It began, as it usually does, with a series of dreams.
Or maybe, that wasn’t it at all. Maybe, the detonator of events our decision to revisit our old summer camp for one last time before heading out to college on the west coast. Perhaps, the gears had been set in motion years before, when I’d first been assigned to take care of the sickly boy who, after defeating the Minotaur, would become the greatest hero our millennium would ever know. Maybe, that was the trigger of it all, the single cataclysmic event that would unleash the chain of falling dominoes that pursued. Then again, there was the possibility that nothing had triggered this, that everything had just been the result of aleatory events stringed together so precisely that in the end it was almost impossible to differentiate causality from casuality.
I realize now, that before I get into the nitty gritty of the philosophical and the metaphysical quantum mechanics governing fate, or how it is perceived in the vast depths of the mortal mind, I should probably introduce myself. My name is Annabeth Chase, not that it really matters or will mean anything to you, and if the circumstances were different, I might’ve indulged you in telling you more about myself, but for now, that is not important. What is important is how it started, how everything started. It’s always struck me as fascinating how history always seems to just happen, except when you’re stuck in the middle of it. Every major historical event in retrospect just seems so predictable, almost like watching a movie you already know the ending to. Of course, the Treaty of Versailles would cause mass unrest in Germany, and thus lead to the rise of World War II, how could it not? Obviously, the USSR would collapse under the strains of Gorbachev’s political and economic reforms, duh!
My point is history grossly, and at times, cruelly, oversimplifies the truth, and it makes everything seem much more one-sided. When we look back on everything and decide what must be the beginning and what must be the end, we ignore how many minuscule, insignificant things intersect to produce beginnings and ends that are almost indistinguishable from one another. After you’ve seen the things I’ve seen, you quickly realize that more often than not, things don’t just happen, and they are rarely without reason. Whatever we perceive the beginning to be, whatever spark that lights the match and combusts the world around it, is crucial to understanding the events that unfold and the outcome that ensues.
The most appropriate beginning I can think of for this story is in the summer, although I highly suspect the Fates would disagree with me, but, if I’m being honest, I’ve never been one to care much about what they think.
So, it started with the heated and sun-dazed days of the summer, when my boyfriend, Percy, suggested that we visit Camp Half-Blood, before starting our new journey, going to college in San Francisco. Camp Half-Blood was a special kind of safe haven for us, and people like us (but more on that later). Besides, it was a place of special significance for both of us, it was the place where we’d first met, where our friendship had begun and where that friendship had eventually turned into something else. So, it was fitting to go back before closing that chapter of our lives. Camp Half-Blood would always be a place we’d both call home, unfortunately, neither one of us had been able to visit much during the course of the last year. Between school and cross-country moving preparations, the year had been hectic enough, without adding any sort of immortal beings to it. Naturally, when Percy suggested we’d spend the summer at Long Island, I agreed.
It was supposed to be a normal summer (as far as normal was for the two of us), full of sword-fighting matches underneath the beating sun, endless jokes with our friends from the Argo II, shared in the dim glow of the campfire, and endless nights beneath the moonlight at the Poseidon cabin. It was our last chance to reminisce about the good times before going off into a new type of unknown, the perfect ending to our Senior year. So, we packed our bags, said our goodbyes, and traded off New York City’s sleepless skyline, for the green strawberry fields, and the ocean-misted breeze.
Things were good, really good, and for the most part, our lives resembled those of normal teenagers. Our days were spent hanging out by the lake, alongside Piper and Jason, in the July sun; and our nights were underneath the stars, passing on stories and laughing along with other campers. Most nights I would sneak into the Poseidon cabin, and we would talk about everything, anything or nothing at all. It had become our own personal bubble, one where Percy and I didn’t need to think about the constant dread that had defined our lives and relationship for so many years. During that time, we could let our guard down, just enough to imagine a sea of possibilities, just enough to be excited about the future and make silly plans for ourselves. It was as if the stars had finally aligned themselves in our favor, during those days, perhaps for the first time in our lives, we were at peace. Then, the dreams started.
