Look Upon My Works, Ye Mighty
From the journal of Ozymandias:
February 10, 1987:
I do not know whether to make that statement literally or metaphorically. But he lives. Like dark spots that will not leave the blinding white outside my estate in Antarctica, he lives.
He lives in the masks the children wear on Halloween.
He lives in the lyrics of the songs the dark rockers sing.
He lives in my mind, as the one man I could break, but not bend.
Can he really live? I have my doubts. If he had, certainly what I did would have been revealed by now.
The world would know that the deaths of half the population of New York City were not accidental, but murders.
How long can I keep covering up? The deaths of the film crew on that exploded ship were hard enough. But nothing could be proven there, any more could be proven from the dissection of that alien carcass they found at the Institute for Extraspatial Studies.
The carcass was enough to perplex the scientists for years to come. No reproductive system, no sensible arrangement of organs. We grew it under security that the government would have envied. The ones who grew it are dead. For all the world knows, it was a real alien, it came from another world or another dimension, and it represented the threat of the Unknown that unites the world in uneasy alliance.
The only one who knows is the man who stands at the apex of the pyramid of killers.
There is enough blood on my hands to make me another Hitler. A liberal Hitler, true, but I must not excuse myself.
I did what I had to do. We averted nuclear war by my actions. The missles would have flown in Afghanistan against the Soviet invaders. The world would have gone up like a tinderbox.
Against the lives of billions, the deaths of a few million are paltry indeed.
And yet, the death of one may be too many.
Did Dr. Manhattan kill Rorschach? I have no way of knowing. The last I saw of the man, he was leaving my estate at the bottom of the world. His last words were "Never compromise." He was going back to the "civilized world" to expose me, I am certain.
But I do not believe he ever got there.
By that time, I had converted Dr. Manhattan, Dan, and Laurie to my way of thinking. No, that is not accurate. They had merely agreed that I had them in moral checkmate. To expose what I had done would be to plunge the world into atomic confrontation again. They agreed not to tell humanity that I had engineered the deaths of so many (so many!) in New York, and not to kill me and thus risk investigation.
I had built (have built) a house of cards, but it is the only prop beneath our unity and nuclear peace.
God knows, they've started demolishing the bombs. But that is mostly a token gesture. There are still enough to destroy the world twenty times over. The dust would bounce, as Churchill put it, a very long time. Even one bomb explosion would be too much to justify.
As, perhaps, would be the murder by "alien" of half of New York.
Harry Truman wrote that he slept well after ordering the bombing of Hiroshima. I envy the bastard.
I do a line to help me survive and hope that my connections are well-concealed.
To all things.
February 12, 1987:
I understand Howard Hughes.
He lived for years as a ghost, an unseen voice at the end of a telephone, a scribbled message on a notepad. He feared disease so much he let his body waste and became a slave to injections and stacked up jars of his urine while his Mormons showed him Ice Station Zebra over a thousand times.
I know why he did it.
The money helps you disconnect yourself from the world.
When you control the world, or at least a significant part of it, you may isolate yourself from its petty pains, protect yourself from its many threats, enwomb yourself in a survival chamber that will keep you safe from others.
Some of the tabloids and biographers have speculated that I am homosexual, because I am not seen with women on dates. This is not true. I have simply never developed that part of the mind that would let me relate to women as potential love-objects, to woo them. I relieve myself when I have to. It is sufficient.
Once, when I was younger, I hired a call girl from one of the most reliable such services in New York. It was done through channels and I do not believe the woman, who was blonde and shapely and had been in statewide beauty contests, knew whom she was having congress with.
She did know that I could not complete the deed.
She tried several ways, but we both gave it up as a failure. She was willing to stay the night and try again later, but I assured her that it was not her fault, paid her a tip larger than her fee, and bade her goodbye. There were no follow-ups.
I could not, because that would be revealing too much of myself.
After she was gone I achieved climax myself. I don't remember thinking of her as I did it.
I expose myself to myself. I share my thoughts with myself, in a closed system. My brain is a dedicated computer.
There is a lower storey that (like theologians) I show to the persons I deal with. It is a persona which appeals to them. Some suspect that I am not showing them all, but they accept that, because many of them do not show their totality to me, either.
Or perhaps they think that they do not.
Perhaps I am more transparent than I suspect, as well.
I need not be lonely. I dealt with many persons, socially and in business, in years past.
Now, I am more of the wolf, prowling the executive suite of my skyscraper, going home to my apartment infrequently, and visiting my large upstate dwelling. Few see me these days. I have even taken on some of my servants' duties. After all, I am a better chef than any of them, and I can clean up after myself.
I have not been back to Antarctica since the day of the great death.
I believe I must be phobic about it. Someday I must challenge myelf and return to it, to face the old ghosts.
One of those ghosts could be Rorschach.
Another could be Bubastis.
In my last entry, I said that the deaths of millions might be acceptible, but the deaths of two might be too many.
The two might be personal acquaintances.
How would I explain to my cat that I had killed her for the greater good?
How would I explain that to anybody?
February 15, 1987:
The damned Chinese and Indians are at it again.
According to intelligence I have received, they are attempting to create new nuclear weaponry. The United States and the Soviets have united in an effort to find their facilities and put them down. If there is any service I can render to this operation short of personal involvement, I will do so.
You can make a law against killing, but you can't stop the killing.
We can demand peace through a new world order, but we can't make old enemies love each other.
There was a damnable race riot in Oakland last week. Jesse Jackson went down there and excoriated the people for not behaving in the manner that the U.S. and Russia do towards each other. If there is accord between nations, he said, there must be accord between peoples.
He probably knows how fragile both analogies are.
The nuclear peace held together for forty years before my accomplishment. It has been less than two years since then, and counting.
The atomic scientists' clock was moved back fifteen minutes from midnight the day the Accord was signed.
Today it has been moved forward five minutes.
I would like to find that clock and smash it.
February 19, 1987:
God, I wish I could sleep regularly. Then again, maybe I wish that I didn't have to.
I began using cocaine two months after the Great Accomplishment. I had thought that meditation and focussing would be enough to keep the faces of the dead away. If I had had the dedication of Rorschach, perhaps they would. (Did the ghosts of his victims ever haunt him? I doubt it. He probably would have scared them off.)
