As a three-year-old toddler in Nepal, young Ossian was chosen by Buddhist priests to be an incarnation of a deceased high Tibetan lama, Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche. She began designing gig advertisements for Bill Graham as a teenager. At the time, though, these names were unknown—just local kids in the Haight with a new kind of sound. Around that time in , I also had my earliest shows—one at the Psychedelic Shop and the other at the.
Print Mint. One day, when the shop was overstocked with uptight white button-down Oxford shirts that no one wanted to wear, the women gave them new life by knotting the fabric together and dipping them into dye. Not long afterward, the new look was everywhere. Somehow the whole deck of cards had been thrown up in the air and was coming down in a new order.
At the time, being a woman was not as fun as being a man. The latter wanted to change the system instead of dropping out of the system. Gift of the designer. Hallelujah the Pill. Courtesy of the artist. Tepper found Beausoleil as mesmerizing as he was disconcerting, standing over her while she worked. While the snakes could represent Eve, they could also denote the shadows of a dark side of the Summer of Love and all its new, uncertain forms of negotiation. They signify a sense of precaution in the midst of colorful discovery, especially during a moment when the exploitation of the young was rampant, as the world opened to uncharted and alternative ways of being.
The systematic exploitation of her work has been unrelenting ever since, with continual copyright infringements and numerous instances where she has either been underpaid or not paid at all. She tells me she is not embittered; rather, she is politicized. Before they left, though, he told her that if she wanted to be with him she needed to get rid of her artwork, so Tepper threw away her prints.
In a basement flat in Notting Hill Gate, West London, not as swish an area as now, three Australians— editors Richard Neville and Jim Anderson, along with the graphic designer Martin Sharp—began publishing the UK edition of the infamous underground When we did that it was just incredible. Alongside energized writing by Germaine Greer and misogynistic comics by Robert Crumb were dazzling wraparound and pull-out posters, unexpected use of color, and trippy compositions, making Oz stand out like a firework against a gray, industrial postwar Britain.
She often went uncredited on the issues she designed, though. She lived for some time in Notting Hill in a small studio apartment with a yellow canary that would sing along to the record player. It was while working on Image that Clive-Smith, a gifted typographer, first became aware of Allen Ginsberg, and the rhythm of his poems began to influence the rhythm of her design work.
Grids and all that. When all the playfulness came in, it sort of got overlaid on top of the grids.
I started to realize I could use lettering to illustrate a feeling, and that was Oz, no. I then Xeroxed a copy for everyone in the office and put it on their desks at night. Jann Wenner came in in the morning to find it on his desk, and he called everybody into the central office space. Have a look at what it says. Cofounder and publisher Jann Wenner was more like Conran than Neville, in that he was building an empire.
I did nearly get sacked from Rolling Stone because it was pretty serious. By that time, the frenzy of Haight-Ashbury had begun to fade, or rather, the culture around it had rapidly commercialized. The year sometimes felt turbulent and dangerous, the edge of something edgy, but for a brief and wonderfully strange moment, for women who happened to be in the right room in front of the right printing press at the right time, there was also a sense of exciting possibilities. What happens when five creatives design under the influence, sans the drugs t out some mindalterin g ac tiv iti es — fro m beats to sound baths—w ith th e go al of ut what happens wh en you go in sear ch lly induced inspira tion.
For some, the path to enlightenment is paved with pills and smoke, But not every mind-expanding experience requires biochemical alterations. Filmmaker and artist David Lynch attributes his darkly whimsical visions to the power of transcendental meditation. As soon as he drifted off to sleep, the key would slip from his fingers and clang onto the plate, rousing him from a half-drowsy slumberland where he found his surrealist inspiration.
In that spirit, we asked a handful of designers to test out some mind-altering activities—from binaural beats to sound baths—with the goal of finding out what happens when you go in search of artificially induced inspiration. Basically, you go completely naked into a dark tank filled with about 10 inches of sodium magnesium water and float for a set amount of time—in my case, one hour. I tried three different types: a flotation room, a futuristic-looking pod, and a Samadhi Tank, which I liked most.
Rainwater also has a softness pretty similar to the special salt water in the tank. Jo my thoughts and moment of existentialism. E smoke,. I spend a lot of time a y M ke rets of ith a book 50 Sec ould nap walone, w s e a h n but I am never really alone. I am always distracted o w o so h be s be d. A few hours of true isolation inspired me to integrate it regularly into my routine—being alone with my thoughts without feeling the urge to record, to share, to write it out. Just some free thinking and drifting away, to see where it could lead me. I can see myself going multiple times a year to the Samadhi Tank.
I felt so physically relaxed, and I sleep like a baby. It felt like I was experiencing something internal whilst simultaneously feeling detached from it. Memories and thoughts were really hard to focus on. The image aims to illustrate how I experienced time, the blend of senses, and some of the more specific things I thought about during the bath. The experience was ethereal and imprecise, which time, the blend of senses. Thoughts came and went in circles, going round and round, and I saw everything in warm lights. I felt like I was wrapped in cotton wool after some time had passed.
We had blurry thoughts, saw crazy colors, and the space around us oozed like a lava lamp. Ink drops felt like a good starting point for depicting the words and thoughts taking shape. For so But not ever , u n d b a th so create for a s and smoke mical a l of ed w ith pill ires bioche w ith the go ment is pav ience requ er ding exper ar Schlemm ing out what d n fi mind-expan ten and Osk n io en you go h iration.
Johannes It ted meditat happens w alterations. Filmm ions to the ts of himsical v is ok 50 Secre his dark ly w. A s soo and clang o beside his his fingers sy slumberuld slip from a half-drow the key wo m o using him fr inspiration. Overall, the experience we had was rather serene, despite one attendee who began snoring less than five minutes into the meditation. Our experience took place on a Sunday evening after we spent the day working in our studio, so it was quite a reward to sit in a dark and silent room for two hours. Wade remained awake and alert, despite keeping his eyes closed throughout the meditation, and spent his uninterrupted time observing the rhythmic patterns that occurred.
We took inspiration from the juxtaposition of the snoring man and the beautiful, soft sounds of the bowls. Optically, symbolism in design, man we wanted to represent that through a harsh contrast of shade and shape. Wade began to see abstract red unexpected result. It was almost as if the vibrations from the bowls were tricking our eyes to see what was not actually in front of us. For some reason I began remembering specific people and events during my freshman year of college. Beyond those specific memories, the induced visuals were that of extreme brightness—as if I were seeing a light brighter than staring at the sun.
I was skeptical about the entire prompt. Creating a visual reflection of this experience felt forced. As a way to do this, I very simply thought of photographing a light, an actual light bulb, and capturing what I thought would be pure white. What manifested were photographs of the bulb and all of the details—the printing on the glass, dust, shadows, the metal shade. Iproblem n a tr alvador f o e power smanship, S and being solved, there were loose to th Craftparameters, agic Secrets of M.
For som desire to lose ate for a liv e cr and o h w ose d w ith pills familiar to th ent is pave m nce n ie te h er p lig n ex e andingNo. Jo ra smoke, Bu e lt a sly l a u o ic chem haus fam requires bio of the Bau r to e in m ts m ie le Sch cted d and Osk ar n and restri io at it d e m d 58 incorporate. My first encounter with the work of Tehranbased graphic designer Homa Delvaray was in the library of the university I attended then in Jerusalem.
