My dad’s lab was a mess, but then it was always a mess. This time it was a lightly charred mess, covered with extinguisher gloop. Abdul the camel seemed happy enough though, despite his smoking bum fur.
Also surviving the fartplosion was my father’s newest invention, all glowing lights and shiny metal buttons. Dad stood before it, looking very proud.
‘This is my second most precious baby,’ he announced, as if to a great crowd. ‘It’s the world’s first inter-dimensional instant transporter. I call it a zapporter. When tapped into, the Zapp Principle requires remarkably little power to operate: just a couple of AA batteries, actually.’ My dad paused. I clapped once. ‘Ahem,’ he continued. ‘Simply by standing in front of the zapporter and pressing this lever,’ my dad reached out to a shiny silver lever, ‘which I won’t pull now, because I’m not really crazy¯’
‘Let’s assume you were?’ I was growing impatient.
‘Ah, if I was, and if I did, I would be instantly transported right across the universe, maybe to an advanced alien civilisation!’
I was more than a bit interested now. ‘Let’s fire this sucker up and take a zap around the solar system!’
My dad looked horrified. ‘Good gravy, Raz, we couldn’t do that! First, we’d need to take this portable zapporter,’ Dad pointed to a smaller machine on the shelf, ‘otherwise we could never return to Earth! But even then, we still mustn’t go! For what if we were transported to a world where the air was so acid it ate off our skin in seconds and dissolved our bones in minutes? Or if we stepped into a black hole and were compacted to microscopic size like space garbage? No Raz, only an expert astronaut could possibly test my zapporter!’
I was majorly bummed. ‘I’m majorly bummed. What good is this invention if we can’t play with it? Why don’t you invent a transporter for use here on Earth? So we can just instantly zap to Singapore or Hanoi? Now that would be cool.’
‘Raz, I’m hoping I can sell my zapporter to NASA or the Chinese. We may soon be very rich! Then we can do what we’ve always dreamed: buy a farm with lots of chickens and horses!’
‘Gross, Dad,’ I snorted. ‘That might be your dream, but it’s my nightmare! Farms are miles from anywhere interesting and usually smell like… farms. I’ve been to one, remember? Chickens are only cool when they’re chopped up in a Vietnamese omelette. And horses… horses¯’ I spluttered for words. ‘Horses haven’t been cool since the Middle Ages, since cars were invented. Animals generally stink, are ugly, and have fleas and horrible needs. But horses are the stinkiest, ugliest, most flea-riddled, horribly needy animals of all! Well, they’re the second most anyway,’ I shuddered. I couldn’t even name the worst animal. ‘Still, being rich would be cool. As long as we’re talking billions.’
‘We can always dream, Erasmus.’ My dad looked a bit stunned at my outburst. ‘Anyway, back to your homework. Bed no later than ten. Brush every tooth first. I have to run a few final tests. And Raz?’
‘Make sure you stay away from this zapporter.’ My dad tried to look all serious. What a joke. ‘Okay, Raz? Okay?’
‘Okay, Dad,’ I lied.
But it was a white lie. A lie to stop my dad from worrying. For I knew better than to care about his dramatic warnings. He clearly needed my help. Soon I would be the first person in history to ride that zapporter. The first to visit another world! Soon I would fly faster than any Earth boy had ever flown before!! I would win a Nobble Prize too, maybe even before my dad!!! Me, Erasmus Einstein James!!!!
My dad leant forward to hug me. I leant back. ‘Dad, I’m almost 12 and you’re almost 40.’
‘I’m still only 38,’ he muttered.
‘So isn’t it time you outgrew this childish need of yours for hugs? Mum’s gone. Get over it.’
‘Hug the damaged animals,’ I advised.
‘I do,’ said my sad Dad. ‘Every day. It’s good therapy.’
Yeah, right. Poor Pops. ‘G’night, Dad.’
I adopted one of my Dad’s sick animals once. I won’t make that mistake again. Captain Chook was a real fighter, and kind of cute, apart from his hideous internal injuries. I set up that rooster’s sick bed right next to my own and provided round the clock snacks and tweet-ment. Every hour Chooky lived, I grew more confident he would survive.
On day three, I rushed home from school. Captain Chook’s eyes were shut, but I could tell he was breathing. I reached out to pat his chest feathers. Chooky’s eyes flew open. He pecked my hand hard. Blood dribbled out. Then… he died! It was as if Chooky was just waiting to pass on his ugly message before he karked it. There was a war raging between the animal world (e.g., my chook) and human inventions (e.g., the truck that squished my chook).
After half a pack of tissues, I resolved to be on the winning side from that day on. My Dad’s soft side only lead to heartbreak, and a stinky room.
Free of such worries, I began packing my backpack. A warm jumper, in case space is as cold as it looks. Space snack food, including two leftover containers of Vietnamese rice. Some handy off-world survival articles: a LameBoy game, mini disc player, my Bratty bear (I’ve outgrown bears, but this is a koala and could have educational benefits for aliens), a pair of boardies, a novelty hat and party shirt (in case any cuties invite me to a space disco). I packed then unpacked my mobile phone, figuring Uranus would probably be a few million kilometres out of roaming range. Sunscreen, in case I zapped too near the sun (my dad would be pleased). Comb. Toothbrush? Nah. Chocolate toothpaste? Why not? Chocolate bars? For sure.
Hmmm. Something to trade might come in handy too. So I printed out a few dozen schematics (invention plans) and sealed them watertight. Maybe I could trade the plans to build a microwave oven for an alien death-ray off Jar Jar Stinks?
I paused. What if I really did zap to somewhere gross or deadly? Would sunscreen save my bum in a black hole? Then I remembered. I could just transport myself straight back to my dad’s lab with the portable zapporter! Everything would be cool, as long as I didn’t freak out. And I never did that.
But first, I had to wait until my dad ran out of inventing steam. Around midnight I heard him stagger down the hall to his bedroom. Next came a whump as he collapsed onto his bed, followed by a series of smaller plop sounds that I knew came from the road-kill animals hopping onto his bed with him. I tiptoed down the hall and peered into Dad’s room. He was snoring already, still fully dressed, and covered in bandaged mini-beasts. I pulled his door shut (that way, he’d be kept busy a little longer when he awoke, cleaning up their multiple poopsicles (especially Abdul’s)), and snuck down the hall toward the secret door.
With luck, I’d be zapped back in time for breakfast, my backpack bloated with booty.
write by Mitchell Sandson