Once upon a time, not long from now, there was a bad part of town. Everybody who lived there was black and poor. One guy who lived there was called Wayne Jackson, but his friends called him Bruce, like Bruce Lee, because he was into martial arts. One day, "Bruce" (Wayne) snapped. He always paid his taxes. He always took care of his business. He took out the trash, kept his house clean, and washed his car, and one day he caught crackheads digging through his trash and pissing on his car, and he killed them all with a baseball bat.
But nothing happened beyond that - no cops came to arrest him, no crackhead militia rose up to defend their crackhead fallen. And a year later, "Bruce" (Wayne) snapped again, and this time he killed seven gang members. And the cops looked into it, as cops always do, and nobody saw anything or knew anything, because nobody ever does when the cops ask. But the gangsters asked, and that's different. Everybody knew something when the gangsters asked, but what they knew made no sense. It had been dark. The bat man had struck in the dead of night, and nobody had seen his face. All they remembered where the red sunglasses he had been wearing, but they didn't remember them as glasses. They remembered them as hideous bright-red bug eyes. It didn't help that a lot of the witnesses were junkies with unreliable perceptions and shaky memories.
And this one joker tried to kill the bat man, but he never had a chance. The joker couldn't find him; the bat man seized him out of the shadows one night, knocked him out - baseball bat to the head - and tied him up in bungee cords and duct tape outside a police station. That joker had six illegal weapons on him, but he was a juvenile offender, and he got out. And he went looking for the bat man. And the bat man fought that joker many times, and he always won, but he never managed to kill him.
By now the gangsters knew what the bat man's car looked like. It was an old Nissan Z with a huge spoiler, purple groundlighting, and a goddamn Gatling gun on the roof. No license plate. All the glass tinted opaque black. The bat man kept it in an abandoned warehouse with a hidden entrance in a desolate part of town. He wore a black ski mask, and he kept the red sunglasses, but he wired them with LEDs to freak his enemies out, because they were superstitous cowards, mostly, and some of them thought he was the Devil.
The bat man got away with everything he did. And he still paid his taxes, took out his trash, and lived a law-abiding life, even though the gangbangers on his block laughed at him and took his stuff. Playing that meek role was the only way to keep his identity as the bat man a secret.
But dreams haunted him. He knew who he was. He told himself jokes about turning into Batman. Sometimes he told himself jokes that made him laugh out loud for twenty minutes, and at the end of it he would stop, shocked, by a glimpse of his own face in the mirror, or by the strange echoes of his lonely hysterics. And strange things bothered him for no clear reason. A girl moved into his neighborhood. Her name was Serena. She had a black cat. He got goosebumps when he saw her, and she remembered him from somewhere, but she couldn't figure out where.
"No," he thought. "Not you. Not here. Not again." And then he wondered what he had meant.
In his warehouse one lonesome, violent night, after he returned from the streets, he washed the blood off his baseball bat, and turned around. It was then that he knew he had lost his mind. A white man stood there in the warehouse, whiter than anyone he had ever seen. White people are really pink. This man had skin like snow and his hair was 2am on a rainy night.
Invading "Bruce" (Wayne)'s secret hideaway meant threatening "Bruce" (Wayne)'s life, and the bat man reacted immediately, swinging his bat through the man's face and head. They passed through as if the man were a hologram. But the hologram spoke. It said it knew his true name. It said it knew why "Bruce" (Wayne) had such terrible dreams. The white man who was whiter than white men and made of nothing but light and air and sound told "Bruce" (Wayne) that he, "Bruce" (Wayne), had no right to steal his ("Bruce" (Wayne)'s) life. He said you come from the land of stories and that is where you belong. He said you are a creature of story, and I am the king of tales, and that makes you responsible to me. He said no matter what else, you cannot steal a mortal life. For an immortal to steal from mortals is the lowest shame.
And Wayne Jackson woke up that morning and forgot everything. The bat man was never seen again. But sometimes, Wayne and Serena dream the same dream.