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(Slow pan right to the usual eerie shot of Rod Sterling, in color this time, standing there with that maddening know-it-all smirk on his face.)
…what happens when someone crosses the line into the reality of her wildest dreams, only to find that the end of them is closer than she thinks? Picture if you will, a woman who wants only to live life to the fullest, who finally finds herself stepping smartly into…the Eventide Zone.
A MOST GENRE-OUS OFFER
As though it knew of my presence, the white park bench embraced both me and the snow. I stretched slowly, yawning, taking a content appraisal of my surroundings. Covered in newspapers that crinkled and floated off me banally, as though all was suddenly well, I simply stood up as the snow caressed my face. Why was the park bench white? It seemed odd.
I was standing, and had a touch of my former disability, which involved turning left. Patting my head with the flat of my hand, I discovered my handicap had rather abated, which was a nice feeling, and I heard a female scream to my immediate right. It echoed around in my head like a narcissistic wail of mistaken ecstasy.
Toddling off in that general direction, I found tragic panoply of a winter’s scene. There were four young guys. Three of them lined up to one side on my right, and the dude to my left was clearly the leader. He…had a rather menacing looking long knife in one hand, and was threatening “the girl” with it. She was simply standing there, laughing, held in another’s arms. The leader started tossing his knife from one hand to the other ever so lightly. I was watching, and clearly looked intrigued, like I rather enjoyed the sight — to fool them.
She was laughing merrily, lines of drug tracks on her arms, and was “grabbing the strawberry” like crazy. That means she was enjoying her last moments. Guy was going to slice and dice her. I thought, hey, it’s my turn. I am, after all, Marsha Larts! Don’t I hate all such rippings? Maybe I shouldn’t…what is — caring? Isn’t it what Christmas is all about, I thought squeamishly?
So I grabbed her left arm, swiftly jerking her away from there, and danced The Unexpected. I moved right into place as “the girl,” as Laughing Boy behind me took me right into his big ol’ arms. But he was shaking with laughter, certain about what would happen next.
Everybody seemed to be having a great old time, and most of their seasick emotion eluded me completely. I was sober, and they were under water, filled with alcohol and crystal meth. I stood there smiling, and said, “You look like a great leader, guy. Say, what’s that?”
“Huh?” he said, his Male Self suddenly alerted to the presence of a wise gal. He stood perfectly motionless, getting his drug-tired self to reappraise the situation. Which made a perfect moment to Japanese-karate-style sidekick him. You see, I really didn’t know what knives are.
That was indeed unexpected. The knife went flying, I pulled the right arm of the guy holding me simultaneous to that moment of lurching time, just as I twisted sharp too, and I was out of there.
I took off, running like the wind, but knew I was going to run out of it. Like a character in a movie, I tried to relish the moment of my demise, while fleeing. I was grabbing that final strawberry, as they had told me to do in Karate Class. I wondered why they had prepared me to die. I would only be unconscious forever…was that what my husband, the one who had hurt me, had wanted? No, he was too altogether into dying for me.
Unfortunately, I was now headed down a weirdly angled city street. Curious and a little off in my timing, I started to lose “running abilities” as I right-angled into an obvious dead-end ally. I was slipping on the snow, and surely was heading toward my downfall. I slid into the alley, and saw the end of the road — and death.
Tears began streaming down my freezing cheeks, and froze instantly. Wheeling around, I grabbed two frost-covered trash can lids that were handy. I thought maybe I could distract the thugs, as I could at least lift those things. They weighed about as much as sea foam. I lifted Flotsam and Jetsam, waving them around at the oncoming pack of guys. They definitely had all their Larger Knives out now.
I didn’t matter. Somehow that girl did. I would at least die fighting.
Then, something swooped straight out of the cold and isolated darkness itself, and clobbered their leader. I could tell it was an evil thing, not a good thing, that was so swooping and darting and plowing through their faces like several sledgehammers leading at once into nowhere.
