I stumbled across my powers in the most uncomfortable of ways. Merely thinking of it makes me red with discomfort. It’s not something I am proud of, but considering the circumstances, I suppose it was the breakthrough I needed to discover my ability.
I wasn’t hit by lightning, there were no freak accidents and I most certainly didn’t land here from outer space in some pod. If I did, no one has told me yet and judging by my lack of abilities besides this one bodily function, I am wont to think that I am most definitely human. I wasn’t strapped up in some lab, product of some government weapons program … I most certainly am not the offspring of super powered individuals, my parents are the most normal people you’d ever meet. In fact I am not sure what’s more boring, watching paint dry or my folks going about their daily activities. In other words, I am the last person you’d expect to have any type of power(s).
But I digress, high school was tough I’ll be honest. I was slightly chubby and this posed its own set of problems. I also happened to be very clumsy, compounding on my problems and pretty much relegating me into the outer circles of the social hierarchy in my school. Yes, just like the movies, I rolled with the dweebs and the nerds. The ‘unacceptables’ we called ourselves. Not that we disliked it, those guys were pretty dependable for the most part. I don’t think I could have asked for better friends.
The real issue was when my hormones just like any other kid at that stage in life, started to kick in, and suddenly the female species looked a whole lot more appealing. Just like every kid my age, we spent a lot of time thinking about them, talking about them and coming up with plans on how to woo them. There was this one particular girl in class that every boy fantasized about or at least I thought they did. Angela Atkins was her name though I have tried unsuccessfully to forget about her.
She had the sweetest dimples I have ever seen on anyone. She wore her hair in a ponytail and always had a bevy of people surrounding her outside of class. She was the belle of what I considered my social sphere back then. Everyone knew of her, and I am guessing most of the guys in my class fantasized about her like I did.
She was that mountain I had no idea how to scale. She was the object of my desire, as radiant as the sun yet just as far. If she would just acknowledge me, my life would be okay or so I thought.
You would think when given the chance to talk to her, that I’d make the best of it and to some extent I did, this act of mine would finally lead to the discovery of what would grow into my super powers. Sadly, what lead to this would scar me mentally for the rest of my life. It would be the single most embarrassing moment of my existence, and whilst I have had so many of those, this one though, definitely takes the cake.
We were out on the playground that fateful day. My crew and I as usual were in our section of the yard. The more I think about it, the more I realize just how much we sucked back then. We were the wimps. The outcasts. The kids who gathered around and compared dungeons and dragons cards, who argued about who was the better game character, Sonic or Mario? To us, we found nothing wrong with it, and to my fellow nerds out there, I feel your pain. But let me be the first to admit, that path we took back then, was one full of marginalization. We were ostracized for our interests, bandied into a box that till now I am still struggling to break out from. But I digress, back to me and my fellow nerds chilling by the bushes, watching all the pretty girls in class talk to themselves, wondering why they paid us no mind.
I don’t know who came up with the idea first, I won’t take credit for such foolishness, but I suppose you should know when a bunch of 10 year boys get together, and girls are in the vicinity, particularly those of the same age, chances are the topic of conversation will eventually stray to members of the fairer sex.
I know we had to be talking about who was the hottest girl in class. A few names must have been tossed out but the consensus would have to be Angela. One thing led to another and I am guessing we started preening and prawning about who was best suited for her.
It really doesn’t take much to get guys to take up a bet. There’s a reason why casinos are such money traps. Something about the human psyche and gambling seems to go hand in hand.
I was dared because I happened to be the de-facto leader of the group. Something along the lines of not having the guts to go talk to Angela, a bet which would garner me a month long supply of the Spiderman comics. Ask yourself this, would you pass on such an opportunity?
In my young mind, it was a simple task. Approach the girl of my dreams, mutter a few words and high tail it out of there. What could go wrong?
Unfortunately for me, I underestimated how much my nerves would play a part in this and was about to get introduced to a very odd ability that would define my life in later years. But I digress, back to the topic at hand.
There she was, chatting with her friends, looking as radiant as can be. An image of such beauty and grace. I on the other hand was all nerves. Sure I had agreed to take up the bet but it didn’t mean I wasn’t worried about the action. I was walking into enemy territory, to talk to the queen in the midst of her minions. By no means would they be happy that I broke up their conversation. I had no clue what I was going to say but fortunately for me, fortune was about to direct her smile my way, though when I think about what followed afterwards it was more like a malicious grin.
