Batman: Apocalypse

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Caseycs21

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#1  Edited By Caseycs21

Hi Everyone,

I'm new to the forum but have been a huge Batman fan for over three decades. A few years ago, my creative juices were flowing so I took to my computer and created the beginnings of a story set in the Bat-verse. I was reading through this story a few days ago and realized that I'm still quite fond of it. I've included some of it below. If you're so inclined, read through it. I'd love any feedback you may have. Due to posting limitations, I'm only able to include a small percentage of it, so if people are interested, I can keep adding to it in subsequent posts.

Take care!

Casey

Apocalypse

I

Like everything that goes awry, things were normal until they weren’t. The hustle and bustle of daily life throughout Gotham, throughout the USA, throughout all of Earth had moved forward, untouched, beautiful in its continuity: merely another day into the face of assumed eternity. Algae and moss and bacteria clung to the rims of unscrubbed toilets; the undersides of submersed boats; atop the corrugated faces of rocks extending from the surface of trickling streams, slowly growing, expanding, green and fuzzy and lumpy. Ants and bees and birds darted about with single-minded focus and intent, constructing their homes and colonies and systems of order. Humans, too, did their thing, often with similar intent, walking and talking and drinking and fighting and loving and killing. From the bums in the allies, clutching bottles of cheap liquor and beer to their chests as if the contents within the brown bags were rare treasures; to the baggy-eyed teachers in the schools, working tirelessly with the distracted youth; to the blues in their police cars, casting wary stares at the men in sagging pants on dilapidated street corners; to the elite in their mansions and fancy cars and floating casinos: it seemed reality as they all knew it would go on into perpetuity.

A derelict moved down a dimly lit alley between two shoddy apartment complexes. He had tattoos on his bald head and track marks running the length of each of his arms. He shouted and hollered, making a ruckus. A room above lit up, a window opened, and a bottle came soaring downward, narrowly missing the man. “Shut up!” cried someone from a different apartment.

“All good things!” exclaimed the derelict. He was staring at the moon’s pallid and cratered face. “They all come to an end! Do you hear me? They all come to an end!”

“Lunatic,” someone from above grumbled.

He was right, though—the derelict. All good things do come to an end.

It started with a groan of sorts. Faint to quiet to loud. Almost as if a great, behemoth creature from a monster flick was shrieking at the camera. People covered their ears, looked at each other, tried to ask, “What is that?” but they couldn’t hear anything other than that awful roar. And then the tremor started. Of course they couldn’t hear it, but they felt it, from all directions. It came up from the ground beneath them, down from the emptiness above them, from their sides, rattling them with such a ferocity that it hurt. Their teeth clattered together, pitchers of water and beer at bars and restaurants splashed and spilled and then entirely toppled over, plates and glasses and precious China crashed out of cabinets in homes.

And then there was the impact. It hit so hard that the bridges that connected Gotham to the mainland swayed, like an unsteady Jenga tower. Cars were abruptly tossed askew, landing on their sides, pressed against buildings and guard rails, some thrust entirely upside down, others twisted against one another, their steel bodies crumpled like tin foil. The water about the island came frothing over the land, white, like suds in a bath. People were driven in all directions all at once, sent soaring through the air, landing and rolling endlessly, their bodies twisted and broken.

And then, save for alarms sounding over and over, there was silence. No sound at all. And then, after a time, the chirping of a bird, the barking of a dog, the braying of an animal somewhere far off. Then the voices of the humans: disoriented, discombobulated, afraid. Sirens, then: the police, the ambulance, the fire department.

“I told you!” exclaimed the derelict from within the shadowed recesses of a dank alleyway. “It all comes to an end! All good things!”

