My mother and I stayed on the beach for a while watching the sun set, I rubbed the golden apple still clenched in my fist. It was a prize I had deservingly won.
“I think that deserves a place on the mantle,” said my mother, her voice welling with pride.
“Do you think we could melt it down and turn it into something else?” I asked, examining the heavy metal object.
“Like what?” she asked.
I thought for a minute.
“A lotus,” I finally replied, “Like a candle holder or something. For dad. Although its not like he deserves it.”
“No,” agreed my mom, “He does not deserve it. But you do.”
She looked directly at my armor, where the lotus symbol was etched.
“A lotus,” she confirmed, “To represent my beautiful daughter.”
I smiled bashfully, my cheeks warming as I looked over the bay.
She and I spent the night in a cheap hotel and drove the entirety of the next day finding a place to stay not far from the park.
As I woke in the morning the sky was clear and it was warm out, just as it always is in the L.A. area. I knew that the other campers would be arriving at the park soon and I got ready for the strenuous day ahead.
I threw on my regular armor and my average clothing with the addition of a leather belt for no apparent reason.
I tucked my defense disk into my pocket and scarfed down the microwave oatmeal that my mother handed me.
She and I walked to the park together, it was strange the city almost seemed to be asleep even though it was late morning. I remembered this place as being bustling with people, every sidewalk always filled with pedestrians.
My mother obviously caught on to the same thing, because she looked around with wide eyes and said, “I’ve never seen this place so empty.”
We entered the main plaza to find it completely empty.
“Are you sure it’s today?” asked my mom, “This place looks closed.”
“Yeah, I’m sure,” I reassured her.
She was right though; there were no visitors, not even any employees. The buses sat dormant in the lane and all the gates were unoccupied.
Just as I was begin to feel flickers on doubt in my chest a wave of warm air rushed over me.
I turned around just in time to see a humungous yellow school bus crash to the ground in a terrible descent from its flight. It was by far the biggest bus I’ve ever seen. I guess it had to be, since I knew it was carrying over three hundred campers. That had to be some sort of fire hazard.
“God, the Greeks are so weird,” muttered my mom.
The doors swung open and kid began to pile out of the bus, most of them looked carsick. I understood why, Apollo had taken me on his chariot before, and lets just say; it wasn’t a smooth ride.
I watched as Ava was shoved out of the bus by an Ares kid and Cloe shoved him in return.
Then Ava and Cloe saw me, they ran at me and my mother squealing.
“Lea! You made it!” exclaimed Cloe.
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” I said hugging her.
After a few minutes of chatting my other friends began to gather around, none of the Seven of course, but Connor, Travis, Maria and Nico had come to see me.
Apollo was the last to emerge from the bus, he was wearing his usual bro-tank, flip-flop and aviators. Clearly he felt no need to dress up for this occasion.
He snapped his fingers and the bus turned into a golden chariot which he then stood on, rode to the middle of the plaza and stopped.
Everyone began to gather around Apollo waiting for instructions as to what to do next.
“Attention! Attention!” he called as the last few campers straggled into the group.
I quickly hugged my mother and said goodbye as she wished me luck.
Then I took Nico’s hand as a silent hello and joined the crowd.
“Welcome to the First Annual Camp-Half Blood Olympics final event!” the crowd roared with excitement, but Apollo silenced them with his hand, “As you can see I’ve…rented…out the place today so no mortals will disturb our play. Let’s start off with a basic lay down of the rules…don’t kill each other and don’t damage the place to much. Yeah that’s it.”
The Ares cabin roared with excitement and I caught Lance Beckett giving me a threatening smirk.
I winked at him, just throw him off.
“Here’s how this is going to work,” announced Apollo,” Each cabin gets a land to defend, but of course since some of the cabins are too small to defend their land on their own we added some extra little guards in their. Your guards will not attack you but the ones from other lands will. Here are the lands assigned to each cabin: Tomorrowland is the domain of the Apollo cabin. Fantasyland belongs to the Nike cabin. Toontown goes to the Hephaestus cabin. Frontierland goes to the Ares cabin and Adventureland goes to the Morpheus cabin. Main Street is neutral ground. Everywhere else has been blocked off. You may partake in any ride at your own risk.”
