Family Feud: The Beginning of the End of the Earth

This is an excerpt from my book Family Feud: The Beginning of the End of the Earth. Ava Griffin and Connor Alati are demigods; both with scars from the past, and both destined to obtain scars in the future. When they embark on their first quest to save the world, they not only battle the monsters of the world, they also battle the monsters within.


1. A Centaur Is My Shrink

     No. This is not one of those stories. Sure, we did have fairytale creatures. Like the harpies, the chicken bird ladies who would kill you if you left yourself unguarded in the woods. Or the nereids, water spirits who seem as sweet as the Little Mermaid but would drown you in a second if need be. Yeah, we had the stuff of fairytales, alright. But this story is not a fairytale. Not in the slightest. You see, in all fairytales there is one person, normally an evil queen, who did not want all the rainbows and sunshine that came with utopia. Well, even on Earth, there were certain forces alive, awake, and ready to destroy the very fabrics of time and space. And they were working. Right under your feet. Right above your head. Most mortals never see it. But there are some of us, ones who have a bit of an advantage over the common folk. This story doesn't have a "and then they lived happily ever after" type of ending. I'm not even sure it has an ending. So, if by the time you read this, and the Earth is being vaporized by the sun, sorry about that. That was my fault. Always is.

     I bolted upright in a cold sweat. My body was shaking despite the perspiration, and my mind racing. I had the nightmare again. Why do I have to relive it over and over again? I thought to myself. I sighed, not answering my own question, for I knew full well why I did, and threw the blankets off of me. I hung my legs off the side of my bunk and held my face in my hands, elbows resting on my knees. I prayed I hadn't woken anyone in my cabin.

     After a few minutes of sulking, I decided to go to the beach, my normal spot after waking up from the nightmares. My feet made no sounds as I tread carefully on the smooth, wooden floor. I heard the sound of shifting blankets, then someone clearing their throat.
     "Ava, is that you?" Rose whispered from her bunk near the door. Rose was also a daughter of Athena. No, I'm not mad, I literally mean the Athena. Greek goddess of wisdom.Athena was my mom, making everyone in this cabin my half sister or brother. Long story.
     "Yeah," I whispered back.
     "Did you have another nightmare?" I bit my lip, though she couldn't see that in the dark.
     "Yeah, I did."
     "Are you okay?"
     "I think so. I'm going down to the beach."
     "Okay," she mumbled into her pillow. Rose was nice. You might have assumed she was my friend, right?
     I opened the door as quietly as I could, and stepped down onto the cold stone path leading off in either direction. The stones felt good against my feverish skin. I needed to cool down. Turning right, I walked past the other cabins. I looked back once at the owl above the door for Athena's cabin. An owl was the symbol for Athena. It's knowing eyes looked right through me, criticizing my very existence.
     Athena does that to you. Even if you are her kid.
     I followed the path until it stopped, then walked across the mowed grass to the beach. My watch told me it was 3 in the morning, much too early for anyone to be moving about. I walked onto the sand, feeling the squishy sand seep in between my toes. I continued walking to the water, black as night. It was a little scary not being able to see what the water that was now lapping my legs contained. Long Island Sound was just a name of a beach to most people, but to me it was a much needed comfort. Even in the winter, the magical boundaries kept the beach warm, and only accessible to the campers here, not allowing any unwanted guests in. The water calmed me, pushed down the heat inside,suppressing it. I felt something brush up against my calf. Instead of flinching, I smiled. The tingle I had felt belonged to a nereid, an ocean spirit. I could barely see her face, but I imagined she was smiling too. I came here a lot, and the nereids have grown a certain fondness for me, even though I am a daughter of Athena, who has a horrible rivalry with Poseidon, god of all waters. Even longer story.

    I inhaled the smell of salt water, and relaxed in the waves for a little longer. Deciding to go see Chiron, I trudged back up the beach, sand sticking to my toes. I walked back past the cabins, till I was on the porch of the Big House.