But as he blathered on and on, his form suddenly went from shadowed to blinding white, as if a light shined upon massive and pristine diamond encompassed him. The light came down on them all, from all directions, blinding and brilliant and beautiful, a perfect white, so hot that it hurt. It encompassed Gotham, the USA, the entire world—and then the Earth somehow opened wide. The plates beneath the Earth’s crust split apart and then spiraled upward, exploding through streets and buildings and valleys, thrusting upward toward the heavens, hundreds of yards. Great mounds of rubble and ancient stone and gouts of lava spiraled upward as the tectonic plates radically shifted position: that from below was now above. A great rainbow of red lava and yellow stone and black oil and brown dirt, spraying everywhere, made a great and beautiful and vehement cascade. And then everything seemed to slide downward, into great stretches of black abyss where tectonic plates had once supported life above. Entire miles of surface spiraled below: apartment complexes and shopping malls, highways and housing subdivisions, a spread of mountains and a series of schools, parking garages and skyscrapers. The aforementioned bridges broke apart, like a mass of connected Legos bashed against a wall, and gargantuan swells of ocean water churned upward and outward, covering all of Gotham, frothing into the obsidian abyss, leaving a trail of choral and seaweed and floundering fish in its wake.

And then the blinding light was gone and it was replaced by a blackness so resolute and dense that it, too, was blinding. It was as if a black sheet had been placed over the Earth, allowing no light in. And then nothing. A long period of nothingness. It was as if a great creator had pressed the Pause button on some intergalactic remote control. And it stayed this way for a long time. Save for some alarms and the froth of the troubled ocean and the periodic cracking and splintering of further tectonic plates and that strange braying noise in the distance, there was no sound at all.

And then it all seemed to start again, as if the Pause button had been pressed for a second time on that intergalactic remote control by the omnipotent creator. It started with a shrieking wind. It cut through the billowing smoke and stench of burning oil—hot and acrid, thick with heat and vitriol, more poisonous than life-giving—but the wind, nonetheless. And, soon after, through the dense blackness that shrouded everything, came a gentle lightening of hues above: daylight beginning to work away at the plumed haze enveloping the Earth.

Perhaps it was this light that drew them forth. Like timid plants, exposed to sunlight for the first time, the survivors of this grandiose catastrophe—what few of them there were—emerged from beneath magnificent piles of twisted steel and dead flesh and blocks of unearthed soil to face the day again. They moved through great plumes of inky blackness—black shadows moving through black smoke—until these shadows found one another, their faces ebony with suit save for the swaths their running tears left behind. The shadows embraced one another, touched one another. Something about this human contact—each knowing that he or she was not the only survivor of whatever it was that had happened—brought forth great, racking cries, deep and profound and guttural, both distressed and joyed at once.

A barrel chested, potbellied, and bearded man led them. He had a harsh face, but his eyes were soft. He lit torches and pounded on a slab of steel against a car fender, using it as a makeshift gong, its call reverberating outward across Gotham’s broken remnants. They came to him, more survivors. Some limped; others ran; others moved in stealth, quiet and hesitant—but they all came to him. They heard the banging and saw the twinkling flames from a distance and made their way to the big man’s encampment until there was fifty, a hundred, a hundred and fifty of them. He motioned them to sit, so they did so, atop cluttered stones and cinder blocks and smashed motors and car doors. Between two torches, he sat on his haunches and told them his name was Robert and that he was from Arkansas. “I was visiting family,” he said. He had a smoker’s voice. “My sister. Her girls. Her girls’ boys. I’d put it off for too long. Hadn’t seen my sister’s girls in years. I’d be surprised if their boys even remembered my name.” He paused, frowned as if he were pained, and then continued, “But enough of the past. The present is the concern.”

He led them from the encampment through the ruins of what had once been a great, gothic city. They sought out water, food, shelter, weapons. Sometimes they would stop at those great, gaping potholes, and stare into them, wordlessly, as if doing so would somehow bring the city back to them. Once, a survivor, a black-haired woman named Rosalva, while staring into a chasm, had exclaimed, “Look! That angle! Through the smoke: the top of a building!” But she had been wrong. It had merely been a billow of smoke, curling upward at an awkward angle, looking somewhat like the squared perimeter of a manmade structure. “No, Mama,” her little daughter, Yesenia, had said. “It’s just smoke. More smoke.”

