The following piece was presented at Jersey City Writers’ literary event – Superheroes & Supervillains: A Night of Dynamic Dare-do-well and Dastardly Deeds. Please enjoy.
Vera’s parents had forced her to attend the “Superhero’s Home for Intense Training of Today’s Youth,” the most prestigious superhero training academy in the country.
She remembered that first day like a vivid nightmare. All the freshmen were gathered in the courtyard awaiting the orientation speech. Several floated a few feet off the ground, while others shot weak bursts of lightning into the sky, and still others tinkered with complex gadgets. Vera stood alone, quiet and scared, wishing she could disappear. Unfortunately, invisibility wasn’t her superpower.
She was ‘gifted’ with heightened senses: smell, sight, hearing, taste, and even touch could become overwhelming and painful. Her superpower didn’t seem useful; she couldn’t sense danger from a mile away or anything… She just felt more intensely – ‘understood’ more from experiences somehow. It was like being a master sommelier, but instead of wine, she was sniffing and tasting life… though she could never spit it out.
She looked up when the other students cheered. Double Duce appeared on the roof of the main school building, lept off, did some aerial acrobatics, and landed in a cool pose in front of the crowd. To his right, a loud boom produced a thick cloud of purple smoke. A stiletto appeared as Madam Magnificent stepped out sensuously and posed with her back arched, long hair flowing in the wind.
When the cheering died down, the duo began their speech. Vera starred. Both of these superheros had saved countless lives and yet… they were both very self-conscious. At first glance, they looked ‘perfect’. Deuce’s sunkissed skin gave a healthy looking glow; his wide jaw and thick neck complimented his massive muscles. And though Vera couldn’t look directly at his blindingly white teeth, she noticed that his smile didn’t reach his tired, sad eyes.
Madam Magnificent’s figure formed a near literal hourglass: an impossibly huge bust balanced over a wasp-like waist, supported by wide hips. Her black and purple bodysuit was like a second skin, exposing only her head. Her ghostly pale complexion gave her a mysterious look. She kept her face in a sultry expression, but Vera could see tightness in her jaw and anger lurking in those dark eyes.
After their speech, the two superheros left and the regular school staff came out to assign dorm rooms and hand out the school uniform: leotards.
Vera was assigned to the all female dorm “Segunda” and was handed a sheet with her preselected schedule. Some classes like “Superpower Training” and “Public Speaking,” seemed alright, but “Seductive Posing” and “Erotic Kickboxing”!? What did being sexy have to do with helping people?!
She tolerated the imbalance until she walked by the “Leadership Workshop.” Through the open door she could see that only boys attended the class, fair-skinned boys at that.
She mixed her anger with courage and confronted the school headmasters. They assured her that each student was assigned to classes based on their skill level and natural talent, not by gender or race. If she wasn’t in a class, it was simply because she didn’t have ‘it’. She left their office feeling humiliated.
Months later, Vera helped the students in “Tercia” dorm realize that the administration had lumped together all of the ethnic minorities into their small, co-ed dorm. Not only that, all of them had been assigned classes that groomed them to be sidekicks, comic relief, or backup heroes. The protests were large and loud, but unfortunately the majority of the student body accepted the establishment’s denials, and the movement was smothered by apathy.
Meanwhile, Vera’s self-doubt was slowly murdered by her outrage. The more she honed her super-senses, the easier it was to see through the illusions all around her. She gave up on the school authorities and began holding secret meetings with like-minded students who refused to be objectified or made into stereotypes.
She finally dropped out instead of submitting to the pre-graduation consult with the Superheroes Guild’s plastic surgery team for face and body sculpting, which was mandatory for every student. When she left, half the school left with her.
The massive lawsuit they brought down on the school exposed the biased practices. Not only did she and her classmates receive large monetary compensations, but the school was forced to implement drastic policy changes to ensure equal opportunities for future students.
Now an adult, she was a real superhero and led her own team. She didn’t wear spandex or strike poses. She didn’t have a incredible figure or ninja-like skills. She hid in plain sight, just like the truth. Exposing the truth, no matter how painful, was her mission.
And so, the second Presidential debate began, with Vera Warden, renown historian, acclaimed political scientist, and secret superhero as the moderator. She smiled mercilessly and began…