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Category Archives: The Rainbow Throne

Birth of Fury

Casey Swithin is a fucking nightmare.

By the time she was twenty-five, she’d had seven abortions. She said she enjoyed them. Sure, they were painful, but isn’t childbirth painful, too? And her reward was not getting a kid out of the bargain. Score! It wasn’t just that she loathed children (although she did—the pesky little runts). She considered it a political message. The Repugnican Party insisted on pushing the envelope, forcing the Democraps to make the conversation about “cases of rape” and still spectacularly lose. But abortions should be a fundamental human right. So she’d set herself up as the radical liberal answer. She treated it as a tradition, conceiving every year around Christmas as a present to herself and then having the procedure as close to the end of the first trimester as she could legally get away with.

When she fucked the fathers—and you had to be a special kind of asshole to be a father to one of her delicious mini-corpses—she always used a condom, because “Ew—diseases?” But she was always careful to make sure it was one of her condoms, with a series of pinprickholes right through the top. If any of them ever noticed, she’d say “Oops” and promise to take a pill after they left, but it’s not like any of them would ever know.

This time, the lucky bitch was a Skandinavian stock broker vacationing in Manhattan who called himself “Gus”. Seriously? Gus? With that suit? Whatever, dude. He was working on some kind of trade deal that had to do with oil or steel or some other fucking chemical destroying the world. And while he wasn’t wearing a ring on his finger, he also wasn’t exactly disguising the indent that showed it was there.

Did she think of him as a victim? Probably. Because Casey Swithin thought that she was in control.

Then she woke up tied to the bed.

Gus wasn’t just a businessman. He was Norway’s Donald Fucking Trump. But as fate would have it, he had never been able to conceive a child. Until he met Casey Swithin.

For the next nine months, she strained against her bonds and felt the parasite growing deep inside her. When she got too close to breaking free, there were guards to catch and restrain her and doctors to pump her full of drugs—

“But will they hurt the baby?” asked the man who was doing this to her, his voice full of concern for the source of her problems. And he received plenty of reassurance.

Finally, the day arrives. She’s the size of a house, which really, she is, right now, for a living, not-quite-yet-breathing entity and when the evil doctor tells her to push, she thinks she’s never been happier, she thinks finally this shit is going to be over and out of the way and she can pay for that goddamn hysterectomy if that’s what it takes, she’ll fucking abandon her political bullshit if that’s what it takes for this all to be fucking over.

But then she sees the kid.

Fuck.

The baby.

Fucking hormones making her go fucking apeshit over this bullshit little twerp she never wanted to have anything to do with, who’s responsible for the worst fucking year of her life. Fuck her traitor arms for wanting to hold this kid, her leaky fucking chest aching to feed it. Why can’t she just look the fuck away?

“You have a daughter,” they tell the shithead and for a minute there, this guy, this fucking worst guy in the world, looks fucking disappointed and he actually says “Well, it’s better than nothing, I suppose.”

“Well,” he tells her once it’s all over, “I suppose you’ve suffered enough.” And they toss her out of a van near the beach close to a hospital on Long Island. Long Fucking Island. And she knows she’ll never be able to track this asshole down, and even if she does, it wouldn’t do her any good. No matter what she does, that asshole’s still going to raise her daughter—and why the fuck does she even care?

Fucking maternal fucking instincts.

So instead of the hospital, she goes to a bar. They insist on calling an ambulance, but at least she gets herself a whiskey out of the deal. What a fucking nightmare.

Meanwhile, idiot drunk at the bar looks at her, all beat to shit, and actually licks his lips. She thinks really hard about how she’s gonna kill him.

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Counter-Bass and other Impressionists

Annabelle Schoenfeld was deaf. She had always been deaf. Her parents were both deaf and her father was third generation. They were very active in the community. But that didn’t mean that Annabelle didn’t have friends in the hearing community. She could lip-read and she could talk aloud if she had to, though she found most of her close friends liked learning and conversing in sign language because it made them think they had a secret. Some of Annabelle’s deaf friends were annoyed at the ableism inherent in this fetishization, but Annabelle didn’t care. It didn’t bother her. She just liked having friends with common interests.

