"Do not fear death so much, but rather the inadequate life." - Bertolt Brecht
Those of you who have been reading this journal since its inception will by now be used to receiving an update from the esteemed Mr Dibny sometime between the hours of Friday noontime and Sunday tiffin, and perhaps will be wondering at my own humble prose taking its place. I'm afraid that, in the event that you are reading this standing up, perhaps using a public telephonic device wired to the global computer network - oh, the marvels of the new age! - I must ask you to seat yourself, preferably with a hot mug of a particularly fortifying tea, made with honey as a bulwark against the terrible shock with which I am about to confound your senses.
This is what I believe is known in vulgar circles as 'a spoiler', as it is likely to spoil your entire day, so if you believe, like Thomas Gray, that where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise, read no further, lest you find yourself also spoiling the fine carpeting beneath your chair with an unstemmable tide of lachrimation, as I did. Who would have thought my own tears could stain a 200-year old persian rug? Yet these are the tiny sorrows which often form upon the heels of great calamities.
Ralph Dibny is dead.
Oh! I promised myself I would not cry again, but as Voltaire so memorably put it, tears are the silent language of grief. My patient is dead, and I grieve! Would that I could cure the cold embrace of the grave as easily as I could cure the tempestuous demons that dwelled within the man's heart and mind! Although on the latter score I must admit to failing dismally, as the man evidently remained a raging, paranoid psychopath until the very instant of his passing. Still, it's the thought that counts, and I would like to believe that he died as he lived, punching people in the face and yelling incoherently.
I was not there to witness his passing, gentle reader. My position is more akin to Watson standing on the Reichenbach Falls and reading a letter contained within a slim cigarette case. Perhaps Mr Dibny is even now climbing up some metaphorical cliff, to spend the next three years dressed as a washerwoman or a hapless stable-boy in a desperate attempt to confound an imaginary gunman. Would that fate were so kind.
This Friday - after two days in which the suspicious absence of ranting phone calls and death treats from my ex-patient had begun to prey on my mind - I received a letter from Mr Dibny reading as follows:
Dear Dr Willis,
I've had a shave. But never mind that.
By the time you read this, I, Ralph Dibny, will be dead.
Dr Fate has informed me that the last hour has finally come, and we'll be firing a chunk of hot lead through my illustrious brainpan in the subtle surroundings of the Tower Of Fate. Apparently the Feng Shui there is really good - we're going to do it up a little with a few floating masks that I'll be blu-tacking pictures of Sue to, and also locking the door so nobody can come in and gawp while I'm trying to do the decent thing. There'll be some wine and cheese too.
The programme so far involves Dr Fate making the pictures of Sue come to life and sort of warble my name, while I have a good cry and a last swig of meths. Then I'm going to put him on my head. I only hope he's washed himself out - I don't want my last smell to be my own crusted flith, but knowing him I'm sure that's exactly what's going to happen.
At that point we're going to have 'Smooth Criminal' by Michael Jackson playing, and I might just bust a quick move as a final homage to his brilliant dance style.
Anyway, after that it's time to pull the trigger and send that bullet tearing into the greatest brain the world has ever known, and after that it's daquiris with Sue beyond the grave, maybe a little light dancing, some mussels, we'll just take it slowly and see what happens.
I understand that Ollie's had that doorway to the afterlife bricked up, so I'll never be seeing you again. This would probably be a good opportunity to tell you that, while I have admittedly always despised you, I have a great deal of respect for your abilities as a psychiatrist.
Yes, it probably would be. But unfortunately I can't tell you that as you're a massive quack and you suck completely at psychiatry and everything else.
You suck, Dr Willis.
Anyway, I do have some slight misgivings about this whole shooting-myself-in-the-head thing - one, my stretch powers are completely back, to the extent that my head is so rubbery the bullet is likely to pass safely all the way through without doing any damage at all. Which means I'm going to have to trick someone into killing my ass in an incredibly ironic magical fashion. Which is going to be a total chore.
