Tuesday, August 09, 2005

181. The omniscient narrator

Wayne hung up the phone and headed for the closet. Before he got there, however, he noticed a complete set of clothes laid out for him at the foot of the bed. Someone must have placed them there while he was sleeping, but how--

There was no time to tease out an answer. He examined the ensemble--loose-fitting grey pants and shirt, rather like a sweatsuit crossed with a uniform of some sort, accompanied by a pair of black running shoes--and began to put it on.

He'd been waiting for this moment for weeks, and the anticipation made his pulse quicken. He barely noticed the fact that he was already taking orders from this unseen man, so ready was he to submit. It was almost as if the voice on the phone belonged not to Gustavus but to Hugo Strange, and this entire exercise were merely the latest phase in his treatment at the hands of that monster.

Once dressed, he turned the doorknob and walked out of the bedroom. He took a step into the hallway and found himself face to face with Gustavus, who was dressed in a somewhat more formal, all-black version of the same outfit.

"Are you ready, Wayne?" Gustavus barked.

"Yes... sir," Bruce replied, averting his eyes from the other man's penetrating gaze. A few months ago, Wayne thought to himself, I wouldn't have reacted this way. I would have stood my ground. I would have faced this man, ready to counter his every move, fully prepared to destroy him. I would have been The Bat. But those days are over.

Now I am free. Free to respond another way. Free to admit fear instead of pretending I was impervious to it. Free to ...

"Kneel," Gustavus ordered.

Without a second's hesitation, Wayne did as he was told. As he lowered himself to the ground, he felt ... relieved. Refreshed. Satisfied. Whole.