One of those friends was Perrine Chagall. Annabelle liked her because they both had an appreciation for good art and a weakness for bad men. It was Perrine who had made Annabelle realize she needn’t stay with Etienne De Bakker just because she’d known him all her life after he started displaying abusive behavior, and now Annabelle was returning the favor by helping Perrine to realize that this guy Massimo was only using her for her art-world connections while he flirted and philandered his way through half of Elsene.

“He’s not a bad guy,” Perrine signed in his defense.

“Yes, he is,” Annabelle countered. “You know he’s a liar—you’ve caught him lying. It’s willful blindness on your part if you keep trusting him now.”

This led Perrine to make a crack about deaf people talking about blind people, whcih made Annabelle roll her eyes—but she was able to convince Perrine to do the right thing and dump him.

A few days later, they met up for coffee again after the fact. It was satisfying seeing Perrine finally talking some smack about that loser she’d been dating. But something was wrong.

“What’s going on?” Annabelle finally asked.

“What do you mean?”

“Don’t play dumb with me.”

If that had been a pun in Dutch like it is in English, Perrine would have snorted.

“You’ve been misunderstanding every other word I’ve said.” She was speaking out loud now, just to be sure the message was getting across. After all, Perrine wasn’t the one who was deaf. “Are you going blind?” Annabelle asked her friend.

“What? No!” That was what Perrine said initially, but after a little prying, Annabelle got a different story out of her. “I don’t know,” she sighed. “Things have just been a little fuzzy the last couple of days. Like when you unfocus your eyes—“

“You need glasses,” Annabelle explained to her.

“No!” Perrine insisted. “No, not yet. Please, just let me enjoy this for a while…”

Annabelle was confused, so Perrine went on to explain.

“Right now, everything’s fuzzy. It’s soft, without all the sharp edges of existence. Without glasses or contacts right now, it’s like the whole world is an impressionist painting.”

“That’s stupid,” Annabelle decreed. “You’re insane—you have to be able to see. You could have an accident—anything could happen.”

“You seem to do pretty well without your hearing.”

“I’ve been deaf my whole life,” Annabelle reminded her. “I’m used to it. You’re not and you could get yourself killed.”

But Perrine was immovable. She was seeing the world through the eyes of Van Gogh and loving every minute of it. She was passing by people on the street who she’d known for years and not recognizing them, which gave her the perfect excuse for not talking to them—unless, of course, they addressed her aloud; but then she just pretended not to hear.

Annabelle was concerned about this new development. At first, it was just Perrine she was concerned for, how she was fooling herself into thinking she was all right. But then something completely demented happened.

While she was coming home from work, she took a shortcut through a rather brightly-lit alley (as alleyways go) and noticed there was something wrong with the wall. It seemed… fuzzy. It immediately made her think of what Perrine had said about the world, about her new way of seeing it. It looked like a painting—a painting of a wall. She reached out and touched it—it didn’t feel like brick, like it should. Not that she’d ever felt that particular wall before, but she knew that brick walls aren’t supposed to feel like soft pillows. It made her fingers feel tingly, too. She looked at them and—no… She looked closer at her fingertips… Her fingerprints were gone! She looked away, panicked, looked at the other wall. The other wall was fine. She touched it with her other hand—brick. She touched it with the hand that no longer had fingerprints. A fuzzy patch stayed behind on the wall. She wondered if it would grow, it looked so much like moss.

“I’m fine,” Perrine insisted, though her apartment told a different story.

“Perrine, your sofa!”

“What?”

“I can’t sit on that, it’s practically moldy with fuzz!”

“But it’s soft!”

“But what is going on?”

