“Dreaming?” Oliver Queen repeated.
“That’s right,” Green Arrow said. “This is all a dream. A pretty good one, too.”
“But… who are you, then?” Oliver asked. “If I’m dreaming, who are you?”
“How should I know?” Green Arrow asked. “Our knowledge of psychiatry begins and ends with The Bob Newhart Show. Maybe I’m your subconscious, maybe your superego. Maybe I’m the hot pastrami on rye you had last week. Point is, I know what’s going on, and I’m trying to get us out of it.”
Oliver moved closer to the mirror, placing his hands on the sink again. “And just what is going on?”
“Think, Oliver,” Green Arrow said. “We’re dreaming, stuck in a dream we can’t wake up from. Who does that sound like?”
“Destiny,” Oliver said instantly, without quite knowing why.
“Survey says correct!” Green Arrow said. “You’re remembering, Ollie. That’s good. Keep it up. What else do you remember?”
Oliver thought for a moment, and it all came back to him. Jumbled bits and pieces at first, names and images, then all the rest of it. “I’m Green Arrow,” he said. “I’m a member of the Justice League. Doctor Destiny is a criminal we fight, a criminal whose weapon is…”
“Dreams,” Green Arrow confirmed. “This has all the earmarks of one of his stunts. Trapping us in a dream we can’t wake up from.”
“But why such a happy dream?” Oliver asked. “Why not a nightmare? Make us suffer?”
“Nightmares are easier to wake up from,” Green Arrow said, “because you want to. But a dream like this? A dream where all your hopes and fantasies are realized? Why would you want to wake up from this? A world where Barry is still alive, where there’s no Justice League, because there’s no crime. Where you never lost your fortune in a scandal. Where Roy never let you down, never turned to drugs.” Green Arrow paused a moment. “Where you never killed.”
“Killed…” Oliver repeated. The images came to his mind unbidden. The fight in the alley, the bright light in his eyes, the brief snap against his fingertip as he released the bowstring. The muffled grunt as the arrow found its unintended target. Oliver sank to his knees and quietly sobbed.
“I killed…” he wept.
“Hey, suck it up!” Green Arrow snapped. “I don’t have time for you to wallow in self-pity! We’ve got to wake up, got to stop Destiny!”
Oliver swallowed, then straightened up to his full height. “You’re right. How do we do it?”
“Well, Destiny’s dream has us trapped because it’s a good dream,” Green Arrow said. “I figure the way to get out of it is to turn it into a nightmare. Focus on the bad things in our life rather than the good things.”
“Sounds logical,” Oliver said. “Things like being stuck on Starfish Island for a year, you mean.”
“Bull,” Green Arrow scoffed. “You loved that. It was an adventure, an escape from the boredom of the boardroom. You wouldn’t have traded that for anything.”
“You’re right,” Oliver admitted. “So, what do you mean?”
“How about this?” Green Arrow asked. Like a bad television reception, the image of the masked man in the mirror began to fade, to blur. When the colors came into sharper focus, Oliver saw Green Arrow and Green Lantern standing in the doorway of a small room. In the center of the room, Roy sat at a table, shivering all over as if from extreme cold. A needle lay on the table, next to a length of rubber tubing.
“Roy…” Oliver whispered.
“You always have all the answers, Arrow,” Green Lantern said. “So what’s your answer to that?!”
“My ward, Speedy, is a junkie!” Green Arrow cried.
“Stop it!” Oliver shouted. “Don’t show me that! I don’t want to see that!”
“That’s the idea, sport,” Green Arrow’s voice echoed through the room. In the mirror, Oliver watched himself confront Roy about his drug habit, heard Roy’s accusation of how Green Arrow drove him to it by deserting him. (*) Oliver stood there at the mirror, transfixed, watching it all. His knuckles whitened with his grip on the bathroom counter.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Snowbirds Don’t Fly,” Green Lantern v2 #85 (August-September, 1971).]
“Not quite awful enough, huh?” Green Arrow’s voice echoed. “How about this, then?”
The image changed to Oliver seated at his desk in his office. John Deleon stood before him, a handful of documents in his hand. “You’re finished, Queen!” Deleon snapped. “These documents prove that you stole money from your own company!”
“Those documents are false!” Oliver challenged. “They’ll never hold up in court!”
“Maybe,” Deleon admitted, “but the taint of embezzlement will still be on you! No investor will come near the Queen Fund!” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “In Each Man There is a Demon,” Justice League of America #75 (November, 1969).]
