tell me how bad it had gotten on the other side?”
“You were busy. Training.”
“Training? Other than reading some crappy files I’m being your (censored) slave is what I’m being, man! We made a deal here!”
“So you’re supposed to teach and I’m supposed to learn! For four days I’ve been busting my (censored) and I haven’t learned a (censored) thing!”
“Bah,” he said, “You’ve learned plenty, actually.”
“Plenty? I’ve learned how to do YOUR job, how to paint YOUR walls, wax YOUR floors, yeah, I’ve learned plenty, right.”
“Not everything is as it seems.” Edward said.
“Bull crap, man.” I said. “I’m going home.”
I began to walk away. He called my name. I turned back to look at him.
“Show me… clean of tile.”
“I can’t move my arm.”
“Disability is for the weak.” He clapped his hands together. He began to rub.
He snapped it back into place.
“Now show me clean of tile.”
I grabbed my towel and began to clean the tiles. I knelt down. He grabbed my head and tripped the towl out of my clutches. He hit me with it.
“Stand up. Show me clean of tile.”
He worked me through the hand movements. Made them more pronounced than when I waxed the tiles.
“Now show me…. Wax on. Wax off.”
I showed him wax on, wax off. Putting no heart into it. It was late and I was tired.
“Concentrate. Look into the eyes. Always look the eye.”
I did. I waxed with my soul.
He screamed. And tried to strike me.
I blocked it, using wax on. He tried to strike me again, this time with the other hand. Wax off.
He tried to kick me. I blocked it with a swing of my arm, the way you clean a tile.
“Do you understand now, Astley?”
“What I’ve taught you is muscle memory, skills. But I’ve also taught you patience. Understanding.”
“I see it now. I understand.”
“Exactly. You need to dig deep to find what you’re looking for.” He paid, “It’s the deeds that make the man.”
“My deeds just made things worse. My friends believed in me, they needed some kind of a hero.”
“And the OriGods sent them one. But it wasn’t that simple, you stopped believing in people again. Stopped believing in yourself.”
“So you need to believe again.”
And I knew then, he was right.
I lost because I lost faith in myself.
So if you’re reading this, don’t be afraid to fail. Believe that you have the power to make things better, and that someone’s there for you. And look at the cause of your pain and forgive it, because you’re yet to fully understand THEIR story.
And truth be told, I’m still afraid. But I know how to look past it.
The world doesn’t need Pleaty Jackson.
I need Pleaty Jackson.
And the world needs Mac Astley.
I looked at Edward. He smiled. Years seemed to lift off of his face. “Oh, yeah, one more thing,” he pulled a piece of origami out from his pocket.
It was Origami Percy Jackson. Sebastian’s Origami Percy Jackson.
It was based off of the Logan Lerman version. Normally, that would’ve annoyed me. But either it was the giddy joy of being ready to face whatever I take on, or maybe it’s the fact that he was an adult, that he had grown up. But I was happy.
But I knew I needed to make it my own. “Hey Edward,” I began, “You got some art supplies.”
Mr. Emily walked in. “You know we do.”
Chapter Fifteen: Sebastian Always Had A Thing For Theatrics
On August Twenty Third, Two Thousand And Twenty, our lives would be changed forever.
Xena filled me in on Sebastian’s plan. Solid 8.5/10.
Sebastian wants a civil war among the students. He’s been brewing the narrative for almost a year now, and all the pieces are in place already. Why? The OrigOlympians would have to stop it. But it would be too big. They’d fail, and so would The Triumvirate. The weird pyramid scheme that seemed to run the world would crumble.
And so would we.
Dennis tried to comfort me, though neither of us knew how bad things would truly get.
In class, time seems to slow down, but somehow the final bell rings before I even know it.
It was supposed to happen today, right?
In the bus line, a voice whispered from behind me. “Boy, do we have problems.” Sebastian said.
I continued walking, away from the view of teachers. Now we were outside. “The problem of evil in the world.” Sebastian continued.
