The Trials of Artpollo

The Trials of Artpollo

By SF Hades

Keana McDaniel’s Note: After reading and compiling this casefile it’s come to my attention that Peyton’s… complex sense of humor seemed to bleed through into her account of events which were discovered on r/origamistories, split into 3 posts, receiving a collective 17 upvotes. Due to this, there is a multitude of jokes that are not to be taken seriously. There are also several inconsistencies in her timeline of events here. It’s best to take the following with a grain of salt. 

One

The battle ensues, Jackson Ordonia had me tied up in some rope, twenty feet off the ground as the New Heroes of the OrigUnderworld battled a giant balloon animal. Record scratch. 

Yup, you’re probably wondering how I got myself into this situation. Well, to tell the truth, it’s a long story. But to know what happened, I’ll have to take you back. To the faraway land… of three days ago.

I’m in my dorm. Sad, and alone. And see, there’s this clip I keep going back to. It’s Ben Shapiro. Talking about me. And they even show videos of the school fight. My face is blurred, but you can SEE me punch Lina Kemp in the face. Why would I punch Lina? I literally don’t know. I don’t think many of us knew why we were fighting in the first place. I think it just seemed like fun. 

And then he fell. 

And Ben blames illegal immigrants. (Mac is legal, by the way. He’s a third generation American. I think.) And I’m so happy about that. I’m not a racist, I promise. I just really like it when he’s wrong. I really like it when people are incorrect.

One person was incorrect today. Xander Strohm. 

Now, Xander’s wrong about a lot of things. Freedom. Love. Fashion.

But today he was just factually wrong. OrigOlympus’ investigations into whatever the hell Angela Emily was doing was simply getting out of hand. I, being the voice of reason, told Xander to not build a model volcano beneath the feet of a fifth grader who you have strapped to a wall. Maybe, that’s psychotic, Xander? Maybe, people don’t do that? He didn’t even really have any information either. I think Xander just wanted to do that. I think he’s just like that. 

I didn’t think he’d go and kick me out of OrigOlympus. Then again, I don’t really plan ahead. At all. I’m literally crying into my pillow case right now.

And they’re not going to be cleaning it for another week. I’m going to have a weird pillow case for the foreseeable future (I don’t have object permanence), and I think that’s pretty terrible. 

Yes, I’m in my room. No longer an OrigOlympian, by the way. I’m literally just Peyton. Not anymore. Xander kicked me out. 

I think I made that evident. 

I decided I’d call Keana because that usually calms me down. Keana’s just one of those people who seems like they can always calm you down. I texted her, instead. Teenagers don’t call people. 

Am Raccoon. EAT TRASH (Me): “Keana.”

Am Raccon. EAT TRASH: “Keana.”

Am Raccon. EAT TRASH: “Keanaaaaaa”

Am Raccoon. EAT TRASH: “KEana guess what”

Keana responded after five minutes of myself awkwardly waiting. I played Tetris while I waited. 

Keana2008 (Keana. You f—ing idiot.): “What” 

Am Raccoon. EAT TRASH: “YOUR GIRL GOT KICKED OUT OF ORIGOLYMPUS (your girl is also sobbing and scared for her safety.”

Keana2008: “Wait” 

Keana2008: “You were still in OrigOlympus” 

Keana2008: “?”

Am Raccoon. EAT TRASH: “Yeah”

Am Raccoon. EAT TRASH: “I mean”

Am Raccoon. EAT TRASH: “yeah”

Am Raccoon. EAT TRASH: “I was Apollo” 

Keana2008: “Oh”

 Oh, oh indeed. I explained the situation to Peyton. Xander had gotten in over his head (literally, he attempted to privately fund his investigations with a dunk tank. (He can’t swim.)) trying to investigate a mysterious company with ties to Angela Emily, ultimately resulting in me being kicked from OrigOlympus. And man. I was- I was sad. For some reason. 

I don’t know why I was sad, either. I hoped I could fix OrigOlympus. That I could fix all of this. I guess the world’s just not like that. I guess there’s some things you just can’t fix. 

But Ouranatox still ate away at me. I really didn’t know what to do. 

I was scared. 

Am Raccoon. EAT TRASH: Hey, I know you and the hunters are away on a mission. But I need help. Could you send someone? 

I found Hayden at my doorstep. Hayden was wearing a red hoodie, and seemed a bit grumpy. I checked the clock, and realized it was 2am. That’s not an hour humans are normally awake, I decided. I am not human. I am raccoon. I EAT TRASH. 

“So… what seems to be the problem, Peyton?” 

“I EAT TRASH.” I said. 

Hayden seemed to get grumpier. Like his girlfriend had called him and told him to take care of a deranged Redditor. 

“Peyton, I, uh, I, uh, I, uh. Uh.” 

“Come inside.” I said. “We have much to discuss.”

As Hayden awkwardly made his way into my dorm, I threw on the satin cloak I had stolen from the other OriGods, on my way out. It was pretty and soft. 

“Okay, so, it’s my theory that there is another figure, on the same level as Angela Emily who pushed the two former Pleaty Jacksons to war in an effort to take away the only heroes capable of saving Caesar Middle School from OrigOlympus’ propaganda.”

“Peyton. There’s a lot of nouns in that sentence. Not one of them is in the bible.” 

“Except ‘propaganda.’”

“That’s not funny.”

“Your Mom’s not funny.”

“I never knew my Mother.”

“Mine is DEAD. But you don’t see me being a little f—ing nerd about it.” 

“I’m- I’m not a nerd.”

“I bet you haven’t even built a 1,000 piece lego set.” 

“I BUILT A 4,000 PIECE ONE.” 

“Christ. I was just testing you but that’s- that’s actually pathetic. Man, I hope I didn’t hit Keana on the head too hard. Maybe I gave her brain damage.” 

I began to stomp out of my dorm, down the hallway. “Wait! Where are you going!” 

I’m going to find an actual helper! Not some slime huffing honey guzzler!”

Upon catching up to me, he asked, (Out of breath, mind you,) “Yeah, like who? It’s the middle of the night, Peyton. You’re not going to find any Sebastian Merricks.” 

And then. It occured to me. 

I grinned. 

Now that you mention it…”

“Peyton. Peyton, no.” 

“Peyton yes.” 

“PEYTON NO.” 

And on the outside I said, “PEYTON YES.” 

But on the inside I was really like. Peyton, no.

Because truth be told. I was scared of Sebastian Merrick. 

***

“You okay, Peyton?” Sam asked. Sam was nervous. When I first joined CHRONOS, I was his supervisor. He was a year younger than me. Just a fifth grader, not even going to school with us. Only hanging out here after school. It was my job to show him the ropes. And that I did. I think I was the only side that got to see that side of him. That fear. But why was he afraid? Because we were about to set in motion a disastrous chain of events.

We were about to expel Kaitlyn Emily.

The plan was simple. I lure Kaitlyn out into the woods. Get video evidence of her and Sam fighting. Add some fake bruises onto Sam. Etc. Etc.

If only it had been so simple. 

If only Flynn had never slithered his way into our lives.

Maybe none of this would have happened. And I just remembered being angry at the world after my Mother’s death. I hated my Father because he didn’t understand my, nor my brother’s grief. 

My sweet, dear, baby brother. I’d do anything to protect him. And so I decided to help Sebastian Merrick burn OrigOlympus to the ground. 

I promise, the Titan’s Curse Word incident changed Sebastian. For the better, I think. I joined CHRONOS just after FunTime was introduced. I guess that was my all time low, too. 

And I led Kaitlyn on. I hated how… perfect Kaitlyn seemed to be. I wanted to be popular. And a leader. And Kaitlyn was just handed the role. I hated her. I thought it would be easy. 

But luring Kaitlyn in was anything but easy. 

***

We both found what we were looking for. Hayden had found me. And I had found him. I found the dorm of Sebastian Merrick. Upon knocking the door, I heard no answer. “Sebastian.” I pressed my head to the door, “I know you’re in there. Can I come in?” 

