Thursday, October 06, 2005

202. The omniscient narrator

"PUT IT ON," Gustavus barked. Bruce stood stock still for another moment, then reached into the case. The athletic supporter came first. It would be easy: just a simple piece of fabric, albeit reinforced in highly specific fashion. Wearing it, he could be anyone. He could still be himself, whoever that was.

Extending the elastic over the protrusion at his midsection and working his erection into its confines was not quite so easy, but he managed it. He looked down at himself and then glanced back at Gustavus as if waiting for approval. "Keep going," his mentor demanded.

The bodysuit was next. This was the point from which there could be no turning back, and Bruce swallowed hard as he stared at it, then lifted it out of the case. To distract himself, he tried to calculate precisely how long it had been since he had last worn this particular garment, but the challenge proved futile. Time was too slippery these days. All that mattered was that this uniform had become for him a symbol of broken promises, abject failure, lies embraced. He hated the suit now, hated everything it stood for--

and then he put it on. As he did, he recalled with crystal clarity the ordeals he had endured the last time he'd worn it: the drugs, the cage, the conditioning... everything. And it occured to him that all these things he'd just told himself were untrue. Planted in his head by a man bent on his destruction. He was under no obligation to believe them anymore. Hugo Strange was dead and gone--nothing but a horrible memory. The suit remained, and the revulsion he felt as he zipped it up began to fade away.

The rest came easily: the outer briefs, the boots, the gloves, the belt. Each a piece in his armor, a component of his true self. His shadow self. A reality from which he could no longer hide.

He fastened the cape around his neck. It occured to him that he'd been acting on autopilot for the last several minutes, no longer turning to Gustavus for direction. He knew what he was doing without being told for a change. This was familiar. This was his life.

Only one item remained: the mask that would complete his transformation from Bruce Wayne to Batman.

"What are you waiting for?" Gustavus said.