Her friends must have been distracted by something, because all of a sudden they all flocked to the other side of the playground, chattering excitedly, leaving Angela behind. Here was the opening I needed. She was all alone, all I had to do was approach her. I tried moving forward but my feet were frozen to the spot. My brain had gone blank, I couldn’t think of what to say. I could hear my friends ribbing mercilessly, but it just came off as incoherent sounds as I tried to make sense of what was at hand. Finally someone grabbed my arm, shaking me a few times. That seemed to have done it, as my senses came alive and I could suddenly comprehend what was going on around me.
"I’ll do it" I said bravely. Followed of course by cheers from my crew.
I don’t know what had gotten into me, but before I knew it, I had planted one foot forward, followed by another. All of a sudden I knew what it felt like to scale the rugged terrain of Everest. To see the peak above you, and despite all the odds of making it, you reach into your inner reserves for strength you never thought you had, and will yourself to the finish line.
That was pretty much how I got to stand in front of Angela. She was actually looking down at something in the sand. I suppose my shadow falling across her line of sight alerted her to my presence. I waffled for a few moments, trying to pick the right phrase to get things going…everything that came to mind would have earned me a slap on the spot. I was already way too far into enemy lines to retreat. This was turning out to be a disaster.
And then she looked up ….
It was almost as if the world stopped spinning for that moment or two. Neurons stopped firing and my thoughts went haywire. Alert! Alert! Alert! This wasn’t in the plan. I hadn’t taken into account just how gorgeous she was up close. If my heart beat any faster it probably would form the rhythm for a dance track.
All the carefully crafted words I had rehearsed in my mind had evaporated into nothingness, stranding me on an island with the prettiest girl in our grade with no resources whatsoever to help me out of my current conundrum.
"Hi Derek" she said. But she might as well have been speaking in a foreign language. I mean yes she was looking at me, smiling without a care in the world completely oblivious to the fact that the doofus in front of her hadn’t expected such a warm response, totally catching me off guard.
I stood there staring at her unsure of what to say, whilst she looked up at me, still smiling. After a few moments, I mumbled something about the nice weather we had that day. Of which she remarked casually that the weather man had said it would be pleasant all week.
Weather man…did she just tell me that? She watched the weather man. Who was this girl and what planet was she from? Suddenly my interest was piqued, which in retrospect was a terrible thing to happen. It meant I was about to pursue an endeavor I should have wisely backed away from. Unfortunately with Angela showing some sort of interest in knowledge gathering, I was bound to pry further.
"They say it’s been the hottest year on record in the last ten years", I sputtered.
Judging by her reaction, I could tell I had veered too quickly into nerd territory. I must have misjudged how much she cared about weather news, she had probably only heard the week’s forecast in passing, not an active follower of the broadcast like I had thought.
I had to quickly follow up with something ‘cool’ before losing her interest. I could feel my compadres’ gaze from all the way across the playground, I dare not mess this up now.
"Have…have you seen the new power rangers?"
Yes, you are probably rolling your eyes thinking to yourself, what a clown this guy is. Of all things he could come up with at the moment, it had to be a cheesy martial arts show. To my surprise though, Angela chuckled and nodded.
"Yes, I love it, how did you know I like stuff like that?"
I blinked, words failing to come to me. Did she just say she liked stuff like that? Was I in some alternate reality where gorgeous girls like Angela were actually cool and into nerdy stuff like I was? This was truly incomprehensible. I had these notions of the type of stuff Angela would like, and none of it seemed to fall in line with the stuff that interested in me. If I weren’t so nervous I probably would never have asked about the Power rangers to begin with. But in my error, I had found an opening. This girl was way cooler than I had thought. I had to know more.
"I…I didn’t know actually. I just took a guess. Who’s your favorite ranger?"
"Blue" she chimed. "Billy is so cool, though everyone thinks he is a wimp."
WHOA! It would seem I had found the ideal woman. Future mother of my kids and eventual partner or so I thought. My immature self couldn’t believe that this girl I had admired from afar, not only liked my type of shows, but she also liked my favorite ranger. We were destined to be I thought.