I turned the page of a design magazine to discover a captivating poster, rich with textures, patterns, and 3-D Arabic typography. I was struck by the way the letters jumped off the page, pulling me into a maze-like space that felt traditional and ornate, yet also very modern and new. She designs posters, exhibitions, books, records, logos, and typefaces, and she exhibits internationally, bringing her fresh voice in graphic design to places well beyond Iran.
The group of young Iranian graphic designers who participated in the exhibition represents the new generation seeking new experiences and ways of claiming and exploring their Iranian identity while participating in current technological advances. The title of the show is not literally meant to ask for approval.
Our generation of designers is often accused of violating these fundamental frameworks because of the formalistic and more extreme approaches we explore. If we seek only approval from others, we will end up restraining our creativity and depriving ourselves of our own experience. To achieve a unique visual language and find new ways to communicate, one must test the boundaries. Your work is visually intricate and layered with meaning; each poster almost functions as a microcosmos, telling a packed and complex story. How do you balance clarity and order with this approach?
Traditionally, one might expect graphic design to strive for clarity or information. This is true especially in poster design. But in a time of nonstop new technologies and the HD. Our reality has led us to a more personalized, subjective, complex, and multidimensional interpretation of meaning and form. A designer today who wishes to play a role in the shaping of visual culture and aesthetic perceptions should work to embrace the complex information patterns, the unusual combinations, and the formalist aesthetic approaches around us.
I openly embrace unusual and irreverent things, and work to interpret them in new ways. I combine formative and semantic layers, and address different aspects of a given topic. I turn simple, transient, and one-to-one communication into sophisticated and multidimesional communication.
I'm against simplifying design and clarifying everything to the viewer. You often use 3-D typography and representations of traditional architecture and ornament in your work. What is it that keeps you returning to these things? The experience of space through the way typography is arranged is extremely important to me.
In my work I invert, suspend, break, hang, and bend letters and words. I try to form an interesting dialogue between the 3-D nature of the letters and the 2-D function of their surfaces. My motivation to create and explore 3-D typography originates in traditional Persian painting. As part of my thesis work I began to study visual traditions in Iranian-Islamic art, and noticed a dramatic presence of architectural elements. Their representation hugely affected me; I was swept by the detail and ornament of the architectural surfaces, and also by the perspectives that widen and extend a point of view.
This led me to interpret these potentials in a new way in my own work. The richness of the past provides me, to this day, with unlimited possibilities for new compositions. You often render themes that are rooted in current and traditional craft and technology. What motivates you to represent and explore these media—old and new? My work is a reflection of the place I live. Tehran is a historic city with a rich legacy, and many interesting paradoxes.
I regard my Iranian-Islamic background and culture as an inexhaustible source of inspiration, visually and conceptually. I work to rejuvenate it in a variety of contemporary contexts, shifting it beyond its borders to form new perspectives. Though my work is historically situated, it is also in constant dialogue with the present.
I strive to find new ways to reconcile tradition with the contemporary arena. I work to balance contradictions and polarities: West and East, past and present, local and international. Pull it close, then away. Do you see it? An optical illusion is a secret hiding in plain sight. Posters bearing the brightly colored op-art hung from the walls of Midwestern mall kiosks. Postcards filled gift store racks. Magic Eye was something of a paradox: a deliberate graphic mess that relied on grids and precision to achieve its intended effect.
The fact that it was so difficult to see the 3-D shape hiding behind the hypercolored patterns was a major part of its appeal. To find the secret image, people adopted a signature Magic Eye stance: bent forward, handson-hips, staring—dumbfounded—at the visual static in front of them. The others who crowded around there were always others passed along tips like an unsuccessful game of telephone— Cross your eyes. But in the more than 25 years since Magic Eye first hit bookstore shelves, the year-old, self-styled retired hippie has come to learn a lot about what happens when you follow the unexpected bends in the road when they come your way.
They follow the bounces and try to keep ahead of them as much as they can. To find the secret image, people adopted a signature Magic Eye stance: bent forward, hands-on-hips, staring—dumbfounded—at the visual static in front of them. Suddenly the image would appear.
Every illusion is solvable, as long as you know how to look at it. For a time, people were obsessed with the visual trickery of not being able to see what was directly in front of them. To be honest, he finds the whole thing just as curious as you do. The story of Magic Eye begins at a technology company in a quiet office park outside of Boston. At the time, Pentica was looking to boost sales in the United States for a product called the MIME in-circuit emulator, and it was up to Baccei to create an advertisement to run in a national trade magazine.
Baccei came up with a concept in which a mime would stand at the end of a conference table, his arm digitally altered to appear as if it were plugged into a series of wires that connected to a computer. Baccei wrote the copy and hired a photographer and a pantomimist who. Turn the Magic Eye image on the opposite page horizontally and hold the center close to your nose. It should look blurry. Slowly pull the image back from your face. Relax—it helps. Magic Eye is notoriously hard to see. To help the autostereogram-impaired, we asked the makers of Magic Eye how to see past the visual clutter hint: It takes some practice.
Below is a step-bystep guide to bringing hidden images into view. Headaches not included. As fate would have it, this mime, whose real name is Ron Labbe, was also a 3-D photography enthusiast and had brought along one of his stereo cameras. Baccei found himself intrigued by the idea of 3-D photographs. In the s, Julesz pioneered the concept of the random dot stereogram, a visual trick that shows how humans can achieve the sensation of stereopsis, or 3-D vision, by looking at a pair of 2-D images filled with randomized, black-and-white dots.
In his experiments, Julesz placed these two images side by side, and then horizontally shifted a section of dots on one of the images. At a glance, the pair of images looked flat. But when viewed together with a stereoscope or by diverging the eyes, the section of shifted dots appeared to be floating in the foreground or background of the static dots. Instead of viewing these images as separate, the brain fuses them together to create a single image and avoid the sensation of double vision.
By intentionally shifting where an image is placed relative to its background, Julesz was able to trick the brain into seeing depth and create the illusion of 3-D geometry. Baccei was mesmerized by the autostereograms as well as by the image that ran next to the story in Stereo World — a black-and-white rectangle filled with what looked like TV static, but revealed a series of random circles and dots when you diverged your eyes.
At the bottom of the ad, he urged readers to solve the puzzle, adding a disclaimer that to see the hidden message you had to diverge your eyes, as if you were looking at a faraway object. The ad was a hit— and not just with the engineering crowd. It was around this time, in , when Baccei met Cheri Smith, a freelance artist who was working at ImageAbility, a computer graphics company outside of Boston, training.
Thing Enterprises. Baccei had been using clip art in the backgrounds of his autostereograms and was interested in improving the aesthetics of his gaze toys, but he had no artistic background. He showed Smith an example of his autostereogram, and she was struck by its potential. Baccei started getting calls mid-flight from flight attendants asking for the answer.
Soon after placing the ad in American Way, Baccei says he was jolted awake in the middle of the night with an epiphany. In N. Thing Enterprises began working with Tenyo Co. This relationship led to the christening of Magic Eye. At the time, Tenyo was selling Magic Eye autostereogram posters, postcards, and other retail products. When the company released the first three Magic Eye books later that year, Magic Eye became an overnight sensation. Soon distributors and publishers from around the world were contacting Magic Eye to license the work. It was the coolest thing I had ever seen in my life.
