Malachi was sick of this damn ship. The other families didn’t have anyone his own age, just a bunch of crusty old adults and little snot-nosed kids. The whole trip was pointless; he’d legally be an adult in a couple of years and would just move back home anyway. In the meantime, he decided to go exploring in the cargo hold.
It was dark, and because he wasn’t really authorized to be in there, he couldn’t activate the lights. He waited for his eyes to adjust to the red safety lighting.
The hold was full of wooden crates tied to d-rings recessed in the floor. He peeked between the wooden slats. There were a lot of medical supplies and chemical drums. Further in, the crates appeared to hold luggage; personal effects of the travelers. One held an old upholstered leather sofa. Who the hell would bring a couch all the way across the system?
Another section had packaged foods. A whole crate was full of something called Eureka! with a weird cartoon animal on the box—like a floppy-eared duck with four legs. There was a second crate of them, too, and a third—
“Hey!” The lights flared up and Malachi yelped. The captain stepped out from behind a crate. “Hell, kid, what are you doing in here?”
Malachi hung his head and averted his eyes. “Sorry, sir. I was just looking around.”
The captain looked inside the nearest crate. He raised an eyebrow. “Sweet snacks, sweeter prizes. Aren’t you a little old for Eureka!?”
Malachi shrugged. “Never heard of it.”
“Really?” The captain loosened the straps on one of the crates. “They’re real popular with the kids on Grand Garden. I suppose you’ve never left Terra Tao before, hm?”
The captain lifted the top off of the crate and removed a box of Eureka! from inside. He held it up for Malachi to see. “It’s a sugary snack with a random toy inside. Why don’t you see what’s in this one?” He hand the box over.
It was heavier than it looked. “You sure?” Malachi asked. The captained nodded with a lopsided grin. Malachi opened the box. There were colorful flakes inside. He reached his arm in and dug around. There really was a prize inside! He fished it into his grip and pulled his hand from the box. He was holding a human jaw bone, with teeth and gums and skin still clinging on. He couldn’t make his hand drop it and he shivered all over. He tried to make a sound but only air came out.
“If I see you so much as look at a restricted area of this ship again, you and your whole family and everyone who’s seen your face is going to end up as a crate full of fun prizes. Now get the fuck out!”
Malachi ran away sobbing and wetting his pants. He was halfway back to the hatch when he finally dropped the human remains on the floor. The captain’s belly laugh echoed off the walls so that it sounded like it came from every direction. It was the most terrifying sound in the universe.