When we were Harvey Dent, we never used to like Halloween. It's not that we had anything against it, per se - we just didn't have time for it. The closest we ever came to celebrating in our adult life was the occasional masked ball at Bruce Wayne's place or a PR trick-or-treating stunt.
Since the acid incident that turned "me" into "we", however, we've gained a new appreciation for the holiday. It's the one day out of the whole year that we can stroll the streets undisturbed. (Well, except for passersby commenting on our 'authentic-looking' costume.) It adds a dash of normality into the bizarre casserole of oddities that our life has become.
We usually opted to do those things that were generally denied us: dining in restaurants, strolling through the park, maybe with a detour through the grounds of Gotham U. This year, however, we had managed to acquire a pair of henchgirls who adored holidays - all holidays - with a passion. We were perfectly happy to allow them to cook that twelve-course turkey dinner for Thanksgiving. However, we drew the line at the Easter egg hunt, the personalized fireworks display, and the Santa suit debacle. (Let us assure you that Valentine's Day more than made up for all of the others, however. As Selina would say, rrrowr.)
For Halloween they demanded to go to a haunted house. We agreed somewhat reluctantly - an hour or two of wandering around some derelict building filled with strange and frightening people wasn't exactly our cup of tea. Thanks to the Batman, we had a wealth of experience in a certain derelict asylum filled with people that would be termed strange and frightening even on their good days. Nevertheless, we went along.
Of course, they didn't tell us that we weren't going to a haunted house until after we'd pulled up at the parking lot of the local amusement park. The girls, seeing our expression of dismay, began to chatter enthusiastically about the haunted mazes, the roaming ghosts, the creepy effects..."It's like ten haunted houses in one!" chirped Angelica.
We pulled out our coin and gave it a toss. Good heads. We were stuck with it. We sighed and allowed ourselves to be towed to the gates.
The park had only been open for a few minutes, and the crowd outside the gates clustered in anxious groups as wandering monsters prowled among them. We breezed to the front of the line. A security guard - a kid, really - blocked our path. "First of all, the line's back there, folks, and second of all, no costumes," he rattled off in a bored voice.
We grinned lazily at him. "This isn't a costume," we informed him as the girls giggled.
The kid looked us over. Now, in any other town he would have immediately informed the police of our arrival. But in Gotham things ran a little differently. Those who stepped in the way of rogues - particularly those bits of the population who were scrawny types with big nametags - rarely survived to see tomorrow.
The kid was smart. "Go right in," he said hastily, holding the gate aside for us. We entered the park, a happy girl on each arm. The girls skittered sideways and yelped as a bloodied housemaid hissed voicelessly at them. We ambled to the map of the park, where the girls giggled madly as they planned our trip.
A snarling green demon shot out of the shrubbery to our left, propelling the two now-shrieking girls directly into the safety of our arms. Perhaps the night would be entertaining after all, we mused as the girls hugged us tight.
Our trip around the park could be said to be fairly uneventful. Oh, events were happening - we were accosted every so often by masked and makeuped creatures of the night, and the occasional tourist requested pictures with us thinking that we were one of the attractions (which would have earned them a quick trip to the cemetery except that we had left our guns at home) - but nothing really unexpected happened.
Nothing that we didn't expect, anyway. The girls, who had insisted that they loved haunted houses, were nevertheless scared out of their socks each time we were approached. We would have imagined that veterans of such experiences would be less prone to startlement. Apparently we were misinformed.
They howled through the cowboy maze. They screamed bloody murder in the haunted manor. They buried their faces in our jacket as we made our way through the carnival maze (the only one that really unsettled us. In our experience, when a man with a stark white face, wild green hair and a garish suit springs out with a knife, he means business). We were almost deafened by the time we entered the pirate maze's entryway, which was a loose assemblage of barrels and crates inside a ten-foot-tall latticework fence.
At that point the girls had snuggled into a conga line behind us, making us into a strange ant-like being. We marched in lockstep through the foggy maze. Various zombie pirates and wenches sprung out at us from their cleverly concealed hiding spots. We strode along, paying more attention to the shivering girls behind us than the horrors in front of us.
We rounded a corner to see a stack of barrels and crates with a decapitated skeleton resting on top. It was obviously a hiding spot, but the girls didn't seem to think so. Angelica even went so far as to release her death grip on our shoulders as we drew nearer. We sighed and braced ourselves for their screams as we noticed the pirate's pant leg sticking out from behind the pile of debris.