Adventureland, I thought, Not bad.
“Finally,” continued Apollo, “The goal is to take each teams so called ‘flag’ which actually look like this,” he pulled out a golden ring, like a metal Frisbee donut. In order to win, you must collect three rings. A ring is hidden in each land and the ring from your land does not count. Understood, you do not want your ring to be taken, much like in Capture the Flag. I think that about covers it,” he concluded, “Are you ready to begin?”
The crowd exploded with noise.
Apollo snapped his fingers again and a thousand golden bean bags appeared, one for each camper that wasn’t competing.
Then behind Apollo mirage mirrors appeared.
They were the biggest scale mirage mirrors I’d ever seen. Five of them, the size of movie theater screens paneled around Apollo. Each of them showed a team.
Seeing my face projected so large made me uncomfortable and I looked at the ground.
“Teams enter your turnstiles and wait for my que,” said Apollo.
Turnstiles. My mind went blank, I hated turnstiles.
I watched in horror as the other team lined up behind the spinning devices that would grant them access to the playing field.
Ever since I was a small child I had always had a weird phobia of turnstiles. When I was four I had tried to go through one and it was really heavy so I put all of my weight into it and then it swung around and hit me in the back of the head. Ever since then I’ve had an irrational fear of using turnstiles. They were so unexpectedly dangerous. They scared me.
I stood cautiously behind mine, staring at it scrutinizingly.
“On your marks,” shouted Apollo, “Get set…GO!”
The other teams dove through their turnstiles filing into the park and breaking into a sprint as I stood helplessly.
People began to laugh and boo and shout at me as I stood there motionless.
This was not starting off well.
I panicked and leaped over my turnstile and flew into the park.
As the team split off into the two small tunnels fighting to get through and past each other I jumped into the garden directly ahead of me through the strain station and caught up with the leaders on Main Street.
I sprinted past Lance Beckett, grinning at him and saying “See you later sweetie!”
He tripped in surprise and tumbled slightly.
I was now in the lead with a few other Ares kids who had clearly been training for this.
I glanced behind me, most of the team were already too busy in combat with one another to do anything about me.
I jogged past the sculpture of Walt Disney and Mickey and through the castle entrance, keeping my eye out of for a golden ring.
I was suddenly immersed in beautiful colors and nostalgia.
Beautiful gardens and theatrically lit up ride spun to life around me. It truly felt magically as I speed-walked past the carousel.
Of course that magic was instantly ruined as I heard snarling.
From all directions I could hear a distinct shuffling and growling sound. I drew my sword preparing myself for some hideous creature.
Instead my eyes were met by Aurora, a.k.a Sleeping Beauty, stalking towards me blood dripping from her mouth.
“What the f-” I began put was cut off by a roar from behind me.
Snow White was perched on top of the whale’s head not but twenty feet away.
More possessed princesses began to emerge.
Tiana and Rapunzel crawled out from the bushes, snarling at me.
Jasmine whipped her head around with rabid eyes, looking directly at me.
I took that as my cue to go.
I ran out of there as fast I could, but they were much faster than me. Within seconds Cinderella had caught up with me I leaped over a small fence and in tho the teacups area.
The pastel colored cups spun around, whirling mindlessly.
I jumped into one of them bracing my feet up against either side as I spun in circle keeping my eyes locked on the oncoming princesses. Cinderella attempted to follow me, but as soon as she layed a foot on the platform she tumbled to the ground, losing her footing.
I staggered to her feet, gaining a sort of lopsided balance.
She lunged at me and I swung my sword at her, but since I was kind of dizzy I missed terribly and she batted it out of the way.
My sword clattered to the ground.
I stood helpless for a second as Cinderella and I’s eyes met in a moment of both of us knowing that I’m pretty crewed.
Then I punched her in the face.
A clean right hook and her head followed the motion her headband flying off in the process.
I paused for a minute not believing what I had just done.
I had just punched one of my childhood role models.
Granted she was trying to kill me.
“Hah! Haha! Whoo!” I exclaimed picking up my sword as the other princess began to attempt a balancing act on the teacups in order to get to me.