Sebastian groaned. I took that as my cue to break and enter, picking the lock. I had visited Sebastian Merrick exactly twice before this, and each of the now three times I hadn’t a clue what to expect. It makes sense that Sebastian was affected most by Chase’s fall. Whatever personality he once had, whatever inner turmoil he faced, had been repressed. He was either completely loony, zoned out and unflinching, or both. He’d have Kevin, one of his last remaining friends, to get assignments from the teachers. He’d turn them in the next day. Perfect handwriting. Perfect sentence structure. There were also… rumors. One night, Sebastian’s neighbor heard the door swing open. And heard Sebastian talk to someone. No one could make out the conversations. People tried everything they could to analyze the audios. But among the students  there was one conclusion. Sebastian Merrick only had one real friend. 

I really could not imagine that. No friends. No real connection to others. Totally and utterly alone. 

Sebastian’s hair was a mess. Yet a tamed one. It looked like he had combed it for hours and yet the snakes continued eating each other’s tails. His eyes were glossy and white. Milky, I guess you could call it. And he was just wearing a tank top with see through black sleeves. 

In short, Sebastian looked… off putting. 

When Hayden caught up to me, he was visibly startled. “Oh… hi… Sebastian…” 

“Hello. Who are you?” 

“I’m Hayden.” 

“No last name, young man?”

“Dude, we’re in the- well, well, I’m- I’m actually a sixth grader but… but don’t call me young man, I turn-” 

“Thirteen in August? Yeah, I figured. You struck me for a virgo. Annoying and yet calculated.” 

“I don’t believe in zodiac signs.” 

“It’s not about what you believe in. That’s one of the biggest lies you’ll ever hear. Oh, no, no, no, no. No. It’s about what you do. A man is only defined by his strengths. And his weaknesses.”

Sebastian could’ve done anything in that moment. He could’ve lunged at Hayden. He looked like he wanted to. But he also looked like he wanted to make me tea. 

Sebastian sat down and made us tea.

Sebastian’s dorm was awfully clean. 

I decided to address the elephant in the room. Sebatian Merrick was on fire. Oh my god, someone help him. Oh no, his hair is falling out, this is terrifying to watch. 

“Sebastian,” I began, “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.”

“Chase died in February. It’s May.” 

“Who?” 

“Chase. Chase Kemp.” 

“I remember Chase. But who? Who?”

“What?” 

“Asked.” 

“What?”

“Who asked LMAO?” He said that. Like, out loud. 

With his mouth. 

That made me upset.

“I’m going to hurt you.” I told Sebastian. 

Sebastian said nothing back. 

“It is my goal to cause you nothing but malice.” 

“What?” Hayden asked. 

“Shut the f— up.” Both Sebastian and I said. 

“Listen.” Sebastian’s face went… hard. Like he was trying to mimic the muscles of handsome squidward. Or the lifeguard from Gravity Falls. “I’ll take you someplace for answers. A place I’ve been researching for a while.”

“I’m interested…”

I quickly realized Sebastian Merrick had betrayed us as soon as he signed us up for group therapy. 

He was also leading us into the mysterious terrifying woods but that didn’t really phase me. I do like trees.

Hayden was also there. I’m not sure why I needed to bring that up.  But I was starting to sense something in Peyton. Something off. I sensed potential. 

The forest was a faint blue green, lightning bugs soaring through the sky. The blue green lights emit from one of the more mythical parts of the camp, the infamous Camp Jupitorigami. 

Established by Kurt Gold, it was a selection of small cabins meant for private, on campus students undergoing in school suspension. It was, for a plethora of years, a great place. Until David Scornicoff took over and monopolized the number of “shacks.” 

He also constantly blared complex string instrument music. No one liked him very much. 

But it quickly became the hub for the Cut of Dionysus.

Who I don’t like. Because they attempted to poison me. THEY ATTEMPTED TO POISON ME. 

PAUSE PAUSE. WHAT IS THIS STORY ANYMORE. THEY’RE POISONING PEOPLE NOW. ACTUAL. MURDER. TALK ABOUT HADES JR. JUMPING THE SHARK. WHAT’S NEXT. AN AGON 2.0?? HUH HADES?? HUH?? 

Edward, by the way. I’m talking about Edward. 

As Sebastian Merrick walked us to the lobby of Camp Jupitorigami, we were met by a complete change in scenery. Gone were the startling blues and purples, now the lobby had a warm and faint yellow glow, illuminated by lamps and abstract corporate paintings. I instantly analyzed. 

This place was meant to calm. To subdue. Sebastian tapped on the counter, and in came a scrawny little man. Pasty. And orange. And I mean orange. Like. He was covered in this strange pasty cream. 

“Hi, Eli. How are you?” Sebastian asked our pasty friend. 

“I- uh- yes, I- uh- I am doing, I- um, am doing JUST GREAT SEBASTIAN. JUST GREAT.” 

“I got two, uh, recruits for you.” 

“Names?” 

“Peyton Josephine Hunter and Hayden… Hayden Ben Dover.”

Eli raised an eyebrow. 

“I don’t like him.” Sebastian whispered. Small things you learn about Sebastian though. He does not exactly have the best inside voice. 

“And what project?” Eli asked. 

“Project: Hesiod.” 

“That’s… your thirteenth student this month.”

“I’m a big tough boy.” Sebastian bared his fangs. 

He was very clearly not okay. 

“Hold on. Hold the f— on, you guys.” Hayden raised his voice. 

“What the f— do you want, Hayden?” All three of us yelled, in ranging levels of annoyance. 

“What’s… happening?” 

Eli began to speak, but Sebastian pulled out a switch blade and began to clean his nail. 

The room got really quiet. 

“Hell yeah, Sebastian…” I muttered, “Gut that kid…”

Eli handed us our room cards. “Rent’s first of the month. Sharp. Don’t be late or David’s going to tear you to pieces. Like he did to that rat, Jango.”

“Rat, like a rat rat, or a person rat?” Hayden asked. 

“Like a f—ing rat, Hayden.” Sebastian said. 

Eli slid us our room keys, “Here. These are these.” He pointed a bony finger at me, “You’re in the Apollo cabin.” And then at Hayden. “And you’re weird. You should jump off a mountain.” 

“What?” 

“He said you should jump off a mountain.” I said.

“Yeah… but… why?”

“No one likes you Hayden.” 

“Okay.” 

***

“You’ll be staying here,” Eli was tightly gripping his arm on my shoulder, and I could feel sharp, yet small and thin thorns on his fingers. Like Spider-Man’s little things he uses to climb walls. 

Eli’s hands were sticky, too. 

Entering the Apollo cabin, I found it was empty. I also found that only twelve students can be in a cabin at a time, which makes sense, I suppose. Since it was empty, and all that. 

After a few minutes of searching through the room I quickly became aware that I had not packed a bag. By all means, Sebastian Merrick had just imprisoned me. 

I was mildly surprised by this realization. 

I sorted through my pockets and found a little bit of string. And a thumbtack. 

I will not prick myself in the thumb with the t- and I just pricked myself in the thumb with the tack. Now there’s blood everywhere.

Bad news. The pillow is a brick. It also has a hole in it.

Good news. I had not cried into it. 

An hour later, someone knocked on my door. On the other side, I found a lady with a clipboard. She looked… bored. Long, brown hair. Glasses. 

Okay, I have schizophrenia, that’s just Ximena Strohm. 

“Hi, welcome to Camp Jupitorigami.” She said, in a bored, monotone voice, “A place of redemption and hope. It’s my goal to help you reach your maximum potential as a valuable member of society. And- nevermind, you’re Peyton Hunter.” She began to walk away.

“Wait, Ximena, no, wait!” I chased after her, “Ximena, Ximena, wait!” 

Ximena turned to face me. “No, not you, too. My god, not you, too.”

“Ximena, Ximena, look at me. What’s going on?”

“God, I knew he was planning something. I knew it.” 

“Ximena, what’s Sebastian doing?”

“I- I think, no. Okay. Kato Somrew. Kaitlyn and Edward Emily. Maya Amaro. Insert other characters here. Now you, too. Sebastian Merrick’s trying to bring us together. For god knows why.” 

