|Season 6, Episode 5|
Among Us Hide...
Uhm… Yeah, this is kinda weird. It’s been a long while since I last did this but I need to tell someone the crazy, awesome things that have happened to me in the last few days. You know those days you sometimes have? The days that seem totally ordinary when you wake up, but by the time you go to sleep that night, your whole life is divided into before that day and after that day? This is one of those days…
Circle Q, Jersey City, 12 miles from Manhattan.
-I just want to smell it.- Kamala Khan bent over to get closer to the B.L.T. sandwiches on display.
-I’m gonna start charging you for smells.- Bruno Carrelli joked from behind the counter.
-Delicious, delicious infidel meat…- Kamala muttered.
-Seriously, Kamala.- Nakia Bahadir folded her arms over her chest. -I don’t understand why you do this to yourself.-
-Either eat the bacon or stick to your principles. Chow or chow not, there is no smell.- Bruno said in his best Yoda voice.
-Thanks, Yoda.- Kamala rolled her eyes slightly.
-There’s fakon. I’ve had it.- Nakia suggested. -It’s not that terrible.-
-Wow, Kiki.- Khan closed her eyes briefly. -That makes me want to run right out and but a lifetime supply.-
-I told you not to call me Kiki anymore.-
-Sorry. Nakia.- The other girl corrected herself. -Proud Turkish Nakia doesn’t need “Amreeki” nickname. I get it.-
-Yo. Here comes the concern troll.- Bruno looked at the door as two teenagers walked into the convenience store.
-Hiiiiiiiii everybody!- A tall, blonde and beautiful teenager exclaimed.
-Hi, Zoe.- Bruno replied, rather unenthusiastically.
-I’m here for my usual, Bruno.- She replied, smiling.
-Zoe, every day you come in here, and every day I tell you this isn’t Starbucks. You have to get your coffee yourself.- He rubbed his eyelids with his left hand.
-God, I only buy stuff here to tip you, because I’m concerned about your economic situation.- She explained. -You should be nice.- She reprimanded him.
-Hey, dude.- The guy next to her, Josh, spoke up, looking at Bruno. -You coming to the party on the waterfront tonight?-
-Maybe.- The other one replied. -What’s the meathead quotient gonna be?-
-You guys should come too.- He turned to the girls. -If, uh, you’re allowed to do that kind of stuff.- He added rather uncomfortably.
-Yeah, I’m not allowed.- Kamala sighed.
-I’m not going if there’s going to be alcohol.- Nakia looked aside uninterestedly.
-Umm… Okay, then.- The guy shrugged.
-Your headscarf is so pretty, Kiki. I love that color.- Zoe smiled widely.
-Nakia.- The other girl corrected her.
-But I mean… Nobody pressured you to start wearing it, right? Your father or somebody? Nobody’s going to, like, honor kill you? I’m just concerned.-
-Actually, my dad wants me to take it off.- Nakia replied bitterly. -He thinks it’s a phase.-
-Really?- Zimmer asked, surprised. -Wow, cultures are SO interesting.-
-Let’s go, babe.- Josh lifted his chin slightly. -Class starts in like ten minutes.-
-Coming, Josh!- The girl exclaimed. -See you in chemistry, Bruno! Bye, Kamala! Bye Nakia! Byyeeeee!-
-I hate her.- Bruno muttered.
-But she’s so nice!- Kamala replied in awe.
-You’re such a baby, Kamala.- Nakia shook her head slightly. -She’s only nice to be mean.-
-But she’s adorable and happy!-
-You’re not allowed to defend Zoe Zimmer.- The other girl replied firmly. -Even your sad nerd obsession with the Avengers is less irritating.-
-It’s all yours, Chatty Bob!- Bruno tossed the keys at his coworker since his shift was over. -Don’t wreck the place.-
-Have a good day at school, Bruno!- The other one replied.
-Okay, yeah, but let’s face it…- Kamala shrugged. -My chances of becoming an intergalactic super hero are even slimmer than my chances of becoming blonde and popular.-
Khan Family Residence, that night.
-Kamala! Dinner!- Her mother yelled.
-One minute, Ammi… There is epic stuff happening on the internet.-
-What?- Muneeba folded her arms over her chest, annoyed.
