Saturday, March 26, 2005

144. The omniscient narrator

Strange cleaned up the mess he'd just made, then pulled up his--yes, his!--tights and briefs. He glanced down and noticed a last glob of spunk on his left boot, which he wiped up with the edge of his cape. Must be something in the belt for this, he thought, and it struck him that he was still largely unfamiliar with the contents of Batman's arsenal. He ran his hand across each compartment from front to back on the left, and then the right. He didn't know what half the items were, and assumed he'd never need them.

Just a test run, he told himself. There may be more, if need be. For now, it's important just to act. To get out there.

He approached the front door of his office. He hesitated. Better to use the back one--can't risk being seen so easily.

For the first time, he began to see the world through Batman's eyes. It was true--he was Batman now. He grew aware of the sensation of the costume hanging (somewhat more loosely than he thought) over his own skin as he slipped out the rear door and into the cool night air. He was intoxicated by the way the weight and density of the cape, belt, and suit affected his gait. It was all so damned heavy, but at the same time he felt safer than he'd expected. He was protected. Invulnerable.

There was an alley a block from the office. Best to start there. During many a session when Richard Grayson had come for counselling, Strange had sat back in his chair and let his mind drift into fantasies about patrolling it in the guise of Batman.

Detailed as these fantasies had been, they somehow seemed to be of little use as he stood at the back door of his building and contemplated how to get across the street without anyone noticing him. Should he run, or walk, or was there possibly some device on the belt that would enable him to ... fly? For a brief moment, he felt paralyzed by fear and doubt. It was dark, and there was very little auto traffic. Tensing ever so slightly, he crept out into the night air, looked both ways, and sprinted across the throughfare and into the alley.

The first thing he found when he got there was how cold and damp everything felt in the pitch black. The suit kept him moderately warm, but there was something dank and dirty and very, very real about the whole scene. He heard a noise in the distance--a bang--and without thinking he began to run. He headed farther and farther into the darkness, then stopped abruptly. Wait a minute--I have no reason to be scared. I am the one who strikes fear into others now. Can't show my weakness. Must stand strong and tall...

He felt something brush against his boot, sensed it crawling up his leg. A rat? Or something ... worse? He shrieked and tried to flick it away.

Easy. Keep cool. I am in control here. I own the night.

Strange regained his composure and began to walk slowly and cautiously to the other end of the alley. The deeper he went--the farther he strayed from the safety of his home base--the more confident he felt.

He had reached another street, this one busier than the first. This time he sensed exactly what to do: a rusty fire escape ladder provided a way up and out of sight. Go vertical, he thought, and soon he found himself on the roof of a building.

The view from above changed everything. He was only a couple of stories up, but in his delirium he felt like he was on top of the world. All this belongs to me, he told himself. I am all powerful! I am unbeatable! Nothing can stop me now!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

143. The omniscient narrator

Hugo Strange sat at his desk completing his notes. He was wearing the costume of his former archenemy, minus the cowl and gloves, which he had removed while he wrote. His attention had been focused so thoroughly on his "patients" that he had barely noticed his own state of arousal, but between the capture of Batman, the challenge of breaking the man, and the thrill of assuming his old identity, Strange was now more turned on than he'd ever been before.

He had neglected other things as well: the flashing light on his answering machine, the piles of mail in the box outside the office, all the other trappings of his life as Gus Tanhoger. Weeks earlier he had ordered his receptionist to notify all his patients that he would no longer be seeing them, and then he had fired her, citing no reason whatsoever. All that mattered to him now--or ever--was the defeat and transformation of Batman. It had become a holy mission, a quest, for him.

Strange walked into the room where his two prisoners slept and admired how skillfully and obediently they had managed to cram themselves into the impossibly small confines he had provided for them. He knew he would have to let them out soon or their muscles would begin to cramp, but first he had work to do, and it was best to keep them cooped up as a precaution.