“Wait. Pause. What are a few of those names again?” 

“Kaitlyn, Edward, Kato and Maya…?”

“My god, he found Maya again.” 

“What the f— does that mean?” 

I shook my head, “No, no, forget it. Hayden’s no help. Keana’s not, either. I can rely on myself and myself alone.”

Ximena sighed, “Look, Peyton. I barely know you. But I know you’re a good person and these last few weeks have been stressful to say the least. I had to sign up as a Camp Jupitorigami “Monitor” for Community Service, man. It’s eating up at me. Please. Let me help.”

“You weren’t an OrigOlympian. You don’t know the full story.” 

I knew, deep down, that Sebastian had something on his mind. He knew, just as well as I was beginning to, that Camp Jupitorigami and Ouranatox were connected. And he wanted me to find out how. There was a reason he had thrown me under the bus. 

I bit my lip before speaking, a stress induced tic of mine. “Listen, Ximena. I need to do this on my own. I’m the only person who can.”

“Not the only person.” 

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“There’s another former OrigOlympian here. Heather Sawyer. Art-emis cabin. I’d go to her for answers. In the morning. She’s sleeping.”

“Really? Sleeping? At this hour?” 

The joke here is that Heather Sawyer has a healthy sleep schedule.

After bidding Ximena farewell, I returned to my cabin and tried to get a good night’s rest. 

In my dreams, I was on stage. With my band. No one was cheering. All they did was stare. I made eye contact with one person in the audience. My Mother. 

I woke up just as quickly, to the sound of chirping birds. I had completely forgotten what I had done the prior night, so waking up in a clean and polished room was a surprise to be sure. 

I exited my cabin to find Hayden rolling around in the green spring grass, going ham on a piece of ham. Hayden had slept in the trash can. 

I tried to find Ximena. Or Heather. But Hayden wanted me to eat french toast. And I liked french toast. And Hayden was strong. And so I ate french toast. 

Breakfast was served beneath this terrace-like structure, and it was Laura Delphi at the makeshift oven. That’s one of the things that upsets me about Caesar. 

We’re minors. And yet we’re left to fend for ourselves. This place, I know for a fact, deserves to be shut down. 

And Hayden was right, the french toast was very yummy. I put a lot of powdered sugar in it. 

I really never cared for powdered sugar, but when it was an option, I was quick to choose it above other toppings.

“Boo.” Two hands, pale as bone, gripped onto my shoulders and a head rests atop of mine. 

“Edward, I swear to god, if you don’t get the f— of me…” 

Edward jumped back. Ah, how to describe Edward’s outfit? Imagine if Victor from Corpse Bride broke the fourth wall and dressed like an actual Tim Burton character. 

It made me sick. 

“Edward…” My brother, and Edward Emily’s unfortunate boyfriend, August Hunter, chided. “What did I tell you? We don’t greet our friends like that.” 

“Jeez, don’t be so stiff. We always greet our friends like that.” 

“You’re not my friend.” I said, point blank. “You attempted to poison me.” 

“Please. That was weeks ago. What have I ever done to you, huh, Peyton?”

“Poisoned. You poisoned me.”

“But like. What else?” 

“That’s like- That’s like a huge thing, Edward. August,” I turned to August, “Are we not going to acknowledge that that’s kind of a huge thing?” 

“I mean, it kind of is…” 

Edward pulled up the chair next to me, attempting to grab a piece of french toast off my plate. 

I slapped his hand away. 

The whole time, Hayden looked down at his plate. And at the platter of eggs and bacon, forming two triangles that met at their points. 

August looked me up and down, and seemed concerned, “So, what brings you here, Pey?” 

“Sebastian Merrick.”

“Ah.” Edward said, absentmindedly shaking salt in his mouth above a disturbed Kato Somrew.

“Hi, Peyton.” Kato said.

“Hi, Kato.” Peyton (me) said.

Kato’s not relevant here, by the way. 

“Well, Peyton, I’m, uh, glad you’re getting help. Yeah.” 

“Why are you here? You’re like, literally, a puppy with cancer.”

“Huh?”

“Cancer puppies are cuter. They’re like puppies but with limited time on this Earth. They’re like those buy one get one free ads.”

“Oh, speaking of buy one get one free,” Edward began, now holding a straw to Kato’s gravy, “The Qwikpick’s selling cancer- I MEAN CATS.”

“Cats with cancer?”

“I mean, I would suppose not. I haven’t actually… checked.” 

“You totally should. Those poor dogs.” 

Edward made a worried and sad face.

“Anyways, yeah. Sebastian kind of imprisoned me and this little guy,” I squished Hayden’s cheek. “I find him quite endearing.” I proclaimed. “But,” I poked August in the chest, “You still haven’t answered my question.” 

“To tell the truth… I’m here for Edward. He needs my help. That, and I got a letter of invitation.” 

I raised an eyebrow. “From who?”

“I assumed Angela Emily. But, that doesn’t make much sense. Now it does. Sebastian Merrick set us up.”

I threw one of August’s pancakes at Kato, “Ayo Kayto, what’re you in for?”

Kato looked up from her biscuit and gravy, “I was at Chase’s funeral. Sebastian Merrick convinced me to join CHRONOS as a spy for him. Got caught. Sent here. Why?”

“It’s because he wanted all of you in one place. You guys, don’t you understand? Sebastian Merrick has you as a test subject.”

“You keep saying ‘you.’ Like you’re not included.”

“I’m not. I’m here on my own accord. And trust me, I know everything that’s going on around here.”

“You’ve gone to Caesar for a month, Edward. Don’t act all high and mighty.”

“Oh please, you haven’t even been here for a full school year either.”

“Edward, shut the f— up.” 

“EdWaRd, sHuT tHe fuP.” Edward mocked.

“God, both of you are pathetic.” August remarked to his sister and boyfriend. 

I stood up, “Okay, can’t handle this. I need to see Heather. August, it was great seeing you. Edward, go f— yourself,” I flipped him off with both hands, “If you need me, re-evaluate your decisions. Hayden, c’mon. We’re leaving.” Grabbing Hayden by the arm I led him to the Art-emis cabin, hopefully to find Heather Sawyer they’re waiting. 

“It was nice meeting you!” Hayden yelled at Edward and August, “Have a great day!”

As I raced to the Art-emis cabin, I could tell. I was onto something. I just didn’t know what.

And then I was there. And then I knocked on the door. 

And then there was Ballinae Ronson.

No, Ballinae. I hate you. Jump off a mountain. Sleep in a trash can. I wish your great grandfather was arrested on crack charges. That’ll show you. Not being born and such. 

“Oh.” Ballinae looked just about disgusted as I felt, “Hi Peyton, tell me. What’re you doing here?”

“I’ve come to see Heather.” Ballinae was sort of blocking the door, though I could very clearly sense that there was a nearby Heather in the vicinity. 

“Ballinae, let me in that room or so help me god, I will-” 

Ballinae opened the door. Yeah. That’s what I thought, punk. “Oh, and Ballinae. Literally, like, give me your lunch money. And don’t say you already ate it. That excuse doesn’t work on me.” 

“What if I did eat it? What would you do about it?” 

“You eat,” I chuckled, “I uneat.” 

Out of fear, Ballinae gave me her lunch money.

Oh, and by the way, Heather was in the corner. Kind of, like, curled up into a ball. 

“Heather, are you okay?” I asked.

Heather nodded. 

“Heather, I need your help. It’s about Ouranatox.” 

Ballinae barged in, “OH NO YOU DON’T. THAT CONVERSATION IS DROPPED, OKAY?” 

“Ballinae, literally, no one asked.” 

“I’m here to make sure she doesn’t get into any trouble. So, actually, yeah. You talk to her, you talk to me first.” 

“That’s… toxic, actually. Ballinae you’re just awful, I think.”

“Wait, am… am I a bad person?” Ballinae began to ask. 