-My Avengers fanfic has almost 1,000 up votes on freakingcool.com.- The teen girl replied.
-I didn’t understand one single word of that sentence.-
-Okay. Okay. Never mind.- She put her chain back in place.
-Fan feek… What is fan feek?!- The woman asked as they were walking down the stairs. -I thought you were up there doing homework.-
-It’s Friday night, Ammi.-
-Allahumma barik lana fima razaqtana waqina ath—- Aamir, Kamala’s brother, was praying at the table.
-Aamir, if you don’t stop praying long enough to put some food in your mouth, one day you will starve to death.- Their father commented while reading the newspaper.
-May Allah forgive you, Abu.- Aamir said in response.
-Prayer is noble, but when you spend all day praying, it starts to look like you’re avoiding something.- Yusuf Khan continued. -Like finding a job, for example.-
-Money earned from a profession that offends Allah has no merit.- The young man looked at his father. -I refuse to profit from usury… Unlike some people.-
-My job at the bank allows you to sit here at home contemplating eternity, beta. If you don’t like it, you can…-
-Oh my God, can we not have this argument again?- Kamala sighed.
-Not now, Abu-Jaan.- The woman looked at her husband. -I’m sure Aamir will find the right job soon.-
-Apparently no job is good enough for his holiness.- Yusuf remarked.
-Abu?- Kamala asked shyly.
-Hmm?- Her father replied, not looking at her.
-Can I go to a party tonight?-
-On the waterfront.-
-Come on, Abu!- She cried out. -I’m sixteen! I promise I won’t do anything stupid! Don’t you trust me?!-
-Of course I trust you, beti.- He looked at her briefly. -But it’s not safe for a young girl to be out late at night with strange boys, drinking God knows what and thinking God knows what.- He looked back at his food. -Why don’t you invite Nakia over? You young ladies can get your homework out of the way and then watch movies.-
-I’m gonna die.- Kamala muttered.
-You will not die.- Her father replied. -Look at your friend Bruno… Working hard for his family and getting top grades… Does he complain?-
-Bruno is a boy. If I was a boy, you’d let me go to the party.- She pushed her chain backwards. -May I be excused?-
-YOU ARE EXCUSED STRAIGHT TO YOUR ROOM! AND STAY THERE UNTIL YOU FIND YOUR MANNERS!-
-Fine!- Kamala replied bitterly.
It’s just a party. One party. It’s not like I’m asking their permission to snort cocaine. I’ve always done what they ask me to do… Aren’t I allowed to do anything my way? Just once? Why am I the only one who gets signed out of health class? Why do I have to bring pakoras to school for lunch? Why am I stuck with the weird holidays? Everybody else gets to be normal. Why can’t I?
And just like that, while putting a jacket on, I stepped on the window frame.
-Whoa.- Kamala muttered to herself as soon as she saw what was going on.
-… So then I was like, “Please, honey, if you’re gonna drag me down to Greenville on a weeknight, at least get me some hand sanitizer”.- She overheard Zoe telling her friends, who replied bursting into laughter. Suddenly, she spotted her. -Oh my God! Kamala! Hi!-
-Hi, Zoe.- The girl waved shyly.
-I thought you weren’t allowed to hang out with us heathens on the weekends! I thought you were, like, locked up!-
-Here, have a drink.- Josh handed her a red plastic cup.
-Is there, umm, alcohol in it?- She asked.
-Nah, just orange juice.- He replied, as Kamala started taking a sip. -Plus some vodka.-
She spat out the liquid as Josh laughed loudly.
-What the heck is wrong with you, Josh?- Bruno stepped in, taking the cup from Kamala.
-Whoa, whoa, Good Will Hunting is getting defensive!- The other guy mocked him.
-Ugh, Kamala…- Zoe smiled meanly. -No offense, but you smell like curry. I’m gonna stand somewhere else.-
Bruno led Kamala away from the crowd. -Kamala, what are you doing here?-
-Going to a party, Bruno.-
-Do your parents know?-
-Look, you need to get out of here. When the meatheads start drinking, they get stupid.-
-You’re embarrassing me. I don’t need your help. I’m not some child.-
-I just don’t want you to end up in trouble.-
-God! You sound just like my parents.- She pulled away from his grip. -Too bad you’re not Pakistani. Otherwise they’d totally throw me at you.- She muttered, before running away from the party.
