On a cold, quiet night, the moon shines down on a lonely house in suburban Gotham. It is surrounded by a score of identical houses, filled with identical people, leading identical lives. But they are unimportant. Only in this one is anything meaningful occurring. The people in this house have been chosen to be relieved of their long, meaningless suffering. Their liberator smiles peacefully as he thrusts his hand forward.
There's nothing like feeling your knife slide into someone. Nothing like the ecstasy of watching the blood flow. Nothing like hearing their muffled pain. Holding them as they shiver and shake. Humming into their ears as they go. He only hopes they can see it as he does. He is setting them free.
Later he smiles to himself as he stares up at his work. Even the most artless could see the terrifying beauty in this. Blood falls soothingly to the floor, tiny sounds tapping against his consciousness. He holds out two fingers and waits patiently as they are drenched, then walks over to the wall.
Later still he walks out, leaving the door open. He disappears into the night's cold, loving embrace.
In the morning the house is filled with police. The victims still sway and dance in the air. Flashes from cameras light up the rooms, footfalls sound on the floors, someone runs outside and vomits. Time passes, a gruff voice booms out a command and the dancers are taken down.
In the evening they are all gone. The house is dark and foreboding, cordoned off by layers of tape telling people to stay away. A thick stillness hangs in the air. The house is as quiet as its owners.
That night two men meet on a dark rooftop. One has a cigarette in his mouth, the smoke and his graying hair play in the breeze. The other stands in the shadows, his black costume blending into the darkness around him.
"Double homicide last night. Elderly couple. Nothing missing from the house but photographs. No apparent reason. No obvious suspect."
He pulls an envelope out of his gray overcoat.
"Stab wounds. Weapon not found on scene. Victims bound and nailed together. Hung from the ceiling."
The dark figure leafs through the pictures and the report.
"Plenty of fingerprints, nothing that matches our database. Neighbors saw nothing. A friend found them this morning. No sign of forced entry, but an unlocked window on the second floor allowed a way in. Footprints in the flowerbed below."
The man in the shadows holds out a picture. It shows a wall with a solitary word written on it in red: Free
The old man takes one last drag of his cigarette, then throws it to the ground.
"You tell me."
There's nothing like the feeling of your knife biting into your skin. Nothing like the ecstasy of the cut. Nothing like watching the blood flow. Nothing like imagining the perfect freedom that could be yours if you only cut a little deeper.
He strokes his older scars. They hold meaning, even if he had not found the beauty back then. He never wants to forget.
He looks out into the dark, dark night and shivers. He can hardly wait.