Snow Blindby Rob Williams (Rob@sambrowning.fsnet.co.uk)
WARNING: This story contains coarse language.
A Christmas Daredevil story.
"Ding dong merrily on high."
I suppose that if I were a normal blind man I'd be slightly alarmed now. I'd hear the obnoxious tone in this person's voice and, given the fact that he's demanding my money, I'd think that this was just another New York incident. One more addition to the crime statistics. One more low life taking advantage of the blind and the weak.
But I'm not blind. Not really.
You see, and I'm not about to go into the exact reasons why, you'll just have to trust me on this - after all, I am a lawyer. But, I have certain... gifts. I have heightened senses, the agility of an olympic gymnast and I currently know around two hundred different ways to make this person eat his meals through a straw for the next few months. In addition to all that I am the proud possessor of a rather handy radar that allows me to see everything apart from details. But I can see shapes. And right now I'm able to "see" that the person in front of me is not quite four foot tall and I can hear that their heartbeat is at such a relaxed pace that suggests this is either the most confident midget mugger I've ever come across or...
"Kerry, you get back in this house now, you hear me."
I know I shouldn't. It's a mistake. But the cold bites into my face and I can smell the strains of half cooked hot dogs from the street corner thirty yards away and the screams of the kids pelting each other with snow-balls across the street and this overweight woman with her overworked, underloved heart screams at me as a yellow cab slides through the slush twenty yards to my left and my feet crunch the snow beneath my shoes. And it makes me laugh.
"What the hell you got to laugh about blind man."
I love this city.
"And his foot's sticking out of this wood-shredder and the sock's still on it and the
snow's covered in blood. I almost threw up, I swear. It's a great film Matt. You should
see it. Oh... I mean. Oh hell, I'm sorry."
I don't know why I let Foggy talk me into this. It's early evening on Christmas eve and New York's like Beijing after a population explosion. No one's indoors tonight. At least, that's how it feels. I've already been bumped countless times and the subway was a horror story all of its own. Too many people, too loud to focus and the only recognisable smell was that of two day old urine. I don't like the subway. It makes me feel blind.
Right now we're running the Christmas guilt hurdle as we pass countless bums shaped of dull grey, wrapped up in tossed away blankets covered in God knows what, sipping anything they can get their hands on to stay warm as they huddle into soak-saturated cardboard. It always makes me feel uneasy. I'm supposed to be some kind of hero, I'm supposed to be a "good" person., I right wrongs, right? So what do I do to help these poor souls? Nothing. There's nothing I can do. I can give ten dollars to one but what about all the others? There's too many. Too many smelling of decay and futility. And after a while the details become difficult to see. It hurts my eyes to ďlookĒ at them. So I turn away, hunch my shoulders and try to close off and shut down.
What? What did he say?
"Matt, what's wrong? Why have you stopped?"
I turn and look at the bum..., no, at the man before me. His half drunk bottle of cheap wine. Dirt stained, snow-wet clothes drip as he tries not to shiver. He smells of something nasty and his heart-beat is slow and strained. He's in his early sixties. His breathing labours under the stress of too many cigarettes and not enough warmth. There's a lot of moisture on his lungs. He won't see another Christmas.
"What'd you say, pops?"
His heart just skipped a beat. He's lying.
"Matt, without your jacket you'll freeze."
And I do what I always do. I lie to a friend as I become a champion of honesty. Then I walk fifty yards and duck down an alleyway and, as I undo my shirt and remove my trousers, I ponder how right it feels that a figure dressed in red should be travelling across the rooftops on this night. I just hope no kids spot me. The horns might throw them. There could be nightmares.
I disappear beneath the protection of the mask and then fire and wait until my billy- club catches firm. And for the first time tonight I feel safe, secure and protected. And then my feet leave the ground.
1-2-3-4-Grab-twist-push-jump-fire the club.
There's two squad cars and an ambulance tainting the scene before I even arrive. Tyre marks scar and return ugliness to a street that had, for a little while, been something from a fairytale. But now the city's heels have clicked together with the shattering sound of a cannon. The illusion's been sent home and reality free-falls. The snow's already died. A shame. For a while it almost felt like Christmas. I should've known better. I find a ledge behind the squad cars and listen to beat cops bicker.
