Too Many Long Boxes!
   
   

End of Summer
 

"Write it!" said the little man in the blue costume as he hovered pensively above the writer's computer desk. "I want them to know! I want them all to know! I'm not just a joke!" The little man and his companion had been floating there for fifteen minutes now and the writer was beginning to have serious concerns about his sanity.

"Yeah, you really should just write the darn thing," said the second little man, adjusting his bowler hat. "The sooner we finish this, the sooner I can get out of this backwater dimension."

"Okay," stammered the writer.

"I'll do it. And I'll send it to the website like you wanted. As long as you promise to leave me alone."

"Sure," said the first little man,

"Whatever you want. Now what am I gonna call it?"

"Call it?!" screamed the second little man.

"Oh, for crying out loud."

"How about 'A Long Day's Journey Into Mite?' No, too pretentious. 'Mite in the City?' 'Of Mites and Men?' 'How the Mite-y Are Fallen?'"

"What about just 'A Mite's Tale?'" suggested the writer.

"Yeah, I like that," the first little man mused.

"Short and simple."

"Kinda like you," said the second little man.

"Shut up, Mxy. Okay, let's get this started."

A Mite's Tale

by Bat-Mite (as told to Eric Lindberg)

You know, all I ever wanted was to help. To make a difference in this world, be a hero. But somehow, things never quite went the way I planned.

Maybe some introductions are in order. To my friends and enemies alike, I am known as the Bat-Mite. Doesn't exactly strike terror into the criminal heart, I know, but it's an apt description. I come from another dimension, the Fourth and 1/2 Dimension to be precise. Back home we called it Miteworld. Everybody's my height there, you see. Not an inch over three feet. It was a pretty boring place, truth be told. See, we'd long ago mastered science and technology and made our world a utopia. But paradise can get dull pretty quickly.

That's when I discovered "the windows on the worlds." Miteworld's scientists had long been observing other dimensions-- "lower" planes of existence-- hoping to learn from them, the way you might learn from a sample on a microscope. But when I peered in on the Third Dimension, I didn't see a bunch of primitive life forms. I saw heroes.

Wonderful, noble, selfless, colorfully-clad heroes! With powers and abilities beyond mortal men (but laughably simple compared to the powers of we Mites), they strived to make their troubled little world a better place. And in my mind, the greatest among them was the one they called Batman. He had no powers at all, save for the physical and mental skills he had spent years trying to perfect. And to a being of near-infinite power like myself, that's quite an accomplishment. Right then and there, I knew I wanted to be like him, to join him in his crusade. It wasn't long after that Bat-Mite made his debut in the Third Dimension.

Oh, we had some fantastic adventures, Batman and me (now there's a title for a memoir if ever I heard one). Mad scientists, alien invaders, power-crazed super-villains, we fought them all! Batman and his partners weren't quite sure what to make of me at first but pretty soon I was a member of the family.

Then came that big crisis a few years ago. I'm not really sure what happened, though I'm told that's a frequent complaint when dealing with this thing. Suffice it to say, when I decided to bop back into the Third Dimension for a visit one day, everything was different. Reality itself seemed to have taken a powder. I tried to look up the old gang but things had really changed. Good ol' Robin, my second favorite, was all grown up and calling himself Nightwing. I had heard about this change a while back but somehow he seemed...well, darker. Everything did. Bat-Girl had gotten a similar once-over by existence. Seems Betty (she was spelling it "Bette" now. Y'know, like Bette Davis? The kid always was starstruck) had a new name and everything. Called herself Flamebird. Not a bad codename I guess but I seem to recall it belonging to someone else. (That Olsen kid from Metropolis, right?) I tracked down our beloved Bat-Hound, Ace, and he was nothing more than a normal dog. No mask or anything! Even poor Batwoman, rest her soul, was different. Oh sure, there had been a Kathy Kane but she had been killed years ago. And without a costume I might add. But none of this could have prepared me for the biggest shock of all.

Batman didn't remember me.

No one remembered me. It was as if I never existed. And all those adventures seemed like they were no more than a dream. Well, that was the last straw. I panicked. If the Third Dimension had really been completely and forever altered, did I even have a place in it anymore? Just like in the beginning when I had been nothing more than an observer at the "window," I stayed out of sight. Once or twice, I made my presence known. For a while, my only friend was a mental patient named Bob Overdog. The guy helped me save all of Miteworld in fact, though he got himself killed in the process. Poor fella. But deep down, I longed for the good old days. I wanted to fight at Batman's side.

Which brings us, in a roundabout way, to this current tale. After years of invisible assists and keeping to the shadows, I finally worked up the courage to confront my old friend and idol.

"What exactly are you supposed to be?"

It, uh, didn't go quite how I planned.

