The spirit on the left gurgled. “We’re trying to have a moooment here. Stop interrupting! We wish to be free, uncontroooolled—”

“Yes, I know. You’ll destroy me. Then you’ll spread every known malady across the world. You’ve been wanting to do that ever since Pandora let you out of that jar. But you can’t. I will strike you down!”

Perhaps you are wondering how I could act so confident and calm. In fact, I was terrified. My sixteen-year-old mortal instincts were screaming, RUN! My knees were knocking together, and my right eye had developed a nasty twitch. But the secret to dealing with plague spirits was to keep talking so as to appear in charge and unafraid. I trusted that this would allow my demigod companions time to come up with a clever plan to save me. I certainly hoped Meg and Percy were working on such a plan.

The spirit on the right bared his rotten teeth. “What will you strike us down with? Where is your booow?”

“It appears to be missing,” I agreed. “But is it really? What if it’s cleverly hidden under this Led Zeppelin T-shirt, and I am about to whip it out and shoot you all?”

The nosoi shuffled nervously.

“Yooou lie,” said the one in the middle.

Percy cleared his throat. “Um, hey, Apollo…”

Finally! I thought.

“I know what you’re going to say,” I told him. “You and Meg have come up with a clever plan to hold off these spirits while I run away to camp. I hate to see you sacrifice yourselves, but—”

“That’s not what I was going to say.” Percy raised his blade. “I was going to ask what happens if I just slice and dice these mouth-breathers with Celestial bronze.”

The middle spirit chortled, his yellow eyes gleaming. “A sword is such a small weapon. It does not have the pooooetry of a good epidemic.”

“Stop right there!” I said. “You can’t claim both my plagues and my poetry!”

“You are right,” said the spirit. “Enough wooooords.”

The three corpses shambled forward. I thrust out my arms, hoping to blast them to dust. Nothing happened.

“This is insufferable!” I complained. “How do demigods do it without an auto-win power?”

Meg jabbed her tree branch into the nearest spirit’s chest. The branch stuck. Glittering smoke began swirling down the length of the wood.

“Let go!” I warned. “Don’t let the nosoi touch you!”

Meg released the branch and scampered away.

Meanwhile, Percy Jackson charged into battle. He swung his sword, dodging the spirits’ attempts to snare him, but his efforts were futile. Whenever his blade connected with the nosoi, their bodies simply dissolved into glittery mist, then resolidified.

A spirit lunged to grab him. From the ground, Meg scooped up a frozen black peach and threw it with such force it embedded itself in the spirit’s forehead, knocking him down.

“We gotta run,” Meg decided.

“Yeah.” Percy backtracked toward us. “I like that idea.”

I knew running would not help. If it were possible to run from disease spirits, the medieval Europeans would’ve put on their track shoes and escaped the Black Death. (And FYI, the Black Death was not my fault. I took one century off to lie around the beach in Cabo, and came back and found that the nosoi had gotten loose and a third of the continent was dead. Gods, I was so irritated.)

But I was too terrified to argue. Meg and Percy sprinted off through the orchard, and I followed.

Percy pointed to a line of hills about a mile ahead. “That’s the western border of camp. If we can just get there…”

We passed an irrigation tank on a tractor-trailer. With a casual flick of his hand, Percy caused the side of the tank to rupture. A wall of water crashed into the three nosoi behind us.

“That was good.” Meg grinned, skipping along in her new green dress. “We’re going to make it!”

No, I thought, we’re not.

My chest ached. Each breath was a ragged wheeze. I resented that these two demigods could carry on a conversation while running for their lives while I, the immortal Apollo, was reduced to gasping like a catfish.

“We can’t—” I gulped. “They’ll just—”

Before I could finish, three glittering pillars of smoke plumed from the ground in front of us. Two of the nosoi solidified into cadavers—one with a peach for a third eye, the other with a tree branch sticking out of his chest.

The third spirit…Well, Percy didn’t see it in time. He ran straight into the plume of smoke.