Monday, May 29, 2006

272. The omniscient narrator

Whatever it was that was now coursing through Gustavus's bloodstream took effect almost immediately, making him feel very, very warm--not uncomfortable, just warm, as if he were basking under the sun on a beautiful beach. The very thought of resisting seemed preposterous--who in his right mind would fight a sensation this intense, this ... wonderful?

He thought about the numbness in his legs and arms and realized it was now spreading to his mind, his spirit, his consciousness. He felt like he was floating -- on a cloud, perhaps, or in a pool of bright blue water, the sun still caressing his skin with gentle insistence.

He sensed his shaft growing stiff and jutting out of his pants, but that did not alarm him. It made him smile--laugh, even--to think about it. And his mind wandered elsewhere.

That's it, said the voice. You're doing a great job. Just relax and let it all sink in. You will want to be as comfortable as possible in order to make it through the next stage.

You are a lucky man, Carl. You have been chosen to assume a very special role. Few men get the opportunity to discover their life's work quite so clearly as you are about to. Are you ready, Carl? Are you ready to learn the future?

Gustavus stared straight ahead, his expression blank but for the trace of a grin.

"Yes," he answered softly. "Yes, I am."

Very good. I want you to close your eyes. Close them tightly, and take a deep breath. That's it. Now let it out. Yes, you're doing great ... And another ... Excellent, Carl, excellent. And let it out ... That's right ...

Now, Carl--when you're ready ...

Open your eyes.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

271. The omniscient narrator

You know what's happening, don't you, Carl? the man asked as he reached over and injected something into Gustavus's neck once again. You're being prepared. Made ready.

You have a great destiny ahead of you, Mr. Young. A glorious one. But first we must cleanse you of past mistakes ... Strip you of old disguises ...

Gustavus could do nothing as he watched a hand reach down and rip his shirt straight down the center, exposing his well-developed, masculine chest. He felt something wet across his flesh and knew that a mark was being made there.

In order to do your true work, a part of you--a rather large part, I'm afraid--must first die. Your old self must be extinguished, so that your new one may be born. Do not attempt to fight it, Carl--it is unwise to stand in the way of progress. What you are going to feel soon is going to hurt you a great deal--it is going to change you in ways that can never be undone--but you must trust me. It is all for the best.

You know who I am, Carl. You have known it all along. I am your shadow self. I am the part of you that yearns to be born. And that time is almost upon us.

We shall begin at the end--YOUR end. In the next few moments, you shall witness your own death. You will observe every excruciating detail in its fullness, and you will be powerless to prevent it.

I advise you not to fight the inevitable. A far wiser option would be to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

270. The omniscient narrator

"Y-you..." whispered Gustavus.

Yes, replied the man he saw before him. You've heard of me. You've feared me. You prayed you would never meet me. But now the time has come, Carl Young.

Gustavus looked stunned. How could this ... this creature know his birth name, the name he had changed decades earlier, the name he had never even revealed to Bruce?

I know everything about you, the other man said calmly. I know you better than you know yourself. I know the lies you tell the world, I know the secrets you try to hide, I know what terrifies you, I know what thrills you. I was there when you adopted that pretentious pseudonym you now call yourself--a silly little play on your family name, a tip of the hat to your distant predecessor in the science of the mind. I saw you shape yourself into something you are not. I watched you assume a role--become the Daddy Top, the Master of Men, the strong, silent type.

And I can hear beneath the silence. I hear you screaming, a frightened little boy in a world he cannot control. I see your latest attempt at intimidating the world--this black armor, this mask, this false front--and I know so very, very well just how false it is, Carl ...

Gustavus told himself this was all some kind of trick; Batman had trained him to anticipate, diagnose, and deal with all manner of mind games, and he'd had years of experience with them before that in his professional practice--

--but somehow this man's words were seeping in, taking root, grabbing hold of his head. And unlike the rants he'd heard in training, every syllable he was now hearing rang true.

Friday, May 26, 2006

269. The omniscient narrator

Tell me, Object X, said the doctor. Did you enjoy your brief vacation? Did you savor the illusion of freedom while it lasted? Judging from that bulge of yours, you appear to be enjoying yourself at this very minute. Does this mean you are ready now to crawl back into your cage for the rest of your miserable life?

"You're insane," Batman barked, still trying to figure out how any of this could be happening. "Whoever you are. There's no way on earth Hugo Strange could have made it through that fire alive."

No way on earth, perhaps. But I'd say it looks like we are now in a very different place. A moment ago you told me to go to hell. The way I see it, I'm already there--and I've dragged you down here with me.

Might as well make yourself comfortable, Object X. Oh,very well,you may call yourself "Bruce Wayne" if you like. Or even "Batman"--it hardly matters. I know them all. And I own them all, too.

Strange drew his captive's attention back to the large red "H" now desecrating Batman's chest emblem. As he glanced at it, the masked man began to sense a slight tingling in his limbs. He tried flexing his gloved hands. It was still difficult, but he seemed to be gaining a certain limited degree of mobility.