"YA-HARRR!" the skull-faced pirate bellowed as he bolted out from his hiding spot. Angelica shrieked and stumbled backwards into Demonica. They went down in a tangle of limbs, flailing madly and screaming into each other's faces.
The pirate chuckled hoarsely as he stalked toward them, raising his arms and growling as the girls scrambled backward over the rough cement. His tattered, baggy sleeves fell down past his elbows, revealing a very realistic-looking gash across the underside of his right forearm.
No, wait. We squinted at it in the dim, foggy light. It had stitches in it. None of the other monsters had stitches...We'd seen someone hurt like this before. Recently.
The pirate had managed to box Angelica and Demonica into a corner. They were shrieking and clutching one another tight as he loomed over them.
It finally clicked. That laugh...the cut on his arm...the fact that he was drinking in their fear like expensive wine..."Jonathan?" we said pleasantly.
The pirate froze. Slowly, the skull mask turned until we were staring it right in the eyeholes. "Nice costume," we smirked. "What are you doing here?"
The pirate shoved the mask up over his forehead, revealing a scowling Jonathan Crane lurking beneath it, eyes blacked out with makeup. "Research," he said, trying to maintain some kind of dignity as his eyeliner dripped in sweaty streaks onto his ruffled shirt.
He was obviously lying. What was there to research about the situation? Even little kids knew that jumping out at someone and saying "Boo" (or in this case, "Yarr") would scare them. No, Jonathan was clearly just there to watch people scream. In retrospect, we'd be surprised if he'd passed up this opportunity to scare people for six hours a night without the threat of police intervention to spoil his fun.
"I didn't think you appreciated the power of fear," Crane said uneasily. "What brings you here?"
"They wanted to come," we said, gesturing to the two very embarrassed henchgirls who were dusting themselves off. A screech of terror sounded from the passage behind us. Crane quickly yanked the mask back on. "Happy Halloween," we said cheerfully to him, shooing the girls in front of us as we walked away. Crane grunted something unintelligible at us as he folded himself back down into position.
The girls pushed their way through the curtain that led to the main enclosed area of the maze. We paused, glancing back to watch the next group's reaction. It was a small cluster of teenage boys. We grinned evilly. This should be entertaining.
Crane sprung out at them. "YA-HARR!" The unimpressed boy in the lead looked him up and down. "Keep it moving, mate-hurrk!" The lead boy delivered a smooth punch right into Long John Scarecrow's stomach. With a growl of hatred audible even to us, Crane whipped his arm around and popped a capsule of fear gas right in the boy's face.
We hastily ducked inside as the boy shrieked something unprintable. We wanted no part of the cloud of toxins wafting our way.
The girls were clustered at a curtain, trying to peer through the gap before they walked through. We laid a hand on their shoulders. They squealed and threw themselves through the curtain, where a pair of robot pirates jerked and swayed convincingly in the thick fog. They screamed at the sight of them. On cue, a pair of wenches leaped from the shadows and harried them back and forth along the hallway, growling threats and curses at them as they once again leapt into our arms.
We pushed our way through a flowered curtain. A pirate wench in a well-filled corset and a skirt hiked up to display her legs sprawled languidly on a bed. Golden coins glittered in heaps around her. "Hello sailor," she purred with delight when we locked eyes with her. "Wanna shiver me timbers?"
We used to be quite the ladies' man. But in the years that followed the acid incident, we'd gone from admirers on every street to maybe one or two henchgirls that certainly were not with us for our looks. So our response was not quite the sophisticated leer that we used to employ for such occasions.
To be brutally frank, we were so shocked for a moment that all we could do was gape. The only non-henchwench that hit on us anymore was Batgirl, and that tended to be with fists rather than with innuendo.
The wench wiggled provocatively. We gathered our wits enough to attempt a smooth comeback to her offer - possibly something about having a bit of fun belowdecks - and instead let out a girlish, yelping squeak as an unexpected pirate swung wildly out from behind the bedcurtains. "Move along, ye scurvy dogs," he advised us in a deep gravelly growl.
"You were scared," Angelica teased us as we turned away from the wench, who was grinning saucily at us as her friend climbed back into position.