The trash can lids, as though disappointed, drooped down to my sides. For something most intriguing had shown up. I kept up a brief time of holding trash can lids before me as I felt their coldness sink into my grasping fingers. It, whatever it was, seemed to be a ninja made of no substance, and it took out the other three one at a time as they looked up, robbed of their easy victory.
Then the moving shadow of a sudden took the shape of a very large man. “Jesse Jackson? Not the dead Bruce Lee?…no, Vlad Tepes,” I muttered under my disgruntled gasping breath, referring to Compte Dracula, the Moslem ruler who had killed the 700 Christians of the 700 Club. “Jim Crow?” Was this a racist figure, with which to spook superstitious blacks? Nah, I thought, honest to gosh, from an even older Italy…”Pierrot–?” A somber doll this, one with lengthy black horns on his head, and yet somehow it was so. And finally, I thought to myself, the thing somehow smacked of a medieval Jewish knight.
But that was not what Pierrot had been, though, quite. Out of nowhere, I was smack dab in the middle of the Commedia del’Arte, the centuries old farce of farces, of the clown and the serious man. It was ancient, Mediterranean, and mystical. What could I make of the serious man?
Pierrot had been white, handsome, and held up a head of straight black hair. He had contested with the curly haired Harlequin the Madcap Clown for Columbine the Beautiful, lost, and then hung himself due to losing his “wife.” It was the woman he was going to marry. That was the Italian “del’Arte” thing, I recalled so vaguely from my dreams. It dawned on me; this black, masked and still hard to see figure must indeed be…Pierrot.
“No,” said this deeply masculine but vaguely boyish-sounding voice, “I’m Me.” I thought: I can’t believe how much I feel at this moment of time. I’m disappointed. I had lost the fight. It would have taken less time if I’d been killed. What did this now mean? I had risked my life to save another’s — for what? For this?
How understated. The snow blew about in the alley, swirling around his draped costume, the grey and blue-black suit of The Bateman, a mere comic strip, book and movie character.
“Who are you? What do you think you’re doing?” was said to me in this deep, bell-like carefully measured tone of an actual someone trying to reach an actual someone else. I choked, reaching for my own knowing throat. I had something very strange to tell him, as though it now gripped my brain, and I knew what it was well in advance.
He was standing there, thinking. I dropped both trash can lids with a loud clatter as “one of them” took off running and made it to elsewhere. Must have been an onlooker. The other three boys had been flattened. I achieved a wise gal look on my face, and shrugged. My husband was a tall Semitic Jew, non-practicing, who to me had always looked a lot like the Jester. I’d always thought it to be a mere coincidence. Now I had to stop and wonder…could it be? He had told me that though Jewish, he hated all Hebrew people. He was somehow anti himself.
The Jester…that would absolutely have to be Harlequin, from The Harlequinade. Nothing, nowhere, and no one else. The Madcap Clown himself.
But now Bateman was going to arrest me, or something.
And the Jester had reeked summarily all along of being Harlequin. The many bright colors of his costume clearly showed it. That comical character of yore, which was surely now going to take vengeance against me through such a ridiculous proxy as this — The Bateman.
Vengeance-again? Harlequin had won so many times at the Harlequinade. He had made fun of the police, and he had practically pulled the rope that had hung Pierrot when the serious man had finally suicided…from losing Columbine to him.
If anything ever began to happen, or if “Bateman” there ever even moved. Snow swirled coldly about us both as he stood patiently watching me. A final clatter of noise seemed to hum in the background, as if some cars were nearby.
I squeamishly thought to myself about this. The Jester had started out as a “grubby” Jew in Detective, in the very first panel of the very first comic book strip he had appeared in, December of 1940. Harlequin had lost his battle in the eventual death throes of the Harlequinade, so long ago. He was not “pure.” Racism had pulled its own ancient strings, one way or another. Harlequin was either too boring or too evil, and therefore Detective had found their victim, someone to lampoon as a villain, apparently. Casting him as a Jewish miser was fairly typical of their occasionally dismal style. A clown to contest with a vampire, for the kids buying “all in color for a dime” funny books. Bateman had merely been a Suprememan ripoff, a detective as a superhero. I remembered it.
