This is the second chapter of the fantasy trilogy “The Lumin Prophecies” by Andrew Ryan Henke. Check back each Friday for the next chapter. If you would like to purchase the full book and not wait, it can be purchased here for $6.99: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01AR1I724?*Version*=1&*entries*=0
Noir awoke when he felt the van slow and make a sharp turn. He had been napping for the last couple hours of the trip, but he somehow subconsciously knew that this turn meant they were almost there.
Noir looked out at the area. The light was fading, but the hills could still be made out against the orange backdrop of the setting sun. One of those hills was Medicine Mountain, the hill that had caused him so much pain and time out of school for hospital visits. It was also the hill that held the mystery of that bizarre cave.
“Noir, are you awake?” his dad asked as he turned around to see. “Good. There’s something that I wanted to talk to you about, but I wasn’t sure when would be the best time.” He paused. “Aimee hasn’t exactly been herself since the incident.” It was obvious which incident he meant. “I know you haven’t talked to her in a while, so I figured you should know.”
“What do you mean? How has she not been herself?”
“Well, your uncle Steven said she took what happened really hard.” He paused for a long moment as if not knowing what else to say. Then he added, “You’ll probably see when we get there. I just wanted you to know,” his dad finished and turned back around. How could Aimee have taken the incident hard when it didn’t even happen to her? They had always gotten along so well, he had a hard time imagining Aimee being any different. For the last part of the trip before they arrived, his mind churned on this new and unexpected change.
Noir recognized the small farm house coming into view on his right. Until half an hour ago, he’d been excited to see the place; but now he was nervous. Uncle Steven was sitting on the front porch of his house. He stood up with a pen and paper in hand. As usual, he was probably dreaming up inventions or ideas. Often his ideas were bizarre or ingenious. Sometimes they were both. Uncle Steven waved to the van from his porch, then turned and opened up the screen door to his house, presumably telling his family that their guests were arriving.
Noir’s father and Uncle Steven looked completely different to Noir’s eyes, but to the rest of the world, the identical twins could only be distinguished by Steven’s slightly more gray hair. They were both fairly tall and thin which was something that Noir inherited.
The van pulled into the dirt driveway as Steven stepped down off the porch to greet them. After it stopped, Noir’s dad hopped out of the van and gave his brother a hug and exchanged greetings. Steven then turned and gave Noir’s mom a hug as well. “Where’s the little man?”
Noir’s mom replied, “He’s still in the van. Come on out and say ‘hi,’ Noir. I’m sure your uncle’s missed you a lot.” Noir finally slid open the van door and climbed out. Steven came around to his side of the van and gave him a firm handshake.
“Hey kiddo. You’re almost as tall as me now!” Then he asked the question that Noir knew was coming eventually. The question he hated. “How’s that leg of yours healing up?”
Noir looked down at it. He didn’t want pity, but somehow the way Stephen asked the question made it less offensive than how other people asked. “To be honest, it’s bad. I can barely walk.”
Uncle Steven bent down and looked at his leg. “Ya know, kiddo, we’re glad you can walk at all. Man, I tell you that leg was….” He trailed off and looked at his brother as if he just realized something he was saying was wrong. “Well, you know the story.” He stood up. “Anyway, go on in! Cindy and Casey made candy apples for you all. I’ll get your bags to your bedrooms.”
Aunt Cindy greeted them at the door and gave them each a hug. As she greeted Noir, she gave him a hug and didn’t act like she gave a thought about his leg, which Noir appreciated. He had only been there a minute and Noir already felt more relaxed than he had in the past year. She pointed them into the kitchen where three big, juicy, fresh candy apples awaited them. Noir’s youngest cousin, Casey, was already there munching down on one. Once she saw Noir, she ran over and gave him a hug that was sticky with caramel.
As Steven came in with arms full of suitcases, he said, “Cindy, go get Aimee to come down. She needs to get off that stupid video game.”
