Questions in the night

He’d been tracking his quarry for the past hour. Taking care to remain in the shadows as well as staying downwind. His quarry was a hard man to track, nimble as a fox and wary as one as well. Did he know he was being tracked? Or was it some innate instinct in him? He kept moving out in the open, preventing him from making his move, and yet there seemed to be no discernible pattern to his movements. Did he have a destination in mind or was he just going wherever his legs took him?

Now he found him standing in a deserted alleyway. What business did he have down here of all places? He knew that his quarry had a propensity to get drunk, but he was sure that his quarry hadn’t drunk anything tonight. So what was he doing?

“Look it’s quite smart of you to stay downwind, you even control your breathing so that I can’t hear you. But I still know when I’m being tracked, plus my senses don’t work the same way as you lot. Now come out!”, the Walker barked.

The Paladin emerged from the shadows. “We need to talk”, he grunted.

“That why you’ve been tracking me? You coulda just knocked on my door and asked! I don’t bite y’know,” Walker replied, while baring his teeth at the same time.

“I find it hard to judge your temperament. I don’t know how you would react, I do not wish to have my back broken by a brute”, Paladin replied.

“Hahahaha! You always know how to flatter me kid! Now spit it out! What’s the matter that the world’s greatest detective has to consult a brute like me?”, Walker replied.

“It’s about the band…”, Paladin began.

“Look kid I already told the boy scout. I don’t want to join in that clubhouse of yours! He thinks he can get me to sign up by sending you!”, Walker snarled.

“Look it’s not that. I accept your decision to not join, I even told him that this would be your response. He didn’t listen”, Paladin replied.

“Then why are you here?” Walker asked.

“I want to know why. Your reasons for not joining. I want to see if I could learn from them”, Paladin replied.

“Hmpf, you wanna know my reasons, and you think you can use this to make this club of yours stronger don’t you? We’ll see about that. Alright how about you help me get started eh? Tell me why are you lot putting together this team?”, Walker asked.

“To make the world better. Fight the problems that the world faces and protect humanity”, Paladin replied.

“Oh yeah. Right protecting the world. That’s right. So you prevent bank robberies, catch murderers and oppose those who wish to conquer the world. And you draw a line for yourselves, so that you do not stoop to the level of those you fight. Right?”, Walker asked.

Paladin nodded in agreement.

“And you guys do this because the normal people do not have the means nor the courage to stand up for what is right for them?”, Walker asked.

Before Paladin could reply, Walker began talking again.

“What if told you that by doing this very thing, you guys are ensuring that humanity does not rise up to meet the challenges that it is supposed to face? That humanity stagnates and remains unable to fend for themselves because it believes that people like you and me will always be there to settle their problems for them? You believe that you guys are setting yourselves as examples for humanity. An example as to how they should be. But what you lot are unknowingly doing is that you are creating a religion. You are making these people reliant on you, every time that you save them they rely on you! Why should I fight for my rights? The Paladin will do it for me! That’s what you are doing”, said the Walker.

“Then what should we do?”, Paladin asked.

“First lose the costumes. You would have heard about the law of escalation. Thief tries to steal your necklace. You fend him off with a knife. Next day he comes to steal with a bigger knife. You grab your gun, next day he comes at you with a rocket launcher. Same thing here. You lot wear costumes to fight the crazies, they are gonna start wearing costumes too. You start using powers, they gonna get powers too. The existence of a superhero is paradoxical. Superhero appears so as to save the people from the villains but the superhero does not realise that the villains exist because he does”, Walker explained.

“So you’re saying we shouldn’t fight for what’s right? How do we protect our loved ones from the crazies if we do not wear costumes?”, an incensed Paladin asked.

“I’m not saying you should not fight for what’s right. Right the wrong as one of the people. You wear a cape and cowl to fight evil, you make it into an identity that only you can wield. It becomes your face and your acts are pinned down to you, they become your achievements. You become a persona. Do it as one of them, and it becomes an act that anyone can do. That way you become a symbol, one that inspires hope in them and spurs them on to do what is right when required”, Walker replied.

“Next, I know you lot adhere to your code of ethics and ideals that you believe would prevent you from becoming like those that you fight. I say screw that. That just shackles you. The crazies that you oppose won’t play fair and they won’t hesitate to ruin you and your loved ones. This is how you keep them safe. Moreover this also serves as a deterrent. How many times are you gonna stop a murderer’s rampage and hand him over to the authorities? He’s just gonna escape and go on another rampage again. The fact that you guys won’t cross the boundaries that they routinely do is what prevents them from repenting. It just means that they can do what they want and get away. They just have to be prepared for the beatings that you lot visit upon them. Snap one murderer’s neck and the rest will repent. I know that what I am preaching would be anathema to you lot, but believe me that is the way the world works. And this code also implies that you be shackled by the laws and systems in place while your enemies run freely. Finally don’t seek to settle the problems, seek to eradicate the source of the problems, and I think you know what I really mean”, Walker replied.

“I do. And yes it does feel like anathema to me, but at the same time certain things do make sense”, Paladin replied.

“Always knew you would. But I also know there are certain things that you would not cross, no matter what. I’ll see, I’ve got all the time in the world. Now go, I’m sure your city needs you”, said the Walker.

“I’ll think about them. Maybe there can be a compromise we can reach on our methods”, Paladin replied. With that he started to melt in the shadows.

“All right you do that kid, but remember anyone can be a hero. It can be the simplest of acts, like hugging a kid to let him know that the world hadn’t ended. Eh kid?”, Walker asked.

His words fell on deaf ears, as the Paladin was already gone.

“Stupid kid! Always doing that Cheshire cat thing, him and his idea that disappearing in the shadows makes him cool!”, Walker muttered to himself, as he walked away.

Like what you read? Give PK Vijayaregunathan a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.