"I'm Bat-Mite! Your biggest admirer!" I said, hopefully. I glanced about nervously, taking in the changes that had been made to the Batcave over the years. There was an awkward silence and I could sense Batman trying to size me up.

"Hmm," he said after some time,

"I must have lost a lot of blood in that fight with Killer Croc tonight."

I was shocked.

"You think I'm a hallucination? No way, Caped Crusader, this is the real deal! Not a hoax, not a dream, not an imaginary story!"

"What?"

"Uh, just something I heard once. Listen, don't you remember me at all? We met a while ago in--"

"In Metropolis," he interjected.

"About six years ago or so. The Mxyzptlk affair. The imp had encountered an Arkham escapee by the name of Bob Overdog and created an illusion from the man's rantings. I remember it now. Why I'd be seeing it again now is beyond me."

"That's not what happened!" I shouted. "I'm real! That old Mxyfink doesn't have enough imagination to come up with something like me! Batman, don't you believe me?" This was too much. I had thought that incident with Mxyzptlk would be proof enough for him.

"I'm afraid I don't believe in pixies wearing Batman costumes," he said and an unpleasant scowl crossed his face.

"Don't believe in-- You're a member of the freakin' Justice League! You see the impossible on a monthly basis!"

"Nonetheless, a healthy dose of skepticism is important in this line of work. If one jumps to the paranormal or the supernatural explanation automatically, there are some mysteries that will never be solved. For instance, why am I arguing with a hallucination?"

"But I'm not a--". It was clear that this was going to get us nowhere. I would have to take a different approach. "Okay, Mr. World's Greatest Detective, let's be analytical. If someone like Mxyzptlk can exist, why not me?"

"Mxyzptlk is a proven phenomenon. There are documentations of his appearances and abilities, despite his using science we do not understand. Also, given the very nature of Superman, the city of Metropolis often draws an otherworldly type of wrongdoer. The criminals in Gotham are a little more Earthbound."

"That might be so," I said, "but I'm no criminal. And besides which, it ain't just Metropolis that gets extra-dimensional imps. What about that wannabe Quisp who's always trying to deep-fry Aquaman? Or that Gremlin who pesters Wonder Woman, whatsisname, Glitch?"

"Who?"

"Aw no, did he disappear too?!"

"I have no time for this," he growled. Batman growled at me! That never would have happened in the old days. Was this even the same guy I knew anymore?

Just then, a weird looking masklike image appeared on the screens of the Batcomputer.

"Boss," said a woman's voice, "I've got a lead on Mr. Zsasz."

"Good job, Barbara," Batman said to the mask.

"Where is he?"

"Barbara?" I said.

"You mean that cute redhead who became Batgirl? Whatever happened to her?"

"She was shot through the spine by the Joker and crippled for life. Now she aids the war on a different front," said Batman. "Now go away, whoever-you-are, there's work to be done."

Shot through the spine? I floated there in utter disbelief. Things like that don't happen to the good guys. At least... they didn't used to.

Batman and the mask continued talking for a few moments and suddenly Batman was rushing towards the Batmobile at breakneck speed. I followed him excitedly. This was my big chance. I could prove myself to him and maybe be accepted into the family once more. I hopped into the 'Mobile beside him (even the car looked angrier than I remembered).

"You're still here." It wasn't a question. His words sent a slight chill through me.

"I just wanna help," I said, sinking lower in the passenger seat.

"Hmm. The blood flow has stopped," he observed, inspecting his arm. "Should have checked my system for hallucinogens. Could be Scarecrow's work. But you're not particularly scary, are you?"

"I try," I said weakly.

"Doesn't matter. There's work to be done. I'll just have to manage."

******

"Why can I still see you?" We had been positioned on the roof of the warehouse for several minutes and I could tell that my presence was beginning to alarm Batman.

"I told you," I said. "I'm real."

"That's not logical," he said. "But for the last few minutes, I've been using a Japanese meditation technique designed to clear the mind. I shouldn't be hallucinating like this."

"That's because you're not! I come from the Fourth and 1/2 Dimension, Batman, and I'm your biggest fan!"

"There are no fractional dimensions. It's scientifically impossible."

"Look, why don't we change the subject?" I said in frustration. "Tell me about this Zsasz guy. I don't know this one." I'd been away so long, there were a lot of Gotham rogues I was unfamiliar with. This Mr. Zsasz didn't have a readily apparent gimmick. He wasn't a clown, a bird, a cat, or a giant moth. And since he wasn't "Dr. Zsasz," chances were he wasn't a mad scientist either. I was stumped.

Batman was looking through the window of a nearby warehouse with binoculars. He didn't look up as he answered my question.

"He's a serial killer who mutilates his own body after every kill."

