A time-traveling machine.
It seems like something from a Sci-Fi movie, yet it has always captivated the attention of Mitch Venturi from the moment he was introduced to the concept. Time-traveling is one of the things he'd consider reality-breaking, since it not only violates the law of mass conservation, but also the natural flow of time. It is something that seems so surreal, like wishful thinking, yet he desires to create it into existence.
It was an idea that he proposed to his company, Coalition Unit. They were a scientific research team that was annually funded by the government - most of their researches centered around astronomy, diseases and medicines, physics and technology, and more. They would explore things that could be empirically verified in the physical realm and universe. For a while, he had been trying to get them to fund his idea, but they rejected the time-traveling notion - seeing it as a waste of their effort, money and resources.
Then a small miracle happened. The CEO of the company reached out to Mitch and his team, agreeing to hear them out. They would host a meeting with the leading research ambassadors of Britain, Russia and USA. It was the most pivotal meeting for Mitch and his team. If they succeeded in marketing their project and if it was received well, they would be financed and supported by some of the most powerful countries in the world.
He took a deep breath, shaking with uncontrollable nerves. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the young man. He knew he needed to make a good impression, seeing as he was the main spokesperson of the project. He had been constantly revising his lines and presentation skills, rehearsing in front of the mirror.
Suddenly, there was a violent knocking against his door, like someone was trying to pummel it down with their fists. Mitch opened the door, surprised to see his sister standing before him with her two-year-old son by her side.
"Please look after Max," she said, her green eyes were wide and desperate. This was such an unusual visit from her. Mitch could tell something was bothering her but, before he could inquire about it, she continued to speak.
"I know this is out of the blue, but something urgent came up and I need to address the situation. Like right now. There's no one available to look after Max, and you're the only one I trust. So, please, watch him for at least an hour. I'll call you when it's over and I'll explain everything later. Thanks, Mitch."
With that said, she jogged away in a hurry, leaving her child with his flabbergasted uncle. Mitch ran his fingers through his gelled hair and he eyed his wrist watch in distress. It was almost time for his meeting. His team depended on him. Of all the days Mia would need him most, it had to be today!
He sighed, as he looked at the toddler, who was staring blankly ahead. His black eyes appeared to be glazed, almost seeming like he wasn't in the present. Every second that passed felt like an arduous minute with his nephew.
He whipped out his phone and called the most reliable brother, second to him.
"Hey, man," Luke answered. "What's up?'
"I need you to come here," Mitch said, straight to the point. "I have an important meeting that I can't miss. I need you to look after Max while I'm gone."
"Sorry, no can do. Got a photoshoot soon."
Mitch groaned. "Really? Can't that wait?"
"No. It's with Katie Price. I've been waiting my entire life for this moment," Luke replied. There was excitement in his voice. "And I think she might like me, bro!"
Mitch clicked his tongue in annoyance.
"Great, it's a big day for everyone," he said sarcastically. "Who's gonna babysit Max then?"
"Call Rylo. He's the best of a bad bunch," Luke suggested.
Mitch hung up the phone. He considered his options carefully.
Rylo was only fourteen-years-old! He was a child himself. There was Leighton, who was the oldest amongst them, but he was constantly getting himself into messy situations that usually put his life on the line. Throwing Max in there would only make him a prime target for enemies and put him in a position of danger. Then there was Zorro, who was no better. Mitch would argue that Zorro was sometimes more problematic than Leighton himself.
That left him with Jake. While he's the same age as Luke, he had the mentality of an actual child. Jake couldn't even look after himself properly. Leaving a toddler in his hands was a very worrying thought. As the clock struck, Mitch knew he had no other choice. Luke was right. Rylo was the next reliable brother he could turn to.
So, he decided to call him. It was always a gamble whether the boy would answer the call or not. Fortunately, he picked up. Mitch could hear loud hip-hop music blaring through the phone.
"Yo, what's goo', my nigga?" Rylo slurred.
"Have you been drinking?"
There was a muffled unintelligible response that Mitch could barely decipher over the music. He heard something about a rainbow and unicorn.
"You're either drunk or high."
