Somewhere, out there, the city cries. And I pathetically cry with her - wanting, praying to be rescued from this goddamn hell.
My breathing is slow, raspy with dehydration; each intake of air making the burlap sack placed over my head cling uncomfortably to my face. It helps to focus on it though - it's a pattern, a series of continuous events I can keep my mind on to distract myself from the pain, and the noises. Far too many noises. I breathe out, the warm air getting trapped inside the sack and causing me to feel faint again. The smell of this shit hole and my own damn body is nauseating enough as it is without heat amplifying them. I'd give anything to feel cold water run across my skin again, awakening my senses, keeping up my guard.
Time has no meaning in this place. I'd given up trying to figure out how long I'd been here; it's an endless cycle of paranoia, sleep, torture and false hope. He feels the need to casually update me though, as and when he visits. Sometimes its once a day. Sometimes every other week. One time it was two months, left to my own thoughts, slowly starving as I tried to shake off the flies I could feel trying to eat away at my wounds. It's in those times I cry out, in an attempt to keep my vocal cords working, hoping once and for all that he's done it.
That he's beaten, slowly but brutally, to a red, mushed pulp on the floor. Not over the top, no spectacle - just his fists and a lengthy amount of time. Then he'd stand up, his cowl splattered with that pasty WHAM's blood, and disappear into the shadows, leaving the body to the people of Gotham to do with as they please.
But that's all too good to be true. Time and time again, when I have at least the tiniest shred of hope that he's finally had the goddamn guts to do it, he shows up again, bringing a new 'toy' each time. He calls it discipline; that somehow in that disgusting warped mind of his, I'm his new sidekick, and I need to be taught how to behave.
There's only so many times you can fight back before you give up entirely. First, it was my body; my shattered ribs constricting my breathing, my broken ankle losing all feeling, preventing me from running away. And secondly, it was my mind; I don't have any intention to end up like that sick creep, yet with each passing moment, my grip on reality slowly loosens. I'll hear his cackling in the distance, or Barbara calling out my name. A scratch, a screech, a sniff. Noises become your worst enemy. I used my training to block everything out, to keep my hope from unravelling - but after six weeks, or so he says, of pure suffering, I caved in. One mentor's techniques forgotten, another's own sick methods replacing them. Slowly but surely, the burns, needles and crowbars become your identity.
Last time he came, he brought photographs. Pictures of dead bodies, grins plastered on their faces, tears rolling down their cheeks in their final moments of both joy and terror. The parents of the kindergarten class he'd murdered - the sick crime that had brought me here to hunt the animal down. He laughed his monstrous laugh as he flicked through, like looking through a fucking family album, detailing how each one died, who their kid was, how I couldn't save them. Jabbing me with a taser each time I tried to look away. A flightless bird trapped in a cage. I kept quiet.
Because that's the one thing that isn't broken - my voice. When he's gone, I can shout out, weep like a goddamn child, have conversations with myself to keep me going. I'd spent hours arguing out loud whether he was coming for me. If he'd truly given up on me. What if my training was for nothing? Did he not understand his methods were outdated? Was I just a failed experiment, a chance for him to relive the glory days with pretty boy Dick? I'm not like him. I'm not like any of them. POW Barb, I need you right now. You'd know what to say. You always knew what to say.
A creak in the distance. My body stiffens. Cockroaches scuttle along the floor, one crawling over my foot to run away from the noise I can't escape. The noises. Not the noises.
I hear him call out my name; his voice is hoarse, like he's been shouting over and over for me. I open my mouth but do a double take, trying to figure out if it's real or not. His voice grows nearer, the tiles shifting beneath his feet, echoing in the room, repeating itself over and over and over and over and over and ov- it's infuriating! It's coming nearer, a bat screeches somewhere, I don't know where, all the while getting nearer and my breathing increases, sweat dripping off my neck as I squirm to get my shackles free but the barbed wire keeps digging through my suit and piercing my skin, and I can't escape and this could be it!
I grunt, struggling free from the madness as I get the courage to speak.
"Hello? Is someone there?" I try to yell, but my voice cracks instead. Dammit Jason you idiot, don't be stupid. Think rationally, what would he do? Say nothing that gives you away.
"Batman? Is that you?"
The teeth run across the floor.
"Batman's not coming to save you Jason."
Candlelight engulfs me as the bag is pulled from my head. His breath is on my neck. His voice is in my ear. All I can do is look ahead. Avoid his gaze. Think about what Bruce is doing right now.