AUTHOR'S NOTE: This one-shot was inspired by one episode of The Joker Blogs on You Tube. The episode is called "BRB". If you type in "joker blogs BRB" in the YT search machine, you'll find the episode. It's worth watching. Anyway, this story is my attempt at writing an abstract and slightly avant-garde piece of fiction. I have no idea if I managed to do it right, but that is for you to judge, readers. So, do read the one-shot and, please, tell me in a review what you thought about it. This is something completely new for me and I worked pretty hard on this story.
SUMMARY: The characters of The Dark Knight are described as cards.
WARNING: As I've said, this is a pretty abstract piece of writing and if you don't like abstract, then this might not be for you. Yours truly, Lorien Urbani.
Life Made of Cards
It's not a secret – everyone is a card.
You have to be a card, or you are nothing. You need a role, a palpable sense in your otherwise meaningless, consumerism-driven life.
How do you want to live, anyway?
No, bad question. The good, important, defining question is – how do you want to die?
Do you want to be remembered by the generations that will follow the end of your existence?
Or, do you want to remain stuck in their heads, talked about, thought about, dreamed about, admired, feared, loved, sought after? Anything, as long as you are not forgotten, as long as your name, and your strife, are not scattered into oblivion, like the wind scatters the bad seeds that cannot be used to produce a new life?
Eventually, the notion of memento mori strikes every character, no matter their background, regardless of what they want, and feel, and dare to say, or do. In the end, you want to leave a mark, even if the mark remains encircled by a close-knit community of individuals who will remember you through hearsay, through the pictures in family albums that someone with a nostalgic streak in them will keep. Some will make the papers; their lives will be documented, for one reason or another, or both.
The thing is, it does not matter who you are – you will end up picking a card. But I tell you what – you will pick a number, a card between one and ten. Spades or hearts, diamond or clubs, you will be a number, unless...
Unless you have it in you, the courage, the daring pulse, the daunting force, to become a face card.
Not many cards have the prerogative of being face cards. You already need to be someone in the first place to become a face card. It's an innate entity, the ability to be King, Queen, Knave, or Jack, if you prefer it. There's also Ace, a true ace, and a card that is so rare it's almost an anomaly – Joker. There's one Joker in every deck. Sometimes, you have two – the black Fool and the red Magician – but that is even rarer, almost unreal, and untrue. So, you see, there are few face cards, and only one Joker per deck.
Do you understand now, the importance of choosing the right card for yourself? It's fine to be a number, but can you really settle for only this? Do you want to end up as a vague, dusty, shadowy memory, or will you straighten your spine and really be somebody?
The truth is, it's not just about picking a card to remain remembered, a someone. You have to stand out, be the one and only, and the only way for you to stand out is to be a face card. Here's the deck, the cards have been shuffled. Now, don't pick a card for yourself at random, without looking. Take the deck in your hands – yes, go on, take it, like this, yes, that's right – and sift through it with your fingers, then pick a card you find to your liking.
Have you made your choice?
She is beautiful. Hers is a true feminine beauty, but she possesses both fragility and power. She is tireless and magnetic, imaginative and powerful, completely able to rule her own world with her independence and hopes. She is strong-willed and devoted to her beliefs. In her mind, idealism will change the world. To everything she does, she gives her heart. Sometimes, she sacrifices it on the altar of other cards' needs. She is self-sufficient, but even she needs to love. Finding love is, after all, one of her goals to which she gives her heart, only twice in her life-time. Once is for real; the second time, she needs to mend her heart because of the bruises that the King has given her. He loves her, and she loves him as well, and although they are running towards the same idealistic goal, they chose different paths and in her just world, nothing else works but official laws. To these laws, even the laws of the heart lose their battle. The King must choose – the Queen or the City. She cannot stand the disguise, the hiding, the lies that he uses in the name of Goodness. He only has one face, but he has been acting as if he had three when he is only one card. She cannot wait for his final, defining move, and she cannot wait for him forever, the lone bat.
