Ten Seconds of Silence 

Reading Time: 10 minutes

TEN SECONDS OF SILENCE – Sweat dripped down his face.

10.

His heart banged against his chest in a rapid rhythm. 

9. 

Glancing down, he let out a curse and clenched his shaking hands.

8.

Was his mouth dry? Or was he just imagining it?

7. 

He almost forgot about the countdown that seemed to mock him with every count.

6.

The muscles in his neck contracted as he attempted to swallow, the invisible blockage making it near impossible.

5.

Eyes flickered from his hand to the blue and red wires. It was so easy. It could be done in a second.

4.

The sweat on his palms made the device in his hand slippery, his thumb resting on the trigger.

3.

Just a few more seconds, he thought, then it will be over.

2.

He was focused, but the sound of a girl’s cries broke his focus. 

1.

“I can’t do it!” 

He threw his hands up in the air, the device dropping onto the table with a clatter. The timer was now blinking at 00:00, as if it was teasing him for being too slow. His heart hammered against his chest, sweat dripping down his face as he tried to calm down. He scowled and stood up, dragging a gloved hand over his face.

“Not surprising,” a tired voice called across the room, “You haven’t been able to for three years, Cataclysma. Happy anniversary by the way.”

He turned towards the voice and narrowed his eyes. “I don’t need you to comment on every little thing I do and I don’t want you calling it an anniversary. Besides I almost had it this time, Temptress.”

His companion rolled her eyes as she shifted in her seat. They were in a small bunker complete with four chairs, a mini-fridge, a computer, and their latest project, a bomb. Cataclysma hadn’t been on the news for three years, not since his latest project had backfired on him. It stayed in his mind, and no matter what he did or where he went, that one day could not escape him. It ruined everything. Every time he used his ability, the fear was there waiting for him. Maybe it even stemmed past the incident, back to his childhood. For there was never a point in which he could confidently say he loved heroes. In a super-human society, they were who everyone relied on, whether they liked it or not. But even as he watched the news of heroes saving ordinary people from extraordinary hostilities, a part of him always rooted for the villain. Now he’s here, with a useless detonator, and another villain that saw him as weak. 

“I am serious though,” Temptress remarked, filing at her nails. “You had one bad day and suddenly you’re out of commission for a few years.”

Cataclysma slammed his hands down on the desk and stood up, the chair scraping angrily against the floor. “One bad day? You’re going to call it just a ‘bad day’?”

She looked at him and instead of responding, she just shook her head. He inhaled shakily and shut his eyes. He felt the memories flooding back to him until he was there. They were seated in a black pickup truck, eyes trained on the gates separating them from the mansion.

“And you are positive that he flew back here?” The man questioned, his forearms flexing as he tightened his grip on the steering wheel.

“Yeah, I swear,” the other man spoke, staring at the house in front of them.

Cataclysma followed his gaze. “So, what, this just a standard robbery?”

The driver turned in his seat to stare at Cataclysma with an unreadable expression. “This isn’t just a standard robbery; this is a Hero’s house. Do you understand how quickly we can get killed for doing this? We need to be on our A-game and you acting like this is just a normal day won’t help us stay alive.” Turning back in his seat to glance at the other man, Cataclysma decided to just stay silent. “Key, you go and unlock the gate. I already blew up the transformer outside their house so the security camera won’t be active, Hell all of their power won’t be active.”

Key nodded and opened the door, rapidly advancing towards the grand black gates. The man watched as the red light turned green and the doors slowly opened.

“Comrade are you sure that nobody will be watching?” Cataclysma murmured, playing with his hands.

“Will you knock it off already?” Comrade barked, “We’re going in and then we leave. Easy as that. Just shut up and listen.”

Cataclysma nodded as Key climbed back inside the car and they made their way up the driveway. Inhaling, he shut his eyes and focused. The beauty of his ability was that every time he inhaled, every part of himself went silent and he could hear everything around him. With his eyes shut, he could see the reverberations of sound around all surfaces. In the car, he could hear the sound of someone walking around in the house, opening up cupboards. He could see their silhouette moving around in the kitchen, the clattering of plates being placed in their respectful spots. With an exhale, he opened his eyes as they slowly park off to the side. 

“Well?” Comrade questioned expectantly, “What did you get?”

“There’s a tall male in the kitchen, looks like he is putting some dishes away. I didn’t hear anybody else in the house so he’s got to be home alone.”

The two men nodded before opening the door and carefully stepping out. Cataclysma opened his own door and slowly followed behind them. He inhaled softly and tried to hear anything else. All that was around him was the mystifying noises of the forest and the groan of the house’s foundation as the autumn wind blew. On his next exhale, Key had already shifted his hands into a key, unlocking the door in a matter of seconds. They shuffled in, immediately pressing their backs to the wall nearby. 

