The hard fabric felt good under Walter's hands. The pure white skin was stained with bruises and blood. The only thing his anger could manifest into were fists, flying, graceful anger fueled fists. It felt good to release.
His form was getting better. The first time he walked into the gym, the leader laughed at the scrawny man. They told him to just leave, that no man that small and unimpressive should contain that much strength. They were wrong. The mistake was that he was still angry. He had let that man, the shadow of himself that came from nowhere, hurt his friend. He was too late to save Daniel from a beating that landed him in the hospital, but he wasn't late enough to miss the end of it. He wasn't late enough to get thrown across the counter and a knife nearly stuck in his heart.
His hands stained the punching bag. The normally white skin was red and purple and blue. Even some sickly yellows stained the skin from old bruises.. For an instant he forgot to breathe. He forgot to think. For an instant he was only revenge and anger and rage. He wanted to kill, to maim.
The only thing separating him from the man he was in his dreams. The man that beat men to death savagely and almost did the same to his best friend, was the thought of how much he had to loose. The large room echoed with the pained grunts and thuds of each hit to the bag. The ring in the middle was empty and the sky outside was grey. It must have been a bad day to go boxing for the others because no one was there, but he and the gym leader in the office across the gym. For Walter. It was just another day.
A timid hand touched his shoulder. He barely registered it, barely registered anything at all really. The fingers ran up his shoulder seductively. The muscles around his neck tensed as they always did when someone touched him. But It was just Blair. She smiled at him when he looked toward her. His fists stopped pounding the bag and dropped to his sides. Her warm smile brought him back from himself and the dark black and white mentality that enslaved him. Once again he was Walter.
"Blair, what are you doing here?
He stopped to look at his badly beaten hands. Flexing them. he looked back up to his wife's concerned face. The stinging pain barely registered in his clouded mind. The blue matting underneath his feet was cold. The whole gym was cold. His wife's pallor was white. Whiter than normal for the small blonde woman.
"why do you do this to yourself Walter? Why do you beat your fists until they bleed?"
Because he thought I cant think of anything else. When I am like this I forget.
His mind once again wondered from reality to the memories that were not his but haunted him one and the same.
The pitch black room had a scent to it. The sent of death, the feeling of horror seeped from the walls, almost like a slaughter house. but this slaughter house was for people. Any lesser man would have ran from the horror that the building had held. Some part of him would have been uneasy if it hadn't died with that little girl. Walter was gone. But his need for justice and his blind rage remained. That was all that kept him from being an empty shell. A homeless vagabond that gets food from a dumpster and sympathy from the hypocritical.
Walters blue eyes flashed as he came back to the present. Nothing seemed to change. Yes he was different, yes he was filled with the same blind need for justice as his memorial counterpart. But the difference was in the eyes of his wife. The little girl that hadn't died and instead lived and breathed and belonged to him and him alone.
She ran her hands through his short red hair. He shivered with adrenaline and the feeling of her hands smoothing out the spikes in his thick orange hair. The wounds on his hands had already stopped bleeding. After his work out at the gym he needed to get out. To forget and become Walter once again.
Daniel sat in his hospital bed. The white room was full of noise and chatter. His wife sat at his bedside chatting with his mother and father in law. Sally's smile was probably the brightest thing in the room. The couple were the poster children of nosy in laws. Asking about one thing or another. Telling them how this and that and the other was supposed to be done and frankly Daniel was probably the only one that could stand Sally and Eddie sat on the couch in the corner. Probably discussing the next get together or bothering Laurie about when they were going to have any grandchildren.
Well, Sally was. Eddie seemed to be as bored as Daniel felt. The big man may have dwarfed his smaller wife but she seemed to be the biggest thing in the room. The couple was old. Anyone could tell that. But they did love each other. Sally's piercing voice pulled Daniel out of his thoughts.
"so Danny hunny. When will you and Laurie bless our family with a child?" her wrinkled eyes pierced his.
"MOM! I told you not to ask him. It will happen when it happens"
Laurie was tired of the questions. All the time with the when will you. What are you doing? from her mother.
I think that Laurie's last desperate rebellion was to marry me!
That of course doesn't mean she didn't love him. And it didn't mean he didn't love her. Of course if he hadn't married her he would probably still be in his house, pantless and drinking beer on the couch. Life was still great. But if only he could get up from this stupid bed…if only he could move. That man. That freak. His best friend in another life. The other life that he and his friends were experiencing, he was still out there. Beating people senseless and probably to death. Daniel scanned the obituaries everyday. There were more and more deaths with his calling card. The masked crusader turned angel of death. but Maybe…just maybe Daniel wasn't the only one to know who he really was? Was he?
"Eddie. Sally. Have you been…remembering things….things that didn't happen. Like that you were a superhero?"
Great. I have just confessed to my insanity. They will demand a divorce and ha-ha. I'm talking to myself again. ha
"what do you mean dear. Is this about the new superhero craze? Like that horseman person or the one with the freaky mask?"
Sally was obviously avoiding the question. Each one of them looked startled though. Laughing to himself. Chuckling really. he pursued the question.
He knew he hit the jackpot. "Really Sally. If I had been joking would I have asked? When have you ever heard me joke about this?"
Eddie wasn't afraid though. Well perhaps a little afraid of his wife but not enough to not pipe up.