"What've we got Romanowski?"
The ambulance slides away with electric lights flowing and siren sobbing. Guess the step-dad wasn't quite fast enough.
"He gonna be okay?"
No. No need. Jump.
Daredevil. The nameís Daredevil. Now leave me to handle this and no oneíll get hurt. I hit the buildingís roof running with barely a sound, try the roof door and Iím inside.
I donít need to Ďlookí into the room. The smells and the sounds give it away from down the corridor. Two heartbeats - one of which is going ape. I can smell the sweat dripping down his nose from here. I can also smell the oil of the revolver and the smoke that still lingers from when he popped one in the step-dad. Heís got the gun aimed at the door. The heartbeat's all over the place. The tension's top level. The brother's scared out of his wits. He's wet himself. The whole room stinks of fear, the type that you'll never know if you're lucky. This isn't a bluff. If he wants something then he's going to make sure that he gets it. The step-father's blood stains sticky on the rug and the sobs drown out the low gulps of someone so, so scared. They're both frozen up. Neither of them have a clue what they're doing. This is no villain. No Kingpin, no Bullseye, no psycho, no master-mind. Just two scared kids. Scared children. Dammit.
This is going to take some fast moves but -
I kick the door open and without thinking he thrusts a man's weapon held in a hand too small straight at the opening and fires off six quick-fire rounds that smack through the plaster-cracked, mould covered thing that passes for a wall. His breathing screams heavy and a ball of sweat drips off his nose as he realises that there's no one there. He's been duped. Panic.
Unused rounds surround him on the floor like a child's marbles. His shaking, sweat ridden hands scramble to pick them up and reload while keeping his one arm lock around the neck of his younger brother. I hear him click open the pistol one handed and picks up a round that immediately slips from his grasp and rolls under a nearby chair.
He knows he's been duped. He's expecting the entire NYPD to come through that door two seconds ago. He fumbles again. There's enough rounds scattered between his legs to supply a Peckinpah season. As I jump from the roof into the New York sky I see him through the window and Ďwatchí him for a few seconds as I twist and fall: this fifteen year old kid with "way cool" sunglasses trying to be something he's so obviously not. The hurried, rhythmic looks up towards the door, his back pressed up against the wall, sitting on the floor beneath the window that's two stories too high to allow anyone to get in that way. He's not stupid. He knows how gravity works. He's been pressed down by it for long enough.
His brother gives it away. He's stopped struggling and is staring back over his shoulder towards the window. He's still. Perfectly still. He's five years old and by the "look" of the neighbourhood and the state of the apartment he's already seen too much in this life. And he's still. So very still.
And the realisation dawns.
Big brother spins with a speed that surprises me, releases the boy in an unthinking panic and clicks the revolver shut and aims it at the man wearing red that is now crouched ten inches behind him, balancing on his window ledge. And now he sits shaking and his brother looks at me as if I'm Santa Clause come to deliver the presents. Total wonder. And no one moves.
I'm not sure if he put a round in the revolver.
"Huuuh... huuuh. Don't, don't huuh, move. Don't. Don't."
He slowly edges himself backwards away from me, but then he remembers the danger from the open door behind him and stops. There's an exhalation of breath as his body involuntarily expresses how trapped he feels. There's no where to go. And his head moves to the side in a familiar way that strikes a chord. Something's not right. The gun. Concentrate on the gun. Itís pointing at me. No. Itís not. Itís pointing where he thinks I am. He can't understand. He's seen me but he can't comprehend. How could I be standing on a ledge on the second floor? Even now he can't see it.
"Iss Sanna Caws."
The gun's pointing near me.
"Don't move. I can see you. I know where you are. I can... I can see you."
"Why don't you put the gun down?"
I don't move. He's stranded in the middle of the room and he feels trapped. Trying to look... No. Listening for what's going on. Picking out every little noise. Focussing on them.
"You a cop?"
I know forty two ways to get the gun off him. Ten would kill him. Twenty three would leave him in traction for a long, long time. Nine would leave him with the use of his arm in the future. But I don't. I don't move. I stay perched on the window sill so the cops on the street below can see me. So they know that for the first time in their lives there's no need to do something dumb and macho.
