A week into his new life on The Get Down and Zeke Figuero was already done.
He lay down on his bed. Which wasn’t even a bed if you were being honest. It was like a bean bag, if bean bags were covered with rough brown wool that could dig into your skin if you kicked around in your sleep the wrong way. Technically, he had to share it with Boo Boo since Ra Ra was a violent sleeper (and no one was two sure about where Dizzee slept. It was never the same place twice). Then there was the fact that the bed was too short for his body. It was a tough decision every night as to whether his back got the bed and his legs rested on the cold metal ground, or his legs got the bed and his head rested against the window (which made for a killer neck cramp the next morning). And that option was only available the nights Boo Boo didn’t push him off the bed in his sleep. No, calling it a bed was generous.
But that was besides the point.
Zeke sat up on his bed. Shivering slightly at the cool temperature of his room, he debated with himself on whether or not he should try and clean the room. The shiny silver of the floor was, in his judgement, more clothes and comic books than floor. It was a small space; he could walk to the other side of the room in two strides. The walls of the room appeared like they used to be white; sometimes if you picked at it enough, the yellow and purple stains (or whatever they were) would flake off. They reminded Zeke of bruises. Red, green, and blue lights blinked here and there around the room. It probably meant something, some old Messenger code or something from way-back-when. He didn’t know, or care, what they meant. There were cobwebs in the lower and upper corners of the room, a byproduct of the ship sitting in a practically abandoned storage place for the last who-fucking-knows how many years. The cobwebs themselves were red, and Zeke didn’t know what to make of that. Ra Ra said that they reminded him of cotton candy.
Deciding that he might as well do something, he bent down and started gathering all the comic books on his and Boo Boo’s side of the room. Some of the comic books had shiny covers. Some were in black and white. Some looked hand-drawn as if Ra Ra had tried his hand at making something himself in a way to pass the mind-numbingly boring time.
Some of these look old as shit , Zeke thought to himself, taking extra care to gather the more fragile looking comics in Ra Ra’s collection. Who even reads Adventures of Tin-Tin ?
He walked over to Ra Ra’s side, organizing his comics in his special order. Color, genre, year. In that order. If Ra Ra ever got bent out of shape over something, it was over the placement of his comics.
Next time they shouldn’t be all over the floor , Zeke thought to himself. He walked back to his side, narrowly missing the hanging light that he swore was days away from burning out completely. The last time anyone used this ship was in, like, the 30s. Piece of shit was probably older than his Tía .
He walked back to his side of the room, gathering up discarded clothing as he went. Finding a blue jacket under a pair of yellow jeans that probably belonged to Boo Boo, he put it on. He was pretty sure it belonged to him anyway. He ignored the smell of sweat and beef jerky, simply glad that he had something on to beat the cold.
Methodically cleaning the room, he folded and stacked things away. Folded and stacked. It was better than thinking about why he was here in the first place. It was better than looking outside the window and seeing nothing.
He found a lot of things. More comics (Ra Ra’s), five paintbrushes (Dizzee’s), a palm radio (Boo Boo’s), even more comics (Ra Ra’s), a red hat (Shao’s), a poetry book (Dizzee”s), even more damn comics (Ra Ra’s).
All these things, and he still couldn’t find his fucking notebook. Even a pen would do. He was so bored.
He finished cleaning, satisfied that there seemed to be more room to walk. The red, green, and blue lights blinked in the dim atmosphere of the room and, momentarily, Zeke felt like he could breath again.
He collapsed on his bed face first, ignoring the pain his cheek felt on impact with the rough wool. He reached into the jacket pocket, pulling out a picture. It was an old-fashioned polaroid. He had to ask a friend of a friend of a friend to find an old-ass camera at this vintage place.
He stared at it. He looked at his own smiling face. He looked at his own smiling face smiling at Mylene. He looked at Mylene. He looked at Mylene’s smile and her laughing eyes and her long brown hair and her formal pink dress. He tried to not cry for the third time that day while he smiled at Mylene.
Mylene. Mylene. His butterscotch queen.
“ Zeke! I need you at Aft!” the loud intercom of his room went off.
