Universe: butcherized DC Universe, takes place a few months after Wally took up the Flash mantle
Summary: A magician exploits Batman's lack of faith in his companion and turns Bruce into a more literal interpretation of his title. Meet, Bat!Batman
Warnings: General misunderstandings of the DC Universe, eventual homosexuality, awkward analogies, misspells, and terrible puns. Minor violence, minor sexuality, minor language, minor grasp on grammar
Miniaturized Vengeance: Part 1
One would think that after years of working side by side with a child might have trained Bruce in patience when it came to team-mate immaturity. Working with Dick's childhood friend the Flash (not Barry but the blonde's number one fan-boy, Wally West) demanded a whole other dimension of trust. Frankly, Bruce didn't think the rookie hero deserved it. Wally was silly. He told jokes at the wrong time and stopped for paparazzi shots. It irritated Bruce. No, it infuriated him. As Batman, Bruce took every pain not to be noticed. He didn't stop to chat with reporters and during his solo years he tended only to venture out at night. Batman's persona was important, as strong a weapon against crime as any Bat-hook or Bat-arrang. Wally flaunted the Flash for the world to see, to gawk and stare and be in amazement. Anyone who put more effort into the crowds than the villains wasn't worth Batman's time, let alone trust.
All things considered Bruce shouldn't have been so quick to judge. Had he accepted Wally's help as he did Clark's or even Diana's then perhaps he wouldn't have had to spend so much time as a hapless bat.
Blasts and bangs sizzled the air as their latest foe cast spell after spell at the pair. A nobody magician decided today would be his world début of villainy. "Pan Floote" was not a formidable enemy, though to his credit he picked a day when both Clark and Diana were off fighting crime in China. This left Bruce and Wally to apprehend the magician who's felonies included holding a subway hostage for money, enchanting benches and trashcans to do his bidding, endangerment of close to seventy civilians, and very poor taste in puns. Naturally Wally bantered on with Pan Floote like they were old chums.
Bruce learned long ago that talking with criminals tended to give them an ego.
"Flash, get these people out of here," Batman snarled as he lunged for Pan Floote. Most of the citizens were still in the now collapsing subway, their escape blocked by enchanted vending machines and an angry ATM. The patter of falling ceiling tiles did nothing to sooth the mass panic. People got ugly when they panicked and Bruce didn't want anyone trampled because of a dime-store villain. Batman wasn't very good at consulting crowds (which he favored most days) and Wally already proved himself to be a fan-favorite so he left Flash to calm the people. The redhead wasn't doing much in the way of help anyway, whirling around and laughing at Pan Floote like fighting crime was a game.
"Wait, Batman – I know how to fight him! Once he's down everything will go back to normal!" Wally bounced as he spoke, like a child who knew all the correct letters to his name. "We have to work together but it'll work; trust me."
Screw that, as Dick would have noted. Bruce was a bit more refined than his adopted son so he didn't say a word as he closed in on Pan Floote. Up-close the man's enormous nose looked like a conch shell and his mustache the escaping slug. He stank of fresh cut cinnamon and a tromp through the sewer system. Bruce struck with his right hook and Pan Floote cast a spell that tasted like the color indigo. He heard Wally's shout accompanied by popping noises like bubble wrap. His vision warped and bled a funny shimmering color like someone stabbed an inverted rainbow.
Bruce contemplated the very real possibility of being infected with some kind of fast acting psychoactive drug as he slid onto the floor and Pan Floote became a giant. The magician chortled like an old crow that thought far too highly of itself. The screech of the subway train was louder than a commercial airline.
"Don't worry, you'll be up to Bat soon enough, old boy," Pan Floote teased. Wally's voice was somewhere around him, loud as a kookaburra. Bruce couldn't discern it from other noises and yelped in panicked confusion. "Fret not Flash, I have confidence Batman will feel less batty once he sees you as a confident."
Crushing warmth enveloped him and despite how much Bruce struggled it didn't let go. Everything felt wonky and wrong, too loud and too bright. Straightjackets gave more leeway than he had now. Biased on his questionable reactions he might need one this time. Thoughts ripped away from his grasp like a too heavy toy in a claw-machine. White noise fuzzed over what was left of his mind. As his vision fizzled out he caught a glimpse of red spandex and an expression one makes when a gymnast lands wrong and the crowd doesn't know whether to laugh or cry. When he woke up Bruce was going to kill Wally.
