Of all the horrid places in the world to spend the night, the infirmary ward of Arkham Asylum has got to be ranked among the top ten (and believe me, I speak from years of experience with sleeping in horrid places).
The ward is nothing more than a long room crammed with beds, machinery, and more restraints than one would need to secure a full army of miscreants. A good portion of them are wrapped around my own limbs. Logically, there's no need for them. One cannot run when one has a broken leg, particularly when that leg is in traction. And yet the fear of escape - in truth, their fear of me - keeps the leather straps firmly in place. The padlocks on them jingle as I shift position beneath the thin, scratchy blanket.
There are no clocks. Time stretches meaninglessly out, measured by medication and the limited routine of the ward. It could be noon, it could be midnight. I believe it's close to dawn, though it's difficult to tell since there are no windows.
The accommodations, poor as they are, are not the only reason for the general hatred of this room. The inmates of this asylum are known to speak their minds freely as it is. When painkillers and various other medications are thrown into the mix, the ward can become an echo chamber of lunacy.
At the moment, though, things are quiet. The only other inhabitant of the ward is Edward Nygma, who at the moment is muttering nonsense in his sleep. I suppose I could consider myself lucky to merely have a broken leg. One glance at Nygma, swathed in bandages from shoulders to feet, tells me two things: he'd tried to trap the Batman using some kind of fire device, and the Batman had not taken kindly to his efforts. At least his burns are somewhat mild.
"It's pelican logic!" he shouts, arms twitching as he tries to raise them triumphantly over his head. His own set of restraints prevents him from moving more than a few inches. The pain from the restraints jerking on his scorched skin knocks him into semi-awareness. "You're zoning," he accuses me, eyes half-open.
"You're sleeping," I inform him.
"No, you're zoning," he repeats urgently. "From the big zone to the little...the little brains..." He pauses, blinking blearily at me in the dim lights. "What was I saying?"
"I have no idea."
"I hate these stupid drugs," he mumbles, glaring daggers at the nurse down the way. "I can't think."
"You'd prefer the pain?" I ask, one eyebrow raised.
"Yes," he hisses.
The nurse has heard us talking. She drops her book on the table, pages spread wide to mark her place, and sails down the narrow passageway between the beds toward us. She stops at the foot of my bed, arms folded, glaring down at me. "You're supposed to be sleeping," she chides me.
I've spent most of the day sleeping, thanks to my own go-round with the painkillers, and I'm in no mood to be dropped back into the fuzzy dreamworld that has captured Nygma. I'm about to tell her that I don't need any more sleep when the double doors at the other end of the room slam open.
The first face we see belongs to the Joker. He's bleeding from the nose and the mouth, with lovely purple bruises rising to the surface over most of his face. His arms dangle uselessly at his sides. He is immediately followed by the Batman, who is grasping him by the neck of his pajama jacket and propelling him with a look of distaste toward the nearest bed.
Oh. It's been one of those captures. Periodically the Batman will find out where we spend our nights on the outside. Waking up to a fist in your face is hardly conducive to clear thinking, let alone the presence of mind to fight back. Generally whoever's unlucky enough to be in the bed only ends up with a selection of minor injuries before they're delivered back to Arkham. The Joker must have done something very, very unwise to warrant that many broken bones.
The Bat drops the clown, letting him crash down onto the mattress like a recalcitrant cat.
"'S'matter, Bat-boy?" the Joker wheezes through broken teeth. "No time for foreplay?"
The Batman glares down at him, fists clenching, obviously wanting nothing more than to continue beating the life out of him. The Joker somehow manages to grin insolently at him.
A pair of orderlies enter through the double doors, briefly revealing Robin waiting in the hallway. Unlike the Batman with his swollen jaw and the bleeding and broken Joker, there's not a scratch on him. One of the orderlies is holding an asylum uniform and the other is holding the stack of intake forms full of meaningless questions that they ask us every time we're dragged back here. Do they really think the Joker will ever give them a straight answer to questions like "Where are you right now?" and "Who's the president?"
Nygma and I look at each other and sigh. Between the Joker's upcoming interrogation and his inevitable screeches of pain when they get around to setting his broken arms, it's going to be a long and very noisy day.
Not that sharing the ward with the Joker is ever a quiet experience. I'm certainly not looking forward to the next month or so of his constant company.
Perhaps it's possible to run with a broken leg after all...
(to be continued)
Eddie's 'pelican logic' ramblings were taken from real life. Conversations with sleep-talkers rock, even if I'm not quite sure how standing by the bed translates into 'zoning'.