"But that's-- He-- Can he do that?" I stuttered. I felt ill. Things had definitely changed since the old days.

"Not if can help it. Oracle, information confirmed. I see him." With that, Batman stepped off the rooftop and fired a grappling hook towards the building. I remained on the rooftop for a few moments, gathering my wits. This Zsasz character was a monster. He had to pay. I bounded into the air and flew after Batman. Things might have changed but I was certain of one thing. Evil was evil and we were there to stop it.

Batman crashed through the warehouse window and descended upon Zsasz. I swooped in after him and noticed two young girls tied to their chairs nearby. What did Zsasz want with-- Oh. Then I understood. Another chill ran through me. The game was different now. The stakes were higher than they used to be. No giant roulette wheels or typewriters. No elaborate and easily escapable death traps. Just a murderer and his victims.

"Well, at least they still use abandoned warehouses," I thought to myself.

"Zsasz!" Batman shouted as he backhanded the criminal's face. "This ends now!"

"I was wondering when you'd be showing up," Zsasz laughed as he licked the blood from his lip. "But who's the midget? Your new sidekick?"

Batman glanced back at me in surprise. Yes, I wanted to yell at the top of my lungs, he sees me too! But before I could say anything, Batman barked an order at me.

"Untie the girls! Get them out of here!"

I hurried over to the chairs and with a wave of my fingers, the ropes began to come undone.

"Greetings, ladies," I said amiably. "I'm Bat-Mite!"

"M-Marcia," whispered one of them.

"Suzy," said the other.

"Pleased to meetcha!" I said. "Now what say we get you two out of here, hmm?" I tried to sound confidant but the truth is, I was shaking. Behind me, I could hear the sounds of battle as Batman grappled with a mass murderer. This felt wrong. This wasn't an adventure, it was a fight for survival. But there were more important things than having fun or proving myself to my mentor. I led the girls out of the warehouse and with a flourish of my hand, manifested a telephone out of thin air.

"Now, you two call the police and let them know where we are," I said gently.

"Uh, how--?" Marcia seemed confused.

"Oh, right," I said. "You've probably never used a rotary phone." I snapped my fingers and the dial transformed into numbered buttons. "Stay put. Everything'll be okay."

As I rushed back into the warehouse it seemed like my fears were unfounded. Batman had knocked Zsasz unconscious and stood over him triumphantly.

"No more deaths. You're going back to Arkham where you belong."

"Man," I said, "that Zsasz guy was a nasty customer."

"That's nothing," said Batman. "You should see Cornelius Stirk when he gets hungry. Now I want some answers from you. What are you?" Just then, I sensed something amiss. While Batman was watching me intently, I looked up at the catwalk above us. There in the shadows was a man in a black costume pointing a rifle directly at Batman!

"Look out!" I shouted and a bolt of lightning sprang from my fingers. It connected with the dark clad man and he toppled from the catwalk. A shot rang out and a bullet whizzed past Batman's head. The costumed sniper fell onto a table, which shattered beneath him but broke his fall. Batman walked over to inspect the unconscious assailant.

"Johnny LaMonica. The Black Spider," he said, recognizing the man. "He escaped from Blackgate around the same time that Zsasz broke out of Arkham. I had no idea they were in cahoots."

"Gee," I said. "It looks like I just saved your life."

"I would have seen him," Batman insisted.

"Before or after he shot you?"

"The Kevlar would have protected me."

"He was aiming for your chin."

"That wouldn't have killed me."

"It sure would've hurt."

A silence filled the room. Batman's eyes narrowed and he seemed to be staring into my very soul. I grinned and stood there with my hands on my hips.

"So, do you believe in me now?"

After a moment's pause, he answered. "Thanks for your help... Bat-Mite, was it? I can take it from here."

I was practically beaming as he tied the villains together and left them for the police. I had finally gotten my wish. Batman and I had been a team once more.

But Gotham City had changed dramatically over the years. So had its guardian. Maybe I just didn't fit in here anymore. As the cops pulled up to the warehouse, I quietly faded from sight, lingering just long enough to hear Batman talking with the Commissioner.

"The boys tell me LaMonica's got burns all over his body, Batman. What happened to him?"

"It was... an associate of mine, sir. He's a little overzealous but he means well."

One day, I thought. One day I'll come back again and join in his adventures. But not for a while. For now at least, I'm content to just watch.

The End

"What a load of sentimental claptrap!" said the second little man, angrily puffing on a cigar.

"No one asked for comments from the peanut gallery," said the first little man. "Besides, that's how it happened. Honest."

"Yeah, whatever! So now it's done. Let's send the thing and get the heck outta Dodge. This dimension's about as interesting as last week's laundry lint."

 
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