8FOLD/TEB: The Green Knight: Bread and Lentils
milos_parker at yahoo.com
Mon May 29 22:18:44 PDT 2006
EIGHTFOLD COMICS PRESENTS
THE GREEN KNIGHT: BREAD AND LENTILS TEB
collecting _The Green Knight_ # 1-7
2005 RACCie Winner for Favourite Miniseries
BY TOM RUSSELL
0. A Note on the Text
1. Ray (GREEN KNIGHT # 1-3)
2. Silver & Gold (GREEN KNIGHT # 3-4)
3. Anders (GREEN KNIGHT # 5)
4. Martin (GREEN KNIGHT # 6)
5. Green (GREEN KNIGHT # 7)
A NOTE ON THE TEXT
I'm not really a good writer; I'm much better at
rewriting. Now, some can argue that that is what
writing is in the first place: rethinking, redrafting,
tightening up the text.
But for me, writing is primarily an avenue of
discovery and exploration. Sometimes, this
necessitates meandering down a road that it is not as
fruitful as it first appeared. Usually, by the time
I've arrived at the final product, I've elided that
part of the journey.
Serial fiction provides a special problem in this
respect; unless you've written out the entire story in
advance to be published at regular intervals, ideas
that seemed important in installment one-- ideas that
you were sure would pay off in the last chapter--
sometimes prove to be without merit.
Some things slip by either because the author has
made a mistake, changed his mind in a later
installment, or because he's let some of his personal
proclivities-- in this case, towards world-building--
obscure the story's true focus.
And that, dear friend, is why God gave us TEBs. So
I can fix my mistakes, tighten up my prose, and place
a veneer of formal control over my exploration.
This collected edition of the Green Knight is, by
my count, roughly fifteen or twenty pages shorter than
its initial publication. In some cases, it was merely
a matter of taking a scene and tightening it up; for
example, when Anders discovers the truth about his
father, the original edition had a lengthy scene that
took place largely in Anders's head. I think the
reader gets the point during the first few paragraphs
of that scene; we certainly don't have to read a
paragraph about the way in which he urinates. This
scene has thankfully been shortened.
A large chunk of what was issue two has been
removed wholesale and without apology: first off, its
stated purpose as part of the finished work-- to
illustrate the change in the relationship between
Martin and Ray, and to show that Ray is not the man he
used to be-- is somewhat redundant; all of this is
shown in strong detail before and after.
The other purpose of that chunk was to introduce
the concept of "pockets", a disease which causes the
victim to shrink in size to a height of about six
inches. A "bottle city" was mentioned, and the
amusingly-named Pocket Vito introduced. I think it's
a fine idea, and there's a few stories in there-- but
it has nothing to do, really, with _this_ story.
It's the same line of thinking that led me to cut
part of the last chapter, including a fairly important
bit of plot. The final plot twist does not so much
serve as a conclusion to this story, but rather a
springboard for the next; I find it somewhat
unsatisfactory as a conclusion. I've decided to end
the story earlier, on the finish of Anders's emotional
The plot twist will come back, though, placed where
it belongs: at the beginning of the next GREEN KNIGHT
Now, as for the question as to which edition, TEB
or the original serial publication, is canonical: I
say (I'm sure somewhat frustratingly) that both
versions of this story are equally valid. As to which
version is a better one? My money's on the TEB.
The mask is everything, so make it a good one: it's
the only thing that keeps you safe. You won't believe
how many times a well-defined chin or a pair of baby
blue eyes gave the whole thing away. So cover your
face, hide any unusual or distinguishing features.
Ambiguity is your friend. Mystery, your ally. The
mask is everything.
You're creating a mask not just for your face, but
for your whole body, head to toe, so choose something
stark dark iconic. Something simple. Just one or two
colours. Something that reduces you to just a mask.
Something that reduces you.
The mask is everything.
The Green Knight (stocky, too old, masked by a dark
and lovely forest green) sits on the table in the
doctor's office. And the doctor says to him, you have
cancer. You're dying. It's spread everywhere.
Head to toe.
"I want to start chemotherapy and radiation," the
doctor says. "It might give you some more time. It
might save your life."
"Unlikely," says the Green Knight.
"Usually, yeah. But some people, I mean, wow. I
remember when I was doing my residence, this guy came
in for a routine operation, and when they opened him
up, he was full of cancer. They didn't even bother
with the operation he came there for. Just sent him
home to die. Ten years later, he shows up at the same
hospital (or so I was told, I wasn't there anymore)
and he's clean as a whistle. It was unlikely. No, it
was more than that, it was impossible. But it
happened. And it could be the same."
"Well, look at it from this angle, then," the
doctor says. "You're a hero. You know the
statistics. Heroes have a higher survival rate than
the rest of us. Even things like cancer. I dunno.
Maybe they have a lot of people praying for them."
"When do we start?"
"Well, that's the thing," says the doctor. "You're
lucky to find me, you know? Not many doctors will
take a superhero that doesn't take off his mask.
Hell, I have to take your blood pressure through your
costume." He chuckles. The Green Knight remains
rigid; unchuckling. The doctor clears his throat.
"But you won't find any hospitals that will do
chemo for someone who's in a costume all the time.
First of all, there's no way they can..."
The doctor stops talking. This is because the
Green Knight has him pinned against the wall and
nearly three feet off the ground. He wriggles his fat
little body, but the Green Knight's hold is strong.
"You will never know my secret."
"I don't want to know it," chokes the doctor.
"I bet I don't even have cancer. I bet this is all
a plot to try and find my identity. You don't even
exist, do you? You're an illusion."
"No, no, I exist. I have a mortgage and child
support and student loans to pay off, believe me I
"Bread! Circuses! The spectacle of a man about to
lose his life! This must be the work of the
Director's Guild of Anarchy!"
"You're choking me," says the doctor feebly. The
Green Knight lets him drop, but not because of
anything the doctor's said. He's not paying attention
to the doctor. He's looking around the room, feeing
the walls, probing.
"A complex illusion, like the kind for which they
are renown. Oh, this is cunning. I've been coming to
this doctor's office for six, seven..."
"Seven," says the doctor feebly.
"Seven years. To have planned for so long... no.
They wouldn't have planned for such a long time.
Maybe... maybe I have memory implants?"
"It's been seven years," the doctor says wearily.
"Seven long years. Seven long, long, actual years."
"An imposter!" says the Green Knight, whirling
around suddenly, grabbing the doctor again.
"Please put me down," he whines.
"Tell me where the real Doctor Ball is," demands
the Green Knight, his emotionless, featureless green
head (couldn't really call it a face) filling up the
doctor's eyeballs. "Tell me where you're keeping him,
"You have cancer," says the doctor as he exhales a
haggard breath. The Green Knight sets him down. "You
have cancer. Not a plot. Not a hoax. Not an
imaginary story. You have cancer, and you're dying,
and I suggest you seek treatment. I don't want to
know about it. I'm not going to arrange it. Here."
The doctor grabs his manila folder, marked Green
Knight, and hands it to him. "This is your medical
file," says the doctor. "Take it. Find a hospital,
find an oncologist. I would give you some names but
you wouldn't trust me. Don't worry. They're the same
names anyone would give you. Good-bye."
"What do you mean?" says the Green Knight. "Come
on. It's not the first time I've slammed you against
"I know. Oh, boy, do I know," says the doctor
sorely. "Good-bye, and good luck."
The old man inside the green suit holds the file in
both hands, like he's holding his intestines so they
don't spill out of his gut. Like he's holding onto
his best friend.
Like he's holding onto his mask.
And then he leaves.
Ray Cradle is sixty years old; the mask is eternal.
Ray Cradle is a stereotype come alive, the
billionaire boy genius with too much time on his
hands. The Green Knight is an archetype, and thus
infallible. He keeps them separate as much as
possible. Ray has a son, and he had a wife (she died
last year, breast cancer); they don't know his secret.
Even though she was dying, even though he should
have, he never told them his secret. Who was she
going to tell? God?
Only one person knew. Martin. The Acro-Bat. His
People die, but masks do not. The entire purpose
of the sidekick is to perpetuate the archetype, and
thus to perpetuate the fear and awe inspired by the
ridiculous figure in capes and tights. When the hero
is too old, or too weary, or too dead to be effective,
then the sidekick takes up his mantle. In a few years
time, he, too, takes on a sidekick. Master and
apprentice. Hero and sidekick. Teacher and pupil.
Father and son.
When Ray started, he was thin, wiry, energetic,
twenty-five years young and loving the double life he
led. After six years of flying solo, he met a kid who
was down on his luck. Martin. Down on his luck, and
talented as hell. Could have gotten Olympic god
medals as a toddler. Did somersaults in his sleep.
Martin. The Acro-Bat.
Poor black kid living in a slum, Ray gave him a job
and the Green Knight gave him a mask. In a moment of
weakness and stupidity, Martin was given a job, and a
mask, and a secret. And a promise: when I'm too old
for the Knight, he's yours. Take my mask and make it
The promise of the sidekick. And the twelve year
old kid who called him Pops in nineteen seventy-six
said okay. I'll buy into that.
When Ray started, he was thin and wiry, energetic.
He got older. Stocky. Slow. Brutal. Powerful.
I've still got it, he would say to himself. I'm
still good, I'm still effective, I'm golden. I am the
Green Knight, and men fear me. In fact, they fear me
more. I'm not some flipping gad-a-bout, I'm an
unstoppable, unbeatable monster. I'm their
dream-demon. I'm more effective. Forty years old and
Fifty years old and still effective.
Martin got older too. He acquired muscle mass and
tone, but he was still as nimble and limber as ever,
he was still the Acro-Bat, kid sidekick to the Green
Knight. Twenty years old and still the kid sidekick.
Thirty years old and still the kid sidekick. Thirty
two years old and still the kid sidekick.
I'm still golden, says the Green Knight now. But
he's alone. The kid sidekick, the laughingstock, the
grown man, left ten years ago. Ten long years.
He still hears from him, or rather of him. He's
working the slums now, getting back to his roots,
protecting the sons of those he grew up with. He's
not the Acro-Bat anymore. He has no name.
The mask with no name. A shadow. A sliver. A
The Times have dubbed him Shadow-Boxer. The
Herald: Alley-Oop. Some crooks: Lucifer Lightbringer.
And their bosses: the mask. All names taken by other
heroes. It doesn't matter. Martin Rock answers to no
name, and none of them stick. It doesn't matter; they
all know they're talking about the same person, the
same mask, the same dark lurking thing.
It doesn't work, the Green Knight says. It can't
work. Ambiguity is your friend, mystery your ally,
but if you're never seen, then people can dismiss you,
say you never existed at all. You have to be an
intangible fear, but you have to be tangible enough to
be real. This is what the Green Knight says every
time he hears whispers and recognizes Martin in their
Ray Cradle spends his evening constructing an alias
under which to seek an oncologist and receive
treatment. His son, Anders, pokes his head in at
about nine o' clock to inform his father that he's
doing something, somewhere. Ray forgets where and
what he said. It doesn't matter. He waves his son
off without looking at him.
He considers telling Anders that he has cancer,
that he's dying, but he worries that Doctor Ball, in a
fit of revenge, might tell other doctors that the
Green Knight has cancer. The news might be leaked to
a newspaper, or on the internet. Anders then might
learn of it, and might put this information together
with his father's own admission of cancer and "curious
absences". Anders, in a fit of angst and teenage
rebellion against his father might, in turn, leak his
findings, thus ruining the Green Knight once and for
He could not tell the boy his only remaining parent
He knows that he's a bad father. He knows Anders
is distant from him, and has contempt for him at best.
Probably think he's an old nut, "curious absences"
and "unexplained blah, blah, blah". He wouldn't
understand if Ray did tell him. Ray Cradle was a mere
sliver of a human being, Ray Cradle had devoted his
life to the Green Knight, submitted to its will, like
one might submit to the will of God. (He should have
remained celibate, but in a moment of weakness, fell
in love, got married, had a child. He's supposed to
care about these human lives so inextricably tied to
his own. Supposed to, but.)
The disguise is a subtle affair; contact lenses to
change the colour of his eyes, a Boston accent to play
up the part of Gregory Lobs, retiree. He walks
pigeon-toed (an old trick that he's used in many
disguises) and with a stoop. Some of the hospital
staff comments that he looks like Ray Cradle, the
reclusive millionaire, and he smiles weakly, like he's
heard this all his life. He thanks them and says, I
wish I was. Wish I had his kind of dough, you know?
Gregory Lobs is treated for the cancer growing and
pulsing in Ray Cradle's body. It leaves him weak and
He still insists on driving himself home.
Each night after the chemo, Ray puts on his mask,
his armor, his shell. He imagines himself a weak and
puny mollusk, fragile and squishy. But the Green
Knight protects him.
He arranges to meet Klaus Burger, one of his
informants, on a roof-top. The Green Knight tries to
scale the building, but a few feet off the ground he
loses his footing and falls backwards, his sixty year
old back taking the brunt of the cement's wrath. He
groans and, kicking his feet and flailing his arms,
manages to flip himself over to his belly. He lies
there a moment, winded, and then, through a sheer act
of will, lifts himself off the ground, his arms
becoming mighty, sturdy steel pipes. The pipes suck
energy from the ground, from mother earth herself, and
soon the Green Knight is up on his feet again.
