The Boogie Man
Alexnandru Van Gordon
My little sister is sick again, so I decided to update a mini-robin story to brighten up her day. For all of you who have younger siblings—love them while their shorter than you because, chances are, some day they'll be better than you at something and they'll rub it in your face forever.
Where were we? Oh yeah…you might have to backtrack...I know I had to…ahem…anyway…OH! Remember: "Eric" is Richard—he lied to the other kids about his name to conceal his identity if anyone put two and two together…Never mind…
DISCLAIMER: (wow, when was the last time I had one of these) Heck no—I don't own anything of the like. Just this little word document and the shirt on my back…
CHAPTER TEN: You don't exist…
Tom started biting his lower lip. That kid—Eric—had been gone for a while now and part of him was wondering what happened to him. Did he get shredded somewhere in the factory? Was he stuck in the vents? Did he run into the boogie-man guys?...Oh man, too much to think about…
Then it came from above…
Then was a small cheer from the other kids stuck in the room as Tom stood and squinted up at the ventilation system. "Eric?"
"Hey—make sure no one's standing by the vent. I brought help."
Curious, but trusting, Tom backed away from the vent and watched as Eric's short figured dropped down into the room. Eric, in turn, backed away as a second figure fell in from the vent—a tall someone who looked like a woman…
"Okay, kitties—stay away from the door while mommy picks the lock."
Tom blinked twice before he found his voice again. "Y-you…you found Catwoman!"
"Hey—I found him." She corrected, patting him on the head as she strolled on past toward the door. She gently guided a little girl aside before fidgeting with her belt. "You might want to be a little less noisy too. Unless, of course, you happen to like being in the Boogieman's company…"
Tom shut his mouth promptly.
Catwoman, with her back to the center of the room, started fiddling with the lock on the door. A couple of scrapping noises and a particular 'click!' later and she eased the door open a crack quietly. They all squinted at once from the dim light out in the hall, but soon the smaller children gathered around her legs as they waited for the 'all-clear' to run.
"Stay close and hold each other's hand, kitties." She instructed in a whisper. "I'll show you the way out—but you have to keep it down. Got it?"
It took her a second to pop her head out into the hall, checking both ways for anyone lingering around, before she grabbed the hand of the closest kid and leaded them out.
Tom ran out into the hall and was ready to follow Catwoman when he saw Eric start walking in the other direction.
"Hey, Eric…where you going?"
The smaller boy paused for a moment…It looked as though he was about to turn and face Tom…but he didn't. He just stood there. "I'm going to see my dad."
"You're dad's here?"
"Yeah…I think he needs my help."
Now, Tom wasn't exactly a 'doubting-Thomas' but he knew how the world worked. He was growing up, after all, and his dad always reminded him that one little boy couldn't do much of anything until he grew up. What could this kid hope to accomplish.
"Eric—they're going to catch you if you're not careful."
"When was the last time you believed in the Boogie Man?"
Tom paused. "…What?"
Eric turned around, eyes cast down, looking a tad bit embarrassed. "Well—when was the last time you were afraid of something that wasn't really there?"
"Hm…I think I was seven…Yeah, I thought there was a squid hiding under the basement stairs."
They laughed together.
"Why did you think that?" Eric continued.
"Well…my mom had her old mops under the stairs, and by the way the light from the kitchen shone down, it cast this squid-ish shadow on the floor."
"When did the squid go away?"
"Huh? It…it didn't go away, because it was never really there."
"My point exactly." Eric smiled before continuing. "When did you stop believing this thing wasn't real anymore?"
"…My dad took me downstairs and moved the mops."
"I think…" The boy hesitated, almost as though he was unsure of himself. "I think this Boogie Man thing isn't real. I think it gets it power from our fear and our belief—that no one can really ever get rid of it because it never really existed…but we can disprove it and smother it with disbelief."
Yeah…it made sense—odd sense, but sense nonetheless. It was a child's chain of reasoning that led Eric to believing this little theory of his, but the everyone in the world was a child once and their dreams started way back when they had nothing to hold them back. If the kid was right…
"You're one smart kid, Eric…Good luck. I hope you find your dad."
