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!