“Illusion,” whispered a little Indian man named Pranash. “It’s all we’re left with.”

They tossed stones into these chasms and shined flashlights, but they heard nothing and saw only further depths.

They moved about this dead world for days, where the ocean had spilled over into the streets, where skyscrapers had literally been swallowed, regurgitated, spread out across the crumpled land in millions of broken pieces. A mile of cracked highway otherwise untouched, followed by great chasms all about it; a series of homes, on their sides, one even upside down, as if a giant child had tossed it like a toy just to see how it would land. Cell phone service was down, so they delved into homes and businesses, trying landline after landline, to no avail. Electrical outlets, like most everything else, were dead. Radios, powered by batteries, blare static—not even the faint and broken echo of a human voice or musical instrument. Someone had a laptop, but there was no internet connection.

Pranash had been gathering a bundle of odds and ends as they had been moving, putting them in a backpack he had found. At one point, he spoke with Arkansas and then called out to the group, explaining that he had been a computer technician for one company or another, and that he had collected the means to operate a makeshift computer that could connect to the internet—if there was anything to connect to. The group waited, hope written across their faces, as Pranash climbed a tower that had collapsed into the side of a broken motel. At its precipice, he removed belongings from his backpack: a little monitor and keyboard, some wires, aluminum foil, tape, a control board of some sort, a few diodes, other devices. He fiddled with these for some time before packing the belongings back into the backpack and making his way back down the tower.

“Well?” Arkansas asked.

“No,” said Pranash. His face was demure. “No internet. At least for a twenty-mile radius. Give or take.”

“But, surely,” said an old woman with curly white hair and spectacles, “surely there must be…must be someone else. Somewhere.”

“Maybe,” said Arkansas. “Maybe not. It doesn’t much help us now either way. We need food enough for all of us. To sustain us. Not just for a day or two, but for a significant period of time. So that we can stop scavenging.”

“And water,” said Rosalva. She stared out across the ocean in the hazy distance. And then she looked over her little daughter’s face. “Drinking water.”

They continued on, to the bridges that connected Gotham to the mainland: Burnside, Robinson, Vincefinkle, and the rest, but they were all down. Even the elevation itself seemed to have shifted—the ocean waters were so much higher than they had been previously—or perhaps the land itself had dropped a few hundred feet. They walked to the edge of the bridge, where it suddenly broke off, and they stared out across those waters, where Robinson Bridge had once stood strong and proud, but they couldn’t see the mainland through the smoky haze. They shouted for help, they shouted for Batman, they shouted for God. An old man came to them, emerging from the haze, new to their group. “No one will come for you,” he told them. “No one will answer.”

“Why not?” asked another. “Are you saying there’s no one else?”

The old man’s head was bald and tattooed. He had track marks down his arms. “I’m saying that all good things come to an end,” the derelict said.

***

Arkansas led them to a motel that was on its side. Within, they happened upon a bathtub that, despite the overturning of the building, had somehow landed on its legs, and was still full of water. “Looks like somebody drew a bath….” started the old woman with spectacles.

“And never had a chance to take it,” finished Arkansas.

“This is a godsend,” said the old woman.

“Maybe,” said Arkansas. He moved to a window and stared out at the sea of people outside the motel. “But it won’t sustain us. Not for long, anyhow.” He saw the agitation in the crowd’s movements, the skittishness to their eyes. “I’m worried.”

“Why’s that?” asked the old woman.

“There’s too many of them,” he said. “Not enough goods. And they know this.”

He slid open a window and shouted to the grouped followers outside. “Freshwater! Line up! One at a time! There’s no need to fight! There’s plenty for everyone!” He grabbed a coffee mug that was spilled across a pile of clothes and mattress and television and handed it to the first to enter the room.

As the survivors filed in one at a time, Arkansas turned to Pranash and said, “Did you see the generator out there?”