“The problem of an oligarchy deciding what’s right, and what’s wrong. The problem of those who follow them being above all else. Because that’s what gods are. Horus. Christ. Odin. Perseus. Percy. Jackson. See, what we call a god depends on our tribe, because you’ll soon learn that our gods ARE tribal, our gods TAKE SIDES. No man in the sky intervened when we were in danger, getting the snot kicked out of me. IThe greatest heroes have always been mankind- Oddyseeus, Batman, Washington. Soon, you figure out that a god that’s all powerful can’t be all good. And neither can they be, the world needs to see the frauds they are. The blood on their hands. And tonight, they will. Because tonight, we have a date.”
I turned around and scoffed. “Yeah, right.”
“No, no, no. It took a few months of brewing, but the human psyche can only endure so much. But a little bit of framing, a few little surprises. And now, you’ll fight me. Fight us.”
I turned. “I know what you’re planning. Xena snitched.”
“AND THIS,” Flynn shouted. Where did he come from? “IS WHY WE GIVE OUT FAKE INFORMATION.”
“LOOK, I’M SORRY!”
Flynn sighed. All of CHRONOS stepped out from behind the pillars that hold up our school. Even Lina. They had an army of about a fourth of the school.
That’s when the cavalry arrived.
Dennis. Mallory. Adam. Luke. Keana. Laura. Peyton. Xena. August. Serene. And over two hundred other kids. In fact, I knew the exact number.
Two hundred and ninety. Plus us ten, three hundred.
Win or lose, we go out like spartans.
I needed a battle cry. We were outnumbered, and by a lot.
The first thing that popped into mine was a whimper.
And that was enough to set it all off.
If our last underground fight was epic, I don’t know what I’d call this.
Terrifying? Yes. Some people hid in the driveway while others got their heads bashed into cars.
And I just stood there. Like a deer in headlights. I could see someone- one of our men- pull something out of his pocket. It quickly turned to an orange blaze.
Bart Montez stopped him. He threw the lighter into a puddle.
That song I heard kept coming back to me.
And the man in the back said everyone attacked and it turned into a ballroom blitz.
Now, it did look like a very complicated ballroom dance. That helped me.
Dance always fascinated me. The grace of it all. That’s why I signed up for Debbie Don’s.
I gracefully tiptoed to a goon and tripped him. I flashed him a “Oops, did I do that?” smile.
Ballerina’s twirl over to a goon and falls into his arms. He doesn’t know what to do. I wrap my foot around his leg and once he decides to push me off of him, I bring him down with me.
I run up to the dumpster and kick off of it. It propels me forward. I easily get three guys. With a wink and a wisecrack, I push someone down.
It’s a ballroom blitz.
I can almost feel Rise of the Valkyries playing. On a banjo.
Suddenly, I’m pushed to the ground. It’s Sebastian.
“Excellent performance, darling.” He smiled. He kicked me.
I heard a speaker begin to play. I Need A Hero, Footloose soundtrack.
My first thought was how?
Suddenly, CHRONOS’ men began to fall to the ground. There was someone in a blue hoodie, tearing them down.
Sebastian’s jaw dropped to the floor. “No…. no…. NO!” He backed away and stood up. He had a look on his face, one of terror.
Mallory stood at my side.
“It’s him.” I said.
“A guy in a blue hoodie. Great. We’re saved.”
But across the battlefield, Dennis smiled. He sensed what was happening, same as I did. And for a moment, the battle stopped. Some people even kneeled.
He took off his hood.
I smiled. I couldn’t control myself.
Mac Astley has returned.
Chapter Sixteen: The Prophecy Comes True…?
WAMALING DING A RINGA SHING DING!
THIS IS AMAZING!
I’M BACK IN THE NEW YORK GROOVE!
WOAH, HOW DID I DO THAT?
THE KARATE LESSONS ARE WORKING GUYS!
I’M LIKE, IDK, A KARATE KID!
Oh no, Mallory accidently popped my sword.
Oh, now I’m being kicked.