He looks at the side of the building, and decides
to take the stairs.
By the time he clears the first flight, he's
wheezing, grasping at his chest, his arm reaching for
the railing for support. His grip loosens and he
starts to fall forward. His arms jut out, his steel
energy-sucking pipes ready to absorb the blow. But
they buckle and he falls on his face.
I am the Green Knight, he says to his aching
muscles and sick body. Ray Cradle has cancer. Ray
Cradle is dancing. Dancing? No, not dancing. Dying.
Cradle is dying. I am the Green Knight. No. Wait.
Cradle is not dying. He's fighting and he's going to
win. I'm not going to die. I am the Green Knight.
Ray Cradle is the Green Knight, and both are eternal,
both will live. No. Wait. I...
I'm going to take the elevator.
He gets to the top floor without any further
incident, though even he has to admit that his body
feels weaker with every second. The doctors told Lobs
to rest. To sleep. But I'm not Lobs, why should I
care what they say? I am the Green Knight, I am the
smartest god-damn man on the planet, and one of the
toughest. I am one of the greatest crime-fighters on
the planet. And, hey, look at me. I'm sixty years
old. Sixty. Sixty, and I'm still golden.
He takes a deep breath as he stands before the
staircase that leads to the rooftop. I am the Green
Knight. I'm sixty, and I'm still golden. Golden.
He grabs onto the railing and takes three steps.
His massive square body buckles and quivers. He
tightens his grip on the railing as, with his other
hand, he pushes up on the stairs. He crawls up
another two steps, the hand on the railing well above
his head, which has suddenly become very heavy.
The Green Knight looks up to see Klaus Burger
descending the staircase. He walks with a slight but
noticeable stoop, acquired from a lifetime of bad
posture; his toes point inwards. The scum, the
stoolie. He's touching the Green Knight now, actually
touching him, helping him up.
"I thought you weren't going to show. We had said
ten o' clock."
"What time is it?"
"Quarter to eleven," says Burger. "It was getting
cold up there anyway. You want me to help you up?"
"No, no," says the Green Knight (says Ray). His
arm shaking, and with Burger's support, the Green
Knight turns around and sits down upon one of the
steps. "S. So. What news?"
"Let's see. Methuselah's back in town."
"I know that!" says the Green Knight before
breaking into a gagging fit. He feels the pasty
mucous in his mouth as he says, "That was in the
paper. What is he up to?"
"Just what he says," says Burger. "Retirement."
"That can't be it."
"I know that, and you know that. And I'll keep my
ears peeled, man. But at the moment? There's no
news. Only person hiring the locals is a new guy,
calls himself Oni."
"Japanese demon," says the Green Knight.
"He's not Japanese, though. At least, I don't
"What are you basing this on?"
"Gut instinct," says Burger. "He just sounds like
another one of these anime-obsessed white boys."
"Do you think you could get hired on?"
"What's so funny?" says the Green Knight. He moves
to grab Burger by his shirt, but his grip is so feeble
that he releases it almost instantly. A futile
gesture. He holds his head in his hands, trying to
hold it up.
"I'm your informant. I've been your informant for
years. Every gang I hook up with gets arrested, but I
go free. Crooks aren't dumb, man. We ain't smart,
but we ain't dumb. This information I give you? I
get it from my informants."
"Fine. G. Get on with it."
"The word is that he's meeting soon... could be
tonight, could be tomorrow night... with Sheldon
Schultz. No word on what the meeting's for, or who
else will be there. No meeting place, but you know
these wise guys, they'll probably determine it at the
last possible minute."
But he stops now, for his last few words have been
drowned out by another coughing fit, this one more
violent. The Green Knight's entire body shakes, and
Burger can tell that he's throwing up. Burger lifts
up the bottom of the mask so the vomit can spill out.
The Green Knight bats him away, screaming something at
him that is indecipherable when flanked by the
"Chill out," says Burger. "You want to choke to
death on your own vomit? I'm just helping."
"The mask," the Green Knight is saying. "Don't you
ever touch... mask... again..."
He falls forward, tumbling down the stairs.
"You okay?" says Burger.
There is no answer. Dropping the pretense of the
stoop and pigeon-toes, the man with Burger's face
rushes down the stairs and, struggling, manages to
pick the hulking, sleeping mass of the Green Knight
up. He slings the two hundred pounds of stocky,
pugnacious muscle over his shoulder and, struggling,
manages to get him into the elevator. He sets him
down in a corner and tries to wipe the sweat from his
forehead (an old gesture, an automatic one, but futile
underneath a layer of latex).
He pushes a button that does not appear on the
control panel, and listens for the quiet squeak of the
shaft's false bottom opening up. As the elevator then
descends to a floor that does not exist, underneath
his mask, Martin Rock breathes a sigh of relief.
It used to serve as Professor Rockhopper's hideout,
back when he was active in these parts. Once he moved
upstate and shifted his focus from the Green Knight
and Acro-Bat to Critical Mach, this base of operations
was neglected. And so, Martin made it his own.
It was his standard modus operandi; other heroes
have enough money at their disposal to buy or rent a
building, to tuck their own secrets in its corners, to
have fancy gadgets made for them or to have costumes
sewn. That was nice, and it lent them an air of
Martin didn't have that at his disposal, not after
things soured between him and Ray. So he took what he
could get. It wasn't always pretty, it was never
really fancy, but it was good enough. A little rough
around the edges, but utilitarian. Got the job done.
Martin Rock didn't give two shits about legitimacy.
Just about the job.
Rockhopper's base was pretty much emptied out when
he left town, only leaving the fridge, microwave, and
a small, uncomfortable cot. Martin kept meaning to
have a stove installed his first couple years here,
but kept getting hung up on the logistical angles
until, finally, he faced the truth: he didn't really
need a stove. Microwave would do just fine.
Martin sets the Green Knight on the cot and checks
his pulse, listens for his breathing. Weak... both
Jesus, old man, what are you still doing this for?
You've more than earned your retirement. (He must
have said this about a hundred dozen times. Ray
thought he was just eager for the mantle. Maybe he
was. But his main reason was, ostensibly at least,
He pops a burrito in the microwave and wonders what
the hell he's going to do. He's been circling around
the question since Ray fell down the stairs, out cold.
Can't circle anymore. He'll be up at any minute.
So. First off, should you leave your mask on?
What will happen if he wakes up and finds that Klaus
Burger, small-time crook, has appropriated
Rockhopper's hideout. That is, of course, assuming he
recognizes it. Either way, that brings up another
question: how do you get him out of here? And, why
did you bring him here in the first place?
That's a stupid question, one that doesn't even
require an answer. Martin brought him here because it
was the right thing to do.
And sometimes (the Green Knight said so many times
that it lost its meaning) doing the right thing means
compromising yourself, means taking off the mask,
effectively ending your life's work, your life, so
that another may live in safety. Sometimes doing the
right thing is hard to do, but you still have to do it
then. Especially then.
It comes down to, are you a hero, or a crime
fighter? Because they are not one and same thing.
Martin peels off his mask and retrieves his
burrito. He pulls up a stool-- he kept meaning to get
a chair, but a stool is just as good, isn't it?-- and
sits down next to the cot, waiting for the Green
Knight to wake up.
When Ray Cradle opens his eyes, his body does not
move; his head does not jerk; his breathing remains
deep and steady. Only his eyes open, silent,
discreet, invisible behind his faceless green mask.
The mask betrays nothing.
Martin's aged well in the last ten years.
Forty-three years old, and he looks it, but his body
is still clearly-defined, the edges still sharp and
dynamic, a gymnast's body, still lean and mean. A
Martin is perched on a stool next to him, finishing
up a burrito. He wears Burger's jacket. Of course.
His mind quickly dives into the archives of his
memory, scooping up all the facts that, together,
identify Klaus Burger as Klaus Burger: the pigeon-toed
limp, the stoop, the fluid, easy movement of his
hands. The way he draw attention to himself but
without being suspicious. Klaus Burger is the sum of
Ray's most obvious tricks, the very first ones he
taught to Martin a little over thirty years ago.
How could he not have seen it before? Klaus was
like a disguise put together by an amateur, only
Martin was no amateur. In some of their operations,
he had assumed guises so ingenious and well-conceived
as to fool even his mentor. This disguise, this Klaus
Burger, could only have been meant as an insult, as a
joke. A way to show Ray that he didn't have it
anymore, that he was not fit to be the Green Knight.
Martin had flaunted the most flimsy and elementary
tactics he had been taught, and the worst part of it
was, he had managed to fool him, and in doing so, make
a fool of him.
A tiny little pinprick of a beep pokes through the
air, and Martin retrieves a beeper from his pants. He
looks at the beeper, and then at the limp form of the
Green Knight, sprawled on the old cot.
The Green Knight keeps his breath steady. He'll
show him. He still has it, he's still golden. I'm
watching you, Martin, you ungrateful little
son-of-a-bitch. I've been watching you for ten
minutes and you still think I'm asleep. I'm watching
"You're sick, Ray."
He drops his pretense. "I have cancer."
"Oh, lungs. Heart. Liver. Brain. Little of
this, little of that."
"You're dying, Ray."
"Nah. I'm getting treatment, I'm getting better."
"You're getting treatment?"
"Sure. Chemotherapy, radiation."
"And you're out climbing buildings while you're
"I'm fine, really," Ray says.
Martin knows better to argue with him. He does it
anyway. "You should stay home, rest. And when you...
when you get better, that's when you put the mask back
on. You keep it up and you'll be working against the
"Riana died last year."
"I know," says Martin. "Did you tell her?"
"You should have."
"You owed it to her."
"I don't recall asking for your advice," says Ray.
He lifts himself off the bed. "I have to get home."
Martin puts a hand on Ray's shoulder and feels a
twitch behind his eye. He hugs the enormous square
"What the hell was that for?"
"Never hugged you before," says Martin.
"No reason to start now."
"I can give you a ride," Martin offers.
"I'll walk, thank you."
Martin leads him out of the hide-out and lets him
go. He doesn't want to see him fall down again.
He doesn't want him to fall down without someone to
pick him back up. Martin puts his costume on, turns
out the lights, and follows.
After Ray Cradle's body is treated by the chemicals
measured out for Gregory Lobs, he drives himself back
home. He vomits several times upon his return, and
finds that the all-ready thinning ranks of his hair
are being massacred by the chemicals running through
his bloodstream. When Anders makes a comment about
it, Ray just says he's getting old and heads off to
He sleeps. He does not dream.
Anders wakes him up around seven-thirty. Ray
thought that the afternoon's rest would have given him
strength, but he finds himself just as weak as before.
He's not happy to have been woken up.
"There's a guy here to see you," he says. "He's
waiting in the foyer."
Ray knows who it is. Of course he knows who it is.
"Okay, I'll be there in a minute."
"I'll go let him know."
After his son leaves, Ray tries to push himself off
the bed. When that fails, he tries to roll himself
out. He cannot muster up the strength to even fall
from his bed. Apparently fifteen minutes have passed,
because Anders returns.
"Are you all right, dad?"
"A little weak," he admits. The words feel strange
and soft in his mouth, like cotton-candy. Dry.
Sticky. A little weak. He's not sure if he's ever
said them before. Their honesty haunts him. He does
feel a little weak.
"Let me help you up," says Anders.
He grabs his father by the arm and tugs, pulling
him up into a sitting position. It's too fast, too
swift for Ray, and though there's no food left to
sacrifice to his toilet, he vomits.
Anders is saying something, but Ray can't hear it.
The blood is pumping all around his head.
His son's flabby little arm snakes underneath Ray's
armpits, and soon Ray is on his feet. His massive,
stocky bulk weighs down on his son, but Anders
shoulders the burden admirably and without complaint.
And, step-by-step, moment-by-moment, they near the
door, they clear the hallway, the stairs, the living
room, and they arrive at the foyer.
Martin. Of course. Just as he. Thought. Martin.
Martin takes up the other side of this huge hulking
mass of fatherhood, and together his two sons help him
into a chair. Ray is a little stunned, a little
shocked. This doesn't feel right. This doesn't feel
like Ray, like the Green Knight who only yesterday
evening walked home through the bitter cold and with
his head a buzzing nest of vertigo. Is this the same
man who ignored his screaming limbs and aching body
and tried to climb the stairs up to his meeting point
with Burger? The same man who drove himself home this
very afternoon after his body was injected with
poisons? A self-sufficient man, who needed no-one,
not his wife and not his son and certainly not his
sidekick, certainly not Martin...
A self-sufficient man who had to be carried from
his bedroom to his armchair. Yesterday he would have
refused the help. What caused the difference today?
Three little words, a little honesty? A little weak.
Were those powerful enough to reduce the Green Knight
to poor old Ray Cradle?
"Are you going to be okay, dad?" Anders says.
"Thank you, I'm fine now," says Ray.
Martin looks at Ray but speaks to Anders. "Your
father has cancer."
