When it’s far and low, the thunder sounds like your voice early in the morning. When it’s near, it sounds like your screams in the middle of the night, waking everyone in the house. Even now, when I hear the crack of thunder, I reach for you, try to touch your face and hold you. But you’re not there.

I can see the beach where I hid it. When the rain is light and the tide low, I can make out the corner of a white box buried in the sand, and I imagine digging, pulling it out. I hope the seal has not broken. I must believe that it has not.

I have lost track of time. This tower is a place out of time, always shrouded in storms. It feels like months have passed. I still have not learned anything about my captors. I eat their plates of worms and listen to their talk through the night. The alien sounds roll through me, their meaning as obscure as on the day I first landed here.

Something grows on my feet. Purple corals, oozing seawater. They sting to touch.

One guard has taken to me, I think. She slides me my plate and adds one more worm, fatter than the rest. She gestures at it with her jaw, the way people do here, and I try to show my thanks. I hide my disgust as I dine on it. She becomes part of my plan, an essential piece of my escape: she will open the door. When the right moment comes, I will need her help. I’m depending on it.

Then what? I have seen outside my cell only once, when they dragged me up from the beach, but it is enough. I scratch a map into the stone wall with my fingernails. When I lose those, I carve with these corals, which hurt as if they were my own flesh. But my pain is nothing compared to yours. I will leave my cell and crawl to the stairs, hide behind the curved wall as guards pass, and I will climb through the window and descend, stone by stone, to the beach. With the box between my legs, I will swim to the ship, dive through the punctured hull, and find the escape pod. I will pray it has not been damaged. I will pray it can make it out of the water and through the impenetrable clouds. I will follow the stars home.

All this I will do for you. I crossed disputed space for you; I stole for you. I tiptoed past satellites in your name. I took a torpedo, went up in flames above this no-name planet, guided my ship into the water. Broke my legs on impact. Crawled through the sand, cutting myself on shells. All of this I did for you and I’d do it again.

I know your time is running out. I must go soon. I hope I have not miscounted the days.

I hope the empire does not come looking for its box.

I hope the medicine inside works.

She knocks on the iron bars, growls deep. I understand it means affection. I offer a wary smile, drag myself to her. This time, she places two fat worms on the plate, and I know my escape is near. Tonight, I will feast.

return to the garden