     The Big House was the camp headquarters, the infirmary, and home to the staff. Chiron was kind of the dean, I guess you could say, but he was not your average camp dean.
     I opened the screen door, remembering to step lightly on the first floorboard, which always creaked loudly. I made my way to Chiron's room, tracking sand footprints, and knocked quietly on his door. I heard him grunt and move his wheelchair to the door. He opened the door, looking up at me to meet my gaze. 
     "Hello, Ava."
     "Hi, Chiron. I had the nightmare again."
     He sighed. When he did, his medium-length beard rustled. His hair was a brown and gray mixture, his hair reaching his shoulders. It was wiry and unkempt. His face suggested he was forty or so, but his brown eyes, deep with sorrow and wisdom, killed the stereotype. He was much older than forty.
     "I suppose. You wouldn't come here at this hour for any other reason. Let's sit on the porch, I need to stretch my hooves." Yes, he said hooves, I'm getting to that part.
     I nodded and we walked outside into the cool summer's night air. There was a small porch light above, being hassled by mosquitoes. I sat on the steps and watched Chiron as he got the wheelchair on the ground. He never let me help him with that sort of thing. It was always fascinating to watch him transform. Chiron clicked a mechanism of some sort, making his wheelchair shrink. Metal clinked and bonked and made other metallic sounds. His legs-or fake legs-started to shrink along with the wheelchair. As the wheelchair shrunk, Chiron got bigger. His torso rose until you could see the front half a pure white stallion. His front legs, with a matching set of hooves, clopped onto the ground, Then the back two legs, then a pure white rump, and finally, a tail with a mind of its own. It's tussled white and brown color swished back and forth with what I assumed was anxiety. In just a matter of seconds, the wheelchair and legs were gone, leaving only a tiny silver box in place, and Chiron was a full horse right in front of me. Chiron was a centaur, half man, half horse. Where the head and neck of a horse should have been, Chiron's midriff began. I couldn't help but think that his flannel shirt did not really go with the whole white warrior horse thing. Standing straight, he rose higher than any horse, and much taller than me. I wasn't very tall anyways, maybe 5'6.
     While I think about it, I should probably tell you what I look like. Well, I have dark brown hair and gray eyes. All children of Athena have gray eyes. I'm the only one who does not have blonde hair, though. As if I needed another thing to separate me. My frame was slim, nothing special whatsoever. I had a tan, but only because it was June. I had freckles that splashed across my nose. 
     "So," Chiron started, "was it the same dream?"
     "Nightmare," I corrected. "It was a nightmare. Why won't it stop? Campers get dreams from their parents all the time, why can't Athena make them stop? Or what about Hypnos? Couldn't the campers there help me?"
     Chiron put his fingers together and pursed his lips. I thought it was a bit of a weird position when he was a good eight feet tall. "Maybe, that is a possibility. I'm not so sure they would be excited to help you. They were all asleep the last time you almost-"
     "I know," I interjected. "I know." My gaze fell to the ground, which was littered with various sticks, leaves, and Capri Sun pouches. "How do they do it? Sleep all the time, I mean." I continued to stare at the ground solemnly. "What if I was a daughter of Hypnos? Eternal nightmares..." I closed my eyes tight and tried to suppress the images that haunted me.
     Chiron crossed his arms and scowled at me. "You know very well that if you were a daughter of Hypnos, you wouldn't even have the nightmares, Ava. You have had a life of trauma; maybe seeing it over and over again is going to help shape you."
     I looked at him with my eyebrow raised. "I hardly think that's the case, Chiron. I think I may just be mad. I still don't understand why I'm here. It's not safe."
     "Ava, your power of-" He was cut off by a roar so loud it descended over the whole camp. "What in the gods' name was that?" We looked to our left, up the hill to where the entrance of Camp Half-Blood stood. The sound was coming from there, a roar from some beast. And that meant only one thing: We had a newbie. "Come on, Ava." Chiron extended his hand towards mine to lift me on his back. The first few times riding on your only friend's back while he was in horse mode were extremely awkward, but now it was natural. He galloped off and up the hill towards the magical boundaries. There we saw a beast of some sort snapping wildly at a boy, who was running towards us for his life. And it looked like he was losing the race.