“Alright,” Comrade whispered, “Where is he now?”

Cataclysma shut his eyes and inhaled, immediately hearing the man’s footsteps leading towards the living room. They were currently on the opposite side of the wall in the hallway. The man was still moving until Cataclysma heard the sound of springs being crushed.

“He’s on the couch in the living room,” He uttered out, opening his eyes. “But he will be looking right at you, you’ll have to distract him.”

Comrade rolled his eyes and laid out his hand, “I know what to do.”

Slowly, black cylindrical pieces began to push out of the lines in his palms. They started to fuse together until Cataclysma could make out the shape of a smoke grenade.

“Just roll that in there and knock him out. Don’t kill him or nothing, just a quick smack to the head.”

“We aren’t killing him?” Key questioned, “I thought that was the plan.”

Comrade clenched his jaw. “I said, knock him out. Why are you asking questions?”

Handing the grenade to Key, Cataclysma watched as the man rolled the grenade on the floor, and moments later there was a hiss. The second it went off; Comrade and Lock rounded the corner. 

“What are you- “The man’s voice called out before there was a loud clang. 

Cataclysma quickly turned the corner to see the man groaning, holding his head. Key was holding a firestick poker, which Cataclysma assumed was from the house, and Comrade’s fist was clenched. Key raised the metal pole and slammed it down, any groans from the man now silent. 

“You hear anything?” Comrade whispered, glancing around the room.

Cataclysma inhaled and shut his eyes. He could hear the water running through the pipes, a deer running through the forest outside, Key’s breathing, and the creak of the floorboards. Exhaling, he opened his eyes and looked down at the unconscious hero in front of him. 

“Nope, there is nobody else.”

Key nodded and motioned for Comrade to help pick the guy up. They quickly laid the man on the couch and threw a blanket on top. 

“Alright,” Comrade announced pulling out a piece of paper from his back pocket. “The code is HND385, grab everything from the safe.”

Key nodded and jogged out of the room as Cataclysma looked at the man. The hero was named Marine because of his underwater-breathing ability, allowing him to help out in any body of water whether it’s from a villain attack or natural disaster. He was accredited for saving the lives of 100,000 people. Now, the hero had a red gash on his head and he almost looked peaceful. Glancing down, he saw that blood had sprayed onto the white carpet, making red lines appear as if it had been scratched by a beast. He was the beast. It didn’t matter if his hands hadn’t been on the pole, he was still there staring at the same man. 

“You just going to stand there and take mental pictures or are you going to do your job?”

Cataclysma glanced up at the raspy voice of his commander, his eyes now trained on just him. “No sir, just focusing.”

Comrade just rolled his eyes and motioned for him to explore the living room. There were various expensive vases, their porcelain bodies shining brightly on display. Intertwined with it, there appeared to be souvenirs from his battles, ranging from the tooth of an underwater monster to pearls the size of a basketball. His gloves hands shook lightly as he grabbed the pearl. Looking at its white surface, he could make out his emerald, tired eyes. The wrinkles and bags that seemed to decorate his face were now prominent. He inhaled again when suddenly his ears centered on something down the hall. Cataclysma shut his eyes and turned away from the scene of the crime, placing the pearl on top of one of the many bags. There was the sound of shuffling feet on a padded carpet making its way closer. Could it be Key? No, this was… smaller. Suddenly, he heard the gears of a lock turning and the sound of a door frame dragging against the fibers of a carpet. Opening his eyes, he looked down the hall to see a young girl, no older than eight, standing directly across from him. Meanwhile, parallel to Cataclysma’s discovery, Key was vacating the office that was just drained clean. Key maneuvered next to him, the wall of the living room blocking his view of their surprise guest.

“Cataclysma, you good?” Key hissed, stuffing the gold bars from the hero’s- the possibly dead hero’s, home into the bag. “Why are you just standing there in the doorway? We got five minutes tops before someone notices something is up. They got to have some sort of babysitting service for heroes where they got to ‘text if they got home safe’ type deal. So, get moving.”

He stared back at his teammate and then back at the girl. She was still standing there and her eyes were glossy. His hands rolled into fists as he tried desperately to calm himself down. She doesn’t know yet, but she will soon. What should he do? Why didn’t he hear her? For a man with super hearing, it all felt as if it was some horrific prank. 

“Daddy?”

No. She shouldn’t have spoken. He could’ve hid her, done something, anything-

Before he could say anything, Comrade’s calloused hand gripped Cataclysma’s shoulder. “You said you didn’t hear anything or anyone. What the hell is this?” He growled out.

