Friday, September 23, 2005

199. The omniscient narrator

The moment he was untied, Bruce Wayne left the main room and headed for his quarters. Along the way, he reviewed the events of the past summer: the time he'd invested in these sessions, and the intense sensations they had provoked within him. He remembered mornings he'd been ordered to crawl to Gustavus's side and remain there, on all fours, until his mentor reached down and mussed his hair. He recalled afternoons suspended in a sling while Gustavus conducted a series of "experiments" on his orifices with objects black and smooth... evenings bent doubled over a board until his legs went numb... midnight sessions with hot wax and cold ice. He heard once more the snap of a rubber glove over one of Gustavus's large hands, the crack of a whip as it headed for his bare back, the buzz of an electrical device attached to his flesh. He smelled leather and wood and sweat and oil and a host of chemicals intended to manipulate his body and mind, each in a different way.

He hadn't loved it all equally, but he had learned from each new exploration. His earlier training had given him practice dealing with all manner of abuse, but this time around he was taking stock of which treatments brought him ... pleasure, and how that pleasure could be used to lift his consciousness to another plane. This was not about making the world a better place, not about avenging his parents' death: this was about something entirely different. This internal quest, he was now convinced, was his true calling.

He knew, too, that his feelings for Gustavus were growing ever more powerful. He knew this was strictly a business transaction, and he knew, too, that this ever-growing emotional response was a necessary component of the "treatment," but neither of those facts diminished the intensity of what was happening.

It wasn't just Gustavus, either. There was Richard, and the Riddler, even Hugo Strange, and so many other men. A few of them he considered friends, most enemies--but he realized now those were simply categories intended to smooth over deeper concerns. There would be time, he knew, to revisit all these things--but for now, he had a mission. An assignment.

He headed straight for a slim black suitcase tucked away in the closet of his chambers, then returned to the room where Gustavus stood in waiting. He put the case down on a table and looked to his mentor for guidance.

"Open it," Gustavus said.