Angelo awoke with a jump. Another nightmare. The one time he could get away with sleeping all day, and he just had to go and develop recurring nightmares before he was able to enjoy it. Hopefully, no one saw him move. Did anyone enter the kitchen while he slept? How long had he been out? Minutes, hours, a day?
Time ceased to exist inside of the box. Light too. Sound, while muffled, could still be heard, and what Angelo heard was snoring. Really loud snoring. That, or someone decided to use a tiny buzzsaw in the kitchen.
Nothing else made noise, so he decided to take a risk and prop up the box to look around. He only saw one pair of feet through the crack, presumably belonging to the snorer.
Like the weirdest-looking hermit crab, he struggled out of his box, looking up at both doors to make sure no one was about to open them. The coast was clear, so he took yet another risk and stood up.
Light assaulted his eyes as he fought to keep them open. His spine ached more than usual, making him wonder if Emil used him as a seat again. Dizzy and disoriented, dots smattered his vision. He might’ve fainted if he hadn’t propped a hand against the wall.
After gaining his bearings, he noticed two things. One, the clock read 4:46 PM, much earlier than when he normally ventured out. Two, Jun’s head lay face down on the table, dark bangs splayed all over the place. How surreal it was to see a national icon in such an ungraceful moment. How #relatable.
Angelo tip-toed through the kitchen so as to not wake Jun. The crinkle of a space food packet under his foot nearly made him shriek. Just his luck, a bunch were piled on the floor. He wondered who would even do something like that until he remembered being the one to dump them all out. But he put them in the other box days ago, right? Was it days ago? Didn’t he eat a bag of pretzels? He should’ve learned by now not to trust his own memory.
He thought about putting them away, but steps from the stairwell forced him to retreat into the safety of the empty hallway. The snoring stopped abruptly, followed by some frustrated muttering. Heart pounding in his chest, he took one last glance at the kitchen to make sure they couldn’t see him. Instead, he saw something far worse.
Captain Galhardo entered the kitchen. He and Angelo would’ve made eye contact had Jun not captured his attention first. Angelo dropped to the ground in order not to be seen.
“Ranger Kim, why are these food packets on the floor?”
Jun yawned. “Sorry, Captain. Me and Aiden found those in the other box where they didn’t belong. I meant to put them back in, but time kinda got away from me.”
“I happened to hear some of your conversation with Ranger Kelly while checking through the camera feeds.” It creeped Angelo that he admitted it so casually, at least, as casual as Captain Galhardo could be. “Was there something of importance being kept inside? Something related to a minor being in the Interstellar Forces?”
Angelo froze up. Did Emil tell him? No, that made no sense. If Emil told him, the captain probably would’ve brought it up during training by now.
“Uhhhh, we were talking about a friend’s relative.” Thank goodness Jun didn’t know. “Though I’ll admit I don’t 100% know if he’s a minor or not. As for what’s in the box…?”
At this point, both were close enough to the door that Angelo could see them crouch down.
Instinct took over, and he crawled away toward the bathroom. He made it past the first bedroom, then the next, but a noise coming from the infirmary stopped him in his tracks.
A door opened behind him. All of his vital organs might as well have stopped then and there.
“What the…?” A gruff voice whispered.
Aiden, one of the least bad options, stood in the doorway of the first bedroom. He looked down on Angelo like a lowly worm. Haggard and panicked on his hands and knees, Angelo felt he’d truly earned it.
“Aiden, is something there?” came another voice from inside.
Angelo scrambled into the bathroom before he heard the answer, finally standing on two feet in order to open the furthest stall from the door. He sat on the toilet seat with his head in his hands. His heart filled with dread. His bones shook from the plea not to hear the bathroom door open, not to hear that second voice again.
Living in a box surviving on chips and juice packets was not the original plan. The original plan was just to avoid Leon. He knew he couldn’t dare return to ‘his’ room that fateful day, and the ship is only so big. A risk of running into his brother lurked in every corner. Sometime after the incident, he was in the kitchen, alone, reaching for a bag of chips when he heard a door in the hallway open. The rest just kind of happened.
It wasn’t Leon. The relief that followed soon turned into a new fear: What if the others reminded Leon of his existence? Angelo knew his crime went far beyond forgiveness. The least he could do was disappear for a few days or longer if needed. Maybe they’d all forget. He’d become something of a ghost.
Angelo listened to the voices come and go, from laughter to idle conversations. Rarely did his brother’s join them. The few times Leon spoke, the brightness in his voice never came through. Just a week ago, his voice would’ve been a fixture around the ship. Now, it’s all but silent, and Angelo had to sit in a dark box knowing he’s the one who dimmed such a bright light. How dare he cry while causing Leon’s tears?
He washed his hands after using the bathroom. He may have been disgusting but not barbaric. Water ran over the burns on his hands; they started to peel and the pain had mostly disappeared. His mind thought back to Emil. Why did he, knowing what Angelo did, still decide to help him anyway? Why hadn’t he told the captain yet?
While selfish, Angelo couldn’t deny that his heart broke at the thought of Leon never smiling at him again, but at least he was still capable of doing so, thanks to Emil.
He brought back Leon’s light, if even just for a while. Maybe if Angelo remained a ghost, he could bring it back for good.
Comments (0)See all