“Put your snow boots on, Bubo,” Mom tells me. “I have to go to work early today and I want you to walk with Jetta.”
“But Mom, the guys want to build a snow fort before school.”
“I can’t help it Bubo, I’m up for promotion and I have to be there.”
“Does that mean you’ll be able to get me that game I want?”
“If you help me, we’ll see,” says Mom.
The snow goes up to Jetta’s knees and she has trouble walking. She keeps fooling around, too.
“It’s too cold to goof off, Jetta,” I say. “Hurry up.”
“I am, Bubo,” she says. She makes a big step over the snow, and then another. “I can go faster like this!”
“Good job,” I say. I put my head down to keep warmer. The wind blows the snow in our faces. I put my arm around Jetta. She’s so little, the snow makes her close her eyes and she has trouble walking straight.
I wish we’d just get there. It’s not much further. I hear a grunt, like a pig noise. Jetta and I are covered with a blanket and I smell something horrible, like a bug I squeezed once.
I wake up on a hard floor in the dark. I see a square of light in front of me. My head feels funny. I am still wearing my coat and boots. My pants feel wet. I must have peed myself.
“Jetta!” I yell, “Jetta!”
I try to get to the little window and hit my head on the ceiling. I can’t stand up. “Jetta!’ I scoot to the window. I can hear crying, but no answer.
“Jetta, answer me! Where are you?”
“I don’t know. It’s dark, I don’t like it,” she cries. Her voice is muffled.
“Keep talking, I want to figure out where you are.”
I hear a patting sound under me. “I’m here!” Jetta calls.
The door to my room opens and something scary with smelly breath grabs me and takes me to a small closet with a toilet. It grunts at me. It looks like a huge pig wearing a white coat. The pig-person shoves me in the toilet closet. It grunts loudly and points to the toilet. I guess it wants me to use the toilet. I do have to go.
As soon as I’m finished, the smelly pig-person carries me back where I was. It is a bin on top of another bin. The room has two rows of bins like this, each with a window in the door. The pig-person puts a bowl of mushy cereal and fruit on my floor and slams the door.
I can hear the pig-person open each bin in turn, and take out the other kids. I hear Jetta scream. I look out my window, but I can’t see. I push my face into the glass and turn my head. I see the pig-person take Jetta out of the toilet closet and bring her back to her bin. Jetta looks terrified. She screams when the pig-person shoves her back into the bin.
“You better not hurt my sister!” I yell at the pig-person. It ignores me and goes on to the next bin.
I would never eat this cereal at home. It’s soggy and has a strong , slightly bitter flavor. I have never seen this fruit, but I am so hungry, I try it. It’s jelly green and bland, but it’s better than the cereal.
After the pig-person leaves, the other kids try yelling to each other, but their voices aren’t clear. The bins keep our noises down, like the pig-people don’t want us to talk.
We have been in the bins for so long, I can’t remember how long it has been. My legs hurt. I pay attention every day when they come to feed us and let us use the toilet. Three different pig-people take turns feeding us. They are bigger than the people at home. My dad would probably be up to their chests. I tried to ask them where we are, but the don’t answer, they only grunt.
I feel uncomfortable in these clothes I have worn for so long. I tried to count how many times I have been out of my bin, I think it’s twenty-seven.
It seems like a long time since we were last fed. I hear scratching noises outside, but that’s all.
Jetta pats on her door. I hear her call, “Bubo! Bubo!” I look out my window and see a black and red creature run by. It moves so fast, I can’t tell what it is.
I hear screaming, the worst scream I’ve ever heard. I am so scared. A shiny, black, segmented hand touches my window for part of a second.
It is quiet for a long time and we still have no food. I have to use the bathroom and can’t help having to go in my bin.
I call, “Jetta, can you hear me?”
She pats her door and says, “Yes, I hear you. What’s happening, Bubo?”
“I don’t know,” I say. “Try to sleep.”
I wake up and hear horrified screaming. It makes me feel sick. I think pretty soon, something bad will happen to me. I am not hungry any more. I wish I could have water.
I hear a soft “zing” outside, and another, like a game I have at home. I look out of my window. I see a big black and red bug on the floor, by the toilet closet, curled up in a ball. Something black and red streaks past my window. Someone else is in the room too. It is a big man in black armor. I hear another zing.
I start slapping my hand on the window. “We’re in here!” I yell as loud as I can. I press my face to the glass to see better.
The big man walks up to my bin and opens it. He flips up the shield on his helmet and picks me up.
“How old are you?” he asks.
“You stink,” he says.
“Sorry, they only let us out once a day. We haven’t been out for two days now. My sister is in here too.” I point to her bin.
The man puts me down and opens Jetta’s bin.
“Come out, Jetta,” I say.
Jetta crawls to the back of her bin. Her eyes are wide and afraid.
The man squats down on one knee. “Come out, Jetta,” he says. “You’re safe now.”
Jetta starts crying.
” How old is your sister?” he asks. His voice is deep. He has a nice face. His skin looks blue from one angle.
“She’s five,” I say.
“What’s your name?” he asks.
“Bubo Otus, what’s your name?”
“Rakasta,” he says. “I have to get you out of here, Bubo.”
“You’re big,” I say.
“So I can get you out of here faster. Will you get your sister to come out?”
“Come on, Jetta. We have to go.”
She shakes her head. “They’ll get me.”
Rakasta says,”I promise they won’t get you, I won’t let them.”
A big black and red bug jumps out of a bin across from us and jumps on Rakasta’s back. Its claws scrape his armor. Rakasta turns quickly and shoots the bug. The bug squeaks and falls down.
“Lock him in a containment field and make sure there aren’t any more in here,” Rakasta commands another man in armor.
He puts his hand out to Jetta and says,” we have to hurry.”
She nods her head and grabs his big arm. “Carry me,” she says.
“Aren’t you big enough to walk?” he asks.
“No, they’ll get me.”
“Here she goes,” I think to myself. “She knows everyone thinks she’s cute and she always gets her way.”
Rakasta must be in charge because he gives orders. “Open all the bins, carefully. Check for dead bodies inside. Be cautious, anything could be inside them.”
“Jetta,” says Rakasta, “you have to go with one of the other policemen. I have to make sure we catch all the Silfies.”
“No!” she says, frightened. “Please don’t put me down.” I can tell Rakasta thinks she’s cute.
“Hold on tightly,” he says to her. “Bubo, stay with us.”
“Sure,” I say. I’m glad he is taking us. I feel safe now.
In the corridor, a policeman is sitting against the wall, his face is bleeding. There is a dead Silfie on the floor near him.
“Get a medic for him!” Rakasta tells another trooper.
Rakasta picks me up and he carries Jetta and me to a lift. “How long have you been on this freighter, Bubo?”
“I’m not sure, it must be weeks, even a month,” I say. I am happy to talk to him.
When we get out of the ship, Rakasta talks to a policewoman. “Ellie,” he says, “take these two to the station and get them what ever they want. I’ll be there in a while.”
“Yes, Sir,” says Ellie.
“Please, don’t go,” says Jetta.
“I have to. I promise to see you after I get all the Silfies.”
Jetta holds his arm tighter and starts to cry.
“Come here, little girl,” says Ellie.
“Go with Ellie,” says Rakasta. “She’ll get you anything you want.” He smiles at Jetta.
Jetta sniffles and nods her head. Ellie looks like she’s holding her breath.
“Her name is Jetta, and this is Bubo,” says Rakasta. He watches us walk toward the space port station, and then he hurries back into the freighter.