The hot Neopian sun blazed down on Okoju. The Darigan Kougra sighed and waved his wings, blowing air through his fur. He was lying down in a sandy and dry spot by the ocean, watching his brothers and sisters swimming and playing in the water.
It had been a hot and boring summer day, until his owner suggested that they go swimming. He watched as Tackalow, his rainbow Lutari little brother, splashed Keasakee. The starry Xweetok retaliated by splashing him gently with her long, furry tail. Amacu, the Maraquan Eyrie, was gently gliding through the aqua water, carrying Qeje on his back. The baby Gelert giggled with glee as Amacu swerved around in the water. Rocky, the oldest, was peacefully swimming among them, clearly enjoying the cool water on such a hot day. Even Flames, the fire Lupe, was wading in the shallows.
Okoju longed to cool off. He watched nervously as a wave crashed over the top of Tackalow’s head. The Lutari popped up again, laughing. There was no way Okoju was going in the water. He gulped as he stared out past his siblings, where dark blue waves rolled and crashed on the water, white foam bubbling at the crest of the waves. Despite the hot sun, Okoju shivered, picturing himself trapped in the undertow of a wave, being tugged mercilessly in the water, never reaching the air. He was distracted from his thoughts when a he noticed his owner had come up behind him. She sat down and leaned against Okoju’s side, staring at him with worry.
“Okoju,” she said tentatively. “Why don’t you get in the water with your other siblings? I’m worried you’ll have a heat stroke just sitting here in the sun, with all your dark fur.”
“No thanks,” Okoju growled, looking away. “I’m fine.” He’d never wanted to go in the water. Why would he want to now? His owner didn’t look convinced. She was going to say something else, but she turned at the sound a splashing noise, and Okoju glanced up to see Flames padding up to them. He shook his fire print fur, sending droplets of water on Okoju. Okoju scowled, glaring at him.
“Yo,” Flames greeted them both. He made a wide sideways grin when he saw Okoju’s scowl. “She’s right, Okoju, you should come in the water. It feels really nice!” Okoju made an angry growling noise.
“Will everyone just leave me alone?” he snarled, turning his back on both of them. He heard his owner sigh.
“Flames, tell everyone to be home by sunset for dinner. I’m ordering Pizzaroo take out tonight.” His owner got up and Okoju heard her walk away. He heard Flames run to the water’s edge and jump in, curling into a ball to make a big splash. From his position, he could see Amacu staring at him from a distance. Okoju stared back, daring him to come and say anything. He must have overheard his conversation. But Amacu looked calculating, like he was thinking. He shook his head after a moment, and in a flash of bright orange scales, he dove back into the water.
Later, Okoju sat at their neohome’s kitchen table, biting into a piece of pepperoni pizza. Everyone sat around the large stone table, talking and laughing. Seven neopets could make a lot of noise. Okoju enjoyed the air conditioning as much as the pizza, if not more. Their owner hardly ever cooked, maybe for the better. The last time she made a home cooked meal, the delicious looking picture of steak on the package turned out to be black, hard as a rock, and a third of its intended size. Okoju smirked, remembering how she made them eat it. Okoju was thinking about that awful taste when Amacu tapped him on the shoulder.
“Meet me outside at midnight, okay?” he whispered.
“What? Why?” Okoju asked.
“It’s important,” he replied through a mouthful of pizza. “Just come, okay?”
“If she catches us...” Okoju glanced at his owner who was happily sipping a mug of coffee. Who has coffee for dinner anyway? “Then we’re dead meat.” Amacu shrugged.
“Unless you’re afraid of the dark,” he replied with a small smile, knowing that would do it.
“Amacu, I’m Darigan. I was made for darkness,” growled Okoju. He sighed and gave up. “Fine. I’ll come.”
Okoju moved fluidly through the dark house, slowly making his way for the stairs. His paws made no sound on the wood floor as he brought himself across it.
“This is nuts,” Okoju muttered, glancing at the digital clock in the living room as he passed by it. It was two minutes until midnight. His curfew was two hours ago.
At the bottom of the stairs, he relaxed a little. All the bedrooms were upstairs. Here, he didn’t have to worry much about waking anyone. Like a shadow, Okoju slinked across the last remaining rooms and opened the front door. It was not as dark outside as Okoju had expected. A full moon hung in the sky, bathing everything in a silvery light. Amacu was already there, sitting on the front lawn and staring up at the moon. His orange and blue skin was bleached white by its light. The temperature had cooled down, but humidity still claimed the air. Okoju walked across the lawn, letting his tail brush the dew soaked grass. He sat down beside Amacu, turning his red eyes to glare at his brother.
