The bus ride was long and chilly. We cruised up the New York border, for what felt like days but was only a few hours. Percy and I spent the time going through monster flashcards. An idea I came up with. We'd write a monsters name on one side and their description and weaknesses on the other.
A large hairy half-man half-bull with large horns and bristly reddish brown hair. Tends to be slow and dumb, when fighting quickly change directions to confuse it.
After a while it got so boring that I didn't realize that I wasn't saying the monsters name out loud but Percy was in so much of a daze he just flipped the card after a few seconds.
Nico took out a notepad and started scrawling out our route, he'd reference a map every few minutes and ask me to read the city names.
I began to notice something was wrong when we crossed onto highway Eighty-one. Which from the map, I could tell was far from where we were supposed to be heading, but I figured the driver knew where he was going and this was just a shortcut with less traffic. Then bus made a stop at a Raley's for lunch. Percy got an all meat delis sub sandwich, Nico got a simple BLT, and I went for a cheddar bacon panini. As I told you before, I l-o-v-e paninis.
All of us must have been pretty oblivious, especially Percy, because we never saw any of the Welcome to Williamsport signs. Percy spent most of his time from then on out pacing the length on the bus, he obviously couldn’t sit still. At around three o'clock in the afternoon Nico dozed off and slowly shifted in his sleep to a point where his head was resting on my shoulder, I let him stay there, I honestly didn't mind.
When the sun began to set the driver announced:
"Okay folks, were ahead of schedule coming up on Corning and my partner Rick here is going to take over the driving for the night. We've just set up the dinner buffet I hope ya'll like soup. If you reach under your benches there'll be a lever to release your beds for the night. That's all, thank you."
"Corning?" asked Percy, "That's upstate New York."
"I'll talk to the driver while you guys get dinner Chicken noodle for me, if they have it," I said and we slid open the door from our compartment.
I walked up to the front of the bus, the new driver was sitting in the front seat staring at the highway intently.
"You said we were headed for Corning, isn't that a bit off route?" I asked him.
He didn't break eye contact with the road but he replied, "Nope, little miss, it's right on route we always take the quickest and most convenient route we can when heading to Buffalo, traffic can be a troll."
"Buffalo?" I asked, " I thought this was the Overnight Bus to D.C."
"D.C.? No little Lady were headed for Buffalo, nearest big city to Niagara Falls. D.C. is the opposite direction. That bus left at ten. We left at nine."
It was only then that I realized we had gotten on the wrong bus, no wonder it was so early.
I cursed in ancient Greek under my breath and stormed down the hall.
I slammed open the cabin door and closed it so hard that it made a loud clack noise.
Percy eyes widened with fear, "What's up, Lea?" he asked hesitantly.
"Were on the wrong bus," I replied sitting on the bench next to Nico.
Percy handed me my soup. At least he got the right one, I live off Chicken Noodle Soup in the winter.
"What?" he asked leaning forwards.
"Were headed for Buffalo, not D.C. We got on the wrong bus because we were in such a hurry," I explained.
"Don't freak out Lea, by this time on my last quest I'd already blown up a bus and met Medusa. We still have nine days till the winter solstice," said Percy.
"Wish we could shadow travel," I said and Percy looked at me like I'd just imploded. "Yeah, I'm that desperate to get this over with."
"Nico! Why can't we just shadow travel?" asked Percy and I realized why he looked at me like that and started to feel kinda stupid.
"First of all I can't shadow travel with two of you, I'm not that strong and secondly, it would be too dangerous. Nyx's domain is also in the shadows, we'd be vulnerable to her grasp," he explained.
I sighed and slurped down the rest of my soup, then tossed the Styrofoam cup into the waste bin.
"The bus doesn't make any stops till Buffalo so we might as well get some sleep. We did pay for this after all," said Percy standing up and pulling the lever under his chair which caused the seat of the bench to slide forward and the backrest of the bench to slide next to it, making a small one person bed. I did the same.
"I'll sleep on the floor," said Nico, "I've slept in worse places before."
I didn't bother asking I just threw him the extra pillows that were stashed in the cabinets above. I layed in the small cot-like uncomfortable bed and watched Percy as he drifted into sleep, he looked so peaceful, breathing slowly and quietly with his lips curled up into a calm smile.
I fell asleep listening the whirr of passing cars.
I was back on the dark hilltop, Nyx was in full stand position now her, arms spread out inviting me into her lethal embrace.
Lea, my young grandchild you know so little about this quest but your friend was wise to not travel by the roads of darkness for they are mine now.
When she spoke it echoed around in the open air and hung there till her next words spilled from her scarlet lips.
You shall never make it home, for my minions are coming for you now. Not even the gods can help you. Sweet dreams.
She faded into the blackness her laughed echoing as she disappeared. I knew I still had a few seconds of dream left so I swept my eyes around the landscape trying memorize my surroundings. Something was vaguely familiar about the surrounding snow capped mountains. I didn't like it.