By , Baccei and Smith had set up a small business with a handful of employees in Massachusetts, and Gregorek who is no longer affiliated with Magic Eye had secured Magic Eye a deal with the publisher Andrews McMeel to publish its first book in the U. Lighter areas signified pixels that were closer; darker areas were for pixels farther away. This depth map is what pops out when you look at Magic Eye just right. Next, the designers would create something called a starter strip, a vertical column filled with a colorful pattern that repeats over the hidden 3-D image like camouflage.
To make. A year prior, Baccei had enlisted Bob Salitsky, a programmer from his time at Pentica, to assist him in creating a more advanced software program that could automate part of the painstaking process of making autostereograms. To make a Magic Eye autostereogram, the designers would first decide what shape to hide in the background of the image. Simple objects with defined Baccei received a call from his publisher soon after the launch, telling him the original 30,book run was gone.
The fad caught fire, and Magic Eye had a head start. For more than a year, he and Smith worked hour days, 7 days a week, cranking out images for licensees like Disney, Looney Tunes, and even eye doctors, who wanted to latch on to the trend. There was a sense of urgency, if only because Baccei believed this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They were only partially right. Using a mathematical analysis called an accumulative S-curve, Baccei calculated that Magic Eye had, indeed, reached its peak, and it was now on the downward slope.
People were moving on to Beanie Babies, Furbies, and Tamagotchi. Or maybe they were getting headaches from too much Magic Eye. Either way, Baccei decided to sell his majority portion of the company to Smith and his other employee Andy Paraskevas, who officially renamed the company to Magic Eye Inc. Today, Smith still runs the shop out of a little office in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
For Smith, Magic Eye is still very much alive, even if the initial fervor has died down. Thanks to its popular packaging and a clever turn of phrase, the Pringles brand never needs to promise that it is delicious or snackworthy or even, in any way, actual food. Pringles has fooled us all into weighing its merits of delectability based on its performance as an earwormy Billboard hit rather than as a half-crushed side dish spilling off a paper plate at a picnic. It even recycles its own pop for another product— ever heard of Pop-Tarts? Turns out the science behind food packaging is a deep, complicated psychology that vastly transcends tossing a backward hat onto a cartoon frog to convince seven-year-olds that puffed rice is rad.
Packaging and plating has been proven to create a cascade of physical responses to how we experience food. For instance, University of Oxford professor Charles Spence—who joins industrial designer Mark Prommel and designer and branding expert Debbie Millman in the study to follow—has found that red packaging can make its contents taste sweeter, no sucrose required.
When Coca-Cola released a limited-edition white can in to raise funds for polar bears, consumers accused them of reformulating the recipe. But Spence recognizes this mishap as a standard human response to color. Only when I look closer do I realize how this gelatinous palm-oil ribbon evokes parity with ripe fruit. T Your food craving hink again. DEBBIE MILLMAN I worked on the design, so I can tell you that we literally s on created the hundreds of droplet way the ctly exa that juicy orange to look al vidu indi h eac ed plac they do, and then on e plac t righ the ctly exa drop in that yummy fruit.
If I do say so myself, that is one iconic straw on one iconic icon. Everyt hing else in the design of the clear, gloss, transparent bottle is about ce lebrating the juic e inside. The roundness of the packaging is definitely linked to sweetness. Amazin g as it may sound, looking at a hap py, smiling face also makes drinks tast e sweeter.
There is research that says that changing the color of a packaging label can change what peo ple think about its contents. Here, the dominate orange color scheme, along with the picture of the orange itself, no doubt makes people think the contents taste more, well, orangey. The double-horseshoe shape of the chip encourages you to insert it into your mouth in such a way that you bite it in two, amplifying the air-conducted crunching sounds. Visually, it is a strong and ownable icon on the shelf: a tall, clean, slender cylinder in a sea of bags. The wre tched combina tio and the o n of gradients vere typograp nthusiastic hy gives this salty sna ck a notsosublimin al m of stay-a essage way-a all-costs t.
Theodor Tobler, the creato r of his eponymou chocolate bar, w s as allegedly insp ired by the triangular sh ape of the Matte rhorn in his native Alps an d designed a choc olate bar in their imag e. But he was a cr afty designer and tuck ed a hidden standing bear in to the mountain as a tr ibute to Switzerland.
Of course, the iconic triangular packaging is so heavily associ ated with the brand now, it may rule out associations of ta ste. The plastic bottl e dilutes what was otherwise part of the bran d ritual: banging on the bottom of the glass bottle until the ketchup finally came out. The new container feels cheap in comparison. The b p is always ready to low-mold ed form affordan ha ces for g rabbing a s squeezin nd g with th e full han On the e d.
The lighter plastic bottle keeps the silhouette but loses the gravity with a lightweight, flimsy feel. For many of the hordes of designers telling. To discover what your professional future mug? Drink up, but this time, be sure to leave the teabag in. The key to success will be trusting yourself while also embracing collaborations and teamwork. Why are you hiding? Steer clear of any distracting relationships that can stifle inspiration just at the moment when you need it the most.
It takes two to tango. Listen carefully to each other, and respect each of your strengths. You have been carrying around a lot of old baggage recently. Fostering new ideas and directions will soften the burdensome grip of the past. We fill these unmet needs by [insert here]. Waterman, Jr. The model is based on the theory that, for an organization to perform well, these seven elements need to be aligned and mutually reinforcing. It can have an attitude. And as opposed to older users, young people can also count on social media contributing to poorer sleep, body image issues, and relationship problems.
Instagram—the platform of choice for most designers and visually minded folks—is perhaps the biggest offender of the bunch, easily out-depressing every other form of social media. Amongst the hundreds of thousands of Facetuned feeds and accounts brimming with beauty shots of the blessed lives of others, a surprisingly small number post messages that are helpful or even remotely true-tolife.
Scrolling down the feed, you might not think a classically trained graphic designer is behind these gifs, which frequently feature neon rainbow gradients, stock photos watermark very much included , and twirling 3-D text. The glitter effect is often involved. She did, and she can. While they were busy pushing pixels, she was trawling Tumblr and discovering a world well beyond the borders of the International Typographic Style.
As the Animated Text community kept growing, and her freelance work along with it, committing to her day job became a struggle. So she quit. Or at least, she tried to. If her work-life balance seems pretty ideal, Frazier would agree. Prior to college in New York, Frazier moved from Montgomery, Alabama, where she was born, to live with a foster family in Atlanta, Georgia, after her mother died when Frazier was just Her ability to turn pain into humor has served her well IRL as well as online.
At the time, I felt like I was betraying the design community because it was so overtly not what we were being taught. I started joining these transparent communities, as they were called back then, of people who make graphic edits that were transparent, which look better on a personal blog. Internet Archaeology2 had a lot of these old 3-D word things that people could put on their GeoCities sites back in the day. I fell in love with that and wanted to learn how to make them. I started Animated Text in while I was at Pratt. It was a weird kind of rebellion for me, and a way to express myself.
I was under all the pressures and deadlines of a hard school program. Tumblr was just beginning in , and the communities there were still strong. I started connecting with other people who had a really good technical background, and also had a very. Was Internet Archaeology the first time you saw those kinds of graphics, or was that visual language already part of your own experience growing up on the internet? I had seen it before, but it was the first time I had seen it curated. Oh my gosh, no! I was so scared. The only time it got out was in my Graphic Design 2 course, I think.
The whole room went dead silent. But at the time, I felt like I was betraying the design community because it was so overtly not what we were being taught. What were you learning in school that you wanted to rebel against? Was it a prevailing aesthetic, or the way it was taught?