That's right, Strange said matter-of-factly. You are slowly beginning to regain the feeling in your arms and legs. It will take a while, but it will happen. All part of my plan. You will need to move freely, after all, in order to crawl over here and worship at my feet.

Batman was alarmed--not at Strange's brash declaration, but at his own actions. Had he really been so obvious just now as to draw attention to gestures he'd thought were hidden? Or had he forgotten the doctor's powers of observation, so finely honed that they bordered on mind-reading? In any case, there was no disguising the obvious arousal he was experiencing upon seeing once again the man who had broken him.

"The only move I'm going to make is to strangle you, you fiend," he said, mustering all the confidence he could find to deliver the threat.

What's this? I thought the mighty Batman had made a solemn vow never to kill, Strange sneered. On the other hand, you're not yourself at the moment, are you? You've run out of defenses. You have no other options, because you acknowledge I am the one man you cannot beat. The man, in fact, who beat you. The man who robbed you of your mask and all your secrets. The man who broke your will. The man who took complete possession of your life. I can see why the desire to destroy me would lead you to abandon your age-old moral code. After all, it's hopelessly out of date now, as we both know.,,

So go ahead, Mr. Wayne. I'd very much like to see you try and kill me. Because I don't think you can do it. I don't think you're up to the challenge. I think what you'd much prefer to do is to rest yourself here at my feet and kneel before me. To THANK me for all that I have done for you, and to plead that I show you mercy in the times ahead. And it's true: they will be very, very dark times indeed...

Images of past torments flooded Batman's brain. He felt swept away by them, unable to concentrate on a plan of action. He remembered every torture, every humiliation inflicted by Strange during that horrible period a year earlier--a period he thought he'd put behind him once and for all. He could not recall the events that had brought him to this moment, but that did not make the present crisis seem any less intense.

Now there was nothing to do but wait. Wait until he was able to move, and then do something he had never done before. Something he had sworn he would never do.

But now the writing was on the wall. He had no other choice.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

268. The omniscient narrator

"B-but how--" Batman sputtered. "There was no way you could have survived that ... that fire ..."

Where there's a will, there's a way, Batman, Strange said. To coin a phrase.

"But it's ... it's not humanly possible--"

You disappoint me, Bruce. Such a limited imagination ... Oh, wait--did I just call you "Bruce"? I'm so sorry, Mr. Wayne. You must forgive me. I know you may be more comfortable being addressed by the name I gave you when last we met. Isn't that right, "Object X"?

Although he had no feeling in his arms or legs, Batman was instantly aware that his cock was stiffening at the sound of that horrible nickname. Strange noticed it as well.

I see I've brought back some happy memories, the doctor said, smiling.

"Go to hell," Batman snarled. "Go to fucking hell, you goddam monster."

Such language! Strange said. I see your condition has deteriorated significantly since you left my care, Object X. We'll have to do something about that. But first, I think I'd better take care of something else I should have done a long time ago...

The doctor produced a small container of red ink, dipped his finger in it, and then traced the outline of an "H" on Batman's chest, directly over the bat insignia there.

They say it's very important to properly identify one's property in case it's ever lost or stolen, Strange said. Can't risk you running off again...

Batman felt the ink soak into his suit, staining his flesh. He wanted more than anything to pound the crap out of this madman, but there was nothing he could do about it.

Nothing at all.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

267. The omniscient narrator

Painfully aware that the room was spinning and nothing was what it seemed, Batman stared at the man he saw before him.

"So ... it's you, isn't it?" he asked, dumbfounded by the possibility.

In the flesh, the man answered in the deepest voice imaginable. His words echoed around the room, bouncing off the walls and ceiling before landing in Batman's ears. They sounded distorted, as if the pitch were being controlled by some kind of machine, stretched out and sped up and slowed down and twisted every which way.

"You've ... come back for me, then," Batman said, trying hard to wrap his mind about what was happening.

Correction, said Dr. Hugo Strange. It is you who have returned ... to me.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

266. The omniscient narrator

Lying immobile on his back, his arms and legs injected with the same numbing drug as Batman's, Carl Gustavus was beginning to question his recent career change.

Actually, he was questioning a lot more than that: the solidity of his skin, the grotesque visions his eyes kept presenting him, the very fabric of reality itself.

He was like an upended turtle, waiting helplessly for the end to come.

He was fairly certain it was going to happen slowly, painfully, and horribly. He'd seen things, heard things, suspected things. Awful things, involving hideous weapons of torture and unspeakable acts of violence.

He had no idea who was behind it all, or how he'd gotten himself into this position. Not knowing made the defeat all the more ignominious.

He felt something dripping on him from somewhere above and sensed his flesh begin to melt away as he grew aware that someone was in the room with him, watching him struggle to remain alive and gloating as he lost the battle.

Should have known..., Gustavus whispered, not sure whether the words could be heard by his new companion or not. It was you all along.

Monday, May 22, 2006

265. The omniscient narrator

Batman strained to lift his head. His mask was still in place, and that was a good sign.