Ray's mouth tightens and his heart beats
"Are you his doctor?" says Anders.
"No, I'm an old friend," says Martin. "He has
cancer. He told me yesterday."
"Dad, why didn't you tell me?" says Anders.
"We'll talk about it later."
"Are you going to be okay?"
"I'd like to talk with Mr. Rock right now," says
his father, the little wheeze in his voice undermining
the sudden return of his granite. "We can talk about
this later. If you could leave us, and after he's
gone, we'll talk about this."
Anders looks to Martin, and Martin shifts his gaze
to his sixteen-year old doppelganger. Martin doesn't
say anything, and after a moment, Anders does leave
the room. Ray, his body shaking slightly, snakes his
head around the armchair and watches his son head back
up the velvet staircase. Then he turns to Martin and
nods curtly. Martin shuts the door and sits down
across from Ray.
"What was that?"
Martin doesn't play dumb. "He has a right to know.
Just like Ree did."
"I wasn't dying then. She was."
"She had a right to know who you are. So does your
"Well, it's not any of your business, is it? You
had no right to tell him about the cancer."
"You weren't going to tell him. He wouldn't find
out until you were dead."
"Again, I don't recall making this your business."
"Ray, I have a stake in this, in your life."
"You're not getting it," Ray snarls.
"I don't want it. I'm doing fine on my own, with
"Then what stake do you have in this?"
"Do you have to ask this question? Do you
seriously have to ask this?" Martin looks hurt.
"What, you think twenty-one years of spending close to
sixteen hours a day at your side amounts to nothing?
That'd I have no feelings about you."
"I'm not your father."
"I'm not your son."
"You're not even my sidekick anymore."
"So what does that make us, Ray?"
"I don't know. You tell me. What does that make
"You weren't bitter last night," Martin says. "It
was you and me, like old times. Only, it wasn't like
old times. And that's because you're dying, Ray."
"I am not," Ray says. He pounds his fist on the
armchair for emphasis. It shakes and it lands with a
soft, squishy thump.
"Gregory Lobs is terminal," says Martin. "His body
is more cancer than body."
He's seen my medical records, Ray realizes. "Have
you been following me?"
"I followed the money," says Martin. "You ran it
through four dummy accounts before it got to Lobs. So
I followed the money. First thing you taught me."
"The first thing I taught you is to follow my
lead," says Ray. "And not to blow my cover."
"Telling your son that his father is dying isn't
blowing your cover."
"I'm not dying!"
"Yes, you are. Ray. You're dying. And I want to
help you. I don't want the suit. I just want to help
you... end. And make it peaceful. And I think if you
die and you never tell your son who his father is...
than he'll never really have known his father, and
you'll never have been a father to him at all."
Anders holds his father's hand while the old man
sleeps and wonders how long he's supposed to do it.
Does this even mean anything? Does he even care that
his father is dying? Is he supposed to care? He
doesn't have the answers, and so to be safe he just
holds his father's hand.
Ray abandons his disguise at the hospital. The
staff admits that they weren't really fooled.
Anders drives him home after he's received his
chemo. He wants to talk to his father, he wants to
have one of this big, long meaningful conversations
that people have on television or in movies or plays
when someone's dying. Where his father tells him
about his life, and how he feels about his impending
death, and how he misses his wife and, now your mom
and me will be together. But Anders doesn't even know
if his father misses his mother. He never cried.
They never discussed it.
Anders doesn't know how to start that conversation,
and he doesn't know if people really have them. It's
up to his father, then, to start it. But Anders know
his father. His father never initiates any
conversation. His father never says a word.
A couple of blocks from the hospital, his father
throws up. They have a bag in the car for just that
reason, and Ray has it open, holding the rim with his
two thumbs. Anders pulls over the car and waits for
his father to finish.
"Are you okay?" he asks.
"What's it look like?"
That was his father. Prickly. A porcupine.
When they get home, Ray settles into an armchair.
He says he's going to rest awhile and then he'll call
Anders to help him up the stairs to bed. Anders sits
in an adjacent room and waits for his father's call.
An hour later, he goes back into the foyer to check on
him. He's asleep in his armchair. Anders lets him
Ray wakes up and hears furniture moving. He pushes
himself off the chair and, wobbling, walks over to the
doorway to check what it is. He sees Anders and
Martin carrying the box-springs to his bed down the
long, elegant stairway. He asks them what they're
doing, but his voice is low and hoarse and they do not
hear him. He asks again but still he is too quiet.
He stamps his foot, and now they turn and take
"We're moving the bed to the first floor," says
Anders is glad that Martin says it. It was
Anders's idea, but he would never suggest it to his
"I don't want you climbing any stairs," Martin
Ray knows this is best. He knows that he can't
climb stairs, that it will take too much out of him.
But if he admits that he can't climb stairs, then he
makes that true. Just like driving. He had driven
himself home before just fine, with only a little
vomiting here and there. Once he admitted he needed
Anders to drive him, then he needed Anders to drive
him. The admission made it fact.
I wasn't dying before, Ray tells his brain. It
wasn't until I said I was dying that it started, that
I got weak. I never should have admitted it. "I'm
fine," Ray says. "Put the bed back upstairs."
That's when he falls flat on his ass.
Out of instinct, Martin leaps from the stairs,
kicking off the wall and landing in the foyer,
covering fifteen feet in a matter of seconds. Anders
runs down the stairs, huffing and puffing, catching
up. He and Martin help Ray up and into his armchair.
Ray smiles at the two of them weakly. He smiles
seldomly and it's a little disconcerting. Then he
says, "Thank you, Martin."
"It's all right, Ray."
Neither of them acknowledge Anders.
Who is Martin Rock, anyway, and what does he have
to do with my father? How'd he do that, kicking off
the wall like some damn tennis ball?
Anders has questions. No answers. Not yet,
That night, Martin puts on his mask.
He sees a mugging in process about a block away,
and he melts into the rain, leaps into the shadows,
moving noiselessly and effortlessly towards them.
They do not see him, and this is the way he wants it.
A figure, a thing, half-glimpsed and surreal.
He grabs one by the throat and tosses him up in the
air, arcing his throw so that the mugger goes straight
up and down, doing a belly-flop on the wet pavement,
cracking his jaw on the dirty ground. It is
sufficient, and the others huddle on the ground, their
hands above their heads.
Many cases used to end like this, way back when.
In the old days. They had made enough of a name for
themselves that they just had to show up, banter a
little, and most of the crooks would throw their hands
up in the air. More than once, Ray wished aloud that
someone would come along that was strong enough to
give them a tussle. Every single time, someone did.
The Green Knight and the Acro-Bat had Ray's fortune
behind them, and Ray's company, and Ray's genius.
They had gadgets and doo-hickeys and weapons galore.
An awesome arsenal with which to wage a war on crime.
Ray always had an affinity for things; Martin liked to
concentrate on the essentials.
When he left the Acro-Bat behind, he also discarded
its accoutrements. The colour, the spectacle, the
gadgets, the armor. All the things that Ray delighted
in. All the things that were not essential. Not
important. Not Martin Rock.
He's just a body now, and his costume a disguise.
He's just a whisper now. He never speaks to his prey,
he never announces his presence with bravado. Bravado
is returned by bravado; a superhero is matched by a
supervillain. And that's not what Martin wants,
that's not what he's about.
A couple times, the crime bosses have hired some
ultra-powerful whack-jobs in costumes to bring them
the head of the mask with no name. Both of his
would-be assassins are still in the hospital, still
out cold. Martin didn't write a note, he didn't say a
word, but he left a message just the same: no
four-colours. I'm a man and I'll fight men. There's
a code of honour and we're going to stick to it; you
might kill me, but you're going to kill me fair, a man
killing another man. No four-colours.
That was six years ago. And since then, the
supervillains have given a wide berth to his part of
town. They gravitate, instead, to the opulent
brownstones and mansions and lake-front properties and
museums. To the Green Knight.
So what happens when a supervillain does come to
town? Now that the Green Knight is retiring, who's
going to protect all the uptown folk? Martin can't do
it. He has no powers to speak of and he doesn't have
the gadgets. What's more, he doesn't want to do it.
He likes to keep his life simple, his world
uncluttered, his mission clear. Keep things ordered.
As soon as dream-demons and suped-up technological
maniacs and freaks-of-nature enter the picture, there
is no control.
No order. No Martin.
Ray's hair has fallen out. When he looks at
himself in the mirror, it doesn't look like his face.
Gradually, he becomes used to it, he accepts it as his
face. He comes across a photo of himself from a
couple years back, with his hair intact. The picture
This round of treatment ends. The cancer still
grows. Ray climbs into the bed now occupying the
first floor. He waits for his body to die.
The pain is excruciating. Anders tries to medicate
him more heavily but Ray refuses. The only thing he
has left is his brain. The boy genius and his brain.
He needs his thoughts to be lucid, clear, concrete.
The pain he could deal with, as long as he had his
wits about him. But he knows that that too is
slipping away from him.
He doesn't think much, spends most of his time
watching television, the super news channel. He hopes
that Anders will ask him why he's always watching the
super news channel, so that he can get it over with
and tell his son that he is the Green Knight. Or
better yet, Anders just figures it out on his own.
But no. That would require the boy be smart.
Ray always hoped his son would be another boy
genius. Anders disappointed him in that regard. So
did Martin. But Martin at least was an athlete, he was
exceptional at something. Anders was the kind of
bland born-into-money rich boy that Ray always hated
when he was making his first millions. Anders was...
Of course, it's not fair to ask him to be
exceptional, is it? Ray avoids the question.
Oddly enough, he concentrates most of his thoughts
and meditations on his death, on the cancer. What a
nothing death, what a mediocre end for the Green
Knight. I should die facing incredible odds, Ray says
to himself. In the heat of battle. Saving lives. A
sacrifice for the greater good.
Or I should end up in some wilderness somewhere,
struggling, being bathed in harsh cold stinging snow,
freezing till it burns, until I am exhausted and
hungry and awesome in my futile defiance.
I should die good. Cancer. Eh. What a nothing of
Sometimes the nature of disease itself is too
difficult for him to grasp. He always understood it
before. Science had been his strong point in school.
He knew what cancer was and how it worked. But now,
the thought of something inside him, growing, gnawing,
destroying... The thought cannot be comprehended.
He imagines it as a monster, pulsing and growing
inside him, filling him up until he bursts, his
innards spilling out in a mass of flesh, a mass of
disease, a monster born from his fragile puny shell of
a body. One day, you're healthy. And the next, it's
inside you. Inside. Changing your body.
Controlling. Changing. Warping.
And it cannot be stopped. It cannot be denied.
One struggles and hopes entirely in vain.
Still, one struggles and one hopes.
And with a smile, Ray reconciles himself to his
death: it is a good death, after all.
II: SILVER AND GOLD
Martin sits next to Ray; Anders is out with some
friends for the evening. Martin had to talk him into
"I should stay here," Anders had said.
"Why? I'm here."
"I'm his son."
"What are you going to do for him anyway? You know
the way he is."
"Well, what are you going to do, Mr. Rock?"
"I'm going to let you go out and try to seduce your
poor Catholic girlfriend. Now go."
"Today's top story: the Mask Statement of
"Earlier this year, the speedster known as
Darkhorse suffered a mental breakdown as a result of
superhuman battle. Now, he has retired and publicly
disclosed his identity.
"He was born Phillip Whaley in 1976, to Patricia
and Frederick Whaley of New Jersey. When he reached
puberty, he converted to Black Islam, and says that at
that time he was blessed with super-speed. He took on
the identity of Darkhorse and..."
Martin turns down the volume. "You given it any
"You mean a Mask Statement? No."
"It's my secret. It's all I have." The answer is
too candid, and so he back-tracks: "And besides,
there's Anders to think about. I don't want anyone
coming after him."
"That's baloney," says Martin. "No self-respecting
supervillain attacks a hero's family after the hero's
released a Mask Statement. The whole point of it is
to come clean and announce that you're out of the
running. Out of the game, as it were."
"That was fine and dandy before," Ray says. "B.
But. Times have changed. You don't get the same kind
of people that you did before. Bunch of punks now."
"I think Anders can take care of himself anyway.
He's got the money."
"It gives them an edge. You got to play the game
fair, but you never, never give them an edge. Though.
Like I said. P. Punks these days. Even playing
fair gives them an edge."
"Times have changed," Martin agrees. "But you
still have to have some faith in people."
Ray doesn't answer.
"Look at it this way," Martin says. "When you're
gone, if you take your secret to the grave, then no
one will ever know who you were, what you did, what
you stood for. We had some great adventures, didn't
we? Wouldn't it be a pity if they"-- here he sweeps
his hand out to indicate the television, the city,
perhaps the world itself-- "never found out the truth
"You know the truth."
"That's enough, then," says Ray.
"What about Anders?"
"I'll tell him, sure. When the time's right. But
I'll do it. You're not going to tell him."
There's something strange about this last sentence:
partly, it sounds like a command, like Ray's taking a
stand on the matter; partly, it sounds like a
question, like he's asking for Martin's help.
Martin's answer is the same either way: "No, I'm not
going to tell him. You're his father."