“Who cares? The world is a beautiful place when it’s like this! It’s not all dark and sharp and definitive—“

“Perrine!” Annabelle shouted, angrily enough she could feel it in the floorboards even through her sensory haze. “What’s going on?” she demanded once she had her friend’s attention.

Just then, there was a knock at the door. Annabelle knew it because of the way Perrine flinched, her eyes flitting to the exit.

“Who is it?” said Annabelle.

“Just a minute!” Perrine shouted for the visitor.

“It’s him, isn’t it?” Annabelle signed, following it up with the sign they’d agreed on for Massimo, with an obscene twist that made Perrine blush. “You didn’t break up with him, did you? That’s what this is about: he roped you into some fuzzy pseudo-relatioship without clearly defined boundaries!”

“No!” Perrine insisted, but then softened. “Yes?”

“You need to break up with him,” Annabelle put her foot down. “You need to do it now and you need to do it decisively. It looks to me like the fate of the whole world could literally depend on it.”


The Dragonfly and the Scorpion Queen

As female superheroes go, I confess they are not atypical. They seem to conform, as it happens, quite strongly to certain prototypes we have for thinking about “strong female leads”.

On the one hand, we have the Dragonfly. She is everything a person could expect from a teenage superhero, plus female and Japanese. Her powers did not come to her from an industrial accident or a meteor shower, though, but from deep inside herself, the result of a confluence of genetics and a pure soul that let her rise above banal mundanity. She has a special relationship to water that allows her to use it in specific ways to annoint things and even people for special purposes. She can even annoint herself with agility, speed, strength, other skills. The power comes from an affinity with an ancient water-God that critics, anthropologists and afficionados might call “nonspecific”, as it does not correspond directly with any existing religion. In all likelihood, she is an orphan, though revenge being anything but a moral motivation, what fuels her should be more of a sense that these sorts of tragedies shouldn’t happen to anyone, and so she uses her powers to fight petty crime, to beat back the Yakuza and expose corruption when it shows its ugly face, first in Osaka and then expanding outward to cover the entire region of Japan.

But what about love? This is the part that troubles me. What sort of mate would be appropriate for a wholesome superpowered girl? And how would she act around him (or her?)? How would that affect her judgment? The first feminist impulse I feel is to place her above all that, as a woman who does not need a man to complete or compete with her, but is that why we take lovers? To fill a void? Such codependence is the mainstay of much popular discourse, but is that all there is? Can’t whole people seek love, too? Does love come only to those who feel an acute need? And what, then, can we expect from him, this lover? That he tie her down to show dominance? That he put her on a pedestal as a reminder of romantic ideal? Or that he debase her as the mere object of carnal impulse, forever to be looked at and never truly seen?

Is this what we expect from a heroine’s love interest? I think we can do better. There is something downright cliché and, in inflatable numbers, dishonest about a girl so heroic she does not long for some form of companion.

But what of the Scorpion Queen? She is a very different kind of superhero, an assassin, first and foremost, for some special interest or other in China. If the Dragonfly is everything we in the West would like from a superhero, the Scorpion Queen is everything we’ve been taught to fear from a villainess, eating men like air, with implants in her fingertips turning them into retractable poisonous claws. A monster, truly, yet lithe and tempting as she leads deserving men to their doom. This, too, could be a cliché. At best, she is damaged goods, sexually promiscuous, making her more like a man in our eyes, and yet not a man and therefore dangerous, usurping male power. Such women should never be women at all, Lilith cannot be allowed to give birth, cannot be allowed to be even seen as mothers, and yet…

And yet consider the true scorpion herself, carrying her just-hatched brood on her back while she hunts, so that she can protect them.

One day, our Scorpion Queen finds herself in the worst situation she can devise: all birth control failed and now she is pregnant with the child of one of her victims. Worse: she soon finds she wants to have it.

And why shouldn’t she? Because she has a career? It is one that makes her wealthy enough to take the time off. Because she has enemies? She has had many, and now she has few. Because she is a monster? Maybe. But that’s not going to stop her from loving her child.