He stood before the mirror near their cages and took a long, very hard look at himself. While a sober observer would have strongly disagreed, in Strange's eyes the batsuit fit him perfectly, accentuating every ripple of a sleek, muscled body. He looked magnificent, he told himself, reaching for the gauntlets and pulling them on as slowly as possible. The mask came next. He held it in his gloved hands and gazed at it, the ultimate sign of his superiority over the naked addict curled up in a cage at his feet.

It was almost too good to be true, he told himself--and yet it was true. He had won. The limp and lifeless cowl was evidence, was it not? He toyed with it for a moment, stretching it, rubbing it, testing how it looked and felt and even smelled. As he held the mask to his nose and breathed in the lingering traces of its former wearer's sweat, he felt--he knew--that he was absorbing this history into his own bloodstream. His erection grew stiffer and his mind, or at least his instincts, grew ever stronger: soon he was running his tongue along the interior of the mask, eager to taste and digest its secrets. He was delirious with lust and drunk with power. Soon he felt his cock jut against something equally stiff: the bottom of the utility belt strapped around his waist. Again he admired himself in the mirror.

I'm him, he thought, I have become my enemy. I have made his strengths my strengths. I have taken his very lifeblood from him.

Suddenly his arousal seemed like a distraction. If I am to enter the night in this new role, I must clear my head, he thought. He pulled the outer briefs down, and the tights beneath them, just enough that the bunched-up fabric grazed his balls. He clutched his shaft in one hand and the mask in the other and began to masturbate.

It did not take long until he knew that orgasm was inevitable. At the precise second that he was ready to explode, he brought the mask down over his head.

"OH GOD," he moaned so loudly that he would have awakened the caged crusaders had they not been so heavily drugged. "It's true! It's true!!!

"I .... AM .... BATMAN!"

Sunday, March 20, 2005

142. Hugo Strange (notebook entry)

The patients are both resting after a particularly intensive session. Now that their initial resistance has been lowered significantly, they are more open to my techniques. I have proceeded thus far by a highly successful means of systematic deprivation: one by one they have lost their freedom, their clothing, their names, and almost all outward evidence of their masculinity. (I have retained their facial hair for the moment as an ongoing reminder to them of their captivity and their degraded state.)

Before I can proceed with treatment, I must gain further insight into the inner life of the one who was called Bruce Wayne: I must learn firsthand what he experienced when he donned the costume I now wear. I must see for myself the expressions on the faces of strangers who encounter "the Batman," must know the thrill of overpowering them and demonstrating my might.

Only then can I truly know the man behind the mask. Now that I have transformed him, I must become him.

141. The omniscient narrator

"Gentlemen, gentlemen," Strange scolded, kicking the pill out of reach of either man. "I did not instruct you to tear each other apart. You are both important possessions of mine, and I cannot have you destroying each other. I believe you need another reminder before you receive your treats."

He nudged the two of them apart with his boot, gesturing for them both to lie on the ground on their backs, their bodies outstretched. Out came the clippers again.

"If you act like animals, I will treat you like animals. And sometimes animals need to be sheared."

He had already shaved their heads; now--beginning with Object Y and moving to Object X--he removed the remainder of hair from their chests and genitals, leaving only their faces untouched. Neither "object" made any attempt to resist.

"That's more like it," Strange said, picking up the pill from the dirty floor and placing it in Object Y's mouth. "Don't worry, Object X--I have one for you, too," he said, reaching into the utility belt for a second capsule.

Strange left for a moment and returned with a pet carrier built for a very large dog, and then a second. "These are your new homes," he said, opening the doors and watching each of his captives force itself into the cramped space of a carrier.

"I am leaving you to your thoughts now. You need your rest, if you are to face what lies ahead. Until I return, I want you each to reflect on what has happened to you. On what you are. On how much you owe me," he continued, knowing full well how much the "treats" he had just fed them would assist that inevitable process.

Strange latched each cage. If he were still dealing with Batman and Robin, the flimsy latches would be no match for them. But he knew beyond a doubt that those two entities were long gone. The piles of hair on the floor of his office were simply the latest evidence of that fact.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

140. The omniscient narrator

"What was that?" Hugo Strange said. "I didn't quite hear you. Speak up."

