8FOLD/ACRA/APES: The Green Knight # 4
milos_parker at yahoo.com
Tue Jan 3 18:44:55 PST 2006
EIGHTFOLD COMICS PRESENTS
A SPECIAL "APES MONTH"
THE GREEN KNIGHT # 4
BY TOM RUSSELL
At the home of General Lodger...
"Are you sure you don't want the guards posted?"
says an officer.
"I'm safe in my own home!" says the General.
"But the threats!!!"
"I've been threatened before!! Nothing ever
happened then!!! Good-night!"
As General Lodger steps inside, he recoils in shock
at the sight that awaits him!!...
"A gorilla!!! How'd he get in here??"
"I am no mere gorilla!" says the simian.
"Sockamagee!! He talks!!"
"I am your doom!!!"
"No! No! No!!"
But it is too late for the general!!... the beast's
paws are around his throat!!!... and he crushes the
air out of his windpipe, squeezes the life out of
General Lodger's body!!!... until the general has none
left, and the unholy beast drops him on the floor!...
like a bag of refuse!!!
That night, the talking ape finds himself drawn to
a secret location!!... to his master!!!
Is it a man??? The long, aquiline face has neither
colour or hair! His eyes are a burning, hating red!!!
His fingers are like ice picks, sharpened to the
point... ten little daggers!! His black robe makes
him look like the grim reaper... and we're not too far
off... for this is... The Psychopomp!!!
"Wonderful, my pet." Though there are no
sibilants, the words are hissed out in his soft,
lulling, deadly viper's-whisper!! "Soon, they will
all be dead! General Lodger doubted the validity of
my claims... as he always did!!! We'll see if Lt.
Cagle is any smarter!! If he takes seriously the
death-threat of... the Psychopomp!!!"
The office of Ray Cradle, who is secretly the Green
Knight... He reads the paper with his young accomplice
in the battle against evil, the young lad Martin Rock,
a.k.a. the Acro-Bat!
"This Psychopomp business looks like a job that was
tailor-made for the Green Knight and the Acro-Bat..."
"Hot diggity-dog!!!" says Martin.
The home of Lt. Cagle...
A dozen military men occupy the room...
The air is fraught with nervous tension... a knock
at the door!
It's the Green Knight, and the Acro-Bat!
"Mind if we join you, gents?"
"Anytime!" says one of the soldiers.
"A real American hero like you?"
"You fellows are the real heroes!" says the Green
Lt. Cagle grows nervous.
"Calm down," says the Green Knight. "We'll protect
"I don't want to be protected," Cagle says,
shaking. "I deserve to die! For what I've done!...
Death is the least of my worries!!"
"I don't understand," says the Green Knight. "What
have you done??"
"In `Nam," says Cagle, wiping his sweaty brow. "At
the orders of General Lodger, me and my men... oh
lord!!! We killed women, children! An entire
village... This was after My Lai... we knew it was
wrong!! But we did it! I knew it was wrong, but I
did it!! Only one of the men didn't shoot... he told
us we'd all burn in hell, and it's true! I'm going to
hell!!... I'll never forget that man... and his
burning, accusing eyes!! His burning red eyes!!!"
Cagle begins to weep.
Hours into the long vigil, the window bursts open!!
It is the gorilla!!! And he speaks!!...
"Lt. Cagle! I have come to end you!!"
"Not so fast, tall, dark, and hairy!" The Green
Knight socks him with his mighty left hook!!
And that clever lad, the Acro-Bat, has situated
himself behind and underneath the gorilla!! Another
punch from the Green Knight and the sinister simian
falls backwards, tripping on Martin!! Dazed, the
"We can't lose him!!" says the Acro-Bat. "Come on,
"You're safe now Cagle... Cagle??"
"He's dead!!" says one of the soldiers. "The shock
was too much for his heart!!!"
"May God have mercy on his tainted soul..."
"The radio says that Cagle is dead anyway!" says
the Psychopomp. "But still you ran!!... you stupid
beast! You're as much of a coward as Cagle and
Lodger!! And, with Cagle dead, anyway, I have no more
use for you!!!"
