Monday, June 26, 2006

275. Robin

B and his new pal were on the floor, both obviously drugged out of their skulls, going at it like there was no tomorrow.

Only the "it" they were engaged in, passionate though it might have been, had nothing to do with affection. No, they were busy trying to tear each other's throats out. Literally.

In my own state of shock, I realized I'd forgotten to check whether anyone else was in the room with them. Fortunately, GA was on the case: nobody on the premises, though he did call my attention to a pair of video cameras aimed at this homocidal horror show.

"You split up those two, I'll dismantle these things," he shouted. Had I been thinking more clearly, I might have deduced he was reluctant to dive in headfirst between the two total strangers on the floor. I'm pretty sure even he could tell this was no lovers' quarrel.

There was blood. There were bruises. It wasn't pretty.

"Bru--Batman!" I screamed. "Snap out of it!"

His eyes were glazed over and drool practically dripped from the side of his battered mouth. He didn't seem to hear or recognize me, and neither did the other guy.

"Hurry up wth those cameras," I barked to GA. "I'm gonna need your help with this. Pronto."

As soon as Ollie was free, I motioned for him to grab hold of the new guy, while I wrapped my arms around B and squeezed as tightly as I could in order to divert him. We struggled to pull the two apart. It wasn't easy and it didn't feel quite right, but we tied the two of them up and gassed 'em.

I figured they would understand in the morning.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

274. Robin

I admit I've spent a lot of energy lately imagining how my reunion with Batman and the introductions of our new lovers/partners was going to go. Ever since Ollie and I decided to leave Houston for Gotham, I've had all kinds of scenarios running through my mind: some friendly, some businesslike, even a few particularly hot ones involving a little Bat-on-Arrow action.

But nothing--nothing--could have prepared me for the way it actually went down.

With Alfred's help, I managed to figure out where B. was last seen, then GA located some witnesses who'd seen him and the new guy being abducted in a warehouse. From there it was Detective School 101 (okay, 201), and within a couple of hours GA and I were standing outside a cinderblock office building on that abandoned air force base on the outskirts of town.

We checked the grounds, then entered through an already-broken window in the back. A crashing sound and a couple of loud grunting noises down the hall led us right to the spot. I checked the unmarked door for boobytraps, then opened it.

What I saw next was easily one of the scariest things I've seen in a long, long time.

And I've seen some scary shit in my day.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

273. The omniscient narrator

Carl kept his eyes shut for a long. long while; it felt like weeks, in fact, though it was impossible to know just how much time had truly passed.

Nothing on earth--no amount of training, no degree of exposure to anything in his past--could have prepared Gustavus for what he saw when he opened them. The vision was too horrific to express in language; it transcended any measure of intensity. He wanted to scream, but he knew that such a feeble gesture could not possibly relieve the agony.

He was aware, too, that beneath the surface shock, he felt nothing. He was numb, inside and out. Could not move, could not think, could barely breathe--

--and yet he was alive. Whatever this was, it was a portent of something yet to come. Something not yet here. Something he would have to face again, perhaps very soon, but not now.

Now there was only one thing on his mind: not a thought so much as a need, a want, a desire ...

You want more, don't you? the voice teased. The fruit of the tree of knowledge.

Gustavus nodded, a crazed look in his eyes.

How badly do you want it?

Gustavus said nothing.

Bad enough to do whatever I say?

He hesitated, then slowly nodded once more. He could not understand what he was going through, but he was growing aware that he was no longer in control of his thoughts and deeds. He did not care; the feeling he'd just experienced--both the intense calm and the sheer, gut-wrenching terror--was so powerful that he could not resist the desire to feel it again, right away.

We are not alone, the voice said. See that man over there?

Gustavus looked over and noticed for the first time that another man, also masked and vaguely familiar, was lying on the other side of the room, evidently in the midst of his own private hell.

You know him?

Gustavus nodded.

He is ... an illusion. Something you have conjured up in your head. I would say he is not real, but that is not quite true. He exists, he lives and breathes, but he is merely a dream. Do you understand what the dream means, Carl?

Gustavus looked puzzled.

I will tell you, the voice continued. He is you, Carl--more precisely, he is the Old You, the one that must be extinguished for the New You to break free. Do you understand what you must do now, Carl? Is the path growing clearer to you?

Gustavus slowly moved his head up and down. He was clearly dazed, but he was working hard to listen and obey.

Do not be afraid, Carl. It must be done. And you must be the one to do it. Destroy him with your bare hands--and let the New You be born!