The doctor's cum-drenched patient looked confused. Had he really spoken out loud just now? Or was this further evidence of his master's tremendous gift, his ability to read minds, to bring unconscious desires to light?

"I am Object X," the prisoner said.

"Louder," Strange demanded.

"I AM OBJECT X!" Despite the passion with which it was uttered, this last outburst was still closer to a whisper than a scream, given the lingering effects of paralytic medications on the speaker's vocal chords.

The third man in the room, the one now known only as Object Y, sat and watched, taking in what was unfolding before him with a blank expression on his face. From time to time one or both of his hands wandered down to his exposed crotch for a bit of entranced stimulation.

"You have both done very well," Strange told them. "You have each made great progress, and you deserve a reward." He reached into the utility belt on the batsuit and produced a large yellow pill he'd placed there earlier.

"Who will earn it?" he asked, dangling the pill before the two captives. "Which of you is the better patient?"

Object Y left his chair and sank to his knees on the floor, his hands outstretched as if to beg. He had been instructed not to speak without permission, so he was unable to plead out loud, but the longing look in his eyes told his tale.

Object X soon joined his former partner on the ground. "Mmmmmeee," he whispered. "Pl--please."

"Looks like we have some competition here," Strange said, clearly amused by the sight of two grown men turned addicts, reduced to the state of puppies begging for treats. He threw the pill on the floor between the two. "I think you're going to have to fight over it."

X and Y both dove for the capsule at the same time. Y reached it first and cupped his hand over it, but X shoved him away. Y rebounded with a blow, and soon the two were engaged in bitter hand-to-hand combat. There was no evidence at all that there had ever been a bond between them; it looked entirely like each was willing to destroy the other if need be.

They tore at each other like wild dogs fighting over a bone. Fists flew, feet reached out to kick with brutal force. In time, Y--taking advantage of X's significantly reduced abilities--had him pinned to the floor, hands clutching his throat with the single-mindedness of a junkie desperate for a fix.

One squeeze, and the former Caped Crusader would be dead.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

139. The omniscient narrator

Upon hearing his new name, Object X suddenly grew dizzy, light-headed, nearly numb. It was if the floor had opened up beneath him and he was now plunging down, down, down, in a never-ending freefall. The falling sensation lasted so long it became floating... drifting...

He never would have expected to behave this way even a few short days ago, but then he no longer knew who he was anymore. He had shed so much of his identity by now that he suddenly felt as if all the rules had changed. He was no longer required--or able--to maintain his old sense of decorum, bravado, self-protection. He was naked and defenseless inside and out now.

As he drifted in empty space, he found himself weeping. He cried and cried, and the tears flowed through his entire body, draining him of some once-vital essence. And--surprise!--it felt good. It felt tremendous. The sensation of tears pouring out, of his limbs shaking, was the only thing that connected him to his body, to the earth. Once they were all gone, he'd be able to fly...

He could hear Strange laughing. Laughing at him. Seeing the other man wearing the costume, it felt as if "Batman" was now a separate entity, one who was now standing outside him, mocking him. Celebrating his defeat.

And--to his surprise--Object X discovered that he himself was now thoroughly aroused; not only was his penis fully erect, but every nerve ending in his body seemed alive with erotic energy. He looked at himself in the mirror once more and found a man he did not recognize: a prisoner, a helpless speck of a man, hairless but for his unkempt cheeks, stripped bare, eyes red from crying, hands travelling to his stiff cock.

"Go ahead," Strange said, regaining his composure and assuming the gentle tone he usually used with Dic--Object Y. "Jerk yourself off. Celebrate your new life, Object X. Let the jism flow. Remind yourself that it contains the last few drops of whatever remains of your old, divided self. Purge yourself. You know how much it hurt to try to be two people in the same body. All those years of struggle--let them go. Expel the old battles from your body. Only then can you open yourself to your new reality."