"Hahaha! Nooo... you're wasted! You wasteman," Rylo hiccuped. "Aw, dude, you shoulda seen... unicorn's... bubble butt! It's so-"
Mitch ended the call abruptly, knowing it was hopeless. He massaged his temples, feeling resentment stirring within him. Why did it have to be today? Why didn't Mia inform him beforehand about the babysitting arrangement? He could've prepared for this better, but no! She had unfairly thrown him into this situation with no regard for his plans.
He didn't know what to do. He walked over to the couch, where the toddler was sitting quietly. Mitch looked at him for a moment, before he slumped down next to him with a dejected sigh. He could feel the golden opportunity, to make his dream a reality, slip away from his fingertips. It felt like a punch to his heart.
There was another knock on his door. He perked up, thinking it was Mia coming to get her son back. Hurriedly, he opened the door, only to see a giant boy looming over him.
"You got the juice?" The gruff voice asked.
Oh! He had forgotten that Zorro would be collecting the stash today.
"I do. Hang on," Mitch said. He raced to the kitchen and opened the base cabinet, pulling out a cardboard bank box filled with pre-packed 16 ounces of cans that looked like massive canned goods in the stores. The box weighed over a hundred pounds and it hurt his back to lift it up, his skinny arms threatening to snap off like twigs. He moved slowly, shaking with each step in exhaustion.
Zorro could see his tiny half-brother struggling. He took the box from his hold and picked it up effortlessly. It weighed like a pillow to him.
"I really wish you didn't involve me in your shady schemes," Mitch murmured unhappily.
"You owe me. Who got you that scholarship deal back, when you fucked up and lost it?" Zorro retorted. "Let's not forget, it's 'cause of me you're working in that fancy secret lab."
Mitch sighed in defeat. It was too much to expect his younger brother to perform kind, selfless deeds from the goodness of his heart. No. Zorro had to put people under his debt and use them to get his way.
"Fine... Just keep my name out of everything..." Mitch said. Zorro nodded in acknowledgment, as he began to walk away. "Wait! Before you go, I... uhm... need you to do something for me."
Zorro paused in his tracks. "Another favor?"
Mitch pressed his lips together, before nodding slowly. He couldn't miss this meeting. He just couldn't.
"Please babysit Max."
"Ehh... I dunno. I've got better things to do," Zorro replied, clearly uninterested.
"Please, brother, I'm begging you," Mitch said, clasping his hands together.
The boy smirked. "You realize you'll be in my debt for a long time, right?"
"Yes, I know," Mitch said, feeling his dignity strip away.
There wasn't much of his pride left, anyway. Not after this specific favor that he had carried out. Inside of that cardboard box, which Zorro held, were cans that he wrapped in foggy cellophane plastic. The illegal drugs were packed into the cans, then sealed, along with a distinct detergent in between the cellophane, preventing the drugs from being smelled.
But that wasn't what kept Mitch up for the previous nights in a row. No. It was the 'special ingredient', as Zorro called it, that he was forced to make and add in there.
"Alright. I'll babysit the little squirt," Zorro agreed.
Mitch watched the boy swaggering to his yellow Lamborghini, which was a birthday present from Leighton. He opened up the trunk and stored the box inside there. Even though Zorro looked like a man in his mid-twenties, he was actually an immature seventeen-year-old with the mindset of a ruthless gang member. Obviously, he was not the most reliable babysitter and, any other day, Mitch would know better than to put Max under his care.
However, it was a day where he didn't have enough time to think straight. He was almost running late for his meeting and he simply couldn't risk blowing up this life-altering moment.
Besides, what's the worst that could happen?
"I'll call you when I'm done. Thanks, Zorro," Mitch said, as he sprinted out of the house and jumped into his own electric car. He sped away, trying to shake away any feelings of lingering guilt.
Zorro entered the house. The toddler was still sitting on the sofa.
"Oi, kid!" The teenager barked. "Get in the car."
Max stood on his feet and walked outside towards the Lamborghini. The car doors opened upward - pivoting at the front of the door just behind the fender the way scissor blades would. The toddler climbed in without any help, propping himself on the back seat.
Zorro slammed the scissor doors shut. He wasn't concerned that either of them weren't wearing seat belts. He turned on the engine and began to drive. Throughout the journey, he was steering the vehicle mindlessly with one hand, while using his other hand to hold his phone.
Max was silently listening to the teenager as he spoke.
