chaperones. I will never understand these betrothed teenagers nowadays.
“Sam,” I said, “if you’re just trying to show him proof of weirdness, bust out your blazing spear. Fly around the roof. You can do a million things—”
“None of which are meant to be seen by mortals,” she said bitterly. “It’s a paradox, Magnus. I’m not supposed to reveal my powers to a mortal, so if I try to do it on purpose, my powers won’t work. I say, Hey, look at me fly! and suddenly I can’t fly.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” I said.
“Thank you,” Amir agreed.
Sam stomped her foot. “You try it, Magnus. Show Amir you’re an einherji. Jump to the top of the Citgo sign.”
I glanced up. Sixty feet…tough, but doable. Yet just thinking about it made my muscles feel wobbly. My strength abandoned me. I suspected that if I tried, I’d hop six inches and make a fool out of myself, which would no doubt be very entertaining to Halfborn and Alex.
“I see your point,” I admitted. “But what about Hearthstone and me disappearing from the plane?” I turned to Amir. “You noticed that, right?”
Amir looked lost. “I—I think so. Sam keeps reminding me about it, but it’s getting fuzzier. Were you on that flight?”
Sam sighed. “His mind is trying to compensate. Amir’s more flexible than Barry, who forgot about you guys as soon as we landed. But still…”
I met Sam’s eyes, and I realized why she was so worried. By explaining her life to Amir, she was doing more than just being honest. She was literally trying to reconfigure her boyfriend’s mind. If she succeeded, she might open up his perception. He would see the Nine Worlds as we did. If she failed…best case, Amir might eventually forget it all. His mind would gloss over everything that had happened. Worst-case scenario, the experience would leave permanent scars. He might never fully recover. Either way, how could he look at Samirah in the same way again? He would always have a nagging doubt that something was off, not quite right.
“Okay,” I said, “so why did you bring him here?”
“Because,” Sam started, like she’d already explained this twenty times tonight, “the easiest supernatural thing for mortals to see is the Bifrost Bridge. We need to find Heimdall anyway, right? I thought if I could teach Amir to see the Bifrost, that might permanently expand his senses.”
“The Bifrost,” I said. “The Rainbow Bridge to Asgard.”
I looked up at the Citgo sign, New England’s largest illuminated billboard, which had been advertising gasoline over Kenmore Square for about a century. “You’re telling me—”
“It is the brightest stationary point in Boston,” Sam said. “The Rainbow Bridge doesn’t always anchor here, but most of the time—”
“Guys,” Amir interrupted. “Really, you don’t have to prove anything to me. I’ll just…I’ll take your word for it!” He let out a nervous laugh. “I love you, Sam. I believe you. I may be having a nervous breakdown, but that’s fine! That’s fine. Let’s go do something else!”
I understood why Amir wanted to walk away. I’d seen some crazy stuff—talking swords, knitting zombies, the world’s wealthiest freshwater grouper. But even I had trouble believing that the Citgo sign was the gateway to Asgard.
“Listen, man.” I grabbed his shoulders. I figured physical contact was my biggest advantage. Samirah was prohibited from touching him until they were married, but there was nothing quite as convincing as shaking some sense into a friend. “You have to try, okay? I know you’re a Muslim and you don’t believe in a bunch of gods.”
“They’re not gods,” Sam volunteered. “They’re just powerful entities.”
“Whatever,” I said. “Dude, I’m an atheist. I don’t believe in anything. And yet…this stuff is real. It’s some messed-up stuff, but it’s real.”
Amir bit his lip. “I—I don’t know, Magnus. This makes me very uncomfortable.”
“I know, man.” I could tell he was trying to listen, but I felt like I was yelling at him while he was wearing noise-canceling headphones. “It makes me uncomfortable, too. Some of the stuff I’ve learned…” I stopped. I decided this wasn’t the time to bring up my cousin Annabeth and the Greek gods. I didn’t want to give Amir an aneurysm.
“Focus on me,” I ordered. “Look in my eyes. Can you do that?”
A bead of sweat trickled down the side of his face. With the effort of somebody lifting three hundred pounds, he managed to meet my gaze.
“Okay, now listen,” I said. “Repeat after me: We are going to look up together.”
“We are g-going to look up together.”
“We are going to see a Rainbow Bridge,” I said.
“We are going to”—his voice cracked—“see a Rainbow Bridge.”
“And our brains will not explode.”
“One, two, three.”
And crud…there it was.
The perspective of the world seemed to shift, so we were looking at the Citgo sign from a forty-five-degree angle rather than a perpendicular one. From the top of the sign, a burning sheet of colors arced into the night sky.
“Amir,” I said, “are you seeing this?”
“I don’t believe it,” he muttered, in a tone that made it clear he saw.
“Thank Allah,” Sam said, smiling brighter than I’d ever seen, “most merciful, most compassionate.”
Then from the heavens spoke a voice both squeaky and un-divine: “HEY, GUYS! COME ON UP!”
Heimdall Takes a Selfie with Literally Everyone
AMIR ALMOST pulled an einherji move. He would’ve jumped sixty feet if I hadn’t been holding on to him.
“What was that?” he demanded.
Samirah beamed. “You heard him? That’s fantastic! It’s just Heimdall inviting us up.”
“Up, like—up?” Amir inched away from the Citgo sign. “How is that fantastic?”
Halfborn and Alex strolled over to join us.
“Will you look at that.” Alex didn’t sound particularly impressed by the cosmic bridge arcing into the sky. “Is it safe?”
Halfborn tilted his head. “Probably, if Heimdall invited them. Otherwise they’ll burn to ash as soon as they set foot on the rainbow.”
“What?” Amir yelped.
“We’re not going to burn.” Sam glared at Halfborn. “We’ll be just fine.”
“I’m in,” Alex announced. “You two crazy kids still need an escort so you don’t do anything irresponsible.”
“Irresponsible?” Amir’s voice went up another half octave. “Like climbing into the sky on a burning rainbow?”
“It’s okay, man,” I said, though I realized my definition of okay had become flexible over the last few months.
Halfborn crossed his arms. “You all have fun. I’m staying right here.”
“Why?” Alex asked. “Scared?”
The berserker laughed. “I’ve met Heimdall before. It’s an honor I only need once.”
I didn’t like the sound of that. “Why? What’s he like?”
“You’ll see.” Halfborn smirked. “I’ll meet you back in Valhalla. Have fun exploring inter-dimensional space!”
Sam grinned. “Amir, I can’t wait to show you. Come on!”
She stepped toward the Citgo sign and vaporized in a smear of multicolored light.
“Sam?” Amir yelled.
“Oh, cool!” Alex leaped forward and also disappeared.
I clapped Amir’s shoulder. “They’re fine. Stay strong, man. Now I get to pay you back for all those falafel plates you spotted me when I was homeless. I get to show you the Nine Worlds!”
Amir took a deep breath. To his credit, he didn’t collapse, curl into a ball, or cry, all of which would have been perfectly acceptable responses to finding out there were squeaky-voiced beings in the sky who would invite you up their rainbow.
“Magnus?” he said.
> “Remind me not to give you any more falafel.”
Together we stepped into the orange glow.
Nothing to see here. Just four teenagers hiking up a nuclear rainbow.
Radiance surrounded us, fuzzy and hot. Rather than walking across a slick, solid surface, I felt like we were wading through a waist-high field of wheat…if that wheat were made of highly radioactive light.