This story came from a prompt on Tumblr by writing-prompt-s. The prompt said: “In a world where every human has a unique superpower, yours is largely laughed at. The ability to untangle anything has come in handy for untying shoelaces until you discover a new way of using your power that makes you formidable against your former superiors.
When I was a little kid, just starting kindergarten, the world changed. My classmates and I didn’t even notice what happened. We were too busy coloring, playing with blocks, and learning the alphabet.
The teacher, however, had a strange look on her face. We were too little to understand why. She held her finger to her lips and said “shhhh…” and the entire room went soundless.
I don’t mean that us kindergarteners were extremely well behaved and immediately got quiet after being shushed. The clock on the wall was still working – but wasn’t making a ticking sound now. Some kids tried to speak, only to find that they could not. It was scary!
Five minutes went by, and the room suddenly burst into sound. Some of us started crying – including the teacher.
At the time, no one seemed to know what the cause of the unexpected superpowers were. Governments blamed it on other countries – whom they never really trusted in the first place.
Little by little, people started spontaneously manifesting their superpower. I remember sitting on the floor in front of the TV and watching the news with my mother.
A little girl told a news reporter that she could understand what hummingbirds said.
“What do the hummingbirds say?” a news reporter asked.
“Um… well, they’re really grumpy all the time, and I don’t think I should repeat the words they use,” the girl responded.
A old man in the UK discovered that his superpower was the ability to prevent a bus from leaving the stop until he got on it. A middle-aged woman in Nigeria had the power to know when there was an area of clean water underground. A child in Mexico suddenly could understand all languages.
The really interesting thing was that only one person on the entire planet could have a specific superpower. All were unique, but some were much more useful than others.
A teenage in Canada could lift himself off the ground and fly to wherever he wanted to go. The news was calling him “Teenage Superman”. A pre-teen girl in the Netherlands had the ability to locate people’s lost dogs, and help them find their way home. A toddler in Italy started making Renaissance paintings with his crayons.
By first grade, I desperately hoped that I would be one of the lucky ones, like the people featured on the news. I wanted to have a superpower that could help people.
Unfortunately, my superpower was… not very impressive. First-graders are taught how to tie their shoes. It was really difficult for most kids, and some parents got tired and gave their kids slip-on shoes with no laces at all.
I remember trying very hard to tie my shoes – all by myself. Somehow, I accidentally tied the laces of one shoe to the laces of the other shoe. I got really frustrated and just wanted my shoes to untie themselves so I could start over. And… right before my eyes, they untangled themselves!
When I looked up from my shoes, I saw that most of the class was staring at me with confused expressions. My classmates who had already tied their shoes suddenly found them untied again. This was my fault!
I wanted to cry. My superpower was one of the useless ones. I would never be a superhero. The other kids laughed at me for having one of the most useless superpowers possible.
Fast forward, and I started finding things I could do with this seemingly benign superpower. When the bullies found me in middle-school, I used my “untangle” power to make them trip and fall, giving me the time to run away. When the mean girls harassed me, I untangled the braids in their hair – without even touching them.
By the time we reached high-school, things got weird. Classmates who were blessed with the useful superpowers acted like they were superior to the rest of us.
There was a guy who got the power to dispel tornadoes, which resulted in our school never having to do tornado drills. Years later, he became a meteorologist.
There was a girl who could read people’s minds, and who threatened to tell the world their darkest secrets. I think she ended up as a gossip columnist for some small-town newspaper.
And then, there was everybody else. The majority of my classmates had received their superpower – but most of them didn’t want to talk about it or use it. Those who stayed silent either hadn’t gotten their power yet, or they got one that they were embarrassed about.
As time when by, governments started trying to suppress some of the people who had a special power that they deemed to be dangerous. There were hearings planned that never materialized. I got the feeling that maybe there were congresspeople and senators who secretly had a superpower they never talked about.
The military, however, took this as a great time to recruit the people who had been given superpowers that involved massive amounts of strength, the ability to regenerate damaged or broken limbs, or who could fly without needing a plane. It wasn’t clear how many of that group were convinced to join the military.
As for me, I decided that my ability to untangle things wasn’t something anyone really cared about. If I was in a coffee shop and noticed someone having difficulty with their knitting, I’d wave my fingers at it and untangle the yarn for them. Simple things that nobody would notice – other than the knitter.
I started learning to code rather than go to college. It was difficult at first, but then I realized that coding was – sort of – like untangling something. I got really good at it and eventually got hired to work at a big social media company. For a while, it was fun!
Then, things changed. The guy who started the social media company sold it to another guy who didn’t seem to know much about how it worked. He quickly fired most of the coders who worked there and the entire Q&A department. He was inexplicably hostile toward the social media site he had purchased for a ton of money.
I was really good at blending into the woodwork, so to speak, which prevented me from getting fired. One day, that changed. The new boss walked over to me and asked me to follow him. I did what he asked, worried that I was about to lose my job.
The boss walked me down a hallway, and into a basement. Inside it was some of the oldest computer-ish monstrosities I’d ever seen! He opened up a bunch of cabinets, all in a row, and showed me what was inside.
What I saw was unexpected. How could a big social media company let their wires get so tangled up? I guess he finally fired the last guy who had knowledge of where the wires go to or what they make happen.
“I want this mess fixed, it is not something I understand how to do myself, and everyone I asked to try and help failed and have been fired. Can you fix this?” the boss asked.
I smiled, realizing that this was the perfect opportunity to use my superpower for something good. I started by untying the boss’s shoelaces without actually touching them.
“You can do that?” the boss asked, seeming very surprised.
“Yes, I can. My superpower started when I was six-years-old.”
“Wonderful”, said the boss. “Get started on these wires right now.”
“I want something in return.” I said. “Something meaningful.”
“Money is no object to me”, the boss responded, in a way that seemed like he was proud of that.
“Oh, I don’t want your money. I want you to become a better human. Give the people you fired at least five years worth of their salary.”
“Done!” the boss said, taking out his smartphone and tapping the screen a lot. He turned the screen towards me to prove that he had sent the appropriate amount of money to everyone who had been fired.
I nodded my head and waved my hands in front of each cabinet of tangled wires. It took longer for me to untangle them than I’d expected, but eventually the wires moved themselves to where they were supposed to be.
The boss seemed pleased. He smiled, and said I could take the rest of the day off.
As he started walking me out of the basement, a thought came to mind. “By the way,” I said, “I hope you really did send the money to the people you fired. Because if you didn’t… well, I happened to know someone whose superpower is to tangle things back up again.”
This story I wrote on Tumblr is based on a writing prompt titled: “In a world where every human has a unique superpower, yours is largely laughed at. The ability to untangle anything has come in handy for untying shoelaces until you discover a new way of using your power that makes you formidable against your former superiors” and is not allowed to be copied.