We need better superhero stories. And we need more of them.


Illegal

Detective Kent Noxom was not above the law—but sometimes it felt like the assholes he was sent to chase down were.

“It’s these goddamn Mexicans,” he complained to his girlfriend, Alicia. “Minute you get ‘em in cuffs, you get the liberal media coming in with their bleeding hearts talking about systemic this and institutional that, and before you know it, you got drug lords running Houston.”

His girlfriend, sprawling naked on the bed, blew cigarette smoke and looked at him with half-asleep eyes and reminded him she’s got another customer coming in soon who might not take kindly to cops.

“You got the time, amigo?” some Hispanic cabrown asked him on his way into work while he was stopped at a light. He says, “Buy a watch, hombre,” then runs just before it turned green. He saw the kid in the side-view mirror, looking after him, chewing tobacco or some goddamn hallucinogenic bell pepper or whatever the fuck, and he had this look on his face, that deer-in-the-taillights look of somebody doesn’t even speak English.

Except there was more to it. He couldn’t tell what, but it was there.

“What do we got here?” he asked at the crime scene.

“There’s six of ‘em, and they’re bigshots,” said the guy from homicide.

He handed Noxom the list. “Jesus Fuck,” said Noxom. He knew these names. Some of these names’d been up on his board for a while.

“A hit?” he suggested.

“A very palpable hit,” said Detective Schiller, like it meant a damn thing.

“Russians?”

“Eyewitness says this was one guy,” said Schiller, “and he didn’t fire a shot himself.”

The story was like something out of the funny pages or some goddamn tabloid fluff. Guy walked into a drug deal, started wise-crackin’. Next thing you knew, everybody was shooting, nobody was hitting the guy. Survivor who saw the whole thing said he couldn’t tell whether the bullets were missing the guy on account of him being so fast, or just bouncing right off him.

“Ballistics suggest both,” the Lieutenant announced in their meeting, then explained in detail where each bullet they’d found had come from and how they believed it had gotten there. “And then here,” he said at the end of the run-down, “Here’s where our vigilante crushed the 30.06 with his bare hands. “Then just in time, he added, “Supposedly.”

“Eyewitnesses say what the guy looked like?” came the peanut gallery.

“Said he didn’t look human,” said the Lieutenant. “Big eyes, one horn middle of his head—we figure it’s a mask.”

“Goddamn superhero,” somebody muttered under his breath, but not far enough under.

“That’ll be enough talk like that,” said the Lieutenant.

They didn’t find him, of course—investigation was ongoing. More incidents arose on the beat, robbery, even homicide. Vice stayed pretty quiett, though, until one day they’d set up a raid on a pot dealer thug they’d been tracking for months, but the minute they beat down the door, they knew something was wrong.

Nobody was home.

“Hello, officers.”

They turned and it was him—the big eyes, the horn, it looked so…

“The hell you supposed to be?” said one of the rookies.

“I am the Alien,” said the intruder.

“Drop your weapon!”

“I have none.”

“Put your hands up!”

“Why do you think that will help you?”

Faster than the eye could see, he disarmed every one of them. “Mr. Torres is not at home,” he informed them, and leaped out the window.

Noxom led the pursuit, but now he was so confused. I thought this guy was on our side! Hadn’t he been helping them out? Stopping robberies, foiling drug deals? So now here he is, crapping all over our country. What was up with that?

The trail went cold.

“Hey, amigo?” said a voice he could swear he’d heard before. “You got the time?”

He turned. Some dumb Mexican. Couldn’t even see his face. “Get outta here,” he told the kid, “I’m chasing bad guys.” But he had to stop now to catch his breath.

“You know, amigo,” said the voice in the darkness, “You should be more careful who you chase.” Then he lit up what looked like a crack-pope and Noxom saw his face—that face that didn’t look like a face.

