Disclaimer: Don't own Batman or anything Batman related. But I do own my imagination!

A/N: Like it or lump it this is my version of Gotham. Batman has gone away for a while to make way for the Joker. And my little nameless character will be thrown in his pathway mwahahaha. Read and review so I can give her a name and life!

Twenty-four years old and I hadn't seen the city since I was a child. Somehow, perhaps in the dreams I had dreamed in the nights leading up to my arrival here, I had expected the City to be the same. It wasn't though. It wouldn't ever be the same. Not since the Earthquake. Not since Batman left the City to its own devices. To run rampart along whatever paths it picked and chose.

Gotham city had changed, but not in the way a city both shrinks and intensifies when you outgrow your childish view of the world. What I saw was no longer the Gotham that I had imagined for fifteen years in my dreams. What I saw was worse. Far from the jagged streets and cantilevered skylines, the fires and broken buildings that puckered my sleeping hours, the Gotham that confronted me was another kind of terrifying. I did not know until that moment, but I discovered something, looking down from the chopper at my new home. Emptiness is horrifying, perhaps as horrifying as a war zone.

I knew, looking down on those deserted streets.

Something terrible had possessed Gotham, and it was not the Earthquake. Probably not even the gangs and vigilantes, for they had always been there, born in the seams of Gotham's very beginnings as a city. No, missing from Gotham were voices. There was no sound of shouting, either happy or terrified. No traffic filled block after block, demanding lights to change, clogging the skyline with petrol fumes. There was none of that. Rubbish was now the only thing clogging the streets, and the rush of the wind as it pushed its way through every broken window and shop corner.

Missing from Gotham was Batman. Or at least the idea of him.

I didn't believe in the masked vigilante, never had. But whatever story the media had spun on him, had worked. I could remember a time stretching back into my childhood when my mother walked me on the streets sometimes. When I wasn't forced to hide in our apartment, staring down at the city through the curtains. Those times were bad, because the fibres of Gotham had always been disturbed. But the crime then wasn't like anything compared to today. Or what led up to today.

Most sensible people would not have stayed. But there were those who stayed. As empty as the streets appeared, I knew people had stayed. There were accounts of whole families living in underground basements beneath the city, but I didn't believe it. The only people who survived there stayed because they liked it. Because they thrived on emptiness. Perhaps even Gotham's worst criminals couldn't stand the silence. It would take a special kind of mad-man to settle down into a holocaust.

Most people, knowing what I knew, would not have returned. All bridges and roads that led into Gotham had been cut off. After the Earthquake, the Government had simply decided Gotham wasn't worth the wealth to bother repairing. The normal people, the innocents, had been evacuated. Sent to live out there remaining days in some other underbelly. The others, the freaks, outcasts and undesirables, had been left to rot within Gotham's smouldering remains. It was a form of murder, but to the Government it was a form of good luck. A way of cleansing the population of evil without being evil. They didn't need to get out torture devices and prison cells. They simply cut off Gotham the way a villain might cut off their finger in order to get out of gaol. It was practical, necessary and relatively painless. In theory.

I liked to think that those kind of plans snapped back at people. You could only shut Satan out of paradise for so long. Eventually, he would find a way in. The Government might try to quarantine hell, but Gotham City would find a way to break loose.

Getting into hell wasn't that hard. I paid a lot of money to the right people, and after only five days of negotiations, found myself passenger seat in a chopper bound for the heart of Gotham. Yeah. I wasn't a sensible person. Not normal. Sane? Sanity is relative. A hermit on a desert island might consider himself perfectly sane, but simply prefers the company of coconuts to people. We would consider him a nut-job.

I couldn't explain to you why I returned. In another city a few kilometres away, I was a journalist writing on the city's daily criminal events. Nothing compared to what Gotham was of course. Not that I had thought about Gotham much those fifteen years, at least, not in the daylight hours.

It happened quite naturally, as any natural disaster does. I woke up one day and discovered Gotham all over the news. Hit by an Earthquake…evacuated….quarantined by the Government. Now a ghost-city.

I waited as long as I could. Two, three months maybe. In the end the call was irresistible.

In the end I came back to it…back here...as a moth must follow the moon. Eager to find out what fuelled the heart of Gotham's madness.

Most normal people block out any thoughts of danger and suffering. But I was not sensible. I was the kind of stupid girl who found danger thrilling….the type who marries prisoners on death row…the kind to wander the city at night, because it thrills her to find her life in possible peril.

Yes…danger thrilled me….until I discovered how far Gotham's labyrinth of crime and corruption went….how dark the pathways descended. Then I began to regret my decision. But as any Gotham dweller will tell you, once you surrender yourself into the hands that run this city…

….the hands that tighten the noose around your neck will never let you leave.

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