"Who are you and how'd you get up here?"
Realisation dawns without fear. He ponders this for a moment and then, to my surprise, he starts to laugh.
"Shit.... hah. Hah. I'm in with the big boys now. They sent the super-dudes after me.
Avengers and Fantastic Four on their way? They got to know I'm too dangerous to
just send in the one super guy."
He's got a point. I'm supposed to be some sort of champion of justice. Doesn't truth go hand in hand with that? Matt Murdock's a lawyer for goodness sake. My whole life's based around my subjective version of truth but deception's central to what I do. So why can't I tell him who I am? The greater good, I tell myself, that's why. Now I'm beginning to sound like a politician.
"I could lie to you and tell you any name in the world. You wouldn't know. What
makes you think I'll tell you the truth?"
He's got me. Damn. Kid should be a lawyer.
"My name's Matthew."
He pauses for a second and considers this victory. A victory a hundred idiots with fists, guns and super-devices haven't been able to get out of me. I think he appreciates that. His heart-beat doesn't alter much though. Itís calmer. More comfortable. He won't fire.
"Matthew. Pull up a seat."
I've been sitting on the floor in front of him for two minutes now. His baby brother hasn't looked anywhere else during that time. Eyes set on me like I was the biggest present under the greenest tree on Christmas morning. Nice. Nice to make someone happy this time of year. The room's calm. Strange how fast things change.
He looks up, gun not pointing at me now. Lying limp on the ground with his hand around it. Itís dead for the time being but could be Lazarus in a second.
Lawrence doesn't speak. Just goes on staring at his present.
"Why are you doing this Tyrone?"
He laughs at that. At his own joke. Itís a low laugh that doesn't lift his face from the floor.
"Oh man. You know what my step-father's name is?"
His heart's pounding like a steam engine. But I didn't need super-powers to know that. The tree's to the right of me. I hardly noticed it before. Thought it'd been knocked over in the panic. It was a pitiful, scrawny thing before this hit it. On its side it doesn't seem any better.
"Where's your mother Tyrone."
He's crying . Itís low but itís there alongside the anger that's holding on the edge. He's still got the gun in his hand.
"No," he wipes his nose with his free hand. "No way. Just 'cos you know my name don't make us friends. You got that? You understand? You don't know me. You know nothing about me. Nothing."
The gun's woken up. Itís back pointing at me.
"Let me ask you something. How come you dress up in a dumb-ass costume and beat
up bad guys? Why you do that? How come you ain't one more ass-whipped nine to
fiver? Who gave you the right to choose right or wrong? What makes you so special
that you come in here and want to know my problems?"
"What do you do Matthew?"
The gun's shaking and his energy level's quadrupled and the only thing I can think of is why I didn't tell him I was blind and how right he is. How an ivory tower of arrogance I didn't even realise existed is being pulled down right in front of me. The words fall out of me faster than any punch I've ever taken.
"I'm a lawyer."
He stops. The guns shaking and all I can think about is how similar the smells of this room are to my childhood and Dad and Hell's Kitchen. How this Christmas isn't so far removed from the Christmas' Dad and I spent as a child. About how horrified I was the one time dad hit me. The one time. And how sorry he was afterwards and how remorseful and how he cried. How he cried for me. That man gave me everything and yet he cried for the one time he hit me. He had no right to torture himself that way. He made me what I am. No. He made the good things in me what they are. He holds no responsibility for the other side.
I want to help. That's all. Dad. That's all I ever wanted to do. I just wanted to make it better. Dad. I don't think I'm better than everyone else. Dad. I just wanted to make a difference. Why?
"Take your mask off Matthew."
Lawrence is staring right at me. The smells. The tree. A lifetime of Christmas' spent in darkness. Too many without a father and a mother. The pain. The taunts. The teasing. A father's love ended by a bullet in a rat claimed lane behind Madison Square Gardens with the grease of the boxing match still hanging from his eyebrow. Dripping downwards. Rolling down the cheek. The wet softness of tears slithering. I'm not sure if they're his or mine or both.
He stops for a second and wipes a weeping nose with the back of a hand that holds a weapon that can end a man's life.