He plunges his sharp, sharp blade-like fingers into
the gorilla's chest! The poor, strange freak lets out
a sharp cry, and his body contorts in agony as it,
too, knows the taste of death!!! The death of the
"Wait `till PETA hears about you!"
"The Green Knight!!" says the Psychopomp.
"The Psychopomp I presume!"
"Yes!" says his albino adversary. "I am the
Psychopomp!! The creature that leads the damned to
the depths of hell!... that accompanies the newly-dead
to their final destination!!!"
"You're Private Steven Kane," says the Green
Knight. "You were there when the massacre happened!!
It's twisted your mind!!!"
"How did you know??"
"Easy! All the other members of the company have
died!! Strangely, brutally murdered!!... Strangled!
You're the only one left!!"
"I was!! But now I am something more!!!" The
Psychopomp raises his hands, and a ring of white fire
traps our heroes!!
"It burns!!" says the Acro-Bat, leaping back.
"But it gives off no heat!!" says the Green Knight.
"It is the fire of hell!!! And all of its powers
are at my disposal!! Justice will be served!!!"
"What those men did was evil!!" says the Green
Knight, trying to reason with the mad-man. "But you
have no right to judge them, or us, or anyone!!! Only
God can do that!!"
"God would never let it happen in the first
"Look!!" says the Acro-Bat. "Behind him!"
"The gorilla!! He's not dead after all!!!"
The Psychopomp turns and shrieks, for now his
ghastly beast is upon him!! The savage paws are
around his throat!!! The Psychopomp flails and
screams as the weird beast tosses him into a nearby
vat of acid!!!
"That's the end of him," says the Green Knight as
the flames die down around them.
"And the gorilla!!" says the Acro-Bat.
The gorilla is bleeding, his life seeping out of
his huge body!
"A fate he well deserves!!" says the Green Knight
The gorilla has a pained expression on his face!
And with his dying breath, he tries to answer the
Green Knight's judgment!!! "I was just... following
A great banner hangs on the doors to City Hall,
displaying the unlikely sentence PSYCHOPOMP MAYOR OF
JOLT CITY. The villain himself stands atop the steps,
his hands clasped together and raised above his head,
his eyes squinting as he displays his hideous,
The people gathered below are in a state of shock
and distress. But no one is more shocked than the
former mayor, Dale Barkley. His hand stretches out to
the taciturn figure of the Green Knight and his junior
partner, the Acro-Bat... both of whom stand on the
steps besides the Psychopomp, their arms hanging
impotently at their sides.
"Green Knight! You've got to do something! The
Psychopomp has just been elected mayor of Jolt City!"
"Do? What can I do? The people... have spoken!"
How did this weird turn of events find its way into
the annals of politics? And why is the Green Knight,
the sworn protector of Jolt City, unable to stop it?
Having completed a case, the Green Knight visits
Mayor Barkley in the latter's office...
"I'm sure glad we have you around!" says Barkley.
"You've done more for this city than anyone!"
"I don't know about that, sir!" says the Green
Knight. "As mayor, you've done quite a bit to enrich
and improve the lives of all our residents!"
"I've done the best I could. But now it's time for
this old depression baby to retire! Say! Why don't
you run for mayor? You'd be a shoo-in!"
"That would compromise my ability to act as the
Green Knight! No, I'll stay out of politics, thank
"I only hope, then, that the people elect a just
The Green Knight, in his civilian identity of
billionaire Ray Cradle, is sitting in his office when
his nineteen-year-old junior partner against crime,
the Acro-Bat (in his secret identity as Martin Rock)
rushes into his office.
"Mr. Cradle! Come quick!"
Ray follows Martin into the Cradle Enterprises
"Today, twenty-two year old councilman Bernie Bates
registered at City Hall to run for mayor of Jolt City!
He was upstaged, however..."
"Bates is a good, decent man, if a bit shy and
under-confidant!" says Ray.
"... by the registration of his opponent... the
supervillain known as the Psychopomp!"
Ray's jaw drops.
Martin grinds his fist into his open palm. "We've
got to stop him!"
