by Marcus Rowland
The midnight subway reeks of despair, the people sparse, suffocated by apathy and despair. They banned their heroes, buried them with the Keene act, then wondered at the results. Crime rising, more vandalism, graffiti, litter. Maybe The Comedian was right, and all that is left is the cleansing nuclear fire. Maybe. I choose to think otherwise, refuse to let Keene bury me. I move amongst them, unknown, unnoticed. If I wore my true face it would be different. For now I am anonymous, watching and listening, studying the faces of the sheep and looking for the wolves amongst them.
There. Moving through the station towards the trains. A woman, late teens or early twenties, black, black leather coat, close cropped curly hair, white bead necklace. She moves like a hunter, stalking someone ahead of her. A bleached blond punk, looking back and laughing. He knows she's there, doesn't fear her. She doesn't smile, shows no emotion. Whatever game this is, she isn't playing. I follow them to the train, watch her follow him. They move forward through the train, looking for something. An empty car, of course. As soon as they enter the fight begins. I watch through the window from the next car, neither notices.
Both are strong, stronger than any normal human. They're wrecking the car. I look round, and see that neither passenger in this car is facing me. I pull on my true face and my gloves and open the door. Lights dangle from the ceiling, broken, seats torn and wrenched from their frames. The woman pants, but fights as fiercely as ever. The punk isn't even breathing hard. She's on him now, pinning him to the floor, something in her hand... some sort of weapon, wood. There's a moment of darkness as we cross points and he's on top, his hands at her throat. The weapon's gone. I wonder for a split second who I should help. He hears the door slam shut behind me and glances up, sees me. Suddenly he's snarling, his face inhuman, bestial, eyes yellow. Decision made. There's no time to reach them but I have Daniel's gift. I fire, and the grapnel strikes his shoulder, the hooks embedded in his flesh. He pulls back, forgetting the woman, as I belay the cord around a support pole and wrench him towards me. Instead of fighting it he twists round towards me and charges. Behind him the woman flips to her feet, stoops, and throws. He's nearly on me when he crumbles to dust.
"You're him," says the woman, picking up a wooden stake from the floor. No fear in her voice, just surprise. "Rorschach." She knows the face, of course. Why isn't she frightened?
"Yes. That was a vampire?"
"Would you believe me if I said 'no?'"
"Yes. He was a vampire. William the Bloody, Spike to his enemies."
"He tortured people with railroad spikes."
The train shudders to a halt. End of the line. She jots something on a scrap of paper, a name, Nikki Wood, and a telephone number. She still isn't frightened. Does she think I want a date? "You ever run into something like that, anything supernatural, give me a call. And thanks."
I take the paper, watch her leave, don't try to stop her. By the time I've rewound the grapnel line she's gone.
Weeks later I hear that a woman answering her name and description has been found dead, almost torn apart by something with razor-sharp claws. I wonder what was gained by my intervention, why we bother to fight.
Maybe The Comedian was right.
Author's Note: in BtVS continuity Nikki Wood was killed by Spike in 1977. In Watchmen continuity the Keene Act banned vigilantes in the same year.