Upon waking Bruce was in no condition to do any killing on any sort. His head throbbed like a shark bite; a whole part of his mind sheared away and bleeding at the loss. The rest of his body felt like it tangoed with a steam engine. Groaning, he blinked his eyes open and winced how bright the room was. Three images peered over him in the harsh light like living silhouettes. They were giants, Jack and the Beanstalk sized giants. He tried to get up to assess the situation and whatever damage had been done to his body but all he managed was kicking his feet. His very stubby feet. His very stubby feet that didn't have much feeling to them. Craning his neck to see if he had an amputation while out Bruce noted that his movement range was also off. A charcoal pelt obscured most of his view.
Couldn't be in the Justice League then; Bruce had never known J'onn to be a fan of fur blankets. Hair in general offended the Martian, evidence in his bald-headed, eyebrow-less physique.
"Batman's awake!" Wally shouted, allowing Bruce identify him as one of the giants. He sprang into view, face massive as a stadium. Bruce made a squeak of surprise he recognized at once. It only took so many trips to the Batcave for one to become accustomed to bat cries.
"I hate magic," Bruce admitted and glared at Wally's obnoxious face. The three giants startled and come closer to the bat-man as to peer at him.
"Batman, can you hear us?" That booming echo belonged to John Stewart. His voice was enough to make Bruce twitch in pain. Moments later J'onn's distinctive mental caress calmed his wild heartbeat. Embarrassment flooded their connection from Buce's end at needing assistance. Batman did not need soft touches to remain calm.
"The lights are too bright for him," J'onn whispered. It was the first sound that didn't make Bruce's ears ring. For that he was thankful. Light flicked off by Flash, Bruce could see both the room's occupants and that he was indeed at Justice HQ but not the medical center. He recognized the Spartan decorations to be his own. A too plush pillow to be one of his own lay under him and on top of what Bruce judged as a table. John and J'onn crouched down to his level, Wally reappearing from turning off the lights before he was missed.
"I'm a bat, aren't I?"
All three nodded with a grimace. At least he could talk. John's eyebrows shot up in amazement.
"How come he still sounds like himself," Wally wondered, lowering his voice as J'ohn had.
"Magic , I guess." Green Lantern replied with a shrug. They'd all seen stranger things done because of magic. Bruce huffed and wobbled about. Being on his back was absolutely uncomfortable. His hands felt like they were eons apart from where they normally were and tugged like they did when he was gliding. Unlike when he was gliding Bruce felt every motion of his leathery wings. Every part of his being felt off, his new instincts screamed at him to get to the nearest corner at the ceiling and hide out.
"Whoa! Calm down, Batman. We'll get you back to normal."
As Wally reached out to grab him Bruce's instincts screamed he was in danger. He lashed out as best he could with bites and claws and another squeak he refused to acknowledge. The actions were as instinctive to him as splaying hands out to catch himself when falling.
"Oww, ow, ow, oh wow! He bit me!" Wally reeled back with a cry.
Bruce winced again at the pitch of Wally's voice. He lunged off his table to escape and discovered after a moment of freefall that flying was much more difficult than gliding in his suit ever had been. Spongy emerald matter cushioned his fall. At least Green Lantern was still acting like a proper superhero.
"Keep your voice down," John hissed. "I'd bite you to if you came at me like that."
Bruce sent a scathing look at Wally but the speedster was too busy fretting over his wounds. A row of tiny teeth marks marred his index finger like it had been used as a pin cushion. Grim satisfaction trilled through Bruce that Wally was suffering at least a fraction of what he was going through. He worked to coordinate his hands and feet till he was lying on his belly staring up at the assembled Justice League.
"What if he has rabies?"
"Bats aren't inherently infected with rabies. He would have had to have them before being changed."
"Someone want to fill me in on what happened?" Bruce asked to steer the conversation back in the right direction. Despite how squeaky he'd been previously his conversational voice remained intact; at least to his own ears. Bruce hoped it was just as deep and dark to the others. He'd worked hard on perfecting 'the Batman voice'. Clearing his throat Bruce tried again in a louder pitch.
"Are we aware of Pan Floote's whereabouts?" If they had him captured Bruce would have been back to his original form. Wally sent the other League-ers a nervous look. Ever calm and demure J'onn answered him.
