Powers Revisited

To:

The desk of Nick Fury
Shield Helicarrier
Skies of Abeokuta

Re: Recruitment exercise for Nigerian Reserve team of Earth’s mightiest heroes

Sir,

Below is a summary of the prospective candidates at the open call that took place in Lagos with the chief interviewer’s notes appended.

Code name: Gbomo
Powers and description:
Woman – anyone she touches with her (magic?) feather turns into a tuber of yam. By her admission, nothing else can be transformed for the 12 hour period where the person remains a tuber.

Interviewer’s notes:
For her demonstration, she brought a young girl with her who she brushed with the feather. After the child changed into a tuber of yam, the woman unwrapped a black sack and put the ex-child now-tuber in it. I asked her if the yam had to be kept in the sack after the transmutation, i.e. if the sack had stasis/null field applications. She mashed her gums together as she thought about it. Through the interpreter, she said, sack is just easier to carry around. We did not observe the child return to human form during the course of the interview.

 

Code name: Hardeymolar
Powers and description:
Boy with voice powers – First thing he says each day comes true, or if it is an order the listener is compelled to fulfill it. Provided Hardeymolar hasn’t brushed, eaten, or drank anything yet before he speaks.

Interviewer’s notes:
He wore a scarf over his mouth. Initially we assumed it was his costume, odd because no other candidate wore a costume but discovered it was because his interview was at 3pm and his breath had started to get offensive as he had waited all day without saying or eating anything.

 

Code name: Iya Peju
Powers and description:
Woman who turns into bird. Limitations not discussed (see below).

Interviewer’s notes:
She asked that the curtains be drawn and the lights turned out. She tapped the tattoo on the inside of her arm, it glowed, and then her clothes fell to the ground. A pigeon crawled out of the bundle of clothes. While we waited, the pigeon pecked at a pouch that had been around her waist. The pouch broke open and garri (local ground dried cassava meal) spilled out of it. The bird ate from the garri and spread it on the carpet as we watched. Nothing else happened. It poked at the grains, we waited. An hour later we released the bird out of the window and had her things cleaned up. Her paperwork did not state the duration of the effect and we had neglected to ask before the transformation. Jim suggested the pigeon was scratching messages in the garri. I disagreed. Images are attached for your evaluation.

 

Code name: Multiplying man
Powers and Description:
Man with a 200 naira note that always comes back to him if he spends it or gives it away.

Interviewer’s notes:
Interview ran long because we had to wait 26 minutes for money to reappear in his pocket after he had given it to me for the demonstration.
While we waited, he asked if he would get US visa as part of offer if he was accepted into the team. I asked if he was planning to pay for the international flight with the same 200 naira note over and over. He laughed. He said, “What of Dubai?”

 

Code name: Super Dele Oguntokun
(possibly also his real name)
Powers and Description:
Muscular man in briefs. Super strength, (limited) invincibility.

Interviewer’s notes:
He lifted the conference table in the interview room. He lifted two of the conference room chairs on each shoulder. One with me in it, and the other with Helen. An admirable feat as we were both the heaviest people in the room.
After the furniture lifting, I asked Super Dele if there was anything else. He said, “Knife cannot cut me. If you stab me like this,” (he mimed an overhand stabbing motion) “the blade will bend.”
I nodded and wrote it down. He continued and I’m quoting here. “Any iron bullet from the hand of my enemy will curve when it reach me.”
I asked if he could show us. He stared at me for a long time. Then he took a threatening step toward me and said, “Why? Are you my enemy?”
I told him we would call him.

 

Code name: Chidi Bolt
Powers and Description:
His application said: Able to run at great speed.

Interviewer’s notes:
We took him down to the gym and rolled out the heavy duty treadmill used to test super speed. He folded his trousers midway between his knees and ankles in preparation, I asked if he needed any special gear, like a heat resistant suit or frictionless shoes. He said, “No, barefoot or slippers is okay.”
He asked if I would stand in front of the treadmill holding out a one thousand naira note while he ran. Which I did. After trotting for five minutes, he asked if I could tweet at him with my lips and showed me how to. He said, shake the money, I did that too. His eyes lit up and he ran faster.
After sprinting for fifteen minutes in which he showed no signs of flagging, my arm started to ache holding out the money. I asked if he was capable of going any faster.
“Oga,” he said, not even a little out of breath. “This thing is not beans. As I am running like this, I can catch any danfo in go-slow. And I can pursue it from Oshodi to Anthony even up to Gbagada.”
He was capped at 22km/hr.