“Shit!” He fired. In the light from each blast, he saw the Alien in a different place in that alley. He shouldn’t be wasting bullets like that. He stopped. “What do you want?” he asked, panting.

“I want the same thing you want,” said the Mexican-sounding Alien, “I want justice in the world. The problem is, I don’t think that you and I think the same what justice looks like.”

“You killed those drug dealers,” said Noxom.

“Correction,” said the Alien, “those drug dealers killed each other while they were trying to kill me. They were bad men making millions off others’ addictions.”

“So was that asshole in that house!”

“Correction.” Noxom was getting tired of hearing that word pretty quick. “That kid was making money to support his sister, who is sick. And there is no such thing as an addiction to Marijuana.”

“That’s ot how the law works.”

“It should be,” said the Alien. Then he paused. “I did not mean for those men to die. I acted too soon and I apologize. I would like to work with the police to work inside the law on strategy, but there are so many laws on the books that are unjust.”

Noxom finally lowered his useless weapon.

“Will you help me?” asked the Alien. “I would like to help you.”

“With the things you can do…” Noxom thought about the Kingpins. The high-level corruption he knew was going on. The Cartels. What this Alien could do about them. “Sure,” he said. “Sure, I’ll help you.”

“Thank you, amigo,” he didn’t realize it had lost the accent until it was back. “And I should give you extra special thanks.”

“For what?”

With that, the Alien stepped out into the street light and pulled off his face. It was a mask all right, just a really elaborate one. “For not asking me if I am on this planet illegally. I knew you were one of the good ones.”


The Sulphur Selkie

Shade was seven years old when she heard the story of the Irish selkies. “They are taken from the sea and become wives and mothers to Irishmen,” said the traveling social worker in a special storytelling benefit for children. “But if someone finds her coat that she had in the sea, she’ll leave her husband and children and go back!”

The social worker was a man, which might have been why he seemed mortified that a woman would leave her husband and children, but didn’t have any problem with the idea that a man could just steal a woman out of her home and force her to get married and have children.

“Doesn’t she deserve a life?” said a still, small voice inside Shade. “Doesn’t she deserve a choice?”

But she pushed the voice aside. It was the same voice that often told her not to listen to the holy men, the same voice that told her to speak up for herself when she knew she was being wronged, even if it meant talking back to adult men. It was a voice that often got her in trouble.

“Don’t you listen to that voice inside you!” her mother often scolded, brandishing the Book in her hand. “For I swear to you, it is the devil!”

She didn’t like having the devil inside her head and she so tried not to listen. But sometimes that devil was the only one that made sense.

When she was fourteen, her village was raided and Shade was one of twenty-seven girls who were kidnapped and brought North to the City to be sold.

Shade prayed for help, but when the voice inside her offered to give her the power she needed, she shrank away from it. “No matter what the voice inside offers you,” her mother had always said, “no matter what will happen to you, do not trust it, for its power is Corruption!” So she let the men take her body, rather than giving up her Soul.

At the auction where they were sold, some of the girls seemed to know things about some of the men, which ones were particularly cruel, which ones sold drugs, which ones liked hitting. There was one man there every girl agreed, once she’d heard about him, that she would choose to be sold to, if she had the choice and not they.

(But why would you want to be sold at all? asked the Voice)

That man, the respectable one with the kind face, the one who did not beat his women, the one who campaigned for positive change, that man was the one who won the bid for Shade.

He took her home and he was kind, told the staff at his mansion to treat her as a lady, and they all spoke well of him, because of how well they were treated. And that night, when he came to her, he was gentler than she had ever been led to believe a man could be when he came to a woman.

He never beat her. Sometimes he would raise his voice in anger and she wouldn’t know why and that still-small voice would tell her “It’s not fair, you should tell him!” but she would slap it away, she would remind herself of all the terrible men who had been at that auction who she might have been sold to, and the bruises, she kept seeing on the wives of her husband’s business associates, which they didn’t even try to hide. And she would remind herself how lucky she was to have been sold to a good husband.