Maybe if I had slowed down a bit, I probably would have avoided the catastrophe about to happen. But alas, my mind was moving so fast, caution had been overtaken a long time ago.
"That’s so cool…Billy is my favorite too. He’s so not a wimp, remember when he helped the rangers infiltrate Rita’s dark dimension? I mean the guy is so smart, he doesn’t need to be tough all the time. Then there was that time he created the Radburg, and all those other inventions he keeps making. He is just too awesome. Sometimes I wish I were just like him"
Angela smiled at me patiently as I prattled on. She had that look one would give to an over excited toddler, waiting on them to calm down. It was only after realizing that I had said too much, that things really got dicey.
To a lot of people, what I am about to describe is downright disgusting if not disturbing. I apologize ahead of time, it wasn’t like I have control over such. Whilst this action till date is a source of embarrassment, you must also know, its helped me become my alter ego and has saved quite a few lives. It is not the coolest power in the world, but its mine and I have no regrets about it.
What power would that be, you might be wondering? Well…to cut it short, its GAS. Yes gas! You know, flatulence, flatus, breaking wind, farting and the myriad of names it has in popular culture. Mine just happens to be quite pungent, and by pungent I mean knock you out of your shoes type strong. Poor Angela and I were about to discover that.
Like I said, I had spoke too much about the power rangers and was feeling sorry for myself when I noticed something was stirring in my bowels. We’ve all had it. That feeling you are about to rip a nasty one but you desperately try to quell it so as not to make a scene. To complicate matters, I was about to do this nasty deed in front of the one girl I liked a whole lot. What a horrible feeling it was indeed.
I began to think of a way to save myself from this mess, hoping I could hightail it out of there before I let go of my ‘gas’.
"Well it was nice chatting with you Angela, I think I will go back to talk to my friends now…Enjoy your day."
I turned around to briskly walk back to where the other guys were, when Angela called out to me.
I froze on the spot. Desperately trying to push back the pressure building down below. I was losing the fight and I knew in any second now, it’d be coming out. From the way it felt, this was going to be a whopper. Why oh why did Angela stop me?
"Yes," I said. Turning around meekly. She walked towards me, smiling at me like I had something she wanted and was going to pry it out of me no matter what.
“Do you want to come and watch power rangers with me this weekend?”
ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!
I interrupt this recap of my life, to notify the reader of how epic that moment that just transpired was in real time. I cannot begin to explain to you, just how elated I got when she did that. At that age, it was probably similar to me winning the lottery. That’s how impactful her request was to me. Unfortunately, said moment was short lived, but hey I still can’t help but look back at it with some joy.
“I…I..would love to.” I stuttered, barely able to contain my excitement.
“Sweet! See you at ….”
She never got to give me a time, nor finish her sentence and I never got to go and watch Power rangers with her.
Why you may ask?
Well, at that very point in time, my bowels felt like they could not hold on to the flatulence anymore, releasing a devastating knockout punch that would not only daze me, but also Angela as well. I was told afterwards that both me and Angela fell to the ground and we were out for at least thirty minutes. The image I remember seeing of her before everything turned to black, was her scrunching up her nose, looking at me with such disgust and then crumpling to the ground. It was at that very moment that I discovered I was not normal, but it would take years for me to be able to control this ability and also prevent myself from passing out whenever I used it.
It is this same ability that would help me thwart several muggings, stabbings and all sorts of crime on the streets of Chicago. It was then I realized I had been blessed with the ability to knock people out simply by them taking a whiff of my fart.
Yes ladies and gentleman, on that particularly day in the playground, the hero that the world would come to know years later as fart man was created.
It was a moonless night. An ink black color enveloped the sky, perhaps a sign to aid us in the events that were about to unfurl.
Chico drove his old Eclipse, a car that had seen better days, yet responded to his touch like some old trusty companion. It was him, a friend of his and me in the car. We all wore dark clothes, doing our best not to draw any attention to ourselves. With how dark it was, that part of the plan was covered to perfection.
We parked some ways off from the shop but not too far off to make getting away tough. Chico’s friend apparently had enhanced vision surgery and zooming in on the shop would be no problem for him. If anyone showed up, he was to contact Chico immediately. We were to go in, grab as much as we could in a matter of minutes and get out. Simple enough I thought, we’d be long gone before anyone knew the place had been burgled.