"You screamed," Demonica agreed in satisfaction.
"We were startled," we defended ourselves.
"You were scaaaared," they drawled together, tugging us along.
"We were not," we protested as we stormed toward the exit. "We don't get scared by cheap masks and fake blood! We were simply thinking about other things-"
"Yeah, like that wench's booty," snickered Demonica.
We flung aside the final curtain and stepped out into the cloud of fog surrounding the exit, ignoring our girls as they gloated. We were seething with embarrassed anger - okay, so it had looked like we were scared, but we really weren't. Not deep down, not really.
If we couldn't even convince ourselves that we weren't scared, we had no hope of shutting the girls up. The wind blew the giant cloud of fog away into thin streamers. Snakes of fog slid over the bushes and around the snack stand to the left.
A sickeningly familiar pointy-eared head burst from the cloud and floated in our direction. The fog whipped away from him dramatically as his cape snapped in the wind. He couldn't have planned his entrance any better if he'd had Steven Spielberg directing him.
We were staring down Batman, unarmed, with no place to run. Now we were scared. We shook the girls off of us and made ready to delay our inevitable departure to Arkham.
Someone was behind us! We spun and landed a beautiful punch on his jaw...his flapping, rubbery, skull-masked jaw. Oh. It was just a pirate, who was swearing profusely as he staggered backward. We didn't have time to bother with him, though, so we turned our attention back to the Bat.
The girls had fallen back on their traditional attack maneuver. Angelica circled left and Demonica matched her to the right. When Batman glanced at one, the other took it as her cue to try and beat the hell out of him. We took the opportunity to arm ourselves with a queue-pole, tearing the ropes from it and hefting it so that the thin metal base stuck up in the air. The people in the line stared with round eyes as we lugged the surprisingly heavy chunk of metal back to the fight.
With a vicious kick, Batman sent Demonica flying backward into the trunk of a tree. Leaves rustled and fell in a shower around her as her shoulders whacked firmly into the bark. She scrambled back to her feet, snatching up the cover for the fog machine with one hand. As Batman turned to deal with Angelica (who was trying to twist his cape around his ankles) Demonica brought the plastic cover down over the Bat's head.
With a grunt of savage joy, we swung the bar at the Bat's midsection. If it had been a game of baseball, we would have scored a grand slam home run. With a massive shudder, he knocked the machine cover off of his head and dislodged Demonica from her spot wrapped around his back. He tried to step forward, but the cape yanked hard around his leg and he fell to the ground. "Yeah! Get him!" someone cheered.
We took a moment to glance around. The parkgoers had begun to cluster around as if we were some kind of show. Well, we'd deal with them later. There was a rattling noise as Crane climbed up the fence separating his barrel from the outside world. He clung vulture-like over the top, watching the fight like the rest of them with no hint that he would do anything helpful. Typical.
Batman was rolling to his feet now, ignoring Demonica as she pummeled his side. He pulled out a set of cuffs and attached her to a wrought-iron fence in a single movement. She howled defiance and tried to kick him in the head.
She missed. She did, however, manage to kick a heavyset man, who grunted in pain and sat down hard on the asphalt. An equally heavyset woman, presumably his wife, started complaining loudly about the sorry state of affairs when innocent pedestrians were accosted by street theater performers and how she was going to sue the park for everything they had.
A batarang thunked hard into our fingers. We swore vehemently as the iron bar clanged noisily on the pavement, rolling away from us right as Batman dove in our direction. But Angelica had him by the cape again, and she managed to knock him away from us and directly into the fog machine.
The woman's incessant whining was really starting to get on our nerves. "And what about poor little Mikey?" she was exclaiming to everyone within a five-mile radius as she gestured to a little four-year-old boy next to her. "What do you think it's done to him to see his poor father hurt so badly? What kind of impression is all this violence going to have on him, I'd like to know?"
We had had it. We wrenched a wooden sign off of the fence and smashed it as hard as we could directly over her never-stopping mouth. She sat down, stunned. We were vaguely amused when a shard of the sign reading "This event is too intense for children" stayed firmly planted on her vast abdomen.
