Chapter no 8 – I Want My Mommy

The Chalice of the Gods

If nostalgia was the door back to youth, I felt like Hebe had opened that door and drop-kicked me through it.

My entire body hurt. Muscles ached in my gut and back where I didn’t even know I had muscles. My brain throbbed like it was too big for my skull.

I lay flat on the floor, the carpet sticky and bristly against my arms. When I sat up, I felt both sluggish and too light, as if someone had given me a transfusion of liquid helium. Annabeth was lying on my left, just starting to stir. Grover was facedown a few feet away, snoring into the rug.



We were alive. We had not been turned into glitter or arcade tickets. Hebe had vanished. Something was wrong, though. My hands felt stubby. My pant legs were too long. The cuffs pooled around my ankles.

I didn’t really understand what had happened until Annabeth groaned and sat up. She, too, was swimming in her too-big clothes. Her face . . . well, look, I would know Annabeth’s face anywhere. I love her face. But this was a version of her I’d never seen before—except in a few old pictures and dream visions.

This was Annabeth the way she’d looked soon after she’d arrived at Camp Half-Blood. She’d regressed to about eight years old.

She rubbed her head and stared at me, her eyes going wide, then let out a curse that sounded strange coming from the mouth of a third grader. “Hebe younged us.”

“BLAAAAAHHHH!” Grover sat up and rubbed his head.

His horns had shrunk to tiny stubs. His goatee was now a gone-tee. His fake feet and shoes had rolled away from his suddenly baby-size hooves, and

his shirt was so big it looked like a nightgown.



“I don’t feel so good.” He picked a string of cheese off his face, then looked at his hooves and moaned. “Oh, no. I don’t want to be a kid again!”

I didn’t know if he meant the human kind or the goat kind . . . probably both. Satyrs mature half as fast as humans, I remembered Grover telling me. Which meant . . . multiply by two, carry the one, divide by . . . Nope, never mind. I’d save the math for my homework. If I ever got home again.

“Maybe we’ll change back if we leave the building?” I suggested.

Annabeth stood up shakily. It was strange seeing her as a younger girl. I had an irrational fear that she would yell, Gross! Boy cooties! and run away from me.

Instead, she said doubtfully, “Worth a try.”

We made our way back through the amusement center. When we passed the coop, the chickens looked at us with renewed interest. I didn’t even know chickens could look interested, but they cocked their heads and clucked and flapped their wings. One of the chicks in particular, which had pink fluff around its eyes and beak, followed us along the fence, strutting and peeping.

“Wow, rude,” Grover said. “What?”

“She’s threatening to tear the flesh from our bones.”

I glanced nervously at the chick. “Okay, li’l killer. Calm down. We’re leaving.”



Suddenly, Grover rounded on me, lowered his head, and butted me in the chest hard enough to push me back a step.

“Ow!” I complained. “Dude, why?”

“Sorry, sorry!” Grover rubbed his horns. “I—I need to play. I’m practicing social dominance in the herd.”

He butted me in the chest again.

“This is going to get old real quick,” I said.

“Right now, I’d love to get old real quick,” Annabeth said. “Let’s keep going.”

None of the other patrons paid us any attention. I guess we were just three more children in the crowd. I looked for Sparky, or somebody else in an employee uniform, but I didn’t see anyone. I tried to keep my focus on finding the exit, but every blinking light and beeping sound caught my attention, tempting me to try the games.

It’s hard having ADHD, but now I remembered how much harder it had been when I was younger, before I’d learned how to channel my focus, control my fidgeting, or, for all practical purposes, even operate my own body.

Being eight years old again was terrifying. The idea that I might have to go through all those years again . . . I felt tears welling in my eyes. I wanted my mommy. I pushed down the sense of panic as best I could. The exit. Just find the exit.

No one tried to stop us. No one had chained the doors. We simply stepped back into the afternoon sunlight of Times Square. . . .

And we were still little kids.

I grabbed Grover’s arm to keep him from head-butting a street performer in a Mickey Mouse costume.

“So, what now?” Annabeth asked, her voice tight. “We can’t just . . . go home like this.”

When Annabeth asks for advice, I know things are bad. She’s always the one with the plan. Also, home for her was a dorm room at SODNYC. She couldn’t exactly show up nine years younger.

“It’ll be okay,” I said.

She scowled at me. “You think so? Then you’re a dummy!”