"No, Martin!" says Ray. "He's completely within
his rights! Anyone can run for office! We've just
got to trust the voters of Jolt City!"
"I just know he's going to try something dirty, the
rat!" says Martin. "He's going to fix it somehow!"
"Now that we can do something about, Mr. Rock! Or
rather, a couple of friends of ours!"
Mr. Cradle and his star employee retire to the
former's office, closing the blinds and locking the
door. And there takes place an awesome
transformation, as the unassuming duo change into
their costumes to become the Green Knight and the
At the debate, the Psychopomp runs circles around
the stammering councilman!
"If this keeps up, ol' tall, white, and ugly will
win legitimately!" says the Acro-Bat.
"Don't even joke about that, lad!" cautions the
The day of the election comes and the buzz is
deafening! The people think that Bates is a weak,
bumbling buffoon! On the other hand, the Psychopomp
is a known criminal!... No one wants that, either!
The Green Knight and the Acro-Bat are on hand to
monitor the elections to guarantee that there is no
voter fraud. They wave to the line of people
stretching across the block.
"Good voter turn-out!" comments the Acro-Bat.
"The citizens of Jolt City take their civic duties
seriously! Especially today, with so much at stake!"
says the Green Knight.
"Why haven't they let people in yet, I wonder?"
says the Acro-Bat.
"We're waiting on the ballots and the pens!"
explains Mayor Barkley as he takes his place besides
"Can't you say something, sir?" asks the Acro-Bat.
"Tell the people they can't vote for the Psychopomp!"
"That would be an abuse of my power," says the
mayor. "No, in good conscience, I cannot do that!"
"Sorry I'm late, Mac," says a large, shambling man
covered in wrappings like some sort of weird
modern-day mummy. He carries a pile full of ballots
with both hands, and a hundred pens are shoved into
the various pockets of his waistcoat.
"What's with the bandages, King Tut?" says the
"Acro-Bat!" chastises the Green Knight.
"I'm a burn victim," says the man gruffly.
"Oh!!!" exclaims the Acro-Bat. "Sorry, mister!"
"We'll help you get those ballots inside!" says the
"No sign of the Psychopomp!" says Barkley.
"Yes, everything seems to be on the up-and-up!"
says the Green Knight.
"I don't know why we're so worried!" says the
Acro-Bat. "I mean, who would vote for that crummy
And that brings us back to where we started!
"What a dark day for Jolt City!" says the Acro-Bat.
The Psychopomp gloats. "Having won by a margin of
eight hundred votes, I can safely say that I have a
mandate! And so, having gained your consent, there's
going to be some changes around here!"
"Eight hundred votes!" says the Acro-Bat under his
breath. "There aren't eight hundred lousy crooks in
this city lousy and crooked enough to vote for that
"First of all, I give a pardon to every inmate in
both the prison and the asylum!"
The Green Knight answers the Acro-Bat: "Well, there
After a hard day's work fighting the released
criminal scourge, our heroes retire to Ray's luxurious
mansion. In their civilian identities, they eat with
Ray's fiancé, the glamorous socialite Riana Jordan.
"Goodness! You're both so beaten up and sore!
What happened to you?" (Riana does not know their
"Err-- hard day at the office, Miss Jordan!" says
"I don't know how that dreadful Psychopomp won!"
says Riana. "I sure didn't vote for him!"
"You voted for Bernie, then," says Ray as he sips
"No! I voted for the other guy! The Psychopomp
wasn't even on the ballot!"
After Riana leaves, our heroes change into their
other identities once again! And now clothed for
action, they take action!
"Look!" says the Acro-Bat. "She's right! The
Psychopomp wasn't even on the ballot!"
"But look here," says the Green Knight, pointing to
one of the unused ballots they have found. "The other
name! After Bernie Bates!"
"Steve Kane!" says the Acro-Bat. "The Psychopomp's
"Let's check out the company that printed the
ballots!" says his mentor, crumbling the empty ballot
At the Jolt City Ballot Printing Company, a
surprise awaits them! For from their hiding place in
the rafters, they spy...
"Gorillas! Of course!"