They clearly weren’t that bright because they kept putting on foot on the moving part and bracing their other foot on solid ground which of course caused them to fall over.
I reveled in my two minute victory and exited through the other side of the teacups, which wasn’t really that graceful either.
From there I fell over the fence, my vision still spinning and staggered out in to the pathway. I took a minute to regain my land legs and the princesses still attempted to cross the whirling teacups of doom.
As soon as I no longer felt like I was going to vomit I took off again.
Belle and Aurora were close behind me now. They were stumbling around dizzily but regaining their senses quicker than I had.
I ran to the most familiar place, It’s a Small World.
The obnoxious song blared from the building and I launched myself into one of the little boats, examining the golden parts of the building hoping to see a ring. No such luck.
The boat drifted so slowly down the small canal that I began to worry that the princess would catch up, but as I looked back at them they were writhing around, their hands over their ears in pain.
Apparently they didn’t like the song either.
I hoped that they’d give up by the time I had finished the ride.
The same boat drifted aimlessly into the building and I took the moment to relax.
As I entered the building I wished I had brought some noise canceling headphones but instead I watched and enjoyed the brief peace watching the various ethnicities of puppets sing and dance. The vibrant colors enveloped me into a sort of physcaledic peace.
That peace was broken instantly.
A red laser beam shot past my face and caused the little Eskimo girl puppet next to me to explode into flames.
Rude, I thought.
My thoughts were once again interrupted as another laser shot past me annihilating a fake parrot.
I looked at the source of the beam to find two automatons.
Except they weren’t regular automatons; they were made from gaudily exaggerated mechanical pieces.
They must have been from Toontown, they must have escaped the Hephaestus cabin’s domain.
I weighed my odds for a second; would I rather face automatons with lazer beams of death or some dizzy demon princesses.
Demon princesses were obviously the better option.
I jumped from the boat and ran through the puppets set up as things exploded behind me.
I dove into the sunlight to find the princesses had left, thank the gods. I looked up to the sky to thank whatever god must have been aiding me.
My eyes were caught by a golden gleam, on top of the Matterhorn something glittered in the sun.
I run through the multiple switch back turns of the line, jumping over another set of turnstiles and sprinted to the Matterhorn.
I flung myself into one of the bobsleds and it shot off into the tunnels.
As soon as I had reached a good halfway up the mountain I dive-rolled out of the sled and began to walk up, knowing that if I had stayed on the sled it would have taken me back down.
In the eerie quiet, the only noise besides the sleds whirring and my foots steps, echoed through.
At first I heard something faint, but got closer quickly, the definite snarling of a rabid princess. I began to run up the bobsled track with my sword drawn.
In the dim light I began to feel shreds of nerves begin to engulf my body.
Suddenly something large lunged at me from around the ground with a loud roar.
I yelped and slashed with my sword instinctively.
With a schlict and a thud a large hunk of white fur and wires fell to ground.
I had accidentally just cut one of the ride’s Yetis in half.
I inhaled sharply, “Ooh, sorry… but I’m definitely not paying for that.”
I resumed my ascent, the snarling behind me getting louder.
There was an opening in the side of the mountain where you could se out over the park. I looked out in and up the side to see little a metal handhold ladder. I looked down to see princess Tiana scaling the mountain after me.
I also saw Ariel at the bottom flopping around aimlessly.
For a fish-girl out of water she looked surprisingly feirce.
I began to slimb the small metal rungs up to the top, luckily I made it all of the way there undisturbed.
I bragged the shining gold ring victoriously and took a moment to cherish my achievement.
Then I heard a roar from below me.
I was surrounded on all sides, each of the princesses on every side of the mountain coming after me and they were close to getting their reward.
I panicked glancing around me for a way out.
Then I saw it; the wires that descended from the peak into what I thought to be Frontierland.
I quickly put my arm through the golden ring, whipped off my belt and wrapped my dominant hand in it. Then I flung the belt over the wire and like any cliché action character I prepared to use my belt to zip-line me to safety.
I closed my eyes for a half-second and thanked what ever god it was that had made me unconsciously but on this belt this morning.
I wrapped my other hand in the leather and braced myself for what was next.
Then I leapt off knowing that I was only zip-lining to more unknown and imminent danger.