The Dawn is Coming

“What do you fear, Mr. Wayne?”

 

I woke up with a start. The only man I ever feared was ALIVE. After I saw him go up in flames in a train crash.

 

As if the nightmare about my parents wasn’t enough.

 

“Mr. Wayne, how do you feel now?” I felt enormously relieved as I saw Fox’s benign smile. I pinched myself hard. So did Fox. No, this was no dream.

 

“My head feels as if it’s been rolling around in a Tumbler on LSD. The hands and feet are okay, but my stomach is in knots.”

 

“How’s your back?”

 

My back felt as if someone had driven a chainsaw through it. Fox understood; he smiled. At that moment, Alfred walked in.

 

“You’re seeing dead people, Master Wayne. How many times have I told you not to watch that movie… what’s it… The Sixth Sense?”

 

I laughed so hard my back hurt. “Ouch… not a time to make me laugh Alfred.”

 

Fox’s hand was in a sling. I looked at him. “Oh nothing, a token of appreciation from our taxmen.”

 

He recounted the entire story to me. Ra’s flung his sword at me, which I caught and promptly threw back. His five assassins then leaped at my throat. They sprayed a generous dose of fear toxin into my face, but thankfully Fox’s antidote had not yet lost its potency.

 

However, I did start seeing a few things after that.

 

By the time Fox could escape, someone lodged a bullet into his forearm. I successfully managed to beat up the remaining assassins, but Ra’s was too quick for me.

 

“You’ve STILL not learnt how to mind your surroundings, eh Bruce?”

 

What followed was a volley of quick, sharp punches to my back and head. I fell to the floor with a thud. Ra’s, quite simply, was THE best assassin in the League of Shadows. He created the damn League, right?

 

“I could kill you if I wanted to Bruce. But I have a more important task in mind. One which could do worse than kill you. Goodbye for now, my best student.” Then, a blow to the head. Blackout.  

 

Then, something worse DID happen. I read the newspaper Alfred had brought in with my tray.

 

BATMAN EXPOSÉ

MYSTERY MAN TO REVEAL BATMAN’S TRUE IDENTITY TOMORROW

Arch-enemy Joker expected to be present


VENUE: WAYNE MANOR

Image

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Immovable Object

HAS GOTHAM’S TRAITOR GIVEN UP ONCE AND FOR ALL?

WHERE IS THE CAPED CRUCIFIER OF COPS?

Impressive headlines, these. Ones I read to work every single day. Today, as Alfred drove me to Wayne Tower, I sat back and thought – what does Batman mean to this city anymore?

I hate to admit it, but Joker was right, “… they need you right now but when they don’t, they’ll cast you out like a leper.” Gotham was opportunist and selfish.

Alfred took a look at me from the rear-view mirror. “Thinking about that clown, are you?” I just smiled at him. “He actually could have been a good companion to you.”

“Yeah Alfred, and I probably wouldn’t have needed you.”

By the time Alfred could respond to my jibe, we reached Wayne Tower. Fox was waiting for me at the entrance.  “Good morning Mr. Wayne. Nice to see you back at work.”

“Lucius, as you are aware I do not have any other job at the moment, so I’d better hold on to this one.” I laughed at my own silliness.

“Mr. Wayne, have you read the morning papers?”

There was something amiss about the news? “I haven’t gleaned much from it. Why?”

“Joker has escaped.”

I know no one will believe this – but I was almost relieved. Lucius showed me the headline in the paper.

“Tell me what else you notice about this piece of news.”

I scanned it. Standard headline, BATMAN’S ARCH ENEMY ESCAPES. Broke out of Major Crimes Unit (again), took out 4 guards. The usual Joker MO. There was a paragraph suggesting that I helped him escape. I pointed that out to Fox, but he shook his head.

The last line.

The Joker was helped by a band of men in black cloaks and masks. They sprayed gas all over the MCU, which caused most guards to go insane and shoot each other. Forensics says that the gas is some kind of hallucinogen.

 

And then, the picture. Some graffiti on the wall that said, “Back from the dead.”

My worst nightmare. Could it be…?

“As you can see, Mr. Wayne, this news appears on Page 7.”

I was jolted out of my thoughts. “Huh…?”