"The Psychopomp has used talking apes in the past,"
says the Green Knight, watching the simians playing
cards beneath them. "That fiend!"
"Let's get him!" says the Acro-Bat.
The Psychopomp laughs in their faces. "Oh, no, I
was elected fair and square!"
"You tricked the people into voting for you!"
accuses the Acro-Bat.
"If I didn't use my legal name on the ballot, then
that would hold true! By using my legal name, I
actually followed the letter of the law! Can I help
it if the people are uninformed?"
"He's right!" says the Green Knight. "I'm sorry,
lad, but he's right!"
"And you have slandered my good name!" says the
Psychopomp. "And in my city, it is punishable... by
Two police men enter.
"What do we do?" says the Acro-Bat.
"The law's on his side!" says the Green Knight.
"And as citizens, we have to obey that law!"
"This is a dark day for Jolt City!" says one of the
"I never thought this would happen! It makes me
ashamed of my badge!" says the other.
They put the vigilantes in cuffs and take them to
"At last!" cries out the Psychopomp. "I've fought
the accursed do-gooders many times over the years!
But at last, the Psychopomp is triumphant! And I
shall live up to my name by escorting them to their
"Boss!" says one of his gorillas upon entering.
"We've got to get you over to Hamlin. We're going to
"Don't you remember? You're trading cities for the
day with the mayor of Hamlin!"
"Then I suppose my victory shall have to be
postponed. Give a stay of execution for the Green
Knight and his brat. We'll have to see them hang
"What are we going to do?" says the Acro-Bat.
"I don't know! It looks like the end, old chum!"
says his mentor. "What irony! I always thought I
would die in the heat of battle, or saving a life!
But now I'll die disgraced, a criminal-- the very kind
I dedicated my life to fighting!"
"The people will know the truth, G. K.!" says the
Acro-Bat. "History will vindicate our names!"
"You might not have to wait so long," says a man as
"Mayor Barkley!" the duo exclaims.
"Yes, but not the same one you think I am. I'm his
twin brother, Gerald!"
"Of course!" says the Green Knight. "The mayor of
Hamlin! We've met before, actually!... though I doubt
that you'd remember it! Your entire city was placed
under hypnotic control!"
The Acro-Bat snaps his fingers. "That was when we
fought the modern-day Pied Piper of Hamlin!
"As mayor for the day of Jolt City, I hereby
absolve you of all charges!"
"Well, that's great for today," says the Acro-Bat
"Actually, I have a plan," says the Green Knight.
The two Barkleys and the two heroes stand on the
steps of city hall. "Hear ye, hear ye!" the temporary
mayor says. "I hereby order that a new election is
held. Anyone wishing to run for the position of
mayor, please register by noon today!"
Bernie Bates presents himself to the quartet. "I'd
like to register, but I don't think I should! I don't
think the people want me!"
"Well, they didn't want the Psychopomp, either!"
argues the Green Knight. "You're a good man, Bernie
Bates!... and I think you're the best man for the job!
You've just got to have confidence in yourself."
Bernie stands up tall and proceeds into city hall
"It now being noon," says the acting mayor, "and
with only one name having registered, it is my
pleasure to announce that Bernie Bates runs unopposed.
Let the voting begin!"
The Psychopomp, flanked by his gorillas, heads back
into town on dawn the next day. "The streets are
strangely quiet! None of the criminals and lunatics I
released are causing any havoc. Strange!"
They arrive at the mayor's office and are surprised
to see Bernie Bates inside.
"You! What are you doing here?"
"While you were gone yesterday," says a familiar
voice, "he was elected mayor by a vote of three to
"The Green Knight!" says the Psychopomp. His
adversary socks him hard in the nose.
He staggers backwards, flailing. "And the
Acro-Bat!" says the Knight's junior partner as he
kicks the Psychopomp deftly in the back of the knees.
The Psychopomp buckles and falls to the ground.
Their leader defeated, the gorillas don't put up
much of a fight. The police arrive and put the
offenders in the paddy wagon.
"One thing puzzles me, Mayor Bates!" says the Green
Knight. "Just who did you vote for?"