Sebastian grabbed me by my shoulder and swung me around. The fighting raged on once again.
“Mac, you look good.” He smiled like we were friends.
“Sebastian, I know what you did. I know what you’ve been through.”
“Then you should know by now. Know that the only way to live in this world is without rules! Without the order controlling your every move!”
“Sebastian!” I pleaded, “Flynn’s manipulating you! YOU’RE the one being controlled.”
“No.” He said. He looked like he suddenly lost his cool. “I’M THE MAN IN CHARGE! LOOK AT ME! I TURNED THE DAUGHTER OF ZEUSIGAMI TO MY SIDE! I’M THE ONE IN CONTROL, NOT HIM!”
He struck me, but I blocked it. Wax on. Wax off.
His emotions blinded him. But they also fueled him.
I was on the ground, bloodied and bruised.
He had his hand at my throat. My life seemed to flash before me.
I saw the corn field, but this time, I broke the glass. I saw myself. I saw Ximena. But we were older, our faces more mature. I looked sort of like Daniel in Cobra Kai, she looked like… Anne Hathaway, but like, older. And there was a child surrounding them. Ximena’s eyes, my flowing golden locks. She stood and walked to me.
She hugged me.
Her voice was Flynn’s “Good… goood…”
I snapped back to reality. I was being choked. “Sebastian. Fulfill the prophecy. Stand alone against him. Leave him unable to fight.”
And he raised me up.
But he caught a glimpse of the people he once cared about.
Ximena. Lina. Dennis.
They were all suffering.
Because of CHRONOS. Because of Flynn.
Because of Sebastian.
He dropped me to the floor. I faded in and out of consciousness, but I could see him turn to face Flynn.
“No.” He said, “You failed, Flynn.”
He yelled at his troops. “CALL IT OFF. CHRONOS, FALL BACK!”
They did. Everyone did.
He helped me to my feet.
I had a really bad idea. I grabbed his hand. “You still remember what Debbie Don’s taught you?”
“You know it.” He began to sing. “Ooh child things are gonna get easier.”
He swung me around, and caught me in my arms. Age seemed to lift from his face. His eyes were no longer bloodshot, and he- for once in his life- smiled.
“Ooh child things are gonna get brighter….”
Flynn had this look on his face. He just did not know what to do.
“What are you doing?” He asked.
“Dance-off bro. Find a partner.”
He just stood there. I kicked my leg into the air. I reached my arm for Ximena. She shook her head.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” Flynn asked once again.
“Ever see Guardians of the Galaxy, you big turd blossom?”
We turned our backs to each other. Laced our right hands, and moved forward. We unlocked from each other, and released a blow to Flynn. He was on the ground. He put his hands in the air.
“Please- I- I surrender!”
“Now that’s more like it.”
Dennis and Mallory dragged him to a teacher.
As he was dragged, he spit on Sebastian. “Just who do you think you are?”
He smiled. “I’m a Hero of OrigOlympus.”
We all just sort of stood around for a moment.
We then realized that the busses had already left.
“We could always walk home,” Ximena offered.
“Or,” Mr. Willigens stepped out of the shadows. “I could drive some of you home. I can grab the bus the swim team uses.”
“Hey, could you take us out to eat? I’m… really hungry.” Dennis says.
“Sure, where to?”
Sebastian jumps up with joy. “I know just the place!”
Chapter Seventeen: Wendy’s
Some people just had their parents pick them up.
That left about six or seven of us. Me, Mac, Ximena, Lina, Dennis, Keana, and… when did Kaitlyn show up- Peyton, Xander, Xena and Ben. Mr. Willigens drove us to Wendy’s.
I sat with Mac. I told him that I couldn’t even begin to explain how sorry I was. He simply nodded. When we sat down, I felt at home. But I knew I shouldn’t have. I hurt so many people. And I atone by letting Mac buy me a frosty.
They may have forgiven me, but I haven’t forgiven myself just yet. I don’t think I ever will.