I should have known better. Who was I kidding? I can never be one of them, no matter how hard I try. I’ll always be poor Kamala with the weird food rules and the crazy family.
Suddenly, she started feeling dizzy.
Wait, can you get drunk from one sip of something? That you immediately spit out?
Her sight became blurry, as she began to see double.
Oh, no. I’m drunk. I’m totally drunk.
Then it all faded to black.
-Wake up. Wake up, beti.- A voice called her.
-Hunh? Who turned on the light…- She asked, her eyes adjusting to the bright light that surrounded her.
-Sakal bun phool rahi sarson, Sakal bun phool rahi… Umbva phutay, tesu phulay, Koyal bolay daar daar, Aur gori karat singaarn- Captain Marvel sang.
-The yellow mustard is blooming in every field; the yellow mustard is blooming…- Iron Man chanted.
-… Mango buds click open, other flowers too; the koyal twitters from branch to branch and the maiden tries on her adornments.- Captain America followed.
-Captain America… Iron Man… Captain Marvel?!- She asked, unable to believe her eyes. -You speak Urdu?-
-We are faith.- Carol replied. -We speak all languages of beauty and hardship.-
-Okay then. I am totes hallucinating. I must be ultra drunk.-
-You are seeing what you need to see. You stand at a crossroads.- Tony told her.
-You thought that if you disobeyed your parents… Your culture, your religion… Your classmates would accept you. What happened instead?- Steve inquired.
-They… They laughed at me.- Kamala looked down sadly. -Zoe thought that because I snuck out, it was okay for her to make fun of my family. Like, Kamala’s finally seen the light and kicked the dumb inferior brown people and their rules to the curb.- She looked up. -But that’s not why I snuck out! It’s not that I think Ammi and Abu are dumb, it’s just… I grew up here! I’m from Jersey City, not Karachi! I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I don’t know who I'm supposed to be.-
-Who do you want to be?- Captain Marvel asked.
-Right now? I want to be beautiful and awesome and butt-kicking and less complicated… I want to be you.- She looked up at her idol. -Except I would wear the classic, politically incorrect costume and kick butt in giant wedge heels.-
-All right, kid.- Danvers nodded. -As fate would have it, you’re about to get the kind of total reboot most people only dream about. But can I tell you something?-
-It is not going to turn out the way you think.- Carol pursed her lips slightly. -Good luck, Kamala Khan.-
-Wait! Where are you going?- The girl extended her hand at the heroes, but they vanished and everything went dark again.
What the-? Oh no, oh no, oh no! I’m trapped… In a cocoon?!
-Help me! Help!- She screamed, as she started punching the rock-like material. Suddenly, she broke through and a gloved, white fist came out.
She fell to the ground, but she didn't look like herself anymore. She was in the politically incorrect outfit. She was tall and blonde.
-Ummm… Is it too late to change my mind?- She asked herself. -Wake up, Kamala. Wake up, wake up.- She stood up with difficulty.
It’s like my skin is one big muscle, and that muscle has tensed up.
-Oh man… I’m gonna puke.- She covered her mouth, as she grew in size, before going back to her original form. -Wh-What?- She looked down at her hands. -Okay. Okay. I’m okay. I’m…- Suddenly, she grew again, her hair turning blonde. -This is not happening.-
But it is happening. This is what I asked for, right? So why don’t I feel strong and beautiful? Why do I just feel freaked out and underdressed? I don’t recognize this street. I must have wandered off and fainted. I’ve got to get back to the river. Somehow get home. I can fix this…
She stood up, slowly shifting back to her old self.
Something is wrong.
-What just happened? Was that for real?- She asked herself, walking down the stairs to the river. -Did somebody put something weird in my drink?-
But it was real… Wasn’t it? Right down to the horrifying realization that super hero costumes don’t include underwear. I wonder if I can do it again, this time on purpose.
She held her arms up. -TRANSFORM!- She yelled, but nothing happened.
-And I just called… To say… I loooove Zoooo…- Kamala overheard Josh drunkenly yelling.
-Ugh, don’t call me Zoo.-
Great. It’s Zoe. The party must be winding down.
-Nngh!- She exclaimed, turning back into Carol Danvers. -Not again…-
It’s almost like a reflex. Like a fake smile. As soon as Zoe shows up I feel… Uncomfortable. Like I have to be someone else. Someone cool.