Object X: the very name was so complete a rejection of his prior life, of any sense of identity, of his very humanity, that it thrilled him to his core. He was now working his shaft with such fury and intensity that he had room in his mind for nothing else. He wanted now to obey, longed to flush the past from his system and surrender ever more thoroughly to this man who knew him so very well and had changed his life so very thoroughly. Everything that was happening now, he realized, was in fact the culmination, not the destruction, of his life's work. He was destined to reach this level of awareness from the day he'd first donned a mask. Every hero's dream is to be defeated, to be born again as something not higher than his fellow man, but far lower. Every hero, by definition, meets a tragic end--

--and I am no hero, he realized at the precise moment of orgasm, which was every bit as cleansing as Strange had told him it woud be. I am ... Object X.

Monday, March 14, 2005

138. The omniscient narrator

"Excellent," said Dr. Strange, snatching the paper containing the confession as soon as his prisoner had signed it. Wayne's signature was shaky at best, indicating the altered state he was in when he produced it, but it was still recognizable as his own penmanship.

Naked, bearded, and reeking of untold days without washing, Bruce stared blankly at the doctor, who was still wearing the batsuit. He's right, Wayne thought. It's not mine anymore. Anyone could wear it. Anyone could play that role. It doesn't have to be me. I had my turn. And now that's over.

Bruce turned his gaze to Dick Grayson. Strange had permitted--more likely ordered--the younger man to bathe and shave. Now the two of them, former colleagures and now fellow captives, sat beside each other in silence, the twin prizes in Strange's personal trophy case.

Bruce heard a buzzing sound from behind them. As it drew nearer, he knew without looking what it was, and the mirror confirmed his guess: Strange held an electric razor and was now using it to shave Grayson's head.

"We have successfully removed all traces of the first layer of your old identities," the doctor told them. "Now we shall address the second layer."

When it was Bruce's turn to submit to the razor, he did so without putting up resistance of any kind. The shearing took only a few minutes, and when it was over he stared, almost hypnotized, into the mirror at his and Grayson's newly bald pates. Only the heavy beard growth remained. Who am I?, he wondered, suddenly feeling free of forty-plus years of pain, anger, hurt, and suffering. Liberation... He felt a needle prick his forearm and watched Strange inject him with yet another syringe. It had happened so many times in the last few days, weeks, perhaps months, that he had long since lost count.

"You have already let go of the fictions that were 'Batman' and 'Robin,'" Strange said. "Now it is time to abandon the names beneath those names. 'Bruce Wayne' is a disguise you no longer need to hide behind. The illusion which was 'Richard Grayson' is but a dim memory.

"From this point on, you shall be called 'Object X,'" he continued, pointing at the older man. "And that one"--he gestured to the younger man--"shall be 'Object Y.'"

Friday, March 11, 2005

137. Batman (forced confession)

I, Bruce Wayne, formerly known as Batman, do hereby confess to the following crimes:

*For many years, I attempted to enforce a form of vigilante justice which was neither necessary nor appropriate.
*I liked the knowledge to make determinations about the guilt or innocence of the people I pursued.
*I acted for my own selfish reasons, taking great pleasure in what I did at the expense of others.
*I was too cowardly to take responsibility for the harm I caused, choosing to disguise my face and body with a costume.
*Rather than acknowledging that my primary motivations were erotic and narcissistic, I pretended to myself and the outside world that I was pursuing a noble mission as a crimefighter.
*Because of my actions, many men and women lost many valuable years of their lives to incarceration.
*One of the men who suffered most from my misdeeds was one Hugo Strange, also known as Dr. Gus Tanhoger, a legitimate and honored psychiatrist.
*Blind to his positive influence, I rejected his repeated offers to help me and instead tormented him for many years.
*I convinced Richard Grayson to join me in my activities, robbing him of the chance to lead a normal and healthy life and placing him in great danger for my own purposes.

I now renounce, in this moment and for the rest of my life, the actions listed above. In separate documents I will sign over the sum of my personal income and holdings to Dr. Gus Tanhoger, whom I authorize to manage all my personal affairs from this day forward. I further swear, upon punishment of death, that I will never again wear the aforementioned costume or refer to myself as the Batman except under explicit instructions from the doctor.

