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."

LUKE SWANSON: The Football

Calamity. The world will never be the same. I wipe sweat from my forehead. I have to tell everyone, but how will they take it? Too late. The black eye of a camera glares at me, ready to listen. I clear my throat and square my shoulders. “My fellow Americans…” Luke Swanson is a fledgling … Continue reading LUKE SWANSON: The Football →

STORY OF THE MONTH: October 2019

The Story of the Month is chosen from the Story of the Week winners announced from the past month. The finalists for October were: Mother Always Asked Uncle Bart to Babysit by C. Christine Fair No Returns, Exchanges, or Substitutions by Maria Cargille The Macy’s Mummy by Graham Robert Scott Like a Crow by Louella … Continue reading STORY OF THE MONTH: October 2019 →

JUDI MacKENZIE: Maturity

Words flowed: eloquent, impressive. Everything perfect, until a fly disappeared into her interviewer’s man bun. Wouldn’t be easy, but she’d battled giggles before, and won. Two more entered the bun party. She bit her lip. Oblivious, he droned on. “We’re all abuzz…” he said. She heard no further. Game over. Judi MacKenzie is a writer … Continue reading JUDI MacKENZIE: Maturity →

JOSHUA BENITEZ: Shower Thoughts

Someone once told me a hot shower is like a mother’s womb. Perhaps because you feel safe being vulnerable. I wonder if I ever cried in my mother’s womb. I like crying in the shower. It’s the solidarity I get knowing that something else can pour as much as me. Joshua Benitez believes the best … Continue reading JOSHUA BENITEZ: Shower Thoughts →


Maple is flirting with me. I glimpse her at windows as she ducks out of sight, catching only a swirl of scarlet skirts. She leaves little crimson-wrapped gifts outside my door. I love her. I wish I knew that she loved me… but Miss Sugar Maple never says a word. Maria speaks for the trees … Continue reading MARIA CARGILLE: Miss Maple →