"so Sally and I weren't the only ones. I thought we were going senile in our old age."
That was Eddie, always a comedian. Always the first to crack a joke…horrible jokes sometimes. Like his counterpart. Like all our counterparts. And the three or four of us that may still be left alive. Not including Eddie of course. This wasn't a joke though. He could tell.
The conversation ended after that. What was said was probably the only thing that would be said on that. Each one of them knew about the things that happened in that other life. No one wanted to mention it. None of it. The only sound left was the beeping of the machines. And the squeaking of the door.
Blair and Walter walked in. not even asking, because frankly they didn't need to. Always friends to he and Laurie.
Eddie stood up to meet them. Sally and Laurie stayed politely on the couch and chair respectively. Walter looked good. Better than he did. It must have been silly thinking about how Walter looked when he was the one in the hospital.
"how are you doing pipsqueak?"
Eddie was always the first for hospitality. As well. However rude. The two men shook hands.
"not to bad Mr. Blake, hello Mrs. Blake….Laurie."
The two women had gotten up to meet with Blair. Neither of them said a word to Walter. Not like Daniel expected any different.
Eddie coughed uncomfortably.
"sorry Walt, you know my wife and daughter."
"indeed I do Mr. Blake"
From the hospital bed Dan spoke.
"hey uh. Guys…can I have a moment alone with Walter. I need to speak with him about some things.
The group moved out of the room so that Daniel and Walter were alone. And instantly Walter changed.
"I'm sorry Daniel…."
The smaller man got smaller somehow. He moved toward the old chair sitting by Daniel's bed.
"what do you have to be sorry for? You didn't do anything?"
Walters face fell. The already pallid skin drained even more. Leaving only a few splotches of orange to give him any color at all.
"I have some weird connection with this man. I should have been there sooner. I should have known what he was going to do."
"don't beat yourself up for it man"
In zero to sixty he was furious. At what Daniel didn't know.
"I'm sharing my mind with a madman. The only thing I can do is beat myself up. It is all I have been doing. Have you seen what I look like. Under here."
He motioned toward his black cardigan. The sleeves were pulled down to conceal his hands. He rolled up the sleeves to reveal his arms. Bruises lined his hands and forearms, almost so many that it was hard to tell that Walter was very heavily freckled. He almost looked like a smurf. scabs lined his knuckles. Walter seemed to be more of a mess than originally thought. Walters booted feet moved along the hardwood floors of the old: new York hospital.
"everyday…..everyday I live in fear. You remember…..Think hard. What I remember when the other me changed from what he was….me. To what he is now. A MONSTER. A monster that kills and hurts and cries on the inside for the loss of the little girl that he couldn't save."
Tears fell down his face. Daniel had never seen another man cry. Certainly not his best friend. Walter was always stoic. Always ready to crack a joke however dry it would be. His whole body shook, with rage or despair, Daniel couldn't tell. He just felt it. Daniel just knew.
Blair sat and listened at the heavy hardwood door to Daniels hospital room. It wasn't like she had to listen hard. Walters deep voice could be heard through it. But because it was so deep and the wood so thick the group could only hear the tones to it. Soon the voices quit. The men were quiet once more.
Blair huddled down to the bottom of the door. Laurie huddled next to her to hear her own husbands conversation.
"what do you think they are talking about?"
Laurie turned toward Blair. Blair had sat down with her back toward the door. Another person lost in thought.
" do you know about the thing that has been happening to him? Apparently he remembers this life where superheroes were real!"
Laughing she continued on. "apparently you were a silk spectre two. Or something like that. Wore a suit of latex and kicked the crap out of bad guys. Along with Daniel. He was night owl two."
Blair laughed at the absurdity of her best friend running around in latex. She turned towards Laurie. Laurie was laughing too
"I know. I cant believe we did it either. Can you believe. we were superheroes! Dan looked like a fake ass batman and there was this guy. Captain
carnage. He would try to get beaten up because the sick fuck got off on it. Until Walter threw him down an elevator shaft. He either died or was in so much pain for the rest of his life that he never needed to go after us again!"
"Wow. …wait what? Walter threw a guy down an elevator shaft?"
Laughter between the two women increased.
"you didn't know. Walter was a crazy one. Beat men up, saved the ladies. Hated and when I say hated I mean HATED being touched. Ha… he was like a freaking killer nun that guy. Never liked him really. He was bearable until that girl was killed. Then he went batshit. Killed people and all that."
Laurie was laughing so hard that she started coughing. Blair on the other had got serious.
"what do you mean killed people?'
"oh….well uh. That little girl fucked him up good. That Roche girl he swore up and down to save. Then he found out some sick fuck butchered her and fed her to the dogs."
Laurie got serious. Very much so. Probably couldn't think about what to tell her. How could you tell your best friend that in another life she was butchered and caused her husband to go insane.
"you mean" her expression changed. "that he has been fighting himself and turning into this guy….all this time? Why don't I remember this if you guys do? And what do you mean Roche girl?"
"Blair. I'm sorry. We figure that that girl must have been….well you can figure out the rest"
The two women sat in silence for about an hour. each one with their own thoughts on the subject. But ultimately coming to the same conclusion about Walter. If they wanted him to stay him. And not succumb to this madman that shared his mind. They would have to get help for him. Somehow.