In the time it had taken to silence the harpy, Batman had gotten to his feet again. We turned around, expecting to see him at the other side of the circle, and found him accelerating toward us. We darted to the right. He snarled and lashed out with one foot, catching us in the midsection and sending us reeling back hard into Jonathan's fence. The cheap, flimsy wood cracked, and Crane tumbled head-over-heels down into the circle of parkgoers. His mask flew off in a spray of sweat and landed at Batman's feet. "Thanks," the Scarecrow snapped bitterly at us as he rolled to his feet.
"Don't mention it."
Now Batman had three of us to worry about again, ourselves, Crane, and Angelica (who was doing her best to stay out of grabbing range).
Well, when in doubt...We whirled and dragged a protesting teenage girl out of the crowd. We glanced to our left. Crane had had the same idea, only he had a capsule of fear toxin ready to burst beneath his girl's nose. We really, really wished we hadn't left our guns at home.
Angelica darted into the crowd, unnoticed, as Batman stared us down. "Don't kill me," the girl in our arms whimpered.
Ah. Could we kill her bare-handed? More to the point, were we allowed to kill her? We gave the coin a little flip. No, no, we couldn't. Damn. With a sigh, we spun her back into the crowd.
Jonathan wasn't having much more luck. The girl he'd picked was a feisty one who was doing her best to crush his feet with her gigantic black boots. She didn't seem to be scared of him, but of course, who would be? He wasn't in costume...well, he wasn't in the right costume, anyway, and the only person he'd scare at the moment would be someone with a severe phobia of eye makeup and frilly shirts. "Stop it," he grunted as she caught him with an elbow in the stomach.
"Make me," she hissed, somehow managing to kick him squarely in the groin. His eyes crossed with pain.
Forgetting the situation he was in, forgetting that the Batman was right there, and perhaps, most importantly, forgetting that he wasn't wearing a mask anymore, he readied himself to pop the capsule. She wrenched an arm free and swatted at his hand, which arced into her forehead and smashed the capsule open. Both of them fell to the ground, screaming.
And now Angelica was creeping up behind Batman, holding a very large and heavy fog machine above her head, intending to bring it down hard on that cowled head. Instead, as she went up on her toes behind him, he cracked a fist backward directly into her nose. She shrieked, stumbled backward, and dropped the fog machine on her own skull.
Now it was just us and the Batman. We slouched into a fighting stance, ignoring Crane and the girl as they blindly pummeled one another at our feet.
The back of our head suddenly burst with pain. We staggered forward and tripped on Crane, ending up in the tangle of bodies on the ground. The girl screamed and punched us in the head as Crane kicked us hard in the spine. The same whatever-it-was that had cracked us in the head earlier came down again on our left leg.
We grunted with pain and scrabbled away, glancing over our shoulder to determine what had just happened. The pirate we had hit in the jaw earlier had a firm grip on a dull iron cutlass. We supposed we should be grateful that he hadn't chosen to use the edge instead of the flat to brain us with, but we didn't have time for gratitude toward would-be skull-crushers.
Our right arm suddenly tried to twist itself off. We threw our head backward to see Batman pulling our hand up along our spine. He snapped on the handcuffs.
The circle of spectators burst into applause. Spare change and dollar bills were tossed wildly at us. A dollar coin hit us in the eye as Batman attached the other end of the cuffs to Angelica's unconscious body. The cops finally decided to show up, half of them shooing off the crowd while the other half made very certain that none of us were going anywhere.
What a day. A gun jabbed meaningfully into our neck. Still, we mused as we got to our feet, at least we'd have company on the way to Arkham this time. Okay, so that translated into one unconscious henchgirl, one pissed-off henchgirl, and a fear-crazed fellow rogue, but at least it would be better than nothing.
Author's Note: I had a job at a haunted house last Halloween. One night, a couple brought their little boys along with them...and both boys were dressed as Batman. Well, once the worlds had collided in my brain, I had to write the story.
Oh, about that job? Yes, I was a pirate. Yes, I wrote this story in my head while I was waiting for people to come by so I could scare the living daylights out of them...and yes, I was stationed behind the barrel, and in the room with the robomatronic pirates, and on the bed of money seducing passersby. (I wrote my own pickup lines, thanks muchly. 'Wanna see me treasure chest?' was another crowd-pleaser.)
Oh yes, and people did in fact punch my fellow pirates in the chest. And the face. And the groin. Really, they deserved the fear toxin...
Tune in next time for "Housemates", the sequel to "Get Out of My House!" featuring the Riddler and Jackie along with several very special guest stars!