Notes: The characters are not mine and the story is! I'm a fan of the recent Saturday morning Batman show, and the Riddler is my favorite villain. I personally love the new look, but not just that, I really feel sorry for him after learning his backstory in Riddler's Revenge. And it plunnied me to come up with this, which takes place almost immediately afterwards. It also gives me a chance to throw in some elements from his comic book counterpart's history. I spell his last name with a Y for two reasons: it looks cooler to me, and it makes it less obvious that it's a pun. The person writing the report at the beginning is a mad scientist character of mine who replaced Hugo Strange at Arkham when his insanity was revealed. Many thanks to Kaze for plot help, especially trying to figure out the Riddler's height!
Patient's Name: Nygma, Edward, a.ka. The Riddler
Admittance Date: February 17th, 2007
Weight: 182 pounds
EN is a WM in his late twenties, suffering from head trauma sustained after being struck by a heavy object. For the past three days he has remained unconscious and unresponsive, despite the fact there is no swelling on the brain. His vital signs are stable. Perhaps he lingers in this comatose state because there are things he must sort out in his mind? Certainly the events prior to his accident must have left him in a quandary.
I like to tell riddles.
More than that, I like to test people's intellect and powers of deduction. It's so satisfying to find someone able to play along and even keep up with my games. It gives me some hope that not everyone is living with a Neanderthal point of view in this world. There are some intelligent people left.
My father was never one of them. He never understood me or my love of puzzles; he destroyed them on more than one occasion. I grew to resent him and his obsession with physical sports. I still can't look at a baseball bat without feeling an indescribable loathing and panic.
Then there was Gorman. Ah! How I hated that man. He started out as a mere obstruction or annoyance, the same as everyone else. But when I believed that he was the one who sabotaged our project, my abhorrence for him grew. I took out my revenge by completely redesigning his house with my technology and forcing him into the death trap of riddles. Of course, the Batman rescued him. The vigilante's quick thinking and his ability to solve my puzzles led me to realize that I had at last found a worthy opponent.
But I didn't always live this way. Even now, I haven't always liked what I've become. And I have a riddle for you.
What does it feel like, to be the man now known only as the Riddler?
Does anyone know?
Do you know, Julie?
I was unhappy at home. Through high school I spent less and less time there, seeking for excitement elsewhere. My fascination with puzzles led to being intrigued by other things, such as alarm systems and safes. I taught myself how to disarm the security systems and crack safes. Money and jewels were my rewards. All the same, I hadn't been trying to become rich. I was seeking for the thrill of the catch. There was a part of me that wanted to do differently, a part that knew I should stop stealing, but I couldn't resist the impulses to try to solve any puzzle that came my way. That was the part of me that later became the Riddler.
Our project was my last chance to escape him. For some time I had wanted to try. I had grown to fear the part of me that could not abstain from working puzzles. It had become almost an obsession with me, for reasons even now I can't fully explain. And I had already been arrested once, when one of my excursions in stealing went awry. I was in prison for a year and a half before I was released. I hated prison. I despised everything about it--the rigorous work schedule, the other inmates, the guards. . . . I wanted nothing more than to be free of it all. And when at last I was, I wanted to put all of it behind me. Not wanting my name to be associated with that of the criminal I had been, I took on the alias of Edward Nashton when I joined the university.
But I told you my real name that night, Julie--the night when you were angry because I kicked Gorman out when he kept pestering me. I tried to explain myself to you. I told you what I had never told anyone before, even about my past criminal record. I thought you understood me. I trusted you!
Instead you completely twisted everything I said. Was that the night when you decided to sabotage our project? You ruined me! After the failed and deadly demonstration, the board was divided on whether they believed I had tampered with my own discs or that I was a crackpot who never had known what he was doing in the first place. In any case, I was withdrawn from the university. I had nothing left. Nothing except my anger and bitterness towards Gorman.
It was the Batman who first suggested to me that Gorman had not been responsible for what had happened. And I hated how much sense it made. I had never even considered you, Julie. I couldn't believe you would turn against everything we had worked for . . . that you would turn against me. But then I went to where you were hard at work. And when you looked me in the eyes, mocking me and freely admitting your betrayal, I lost control of myself. In that moment, I wanted nothing more than to hurt you in return, to make you understand what you had done to me.
Once again, I was stopped. In retrospect, maybe I'm grateful to the Batman for that. Even with how far I've fallen, could I have really lived with myself if I had come out of my frenzy and found that I had killed you?
You were the only person I ever loved.
Maybe somewhere, in the depths of my heart, I still do. That's a riddle even I can't answer. I haven't forgiven you for what you did. Maybe I never will.
But they do say that there's a fine line between love and hate.
To answer my own riddle . . . what does it feel like, to be the Riddler? There isn't any easy answer. It's satisfying at times. But it's lonely at others. The only person who cared about me was my uncle, who was murdered three years ago. I know now I never did have anyone else who cared . . . unless my mother did, but she's long ago dead. Deep down, I've always felt empty inside. While I knew you, I didn't have those feelings. Finding out the truth, it's far worse than before I ever met you, or after I was thrown out of the university. I'd always had you, the one spark of goodness in my life. But I never actually had you at all.