"Pan Floote was captured by Green Lantern and Hawkgirl. We are still questioning him but he is insistent that the spell cannot be reversed by his own magic."
"He said this type of spell is independent of its caster and even if he dies it won't be reversed. Like creating an electrical current; once it's out it's out," Lantern added with a sympathetic frown.
"Did he say anything more than that? About how to break the curse?"
The trio exchanged a look that made Bruce feel a pang of guilt. He turned to Wally who had an expression one made when accidentally swallowing the pop-top of a soda can.
"He said, 'Two twigs separated are easily broken but if bound together are strong. What is the binding between teamwork?'"
Bruce swallowed and understood their glances now. Even Wally could guess what glue kept a team together. Trust was the binding for teamwork. Trust was what kept them together. Trust was what Wally hadn't proved he deserved and yet Bruce was the bad guy. Did it kill to be cautious?
No, but it seemed to attract critique and metamorphosis magic.
"I know someone who may be able to help. Her name is Zatanna," Bruce noted after a pregnant pause.
"I'll take you there," Wally offered with a hopeful grin. Bruce's nervousness must have shown because both John and J'onn fixed him with a sharp scowl. Wally ignored them and leaned down to his level, Bruce's bite forgiven and forgotten.
"You can take care of yourself, I get that. I used to tell that to Barry all the time – I didn't need his help. We're a team, Bats. Even if we can make if on our own doesn't mean we have to."
Wally offered a palm and after a pause of hesitation long enough to declare an unresponsive patient clinically dead Bruce hobble his way onto the speedster's hand. He didn't like it but Bruce acknowledged he needed assistance in getting to Zatanna. He doubted the Justice League would help him if John's disappointed look was anything to go by.
Careful like he held a paper crane made of sugar crystals, Wally grasped Bruce in both hands. He made a cave with his hands like a child did when holding an anxious cricket. He felt safe and warm and hated every second of it. He realized now it was the same sensation he had when he first passed out. Knowing that Wally held him like this before didn't make it any better. He wiggled and poked his head out between Wally's fingers.
"So, where is this Zatanna?"
Traveling with Flash had always been a nerve wrecking experience for a man who liked to control everything from big issues on crime to what music he listened to on the radio. Dick could attest to Bruce's many neuroses. Traveling with Flash as a vulnerable animal the size of a chicken egg gifted with acute hearing and almost zero tolerance for light was an issue unto itself. Several times on their trek to Hollywood Bruce bit Wally's thumb in an established 'Slow the hell down!' Wally complied, stopped dead in the middle of an abandoned road, a forest recovering from winter, a desert, then under the Hollywood sign itself. Bruce reigned in his pulse and Wally waited patiently, elbow propped against a giant letter "H".
Hollywood lit up like fireflies on the tail end of twilight. Sounds and smells foreign to Bruce stood out clear as shown by highlighter. Smog overwhelmed the heady scent of sage brush but the air was crisp without hint of moisture. A chorus of crickets accompanied by a legion of buzzing gnats caught his attention. Echoes of city life reached all the way up here; though his ears were stubbornly attuned to a fluttering moth nearby. Bruce was thankful he didn't have an insectivore's appetite yet.
Fellow bats soared into the darkening sky and Bruce was thankful for Wally's secure hold on him. His skin crawled with the need to follow the flying colony. Stay with the others, it told him. Keep flying, be cautious of birds, follow the others and you'll get a meal. Bruce shook himself and reevaluated his thoughts on catching flies.
"Everything alright, Bats?" Wally prodded and Bruce wished he could form fists to punch that uppity redhead. No, he simmered to himself. Everything was not alright.
"Zatanna's shop should be along the strip," he said instead.
Wally nodded and they were off.
Amongst the razzel and dazzle of neon signs and costumed citizens Bruce summarized this was no place for bats. Sure, insects fluttered under every light (and they were as numerous as gum-stains on the sidewalk) but there was so much commotion Bruce thought he was in a warzone. Cars wheezed by, laughter and fragments of conversation combined like jet engines, and a tacky scent coated every inch of the city. Crowds pulsed like blood speeding to a wound in rush to see everything on the Hollywood map before the tour-bus took off. Wally stopped to gawk at a Captain Jack Sparrow and the Chinaman Theater. Citizens in turn cheered and stared openly at Flash. Cameras and cell phones took an array of photos and Bruce buried himself in Wally's palms before someone could say "Candid Camera!" Not since the "Bat-Baby" incident had he been so embarrassed.