-It’s so beauuutiful…- Josh sang. -Yuuurrr bootyfulllll, Zoooo!-
-Whatever, Josh!- Zimmer exclaimed, annoyed.
But instead I feel small.
-Whoa.- Kamala whispered, realizing she had literally shrunken down. -Okay. This is… Wow. That was a neat trick! I’m tiny!- Suddenly, she spotted a critter next to her. -Oh my God, a giant giant cockroach! EEWWWW!-
-What was that? Did you hear something?- Zoe asked.
-Hush that foos! Everybody move to the back of the boos!- Josh followed his girlfriend down the dock. -Come on, babe. Dance with me.- He put his arm around her waist.
-Ugh, no way.- She tried to push him off. -You smell like cheap beer.-
-Dancin’ in the moonlight…-
-Josh, stop, I’m gonna be seasick… Josh, STOP IT!-
-Oooh, scared you’re gonna fall? Don’t worry, I got you…- Suddenly, Zoe’s coat slipped off her shoulders, as she fell to the river.
-AAAAH!- She screamed.
-Zooo…! ZOE!- Josh called for his girlfriend. -HELP, SOMEONE, HELP!-
-Ohmygodohmygodohmygod!- Kamala muttered from afar.
He’s drunk and she’s panicking. If he jumps in, they’ll both drown. There’s this ayah from the Quran that my dad always quotes when he sees something bad on TV. A fire or a flood or a bombing. “Whoever kills one person, it is as if he has killed all of mankind… And whoever saves one person, it is as if he has saved all of mankind.”
-EmBIGGEN!- Kamala yelled, turning into Ms. Marvel.
When I was a little kid, that always made me feel better.
-MOVE!- She yelled, running towards Josh and pushing him aside.
Because no matter how bad things get…
-Zoe, you have to relax, okay? The more you thrash around, the worse it gets!- She extended her right hand at the river.
There are always people who rush in to help.
Her arm started stretching.
And according to my dad… They are blessed.
Her overgrown hand picked up Zoe’s body, bringing her back to the dock.
-It’s okay. I’ve got you.- Kamala said calmly.
-Wh-What…?- Zoe asked.
-Dude, no way! Look! It’s Captain Marvel!- One passerby commented.
-What?- Another one asked.
-This is awesome!- A girl exclaimed, recording the scene with her phone.
-Are you okay?- Kamala got down to her knees to face Zoe. -Can you breathe?-
-Yeah… Yeah, I’m okay…-
-Oh my God, your old costume! It looks great!- The girl with the phone exclaimed.
-Can we get your autograph?- The second passerby asked.
-You… You saved me.- Zoe looked up at her savior. -I’m never gonna get wasted ever again…-
-I… Uh…- Kamala tried to say something, but the situation just didn’t feel right.
-Not to sound lame but…- The first passerby spoke up. -What’s up with your arm?-
-I gotta go!- Kamala exclaimed, running away from the dock.
-Wait! Stay!- Zoe yelled.
-This is so going on YouTube…- The other girl exclaimed, happily saving the video she had just got.
When I daydream about the Avengers… This is not how I picture it.
-This hand thing… Is getting… Out of hand…- Kamala told herself, exhausted. -Great, I make bad puns now…- She looked at her hand. -Come on! Get normal-sized! Disembiggen!- Suddenly, her right hand went back to its usual size. -Oh. Nice.-
It’s like having a completely new sense. It’s not sight or taste or touch… It’s something much weirder. Something almost… Inhuman. But being someone else isn’t liberating. It’s exhausting. I always thought that if I had amazing hair, if I could pull of great boots, if I could fly… That would make me feel strong. That would make me happy. But the hair gets in my face, the boots pinch and this leotard is giving me an epic wedgie. What made me happy… What made me happy was seeing Zoe take a breath of air. Even though she makes everybody feel like crap… I’m glad I was there. I’m glad she lived. Maybe putting on a costume doesn’t make you brave. Maybe it’s something else.
-Hi beautiful! Nice knees!- A hobo yelled at her.
This is rapidly becoming no fun. Home. I have to get home.
