From the private journals of Amelia Sanders:
15 years ago, on May 26th 2009 the hero known as Batman saved my life.
And fifteen years ago, on May 26th 2009; I know he died to do so.
They never said it. Never tried to. Never wanted to probably.
They tried to cover it up. To throw his death behind a veil by giving further appearances of the Batman within the criminal underworld.
But they couldn't lie to me for long. I got older. I learned.
And most importantly. I remember.
I remember the blood, his weakening condition, the labored breathing, the swaying footsteps.
The look in Wonder Woman's eyes when I said he was still inside.
I remember it all as if it happened yesterday. Maybe as if it happened mere moments ago.
That's how I know. That's how I didn't believe what the rest of the world did.
That the Batman that patrolled Gotham City after May 26th 2009 was the same man that had patrolled it for nearly a decade before.
I searched for him when I came of age. Dug up old records, newspaper articles. I sniffed out every scrap of evidence I could find.
Because I wanted to find him. I wanted to find the man that saved my life. The real one. Not the figurative image, or the one that took his place for a short while after that.
And now...after the better part of a decade worth of research and gathering evidence...
I think I may have.
The stone beneath her feet gave way with a crack, and her body lurched forward, smacking her bodily against the stone in front of her with a scrape before she found herself another footing, fingers grasping at the jagged edges of the rock as the nylon rope tied firmly to her harness was pulled taut from above.
" Melia!" Came the startled cry, followed shortly by its echo. "Melia!!! Are you alright."
The young woman leaned back on the rock, enough to peer upwards at the speck above that stood out amidst the stark white facade laid out behind him by the overpassing cloud, revealing an aged bearded face.
"I'm alright Dan!" She said with a small smile before she tugged on the rope. "Give me some more slack. It was nothing but some loose gravel." She said, peering down into the abyss below with her helmet light.
There was nothing, 42 feet down and she still couldn't even glance at the bottom.
"You sure it was just some loose gravel and not the start of a cave in? Because I swear girl if you get buried in a cave in I'll bring a construction crew up here to dig you out just to beat you to death myself." The man yelled
Amelia felt the smile still tugging at her lips. "You'd better bring the construction crew down here if there's a cave in smart ass!" She said in a relatively normal tone of voice, the echoes carrying themselves up towards the older male.
Daniel grunted "Bring the damn crew down here if I feel like it." He muttered, mostly to himself.
He rechecked the knot tied to the trucks bumper, checked the belay device, never once allowing both hands to leave the rope, keeping them firmly tightened around the twisted strands of nylon.
He looked off to the side, to the ruined remains of the old, Wayne Mannor, destroyed back in 2016, by a ruptured Gas line. Took out half the house, and destabilized the foundations. Nothing could be built here ever again for fear the whole cliff face would fall away into the churning sea below.
Infact...what the hell were they doing here anyway?
How does he always get dragged into these wild goose chases with her?
She rappelled further and further down, the rope passing through the hooks firmly nailed into the rock face.
The darkness of this cave creped up around her, forming up over her waist, her stomach, breasts and neck, consuming her until even the helmet flashlight seemed dimmer in the bleakness.
The passage grew narrower, to the point that she had to could feel the opposite wall scrape against her back if she pushed too far away during her rappel.
The dampness moistened the rope and cooled her flesh, warmth held in by the thick material of her hiking coat. It would make climbing back up more dangerous but she continued on, descending further and further into the darkness.
The ground rose up to her feet with the abruptness of freezing water on a feverish man. She stumbled, as though the weight of her own body were unfamiliar to her legs, hand falling onto the wall to recover her equilibrium.
She glanced around the darkened cave, finding nothing but black in front of her eyes, a darkness so thick, even with the helmet flashlight, she could scarcely see beyond her own hand.
Gotham City's become a wasteland of despotism and misery since he died.
The streets aren't even streets anymore. They're gutters. And the gutters are filled with nothing but the filth of the city and the blood of their victims. The skyscrapers aren't skyscrapers either. They're merely cages of concrete, steel and glass, holding the vultures that look down in order to pick off the spoils for their own gain.
For a time. The Batman that came after tried to keep up. To maintain the tight reigns the one before him had kept.
But he couldn't, not for long. And after a year and a half, two at best...he was gone.
After him, came various other members of the Justice League. I'd never bothered to learn their names. They all came down like UN peace corp. They hoped to stave off the tide of criminals, and the re-emerging underworld that was now spreading through the streets of Gotham like a fungus.
They all failed, and even when the greatest of them, Superman, had momentarily taken this city under his wing, he too, failed to drive them back.
No...there was only one person who could ever hold this city's criminals at bay. One person that could strike fear into their eyes with the very mention of his name, or the mere glimpse of that signal in the sky.
And he was dead...dead...because of me...
The radio in my belt hissed with a crackle of life, static obscuring the words, though they were still discernible.
