We turned east on Eighty-second Street.
By the time we reached Second Avenue, the neighborhood started to look familiar — rows of low-rise apartment buildings, run-down hardware shops, convenience stores, and Indian restaurants. I knew that Percy Jackson lived around here somewhere, but my trips across the sky in the sun chariot had given me something of a Google Earth orientation. I wasn’t used to traveling at street level.
Also, in this mortal form, my flawless memory had become . . . flawed. Mortal fears and needs clouded my thoughts. I wanted to eat. I wanted to use the restroom. My body hurt. My clothes stank. I felt as if my brain had been stuffed with wet cotton. Honestly, how do you humans stand it?
After a few more blocks, a mixture of sleet and rain began to fall. Meg tried to catch the precipitation on her tongue, which I thought a very ineffective way to get a drink of dirty water. I shivered and concentrated on happy thoughts: the Bahamas, the Nine Muses in perfect harmony, the many horrible punishments I would visit on Cade and Mikey when I became a god again.
I still wondered about their boss, and how he had known where I would fall to earth. No mortal could’ve had that knowledge. In fact, the more I thought about it, I didn’t see how even a god (other than myself) could have foreseen the future so accurately. After all, I had been the god of prophecy, master of the Oracle of Delphi, distributor of the highest quality sneak previews of destiny for millennia.
Of course, I had no shortage of enemies. One of the natural consequences of being so awesome is that I attracted envy from all quarters. But I could only think of one adversary who might be able to tell the future. And if he came looking for me in my weakened state . . .
I tamped down that thought. I had enough to worry about. No point scaring myself to death with what ifs.
We began searching side streets, checking names on apartment mailboxes and intercom panels. The Upper East Side had a surprising number of Jacksons. I found that annoying.
After several failed attempts, we turned a corner and there — parked under a crape myrtle — sat an older model blue Prius. Its hood bore the unmistakable dents of pegasus hooves. (How was I sure? I know my hoof marks. Also normal horses do not gallop over Toyotas. Pegasi often do.)
“Aha,” I told Meg. “We’re getting close.”
Half a block down, I recognized the building: a five-story brick row house with rusty air conditioner units sagging from the windows. “Voilà!” I cried.
At the front steps, Meg stopped as if she’d run into an invisible barrier. She stared back toward Second Avenue, her dark eyes turbulent.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Thought I saw them again.”
“Them?” I followed her gaze but saw nothing unusual. “The thugs from the alley?”
“No. Couple of . . .” She waggled her fingers. “Shiny blobs. Saw them back on Park Avenue.”
My pulse increased from an andante tempo to a lively allegretto. “Shiny blobs? Why didn’t you say anything?”
She tapped the temples of her glasses. “I’ve seen a lot of weird stuff. Told you that. Mostly, things don’t bother me, but . . .”
“But if they are following us,” I said, “that would be bad.”
I scanned the street again. I saw nothing amiss, but I didn’t doubt Meg had seen shiny blobs. Many spirits could appear that way. My own father, Zeus, once took the form of a shiny blob to woo a mortal woman. (Why the mortal woman found that attractive, I have no idea.)
“We should get inside,” I said. “Percy Jackson will help us.”
Still Meg held back. She had shown no fear while pelting muggers with garbage in a blind alley, but now she seemed to be having second thoughts about ringing a doorbell. It occurred to me she might have met demigods before. Perhaps those meetings had not gone well.
“Meg,” I said, “I realize some demigods are not good. I could tell you stories of all the ones I’ve had to kill or transform into herbs — ”
“But Percy Jackson has always been reliable. You have nothing to fear. Besides, he likes me. I taught him everything he knows.”
She frowned. “You did?”
I found her innocence somewhat charming. So many obvious things she did not know. “Of course. Now let’s go up.”
I rang the buzzer. A few moments later, the garbled voice of a woman answered, “Yes?”
“Hello,” I said. “This is Apollo.”
“The god Apollo,” I said, thinking perhaps I should be more specific. “Is Percy home?”
More static, followed by two voices in muted conversation. The front door buzzed. I pushed it open. Just before I stepped inside, I caught a flash of movement in the corner of my eye. I peered down the sidewalk but again saw nothing.
Perhaps it had been a reflection. Or a whirl of sleet. Or perhaps it had been a shiny blob. My scalp tingled with apprehension.
“What?” Meg asked.
“Probably nothing.” I forced a cheerful tone. I did not want Meg bolting off when we were so close to reaching safety. We were bound together now. I would have to follow her if she ordered me to, and I did not fancy living in the alley with her forever. “Let’s go up. We can’t keep our hosts waiting.”
After all I had done for Percy Jackson, I expected delight upon my arrival. A tearful welcome, a few burnt offerings, and a small festival in my honor would not have been amiss.
Instead, the young man swung open the apartment door and said, “Why?”
As usual, I was struck by his resemblance to his father, Poseidon. He had the same sea-green eyes, the same dark tousled hair, the same handsome features that could shift from humor to anger so easily. However, Percy Jackson did not favor his father’s chosen garb of beach shorts and Hawaiian shirts. He was dressed in ragged jeans and a blue hoodie with the words ahs swim team stitched across the front.
Meg inched back into the hallway, hiding behind me.
I tried for a smile. “Percy Jackson, my blessings upon you! I am in need of assistance.”
Percy’s eyes darted from me to Meg. “Who’s your friend?”
“This is Meg McCaffrey,” I said, “a demigod who must be taken to Camp Half-Blood. She rescued me from street thugs.”
“Rescued . . .” Percy scanned my battered face. “You mean the ‘beat-up teenager’ look isn’t just a disguise? Dude, what happened to you?”
“I may have mentioned the street thugs.”
“But you’re a god.”
“About that . . . I was a god.”
Percy blinked. “Was?”
“Also,” I said, “I’m fairly certain we’re being followed by malicious spirits.”
If I didn’t know how much Percy Jackson adored me, I would have sworn he was about to punch me in my already broken nose.
He sighed. “Maybe you two should come inside.”
Okay, if you didn't realize it yet. Mr. Riordan is doing another series of the Percy Jackson stories! That's right people you heard right. We get more. So, not only do I have Magnus Chase stories to look forward too, I have Apollo's too!
Oh and by the way, I heard Apollo's series is going to be FIVE BOOKS LONG! Are you excited?! Because I am!
**courtesy of USATODAY**