She gave him two children, a boy and a girl. They tried to have more, but apparently, her body failed him. (And could it not be his seed, said the Voice, failing you?) She watched her son and daughter grow up, thankful first that they had such a loving father, but also that her son was so handsome and strong and most especially relieved when her daughter did not speak about a still, small Voice inside her telling her that all she knew was wrong. She did not think she would be capable of beating her own child as she had been beaten. She did not think she could bear for her daughter to be Possessed, as she was.

But once her daughter started to come of age, thoughts started to occur to Shade. Whom would her daughter want to marry? To which of her husband’s friends (or which of their sons) would she be given? Her husband was a kind and gentle man, but he didn’t seem to know any other kind and gentle men. Only villains. She thought I should find a man for her who is as honorable as her brother, but then she thought Whom will he marry? And then she thought how.

That was when the Voice returned in full force. It should not be your husband’s decision whom your daughter marries! was one of the more ridiculous claims, but underneath it was It is up to you to protect your daughter because none of these men will! And when she tried to counter about her son and about her husband, about how they were good men, the Voice inside her took no prisoners but declared That man paid money to your kidnappers so that he could own you as property. 

There it was. The Truth she could no longer escape. Her husband was not a good man. He may be better than any man she had met since she was taken from her village, but that was not the same as goodness. And under his parentage, the Voice inside her twisted the knife, what man will your son become? 

It was all too much.

What can I do? she asked the Voice. How can I help my daughter? How can I save my son? 

I can help you, said the Voice. But there is a price. 

She had always known there would be, yet she caught her breath at what the thought implied. What must I do? she asked the Voice, desperately trying not to add, not to even think, I’ll do anything!

You must forget everything your parents taught you. You must abandon your husband, perhaps even your children. You have a Power inside you that is too great for one man to keep locked away, and you have a responsibility to wield it. Join me. Give yourself to me and I will give you the power to destroy the men who once ruined you—the men who soon will ruin your daughter, also. But in return, I expect you to continue fighting for me, to seek out and destroy any men—or women, either—who would traffic children for profit. I can give you this Power, Shade, but in return you must wield it for me. 

That night, Shade brought her daughter and son to her old village. When she returned, she murdered their father. For the next week, she worked her way through all of his friends, liberating their wives whether they (thought they) liked it or not, and then fought her way into the distance, not to rest until the evil she had always known but never heeded was wiped from the face of existence.


The Blood Father

There is a man whose blood heals any wound, cures any illness. He is called the Blood Father.

No one is quite sure where he’s from—even he isn’t, anymore, as it turns out. It’s said his mother had AIDS but was cured when she bore him—but of course, there are holes in that sotry. What is clear is that he’s never been sick himself, but that’s not what makes him special.

What makes him special is his willingness to open a vein for the sake of another person, for any person he finds who is dying or disabled or even just maimed. There are some things he can’t do, certain innate genetic ailments, and he can’t restore someone’s sight or help them grow back a limb once the loss has become a part of them. But he can still work miracles.

Which is exactly what puts him in danger.

He has been running for most of his life. While he runs, he studies and conducts research. He’s made friends and contacts who help him with this research, and no one has been able to figure out how his blood does the things that it does. It cannot be synthesized. It can not be replicated. Which means that there are only so many people that the Blood Father can help. And everyone thinks they need him.


Gioconda the Hippo

Happy Wiggins was too fat to be a ballerina—at least that’s what all the other girls in her class told her. She didn’t want to believe them, but she left crying the first day and her mom wouldn’t let her go back there. But years later, the part she remembered most about that was the teacher telling her “It doesn’t matter how big you are, as long as you can make the moves.” She was what Happy’s mom liked to call a Skinny White Bitch, but she knew what she was talking about.

Happy’s favorite movie was Fantasia and her favorite part of Fantasia was the part with the dancing Hippos, set to the “Dance of the Hours” from La Gioconda, as she would later come to understand. She watched that scene over and over and over again, meticulously, until she had every move memorized.