I knelt beside Heather, “Heather, look at me.” I made Heather look at me, “You’re Heather f—ing Sawyer. You’re the greatest OrigOlympian, besides, like, myself. Of course. But you- you’re amazing.” 

Heather didn’t say a thing. 

I looked up, “Ballinae, what the f— did you do?” 

Ballinae smiled, “You see… she knows the truth, now. So do I. So does all of OrigOlympus, you little python. Do you want me to just tell you? Save you all this work?” 

“I mean, sure. I wouldn’t mind.”

“ALright, then. Say I’m better than you. Admit it, I really, really, really, just wanna hear you say it.” 

“Keep waiting, darling.” I fired a finger gun. 

“I’m not helping you, Ballinae! I can do this s— on my own so easily!” 

“Then why do you go to Heather for help?” 

“I- I don’t, no, no, actually. Nope. Nuh-uh.” 

“What are you saying-”

“Shhh.” 

Hayden then proceeded to bash Ballinae’s head into the cabin wall thirteen times. 

“Hayden! What the hell!” 

“What?” 

“YOU DON’T- YOU DON’T JUST DO THAT TO PEOPLE HAYDEN.” 

Hayden, holding Ballinae’s unconscious body, slammed it into the cabin once again. 

Heather shivered.

“HAYDEN!” 

Hayden looked down, “I’m not letting anyone be mean to my friends again.”

“Wait,” I looked around, “They’re gonna find Ballinae. I know they will. Or, Ballinae’s going to wake up and snitch. Because of you.

Heather’s head tilted up, and she spoke with jittery breath, “There’s a place you can go. I- I don’t know everything. But I do know, this, one thing. Agrippina Road, 1746. Brooklyn. It’s an unmarked office building. Go knock on the door. They’ll let you right in.” 

“Heather, c’mon. You gotta come with us. I need… someone, okay? I need someone.” 

“You have Hayden. He’ll be enough. I need to hold down the fort, here.” She looked at Ballinae’s unconscious body. “I can work with this, down here.” 

“Wait.” I paused, “How are we, y’know, supposed to get out? Like, out of Caesar.” 

Hayden smiled. “I can help with that.” 

There’s another clip I keep going back to. It’s the uncensored YouTube video. Of the school fight. 

Nothing’s blurred. No faces.

Bart uploaded it.

And there’s only eleven comments. 

One’s about me. “Was that one girl humming Ballroom Blitz?” 

And I’m doing it again. I’m humming Ballroom Blitz as I break out of Caesar Middle School. 

End of Part One

Two 

“Peyton, is it possible we made a minor mistake?” 

“Hayden, I want you to jump.” 

We were up a tree. Shivering. Frightened. Scared. 

And there literally a badger holding a rat carcass in its mouth, that made me so mad. 

And the badger was holding us against the tree!

“Why would I jump, Peyton? Why would I do that?”

“Kick the badger in his badger balls!” 

“What?” 

“Badger balls!” 

Hayden jumped, “HAYDEN, WAIT, NO, I DIDN’T ACTUALLY MEAN IT.” 

Hayden stomped the badger into the ground. 

“Dude… that’s… awful. He was just doing his job.” 

“I have to find Ouranatox,” he lifted the badger carcass, and threw it into a pile next to the rat. “That’s disgusting.” 

There was something else I was noticing in Mr. Hayden, here. Anger. He spoke only with the kindest words and yet something about him. Hate.

“Hayden, you okay?” 

I smiled, “Yeah. Don’t worry.” 

We continued walking, through the forests of Caesar Middle School. We would’ve gotten lost if not for a handy dandy compass I stole from Edward Emily. He’s bleeding over the toilet now, by the way. 

Okay. Okay, Peyton. Hi, Hayden.

Hayden says hi back.

How are you?

He says he’s fine. 

(Hayden doesn’t look fine.)

“I’ll kill your brother!” 

“Do it.” 

“Wait… you- you have a brother?” 

“Yeah.”

“Oh, that’s- that’s crazy, because, I- I do, I do happen to have a brother too. His name is August.” 

“I hope my brother dies!” Hayden made a face. It looked like this. :DD. 

“Oh, that’s- I hate that, for you. I don’t quite- that’s bad. Hate is bad, and bad for your health, and, and no.” 

Hayden said “???”

Hayden stepped on something. It made a fizzing noise. There was a small explosion a few feet ahead of us, and when the fire resided there was a small statue of Kermit The Frog.

Hayden rushed up to Kermit. “Kermit! Holy crap, I love you!” He held onto the Kermit statue. “We’re taking him.” 

“Hayden, it’s very clearly a trap.” 

“Your Mom’s very clearly a trap.” 

“Hayden, my Mom is a cisgender woman. She’s also deceased.” 

“Why?”

“The deceased thing? Or… like..”

“I don’t know.” 

Hayden held onto Kermit like he was a pole dancer, “I love him so much.”

I started recording him, snickering, “Keana’s going to love this.” 

Hayden jumped off of the statue, landing on all fours, “Delete that.” He said. 

“And… send.” Hayden snatched my phone. 

“You… didn’t send anything.”

“No s—, dirtwad, there’s no f—ing service here we’re literally in the woods of a college campus designed for MIDDLE SCHOOLERS, Hayden. And I have a bow. Nothing makes sense.” 

“Your Dad doesn’t make sense!” 

“So what? He’s eccentric, that’s what he is!”

“He’s a homophobe!”

“Men! He kisses men!” 

“In front of their wives, Peyton! In front of their wives!” 

“C’mon, it was a platonic kiss.UNLIKE, the time I kissed your f—ing girlfriend!” 

“You what??

“Yeah, and I’ll do it again, you little f—ing, nerd.. Her lips were precious and plump. Like two apple slices.”

“You’re- You’re lying, right?” 

“Maybe I am. You’ll never know.” 

Hayden lunged at me, holding Kermit in his hand he lifted Kermit up. As he punched me, a net fell upon us. 

Here Hayden was. On top of me. And we were in the net. 

A guy walked up to me, in a Kermit the frog mask. “Miss Piggy, I got him.” 

A woman walked up to us in a Miss Piggy mask, inspecting Hayden’s face. She then slapped him. Hayden attempted to lunge at her from the mask.

“Neat.” She said, holding onto his face, “Take him to Bunker 9!” She yelled.

And then the world faded to black.

We woke up in a small shed, Kermit The Frog standing over me. “Woah.” Kermit said, “You’re awake. That’s poggers.”

We quickly realized we were above a small fire.” 

“WOAH!” I yelled, “WHERE ARE WE?”

“Hard to say,” Kermit said, “But it’s pretty sweet, right? Me and Marg found this bunker ourselves, it’s sick, dude. It’s sick.” 

A desk lamp turned on, revealing Kermit sitting at a desk, legs resting on a table. We were in a small room, maybe the size of a large closet. A desk was on the side, and across the room from us, a ladder. Miss Piggy tapped the back of my head, “What are these things?” She asked.

“Marg, you can stop the whole, evil queen thing. This is my friend, Peyton. And this is Hayden. Be nice.” 

Miss Piggy took off her mask, revealing a face I didn’t recognize. Kermit, however, took off his mask. Bart Montez. 

“Hi, Bart.” 

“Hi, Peyton. 

“Hi.” Hayden said. 

“Hi, Hayden.” Bart said.

“Hayden’s with me. Don’t worry. We’re just stopping by. And we really don’t… appreciate you, uh, netting us. Could you,” I wiggled my finger through the net, “Untie us?”

Bart began to untie the net, “Uh, guys, that’s, uh, that’s the problem. I can’t… undo knots.”

“Marg,” Hayden said, “Undo it.” 

The whole time I was laughing at Hayden for not being able to do knots.

“I can’t… either.”

“Dude. C’mon.”

“You built a f—ing wooden animatronic but you can’t untie a knot?”

“Hey! In my defense, I can’t tie one either.”

“That’s worse! That’s so much worse!”

My stomach rumbled, “Hey, uh, what… time is it. I can’t see my watch, it’s… really dark in here.” 

“It’s… eleven o’clock.”