"That's right," says Ray. "His father." He smiles
"What's the smile for?"
"Nostalgia," Ray says. The smile gets wider, and
he squeezes Martin's hand gently. "What grand
adventures we had, so very long ago."
"Yes," says Martin, squeezing back. He watches as
the old man drifts to sleep. He turns off the
television and sits there in the dark. What grand
So very long ago...
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
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.
Martin sits with Anders for about ten minutes,
occasionally making strained attempts at conversation,
at connection. Anders is a stone-wall.
He knows that he doesn't like Martin, but he
doesn't know if he dislikes him. He doesn't really
have any feelings towards him at all, which only makes
it more awkward to be in the same room with him, to
attempt to talk with him. Martin just exists, but
that existence seems cuts off from Anders, his life,
his world. It's an uneasy feeling of disconnect that
Anders has around most people, including, and
especially, his father.
His father's in the next room. Lying there, dying.
What does that mean? What does that mean to me,
Anders wonders. He wants it to mean something. But
it's just the same as with Martin. He doesn't like
his father, he doesn't dislike his father. It might
as well be the guy delivers his paper.
It used to bother Anders, but he found a way to let
it go, make peace with it, and for most of his life,
he hasn't really cared that he doesn't care about his
father. There were other things he cared about. His
mother, for one.
After she died, Anders didn't really feel anything
about it. He knew something this big, this
devastating, should have had some impact, but it
didn't. That was frightening. What's wrong with me?
I loved my mother... didn't I?
He was sure that he did before she died. But once
she was dead, she didn't seem to matter much anymore.
Left with one parent, with his father, he thought of
himself as being left alone. Orphaned. And that
suited him just fine.
He had this beautiful mansion to live in, didn't
he? His father just stayed here, was all. His tired
old doddering father was just a boarder. Anders could
evict him anytime he wanted!
And now, that man is dying in the next room. And
Anders will be truly alone. Truly an orphan.
Shouldn't this frighten him, shouldn't this jar him
out of his apathy? Shouldn't some brief bud of
affection be discovered deep inside him, shouldn't
that now be blossoming in a full flower of love and
But no. There's no poetry in Anders. He has no
love for his father. And the fact that it will make
no difference to him-- that his life now will be the
same as his life after his father dies-- that's the
only thing that scares him.
What's wrong with me?, he asks.
Do I have a heart at all?
Martin takes his leave of Anders, he heads to one
of his hideouts and cloaks himself in the black black
night of his costume.
Anders sits with his father and listens to the
rain. He knows if this was a movie, that this would
be really stirring, really poetic. A real "emo"
moment. Boy and his estranged, distant father, the
dying man on the bed, the rain coming down in
torrents, nature and anger and grief all wrapped
Anders listens to the rain and feels nothing.
Ray feels a hand on his wrist and opens his eyes.
It's Anders. He had been hoping it was Martin. And
he doesn't know what stings the most: the
disappointment he feels, or the fact that he feels
that disappointment. The fact that he wishes it was
Martin Rock and not his son.
Ray knows that he's a bad father. He's always
known this. Sometimes, it's enough just to come to
terms with it, to admit it to himself. Other times,
he knows that knowing he's deficient doesn't really
make any difference. He's still a bad father. His
son is still alien to him. Just like his wife was.
But is that really true? Was he that distant from
his wife? Was their bed ever that cold?
Most nights he didn't sleep with her. Most nights,
he was out with Martin, jumping on rooftops. Most
days, he was doing the same. When did he ever sleep?
But there were good times. Anniversaries, sure.
But other times besides that. And he did provide. It
was his money that paid for the house, that paid for
the clothing, the luxuries and the necessities. It
was his hard work that paid for it, the same hard work
and business savvy that financed his rooftop-jumping.
I was a good provider, he thinks. I did everything
I was supposed to. So why does my son hate me?
Hate's too strong a word. Or is it? So many
questions, so many doubts... and it's so hard to think
Don't let me die yet, god, not yet. Give me time
to sort it all out. Give me time to be good to them.
Give me time.
But Ray knows he's running out of time.
You have to tell your son, Martin said. You have
to tell your son who you are. I'm not going to do it
And Ray knows this is true. He has to tell Anders
the truth. But how? He screwed up before, with
Riana. He should have told her before she died.
Should have let her know why her husband was never
He should have taken care of her. Should have been
at her bedside when she died. If only that one time,
he should have slept in her bed. She died alone. And
cold. While the Green Knight was out foiling a simple
It would've been all right, he reasoned, if he had
been busy with something big, a kidnapping, maybe, or
the Psychopomp... wouldn't it? It's not fair to hold
him to the same standard as everybody else. His work
came first. She had to understand that. Or she would
have. If she knew.
It's her fault anyway. He would have told her, but
only if she told him first. Told him what he knew
already: that she was sleeping with Martin.
It was raining like this, hard, bleak, unyielding--
raining just like this the night Ree died. She had
been sleeping. Her eyes fluttered open. She saw
Martin and smiled. Then her eyes closed again.
She breathed deep and heavy, and her breaths became
shallower. Shallower. They slowed to a crawl. Then
she didn't breathe anymore.
Martin held her body, and it disturbed him that it
was so heavy. That she possessed the same weight now
as she had when alive.
He expected it to be lighter, somehow. That
without the spark of her, a shadow would remain, a
husk. But her body was just the same.
Martin didn't have time to cry. He heard Ray
entering from the side door. He opened the window to
Ree's room and leapt into the rain, became part of the
When he wears his costume, when he dons his mask,
he becomes the shadows, the night, the darkness. And
when it rains, he becomes the rain too. Violent and
Ray reasons that since she never told him, never
confessed about Martin, that she was just as bad as
him, that she didn't deserve to know about his secret
life. But even when he thinks this, he knows it isn't
true. If he was going to tell her, he would have at
the beginning, before they were even married.
He liked his secrets, he liked being the Green
Knight. He liked the life he led, and he liked the
external conflict, the fighting, the leaping, the
physicality of it. He had spent his whole childhood
in his little room, in his head.
His father would try to get him to come outside, to
get active in sports or help him in the garage. Or to
shovel the snow. Make friends. But Ray stayed in his
room, with his equations and his drawings. Why the
It was after his father was dead that he started
work in the garage. With tools. Wood. Metal.
Flame. Perspiration. His mother sat inside the
little house and cried. He should have held her,
wiped her tears, tell her things were going to be
It was easier to work in the garage.
And when his wife was dying, when his son was born,
when their bed grew cold...
It was easier to put on a mask.
Right now, it would be easier just to die, just to
fade away. He's an old, dying man. Too late to make
amends now anyway. Too late to fix a life. Why not
just let him die? Give some sympathy, he's dying.
Just play the part, Ray. Just be the dying man. Put
on a weak and weary mask...
It'd be easier... so much easier... if Martin was
here, if Martin was holding his hand. If Anders
didn't exist at all.
But no. You have to tell him, Ray. The rain goads
him on, the rain won't him slip again into
unconsciousness, the rain won't let him escape his
thoughts, his worries, his doubts... his
The rain won't let it be easy.
"Son. This is. This is the thing. Thing.
"Dying. Have to tell you. Hard. But this is it.
"This is the...
"This is the thing. Anders. I. I..."
His eyes start to roll back in his head. He tries
to snap them back, to focus... Anders is holding his
hand... leaning forward, trying to listen...
Not eagerly. Looks bored more than anything else.
He doesn't even want to know, Ray. He doesn't even
care. It's not going to change anything. That's not
the way it works. The way you treated him was the way
you treated him. That's fact. You can't change a
fact. You can't alter his perception...
You're a bad father, and nothing else you've done
in your life is going to excuse that. You were a bad
husband, too. And it's too late for redemption. Too
late... too late...
So why even tell him? It won't make any
difference, will it? Bad father...
Bad father, bad husband...
You should have told her, Ray. You should have
told her if you loved her. You did, didn't you? You
did love her. But you let her die alone and cold.
You let her die in the dark. You let her die. You
should have been there, it's your fault she's dead.
It's your fault Anders doesn't care what you have
to say, that he's humouring you. Can you blame him?
But here he is. He doesn't even like you, and he's
holding your hand, he's feeding you when you can
handle food, he's taking care of you. You loved Riana
and you let her die. Anders hates you and he's taking
care of you. She died alone. You don't deserve this,
Ray. You deserve to die alone like Riana...
... and it's that thought that propels him to shout
above the crashing of the rain. "G. Green! Night.
Night... night... night..."
And then he falls asleep, exhausted. Exhausted,
but still alive.
Anders sighs and scratches the back of his head.
"What the hell was that about?" Stupid old man.
Sometimes Anders wishes he had been born poor. And
that he had a father he could talk to, who loved him.
Maybe that'd be too much. To both be poor and loved,
maybe that was asking too much.
Anders thinks about suicide not because his life is
too hard, but because he doesn't really feel that he's
living a life. There's nothing for him to unhappy
about, true, but also nothing for him to be happy
about. It's as if he is unnecessary. He wonders if
he even haves a soul, or if he was born without one.
Maybe his father sold it on him. He can't think of a
reason why his father would do such a thing, but the
idle fantasy gives him reason to be angry and anger is
a feeling, that means he's feeling something, maybe he
does have a soul?
He doesn't commit suicide for the same reason he
wants to commit it: there's no reason to or not to.
Nothing to live for and nothing to die for. Nothing.
He wishes he had a purpose in his life. That he
had something, or someone, that he could care about.
That he could be someone important, or someone
unimportant. That he could be a superhero, or
My father is the Green Knight.
There's a crash of thunder and a knock at the door.
Anders, in a daze, runs to get it.
There's a man clothed all in black, sitting on the
porch, being pummeled by the rain, and bleeding.
"R-Ray," says the man in black, and he falls
Anders does not have time to think. His body is
already moving, already acting. His hands find their
place in Martin's armpits and his arms start pulling
him inside. He drags the wet, bleeding black mass
into the center of the living room. He closes the
It looks like Mr. Rock is in trouble. He could be
hurt bad, he could be dying. His first impulse is,
let's ask dad what to do, but his father is of course
in no condition to be of any assistance. Anders wants
to ask his mother. But she's dead. Okay. But what
would she do?
Call nine-one-one, get an ambulance over here? But
no. You can't do that with a superhero. You'll blow
his cover. A superhero.
Your father's the Green Knight. What does this
make Mr. Rock? Costume's not familiar. Maybe he's an
amateur. But you can't blow his cover...
Your father's the Green Knight. Your father is a
superhero. You've read about him in the paper.
You've seen him on TV. Never knew. This is a weird
feeling. You never knew your father in the first
place, and when asked to describe him, the first words
that come to mind is-- well, he's my dad, I guess.
Your dad's your dad, not much you can say about that.
Doesn't he have some personality? Not really, no.
No? No. Does he like jokes? No, he doesn't like
jokes. So he's serious, dour? I guess. I dunno.
Dad's my dad.
Never knew him in the first place. And now you
never really knew him at all. Double nothing.
But. Focus. Mr. Rock's in trouble--
Your father is the Green Knight. Does that mean
Martin Rock is the Acro-Bat...? His sidekick. His
Okay, okay. But calm down. Focus. What are you
going to do? Take off his mask, make sure he's
breathing, look at the wounds. Maybe it's not that
serious. Maybe a doctor won't be necessary.
His face is a bloody mess, purple and pulpy and
bruised. He's breathing, though. Shallowly.
Wheezing. But he's breathing. Now Anders looks at
the costume for the first time, notices the rips in
the side of the fabric and along the arm. That's
where most of the blood is coming from.
Shit, were you supposed to move him? You're not
supposed to move a body. Shit. What if you made it
worse, what if you've killed him, calm down, okay,
calm down, focus.
Clean the wounds. Stop the bleeding. Focus.
Anders passes his father's bed on the way to the
bathroom. His father is the Green Knight. How is he
supposed to react to this news? That's always the
question, isn't it: how was he supposed to act,
supposed to react? He wants to be normal. What's a
normal response to death, to violence, to dying, to
What's wrong with me?
Anders returns with a couple of wash-cloths, soaked
with soapy water, dribbling onto the carpet en route
to Martin's prone body. Also, a bottle of hydrogen
peroxide. And some bandages he found under the sink.
(There were fifteen different rolls of bandages
under the bathroom sink.)
The peroxide wakes Martin up, he gasps for air and
looks at Anders from the swollen slits that now pass
for eye-sockets. Martin sits up and takes the
bandages from him, begins to treat himself. "Some
Anders goes to the kitchen and gets Martin a glass
of water. By the time he's returned, Martin's done
with the arm and is nearly done with his side. He's
fast, not in any way awkward; he's used to doing this,
done it so many times that it is effortless and
efficient. Martin takes the glass, sips it, and then
presses his fingers self-consciously to his face.
"I bet I look gorgeous, don't I?"
Anders doesn't say anything.
Martin hands Anders the glass and begins to push
himself up from off the ground. Anders decides to
help, but hesitates, momentarily confused by the glass
of water. He sets it down on the floor and reaches
his hand to help Martin up. Martin takes the hand
even though he's most of the way up himself; it was a
futile gesture, but Martin accepts the feeling behind
"I tried to wash them," Anders begins to explain.