Indeed, it was on Page 7. Just a quarter page. The Joker escapes, probably with the help of the most dangerous man on Earth. And the front pages want to talk about Batman. Not that I was complaining, but this was no time for Batman-bashing.

“Fox, what do the TV channels say?”

Lucius sadly shook his head. “Nothing at all. Their main news is Wayne Enterprises’ healthy bottomline even in the face of a global economic slowdown. They ‘assume’ that we’re doing something illegal. That’s why the taxmen are here to see you.”

Oh no. “Right now?”

“I’m afraid so, Mr. Wayne. I know you were looking forward to a quiet day at work, but…”

As I walked to the conference room, my mind was restless. Had the world’s most chaotic criminal joined forces with the world’s most dangerous assassin? What’s the deal with the fear toxin? Is Scarecrow part of the plan?

And now that Batman was no longer part of Gotham’s plans, how the hell were they going to be stopped?

I opened the conference room door. Six men were seated around the table. There was a man seated at the opposite end, whose back was turned to us.

“Gentlemen, Mr. Wayne.”

“All right, let’s get this done over with really quickly. Do you have a problem with our progress?”

The man at the end of the room finally turned to us. I thought I was dreaming.

“We don’t have a problem with your company’s progress, Bruce. We have a problem with yours.”

I told Fox to run from the room.

Now I know why that big story was shunted down to Page 7…

Criminals thrive on the indulgence of society's understanding
... is he back?

The Day After

My father.

 

No, this isn’t a school essay. I actually saw my father sitting at our dining table. With mother.

 

“Come on son! It’s time for some breakfast.” Oh, my father’s baritone. It seemed as if Beethoven’s orchestra had suddenly come alive.

 

I ran to the dining table. Mother had just changed the tablecloth. Our nice teakwood table was covered by a lace tablecloth with frills. It looked lovely. I didn’t see any food though.

 

What surprised me even more, was father not asking me to brush my teeth first. Strange, considering that he is a doctor. Mother glared at me, but a glance from my father was enough for her to let me be.

 

“Let’s have some bread, shall we? Your mother has made all your favourites today!”

 

Our butler walked towards us with a tray of sumptuous food. Golden-brown toasted bread, two half-fried eggs sunny side up, bacon and delicious, creamy milk. I attacked the food as if I was Oliver Twist. I was only 10 years old after all.

 

I took one bite of the delicious toasted bread.

 

That’s when I realised that this was all a farce. The bread tasted like a worm-infested piece of flesh.

 

Then I looked up at my parents. Oh, I shouldn’t have.

 

My father was wearing a funny mask, which looked like a cross between a gunny bag and a Jack-o’-lantern. My mother looked even worse, with green hair, her face covered with white paint. She was wearing red lipstick that extended well beyond the corners of her mouth into an evil smile. Even my butler’s face was half-normal, half-scarred. And he kept tossing a coin for some reason.

 

Then, a searing pain went up my right arm. My father (?) had dug his needle-like fingers into my palm. My mother (?) was holding my other arm, “Oh don’t worry son, this won’t take too long.” She then let out a hysterical laugh. My butler (?) held a gun to my head. He asked my scary father, “What’s the diagnosis on this one, doc?”

 

“Ah! Acute case of scelerophobia and to some extent, vermiphobia. I say a double dose of fear toxin should do him good…”

 

“No! Dad! What are you doing…? NO! NO!” Just then, my butler fired his pistol.

 

And I got water sprayed all over my face.

 

“That’s the third night in a row you’ve had this dream, Master Wayne.”

 

“Alfred… you don’t look like Two-Face anymore…”

 

He gave me a reproaching look. “Have you gassed yourself with the fear toxin again?”

 

I just smiled at him. Then I looked around and saw he’d brought his suitcase here.

 

“I’ve been here the past 3 nights.”

 

“Oh… good for me, then.”

 

“Master Wayne, what happens at the end of that dream?”

 

“You shoot me.”

 

“Well, it might be true if I have to endure more of this.”

 

We had a good laugh.

 

Alfred is the only reason I still exist. If I were alone, I would’ve probably killed myself long ago. Gotham didn’t need me, anyway.

 

But I wasn’t willing to give up just yet.

My past shall never leave me
Dad! Mom!