Eric laughed. "Make up some lie to make the other kids think the Boogie Man we saw tonight really doesn't exist. Turn him into a man and they won't fear him as much anymore…"
Tom nodded…but he had one last thing picking at the back of his mind.
"When was the last time you were afraid of the Boogie Man?"
He laughed. "See you around, Tom. I don't believe in the Boogie Man…"
'I don't believe in the Boogie Man…'
They materialized into the humanoid form they used before in their last confrontation with the Bat Man. Just that one childish train of thought—that one dose of disbelief suddenly sapped them of half their strength. Fear is what gave them power—belief in the mysterious and unexplainable fed their very being. They only existed so long as someone believed in them—it only took a few small children to destroy them…
This can't be happening… They thought aloud…not a good idea at the moment. Here, in the dark, in their domain…the Bat was out and about.
Actually, he was right here in the warehouse with them. Not only was their doubt in their existence, but the sun was due to rise soon. Then they wouldn't be able to materialize, victim to whatever thoughts the children had of them.
They had to kill the Bat…They had to show the children that they were still big and tall and scary—had to show them that things that went bump in the night could hurt youand would hurt you if you thought otherwise…
They barely had time to turn around in the singular body they created as the Batman swung down from the rafters to kick them square in the chest. They were weak…they were sluggish—they had little energy to work with, but so long as there was a little belief in them, the Bat would die tonight. He could punch and kick and run all he wanted—even if they did vanish with the sun, his mind was open to attack. They could sneak inside…drive him insane…make him believe—
No…it wouldn't work. Only the belief of little children gave them power. Adults could believe in something all they wanted—subconsciously they disbelieved even in the gravest situations and that's why they're belief was no could. Children had minds like putty, so easy to shape and manipulate. They could believe in just about anything without a shred of doubt…
Children created them. Long ago, even before the first bedtime story was told, children fed their existence with the fear of any little unexplainable creak in the attic or whisper of the wind in the trees. It wasn't until now that they had enough power to function as conscious beings in one collective state…like a virus. What a pity that such a simple action could bring about their downfall…
…the disbelief of a few children.
We die tonight. They told the Dark Knight. We'll take you with us.
He didn't say anything. What a stoic little puppet…Yes, they would take him with them. They knew it was his son that ruined them—it suited their revenge well to take him specifically with them to the afterlife…if such a thing existed for them…
It was confused—that wasn't hard to tell. It turned its head from side to side as it back away. He kept close with equally slow strides forward, watching as it fought some silent argument against itself inside its mind…
We die tonight…We'll take you with us…
He didn't know its story—he had no idea what it was up to, kidnapping a bunch of kids and then walking around, talking in the plural third person form of itself. Nor did he care. It grabbed his son—it was going to pay.
He moved forward swiftly—striking with his left hand as it recently collected itself. It recoiled, bending backward, but his fist connected with its face.
…its mushy face…
…its mushy face that formed around his hand like putty or…goop.
He pulled his hand back quickly before it could eat it and reached toward his belt. He had to duck his head and step to the side as the creature made a couple of punches of its own, but he had a small smoke bomb in his hand before it could recoil again and shoved his fist forward into its face a second time—meeting the same fate as before.
Letting the smoke bomb slip from between his fingers, he pulled his had back again—harder this time, seeing as the creature held on with greater strength—and jumped back as the small silver sphere exploded. The actual explosion was delayed. The front of its face seemed to expand before its entire head explode, blue goop splattering everywhere.
Unfortunately, that wasn't enough.
It didn't reform its head. Instead, the neck grew longer and lashed out for him. He ducked to the left and rolled again as the large mass of whatever tried to knock him down like some gigantic python. He found himself dodged left and right, having to jump back a great distance once or twice as it advanced closer.
Then his back hit the wall.