"I got nothing. So who do you think you are coming in here trying to spread some ray of sunshine into my life?"
Dad, I just wanted to make you proud of me. Wanted to make them pay.
"So you show me how fearless you really are and you take off that mask."
I didn't hear them coming. The door flies open and two cops burst in. Tyrone wheels on the floor and points the revolver. Instinct kicks in and before I know what I'm doing my hand flies to my billy-club. Tyrone pulls the trigger and an infertile click answers my earlier question. The gun's empty but the cops don't see that. They see one more creep with a gun levelled at them. The billy club's out of my hand before either of the cops can shoot. It's an impossible shot. No one could hit the one pistol and ricochet into the other before either of them can fire. No one.
It's an impossible shot.
But I'm Daredevil.
I don't usually drink but this once I make an exception. It seems appropriate. Itís Christmas morning after all and isn't this what normal people do on Christmas day? Let their hair down? Let themselves go? Throw life's repetitive regime aside for one day a year? Well, probably. But what would I know about that? That's what normal people do. And that's one thing I'm not.
I'm disciplined. I work hard. I've set myself goals in this life and I've achieved them. You don't become a lawyer by accident. Well, not a good one anyway. You don't have a body like mine by lounging in front of the tv every night with a can of beer in your hand. You can't make moves in the gym like I can without years and years of practice. Decades spent straining against the weights while my friends were out indulging in hedonism. Long nights feeling the brail on the page beneath my fingers while lovers held hands together and gazed at the sky. Bloody nights of gym-falls where the loss of grip meant black stained panic as you didn't know exactly when you would land. All this while others danced, laughed, kissed and made love.
He was wrong. I have worked to be where I am. It's cost me years and sacrifices and a coldness that I've gripped since I first saw my father's body in the hospital morgue. It's cost me friends and relationships and a medical record a mile long and a life of loneliness that I sometimes still don't know if I can stand when I wake up alone at four am.
He was right about the head start. I have abilities that other blind people don't but that's not enough. It never would have been.
And the reason I've done all this? Revenge? Partly. And my father's killers did pay, just like every parasite I've found who prospers from soiling this town. Soiling my innocence. A desire to shove every threat down their throats. Every taunt, every punch. To make the bullies pay. A desire to hurt them like they hurt me. Like they hurt us, dad.
So what does that make me? Better than them or just a paler shade of the same black colour? He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword. Violence begats violence. It's Christmas Day and shouldn't I turn the other cheek? I believe in justice. I've based my life around it, It's what I am. And I remember that every time my foot smashes through another man's ribcage and tears flesh across his abdomen.
I'm human. I may wear a mask but I'm a man. I am Daredevil, but Daredevil is only a slave to Matthew Murdock. Daredevil's a super-hero, a symbol, a hero, a vigilante. He's not a man. I supply that part. And with a man comes strengths and weaknesses, subjectivity and a moral code that is never absolute. Decisions are misted in past experiences and pressure and sometimes I get it wrong, just like everybody else.
But I care. I try to help, to do good. A simplistic cartoon notion in a city like this but a beautiful simplicity that I cling to. Yes I judge, because I am human and that is a frailty we are all guilty of. But I've dedicated my entire life to try and make a difference. I'm sorry if that's not good enough but it's all I can do. I'm not Superman.
I walk to the window and open the curtains and before me stands New York. Tall, upright and proud on a day where, for once, good and humanity is cherished. I try and let myself swim in the comfort of a rare moment untainted by cynicism's self- absorption, but I know it won't last.
I gaze down and dream that I see sleet-mashed streets of pasty grey where a child rides on his new skateboard through the remnants of white become grey. Oblivious and laughing with a pure heart, his fire-filled red hair glows of the sun and his pure, line-free face sits still with the smoothness of joy. And he looks up and stares at me for just a second and in that instance he can see me and I, I can see him. He smiles a smile of colour and detail and form and love before returning to the adventure of a Christmas morning and the joy of wondering where his new toy will take him next. After all, there's so much to see.
Daredevil (and other related characters appearing) and the
distinctive likenesses are Trademarks of Marvel Characters, Inc. and are
used WITHOUT permission.