My husband, on either the same or the other hand, had not been any too heroic. He was a curly black-haired clown. He had been up until now my loving and laughter-ridden companion of many years, and we had practiced the martial arts together. But I have already told you about him. He wasn’t…nice.
But the Bateman, or whoever he was, remained motionless, with that cape surrounding him like an enormous black wrapper. Then he shrugged it off with one arm. He stood there silently, as if appraising me. I briefly wondered if I was good-looking at all to “The Bateman.” For some strange reason, I was wearing a short sleeved shirt and shorts, which didn’t help much in the cold.
“You are going to tell me what your role in this is,” Brice Wayne breathed into my errant ear from too far away. Something told me this man was somehow named that, memories and fleeting impulses did. I had used to read scads of those silly comic books while growing up. And indeed, I had shown that “cop” there fighting capabilities, and had to deal with him — while at the same time trying to figure out what to tell this…human being.
“Yes, you’re right, Brice,” I muttered, “Good old martial arts are to save only me. Self defense.” I had to droop down to Columbine’s status in my innocence. She was, I think, the innocent ingénue of that old Italian farce. “After all, it’s always self defense, isn’t it?
“What are you doing here?” was said in this quizzical Italianesque voice, one that enveloped my soul with deeply baritone overtones of stolid hurt-you Cop. He would kill me, his voice implied, if I so much as moved.
“Is this Gothic City?” I wincingly asked him. I realized that whoever he was, he could kill very quickly.
“You know where you are, do you?” he asked me back. It sounded like he was pumping me for information. Maybe he didn’t know me at all. It sounded like a command taken strictly for an early grave.
If this was Bateman, wherever I was, what did that make me? Who was…I? Surely, no, I was not Columbine! That was only Columbine High School, where something awful had happened, too. The black suited Bateman-like kids had shot some of the other kids at a high school. I was not seeing Bateman. I was dreaming, but everything was real. And I had a feeling my hair had gone right back to being a bright and cherry colored red, as when I was a teenager.
“Climb on my back, and up we go. On board now.” What? I thought, as weird fantasies go, this one should disappear rapidly. Maybe if I shut my eyes, it would all go away. But I had to open them and go over there, and be next to him. It was like a command from a very serious man, and I was utterly forced to obey it.
I moved behind him, and got on his back. We were heading up the building at a rapid pace, and I barely had time to clutch those broad shoulders as that Damned Jock went straight up the alley wall. I saw the technical equipment, trembled, and grew dismal. I finally had to say it.
“Is Harlequin really my husband?” I screamed aloud as we made it over and plumped like bricks, my knees bouncing without too much pain, onto the rubbery roof of the building. That Giant Sucking “Moslem” or Musselman who had once been my childhood God and Hero stood there, looking at me as though I were something that was only vaguely amusing. I don’t weigh that much, I thought, as he lead me over to some metal pipes. I felt very embarrassed and ashamed of myself.
“No, but he’s probably only your basic hilarious Jewish ‘sidekick.’ I’ve met several of those. Remember Jerry Lewis? Actually, he was the main guy and Dean Martin was the sidekick. Did you ever watch their movies? I never had the time to enjoy…” Before he could finish, I cut him off curtly.
“Take care of my girl, Woman Hater,” I muttered as he chained me to the old, grey pipes sticking out of a slab of concrete, probably something worth studying as I was going to be standing there for awhile. I meant the girl I had earlier saved by this curt comment. She was surely wandering around out there somewhere.
“So that’s what you are, a woman hater?” was chuckled as he simply clicked the handcuffs into place. They were loose, and I was suddenly on a long leash. How long I would be standing there, I didn’t know, time enough to find what to tell this overdressed wombat or whatever it was who was calmly leaving me. “Oh and Satan, there, would you go look out for my…girl?” — He was gone.