Two, I'm pret-ty sure that the guy I'm with is just a Dr Fate, instead of the Dr Fate, if you see what I mean. For one thing he uses the bathroom when he comes over, which disembodied floating helmets don't generally do. Also, I've heard him say things like "HA HA HA soon my evil plans will bear the sweetest fruit of all!" and then catch himself and pretend that he was just coughing, and when he coughs it sounds like the words 'evil plans'. And helmets don't cough either. No throats.
So - worst case scenario - I pull the trigger, the bullet tears the helmet right off mewithout damaging my head in the slightest, leaving it wobbling like a plate of jelly while a big mass of deformed gold smacks into the wall. And then Despero falls out and says it was him all along. It's going to be Despero in disguise, I just know it.
How embarrassing is that going to be? Jesus.
The only thing I can think of to do in that situation is what I usually do, which is lie and pretend I totally meant that to happen all along. Like, instead of a real gun, it's a magic crime-solving gun, and how I always knew Despero's secret plan was to take over the universe. I might even mention a few proper detective phrases, like 'dusting for prints' or 'checking the carpet for hairs'. Once I get started, I can keep it up for hours. That's why I, Ralph Dibny - I've said it before, and I'll say it again - am, or was, the World's Greatest Detective! In your face, Batman, you truth-telling beeeyotch.
Actually I suppose Batman can have that one back now if he wants to put his pina colada down for five seconds and solve a crime.
Anyway, from then on, I'll probably wing it and hope somebody turns up who can suicide me despite the whole rubber-body thing. Like maybe Despero has a space ray or something, or an Independance Day style flying saucer will turn up and blow the whole tower to pieces - something like that. The most important thing is to pretend it was my idea all along and that I am totally the puppet master who controls the strings of everyone's lives with my awesome brain. The world must remember me as The Greatest Human Being Ever To Stalk The Earth, and I figure defeating Despero and his alien hordes will do it.
So for Christ's sake don't go putting this letter on the internet. Okay? Good.
If I don't come barging in later today to punch you with my new extending arms, then I've succeeded beyond my wildest dreams and am dead as a doornail. So you can forget about ever getting any fees out of me - in fact, I've arranged for the $1,800 plus tax I still owe you for treatment to be burned in front of your face, while a crowd of small children point and laugh. You grotesque charlatan.
I sincerely despise you with every fibre of my being,
Ralph William Dibny
P.S. Get Wonder Woman to cry over my gravestone. If they won't build me a gravestone without a body, use my wife's. If you can't get Wonder Woman, try Mary Marvel. If you can't get her... I don't know, Bea or someone. But I want a Dibny tomb and beautiful women weeping going together in some kind of formation. Make it happen.
P.S.S. You're not getting paid for that so don't ask.
And there you have it. The world is a poorer place now, though there is one more star in the heavens to shine the light of true heroism upon us. Ralph may have had certain flaws in his character, especially if the Time Magazine 'Top Ten Greatest Monsters Of History' poll is to be believed, but, as Jesus of Nazareth so eloquently put it, let he who is without sin cast the first stone. In fact, I believe Mr Dibny lived his life by that very doctrine, given that he threw a number of rocks at me on one occasion whilst screaming that his soul was as white as a lamb.
He will be missed.
As a mark of respect for the passing of a valued patient and treasured friend, I will be continuing this journal for the next ten weeks - the traditional period of bereavement as detailed in Joseph Campbell's lesser work, The Baboon With A Thousand Snouts - and will endeavour to keep to the schedule of weekly updates on various matters that he laid down, as well as dealing with any comments you might have. Please treat the "comments section" of this very "post", as I believe the young people have it, as your own Book Of Condolences, the better to record your emotions on the falling of this extraordinary man under the whirling blades of Death's ignoble thresher.
Yours lost in a black mist of grief,
Dr Robert Amersham Willis, Phd.