Zeke groaned as the loud voice seemed to reverb off the walls in a never ending echo. Or maybe that was the migraine.
His face not leaving the picture, he reached his hand out for the adjacent wall. He fumbled around it, finally finding a blue button. Pressing it, he answered. “What?”
“I need y’all to come Aft!” The voice answered, seemingly louder than before. He processed the words at a delay. This was Ra Ra speaking. He took this so damn seriously.
Zeke pressed the button again. “Which side is Aft again?”
“ It’s the end of the ship! South of you, man!”
“Man, Ra, why’re you yelling?” Zeke mumbled, putting his picture away. He wasn’t about to have his voice break on the intercom. “How do I know which way is South?”
“ Get out your room and go left, Zeke! ” Ra Ra answered.
Zeke muttered a half-hearted affirmation and stretched out his legs. Standing up, he scratched at his head, his fingers getting lost in his sea of black curls.
“And look out your window! We're gonna have company!”
Zeke stood silently. He wasn’t sure what Ra Ra meant by company. He wasn’t sure why Ra Ra was handling the intercoms anyway. That was Shao’s job.
Unless Shao just didn’t want to talk to Zeke. He could understand that. He hadn’t been great company for the past week.
Reluctantly, Zeke turned his eyes towards the window he had been avoiding. It wasn’t a small thing; it was about the length of his arm, and probably the same width.
He immediately saw black. Endless, endless boring black, with only a few stars to brighten up the absolute dullness that was a pigment so dark, even Dizzee couldn’t replicate it. The stars, red and blue and all colors in between, stood out like eyes in a dark forest. When they had first set The Get Down to sail, all Dizzee could ever talk about was how hopeful those stars looked, like everyone’s immediate perception of solitude was an inescapable state of mind. That the stars were free and graceful and other weird shit.
The stars reminded Zeke of eyes. Like he was being watched.
How in the hell did the five of them get into this mess to begin with?
Suddenly, he noticed a foreign object in his line of sight. It was shiny, reminding Zeke of silver. Yet, it glowed as if lit by an internal orange flame. It looked like fire.
And it clicked. Whatever stupor Zeke was in instantly evaporated.
“Holy shit,” he whispered to himself. “Holy shit!” he repeated louder. He ran to the door, yanking the ancient thing so wide open, he didn’t even check to see if it had closed behind him. His bare feet slammed against the cold metal underneath them, but he didn’t notice. He had a one-track mind and before he went Aft, he needed to find Shao. More than likely, the man was holed up inside what was fondly called “The Map”, a room filled with holographic coordinates and old ship manuals and other things Zeke didn’t even try to understand.
He needed to find Shao.
Nearly tripping over his own long legs, he jumped down and over the stairs leading to The Map. Getting to the entrance, he didn’t bother knocking on the door before pulling it open with such force, the door swung on its hinges and slammed into the wall next to it. He saw Shaolin Fantastic standing near the blackboard, a list of code and ship lingo scratched onto it with white chalk. The green holographic map glowed behind him.
“Shao!” Zeke yelled, despite the lack of that much distance between them.
Shao gave no indication that he had heard anything. He continued writing down what looked like a map equation or something on the board in front of him. His left foot tapped onto the ground an odd rhythm. The red puma went up and down so fast it almost looked like a never ending streak of crimson.
“Shao! You need to get to the cockpit! Like,” Zeke’s loud voice lowered as Shao turned around. He had dark bags under his eyes and his hands were caked with white dust. The brim of his red cap was lowered almost completely over his eyes, but low enough for it to cover the anger that seemed to burn into Zeke like a laser.
“Like,” he continued, voice raising again. “Ra said it was important. Fuck, I say it’s important.” Zeke ignored how his hands were shaking.
“What, Books?” Shao said, his voice hoarse from nonuse. Probably from being locked up in here for nearly a week trying to find the King.
“It’s Les Inferno ,” Zeke said. He watched as the anger in Shao’s eyes changed to shock then to fear then to anger again, this time not directed at Zeke. “It’s Les Inferno and they’re right outside out fucking door.”