It was the rules. I remember taking a website course that was so pixel-perfect I almost lost my mind. Ugly things being appreciated for the sake of being ugly was revolutionary for me. Tumblr went through this phase where Comic Sans was unironically on everything. I appreciated that I could make something with Papyrus and people loved it. I could never do that in design class. I never felt as confident in class as I did online because of the rules. If we can call Animated Text a result of your college rebellion, was that just the latest in a series of rebellions?
Were you rebellious growing up? I was bullied constantly in middle school, but I would never really outwardly rebel. I would write an essay about something that was kind of out of bounds. I was a little bit of a class clown. I gravitated towards funny things to help me cope with what I was going through. In school, was there room for experimentation, or did you feel compelled to design in a way that went against your nature, that was perhaps more traditional and accepted?
I think at first I did. I remember a website I designed for a web design class that looked like a Wikipedia page. Everything was in a box, there was no creativity. It was so ridiculous. Later, around the time I started doing Animated Text, I designed a depression brochure for class. Instead of making it extremely happy and colorful, it was really dark. I drew illustrations by hand and used grungy type that was really expressive. Still, my teacher was really supportive, and the students were, too.
It felt like I was imitating something. I was the worst. I was just a piece of trash as a teenager. When I go back now I almost feel like a stranger in the town. Are any of the topics that you focus on in your current work, like depression or mental illness, part of an open conversation in your family growing up?
Therapy was extremely silenced. I see that now, too, in the South. I never spoke openly about it with my family. She did. There was this taboo about getting her on treatment. When I was little, I remember her being almost like a zombie, medicated, or swinging back and forth between extremes.
So it was kind of like that cycle. Not really. When I spoke to her she seemed like the sanest person in the room, surprisingly. My mom passed away when I was 10, and I was adopted into a foster family. When I speak to my siblings now, mental health is a way bigger topic because of what I went through as a teenager, and also the history in our family. The earliest memory I have is from when I was eight. It also felt like it was a class thing, a social class thing. I went to see the school counselor, and they recommended that I see an actual therapist once a week to help me cope with coming out and feeling like the black sheep in my family.
That became a part of my identity while I was home. It was definitely both. Now, it is definitely about the emotional state. You post actively across Tumblr, witter, Instagram, and Facebook. How do you vary the content and decide what to post and when on all of them? On Tumblr or Twitter, I would never post videos back-to-back like I do on Instagram and Facebook, so there are less visual elements there. Because of the visuals, I feel like more of a graphic designer because I have to combine both text and images and think about the composition.
It really helped me senior year, because I started experiencing symptoms similar to what I had in high school—panic attacks, feeling overwhelmed. Did you start Animated Text as more of a visual relief, as a way to find different means of expresion for your design work? Or was it equally about creating a space online where you could express feelings around your own mental health? Back when I relied a lot more on Tumblr, I worried about rhyming. The subject matter has definitely become deeper than it originally was. Does it always start with a joke?
Or does it start with you wanting to express something about, say, sex or depression specifically? It always starts with a joke. How did you develop your comedic voice? Have you always been funny? Therapy felt like a social class thing. I always describe it as the food you eat at a funeral. He can turn that into a joke, even when the reality of that situation is tragic. I do have favorites. Are you a fire alarm? Cause you are really fucking loud and annoying. Are there any subjects that are out of bounds for you?
I never talk about rape. It takes me a lot longer to make stuff now because I want it to be different. Or maybe I scrap that altogether and rearrange it with some other stuff in my notebook, which is something I keep now. It takes me a couple of hours to make one now. It takes longer to think of it and craft the joke than it does to actually make it. Maybe an Animated Text with a video and images takes a few hours, just because I want to be sure that the music and the stock photos all match up.
Once they built that out, I started accepting requests and getting people to text me. I like the distance. It feels safe, but fulfilling. It feels easier than a one-on-one connection. Current Amazon customer review rating: 2. I try not to think too much about it, though. I think the more people that talk about mental illness, the better. The one thing that I do worry about is self-diagnosis. How do you balance that with your job?
Does it get overwhelming to be doing all this on the side? It got to the point where I was posting lots of stuff every day to not posting anything for a week. Creatively, I was drained. Emotionally, I felt stressed and tired for a long time. I realized I needed to step back. What are you getting out of it? Yes, in a way, but creating this stuff makes me feel good and feel connected to the world.
I always felt that way; I wanted to draw, or I wanted to write, or I wanted to be a designer. It almost feels like this is a gift for me as well. It is the process of me doing that. What I went through to make it is what I got out of it. I still try to see the fine line between selling the product and selling this idea. A lot of times I work with brands. I just did a branded deal with a T-shirt company. Most of my work is taking really corporate brands or products and incorporatCF.
To me, that is so far removed from what I would personally make. I would never actually sit down and make this entire dissertation about the Olive Garden. Do you think the same thing applies to brands that are co-opting mental health the same way some brands have co-opted feminism? It may all be happening because those things are becoming mainstream, which, on the one hand, is great. But what about when brands bandwagon it just to sell their product?
What happens to the legit conversation about it then? Disney tweeted that! So crazy! Back when I was doing my Tumblr thing and I made something about being dead inside, it was a huge deal. For me, brands doing that is horrible, but I also hate when regular people, like content creators, do that just to further their brand as well. What happens when the conversation about mental health becomes mainstream? I think it is amazing. I also talk a lot about dissociation and panic attacks because those are things that people who have anxiety, like me, have physically experienced, and they really like to see attention paid to it.
I think the more people who talk about mental illness the better. Happiness at work hinges on fair labor practices and treating employees as human beings—not Silicon Valley—sized perks BY. When I joined in , Etsy was the quirky online marketplace for independent creators of handmade goods like knitted hats, weird fan art, and—my personal favorite—framed cross-stitches of Kanye West tweets. At the time, its headquarters in Brooklyn was a little famous in the tech world for going against the minimalist office trend with yarn-bombed piping, a two-meter-tall statue of what may or may not have been an owl at the entrance, and potted plants everywhere.
Most of the employees were friends; there were communal lunches, staff ski trips, and talent shows. Etsy provided generous benefits to its U. That same year, Etsy became a registered B Corp, including in its stated goals a positive impact on society, workers, the community, and the environment. People, generally speaking, were happy at Etsy. But in , Etsy Berlin was still a good place to work. We were a small team, tasked with thinking creatively about growth. But shortly after I joined, the changes began happening.
In the name of efficiency, a new Etsy International arm was created. Teams were streamlined; my boss was sidelined. Increasingly, our work was narrowed down and evaluated on the basis of weekly metrics, like the media value of PR coverage. We still had our communal lunches, quirky decorations, and cheerful all-hands meetings. But at the same time, our expertise was disregarded.
We felt easily replaceable, and our office became an increasingly miserable place. In early , I left. Ever since then, I have responded to U. Preaching a gospel of leanness, they waste endless human resources, spending months selecting and hiring talent only. With a few notable exceptions, the U. Alexander Kjerulf, who in founded the Copenhagen-based consultancy Woohoo Inc. He later found out he was actually the second person to use it; the first, he says, was Ronald McDonald.
