Inside Arkham Asylum, in one of the rarely used padded cells, the woman who had dubbed herself Columbine Jones sat slumped against one of the walls, staring listlessly at nothing in particular and plucking at her plastic ID bracelet.
The fact that the text on it read 'Harleen Quinzel' did little to brighten her already melancholic mood.
After she had stabbed the Joker, the Batman had made a timely appearance--too timely, if you asked Columbine--and swept in to arrest her and cart her away to Arkham.
The man she had tried to kill was in intensive care, last time she'd heard…and the public was chanting her name for the near successful murder.
She was the first person to come so close to finally ridding Gotham of its clown menace, a celebrity, everywhere the name 'Columbine Jones' was on everyone's lips…
And yet, the medical records labeled her 'Harleen Quinzel'.
When the door to her cell was opened, Columbine didn't bother to look up. The pointy-eared shadow that fell across the wall in front of her was enough to alert her to the identity of her visitor; looking up was an unnecessary expenditure of effort.
Her hand stilled its movement on her bracelet. "Jones. My name is Columbine Jones."
The shadow remained motionless. "I had hoped to speak with--"
"I know," Columbine cut him off. "But if you want to speak to Harley, you're out of luck. She's not available for conversation."
"Doctor Mackenzie informed me that Harley hasn't surfaced since I brought you in."
Columbine finally glanced up at the Dark Knight and she knew he was taking in her natural appearance, sans brown contact lenses and black hair dye--possibly wondering to himself why he didn't see the resemblance earlier. "If you're worried about whether or not she's still alive, I don't know what exactly to tell you. She's here and yet...she's not. She's still here. I think. I can't be sure. She's been...quiet...since I stabbed him. The last time I actually heard her voice, it was just an anguished scream in the back of my head."
"Now? Now, she's quiet. It's different. Very different...very strange. If there is a shard of her still buried somewhere inside, I haven't a clue where to find it or how to bring it up. So you'll have to settle for speaking to me."
"The Joker is recovering."
The woman on the floor returned her attention to the walls once more. "I'm very happy for him."
"I don't think you are."
"Am I so transparent, Batman? First Cobblepot, then Nygma…now you. You would think I were made of plate glass." She brushed a hand through her hair. "You should have let him die."
"I couldn't do that."
"The world would have been such a better place if you had just let him die. Why did you save him? He would have been dead in a matter of minutes and then Gotham would have been safer. Better...like it was before."
Batman's lips pressed together into a grim line. "It's not your place to decide that."
Her head snapped up and she glared at him. "Whose place is it, then? I'd love to hear you tell me that I had no right to kill him. Of all the people in the world who have a claim on his life, mine is the one that was the most pressing."
"You're not the only person he's hurt, Qu--Jones."
"No, I'm not. I know that. But I was created for the sole purpose of wiping him out of existence. That is my main objective. That is my reason for being." Her face crumpled momentarily before she hardened her expression once more. "You know the irony of all this, Batman? I thought that if I did it, I would return to the nothingness from which I sprang. I thought...she would be glad. After all...that's why I was created. Harley subconsciously wanted to do something...and when I came forward and did it...it shattered her. I suppose that shouldn't really surprise me. I am stronger than she is. I'm that way by design. It should have been logical that she would crumble..."
"You were angry."
Columbine released a breath in a huff. "I wasn't angry. I was vengeful. Furious. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned...but a woman scorned hath no logical reasoning capabilities. I should have realized that she wouldn't have been able to handle it…that she would shatter the moment I did it. Leaving me in this body…leaving me in charge...leaving me to know my fate. Ultimately, the Joker will be my executioner. There's no escaping it."
Batman sounded somewhat surprised. "So you realize you can't go back to him? Ever?"
"Of course I do. He'd kill me the moment he saw me." Columbine snapped her fingers. "He liked playing with me fine, he loves his games, but the Joker is the kind of fellow who tends to upset the chess board if he thinks he's not going to win. And I bested him...and that will not stand. If I ever get out of Arkham, he'll find me and he'll kill me, and he won't care who I am. Or who I was."
She looked back at the wall. "So yes, I realize Batman...believe me, more than you understand. I realize. I'm trapped in this body...in charge of this body...and death is all but guaranteed."
The smile she graced him with was one of pure bitterness. "What's worse is that there's no chance of me ever getting out of Arkham and hoping to become a legitimate citizen--not even a chance of being put into the witness protection program, since according to all the doctors I shouldn't exist. I'm a symptom of a mental illness, Harley is the one they want to help, they want to banish me; unless she resurfaces to take control, I'm condemned to these four walls for the duration of the rest of my life.
"You know, Batman, before I became--back when I was still inconsequential, nothing more than that nagging voice in the back of Harley's head that tried to keep her from doing foolish things and allowing the Joker to walk all over her...before then, I think I envied her. I wanted to be. See. Feel. I wanted emotions that were my own, not echoes and aftershocks of hers. It was selfish and it was stupid...I wanted the outside world--I wanted to be more than a prisoner inside her mind without any way to get out." She shook her head forlornly. "And now that I'm here…I'm still a prisoner without any means of escape."
Batman cleared his throat. "With proper treatment, you could become a productive member of society."
"With proper treatment, I will cease to be…and we both know Harley is incapable of being a productive member of society as long as the Joker is alive."
The cell door was knocked upon suddenly and Columbine jerked her head at it. "Sounds like your time with Arkham's newest patient is over, Batman. Wish I could say it's been a pleasure talking to you…"
Batman turned and started for the door. "I have faith that with proper treatment, you'll make a complete recovery."
"I don't," she said, even as the door slammed shut behind him.
Once alone again, Columbine returned her gaze to the wall--no longer listless and now smiling. "But maybe Nygma's offer still stands."
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, you've been a woderful audience. I'll be here all week, try the veal, and don't forget to tip your waitress. Drive safely!
(And, of course, if you liked Columbine, check out my other stories in the Batman universe.)