Pranash nodded.

“And the big screen t.v. here?”

Pranash nodded again.

“There was some type of stage down the road a way,” said Arkansas. “Had a bunch of big spotlights.”

Pranash smiled.

“You get where I’m going with this?” asked Arkansas.

Pranash nodded.

***

Pranash led the group to the third story of what had formerly been a six story parking garage. Within a few hours, he had constructed a makeshift Bat Signal. He shined it in the demure heavens, anticipation and hope etched on his face.

The derelict with the tattoos on his head and the track marks down his arms came to Pranash. The derelict held a span of rebar in one hand. “The Bat, huh?” the derelict asked.

Pranash did not acknowledge him.

“He won’t come,” said the derelict.

Pranash fumbled with a wire at the base of his contraption and then stared again into the silhouette of the Bat projected into the dark heavens.

“If Batman were here,” said the derelict, “I’d put this,” he held the piece of rebar up a foot or two, “through his friggin’ skull.”

Pranash stared into the heavens until the derelict moved on his way.

***

It did not take long for the survivors in this dead world to turn on one another. Through flame and suit and frothing sea water, they grasped and groped for what supplies there were—water, namely, but food, too. The strong and able-bodied filled their bellies, while the weak floundered and begged and attempted to persuade. And then they moved for weapons—shards of steel fleshed off of the sides of skyscrapers, tire irons, screw drivers, warped roots of great trees that had been upended in the apocalypse, a door handle, the splintered leg of an old chair, a bar from a bench press. A few tried to talk sense into the many, but the many could no longer be reasoned with, as if compelled by an innate, bestial nature from ages ago. Oppressed and subjugated for so many generations, these inner monsters came tumbling outward: hands were now claws, teeth were now fangs, breath was now flame and suit. They went at one another, striking and cutting and biting and choking, standing over one another’s corpses and howling at the black skies of day with a nihilistic rage mixed with fear. They tossed one another into those chasms without end, into the frothing seas, into the sputtering and ravenous flames all about. The tattooed derelict completed a crude drawing of Batman’s cowl and countenance on butcher paper, affixed this drawing to a fashion of hay, holding it in place via twine, and then, like the pig’s head from The Lord of the Flies, forced it atop the sharpened end of a stake. He marched it through the blazing streets as those about him killed one another off, and he held their sacrifice high, exclaiming, “He may be here! He may be one of us! He may be the very man aside you! Death to the Batman!”

“Death to the Batman!” his minions repeated.

“Death to the Bat-devil!” the derelict screeched.

“Death to the Bat-devil!” his minions repeated, their words lost in the sound of flame and billowing smoke and water crashing in the distance.

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Caseycs21

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II

Madness. And then, suddenly, it was quiet again. A few weeks passed, with nary a sound save that of the wind; the crashing of the waves; the occasional groan and tremble as further land gave way, toppling deep into the chasms below. And that braying again. That damn braying.

Somewhere far off.

And then came a man. Short, squat, white, old. Well dressed: slacks, button down shirt, dress shoes, blazer. His bald head was cracked and peeling, save for a small patch of gray hair that stood on end, like little wires—like unkempt armpit hair. He wore big, thick eyeglasses, and walked as if he were labored, favoring one leg over another, sometimes grasping at a knee. He also clutched at a shoulder, as if he were holding it in place. He let go of it for a moment to wipe suit and sweat from his brow, grimaced, and then promptly grabbed at it again.

He spoke to himself, nonsensical things, something about dogs and a convention and grade school and poverty abroad and important people in big, black cars and a secret he’d kept from his wife. A great and illogical soliloquy that now spanned the length of a few weeks.

That braying in the distance again.

The old man shouted at the heavens, something about his shoes that were stolen back in middle school, something about a false diagnosis and an inept doctor, something about a top-down organization that wasn’t really acknowledging the voice of the people. And then he continued on, through the mass wreckage, through great mounds of charred metal and dirt that hadn’t been exposed to the light of day for eons.

