Silence (16)

Veronica approaches Max with deliberate heavy steps, making her presence known.

"We need to have a word, young man," she says with hint of steel in her voice.

Max is preoccupied by his video game, not appearing to notice the fuming woman over his shoulder. Her eyes narrow in annoyance, as she scans the desktop area, before noticing a certain cord attached onto the socket.

Without hesitation, she unplugs it. Immediately, the room falls into silence with the exception of a fly buzzing around. The computer screen turns pitch-black.

"We are going to have this talk, whether you like it or not," Veronica snaps. She leans forward and hisses, "Look at me when I'm talking to you!"

Max stares at the black screen, at his dark reflection. As Mia observes him closely, she feels a familiar sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach.

"I noticed something about him... I can't explain it... just something off about his demeanor. It's a subtle change, but I know that it's... negative. Like a dark energy."

Veronica smacks the desk, causing a sharp noise to vibrate through the air, making Mia wince. The older woman spins the chair around, forcing the little boy to face her.

He finally looks at her.

"You will pay attention, you little brat," Veronica spits out.

"Um-!" Mia tries to protest.

Veronica's mad eyes bore into her, silencing the anxious mother, before turning her attention back to Max.

"We know what you've been up to. How dare you hurt those poor animals out in the backyard! What makes you think it's okay to harm another life?" Veronica scowls, placing her hands on either side of his armchair.

"God has given everything life, and only God can take those lives away. It shouldn't be in our hands. Otherwise, we'll upset God and we'll end up in a place called Hell. It's a bad place that, if you saw it, you wouldn't wish it upon your worst enemy."

Her knuckles turn white, gripping onto his chair tighter. "Just imagine if you were that poor bird or squirrel that you hurt. Not very nice, hm?" She grits her teeth, spitting out her words with the ferocity of a machine gun fire. "How would you like it if I twisted your neck and ripped off your arm, hm? How would you feel if you're writhing around in pain, bleeding, and I left you to suffer? How would y-"

"I don't think we should scare him," Mia says, stepping forward and trying to seize control of the confrontation.

"Scare him?" Veronica snorts. "It's called perspective, Mia. The way to teach him empathy is to put him in the shoes of his victims - make him see from their perspective. That's the only way he'll learn."

The fly had been floating in and out, circling around the women and then hovering near the spinny chair. In bullet speed time, Max swats at the air and crushes the insect in his little fist. The buzzing dies out instantly.


His black gaze never leaves Veronica alone.

Mia gulps. Was this a deliberate act of defiance?

She shakes her head in denial.

"He doesn't know any better."

The older woman laughs humorlessly. "Oh, how cute. Do I sense attitude there?" She leans closer, sneering at him patronizingly. "I'm not afraid of you. You are a pathetic little rascal that preys on anything weaker than you."

"Mrs. Dagenhart, please-" Mia begins, her heart aching.

"You need to show respect to your elders, my boy," Veronica continues in a heated ramble. "I'll make this very clear to you. If we ever catch you harming any more lives, you will go to bed hungry. Do you understand? None of your Mom's delicious homemade cooking for you! Now move to that corner-" she points at the end of the room, "and sit there and think about what you've done."

Max remains seated in the spinny chair, refusing to budge.

"Move there right now, or else we'll stuff all your games into a box and donate it to charity," Veronica reiterates.

"Hang on-!"

"Isn't that right, Mia?" Veronica asks sharply, eyeing down the hesitant woman.

"Yes..." Mia squeaks.

"You have five seconds to move there, or else," the older woman says, holding up her right hand. She pulls down one finger with each passing second. "Five... four... three... two... "

Max stands up and walks over to the corner. He sits down, cross-legged.

It is a simple action, yet it makes Mia squeal in sheer delight.