"Well, I couldn't vote for myself! It doesn't feel
right! And I wasn't about to vote for that crumb. So
I wrote in the same name both times: the man I thought
was the best man in town!... The Green Knight!"
Our heroes chuckle.
"Nobody's home." Riana lets Martin in. "Anders is
at his uncle Wally's, and Ray... is... wherever it is
that Ray... is." She smiles, and it is a very tired
smile. Then she says again: "Nobody's home. Just me.
And you. You... you want something to drink,
"Thank you, Mrs. Cradle."
"Tea would be nice."
"Have a seat." Martin sits down. She talks to him
from the kitchen as she puts the kettle on. "It's
nice to have you visit, Martin. No one else in this
house drinks tea. It gets depressing, making a pot of
tea and having two-thirds of it go to waste. A person
can only drink so much, and then the rest goes down
the drain. Most of the time when I want it, I don't
even make it. Because what's the point if you're
drinking it alone?"
"To enjoy it, I guess."
"Hmm." She comes to the doorway, stands there,
leaning her body to one side, her arms crossed.
"So... I bet you have some exciting stories to tell
"No, Mrs. Cradle. I... I saw some action, if
that's what you mean. It was a war, and I fought.
But nothing really exciting about it. Nothing
glorious. Just ugly and brutal. Nothing you'd be
"You'd be surprised," says Riana. "Well, there's
She heads into the kitchen, and Martin sinks back
further into his chair, watching Ray's wife in her
pretty little dress. Fifty-five years old and she's
still gorgeous. Martin, for his part, is twenty-seven
and still Martin. Only more so. More muscular, less
jovial, more uneasy with sitting here and looking at
her and wanting her. Needing her.
Before the war, he had told himself that it was
just a sexual attraction. Just the way she carried
herself, the way her breasts bounced, the long meaty
legs and the fleshy hips. In his dreams, the
relationship was consummated violently, a lot of heavy
breathing and orgasmic shouting on both their parts,
she on her back with her legs wrapped around his
waist: with her wrapped around him, a fire put out
with a few dozen quick, hard thrusts as he held her
down by her fleshy hips and buried his face in her
breasts. And then it ended, and he awoke, and he felt
Before the war, they had consummated.
They spoke very little. Their eyes did the
talking. Their fingers did the talking. They
undressed carefully. He touched her breasts with his
fingertips, he ran his palm across her belly, he
reveled in the texture of her pubic hair. He reeled
at the smell of her. Deep. And dark. He entered her
with caution, with concern. She made little grunts.
That was all. They spoke very little.
He held her shoulder in one hand, pressed his body
against hers. He held her head in the other, feeling
the weight of it, the texture of her skull, beneath
the soft mass of curly black hair, coiled tight. He
pressed his mouth to her neck, and breathing
shallowly, began to whimper. He didn't last very
long. After he came, she held him close. She said,
you're staying inside of me. I'm never going to let
you go. You're going to stay here inside until you
have your second wind, and then you're going to love
You're going to love me forever.
Yes, yes I will, oh Ree, I love you.
That's all they said. They spoke very little.
Riana brings the tea and he thanks her and calls
her Mrs. Cradle. She doesn't correct him but she
knows this is a bad sign. She tries to make a joke of
it. "Some exotic Arab princess steal your heart? Or
"They're Iraqis, not Arabs. There's a difference,
"I guess. I don't know. I killed them just the
"We won't talk about it."
"Thanks." But now he wants to talk about it. Not
about the war, but about her real question. Like her,
he wraps his question in secrecy. "Has Ray told you
"No," she says a little bitterly. "Why would he?
He thinks I'm too stupid to figure it out. He thinks
I don't pay attention, that I don't know my way around
my own house? Let him think that."
"You should confront him with it. Tell him that
you know he's the Green Knight. But tell him how you
figured it out. Otherwise he'll blame me."
"Don't worry, because I'm not going to tell him.
I'm not going to give him an out. One day, he'll tell
me. The shit. It's no way to have a marriage. I
don't keep any secrets from him. I tell him
And... "Everything?" ... there it is.