     "Chiron! We have to help him!" I glanced back to see various campers in assortments of pj's and armor. They were coming this way, to see what the commotion was about. They wouldn't make it in time. I looked back at the beast to figure out what it was. A hellhound. A beast literally from the pits of hell. It was like a normal rottweiler, but much, much larger. Bigger than even Chiron. It had piercing, merciless red eyes, a frothing mouth, and raking claws. At the moment, it was barking-the roaring we heard-at the camper who was throwing some sort of liquid on the monster. All of a sudden, the boy lit a match and threw it on the ground it front of the hellhound. Instantly, the monster ignited and howled in agony. The fire spread, devouring the trees and grass, getting closer to the camp. I felt panic rise in me, threatening to spill over. "Chiron, the fire..."
     Chiron looked startled at my pained expression and reached his hand out to me. He grabbed it and squeezed. "Ava, it's alright. The fire won't pass through the barrier. Now watch, the boy has won." I obeyed him, letting go of his hand to gaze at the battle before me. The hellhound was disintegrating, like all monsters when they've been defeated, melting into a mountain of sand that was being blown away in the breeze. With one last effort, it launched what was left of its upper body at the boy.
      "Look out!" I screamed. But it was no use. The broken, mangled piece of the hellhound's paw swiped at the boy, who dodged it to miss being squished by only inches. He was hit on the side of the head, and fell to the ground hard. The paw turned to sand with the rest of its body, and scattered into a million pieces in the wind. I watched in horror, praying the boy was alive. "Chiron!"
     He looked back at me. "We cannot interfere. He must cross the barrier on his own."
     "But what if he's hurt?"
     "He is well enough to walk. Look," Chiron pointed to our newest camper, who was indeed walking towards us. He couldn't see us, not until he crossed over, but he looked like he knew exactly where he had to walk. With another step, he crossed the boundary, rippling through the magic as easily as a knife through soft butter. Demigods had no problem entering the camp. Monsters, on the other hand, never could. The boy, covered in soot so heavy I could not even tell his facial features, looked right at me, then fainted.
     I hopped off of Chiron and raced over to the boy. He was laying face down, stiff as a board. I crouched and placed my hands on him to turn him over, feeling the heat of the fire on him. It did not bother me, though. I examined his head, which was bleeding slowly. I thanked the gods that it wasn't a huge gash. But he needed medical help. I saw that the campers had arrived, looking at me in disdain. I ignored it for the moment and called out.
     "Anyone from Apollo, here?" Two boys in their pj's came up to me and looked at the boy. I stood up and backed away, letting them do the work of Apollo.
     They touched his head, and just as quickly pulled it back, waving their hands as if they had been burned. "He's going to be fine," one said, I think his name was Jordan, "even though he has multiple burns. We need to get him to the infirmary." I watched in silence as they picked him up, not before wrapping him in a blanket, winced at the heat coming from him, and carried him down the hill towards the Big House. The rest of the campers stared at me, then at the fire that was now dissipating. They looked at me with accusation in their eyes. Of course they thought I was responsible. I couldn't really blame them. I shivered in my light blue tee and black shorts. Chiron cleared his throat, immediately bringing the attention of the rest of the campers.
     "We have a new camper, everyone." Chiron explained what had happened, drawing gasps from everyone when they found out he had defeated a hellhound. When he finished, he shooed everyone with his hand. "Now go on, back to your beds, see you in the morning." I, with the group, started heading down the hill. "Not you, Ava." I turned around to face Chiron. Well, not exactly face him, since he was at least three feet taller than me. "I want you to show this boy around the camp when he wakes up."
     "What? Why?"
     "This might be a good chance for you to...branch out." He gestured with his hands, putting them up, as if he was branching out.
     I looked at him with distaste. "By 'branch out' you mean, 'try to make some friends because you have none'. No point in sugar coating it."
     "Fine. However you wish to interpret it. But you do need to make some friends, Ava."
     "You know why I don't have any, Chiron."
     "Yes," He agreed. But this 'John Smith' of ours does not know that."

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