Kjerulf, incidentally, is Danish. And if your workplace sucks, all your employees will go work for your competition. You generally enjoy your time. You feel personally driven and you know what you do matters. Companies trying to increase happiness with free coffee and an in-office gym get it completely wrong. Results and relationships are what make people happy at. More importantly, he believes there are cultural forces to take into account. The Berlin office, which had just been redesigned by the hot young architecture firm Kinzo, was closed, and the two remaining employees moved to a coworking space.
The team has since grown again to four. One thread connecting their stories is that after Etsy, they all sought out jobs that would require no emotional involveC H ment. His trade union, IG Metall, one of the largest in Germany, just negotiated the right to work 28 hours a week on a full-time salary over the course of two years, which he wants to do to spend more time with his young son. He likes his colleagues at work and enjoys the flexibility and versatility of his work. In fact, he plans to work at BMW all his life, at some point switching to the head office for better career options.
This is no time for mental meanderings or hallucinatory cognitive adventuring. This is a frantic deadline dash, a post-recession shoring up of our faculties against our ruins. The designers of the past—or so a faux nostalgia would have it—were apparently making their hypnagogic creations in the brightest of hues through the haze of marijuana, or resting in the afterglow of lysergic bliss. Simpler times. Back then, pot was languidly shared; later, it was the precursor to a thousand hideous leaf-patterned stash tins and underpants for teenage boys.
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At least then it was still something playful, something fun. Now, weed stores are like Apple stores. Cannabinoids are packaged and sold, legit, in tasteful minimalism, with sans serifs and shades of white. Counterculture comes with a sheen, if it comes at all. Those supposed summers of love turned to winters of discontent, and what goes up must come down. In the privileged position we have today, with all historical visual culture at our fingertips, we live in more sprawling times, with an evervaster array of visual reference points in our design arsenals. Drugs are now about process and production, not aesthetics and creativity.
For students, the appeal is easy to see. Ritalin and Adderall are used as study aids to cram before exams; ingested for distraction- and sleep-free knuckling-down on deadlines and sailing through massive chunks of coursework. With this hypothesis in mind, I wanted to dig into the tunnel down which I suspected creatives were now furtively, purposefully channelling their vision. Widespread studies are few and far between, and self-reporting is, for many reasons, rarely exact.
While studies may be limited, anecdotal evidence points to other truths. How to quell that? As with any drug, the reason people take Ritalin and Adderall is far simpler than any posturing about modern life and social media could suggest: They work. This get-shit-done attitude comes with a major trade-off: Virtually no one seems to claim productivity drugs as creative inspiration.
Scan online communities like Reddit or Drugs Forum and it becomes clear that idea generation and original thought do not merge well with laser-precise, directive-driven, chemically enhanced focus. Creativity comes from divergence and openness, not from tunnel vision. The narrative is broadly similar on Drugs Forum, where the general consensus is that using productivity drugs kills spontaneous creativity.
You need to break this cycle since it doesn't take much to mentally lose confidence in your ability to do anything good unless you are on [drugs]. Psychedelics are still used, but in vastly different ways from tripping out in search of acid-tinged reveries.
In short, it means regularly taking miniscule amounts of illegal psychedelics such as LSD, psilocybin magic mushrooms , or mescaline found in the Peyote cactus in quantities so small as to be imperceptible. Their shiny, minimal branding and even the word itself feels a far cry from the trippiness we might associate with their illegal peers.
He points out that mind-altering drugs are often viewed as anti-intellectual productivity killers, not the brain-enhancing substances they have the potential to be. Our doors of perception are firmly closed to anything that might distract us, which aside from inhibiting creativity, is also surely a worrying symptom of an era where downtime is paradoxically championed and feared. So if, despite the pitfalls, designers are turning to focus drugs to help them design—or even to help them want to design—what does that mean for what they design?
Creativity is what happens when we let the mind wander; when our thoughts veer into unexpected junctures and connect with those things that might otherwise seem irrelevant. What if—all pumped up and hunched over a screen—those doing-nothing moments are no more? Where do those little sparks of insight ignite from now? Check em spam. Open other messages. Panic at possible respo you to the start. Make coffee. If you are not already a Faceboo former classmates; peruse their newborns, partners, About Me sections, links shared, and so on.
Click in Forrest Gump died. Scroll through 17 other thing ing that site and deciding to get the fuck on with it, t Much has been touted about the benefits of white noi mildly irritating to utterly terrifying. Some sort of pets? She reached the center of the courtyard and her three forms merged into one. She solidified into a young woman in a dark sleeveless gown.
Her golden hair was gathered into a high-set ponytail, Ancient Greek style. Her dress was so silky, it seemed to ripple, as if the cloth were ink spilling off her shoulders. She looked no more than twenty, but Hazel knew that meant nothing. She was beautiful, but deathly pale. Once, back in New Orleans, Hazel had been forced to attend a wake for a dead classmate. She remembered the lifeless body of the young girl in the open casket.
Her face had been made up prettily, as if she were resting, which Hazel had found terrifying. When she tilted her head, she seemed to break into three different people again…misty afterimages blurring together, like a photograph of someone moving too fast to capture. This woman radiated power. Everything around them—the swirling Mist, the monochromatic storm, the eerie glow of the ruins—was because of her presence.
Suddenly she was holding two old-fashioned reed torches, guttering with fire. The Mist receded to the edges of the courtyard. One was a black Labrador retriever. The other was a long, gray, furry rodent with a white mask around its face. A weasel, maybe? The woman smiled serenely. On either side of the crossroads, two dark metal torch-stands erupted from the dirt like plant stalks.
Hecate fixed her torches in them, then walked a slow circle around Hazel, regarding her as if they were partners in some eerie dance. The black dog and the weasel followed in her wake. Marie was a fortune-teller. She dealt in charms and curses and gris-gris. I am the goddess of magic. During her first lifetime in New Orleans, Hazel had been tormented by the kids at St. Agnes School because of her mother.
They called Marie Levesque a witch. If the nuns were scared of my mom, Hazel wondered, what would they make of this goddess? It is a tool, like a knife. Is a knife evil? Only if the wielder is evil. Not really. She was just faking it, for the money. Then it made a squeaking sound from its back end. She gave Hazel an apologetic shrug. She herself was once a witch, you see.
She had terrible personal hygiene, plus extreme—ah, digestive issues. The dog grunted.
The point is, Hazel Levesque, your mother may have claimed not to believe, but she had true magic. Eventually, she realized this. When she searched for a spell to summon the god Pluto, I helped her find it. I see even more potential in you. Hazel could summon riches from the earth, but anyone who used them would suffer and die. Now this goddess was saying that she had made all that happen. Neither do you. Without my help, you will die. The polecat snapped its teeth and passed gas.
Hazel felt like her lungs were filling with hot sand. Hecate raised her pale arms. A flurry of black-and-white images glowed and flickered, like the old silent movies that were still playing in theaters sometimes when Hazel was small. In the western doorway, Roman and Greek demigods in full armor fought one another on a hillside under a large pine tree. The grass was strewn with the wounded and the dying. Hazel saw herself riding Arion, charging through the melee and shouting—trying to stop the violence.
Its rigging was in flames. A boulder smashed into the quarterdeck. Another punched through the hull. The ship burst like a rotten pumpkin, and the engine exploded. The images in the northern doorway were even worse. Hazel saw Leo, unconscious—or dead— falling through the clouds. She saw Frank staggering alone down a dark tunnel, clutching his arm, his. And Hazel saw herself in a vast cavern filled with strands of light like a luminous web.