He was a loner, a survivor from a far corner of Gotham, near the coast. He hadn’t encountered the kind eyes of Arkansas, though he had the heard gong-like noise reverberating outward as the big man had pounded the slab of steel into the car fender. The old man had not gone to the noise, though. He’d simply continued on, lost in his own mind, spouting drivel and garble the whole while.

He came to a downed stop sign. It was twisted about endlessly, like a chicken whose neck had been rung a dozen times too many. He kicked at it, said something about jet-engines and refunds and gas prices—and then he froze. Like a statue, like a photograph, like a mannequin, he remained motionless. And then, after what seemed to be an inordinate amount of time, he removed his eyeglasses. His blue eyes, which had been clouded in shock and delusion since what had happened had happened, suddenly cleared. “My God,” he whispered to himself. He breathed, removed a handkerchief from his slacks, cleaned his eyeglasses, and then affixed them before his eyes again. He looked all about himself, cautiously, as if he were in danger, and then he took a step forward, timidly, and then hesitated, stopping again.

Before him, stretching off into the hazed distance, were two columns of stakes, fairly parallel to one another. Atop each of these stakes was a human head. A few dozen, to be sure. It was not the severed flesh and the exposed spinal columns beneath the chins that had jarred him from his delusion, nor was it the dried and darkened blood that had stained the stakes and the soil beneath. It wasn’t the awful stench of rotting flesh or the sickening mob of flies that danced about the blood and exposed bones and throats. Rather, it was the cowls affixed to each of the victim’s heads. For each head was covered with the very cowl—the very mask—of the Batman himself. Dozens of Batmen, stretching off into the hazed horizon, beheaded and very dead.

The old man moved forward now, seemingly without fear, to the head nearest him. “Could it be?” he thought to himself. “Might this be the head of the Batman himself?”

He proceeded to the next head. “What about you?” he spoke aloud. “Are you him?” He moved to another head, and then another, and then another yet. He moved along, tearing at the cowls, looking at the faces, as if that would somehow help him determine whether or not the real Batman was one of the victims. An Asian man, an African American, a Caucasian and a Hispanic and an Indian and a Middle Eastern and so many more. Men and women, old and young. Fat and thin; strong jaws and weak; clean shaven and mustachioed and bearded; the rotted teeth of the homeless, the pristine teeth of the middle and upper class.

The old man sat for a time, not far from the twin columns of Bat-heads. He scratched at his mostly bald head and then tugged at his under chin. “At least they’re still connected to my neck,” he whispered. And then he laughed aloud.

He was seated atop a pile of bricks. It was uncomfortable, but it was better than being on his feet. He rubbed his injured shoulder and sighed, “What am I going to do?” Through a small exposure between a clump of bricks at his side, he spied a sliver of something green. He tossed a few bricks aside and reached within. An apple. He clutched it and brought it to his face. He smiled his toothy grin. “Thank goodness,” he whispered. He took a bite of the green apple as he stared out at the heads atop stakes that dotted the landscape before him.

That far off braying again. “Will you stop?” he whispered to himself.

Before long, the old man rose and continued on. He came upon a capsized van. It was locked, so he broke a window out with a stone and crawled in, and slept soon after. When he woke, he continued on, walking through the remnants of a bowling alley, moving on until he came to some type of outlet store. It looked like it had literally been ripped in half. One side was relatively intact, the other broken into innumerable pieces and strewn about haphazardly, great chunks of walls and shattered furniture and pots and pans and appliances disappearing into the haze. The old man moved into the open face of the outlet, kicking aside goods before him: a mound of picture frames and books, a video game console, a capsized rack of beach wear. He hefted aside a washing machine that blocked his path, grimacing against the pain in his knee and shoulder. He spotted what had once been an L-shaped desk—now only half of it remained, the other half shattered into the ground by a great, big metal beam that had come down from above. Atop the remnants of this desk was a cash register, untouched despite the violence of the cataclysm. The old man moved to the cash register, standing behind it, and smiled at the empty space before him, as if someone were there, and said, “Well, whaddaya know? It’s half-off day, so you’re in for a bargain. But…I’ll tell you what. Since it’s the end of times and all, I’ll give it to you for free. Oh, what’s that you say? You don’t want me to get in trouble from my boss? Oh, sweetie, don’t you worry about that. I’m pretty sure my boss is dead. In fact, I’m pretty sure they’re all dead.”