"Me-ia * static * -elia. You alright? Have you reached the bottom?"
"Yea Dan I'm here." She said pulling out the radio as she unhooked her helmet, and began unstrapping the various ropes and harnesses from her person.
They clattered noisily to the floor, clings and clangs that echoed through the cave. Amelia reached down, pulling away the flashlight from the side of her helmet and pointing it deep into the darkness.
She took a tentative step forward, then another, and another, a slow, cautious gait as she made her way through the cavernous hall.
The edges of the walls seemed to close in around her, their jagged edges jutting out like teeth. She maneuvered between them, attempting to find some inkling, some hint, that this was the place she'd been searching for all along.
But there was nothing. Nothing but the damp, cold dark that lingered in this place like a festering acid.
She sighed, another dead end, and she'd been so sure this time...so sure...
A creature screeched over her head the flapping of its wings so close to her head startled her, prying a shocked scream from her throat
Its eyes glowed a ruby red, hissing and snarling in front of her face, fangs glinting off the flickering illumination of her flashlight.
She flailed her arms, backing away with a frantic steps. She hadn't even realized, that somewhere along the way she'd hit the head of the light with one of the rocks, shattering the bulb, and letting the piece of machinery die in her hands.
The creature still continue to flap and flare its wings angrily. Its little claws scratched at her arms and drove her back.
Soon, only the ball of her foot came in contact with the floor, startled, the traction of her shoe gave way, her leg dropping down into blackened abyss.
She tried to reach out, grasp at something, but her fingers met nothing but loose gravel, she slid, down, down until finally the screeching ruby eyed devil above her drove her away fully.
This city's afraid of its own shadows today. People, good people, scarcely exit their homes unless its to work, or to buy themselves food.
The schools lay nearly empty, and the local graduation statistics indicate that less than 20% graduate high school...less than that even make it to college.
On the way here. We would see kids in the street, bottles in paper bags in hand. A constant shifting in their posture as they grasped at something beneath their coats that weighed too much for their young muscles to be straining with.
Others were even worse, eyes bloodshot and red from drug use, sniffing as they scratched away at irritated markings over calloused veins, searching for their next fix.
Those that were not a part of this corrupt mass of bodies and disgust, were none the less, affected by it. It was a sad sight, watching these people as they scurried about the streets like scared rats, looking to escape a sinking ship.
But a sinking ship is surrounded by water...so there is no escape...for anyone.
This city has lost everything. Its dignity, its pride, its self respect, its self worth...its courage. And its something you can see in the eyes of its people, as they go about their days with an almost, detached sense of uncaring for their own human condition.
It needs its hope back...
The cold earth rose up to meet her back and the base of her neck, as she tumbled into the depths of this earthy prison.
The stalagmite teeth of the cave glinted, even with the dim light, razor edges passing mere centimeters past her face.
They slashed and cut at her body, slicing through skin, flesh, muscle and fabric. The injuries went unregistered with the fear driven adrenaline that coursed through her veins.
She met the ground with a bounce, the recoil of her legs bodily launching her across the open space.
Her cheek scraped against the floor with a wince, small little hairline cuts breaking the skin on her cheek.
She pushed herself up off the floor, rubbing the irritated skin with the rough back of her hand.
As she moved her arm she hissed, just now registering a cut on her left bicep, and another on the side of her right knee.
She pushed herself to a sitting position, gingerly testing her limbs to make sure none of the tendons had been cut, thats the last thing she needed. She wouldn't be able to feel the full extent of the damage until the adrenaline wore off.
The radio crackled to life again, and Amelia heard Dan's worried voice frantically calling into the receiver.
She moved to answer, reaching down to her belt.
But her hands fell limp onto the small device, eyes finally adjusting to the blackness around her.
She blinked, once, twice, three times. Slowly, making sure her sight wasn't deceiving her.
She stood slowly, wincing as her leg muscles gave way a bit, before they compensated for the injury.
She approached tentatively, slowly, as if a hurried pace would force this all to vanish from her sight, fade into nothing but mists, shadow and dream, before being swallowed by the endless black around her.
She reached out when she was closer, fingers, ghosting over the buttons and computer keys before she raised her eyes to look over the cracked remains of what must have been a monitor once.
She looked to its side, where stones buried half of the keys,a nd had crushed several delicate instruments beneath their weight
The radio at her hip crackled to life again, making her jump with a yell.
When she moved, she must have pressed something, because with a flickering of electrical sparks, the monitor bloomed to life, its screen white and blank in its damaged state
Suddenly, all around her, lights flickered on in the cave, systematically, as though timed. Most, died away in mere moments, but others remained, allowing her sight.
To the far end of this hollowed cavity of stone she saw now the broken remains of some giant penny. Closer, but beyond reach due to a shattered catwalk, what appeared to have been a chemical lab station at one point.