Cataclysma kept his eyes locked on the young girl who was now taking a curious step forward. The tears in her eyes were now falling down her face, like a rainstorm hitting the windshield of a car. 

” I… I swear I didn’t hear her at all. I don’t know if she was breathing or what, but I couldn’t hear her.” Cataclysma turned towards Comrade with pleading eyes. “She doesn’t have to be involved.”

Comrade let out a sigh and Cataclysma faintly heard him grunting as he used his ability. Comrade could form any weapon that used explosives, from TNT to flash grenades. He quickly rose in the villain ranks for his successful robbery streaks and started getting a following. One day, he found Cataclysma who was creating his own streak of robberies, moving in and out of houses without making any noise. Comrade asked Cataclysma to join him, and they’ve been partners ever since. He got the name Cataclysma because of the irony. All that he did was never violent, but it was still ruining another person’s life. He was still a cataclysmic event. Key joined them later on after his unique ability to unlock anything he came across by changing the shape of his hand into a key, was noticed during one of their missions. Since then, they have been inseparable. No matter what happened in their personal life or super-human life, there was always a solution. The sinking weight in Cataclysma’s stomach told him that today would not be the same case. 

“See,” Comrade began with an eerily still tone, “maybe you really weren’t made for this villain stuff if you can’t even hear an eight-year-old sleeping in the other room. You really aren’t made for this life if you can’t do what you have to do.” Comrade’s voice was calm, even as he placed a grenade in his hands. “And what you have to do is clean up the mess you made.”

Cataclysma swallowed thickly and ripped his gaze away from the girl. “What? What do you mean? Like, clean up the body?”

Key suddenly appeared; his brow furrowed. “Comrade, what are you talking about?” He looked past the two men and down at the girl. She was crying but her sobs were quiet and still. “Don’t tell me she’s been there the whole time.”

“Seen our faces and everything,” Comrade mumbled out as he turned Cataclysma towards the girl once again. “And now she’s got to forget them. But unless you have the ability to make someone forget, you’ll have to handle this the old-fashioned way.”

“Please,” Cataclysma whispered, “I can’t do that.”

Comrade scoffed and shoved him into the wall, hard enough to leave a dent. “You can’t or you won’t? If you won’t, then leave and don’t let me see your face again.”

There was silence between them as Cataclysma searched Comrade’s face.

“I’m taking the girl.”

He didn’t bother to watch the shocked expression on Comrade and Key’s faces. If they wanted to stop him, they would stop him.

“So what’s your big plan, huh? The big, scary villain takes away the innocent little girl to raise her in the suburbs?” Comrade hissed out. “You’re living in a fairy tale. I won’t stop you because that’s your own funeral.” The gruff man paused, moving closer to Cataclysma, “But if I find out that you or that stupid kid snitched, I can find you in a matter of seconds.”

Cataclysma inhaled and shut his eyes. This time, he could hear every cry and small inhale of breath from the girl down the hall. As he exhaled, he felt the tear fall down his face and everything go silent. As he exhaled, he walked forward quickly and gently picked up the girl. He opened the door and left, not sparing a glance behind them, even if the child desperately tried to push away from him. Ten seconds out, he heard Comrade curse. Nine seconds out, he could only hear his own shoes connect with the pavement. Eight seconds out, he heard Key pleading with Comrade. Seven seconds out, he could hear the wind howling through the trees. Six seconds out, he heard the sound of a body being moved to the hallway. Fix seconds out, he could hear the little girl cry harder. Four seconds out, he could hear two small round objects roll across the ground. Three seconds out, he could hear the gate groan under the pressure of Cataclysma’s body as he vaulted himself and the little girl over. Two seconds out, he heard the front door open and the car turn on. One second out, he heard the explosion. 

“… hear?”

Cataclysma inhaled shakily and looked up at Temptress who was now watching him with a worried expression. 

“I asked, what did you hear?” She repeated. “You hear something that made you freeze up or are you just skittish? Like Bambi.”

He exhaled and shook his head with a bitter laugh. “Yeah, I did hear something.”

His mind went back to a few moments ago with the detonator. Cataclysma was so close, his hand had been ready as the unknown bomb laid beneath the cobblestone ground. The center was vibrant and full of excitement as people wandered from place to place. He just had to keep an ear out for the police. But, just as he began to count down from four, that was when he heard it.

“Daddy?”

His heart had stopped beating at that moment. His hands were motionless against the device. It was as if time itself had paused and that little girl was back in that hallway. 

“I heard a voice call out,” Cataclysma spoke softly, “And I couldn’t just ignore it.”

Temptress blinked slowly at his response before shaking her head and getting off the stool. He didn’t watch her walk away and he didn’t care if this was yet another person who left. He saved that girl. Cataclysma shut his eyes, inhaling…

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