Bastien woke up in his apartment to the sound of raindrops hitting his window. It was cloudy in Metropolis, and close to 8am. Just twelve hours ago he was standing in the Justice League Watchtower, in the presence of “heroes” like Batman, Superman, and Shadowman. Now, he stood in his pajamas in his vacant and bare walled apartment.
He summoned a chair and a table so he could take a seat and enjoy a cup of coffee. Sure, the apartment wasn’t the Watchtower, but it was home. It was predictable. It was stable. There was no “bigger cause” or “superhero nobility” to adhere to.
Here, Bastien made his own rules. And that’s how he wanted it.
His cell phone vibrated against the wooden surface in front of him. Bastien had been so caught up in the Justice League that he forgot his cell phone here at the apartment. He hadn’t looked it in days.
He turned on the screen and read the text message. It was an unknown number. But that didn’t matter. He just wanted to get out.
“Hey man, haven’t heard from you in a while! Wayne Enterprises is having another fundraiser event tonight. I got an invite, and Mr. Wayne’s secretary exclusively mentioned your name. You want to go?”
“I’ll be there.”
What else was he going to do? This was what we wanted. This was normal. Before the League, “normal” was enough for him.
Twelve hours later, Bastien found himself leaning on a vehicle waiting for his friend to show up. He was wearing his favorite tuxedo: the one he summoned each time that he wanted to leave an impression. The tuxedo made him feel capable. Confident. Suave.
Even if it were for an evening, the tuxedo helped him forget about the League, his history, and himself.
A slow, methodical groaning came up through the pavement and grabbed his attention — as if it were a whisper.
Bastien looked around for his contact, but found nothing. Once he looked down down, however, he was able to see the source of the noise.
Right before his eyes, grass was forcing its way through the stones in front of him. A bold, pungent scent shot forth from the grass. Bastien was stunned. This was easily the fastest he’s seen grass grow, and the fact that it happened during a cloudy day spooked him even more. Out of pure instinct, he summoned a small, sharp blade into his hand underneath the tuxedo sleeve. Just in case.
The smooth voice of a youthful woman from behind him broke his thought. Women. The one language he could speak.
“Well…if it isn’t Bastien Ponce.”
Bastien spun around and saw her.
Standing before him was one of the most beautifully striking women he’s seen. She wore a long, dark green dress and had long, auburn-red hair hanging past her shoulders. The smell of attraction emanated from her body. Bastien was floored. He couldn’t resist. He found himself helplessly walking towards her in confident cockiness.
Forget the fundraiser. This was worth his attention.
“How can I help you this evening?” Bastien rarely fumbled for words in front of women.
“Spend the evening with me. I have a bottle of red wine, a flat just outside of Boston, and something you may be interested in.”
Devilishly handsome? Yeah. He still had it.
He brushed back his hair and straightened his tuxedo. “Simply point me to the teleporter. I’ll go wherever I can share your presence. But first, your name?” Bastien asked, stretching out his hand.
The woman smiled and grabbed his hand. “My name’s Pamela. Pamela Isley.” She pulled him away towards a back alley, and before he knew it, the teleporter sound rushed around them. Bastien blinked and found himself in Boston.
The evening was remarkable. The two walked along the Charles river in Cambridge, laughed, and sipped coffee. Pamela looked even better in the moonlight above the river. The lights and sounds of Fenway were in the distance.
“Come on, let’s go back to my place.”
“Of course,” Bastien replied. “I wouldn’t leave you.”
Hand in hand, they walked. Soon, they were at Pamela’s apartment. It didn’t look like an apartment at all.
“This looks more like a warehouse. Is this where you live?”
Pamela giggled and smiled. “Yes! Boston can’t provide the skyscrapers of Metropolis, fly boy.”
Bastien didn’t want to give her the wrong impression. So what? If it did look like a warehouse, any room would do – as long as he was in it with her.
She led him up stairs and unlocked a heavy, iron door. The cranking sounds gave way to a small room. Green plants in decorative pots lined the walls. Between them sat an open table that hoisted high an unopened bottle of red wine and three, small, tealight candles. Somebody had prepared the room.
“Bold move,” Bastien thought. “I like her style.”
Pamela broke the silence. “I have something for you!”
She reached into a cupboard behind them and pulled out a syringe. The syringe was filled with a pale green, translucent substance. Bastien had never seen it before. He took a step back, shocked. Was this a drug? Was this woman an addict?
“Bastien, you are so strong, and come off as handsomely independent.” Pamela flicked the syringe to eliminate the air bubbles. “You mentioned earlier how much your past troubles you. You have no idea how much I can relate…and this is what helps me. My psychiatrist prescribed me this. It’s called ‘Thrill.’”
“Okay…” Bastien said, “What’s it to me?”
“It helps…to take the edge off. It helps me to forget, and enjoy the rush of the evening. I don’t want to pressure you, but would you like some? I want an evening with just you – not your dark, horrible memories. Those things only hold you back.”
Bastien looked at Pamela and down to the translucent temptation. Something that could help him forget. What if it actually worked? That’s two or three hours in which he wouldn’t be held back.
Even if it just for an evening, this would enable Bastien to finally be himself.
“Give it to me.” Bastien remarked. “I think I’d like that.”
Pamela laughed and happily handed over the syringe. Bastien looked her in the eye and held it up to his veins before injected the substance. His eyes never left hers.
The high. This was it. This was the rush he had searched for his entire life.
Bastien thought the clearest he’d ever thought. His mind was vacantly peaceful. He gained the ability to sense everything in the room, and was able to breathe fuller and deeper than ever before. His mind became stronger. For the first time ever, Bastien felt alive.
This was so much better than he expected. Better than his apartment. Better than reality. Better than the League.
The dark, deadweight emotions left him. He felt nothing. Neither happy nor sad. Neither angry nor joyful.
The best part of the high? He felt freedom. Freedom from the pains of his childhood. From the neglect and loneliness.
Bastien had been looking for a way to feel nothing his entire life.
He found it.
Pamela invited him over to a mirror on the wall. Bastien looked into the mirror and saw his reflection. His bowtie was a bit crooked, but he didn’t care. His hair looked great, but he didn’t care. His eyes were tinted green, but he didn’t care.
It was just for an evening, right?
Pamela smiled at him and leapt into his arms. “Welcome to my world, fly boy! It’s a world of freedom. You’re not held back anymore by your emotions.”
Bastien didn’t look away from his reflection. He smiled. “It feels…incredible, Pamela.”
They spent the next several hours sharing secrets, sipping wine, laughing, and kissing. The night soon became one of the best nights Bastien shared with another.
The high from Thrill wore off before long. Bastien prepared to spend the night with Pamela. He had to find out how to get more Thrill.
“Here, there’s something else I want to show you before we go to bed,” Pamela said. “Come with me downstairs.”
“Not quite. Something else.”
He rolled off the couch and stumbled towards her.
Pamela and Bastien walked out of the room and went downstairs to the front of the building. Two silhouettes stood in the entrance in the moonlight.
“Shit.” Bastien said, under his breath. “What have I done?”