On the night of the Accomplishment, I told Dr. Manhattan that I would spend the rest of my life remembering and thinking upon the lives I had taken. At that time, I saw it as a necessary penance.
Now, it seems I would give anything to get those faces out of my head. Those faces which are so indistinct, even after having seen so many of the news photos of the scene outside the Pale Horse concert at Madison Square Garden. (It is dark humor that, in what I did, I at least saved the world from any more of their despicable "music".) The faces which are generic, featureless except perhaps for eyes and mouth. The faces which, in my dreams, teem upon me, sometimes emerging from a subway, sometimes framed in the screens of my wall of televisions in Antarctica, which I am unable to turn off.
Sometimes I think their mouths move. But I cannot hear what they say, and I cannot read their lips.
Sometimes I would like to talk to them. Sometimes I consider them almost friends. After all, we did this thing together. In a way, I would hope they are proud.
There is enough material in this journal to hang me like Eichmann in Israel. Or, perhaps, to put me in the sights of a government hit man. If anyone but me attempts to penetrate this book, a charge of thermite will go off in the cover and burn the book, the reader, and probably anything within a five-foot radius to ash.
Perhaps I will open the book in just such a way myself someday.
I wonder if someday, in my dreams, I will see the face of Jesus, and beg forgiveness.
I wonder if someday I will see the face of the Comedian.
I wonder who in the hell would ever want to see me.
Will I be a pariah in the Afterlife?
I've had enough training for it here, lately.
February 21, 1987:
Had enough sleep last night and the day before. Trying to stay away from the coke.
Perhaps I should try some hashish again. After all, that was what started it all. I think.
Three things have inspired me in life. Two of them came from childhood: my reading of the life of Alexander the Great, and of Shelly's poem from which I took my name.
Alexander accomplished so much, and, of necessity, destroyed so many, in his short lifetime, during which he conquered much of the known world. He wept for new worlds to conquer, died in a drunken stupor.
I have wept, but am not sure for what I weep.
I resolved to become Alexander, and make war against the evils which plagued men. I duplicated his journeys and, at the end of it, ate a ball of hashish in the desert, stripped naked, and let the ghosts speak to me.
When I returned to America, I had chosen my path. Adrian Veidt, the tycoon whose money came from the recharging hydrants for electric cars, would secretly become Ozymandias, the masked fighter against the evils which plagued mankind.
If only all evils were so easy to overcome as the ganglord Moloch, it would have been easy to cope. Ozymandias would have been a hero as reliable as any refugees of the pulps or comic books. I would have fought a villain a month, and considered myself a small but important savior of society.
But there was so much greater evil than a little fool with his Miltonian / Dantean obsessions. Evil beyond even the Mafia, whose protections were too much for even myself to break. They were not schoolyard bullies.
There were national powers throughout the world who commanded the power to destroy it, even with the threat of Dr. Manhattan hanging over their heads.
In 1966, Captain Metropolis, now dead, called several of us "masked men" together to form a confederation called the Crimebusters. The Comedian brought that to naught, burning a display that Metropolis had constructed, and telling us all that within 30 years, nuclear missles would be buzzing about like mayflies, and I would be left the smartest man on the remaining cinder.
That was when I determined that his vision would fail, and mine would prevail.
It took me nearly 20 years to ensure this. But I had money, and power, and time. Far more than the Comedian.
The climax was a series of killings, and the Comedian's killing was the first in the string. I broke into his apartment, I beat him brutally with my own hands, I showed this bruiser, this fighting man, that there was a way of fighting beyond anything that he could muster. And finally, I threw his broken, bruised, and bleeding carcass through a plated window and watched the first part of his descent to the sidewalk so many stories below. The papers said his head was driven into his stomach.
I hope he was dead before then.
There were other killings between then and the Great Accomplishment: My secretary. My cat, Bubastis. Moloch. The movie crew and all the rest of the people aboard the ship they were on. My three servants, who froze to death in my Antarctic garden when I let the cold and snow in. To that total I might even add Hollis Mason, the first Night Owl, who was beaten to death by punks during that time. I did not have anything to do with that. Not directly. Not that I know of.
And after the Great Accomplishment, there was Rorshach. I think. If he is dead, I am at least partially to blame for that.
But before them all came Wally Weaver, the friend of Dr. Manhattan, who died because I gave him cancer. That was the first step towards ensuring the Nuclear Man would have to leave our planet, and not interfere with my machinations. Wally Weaver was first to die, and I must honor him as such.
Or was he?
Did it start with the unnamed Vietnamese woman whom the Comedian had impregnated, and then shot to death, with Manhattan looking on?
Did it start with the death of Captain Metropolis, or the Silhouette, or Dollar Bill of the Minutemen?
Did it start with Hiroshima, or Dresden, or Auschwitz, or Archduke Ferdinand, or Cain?
I have no idea.
I don't even know where it ends.
The last thing that Dr. Manhattan said to me was, "Nothing ever ends."
God, I hope he was right.
Must take sleeping pill and go to bed and hope I have the courage to keep the dosage correct.
Or perhaps I should be more courageous, and take a more proper dosage.
February 27, 1987:
Just back from Antarctica.
After last entry, was determined to lay old ghosts. But I was too nerved to pilot myself, this time. Took three trusted men and swore them to secrecy. They piloted me in my own craft to Antarctica. Made them stay within the plane till I had checked things out in the estate.
In the strongest parka known to man, I was still cold.
The garden was buried under tons of snow and ice. My three Vietnamese servants were likewise buried and will remain so forever. So are the exotic plants I had there. Not sure which is the greater loss to this world. Will I be damned for killing the plants more than the humans?
I had managed to contruct a barrier to cover the holes that Dr. Manhattan, as a giant, had punched through the building wall, but it had blown in recently and snow and ice had invaded the building. The wall of television sets had screens cracked by the cold. Not a one of them would work now.
I toured the area in which I had placed the nuclear subtractor which killed Bubastis, my mutant lynx, and which I had hoped against hope would destroy Dr. Manhattan, as well. The lastwas not accomplished. Less than five minutes after Dr. Manhattan was reduced to his atomic components, during which time Laurie Jupiter shot me and I caught the bullet in my hand, he had reconstructed himself and told me he was disappointed in me.