She was struggling to break through while, in the distance, Percy and Annabeth lay sprawled and unmoving at the foot of two black-and-silver metal doors. And I am the goddess of crossroads. She looked down and saw the glint of silver coins… thousands of old Roman denarii breaking the surface all around her, as if the entire hilltop was coming to a boil.
News was exchanged. Markets were held. Friends met, and enemies fought. Entire armies had to choose a direction. Crossroads are always places of decision. Demigods would go there to make decisions. They would flip a coin, heads or tails, and hope the two-faced god would guide them well. Hazel had always hated that place. After all Hazel had been through, she trusted the wisdom of the gods about as much as she trusted a New Orleans slot machine.
The goddess of magic made a disgusted hiss. He would have you believe that all choices are black or white, yes or no, in or out. Whenever you reach the crossroads, there are always at least three ways to go…four, if you count going backward. You are at such a crossing now, Hazel. None of you will survive. She scooped a handful of fire and sculpted the flames until she was holding a miniature relief map of Italy. Your comrades back home, Greek and Roman, are on the brink of war. Leave now, and you might save many lives.
Gaea has set the date of August first, the Feast of Spes, goddess of hope, for her rise to power. By waking on the Day of Hope, she intends to destroy all hope forever. Even if you reached Greece by then, could you stop her? I do not know. She has raised her mountain gods against you. Ironically, this might be the safest option for your crew.
I foresee that all of you would survive the explosion. It is possible, though unlikely, you could still reach Epirus and close the Doors of Death. You might find Gaea and prevent her rise. But by then, both demigod camps would be destroyed. You would have no home to return to. It would mean the end of your quest, but it would spare you and your friends much pain and suffering in the days to come. The war with the giants would have to be won or lost without you.
A small, guilty part of Hazel found that appealing. She looked behind Hecate at the middle gateway. She saw Percy and Annabeth sprawled helplessly before those black-and-silver doors. A massive dark shape, vaguely humanoid, now loomed over them, its foot raised as if to crush Percy. From there, sail the Adriatic to your goal, here: Epirus in Greece. She had no idea what the Adriatic Sea was like. But one thing was obvious. You must learn to use the Mist. She flicked her hand at the black dog Hecuba. Mist collected around the Labrador until she was completely hidden in a cocoon of white.
The fog cleared with an audible poof! Where the dog had stood was a disgruntled-looking black kitten with golden eyes. My children learn to use the Mist to their advantage, to create illusions or influence the minds of mortals. Other demigods can do this as well. And so must you, Hazel, if you are to help your friends. The cat seemed so real. As a child of Pluto who has returned from the dead, you understand the veil between worlds better than most. You can control the Mist. If you do not…well, your brother Nico has already warned you.
The spirits have whispered to him, told him of your future. When you reach the House of Hades, you will meet a formidable enemy. She cannot be overcome by strength or sword. You alone can defeat her, and you will require magic. Not yet.
Their courage is already stretched to the limit. Go north, Hazel. As you travel, practice summoning the Mist. When you arrive in Bologna, seek out the two dwarfs. They will lead you to a treasure that may help you survive in the House of Hades. The black Labrador was back in its place. Oh, joy. Hazel wondered if she could prevent the revelations she saw in the Mist—Leo falling through the sky; Frank stumbling through the dark, alone and gravely wounded; Percy and Annabeth at the mercy of a dark giant.
She was starting to despise crossroads. Long before the Olympians came to power, I ruled the Mist. I hoped Zeus would prove a better king. And when the giants rose the first time, I again sided with the gods. I fought my archenemy Clytius, made by Gaea to absorb and defeat all my magic. She glanced at the images in the northern doorway—the massive dark shape looming over Percy and Annabeth.
The Mist dissolved, the images gone. I supported him. I had grown tired of being ignored by the so-called major gods. Even now, when they are laid low—their Greek and Roman personas fighting each other—I will help them. Greek or Roman, I have always been only Hecate. I will assist you against the giants, if you prove yourself worthy. So now it is your choice, Hazel Levesque. Will you trust me…or will you shun me, as the Olympian gods have done too often?
Sorry, no. Many monsters will rise against you. Even some of my own servants have sided with Gaea, hoping to destroy your mortal world. If you succeed against the witch, we will meet again. Her polecat writhed, and her dog snarled. Hazel stood on the hillside in the morning sunlight, alone in the ruins except for Arion, who paced next to her, nickering impatiently. She had hoped her friend would stay, but. The countryside sparkled as the summer sun hit the morning dew. On the hill, the old ruins stood white and silent—no sign of ancient paths, or goddesses, or farting weasels.
Her knees buckled. Nico and Leo grabbed her arms and helped her to the steps of the foredeck. She felt embarrassed, collapsing like some fairy-tale damsel, but her energy was gone. The memory of those glowing scenes at the crossroads filled her with dread. She remembered what Nico had said: Their courage is already stretched to the limit. But she told them about the secret northern pass through the mountains, and the detour Hecate described that could take them to Epirus.
When she was done, Nico took her hand. His eyes were full of concern. And the ones who do survive are never the same. Now her boast seemed ridiculous. Her courage had abandoned her. And you said something about baloney dwarfs? But why we have to find dwarfs there…I have no idea. Some sort of treasure to help us with the quest.
You must defeat the witch, Hecate had said. You alone can defeat her. Unless you manage that… The end, Hazel thought. All gateways closed. All hope extinguished. Nico had warned her. Two children of the Underworld would enter the House of Hades. They would face an impossible foe. Only one of them would make it to the Doors of Death. Tonight, we cross the Apennines.
She hoped Hesiod was wrong. A day? It felt like an eternity. Now Percy pulled her close, hugging her tight as they tumbled through absolute darkness. The air grew hotter and damper, as if they were plummeting into the throat of a massive dragon. That cursed monster Arachne. Despite having been trapped in her own webbing, smashed by a car, and plunged into Tartarus, the spider lady had gotten her revenge.
On the bright side, assuming there was a bottom, Annabeth and Percy would probably be flattened on impact, so giant spiders were the least of their worries. She wrapped her arms around Percy and tried not to sob. Most demigods died young at the hands of terrible monsters. That was the way it had been since ancient times. The Greeks invented tragedy. The Earth Mother was older, more vicious, more bloodthirsty. Annabeth could imagine her laughing as they fell into the depths.
She tried desperately to think of a plan to save them. She was a daughter of Athena. Neither of them had the power to fly—not like Jason, who could control the wind, or Frank, who could turn into a winged animal. If they reached the bottom at terminal velocity…well, she knew enough science to know it would be terminal. The darkness took on a gray-red tinge. The whistling in her ears turned into more of a roar. The air became intolerably hot, permeated with a smell like rotten eggs. Maybe half a mile below them, Annabeth could see the bottom. For a moment she was too stunned to think properly.
Red clouds hung in the air like vaporized blood. The landscape—at least what she could see of it— was rocky black plains, punctuated by jagged mountains and fiery chasms. The stench of sulfur made it hard to concentrate, but she focused on the ground directly below them and saw a ribbon of glittering black liquid—a river. He looked shellshocked and terrified, but he nodded as if he understood. Percy could control water—assuming that was water below them. He might be able to cushion their fall somehow. Of course Annabeth had heard horrible stories about the rivers of the Underworld.