"You did great. Thanks."
Martin limps over to an armchair and plops himself
down. Anders stands there like an idiot.
"How's your dad?"
"I'll go check," Anders says.
Still sleeping. Still breathing. Still an enigma.
The Green Knight.
"He's fine," says Anders, coming back into the
room. He sits down in a chair across from Martin. He
turns on a lamp next to him.
"Um," says Martin. "I'd get it myself, but..."
Anders gets up, grabs the glass of water off the
floor, and hands it to him. Martin takes a drink and
gives a nod in appreciation.
"Mr. Rock. Is my father the Green Knight?"
"Did he tell you that?"
"I think so."
"Yes, he is. When did he tell you?"
"Maybe five minutes before you knocked on the door.
Did my mother know?"
"Um..." Martin contemplates lying, but decides
against it. "Yes, she did."
"But..." Anders is more perceptive than either
Martin or Ray gave him credit for.
"Your father never told her. And I don't think he
knows that she knew. She just figured it out on her
"She was smart."
"Yeah, she was a very special woman."
Anders wants to say that he misses her, but he
isn't sure if it's true. Anders often doubts the
validity of his emotions, of his thoughts, the
sincerity of his actions. He helped Martin this
evening. Maybe even saved his life. Probably not.
But he did help. Was he being sincere in helping, did
he help because it was the right thing to do, or did
he help because that's what he was supposed to do? "I
miss her. My mother."
He says it and all the inner preamble makes him
instantly regret it. If he really meant it, he
wouldn't doubt its sincerity at all, would he?
"You're the Acro-Bat?" Anders asks. Get Martin
talking. Give him something to focus on. Stop the
thoughts. Stop thinking.
"Not anymore," says Martin.
"Who are you now?"
"You've retired, or..." Of course he hasn't
retired, idiot! He's wearing a costume, isn't he?
"Yeah, but I don't use a codename. I... operate
differently. Less public. More street-level, fight
mobsters, that kind of thing. They know who I am, I
mean, that I exist, not my identity. I don't need a
codename." He seems very proud of this.
"Mobsters, right." As if this is normal.
Hum-drum. Shouldn't you have some sense of awe?
What's wrong with you?
"You look a bit shaken. It's a lot to absorb, I
"Did you talk with your dad for a long time?"
"Not really. No, not at all. He just told me and
"Just like that, huh?"
"If you have any questions, I can try to fill you
in the best I can."
"Sure. Thanks, Mr. Rock. Do you need some more
"No, I'm good. Just needed the one glass. It
helped immensely, thank you."
"You need anything to eat?"
"I'm not really going to be able to keep anything
down, I think."
"What happened to you? Mobsters?"
"No." Anders thinks that he sees Martin turn pale.
With the bruises on his face, it's hard to tell.
"Usually, Anders, I'm fighting toughs, you know.
Pushers, mobsters, sure. But with your dad..." He
crooks his thumb to the adjacent room. "The
four-colours just kind of... uh, supervillains."
"They just kind of gravitated towards him, he took
care of them. Which is fine, because I'd rather take
care of the streets. Just... I came from a poor
background, so that feels like home, I'm
"Sure, sure. But what happened tonight?"
He can sense Anders getting impatient, but he still
talks around it. "So I've had to pick up the slack.
I knew I was going to have to after your father passed
on. But there's now and there's then, and it's not
then yet. It's now, and the supervillains are still
out there, and without your father... well, I've got
to pick up the slack a little faster. And tonight...
I ran into a supervillain. I ran... I ran into the
Even Anders has heard of the Psychopomp. He waits
for Martin to continue, but silence pervades. Martin
stays quiet, tight-lipped, afraid. Anders is afraid
to ask him anything else. Only the rain speaks
outside, the ubiquitous, waiting, listening storm.
There's a cough from the other room, from his
father, and Anders is relieved to have an excuse to
leave the room, to leave Martin sitting in an easy
chair with his uneasiness.
Ray nods while he coughs, indicating that Anders
"Mr. Rock's here."
"Have him come in."
"I don't know if you remember. But before you went
to sleep, you told me that you're the Green Knight.
Do you remember...?"
Ray doesn't answer. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you
His father's facial expression is unchanging, his
vocal inflection flat. Anders doubts the sincerity of
the apology, and than feels like shit for doubting a
dying man. Strange, it doesn't even feel like he's
doubting his father. His father he can doubt. It
feels like he's doubting a dying man, a stranger, and
he feels bad for not assuming good faith. At least
he's feeling something. At least feeling shitty can
be called an emotion. This analysis on Anders's part
effectively deadens that emotion, and he again becomes
a cold machine, a body and a brain. Not a person.
"Could you ask. Ask Martin to c. come in...?"
"Uh..." He was hoping to talk with his father
while he was lucid, able to talk. "Sure, dad. But
he's hurt right now and..."
"Oh, I'm all right." Martin lurches into the room,
holding his bandaged arm, putting on a bright face.
"Nothing to worry about."
Anders steps backwards out of the room. He sits in
his chair and turns out the light. He listens to
Martin talking to his father. He listens to the rain.
He feels nothing.
Martin had been out on patrol, following a few
leads and scaring off a few muggers. He decided to
turn in for the night, and returned to his hideout--
the one he had appropriated from Professor Rockhopper.
He got into the elevator and pressed the hidden
switch, causing the elevator to burrow far below the
As he made his descent, he felt suddenly uneasy.
His body became tense, his gullet became tight. He
quickly stripped off his outer clothes and put on his
gloves, his mask. If he had grapples, he would have
flattened himself up against the ceiling. (He doesn't
have grapples.) Martin flattened himself against one
of the walls and held his breath. The elevator doors
He couldn't see the men inside, but he knew that
they were there, and he knew what they were thinking.
What they're always thinking. The elevator just came
down, the doors just opened, I don't see nobody
inside. They're scared. Twitching, waiting.
The element of surprise is important, but only to a
degree. Shock wears off, eventually, and sometimes,
too quickly. But fear... fear gets down into your
bones and you can't shake it for a long time. Fear
and mystery are far more potent weapons than shock and
Martin waited. His brain told him what would
happen: one of the men, shivering and sweating,
heading towards the dark elevator with an electric
torch in hand. Martin doesn't just blend into the
shadows; he is the shadows. By the time the mook
spots him, it'll be too late.
Simple, clean, smooth... but it's taking too long.
It doesn't feel right. His brain says, don't worry,
they're just getting more afraid. But he knows it's
taking too long. It's not a rational knowledge, but
an instinctual one. He doesn't know it in his brain.
He knows it in his arms, in his legs. And then,
before his brain can reassure him that everything's
okay, he hears the voice.
"This isn't your floor, sir."
That voice. That strange voice, the one he'll
never get used to. The one he'll never forget.
Martin's in no shape to fight the Psychopomp. He
hasn't fought a four-colour in years, and it's been at
least a dozen years since the Psychopomp. His first
instinct is to retreat. Without thinking about it, he
presses the button to close the elevator. The minute
he does so, he curses himself. Calls himself a
He hasn't been a coward since he was twelve years
The doors are opening anyway. The Psychopomp is
tearing them open with his claws, his hideous white
face leering. He stabs Martin in the arm with his
fingers and lifts him up into the air, tossing him
into the room. The sharpened points that were once
digits rip through his skin nice and clean, like
scissors through paper.
Martin falls into a heap and the Psychopomp's thugs
are upon him, kicking and thrashing. There's no fear
in their eyes, in their faces. There's no fear in
them. It's easy to fight men when they're afraid,
when you have an edge.
The kicks bruise his shins and his face. When
Martin was the Acro-Bat, he wore armour and padding.
He ended most nights sore but seldom sustained major
injuries. With his current costume, injuries were
more likely and more frequent-- but it was still
fairly seldom. Of course it was. What do you expect
when you spend ten years fighting only mooks?
Martin does not depend on armour, though, or
padding, or protection. He doesn't have grapples or
tools or weapons. His body is his weapon. He can
trust his body and rely on its judgments. His arm
knows where to strike even when Martin's eyes are
stinging and blinded with blood. And, with some
difficulty, he manages to extradite himself from the
situation. To get back on his feet. To fight back.
This is easy, though. He's still fighting mooks.
Unimportant. The real threat-- and the real focus of
his blows-- should be on the Psychopomp.
The Psychopomp is insane and murderous and has the
powers of hell at his disposal. Martin has only his
body-- his weakened, bloodied body. And Martin thinks
that he is going to die. There have been many times
in the course of this career, this life, that he's
thought that these were his last moments. Usually--
and this includes recently-- he thinks of Ray. This
time, he thinks of Ree. (He does not tell Ray this
when recounting these events.)
Martin leaps towards the Psychopomp, somersaulting,
and manages to land a blow on his chin before the
Psychopomp shreds his leg. Martin falls to the
ground, clutching his leg, and rolls backwards to
avoid the Psychopomp's ring of cold fire. Martin
knows his old foe well.
So does the Psychopomp. He recognizes Martin's
body language. "The Acro-Brat." He smiles thinly, as
if he does not enjoy smiling. "It's been ages. Tell
the Knight I want to see him."
In a plume of smoke, the Psychopomp disappears.
Martin turns to the mooks, wanting to warn them. But
any warning would be pointless, and it's too late now
anyway. Their skin and muscles fall away, melting,
leaving only their bones and dripping wax.
"He didn't say where...?"
"No, Ray, he didn't," Martin says. "I think he
assumes we'll figure it out, track him down."
"Always did," offers Ray, coughing. Martin tries
to hand him a glass of water. Ray can't move his arm
enough to grab ahold of it or make use of it. Martin
brings it to the old man's lips. "The first thing
"Right," says Martin. "If the Psychopomp was in
the old Rockhopper hideout, he was there for a reason.
I doubt he found what he was looking for... I would
have found any of Rockhopper's stuff years ago. So
chances are, he's looking at some of Rockhopper's
other abandoned hideouts, looking for something of
his. The question is, what? What would the
Psychopomp need that Rockhopper could possibly have?"
"Want," corrects Ray. "Doesn't need anything. But
he wants it. What does he want?
"He wants... G. Green Knight."
"You can't be serious, Ray," says Martin.
"I'm not the Green Knight anymore, Martin." Ray
smiles at him. The wrinkles on his face smile with
"The suit's downstairs."
Ray squeezes Martin's hand, hard, and the strength
of his grip is surprising. "Go g. get him, Martin.
Make me proud. Hah... hah... hot...t..."
"Hot-diggity-dog." Martin smiles at the old man
and, a little dazed, heads downstairs.
Ninety-five: the year of the beard. Martin grew it
because Ree asked him to, because it made her tingle.
He rubbed his beard up and down her back, and along
her cheeks, scratching her. He's more gentle along
her belly-- she was ticklish-- and her breasts. Ree
said that Ray was always an animal with her breasts:
pawing at them and gnawing them like bones. Martin,
by contrast, was gentle with them; even when their
lovemaking was aggressive, he was always gentle.
It made Martin uncomfortable to talk about Ray with
Riana (especially about the lovemaking). It only
reinforced the idea that something was wrong here.
When he could block Ray out, Martin and Ree were a man
and a woman: lovers. When the conversation turned to
Ray, Martin was reminded that Ree was cheating. That
he was the other woman.
Ree would pull at Martin's nipples and call them
breasts, she would attack them savagely and call them
melons and tits. She delighted at times in making him
feel feminine. It was exciting, but emasculating.
The costume used to mean something. He used to
feel strong and hard in the guise of the Acro-Bat.
But he was thirty now. Thirty. Every time he put on
the costume, he felt like he was twelve. Like his
balls had refused to drop, like his pubes had just
The beard reminded him that he was a man, but it
was not enough. Neither was Ree: especially when she
When he finished rubbing her with his beard, she
grabbed him by the short hairs on his head and pushed
him down to his knees. She inched over to the edge of
the bed, drew his face close to her thighs, and told
him to lick like a good slut.
Martin Rock and his commanding officer.
A brief encounter, but an important one.
"Rock, you were among the finest marksmen in your
"Sir, yes, sir!"
"And yet Simmons tells me that you've only wounded
the enemy. Shoulder wounds, leg wounds, hands. There
are only two explanations for this. Either you're
missing... or you're missing on purpose.
"This is a war, Rock. And when you go to war, you
have to kill. That's the soldier's business. Every
life of theirs that you fail to take... is another
life of ours that they take from us. Us or them,
Rock. Shoot to kill.
"That's the difference between winning a war and
fighting a war."
Ninety-five: Martin shaves off his beard. He
shaves off Riana. Ray. The Green Knight. And the
Acro-Bat. A pile of hair he leaves on a tile floor.
Martin becomes only Martin, he is boiled down to
his essentials. He does not wear a costume; he wears
a uniform. He is not a superhero; he is a soldier.
He is not going to fight a war on crime.
He is going to winning it.
And there are casualties.
Superheroes don't kill. But soldiers...
He's killed ten men, by his count. Six in Iraq.