Panicking only slightly, he reached to his belt and found his grappling hook. Aiming from the roof—
--it hit him in the chest at full force, knocking the wind out of him before it stuck him to the wall. Then it expanded, no longer in the form of a man, slugging up against him, crushing him, suffocating him…
Another long, snake-like part of the creature moved through the air toward his face, stopping only inches away to make a head without a mouth or eyes or hair…
Look, bat…do you see the sun?
…It was lighter…Now that he realized it, the sky outside the warehouse windows was lighter. The sun was about to rise soon.
Not soon enough. He was going to suffocate before it came up. The pressure on his chest was beginning to be too much…
Pray, little man—pray and think about all that you will never have. You lost today and now we will give you the time to regret everything. You failed…how does that feel?
What are you going to do with my son?
Nothing worse than what you've done.
What? (Great—he was having a mental conversation with a mass of blue goop…)
He lost his only family not too long ago, and now you're about to leave him too. What a poor boy…Luck doesn't favor him much…
It wasn't his voice…
It was Richard…
Look—He's come to see you die.
"No! Let go of him!"
Richard entered the room from the far side, slowing when he saw what was happening. The head that stayed before Bruce's face slowly extended and turned to face Richard, stopping about an inch away from his nose. It tried to scare him back, but Richard held his ground…even though Bruce could hear the shaky edge in his voice.
Let go of him?...Whatever for?
"You can't hurt him—you're not real!"
It hissed (how it hissed, he wasn't sure…but it did) and the mass of goop pinning Batman to the wall slackened considerably. Not enough to free him (it was sticky stuff, mind you) but just enough to let him breathe.
"Get out of here!" Batman gasped with his first deep breath. "Run, Richard!"
"No—it can't touch me…see."
…And it couldn't. Or, at least, it led them on to believe it couldn't because it didn't make a move.
No… It hissed again. …One child is not enough to stop us!
Suddenly the head disappeared and the snake-like extension wrapped itself around Richard's shoulders. It circled up around his neck and stopped when it covered his mouth before lifting him up off the ground.
Hush hush, little boy… It whispered mockingly. Richard made a high-pitched, yet muffled, cry behind the goop before something choked him off. He started tearing at the odd blue material with his fingers. Choke on us, little one…This is what fear tastes like…
Catwoman just scared a woman. Said woman just called the police. Catwoman watched her as she ran away…
Somehow, Tom figured Catwoman planned for that to happen.
"Now that the cops know where you are, I can leave." She sighed, patting Tom on the head. "You're the oldest, right? Watch the little ones, will you? Batman should be out soon…"
Wait…did she just say Batman?
"Is he the only guy in there?" He asked suddenly, before she could turn away.
She paused. "Unless you want to call that weird Boogie Man a he, yeah…why?"
"There aren't any adult captives?"
"No. I just said—"
"Never mind." He interrupted quickly, turning away to stare across the street. The sun was rising…the sky was turning red. "I was just curious."
He thought she would pester him about his question, but when he turned around she was gone.
Eric said he was going to look for his dad. For such a brave little kid, could the Dark Knight be…
Maybe….but Tom wasn't the noisy type, but thinking of Eric did remind him of what the shorty asked him to do.
"Hey—listen up, everyone!"
Tired and shaken from the night's fiasco, half the little kids jumped as they turned to face him.
"The Boogie Man doesn't exist!"
That's when all hell broke loose…or, at least, the miniature version. The kids started protesting until he raised his hand…
…they fell silent.
"You know our buddy, Eric?"
They nodded slowly.
"He said the guy in there was just some creepy guy. The Boogie Man doesn't exist.."
Simon, his younger cousin, frowned. "But he did that weird goo-like…thing."
"Melted play-do, Simon. I'll show you how to make that stuff next Christmas."
The kids started muttering amongst themselves, whispering the possibilities. Then one of the littlest girls giggled and they ate his little story up.
Sirens sounded in the distance, the sun was rising at a steady pace and somewhere, back inside, Eric was doing something suicidal…
Or maybe not. Tom really couldn't tell—but he sure as hell acted like the suicidal type.
We win…They laughed (if laughing was possible. It rang out in the large warehouse anyway). Be satisfied that both of you get to die together. In heaven may you meet your peace together…
'...The Boogie Man doesn't exist.'