When I woke up it was still dark out but I could tell at least eight hours had passed because when I looked out the window the first rays of sunlight were just beginning to peak over the horizon. I sat on my bed and tried to recall where I had been in the dream. It was definitely the highest mountain I'd ever been on, it dwarfed all the surrounding peaks. The land around it was fairly sparse but in the distance there was evergreen forests that stretched off into the distance. But I couldn't tell where I knew it from, perhaps a movie.
I looked at the map, no big cities for the next three-hundred miles, Columbus Ohio was our best shot for a train but getting there would be hard.
Percy woke up first. I handed him the map and we sat in silence till Nico woke up. Percy's wrist watch said that it was seven o'clock.
We asked the first driver where the nearest national train station was and he said that our best bet was Columbus.
We plotted a route from Buffalo to Cleveland, and down to Columbus.
After packing up we waited for the next three hours until we arrived at Buffalo. The driver announced that there was a half-hour public bus ride to Niagara Falls.
Percy turned to me and said, "Let's check em out. Who knows, we might find our way west."
Buffalo was huge, well not that huge compared to New York but I expected a small suburban town. This was like someone had taken a piece of downtown New York and placed it three-hundred miles away. We caught the first bus and I made sure it was the right one, wouldn't want anything like that to happen again.
The bus ride was boring but when we turned the corner exposing the view of the falls, all of the waiting was worth it. I've seen some pretty impressive falls before but this one was extraordinary. It was like the entire Atlantic Ocean was pouring itself over a shelf. We took our bags with us. Percy offered to carry mine because his was a backpack and his hands were free. We loaded off the bus which had left us at a view of the falls from above. The river split off into two waterfalls, Angel and Horseshoe. Horseshoe falls was bigger but no less magnificent they both flowed down river and under Rainbow Bridge. It was easy to tell why the bridge was called that, because all of the mist that hung in the air from the falls was caught by the sunlight in such a way that rainbows sprang from everywhere. The ideal place for Iris-messaging.
We walked down the small paved paths, dodging other tourists who like us, were so preoccupied looking at the rushing water to see each other, until they were inches away to see the other person. We eventually found a bench and sat down for at least an hour just staring which was weird since were all ADHD, just proving how mesmerizing it was.
"150,000 gallons of water per minutes," muttered Percy.
I raised an eyebrow at him, he wasn't known for his trivia.
"It's a Poseidon thing," he said.
Just then we heard shrieking coming from a group of tourists who were looking over the safety rails. Percy and I looked at each other then sprinted to the scene, leaving our bags behind. Nico was one step behind us.
There was a group of about ten people screaming and pointing at the water about twenty feet away from the fall's ledge.
The only thing I could make out from the screaming was, "There's a person in the water! They're going to go over the edge!"
Oh gods, I thought. When I looked I saw that they weren't lying someone was in the water fighting the extremely strong current to keep from going over. I could tell it was a girl from her long blonde hair, but there was something weird about the skirt she was wearing.
She was a strong swimmer but the current was stronger she did the world's fastest butterfly stroke but it wasn't enough. After about her fourth repetition I saw what was wrong with her legs as they flicked upwards, they weren't legs at all.
She was a mermaid.
I was about to tell Percy but he was gone, I looked around desperately for him to ask what we should do. But only caught a last glimpse of him as he hurtled over the safety rail and dove into the rushing water. He disappeared for the next minute, then suddenly a portion of the water began to make a small whirlpool. I could tell he was underneath it. Then the girl disappeared under the water and there was no trace of either of them.
A few seconds later Percy walked out of the water like someone walks out of a subway station the mermaid was in his arms. The people gasped and pointed a few of them snapped pictures. Both the mermaid and Percy looked amazing for two people who nearly fell off one of the world largest waterfalls. She lay across his arms beaming up at him like a princess who just been rescued by Prince Charming. I half expected Percy to pull a white stallion out of the water, the two of them to ride off into the unrealistically early sunset.
Her scales shimmered in the mid-day sun, Percy's jet black hair glinted. Both of them were completely dry, but apparently the spectators were too busy gaping at the fact that Percy had just fought the current of Niagara Falls to notice. He looked down at her and said, "Hi, I'm Percy."
"Hello Percy, I'm Mea, thank you for saving me," then she reached up and fixed his bangs stroking his cheek affectionately at the same time.
"No problem shall we get you back into the water?" he asked mesmerized by her uncanny beauty.
Percy looked at me and mouthed, "Distract them," and nodded at the crowd of what now were Percy's fans.
What did he want me to do? So I went with my first instinct.
I strutted over to Nico and screamed at him, "Why didn't you save her? It’s your job as my boyfriend to be heroic and valiant!"
Just as I suspected all eyes turned to me. Nico looked like I'd just slapped him so I winked and he realized what I was doing, "I'm sorry that I can't be Superman!" he yelled back.
I glance to the side as I saw Percy disappear giving me a thumbs up as he dropped out of sight.
"And that's my friends is improv," I said bowing, "Thank you."