They could take away your memories, or burn your body and soul to ashes. But she decided not to think about that. This was their only chance. The river hurtled toward them. At the last second, Percy yelled defiantly. The water erupted in a massive geyser and swallowed them whole. Freezing water shocked the air right out of her lungs. Her limbs turned rigid, and she lost her grip on Percy. She began to sink. Strange wailing sounds filled her ears—millions of heartbroken voices, as if the river were made of distilled sadness. The voices were worse than the cold.
They weighed her down and made her numb. She could sink to the bottom and drown, let the river carry her body away. That would be easier. She could just close her eyes. Together they kicked upward and broke the surface. Annabeth gasped, grateful for the air, no matter how sulfurous. The water swirled around them, and she realized Percy was creating a whirlpool to buoy them up. Rivers had shores. Usually water reinvigorated him, but not this water. Controlling it must have taken every bit of his strength.
The whirlpool began to dissipate. Annabeth hooked one arm around his waist and struggled across the current. The river worked against her: thousands of weeping voices whispering in her ears, getting inside her brain. Life is despair, they said. Everything is pointless, and then you die. His teeth chattered from the cold. He stopped swimming and began to sink. Another cosmic joke for Gaea to laugh at: Annabeth dies trying to keep her boyfriend, the son of Poseidon, from drowning.
Not going to happen, you hag, Annabeth thought. She hugged Percy tighter and kissed him. You said we could have a future there! Tell me! But days ago, on the Argo II, Percy had told her that he imagined a future for the two of them among the Roman demigods. In their city of New Rome, veterans of the legion could settle down safely, go to college, get married, even have kids.
The fog started to clear from his eyes. Her limbs felt like bags of wet sand, but Percy was helping her now. She laughed, and the sound sent a shock wave through the water. The wailing faded to background noise. Annabeth wondered if anyone had ever laughed in Tartarus before—just a pure, simple laugh of pleasure.
She doubted it. She used the last of her strength to reach the riverbank. Her feet dug into the sandy bottom. She and Percy hauled themselves ashore, shivering and gasping, and collapsed on the dark sand. Annabeth wanted to curl up next to Percy and go to sleep. She wanted to shut her eyes, hope all of this was just a bad dream, and wake up to find herself back on the Argo II, safe with her friends well…as safe as a demigod can ever be.
But, no. They were really in Tartarus. At their feet, the River Cocytus roared past, a flood of liquid wretchedness. When she looked at her arms, she saw they were already covered with an angry rash. She tried to sit up and gasped in pain. So the air was acid. The water was misery. The ground was broken glass. Everything here was. Annabeth took a rattling breath and wondered if the voices in the Cocytus were right. Maybe fighting for survival was pointless. They would be dead within the hour. Next to her, Percy coughed. She loved Percy for trying to lift her spirits. She had Percy.
She forced herself to take stock. Her foot was still wrapped in its makeshift cast of board and Bubble Wrap, still tangled in cobwebs.
He's Our You
Her backpack was gone—lost during the fall, or maybe washed away in the river. Time to grieve later. What else did they have? No food, no water…basically no supplies at all. Off to a promising start. Annabeth glanced at Percy. He looked pretty bad. His dark hair was plastered across his forehead, his T-shirt ripped to shreds. His fingers were scraped raw from holding on to that ledge before they fell.
Most worrisome of all, he was shivering and his lips were blue. They both struggled to their feet. She scanned their surroundings. It was like staring through a thin mix of tomato soup and cement. The black-glass beach stretched inland about fifty yards, then dropped off the edge of a cliff.
A distant memory tugged at her—something about Tartarus and fire. Before she could think too much about it, Percy inhaled sharply. A hundred feet away, a familiar-looking baby-blue Italian car had crashed headfirst into the sand. It looked just like the Fiat that had smashed into Arachne and sent her plummeting into the pit. Annabeth hoped she was wrong, but how many Italian sports cars could there be in Tartarus?
Under the crushed hood lay the tattered, glistening remains of a giant silk. It was unmistakably empty. Slash marks in the sand made a trail downriver…as if something heavy, with multiple legs, had scuttled into the darkness. Percy was still shivering. The glass cuts on her hands were still bleeding, which was unusual for her. Normally, she healed fast. Her breathing got more and more labored. That distant memory came into focus. She gazed inland toward the cliff, illuminated by flames from below.
It was an absolutely crazy idea. But it might be their only chance. We need to find the River of Fire. The cliff dropped more than eighty feet. At the bottom stretched a nightmarish version of the Grand Canyon: a river of fire cutting a path through a jagged obsidian crevasse, the glowing red current casting horrible shadows across the cliff faces.
Even from the top of the canyon, the heat was intense. Every breath took more effort, as if her chest was filled with Styrofoam peanuts. The cuts on her hands bled more rather than less. Each step made her wince. Assuming they could make it down to the fiery river, which she doubted, her plan seemed certifiably insane. He pointed to a tiny fissure running diagonally from the edge to the bottom.
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Might be able to climb down. He managed to sound hopeful. Annabeth was grateful for that, but she also worried that she was leading him to his doom. Of course if they stayed here, they would die anyway. Blisters had started to form on their arms from exposure to the Tartarus air. The whole environment was about as healthy as a nuclear blast zone.
Percy went first. The ledge was barely wide enough to allow a toehold. Their hands clawed for any crack in the glassy rock. Every time Annabeth put pressure on her bad foot, she wanted to yelp. A few steps below her, Percy grunted as he reached for another handhold. Her arms trembled. But to her amazement, they finally made it to the bottom of the cliff. When she reached the ground, she stumbled. Percy caught her. She was alarmed by how feverish his skin felt.
Red boils had erupted on his face, so he looked like a smallpox victim. Her own vision was blurry. Her throat felt blistered, and her stomach was clenched tighter than a fist. We have to hurry, she thought. Their tattered clothes steamed from the heat of the river, but they kept going until they crumpled to their knees at the banks of the Phlegethon. Percy swayed, his eyes half-closed.
It took him a three-count to respond. Her throat was closing up from the heat and the acidic air. But also…some legends call it the River of Healing. I think…it might be the Underworld equivalent of ambrosia and nectar. Yes, but she was convinced they had no choice. If they waited any longer, they would pass out and die. Better to try something foolish and hope it worked. Before she could change her mind, she cupped the fiery liquid in her palms and raised it to her mouth. She expected a taste like gasoline. It was so much worse. After barely nibbling it, she thought her respiratory system was going to implode.
Drinking from the Phlegethon was like gulping down a ghost chili smoothie. Her sinuses filled with liquid flame. Her mouth felt like it was being deep-fried. Her eyes shed boiling tears, and every pore on her face popped. She collapsed, gagging and retching, her whole body shaking violently. The convulsions passed. She took a ragged breath and managed to sit up. She felt horribly weak and nauseous, but her next breath came more easily. The blisters on her arms were starting to fade. Desperately, she cupped more fire in her palm.
She tried again, pouring a whole handful down his throat. This time he spluttered and coughed. Annabeth held him as he trembled, the magical fire coursing through his system. His fever disappeared. His boils faded. He managed to sit up and smack his lips. She was so relieved, she felt light-headed. That pretty much sums it up.
He looked around as if just coming to terms with where they were. Maybe that Tartarus was empty space, a pit with no bottom. But this is a real place. They both gazed up at the blood-colored clouds swirling in the gray haze. No way would they have the strength to climb back up that cliff, even if they wanted to. Now there were only two choices: downriver or upriver, skirting the banks of the Phlegethon.