If I had not shown him, on those now-dead TV screens, the scenes of devastation in New York and the news that the Soviets, in sympathy and terror of an alien threat, had called off the Afghanistan invasion, I do not doubt but that he might have destroyed me.
The master killer would have been killed. Which would make Dr. Manhattan the new man at the apex, the new master killer.
Who would kill him? God?
As it was, this didn't happen. There was no evidence of our short confrontation. There was a large area of the house that was still reasonably warm.
I let the pilots into it and they marvelled at it. I paid them each $250,000 to keep their silence.
Two years ago I would have had them killed.
That night we feasted on the food that I still had stored in the deep-freeze and prepared using my own hands. I felt decent and, for the first time in several nights, had no need of drugs to put me to sleep.
I am not sure of what I dreamed. Perhaps it was of the strange black ship again. Possibly it was something else.
On the second day I looked through my effects and found nothing that I wished to bring home. I resolved that I would leave on the next day.
On the third day, I examined the nuclear subtractor itself, and, on a whim, passed through its gate.
As I did so, I thought I heard a cat's cry.
I paused there, in the mouth of the device itself, and waited for another such sound.
It did not come.
I finally passed through the other end of it, and, turning, walked back through. I repeated this several times.
I did not hear a cat again. I was certainly listening. My hearing is more acute than most other men's, and I listened with every fiber of my being.
But there was no crying cat to be heard. Not any more, at least.
I sighed, and stood in the device itself for several minutes. If there were ghosts, it would be only right to give them the chance to make me one as well. But nothing happened.
I came out of it and disconnected the device entirely. They had had their chance.
Or perhaps they just weren't letting me off that easily.
The men were admiring the large portrait of Alexander having cut the knot. I told them we were going back. And we did.
I slept on the way back and dreamt of throwing the Comedian out the window.
But his face changed on the way down and it was myself falling, looking up at the broken window, through which the Comedian stood looking and laughing.
He was laughing as though it was the funniest joke that had ever been written.
I awoke, with a start, before I could hit the ground.
I stayed awake two days with the help of coke before daring to sleep again.
I don't know what I dreamt of last night, but it must not have been bad enough to remember.
If cocaine exorcises the Comedian, perhaps it is a small price to pay.
March 2, 1987:
I want to see Dan and Laurie again.
They are the only two remaining on Earth who know what was done, and why I did it.
They hate me, but they are the only two persons whom I want to count as friends.
It is too lonely even for me in this penthouse. Perhaps I can gain their sympathy in some way. I know that they still are adventurers. Dan is still the second Nite Owl. But Laurie wears a leather mask now, and calls herself the Comedienne.
After her father.
They operate on the West Coast now, under new aliases. I am not sure who they are now, though perhaps I could discover their new names with detective work. Not all their deeds are known, but some make the headlines. Before they left New York, some claim to have seen the Owlship flying away from an area in which a gangleader named Derf was found dead, shot several times through the body and once through the head. But nothing could be proven.
I want to make them understand, because I do not think they forgave me.
I want to make them my friends again.
Perhaps I could undertake a case with them. Nite Owl, Comedienne, and Ozymandias. Brothers in arms. It would be a memory to warm my waning days.
However many of those there are.
I shall try to find them soon.
March 5, 1987:
The path to finding them started with Laurie's mother, Sally Jupiter, the first Silk Spectre. She was easy enough to find.
I booked a flight to the resort in Florida where she resides. She is 67 now and one of the two surviving Minutemen. The other, Mothman, is a former inebriate still living in an asylum. She may outlive us all.
The woman at the receiving station called her up when I arrived and said a Mister Adrian was there to see her. "Who's he?" she said, over the intercom. "I don't see fans anymore."
"Tell her I'm a friend of her daughter and son-in-law," I said. "I used to work with them."
Her voice came back, a few seconds later. "Is he blue?"
The woman at the desk looked at me, perplexed. "No, ma'am. He looks right healthy to me."
"Well, check him for a gun and send him over, if you think he's all right," she said.
The woman looked even more astonished. But she said, "Yes, ma'am," and disconnected. Then she said, "Um, Mr. Adrian, maybe this wouldn't be a good idea right now. I can tell her you've gone."
"You will not," I said, "and the idea is fine." I doffed my overcoat and let her see I had no shoulder holster. I emptied my pockets. She looked in my wallet, saw my real name, and dropped her jaw. She looked up at me.
"I am what I am," I said, "and not what I used to be. Do you feel secure now?"
"Uh, I guess so," she said, and handed my wallet, keys, and change back. I took a fifty-dollar bill from my pocket (I never carry money in my wallet) and lay it before her on the desk. "My name is Mr. Adrian," I said. "Nothing more, nothing less."
She agreed that Adrian was my name, and told me where to find Sally Jupiter.
I made my way to the dwelling of Sally Jupiter, right behind the NEPENTHE GARDENS sign on her lawn. It was, from the outside, well-kept, tidy, one of the nice places for people to do their dying in.
We are all dying. The people in Nepenthe Gardens simply foresee it a little better, and have time to prepare.
Sally Jupiter opened the door before I could ring the bell.
I had never met her before. In 1966, during the Crimebusters meeting, I saw her from afar, arguing with Edward Blake, the Comedian, who had stopped to talk with her daughter. The discussion looked acrimonious and I was not tempted to intervene.
She knew me. A lot of people do.
"You're Adrian Veidt," she said, in wonder.
"And are you Mrs. Sally Jupiter?" I said.
She was old and her breasts sagged beneath the pink robe and her waistline was nowhere near what it had been in her heyday, or even in 1966. But her eyes were still bright and alert, and her face, though lined, showed the chorus-girl toughness and street wisdom, the sophistication of an innocent.
She said, "I don't use the ‘Mrs.' anymore, Mr. Veidt. Would you like to come in and tell me what this is all about?"
Laurie hadn't told her about me. Very good.
I went inside with her. It was probably like most old women's dwellings there, except that a mannequin stood beside the TV wearing one of her old Silk Spectre costumes. The mannequin had no head. I noted that one wall held a very famous photograph. It was in black and white and had been reproduced in numerous histories of the Home Front during World War II. But this was one of the original prints. Its value would be considerable today. Not that I think Mrs. Jupiter needed the money.
