Annabeth swam towards them.
I knew I couldn’t let her get out of the water. The sea was my only advantage. It had always protected me one way or another. I propelled myself forward and grabbed her ankle.
The moment I touched her, a shock went through my body, and I saw the Sirens the way Annabeth must’ve been seeing them.
Three people sat on a picnic blanket in Central Park. A feast was spread out before them. I recognized Annabeth’s dad from photos she’d shown me – an athletic-looking, sandy-haired guy in his forties. He was holding hands with a beautiful woman who looked a lot like Annabeth. She was dressed casually – in blue jeans and a denim shirt and hiking boots – but something about the woman radiated power. I knew that I was looking at the goddess Athena. Next to them sat a young man … Luke.
The whole scene glowed in a warm, buttery light. The three of them were talking and laughing, and when they saw Annabeth, their faces lit up with delight. Annabeth’s mom and dad held out their arms invitingly. Luke grinned and gestured for Annabeth to sit next to him – as if he’d never betrayed her, as if he were still her friend.
Behind the trees of Central Park, a city skyline rose. I caught my breath, because it was Manhattan, but not Manhattan. It had been totally rebuilt from dazzling white marble, bigger and grander than ever – with golden windows and rooftop gardens. It was better than New York. Better than Mount Olympus.
I knew immediately that Annabeth had designed it all. She was the architect for a whole new world. She had reunited her parents. She had saved Luke. She had done everything she’d ever wanted.
I blinked hard. When I opened my eyes, all I saw were the Sirens – ragged vultures with human faces, ready to feed on another victim.
I pulled Annabeth back into the surf. I couldn’t hear her, but I could tell she was screaming. She kicked me in the face, but I held on.
I willed the currents to carry us out into the bay. Annabeth pummelled and kicked me, making it hard to concentrate. She thrashed so much we almost collided with a floating mine. I didn’t know what to do. I’d never get back to the ship alive if she kept fighting.
We went under and Annabeth stopped struggling. Her expression became confused. Then our heads broke the surface and she started to fight again.
The water! Sound didn’t travel well underwater. If I could submerge her long enough, I could break the spell of the music. Of course, Annabeth wouldn’t be able to breathe, but at the moment, that seemed like a minor problem.
I grabbed her around the waist and ordered the waves to push us down.
We shot into the depths – three metres, six metres. I knew I had to be careful because I could withstand a lot more pressure than Annabeth. She fought and struggled for breath as bubbles rose around us.
I was desperate. I had to keep Annabeth alive. I imagined all the bubbles in the sea – always churning, rising. I imagined them coming together, being pulled towards me.
The sea obeyed. There was a flurry of white, a tickling sensation all around me, and when my vision cleared, Annabeth and I had a huge bubble of air around us. Only our legs stuck into the water.
She gasped and coughed. Her whole body shuddered, but when she looked at me, I knew the spell had been broken.
She started to sob – I mean horrible, heartbroken sobbing. She put her head on my shoulder and I held her.
Fish gathered to look at us – a school of barracudas, some curious marlins.
Scram! I told them.
They swam off, but I could tell they went reluctantly. I swear I understood their intentions. They were about to start rumours flying around the sea about the son of Poseidon and some girl at the bottom of Siren Bay.
‘I’ll get us back to the ship,’ I told her. ‘It’s okay. Just hang on.’
Annabeth nodded to let me know she was better now, then she murmured something I couldn’t hear because of the wax in my ears.
I made the current steer our weird little air submarine through the rocks and barbed wire and back towards the hull of the Queen Anne’s Revenge, which was maintaining a slow and steady course away from the island.
We stayed underwater, following the ship, until I judged we had moved out of earshot of the Sirens. Then I surfaced and our air bubble popped.
I ordered a rope ladder to drop over the side of the ship, and we climbed aboard.
I kept my earplugs in, just to be sure. We sailed until the island was completely out of sight. Annabeth sat huddled in a blanket on the forward deck. Finally she looked up, dazed and sad, and mouthed, Safe.
I took out the earplugs. No singing. The afternoon was quiet except for the sound of the waves against the hull. The fog had burned away to a blue sky, as if the island of the Sirens had never existed.