To all those who have suffered as a result of my actions, I heartily apologize. Words cannot express my shame at what I have done. I beg your forgiveness.

Bruce Wayne

136. Hugo Strange (notebook entry)

Treatment is proceeding quite well. The patient has turned a corner, and rehabilitation is at last in sight. The next step is for him to admit and assume responsibility for his past errors. To assist him in this process, I have presented him with a rough draft of a full confession of his crimes. He has been told to revise it and sign it as his final act in his old life.

I continue to wear his former costume for the time being. It is my intention that he will come to recognize it as a marker of his prior self, something which is separate from him and can therefore be removed from his consciousness.

Mine is difficult work, but the rewards are great indeed.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005









update!!! (3/12/05)
5 votes were cast within 24 hours, so the story will continue. Thanks to those of you who wrote in. I'm still very eager to hear from readers in general, so if you didn't write before, please feel free to.

135. The omniscient narrator

"I will give you a choice, Batman," Strange said. "I am fully prepared to remove the cowl myself. But I would much prefer to watch you do it. It is such an important stage in your treatment, and the effect will only be fully felt if you take the matter into your own hands, as it were. Which will it be?"

Bruce was busy being penetrated from two orifices at the same time and did not have much of a chance to reply until removing his mouth from Strange's shaft. He was silent for several moments, weighing his options--neither of which was particularly promising.

"L-l-let me," he said.

"Excellent choice," Dr. Strange said. "I am delighted to see that you are finally coming around." He turned to the other man.
"Richard, stop what you are doing. I know that you are on the verge of release, and you will have it in due time, but I want to set the stage for this auspicious moment."

Strange produced a silver cigarette lighter and began lighting candles which were displayed throughout the office. Had they been there all along? Bruce could not recall seeing them earlier, but then his perception was clouded at best.

Strange flicked a switch, and the room went dark but for the candlelight. "Kneel before me, both of you," he ordered, and the two men did as they were told, one willingly, the other somewhat less so. "Richard, take yours off first."

Dick Grayson reached up and removed the domino mask from his face. Even more than Batman's, this was a purely symbolic gesture, given that he had surrendered it to Tanhoger/Strange long ago and only put it back on at the doctor's orders. But the act set the stage, and Strange found himself excited by the sheer inevitability of what was finally happening. He slipped his hand into the bat-tights and began jerking himself off.

"Your turn, Batman," he said, masturbating with great intensity as the kneeling hero unfastened the clasp over his throat and then pulled the mask off his face once and for all.

At the precise moment that the cowl came off, a jet of warm jism flew from the end of Strange's cock and landed squarely on Bruce Wayne's exposed forehead. Strange howled in ecstacy, a decade of wet dreams fulfilled, and he continued working his shaft to expel every last drop of fluid.

"Come, Richard, join me," he said, motioning for Grayson to stand. The younger man did so, and soon he, too, was jerking away until he shot onto Wayne's face. One gob landed on the now-thick beard hairs on Bruce's chin and dripped onto the captive's bared chest.

Strange took the cowl in his hand and placed it over his own head, completing the stolen costume he now wore. "It's over, friend," he said. "It's over."

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

134. Alfred

Master Bruce has never been gone this long before without attempting to contact me. Given the circumstances, and the fact that I have not heard from Master Grayson for an even longer period of time, I can only assume the worst has happened.

Acting on his instructions for this sort of situation, I have perpetuated the fiction that Bruce Wayne is away on business at an unspecified location for an undetermined amount of time. I will continue to maintain the illusion until three months have passed, at which point I will produce a death certificate. As per his wishes, he will go to his grave with the secret of his alternate identity intact.

My heart is heavy as I write these words and contemplate whatever horrors he may have endured in his final days.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

133. The omniscient narrator

Dick heeded Dr. Strange's call and stood beside him.

"Look at him, Batman," Hugo Strange said. "Observe how far he has come with my assistance. And please note how ... eager he is to serve me now."