The photograph showed eight heroes in costume, six males and two females. The Mothman. Dollar Bill. Captain Metropolis. Silk Spectre I. Hooded Justice. Nite Owl I. The Silhouette.
And, kneeling, the Comedian.
She saw me looking at it. "Yeah, the Minutemen, Mr. Veidt," she said. "Maybe we didn't have Doc Manhattan back in those days, but we made out all right."
"I should say you did," I replied, turning back to her. "You were the ones who inspired our generation."
She sat down, crossed her legs, and looked a bit tired. "Wish I could have inspired my daughter a little more. She does okay these days, too, though. D'you have something to tell me about her?"
I sat on her sofa and threw an arm over the back, wondering if a spider lurked there. "Actually, I was hoping you could tell me where to find her. It's been awhile since we last spoke. Almost two years, as a matter of fact."
She shrugged. "I don't see her all that much myself, Mr. Veidt. I hear from her every now and then. Were you in on the big blast she refers to?"
I tried to look casual. "I was involved, yes. That's part of the reason why I want to see them."
Sally Jupiter was canny. She might be 67 years old, but she knew when somebody was trying to do a snowjob on her. "Mr. Veidt, it ain't easy to reach my daughter. And if she hasn't seen you in two years, it's probably because she don't want to. What's the scoop?"
"What do you wanna see her for, fachrissakes? My daughter was the second Silk Spectre. You don't do stuff like that without making enemies."
"But I worked with her."
"I know, I know. I worked with a lot of guys, and you wouldn't believe what all of ‘em took me for. And I didn't look a thing like Marilyn Monroe, even back then."
I smiled. "On the other hand, Marilyn never caught crooks."
"True," she said. I was reminded of Barbara Stanwyck in DOUBLE INDEMNITY. Or was that too easy a reference peg on which to hang her? It didn't matter. "She made a helluva lot more money than me. On the other hand, she's dead now and I ain't. Not yet."
I waited. She finally said, "What do you want to talk with my daughter about, Mr. Veidt?"
I said, "The last time I met, there was an argument between us all."
"Did you rape her?"
I looked up.
She was looking straight at me and had an aspect to her that would have frozen the spine of Rorschach.
"No," I said.
"Did you beat her up?"
I sighed. Perhaps it was time to come clean with her. "Mrs. Veidt, there was a fight. She tried to shoot me. I disarmed her and yes, to do it, I had to strike her."
"Did you hit her first?"
"No. The first thing that happened was that she tried to shoot me."
"That wasn't the first thing. My daughter doesn't go around shooting people for no reason at all."
"I don't go around hitting people for no reason at all," I said. "You know me, Mrs. Jupiter. I'm Ozymandias. We were on the same side."
She looked at me very coldly.
"When I was 22 years old, Mr. Veidt, I got my ribs broken, my nose smashed, and my body damn near raped by a man who was on the same side as me, and had been for over two years. I never got that bad a beating even from a crook. From then on I was damn careful of anybody I let near me, either on my side or somebody else's." She paused. "Maybe Laurie shoulda been damn careful, too."
"Maybe so," I said.
She waited, now.
I said, "Mrs. Jupiter, in one respect we resemble each other. We're both old superheroes. Perhaps neither one of us is that far from the grave. I don't know."
"You better hope you're farther away from it than me, at your age," she said.
"Please, Mrs. Jupiter, let me talk. Do you know how lonely a person can be, in our position? That he or she needs the company of others of his or her own kind? I've got money, a lot of money, and a lot of people around me. But I only know a few people anymore that I can really talk to. And for the last two years, almost, I have not been able to talk to them."
"If you'd hit me, and I was trying to shoot you, there might not be much to talk about anymore."
"True," I said. "But that's why I want to talk. Even though we ended like that, there is so much, so much we have in common, so much that only heroes can know. Do you know that, Mrs. Jupiter?"
She said nothing.
"I am very tired, and I am very lonely."
"Hire a hooker," she said.
"No," I said. "Please, spare me the chorus-girl comebacks, Mrs. Jupiter. I want--the chance to do penance, if you will. I want to see Dan and Laurie together again, before my face, and to talk with them, and see if what we have in common might be enough anymore. Enough to build some bridges where we had torn so many down. I don't intend to hit her, or him, ever again."
"You hit him?"
"Well, he was trying to use a laser on me."
"Jesus, Mary, and Joseph," she said. "You don't seem to get along with anybody, do you?"
I shrugged. "We were superheroes. These things happen."
She paused another moment and said, "You're a cokehead, aren't you, Mr. Veidt?"
I think I just stared at her.
"You snivel a bit," she said. "I've seen it. Some of the girls on the line used it. I never did. Used bennies, once in awhile. That was bad enough. Are you mixed up in dope dealing?"
"Only as an occasional user," I admitted. "I make my money in other ways."
"I know," she said. She picked up an empty perfume bottle from an adjacent table, tossed it at me. I caught it. A bottle of Nostalgia. My brand.
"Mr. Veidt," she said. "If I didn't know who you are and what you used to do, I swear, I would call the guards right now and have them shag your ass out of the front gate. I don't know what went down between you, Laurie, Dan, and whoever else was there the last time you saw each other. But you've admitted that both of them were trying to kill you, and you hit them both. You've just admitted you're into nose candy. For all I know, they were trying to bust you in connection with that. Whatever it was, I don't want to hear it. I want you out of here within 30 seconds of when I finish talking, and if you're not, I call the guards. Unless you intend to hit me, that's just what I will do."
"I'm not going to hit you, Mrs. Jupiter," I said. "I wouldn't even joke about that."
"That's good. I'd say ‘Leave the jokes to the Comedian', except Eddie isn't there anymore. What I will say is this. The next time Laurie talks to me, I may mention you. I may. I will see what she thinks about you. From there on, it is in her hands. I will never see you again, except on one condition. If I hear that something has happened to my daughter, and it appears to be in conjunction with this, I will see you on the day I shoot you to death, Mr. Veidt. Laurie missed. I won't."
I looked at her. I didn't think she could hit me if I didn't want her to. But she looked mad enough to take me on right there. And I had promised not to hit her.