“Stop it!” Oliver roared, pounding on the counter with his fists. “No more!”
“Starting to get to you, I see,” Green Arrow’s sepulchral voice intoned. “Good. That’s good. Wait till you see what I’ve got lined up next!”
Oliver stared into the mirror. “Next?” he cried. “No! I don’t want any more! Don’t show me any more!”
“Have to, chum,” Green Arrow said. “You haven’t woken up yet. The stuff I showed you before wasn’t horrible enough.”
The image in the mirror began to blur, then to sharpen into a new scene. Oliver stared at it in horror.
He saw a man who looked somewhat like himself, only about fifty years old. There was a look of anger on the man’s face. Anger? No; it was rage, pure animal rage. He was shouting at a woman, a beautiful woman of about thirty-five years old. The woman was cowering in terror of him. This was happening in a large, luxuriously furnished living room. A small boy stood at the top of the stairs, looking down on this scene with a horrified expression.
“No…” Oliver whispered in shock.
“Fraid so,” Green Arrow’s voice told him. “You remember this, don’t you?”
“That’s right,” Green Arrow affirmed. “Your mother. And the old guy is your dad. He was a bit older than she was, wasn’t he?”
“Yes,” Oliver said weakly, watching the horrible scene play out. He hadn’t thought of this in years, had almost completely blocked it out of his mind. He winced in horror as his father struck his mother, an open-handed slap across the face that sent her reeling.
“Why was your pop so mad, Ollie?” Green Arrow asked.
“He… he found out… Mom was… unfaithful to him,” Oliver stammered.
“With your math tutor, wasn’t it?” Green Arrow asked.
“Yes,” Oliver said weakly, watching his father hit his mother again. He saw, for the first time, the stark terror on his own eight-year-old face.
“Must’ve had quite an effect on you,” Green Arrow theorized. “Seeing that at the age of eight? Must have soured you on love for a long, long time.”
The scene changed again. Now it showed a graveside funeral service. Oliver’s father was there, a bit older. His expression was stern, remorseless. Young Oliver, now around twelve, tried to be solemn as well. He sniffled once, letting his emotion out, but a withering glance from his father made him draw it back in again.
“Things were never the same after that, were they, Ollie?” Green Arrow asked. “Your folks stayed together; your pop couldn’t have stood the scandal of a divorce. But they never said two civil words to each other again. Your mom started drinking, heavily. Drank herself to death, didn’t she?”
Oliver was too overwhelmed to answer with more than a nod.
“Your old man shipped you off to boarding school right after that,” Green Arrow reminded. “Probably couldn’t stand the sight of you; reminded him too much of your mom.”
“Please…” Oliver said, his voice choked with tears. “No more!”
“Oh, we’re just getting started, Ollie-boy,” Green Arrow promised. “You had a pretty sucky childhood, didn’t you, Ollie?” he asked.
“Please…” Oliver begged in a whisper.
“When you grew up, you tried to make up for that. You tried to build a surrogate family for yourself, tried to be the good father that your old man never was. Roy, of course; but that blew up in your face, didn’t it, when he became a junkie? So you tried again, and again. Rick. Samson. Ozone. Always another surrogate son around the corner, wasn’t there?”
“Stop it,” Oliver whimpered.
“But you never tried to find love, did you, Ollie?” Green Arrow went on. “Never let it find you, either. I guess your parents’ example made you real reluctant to open that door. Bonnie, Moonday, all the others; you never let them in.” The image in the mirror coalesced again. “Until Dinah.”
“Dinah…” Oliver saw her in the mirror, smiling her funny little smile, a gentle breeze blowing her hair. She was so beautiful.
“Yeah, she knocked the door right down, didn’t she?” Green Arrow asked. “Don’t know what it is about her. Maybe it’s her strength; you know she could never be the punching bag your mother was, don’t you? But then, that’s a double-edged sword. She’s strong enough not to need you.”
“Stop it!” Oliver snarled. He watched in horror as a new figure walked onto the scene in the mirror. Batman came up behind Black Canary, put his arms around her waist. She looked at him over her shoulder, a smile on her face.
“Yeah, ol’ Bat-Ears saw what he wanted in her, too, when she first joined the League. You two were in competition for her for a while, there. (*) Dunno why she ever chose you over him, do you? No, of course you don’t.”