“Hippos can’t dance,” her parents would tell her—anyone would tell her, if she talked about it. “Can’t nobody dance like that, girl, it’s a cartoon!”

But she could, and when she was fifteen, she got to prove it to the world. Some Skinny White Bitches from her school followed her home one day thinking they’d play a trick on her. They took a video through the window of her practising in front of the TV. They thought it was funny, right? Fat black Happy pretending she can dance?

Well, the Internet thought differently because it turns out some folks actually know what good dancing looks like. Practically overnight, Happy turned into an Internet sensation. She became iconic, a beacon of hope for girls who looked like her in any way, shape or color. She had managed “in spite” (as the media put it) of her size, to capture all the grace in poise and motion of the greatest ballet dancers of the age.

Vivian Murgatroyd, who had already spent several years distancing herself from her ex-husband in the business, soon snatched up the opportunity to be Happy’s agent-cum-manager.

“We should talk about your name, thought,” she said. “Happy Wiggins sounds like a cartoon character, a Saturday morning sideshow sidekick. We need something bolder.”

Happy wanted to be known as the Hippo.

“First of all,” said Vivian, “you’re not a superhero, but more importantly, Hippos are ridiculous and we want people to take you seriously.”

“Hippos are not ridiculous,” Happy countered. “They’re the most dangerous animals on Earth, and they’re not even predators. I think they’re an awesome symbol.”

But Vivian would not be moved.

“Fine,” said Happy, “then how about Gioconda?”

This gave Vivian pause. “I like it,” she said. “It’s classical, so it’ll play with the fans, but it also sounds black. And if we’re lucky, it’ll even bring in the Latin crowd—done!”

Little did Vivian know or care that Happy was still naming herself after a Hippo.

Happy Wiggins’s rise to fame as Gioconda was as meteoric as it was bends-inducing. Within three years, she had not only gained success and acclaim at the ballet, she had started to bring ballet back into the mainstream. She had fans all over the world, and yet she still felt like her weight was a liability.

She tried everything. She went on diets, hired personal trainers and nutritionists. Doctors all told her there was nothing physically wrong with her, she was just fat. Fat, but also fit. The real problem, though, came when people asked about her weight, specifically.

“I don’t like scales,” she revealed. “I break them.” And while this wasn’t technically accurate, it was her experience. When she’d tried to weigh herself in the past, something always went wrong. She’d take a deep breath, think about her target weight, step on the scale and she would be exactly as heavy as she wanted to be. That would make her smile the first couple of times, being right on track, but after thinking she’d lost a hundred pounds, she’d look in the mirror and say That can’t be right… Because she would always look exactly the same.

This finally came out in an interview with Antoine Lamarr Curtis of Zealot Magazine. “So you would always be exactly the weight you wanted to be?”

“That’s what the scale said.”

“So if you wanted to be 5000 lbs?”

“I have actually physically broken scales before.”

“What if you wanted to be ridiculously light? Say, eighty pounds?”

Gioconda gesticulated to emphasize the ridiculousness.

“But have you ever tried it?”

She hadn’t (yet) but she had “tried” other things. Part of being a ballerina is working with other talent and her most popular co-star, who she usually got along with, was Kurt Antonio. Kurt wasn’t just the skinny ballet dancer you would expect, he was tiny, a good four inches shorter than Happy’s 5’8”. But they did scenes together, and one of their favorite tricks was that impossible over-head lift, the attitude press. You might recognize it from the movie Dirty Dancing. This “press” is impressive enough when you see it with a six-foot guy and a girl who weighs 95 lbs soaking wet like Agnieshka Kosinski, but to see a Hippo like Gioconda held aloft by this ostrich of a man?

They confessed it made both of them nervous when they first tried it out, but world-famous instructor and director Sinovia Bakunin insisted that it was only a matter of leverage and weight distribution.

