A Christmas Eve Surprise
On Christmas Eve, Chiron, Mr. D, Nico, Pollux, and I were playing Pinochle when someone called “Hello?”
Chiron jumped up, his hands on his bow and quiver, only for all of us to spot a young, unarmed boy in a black puff coat, a red shirt, and black jeans walking towards the Big House.
“Hello,” Chiron called out. The boy stopped in his tracks. “Are you riding a horse on a porch?”
Chiron smiled at all of us, and we stifled our laughter. “I am indeed. Why don’t you come over so we can talk?”
“All right,” the boy said. “Is one of you Mr. D? My dad said I should talk to him.”
“That would be me,” Mr. D said, raising his hand in a lazy wave.
The boy took his time walking over. By the time he climbed up to the porch, I had already been able to go inside, get him a chair, come back out with the chair, and sit back down on my own.
“What’s your name?” Pollux asked as the boy took his seat between Pollux and Mr. D uneasily.
“Xavier,” he said. I studied him, trying to figure out who his godly parent was. Brown eyes, dark skin, dark hair… he could belong to anyone.
“Nice to meet you,” Chiron said. “Who did you say your father was?”
Xavier shrugged. “Didn’t meet him until yesterday. I’ve been living with my uncle since my mom died, and he had never even met the guy. But he managed to produce a picture of me and my mom, so I believed him. He told me that I was in danger or something? He asked me if I wanted to go where I would be safe. My uncle thought the guy was crazy and tried to get him to leave, and I was on his side. But then we start hearing this scratching sound outside and the guy gets all agitated. He just grabbed me and pulled me out to his car, where I saw this… this thing… I don’t even know. It kept looking like two different things?” he looked around at all of our faces. “I know I’m not making any sense.”
“On the contrary,” Chiron said. “Continue.”
Xavier gulped. “Well, the guy, my dad? He drove really fast. Like, I swear we got here from Connecticut faster than should have been possible. This is Long Island, right?”
“Right-O,” Mr. D said, swirling his Diet Coke disinterestedly.
“He told me to get out of the car on this hill with a huge tree. And a lizard? The guy told me to walk until I found Mr. D.”
“And now you’re here,” Nico said, studying Xavier. I tried to make eye contact with him to figure out what he was thinking, but he was too distracted.
“Xavier, I know you must be confused right now, but believe me. We’ve heard crazier,” Pollux said, smiling. “Me and these guys?” he said, gesturing to Nico and I. “We have stories, too. You’re not alone, okay?”
Xavier nodded tentatively. “So…? What is this place?”
“This is Camp Half-Blood. A safe place for people like you. And Pollux, Katelyn, and Nico.” Chiron said, pointing at each of us in turn. “As well as a few others, who are off doing other things.”
“Why is it so warm here, anyway?” Xavier asked, shedding his coat. “I swear that it was snowing when I got out of the car. Is this place like… super high-tech or something? Did I walk through a door without knowing?” He got up and looked up at the sky, which was blue and partly cloudy. “If that’s a dome, it looks so real.”
“It is real,” Nico said. “Well, it’s kind of magic, but…”
Xavier looked at him like he was an idiot, then he looked at Chiron and Mr. D for a real answer. Nico crossed his arms and frowned. I gave him a quick hug, then looked at Chiron.
“It is magic,” Mr. D said nonchalantly. “The kid was right.”
Chiron nodded. “Open your eyes, Xavier. You know something isn’t right about me being a guy riding a horse. You’re just making yourself believe that that’s what I am.”
Xavier rubbed his eyes, then looked back at Chiron. “I knew something was weird, but… I just… You…”
“He’s a centaur,” Pollux said softly. “It’s okay. We see it, too. You’re not crazy.” “How do I know you all aren’t crazy?”
Mr. D laughed. “If you were all crazy, we’d be having a much better game of cards right now.”
“Xavier, when you were in the car, did it get dark and cold for a few seconds?” I asked. I had a hunch, and I wanted to confirm it.
“Very cold,” Xavier said. “But I thought that it was just because the heater wasn’t on.”
Nico locked eyes with me, his pupils getting big, and then looked at Xavier. “What did you dad look like?”
Xavier furrowed his eyebrows. “Long black hair, super pale dude. That’s really why my uncle thought he was a fraud, since we never thought my dad could be white.”
“Did he have some sort of hat? Like a stocking cap?” Pollux asked.
“In his back pocket.”
“And his eyes?” Nico asked.
“Dark and creepy?” Xavier said. “What, do you guys know him or something?”
Nico and I shared a glance. “He’s my grandfather,” Nico said.
“My uncle,” I said.
“My uncle,” Mr. D said, chuckling.
“My great-uncle,” Pollux said.
“And, I suppose, my brother,” Chiron said.
Xavier looked at us all like we had lost our minds. I can’t say that I blamed him.
“Xavier,” Chiron said, and he jumped, his fingers gripping the edge of the table so hard that they were getting lighter. “Your father is the Greek god Hades, Lord of the Underworld.”
When Xavier started laughing, Mr. D did too, which didn’t help Xavier believe anything that we had said. Then, over his head, a shimmering white poplar surrounded by blackness materialized. Xavier followed our eyes, looking up at the symbol, and promptly fainted.