Things seemed back to normal. Mac kept shooting Ximena glances and telling stupid jokes. Dennis put on the act of shyness, though I know he really was broken inside. Mallory’s Mom is making her switch schools.
So many parents are. Adam’s. Luke’s. Kaitlyn, too.
And again, it’s all my fault. That’s the running theme here.
That’s why I wanna rebuild. I wanna help people, for once. Rebuild my life. As I wondered what to do, Ximena’s phone pinged.
“Ah %()#@,” Ximena said. “Guys, guess what?”
Mr. Willigens knowingly smiled. “I’m… class president now?” Ximena asked.
“Wait, what?” Lina asked.
“Apparently that interview from sixth grade still counts and no one else really ran so it’s valid.”
“Well Christ on a stick, I guess there is a God.” I admitted.
“Speaking of gods,” Ximena began, “I already know what changes I wanna make. I’m reforming the OrigOlympians, with students. But we can be different. We can be better. So who’s in?”
“Does this mean you’re Zeusigami?” I asked.
“No, no, no. Annashred all the way. I wanna pick someone who I can depend on. Lina?”
“Oh, I’m not brave enough for politics.”
“Any other bites for Zeusigami?”
Xander put his hand forward. “Well, I mean, we live in the same household. I don’t see why not.”
“And for Poseidon?” Ben put his hand forward, fitting. The greatest member of our swim team. Ever.
“And Shradies?” The room went silent.
“C’mon, no bites?” A voice asked from the booth behind us. We all jumped. Edward was here.
Ximena nodded. “Anyone else?”
Peyton smiled. “Oooooh, could I be Apollo?” She asked.
“Totally,” Ximena smiled.
“Wait,” I said. “I need to admit that I ran CHRONOS, and that I orchestrated the Titan’s Curse Word.”
Mac shook his head. “Again, you don’t. Because you owe us. You owe us to movd on, and to do better. We can’t have you getting expelled, doofus. We don’t even know who really did The Titan’s Curse Word. As for my future? Ben, just promise me. You’re Posidenoigami so promise me that you’ll find someone to carry on the legacy. Promise you’ll find something like… a Ty-pen or something.”
Ximena shook her head. “Are you sure?”
“Never been more sure in my life.” Mac nodded, “There’s a new page in my life. And I’m ready to take it all in. My Mom’s resorted to boarding schools.”
Lina interrupted him. “Hold up.” She said. “You’re going to Caesar Middle School???”
“Trust me, that’s gonna be hell. Plenty of suffering.”
“Oh… Oh, yay. Suffering? I- I love suffering.”
When the sun set, Ximena leaned in to kiss Mac.
That’s sweet. I always shipped those two.
Dennis even cheered.
Me, Mac, and Ximena walked home. We dropped Ximena off at her big mansion, and we went to Qwikpick to pick up Mac’s stuff. I bought him a bag of cheetos, “Think fast, McYee.” I said, tossing the bag over.
Mac stopped at his apartment and looked at me. He put his hand on my shoulder. “Remember what you first said to me? You’re not exactly the type to make friends, that you have enemies in all the wrong places.”
“You’re a pappy little spit crap.”
And then, I arrive at home. After changing back into my Nirvana Tank top, I apologize to my Mom and Dad. For being a bad son.
I go outside and begin to water the plants in the planter my Mom got me, only then do I notice the U-haul in the house across the street. I hear a girl’s voice from the other side of the fence.
I stroll over, and introduce myself.
“Hi-” I start. “I’m Sebastian Merrick.”
The girl was about my age, I couldn’t make out much from the slivers of moonlight. Only her glossy eyes and short figure.
She extended her hand. “Name’s Charlie Leavings. Nice shirt.”
I look at her shirt. Queen’s album cover. 1991. Debut of The Show Must Go On.
Empty spaces, what are we living for
Abandoned places, I guess we know the score, on and on
Does anybody know what we’re looking for?
Another hero, another mindless crime
Behind the curtain, in the pantomime
Hold the line
Does anybody want to take it anymore?
“I- I like yours, too.”
The show must go on.