I’ve always been wary of dreams. When we sleep, our minds are virtually defenseless, and when you’re a demigod, this can be easily exploited by gods and enemies alike. Experience had taught me to trust my instinct, even in the world of the subconscious, and to always keep my eyes open for any hidden meanings. No matter how dumb a dream could be, it could be sprouting a warning, a premonition, or even a coded message from my own mother. No matter what happens, dreams are important, and a word from the wise is they shouldn’t be ignored. At first, despite my own advice, I didn’t pay too much attention to the images that came to me while I slept. These were short flashes that popped in my mind and that were barely distinguishable, just a combination of shifting shapes and colors that clashed with each other. The dream came to me every other night, and despite its strangeness, there was a part of me that refused to acknowledge that it meant anything more than a random peak in the function of my brain cells while I slept; but then, the same dream became more recurring and persistent throughout the summer months. The colors became brighter, and the shapes became sharper, and I could make out sounds, voices. Each night, a new piece of the puzzle was added, until the dream was so realistic, it was hard for me to tell the difference between it and the real world.
It would always start the same way, underneath the dim orange glow of a small corridor. I could feel the warmth radiating from the end of the hall, but judging by the chill running through the wooden floors beneath my bare feet, it must’ve been winter. I could feel the hairs on the back of her neck standing as the cold made its way through me, giving me the impression that I was more than just a mere observer. I took a few slow steps, instinctively moving towards the heat, focusing on the small intricate details that decorated the wooden panels where the dark green wall paint met the fixtures. As I drew closer in that direction, I stopped, hearing the rushed sound of people’s voices coming from a nearby room. I couldn’t make out the specifics of what was being said, but I moved cautiously, trying to get within earshot of the conversation. I could make out two distinct voices, one speaking more loudly, and in a deeper tone than its counterpart. I assumed the two people were a man and a woman. They seemed to be arguing.
I walked closer. As I was about to reach the end of the hallway, I felt a small hand grab me by the wrist. I turned around quickly, trying not to let my surprise show, only to see who the hand belonged to. A small girl stared at me wide-eyed, with one finger placed over her lips in a universal shhh motion. I could barely make out her features in the darkness, but as my eyes adjusted to the dark, I could see the face of the child beside me. She must’ve been around four or five years old, with long, warm blond hair that curled around her round, freckled face. She had an inquisitive look in her eyes, the way children often do, and looked at me cautiously, before pulling at my hand to follow her into a hidden cupboard in the hall. While the girl had no problem fitting into the small space, I had to quietly bend down and crawl next to her. Her eyes, dark green orbs that moved from me to the door impatiently caught my attention, even in the sheer darkness they were striking. The child was beautiful. Whenever the small ray of light shone through the crack of the half-closed door, I could see the way the girl’s hair shimmered and reflected the golden light with its various shades of blonde, her cheeks were bright pink with the cold, and I could see her breath in the low temperature. The girl kept fidgeting with the small, golden locket that seemed too large for her small neck.
“You almost got us caught. You can’t let them see you!” She said in a small voice, avoiding eye contact. I noticed she was fidgeting with the long sleeves of her baby blue pajamas.
Outside the hidden space, murmurs filled the air.
“Who? Who can’t see us?” I asked her in a hushed tone as the girl continued to peek out the door.
Despite her young age, I could sense something was troubling her. There was something unsettling about the way she kept glancing at the door, and then back at me when she thought I wasn’t looking. The girl remained silent and pulled her knees closer to her chest. By the way she bit her lower lip to keep it from quivering, I could tell she was upset.
“Hey, Shhhh, it’s okay, I’m staying here with you.” I said, scooting closer to the girl. A long-forgotten memory came rushing to me, and I wondered if this is what I must’ve looked like the day Thalia and Luke had found me, a small child on the verge of tears.
“They never fight, but they do now. They do that a lot now. I don’t like it when they fight.” She whispered, burrowing her brow as she spoke. I glanced subtly at the door and wondered if the voices that came from beyond the corridor came from the girl’s parents if that was who she was talking about.
