The first thing I noticed when I woke up was the mixture of voices speaking nearby. The deeper voices and softer tones sounded quiet compared to the loud engine of the tech-forward boat I remembered boarding hours earlier. Had it been hours? I’d lost track of time.
Basically meaning, I couldn’t remember when I’d fallen asleep or figure out why I hadn’t woken up periodically to make sure I wasn’t in danger. I’d been taught only to sleep soundly when I was in a safe area, otherwise I was supposed to wake myself up. For some reason, that hadn’t happened.
While I was still laying on my back in whatever uncomfortable area I was in, I opened my eyes to dim lighting. Before letting my eyes adjust to the lighting, I reached up to rub the crusty bits from my eyes. As I blinked, I came to be aware of how reluctant my eyelashes were to part; they felt like they had been glued together by some sort of sleep goop, the likes of which I wasn’t too pleased to have on my face.
I tried not to think about how it felt like when my brothers had mixed mud into my shampoo. That was a dark time in my life that I didn’t talk about even when I was with my family; I wasn’t going to start talking about that just because they suddenly weren’t present.
I shifted my arms under me as a grimace crossed my face for a moment. As I began to see slightly better through whatever was blurring my eyes, I slowly pushed myself up from the ground. I rested my head on my knees as I listened in on the conversation in whatever place I was hiding in, waiting for my eyes to adjust to the hazy lighting. I wasn’t sure it even deserved to be called ‘hazy,’ since it was nearly no light at all.
Well, someone isn’t overly concerned about needing to see down here.
“We’ll be back soon, Your Highness,” a gravelly voice said.
A long sigh replied, but even as I looked around, I couldn’t see who it belonged to. I found that I was surrounded by crates covered in tarps, through which I saw cracks of light bleeding through. It explained the lack of light at the very least.
All I knew about the voices, though, was that this voice was considerably easier to hear and understand compared to the gravelly tone that sounded like someone was speaking through a mouthful of rocks.
“Zach and the others need to detach before my parents see the ship. Otherwise, we’re all in some seriously hot water.” This new voice sounded like someone my age was speaking.
I had no idea who Zach was or who he was with; I’d never met someone named Zach in my life.
“We know, Cole,” a moderately deep voice growled, sounding high and squeaky compared to the gravelly voice but more grown-up than the voice it was replying to. “We’re working on it.”
It sounded like something one of my brothers would’ve said. They didn’t like being told what to do.
I pushed myself onto my feet and crept closer to one of the crates I was surrounded in, feeling a bit lightheaded. I must have chosen the worst boat to sneak onto at the port back home.
Or... not home anymore, I suppose. I had just left that. It was where I used to live, not my home.
I shook my head, trying not to think of such depressing things.
‘Your highness?’ What had I walked into? Heaven knew the United States didn’t have royals. There was no way I could be on another continent already. Where was I?
My only consolation was that I hadn’t been found yet. If I was found, I was in trouble. I had nowhere else to go and I needed to find myself some answers about what this place was before I got myself into any deep holes. I wouldn’t allow myself to be nervous, but I was a little more uncomfortable with this than I should be.
I peeked around the crate to see people dressed in various colored jumpsuits of sorts. Each one was one color. Some had a few different shades, but there was no mistaking what color someone was wearing. They looked like glorified jail clothes in solid colors, but yet, they also looked like an indescribable style all of their own. The best thing I could compare them to was some sort of jumpsuit turned into a royal outfit.
A young man dressed entirely in black looked around with a careful eye, slowly skimming over everything within his sight. I just happened to be on the outskirts of the boundary.
As he turned, a single, dull, silver buckle on his belt glinted weakly in the overhead light. I didn’t dare move as his gaze passed over my location, but my eyes were drawn to the lone piece of metal.