"Just you and me."
"Me and you." She finishes her tea. She sets down
the cup. She heads up the stairs. Martin watches and
waits. Riana disappears. Then, suddenly, its wings
flapping, her dress streaks down the stairs and comes
to rest on the railing. Martin heads up the stairs
and, clutching the dress, follows its scent to her
He tries this time to make it conform to his dream,
to his fantasy. Just a sexual attraction. Hard.
Fast. Not love. Just sex. But.
Something happens. Her body answers his, and his
rhythm yields to hers. It is fast. It is hard. But
it's also fun. It's also passion. It's also love.
And by the end, his thrusts are slow and his face
is buried in her neck, and he whimpers and she holds
him and he says, Ree, I'm going to love you forever oh
Ree oh Ree oh Ree oh
When he puts on the Acro-Bat costume, it feels
silly. It feels wrong. It doesn't feel like a
uniform, like a mask, like power. It feels like a
costume. Like Halloween.
Twenty-seven years old and still the kid sidekick.
He finds the Green Knight on a rooftop that
evening. "Acro-Bat!" Then, lowering his voice: "How
was the war?"
"It was a war," Martin says tersely.
"I'm glad you found me. I'm right in the middle of
a case. It looks like our old friend the Psychopomp
Of course. The Psychopomp. Ten times a year, it's
the Psychopomp. Martin's escaped one insanity for
"... gorilla murders. I'm not sure of the
connection. Hold on..."
He touches his ear, and listens to information
being fed over the police scanner. "Another! Let's
The Green Knight hooks his grapple on the roof and
then leaps off. Martin fixes his grapple and prepares
to leap. Before he does, he says softly, bitterly,
Martin is in Ray's basement, the one behind the
book-case. It is full of souvenirs, all suspended in
air and underneath glass. Full of keepsakes, of
ideas, of gadgets, of promise, of memories. Of
He presses his face and fingers against one of the
display cases. There floats a clunky grappling hook,
Ray's first. By the time Martin came into the
picture, it had become streamlined and noiseless, the
cord thin but strong. Elegant, almost sexy. Far more
dependable than the clunker, which Ray had told him
was prone to seizing up or, worse, misfiring. The
hooks had ripped up his leg pretty badly.
"That's when I started work on the current model,"
Ray said. The first time he had brought Martin down
So long ago.
Jesus! What had happened?
We used to be golden. It used to be fun. Laughing
in the face of danger. Patter fraught with puns.
Villains with a sense of style, adventures that could
only be qualified as weird. It was ridiculous, but
sublime. So long ago.
But isn't this the way Martin had wanted it? When
he first saw that old grapple, the clunker, wasn't he
relieved to have the streamlined version? Didn't he
hate having to memorize the little jokes and puns that
Ray had stockpiled? Remember the arguments?
"Ray, I don't see why we have to announce ourselves
every time we're going to fight somebody! Why don't
we just surprise them, knock them out, have it done
with? I mean, when there's lives at stake..."
Martin was never given an adequate answer, and,
convinced that this was evidence that he was right, as
soon as he broke free of Ray, he broke free of it all.
The identity. The patter. The colour.
Well, why should it be fun? You're a crime
fighter, damn it! You're pitting your life against
crooks, you're racing against time to save innocent
people: this is serious, damn it! Take it seriously!
Even Ray takes it seriously now. But there was a
time when he joked, when he bandied, when he smiled.
Now a smile seems unnatural, it's been so long since
he's done it. Ray takes it seriously and where did it
get him? Dark, humourless, obsessive. Paranoid. Of
course, he had always had those tendencies. Over
time, he just started to deepen them. Which was part
of the reason why Martin broke from him in the first
But that's not even Ray's fault, is it? The world
itself. The world changed. The bad guys got sicker,
nastier, more desperate. Kidnappers became rapists,
bank robbers became murderers. And the truly sick and
twisted went beyond imagining. The Psychopomp...
That bastard. That absolute bastard.
It used to be fun.
So very long ago.
(C) COPYRIGHT 2006 TOM RUSSELL.
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