Thursday, July 17, 2008

Of a dark night

"Would you like to hear a story ?"

I sigh. It's times like these when I wish I had a cigarette. I quit smoking some three months ago but the pangs are yet to leave. And now stuck in a cruiser that wont start and the weasel sitting behind me with a smug grin I cant help but think that this was the right time to light one up. Backup wont be here for another ten to fifteen minutes; what else was there to do other than light up ?

"Do I have a choice ? "

His grin widens and I tighten my grip on the gun. We're separated by a thick sheet of glass but I know that he can break through that with one good head butt. It's a dark night and there's no one around in this corner of the street. I'm a sitting duck here and he knows it.

"Of course you have a choice. I'm handcuffed and you're the one with a gun. You wouldn't have a choice if I had a knife at your throat and demanded that my story be the last words you hear."

His eyes meet mine in the mirror. "So, do you want to hear it ?"

I say nothing but my eyes give me away. As much as I loathe the weasel he's the only one that can stop me from going paranoid at this particular moment.

He relaxes his body and settles deeper in the back seat.

"This is a story I heard from my friend when I visited him in jail a couple of months. We go back a long long way. We were both raised in the same orphanage and when we turned 18 the orphanage threw us out. Cant blame them, they thought they taught us all we needed to know to survive in this cruel world. They didn't. We learned that for ourselves. And then we moved here."

"A couple of years under Falcone and we were good. Life was easy. We had the money, the girls, everything. But then I had grown enough of this place. You see, I always wanted change. I wanted to move, discover new territories, that kind of stuff. My friend thought different. He thought this was paradise. And that's all he wanted."

"And so I left and came back when I heard he's been busted. Old friendships die hard and I wanted to see him. Couldnt offer help, of course, he was so deep in shit, Jesus and his holy finger couldnt save him. I just wanted to be there ... offer a shoulder to cry on."

The weasel looks out the window, lost in thought. I wonder what friend he's talking about. Anyone I had encountered ?

A dog howls in the distance. Perfect. I fucking hate dogs. Every single one of them, even those faithful kinds in canine.

He continues.

"I was shocked when I saw him. The man looked like he'd met his maker and his maker wasn't too happy. He'd gone deathly thin and his eyes were meaningless. I could see the bones of his shoulder jutting out of his skin like it wanted to pop out of him. Terrible, awful sight to see."

"I asked him what was wrong. Was it the showers ? It couldn't have been, we had our share of it in the orphanage. Was it the jailers ? Couldn't have been that either, because he's a tough man. What was it then ?"

"He looked at me with those dead eyes and told me it was the way he'd been busted. You see ..." and he leans in to whisper while my hands grow white around the gun " ... he'd been busted by the Bat."

As if on cue I glance up at the moonlit skyscrapers expecting to see him there. Somewhere ... somewhere in that forest of concrete and steel, he was there and that feeling was the most secure one I'd had all day.

The weasel leans back smiling. "The Bat" he says and grows silent for a few seconds until I prompt him:

"How did he get caught ?"

"It was a night more or less like this one. And a street in the Narrows like this one. He was in dark corner waiting for customers but customers had dried up ever since that weird incident a year ago. He had a gun with him, his vintage King Cobra, not too good for distance shots but packs a punch point blank. He'd been on that particular corner the whole week and while business was slow, it was the only business he'd got all month."

"That night, however, was different. He swears now that it was like the whole world from the biggest whale to the smallest bug had gone silent. A full moon had risen over the Narrows and the light from it was of no real help at all. All it did was create long ominous shadows that scared the hell out of him. After an hour or so he decided to leave. The night was bad, he said, and there was something in it which he did not want to meet."

"So he walked back home and home was a couple of blocks away. He didn't mind walking the Narrows at night; he was used to it. But after a couple of paces he swore he heard the faintest sound of cloth. He couldn't remember what kind it was and I know this because he kept shaking his head in despair as he said it. It was some kind of cloth and of that he was sure. He turned around and of course no one was there. He stepped up his pace because he was on the verge of being terrified and he wanted to get home before he did."

"Another couple of paces later he heard the cloth again, but this time, this time he heard it hit against flesh. You know the sound that you hear when women run around in long dresses ? He said it sounded like that, only more sinister. The previous sound had been of cloth being hit with a gust of air. Meaning that whatever it was had just flown in and was now following him on foot."

"There can be only one kind in Gotham City who can do that."

"My friend panicked. He took out his gun and aimed at every shadow he found. I can imagine him doing that, shivering head to toe, the poor bastard. And he was whispering, "come on, come on, come on""

"And out of the darkness came a voice in a whisper so grim and frightening that it seemed like the dark had said it: "I'm here." And as my friend watched a shadow emerged out of a corner. Steadily it grew and grew but he could not make out a shape. All he saw were two eyes and black shape. There were no hands, no feet, no head for all he could see. Only two eyes, so blank in their stare that my friend could see no mercy, no hope, no re-assurance in them. In his words, they were the eyes of death."

Somewhere in the distance I hear sirens. I don't know if its my back-up but secretly I wish it to come a few minutes late. I want to hear this story.

"My friend fired. All six rounds. And this thing just seemed to engulf them. Didn't even flinch. There were sparks somewhere below the eyes but that was all. And as the hammer clicked on an empty chamber, the shape rushed on him. The last thing he saw was the shape change into something hideous and huge as it ran with terrific speed upon him."

"He never got to see the Bat up close and personal. He passed out before the Bat got to him."

That made me chuckle. A weasel just like the one behind me passing out before the Batman got to him just seemed a trifle funny.

"You liked that I see. Well I suppose you should."

"And your friend opened his eyes in jail ?" I ask.

He shrugs. "Something like that. But that's not what he wanted to say. He wanted to tell me that the Bat was a demon. The Bat was supernatural. You couldn't kill it. You couldn't plead with it. All he wanted to tell me was that the Bat just wasn't human."

I look at him in the mirror and meet his eyes. "Do you believe that?"

He returns my mocking glare. "No, Officer. Quite frankly I dint. I think the Bat, despicably frightening as he is ... is a man ... or a woman, although I think he's a man.

He leans in again but this time I don't flinch. The sirens are close by and he can hear them too. "But the thing is, the more reflected on the story, the more I got to know about the Bat. He wears a bat costume. He lives in the dark and is a creature of the shadows. And he stood there facing those bullets without fear."

"You may call that bravery. I call that insanity. The Bat is insane; my friend. A calculated insanity, sure, but no more sane than the cookies you pick up on odd weekdays."

He leans back as the lights of the backup cruiser flood the street. The car comes up behind me slowly. I open my door and put one leg out.

"You can't combat that sort of insanity unless you have the same , or even more of your own kind."

I turn to him. "And where do you find that kind of insanity ?" I ask.

"It's already here. It's already come."

The lights of the other cruiser switch off along with the siren. The night grows dark and silent again.

"What?" I ask again. "What has come ?"

He chuckles which comes out a happy gleeful sound. "You'll see. Tomorrow ... you'll all see."

And somewhere ... up above us all I could have sworn the Bat was watching us.

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