Teggarimor, the Boogeyman, was furious.
“I am beset and thwarted on each hand by children. The very ones who should fear me have risen up to oppose me. And that — that simpleton. He should never have been able to see me, let alone lay hands on me.” The Nightmare Lord loosed a roar of rage that shook the very essence of his realm.
“Very well. If they choose to oppose me, then let them face me in all of my nightmarish glory.”
Teggarimor gathered his strength and began to push through the murky veil that separated his realm from the mortal world.
As the darkness of evening deepened on Monday evening, Ralphie Tyler had just finished telling his friends in the Junior JSA what he had done in the dreamworld, when Static (Cei-U still inside him) and the Sleeper appeared in their midst.
“Jeff?” Amanda Martin asked in surprise. “What are you doing here?”
“We’re here to help,” replied Jeffrey Pierce.
“Help with what?” Superboy asked.
Before either of the newcomers could answer, Coral noticed a horrifying figure beginning to materialize. “Tekaremaris!” she screamed in her Atlantean tongue.
All heads turned to see the intruder.
Every childhood fear the young heroes had ever felt came like a rushing torrent to the front of their memories upon seeing their foe in person. Teggarimor was a horror that none of them would ever have believed could exist.
Easily standing ten feet tall and garbed in a tattered black robe, the fiend was an imposing figure despite its almost cadaverous appearance. Mottled gray and black flesh clung tightly to its skeleton as though it struggled to hold its bones together. The patterns were constantly moving like living shadows. Abnormally long, clawed hands and feet protruded from the sleeves and from beneath the hem of his robe. From the center of his chest and through the tatters, four thorny tentacles writhed in a mesmerizing pattern, each one ending in the head of an eyeless serpent.
Teggarimor’s hood was pulled back to reveal what would have been a near-human head had it not been for its extreme elongation. Its lips were peeled back to reveal rows of razor-sharp fangs, and the mouth itself was stretched from one gnarled and twisted elfin ear to the other. A jagged hole was above the mouth where the nose had been, and hanging strips of mottled flesh seemed to indicate that it had been physically ripped from its face.
It was the eyes, however — those lidless, bulbous orbs of onyx that held only pinpoints of crimson in their centers — that confirmed to everyone present that this was the being that had haunted them in their sleep. This was the Boogeyman.
“You!” he raged in a voice that sounded like a cacophony of tortured souls crying out in horror when he spied Ralph among the children. “You shall die first.”
“Protect Ralph!” Batwing cried as he threw himself toward him in an attempt to knock Ralph Tyler out of harm’s way.
Superboy launched himself at the monster just as Whiz Kid pummeled Teggarimor relentlessly. Coral embraced her fear and used it to focus her Atlantean strength as she, too, joined in the attack.
Teggarimor effortlessly flung them all aside like discarded dolls.
Arrowette fired a steady stream of arrows at their foe, only to watch in surprise as they vanished into the tatters of his cloak. Before she could react, her own weapons shot back at her from the darkness. Fortunately, the Sleeper wasn’t caught by surprise and dropped to the ground, taking the girl’s legs out from under her with a leg sweep. She cried out in pain as one of the arrows grazed her arm, leaving a streak of bright red. She instinctively realized that, had it not been for the Sleeper, she would now be dead.
Batwing rushed into the fray and found himself fighting off the deadly attacks of Teggarimor’s fanged tentacles. Their thorns bit deep into his flesh as he struggled to fight his way closer to his opponent.
Star Sapphire was grateful for the high ceiling in the laboratory, as she took to the air in hopes of getting a clear shot with her sapphire. Sensing his danger, Teggarimor flung Batwing directly into her path, causing them both to fall hard to the floor. Kiku fumbled with her dial but could not draw her attention away from the advancing monster.
The Nightmare Lord glanced around. In mere seconds he had removed seven of his opponents from the fight. His laughter was maddening.