"Oh my god! Ahhh! He knows what you've said! He actually did what you said! My baby!" She prances around in a lively manner, clapping her hands and giggling like a fangirl. "All this time, I didn't think he understood us! This is huge news!" She fans herself with both hands, trying to calm herself down, while tears of joy stream down her face. "I need to call everyone! I need to let them know!"

"We shouldn't really be celebrating over the fact that he's in time-out," Veronica says. She adds loudly, "In fact, we're very disappointed in him." She wags her finger at the little boy. "You sit there and think carefully about what you've done, mister. If you keep up this ridiculous behavior of yours, you'll grow up to be miserable and lonely, mark my words. It's time for a change."


Veronica opens her leather bound diary. Over the years, she has formed a habit to write in it, particularly as she's getting older and gradually losing her memory. It helps her to look back at her diary and recall significant moments of her life. She reads the most recent account.

'There is something about that kid. From the moment I laid my eyes on him, I knew he was trouble. I have a sharp sixth sense about these things. He confirmed my suspicions, when I found dead and injured animals in my son's backyard. A squirrel with a twisted neck, a flattened pigeon and another wingless pigeon!

It had his name written all over it. I spoke to Mia about this. She blamed it on a red fox. Perhaps she was trying to comfort herself from the truth, but it was crystal clear that she wasn't even convincing herself. There's something strange about her too. I want to trust her, but I'm naturally wary of her. And her weird son.

I wonder, how is a kid capable of causing such brute damage? It's not an easy task, trying to hunt down these creatures with their fast reflexes. He has to be incredibly sneaky and fast to capture those pigeons and a squirrel. He has to have some access to weapons to mutilate and kill them. So, I investigated his room, trying to search for whatever weapon he may be hiding in there.

Instead, I came across a handwritten note containing Josh's debit card details. Of course, I confronted my son about this as soon as he returned home from work. He looked confused and told me that it wasn't his handwriting. He hadn't given his debit card details to anyone. That's when I instantly knew that Max was up to no good. I told Josh to check his online bank statements to keep track of what had been purchased.

We had discovered that every month, a sum of his money had been deducted from his account and paid in advance to Gaming Stations Co. That sneaky little brat had been ordering more video games behind everyone's backs! I wondered why he had so many to begin with. Then the reality of the situation dawned on me. A five-year-old kid had been successfully conducting this scheme without raising suspicion. And if I hadn't stumbled across his note, he would've continued getting away with it.

Typically, Josh had a huge smile on his face and he claimed that Max was a 'genius.' He seemed like a proud father. It touched my heart for a moment. I could see the amount of love my son had for a kid that wasn't even his. I can't understand why. Personally, I'm not thrilled about Max's existence, and I feel quite scared that my grandchild will be raised with him. I don't want my grandchild to be influenced by his disgusting actions. That's why I'm going to work hard on shaping him up through discipline.'


Max is sitting in the corner. There is an imperceptibly tiny frown across his features - something that Mia instantly notices and it pains her heart. She wants to see emotion on her child's face, but not unhappiness. She wants to scoop him up in her arms to cuddle and kiss him, reassuring him that everything is okay. But she recognizes that neither Veronica nor Max would appreciate that.

Instead, she looks around and examines her surroundings cautiously, before placing a plate of cookies and a glass of milk next to him. "Here you go, baby. You must be feeling so hungry."

Then she holds out his mini gaming console to him. "And I know how bored you must be, so here-"

Before Max can reach for it, the product was immediately snatched off her hands.

"What do you think you're doing?" Veronica barks, waving the console around like it's a weapon.

Mia flinches. "Oh... um... I was j-just..."

"He needs to know real discipline. You can't keep babying him like this," Veronica snaps. Then she looks at Max with a fierce glare. "You've been a very naughty boy, lately. Until you fix your act, you'll spend the rest of your days sitting in this lonely corner. Do you understand?"

Max looks back at her, his eyes seeming darker than usual.


Author's Note:

Warning! Extreme violence in the next chapter.
Published: 9/5/2018
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