Bruce could not miss his partner's erection.

"Richard, help me take off my clothes," Strange said. As he removed each article of clothing, he handed it to Grayson, who folded it with the utmost of care and placed it near the other costumes. Once Strange had disrobed, they were now three naked men. "We are on equal ground now," the doctor pointed out. "But not for long."

"Bend over, Mr. Grayson. Show Mr. Wayne how readily you accept me." Strange stood behind the stooped man and wrapped his arms around his accomplice's waist, then thrust his cock into Grayson's waiting ass.

The man who once called himself Robin looked like he was in ecstacy as Strange pumped him. This was clearly something the two men had done many times before, and it was hard to deny that Grayson was enjoying it. It was equally hard for Bruce to deny that he was growing aroused by the sight, even as its implications repulsed him.

The self-styled doctor stopped for a moment. "You are jealous, I see, Batman. You are beginning to admit to yourself that I have done what you could not. You want to be a part of this. There is no need to hold back, Mr. Wayne. Come here and join us."

Once again, Bruce Wayne felt himself compelled to obey. He began crawling toward the other two, catching his reflection in the mirror as he moved along the floor on all fours against his will, ashamed that he had been reduced to this lowly state but unable to resist.

"Perhaps your friend here can pump some sense into you," Strange said to Batman before turning his attention to Robin. "Go to it, Richard. You used to long for this moment before I taught you better. Now the time has come. Give him what I give you. Give it to him good. Make him ache."

Dick Grayson mounted his former partner and rode him like an animal, penetrating him without the benefit of lube. It was painful for both men, but they had no other options except to fuck and be fucked.

"He wanted to do this with you for so long," Strange told Batman. "You did know that, didn't you? Or were you so lost in your own selfish desires that you missed it?"

Bruce Wayne was silent as he endured the violation.

"Now that it's happening, how does it feel, Batman?" Strange asked. "How does it feel to have Robin inside you at last? Are you enjoying yourself?"

Wayne could not help himself. "Y-y-yessss," he hissed. "Yessss."

"Look at me," Strange commanded. Bruce looked up and saw, to his horror, that the madman had now donned the discarded batsuit--all but the mask, of course, which remained on the head of its original wearer. The outfit did not fit Strange's body very well, which only intensified the blasphemy of the scene.

"You are a broken man, Mr. Wayne," Strange announced. "You have nothing left. You have lost it all, and I have won. Help me celebrate this victory." Strange lowered the trunks and tights of the bat costume to release a fully hard penis--the same one that had recently probed Robin's rectum. He gestured for Bruce to take it in his mouth.

Batman grudgingly did as he was told, his asshole filled with Grayson's dick and his lips wrapped around Strange's shaft. It suddenly occured to him--aided, perhaps, by the drugs flowing through his system--that his destiny was at last being fulfilled. He was free now, free of the tremendous responsibility of his assumed role as hero. He was merely a vessel now. He existed to serve the man he once had fought...

In the midst of the constant jolts to his mouth and rear, he became aware of a pair of hands travelling across the top of his head. Strange's hands, he knew without looking. Gloved hands. His own gloves, reaching for the ear points on his cowl. The unmasking is here, he told himself. No getting around it this time. May as well get it over with, he thought, suddenly yet dimly aware that he no longer felt like fighting back on any level whatsoever.

132. The omniscient narrator

"You have the read the letter, Batman," Hugo Strange said gently but firmly. "Do you understand what you are to do next?"

Bruce felt himself nodding his head up and down against his will, stunned once more that he was only able to move when Strange allowed it.

"Speak," Dr. Strange said.

Bruce's throat was dry and his voice was weak as he heard himself reply, "Y-yessss."

"It is time," Strange responded. "Take off the cowl now."

To his horror, Batman felt his hands rising to his head as if controlled by a puppeteer. Using every bit of remaining willpower, he struggled to hold them at his side. The strain was evident on his face.