 

Code name: Baba
Powers and Description:
Remote viewing (unproven), Able to see the future (unproven)

Interviewer’s notes:
He sat cross-legged in the middle of room. Into a calabash, he mixed his saliva with some black powder. The resulting paste bubbled. He pressed some leaves in his bony palms and squeezed the extract into the calabash. Then he chanted for a few minutes and said my mother-in-law had put a dead lizard under my bed. He said if I entered the house and smelled peppers or ‘iru’ I would know it was working. He wasn’t able to clarify what he meant by “it”.

 

Human resources pointed out that few if any of the powers have viable consistent combat application. We await your final recommendation.

Sincerely,
C. Barton

Rumination

I was standing outside Ikeja City Mall on a Saturday afternoon. The wind was blowing dark clouds over the sun and people were watching them waiting to see if it would rain. 

Three boys came out of the mall and lined the curb beside me. They were about early university age, dressed similarly: colourful tops, dangling accessories, skinny jeans with a slight sag. One of them had on a face cap, the second one’s short hair was glistening, oiled down in waves. He brought out a brush and pulled it across his head in practiced strokes.

The third one had a low frohawk fade with some design carved into the scalp on both sides of his head. 

The frohawked guy was holding a Shop-Rite nylon bag. He reached into the bag and brought out one of those plastic transparent boxes that small fruits are sold in. It was filled with strawberries.

He pried the box open, picked out a strawberry and popped it into his mouth. As he chewed, he held the box out to his friends. Face cap and Waves took one strawberry each. They ate in silence looking out at the parking lot. 

When Frohawk was done, he picked out another strawberry and bit it in half. He chewed this one slower, savouring it. 

He said, “O boy, juices are hyping strawberries o.”

His friends looked at him. “Huh?”

He completed his thesis. “You know, juice, jam, ice-cream, everything is always strawberry flavour. They are all hyping strawberries. But–” He put the second half in his mouth. “–there is nothing there.”

His friends, jaws chomping, nodded like sages. They reached for seconds. 

Face cap said, “It tastes good sha.”

Frohawk shook his head. “There’s nothing special to it though.”

Waves brushed his hair in sync with his chewing.

They stood, picking out of the box until the strawberries were finished.

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Man, boy, donkey

There is a woman who stands at the intersection down the road from the used electronics market. She has a tumor or something on her face that makes her nose elongated and droop all the way down to her neck like a trunk. This tumor also affects the rest of her face. The lower parts, chin and lips, dangle, swinging loosely and her eye socket is soft and swollen with excess fluid.
It is impossible to describe her beyond what you would glean at a glance because to look at her for any longer is to have the image scrawled permanently in your mind. She must know this because she keeps her face covered with a shawl wrapped around her head leaving a hole in front for her to breathe out of.

On Monday morning, she stood at the junction with a bucket at her feet and her face hidden but holding up a laminated photograph that showed her uncovered. She had helpers, two men, and they both carried the same photograph in one hand and a bowl in the other hand.
The men orbited her, approaching passersby. They would show you the photo then shake the bowl at you. And if you avoided them or shirked away from the picture, you would steer right into the woman herself. She would raise her hooded head to you and give a sad nod as if to say, “Sorry o, fine boy, don’t let me disturb you.”

On a bus crawling by in traffic, a man was observing her and her two helpers by deliberately not looking at them. He dragged out a long sigh and said, “What a pity.” Several people on the bus grunted their agreement. Hearing their support and by extension, apparent interest in his opinion, he continued: “But if those two helpers instead of standing there, if they went and worked, big strong men like that, they would make more money for her than just begging.” His congregation on the bus nodded. Preach it, pastor.

Two days later, the woman was there again as usual. Her helpers this day were two boys, both less than ten years old. They were more efficient than the men. The children would dart low between the cars, invisible until they popped up at a car window and stuck the woman’s unveiled photo in the faces of those inside. The passengers would gasp, and find their hands clawing for their wallets and purses, plucking out notes to throw out of the window and warding off evil. The children would weave between the vehicles to pick up the money and circle back to deposit it in the woman’s bucket.

A couple was in a car waiting to turn at the intersection. The man was driving, the windows were up, air conditioner chilling the inside. His wife was staring out at the children. She said, “Poor children. They can’t go to school so they won’t be able to support her when they grow up.” Her husband reached across the gear island and squeezed her hand.

On Friday, the woman was at her regular spot by the bus stop. She was alone. Using one hand to hold her head wrap closed, she held her laminated photo in the other hand. People walking with the hurried steps of city dwellers would stumble upon her. Their eyes would jerk up at the hidden face, then quickly away as they steered around her.
She wandered too close to the gutter; then too far out into the road. People stretched money to her and she didn’t see them. They called out to her. She drifted into the street in the direction of their voices. Cars honked disorienting her and compounding her confusion. She tilted the mass that was her head towards the sound, the flesh on her face swayed. She removed the shawl and exposed her face. She raised a finger to her face, lifted the skin flap covering her eye, and looked out at the world.