I knew why he’d done that. He went looking for her. Maybe she needed more help. Surely that was it. She was wandering around in the cold.
I thought, maybe he’s right to have chained me. I wouldn’t have stood there forever. Maybe I would have jumped off, merely to see if I could fly. Perhaps Bateman knew what I was! Cold, tired, and a little too well off. Where was my old and familiar disability, though?
I looked around, and the place seemed to materialize before me, as if it was an area of New York City that lay untrammeled by its acres of skyscrapers. Coated whitely all about me, as far as my blinking eyes could grasp, roofs peaked and sloped so that I could only gauge everything for a short distance. I sighted along the minaretted rooftops of a gleaming silver-grey neighborhood.
But several monumental buildings stretched in a greyly sprawling, spreading group, overpowering in their rugged austerity and achingly far away, forcing themselves into my newly heightened sense of awestruck wonder. This city contained –held insanely — over many dozens and even more of them. There were the usual NYC-style shining tower shapes of rectangles, but inhabiting a much bigger metropolitan area. The whole gigantic sprawl of a city could only be described as unspeakably huge, gargantuan, spread out further than my eyes could see. And I suddenly realized none of it was blurry. I could see without my glasses.
I thought, possibly all I could ever see was Gothic, from this low and relatively flat crowded rooftop anyway, and what part of “town” was I in?
It looked like one district, almost carefully laid out, but with the usual sudden erratic problems of individual, grainy structures that inhabited their huge vista of space. It was a city, yet like none other I’d seen before in my thirty-five years of life. It hit me that a younger me would die to explore a city like that. I would haunt its snug little shops, read its newspapers, and drink its exquisite coffees.
The VIEW! As it slowly appeared, it was a gargantuan of monolithic color. Sounds of beeping cars and grinding busses pulling up to curbs festooned my ears. This WAS Gothic City. Greens, blues, silvers, reds, purples, sparkling golden were the twinkling lights of the distance between us. Astonished, I strongly yearned to head for the Heaven that was obviously out there. What was that like at night for the Bateman? The place needed Gabriel’s Trumpet to announce it.
I could finally see All in Color for a Dime. Gothic City lived and breathed all around me, although I had a clutching thought about drug abuse, ladies of the evening, and cheap hotel rooms. And I knew I was too old for it. I took one deep in breath, and all of the pollution was mysteriously missing. And yet I smelled a cheerful breezy air all about me. Were there bloods out there researching? Did anything of the black race have a chance against the supposedly chosen people? The group I’d fought were as white of trash as I had ever seen. Surely there were black heroes about, brown wonders with strange…I’m imagining this dream I’m having here, I thought.
What in the world did such a juxtaposition mean? How could there be drug abuse in such a situation as this? Surely there weren’t enough jobs available. The city bustled too harshly, beauty that she was. There was crime in this trap of a Queen. Maybe Metropolis, being King, did not have enough resources to spread them around. Maybe NYC, the Jack somewhere nearby…I got randomly lost in speculation. What the Jester had to do with such a very odd deck of cards.
I’d definitely been “fixed” by someone. Yes, I was real, but most of my disability was gone, and I turned to the right, feeling so much better about myself and hoping that Suprememan or Supremegirl was watching. Frowning, I knew it had to be one of those two who’d done it, and made me be this way.
That, that, I laughed, I’ll wake up from this soon enough, suddenly thinking of The Girl and her nonexistent life; he’s out there trying to chase her down, and she’s a “druggie” who thinks she’s fine.
Perhaps she’s Columbine, I gasped! What was her name? He’s talking to her, I figured, and I “got jealous,” after having had a decent go at trying to help her. But maybe she always had a rotten life. He probably wasn’t beating her up. Most cops don’t really do that. They try to help. But he might have her down on her back in a cheap motel, somewhere. I hated him.