“Oh hey, It’s lunch time.” Hayden said.

“BART I WILL EAT THIS NET AND YOUR CORPSE.” I began to gnaw at the net, clawing as Hayden held me back from consuming the poor boy. 

“LET ME OUT,” I screamed, “LET ME OUT.” 

“Don’t let her out,” Hayden whispered as I kicked and thrashed, “She’ll eat you. She saw a piece of chicken in the mud. Tore into it.” 

“I’m like a dog. You gotta feed me six times a day.” 

“I think your dogs might be clinically obese.”

“Wait, dog? Like… doge? Dude, I love doge. Who’s your favorite character from the lore?” 

“I’m not very caught up in the doge lore because I have a lot of other interests. For example, showering,” I said. 

“Aren’t you literally a Redditor, Peyton?” 

“I’m transitioning to Twitter.” 

“You should try transitioning into getting some b—-s,” Hayden said. 

“I like cheems.” Margaret said.

“I like showers.” I said. 

“Showers aren’t that important to us,” Bart said, “Hygeine’s not that important, not gonna lie.” 

“Hey! Good news! I don’t want to eat you anymore!” I said. 

Marg started to steal my shoes, which I really didn’t appreciate because man, I paid for these Converses with my own stolen money. But Marg scared me. She has scared me since I was a baby. 

The Simpsons would sicken and disturb me as a child. They still do. If I saw a Simpson, I don’t know what I’d do. Pee myself, probably. 

“Listen, Bart, please. Just. I will eat you.”

“She’s bluffing.” Margaret said. 

“She’s not,” Hayden shook his head, in fear, blood still dripping from what was left of his left pointer finger. He’s right handed, he shouldn’t be so offended by this. 

I, personally, am left handed. And left wing. And right winged. I’m literally a bird creature thingy. Caw caw. 

Bart stood from his chair, crouched down, and began to see away at the net we were in. “Listen, we’ll make you a deal a-”

I lunged at Bart. 

***

We were once again in the forest, looking for a way to escape.

“Mmm, Hayden, that was some yummy skin we just ate.”

“What?” Hayden asked.
“It’s a joke for the Reddit post.”

“I don’t get it.” Bart said. 

“Trust me,” I said, “It’s gonna be really funny?”
“Wait, are you a Redditor?” Marg asked. 

“Yeah.” 

“Based, based.” 

“Poggers.” Bart said. 

“Giga chad.” 

Bart did a troll face. 

Hayden slammed his head into a tree, “Oh my god,” he begged, “Make it stop.” That was due to the fact that this had been going on for several minutes.

“I’m still really hungry,” I said, changing the subject.

“Tell you what,” Bart said, “I’ll cook you a meal.”

“You can cook?” Hayden asked.

“I invented a new device. World changing, I tell you.”

“It doesn’t work.” Marg said. 

“I’ve made some improvements.”

“You blew up the science lab.”

“Hey! My dad funded the repairs, esponsa.” 

“Don’t call me that.”

“Please, just, give me food.” 

Bart produced his phone, although it was… a bit thick. There was this white padding attached to the back, connected to it via duct tape that covered the top of the phone, and also by a cord. 

“I give you… the phoneifoodinator88.” He crouched down, we all followed suit. 

“I give you… tetanus.” I poked him in the foot with a nail.

“The phoneifoodinator88 uses energy from your cellular device to power the heating pads here. The endgame here is to solve world hunger and hopefully overthrow capitalism.” 

“You have grit.” Hayden said. 

“Schizophrenia.” I said, “Schizophrenia is what he has.”

Bart began to root through his satchel, producing a dead rat. As we waited for the rat melter to reach maximum power, we attempted to make small talk. 

“So, how’s life?” I asked Bart and Marge. 

“Well, after Chase’s death I tried to stick with Kato. And then Kato went off to the camp, which left me alone. I learned about Bunker 9, apparently it was supposed to be an early model of the labyrinth. But it was really just a couple of corridors. I decided to go missing, as long as I get the work in… they don’t care.”

“That’s messed up. Y’know, after my Mom died, my Dad kind of… vanished. I don’t know, he was still in the house, of course, but he didn’t care what I did. I became a Redditor at 10. It scarred me.”

“They don’t care,” Marg said, picking grass from the roots, “They don’t care about us. We’re not a perfect Ximena Strohm, or as popular as Mac Astley. We’re just…” 

“Freaks.” I said, “We’re freaks.”

“I used to rule the world.” I said. 

“Seas would rise when you gave the world.” Hayden said. 

“Shut up.” 

“I did, for a short while, me, Ballinae, and Heather. We were like the public and popular faces of OrigOlympus. And then all of a sudden,” I snapped my fingers, “Gone. Just like that.”

“I feel you,” Margaret said, “I- I moved here a month ago. The kids at my old school were a bunch of jerks. I- I sent my boyfriend a few texts. Maybe an image. And yeah, it leaves a mark.”

Bart stroked Margaret’s hair, unsure of what to say. He shuffled his folded legs, unsure of what to say. He just wanted to make her feel better. 

Bart began to cut at the rat, and offered Margaret first slice. Margaret ate it, smiling. 

It was a scary moment for me. The realization that we were about to eat a rat. 

This school was not normal. If Athens had never closed, everything would be alright. But it isn’t. And that’s what makes me upset. 

They don’t care about us. 

I made a decision. I’m going to do anything. Support anybody I have to. I just want this school shut down.

I produced Artpollo from my jacket pocket, and then grabbed the knife out of Bart’s hands. I stabbed the puppet, pinning it to a tree. ‘This is gonna stay here.” I decided. 

I ripped off some of the rat, “We’ll be going. Bart. Marge. I love you.” 

I offered some dead rat to Hayden, he shook his head, “Bro, I love you but… no- no thanks.”

I ran off, Hayden chasing after me. For once I felt something, something I hadn’t felt in a while. I felt free. And so I danced. 

***

“So… how do we get out?” It was just us again. Hayden and I. 

Hayden grinned, “Lemon Demon sucks.” He said. 

We were suddenly enveloped in hair dye and slurs, a knife to Hayden’s neck. Holding the knife to Hayden’s neck was the most gorgeous person I’ve ever seen. Split dyed hair, black and pink, glasses. Round features, though thin. Cat eyed, rhinestone glasses. And a thin layer of lip gloss. Cape. Leather jacket. Pink headphones. 

“You take that back.” They hissed, their eyes obscured by their hair. 

“Sorry, Di, I just had to get your attention somehow.” 

“That’s dangerous,” Di, the gorgeous fellow I had taken a liking to, shoved Hayden away, “You’re lucky you got one of the nicer groups.” 

“Peyton, this, here, is the Cut of Dionysus. They’re my friends.”

“Wait, I remember y’all. Weren’t you the Athens queer club?” 

“Yeah. We’re still a club. These bonds don’t just break, y’know. We pretty much figured out every way of rule breaking,” they added, “We are at your service, alright?” 

“You’re- You’re really nice. Your hair… pretty.” 

“What?” Dionysus asked. 

“Pretty…” 

“What my friend here means to say is that we’re here to escape Caesar Middle School to overthrow a corporate dirtwad.”

“Oh, that’s awesome! Yeah, I’d be happy to help you out.” 

“I-” I began to stroke Dionysus’ hair, “I love you. I love you so much.”

“I- Your friend is nice.”

I gave Dionysus a hug, “You’re so hot.” I said. 

Dionysus patted my shoulder, “I- I know.” 

Hayden started, “You’re really single, aren’t you?” 

I nodded. “Yes. But- But look at them.” I gestured. A few other cut members giggled. 

“Alright, alright, I’ll help you.”

As we walked among the Cut members, one of them, cloaked and in shadows, tripped me, “Simp.” He said. I got a look at his snickering face. 

“Hey Edward,” I flipped him off, “You’re adopted.”

“That’s low.” Edward said. 

Hayden was up front with Dionysus, who I decided I had a crush on. That left me with Edward. 

