“You ready?” he asked my back while I rummaged through my pack to make sure everything was in place.
“Am I ready? I’ve only been waiting for this moment, like, my entire life. Hell yeah, I’m ready!”
“Good.” I could hear him behind me double checking all the equipment. See, Rye is the techy guy. Me? I’m just the enthusiast. I met Rye way back in grade school, so all through our prime procrastination years, and not to mention college, he knew all about my “obsession.” Well, our “obsession.” It all started the day we met, because that’s when I first heard about the Legend of Nox, all thanks to Rye.
It was cold and rainy and gray outside. Inside wasn’t much better. My mom had heard enough of eleven-year-old me’s complaining, so she told me to get my ass in the car and buckle up. Half an hour later, I was on the curb being left for naught, in the eye of the downpour, right in front of the town library. It was fairly new, this town library of ours. The building still had that pristine shine to it, like when you’ve just finished freeing your bright red corvette of a millennium’s worth of grime. Except for the fact that the building was made of brick and stone, much unlike a nice metal-slatted corvette would’ve been. Anyways, now stranded, I ran inside. At the very least, if I wasn’t planning on reading anything, I figured I’d take cover from the cats and dog piling up in the streets.
Once inside, I noticed this boy, about my age, reading this book. The cover was entirely black, except for the white lettering outlining its title. I was too far away to make out any words, so I shamelessly walked up to him and blurted, “Whatcha readin’?”
His head jerked up, obviously startled by my sudden appearance. I’m sure my loud voice didn’t help much, either.
“Oh, um… It’s called Nox.”
“Cool. What’s it ‘bout?” I stared intently down at him, trying to mask my curiosity.
His eyes lit up. “It’s about this old legend. Well, I call it legend, but there’s proof. Look!”
He turned the book around so that I was now facing a page full of text.
In 1973, a group of divers off the coast of the Canary Islands got trapped inside a cave. The diving company that organized the dive told press that they never saw or heard from anyone on that dive ever again. It’s rumored that they did leave the cave once trapped, but not by normal means. Or to a normal place.
“So, what? They all just died under the sea and went to heaven? What’s so intriguing about that?”
Nox is the home of Night. A place best described as a barren wasteland for the dark and cold. A place with only one entrance, and no exit. It’s a one way ticket to eternal Night.
“I’m Rye, by the way.” My head shot up, remembering the bookworm’s existence.
“Now, here’s where I contradict ‘legend.’ Rumor has it that there’s a statue down there in that cave. And that that statue is still there. And that it can do things. I mean, how else do you explain them never finding the bodies?”
And so our obsession began: proving The Legend of Nox. And not to mention my bro-ship with Rye.
We lined up, shoulder to shoulder, backs to the water, ready to dive. First me, then Rye. Nox’s Cave, so we called it, was right beneath where our scrawny motorboat was anchored. Once the water above us resettled from our ripples, confirming our submersion into the salty body, we swam down to the entrance of the cave. There, Rye put up all these fancy sensors, all the while ignoring my excited anticipation behind him.
I’ve asked him what the sensor-thingies do a million times, but if you asked me to explain it to you, the best I’d be able to give you is, “They test for magical auras.” Yeah, I know. You’d think having your best friend be valedictorian of your year would help you understand some of the “simpler” things in life, but nope!
After about half an hour of swimming through the underwater passageways, with occasional stops for more sensor installment, we made it to the large cavern we’d researched infinite times over. The one where the statue was rumored to be.
Then, a hand shot out right in front of my face, almost knocking my goggles off. I looked to where Rye’s finger was pointing. I glanced across to one of the cavern walls and followed his finger down to its sandy bottom.
That’s it? The cavern was small, I’d known that since the start, but I’d always expected something a little… more out of that rumored statue. Like, something the size of this one hundred cubic foot grotto. Not something so… tiny.
When divers went to further investigate the cave, they never found the statue. The only reason its existence is known is through prior rumors. Ones told even before the 1973 incident.
I swam down to more properly examine the sculpted configuration. Yeah, the one that laid a whopping two by six inches in the sand. It’s a miracle Rye spotted it so fast!
Before picking it up and placing it between my bare palms, I looked back up at Rye, who had begun swimming down to meet me near the miniature sculpture, giving him a kind of “I guess so?” shrug. He smiled in response. We’d succeeded in our dream since childhood: confirming the Legend of Nox. We’d succeeded. Together.
I couldn’t wait any longer.
I picked it up.
Everything went black.
“Rye?” I called out.
More consciously aware of my regained ability of speech, I cried again, “Rye!”
It was cold.
Cold and dark.
Cold and dark as Night.
Cold and dark as Nox.