"Flash – can I get your autograph?"
"Flash! Oh it's really Flash!"
"What's he doing in Hollywood?"
"Are we in danger?"
"Please Flash, sign my forehead!"
"Sign my boobs!"
Things were getting out of hand. This was precisely why Bruce preferred not to interact with citizens; it encouraged needless interference. Still protecting his tiny change, Wally held Bruce closer to his chest and away from the converging crowds. They massed like undead, droning the same mindless joy at seeing a superhero. One woman was bold enough to touch Wally's bicep. Bruce hissed without meaning so and jolted between Wally's palms. Even Arkham felt safer than this place.
"Hey, guys. Great energy. I have some things to do. See ya!"
They were gone before the crowd had a chance to complain and Bruce found himself staring at the wall of an alley way. Two dumpster and a startled vagabond sat across from them. Wally grinned and took off in another direction.
"What's the name of this shop?"
"Zatara's Splendor. It can only be accessed if you've been there before so I'll have to guide you."
Wally raised an eyebrow and grinned.
Tackling main-street again, Wally held Bruce at an angle where he could see but was still protected against his chest. Bruce would have scoffed but for once he agreed with Wally's strategy. He didn't want to be in the crowd anymore than a balloon in a cactus patch. Plus, this damn body scared easy but being close to Wally's heart calmed him enough for Bruce to think like a human being. He didn't focus too long on that notion. Hooked paws tickled Wally's hands as he moved to get a better look and the speedster fought not to laugh. Bruce made a short sound that might have been a growl had he not been quite so small but Wally got the gist of it. Hold still, you dolt.
Sandwiched between the Ripply's museum and a no-name building was a pawn shop prune-colored but sleek as obsidian. Not a soul paid any heed to the pimple-sized shop, not more than two door frames in with. Above the doorway was a brass name plate that stated, "Zatara's Splendor" in an ever-changing font; curvy one moment then gothic in another. Before one could identify the style it changed. Reminded Bruce a little too much of Wally, always on the move, never in one spot long enough to pin him down.
Bah! He was getting sentimental.
"Flash, stop. It's here."
"Where? I don't see it."
"Twenty paces forward, five right."
"Batman paces or Flash paces?"
Of all the insufferable, idiotic, naive superheroes he had to rely on Bruce got Wally. "Move before your fans find you."
A crowd already assembled around Wally and were closing in. Photos and questions were slingshot at Flash like he was the largest, unsupervised window pane a child could ever hope for.
"It's Flash! He's back!'
"Why do you have a bat, Flash?"
"Oooh! I don't know which one is cuter!"
Damn it, he was cute. Bruce knew Wally would never let him live that one down. Batman was not supposed to be cute. He was Gotham's Dark Knight, the whisper of a criminal's nightmare, vengeance flesh and blood. He had fuzzy ears and tiny, hand-shaped paws. He squeaked and twitched his nose with the alarming similarity to a rabbit.
Bruce ignored that he accepted Wally was cute without question.
"Which way, Bats?" Wally's voice croaked with panicked humor. The far recesses of Bruce's mind likened the sound to Marry Poppins chortling at the children in her care on a carousel race. Bastard.
"Keep going, I'll tell you when to stop."
Wally zipped around the crowd and halted when Bruce started flapping his wings – arms. Struggling from the speedster's grip Bruce glided (plummeted) to 'Zandar's Splendor'. Wally hopped to catch the bat but pinning down when he had an idea was like catching smoke with a butterfly net.
"Here! Walk forward. I'll try to open the door."
"Forward? There's nothing here, just a fence with an old magic-show poster. Old." The shop cloaked itself from Wally's eyes since he was a stranger to it. Bruce would bet good money that the poster he saw was a replica of Zatara's stage-show.
"This is it, just let me go. Trust me."
A beat skipped between the pair like the clash of cymbals. They stared at each other and Bruce's heart plummeted into his stomach. That "trust" word had been an unspoken taboo. Well, Bruce ripped off that Band-Aid and poured lemon juice all over it.