“Listen,” Edward said, “I’m sorry. I’ve been working on myself a lot. I don’t want to control everything- no one should. Just- I’m sorry, alright? I know I don’t deserve August.” 

I looked him in the eye. I saw the regret, the way he looked at the other members and seemed out of place. “I accept your apology. I’m not- I’m not going to apologize for being mean to you. You deserved it. But now, you don’t. Do you promise to be nice to my brother?” 

Edward nodded.

“And does August love you?” 

Edward nodded. 

“And do you love Edward?” 

Edward nodded. 

“Then whether either of us like it or not,” I smiled, “We’re family.” 

Edward looked away, then back at me, “I- Can I- tell you something? It’s serious.” 

“Of course, bro.” 

“Okay, so, the manager of Ouranatox. He’s a pretty scary guy, you know that. After my Mother’s death, I was an angry kid. I was angry at the world. I didn’t shower- barely smiled. Alright? I was bad. I had to be homeschooled, well, because I didn’t fit in with the normal kids. I met him during a business meeting, my Dad said he was a ‘friend’. Just coming to make sure things are alright with his favorite franchisee. He started talking to me. Just little things, I guess. But eventually he started pushing me to do little things. Occasionally, he’d get,” Edward looked embarrassed, or like he was going to barf,”…Physical. Or he’d threaten my Father. He tried to teach me that with wealth, and with power, one can do anything. I did anything for money, alright? And then he convinced me to place cameras in places. First, it was in my Father’s room. He sent me to find them. First it was the girls, Ximena, Mallory, Lina, yeah. And then the others. I was his hostage. I hated the world, alright? Now I just hate myself.” 

I gave Edward a hug. “It’s going to be alright, alright? Promise me, it’s going to be alright.” 

I was upset. Why would someone treat others like that? That’s my question. 

“And we’re here!” Dionysus announced. 

“I- I have a lot to say. I’m here for you, Edward, alright?” Edward nodded. 

“Thanks, I love your family.”

I smiled, “I love my family, too.” I walked through the line, and to the secret exit of Caesar Middle School. 

Rusted silver gates, and a metal sign with the school’s name up top. I stood by Hayden, knowing that our adventure was ready to truly begin.

Edward rushed up to me, “Hey, there’, uh, one thing, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh-” 

I slapped Edward in the face, “What is it, dips—?” 

“Mr. Silver… he’s Angela’s husband. He’s the father of OrigOlympus.”

***

No. Absolutely not. I refuse to tell this part of the story. It was the lowest, most humiliating couple of hours in my life. I will not tell you about it. The end. 

Why are you still here? Go away.

Okay, fine. I got food poisoning. After sleeping on a park bench, I awoke nauseous. I took five steps and hurled into a trash can. Got back up, hurled again.Wasn’t loving the day so far. Checked my phone. The word of the day was “Chucklesome.” 

Okay. And I threw up on my phone.

Hayden woke up, groggy, “Are you- Are you okay?” 

I leaned on the trash can, “No, Hayden, I got F—ING FOOD POISONING.” 

“Well, uh, let’s- let’s get you better soon, I guess.” 

I coughed in Hayden’s face, “I think it was the rat. I think he was… undercooked.” Hayden looked away, and then stood back. A solid eight feet away. He tapped a random pedestrian, asking for Germ-X. She obliged, because it’s New York. Hayden completely doused himself in Germ-X, using a leaf as a makeshift mask. 

“Get away.” Hayden said, “Get the f— away.” 

I laughed, “What, you’re afraid of germs?” 

“Yes, as a matter of fact, I am!”

“Oh my god, did you die of the flu?” I batted my eyelashes.

“You’re a f—ing idiot.” 

“I know.” I burped. 

“Anyways,” I checked my phone. Dead. Great. 

We looked at the bench we were sitting on, a bus stop. 

We had fallen asleep in the intersection between Athens and the wider city, almost in Brooklyn. But not quite. 

And on the map, there it was. Agrippina Road, 1746. The outline of an unmarked building. It felt surreal, a little bizarre, to see the outline of the building. And the time. It had only been two days. Two days in hell. And so I decided to get onto a crowded bus with strangers.

We got on a bus and rode off, on the bus Hayden stared out the window. 

I thought about Hayden. He was a normal guy. Nothing seemed weird about him. So why did he come so far? He hadn’t had two years of training like the rest of us. So how did he get here? 

Something was… off about Hayden. Something was seriously off. A gut feeling. Hayden would make or break all of this. 

I burped. God, my stomach hurts. It feels like I’m eating myself. Knives are tearing into my guts. I thought about this old monster, under my bed. My Dad said he’d eat me if I didn’t go to bed. 

I lost sleep. Because I was terrified of the monster under my bed. August knew there was nothing. He was always a bit smarter than me. 

I checked under the bed one night when Dad was out. And there it was. A mirror. 

And I can see myself in the reflection, and I’m terrified. Because what if we’re the monster under our own beds? 

The bus stopped, and Hayden stood. 

“Hayden, where you goin?”

“We gotta eat breakfast, dummy.” I looked out the window. McDonald’s.

I didn’t eat much. Hayden got an egg and cheese McGriddle and a muffin. Suddenly, a lightbulb appeared over Hayden’s head. He grabbed the muffin wrapper, and wrapped it around the bus ticket. He placed two raisins on it as eyes, and squiggled on some black hair. 

“What… what is it?” 

Hayden did a few more quick squiggles, red, green, and some yellow glasses. 

I raised an eyebrow.

“It’s… Megg McMuffin.” 

I WAS SUDDENLY ENVELOPED WITH THE MONUMENTAL URGE TO VOMIT. THAT PUN WAS SO AWfUL I RUSHED TO THE BATHROOM AND THREW UP DIRECTLY IN THE TOILET. 

I exit the stall to find my aunt, Samantha Hunter. 

“Hey, Peyton, shouldn’t you be in school?”

“Stalking… dead rat… capitalism…” I flashed a weak peace sign and collapsed. 

I awoke in the back of my Aunt’s car, next to Hayden. 

“Peyton. I’m gonna be a cool aunt and not bring this up to your Dad. But you’re lucky I was in the area. Then again, I’m just really proud of you.” She restrained a squeal. 

“You taught me everything I know, okay?” 

Aunt Samantha nodded, “I know, I know. Just… don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. Good luck.”

“Wait… what?” The car skidded to a halt. 

“And we’re here. Welcome to the end of the line, kids.” 

The unmarked office building. 

Me and Hayden got out of the car and walked off to meet our dooms.

The office was bustling with creative energy, printers printing, pencils marking, receptionists overworking and the hum of fluorescent lights softly playing off in the background. 

A lady at the front desk, blonde and smiling, chirped, “Oh! Are you Peyton Hunter?” 

“Nope.” I turned back around, walked out the building, and hid in a nearby Dillard’s. Hayden found me near the coats, by this cool jean jacket. 

Hayden dragged me out, “NO!” The coat was still in my hands, “I AM NOT A SHOPLIFTER!” 

“ARE YOU JUST SAYING THAT TO AVOID THIS?”

“YES, HAYDEN, YES, I AM. THAT WOMAN KNEW MY FULL BIRTH NAME.”

“I mean, that’s understandable. But c’mon. Face your fears.”

“My fears might end my life, Hayden.”

“Okay, how about this, pretend I’m your fears. Face me.” 

I punched him in the face. I knocked him out. 

I just, kind of, prepped him up beside a trash can. You have a good day, Hayden. 

Sleep well, sweet prince. 

I go back into the tower, this time alone. Maybe a bad idea, punching Hayden and all. 

The blonde lady looked much less perkier. “Hello, Peyton. We have an appointment for you scheduled at 2:30, the elevator’s to the left. 60th floor.”

“I- Do I… have to sign anything?”

“No, we’ll- we’ll have to send you away now.”

I walked to the elevator. The carpet was soft. Damp. 

And then I was in the elevator. 

Ding!

And I’m in the elevator. The song is “Hooked On A Feeling.”

God, I hate that song. Why are the feelings being hooked? They’re not fish. 