I belatedly hoped he didn’t see me, since my head was laid up against the crate and poking out of a tarp. I was still wearing the suit with a cape my father had given me last year as a Christmas gift, so if I was awake enough to remember what I was supposed to do with it when sneaking around, I’d be safe, but if I had just pulled a stupid move and basically put my face out in the open like I felt that I had, I’d be in big trouble. Just the thought of using such an amazing piece of equipment wrong made me miss him, reprimands and all.
“You forgot to have confidence in your disguise, Calypso,” I could almost hear him scolding me. “You let the cape part flutter as you move and you blend into the shadows with their figureless movement that seems still when you look directly at it. You must be confident.”
The thought of him faded and I remembered what I was scolding myself for. Don’t be the one who gets in as much trouble as a person could get into at a completely new place around completely new people who are confusing as all get out and seem like they wouldn’t be particularly happy to find a stowaway.
As I realized what I’d just rambled off at myself, I smiled slightly, amused at myself. I was still talking nonsense, even in my head. It was a habit that I was fond of only when it didn’t blow up in my face like it sometimes did.
The way I based my base judgement was a quick glance around the area, which looked entirely grey other than the wooden crates and black tarps. The walls looked to be made of metal, even though I was sure that I had climbed onto just another modern ship back in the port back where I’d come from. Somehow, I could feel something moving beneath my feet even though I knew that nothing else seemed to be moving.
I wasn’t sure that I didn’t get seasick.
It looked like an odd futuristic ship, with screens along a wall and the rest of the room functioning as a storage room of some kind. There were doors on opposite sides of the room, happening to be on my left and my right, but I couldn’t see what they led to from this angle.
A girl dressed in a green jumpsuit studded with polished silver buttons along the seams walked in confidently from the door on the right, narrowing her eyes ever so slightly at the boys as her arms stopped swinging at her sides, one settling on her hip. “Ship’s ready,” she said with what sounded like false cheerfulness. Despite her confident stance, she seemed to be on edge. I couldn’t help but wonder why.
The boy in a blue jumpsuit straightened and cast his eyes up in exasperation as he muttered something under his breath. “I figured, Justice,” he said as he tilted his head towards the girl, his voice carefully level as though he were restraining himself from doing something. “Now, would you mind helping us load our ship?”
He picked up a large crate and brought it down the hall the girl had come from. Something was clanking with every heavy step he took, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was yet another odd accessory on their otherwise plain outfits.
That was when I noticed that I was admiring the black stripes that crossed his jumpsuit like straps. They looked to be leather, but they were almost the shape of zebra stripes.
Why was it shaped like that?
“Well,” the girl, Justice, huffed, but grabbed a crate and followed him.
As they left, the boy in black glanced around the room. It was silent other than the occasional click of what seemed to be a heating vent near a screen of sorts on the wall behind me. I kicked a tarp aside from beneath my feet, and when I heard the rustling noise it made, I froze. Somehow, the little plastic scraping sound echoed, and I realized that I’d just given myself away.
On the outside, this ship had looked like normal, but everywhere I looked on the inside there was more metal glinting at me, somehow shined to perfection.
My head snapped around, eyes widening as I looked back to the crack between the tarps and the crates that I’d been looking through. My breath shallowed and I swallowed, forgetting who I was for a moment.
I was Calypso; I wasn’t helpless anymore. I wasn’t ever afraid.
Alone in the room with the boy in black, I stayed still, waiting for him to realize that the noise hadn’t been just another click from the heating vent. If he had seen me in his glance over, he’d have to make the first move, but I was sure he would come after me. Despite that, I wasn’t going to move on the off chance that he hadn’t seen me.
“I know you’re in here,” he said levelly, eyes narrowed as he walked in my direction. His eyes darted back and forth over the crates and tarps that surrounded me as he approached.
I silently crept back towards the wall that was creaking in a valiant attempt to get me caught. I slid to the side, crouching down near the crate closest to the wall. My breath hitched only for a moment as my hands fluttered down to my sides, letting the cape of my cloak shift only enough to make me blend in with the crate.