"Alright," Wally pulled Bruce away from his chest and held the bat out in front of him like a metal detector. In the absence of Wally's thunderous heartbeat Bruce felt cold and exposed. "I trust you."
Wasn't that a slap to the face? Bruce wanted to turn his jaw to Wally could smack the other side and make them even.
Leaping again from Wally's hands Bruce landed on the door handle. He wrapped his arms and legs around it and tried to pull the door open but Bruce knew that was a wasted effort before he began.
"I've got the door. Grab onto my . . . fur so we can open it." If Wally had been perplexed before he was baffled now. He looked downright mortified with confusion.
"Are you sure? It looks like you're just hangin' out on the fence. . . "
Gulping, Wally reached out and Bruce felt a pinch at his shoulder blades. It was gone in a moment. "Are you sure? You're kinda tiny and I don't wanna hurt you."
"I've been shot at, stabbed, electrocuted, tortured to withstand torture, and had lunatics literally mess with my mind. I can withstand this."
Wally murmured something about animal cruelty and pulled at Bruce's fur. The pinch returned in a light dusting that became a yank. He'd been on the rack during his pain training. Even had his skin skewed and hoisted up by hooks to learn how to deal with enduring pain. This was something like that but much, much worse with such an untrained body. Bruce swallowed another squeak and held onto the door handle. Nothing happened for a long moment and in the roar of Wally's fast approaching fans Bruce shouted for him to pull harder. With a hiss 'Zatara's Splendor' opened wide and Wally gasped. Bruce had been there before, seeing a dark doorway open from nothing to nowhere.
He let go of the door and was honestly happy to be back in Wally's hands were it was safe and warm. His back stung like his fur had been set on fire with lighter fluid.
"Go. The portal doesn't stay open long," Bruce said into Wally's palm. Closing his eyes Bruce smudged his flat nose into the darkest corner or Wally's hand with the full intention of sleeping. This body was not trained for so much excitement.
A warping feeling stretched over him like being ushered through a long hallway too small. The feeling was soon accompanied by a ringing and the eventual sensation of being spat out a vortex. As said before, Bruce hated magic.
Stepping into 'Zatara's Splendor' was a bit like traveling an Indian spice market. A delightful menagerie of over priced goods spilled out of cupboards and shelves. Bruce couldn't name the half of it. Barrels of brightly colored beads growled and hissed as they passed. A collection of butterfly wings minus the body-segments bobbed about amber-hued lamps. Wally stopped to gawk at a duel-headed rabbit as it scurried off the front desk and into a top hat.
"Oh Bruce, what have you done to yourself this time," a voice from the mystic chided. Zatanna in all her stage glory came into view from the shop's smoky vapors
"Bit of a mess around here," Bruce countered. Zatanna shook her head with laughter before turning to Wally.
"Have we met before?" he asked. Bruce squirmed to escape his grasp. It was one thing to be held when threatened by legions of fans. It was another to be coddled in front of an old friend. With the inspired grace of a tossed baseball mitt Bruce glided to the nearest table with relative success. His audience watched his progress without comment.
"Once or twice. The name's Zatanna."
"Flash." They shook hands and Wally grinned like a sunrise. "Batman's a bat." Subtlety had never been Wally's strong suit. Zatanna glanced at Bruce with laughter at her lips.
"We were wondering if there was anything you could do to change him back to normal." Wally kicked his feet as he spoke.
"I'm not convinced hanging from the rafters isn't normal for him. How 'bout it, Bruce?" For her jest Zatanna received a glare that could give frostbite to a fire-spirit. Wally laughed. "Yeesh, you're even more irritable than usual."
"Can you fix it or not?"
"No need to growl, I have to check out the spellwork first." She flicked her wrist and pulled red-rectangle glasses from her coat sleeve. Cooling her expression to a studious stare she peered over Bruce and the Dark Knight could empathies with lab-rats. Apples and spicy pomegranate perfume wafted from Zatanna. With his keen senses it was almost overpowering. Teetering with curiosity about the shop Wally zoomed around the room a few times before hovering by Zatanna's elbow. His face bounced in and out of obscured view.
Batman was a creature of the shadows; being scrutinized even in such a dusky shop made him nervous. Wally, with his intense radio-signal to the emotions of others offered a grin the size of the Hoover Dam. Bruce glared again and focused on Zatanna. Had his face not been coated in charcoal fur it might have been an embarrassing shade of pink.
