When my friends and I found the glowing, pulsing alien orb out in the woods, clearly wounded in some way and no more than a couple weeks from death, we were torn. On the one hand, nursing it back to health was the morally right thing to do. On the other hand, we were pretty sure it would give us superpowers in return for our help, and we really didn’t want that kind of responsibility.
It was the summer before senior year, and we were all enjoying just hanging out, eating snacks and taking Buzzfeed quizzes. Saving the world with our newly-bequeathed superpowers would probably be rewarding in some big-picture sense, but compared with the lazily meandering three months we’d been anticipating, it just sort of sounded like a drag.
“Maybe we could help him out, but just send him on his way and refuse any superpowers he offers us,” suggested Darius, pouring the crumbs from a bag of French Onion Sun Chips into his mouth.
“That’ll just make him think we’re humble and therefore even more worthy of powers,” pointed out Katelyn, pouring the crumbs from a bag of Garden Salsa Sun Chips into her mouth. “How you say, no bueno.” We knew she was right. No bueno was exactly how you said it.
I should mention we were a pretty diverse group of friends, encompassing most major ethnicities and personality types. There was Katelyn (white), the slightly bossy but levelheaded one; Darius (black), the well-liked athletic one who I secretly had feelings for sometimes; Albert (East Asian), the quiet bookish one most likely to be tempted to be turned evil; Luisa (Latina), the creative one who spoke in poetry and dreamt in dance; and Prateek (South Asian), prone to delivering killer one-liners with impeccable timing. And of course me (unspecified): the one with divorced parents who felt vaguely like an outsider—not so much so that I come off as a loser, but enough that I’m relatable. Each of us so different! When we took the “Which Character From Friends Are You?” Buzzfeed quiz, we each got a different Friend. That’s how different we were.
But so yeah, this alien orb. It seemed likely that once we’d patched it up, it’d want to explain how it got hurt in the first place, probably the result of some intergalactic warfare. It’d be an exposition-packed monologue, we were sure, and we’d be expected to pay close attention to the nuanced cosmic geopolitics, keeping track of which extraterrestrial species were friend and foe in this battle into which we had been unceremoniously drafted.
But consider: Luisa had figured out that you could mix ricotta cheese with red pepper hummus and dip green apple slices in it. So it’s not like we didn’t have other things that needed our attention.
The orb seemed pretty observant, too, so no doubt everyone’s unique powers would shed new light on their natural strengths and underlying weaknesses. For example, Prateek’s newfound shapeshifting abilities would help him pull off new hilarious pranks, sure, but they’d also metaphorically represent his tendency to mask his true personality, cracking jokes when conversations got too intimate. We had no interest in coming to terms with our deepest flaws, even if ultimately it might result in climactic moments of emotional catharsis and personal growth, like a weeping Prateek realizing that the best shape to shift into was himself.
Lest you judge us too harshly, it’s not like we weren’t on our way to being productive members of society. Katelyn had dreams of being a state senator. Darius was the founding CEO of a charitable organization (after-school obedience tutoring for inner city underprivileged dogs). Albert regularly volunteered at the hospital—and in the wing with the grossest diseases, too. It was just… why couldn’t this have happened in September, when we could pitch it to Principal Williams as an independent study, maybe even for honors credit?
The orb’s feeble, ethereal bleat still echoed in our ears. We all sat and stared at each other uncomfortably for twenty-five minutes. Then Katelyn said, “I wonder if there are any new Buzzfeed quizzes for us to take!” and we all said, “Ooh yeah I hope so!”
We logged on to Buzzfeed and held our breath, praying there would be something to distract us from our dilemma. And thank god, there was. We let out our breaths in a collective sigh of relief as we began to read the latest offering: “Pick Your Dream Day Of Gluten-Free Feasting…” But then we gasped in a collective gasp of horror as we continued: “…And We’ll Tell You Whether Or Not You Should Save The Dying Alien Orb You Found In The Woods Behind Your House.”
What we didn’t know was that anybody could register for a free Buzzfeed account and make a quiz, and the patch of woods where the alien orb was toughing it out had decent access to an unsecured Wi-Fi network. As far as we were concerned, the quiz was gospel.
Buzzfeed quizzes were behind our class schedules, our extracurriculars, our vacation destinations. A relationship compatibility test was the reason Katelyn and Luisa had just celebrated their second anniversary, even though Luisa was straight and Katelyn typically went for blondes. Quizzes picked up on the subtle differences in our personalities and told us how to behave in accordance with those differences, etching our archetypes ever deeper with each new result we got. Without them, we’d have to figure out who we were on our own, which was a lot of difficult, messy emotional labor, plus there were no snazzy graphics or shareable links associated with that.
We exhaled in a collective sigh of finality as we clicked through to our fate. And there it was, our result unanimous, undeniable: “You SHOULD Save The Dying Alien Orb You Found In The Woods Behind Your House!” Dang. We opened Luisa’s back gate and rushed into the trees, kicking up pine needles as we ran. The orb’s glow was weaker now, but it was still there, hanging on.
Albert leapt into action, the only one of us with any medical training. He tried to do CPR, but couldn’t find a mouth anywhere. The orb, clearly grateful for the effort, started vibrating. I suddenly felt a strange warmth in my chest. I looked up to meet Darius’s eyes, and I could tell he was feeling it too. Just as we’d feared: superpowers. Double dang.
But Albert still couldn’t figure out how to actually help the orb, so it died before it could tell us anything. Now we’ve all got superpowers, but we remain blissfully unaware of any impending space war. It’s a best-of-both-worlds situation we hadn’t considered, and I’ve got to say, we really lucked out. I’m having a great time moving stuff with my mind. Believe it or not, I actually typed this whole thing without touching the keyboard. So long, carpal tunnel! Ha ha.
Anyway, that’s why I think I’d be a good fit for the diverse, multitalented student body at Harvard. I know I’ve gotten straight D’s since kindergarten, but I have telekinesis, and also I’m pretty sure Earth is going to get zapped by a UFO laser or something pretty soon, so, like, what do you have to lose, you know?