“So what do you want, Amacu?” said Okoju. Amacu was silent for a moment, his amber eyes still locked on the moon. Then he slowly turned his head to look at Okoju.
“You trusted me enough to come out here, right?” the Eyrie said calmly.
“Sure...” Okoju didn’t know where his brother was going with this.
“Do you still trust me?” Amacu questioned.
“Yeah, sure, Amacu, I trust you. You’re my brother. But what do you want?” Okoju was starting to get irritated. Did Amacu make him come out here just to ask him dumb questions? Amacu got up from the grass and started to walk, well, drag himself across our lawn. Maraquan pets sure have a difficult time getting around when they’re not in water.
“Follow me,” he called over his shoulder. Okoju rolled his eyes. What was the point of this? Sighing, he strode across the lawn after his brother. Amacu led him down the path they had taken earlier today, well, yesterday, to swim at the ocean. It wound through a couple of trees and shrubs. Fortunately for Amacu, they lived in close walking distances to the ocean. Okoju’s irritation turned to suspicion as he heard the familiar sound of the waves crashing against sand. They took a final bend and ended up on the same beach they had previously visited that day. The moonlight shone on the waves as they curled onto the shore. Okoju turned and was about to ask why Amacu had taken him here again, but the look on his brother’s face silenced him. The Eyrie hobbled up to the water and dove in, spraying moonlit droplets of water onto dry sand. Okoju walked to the water’s edge and let his gaze rake the surface, waiting for Amacu to come up again.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Okoju shouted when he did. “Why did you want me to come and watch your midnight swim?” Amacu dove back into the water and Okoju sighed in irritation. He walked up the shore, kicking the moonlit sand up with his paws. When he came to a large rock at the edge of the water, he bunched his muscles and leapt onto it. He then sat down and stared at the deep water below him. It was about a two-foot drop from the rock to the water. This was the deepest part along the shore. Okoju leaned down and squinted his eyes, wondering if Amacu was near this part. But the only thing he saw was the blue-black ripples that danced along the surface.
“I don’t have time for this,” he muttered. Just then, he heard a small splash. He looked down and thought he could see two glowing amber eyes in the dim water. Okoju leaned down farther, gripping the rock’s edge with his front paws.
“Amacu?” he called. “Hey, quit messing with me and get your scaly tail up here!” Suddenly the eyes came closer, bringing with them Amacu. He grabbed Okoju by the paw and swung him over his back and before Okoju knew what was happening, Amacu was swimming on the surface of the water, Okoju gripping his back.
“What are you doing?” Okoju yelled in a high-pitched tone. His eyes were wide with terror and his heart-beat accelerated. Waves splashed up against him as his brother halted, far away from the shore.
“Okay,” chuckled Amacu, “Get ready to go down!”
“WHAT?” Okoju yelled. “NO! Bring me BACK to the beach!” The Darigan Kougra was terrified.
“Trust me, Okoju. You’ll never experience something like this in your life. Hold you breath,” Amacu said before rearing up and diving into the water. Okoju managed to suck in a breath before they plunged under the waves.
Okoju had his eyes squinted shut. His front paws hung onto Amacu’s tail as his brother glided them through the water.
“Okoju, open your eyes.” Apparently Maraquan neopets could talk fluently under water. Who knew? Okoju slowly opened his eyes and almost forgot to hold his breath.
It was beautiful.
Under the surface, moonlight streamed through the aqua water, creating light ripples on the ocean floor. Okoju stared in awe as they passed a cluster of Starry Sea Ferns that twirled in the current. Brightly colored rocks littered the sea floor, the watery light glistening off of them. A school of bright neon fish swam through a gap in a huge piece of pale pink coral. Their scales shone as their bodies swiftly moved back and forth to accelerate. Amacu glided downward, and Okoju let go with one paw so he could brush the soft pieces of red, green, purple and brown seaweed. They swerved through a big gap in a rock that had pieces of blue coral clinging to it. Then Amacu shot upward and swam close to the surface so they could look down at the rainbow of sea life below them. Okoju just stared in amazement. Though after a while, his lungs started aching and it took him a second to realize that he needed air. Before he could try to tell Amacu, his brother floated to the surface and Okoju’s head was out of the water. He quickly sucked in gulps of air, gasping. Amacu swam towards the shore until it was shallow enough for Okoju to stand up.
“So, did you like watching my ‘midnight swim’ after all?” Amacu asked, a smug grin on his face.
“Amacu, that was amazing,” Okoju gasped. “I can’t believe how much I’ve been missing out!” The two brothers walked home and from that day on, Okoju was no longer afraid of the water. There was nothing to be afraid of anyway, not with Amacu around. All Okoju needed to do was trust him, and he did. Trust can do great things.