Four in Jolt City. Ten lives, taken only when it was
He can live with that, he can look at his face in
broad daylight and live with that. Nights might be
another matter. But it's irrelevant: he doesn't sleep
at night. He fights.
He wages a war.
Seventy-five: Martin's twelve years old. He lives
with his daddy in a shitty apartment. Poor black kid
living in a shitty apartment, bad side of town, single
dad, unemployed, the place smells like booze. The
poverty frustrates young Martin. He knows other
people have it better. Why not him? Why is he
condemned to be the poor angry black kid, to be a
stereotype? He fantasizes that his real father is
rich but poverty has made him cynical; he could never
believe in his fantasy strongly enough for it to
provide any distraction.
Apartment above, one hot summer night: the woman
upstairs is screaming. Saying no over and over.
Martin freezes. Maybe he's not hearing it right.
But he does hear it. No, no, please, no.
His father hears it too. Martin looks at him.
Aren't you going to do something, daddy? He doesn't
speak the words but he doesn't have to.
"Not our business, Martin."
His father leaves the room. Martin sits on the
sofa and hugs his knees. He should do something. But
what can he do? He's just a kid.
Just a kid...
I'd do something if I could, but I'm just a kid!
He could call the police, but he doesn't. He just
sits there and listens to his neighbor get beat up.
He sees her a few days later. She smiles at him,
asks him if he's excited about school starting next
week. She smiles like nothing happened. Martin does
not look her in the eye.
The only person Martin ever tells about this is
"You never told Ray?"
"He'd probably have fired me. Called me a coward."
"You were just a kid."
"I was a coward."
"You're too hard on yourself. It's been, what,
"You can't unmake the past," Martin says. "And you
can't forget it. Or else it will unmake you. Come
back and bite you in the ass."
Seventy-five, autumn: the upstairs neighbors have
Martin used to spend most of his time at the gym,
with his trainer. He's been a gymnast since he was
four. It was his mother's dream that he go to the
Olympics. She died when he was eight. The dream died
last year, when his father lost his job. The trainer
went first. Then the gym. And slowly, but inevitably,
Now he spends his time in the park, jogging,
playing on monkey bars, kicking up the gravel. Being
a kid, basically. Funny. Not as much fun as being a
Martin goes to the park bathroom to take a piss.
He uses a urinal. When he's done, he starts the sink.
The water's cold and trickles out. There's no soap.
No paper towels, either. Martin dries his hands on
There's a man standing at the door. Tall, wide.
White. He has a gun. He presses it against Martin's
head and tells him what to do.
This is my fault, Martin thinks. If I had helped
her, if I had called the police, this wouldn't be
happening. God is punishing me.
The monster leaves. Martin washes his mouth out
with the cold trickling water.
This is my fault.
The first and only person he tells is Ree.
She holds him in the dark.
Martin's walking home from the grocery store. He
sees a woman walking towards him. He blinks, and
she's gone. A blur of colour, and she's gone.
Martin drops his groceries and runs into the
alleyway. A couple of men with knives. One of them
grabs her purse.
"Please. Please, don't take it," she asks. "It's
all the money I have in the world. I just got paid,
I'm so behind on my rent..."
"So am I, darling," says one of the muggers.
Martin screams with righteous anger. It startles
the muggers, but only for a moment.
"Hey, shorty. What're you going to do?"
"Yeah, midget." They smirk, and their bodies
become limp and loose with laughter. Martin knows
that they are, at this moment and for a few precious
seconds, unable to defend themselves. He doesn't know
it with his brain; he knows it with his arm. With his
He leaps towards them, his hands outstretched. He
shifts his weight down and his hands touch the
pavement, propelling him feet first at one of the
muggers. He hits him in the belly, knocks the wind
out of him.
He knows the other one is going to try and stick
him. He knows it without seeing the knife, without
seeing the mugger, he knows it without knowing it.
Martin falls to the ground and kicks the mugger's feet
out from under him.
The first is getting up now. Martin, fresh out of
ideas, kicks him in the nuts. He turns to the other,
still on the ground, and stomps on his groin for
"I'll take it from here, lad." Martin turns his
head towards the strange new voice.
The woman has disappeared. In her place, stands
someone infinitely more beautiful.
The Green Knight.
"You did a fine job, young sir," he says. "You did
a good thing." He pats Martin on the shoulder in a
way that is both congratulatory and dismissive. He
pulls out some cuffs from one of the pouches in his
belt. "Well, boys?"
The muggers stand up and present their wrists. The
Green Knight cuffs them without resistance.
Cool, thinks Martin. Very cool.
And then, the Green Knight is gone.
It's late that night when Martin hears a tap at his
window. Standing in front of the apartment building
is the Green Knight.
"Good evening, Martin," he says.
"You know my name."
"I was thinking," says the Green Knight. "I could
sure use a sidekick."
Twenty aught five.
Martin strips off his flimsy night-black tights and
holds them, wadded, in his fist. He stands in front
of the costume and stares at it. He is naked and
bleeding. He stands naked before the Green Knight and
uncoils his fist. The nameless mask falls to the
He pulls on the suit. It's huge, hulking,
paternal. Fat like Ray. A whole other body. A whole
By the time Martin leaves the Cradle estate, it is
snowing. The mask informs him that it is thirty
degrees outside, feels like twenty-two. Martin
doesn't know because the suit is insulated; he's
sweating like a hog. It makes him uncomfortable.
Ray seldom showered. He liked to sweat.
"The Green Knight, braving a furious flurry of snow
to hunt down his diabolical arch-foe, the Psychopomp."
Martin smirks under the mask.
The Psychopomp is looking for something, something
he thought would be laying around this old hideout of
Rockhopper's. Something of Rockhopper's.
Rockhopper had other hideouts, other labs. And the
Green Knight will check them.
It doesn't take long to locate the hidden button in
the elevator. Rockhopper liked his hideouts to have
some degree of symmetry. Martin wonders if the
Psychopomp is here, if he's going to get the shit
kicked out of him again when the elevator opens.
There's nothing that feels wrong about this, but
nothing that feels right, either. With the suit on,
it's hard to feel anything at all.
From the pouches in his belt, he procures a taser
and several gas capsules; clumsily, two of them drop
to the floor and explode. The mask will prevent the
gas from getting into his lungs, and the mask
automatically switches to infra-red mode so that he
can see through the gas.
The doors open.
The room is empty. The Psychopomp was here,
though. The place has been torn apart. The question
is, did he find what he was looking for?
The gas dissipates and Martin pushes a button on
the side of the mask to turn off the infra-red.
Instead, it activates the macro lens, zooms in on the
wall. Martin take a step forward and it feels like
his entire head in shaking inside the mask. He
searches for another button and, pressing it, manages
to turn off the infra-red.
He pushes the macro button again, hoping it will
return to its default. Instead, it zooms in even
further, specks of dust becoming monstrous spores,
floating through the air, preparing to attack.
He finds another button, and finds himself watching
television. With an exhalation that's as much an
exasperated sigh as it is a scream of rage, he removes
the mask. The air in the room hits him like cold
water. The sweat on his face begins to evaporate
He goes to his belt to grab a cloth so he can wipe
his face. Instead, he finds another gas pellet. He
tries to return it, but the thick gloves greatly
diminish his dexterity. It drops on the floor. It
explodes at his feet.
Martin covers his face with one hand and coughs;
with the other hand, he cuts through the air, through
the smoke, trying to break up its black, thick
concentration. He removes a glove before he tries to
find the pouch with the miniature supply of drinking
The water does little to soothe his throat, but
it'll have to do.
Martin wonders if Ray moved things around in the
belt. His first instinct is, yes. Ray moved things,
Martin's not used to it. That also goes to explain
the problems with the mask.
But the more he thinks about it, the more he
suspects that the mask and the pouch are the same as
they've always been. Ray had spent years getting them
right; by the time Martin was twenty, things had
become static. They probably stayed that way.
Martin's just been away from this for so long that he
forgets how everything's set up.
Either way, he's out of his element. He does not
have control over the belt, over the mask. And if he
does not have control over it, it has control over
He takes a moment to familiarize himself with the
belt and its layout. To try and memorize how it is
set up. He tries to use a mnemonic, but it proves
ineffective. Oh, forget it.
This is a waste of time! Let's get back to work,
back to investigating...
The lights go out. Martin assumes it's a bulb.
But he knows better than to put stock in his
assumptions. He pulls the mask over his face. It has
gone back to its defaults, which saves him the hassle
of playing with buttons. He reaches into his belt and
retrieves an electric torch...
As he flicks it on, he muses: I knew where that
He wands the torch back and forth, bobbing along,
looking... looking for something, but what? Chairs
are overturned, the television is busted, the cabinet
open and its contents spilled out. But which of these
things is important? Probably the cabinet...
Martin, listen to me now: when something is wrong
with the world, when something is out of place, it
wants to be put right again. And it will ask you for
help if you're listening.
Martin takes off the mask and tucks it into the
lining of the cape. He takes his cloth from his pouch
and wipes his face. He wands the torch back and
forth, slowly this time, his eyes open, but not
looking, not concentrating. He pivots around, quietly
so as not to scare his query. Unassumingly, he waits
for it to come to him.
On his second pass, something in the corner catches
his eye. Well, no, nothing in the corner. The corner
itself. Martin doesn't know what's wrong with it. He
only knows that something is wrong. He knows it with
He crouches down near the corner, staring in the
pool of light from his electric torch. Straining.
But it's just a corner. He's trying too hard.
There's nothing for him to find here...
He gets back up and pulls on his mask before
heading towards the elevator... wait. He turns back
to the corner. He switches the mask to infra-red and
turns off the torch.
The corner is not there at all. It's just the sort
of optical illusion that Rockhopper delighted in. And
just the sort of thing the Psychopomp would see right
Torch gripped firmly in hand, the Green Knight
passes through the faux corner and into a secret lair
within the secret lair. His old nemesis was clever
This room, however, has not been ransacked like the
first. In fact, Martin's first impulse is to wonder
if the Psychopomp had missed it, after all.
So many gadgets line the walls, each perfectly
centered on small wooden mantle places of the same
size. Each wall has ten rows and six columns of
Martin turns off the infra-red and turns on his
torch. Martin wands the electric torch until he finds
a mantle place without an invention. The label reads,
He starts to back away, lowering the torch, and
spots something on the floor. It's an employee ID
badge for a convalescence center.
The Psychopomp might be insane, but he's not
sloppy. It's not like him to leave clues.
And if he knew what he was looking for, Martin
wonders as he passes back through the optical
illusion, then why cause all the mess in the first
room, why tear it apart?
Before he gets on the elevator, he wands the
flashlight around the room again. That's when he sees
why the corner stood out: it was the only one that was
clean, that was free of disarray.
The Psychopomp wanted him to find the secret room.
He wants him to know that he has the fear ray. He
wanted him to find the ID badge. He wants him to come
And that's when Martin remembers: it's exactly like
the Psychopomp to leave clues... when he wants you to
Ninety-nine, October: another skirmish in the war
for Jolt City.
Martin moves with the night, not through it, his
black battle fatigues tight against his muscles. He
can feel the cold wind. Winter will be here early
Usually, he has some kind of agenda for the night.
A strategy. A heist to bust up. Mobsters to trap.
Not tonight. Tonight's just another patrol. Just
slinking along, rooftop to rooftop, alleyway to
alleyway, looking for trouble to put a stop to.
The Green Knight and the Acro-Bat used to patrol.
They had an itinerary, a method by which they
criss-crossed the bulk of Jolt City. It was useful,
in its way and for its time. But often they would end
up on one side of town and a crime would take place on
another. One can't be everywhere at once... and
Martin's current method is no more efficient... but it
feels like it works, it feels like it places Martin in
the right place at the right time.
Martin just wanders the city. No plan. No method.
He just wanders and listens to his gut until he finds
something. His body becomes a trouble-compass. In
his brain, he knows this is no better than the way he
and Ray patrolled. But in his arm, it feels right.
He lands on a rooftop and he hears something: a
muffled cry. People in an alleyway.
Young girl. Fourteen, maybe fifteen. Man with a
gun. She's on her knees and pleading. The man
laughs. Says she's pretty.
Martin snaps his neck. Clean. Quick.
Martin extends his hand to the girl to help her up.
She screams and recoils. The black faceless night
reaches out again. She gets up on her feet of her own
accord and backs away, sobbing.
Martin speaks. It's been so long since he's spoken
while in costume, he is almost unable to summon the
words. "Miss, I'm here to help you... he can't hurt
you now... he's... he's dead..."
She screams again. Martin retreats and is absorbed
by the shadows.
Five a. m.
Dark and clear.
The storm has stopped. The snow is easily a foot
The Green Knight presses on.
He arrives at the convalescence center. The gate
has been blown off the hinges. Never a good sign.
The building is two-stories tall and a rectangle.
It reminds Martin of the high school he attended.
It's still standing, more than twenty years later. As
far as he knows, it hasn't even started to crumble. A
rarity for his old neighborhood, for his Jolt City. A
The building is surprisingly well-preserved. Makes
sense. The crumbling's on the inside. The sick, the
dying, the unwanted, the unloved. Mothers and
Two thugs posted at the front door. They have
Ray would just barge in the front door with his
taser and his gas pellets, fight his way in, cause
chaos and revel in it. Element of surprise and all
Martin's not Ray.
