THE LAUGHING GAME
DISCLAIMER: Batman, The Joker, and the other supporting cast that will be popping up are, sadly, not my creations. I wrote this story a couple of years back, partly in collaboration with some other very talented writers. But then I forgot all about it. I recently rediscovered it, and decided to post it here. This was written before "Infinite Crisis/One Year Later", so apologies if some character details are outdated. I hope you enjoy it!
CHAPTER 1 – THE MORE THINGS CHANGE…
It was the middle of the night at Arkham Asylum. But very few people were asleep. Sleep, and the peace that came with it, was hard to come by within the Gothic structure of Arkham. Some called it a prison for the criminally insane, some called it a nuthouse. But the people that worked there, that had to live there with them, they just called it hell.
And out of all the people that worked there, none had it worse than the night-shift guys. Few Arkham employees lasted longer than two weeks, and if you were to spend a night within those walls of stone and steel, you'd know why. All sorts of sounds echoed along the winding halls, all through the night. Whimpers, anguished roars, pleas for help, they all drifted from the holding cells. But there was no question as to what sound was the most unnerving, no, the most terrifying. It came from the cell in the deepest, darkest recesses of the asylum, but it somehow managed to overpower every other sound, pounding all around the building and right through the souls of everyone in it. It was like The Devil being summoned from the abyss. And many people would say he was The Devil. The sound? A maniacal, whooping, seemingly never-ending laugh.
In Gotham City, The Joker was known for many things. He was known for his green hair and white skin, a ghastly, horrifying vision that many people prayed they would never have to see up-close. He was known for his horrifying crimes, his body count now in the thousands. And he was known for that smile, that terrible smile, the same malicious grin that he left seared into the face of countless victims. Yes, he was known for many things. But in Arkham, he was known best for that laugh, filled with enough insanity to turn anyone who listened to it long enough mad as well. But the funny thing was, some may say that he didn't have much to laugh about.
The Joker was thinking about all that had gone wrong for him recently. His most recent plan to kill Batman had failed. He'd been beaten to within an inch of his life. And, after a brief spell in hospital, he was now back yet again in Arkham Asylum, his home away from home. And now here he was, stuck in a padded cell and locked into a straightjacket. So why was he laughing? Well, the sign of a truly great man is his ability to laugh at himself. But there was something else. Two little words that were so satisfying, so fascinating, so hilarious.
At long last, after all these years, The Joker knew who Batman really was. Bruce Wayne! Bruce Wayne Bruce Wayne Bruce Wayne Bruce Wayne Bruce Wayne Bruce Wayne Bruce Wayne. That's what he felt like shouting right now. But no, oh no, he wasn't going to do that. Not at all. This was going to be their little secret, a little in-joke that the two of them could share. And of course, The Joker loved jokes.
But the funniest joke, the cruellest joke, the best joke of all was life itself. Yes, life, now that was one whopper of a joke! But the thing was, nobody else got the joke, only him. And they lock him up here, and say he's mad. Well yes, he is mad. Mad as a hatter. Mad as The Mad Hatter, madder! Ha ha! But that's what happens when you finally get the joke. You're set free: madness is life's gift to you - if you finally unlock its true meaning. And oh it was a gift. Insanity, chaos, destruction, these are things of beauty. And The Joker loved nothing more than to spread them around.
And now, now he was preparing to let Batman, Mr. Wayne, old Brucie, in on the joke. Yes, even now he was planning his next gag. The Joker thought that this could very well end up being his all-time comedic high. And just wait until he got to the punchline – that was going to be a real killer!