She is disappointed in love for harbouring too high ideals. So, she skips his deck and goes to another one, hoping for more willing cards. She meets an Ace that has two beautiful covers. On one side, there is his face, and on the other side, there is another face instead of an empty back cover. That makes him special and beautiful. He can appreciate her shrewdness and intelligence as he is. He is gentle and caring; he never lies. He is a card of decisions, and although she does not entirely approve of the way he usually decides – and she even tries to hide coins from him – she appreciates the fact that he appreciates her. They are of the same deck, it seems; ambitious, stubborn, idealistic, competitive, and successful in their careers. But, she remains secretly aloof, hoping against her own wishes that the King might come to her at last. One day, her City will no longer need the King. They already love the Ace. Perhaps, one day, she will be able to return the Ace to his own deck and re-join the King's. She is still lonely, untouchable, and frustrated, all for the sake of the King. They have been through so many games together, ever since the early days of their existence when they were produced in their deck.
One day, when she starts to believe all hope is lost, that the King will not come home, she tells the Ace that she is thinking about joining his deck. It suits her and she needs to play new games. Her games with the King are beginning to exhaust her. They have been through so much, and nothing ever seems to be enough anymore. She believes now that he loves the City more than he does her, but the Ace only loves her. The City is only his job, and he loves it because the City's games keep presenting new challenges to him. He loves a good challenge, but he loves his Queen best. And then, one day, when she is not thinking about the King at all for the first time, a new card invades -her deck and uses her for his game.
This card wants the King and he uses the Queen to finish the game of chasing bats. She is a face card, but the Wild Card thinks she is no longer needed. The Wild Card only needs to prompt the King into action, as well as the seemingly indestructible Ace, so the Wild Card pulls her out of her deck and throws her into the fire. Before the paper of her soul finally explodes and dies, she has enough time for her final thought and no matter what she has promised to the Ace, her final thought is for the King.
JACK THAT BECAME KING:
He has always preferred to swim in troubled waters. He does not like to suffer much, but he has been ridden by morbid guilt and replaying nightmares for so long that he does not know how to smile with genuine affection anymore. Therefore, he is a champion swimmer of troubled waters. He is comfortable there; as much as he might try, he can never find comfort elsewhere. He is a veritably awkward and lone bat.
He is an exception in his deck, for he is both Jack and King. The Queen was almost right in her assumptions. His paper body projects one face to the world of his deck, but he has four, indeed. One of Jack, the card he is without the mask. Jack is already a very complex creature, as he is both his true self and the pretender with the face of only one man. That already makes for two faces. A lonely, suffering man with bad, haunting dreams of what was and should have been, and a man of the City and of the City's pretty ladies, pea-cocking on its stage and trying to forget about what was and what should have been. There is also the mask of the King. It is hated when it should be loved, and sometimes it is loved when he himself hates it. Last but not least is the creature he wants to be, but he does not know it yet. He does not know its name yet, but he wants it to take control over him once he is able to leave Jack and King behind. Sometimes, he only wants to be reborn, like a Phoenix from its ancient, amaranth ashes, but the very idea of attempting the process of his reformed existence frightens him to the very cold marrow of his aching bones. He does not know how to not be Jack, the champion swimmer of troubled waters, and he truly does not comprehend how to strip himself of the King. It has been too late for a very long time.
When he sees an Ace rising up on the horizon, he feels relief and hope. The City loves the Ace and they need him, much more than they need the King. He searches for the Queen in her new deck and although she persists by the Ace's side, the King sees love in her eyes. She begs him not to turn her into his only chance in his life, but he wants her to be his only chance, ever since they were baby cards in a brand new shiny deck. He throws a lavish party to support the Ace and to impress the Queen, but the evening ends in turmoil.