As soon as the crowd realized we were acting they muttered and looked around for Percy but he was long gone.
Nico grabbed his and Percy’s bags and I snatched up mine. We ran in the direction we saw Percy disappear.
He was pretty far away past Rainbow Bridge and out of the public's sight. We found him crouched behind a large shrub, Mea was in lying in the shallows of the river. She grinned up at Percy who was staring giddily at her, this chick had a smile that could beat out any model. She was perfect, perfect tan skin, perfect waist length, straight white blonde hair, and the perfect laugh. She looked about seventeen. She wore a Greek tunic that only reached her belly button and had silver bands on her upper-arms, that had a wave pattern etched in them.
"Lea, Nico, meet Mea a freshwater mermaid, on her way to lake Erie. Her home in lake Ontario was destroyed by a Cetus. She might be able to help us."
"Hello there," she said, resting her chin on her hands in a flirty manner. She flicked her tail. It was cobalt blue but it was like that of a butterfly koi. She also had small fins going up the side of her arms from her wrists to her elbows.
"Excuse me a minute," she said with her melodic voice and splashed into the water and out of sight.
"She's pretty," said Nico.
"Really pretty," agreed Percy.
"Wow," I said shaking my head, "Boys."
After a few minutes she returned with something in her hand, "Here's the address for a place where they're giving away a nice little rowboat, it should be helpful on your quest."
She handed it to Percy her eyes gleaming mischievously as if she and him shared an inside joke.
"I'll meet you there," she said and with the swish of her tail she disappeared only jumping out of the water like a dolphin once more.
Percy stood up grinning like a maniac, "I think we found our scales of blue."
The address led to a little house of the edge of the river about a fifteen minute walk away.
Percy rang the doorbell and a man in a t-shirt and board shorts stepped out.
Percy chatted with him for a bit and then he led us down to a small dock where a speed-boat was docked and on the other side was our tiny little rowboat. It wasn't much but it would work.
Percy told the man we needed a little something just to get our friend for his birthday. Though I have no idea who would want an old rowboat for their birthday. We tossed our bags in and Percy helped me onto the old thing. Luckily there wasn't any leaks. We rowed out into the middle of the river and as soon as the nice man disappeared into his house Percy flicked his hand and we sped off like a brand new speed-boat. It was awesome, the wind whipped my ponytail around. I sat in the very front while Nico sat on the middle bench, Percy controlled the boat from the back.
I wondered where Mea had gone, she said she'd meet us there. But she never showed up. I was just about to say something when I looked into the water next to Percy. I could see the sun reflecting of bright blue scales, either Mea was swimming beside us at fifty mph, or we had some mutantly fast fish following us. But then she jumped up did a barrel roll in midair and dove back in. Definitely a mermaid.
I watched as Mea would swim beside us flicking her tail four times, gliding a bit then flick it harder and shoot out of the water then dive back in. when you looked at her you had to smile she just radiated positivity because she was so bubbly.
We stopped for lunch at a riverside restaurant and Mea waited for us just off shore. I wondered what she ate, if anything at all. At about three o'clock we skidded into Lake Erie, except if I hadn't been told I'd have thought we'd reached the ocean. I'd been to Lake Tahoe which was pretty big but the water of Lake Erie stretched on for what seem like forever.
We ate a dinner of saltines and granola bars which kind of sucked. But we didn't have the time to stop at a restaurant, they were too far away. We had to be speeding down the middle of the lake because I couldn't see any shoreline.
When the sun set, Mea, still swimming placed her hand on Percy's and he stopped the boat.
"We shall not travel at night. Your pursuer can only see you when you move, she is at her strongest hours of the day," she said soothingly.
I whipped my head around to Percy and hissed, "You told her about the quest!"
"No," he replied dumbly.
"The fish know many things they are quite the gossipers along with my cousins the sea mermaids."
"Fish told you?" I asked.
"You say you're only cousins with the sea mermaids, is there a big difference?" asked Percy totally off subject.
"Oh, yes, my cousin’s tend to be more…" she trailed off thinking for a minute, "materialistic. But no matter you must rest now and put your mind’s at ease."
It was strange she spoke in a manner that I found very similar to that of the proper people from old English movies, very poetic. I began to consider that maybe she was older than she looked.
I looked up at the night sky, the stars glistened like teardrops. I was only then that I remembered my dream.
"Percy, I had another dream last night while you guys were asleep," I said.
He leaned forward intently, "What'd she say?"
"Not much, just that she was sending minions after us and not even the gods could save us."
Mea whimpered her face half submerged in the water.
"But that wasn't what bugged me," I continued, "Isn't Mount Tam in San Francisco?"
"Well I didn't see a city."
Percy thought for a second furrowing his brow, "I guess that's kind of normal when I dreamt of it I didn't seen the city either."
"There was an evergreen forest in the distance," I said.
"What?" he asked shocked.
Then it hit me, I knew where it was. I knew why I recognized the mountains. They were only about two hours from where I used to live.