Aunt Cindy walked to the bottom of the stairs and yelled, “Aimee, they’re here! Come say hi! Don’t be a grouch!” She did not wait for a reply and went to join the others around the table.
Between large, noisy apple bites, they exchanged stories and news. They talked about work and school and they caught up on family gossip. All the while, Noir sat quietly waiting for Aimee to come downstairs.
Steven had just finished telling a story about how they’d had some trouble with Aimee and her new boyfriend when Cindy said, “I’m going to go get that girl and make her come down here. I don’t know why she’s doing this.”
She got up to go, but Noir stopped her with a gentle hand on her arm. “No, I’ll go see her. I think I’m the reason why she’s not coming down. Is it alright if I go up?”
No one said anything for a long moment. They were trying to figure out what he meant. “Yeah, you go,” Steven finally replied. “I think you two should catch up together by yourselves.” He smiled. “You don’t need us boring old people to ruin your fun.” With that, Noir stood up, said thank you for the apple, and walked to the bottom of the stairs in the other room. When he left the room, the adults started up their conversation again. Noir took a few moments to take a deep breath before starting up the stairs.
He climbed each creaky step and came to the door that he knew was hers. It was closed and had various band logo stickers covering it. He knocked and waited. After no answer, he knocked louder. When no answer came again, he slowly grabbed the doorknob, opened the door, and stuck his head in. Aimee was sitting at a computer, her back to the door with headphones on. She had on a black t-shirt and baggy green pajama pants. Her brown hair was in a short, spiky pixie cut. Noir had known Aimee for all of his life and she had always had long hair.
“Hey Aimee? Can I come in?” She didn’t answer. “Ok, I’m coming in then.” Noir walked in and closed the door. Cautiously, he walked over and sat on her bed which was next to her computer. He waited for a minute not knowing what to say. Aimee was playing a computer game, but he could tell that he was in the side of her vision, so she knew he was there.
Finally, without turning from the game, she said, “How’s your leg?”
Noir usually didn’t like to talk about it, but he was just glad she saidsomething. “It’s not good, really. I still limp and it hurts sometimes, but at least I can walk.”
“Could be worse.” There was another long pause, so Noir leaned over and watched the game she was playing.
“Hey, I’ve heard of that game. Are you playing it online right now?”
“Look.” Aimee turned sharply around and made the first eye contact with Noir in a year. She spoke very quickly. “Why did you take me to that stupid cave anyway? Why me? I didn’t even want to go with you.”
Noir was taken back. Since his dad’s comment in the van earlier, Noir had tried to imagine how Aimee felt, but he hadn’t imagined she’d be angry about it. He fumbled some words and then said, “I don’t know. You’re my friend and I guess I just wanted someone else to be there with me if I found something cool.”
“Yeah, well your ‘something cool’ has landed me in a psychiatrist’s office for the last ten months.”
“What? Why?” Noir asked.
“What do you mean, ‘why.’”
“It happened to me, not you. I don’t understand.”
Her jaw dropped and she looked even angrier than before. “Well, let me put it like this.” She slapped her hands on her legs for emphasis. “Have you ever seen one of your family members almost get killed by something you could have stopped?” She didn’t give him time to answer. “No, didn’t think so. I have thought over and over, ‘if I had just stopped him’ or ‘if I had forced us to go home.’” Her words got a small quiver in them as she spoke. “Or if I had just never agreed to go with you in the first place.”
“Aimee. It was my fault. I shouldn’t have climbed up there to see that ca — ”
She cut him off. “And that stupid cave! I’ve had dreams about it every night since. The doc keeps telling me it’s because I feel bad for not stopping you. But it’s more complicated than that.” She wiped an eye with her hand, leaned back in her chair, and looked at the ceiling. “They aren’t normal dreams. I see… weird things.”
She paused for a moment so Noir asked, “What kind of weird things?”