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10…

30, 32, 34, 36, 38, 40…

40, 50, 60…

Ding!

“I’m going to kill you.”

End of Part Two

“I’m going to put my arms around your neck, I’m going to watch life seap from your eyes like teardrops. Welcome to the penthouse suite kid, this is all the luxury you’ll be getting.” He smiled, his eyes sparkling in the sunlight, “That’s the funny thing about death, Peyton. It spares no one. My wife, now, looks death in the eye. She wants to beat it. She wants to be immortal, whether she knows it or not. And yet, she marries the grim reaper.”

I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t move.

I felt powerless. 

“What’s the matter, Hunter? You finally meet a prey you can’t catch?”

He was a tall, boney man. His hair was like fire, pulled back into a ponytail. But you cannot contain a fire so easily. The hair broke out in strands that speckled his face. His eyes look deranged, like he was running on pure caffeine patches. He looked like an older Flynn Macintosh, the only difference being that while Flynn didn’t quite look human, Mr. Emily here did. He was real. 

This was real.

“C’mon, c’mon, have a seat.”

I sat in the chair. I jumped up, in pain. I sat on a thumbtack.

Silver clapped his hands, laughing, “THEY ALWAYS FALL FOR THAT! Ha, no seriously, sit down,” He laughed upon realizing I wasn’t following his order, “No, seriously. Sit down.” 

I sat in the chair. Suddenly, I felt a tingly sensation. It increased, slowly. I was being electrocuted. 

I stood up once again. 

“Okay, Okay,” He said, in between giggles, “I’ll stop. C’mon, sit down.”

I sat down, nervous. Nothing happened. Not yet. 

Silver grinned, “Anyways, how’s your day been?”

“I’ve been better.”

“I’m honestly in a really good mood today. Y’know, me and my friend Franklin talked on the phone. You see, he hasn’t, y’know, actually talked to me since High School. So it was a good reunion. I remember- I remember this much, we went fishing. Angela packed me a turkey sandwich. I love my wife.”

“Cut the bulls—, tell me what all of this is about.”

“I’ll be honest, you kids are smart. I hadn’t actually planned for any of you to know I exist. I show up on Caesar property once, and everyone starts freaking out. A little proud of that, actually.” 

“XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX”

“Well, it’s simple. I want to throw you out this window, silly.”

“XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX”

“I’m not. No, I’m not. Monsters aren’t real. Though I suppose I do creep under your bed. So I understand the confusion. You’re lucky I’m such a generous man. There’s some people in the world who are not as forgiving of… misunderstandings, don’t you think?”

He’s falling. Falling, falling, falling.

Snap!

“XXXXXXXXXXXXXFXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX”

“Your mother used to work for me, you know. She was an intern. When the cancer came in she asked for time off. She needed the money, payment. I thought it’d be fun to just have her around. She would leave work… sobbing. And THEN I fired her.”

“XXXXXXXXXXXXXFAXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX”

“When Charles and Marianna returned to Athens, I gave them the Qwikpick. I made them feel safe. But I gave them a business designed to fail, one that destined them to help heroes they hated. I hate my son. I remember, he kept trying to ruin our plans. Oh, I just wanted to fit my hands around his thick neck and just… squeeze the life out of him. But of course, I couldn’t do that. Because of course I’d get caught.”

“XXXXXXXXXXXXXFALXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX”

Viewing of this file is not allowed. Not allowed. Not allowed. Not allowed. Not allowed.

“XXXXXXXXXXXXXFALLXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX”

“You little OrigOlympians. Scheming. You want to control everything, but you’re just stupid children. Destined to become stupid teenagers. And stupid, stupid adults.”

“XXXXXXXXXXXXXFALLINGXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX”

“Who do you think you can trust, Peyton? Sebastian, the man manipulating you? What about Hayden? What’s he hiding? Quite a lot, actually. That dear boy, his brother… His brother’s my star student. The pupil destined to cleanse this pathetic generation… Peyton, Hayden’s brother is Flynn Macintosh.”

“FALLING”

Snap!!

And I slammed my head into his table. And vomited over his desk. Red chunks littered his desk as he gleaned at me, rage in his eyes. “WHAT? YOU! I’LL KILL YOU, I’LL TEAR YOUR FAMILY INTO RIBBONS, PEYTON HUNTER, I’LL-”

I ran away. And that was the last I talked to of Silver Emily. I ran away, Hayden Macintosh waiting for me in the lobby. Pulling him by his red hair, I dragged him out of the building and hailed a taxi. 

“You and I have a lot to talk about.”

As we rode in the back of the taxi, I ranted about how Hayden lied to me. About how he lied to all of us. 

Hayden paused, “Peyton… are you… crying?”

“No, no, I promise, I- I don’t care.”

“I- Peyton, look at me, are you alright?”

“Yes, godd—it, I’m fine, Hayden. Just please, shut the f— up. I don’t- Get away from me. Get out of my life, you can have Keana. You don’t deserve her.”

And so… we rode in silence.

Eventually, we stopped. Sigh. Welcome back to Caesar Middle School. 

Dionysus was waiting for us, and this time, I wasn’t even excited to see them. They realized this, and walked us back to camp. In silence. 

***

A few hours pass. I’m back in my cabin, sulking. I decided to look at one thing. The note I brought with me. 

Dear Peyton, 

Hey, I know, times are rough. I’m probably the last person you wanna hear from right now, but you gave me a real scare when you collapsed the other day. Hang in there, champ.

  • Sebastian Merrick

I unfolded a bit of the note.

P.S. You’re my new favorite.

And that’s when it hits me. How badly we’ve all been hurt by Angela and Silver. I open Discord, I open a new group chat. Alright, who to add? Heather. Bart. Margaret. Keana. Dionysus. Kaitlyn. Edward. Kato. August.

Hayden. 

Sebastian. 

“Hey guys. So, we’ve all made some pretty poor choices recently. We’ve let our anger get the better of us. But hey, we’ve all been inspired by Edward. Let’s meet where it all began, in ten minutes let’s stage a protest. Front and center. The auditorium, by the balloon animal statue. I love ya.”

Here we were, united once more. The people Sebastian Merrick had miraculously chosen for his experiment, an experiment which we still had not learned of. And yet, here we were. 

“Well, here we are. A circle of misfits. If Charlie were here, the old team would’ve been back together again. But I guess, The Heroes of the OrigUnderworld have grown. To me, at least, it looks like the ideas it was built on live on. Hayden, I’m sorry for dragging you into this. For hurting you. But there’s bigger things now. So, who’s ready to begin-”

The sound of mechanical wiring. The smell of motor oil. Something was mechanical. We all went silent. 

“Okay, I’m gonna address the elephant in the room here. I don’t- I don’t think that’s normal.” Bart said. 

“Yeah, that’s- that’s not very good at all.” Dionysus noted. 

Two red lights in the sky. 

“Oh s—.” Keana said. 

The sounds of balloons rubbing against each other.

Sebastian Merrick stands, frozen in fear. “No, dear god no.”

“What in the everloving f—?” Edward says.

Standing above us, a solid fifteen feet tall, a giant balloon animal of Chronos consuming his son stands, eyes illuminated and a balloon child in its mouth. It dropped the kid, easily the size of one of us. It sprinted at Kato, sending her flying into a bench. It continued running off into the distance. 

A Lot of people ran away in fear, panic in our eyes. 

“Did you think I didn’t have a fail safe in place?” Silver’s voice cackled through a speaker.

“Wait. Guys, it’s- it’s just a balloon animal.” Bart said, “Can’t we just… pop- oh my god, yep, that’s fire alright.”

Yes. The giant Chronos balloon animatronic had flamethrowers. I don’t really care anymore. 

“Hey Peyton! This is not what I had planned!” Sebastian Merrick yelled, leading everyone to RUN FOR THEIR F—ING LIVES. THERE IS A KAIJU.

But I stopped him. “Sebastian, we have to fight this thing.”

“No, no we do not, Peyton. This thing is a MONSTER, Peyton.”

“So?”