Anyway, maybe he took her home. Perhaps I was only…Pierrette. She was the least important character in the ancient Italian mystery play. She was supposed to marry Pierrot…that’s right, and she didn’t. She merely slipped offstage. Did she end up hanging herself, too? I was all hung up on the handcuffs. I looked at the edge of the building roof, longing to jump off it and die. Columbine had danced off a cliff, and I totally had forgotten what had happened to Pierette.
It was so cold. I began shifting my legs back and forth to keep myself warm. Would “Bateman” ever return? The very thought of it made me sick. Surely, that was a new form of cop who knew martial arts, all dressed up as Bateman. I was in New York City still, and this was only a dream.
Some dream. I breathed, sighed, looked out into Gothic City. Might be worth exploring. Might be like NYC of my wildest dreams. I cackled suddenly and clamped my own hand over my mouth.
Then “the sight” happened. He looked mildly tired as he climbed back over the roof. He strolled over to me, as though something was on his mind. Or Mind? Let’s see, these guys are more highly evolved life forms than me, sort of like the X-Men from Marvel, but slower or something, and human enough to relate to. Or, he’s just some bastard of a ludicrous cop. I showed him what I thought of this with deep tiredness on my face.
What had I been thinking, I grabbed myself and inwardly shouted, no, this is not Bateman! I have to collect my soul, and tell him off. Now.
“Brice, I know who you are,” I choked into my palm. All the knowledge I had of him spilled out of my mouth, spewing out beyond my capacity to understand. I had to say it; there was nothing else to say. Maybe if I played along with the farce, “Bateman” would confess his falseness.
“Okay,” said the same voice, sounding totally tired. “What are you doing here…no, come home with me, and…I’ll show you where I’m living…right now.” I remembered that The Bateman didn’t necessarily get a lot of sleep at night.
Okay, I thought. And I told him what I remembered of my entire life story as we swooped through the enormity that was Gothic City down to the car. It was tumultuous and too lengthy to herein describe, but scared me a little less.
“You must be used to soaring. Swoop and snatch. I mean, you like Suprememan, you! You will not take anything unacceptable out on me, who am, is surely imagining this. Not!” He’s dressed up as the enemy, I reasoned out, slowly, over along period of time.
“No, it’s not. I’m not. Get into the car, vagabond. And do exactly what I say.” Who knows what he was making of my knowledge of his identity. Probably wants me to stay at home all day. What will we do while I’m trying to stay faithful to my husband?
But he had done something terribly wrong, my usually sweet man had, something undeniably hideous — which I could not remember.
It seemed in a dismal blur to have to do with my husband’s breaking open my breastbone, ripping my screaming chest open, and tearing out my…soul. It had hurt. There’d been great pain and blood, everywhere. Then I’d passed out.
“‘Nkay,” I blurredly intoned as he opened the car door. I was wobbling on my feet after the wild and windy ride. It had taken some time, and it was growing dark outside. I was staring at the car, which looked pristinely black, but menacing.
He nodded, while looking carefully at my head, and blithely he ducked my entire body down into the vehicle. I sat there waiting as he climbed artistically, the same old familiar moving shadow, down into his own side. “Whatever you do, don’t turn me over to, uh, them,” I suddenly said. “The JLA.”
“What, the Justice Legion of America?” Who were those, I mused, that group of superheroes with their own Earth-centered satellite, of which The Bateman was supposedly a member — or something like the B’nai Brith or the Italian Anti-Defamation Legion? Strangers in suits, who fought for civil rights? Or was the Justice Legion of America only the Klu Klux Klan, like my Mexican friend had told me before?
Meanwhile, I was with that same racist cartoon character. Where to now?
“No sweat. We’re going to my apartment, and we’re leaving for there starting right now. You’ll be safest at home, o careless female. You know too much. You’ll have to stay put while I figure out what we should do with you.”
The car swiftly fired up, and we were out of that shadowy back alley after all of the vehicle’s systems had shut on — too rapidly for me to follow.
I sat back, lurching not at all. “So tell me why we’re moving so fast and easily.”