A sudden explosion then knocked Teggarimor to the floor. Still sick to his stomach, a weak Damage smiled at the Badhnisian heroine before passing out. His unexpected attack bought Kiku the time she needed. She dialed H-E-R-O.
When Teggarimor regained his feet, he found not the girl whom he had been prepared to tear limb from limb, but a knight clad in silver armor, wielding a large, two-handed sword.
A voice from inside the armor spoke, “Prepare, foul demon, for now you face the Paladin.”
The Paladin rushed forward, delivering a frenzy of powerful blows with his weapon. With each strike, bits and pieces of the tattered robe were torn away. Teggarimor screamed in pain and tried to mount a defense. When that failed, he tried to retreat from his attacker, only to feel the cold steel of the blade slice through one of his tentacles. Only a twisted bit of luck saved him from a fatal blow. He felt himself falling backward as he tripped over the prone Damage lying on the floor behind him. Although it would cost him part of his strength, Teggarimor had no choice but to call upon his powers to save himself.
Before the Paladin could take another step, he suddenly found himself ringed by other heroes that Kiku had previously called forth. Deep in the Paladin’s subconscious, Kiku could not fight the rising fear that her nightmare was coming true.
Looking around, the Boogeyman saw only two opponents were left. One was a child like these other fools who now laid helpless at his feet, and the other was a simpleton.
He advanced on the dark-skinned English boy, his clawed hand clamping around the young man’s throat as he lifted him from the ground. “Do you have any final words to speak before you die?” he asked.
“Then let them be your epitaph.”
“Say,” the boy gasped, “you could come out and help now.”
A look of confusion crossed Teggarimor’s features. Stretching out his hands, Static felt the Thunderbolt begin to leave his body. With a quick flick of his wrist, the Boogeyman felt the boy’s neck snap.
At that moment, Cei-U had a decision to make. He knew he could easily end this conflict right now, but to do so would cost the young hero his life. Luckily, the boy’s last command had given him the leeway to interpret it as he saw fit. From the corner of his eye, he saw something that helped him make up his mind. He chose to preserve Jeffrey Pierce’s life.
Through the entire combat, Ralph had watched in horror as his young friends fell before the monster. When he heard the crack of Static’s neck, Ralph also heard something else — the voice of a dream reminding him that he, too, was a hero.
When the Nightmare Lord finally looked at his most hated foe, he saw Ralph holding a small hourglass up before his eyes. “Now.”
Teggarimor knew that, even though he had not physically changed, he was no longer facing a simpleton — he now had to face a warrior, one who had once already bested him. In desperate rage, he charged.
Ralph met his charge head on. Almost without thought, the man swept his left hand toward the monster’s stomach and grabbed the three remaining tentacles. Ignoring the thorns, he held on tightly. Drawing his right hand back, he balled up his fist and struck Teggarimor square between the eyes. As his foe fell away, Ralph gave it a jerk and ripped the tentacles from his body. He wasted no time in looking at his grotesque trophies — he simply cast them away.
This was a pain unlike any the Nightmare Lord had ever felt. He realized that this was one fight he was not going to win. Struggling to rise, he made the mistake of taking his eyes off his foe for the briefest of seconds. Ralph took the advantage and delivered a kick to Teggarimor’s chin. Although larger than his attacker, he knew that his size was useless unless he could regain his feet. That, however, was an option that Ralph was not going to allow. Clasping both hands together, the mortal brought both fists down as one across the back of his foe’s neck.
Teggarimor knew that the fight was over when he heard the crack of his own neck. He knew it was not a fatal blow, but he also knew he would not have time to recover. With the last of his supernatural energy, he released his hold on this world and allowed himself to be dragged, painfully, back to his own realm and his former level of power.
Ralph suddenly began to feel both his anger and his energy drain away. Before he could fall, he felt himself being supported by two sets of hands. He looked to each side to find Superboy and the Thunderbolt gently lowering him to the ground. He gave them a tired smile.
“I’m a hero,” was all he said before blacking out.