Sebastian Merrick ignored me, walking away. He was halfway to the cohort area, as Silver Emily cackled. Then the robot stopped. 

“Wait, what am I even doing?” He asked. He then set fire to a tree, “HAHAHAHAHA YES I HATE THE ENVIRONMENT.” Said the metaphor for capitalism. 

I pulled out my speaker. Desperate times call for desperate measures. 

I opened Spotify.

Oh it’s been getting so hard

Living with the things you do to me

My dreams are getting so strange

I’d like to tell you everything I see

Sebastian Merrick gritted his teeth. “Peyton, this isn’t gonna-” The chorus hit, “Nevermind, let’s beat the s– out of that f—ing thing with the power of friendship.”

Sebastian Merrick produced a ballpoint pen, ran up to the thing’s foot and popped a balloon. He was promptly lit on fire. 

Miraculously, he patted the fire down. 

Everyone leaped into battle, giving this bad boy everything they had. Oh yeah, it was electric. So frantically hectic. 

***

The moment we had the upper hand, someone tapped on my shoulder. I turned to face Jackson Ordonia, the members of CHRONOS behind him. The balloon animal gave them a thumbs up. Great, more distractions. 

Kenadee snarled at me, and lunged. She had this… cat-like tendency, I suppose. Very bizarre. Nonetheless, she terrified me. I ran, and I ran, eventually hiding in the little area behind the bleachers where people prepare to give speeches. Where Mac, Ximena, and Seb prepared their speeches…

Kenadee smiled, “Looks like I got you now, b—.” She giggled, “Maybe I could replace you for good this time.” Someone stood behind her. Sam. 

Great. Just great. 

“Did you miss me?” Sam looked a bit hurt, “C’mon, admit it. You missed me.”

Suddenly, a shadow raced past. A singular light flipped on, standing in the center, that shadow. Kenadee and Sam raced to it, the light going out the moment they got there. Another light, this time behind me. Run, run, run. Disappears. I high pitched giggle, not unlike Silver’s. 

The little TVs that lined the walls switched on, displaying Silver Emily’s face from within his office. Smoking a cigar, shrouded in shadows. He wasn’t controlling it. 

That means… it has to detect motion. A plan formulated in my head.

“For once,” The voice said, “I got your upper hand. I got you.”

This time… I recognized the voice.

“What’s the matter, b—boy?” Ropes from the curtains attached themselves to Sam and Kenadee pulling them into the walls. “Never seen a real monster before?”

“I’m going to give you one last chance…” Edward’s voice echoed within the cramped backstage area. “Leave my family alone.”

And then… Hayden and Sam were done. They just… stopped. Good. 

Not knowing what else to do, I continued down the hallway, eventually, peeking behind the curtain at the continued fighting. Jackson peered in through the corner, “Peekaboo.” He shoved me onto the ground. He smiled, slowly but surely forcing me into a corner, “Finally, this is going to work out. I’m going to prove to you what I’m capable of. I’m going to show them, all of them, that I deserve to lead CHRONOS. I’m everything Sebastian never was, I will show that I’m-”

Sebastian kicked him in the face. 

Thinking quickly, Jackson produced a blade. For a split second I thought he was going to stab Sebastian. But instead he cut a rope. And the rope I was sitting in, well, it went flying into the air. Not thinking, I grabbed it. Worst mistake. 

This is my record scratch moment. Yup, you’re probably wondering how I got myself into this situation. Well, you shouldn’t be. I literally wrote an entire casefile about it. Are you stupid? 

And so… I swung through the air, completely petrified. And my hand slipped. 

And I fell. 

Falling, falling, falling. 

And I fell into Dionysus’ arms. 

Nevermind, that was fun. I stared into their beautiful, hazel eyes twinkling under the starlight, as Dionysus kindly smiled at me. Then they dropped me. 

“Woopsie daisy, sorry, uh, uh, noodle arms, my fault.” They then punched Phillip Myers in the face.

Iconic.

And then, I realized where Sebastian Merrick was. And I realized he had the same plan as me. And everything fell together. 

From the belltower, a firework shot. 

Look to the sky. Follow the beacon. 

The sun firework exploded in the air, leading the creation to the belltower. I raced to the belltower, ripping a bush from its roots along the way. 

The song changed. 

Sebastian Merrick stood at the top of the belltower, staring down upon the monster that terrorized us. 

Now I heard there was a secret chord. That David played, and it pleased the lord

But you don’t really care for music do you…

It goes like this

The fourth, the fifth

The minor fall, the major lift

The baffled king composing… hallelujah. 

And so, as I pinned the giant robot of Chronos to the wall, Sebastian Merrick leaped from the spot in which his student had died, and as he fell, he stabbed the manifestation of his flaws in the groin. 

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

And It was beautiful. And finally, the baffled king landed in a bush. The air from the balloons shot at us from all directions, only leaving the popped balloons attached to a metal endoskeleton. 

The rest of the newly formed Heroes of the OrigUnderworld walked up to it. And we promptly beat it to death. 

I looked it in the eyes, hoping it was recording audio. 

As the others beat it, I just held it’s head up. “Listen here, Emily. I’m going to make you a deal. Edward has the footage of you. He has proof of everything. We’ll let it out… unless you… do us a favor? I want you.. To rehire all Athens staff you let go. And then, on top of that, thirty new competent faculty including security guards to ensure students get the proper education they deserve. Am I understood? Oh, and make me student of the year. You have a great day.”

***

It’s the last day of school. The metal Angela Emily begrudgingly awarded me is around my neck. We’re all back together, sitting together at lunch. Sebastian and Edward are making food combinations to try and make August barf. I guess the moral of this story really is that the Hunter family has a light stomach. Hayden’s sitting with Keana, waving around a new and improved Meg McCreasey. That’s when Edward gets a ping on his phone, and he giggles. But he looks… ashamed. To giggle, that is. 

“Businessman Silver Emily of EduFun subsidiary Ouranatox is… found dead in his home in Brooklyn. Reports suggest that he had died due to a mild stomach infection, that due to his age and genetics quickly turned fatal.”

I frowned. “We- We killed a guy…?”

“Yeah. It- It looks like it.” 

I turned to Sebastian, “What are we- What are we gonna do, now?”

“Well, to tell the truth, that camp- it’s death row. Students are sent there when the teachers want them gone. You guys- you’re all going to be expelled very soon. That was my plan. I wanted to get you guys out of here because, well, we have a bigger thing now. A new school that me and Edward are working together on. The Athens-Carter Institute. Coming next summer.”

And yet one thing lingered in my mind. Not the inadvertent manslaughter I just commited, no. Something much scarier… a headless balloon animal animatronic was still out there. Who knows? Maybe it’s right behind you now…

The End

Epilogue

By Jackson Ordonia 

I slammed my fist on the table, “I’m WHAT?” 

“Fired.” Flynn said. “If you’re looking for it in Filipino, that’s ‘pinaputok’.” 

“No, No, No, I’m afraid you don’t understand!” I pleaded, “Flynn, I’m sorry.”

Flynn faked a surprise look on his face, “Sorry’s just not gonna cut it this time, sweetheart.” He leaned on the table, cracking his knuckles at once. 

“You- You can’t do this to me.” 

“You failed. Like, genuinely, you failed.” Flynn hunched his back over, and giggled, “To tell the truth, you were older. A whole two years older than me. To tell the truth, I guess that’s why I kept you around! Because you were always the fall guy, Jack. And now that you failed, man, you’re expendable.” 

I slid the puppet, Creaseligula, across the desk. Flynn looked at me. And then he looked at the puppet. And then he ate the puppet. It was disgusting to watch. Stands of paper mashing in his mouth, the tin foil shield dripping in two and eventually scarring his mouth. It was like that painting, Saturn devouring his son. The painting Flynn praised, oh so much. 

I think it was then that I realized how far gone Flynn was. How these last few years had thrown him down the gutter and sent him down the drain. 

I left Flynn Macintosh behind, bidding his office farewell. 

The Triumvirate is a lost cause. 

You’re all idiots, all of you. 

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