"Seems sufficient to me, Mrs. Jupiter," I said. I got up, reached in my wallet, flipped a card onto her coffee table. She didn't pick it up. "My cell phone number is on that card. Don't show it around. Pleasure talking to you."
"No, it wasn't," she said.
I walked to the door and got my hand on the knob.
"Mr. Veidt," she said.
She was looking at me, curious despite her distaste. "Just what happened back there between you all, anyway?"
"A superhero thing," I said. "Thank you, Mrs. Jupiter."
I let myself out.
March 4, 1987:
Sally Jupiter called me tonight. Woke me up. Told me they'd see me in L.A. The Brown Derby restaurant. Two days from now, 11 A.M. She hung up.
Wish she'd told me before I came back to New York. Well, what the hell.
Going back to sleep.
March 7, 1987:
This is how the meeting went:
Arrived in L.A. on time the night beforehand. Not really in love with that city. Beverly Hills is nice, but the downtown area is squalid and the fantasy factory turns its cameras away from that part. The Brown Derby, that relic of Thirties expressionist building, still stands, though it had been scheduled for demolition years ago and was, like the HOLLYWOOD sign, thankfully rescued.
One remembers that the sign used to read HOLLYWOODLAND until the actress Peg Entwhistle jumped to her death from the last D. 13 letters. Bad luck. Was shortened.
Why do I retain this trivia? Probably for the same reason anyone else does. It's there.
I went out in a plain business suit and was not recognized. A girl in halter, shorts, and skates swept by me and asked if I was somebody. I told her she was somebody, but I was not certain about myself. She said nothing and skated away backwards.
I walked the streets of Hollywood and Vine and saw the sidewalk with the famous stars. Everyone from Bogart to Red De'ath was there. De'ath got his only a month before he perished during his last gig at the Garden.
I was sick of this and went to a library to read until it was near time for our rezendevous. Got in fifteen minutes ahead of time. The inside was nice enough to make me forget the outside. A maitre-d showed me to my table, as I had arranged. Thus far, no one else sat there. I ordered wine and waited.
They showed up before the wine arrived. At first they did not speak.
I had caught sight of them as they came in the door. I am still, thankfully, observant. "Welcome, Dan, Laurie," I said. "I'm glad to see you made it."
"We don't go by those names anymore," said Laurie. "I ought to kill you, Veidt."
Dan didn't say anything. He looked uncomfortable and wasn't sure how he should react to me.
"Wait till after lunch," I advised her. They both sat down. "How is business these days, Dan?"
Dan said, "We go by Sam and Sandra now. Try and call us that, Adrian."
"All right, Sam," I said.
Both of them had dyed their hair blonde. Dan was sporting a mustache. He had almost lost his pot belly. Laurie still looked lovely and wore a simple outfit of white shirt, black vest and pants, and stacked heels. She had applied her makeup expertly. But underneath that was a harder surface than she had shown me almost 2 years ago, despite the fact that she was then trying to kill me.
I imagine that, in the time intervening, she had killed. Probably more than once.
They sat down. Laurie didn't take her eyes off me. She had changed the color of her irises with tinted contacts. She was serious about this secret identity business. If she had killed, she should be.
"Rorschach lives," I said.
"What?" She looked at me for the first time with a note of curiosity mixed with the hate.
I gestured to her. "In you. Your aspect, my dear. That stony visage you present to me. You used to hate him. Now he's in your every move."
"Veidt, that isn't funny," said Laurie.
"I don't think it's funny, either," said Dan. He looked like he wanted to pick a fight, but also looked like he knew he didn't dare. I taught him, the last time we met.
"I didn't say it was funny. Just making an observation. I'm no...comedian."
The curiosity left her eyes. Her breaths came faster. She was pointing at me and had her mouth open as the waiter came. Dan squeezed her arm and she subsided. We ordered. I had vegetarian soup. Dan ordered salmon steak. She wanted plain steak, rare.
When he walked away from our table, she said, in a low voice, "Tell me what you want, you son of a bitch. But first let me tell you something. Don't ever go by my mother's place again. Ever. Period. The end. If you do, I'll castrate you. I swear it. Do you believe me?"
I looked at her. "You don't have the delivery down, my dear. You need to do it in a monotone. As if you really didn't care. But you know the one you are talking to cares. Here's how it would go. ‘You paid my mother a visit. Not mother's day. If you see her again, we'll give her a present. I'll cut it off you. Wrap it, tie bow on it. Present it myself. Understand?'"
"Don't make jokes about it, Veidt." She resembled a fer-de-lance.
"Why not?" I said, and had some wine. "Your father was my teacher. He taught me that this was all a joke. All life was a joke. I simply chose to extend the punchline a little further."
"Not for three million people, you didn't," said Dan, coming into the conversation. "Not for Edward. Not for Rorschach."
I sighed and looked at him. "Daniel. If I knew of another way, I would have done it. If I had not done what I did, the whole world would have gone up in flame. It was a sacrifice play. Like in baseball."
He swore. "Adrian, I only suspected you were crazy before. Now I'm ready to call the straitjacket squad for you. Why the hell did you ask us here?"
"Why the hell did you come?" I stared right back at him. I didn't blink.
Eventually he did. I said, "Answer my question. Then maybe I'll answer yours."
Dan didn't look at Laurie as he spoke. "You asked to see us. If you had balls enough to do that, it made us curious to see what you wanted to talk about."
"Yes," I said. "Curiosity. And you, Laurie? What made you want to come?"
"Sandra to you, Veidt," she said.
"Very well, then, Sandra. Call me Adrian. Please."
She said, packing as much hate into her stare as she possibly could, "I wanted to see why on Earth the man who murdered my father would want me to meet with him. I wanted to hear what you had to say for yourself."
"I'll tell you in a minute," I said. Rolls were arriving, and we shut up while the waiter arrived with them. The maitre-d's were perfect. They were used to not hearing conversations, or at least pretending well not to hear them. When he was out of what I deemed earshot, I continued, buttering a roll.
I said, "I killed a lot of fathers. A lot of mothers, too, and a lot of sons. And I regret every last single one of them. But you know that I had to do it, Laurie. You even gave assent to it, when last we met."
She shrugged, barely. "That was because I had to. Because we couldn't afford a war, as you said beforehand."
