Lady Day and the Dark Dame

Thando Bhebhe / Lead Infinitum Writer

The story I’d been planning to write took me to the Republic of Fauxland, located just off the Eastern coasts of Canada and the United States. The country was a lot like its neighbors; an empire built on slavery, genocide and stolen land. The 21st century would mark another age of prosperity and economic superiority within the Western state, but like its neighbors, it was a very selective prosperity afforded only to its wealthiest individuals. The rest, however, suffer under a new war, the inequality war.

Sodom and Gomorrah were the poster children of economic, political and social inequality and they would be the centrepiece of my masterpiece.

It was a jarring experience walking on their streets. To the West sat Sodom City, nicknamed Devil’s Delight. I could best describe Sodom as a mix of Vegas, Los Angeles and the lustful decadence of the late Roman Empire, with barbarians marching at the gates.

Gomorrah would be the wasteland of barbarians, a gothic city riddled with darkness and gloom. Yet a twisted beauty echoed within the dark.

While Sodom was the Devil’s twisted delights, Gomorrah was the Devil’s Den, in all its shame.

Now that I’d found my setting, within them a tale of parities and disparities prepping, the star of my show revealed herself in the city of lights.

Stars and starlets flashed bright on the time square-esque billboards in downtown Sodom, Billie Holloway’s image singing into a silver vintage mic as jazz age class adorned the songstress. She was everywhere, billboards, ads, movies and practically had a heritage site for the new Sin City attracting admirers galore. I was among the entranced, her siren singing hooking me through her songs. Yet she ascended above all this, becoming more than just a flash of fame, Billie Holloway was a hero, she was Lady Day.

“Why did you choose that name?” I asked.

Holloway smiled, her teeth gleaming white. I’d secured every journalist’s dream, being granted exclusive access to an interview with her.

“Billie Holidays has always been my role model, I don’t think there’s anyone I have more respect for than her. You could say my entire career is plagiarized from her,” Holloway said, laughing.

“Well, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery after all,” I said, trying to win her grace.

“I think I wanted to achieve what Holiday couldn’t, be the Lady Day that she never could. Songs like Strange Fruit echo a vigilantism that practically killed her career you know; she had the whole FBI on her ass for that. She could’ve played it safe, but no, she took on the goddamn United States of America. That’s who she was, that’s Lady Day! That’s who I wanted to be.”

“So, you became a vigilante?”

“Well, in spirit at least.”

Lady Day was Billie Holloway’s heroic alter ego. She’d already captured the world with her celebrity, but unsatisfied, she became the uncaped crusader, roaming the streets of Sodom in hopes of preventing violent ends from violent delights.

A real life friendly neighborhood superhero.

“I wanted to help people, that’s all it’s ever been about! Black folks were getting lynched in the South and the Lady Day of then chose to use her stage to shine light on such acts. Today we’re facing rampant crime and corruption and extreme levels of inequality. This is what’s driving kids to rob, steal and kill, it’s all survival. Today’s FBI are corrupt politicians and justice systems that prevent the pain by more pain! Police brutality and violence is at an all-time high. The Lady Day of today needs to stop this, that’s what I’m trying to do.”

“Is that why you don’t kill, your golden rule?”

“The problem isn’t the criminal, rather the system that perpetuates said criminal.”

She spoke just as sweetly as she sang, her cadence eloquent and controlled. This spoke to her blue blood roots.

“Lady Day was also meant to be more than just a hero. I also wanted her to be a role model, a symbol of a better Sodom!”

This is where Holloway’s halo beamed. Aside from beating the “bad guys”, she’s deeply invested in major charitable endeavors, from schools to healthcare to any and all economic ails.

“I can see the symbol working as most of my projects are publicly funded. People believe in Lady Day and they believe in her mission, and they’re putting their money where their mouth is!”

“Yet challenges still arise…” I probed.

“Of course, charity makes a big difference, but the system remains unchanged. It’s still the same CEOs and politicians running the city and profit is king. It’s the people who are sacrificed.”

“Why don’t you run for office then, like your father? People believe in Lady Day after all, you’ll have support.”

“He was barely a father… and an even worse politician. And yes, I’ll have the people behind me, but not the system.”

“With the people behind you though, you can make your own system… The people are the power after all.”

“That’s not what Lady Day represents, she’s a hero, not a god. Besides, the French people of 1789 thought they were the power, look what that brought them.”

“Liberty, equality and fraternity.”

“Death, fear and chaos, it was a reign of terror!”

“Isn’t that the price of revolution?”

“It is, and it’s one I – one Lady Day, isn’t willing to pay. Besides… there are other alternatives.”