"He's made the poison... Exotoxin, or however you say it... Yeah, he's destroyed the evidence, he's careful about that crap... Nah, he didn't ask much questions, he owes me, innit..."
A flurry of rain pattered against the window. The boy turned on the windshield wipers.
"So, what does it do exactly? Mmh... organ failure? Nice... Nervous system? The heck is that? You're losing me... Just tell me, how long will it take before they drop like flies? Ah, okay... sweet... that's the end goal..."
The rain was falling at a much faster rate now, getting heavier.
"Yeah, he knows it can't be traced back to us... Those damn drug tests, innit... Only their squad will know... No doubt, they'll come for us..."
Zorro threw his head back, laughing boisterously.
"Hahahaha! Let them try! Me and my boys will fuck them up, gladly... Haha, I know... I'm gonna ship 'em off today, so get ready for it..."
Zorro glanced at the rear-view mirror, catching those little black eyes on him.
"Mmh... I'll see you in a bit..." He glared at the toddler. "First, I gotta deal with a 'lil accident. Won't be long."
Not wanting the burden of looking after a child, Zorro decided to make a quick stop to his father's place. He intended to ditch Max there and get on with his business.
In no time, they arrived at the two-storey detached house. It appeared to be a humble place for a millionaire to live in, although Zorro knew the reality was far different. They parked on the pavered driveway. The boy whipped out his copy of the house key and opened the door. Max followed him inside. There was nobody in plain sight.
"Dad!" Zorro called out. "Hello?"
He scrounged the area on the first floor, until he stopped when he reached the bottom of the staircase. He could hear strange sounds traveling from upstairs. With a puzzled expression, he followed the noise. As he got closer, the sounds became clearer. Noises of rhythmic banging, muffled cries and deep grunting.
It was coming from the bedroom. Without warning, Zorro kicked the door open. There was a loud crash, as the door fell forcefully to the ground.
And there was his father.
With another man.
Zorro felt his heart stop for a brief moment. He could see the men fumbling around, hiding themselves behind the bed sheet, clearly panicking.
He met his father's droopy eyes. The man looked ashamed. The other man, Chris, was stuttering some meaningless statements.
Growing up, Zorro had seen them together occasionally and he thought they were nothing more than partners that collaborated in their unethical business. During those childhood days, he looked up to his father and respected him.
Now that image has shattered.
That's when the unavoidable rage kicked in, pulsating through the boy's veins like his frenzied heartbeat. In this moment, he was blinded and consumed by anger, disgust and shame that he was no longer thinking rationally.
Like a charging bull, Zorro lunged forward and grabbed Chris' neck. He hoisted him up in the air with his vice-like grip, blocking his airways and suffocating him. Chris was flopping like a fish on a line, choking helplessly, while throwing feeble punches in an attempt to fight back.
"That's enough!" The father cried out, grabbing his son's muscular arm and trying to break them apart.
Zorro tightened his grip a little, watching Chris' face turn bright-red to a startling purple in a matter of seconds. Then he released the man desperately in need of air, dropping him carelessly onto the floorboard.
"Thank you," his father breathed out. "Let's calm down and talk ab-"
A desk lamp was smacked against his head, cutting him off. Black spots clouded the man's vision, momentarily dazing him. Then he stumbled back, watching his son flick out a shiny object from his back pocket.
Zorro approached his father, trying to slash him with his butterfly knife like a madman. His father was managing to dodge his attacks exceptionally well, until he was backed against the wall. The knife sliced through the air and cut through his torso. It ran diagonally from the top, right side of his chest towards his belly button, causing an ear-splitting scream to tear from his lungs.
Chris picked himself up and ran over to the boy, throwing himself on his humongous back. His hands covered Zorro's eyes and he was screaming at his wounded lover.
"Run, Tim! Get out of here!"
Zorro's muscles tensed up and he swung his butterfly knife behind him, not really knowing where he was aiming, but intending to stab something. An alien scream erupted and filled the air, bouncing off the furniture, causing a minor crack in the windows, and harming their eardrums by its intensely high frequency.
The boy dug his knife in deeper, feeling something squishy underneath the blade's surface, before he yanked it out. Chris immediately let him go and he pummeled against the floorboard, as he thrashed around and continued to scream in sheer agony. Zorro looked at his blood-stained knife. There was something stuck to the edge of the blade.