"Exactly," I said. I chewed the roll, swallowed it, and repeated, "Exactly. The deaths were the only thing that would make the world sit up and take notice. Just as in Hiroshima."
Dan said, "I don't swallow that comparison. You're not the president. You're not God, either. You had no right to make that decision."
I said to him, "Daniel, neither did the president of the United States nor the Soviet premier have the right to make that decision. Not to kill the billions of living beings that populate this Earth. But they were going to. Nixon was already at Mount Weather, the premier was in his bunker. Both of them had their hands chained to the football. Dr. Manhattan was no longer there to stop it. If I hadn't done what I did..."
"Oh, shut up, Veidt," said Laurie. "You yourself engineered that press conference thing that got Jon so disgusted he left Earth. Admit it."
"Why not?" I retorted. "It was probably the first thing Jon did just for himself since carving that hydrogen atom symbol on his forehead. Do you miss him, Laurie?"
"Yes," she said, simply.
"Well, I miss him too," I said. "More than you would believe. Of all the persons on this planet, he was the only one I could look up to. The Comedian was someone I looked down on only a little."
Dan said, "Seems you looked down on him a lot. Quite a few stories, actually, at the end."
"Dan," I said. "Is the fact of what I did to the Comedian of equal weight with what I did to three million in New York? Answer me, if you can."
"I don't know," he said. "And I don't care. You've got your hands stuck in a big vat of red, Adrian. Maybe Eddie Blake was just a small component part of it, but you killed him first. And we knew him. That made it personal."
"He was my father," said Laurie. "That makes it damn personal."
I said, "Until two years ago, Laurie, you didn't even know he was your father. You hated him for what he did to your mother. Didn't you?"
She said, "I still hate him for what he did to Mom. Even though he's dead. But he was still my father."
"And so he was," I said. "Because of what?"
Laurie considered it. "Because he came to my mother one day and asked for forgiveness. Because she couldn't sustain all that hate, and she gave up on it. Because she took him to her bedroom that afternoon, the one that she didn't share with Daddy anymore, and made love with him." She paused, and then looked down. "She was ashamed of it."
She looked up. "You tell me, you smart bastard."
"All right, I'll try. Was she ashamed because she didn't do the right thing and hate him as much as she thought she ought to?"
Laurie and Dan didn't say anything.
"Let me ask you a question, ‘Sandra'," I said. "Have you killed?"
While she was remaining silent, the food arrived. That gave her time to formulate an answer while the waiters set everything out and we all tried to look formal. For all the help knew, we were Hollywood execs thrashing out a particularly nasty contract dispute. Which perception was fine by me.
A few minutes later, in the midst of my soup, I repeated the question.
She drew a deep breath and said, "What do you think?"
Dan said, "She doesn't have to answer that question."
I said, "I think she already has."
They tried to eat and keep an eye on me at the same time. I said, "Go ahead and eat. You don't have to watch me all the time. I'm not going to pull a death-ray blaster out from under the table."
"I've got something in my purse that would work just as good," said Laurie.
"I don't doubt it," I said. "But, ‘Sandra', you've just as well as told me that by now, you have killed. Were the men you killed pillars of society?"
"They were scum," she said. "Rapists. Murderers. Sometimes they did things with children."
"We try to capture, not kill," Dan put in. "When we do, it's in self-defense."
I said, "And yet, you insert yourselves into situations in which you will have to defend yourself. You're not deputized agents of the law, ‘Sam'. You're vigilantes. As illegal as Rorschach. The Keene Act is still in force. But you go after these people--"
"Somebody has to do it," said Laurie. "The cops aren't getting them fast enough, or at all, in lots of cases."
"--you go after them, knowing they will try and kill you to keep their freedom and their power," I said. "This gives you the opportunity to kill them. Nobody requires you to put yourselves in these situations. In fact, the law doesn't want you to do so."
"The law can go screw itself," said Laurie. "There's a lot more scum where every one of them came from, but one less scum is one less scum."
"So you kill rapists," I said.
"I have," she said.
"And you kill murderers, too," I said.
"At times," she said.
Dan got a shocked look on his face and knew where I was taking this. Before he could say anything, I plowed on. "Like your father?", I said.
Laurie stared at me with a look of horror and dropped her fork on the steak.
Dan said, "Damn you, Adrian, that is not the same thing. Say it!"
"Is it?" I said. "The Comedian beat your mother and tried to rape her, Laurie. He may have raped others. There's no telling what he did in World War II and Korea and Vietnam. But we do know what he did to one woman in the last place. Jon told us both. He got a native girl pregnant, she slashed his face when he refused to take responsibility for it, and--he--murdered--her."
I let the silence hang for a few seconds.
"So," I said. "How was my killing him any less justified than what you do on a regular basis?"
"You bastard," she said. "I'm leaving, Dan."
"No, you're not," I said. "Sit down, Laurie. Or is leaving one's responsibilities a family trait?"
She looked as if she wished she could spit venom in my face like a viper. But she sat down.
Dan said, coldly, "You didn't kill Blake out of vengeance for that girl. You killed him because he got in the way of your plans."
"Killing cold as opposed to killing hot?", I said. "I suppose so. And it is true that Blake did many things which could be seen by many as heroic. He fought well in the Pacific and possibly Korea, and at least was effective in Vietnam. Though, by his own admission, he shot children there."
"God," said Laurie. I knew she wouldn't be touching her steak for the rest of the afternoon.
"He also freed the hostages in the Iranian thing," I went on. "But, as in most such legends, there was a dark underpinning to him."
"Just like you," said Dan.
"Not exactly. But yes, I'll freely admit to my own dark side. I have done evil in the pursuit of a greater good, Dan. I am not unlike the government, any government, in that respect."
"You killed three million people," he said. "You took away their right to live."
"The U.S. and the U.S.S.R. were about to do that to a lot more people," I said. "What I did was regrettable. Nonetheless, it had to be done. It was the only way."
"No, it wasn't," said Laurie.
"Oh? Then tell me how you would have stopped the war."
They said nothing.