"Why do you resist?" Strange asked. "You know that this is a purely symbolic gesture. I already know that you are Bruce Wayne under the mask. I have known this for months. Must we review what else I have done? I have rendered your computing system useless. I have disfigured your face and made you so ill that you could not leave your bed. I have taken control of your former partner, and with his help I have completely discredited all your work as Batman. The good people of Gotham City hate and fear you now. Your crimefighting career is over. I have held you here for days; although you were not restrained for most of that time, you could not leave. I tell you when to move, when to speak, what to do.

"It is important that you understand the full extent of your debt to me if we are to proceed. You must take the next step yourself. Show me that you are ready to move on, Mr. Wayne. Take off the mask. It is useless now. Give it to me. Now."

Batman was shaking as he struggled not to obey. The madman sat and watched his captive's internal battle, studying the nearly naked hero who was on the brink of total surrender. For years Strange had been obsessed with studying Batman's every move, fantasizing about destroying him, lusting after his powerful mind and body. Now he was carrying out the plan he had been honing for close to a decade. There was no turning back.

"You disappoint me, Batman," Strange said after twenty minutes had passed, his voice now stern. "You are only making our job more difficult."

He turned his attention to the other man. "Richard, come here," Strange said in a commanding tone. "It is time to demonstrate to Mr. Wayne here the true meaning of obedience."

Saturday, March 05, 2005

131. Richard Grayson (letter written two weeks earlier)

Dear Bruce,
By the time you read these words, we will both be beyond the point of direct communication.

That is why Dr. Tanhoger has assigned me to write you this letter: to convey certain very important things that he wants you to understand. As I write, you have not arrived here at his office, but he promises that you will be here soon, and Dr. Tanhoger is never wrong.

That, in fact, is the first and most crucial lesson you must learn, Bruce: Dr. Tanhoger knows all, he sees all, and he controls all things. It follows that you do not. In the past, you may have believed, as I once did, that you have some degree of power over the world around you--but this is an illusion, and a dangerous one. Like me, you are nothing more than a speck on the face of the planet.

The time has come for you to quit pretending that you are any kind of "hero." Under that mask you are nothing, Bruce. You may think you are a "Batman"--just look at how ridiculous that name looks on paper!--but you are just a man like anyone else. A weak, pathetic man. You were wrong to pretend otherwise.

And you were wrong, very wrong, to try and drag me into your madness. You forced me to dress up in a silly costume just like you; you convinced me to call myself by a made-up name; you put my life at risk with your absurd, misguided beliefs. Fortunately, Dr. Tanhoger has helped me come to my senses. He has shown me the light. He saved me, just as I hope to save you by writing this letter.

You probably think I was tortured or brainwashed in order to write these things. That is completely untrue, but I understand why you might believe it. You have simply been unable until now to accept the truth: that it was I who sought him out, not the other way around. I hated myself when I first went to see him; now I understand that I was incomplete without his care. I know, too, that it was fate that brought me to him, just as it is fate that has brought you to this time and place.

There is still hope for you, Bruce. But only if you put your life in Dr. Tanhoger's hands.

To signify that you have read and understood these words and are ready to take the next step in your own journey, remove your cowl--the last remaining evidence of the lie you have been living--and place it with the rest of your discarded costume.

Obey Dr. Tanhoger, Bruce. You must trust me: he will do for you what he has done for me. He is here to help you. Please do this, Bruce, for my sake if not for yours. Do what he says. Put your life in his hands.

Your friend,

Friday, March 04, 2005

130. The omniscient narrator

The two masked men remained silent for hours. From time to time, Batman glanced at Robin, who continued to stare straight ahead. The older man ricocheted from anger to guilt to absolute despair.

This is all my fault, Batman told himself. He wasn't ready. I didn't train him. What made me think he could handle this job in the first place? He was an innocent. A civilian. I made a horrible mistake, and now look what has happened to him.