Grove Street. Midnight, a.k.a., Way After Curfew
Yikes. Abu and Ammi are still up. Okay, this is where I admit that I’ve only ever snuck out twice before in my life. Once when I was ten, just to see if I could actually get down the tree in one piece. And then once freshman year to see the midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows with Nakia and Bruno.
Kamala climbed up the tree, reaching for the window.
And what I discovered was this.
-Oof!- She winced, falling inside her bedroom with a loud thud.
-Huh?- Aamir stopped in front of Kamala’s bedroom door.
Sneaking in is WAY harder than sneaking out.
-Kamala? Is that you?- He asked, peeking inside the room.
Kamala. I’m Kamala. Kamala has dark hair and dark eyes and is sort of short and has never actually owned a pair of thigh-high boots…
Aamir turned on the lights.
-I can explain!- Kamala exclaimed.
-What are you wearing? What’s going on?-
-It’s me! Your sister! What you’re seeing is some sort of weird subconscious projection thingie! I’m not actually blonde!-
-Blonde? What are you talking about?-
-It worked. I can do the shape-shifty thing on purpose. This is a legit thing. I have freaking powers.- She whispered to herself.
-Now I’m worried. Did something… Happen tonight?- Aamir asked.
-Yeah. Something happened. Something really, really weird.-
-It’s gonna be okay!- He pulled her in an extremely tight hug. -I’ll get the brothers from the mosque and we’ll beat the ever-loving snot of whoever hurt you!-
-What?!- She pushed her brother away from her. -No! It was nothing like that! I’m fine!-
-Oh.- He replied. -In that case, you’re screwed… Because Abu and Ammi know you snuck out.-
Her parents suddenly walked inside the room.
-What? How? How did you know?- Kamala turned to face them.
-Bruno called us.- Her mother explained. -He was worried sick about you. He said you disappeared from the shaytani party alone, and wouldn’t answer him…-
-Bruno told on me?! What is this, sixth grade?!-
-Bruno is the least of your troubles, young lady.- Her father spoke up. -Do you realize what your mother and I suffered, sitting by the phone, waiting for a call from the police to tell us something terrible had happened to our daughter?-
-It was a party. It was nothing.-
-Nothing? I’m very disappointed in you, beta. Very disappointed. You disobeyed me, and worse, you put yourself at risk.-
-You have no idea what I’ve been through tonight!-
-Then tell me, Jaanu.- He put his hands on her shoulders. -Tell me why my precious Kamala has suddenly become a reckless, disobedient girl I barely recognize.-
What do I say? I fell into a coma and woke up as Ms. Marvel? I saved Zoe Zimmer’s flanky, hair-flipping life? He won’t understand. He can’t understand. He’ll freak.
-I’m sorry I disobeyed you, Abu. There’s just… There’s just a lot of stuff going on in my life right now, and I can’t talk about it. Not yet. Not until I’ve figured it out on my own.-
-That’s what you have to say?- Her mother asked, enraged. -You are “figuring it out”? Have I raised a daughter to hide things from her parents?-
-Calm down, Ammi.- Aamir intervened.
-This is your fault.- She looked at her husband. -See how the children have turned out? See? One sneaks out to parties with boys and the other dresses like a penniless mullah!-
-Here we go again.- Her son rolled his eyes.
-It’s too late for this discussion.- Yusuf shook his head. -I’m going to bed. I suggest the rest of you do the same. As for you, young lady…- He looked at Kamala. -From now on, your life is school and home. No mall, no movies, no parties. Not until you prove we can trust you on your own. Am I making myself clear?-
-Night, sis. I’ll pray for you.- Aamir said, closing the door behind him. Kamala walked to her Captain Marvel poster.
Fabulous. Now, I’m in trouble, too. This has to have happened for a reason. I saved one life. Does it stop there or do I go on?
She put her right hand on the poster.
Maybe this is what I’ve been waiting for. Maybe I’m finally part of something… Bigger. Time to level up. I have tools now. Tools I didn’t have before. It’s a matter of learning how to use them. Learning my strengths. Learning my limitations. Learning how to work with this new body instead of against it.
She crafted a homemade suit, designing a yellow lightning shape on the front.
Good is not a thing you are. It’s a thing you do.
- This episode is based on some issues of Ms. Marvel Vol. 3, with several lines of dialogue taken straight out of the comic books.