Saturday, April 02, 2005

145. The omniscient narrator

Strange revelled in his newfound glory until a noise not far away brought back down to earth. There, on the ground, he saw two thugs in leather jackets threatening a young woman. They had taken her backpack and looked like they were about to attack her.

This is my chance, the new Batman told himself. My golden opportunity to know at last what it feels like to be the vigilante hero.

He stood on the edge of the roof and prepared to jump--then looked down and saw just how severe the drop was. He'd break every bone in his body! Better to play it safe...

He returned to the fire escape and made his descent. The utility belt was surely full of equipment he could use, but he had no idea how to operate most of it. Nonetheless, about fifteen feet from the ground, he decided to jump off the railing and take the men by surprise, his great cape swooping behind him...

He landed hard but tried to disguise his clumsiness. The thugs could not help but notice his arrival.

"What the hell was that?" one of them blurted out.

"Holy shit--it's that Batman guy!" said the other.

Strange was thrilled: the costume was working. Lowering his voice significantly to mimic Wayne's no-nonsense tone, he spoke. "Let her go," he barked.

"Fuck off," the first thug replied.

The man in the batsuit grabbed something that looked like a small explosive--a smoke bomb,he assumed--and hurled it at the ground near the other two men. It did nothing.

The robbers began to laugh. "Looks like you've got a dud there, Bats," one of them said.

"That ain't all he's got. Check that out," said the other, gesturing at the growing mound just below "Batman's" belt buckle, which was now impossible to miss. "Hero man's sproutin' wood!"

They were both cackling by now, and it seemed obvious that they were in no way intimidated by the masked man staring them down. Strange had been so caught up in the heat of the moment that he had been largely unaware of the erection. He told himself Wayne had probably done the same thing the first few times he donned the outfit; it was only natural.

Determined not to reveal his sudden self-consciousness, the new Batman ran straight toward the two attackers, landing a crude but effective blow to the closest one and sending the surprised thug to the ground.

"Motherfucker! I'll fucking kill you for that," the fallen creep yelled. "Help me take him down, Rob," he said to his partner. The man called Rob threw a punch, and "Batman" responded with one of his own.

"He fights like a girl," Rob said, barely containing his contempt for the legendary crimefighter. Every criminal in Gotham had heard about the mysterious Batman, but few had ever seen him face to face. Could this clown really be the dude they were all talking about?

Strange may not have been the equal of the last man to wear the costume, but he fought with as much force as he could. From the corner of his eye he noticed that the woman was gone now; he assumed she would be calling the cops any second, which meant he'd have to get the hell out of here before--

--he felt something tight around his neck, something choking him: the cape! The man on the ground was yanking it, hard. As he struggled to free himself, "Batman" failed to see Rob coming up behind him, wrapping a pair of long, wiry arms around him, squeezing the air out of his chest, and throwing him to the ground.