I should have known it was a cursed night when the car sputtered up the hill that lead to the store. Cussing in a language I had never heard before, Chico was able to spur the car on, avoiding what could have been a very embarrassing moment. I do recall thinking to myself, what would happen if we were trying to get away and the car did the same. My nerves were probably on edge already that would definitely have tipped them over.
Needless to say, we maneuvered into a side street, where Chico’s friend immediately wrangled himself to the top of a nearby rooftop to act as lookout. Chico got out of his car and handed me a baseball bat. “Don’t hesitate to use it if things get hairy.”
I nodded, hoping that wouldn’t be the case.
It was a short walk to the store, sticking to the shadows to avoid being spotted. Wouldn’t have mattered though, the area was desolate, there was no sign of life around. There were tons of beat down cars, probably salvaged to create spare parts of some kind. It wouldn’t have surprised me if a lot of them were stolen, but since I had no way of confirming that, I can only speculate.
The entrance to the store was heavily fortified with some type of wrought iron gate. We’d need some type of specialized saw to cut through those. Either that or chuck a bomb at it and hope it did the job. There was a key code panel by the side but judging from the way Chico was surveying the building, it was clear he didn’t have the tools to break in.
He walked around the building, I followed. He kept ‘hmmming’ as he studied the schematics, and after going round the building once he stopped.
“Chali,” he drawled in that thick accent of his, “it seems you will have to climb in the window and let me in from the inside.”
I didn’t think anything of his suggestion. I was probably more nimble than he was and would rather go through that hassle than calling attention by fiddling with the key code access at the front.
Carefully, I walked to the side where Chico pointed upwards. Indeed there was a window opened slightly, but I would need some help getting up there. He squatted and put his palms together. I stepped on them, instantly hearing a groan, but I was too focused on the task at hand to pay much attention. Chico hoisted me up, I latched onto the ledge immediately. I looked up and saw that with a slight push I could get the window to open upwards. It took some effort but I got it done. I lifted myself up and clambered onto the ledge. I didn’t know what was waiting for me below. It was too dark in the building. The last thing I wanted was a broken foot.
"Watchu waiting for?" I heard Chico say from below. I had no choice but to jump in, hoping I didn’t regret it.
I landed with a thud and looked around immediately. My eyes took a moment or two to adjust to the darkness. There had to be a light switch somewhere. I had only gone a few feet when I heard a menacing growl. I froze on the spot, hoping my mind was playing tricks on me.
It was meant to be an easy heist, orchestrated by a suave African with the dubious name of Chico. I was only 15 then, but this was my first introduction to what would turn out to be a long line of mistakes and crimes.
I had grown tired of following the nun’s goodie two shoe ways and I needed some other challenge. Every kid at some point has a rebellious streak in them or so I like to tell myself. Mine had been pent up for so long; I needed a way to break free from the constraints of the authority figures in my life. I ventured farther and farther from their straight laced ways until I started moving with the more dubious members of our society.
Chico I had seen around school. He was the older kid that hung around, who no one saw in class but somehow knew he belonged. He had a thick accent and was quite lousy, but he wore the finest clothes and the hottest women in school hung around him. Frey hated him and always warned me about hanging around such people, but I was too stubborn to heed her call. I wanted the things he had, he led the glamorous life that had escaped me for so long.
Chico took a liking to me and enticed me with the shiny things he had. Soon we struck up a friendship which was probably the worst decision I could have made back then. Young, impatient and stupid, how could I not have expected the union to be a disaster?
Anyways, Chico somehow convinced me to come along on one of his ‘shopping trips’. He convinced me nothing could go wrong and would give me half of the spoils. I was reluctant at first, I still had some reservations about the type of life I was about to live. I didn’t want to hurt Frey or the nuns, but I also realized whatever I made could make a difference in our lives. We were struggling to keep the orphanage afloat, and many of the older kids like me had gone to find jobs to lessen the burden on the nuns.
According to Chico, this was a quick ‘in n out’ job. We would break into a spare parts shop, disable the alarms system, and make off with a bunch of parts that we would sell elsewhere. He promised no harm would befall either of us. I bought into it hook line and sinker.
