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.