He touched a few buttons on the cash register. It surprisingly slid open. He grabbed at the cash, holding it in one hand. “I’d pay a thousand dollars for a glass of water right now,” he whispered to himself. He cursed almost silently and then tossed the green strips of paper aside.

“Water fountain,” he spoke aloud. “Must be one in here somewhere. Or a damn restroom even.”

He moved on, deeper into the outlet store. The further he delved, the darker the store became. He stared into this pit of darkness before him. The blackness within was thick and resolute, somehow reminding of that of a black hole. Something about it unnerved him. That prickly feeling on the back of his neck. Hairs on his arms standing on end. He glanced about himself and then moved a few feet and then knelt, grabbing at a jagged shard of glass with his free hand. He continued on. Deep, deeper yet, into this darkness—and then he saw something. The briefest of flickers. Again—there it was. A sudden flash of light—and then gone. Again. On. Off. On and off. Over and over and over, flickering so quickly that it was reminiscent of those strobe lights that night clubs often employ. Pallid, almost yellow light, like the unhealthy skin of one afflicted with jaundice. The flashes of light were thin, shaped like the perimeter of a rectangle, as if the light was emanating from the other side of a closed door.

He went to this light, moving slowly, unable to see much, his hand that clutched the slab of glass before him feeling outward to protect himself from running into objects. He felt something—a clothing rack—and then moved about it, continuing on toward that flickering light behind that closed door. He moved forward slowly, taking small steps, kicking aside wreckage and items spread out on the ground in his path. Closer now. Even closer. Now to the door. He let go of his shoulder and placed his palm against the door, feeling its surface, and then its handle. The flicker of light. On. Off. On and off.

He pushed down on the handle and opened the door.

Before him stretched a hallway. To one side was the mens’ restroom, to the other, the womens’. A bench extended from the wall on each side of the hallway. A light above flickered. On. Off. On and off.

The hallway was empty.

The old man sighed in relief. At the far end of the hallway, like a life vest thrown to a man adrift at sea, was a water fountain. He smiled his toothy grin. He dropped the shard of glass; shuffled to the fountain; pressed the button; and like booze to an alcoholic, beautiful, majestic water came spiraling upward. The old man, mouth wide, lapped at it like an animal, grunting and coughing and laughing and smiling.

The toilet in the mens’ restroom flushed.

The old man straightened, like a board, paralyzed with fear.

“Did I actually hear that?” he thought to himself.

And then came the whistling from within the mens’ restroom. A muffled, foreign tune.

The glass,” the old man thought. “Get that piece of glass.”

He started to move toward it, but then that bathroom door opened and a figure stepped out, directly in front of him. The figure was whistling still, and tugging at the zipper on his fly, and almost walked into the old man. The old man froze again, and then, shocked, mumbled, “I know…I know…I know,” but faltered, the words somehow lodged in his throat and mouth, inescapable.

The Joker about jumped out of his shoes in fright. “My God, man, you about scared the holy bejesus out of me!”

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Caseycs21

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If you guys want more, let me know. I have tons more, and I'm happy to share it!

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cbishop

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@caseycs21: Cool story. It's hard not to think of "Cataclysm" and "No Man's Land" when thinking of disaster in Gotham, but you paint the bleakness of it pretty well. Only critique I have is that you used the word "suit" instead of "soot." There was another misused word too, but I don't remember what it was, and I'm not going back to find it. :} Suggestion: if you post any more, think about posting each new chapter in its own new post. There's a better chance that readers will notice it and read it that way. Cheers.