Another good sign was the fact that he could manage to move his head and neck in various directions: up and down, side to side... He quickly deduced that sudden motion was not a good idea, though. Not only was the room spinning at a sickening rate, he was also seeing two and three, sometimes four, of everything. The bat on the belt buckle became a small army of bats, all perched stockstill and waiting for a command before taking flight.

By squinting, he was able to calm the multiplying visions a bit, but things just got blurry then.

He heard something. Hearing was affected, too, by whatever it was he was on: sounds were liquid and echo-ey, punctuated by shrill buzzing noises off in the distance.

The thing he heard was not far away. It was a moan or a groan or a sigh or a breath; he couldn't tell which, and was having trouble concentrating enough to be certain.

He raised his head as high as he could and stared and squinted as hard as he could and tried very, very intently to focus on the form he saw before him.

In time, it became clear.

Oh dear god, he thought to himself. Dear god.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

264. The omniscient narrator

The buckle on the belt he was wearing but could not touch had a picture on it. A picture of ... something. He stared at it and tried to make sense of it.

In so doing, he made another discovery: he was seriously dizzy. The room seemed to be spinning around him. He tried hard to stabilize himself by staring at the picture of the ba--

That was it! Belt. Buckle. Bat.


He knew in an instant who he was--Batman--and ...

And that was a start. It would all fall into place now. Now he was getting somewhere.

Or was he? So far he knew he was Batman, and he knew he couldn't move, and he knew he was under the influence of something extremely potent.

He was pretty sure about something else, too.

He was pretty sure he wasn't alone.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

263. The omniscient narrator

He wasn't so sure where he was.

In fact, he didn't have a clue.

He didn't know how he'd gotten there, either, or how long he'd been wherever it was he was. Couldn't remember much of anything from the last month or so. Couldn't even be quite sure who he was, for that matter...

... His eyes traveled a bit and he saw what he was wearing. It felt so familiar: tight-fitting bodysuit. He knew without looking further that he must also have a cape, gloves, boots ... a costume--dark and brooding--a disguise of some kind. So he must have something to hide. A secret of some sort. He noticed, too, that he was wearing a belt. It felt heavy around his waist. He sensed that it was loaded with pouches. He tried to open one, but in the act of trying to move his right hand he realized it wouldn't cooperate. From there he began to catch on that his entire right arm was numb. And his left one. And both his legs.

That sobering discovery triggered the most fleeting of memories: he remembered needles, long, sharp needles, poking into his flesh and pumping him full of ... something. Several somethings, perhaps. A shot to each limb, and--could it be?--several directly into his neck. No idea yet who had done this, or how long ago, but the effect was clear: whoever it was didn't want him going anywhere, anytime soon.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

262. Dick

Okay, now I'm getting concerned.

This isn't like the Bruce I knew and trusted. Whatever it is that's preventing him from returning my calls has got to be something major.

I'm calling Alfred.

Monday, May 15, 2006

261. Dick

This is just ridiculous.

It's been well over a week since I last heard from B. I thought he of all people was mature enough to deal with the awkwardness of this particular situation, but it appears I was wrong.

Well, screw him. If he can't separate our past history from a current case--if he can't appreciate the seriousness of the conditions that brought me back to Gotham after I thought I was gone for good--then the hell with him.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

260. Dick

Still getting settled into our hotel. It's weird as hell, staying in a hotel in my hometown, but I keep telling myself it's only temporary.

Much, much weirder is the idea that I've been here this long and still haven't seen B. face to face. We've talked on the phone, but we haven't had any kind of official meeting or even a personal reunion yet. Should be any day now, though. Haven't even decided if the first one will be as Batman, Robin, Green Arrow, and whatever this new guy is calling himself, or as Bruce, Dick, Oliver, and, uh, Carl.

In other words, I'm about to introduce my new boyfriend to my old boyfriend and his new boyfriend, and I don't have a clue what to wear.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

259. Dick

Still getting used to being back in Gotham. I'd say it feels like I never left, but that's absolutely not the case. It feels instead like this is a place I put far behind me long, long ago in search of something new--only to discover that this is it, after all. I don't know how long I'll be here or what will happen while I'm around. Am I just passing through? Or am I settling in for the long haul? No clue yet. I only know that I have a job to do, and that I am now part of a team. (Sort of like my old ACT UP days, I guess, only very, very different.)

Our last few days in Houston were action-packed, needless to say. GA and I had to work fast based on the information we gleaned from the interrogation, and somehow we managed to pull it off. Our first idea was to simply blow up the venue where the "Houston Male" event was going to take place (Ollie has access to some very interesting explosive devices, it turns out), but we had to rule that out given its location in a residential neighborhood.

Instead, we turned to purely conventional channels--we took our story to the press. And the TV news. We started with the gay papers, then the Chronicle, then radio, and ultimately the local tv stations. Anonymous calls to anyone and everyone who would listen--and all it took was two listeners to turn the tide and shut the joint down before it ever opened. The same reporters are also launching investigations into the "Honest Men" movement as well.

It's not the way Batman would have done it.

But it worked. And that's all that matters.