“What do you mean ‘the ship is driving itself’, Ron?” Sasha asked, looking at him confused.
“That’s what the fuck it means!? Why are you questioning me!? ‘Hey, Ron, you must know how this ship works all of sudden, so you must have put in that protocol!’ The ship is FLYING itself TOOOOO Plastic Beach, PAY ATTENTION,” he snapped, rubbing his head in frustration.
Aya and Ree snickered, their faces going to stone when Ron turned his head to look at them.
“So, no one else is worried about this ship just… Taking us to a place we don’t want to go?” he asked, trying to get past the bewilderment of his siblings not giving a shit.
The young women were silent.
“Oh. That’s what I thought. Well, while y’all are doing… Whatever y’all were doing, I’m gonna try to find the manual for this ship…” Ron left the room that Sasha had claimed, which happened to be the captain’s room.
Sasha was helping Ree color her hair, Aya was going through the boxes of clothes.
“Can we talk about how really weird it was that Koro had all these clothes? Like, I get being a merchant, but man, this is ridiculous,” Aya said, holding up a pair of pants to her waist before tossing them aside.
“That whole station was weird,” Ree said, tilting her head as Sasha laid dye on a grouping of her hair.
“Can we talk about that war-monger singled you out, though?” Sasha asked.
“Because it doesn’t matter,” Ree responded. The room was quiet, aside from Aya ripping open boxes of clothes.
The door slid open, Horne walking into the room. They walked over to Aya and started digging through the clothes with her.
“Whatcha looking for, babe?” Aya asked, opening up another box
“I want dresses,” Horne said, throwing clothes on the floor. Aya nodded.
“Well, let’s find you one!”
“Horne, what are you gonna do if people ask you if you’re a girl?” Ree asked.
“I’mma fight ’em,” Horne replied.
“And what if they ask if you’re a boy?”
“I’mma fight ’em!”
Aya laughed and tossed a dress over to Horne.
It was a few months, almost a year, before anything happened. They got situated in their rooms, the triplet toddlers found out one of the rooms was a play room, so they stayed in there most of the time. The babies were learning how to walk and talk and were growing fast. A bit too fast. The smaller children were their own person’s now and it was a bit surreal watch them blossom into their… differences.
The triplets, Tere, Nere and Mere, were all dark-skinned. Tere’s left eye was black, his right white. Mere’s left eye was white, her right black. Both of Nere’s eyes were completely white, but they could see just fine. Their hair was white. When it was time for them to pick out new clothes, Tere chose a green shift, Nere chose a black one and Mere chose a red one. And they each picked out a necklace to match.
“We’re The Super Trips!” They said in unison before chasing each other.
The twin babies, who were now toddlers, weren’t actually twins at all. At least, not identically. Bean, short for Bean Nighe, was a bald, light skin child with red eyes, who picked out a brown robe and pink sneakers to wear. Their twin, Bandie, short for Bandshee, had yellow eyes and dark skin and at the moment, a small grey afro. She chose a red dress and a stuffed animal of a 10 legged creature. They rarely talked to their older siblings, only talking to each other in grunts and shrieks.
Aya kept her head shaved. After she woke up and looked at herself in the mirror, she let out a yelp. Her eyes had started to change. Her irises were turning grey, the pupils yellow. During the last few months, she started to bulk up in weight. She had always been tall, but now she was 6’5. She wasn’t even 16 yet and she felt… powerful. There was a weight room and every morning, she would be in there for a good two hours. The eye thing frightened her, however. So working out would have to wait.
Ree was down in the galley, cooking breakfast. Her hair was pulled into 2 huge afro puffs, one green, one blue. She wore a giant sweater that went down to her knees and big puffy socks. Her dark blue eyes squinted at a pan of bacon that popped hot grease at her dark skin. She tossed a pancake into the air and barely caught it back in the pan.
Sasha’s red afro was pushed back in the front by a headband that matched her purple eyes. She sat on her bed, watching the vastness of space and stars pass by. It made her remember the moments her and Grampa had when he would take her outside during winter break to look at the polar lights or the meteor showers during summer break.