I continued, "Yes, I killed. I bloodied my hands up to the elbows in that mess. You can tick off the victims, if you wish. But every one of those deaths was done so that the human race itself could survive. The fact that you are able to dine with me today, in this restaurant, is a direct result of what I have done. Otherwise, we'd all be floating atoms somewhere, bumping into random oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and what-all in an irradiated atmosphere. None of us, none of our civilization, would have survived. Is that wrong, Dan?"
When he didn't say anything, I repeated, "Tell me, Dan. Is that wrong?"
"It was wrong to do it the way you did it," he said.
"I am not God," I said. "I do not have His power. I don't even have the power that Jon Ostermann has. And he didn't know how to use it. He was a passive government lackey. As long as he was allowed his solitude, and the company of Laurie here, and his freedom to investigate abstract science, he would do what they said. When you threw him over, Laurie, and he was criticized on a television talk show, he left the Earth, knowing that his abscence would cause a vacuum of power, and that chaos would fill that vacuum. And he did not care."
I could see tears welling in her eyes. "I made him care, you bastard," she said, softly. "He came back."
"He did," I said. "He saw what I had done, judged that it was a necessity, and neither exposed me to the world nor killed me. Then he left. As far as any of us know, he hasn't been back."
"They crucified him on TV for giving cancer to his friends," she said. "That wasn't true. You gave them cancer."
I said, "In Janey Slater's case it wasn't such a reach. She had a pack-a-day habit. But I do regret having had to do it. Does that make you feel better?"
Dan interrupted. "Adrian, all that you've shown me here is that you know how to weasel like a lawyer and play Truth Or Dare. Why the hell did you really want to meet with us? Tell me."
I put down my soup spoon and tried to give them what I hoped was a kindly look. "Because I want to be friends with you again. That's all."
Laurie tented her hands before her face. "Lord, please give me the strength not to ventilate this guy right where he's sitting," she said. "It'd ruin this fine restaurant's rating. Dan, I have had enough. I'm going to the car."
"Laurie, sit down," I said. "You don't want to miss what I'm going to say, and have to hear it second-hand from Dan."
She said, "You've got one minute, you son of a bitch."
"All right," I said. "All right. I am lonely. We are the only three in our position still left. Do you still have anyone else you can talk to about these things, outside of yourselves? Don't you ever long for some company, the community we used to have?"
Dan sighed. "I don't think it would work out, Adrian."
"You haven't tried. Dan, the last time we met, you agreed to the same conditions as the others. You accepted my hospitality. You and Laurie made love by the swimming pool."
"You saw that?" said Laurie, her eyes widened.
"No," I said. "But I know it happened. You accepted my hospitality. I helped get the Owlship back in shape, and you left Antarctica for New York just afterward. This from a man who had just done all those terrible, terrible things. And they were terrible. Yet you associated with me then. Why?"
"Who else was left?" she said. "We were out there in the middle of all that cold and snowy stuff. It wasn't like we could get another mechanic."
"And are we not in another Antarctica, here?" I said. "Alone, in the midst of a wasteland of normals who could neither understand us nor empathize with us? Who else should we call, Laurie? We three are bound together by experience and by secrecy. What we share, the rest of the world cannot. And I want to be your friend, Laurie. And yours, Dan. That is all I want from you. Whether you give it today, tomorrow, or the next day, or whenever. I can be your friend. I will be your friend."
There was time enough between my silence and their response for me to note that their dinners were only half-eaten. I resolved to tell the waiters to give the meals to the Hunger Bank.
Dan said, "Adrian, I'm not a big speechmaker. Some of what you've said is true. Some of the rest of it has an element of truth in it. And a lot of what's left I think is a bunch of crap. But you've brought up some disturbing truths. Okay for that.
"It's true, we've both killed. It's true, what you did may have ended up saving the human race. For that result, I thank you the only way I know how: by not bringing you to justice. Our own, or the courts'. It's also true that we three share something the mundanes can't." (Mentally I laughed at this. Of all our group, Dan was always the most mundane.) "But what has been done, has been done, and we can't get around it.
"If we agreed to be your friends, how long would it last? Do you think that Laurie could just forget what you did to her father? Do you think that I could forget everything that happened, including Hollis getting killed?"
"I had nothing to do with that," I said.
"I don't care," he said. "It was in the same context. You talk about responsibility, Adrian. Well, dig this: without what you did, Jon Ostermann wouldn't have gone to the stars in the first place. That wouldn't have opened the way for the Commies to invade Afghanistan. We wouldn't have had the superpowers' confrontation, and three million people would still be alive. Plus Wally, Janey, Eddie Blake, Hollis Mason, Rorschach, even Moloch. You can say we'd probably have gone to nuclear war even with Dr. Manhattan still around. But you don't know that. It's just a possible scenario. You made that confrontation happen. Why?"
I couldn't say anything.
"I think you did it because you didn't want the fate of the world in Jon Ostermann's hands anymore," he said. "I think you did it because you wanted your turn to play God."
When I still didn't say anything, he went on. "I may not be able to kill you, or expose you, or turn you in, Adrian. But there's one thing I can do to you. The worst thing you can do to a god. I won't worship you. Come on, Laurie."
They both got up. "Dan, please," I said. "There's only the three of us left here. I just want someone to talk to."
He said, "Talk to yourself." He and Laurie showed me their backs, and left the restaurant.
I paid the tab, told the maitre-d about the Hunger Bank, and left.
I think I did a line back at the hotel. I really don't care.
March 11, 1987:
Trying to get business back on track. Luckily, the American Actioneers line of action figures is doing well. Perkins has gotten the rights to make Rocky Balboa part of the group. The animators and scripters should have the first cartoons with him in them within a few weeks.
Sales of Nostalgia II are doing well, too, on the perfume counters of America. The Bolivian Electroauto factory does not look too bad to salvage. May send Bob Roberts down there to check it out first hand.
Wish I had a cat. I wish I had a cat like Bubastis.
Thought about calling up Mrs. Jupiter. Tried dialing her number several times, broke the connection either just before or just after dialing the last digit.
There is still one of us left. Byron Lewis, the Mothman. Still raving at the walls in his padded cell. I could visit him.
I am not that desperate.
March 15, 1987:
How I find time to write this is beyond me. Danger. Everything may come apart.
One of my sources tells me that Rorschach's diary has been found.
The missing diary.
The one he completed just before he left with Dan to confront me in Antarctica.