Batman tried hard for a moment to move—his first such attempt in a long time—but found he still could not budge without the direct permission of his captor. What on earth had Strange done to him to gain control over his muscles? The question was too difficult to fathom, and Bruce found himself losing focus for the thousandth time, his thoughts drifting eventually to the nature of his identy. Batman... Bruce Wayne... Who was he, anyway? He looked up and noticed, for the first time, a mirror a few feet away, mysteriously illuminated in the darkness. Had it always been there?

He gazed into it and saw himself in the reflection--his first glimpse of himself since this ordeal had begun. The beard growth on his face confirmed his suspicion that he had been held captive for at least four or five days, if not a week or longer. From the stubble his attention turned to the mask; yes, it seemed to say, you are Batman. At least for now.

But he could not help but notice that the cowl was the only evidence that he still played that role. And it suddenly felt more like a mere theatrical role than ever before. As he studied his reflection, he saw that he was, exactly as Strange had told him, now just a naked man with a Halloween mask covering his head. A naked man who was weak, defenseless, and heading for certain defeat...

A muffled sound roused him from this revelation. Bruce shifted his eyes again to stare at Robin. The younger man was sobbing. The tears started slowly and then consumed him. It was the first indication he'd given that he was anything more than a shell of a man at this point. Somehow, something about the situation must have shaken him out of the spell Strange had apparently cast upon him.

Watching Dick, mindful of the suffering he must be experiencing, Bruce begin to cry, too. It was not an emotion he'd ever felt comfortable displaying, in uniform or otherwise. But in this particular moment, empathy was a reminder that he was human. The more Bruce gave himself over to his own tears, the more comfortable he felt, as if a great wall of tension was at last beginning to crumble.

The two grown men were now sobbing uncontrollably, neither one capable of anything else. A third man--Hugo Strange, a.k.a. Dr. Gus Tanhoger--had been watching them through a peephole from the other side of the office door. He opened that door now, turned on the lights, and entered the room. His medical garb stood in stark contrast to the other men's near-nakedness as he walked over to Bruce and handed him a sheet of paper, motioning for the kneeling man to read it.

"I am proud of you, Mr. Wayne," said Dr. Strange. "You are making progress at last. Now we may begin the next phase of our work."

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

129. The omniscient narrator

"On your knees, Batman. Arms up in the air. That's it."

Strange stood next to his captive and ordered him into position. Batman was compliant, thanks to liberal doses of untold medications and a general sense of disorientation and resignation. He knew that a longer than usual period had passed since the last visit from his captor, but he could not account for the time. He was hungry and weak--had he eaten anything for days? There was a glass of water just out of reach--had he been given anything to drink? And had he been allowed to empty his bowels and bladder? He could not remember; did not know. Did not care on some level. All that mattered at this point was...

What? He was having trouble remembering even that. Escape? Compliance? Mere survival? The only thing he could count on was the fact that, every few hours (and sometimes longer), Hugo Strange would return and strip away one more item of protective armor. One more hiding place. There was something perversely comforting in that ritual by this point.

Batman looked around the room. Strange was alone this time. What had become of--

"Richard, come in here," Strange said in a loud voice, and Dick Grayson entered the room. He had shed the attire of the Impostor and was now naked but for his Robin mask. Even in the midst of such dire circumstances--or perhaps because of them--Batman could not help but admire his body, taking note of his large but flaccid cock.

"You will notice that he no longer wears the costume I assigned him, Mr. Wayne," Strange said. "That one served two very specific purposes: First, to remind him that he no longer answers to you. Second, to help me in my campaign to discredit you. Both of those goals have been met. Now I have a new use for him."

The mad doctor turned his attention to Grayson. "Richard, remove his tunic." Dick did as he was told, and placed it on the desk with the rest of the batsuit. All that remained now of the team of Batman and Robin was two naked masked men, one of who was on his knees.

Strange stroked his chin and admired his work. "It's almost over," he said. "I will leave the two of you alone for a while to contemplate your fate. I'm sure I don't have to remind you, Batman, that you are in no position to escape. As you well know, you cannot move without my permission. And your partner here will kill you if you do. And I will kill him if I must. Goodbye for now, old friend. Enjoy your last few moments in hiding. Soon they will be but a memory."