Useless Heroes (Short Story)
This short story is based on a conversation I had today.
“Fate is unfair”, Abby said, and the others sitting in the circle of chairs with her nodded in agreement. “It’s like”, she continued, “it’s like someone is playing a mean joke on you, you know? They make you special, but in a way that’s more than useless. And then they take all these other people and make them special in a way that is super useful. And all the normal people are absolutely impressed, and then you tell them you’ve been touched by fate too, and they ask you what you can do. And you tell them. And they just stare at you blankly.” @suesa
“Or they laugh”, Keith chimed in. “They’re always laughing when I tell them about my powers.”
“What can you do, Keith?” Abby asked. Keith shifted uncomfortably.
“I have super hearing”, he said. “But like, only in the way that I hear every time someone mentions chicken nuggets in a one-kilometre radius.” Someone audibly tried to suppress a laugh, and Keith frowned.
“I’m sorry, Keith”, Abby said, shooting an angry look to the laughing person. “I think many of us know what it feels like to have an effectively useless power. But that’s why we’re here. We need to support each other because we all have shitty powers. I, for example, am a speedster. I’m faster than any normal human. By about 3 km/h.”
“It’s enough to catch bad guys tho”, Keith pointed out.
“Not if they have a car. Not if they have a bike or anything that goes just a tad slower. And while I’m fast, I have basically no endurance. I can sprint briefly, but that’s it.”
“I am stretchy”, Tanya, a tiny brunette woman said, her head almost as read as a potato. “But only to a super useless degree like this?” She proceeded to pull on her finger, which increased its length by a few centimetres. When she let go, it snapped back. “That’s it. It can’t go further. None of my body parts can.”
“Well at least people don’t abuse you as a human lighter”, Kyra grumbled, raised her hand and produced a tiny flame at the tip of her index finger.
“Can’t you increase it?” Keith asked, his eyebrows raised.
“No, dumbass. I wouldn’t be here if I could. I can only get a flame this size, and only from one finger. This is barely enough to light birthday candles.”
“I can see into the future, but only about a second”, Alec, a huge bald guy blurted out. “It might sound useful in hand to hand combat, but I just can’t get the timing right and keep receiving fists to the face.”
“Why are you fighting with people then?” Tanya asked.
“I don’t want to. But everyone who wants to prove themselves in my neighbourhood picks the biggest guy to beat up, and that’s me.” His eyes filled with tears. “I don’t want to fight with people! I hate hurting others!” Tanya stood up to give him a hug, and Alec started sobbing.
A brief, awkward silence followed.
“Isaac, you’ve been very quiet.” Abby turned to a guy who had spent most of the time looking around the room slightly panicked. He seemed very, very uncomfortable as if he might jump up and run any second.
“Yes, I have, sorry, I’m …”, he shuddered, stood up, picked up his chair and moved it a few meters to the side, ending up behind Keith.
“Uh, what are you doing?” Keith asked.
“I’m sorry, but the spider was coming closer.”
“The spider? I don’t see a spider.”
“It’s in the corner over there.” Isaac pointed in the direction of the corner closest to where he had been sitting.
“I still don’t see anything”, Keith said.
“That’s no surprise, it’s a small spider. But I could sense it moving, coming closer. My shitty superpower is having a spider-sense.”
“Like Spiderman?” Alec asked.
“No. I can sense spiders. All the time. I don’t know what the radius of my powers is, but I am always aware of all the spiders crawling around me. Where they are going, what they are doing, what they are eating, touching, planning.”
“Spiders plan?” Alec’s face looked very pale.
“Spiders are the worst.”
The silence was back, but it was now less awkward and more uncomfortable, as everyone was thinking about what on Earth spiders might be planning.
“I think I’m the last one who hasn’t said anything.”
“Yes, Lee, please. Share with the group.” Abby had also moved her chair further away from the spider corner and seemed rather queasy. Her eye kept darting over to where the animal was supposed to be as if she was expecting it to suddenly grow in size and devour them all.
“I can control minds, in a way.”
“Oh, that’s a nice power.”
“No, Keith, it’s not. Because the only thing I can do is make you crave chocolate. Kind of. You don’t really have to follow that urge. It’s just there and will go away in a few minutes if you don’t focus on it or eat some chocolate. You might not even notice that it wasn’t your own craving. And just hearing me talk about chocolate might actually have a bigger effect on all of you than if I had used my power on you guys.” Lee proceeded to reach into their bag and pulled out several chocolate bars, offering it to the others. “Anyone?”
Everyone took one.
The meeting ended with everyone hugging each other goodbye.
“Remember”, Abby said, “we will meet again next month, same date, same time, same place. Feel free to bring friends, as long as they’re not normal or have useful powers. We have to support each other.”
“I’ll probably not join you next month”, Isaac said. His voice sounded strained, and little pearls of sweat were running down his temples. “I’m moving to a research base in Antarctica tomorrow. Lots of snow and ice. No spiders. I hope.”
“Good luck”, Abby said. “Really.”
She started thinking about picking a different location for the next meeting. The spider corner made her more and more uncomfortable.
Signature by @atopy