This was ridiculous on too many accounts to fathom.
"Did the spell caster have a lisp? This is some pretty shoddy spellwork."
"New guy; name's Pan Floote."
Zatanna shook her head in a mournful grimace. "They just don't have names like they used to. May I?" She gestured for him to offer a paw. Biting back an instinctual hiss, Bruce allowed Zatanna to inspect his wings and fur. His claws skidded across the mahogany tabletop as he tried to balance. Suspicion then awe crossed Zatanna's face as she traced a distinct pattern over his chest.
Stopping, she stood straight and tapped her chin. "Maybe I'm wrong. Your features are natural for a bat aside from you retaining your eye color."
"My eyes are blue?"
"As a Louisiana soul-singer. At first I thought it was a bad metamorphosis spell since you can still talk – regular morph spells wouldn't allow for human speech. No, no, this is a curse!"
"What's the difference?" Wally caught her grim expression and didn't like it one bit.
"Curses are stronger than spells. There are few things that break them and can potentially last a person's entire life. Some curses even jump to relatives and anyone the inflicted comes in contact with; like a virus."
"But no one else is turning into bats. At least not yet." Wally worried a hand over his pointer finger where Bruce had bitten him.
"No, this curse is specially tailored to Bruce. Curses need to be told the who, where, when, and how of afflicting people or they fall through. That's one reason why they're so difficult to master. A vague command will often turn on the caster."
"How do you know all this stuff?" Genuine, child-like awe coated Wally's words that made it impossible to be annoyed with him. Bruce scoffed but wondered why it took him so long to notice such a characteristic didn't have to be a disadvantage. Zatanna was just as pleased by his question and held back a coo on her part.
"Oh, these are things you pick up when your father is the great Zatara. Each magician leaves a brand on his spells, part fingerprint part ingredient list. That's what guides the curse after the magician has cast it. They're hard to see unless you know what to look for and most times are just jumbles of words. Come here, you might be able to see them."
Both Zatanna and Wally leaned down again and she reached out for an uncooperative Bruce. After this was done he wanted a vacation – no a chain of mobsters to apprehend with a right hook to the jaw. They squinted at his chest and Bruce breathed through his nose as Zatanna spread his wings apart. The action felt a little too personal, even among friends.
"There's a marker just there – see it? It shimmers if you look at just the right angle." Wally stared and stared but couldn't make heads or tails of what Zatanna meant. He chalked it up to needing a critical eye for magic. "These words are very old, very powerful. They're centered on Bruce, not just a vague generalization that he happened to be hit with."
She peered closer when understanding lit her eyes. Bruce wanted nothing more than to go back to his cave.
"The spell mentions you, Flash. . . and . . . Oh."
Zatanna glared and crossed her arms. Next she reeled back from Bruce in a scoff of disappointment. Toward a panicking Wally she offered a pitting glance.
"Oh? What? What?" Wally asked and it crushed Bruce to hear his worried tone. "Is something wrong?"
"Yes, something is very wrong. Sorry boys, but I can't help you with this one."
"What do you mean you can't?" both Wally and Bruce yelped. Zatanna's glare switched between the two.
"I won't. This is one you have to do for yourselves. Now out of my shop."
"Zatanna, you owe me for Cairo."
Her scowl put every one of his to shame. "I am doing you a favor, you untrusting jerk."
Chanting an incantation the shop door flew open. Hissing air like he was being sucked into a vacuum cleaner yanked Bruce off his perch and to the door. Wally grabbed him out of midair and pulled Bruce back to his chest. Safe, warm, home. The spell changed and Wally skidded across the floor to the door without moving his feet. Nothing else in the room was altered.
"Batman spoke highly of you. I guess he was wrong," Wally shouted over his shoulder. Guilt was not something Bruce handled well. His survivor's guilt drove him to become Batman. Seeing Wally (who loved everyone and everything and made sure they knew it three times a day) angry and distrustful made Bruce awash with guild. He felt like a convicted criminal who popped one too meant balloons at a birthday party.
Bruce would do something to make it up to him. As soon as he got back to his normal form Bruce would make sure Wally's smile never disappeared.
"Come back when this is all over. You'll know that trust was not misplaced," Zatanna returned, looking firm and motherly all at once.
Another few inches and they were back in warping darkness.