[(*) Editor’s note: Batman and Black Canary shared a kiss in “The Devil in Paradise,” Justice League of America #84 (November, 1970).]
“Stop it!” Oliver demanded again, spittle flying from his lips.
In the mirror, Batman released Black Canary and walked away. She turned her gaze out at Oliver again and smiled at him.
“But she did,” Green Arrow said. “She’s been your girlfriend for a long time now. Girlfriend. Safe little word, that. No commitment to it. No promise of the future. How long you figure she’ll be satisfied with that?”
“I–” Oliver choked on his answer as he saw another figure enter the scene: Cardshark. Dinah’s eyes lit up when she saw him; he took her hands in his, and they gazed into each other’s eyes.
“Yeah, that was a close one, wasn’t it?” Green Arrow asked. “She fell for him like an egg from a flamingo. Lucky thing it was all a hoax.” (*) Oliver watched as Cardshark disappeared, and Dinah went back to smiling at him. It wasn’t the same smile, though; it was an anxious, expectant one, waiting for something.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Green Arrow and Black Canary: Dealt from the Bottom.]
“You’ll never change, will you?” Green Arrow asked. “Why should you? You like things the way they are now! Nice and comfortable, no chance of getting hurt like your parents were. The brave, bold hero, who’s too chicken to tell his girl how he really feels–”
Oliver threw back his head and let out a loud scream of rage.
Green Arrow let out a loud scream of rage and sat bolt upright on the padded reclining table. Electrodes tore loose from his temples as he leaped up.
“No!” Doctor Destiny screamed in horror. “It’s not possible!”
Green Arrow’s face was a contorted grimace of violent rage. He stared ahead of him at the shrunken, waxy-skinned man in the blue costume, standing before a control console. Destiny returned his stare with one of horror and disbelief.
“You can’t be awake!” Destiny shrieked. “You can’t be! My dream-generator is inescapable! Foolproof! And you beat it? You, of all the League?”
At that, Green Arrow turned his head and looked around him. Many of the other Justice Leaguers lay on similar reclining tables, electrodes attached to their temples. Superman was there, along with Batman, the Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Hawkman, and Hawkwoman — and Dinah.
“Why is it always you?” Destiny shrieked, drawing the archer’s attention again. “You first ruined my plans, exposed me as an impostor! I would have conquered the League that first time, had it not been for you! (*) And now–”
[(*) Editor’s note: See “When Gravity Went Wild,” Justice League of America #5 (June-July, 1961).]
With a bellow of rage, Green Arrow crossed the space between himself and the master of dreams. He grabbed the front of Destiny’s tunic in a balled fist and yanked the frail man’s face close to his own. Destiny felt the hot breath from Green Arrow’s nostrils on his skeletal face. “Bring them out of it,” Green Arrow snarled.
“I-I don’t–” Destiny stammered. Green Arrow slammed his back against the wall, then yanked him forward again.
Trembling with fear, Destiny manipulated the controls on the console. Green Arrow kept a grip on Destiny’s tunic, watching his fellow Leaguers closely. For a tense moment, nothing happened. Then Superman began to groan and shake his head from side to side. Aquaman’s eyelids fluttered, and Hawkwoman began to stir restlessly.
“They’ll wake up on their own, now,” Destiny said in a pitiful, weak voice.
Without comment, Green Arrow lifted the frail villain with one hand and unceremoniously threw him into a corner of the room. Destiny slammed into the wall and crumpled into an unconscious heap.
“Oh… what happened?” Superman said, slowly sitting up.
“Easy, Supes,” Green Arrow cautioned, removing the electrodes from his friend’s head. “How do you feel?”
“Such a dream,” Superman said, a wistful expression on his face. “I was married to Lois… Ma and Pa Kent were alive… and…” A look of confusion came over the Man of Steel’s face. “And my hair was longer. I wonder what that was about?”
“Oooh…” Green Arrow’s head snapped around in the direction of that moan. He recognized it. He saw Black Canary struggling to sit up, fumbling with the electrodes.
“Hold that thought, Supes,” Green Arrow said. He rushed over to Black Canary, helping her with the electrodes. “How you feeling, pretty bird?” he asked.
“Oh… I… fine, I guess,” Black Canary muttered sleepily. “Confused, but… OK.”
“You sure you’re OK?” Green Arrow asked insistently.
Black Canary stared into his face. “Yes, I’m sure. I’m fine.”
“Great,” Green Arrow said. “Will you marry me?”
Black Canary gaped in shock.