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.'"