Monday, October 22, 2012

Darkness in the Knight

It all made perfect sense at the time.  There was once a doctor in Gotham.  He was perhaps the best man the city ever knew.  He himself knew someone in particular.  His name was Joe Chill.  Years before the incident behind the theater, Chill was a patient of Dr. Wayne.

Unbeknownst to either of them, they had a mutual acquaintance, who was myself, Bradley Headstone.  I knew Dr. Wayne as he walked past me every day on his way to work.  I was a street urchin, the same age as his son.  He'd give me money every time he passed, whatever he had on-hand.  Sometimes it was a few coins.  Once in a while it was more.  Chill, fittingly enough, was another guardian angel.  He looked after me in more practical ways.  He taught me how to survive.  There's no reason to believe either of them ever realized how much they both helped me.

The evening of the incident behind the theater I was feeling miserable about myself.  I was sitting in that alley, tucked away, wishing that I could disappear forever, when I saw both of them together for the first and last time.  Dr. Wayne had his wife with him, and their son.  Chill was desperate.  I'll never know his exact circumstances.  The most dignified way to make it in this world is to keep our best secrets to ourselves.  He pulled out a gun.  I'm not not sure either recognized the other in that moment.  It was a different time, the start of a new era.  Dr. Wayne defended his wife.  Chill grabbed at her pearls.  Gunshots echoed into the night.

When it was over, Chill had disappeared.  Two boys remained.  Dr. Wayne's son wept over the bodies of his parents and I watched from a distance.  Somehow I believed that we would be connected forever.  I followed that belief and Bruce Wayne on an odyssey.  I snuck aboard a ship bound for Europe, shadowing him as I had now done for many years.  I knew his secrets.  I knew what he wanted to become.

A storm struck us.  The seas became dangerous.  The younger Wayne foolishly believed he could rescue a sailor caught in some lines.  I watched as a massive wave took them both into fatal waters.  When the ship reached its destination, I wondered what I should do next.  In the confusion of that night, no one had seen what happened.  They didn't know who had been lost.  I took it upon myself to solve the riddle and assume the identity of Bruce Wayne.  I took on the responsibility of avenging his father.

When I returned to Gotham years later, the Wayne family butler Alfred Pennyworth accepted me home as the prodigal son.  Whether it was his failing eyesight or wishful thinking or mindful self-deception, or perhaps simply the passage of time, Pennyworth never seemed to question my identity.  The mansion was a revelation.  It had been cleared of its ghosts, and had in turn embraced others.  Everything was covered over in sheets.  I took to exploring it in my spare time.  In the spacious yard I discovered boarding that covered a hole in the ground.  I went down the hole and discovered a cave.  It was inhabited by bats.

I accepted the bats as the only symbol of my own life I had left, the boy in the alley, the frightful image of Joe Chill that still haunted me.  My friends had always been peculiar.

I immersed myself into the only logical conclusion to Bruce Wayne's quest.  I became Gotham's Dark Knight, its watchful protector, the Batman.  If he were alive today would he approve?  I like to imagine.  But I keep myself too busy to think too much about it.  I have legacies to protect, men whose generosity and tragic fates I guard, try to amend into something more noble than they ever knew.

Despite what you may think, I still think both Dr. Wayne and Joe Chill were good men.  I wonder what they would think of me now.  That's what still drives me.

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