You were lying through your teeth the day I had to go. I'd asked you if you thought I was guilty. You looked down, as if you were feeling guilt yourself, and then said No. I told you I didn't want to give up what we had, even though I was leaving. You said it wouldn't be wise, and that trouble would be made if anyone saw us together. But then you added that maybe someday, when our situations were different, we could get back together. I believed you completely. It never crossed my mind that maybe you were only saying it to satisfy me, to give me some false hope so that I would not keep coming around. Were you laughing at me because I didn't think you were responsible for what happened to me? Did you ever appreciate how much I cared about you?
And now . . . where am I? Ever since my quest for my revenge was brought to a halt, it's been dark. Sometimes I hear snippets of voices around me; mostly doctors and nurses. They're monitoring my pulse rate, my brain activity. . . . I'm unconscious, even comatose.
I can't wake up.
Why does that seem familiar? It reminds me of something, and oddly enough, it makes me think of baseball bats. . . .
I never was good at physical fights. I'm agile and I can dodge attacks, but in actual hand-to-hand combat I'm almost entirely useless. People always took advantage of that. I was never well-liked in school because I kept to myself and read books or did puzzles. I guess I was the stereotypical "nerd", a favorite target of bullies. But all the times I was tripped and the many black eyes I received never deterred me. I kept right on doing what I wanted to, studying hard and receiving the best grades in my classes.
My father never had been very educated. He was jealous every time he saw my report cards. Had I really done everything they said? he asked me. Was I sure I never cheated? I often grew defensive at his insults. I wasn't like him; I never would be! He had often cheated just to get by, and he had dropped out of high school at sixteen. But even though he hadn't wanted education then, he later loathed his son being smarter than him. He was always coming over with that baseball bat and sometimes a ball, taunting me and ruining my projects.
But I didn't have to take that from him. One time I grabbed the baseball, throwing it back at him after he had attacked my puzzles. He had no right to do that, I told him. I had been succeeding because I had an interest in it, because I wanted to make more of myself than he apparently had. And if I preferred doing puzzles in my free time, I had every right.
And then . . . then . . .
I haven't thought about this in years. I haven't been able to remember what happened next, and I told myself it wasn't important.
There's some flash of memory now . . . my father is coming at me with the bat. . . . I'm trying to dodge out of the way. He blocks my path. He lunges forward, swiping the bat in my direction. I duck under it and it hits my back. I go down, but he . . . he keeps striking me. He curses me, calling me a cheater. I scream I'm not . . . I'm not. . . .
Everything fades to black.
My father beat me! I remember it now; I regained consciousness in the hospital, saying over and over that I was not. . . . The nurse asked me what I had meant. I couldn't tell her; I didn't remember then. The shock of what had happened had caused me to block all knowledge of the experience. When the nurse realized that, she didn't tell me, either.
I'd always loved riddles, but it was at that point that I developed such a compulsion for them. I was telling my father the truth that day, even though I hadn't been believed. Riddles always have the truth deeply ingrained within them, even if it isn't obvious at first. To have people decipher the riddles, I was having them prove what I was saying again and again. I was making them assert that I was telling the truth.
Am I really sick? Is this obsession with riddles proof of it? I haven't been able to stop. Even when I shouldn't, I keep throwing riddles into my words. And in the past I was always stealing. I saw something complicated and I couldn't stop myself from trying to undo it. What if I belong in Arkham? What if that's where I'll need to stay for the rest of my life?
Or . . .
By facing these truths, can I come to terms with my fears . . . and possibly control them? Maybe to even overcome them?
Can I ever be something more than the Riddler? Or is he so much a part of me by now that it would be impossible to separate us? Where do I end and where does the Riddler begin? Who is Edward Nygma? Do I know any more?
I wish I could talk these things over with you, Julie. I wish I could tell you what I'm just discovering about myself. But you wouldn't care, would you? Did you ever care about me at all? Even if you did, it doesn't matter anymore. Success was more important to you than anything else. Maybe you believed I was the same way because I told you about the idiots holding me back. Maybe you thought that someday I'd decide you were holding me back, too.
Even though I never would have. . . .
But in a way, you were holding me back, without you yourself even trying. My feelings for you clouded my judgement all through these years. I've been a fool.
I don't want to be stuck in that rut anymore.
I want to put the past behind me, if I can. I want to find myself.
"Can you hear me?"
The voice has penetrated my consciousness. I don't recognize it, and yet it sounds like you used to, when you spoke kindly to me. But no--I don't want to think about you.
I'm able to force my eyes open. A nurse with short blond curls is looking down at me, holding a clipboard in her hands. The machines are beeping around me. Somehow I've woken up.
But I can't speak. I feel like I'm going to go right back to sleep. I have to fight to stay conscious, even for a few minutes. I want to ask where I am. Is it a normal hospital, a prison hospital, or the infirmary at Arkham? I'm inclined to believe it's the latter. Am I crazy? They would have to think I am, if they sent me to the asylum. I don't even know myself. I want to believe I'm sane. I always thought I was, but don't they say that if you're crazy you never think you are?
. . . And if you wonder whether you're crazy, it's supposed to mean you aren't. . . .
"That's some bump you have," the nurse is continuing. "You've been in a coma for three days."
Three days. . . . Just that short amount of time? It's felt like an eon.
"Can you tell me your name?"
My name. . . .
I struggle to speak, to force the air through my vocal cords. My throat is dry and parched.
"My name," I answer at last, "is Edward Nygma."