“Might be Suprememan,” intoned The Voice of The Bateman, “But this incredible journey is mostly being brought to you by me, a lot of technical equipment including ozone positors that you can’t possibly understand, and my need to fill you in is…nonexistent.” Long pause. “As yet.”
“Understood,” I whispered ramblingly, glancing around. We were on the freeway pretty fast, honking at exactly one fannish driver. I guessed the guy was just saying hello. The Batemobile strutted neatly to her own purring repose, nonchalantly maneuvering into place as though circumscribed lines and angles were all around, guiding and lighting her way. The snow was glistening, streaked by the side windows without affecting them, and in an instant was melting.
The same gorgeous sight, Gothic City, was still out there. Now it was starting to “jewel up,” or become lustrous with the many bright lights of late evening, reminding me of one time I’d entered San Francisco at night. It was so beautiful.
“I finally broke down and thought ‘her,'” I said, to measure his mental telepathy. I nonchalantly waited. Nothing. “I mean the car. No, ‘the girl.’ What happened? What did she turn into? A beastly parking garage?”
That’s when the Batemobile suddenly dove downward into a midnight blue underground garage, after doing a swift swoop straight off the freeway. We were in an enclosed space, deep underground. The Bateman turned to me, and whipped his demonic mask off. I was gape mouthed again, because I couldn’t believe what I saw. What I shouldn’t have been able to see, three mere inches away from my face.
And so I waited for The Bateman’s considerate reply, as the cold beneath and around us slowly melted. A cocoon of warmth emanating straight from the sun surrounded us, and I heard Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s old poem about Xanadu, something about “…weave a circle round him thrice, and close your eyes with holy dread, for he on honey-dew hath fed, and drunk the milk of…”
“The Girl, Brice. What did she turn into?” I interjected.
“I turned her into rehab, and you don’t care about her at all. You are now with me, with me you will stay forever, and there will be no more running around rescuing people. Got that? Leave that to us. Good. Oh, and by the way…”
“What?” I breathlessly asked Brice Wayne, who with his mask off looked very dark, male and awesomely handsome. In a way beyond telling, one that wasn’t strictly…human. Looking down shyly, I noticed the black bat symbol on his massive chest.
It wasn’t really a picture of a bat. It seemed to emblemize something else, like a massive gaping wound. I remembered that Bateman was sometimes called “The Dark Knight.” And I recalled he’d been nicknamed “The Caped Crusader.” Didn’t those titles have to do with the Crusades? There had been Jewish, Christian, and Moslem knights, I realized. Had Pierrot been one of their number? I had heard Jesus Christ invented vampire bats.
It was as if something had happened to him, because of something having happened to me. I blinked, looking again, and the symbol was back to being a filled-in outline of a black, “campy” bat, surrounded by the yellow glowing moon that Cary Bates had long ago supplied.
I had a feeling the Commedia del’Arte was over. Finally.
“Happy Holidays, my dear Marital Arts,” the Bateman sighed, taking off one glove and cradling my small chin smoothly in his large, tawny hand. “Ever hear of a legal matter called getting a divorce? Works much better than running away. If you’re hungry, there’s plenty of food upstairs. By the way, I’m cooking our dinner. What do you like? Chinese, Thai…Italian?”
“I love spaghetti. What happened to Alfred?”
“He’s still around. He has tonight off.”
(Cut a long, slow pan to Rod Sterling, who isn’t smiling as usual, as he never did at the end of each episode. Instead, he’s wincing mildly — as if in great pain about the unknown.)
…and such is the tale of a simple woman who came to a startling realization about a potentially Christian, or presumably otherwise, winter’s holiday. One that could be portrayed by almost anything, such as: a batlike symbol; a tawdry joke by a fat, unsmiling black man as a TV show’s earnest host; or a somewhat realistic hero who could save a nice, brave lady from something far, far worse than a storytelling white man like me…the Eventide Zone.Write by spiderman hoodie