Stories at the Campfire Get Heated - Part One

John

So, Alexander was pretty cool. I thought it was easy to see that, but, of course, that may have just been me. At dinner that day, my sisters told me that I probably only thought that because I might like him. I didn't actually tell them if I did or not.

Regardless, after dinner, I found Alexander and led him to the campfire. He followed me without really questioning anything. The fire was bright, and the demigods already around it were already singing campfire songs. The one from Spongebob, specifically. I noticed Alex cringing. I found a place for us to sit, then began to sing with everyone else. Alexander looked at me as if he was actually offended. I laughed, and Alex looked away.

After singing a few songs with the rest of the camp, we all quieted down for storytime. It had become a sort of tradition to have as many people as possible tell a story by the end of the summer. Most of the time, the stories were made up, but some were about the gods or ancient Greece, and some were life stories of one of the demigods in camp. Usually, these backstories were interesting, but then there were the many times that Thomas Jefferson decided to talk about himself.

"My turn to tell a story," Thomas shouted excitedly from the other side of the campfire. He stood and clapped his hands together while everyone else groaned. He told the story of how he was claimed about four times every summer, so it was starting to get annoying.

"We already know everything," someone yelled.

"Not everyone does." Thomas looked directly at Alexander, smirking. I sighed, getting in a more comfortable position. This was going to take forever. Despite the many protests, Thomas began to tell the 'amazing' story of how he came to camp. "It all started when I was a sophomore in high school a few years ago.

"Hurry up, Jemmy!" I whined, bouncing on the balls of my feet. Still, James took his time putting his things in his backpack. I groaned. "Could you move any slower?"

"Do you want me to?" James retorted. I rolled my eyes. "Why do you want to hurry, anyway?"

"It's the last day of sophomore year," I reminded him. "We're movin' up in the world. We've gotta commemorate."

"You sound so southern right now."

"You love it."

James sighed and hiked up his backpack, adjusted the bandana on his head, then grabbed his crutches. We headed towards the exit of the school. James asked, "How do you plan on commemorating?"

"You'll see." I winked at him. He rolled his eyes.

I helped James into my purple car, then drove away from the school as fast as legally possible. When we passed my apartment building, James said, "I thought we were going to hang out at your house."

"We will," I promised. "We just need to get something first."

"Oh, the commemoration thing?"

"Don't sound so weirded out."

"It doesn't seem all that important."

"Clearly you don't understand how hard it is to get halfway through high school."

"You have no idea, yet," James muttered.

"What does that mean?"

"Nothing."

I would have questioned him further, but we were already at the gas station.

"What are we doing here?"

"Well, James, my mom is working at the bar late tonight, so..." I smiled. "It's been a tradition since Greek mythology to drink at a celebration. Dionysus, you know? I say we do the same."

James narrowed his eyes at me. "Thomas, you're barely sixteen. You can't have alcohol, yet."

"Not if people don't know I'm sixteen." I pulled my fake ID out of my pocket.

"There's no way they'll believe that."

My smile fell a bit. "It'll work, I swear."

"Sure. Just because you're tall doesn't mean you look like a 21 year old."

"It'll work!"

James crossed his arms. "You can't do this, and I'm not doing it, either."

"So I'm going in alone?"

James huffed. "Fine. I'll walk in with you. But only because I don't like leaving you alone."

"You're so sweet, Jemmy!" I helped James out of the car, and we headed into the gas station together. I lead the way to the back of the store, searching for the right alcohol. James stood awkwardly behind me, fidgeting with his sweatshirt sleeves, his eyes darting around. "Don't be so nervous. You'll get us caught."

James apologized. "It just...smells so weird in here..."

"Of course it does," I scoffed. "It's a nasty gas station."

"It's...bad."

"Found it!" I triumphantly lifted the bottle of red wine. "Doesn't it just look wonderful?" James stared at me with a pleading look. "What?"

"Nothing. Just...you reminded me of someone just then..."

I didn't ask. "Let's go try this." As casually as I could, I walked up to the counter. The woman standing there was reading a magazine, but looked up at me when I stood in front of her. Her eyes narrowed and looked over me. I held out the wine.

"Are you 21?" The woman questioned. I handed her my fake ID. She stared at it for a moment. I could sense James fidgeting behind me. The woman looked at me, again. I could have sworn her eyes were slitted like a snake's. She was staring at me way too long.

"Hey, I showed you my ID," I complained, "so let me buy the-"

"Are you mortal?"

"Wait, what?" I watched the woman stand...I thought she already was standing...whatever it was, she got taller. A lot taller. Too tall. I distantly felt my keys slip out of my pocket as the woman towered over me.

"Demigodsss..." The woman lunged, but I was dragged out of the way before she could grab me. The woman rushed out from behind the counter, but James was quicker to the draw, pulling me towards the door. He was running so fast, but his crutches were gone. We burst through the door and towards my car. I tried to find my keys, but they had disappeared. James jumped into the driver's seat.

"You can't drive!" I shouted.

"Just get in the car!" James yelled back.

"But-" I heard a loud crash behind me. The woman had broken through the door, glass spraying everywhere. I didn't think she was a woman, actually. She didn't have legs; in their place were two large snake trunks. She was walking/slithering towards the car. Too fast.

