Two minutes into the adventure, I’d lost the pristine white card Batman gave me before he flew off to do whatever he did in a small Heartland college town. Judging by the compared statistics of the town in question with others in the state, he probably trolled dorm parties and confiscated an avalanche of roofies. I dug in my purse and lurched against the man next to me as the bus thundered over a pothole.
The visit to the Comic Book Guru was less helpful than I’d hoped. After five minutes of conversation about weather, my shaky intestines, my questionable access to prescription painkillers, I asked him some questions.
“This is the only reason you wanted to meet up? Because you can’t figure out what this means?” He rolled his eyes and tossed the card on his coffee table. “Obvious. It’s all so clear to me now.”
“I didn’t expect you to believe me,” I began.
“It is difficult to believe that Batman, although generally altruistic, would show up to help you out with your…thing.” He waved in the direction of my abdomen. “Unless you were causing some sort of public disturbance?”
“Crying and eating, even combined, are not crimes,” I said.
“Well. He must’ve just been in the area, then. Anyway, it’s obvious to me what this card means.” He tilted the card, and the light caught in the oily black O. “Note the contrast of black, to white. And the slimy oily look. This card obviously has something to do with … Venom.”
“Venom? How do you get Venom from that? It’s an O. It wasn’t even there at first.”
“Strange. It doesn’t make much sense, a DC character pimping for a Marvel villan…what do you mean, it wasn’t there at first? What happened?”
I shuffled my feet. “I, uh, cried on it.”
“Maybe if you cry on it some more, the rest of his name will show up. Strange, strange…I guess you could always go to the address listed on the back.”
“What?” I snatched the card. Printed in the same oily black was an innocuous address on Memorial Drive. “That wasn’t there before.”
The Guru turned back to the television. “Have fun. Yell for Batman if it’s a trap, okay?”
I finally unearthed the crumpled card from under a bag of jelly beans. Memorial Drive had a lot of buildings to choose from, and I’d never been an avid comic book fan – I relied on the Guru for that sort of information. I had an O and an address and the recommendation of a man in a batsuit similar to Batman’s. I had no idea why. Granted, I’d been feeling a bit lost, even with the A.-centered plans for joyous cohabitation, because for the first time school would not be in session in the fall, for me. Creative Writing majors probably did not have much marketability without changing their resumes to say “English.” My job prospects were non-existent as yet. But I couldn’t worry about that until I moved upstate.
The address from the card suddenly flashed by the bus window, in chunky white numerals. I yanked the cord and ran back the block to stare up at the building.
Storm County Public Library.
The windows were dark. The only light came from a tiny green bead by the door handle – a security system handled by a combination of keys and cards. I stared at myself in the reflective glass, shivering despite the warm May evening, and then I tried the handle. The thick chain and bar rattled inside.
“Hmph.” Batman hadn’t said anything about calling during regular library hours. Maybe that was implied? I’d worked in a library all through undergrad, and I wasn’t sure that librarians required etiquette as a rule.
But the point was moot – I’d have to come back tomorrow. The bus would come by in another hour, and the grocery store across the street specialized in watery coffee and hot, buttery croissants. I turned around.
A harsh crumbling sound stopped me. I turned to see the sidewalk in front of the book drop shook in its footprint and began, with tortured concrete scrapings, to lower at an angle into the earth. A steep, roughly-constructed ramp descended into blackness. This was much more interesting (and worse) than a random crackhouse address, I thought.
My gut growled, and I tried to relax. Hope that wherever this leads, there’s a toilet. I stepped, my shoes sliding, into the darkness.
To be continued.