"N-no..." His father choked out, pain flickering through his eyes, as he was hurting on the inside and outside.
Zorro stood over Chris, watching the man rolling over onto the floor in pure agony. Blood was running down half of his face like tears and his ear-piercing scream was merely annoying the boy. The teenager lifted up his foot and crushed it down ferociously against Chris' throat. Over and over, he repeated the brutal action, only gaining more power behind each stomp of his deadly boot.
He had successfully damaged the man's voice box, switching off his ability to scream for any longer. Chris' neck was flattened and it was contorted at an abnormal angle. More blood escaped from his lifeless body, forming a crimson pool, which spread easily due to the smooth surface of the floorboard. Zorro was panting slightly, as he turned around to face his father, his deadly gaze piercing through him.
He couldn't believe that he used to adore this man when he was a little boy. He wanted to be tall like him, successful like him, to abuse and hurt others like him, to steal people's hard-earned money and kick them out of their homes like him. His father was a terrifying beast with such immense power. Or so he thought.
The man had flung himself at his son's feet, trembling like a leaf on a windy day. His arms were wrapped around the boy's legs, closely resembling a clinging child.
"P-please stop..." He cried, his voice cracking. "Please... d-don't hurt me..."
He looked up at his son, pleading for mercy. Zorro squeezed the handle of the knife, as the broken pieces of the eyeball were slowly sliding down the rusty blade. For a fleeting second, he almost felt pity for his old man, seeing him in this vulnerable light. However, the image of his father engaged in homosexual activity taunted his mind, which quickly replaced his sadness with impending white rage.
He flipped his knife around and he plunged the thick, hard handle into his father's head. A tiny crack could be heard, followed by a huge thud. The man fell limply to the ground, blood seeping out of his skull.
Little Max was standing in the corner, having a front row view of the chaotic show that unfolded before him. Usually his eyes were dull and vacant, but there was a sparkle that shone through the darkness. Not once had he zoned out from the entire fight. He watched Zorro crouch down, checking for his father's pulse.
Then, as if this was routine for him, the teenager cleaned up the evidence.
He retrieved a supersonic plasma acid from his jacket, which he poured onto the bloody puddles like gasoline. This chemical substance was created by a double-crossing forensic scientist, who seemed confident in its ability to eradicate blood stains, reassuring Zorro that it couldn't be detected by the crime scene investigations.
The boy produced a small, white cube from his back pocket. He chucked it at the crimson pool, which was already being dissolved by the hungry chemicals. The cube grew in size, soaking up all the blood within seconds. When unfolded, the little cube had turned into a bloody cloth.
The cloth was easy to dispose, along with the broken desk lamp. Soon, the floorboard, walls, his boots and knife were squeaky clean.
He picked up Chris' body and carried him to the garage. Little Max had been following him, studying his every movement carefully.
"Keep outta my way, kid," Zorro instructed moodily.
They stopped in front of a machine. Max examined the big, black object, which looked like the stump of a tree. In the center, there appeared to be a mouth formed by stainless steel, equivalent to a collection of samurai swords. It was a powerful device that made mincemeat of many men. As Zorro turned it on, the machine whirred to life, clunking and screeching. It clomped its mouth together rapidly, demanding to be fed. Zorro chucked the body into its sharp jagged teeth, as if he was offering a sacrificial lamb to a monster.
The Human Shredder. That was what he called it. Its existence was something the public sphere was currently unaware of, but it was a device that existed behind closed doors of certain factories, slaughterhouses, and torture chambers. His father paid huge amounts of blood money to secretly build and install one in his garage for his own malicious purposes.
Not once did Timothy Venturi anticipate that his son would use his device to completely eliminate his lifetime business partner and lover.
The machine spat him out, after chewing him up from head to toe. Chris was unrecognizable, transformed into a gooey and runny mixture; his organs were mashed together to form a thick, smelly and a browny-red paste. Max peeked his head closer to the trash can, examining the sloppy remains of what used to be a man.
"You saw nothing," Zorro said, glaring at the toddler.
Then he lit the trash can on fire, burning away the last bit of his father's pride and shame.
Sue Hyun: I'm glad to hear that. Thanks for reading.
Butterfly: I agree. I don't think you're weird for liking her. I like her character too, she's fun to write about! Thanks for reading.