The one he mailed, as I now know, to the New Frontiersman.
They left it on a reject pile, but now that damnable right-wing broadside has gone under and its receivers found that pile and, after someone read a few pages in it, had it locked in a safe deposit box.
Within three days, the government will be sending down experts to examine it and view its authenticity. Must act before then.
If not, the world will know something of what was done, and further investigation will be made, and the Great Accomplishment will be torn off like a scab from a wound and the Accord will not recover.
War. The deceived will know they are deceived, and will lust for war again.
That cannot be. I must put a call through to Mrs. Jupiter at once.
I even think I know where to find Dan and Laurie. They must help me.
If not, I must do it myself.
March 17, 1987:
We did it.
Dan has modified his uniform since I last saw him. Darker. More body armor. None of his face shows. Laurie has a leather mask and a flak jacket under her costume and it covers her whole body and is very functional. She calls herself the Comedienne now.
I did not costume myself as Ozymandias. My uniform and mask were as dark as Dan's, at least.
We broke into the place where the diary was stored and rendered some of the guards unconscious with a gas bomb. I cracked the safe. We got the diary. It was one of Rorschach's, all right. No doubt of it. I saw several of the others and knew it for what it was. So did Dan.
Another two guards broke in as we were leaving. They started shooting at us.
Laurie shot back and killed them both.
She told me that this was the last time. The very last time. They would never see me again even if the nukes would drop if they didn't.
I pray God she is right.
I only wish I could, sometimes.
March 18th, 1987:
The diary is fascinating.
Rorschach's thoughts, actions, motives up to the time he was taken prisoner on his last visit to Moloch, then a final entry after he was broken out of Sing Sing by Dan and Laurie, on the very eve of his and Dan's journey to confront me in Antarctica.
He names me, all right. Names me as the perpetrator behind the murder of Blake and possibly Moloch and some of the others. Dan found me out. I suppose he would, because he and Laurie were the only two I never took preventative measures against. I didn't want to. I did not think I had to.
I should burn the book, but I cannot yet bring myself to. Rorschach's mind, as cold-blooded as a lizard, as sharp and steely as an icepick. A mind from which all empathy with other human beings has been stripped away.
"The streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over, all the vermin will drown. The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waistsand all the whores and politicians will look up and shout, ‘Save us.' And I'll look down and whisper ‘No.'"
I suppose the difference between us is that I whispered, "Yes."
I attach his journal to my own with a large rubber band and place them both inside my wall safe.
God help us all.
March 20th, 1987:
I am told that the government is beginning an investigation of me.
I think I can beat the rap. The question is, what will they turn up?
The fools don't realize that they're cutting their own throats like the ignorant pigs they are. They want to send the bombs flying again.
Who do I kill to stop this from happening?
Must burn this book. Must burn Rorschach's diary.
Can't do either one.
March 22nd, 1987:
My connection has been busted and Perkins says he will not find another for me. I will fire him. Will he turn state's evidence?
I could find more if I wanted. Would necessitate going into the mean streets myself. Or perhaps I could just discover who pushes to the upper-class trade.
Will not do so. Do not want to go out there.
Cold turkey is the only way to go.
Howard Hughes lives.
So does Rorschach.
March 24th, 1987:
Could not fire Perkins. Need his loyalty. If he leaves my employ, he will have no motive to lie for me on the stand.
The government wants to impound my effects. So far I have avoided being served. For how long?
The world presses down upon my house of cards. Is it too much of a stretch to analogize myself as Atlas, standing on that house and holding the world on his shoulders? Dare I shrug?
Atlas wants cocaine. Atlas wants Bubastis. Atlas wants A FRIEND.
March 25th, 1987:
Heard from Sally Jupiter. She called me.
Told me that Dan and Laurie had to leave the country because of what they had done. Told her they would never see me again. She called me a few choice names and said that if the feds ask her, she's going to tell them all she knows.
Should kill her, I suppose.
But I can't go out there anymore.
March 26th, 1987:
Nothing left to do but what I must.
I sit at my writing desk and know that the servers and federal officers camped in the lower reaches of my building will not go away until they take me with them. The helicopter which was on the roof has been impounded. I could wait them out for weeks. But the result would be inevitable.
That is, unless I do what I must.
If only Dr. Manhattan were here, to take me with him to wherever he is. We got along well, even at the end. He understood what I had done, and he left.
He would be the only one who would still talk to me, and he is gone.
My namesake, Rameses II, may have been the pharaoh of the Exodus. Upon him, God visited 12 plagues.
Upon the world, a much deadlier plague may be visited.
Unless I do what I must.
I recall Alexander and his last intoxication and compare it to my own shaky-handedness. I recall the great poem of Shelley. I recall the Comedian, and his remark about the nukes flying like May bugs within thirty years, just before he set fire to Captain Metropolis's display.
I stand at the apex of all the persons I have killed, and I am the master killer, unless someone kills me in turn.
There is a way I may retain that status.
A way that will protect the world from war.
I have stood above the mass of corpses for much too long. It is time I joined them.
I will close this book in a moment, and place it above the diary of Rorschach. Then I will take a penknife and plunge it into the cover, into the mechanism that will activate the thermite.
I will not shrink from it and hopefully it will be over in a very short time.
It is not such a great price to pay, to save the world.
I will soon learn the final wisdom of the ancients.
I will soon learn if there is another side, and who will be waiting for me there.
Perhaps it will be the Comedian. Perhaps it will be Rorschach.
No, I doubt that.
Look upon my works, ye mighty.
Excerpt from the obituary of Adrian Veidt, March 27, 1987:
...Of Veidt himself, only the charred head and lower legs were found. The rest was destroyed by burning thermite, evidently activated by Veidt himself. The remains at the scene included some piles of ash which analysts describe as containing paper, among other materials. The ashes were too fragmented for any hope of reconstruction. Authorities have speculated that this may have been the Rorschach diary, but this, like so much of Veidt's life, will still remain officially unconfirmed.
I met a traveller from an antique land, who said:
Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies,
Whose frown, and wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that the sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things...
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
--Percy Bysshe Shelley, "Ozymandias"
Watchmen were created by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons and are property of DC Comics. No money is being made from this story, no infringement is intended.