“Maybe it was the dishes. Mom hates it when dad forgets to do the dishes.” The girl continued, absentmindedly, before giving me a strange look. I was about to speak when the voices drew closer and the girl gestured to me once more, signaling me to be quiet. She scooted closer to the door, pushing her ear against it, trying to get a hold of the conversation. I closed my eyes and focused on the couple’s voices, trying to drown out any other sound.
“We need to leave. You know it isn’t safe here anymore.” Said the deeper voice. By the sound of it, I assumed he must’ve been a grown man, but I couldn’t tell his exact age. I could tell he had a faded New York accent that slipped between his words as he spoke, and I wondered if maybe that was where I was now.
“We can’t, not now. It’ll only draw more suspicion to us, especially after what happened in DC.” Said the woman, whose accent was harder to pinpoint.
“I know, I know, but we can’t stay either. I saw two officers tailing me on my way to work yesterday. We can’t risk it, you know what would happen if they found out what we are, who we are.” The guy said, a heavy sigh following his words before his voice trailed off.
I could hear footsteps. They sounded heavy. He was probably pacing around the room, as a long pause ensued before either one of them said anything.
Their conversation both intrigued and worried me, a single thought running through my head, who are these people, and why is someone targeting them? I thought about getting closer to them, maybe even stealing a look to see if I could recognize them, or at the very least, eavesdrop on their conversation from a better angle. The girl seemed to have the same idea because she started opening the door slightly. A soft creak escaped from the wood floor plank underneath her, as the girl shifted her weight to peek out the door. She looked at me, mumbling a small oops, before letting go of the handle. I mouthed a small prayer to the gods, hoping that the people on the other side didn’t hear us.
“We can’t just drop everything and leave either! We’ve made a life here—” The woman began but cut herself short.
“I get that, but—”
“Shhh, someone’s listening.” She said, cutting him off.
I bit my lip and cursed my luck. I had to get out of there, fast. Neither one of them said anything else, but the sound of footsteps grew louder and louder, as we stood there hidden behind the small, wooden hatch.
“Helena!” The man said loudly, his voice growing closer. The girl looked at me, whispering, go.
I saw the door begin to open before I was blinded by a flash of burning, white light, and the dreamscape changed.
I squinted my eyes a few times before they adjusted to the bright, mid-day sun that engulfed wherever I was now. After a few seconds, I realized I was in front of a house that was modest in its size. It was an elegant building, with a small driveway that led to a simple white porch. At a distance, the ocean glistened in a rich, marine blue, next to a single mountain, its snowy peak clashing against the otherwise flat landscape. The windy air crashed against my bare skin, sending goosebumps through my body. My mind quickly began narrowing the places where I could be. It had to be a coastal town, and judging by the cold air, it was somewhere in the north. If I was still in the United States, then I also doubted I was on the east coast, due to the lack of sky-rocketing buildings. My safest bet would’ve been somewhere in northern California, maybe even further north on the west coast. Hugging my arms, I shrugged off the cold and walked closer to the house’s front porch.
Two single, white columns decorated the entrance, alongside a few bushes that were decorated with silver flowers. They looked like Moonlace, though I couldn’t be sure. The flower was so rare it seemed strange anyone would have it lying around, much less own a garden of it. As I stepped closer to the entrance, I noticed the large wooden doors had been left ajar. The dark cherry color of the wood contrasted nicely against the navy paint that dominated the house’s exterior. Nice color scheme, I thought to myself, as I examined the small, bronze plaque that rested beside the door.
5720 Overlook Ave NE Tacoma, WA, the plaque read, with a small insignia underneath it, a circle with an eagle enclosed in the middle, carrying an olive branch. A type of cross seemed to run straight through the animal, each end bulging out of the corner of the bird’s wings.
What the hell am I doing in Washington?, I thought to myself. I searched my brain for any indication of where I could’ve seen the insignia before, but my mind drew blanks. I noticed that right above the plaque, a bright red X had been sprayed on. The entirety of the scene reminded me of a typical suburban setting, but there was something deeply disturbing about the eerie silence that filled the place. Without thinking about it too much, I took a deep breath and pushed the door open.