Martin sneaks around to the back.
It's hard. The dark winter night is crisp and
clear. The snow is practically vibrant by comparison.
And he's wearing green tights.
But Martin is a good soldier. He can sneak with
the best of them.
Martin spots a bright yellow light coming from a
window. He smirks. "Like a moth..."
The smirk disappears. He never used to chatter
before. Even when he was the Acro-Bat, he left the
chatter to Ray.
Silent, stealthy, strong.
There are four people in the little room, all of
them wearing pajamas and in wheelchairs. One of them
is a woman, heavy-set, about sixty-five. The others
are men, none of them younger than eighty.
One of the men has his hands folded in his lap.
The other three people in the room all have their arms
hanging limply off the sides of their wheelchairs.
Their heads are pointed upwards, their eyes bulging
and dazed. They look at the ceiling, barely conscious
The door opens. A thug pushes another man into the
room. He situates the chair in the center and leaves,
shutting the door. The man mutters to himself, his
arms hanging at his sides, and stares at his knees.
Suddenly, the woman starts crying hysterically.
She does not move her hands to wipe the tears. She
does not move her head. She just cries.
Martin hears a scream coming from elsewhere in the
center. He heads towards it.
"Like a moth..."
Second floor, east end of the building (grapples
came in handy).
It's very dark, too dark to see. Martin can barely
make out the shapes of three figures. Two are
The seated one speaks. "What, uh, what're you
fellows going to do, there, I wonder?"
"You'll see," says the first.
"Yeah, you'll see," says the second. "Hey, old
man. What's the matter? You scared of the dark?"
"No," says the old man. He means it.
"Defiant old codger, aren't we?" says the second.
"Bet you lived through worse than the likes of us,
"Damn right I have."
"Yeah, you lived through Double-ya Double-ya Two,"
says the second. "Am I right? I bet I'm right. Tell
me, which was it? The Huns or the Japs?"
"Time's a wasting," says the first. "We got a
whole load left to do yet."
"I bet you're afraid of the dark," says the second.
He's moving, grabbing something from a table. An
electronic hum fills the air. A sickly orange light
baths over the old man.
He screams. "They're dead... they're dead... oh,
my hair's turned white... F... Fritz... I'll get you,
"Huns, then," says his tormentor. He laughs as he
flips a switch. The orange light grows brighter,
And the screams grow louder.
The fear ray.
Martin watches, hanging onto his grapples. The
screams start to fade. So does the light of the fear
The old man is muttering to himself now. The more
sadistic of his two captors speaks. "You put Private
Coma here with the others. I'll get the next one."
He leaves, the fear ray in hand. The other one
grabs the old man's wheelchair and maneuvers him out
Martin reaches into his belt and begins to cut the
Something sinks inside him. Back in the old days,
he and Ray would have jumped through that window as
soon as the fear ray had been turned on. Would have
saved the old man.
Tactically, that would have been a bad move. While
they would have gotten the drop on the two in that
room, chances are the others in the compound would
have gotten the drop on them. Actually, the chances
were pretty damn good: Martin had lost count of how
many times the Green Knight and the Acro-Bat ended up
being knocked out and finding themselves tied up and
suspended over a vat of boiling toxic waste.
It would have been foolish to just jump in there.
Chances are the fear ray would have worked on Martin.
What use would Martin be to anyone if he was a
vegetable? (Or suspended over boiling toxic waste,
for that matter.) Everyone would have fallen victim
to the ray.
At least this way, Martin has a chance of saving
whoever's left. By waiting, biding his time, striking
when the moment is ripe. He couldn't have saved the
old man. It was for the greater good.
Martin knew all this. And if Ray was here, Ray
would know all this, too.
He still would have jumped in head first.
Glass is cut. No time for this shit now. Get
Martin knows the men will be back any moment now.
The important thing is to disarm them and subdue them
without allowing them to cause a sound. To hide in
the shadows and strike with speed and precision.
He flattens himself up against a corner near the
door and readies the taser. He grabs a gas pellet
from his belt. Almost as an after-thought, he finally
activates the infra-red.
The door opens. The two men enter with a third in
a wheelchair. The old man snivels, whimpering. They
close the door. It takes about four seconds for one
of them to notice the hole in the window. He turns
towards his partner.
The Green Knight leaps from the corner, plunging
his taser at the man's gullet, paralyzing his vocal
chords. In the same motion, and without turning to
look back, his other arm flies straight and swift
behind him, depositing the gas pellet into the mouth
of the second mook.
The first man falls, his body quivering softly with
electricity, lulling him painfully to sleep. The
Green Knight covers the second man's mouth. The gas
capsule releases its load inside. The man tries to
cough. His lungs beg for fresh air. The Green Knight
gives him neither. The man falls, unconscious,
slumping against the wall.
Martin turns towards the captive. "It's okay, sir,
you're okay..." He reaches out with his hand to touch
him. The old man does not respond. Martin feels for
The old man is dead. A heart attack.
Fifteen year old girl in an alleyway, running away
from her saviour. From the shadows. From the
Martin bends over the body of the first man to
retrieve the fear ray. He picks it up and looks it
over. No buttons, no switches...? This can't be the
same ray he saw them use. He pulls the trigger.
The gun spews out a plastic card.
Martin grabs his electric torch and finds the card
on the floor.
It's a visitor's pass.
For the Green Knight.
The Green Knight comes to the front door. The
guards look at him skeptically before pointing their
guns at his chest. He holds up his visitor's pass.
The two guards look at each other and wonder what
to make of it. Shrugging, they withdraw their rifles
and let the man pass.
There are several mooks standing around, all of
them dressed as attendants. A couple dozen elderly
men and women are scattered about the room, talking
quietly amongst themselves.
And in the center of the room stands the
The Green Knight enters and all the chatter stops.
All eyes turn towards him.
He stands in the doorway, fists clenched, legs
straight, cape draped over his back. His stance is
relaxed but his body is tight, taut, alive. His mask
reveals nothing of his face, nor makes any pretense at
one. But his head in fixed in such a way that there
is no mistaking what expression he bears underneath
that dark and lovely green. There is no mistaking
where his eyes are looking, staring, burning. There
is no mistaking what he has come here to do.
"Glad you could make it," says the Psychopomp. He
begins to walk towards the door. Towards Martin.
Martin stands. He does not flinch. Does not move.
"Though I must admit it's not like you to be
sneaking around like that," adds the Psychopomp,
Martin does not speak.
"You're being more careful," posits the Psychopomp.
"Must be because you're old. You must be old now.
Been doing this a long time. You and I. Dancing."
Martin stands. It is enough.
The Psychopomp stops advancing. "I suspect you'll
want to know what I'm up to, hmm? If you haven't
figured it out already...?"
"You have Rockhopper's fear ray," says Martin.
"You're using it on these people. Putting them in
some kind of vegetative state. Brain damaging them."
"That's the gist of it, yes," says the Psychopomp.
"Though I must confess the name fear ray is a wee bit
inaccurate. It's really more of a guilt ray, a memory
ray. Of course, the devil we fear most is the one
staring at us in the mirror, isn't it?"
"The only thing I can't figure out," says Martin,
"Why?" The Psychopomp laughs. It's more a shriek.
It's always unnerved Martin, and for the first time
since he entered the room, the Green Knight quivers.
"Why? What an absolutely ridiculous question, my
"There's no gain in it for you," says Martin,
trying to regain his composure.
"I do it," says the Psychopomp, his white lips
smiling, "because I can. Because I want to."
The fear ray materializes in his hand. He flips
the switch. Full blast.
The orange light
The costume becomes rigid, like stone, and Martin
shrinks within it, trapped inside, getting smaller,
younger, weaker. This is a dream, Martin tells
himself. Not a dream. An illusion. It's been many,
many years since he's had his head fucked with, but he
remembers what it feels like and he knows that if
things start to go seriously wonky all around him,
chances are it's an illusion. The best thing to do in
this sort of situation is to remind yourself that it's
None of it is real. So let's get through this,
break through it, and move on.
The suit is gone. Martin's ten years old again,
living in his shithole apartment with his father. His
father is easily ten feet tall in this world. He
looms over Martin, his head touching the ceiling.
Martin wears a dress and washes dishes.
He hears a scream. His neighbor, of course. No,
not his neighbor. A little boy. A little him.
Martin hears his own voice pleading, and he hears a
man laughing. The man from the park. The man with
Martin's father stands still in the center of the
room, like a pillar, not moving, only speaking, over
and over again: it's not our business, not our
Martin races up the stairs to the other apartment.
A sign on the door: no girls allowed. He tries to get
it open but can't. The sign gets bigger: no girls
allowed. Martin pulls off the dress. Underneath is
his uniform, the black night he borrowed when he was
at war. Martin puts on his mask and opens the door.
The man with the gun is on the floor, quite dead,
his neck snapped. The other Martin stands over him,
his fists clenched, sobbing no not sobbing.
The mask with no name puts his hand on his
doppelganger's shoulder. The laughter mutates.
Becomes something nasty and inhuman. A shriek. The
face becomes chalk white.
Martin rushes towards him but the Psychopomp only
laughs. Martin shrinks again, and the uniform
The Acro-Bat (an infant: the Acro-Brat) in Ree's
left arm. Anders in the other. Both of them,
infants. She pulls them to her breasts.
"Suck, baby, suck. Suck mommy's tits," she says.
"Lick mommy's pussy." She puts a gun to his head.
(He does what she tells him to do)
Ray was like a father to him.
No, not Ray. It was never about Ray and Martin.
It was about the mask
The Green Knight was like a father to him
Martin, in an alleyway, he snaps a man's neck. The
girl screams (Martin in a dress).
The Green Knight, ten feet tall and glowing:
"This isn't justice, Martin. You are not my son!"
He grabs Martin (an infant again, helpless) and
throws him, dashes him across jagged rocks on a beach
The orange is gone. Martin stops screaming. He
must have been doing so for quite a while; his throat
is dry and scratched. He's on the floor.
It's a simple feat to stand up again.
The Psychopomp stands fifteen feet away from him,
the smoking remains of the fear ray held in both his
hands. "I'm surprised. I shouldn't be, but I am."
He tosses the hunk of useless metal to the floor.
"Still. Victory would ring hollow indeed if it was so
easily won from my greatest opponent."
"Let these people alone," says the Green Knight.
"This is sick. These people have done nothing wrong."
"Nothing wrong? Nothing wrong?" The Psychopomp
smirks. "My dear Knight, everyone's done something
wrong. True, once I centered my special attentions on
those souls who are particularly corrupt, but I'm done
playing favourites. I have embraced that which I
truly am: a psychopomp, one of the legion of beings
that escorts the newly-dead to the underworld!"
"These people don't look dead to me," says the
"Close enough," says the Psychopomp. With a flick
of his wrist, he sends a fireball hurtling towards a
cluster of his captives.
Martin has two options: option one is to ignore the
fireball and knock out the Psychopomp. That cluster
would be lost, casualties of war, but he would save
the rest of the lives here, including his own.
Option two is to jump into the path of the
fireball, which would surely make things a tad bit
more difficult. It would, however, prevent the loss
of more innocent life. It's what the Psychopomp
expects him to do, and the Psychopomp is always two
moves ahead. It would, effectively, give the villain
the upper-hand and could result in the loss of all
lives in the center.
Not to mention the fact that Martin would be
The strange thing is, none of this enters into
Martin's mind. He does not weigh one option against
another. He doesn't even realize that there are two
ways to deal with this. He doesn't hesitate, he
The layer of spandex goes first, that beautiful
dark green is kissed away by hot orange and red.
There's a layer of black rubber and a layer of
insulation about four inches thick between the flames
and Martin's actual person. It's a window of about
The Psychopomp is running up the stairs. It's the
last thing Martin sees before the camera melts and
The Green Knight follows, engulfed by the flames of
The insulation burns up by the time Martin hears
the Psychopomp heading up a second flight of stairs.
In a matter of seconds, the flames should be melting
the rubber. And Martin, for that matter.
Martin doesn't smell burning rubber, doesn't feel
it boiling and warping around his body. Instead, the
flames are starting to die down.
"What's going... oh. Ray, you son of a bitch."
He has no body armour. He has no belt. No tools.
Martin takes off his mask. He will need his eyes.
He follows the Psychopomp up the second flight of
stairs. To the roof.
"No!" the Psychopomp shrieks. "You should be dead.
I should be leading you even now to the depths of
"Sorry to disappoint," says Martin.
The Psychopomp rushes towards him, claws
Martin digs his feet into the snow and clenches his
He makes contact with the jaw even as the
Psychopomp digs his claw in between Martin's ribs.
Martin punches him again, in the belly. With a kick
he propels the Psychopomp a good three meters.
The Psychopomp lands on his feet.
Martin rushes towards him.
He leaps in the air, foot outstretched.
The Psychopomp sees it, prepares for it.