I’d learned long ago that too much movement made it all too easy to be found.
He started pushing crates aside and quickly peeked inside each. Much to my pleasure, the repeated scraping made it easier for me to move across the room. Even though each crate seemed to make its own noise and each seemed different, I could use it to mask my footsteps if I timed it right.
I slipped along the wall and reached the other side of the crate, skimming the area to make sure no one was watching before darting across the room while using his noise as a cover. I was still looking for my next hiding place when the sounds he was making stopped abruptly. The rustling of the tarps and the splintering of wood as crates were roughly shoved into each other disappeared until all that was left was the clicking of the heater and... me.
I stopped moving, but not fast enough. The soles of my soft, leather boots made two last squeaks on the floor that looked distinctly like linoleum before I could stop myself.
All at once, his footsteps thundered in my direction.
With my eyes refusing to widen in alarm and breath refusing to quicken in panic, I stepped up next to the nearest group of more crates. I planned on using my dark clothes and tiny figure to my advantage and blend into the crates and tarps again, but my breath was still coming out unevenly as I tried to even it out again after running. I had to stop panting otherwise I’d get caught.
I pulled my hood far over my face and squeezed between two crates, not bringing my cape in with me and instead letting it drape over the crates like just another tarp.
I watched the ground behind me, doubling over and looking between my legs, wrapping my arms around myself to keep my balance. Never had I been so thankful to be flexible. It was one of the things I’d been forced to learn with brothers who thought it was funny to pick on you in the most creative ways. Unfortunately, I still only saw a small spot of grey linoleum from under the folds of the cape.
And yet, in only a moment, I saw his feet rushed past. “Come out, come out, wherever you are,” he called, his voice already fading as he went behind more crates.
Inwardly, I scoffed, no, thank you.
When his footsteps faded into an echo in the large, tin-can-like room, I slowly uncurled knowing that he was a good distance away; I was careful not to move too much as I cleared my line of sight by shifting my hood back from hanging over my eyes, but since my cape had been the main part of my momentary camouflage, I wasn’t going to succeed if someone was looking for me. Luckily, I heard the boy in black’s calling echo back to me, so I knew that he wasn’t near enough to see me.
I let out a slow breath and turned in one fluid motion, carefully looking out from under my hood.
The boy in blue stood at the end of the hallway, having returned, and was now looking directly at me, his eyes wide in a suspiciously unreadable expression. He gestured for me to come to him, his face straining slightly instead of looking like the leer I would’ve gotten from the creeps back home, but I ignored him just like I would’ve back home. There was no way I was going to flee one person just to run right into the clutches of another.
Mindful of what I had experienced in the past, I slowly got onto the balls of my feet, ready to run if needed.
The space was big enough for a race, now wasn’t it? Piles of crates for me to climb up onto and tarps for me to slide under and hide in. This was a place where I couldn’t lose a race or a game of hide-and-seek. I was best at sharp, quick turns and hiding in dark places. This ship seemed to have an abundance of both.
“Zach! There was someone in here!” The boy in black rushed back over to the boy in blue, his face strained just like the other boy’s was. Oddly enough, I could tell that they were slightly different emotions, even though I couldn’t read them as well as I’d have liked from that distance away. On the boy in black’s face, it was a tenseness that looked almost like anger, but he also looked slightly worried, like something would happen if he didn’t catch me. On the other boy’s face, there was a tenseness that seemed to hint at annoyance and jealousy, but he looked like he also cared for the other boy.
Then again, that could’ve just been my brain trying to confuse me.
Slowly, I shrank back into the crates, feeling the light reaching my eyes dim considerably as the tarp began to shield my head from the overhead lights that resembled department store lighting. My back hit a crate and I glanced from side to side quickly, not daring to move my head but letting my eyes look out from under my hood. I could run both ways if I had to run.
They should try to catch me now.
Any comments would be much appreciated. Thanks for reading! - Anna Pearl