A new card has entered the King's palace and it brings turbulence and destruction with it. It is after the Ace, and it also wants the King, for the new card knows he has to eliminate both to truly claim the City for his own. The King does not yield, and so, the new card begins to sow seeds of decay and death. One by one, he takes the cards from the King's deck and makes them burst into nothing. The Wild Card relishes in ceasing their existence. And so, the King makes a brave choice: he will rip off the mask of the King from his face and become Jack, for the sake of the City, and to grow greater in the Queen's eyes. She loves honestly. But the Ace beats him in bravery, and from then on, everything tumbles down. The Queen leaves him, and the City resents him. Soon, he is forced to make new choices that no card should ever be forced to make.
One day, he finds himself standing amidst the flames created by the Wild Card, mourning the loss of the Queen, feeling completely empty. He saved the Ace, but the Ace's paper mind is changed forever, for he, too, lost the Queen and feels her loss. He has to battle the Ace in the end. The battle repels the King. The Ace was once the City's last hope. Now, he is just a by-product of the Wild Card's games.
The King defeats the Wild Card, and he saves the Ace once more by shouldering the other card's burdens and sins. The King has never been more hated in his entire existence. He does not belong in his deck anymore, or in any other deck. He needs to seek his own deck, a lonely planet whose only habitant will be he. But it must be so, for the City, for the white knight that was the Ace, may his paper soul receive atonement.
The King is on his path to seek his own atonement. There is no shield powerful enough against hatred, but the King must endure it. After all, who else could live the life of a lonely, dark knight?
And every night when he goes to sleep after his crusades, when he falls in his bed battered and spent and completely drained of life, he still has enough energy left in his paper heart to think of her, forever her. The Queen.
The City once resembled a lonely, pining princess. It was dreaming of a knight in shining armour coming to the rescue. They awaited his advent, and their patience bore fruits, for they got their very own white knight – the Ace.
The Ace is a card of vision and imagination. Everything he touches turns into gold. His bravery is admired, his persistence feared by the dark cards. He is a true element of fire.
Some cards are dubious about him; they resent him for reasons that are not even clear to them. Perhaps, they do not like his coins. It is highly suspicious that a card of the Ace's calibre should make choice with a frivolous toss of a copper coin. But even those cards acknowledge the Ace's importance. Two faces or not, they need him just as much as the rest of the cards in the City need him.
His power and intelligence attract the attention of the Queen. The moment he set his paper eyes on her, he wanted her with genuine desire, and he accomplished his goal. He won the Queen and now she is. It is not easy to coax her, but he manages to coax her into his deck. His optimism and visionary mind can suck anyone into its glowing orbit of optimism and bright change. He does not only have beliefs; he is a belief.
In the City, there are cards that do not need the Ace. In the City, there dwell cards that need to be rid of the Ace.
Foolish and hasty, the cards seek help with a stranger they do not know and understand. He is quite beyond them, but they can never recognize a wild card when they see one. The Wild Card swoops into their deck, eliminates the cards that seem to be a pest to him and claims their thrones and other cards – they simply obey. They are too scared not to obey the Wild Card.
They have two targets: the King and our dear, white Ace. They are not easy targets in the slightest, but there are cards that are fond of corruption, although they wear the mask of justice, and it just so happens that on one fine night, the Ace is claimed, as is his Queen. The Ace stands bravely to his oppressors. He will never give in, for he is the Ace! Didn't he himself say that the night was the darkest just before the dawn? The Ace thinks firmly that he will wake up to a bright, overwhelming dawn.
But something goes wrong. In the world of the Wild Card, his visionary plans and hopes fail. Flames begin to lick his paper face, hell bent on destroying his paper core. The Ace is saved by the other target known as the King. The Ace would want to be grateful, but the portions of his paper essence that were not destroyed by the licking fire are consumed by rage and hatred. These emotions are so strong inside him that they turn into pure, purple poison.