The room was obscured, and veiled, even with the new illumination. And for a moment, she wondered if infact she had stumbled into the broken basement of some collector rather than...well...who she thought she may find here...she had expected to see...some kind of solid eviden-
With an echoing -Clang- rising up from the abyss, her eyes snapped downwards to the void. And a strangled gasp escaped her throat as far below her still, the shattered remnants of what could only have been the Batmobile became visible to her.
It's once sleek edges and ridges were rust ridden, broken, and fiberglass was scattered across the floor in a decadent heap that mocked this vehicles former glory.
But Amelia found she could not care. A smile tugged at her lips, as it would a child that had just awoken on Christmas day to find every toy on the list beneath the brightly lit tree.
She felt like jumping for joy, to say the least. And most likely would have done so if she hadn't had the mind to remember that one of her legs was injured.
Her celebration was broken however. Another clang, this one closer and louder, yet...whispered somehow, reached her ears through the gloom of the cave.
Amelia became aware of a bridge walkway to her far right, the lights along its edges turning on in synchronization from her end, until it reached the other side.
Through the shadowed veil she saw the silhouette of what appeared to be some kind of capsule.
Her heart leaped to her throat, a sudden trepidation gripping the pit of her stomach.
Her breath felt thin and shallow in her lungs, as if it was no longer enough to sustain her.
She swallowed thickly, focusing on placing one foot in front of the other, and pushing down this illogical fear that had risen up within her.
The walkway seemed narrow to her, and with every step she felt as though she would fall over its edge. A precipice of her own making in which she would succumb to whatever fates had been devised for her.
But she pushed on, her eyes fixed on her goal as her pulse quickened. Hammering against her chest as her own blood rushed through her ears, isolating her to the world around her.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity to her, she stood before the capsule, finding only a shield of reflective glass between herself, and what she sought.
She could see herself in the reflection,her normally straight chestnut hair disheveled, cuts and scrapes marring her tanned skin as green eyes stared straight back at her.
She pushed aside the barrier with a resonating clang as its edge hit the end of the track.
The lights behind her died away. Whatever remaining auxiliary power that had given them momentary life had finally been drained away into nothingness, finally, leaving an empty husk...as was apparently intended...
She didn't notice this however, her eyes remained fixated on the treasure within the capsule. She could still see it, even with the blackness in this cave now with the lights gone, it still stood out, blending seamlessly into the shadows but resonating outwards to her.
She reached for it and grasped the cowl firmly with both hands.
Suddenly, there was a rush of movement all around her, and the shadows came alive with screeching and hissing. The flapping of wings echoed through the cave like thunderclaps and she drew back, frightened.
The moving blackness shifted and wailed as if agitated, angry.
Her head whipped around to and fro, finding thousands of little red eyes glaring at her from their places in the shadows, swirling around her like a tornado. Her hair was caught in the wind generated by their flapping wings, the jacket she wore, torn open in the fall was caught in the shifting air currents as well making it dance around her waist.
She should feel fear. She should feel terror at these beasts...trapped here in the dark, with all of them watching her as though she were prey, and they were the predators.
But she didn't, these creatures shrieking and clawing...it wasn't frightening, it did not make her hackles rise, or the instinct to flee prevail over all others.
No...these creatures...their..voices...they did not feel frightening
As they circled her, scratched her, screeched,hissed, bit, surrounded, clawed at her...they...embraced her.
Her eyes turned back to the cowl, who's lenses glowed with their own life in the darkness. She reached out once again. And as her fingers brushed against it, in the most tentative of touches she closed her eyes, and felt the darkness around her coil and shift once again.
A caress to her ear sent a shiver down her spine and she stiffened as a voice, hissing and filled with wrath, but no malice, trailed along the shell of her ear, scratching the outer edges of her senses, but ringing louder and more true than anything else she'd ever been aware of in her life...
Its words were...
From the private journals of Amelia Sanders:
15 years ago, on May 26th 2009 the hero known as Batman saved my life.
And fifteen years ago. On May 26th 2009; I know he died to do so...
And now...Fifteen years later, on August 17th 2024...I've found a way to honor that sacrifice...
I've found a way...to give Gotham back the hope it's lost.
I used a rather "unconventional" method to write this chapter, at least as far as we see in Fanfiction. I wanted to give a history of Gotham after batman died, but I didnt want Amelia thinking about this as she goes down. It seemed too out of place in my eyes when she would be focussing on "is this the place? is this not the place? more than reminiscing. Getting caught up in the moment as most young people would do. So I used the "Journal" approach. Something inspired by, admittedly Allan Moore's "Rorshacks Journal" approach in "The Watchmen." graphic novel.
This chapter came to me very easilly. So much so that finishing it was something I was able to do in a single night. This may not be what most people expected but its something I feel works and brings things to full circle. So, for better or worse this is now the official end of Knightfall hope you all enjoyed the trip as much as I enjoyed writing it. My thanks to everyone.