The Mad Hatter vs . a new hat?
by Michael Condon
Don't return to Gotham? But there are so many beautiful things there. The Wayne Museum has an exhibition of recently found Tenniel woodcuts, the Frack Collection has the desk Edgar Allen Poe wrote the Raven on, answer to my namesake's riddle, I, I can't leave that for a clown like the Riddler to pick up, not to mention all of the hats in the Perzwanger Museum of Fashion. But then again, even a genius like myself has to be careful of angering the Joker.
Besides there are also many beautiful things in the sticks. Things that people have been wise enough to keep far away from me. And far from the Batman, no one will be able to stop me. Beaver hats from the eighteenth century, first editions of every book Lewis Carroll wrote, Charlemagne's crown, all mine. Better still, my research has lead to knowledge of a hat that will allow me to take everything.
My first priority was rescuing my accomplice, my friend, my confidant, my dear from durance vile. That people would lock up, like an animal, one of the finest minds I ever met. My blood boils. He's there for the fools to gape and gibber at. He, trotted out for the amusement of the screeching masses, like a conquered philosopher king thrown to the lions in imperial Rome. I'm sorry, let me catch my breath.
Naturally he was the star attraction, but no one understood. They couldn't see past his hairy visage and unfortunate speech impediment. It's a wonder that I didn't kill or maim Haley or any of his underlings, but I do try to avoid violence whenever possible, even when provoked. At least I think I do. The bad thing about living backwards is that its easier to remember one's future than past. Besides, he requested I show mercy, as he had always harbored a secret desire to join the circus, and I was willing to grant him this indulgence out of respect for our friendship and to spur him on to greater loyalty. Moreover, no, matter how cultured, one should take care not to antagonize a chimpanzee.
I realized that acquiring my prize would take will, there are so many other pretty things out there, planning, and power. It was relatively simple to acquire the plastic explosives, mountaineering gear and guns, and although difficult, I found that acquiring the most cherished possession of a billionaire, Steve Dayton's Mento helmet, as proof that only the Batman can stop me. Once I would have been content with the might afforded by this wonder, so similar, but, modesty demands I admit this, vastly superior, to many of my own creations.
The trip to Salem was without incident. Simple mind control allowed me to take a car, driver, and extra passenger with ease.
I was driven to an ancient stone tower on the outskirts of Salem. It was sixty feet high and twenty-five feet on a side. It resembled the tower from a medieval castle, but was too far away from Salem or any of the roads leading to it to have had any defensive use. Even if it were, the tower contained no doors, windows or other means of egress for defenders, despite decades of searching by townspeople and archeologists alike. The walls though made of brick proved impervious to the jackhammers and dynamite of researchers of the 30's and after the reported sorcerer Dr. Fate took up residence there expeditions were discontinued.
The tower appears on the earliest maps of the region with no hint of its builder. Its bricks have proved as impervious to weathering over the centuries as to demolition tools. Locals say a mad governor from the 17th century had it secretly built as a prison for the ghosts of those executed for witchcraft. Historians, noting the tower's appearance in the folklore of many of the region's surviving Native American tribes regard it as evidence of an attempt at European settlement that predated Leif Erickson's journey to this continent. My own research has shown that the tower is one of the few remains, similar to sites in Iraq, Egypt, Wales and Indonesia, of a human society that died out half a million years ago.
Many believe Dr. Fate is a sorcerer. However, the title of Dr. Fate has been held by many over the decades including at least one woman. The only constant is the hat, the glorious golden helm worn by each incarnation of the hero. With it I could command the awesome powers of Dr. Fate. Powers held in check only by the limited intellects of the previous owners.
I have been called mad. My supposed madness is merely the gray soul's interpretation of my genius and eye for detail. I spent seven hours searching every square inch of the tower's surface for a means of entrance. My attempts failed. Score one for the gray souls. The plastic explosives met with indifference from both the matter and the master of the tower. The Mento helmet, a device that could shatter mountains, had as little effect as a garden hose.
The tower was the realest thing I had ever encountered. Compared to its impassive walls everything else I ever experienced were like wisps of smoke. It exerted a pull on the surrounding area, as though a black hole was embedded within its walls. My thoughts spiraled out of my mind and into the heart of the structure. This helped me, as I kept a firm grip on my plans while the thousands of ideas, thoughts and memories that constantly plague me wafted away.
Did I say that I abhor violence? I did? Well that's the trouble with living backwards, its easier to remember one's future than past. But sometimes violence is the only way to get what one wants. It wasn't my fault. If Dr. Fate had been reasonable and left a door, or had a less sturdy home, or even had responded to my efforts to make contact, I, I. No Matter. I went back to the car to fetch my machine gun and guest.
I never thought to ask her name. I imagine it is Brianna or Brittany or one of the other trendy names people have been naming girls over the last five years. I placed the gun to her head and loudly announced both vocally and psychically that I would kill her unless Dr. Fate appeared before me.
A well muscled figured in a blue bodysuit with golden boots, gloves, cape, amulet and helmet walked out of the tower as though it were a hologram from a point ten feet above my head and stood there as though he were on solid ground.
"Who dares summon Dr. Fate." He said in a rumbling bass appropriate for continental drift that came both from him and from the depths of my mind and soul. My grip on little Brittany slacked and she disappeared in a flash of color no mortal eye was meant to see.
I almost faltered, but I had come too far to give up. I let loose with the machine gun and Mento helmet, but Fate proved to be as inviolate as his tower. "Prepare to be awp", he said in that same voice, although the awp was noticeably higher and only registered in my ears. My ally was following the plan and tried to pry the helm off Fate. The bully flicked him off as easily as I might a bug, although he was nice enough to keep the dear from being smashed flat by using an ankh shaped force field to break his fall.
He turned his attention back to me. He landed, waved his hand with a rudely dismissive gesture and my gun and helmet floated away. "You have done despicable acts, but your behavior stems from a disorder within not from a defect of your soul. Once I would have been harsher, but my current host requires that I heal you."
Oh dear, I didn't like where this was going.
"Look at me."
I tried to look away, but he was the most fascinating thing I had ever seen. My gaze first fell upon the Helm of Nabu, a piece of head gear that is its own platonic ideal in physical form, but then my gaze pulled away from the whole helm towards the magnificent eyeslits, then to the eyes, the eyes of a gray soul, with something lurking behind them, then to the pupils and fell forever into the blackness until I came to twin silver ankhs at the center. I could feel fingers running around over my mind, rearranging my neurons, altering my brain chemistry, ordering some thoughts while breaking the chains connecting others. I was graying. I was becoming pale, weak Jervis. He was killing me. My desires shrank and a new set of priorities grew. My thoughts slowed and my creativity dried to dust. I saw myself as a funny looking little man who had wasted great talents. I felt the need to conform.
Luckily, I found the strength to rebel. For the first time in decades I prayed. Not to the Master Architect my father prayed to, but to a more congenial god. His name was whispered and screamed in Arkham. The Riddler supposedly met him once and ran off. The Joker, in one of his more improbable boasts claimed to have served as his right hand lunatic. I only half believed in him, but even that little bit of faith managed to keep me safe. Lord Neron answered my plea, and delivered me from my enemy, although it would have been nice to have gotten the helm as well. He didn't even ask for anything in return, he said that saving me was reward enough for him. I thanked him for saving my soul; I still don't know why those words came to my lips. He just laughed, and and and ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.
Subject # 34609 Tetch, Jervis.
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This story is © 2000 by Michael Condon
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