Monday, January 14, 2008

The Eagle and the Butterfly

The butterfly flew its erratic route, changing directions many times, constantly, as if lost, as if wandering through the air. Finally, it landed on one of the lowest branches of the bush. Next to it, a bee crawled around on a flower, almost systematically, paying little attention to its surroundings.

The butterfly looked up. On a branch a short distance above, a bird perched, its head cocked at a strange angle, looking, listening, as attentive to the surroundings as the bee was to the flower.

Much, much higher, the butterfly saw something, something so high that it was barely visible. A mere speck in the sky, if the butterfly had not already known what it was, the butterfly would have been unable to identify it.

"When we fly," the butterfly began, "with great difficulty we reach the next bush, but sometimes the wind blows us back to where we started." The bee paused from its work, and the bird's head cocked at a new angle, as both listened to their colleague. "Often times, we crash somewhere unexpected," the butterfly added.

The butterfly looked up at the eagle, soaring high overhead, riding the wind, masterfully and effortlessly. "But tell me," the butterfly continued, "what does he think he's up to?"

The dark figure emerged from the shadows. Tall, with a black, flowing cape, the figure looked impressive. Indeed, he looked intimidating, even though that was not his intent.

"Sorry to interrupt your workout, Master Bruce," began the gentlemanly-looking figure who had just approached him. "There is some news."

The figure toweled his face gently, focusing his attention on the new arrival.

"Gotham Police has issued warrants for the arrest of several journalists and reporters. It seems their coverage of the situation with the Mujahideen has violated some of Gotham's ordinances. They are being accused of hate speech."

"Linda?" the figure inquired.

"So far, her name has not come up, perhaps because her work gets so little attention, but it is reasonable to assume she will soon make the list." Alfred looked at the figure.

Finishing with his towel, the tall, majestic figure in the flowing cape moved, as if supernaturally, toward the exit of the large, dark room they were in. Passing through the doorway, his workout now over, he flowed toward the computer console and gave some quick verbal instructions. Barely audible to Alfred, the instructions had the desired effect, as several multi-function displays came on, showing live television news broadcasts and computer links to Gotham's news services.

Following him, Alfred paused to look past the figure at the computer console, aware of the third figure approaching silently from behind him.

"What's happening?" Sasha asked, her question directed at no one in particular.

"So," the master began, "you dreamed you were an eagle."

Bruce Wayne nodded. "Can you tell me what the dream means?"

"Yes," the master answered.

Vasilissa looked at the clock. It was two in the morning, and she was tired. The night had been shorter than many, but in some ways it had been longer. She had no more clients scheduled for the evening, and she was glad. She wanted some time to herself.

She thought about the news she had heard, news that was breaking, even now, in the middle of the night, in the middle of Gotham's winter.

Gotham was not as cold as her country was, but for Vasilissa, Gotham was in many ways colder, lacking much of the warmth that made her own country home, a home to which there could never be any return.

She shuddered as she looked out the window of the upscale apartment building where she lived. She stepped out onto the balcony, to survey the cold, dark city around her.

More than ever, Gotham seemed cold and lonely.

"A journey beyond the western mountains and a trip to the local market both take you out of your house," the master explained, "but one cannot be compared with the other."

The master paused, as he thought about what The Ancient had told him.

"To murder a man and to destroy an entire village are both crimes, but, as terrible as the one is, it pales in significance when compared to the other."

The master looked at Bruce Wayne.

Stepping back inside, she picked up the doll. It had been her protector in childhood, and on the one day she left it behind, this began. Now, the doll was magically with her again –- as predicted by the mysterious figure that had appeared before her at the Halloween party many weeks back; an omniscient, supernatural figure who identified himself only with one mysterious word.

She thought of the ten million dollar price on the figure's head. The thought had crossed her mind to lure him into a trap and collect the reward, but she felt that would be wrong. Beyond that, she had a strange sense that this figure would somehow rescue her from the life she was now forced to lead –- as if this figure would somehow take her home, to a place where the freezing winters had more humanity, more comfort. Holding her doll close to her, she looked back out the window, wondering where the figure was at this very moment. A giant, powerful, ghostly figure, she knew he roamed Gotham City at will; and she knew, no one would ever collect that reward.

"The butterfly and the eagle both fly, but the flight of one cannot be compared to the flight of the other."

Wayne paused, looking back at the master.

"The Ancient has told me," the master said. "It is a great honor, Mr. Wayne. I bow before you." The master bowed low, and Wayne felt uncomfortable.

"It is I who should bow before you. You have taught me so much."

"Yes, but you have been chosen." The master smiled. "You have touched the sun."

She ran her hand to the hole in her doll, and poked her finger inside. There it was, the device he had told her she would soon receive, and, sure enough, a few days after he had said that, her doll showed up, and shortly thereafter, she found the device inside.

Vasilissa took the device out and looked at it. By pressing one button on the device, she could summon the mysterious figure. She had thought about it often. She had fantasized about summoning him to trap him for the reward; she had fantasized about summoning him for other purposes, as well, as she dreamed of him setting her free.

Tonight, it was no fantasy. She would summon him to tell him the news.

Gazing out into the darkness, she knew....

Gotham's last, best hope was this tall, dark, mysterious figure, dressed in flowing black.

Gotham's last, best hope was Batman.

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