The inside of the house was a complete disaster. All of the furniture had either been ransacked or torn apart. As I walked deeper into the house, the bigger the destruction seemed to be. Where the living room once was, vases and picture frames had been shattered. The ivory couch was covered in small, bullet-like holes. Dread overcame me, as I noticed the large, red stains and streaks that covered the floor and walls. It was obvious an attack had occurred, in fact, it looked like an entire S.W.A.T. team had taken it upon themselves to use the house as artillery. Deep slashes dominated the floor and walls, someone had been using a blade. Then, I noticed that other areas of the house were burnt, and small traces of bright green flames remained, filling the air with the strong scent of pure sulfur. Greek fire. I remained as still as possible, wondering why any demigod would attack the house in the first place, and more importantly what kind of monster had caused this mayhem.
Shifting uncomfortably through the damage, I made my way toward the end of the room. Two glass doors had been broken and shattered glass lay everywhere. I noticed a dark red, sticky substance mixed with the crystals on the floor, blood. Someone had been wounded. Carefully making my way through the door, a deep, gut-wrenching worry invaded my senses. The smell of iron filled the air, and almost every corner of the patio was stained in red. Whoever had been hurt, had lost a lot of blood, and I wondered if they had survived. As I made my way through the grassy terrain overlooking the sea, I could feel the air becoming scarce. A chill ran down my spine as I overlooked the sea, and the sudden urge to run as far and as fast as I could from that place invaded my senses. I thought of Percy, the way his eyes were the exact same color as the ocean, and the way he would’ve loved this view. A pang of guilt overcame me for thinking about something so vain given the circumstances. Then, before I could register it, I felt it.
The air left my lungs within seconds, as I felt the sharp pain run through the left side of my body, through my ribcage. I fell to my knees, gasping for air as the pain clouded my eyesight. I could feel my shirt getting wet, and as I reached my side and hugged my stomach, the wetness sticking to my hand, I was hurt. I tried to scream, but the lack of oxygen made it impossible to get any word out. On the ground, I could feel my pulse begin to slow, trying to make up for the lack of air. The searing pain reminded me of the time I’d taken a knife during the Battle of Manhattan.
“Lena, Hector, come quick!” A voice spoke from a few feet away.
The girl’s call was quickly followed by a couple of footsteps.
“Kass, we don’t have time for this! You heard what she said, we need to get out of here! They’ll be back any second now. Get your stuff and let’s go!” Said another girl, her voice huskier than the first one.
“I think you guys wanna see this.” The first girl spoke, there was a hint of amazement in her voice.
I clenched my knuckles as a sharp cry escaped my lips. I could feel the life force drain out of me with each second that passed by.
“Kassandra, what the hell are you doi— Shit! Lena, get over here, NOW!” A male voice shouted, worriedly.
“What are you two going on about, we need to—” The girl cut herself short with a gasp.
Judging by how the other two had referred to her, Lena seemed to be the oldest or the leader. I felt the weight of someone crouching down beside me, putting a hand on my shoulder. When they touched me, I felt as if a thousand bolts burned through my body, and I let out another heart-wrenching scream.
“You.. you shouldn’t be here! You shouldn’t be here!” She said in a shaky voice.
“You know her? Who is she? What happened to her?” The other girl demanded, but Lena silenced her.
I could feel myself drifting away from the pain. With one last show of strength, I opened my eyes and stared at the girl hovering above me. Her hair barely reached her collar bones, and she must’ve been around my age. She looked different, she was obviously older, but the moment I saw her eyes, I knew. Those intense green eyes wore the same wide-eyed expression I had seen only moments before. I knew who she was.
I would wake up in a sweat, a cry caught halfway between my lips and my dry throat. The dream always ended at the same time, just as the first rays of sunlight would creep in through the window. I’d push the mess of tangled curls and wipe the beads of sweat from my face, as relief slowly settled in. When Percy was there, he would wake, and try to lull me back to sleep, although more often than not I remained restless, my mind racing until he woke up again. A million questions swirled around my head as I tried to make sense of what I had just seen. Who was that girl? What had happened to that house? To those kids?, I stared at the ceiling, a sense of dread settling itself in the pits of my stomach. The dreams, it seemed, were here to stay.