She remembered what Percy had said just before they fell into Tartarus. That idea seemed even crazier than drinking fire. How could the two of them wander through Tartarus and find the Doors of Death? For everybody we love. The Doors have to be closed on both sides, or the monsters will just keep coming through. Still…when she tried to imagine a plan that could succeed, the logistics overwhelmed her. They had no way of locating the Doors.
How could they possibly synchronize a meeting with their friends? She decided not to mention any of that. They both knew the odds were bad. Besides, after swimming in the River Cocytus, Annabeth had heard enough whining and moaning to last a lifetime. She promised herself never to complain again.
Annabeth spun as a massive dark shape hurtled down at her—a snarling, monstrous blob with spindly barbed legs and glinting eyes. She had time to think: Arachne. But she was frozen in terror, her senses smothered by the sickly sweet smell. His blade swept over her head in a glowing bronze arc. A horrible wail echoed through the canyon. Annabeth stood there, stunned, as yellow dust—the remains of Arachne—rained around her like tree pollen. The golden dust of the spider settled on the obsidian rocks. Annabeth stared at her boyfriend in amazement. As it passed through the thick hot air, it made a defiant hiss like a riled snake.
Percy kicked the dust on the rocks, his expression grim and dissatisfied. She deserved worse. It almost made her glad Arachne had died quickly. Now, you were saying…downstream? The yellow dust dissipated on the rocky shore, turning to steam. At least now they knew monsters could be killed in Tartarus…though she had no idea how long Arachne would remain dead. Lucky us. Annabeth plodded along, half in a stupor, trying to form a plan.
Since she was a daughter of Athena, plans were supposed to be her specialty; but it was hard to strategize with her stomach growling and her throat baking. It just kept you going so you could experience more excruciating pain. Her head started to droop with exhaustion.
Then she heard them—female voices having some sort of argument—and she was instantly alert. On the other side, in the narrow path between the river and the cliffs, voices snarled, getting louder as they approached from upstream. Annabeth tried to steady her breathing. The voices sounded vaguely human, but that meant nothing. She assumed anything in Tartarus was their enemy.
Besides, monsters could smell demigods—especially powerful ones like Percy, son of Poseidon. Annabeth doubted that hiding behind a boulder would do any good when the monsters caught their scent. This one sounded much younger and much more human, like a teenaged mortal girl getting exasperated with her friends at the mall.
For some reason, she sounded familiar to Annabeth. There was a chorus of growling and grumbling. I was there a couple of years ago. I know the way! More hissing, scuffling, and feral moans—like giant alley cats fighting. Just leave one special morsel for me—the one named Percy Jackson.
She forgot about her fear. Before this war is over, mortals and demigods will tremble at the sound of my name—Kelli! She glanced at Percy. Even in the red light of the Phlegethon, his face seemed waxy. Empousai, she mouthed. Percy nodded grimly. She remembered Kelli. One of them had been Kelli. Annabeth had stabbed her in the back and sent her…here. To Tartarus. The creatures shuffled off, their voices getting fainter. Annabeth crept to the edge of the boulder and risked a glimpse. Sure enough, five women staggered along on mismatched legs—mechanical bronze on the left, shaggy and cloven-hooved on the right.
Their hair was made of fire, their skin as white as bone. Annabeth gritted her teeth. She had faced a lot of bad monsters over the years, but she hated empousai more than most. In addition to their nasty claws and fangs, they had a powerful ability to manipulate the Mist. They could change shape and charmspeak, tricking mortals into letting down their guard. Men were.
Not a great first date. Kelli had almost killed Percy. Annabeth really wished she still had her dagger. Percy rose. He was sure it had primo powers. There had to be a secret switch or a pressure plate or something. He spent hours crawling over the statue, which took up most of the lower deck. Her body ran the length of the port corridor, her outstretched hand jutting into the engine room, offering the life-sized figure of Nike that stood in her palm, like, Here, have some Victory! The statue was wedged tight in the corridor, so Leo had to climb over the top and wriggle under her limbs, searching for levers and buttons.
As usual, he found nothing. He knew it was made from a hollow wooden frame covered in ivory and gold, which explained why it was so light. Annabeth had said…well, he tried not to think about Annabeth. He still felt guilty about her and Percy falling into Tartarus. Leo knew it was his fault. He should have gotten everyone safely on board the Argo II before he started securing the statue.
He should have realized the cavern floor was unstable. He had to concentrate on fixing the problems he could fix. Anyway, Annabeth had said the statue was the key to defeating Gaea. It could heal the rift between Greek and Roman demigods. Leo figured there had to be more to it than just symbolism. Or maybe the smaller figure of Nike came to life and busted out some ninja moves. Leo could think of all kinds of fun things the statue might do if he had designed it, but the more he examined it, the more frustrated he got.
The Athena Parthenos radiated magic. Even he could feel that. The ship careened to one side, taking evasive maneuvers. Leo resisted the urge to run to the helm. Jason, Piper, and Frank were on duty with Hazel now. They could handle whatever was going on. Besides, Hazel had insisted on taking the wheel to guide them through the secret pass that the magic goddess had told her about. Leo hoped Hazel was right about the long detour north. It had no moving parts. He wanted it to make sense, like a machine. Finally he got too exhausted to think straight.
He curled up with a blanket in the engine room and listened to the soothing hum of the generators. Buford the mechanical table sat in the corner on sleep mode, making little steamy snores: Shhh, pfft, shh, pfft. Leo liked his quarters okay, but he felt safest here in the heart of the ship—in a room filled with mechanisms he knew how to control. Besides, maybe if he spent more time close to the Athena Parthenos, he would eventually soak in its secrets. Unfortunately, that meant dreams. He stumbled into workbenches, knocked over toolboxes, and tripped on electrical cords.
He spotted the exit and sprinted toward it, but a figure loomed in front of him—a woman in robes of dry swirling earth, her face covered in a veil of dust. Where are you going, little hero? Gaea asked. Stay, and meet my favorite son. The night your mother died, I warned you. I said the Fates would not allow me to kill you then. But now you have chosen your path. Your death is near, Leo Valdez. He sobbed in desperation and turned, but the thing pursuing him now stood in his path—a colossal being wrapped in shadows, its shape vaguely humanoid, its head almost.
He blasted the giant, but the darkness consumed his fire. Leo reached for his tool belt. The pockets were sewn shut. My son will not allow any fires tonight, Gaea said from the depths of the warehouse. He is the void that consumes all magic, the cold that consumes all fire, the silence that consumes all speech. Suddenly, he found himself at Camp Half-Blood, except the camp was in ruins.
The cabins were charred husks. Burned fields smoldered in the moonlight. The dining pavilion had collapsed into a pile of white rubble, and the Big House was on fire, its windows glowing like demon eyes. Leo kept running, sure the shadow giant was still behind him. He wove around the bodies of Greek and Roman demigods. He wanted to check if they were alive. He wanted to help them. But somehow he knew he was running out of time. He jogged toward the only living people he saw—a group of Romans standing at the volleyball pit.
Two centurions leaned casually on their javelins, chatting with a tall skinny blond guy in a purple toga. Leo stumbled. It was that freak Octavian, the augur from Camp Jupiter, who was always screaming for war. Octavian turned to face him, but he seemed to be in a trance.
His features were slack, his eyes closed. The Romans move east from New York. They advance on your camp, and nothing can slow them down. Leo was tempted to punch Octavian in the face. Instead he kept running.