The Wild Card's favourite drink is the pure, purple poison that grows in the paper hearts of other cards walking on the edge of existence. He steps into the Ace's life once more and speaks. Oh, how he speaks! The Ace does not wish to listen, but he must, for the words of the Wild Card are as visionary as his were, once upon a happier, brighter time. There is talk of traitors, and of games, and of strange liberty called anarchy. The fire and the loss of the Queen have made the Ace incredibly thirsty and his parched paper soul drinks in the words of the Wild Card, finding an oasis amidst them.
The Wild Card peels off the Ace's face of the saviour and presents the City with a face that other cards knew existed, but they did not know how it looked like. The Ace is on a rampage of vengeance, and in the background the Wild Card is laughing in glee. He is the best player in the City and he is also the best reader of cards. He knew the true role of the Ace, and he threw him into the game at a perfect moment.
The Ace begins to play the game. Cards go down, their paper essences evaporating. The Ace himself does not have a paper essence any longer; it burned on the night he was touched by the fire of the Wild Card and he lost his Queen. His mind is in shambles and it seeks satisfaction. He has lived long enough to see himself become a bad, rotten card.
He is lucky that the King crushes him before it is too late. He is lucky that the City will still remember him as a good card, the best that ever existed in their deck.
The Ace has always been lucky, and when his paper existence is truly dead, he is still one lucky card. His strange coins that the King buried deep into the mud of the City are the only proof that there was ever an unlucky day in his paper life.
He has been trying to introduce himself to you through the lives of other face cards, and partly he has. But he is not a regular card, and he needs his very own, special introduction.
What you are, he is not. What you are not, he most definitely is.
He is a visionary card, but unlike the Ace, he does not plan new horizons. He opens them randomly, violently, rips them apart and shoves other cards into the unknown. He is driven by impulse and he loves irrationality, for it never rhymes with anything sane. Life is full of risks, and he thinks life is, in fact, empty without risk. And so, he has made it his mission to risk so much that in the end, he himself becomes the risk.
In short, the Joker is the Wild Card, and if you understand this, you can understand how the world should really be.
Other cards say that the Wild Card is silly and redundant. This is true, but only in one case: in a game with too many wild cards. Now, that's just boring and incredibly, disgustingly predictable. A true Wild Card knows this. There can be only one wild player. And so, a true Wild Card, which our Joker is, anticipates these problems, finds all the wild cards (that usually don't even know they are wild cards) and eliminates them. The Joker has been diligent and now, he is the only Wild Card in the City.
His game is life, and he knows many variations to the game. He is a skillful player, a master among other cards who only pretend to be good players. What truly separates him from other cards is the lack of a deck. Not only does not he not belong to any deck; he does not have a deck, as he does not need a deck at all. He is the only card that can survive without a deck, and having accomplished this, you can bet that almost nothing can stop him.
Except the King.
Now, the King is one tricky card. The Wild Card has him figured out. The only thing the Wild Card does not know is that the King is also a Jack, but identity does not matter. What is a name but an equation of symbols? It is not a name that makes you into a card; it is the card you choose to be. So ultimately, you are the product of your choice. What puzzles the Wild Card is simply this: the King is trapped in a box, or rather, a deck, whereas the Joker is not. Then how, oh how, did the King win the game?
And now, the Joker, the Wild Card himself, is trapped in a white box, playing the game of other cards that preach him and want to teach him. He is spinning in their circle, sending them frozen smiles. But one day, not so far from this very day, he will break the bonds they have forced upon him and he will close the damn box on their paper heads. Life and death are determined by the lift of one hand, and poor, foolish cards of the City still do not know that, in the end, the hand of fate belongs to the most unpredictable card in any deck: the Wild Card.
And then, the King will scream, and the City will flock to the Joker's side and once more, the great game of life will be stirred into motion by the Wild Card.
So, what's it going to take to make you stand out of your deck?
So, what do you think? Please, do review. Reviews are a true delight.