“You don’t want to know.” She paused for a long moment and Noir wasn’t sure if she was going to say or not. Then she continued. “We’re fighting in them. And we both can do… things. Weird things. In some of them I’m all old and homeless and gross. I don’t know. I told you they’re weird.” She turned and looked at Noir again. “And you know how you told me about the stairs and wall drawings in that cave?”
“Well, after you told me that, it bugged me so much that I had to go back and see for myself.”
“What? You went back to the cave by yourself?”
“Well, what happened? Did you see what I told you about?”
Aimee leaned toward Noir with her eyes watering and grabbed his hands with hers. “Noir. Along with all the other drawings, your name is carved on that wall.”
Stephen took another step toward his daughter’s door. He usually tried to respect his daughter’s privacy, but he was anxious as to how they were getting along. He heard them talking about the insignificant cave that Noir was looking at when the rock fell on him.
He listened closer to more of their conversation. “She went back to that cave by herself?” he thought. “When was that? And how did I not know about it?”
He continued to listen. “Noir’s name was carved on the wall? That’s impossible.” He had to ask Aimee what she meant. He knocked in the same catchy rhythm like he usually did.
“Dad? What do you want?” he heard through the door. He opened it and saw his daughter sitting at her computer facing away from him and Noir was on the bed near her, looking off into space as if he had just seen a ghost.
“I’m sorry, I was coming up to see if you wanted a snack and I overheard.”
“Dad!” Aimee threw her hands up in disbelief.
“I’m sorry. I really didn’t mean to. It’s just that I know how hard the incident was on you Aimee, and when I heard you talking about it, I got interested. What was the last thing you said?” Aimee said nothing. “It sounded like you said Noir’s name was carved on the wall in that cave.” Aimee still said nothing, but Noir turned his head toward his uncle with the same shocked look still on his face. “So that is what you said. If it’s true, we should go and see. It has to be a coincidence. It could be another language that looks like N-O-I-R. Or it’s just graffiti or something.”
“I do not want to go back there, dad. That place has…” she paused. “It has too many memories.”
“I understand, Aimee. You don’t have to. Me and Noir can go, though. Right kiddo?”
Noir barely moved his lips. “Yeah, sure.”
“Plus,” Steven continued, “If there are stairs and cave drawings, it might be some sort of archaeological dig. It might be a Native American burial site or something. It could be a big discovery! I’ve heard that Medicine Mountain has some of the oldest geological rocks in the world. What do you say? We could go first thing in the morning. It’d be a fun hiking trip.”
Noir finally snapped out of his daze. “Yeah, I’m in for it. I have to see what she’s talking about. That cave has been in my mind for a year and I just have to explore it more.”
“Aimee, what about you?” Steven asked. She did not answer. “Well, I’ll let you think about it. Noir, do you remember how to find the cave?”
“I think so.”
“Well, let’s plan to leave tomorrow morning. I hope you packed some hiking boots, kiddo.” With that, Steven left the room and closed the door behind him. He walked to his bedroom and plugged his professional level digital camera into the wall to charge. He thought to himself, “If what they are saying is real, then this could be a huge news story. I’ll have to take pictures. I’d better not tell the others where we’re going. They’ll worry.”
“Jeez. I can’t believe he was listening to our conversation.” She turned to Noir. “Why do you want to go back to that cave anyway?” Aimee asked. “I told you what I saw.”
“I have to go back, Aimee. That place has been stuck in my mind ever since the accident. Plus, I have to see my name to believe it. I would like for you to come, but I….”
She cut him off, “No! I already have enough nightmares about that place. I don’t need any more. You are just going to make things worse. That place has driven me insane and nearly killed you. I just want my normal life back. I want to go to school, see my friends, and not have dreams about that place every night.” She folded her arms. “You and dad have fun by yourselves. I’ll be happy right here.”
“Alright. I’m going to bed. Remember that you can come if you want.” She didn’t answer so Noir stood up to leave. “Good night, Aimee. It’s good to see you again.” She still didn’t answer and started playing her game again.