Saturday, 14 January 2012

"Simon, it's me. Don't you remember? It's me, Simon. It's Batman."

Batman stared into the eyes of his old friend, searching for a hint of recognition. There was nothing there. Simon was gone. His mind had worn away like an old cloth sack, his memories spilling out and catching on the wind, to be lost forever. Batman climbed painfully to his feet, his knees popping as he straightened up.

"Good bye, Simon," he said, "good bye, old friend."

It was winter in Gotham, and Gotham knew all about winter. No snow, just a cold wet tang to the air and a leeching chill like a fog of spectres sucking the warmth from the living. Batman wrapped his overcoat tightly around himself and held it closed. The buttons had disappeared, one by one, just like everything else in his life. With Simon gone, it was just him. Him and the cold. Batman thought he might cry, but he didn't have the strength.

Batman caught the bus back to his apartment. He was 3¢ short of the fare, but the driver waved him on anyway. He must think I'm a veteran or something, thought Batman. I guess I am, in a way. Taking a seat at the front of the vehicle, Batman removed a battered paperback from the pocket of his overcoat. The book was Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Batman had been reading a lot about the Holocaust lately. He found it comforting.

After a couple of stops, someone got on the bus and sat next to Batman. It was an old negro, dressed in a threadbare zoot suit and grubby pork-pie hat. He smelled of liquor. He peered over Batman's shoulder.

"You Jewish?" asked the negro.

Batman tried to answer, but when he opened his mouth he began to cough.

"Take it easy, don't go dying on me," said the negro, jovially. "Don't go dying on the public bus."

It was good advice, the best Batman had had in years. But Batman had never been good at taking advice.

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