Horne was 9 now and had to be about 5’4. They kept almost all of the things related to Granny and Grampa in their room on a bookshelf. Today, Horne was looking at an old photo album of them, looking at their faces, at family they’ve never met. A cookie recipe. Horne’s eyes went wide before gently and carefully taking it out the book and running toward the galley.
While everyone else slept on deck 1, Ron slept on deck 2, close to the engines. He was making notes and drawings about what he could fix and mess with without the computer needing “adequate credentials”. Aya helped him keep his (little) beard and head shaved. He was still asleep when Horne came over the intercom.
“Ron, I found a recipe for Granny’s cookies!”
Ron wasn’t even awake, but his body somehow managed to make a break for it toward the galley.
Ron was the last one to show up. The smaller children were already eating their breakfast, making small talk among themselves at a table.
The older kids were huddled around the island counter, staring at the piece of paper like some sort of bug.
“So, is it real?” Ron grunted. Ree shrugged her shoulders.
“I’ll have to make it.. But it might not taste like Granny’s… It’ll taste like mine.”
Sasha looked up, realizing that Aya wasn’t there. She walked to Aya’s room and buzzed for Aya. No response.
Sasha slid the door open and looked around.
She walked to the bathroom and looked at Aya.
“Aya, you good?”
Aya looked at her. “I don’t know, you tell me.”
“What the fuck!?” Sasha rushed over to Aya and looked at her eyes.
“How do you feel?”
“I feel fine…? I’m still just still… Yeah. …What was Horne saying? I didn’t hear them because of well…”
“They found a recipe for cookies and they think it might be Granny’s. Ree is gonna make some”
Aya’s eyes got wide.
Sasha laughed. “Well, you can try some when Ree is done making them.”
For an hour, the older kids sat on the counter in the galley, watching the oven slowly brown the cookies. The smell of brown sugar and honey wafted through the deck, the children moving out their rooms to play out in the galley. The oven dinged. Ree let out a long, loud noise in excitement. The children peeked out from behind the counter.
As the cookies came out the oven, hands immediately reached out to grab one, heat and 3rd degree burn be damned.
“BACK UP,” Ree boomed. All the hands backed up. It was the longest five minutes of their lives. Once they had cooled, everyone grabbed one and took a bite.
“Put these in the trash.”
Another 6 months passed before Ree got the cookies to taste edible. The twins could read and write, the triplets found math books to study, Horne helped out their younger siblings. Ree’s cooking had gotten better. She also managed to stumble on a room they hadn’t opened yet. A greenhouse. She had taken up residence there and was learning how to take care of plants. Aya could now bench press 150 lbs and do 300 crunches. Sasha kept a daily log and was mapping their route to Plastic Beach on a stand alone palm computer. Ron had finally found the manual for the ship and started copying the notes he had written before in it.
An alarm went off and the main power shut off, the emergency lights turned on.
“Now approaching: Glitter Freeze. Please make your way to the safe room. Time until Glitter Freeze entrance: 2 hours.”
The children had planned for this. Sasha had read a file about this and did drills about this for a month straight until they got it under 30 minutes.
“The book said the sooner you close those doors, the sooner you get there. It just doesn’t say how.”
They gathered their bags and locked their doors with a code; just in case. They hustled to the safe room, did a head count, shoved their bags into the overhead compartment, strapped the younger kids in and shut the door. As the older kids strapped themselves in, the room got dark and a window slid open.
The Glitter Freeze was a grouping of old stars, the gasses so close that the constant fires made the space around them give off a hazy pink fog. The stars behind the haze gave off the appearance of diamonds, old space bandits would say. If they were still around.
The children stared in awe of this phenomenon. As the ship slowly started to turn toward it, the room started to hiss. The children didn’t hear it. As their breathing slowed, their eyes closed, the hissing kept going. The ship steered itself toward the middle of the Glitter Freeze. The children slept peacefully. As the ship got further and further into the Glitter Freeze, two ships pulled up along side theirs. The door to the safe room opened. They children were still asleep.