Any crook worth his ilk would tell you, the last thing you want in this type of work is naivety, I was about to find this out the hard way.
The shop was located atop a hillside in a neighborhood that looked like it was once an industrial powerhouse. Abandoned warehouses and factories were strewn all around. Evidence of a period where this section of the city saw thousands daily, doing their part in powering the economy.
Now it’d be lucky if it saw 50 people a week. I must admit, I felt guilty as we approached the shop. These folks were probably hard working people trying to make a living despite the economic turmoil surrounding them. We were about to go in and make things harder for them. This was no robin hood type situation, what we were doing was taken from the poor and making them poorer.
I shelved those thoughts quickly, justifying my actions by rationalizing that I’d be doing some good with whatever money I made from the heist. At such a young age I was already good at creating excuses that made me overlook my mishaps.
There is no such thing as race. Not for me there’s not. There are only two major distinctions that separates us human beings, and that’s the haves and have nots. The upper worlders vs. the lower worlders like me. It’s basically Rich versus poor however you want to call it. It’s always been this way; we just like to use terms like race, class and what not to dance around the fact.
I learned this lesson at a very young age when I lived in the orphanage. I saw so much suffering and I wondered why God would let that happen. Then it dawned on me that he had done something when he gave us free will. In turn we human beings created the mess we find ourselves in. Constant wars and battles have scarred the world beyond recognition. Most of our air is polluted beyond belief, and pretty much everyone living down here is battling with some ailment or the other. The rich seeing that the Earth cannot be salvaged devised a means to get off the planet and live ‘peacefully’ away from the masses and miscreants.
Their solution was to create their own colony in the stars. Elysium has it is called, is a floating satellite/Utopia/Metal piece of majesty above our world. I have never been there but I can only describe it from what others have told me. Though, considering I have never met anyone rich enough to reside up there, I wonder how accurate this information is.
Supposedly the smallest house on Elysium is as big as a full scale grocery store. Complete with lawns, yards, swimming pools and what have you. The richer you are, the more elaborate your abode is. It was supposedly designed by the greatest minds in technology, architecture and engineering. It amazes me how it stays afloat, drifting ever so close to the Earth but never losing its ability to swim through space. Many of the rich people in Elysium still have businesses on Earth, and once in a while have to make visits down here to check up on their ‘assets’. It is probably why Elysium is stationed so close to us. What’s the point of moving away if you can’t drop in whenever you want?
Regardless, I have always dreamed of going up there. I remember Frey and I would sit on the fence, look up at Elysium in the distance and plot how we would get there. I swore to her that we’d go someday; unfortunately my desire to get us there pretty much destroyed our relationship. She was more grounded whilst I was the dreamer. She believed in living according to our means, I wanted to escape my social status so bad.
When I started straying, mixing with guys who I felt could get me what I wanted (which mostly boiled down to two one-way tickets to Elysium), Frey revolted. She who had stayed loyal to me for so long tried her best to get me on the straight and narrow path. She didn’t want to go to Elysium, not at the cost of our souls. I was too stubborn to heed her calls, solely focused on finding ways to get off this smog infested world of ours. It wasn’t until she moved away that it finally hit me. My single minded goal to escape Earth had pushed away the most important person in my life.
Unfortunately Frey leaving me simply pushed me down the spiral to disaster. Perhaps if she had stayed, there would have been some restrain on my path, but all that is in the past now. I fully take responsibility for my actions; every tattoo on this scarred body is a reminder of that. You make choices, you live with the results. Sure, I have met a ton of shitty people, but they never put a gun to my head…actually, I think I might have erred on that, there was that one time Julio did put a gun to my head…but I digress, that’s a story for another day.
I was always a troublesome little lad, and as much as the nuns tried to get me to walk the straight path, I always ended up finding the unpaved route. There was always a knack to break rules, to circumvent the system and to find loopholes were others hadn’t. In retrospect, I think that’s what made Julio take a liking to me. We were similar in certain ways, but I like to think I still have some scruples in this thick skull of mine; his was probably ejected out his backside a long time ago.
It was this pig headed way of mine that led me to my first heist. I remember it like yesterday, probably because I almost lost my life that night. Such memories stick with you like bad odor on a hot African day.