“Like what, reform? You want to work within the system, be co-opted? I suppose that’s why you’re a vigilante in spirit only,” I said.

I was walking on thin ice, but I needed to build up my next point, introduce the antagonist of my tale.

“Do these criticisms sound familiar?” I asked.

“Of course,” she said, smiling without any resistance nor will, almost a knee-jerk glee.

I was alluding to Lady Day’s arch nemesis, another vigilante within the twin cities who went by the name, the Dark Dame. She almost exclusively operated at night as opposed to Lady’s day. She prowled the ghettos of Gomorrah, yet her deathly reach was felt even in Sodom.

“Your rival has quite the resume, she’s killed and kidnapped those same CEOs and politicians you can’t touch, bending the system to her very will. Those criminals you don’t kill usually always find themselves back on the streets and despite your rehabilitation programs, many of them return to their lives of crime, perpetuating the same pain you’re so desperate to end. The Dark Dame prevents all that, once and for all.”

“You can say that the Dark Dame is more effective, I’ve heard that before. But do the means justify the ends? She kills people, all people, not just the corrupt politicians and CEOs. What kind of message – what kind of symbol does she represent? It’s one of fear and dread, one of terror!”

“Batman represents fear, yet he’s a pop culture hero, the hero in fact.”

“That’s because he doesn’t kill, he has a code, a line that he doesn’t cross. What’s the Dark Dame’s line? I’ll give you a hint, she has none!”

“You may be right, but her enemy, your enemy, doesn’t have a line either! These governments and corporations, the system, it acts with impunity.”

“I’m on the side of peace and justice.”

“But there is no peace without justice.”

Holloway paused; her smile gone.

“Whether you like it or not, The Dark Dame has become the hero you choose not to be.”

“Hero? She’s a criminal. She has ties to the Halliday Gang, a syndicate that robs, steals, and kills, they even launch prison breaks! They’re the same gang that kidnapped me when I was a child and murdered my father – she murdered my father!”

“Barely a father, one who was riddled with corruption!”

“The point remains. My dad was a lot of things, but not even he deserved to die. No one does.”

“Soldiers kill, yet they’re heroes. She’s waging a war on crime, and the Halliday Gang is the closest thing we have to a real life Robin Hood. Not only do they steal from the system and give to the poor, but they police the criminal underworld as well, doing what the cops could never do. They – she, is doing all she can to have the best outcome for innocents.”

“She plays judge, jury and executioner, and the people may feel like she’s a hero, but they said the same thing about Robespierre and his gang of Jacobins. How did that end? He was killed by his very own guillotine!”

Holloway flexed her intellect, seeing it as a strength, but to many, it revealed an out-of-touchiness. While Gomorrah’s dame was shrouded in darkness, what little was known of her was that she’d been an orphan, abandoned and raised by the wolves of the Halliday Gang. She understood how the real world worked. And there was Lady Day, shimmering in privilege, adorned in white, guarded by only a shield, her face bare for all to see in the warm light of day.

“Systems of white supremacy, patriarchy and political and economic colonization did not have lines, that’s why they won. You won’t dismantle them by wearing gloves.”

“Yet the road to hell is paved with good intentions, all power must be checked!”

I chuckled, the pieces finally in place.

“You know, it’s quite funny.”

“What is?” Holloway said, a wavering smile slipping.

“You are the Dark Dame’s line, the check to her power.”

Holloway paused, watching.

“I mean, think about it. At the end of the day you all want the same thing. She represents fear and dread, bending the system to her will, and you represent hope and goodness, inspiring the system. You two actually have more of a symbiotic relationship when you think about it some more. She gets dirty, so you stay clean. You’re the hero we want and she’s the hero we need…”

Holloway gave up smiling, an intense glare shooting, desperate to restrain.

“I always found it funny that despite you two being bitter rivals, you’ve never actually faced off with one another…”

I then tapped my phone on the desk between us, going off the record. There was a reason why I had secured this interview.

It was because I knew something no one else did. Sodom was a house of cards, an empire built on lies, a scintillating oasis that glimmered in the desert distance. But I knew it was all a mirage, I knew Billie Holloway’s secret.

“I don’t know how you did it, but I’m impressed. You know what you remind me of? You remind me of Ying and Yang. For all that is good, there is all that is evil, for every day, there is a night, for Lady Day, there is the Dark Dame, and all are one and the same!”

Holloway’s slight smile gave her away. I now looked at her with new eyes, Clark Kent’s glasses finally falling off. “I have so many more questions…” I said, a tale of two heroes at hand.

Thando Bhebhe / Infinitum Writer

This article was originally published in print Volume 23, Issue 7 on Thursday, March 7.

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