Once upon a time—sounds so cliché, doesn't it—but looking back on how my childhood was, and seeing where I am today, it feels appropriate, somehow. I suppose Nyx fell for my dad because of how much time he spent in the dark, I'm really not sure, he never told me, but as he was a coal miner his whole life from the age of 16, he did spend an awful lot of time in dark places.
Ariana and I were born on 21 December, 1997, and a few days after we were brought to our father to be raised. He never talked much about those early years of raising us, and to be honest I have no idea how he would have managed if it hadn't been for his sister who helped out, her having kids of her own and happened to live nearby. He worked long hours in the coal mine, often gone sun up to sun down, the only day of the week we ever got to see him really was on Sunday, as his whole family was big on church. Life in Harlan County Kentucky wasn't exactly easy. The town was poor and the only source of income it had was the coal mines, where pretty much all men over the age of 16 worked and were expected to work when they grew up, because as I was so often reminded everywhere I went, no one ever made it out of Kentucky, let alone Harlan County. Everyone was just so poor.
Ariana desperately wanted to be a ballerina, but we were too poor to pay for classes, her earlier years she watched every thing she could get her hands on that involved ballerinas: movies, shows, books, anything she could find. I on the other hand wasn't really sure what I wanted, but I knew from a very young age I didn't want what my father wanted from me, which was pretty much to follow in his footsteps. Play basketball through high school, then work as a coal miner; the only two past times in Harlan County: work and basketball. I guess you could say basketball was to Kentuckians, like football is to Texans, or like soccer (or football or whatever those British people call it) is to them. I suppose in the end, our true heritage, our demigod one, had other plans for us, plans our father never could have foreseen.
At the age of 12, we experienced our first monster attack. I guess it's called a hellhound, whatever it was, it cornered us after school while we were walking home. Thankfully there was a satyr nearby that helped us out, but my father would hear none of sending us to camp. It interfered with his plans for us, you see. The satyr decided to hang around, do what he could to help out if monsters came to prepare us, though I can't imagine anything could have prepared me for what was to come.
Things seemed quiet for a bit. The satyr said it was probably because the county was so poor most families didn't have cell phones or the internet in their homes, which apparently in this day and age is what brings monsters around faster. As we started 9th grade, my sister was finally able to get into a dance program, though it took all the money she had saved up to do it from working odd jobs and baby sitting for the neighbor’s kids. It was around this time I decided I wanted to be in choir and sing, but my father wouldn't hear of it, he insisted I join basketball. I didn't want to disappoint him, so I signed up for basketball, but didn't have the heart to tell him I didn't make the team, and went out for choir instead.
After another attack, this time by some odd looking birds with strange beaks, the satyr once again tried to convince my father to send us to summer camp, but yet again he refused. He insisted that the summer I was 16, I would work in the mines, just like all the other coal miner's sons. My sister was scared to death, it was hard enough on her knowing that any day our dad might not come home, but the thought of having to worry about both of us was a lot on her. I knew better than to refuse, I mean he was my dad, I was only 16, what else was I supposed to do, run away?
When school let out for the summer I dreaded what was to come, I didn't mind so much being in the dark, but knowing I was so far below the surface, was rather overwhelming. The first month went on ok, as ok as being in coal mines could be. The work was hard, the air was impossible to breathe, it was dark, dirty harsh work, it gave me a deeper respect than ever for my father, doing this his whole life, but I refused to believe it would be my life, I couldn't, the very idea of it being my life just made me want to kill myself. I'll never forget the last words I spoke to my father in August. School was just a few days away from starting, my saving grace and an end to this hell I'd been living all summer. He kept going on about how, in just a couple of short years this would be my life 365 days a year, and that I should get used to it. His words echoed through me like knives, until I couldn't take it anymore and my anger burst out, for a brief moment it seemed to get even darker in there, if that's even possible, the lights dimming. Apparently that amount of power I accidentally used was enough for a nearby group of Cyclopes to sense us, and they found a weak spot to punch through up from the Underworld's tunnels. The tunnels shook and at first, the miners were in panic, thinking there was a cave collapse, but soon there was a Cyclops barreling down on me. I have no idea what the miners saw at that moment in the Mist, perhaps they just saw a cave collapse, but I saw my life flashing before my eyes, there was no way I could win a battle against a giant Cyclops, cornered in these tight fitting tunnels, and as the one-eyed monsters moved in against us, it was bringing more and more of the tunnel down on top of us.
In a moment of utter fear and panic, I looked over to see my dad reaching out to me, as the cave was closing in. Looking back at the Cyclopes, I panicked, and without entirely and consciously meaning to, I found myself back at home, exhausted from having shadow travelled out of there. My father died that day, along with a few other miners. After a few months, my sister and I decided it was time we just left, that Kentucky wasn't our home anymore, so we pooled our money together, plus what little money our dad left us, and ran away to the only safe place we knew existed, camp.
However, our journey wasn’t that easy. The satyr that was guiding us, he apparently also died in the cave after he attempted to rescue me. Besides being really sad about it, it also meant that we had no one to tell us where to go or how to even get to Camp Half-Blood. All we knew is that it’s somewhere near New York, and that’s where my sister and I stayed for a while. We found this grungy apartment that was really horrible, but enough to live by.
While desperately trying to gather intelligence as to where camp is, it also meant that we needed to get part-time jobs because it meant we were staying longer in New York City. As hard as it was, we were able to pull through, Ariana working as a waitress and I as part of a museum clean up crew. Some of the weapons that the satyr guide left was still with us, and we used them to defend ourselves against the monsters that threatened to kill us. We were so unfamiliar with the celestial bronze weapons but we had enough common sense to know how to use them, and while we weren’t anywhere close to being proficient, we were able to slay monsters left and right, granted that they were only the occasional one or two harpies or hellhounds. The cycle continued for almost two years and we were just about to give up and accept our fate when we ran across a group of demigod questors from camp who witnessed us fighting off telkhines by the Hudson River. They were kind enough to aid us to Long Island Sound where camp is located before proceeding on with their quest.
Ecstatic, Ariana and I stepped into Half-Blood Hill and almost immediately, we were claimed as children of Nyx.