Martin shifts his weight back into his arm. He
touches the rooftop, fights against his own momentum,
brings his leg back a hundred eighty degrees. His
hand can't take the weight, he lands on his shoulder,
on his back (it hurts), he's spinning in the snow, leg
still outstretched. In a clean quick motion, he kicks
the Psychopomp's feet out from under him.
Martin pins the pomp's arms down with his legs and
closes his fist around the throat.
He could end it now. Squeeze the life out of the
Psychopomp. His crimes far outnumber those he claimed
to be avenging. Free the city, and Martin, of the
death-grip the Psychopomp held over them. It would be
a decisive victory in the war for Jolt City. A
turning of the tide.
He knocks the Psychopomp unconscious and drags him
down the stairs. He picks up his discarded mask and,
using the claws of his prone opponent, cuts out two
eye holes. He puts the mask back on. It feels right,
to see with his eyes and feel the mask against his
face at the same time.
He drags the Psychopomp down the next flight of
stairs and tosses him dramatically into the center of
the room. The Psychopomp's mooks look at Martin for a
moment, and then they drop their weapons, slowly
raising their arms. Martin smiles. He had forgotten
what this felt like.
"Someone tie him up," commands the Green Knight.
"And someone call the police."
He shows the police the room that holds the victims
of the fear ray. The officer assures him that someone
will be on the way, and that they will be adequately
cared for. Martin asks for a moment alone with them
and it is granted.
He touches each of them on the shoulder and
"Dad, I'm here."
Ray's eyes are open, but he doesn't look Anders
directly in the eye. "Martin, is that you...?"
(Maybe his father can't see him.)
"Yeah, it's me." Anders doesn't know why he lies.
(Maybe his father doesn't want to see him.)
"Martin, you called me dad."
"No, it's okay." Ray smiles and reaches out his
quivering monolith of a hand. Anders puts his fist
around Ray's engorged index finger. It reminds him of
his younger cousin, Joey, who, as an infant, would
grip on one of Anders's fingers. Anders wishes it
reminded him of his father. But it doesn't. Is this
because his father's fingers were never laid under
siege by Anders when he was an infant? Or is it
because the memories of Anders's childhood are distant
and inaccessible-- let alone memories of babyhood?
Anders decides that it doesn't really matter who is to
blame. It still reminds him of Joey.
"Martin," Ray says.
"Yeah." Anders hesitates. "Ray?"
"I want you to know that it's okay. That I forgive
you. You... That I know about you two. You made her
happy. Happy. Everything's... all good."
Anders lets go of his father's finger.
"You can't take it with you," says Ray. "You can't
take things with you and you can't... body with...
with you... and you can't take anger. Can't take
hate. Gotta let it go. Forgive. I forgive you,
Martin. Only hope she forgives me. I was no
Ray drifts to sleep. Anders walks back up the
stairs, undresses, and crawls back into his bed.
He wants to cry. He wants to feel betrayed. But
He wants to feel.
Anders dreams of his mother. The dream was
something very definite, very disturbing; when he
awakes, it is rendered vague and unknowable. Like it
was never there at all.
Anders can feel his dream being blotted out of his
brain. Desperately, he mentally claws at it, trying
to hold onto some part of it, an image perhaps, and
fix it within his brain, within his memory. The
tendrils of his mind fly out, grasping, searching:
when they return, they clutch images of his mother,
not from a dream or from experienced life, but from
the photographs that sit on the foyer. From the
painting that rests on the wall at the top of the
stairs. From captured (stolen) faked happiness.
He hears his father now. Coughing.
Anders runs down the stairs. His father's huge,
heavy body is spasming. The main thrust of it comes
from his stomach, his loins, his hips; the arms and
legs flop limply almost as an after-thought.
His father's face is covered with red and black and
yellow, each tremendous wet cough spewing forth more
and more bile and blood. It spurts out of him and
lands on his face and his chest, pooling around his
neck and seeping into the massive folds.
Stomach acid comes up, followed by thin, watery
vomit; Ray hasn't had solid food in weeks. More
blood. More bile. And now tissue, some of it gray,
some of it pink. And now shit, ugly brown diarrhea,
gargling in his mouth and covering his muzzle. All of
it, all of it at once, flying out of his father's
mouth and covering his father's face.
The bucking hips, the shaking, it slows and stops.
The coughing stops. The body stops.
Anders walks over to his father, moving slowly
across the room, as if this is a dream, a nightmare:
if he paces his walk right, if he takes long enough,
maybe his body will wake itself up before he gets to
the scary part, before he gets to his father...
His father lies perfectly still. He does not
breathe. He does not see. He is covered with his
insides, a grotesque mass--mask--heaped onto him.
His father had many faults. But he didn't deserve
to die like this. This was an ugly death.
Anders wonders if this is how his mother died. In
his mind's eye, he sees her thin sick rail of a body
shaking, he sees the blood and the feces cascading on
her face. She deserved better than that. She
Anders clenches his fist and he feels something hot
and wet running down his cheek. He wipes it away and
sinks to his knees.
After about ten minutes, Anders gets off the floor
and looks at his father's body, at his father's face.
It doesn't look like his father. It makes him feel
For a moment, he imagines his father's funeral, his
father's casket; he imagines his father's body,
dressed in a fine suit, with shit and blood caked on
his face. Anders goes to the bathroom to get a
He starts running the water. He holds the
wash-cloth in his hand as he waits for the water to
get hot enough.
Anders wonders how to clean up his father's face.
He can see himself wiping it off his father's face and
onto the bed. He can see the pool growing around his
father's head. Does he move the body?
When he was a child, Anders was clumsy and would
often spill something. His mother would tell him to
pick it up. Anders would try to wipe it up, but often
only succeeded in smearing it into the carpet. He
would look to his mother for help. She would only
Anders would stay there, crouched down, his stare
alternating between his mother and the mess, holding
the wash-cloth awkwardly in his hand, the rest of his
body paralyzed. His brain paralyzed.
Eventually, his mother would snatch the wash-cloth
away from him and in a matter of seconds, clean up the
mess. Anders never understood how she did it, and
never managed to get it right. Sometimes, his mother
called him a retard. At least she acknowledged him.
Anders dealt with the problem the way he dealt with
most problems: by ignoring it, by circumventing it.
If there was no mess to clean up, there would be no
situation. Anders moved his body self-consciously so
as not to cause a mess; he also took to spending many
hours in his room, where messes were less likely to
The water's hot now. Anders wets the wash-cloth,
giving it a slight wring. He shuts off the water and
turns his head, looking at his father's body from the
bathroom. He can hear his mother. Well, retard!
Look what you've done! Clean it up!
Anders stands in the bathroom, the wash-cloth
dripping into the sink. He stares at his feet. Clean
it up! Don't dawdle!
Anders looks up again, staring out across the
length of the room at his father's body. "I... I have
to use the bathroom!" he exclaims to the empty room.
He closes the door and sits on the toilet.
He doesn't have to pee. He doesn't have to shit
(he sees his father's face). But he pretends. He
sits on the toilet, bent forward, his chin resting on
his hands and his elbows digging into his thighs. He
feels his feet start to go numb.
It reminds him of a kid he knew in school who used
to get the shakes. The kid said that when he shook
especially violently, his lungs would not get enough
oxygen and his body would go numb. It could be as
long as a half-hour before he got any feeling back.
Anders wonders if his father's body went numb as he
died. He wonders if he was still there to feel it or
not feel it, or if the soul left before the dying
began. He wonders if maybe that's why people go numb,
it has nothing to do with blood or oxygen or
circulation at all, but rather with soul leaving the
body. Maybe Anders's soul is trying to escape through
his toes. Maybe that kid (what was his name? the one
with the shakes), maybe he died with each episode,
only to come back to life.
Maybe his father's not dead at all. Maybe, after a
half-hour, the numbness will fade, the soul will
return to the body, filling it up. His father will be
resurrected. Why not? His father is a superhero.
They come back to life all the time.
Why not his dad?
Anders decides to give his father a half-hour to
come back to life. So as not to jinx it, he doesn't
say it aloud. He pretends, instead, that he's still
using the toilet.
Anders flushes the toilet and he runs the faucet
again. When he was a child, he used to skip washing
his hands after making his bowel movement. He did
this, he reasoned, to save time. His mother would
listen for the faucet to run and chastise him for not
washing. Anders started running the faucet, counting
the necessary seconds to give the illusion he had
washed his hands. Then he would wipe them on the
hand-towel for verisimilitude. It would take him just
as much time to actually wash his hands. He knew
this, and felt silly.
He still ran the water and counted the seconds.
He opens the bathroom door, and finds his father
still laying there, still covered with his own bile,
still dead. He knows that it's time to wipe his
father's face off. He also knows that the wash-cloth
is quite dry by now. Logically, he would run the
faucet, get it wet again, and then walk over to his
father and set to work restoring his dignity.
Anders does not do this.
Instead, he walks overly-somberly to his father's
body, the dry wash-cloth in hand. He stops in front
of the body and lifts up the wash-cloth to start
wiping the face. "Oh," Anders says, as if he is
genuinely surprised. "It's dry."
He walks back to the bathroom, dragging his feet,
and starts to run the faucet, letting it trickle out
slowly. He switches the water cold, lets it run, and
then puts the wash-cloth under it. "Oh. I had it on
He switches the water over to hot and gives it time
to warm up. He runs the wash-cloth under the water.
It burns slightly and hurts his hand. He considers
taking the time to dry off his hand and put on a
band-aid and some triple antibiotic on his "injury".
"This is getting ridiculous." Anders storms across
the room, steaming hot wash-cloth in hand, and raises
it above his father's face. He looks at the
congealing mess. He tries to wipe his father's face,
but his arm will not move.
What if I do it wrong? I don't know what I'm
Anders cannot move his body, cannot think with his
brain. He stares at his father's dead body and lets
out a sharp cry of paralyzed pain.
Anders turns towards the sound of the voice. A
figure, cloaked all in black, rushing up from the
basement. For a moment, Anders thinks his father has
come back, after all. His father was never Ray
Cradle. He was always the superhero.
The Green Knight. But this one wears black.
(Martin wears black.) It must be Martin.
He takes off the mask. "Are you alright?" He
walks towards him.
Anders opens his mouth to speak. He quivers and
gulps and chokes. No sound issues forth. He feels
his eyes itching, he feels the hot wetness running
down his cheeks again.
Martin looks at Ray and nods grimly. He takes the
wash-cloth from Anders's hand. "Did you call yet?"
The question confuses Anders. His blank expression
"Anders! Did you call yet?" he snaps.
"But... but he's already... they couldn't..."
"He needs to be declared legally dead," says
Martin. "Before we can make any funeral arrangements,
he needs to be declared..." He takes a deep breath.
"I'm sorry. I know... I know this is a terrible loss
for you. It's hard for you. It's hard for me too.
Let's... let's get done what needs to get done, and
then, if you want, we can talk about it. Now, can you
call 911 for me?"
"Yeah," says Anders.
"Okay," says Martin with a nod. He turns to Ray's
body and begins to clean the old man up.
It should be me doing that, Anders thinks. Not
He walks over to the phone and wonders if he's
going to put this off, too, until Martin loses his
patience and takes the phone away from him. It's an
idle thought: the phone is ringing, now. He must have
dialed the numbers. The operator is asking about the
nature of the emergency.
Anders doesn't know what he's supposed to say, what
the procedure is. It's not really an emergency at
all... is it?
"My father is dead!" he sobs into the phone.
When he is finished giving the operator the
relevant information, Anders hangs up the phone and
heads back to his father's bedside. Martin has left
the room. His father's face is clean. Some dark
stains remain on the sheets under his neck.
But his father's face is clean. Anders hesitates
and then touches the chest. It still feels spongy.
"Go ahead." Anders turns to see Martin standing in
the doorway. He's changed out of his costume. "You
can hug him, if you want."
Anders does not want to hug the body. But he does.
He expects it to feel lighter, the soul having
taken flight. Or, perhaps, the body is hard and
rigid, cold dead stone.
His father's body is still warm. Still heavy.
Still flesh. No difference, really, between when it
was alive and now, when it is dead. No difference
between life and death.
Anders begins to sob uncontrollably, taking massive
heaving breaths, his body shaking, his eyes wet and
hot, his face sticky. He convulses with pain, and
then, strangely: laughter.
Hot damn, he can feel...!
(C) COPYRIGHT 2005, 2006 TOM RUSSELL.
Director of MILOS, LIFE AND TIMES OF A DREAMER
Limited autographed dvds now on sale, directly from the filmmaker
"In the beginning, Milos seems to have no clue how to relate
to anyone. He is quizzical, leaving the viewer questioning
-- Ryan M. Niemiec, co-author of MOVIES AND MENTAL ILLNESS
"If a comic book, book, movie or novel is not somebody's fantasy
then who wrote it and to whom does it appeal to? In order for a
shared universe to have a widespread appeal, it has to appeal on
a primal level. If somebody says superhero comics are just 'wish
fulfillment' then he needs to explain what is entertainment that
doesn't satisfy our wishes and what satisfaction at all you can get
from it." -- Dr. Martin Phipps
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