Goodbye, Leo Valdez

Image Credit: Katherine A., San Antonio, TX The author's comments: Before I read the latest book in Rick Riordan's Heroes of Olympus series, House of Hades, I came up with my own theory of what would happen at the Doors of Death. They all knew what needed to happen, but they couldn't bring themselves to make a decision like that. The Doors had to be closed from both sides. Someone would be trapped in Tartarus. Nico wanted to help, but even being this close to Tartarus again made him feel dizzy and weak. He couldn't force himself to go back there. Never again. At the same time, he couldn't bear the thought of any of his friends being forced to spend eternity there. He wasn't sure he'd be able to willingly let any of them spend even a few minutes in there. The way Percy and Annabeth clung together, it was clear that they would not consider letting each other go back there, either. Looking around, Nico realized that this would be much more difficult than he had ever imagined, deciding who would close the doors. Jason and Piper stood with their arms around each other. Frank and Hazel held hands. Nico's eyes settled on Leo, standing alone, staring at the doors. The choice was clear. If only one person was to close the doors, it was to be either Nico or Leo. They both knew it. Nico stepped forward, towards the doors, taking a deep breath. As soon as she saw his intentions, Hazel flew forward, clinging to his wrist. "No," she said firmly, looking him in the eyes. "You have sacrificed enough for us." He exchanged a glance with Leo. Leo stepped forward and put a hand on Hazel's shoulder. "Hazel, one of us has to do this." She turned towards Leo, tears filling her eyes. "Leo, no! I won't let you do it! Neither of you!" Leo held her close to him, wrapping his arms around her. He glanced at Frank, who nodded softly. Hazel sobbed into Leo's chest for a while, then pulled her head out and wiped her eyes. "I'll go." They all stared at her in shock. Frank started to rush forward, but she held out her hand to stop him, ripping herself from Leo's arms. With strength in her eyes that seemed out of place behind her tears, she insisted, "I will close the Doors of Death. Hades brought me back to life to help with this quest, and I have done what I can. It's not natural for dead people to walk the Earth. I think this is my time to return to the grave." Nico admired her bravery. He knew she was now determined, and he might have let her go, but he never had to. Leo must have also seen that Hazel would not be convinced to let him go in her place, so he did what Nico had not had the bravery to do. By the time Hazel realized what had happened, it was too late. She screamed and tried to run through the Doors after Leo, but Nico held her back. Leo smiled a regretful smile, then grinned wide at Hazel. "I'll be the hottest monster in all of Tartarus!" Still smiling his elfish grin, he placed and hand on each door and gently closed them in front of him. The remaining seven demigods stared at the Doors in shock. Not a single one had dry eyes- even Frank was more upset than he had ever been. Hazel fell to her knees in front of the Doors and placed her hand where the opening had been, though which she had seen her last glimpse of Leo. "Goodbye, Leo Valdez."

AJ JOSEPH: Guardian

It protects me while I sleep. From the eight-legged reptile under my bed. From the violent poltergeist in my kitchen. From the woman in white with midnight hair down to her feet, who waits among the banana trees in my garden. It protects me, the strange being in my wardrobe. AJ Joseph occasionally writes at … Continue reading AJ JOSEPH: Guardian →

HENRY BLADON: Being Judged

He says, tell me what you see. What should I say? A handsome pig? A rabbit? I see a mix of Miro and Dali, but I can’t say that. If he thinks I’m showing off, that defeats the object, because I came here to understand my fear of being judged. Henry Bladon is a writer … Continue reading HENRY BLADON: Being Judged →


Her heavy legs had stood and waited. Her aching arms had pushed through the crowds. A salty tear rolled down onto her tattered jacket as she watched the doors of salvation thud closed. The city was full. Now she had nothing left to do but head back into the sand. After graduating university with a … Continue reading JENNIFER KENNETT: Into the Sand →


“The demons are coming,” the old woman said from the corner of her cell. “When,” the sheriff asked. “As soon as you kill me,” she replied. “What if we don’t kill you?” Cries from the townsfolk rose above the window. “That’s not how this goes,” she said, her smile anticipatory. C. P. Lopes is a … Continue reading CP LOPES: The Lot →


Lily sits on a park bench. Pigeons know her. They cluster… fight… peck. The children recognize her too: the one who feeds the pigeons. Lily giggles, opens her purse, sets it on the ground. “She’s crazy,” the children taunt. Pigeons though, coo, bob… fly into her purse filled with sky. Judy DeCroce is a poet … Continue reading JUDY DeCROCE: Lily →