My body flew forward when the car lurched backwards, then I fell back again when the car darted forward. James sped us away, going 80 in a 20. I realized I was still tightly gripping the wine bottle.

"What...wh-what just...what's happening?" I whispered.

"A Dracanae," James said, his eyes trained on the road ahead.

"A...what?"

"I'll explain later, okay?"

I glanced at James' legs. He had always used crutches. He had never walked correctly. "James, how are you-"

"Just let me focus, okay?" James yelled. I flinched. He had never been loud before, either. I stared ahead as James sped through the city. I couldn't tell where we were going until I saw the woods ahead of us.

"Why are we going to-"

"Just get ready to run. I'll lead you to the hill."

All I could do was nod.

James brought the car to a screeching halt at the edge of the woods. We got out and sprinted into the trees. I had never exercised so much in my life.

Loud thuds and crunching metal suddenly sounded off behind us. Against my better judgement, I turned around. The snake lady was standing on top of my precious car, crushing it. I wanted to scream at her. It. Whatever.

Instead, I wondered aloud, "How did she catch up to us?"

"Just keep going." James deftly jumped over a fallen tree. "We're almost there. Just have to get to the hiiiiillll!" James' scream was caused by a large rock hitting the tree next to his head. He stumbled and fell, and I hurried to help him up.

"Demigodsss!" The Dracanae screeched. James and I ran faster.

I saw the hill in the distance. On it stood a huge pine tree, a large animal, and a few people who were shouting and waving at me and James. One of them shot a flaming arrow that flew just over my head. I heard the monster behind me screaming, but she didn't slow her chase.

I wasn't all that focused in the uphill climb. I wasn't focused on the dragon next to the tree, either. Instead, what I focused on was that the moment I got past the tree, the wine bottle in my hand felt different. I looked down to see that I was now holding a two-liter of Diet Coke.

"Ew!" I chucked it as hard as I could, then heard a sickening thud as it connected with the Dracanae's head. She froze, then crumpled to the ground. The other people gaped at the now unconscious monster.

"It's not dead," a boy with a slingshot said.

"I can fix that," a boy with a French accent responded, holding out a sword.

"Go for it."

The girl with the bow glared at the first boy. "Really, John?"

"He's an Ares kid, Angie. He's fine."

I heard a squishing noise, then saw the Dracanae crumble to dust and disappear.

I vomited into the grass. "What just happened?" I asked no one in particular.

The slingshot boy-John?-turned to me, then James. "Took you long enough to bring him here."

James scoffed. "I still got him here."

I was unbelievably confused. And scared. And did I mention confused?

I jumped when someone tapped my shoulder. James was staring at me, concern in his wide eyes. "Are you okay?"

"I..." James' bandana was gone, seemingly replaced by two tiny horns. "J-James...you...you have..."

James shyly stared at the ground. "I know...the legs are weird."

"What..." I looked down. James was no longer wearing pants or shoes. I suddenly figured out why he never walked correctly: he had the legs of a goat, hooves and all.

I screamed and turned away, hyperventilating and sobbing. I heard footsteps and a deep voice ask, "Is everything alright?"

"Well...the Dracanae is gone," James said, "but Thomas is panicking."

"I can see that. How can we help him?"

"I'm not sure."

"Thomas," the deep voice called, "what is wrong?"

I slowly turned around, facing the centaur in front of me. I was already in too much shock to react much. "I'm going crazy," I muttered.

"I don't know if that's possible for someone like you," James responded.

"What does that mean?" I whined.

"This, probably."

I jumped and turned at yet another man's voice. 'What now?' I thought. This next person, however, looked completely normal. Well, besides his annoying Hawaiian shirt, socks with sandals, and can of Diet Coke, which I hated. "What?" I groaned out loud this time.

The man just snapped his fingers and said, "Mine." I had to cover my eyes at the sudden bright purple light above my head. I looked up to see a symbol floating over me. It looked like a bunch of grapes, for some reason.

"What…"

The man started to walk away. "Madison, you explain it to him."

James hurried to say, "Sir, I don't know if-"

"Do it, Madison."

"Yes, Sir!"

The man walked away, disappearing into the crowd that had gathered. James didn't say anything else.

"James," I whispered, "what is going on? Who is that? What was that...thing over my head? Where are we?" I had more questions.

"Well...this is Camp Half Blood," James started. "Everyone here is a demigod. Like, Greek demigods. Like, the Greek Gods."

"That's not...That's not possible."

"I have goat legs."

I whimpered and pulled on my hair. "Right. So...I'm a…"

"Yes. You are a child of one of the Greek Gods."

"But...my mom isn't-"

"No, she isn't. That man you just saw...that is Dionysus. The God of wine, madness, and gender and sexuality."

"O-Okay. So?"

"Thomas…" James stepped forward with his creepy goat legs. I stepped back, my heart racing. "Thomas...Dionysus is...your father."

I couldn't feel anything. I just stared blankly at James for a minute. His image started to sway. Eventually, I managed to croak out, "Cool. Great. Awesome. I'm going to pass out, now."

I fell backwards, my vision going dark before I hit the ground."