She put her palms to her temples. “Sorry, Percy . . . I—I can’t think straight. I think Hebe changed more than just how we look.”

I knew what she meant. I hadn’t felt this panicky in a long time—it was like I’d eaten a combination of sugar and glass, and I would either get cut to pieces or shake apart from the inside.




“I’m not doing nine years over again,” I said. “Let’s go back in and find Hebe.”

“And then what?” Grover bleated. “She might turn us into babies!” “Stop it!” Annabeth said.

“No, you stop it. Meanie!” “Am not!”

“Are too!”

“Guys!” I grabbed their arms and held them apart. “We can figure this out. Back inside.”

I was trying to be the reasonable one. Definitely a sign of the apocalypse.

I led them back into Hebe Jeebies, which was the last place I wanted to be.

Almost immediately, we ran into Sparky, who looked much more cheerful without her wheel o’ prize tickets.

“Hi, welcome to Hebe Jeebies!” she said. “Do you know your way around?”

“We were just here,” I said. “Except older.”

“That doesn’t narrow it down. . . .” She looked us over more carefully. “How much older? Fifty? Eighty?”

“Seriously?” Annabeth said.

“We asked you where Hebe was,” Grover offered. “You pointed us to the karaoke bar?”

“Oh, right,” Sparky said. “You three. Okay, then, have a good time.” “Wait!” Grover said. “We need to see Hebe again!”

Sparky arched her eyebrows. “What, you want to be even younger? When Hebe blesses you, you shouldn’t get greedy. I’m sixty-five myself. It took me months of working here to get this young again!”

Of course. Sparky was another boomer—just a nine-year-old boomer. “We don’t want to get any younger,” I said. “We want Hebe to put us

back the way we were.”

Sparky scowled. “Hold on. . . . Are you lodging an age-based complaint?”

I didn’t like the way this manager kid/boomer was looking at me, like she was going to bury me in two-for-one pizza coupons. “Well, it’s just . . . I think there’s been a misunderstanding. We’d like—”




“You’d like to complain.” Sparky pulled a bullhorn off her belt and announced to the entire arcade, “We have an age-based complaint!”

The crowd erupted in cheers, hoots, and jeers. Many of them grinned at us in a malicious way, like they expected a good show.

“Um . . .” I said.

“Unleash the predators!” Sparky screamed. “Let the chase begin!”

Bells clanged. Money changed hands. A few customers speculated as to who would fall first: me, Annabeth, or Grover. It didn’t look like the odds were in my favor.

My pulse pounded, but scanning the room, I couldn’t see any bloodthirsty predators.

“We just want to talk to Hebe!” I insisted.

Sparky pointed her megaphone right in my face and nearly blasted my eyebrows off.

“Maybe you will, if you survive the race. Have fun!” She lowered her bullhorn and strolled off.

In the depths of the arcade, someone screamed. A chair went flying. A pinball machine toppled over.

Annabeth drew her knife, which looked bigger in her small hand. Grover yelped. “Here they come! I can smell them!”

“Smell what?” I demanded. “I don’t see—”

Then I did. The chickens from the henhouse were rampaging through the arcade. Normally, I wouldn’t use the word rampage to describe poultry behavior, but these birds were pure feathered chaos. Dozens swarmed over the game cabinets and knocked over furniture, ripping the upholstery with their claws and beaks. Some flew over the heads of the customers, strafing their hairdos. Others snapped hot dogs out of people’s hands.

The Hebe Jeebies patrons didn’t seem to mind. They squealed in delight as they ran from the hen-pocalypse like those crowds at bull-running events in Spain, as if they were thinking, These animals might kill me, but at least I’ll die in a really cool way!

The hens headed straight toward us, violence in their beady little eyes.

I pulled out my ballpoint pen. “These chickens want trouble? I’ll give them trouble.”

Which was probably my worst heroic line ever.




Even more embarrassing—when I uncapped Riptide, it remained a ballpoint pen. No sword sprang into my hands.

“What the . . . Why?” I screamed at the pen, which didn’t help with my whole unheroic vibe.

“Maybe it doesn’t work for kids,” Grover suggested. “You’re too young now.”

“You mean my sword has a childproof cap?”

“Hey, guys?” Annabeth said, sheathing her knife. “Argue later. Right now, I have a different plan: RUN!”

You'll Also Like