“Hold on!” Percy flew through a railroad crossing and the Prius went airborne. Meg yelped as her head hit the ceiling. Then she began giggling uncontrollably.

The landscape opened into actual countryside—fallow fields, dormant vineyards, orchards of bare fruit trees.

“Just another mile or so to the beach,” Percy said. “Plus we’re almost to the western edge of camp. We can do it. We can do it.”

Actually, we couldn’t. One of the shiny smoke clouds pulled a dirty trick, pluming from the pavement directly in front of us.

Instinctively, Percy swerved.

The Prius went off the road, straight through a barbed wire fence and into an orchard. Percy managed to avoid hitting any of the trees, but the car skidded in the icy mud and wedged itself between two trunks. Miraculously, the air bags did not deploy.

Percy popped his seat belt. “You guys okay?”

Meg shoved against her passenger-side door. “Won’t open. Get me out of here!”

Percy tried his own door. It was firmly jammed against the side of a peach tree.

“Back here,” I said. “Climb over!”

I kicked my door open and staggered out, my legs feeling like worn shock absorbers.

The three smoky figures had stopped at the edge of the orchard. Now they advanced slowly, taking on solid shapes. They grew arms and legs. Their faces formed eyes and wide, hungry mouths.

I knew instinctively that I had dealt with these spirits before. I couldn’t remember what they were, but I had dispelled them many times, swatting them into oblivion with no more effort than I would a swarm of gnats.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t a god now. I was a panicky sixteen-year-old. My palms sweated. My teeth chattered. My only coherent thought was: YIKES!

Percy and Meg struggled to get out of the Prius. They needed time, which meant I had to run interference.

“STOP!” I bellowed at the spirits. “I am the god Apollo!”

To my pleasant surprise, the three spirits stopped. They hovered in place about forty feet away.

I heard Meg grunt as she tumbled out of the backseat. Percy scrambled after her.

I advanced toward the spirits, the frosty mud crunching under my shoes. My breath steamed in the cold air. I raised my hand in an ancient three-fingered gesture for warding off evil.

“Leave us or be destroyed!” I told the spirits. “BLOFIS!”

The smoky shapes trembled. My hopes lifted. I waited for them to dissipate or flee in terror.

Instead, they solidified into ghoulish corpses with yellow eyes. Their clothes were tattered rags, their limbs covered with gaping wounds and running sores.

“Oh, dear.” My Adam’s apple dropped into my chest like a billiard ball. “I remember now.”

Percy and Meg stepped to either side of me. With a metallic shink, Percy’s pen grew into a blade of glowing Celestial bronze.

“Remember what?” he asked. “How to kill these things?”

“No,” I said. “I remember what they are: nosoi, plague spirits. Also…they can’t be killed.”

Tag with plague spirits

You’re it, and you’re infectious

Have fun with that, LOL

“NOSOI?” PERCY PLANTED HIS FEET in a fighting stance. “You know, I keep thinking, I have now killed every single thing in Greek mythology. But the list never seems to end.”

“You haven’t killed me yet,” I noted.

“Don’t tempt me.”

The three nosoi shuffled forward. Their cadaverous mouths gaped. Their tongues lolled. Their eyes glistened with a film of yellow mucus.

“These creatures are not myths,” I said. “Of course, most things in those old myths are not myths. Except for that story about how I flayed the satyr Marsyas alive. That was a total lie.”

Percy glanced at me. “You did what?”

“Guys.” Meg picked up a dead tree branch. “Could we talk about that later?”

The middle plague spirit spoke. “Apollooooo…” His voice gurgled like a seal with bronchitis. “We have coooome to—”

“Let me stop you right there.” I crossed my arms and feigned arrogant indifference. (Difficult for me, but I managed.) “You’ve come to take your revenge on me, eh?” I looked at my demigod friends. “You see, nosoi are the spirits of disease. Once I was born, spreading illnesses became part of my job. I use plague arrows to strike down naughty populations with smallpox, athlete’s foot, that sort of thing.”

“Gross,” Meg said.

“Somebody’s got to do it!” I said. “Better a god, regulated by the Council of Olympus and with the proper health permits, than a horde of uncontrolled spirits like these.”