“And he was right,” said Kurt, “When I do that lift with her, it’s like I’ve got this way of just channeling all of the weight almost like it’s with chi or something, you know? And it’s like I barely even feel her when she’s up there. She actually feels lighter than Agnieshka.”

“And you think that’s because Kurt is doing something with his body?” Curtis prodded at the interview.

“Well, yeah. I mean, not that there’s not technique in it for me, but for me it’s just balance. I do fine with my own weight, but what he does?”

“But you’re the one with a history of confusing scales.”

This was not a connection that Happy had ever made before. To be perfectly honest, it was not one she had ever wanted to make. There was too much that went into it and the consequences were…

“She must have superpowers!” fans insisted when the interview came out. “She must have the ability to change her own weight, to alter the effects of gravity on her physical presence.”

“But it comes with a price,” someone else added, taking a supernatural turn, “because even though she can alter her weight, no matter what she does, she can never do anything about her size.”

“This is bullshit,” she said out loud to the Internet comments. But then she started to think about it and after thinking, she started to experiment. She got on the scale and without getting off, tried to move the numbers. She brought them up as high as they would go, and then brought them back down again, down, down, down. When she’d reached fifty pounds on the scale, she started feeling something odd. It wasn’t a dizziness, it wasn’t something inside herself, it was the way the air around her moved.

“Oh, shit,” she exclaimed when she figured out what it might mean, before she thought about what her momma might have to say about that language.

She tried the experiment in her hotel room, and that turned out to be a mistake. Going down was fine. She brought herself down to a total weight of what she thought felt like less than five pounds, at which point she became lighter than the air around her. She lifted up off the ground and maneuvered around the room by touching the ceiling. She eventually realized that she could kindasorta swim in the air, although it wasn’t anywhere near as efficient as swimming in water, but if she propelled herself off the walls, she could bounce.

Eventually, she would discover that the most efficient way of getting around was to make herself lighter as she propelled herself forward and then heavier coming down, so that she could bounce and ultimately leap great distances, but she wasn’t quite there yet.

It was a lot of fun there in that hotel room, but when she brought her weight back up, she overestimated by a huge margin and ended up breaking the floor of the room.

It hurt, too, but not near as much as she’d’ve thought it would.

It made her think of every fat joke she’d ever heard, which gave her an idea.

The next day, she bought a train ticket. There was a fan who talked to her before she got on, but it didn’t matter. She got on at the caboose and found the place she figured would be most structurally stable and she Increased. When it came time for the train to leave, it groaned mercilessly for several seconds.

“Folks, we seem to be experiencing some technical difficulties here.”

Once she got off the train, her footsteps echoing through the station, those “difficulties” stopped.

It made her wonder what else she could get from listening to fat jokes.

She figured this could be another way, like what she’d done before, to make a difference for girls who looked like her.

But once she started opening up about this ability, things started to get messy.

“I believed in you,” one girl wrote on her fan site. “And believing in you, believing that a girl who looked like you could still be a ballerina, made me believe that I could do it, too. But you’re not like me. You’re a superhero, and how am I supposed to be like that? I don’t have special powers!

“You’re a freak!”

Overnight (once again) she plummeted from being a star on the rise to being a fraud. “You tricked me!” was the general outcry, and all the support from the black community having a new iconic symbol couldn’t drown it out.

“A superhero?” Vivian Murgatroyd exclaimed when Happy finally approached her about it. “I mean, sure, they’re hugely popular, but you’re talking about a major rebranding here and I’m afraid your image is already pretty tarnished. Now, if you’d come to me before going public, maybe I could’ve helped you spin this, but now…

“Besides,” she added, “it isn’t who you are. Look at yourself! You’re a ballerina! What do you know about superheroing?”

That’s when Gioconda, the Hippo, drew herself up. “What do I know? I know that when I was four years old, some skinny white bitches looked just like you told me I couldn’t be a ballerina. That’s what I know.”