'But he did that weird goo-like…thing.'
'Melted play-do, Simon. I'll show you how to make that stuff next Christmas.'
No! They're grip slackened on both the man and the boy and each extended arm fell to the ground like water. They tried to pull it back into one collective mass again, tried to form a person again, but they came together as some melting being, stumbling on two syrupy legs.
The other children began to think amongst themselves.
All was lost.
'Yeah…mom told me the boogie-man was fake.'
'It's just like the monster in the closet. It's just a sweater.'
'That was creepy…I'm glad that wasn't real…'
No…No! NO! How could this be happening… they began to melt. The sun was risen now, the top of the sphere peeking in through the windows. And it burned…it burned worse than fire.
Why are we so flawed?... they thought allowed, staring at the man as he ran toward the child. Both stopped to stare at them…watched as they melted and boiled away into nothing. We would have been so powerful…but doubt…doubt killed us.
"It does that a lot." The boy murmured. Then he turned away…The child was suddenly a child no more, slipping a tiny hand into that of his mentor and followed him out of the room,
So flawed…They thought together, one last time. …Almost as flawed as mankind…
And then they were no more…
He didn't think he'd be able to get rid the horrible aftertaste of that goo-guy out of his mouth for a week or so, but he really didn't care at the moment. He walked alongside Bruce a while longer, throat sore from choking, before he yawned one too many times and Bruce decided that he should probably carry the boy. Richard protested. If he was carried then he'd fall asleep and miss patrolling when night rolled around…oh, wait, it was morning. He missed the night entirely, but hey, he was okay with that…Now he could sleep.
Bruce must have carried him a couple of blocks before he found out where he parked the car. Richard slipped inside the passenger seat and fell asleep before they got home, listening to nothing in particular as Bruce drove in silence. He wasn't much of a talker…
Talk about random thoughts.
He woke sometime in the afternoon, finding himself safe and warm in his bed again. Alfred woke him when he brought him chicken-noodle soup (the miracle soup that seemed to heal everything and anything in particular, whether you were sick or not), and he willed himself to stay awake until Bruce came to visit him. He knew he would. In fact, Richard hadn't even started on the soup before Bruce knocked gently on the door and slipped inside. He sat on the edge of the bed with that calm but frightened look on his face…the kind he had on whenever Richard nearly got his head bashed in on a mission.
Somehow this face was a little sadder.
"Want some?" Richard asked, putting his soup aside for the moment.
Bruce smiled. "No. I ate already."
"For the record, you suck at saying hello."
Richard clamped a hand over his mouth. Oops…slip of the tongue…
"I guess I do." Bruce chuckled. "Look…I'm really sorry about…"
"About what?" Strangely, Richard found himself smiling.
"For…well…letting you get in danger like that. They took you from under my nose…And…"
There was an 'and'? It was hard enough for Bruce to give a verbal apology—holding a conversation as long as this was almost a record…Pigs must be flying.
"And…I want to thank you for coming back for me." He continued. "You stoppedd him from suffocating me."
"It's all in the job."
They both laughed at that.
"Well…eat up and then rest some more, kiddo. Maybe we'll do something tomorrow if you're feeling better."
"…Sounds good to me."
And it did, because even though there were things that went bump in the night, things that attacked him from behind and left him scarred forever, like the death of his parents, nothing could really touch him anymore. Here he was safe. Here he had Bruce, and even though the man wasn't anything like his real parents, he made for a good dad.
Even if he dressed up like a bat at night and hunted down villains as stress relief…But hey—a dad is a dad and you really can't argue against that.
Besides, how many dad's let you be their side-kick?
I'm sorry if the ending sounds…corny. My sis thought it should be a reflection of the story…that, and a minor insight to a nice, happy, father-son relationship between Bruce and Richard. The story is over so far (NO!—there will be no sequel), but if you want to see more comedy and sweet moments between the two, go read No Secrets. I promised my sis that I'll never stop adding small stories to that thing and so I must move on to that…adieu, my loyal readers.
Alexnandru Van Gordon