Inside every person's mind, a world lies within. Maybe it's full of loved childhood memories. Maybe it's full of high school crushes, painful reminders of gym class, or maybe just random memories on a loop for the rest of that person's life. A teenager might build their mind around the foundation of their current day or what lies in their future. Maybe it's full of happy, smiling faces, friendly to all that the mind thinks of. Maybe the mind starts to turn to darker thoughts to clutch at, things of hopelessness and despair, crime and death and hatred.

Inside every person's mind...a bit of madness lies. It could just sit there for all that person's life, that person never knowing what really lies within their mind. For some, it turns them into crime bosses and criminals, rapists and masochists.

For one certain person, madness was inevitable the moment he toppled over the railing and into a tank of deadly chemicals. His sanity was washed away with his appearance, another factor add to his insanity. Add to the fact that he was a poor comedian just trying to get along in a eat-or-be-eaten city, who turned into a criminal just to survive...or maybe he was just a man who just happened to be at the right place at the wrong time (he does tend to lie a lot). No one will ever know for certain except him. And The Joker is not one who gives away his secrets so easily.

I I I

Joker sat up against the wall of his cell, head bowed, eyes closed. His breathing came easily as he rested, his arms pulled taut in the straightjacket sleeves. Anyone peering through the observation window would think he may have been sleeping, perhaps even admitting defeat. But anyone who knew Joker would know he never gave up without a fight. He would not allow himself the defeat if he could help it.

The clown had been a menace to the city for four long years, torturing Gotham with his childish antics of laughing gas and dangerous pranks. From exploding whoopee cushions to painted bombs to his favored punching glove. You name it, the Joker had probably used it. He'd even manipulated a psychologist into becoming (what she believes) a girlfriend of sorts to him, clinging and full of energy. Harleen Quinzel, her name had been. But after a run-around with the Joker, everyone just called her Harley Quinn now (the mere thought of the name made Joker giggle every time).

But for now, the harlequin just sat quietly in his cell, ignoring all attempts made by the guards to communicate with him. He was having too much fun in his own mind anyway.

Only one person in the world knew he'd kept a small part of him alive after he fell into that tank of chemicals. A very small chance to return to the life he used to have. But unless that day happened (and everyone doubted it would), Joker had to make do with what he had in his mind. As insane as he was, as maddening as his pranks and dangerous schemes across the city were, there was still a very, very small part of Joker that wished to return to his old life.

As far as he was concerned, however, Joker was happier to live the life he now had and his purpose: to put a smile on every person's face in Gotham.

Joker's lips twitched as he smiled inwardly at the thought. Memories of his past plans skimmed across the surface of his mind, making him giggle quietly. The straps of the straightjacket tightened across his chest as he giggled harder, his eyes snapping open as he let out a full-throated laugh.

The sound cracked off the walls, echoing out into the hall. Several guards paused in their duties farther down the hall, listening before moving on. Joker's laughing bouts were common in Arkham and usually it was just him showing them how crazy he really was. But in some cases, like now, his laughter meant he'd thought of something horrible for the city.

The laughter suddenly died down, again making the guards pause. Unless something had happened, Joker never went dead quiet like he'd just done.

Two guards glanced at each other nervously, newcomers to the asylum. They'd been put on patrol duty until the night guards came in, but they hadn't really been prepped to help if something happened.

Corey, the taller of the two, crept down the hall and peered into the little window. His good friend Jason followed him, peeking over his shoulder.

"What's wrong with Joker?" Jason asked, trying to see into the gloomy cell.

"The hell if I know," Corey frowned, glancing at the still shape sprawled out on the floor. "Joker's not moving though. Maybe he finally laughed himself to death." He stepped back, looking at his friend. Jason stared back at him.

"...maybe we should tell one of the doctors. There's no way I'm going in there without help."

"You want him to die on us if something really is wrong?" Corey snapped, giving him a look. "I know he's a maniac, but if you were in his place, wouldn't you want help too?"

Jason rubbed the back of his neck nervously, biting his lip. "I dunno, man. We should really ask someone else."

The taller boy gave him a shove. "If he tries anything, we have our batons. Besides, he's in the deepest part of Arkham. I doubt he'll be able to get very far."

This time it was Jason's turn to give him a look. "Then how come he always manages to escape? You look at the dumb guards on the news that turned their backs on him and he got them and his escape."

Corey smirked at him, pulling out his keys and jingling them in front of Jason's face. "We're not dumb. We know what we're doing." He turned, inserting a key into the cell door. "Just stay ready. He's unpredictable." He turned the key in the lock and opened the door.

Joker lay on his stomach, eyes closed, not breathing.

Both boys stared at the clown, then looked at each other.

"After you," Jason said, stepping back.

Corey shoved past him, shaking his head. "Coward. Joker. Hey, Joker. Sit up or you're gonna get it. We're not joking this time." He marched towards the clown, cautious.

Jason followed warily, keeping close to the door. He'd heard what this lunatic was capable of and he wanted to be no part of it.

No movement came from the white-skinned man as Corey stopped in front of his head. Corey waited a moment before prodding Joker in the small of his back with his baton. Still nothing.

"Maybe he choked on his own spit?" Jason ventured, watching. "I've heard of people doing that before when they laugh too hard."

Corey shook his head, warily moving around Joker, keeping an eye on him. "No. No signs of that on him. His jacket is still as tight as ever, but he doesn't look like he's breathing."

"Heart attack maybe?"

Minutes ticked by as the boys stood in the cell, unsure of what to do. Jason moved in a little more, still keeping a cautious distance from the clown.

"Maybe..." Corey said, a little worried now. Maybe they should have gotten one of the doctors.

"I told you we should've gotten a doctor!" Jason bawled at him, shaking his head. "But no, you had to be all stupid and unlock the door just to check on him."

"Shut up, geek, he's down and out. I don't even see him breathing." Corey leaned over Joker's prone body, looking for movement. "Isn't this what everyone in Gotham wants, anyway? I say good riddance."

The body under him suddenly shifted, the bottom of Corey's chin connecting hard with the skull as Joker bounced to his feet. Corey hit the floor on his back, dazed, holding his chin. Jason stared, dumbstruck, watching as Joker stood flexing in the straightjacket until he got the sleeves up over his head. The clown shrugged the jacket off over his head, tossing it to the floor, then turned to them, grinning widely.

If Jason hadn't been so shocked, he might've had the chance to call out for help. As it was, Joker cleared the room in one great leap, grabbing the boy and pinning him up against the wall by the throat. The red eyes blazed into his, holding him still with those piercing yellow pinprick pupils.

That awful grin grew even as Joker watched him, those red eyes driving Jason up the wall. How could anyone stay sane after peering into those maddening pupils?

Black lidded eyes peered at him curiously before Joker suddenly dropped him. Jason dropped to the floor, coughing, holding his throat as he stayed up at the clown, eyes wide. He took in the clown for the first time.

The funky tannish-yellow straightjacket with the purple ripped sleeves, the bare feet, the wild green lion's mane hair, and those eyes. Who wouldn't be afraid of him?

"Please...please, Joker, don't kill me," Jason found himself babbling, terrified of the maniac in front of him. "We were only checking on you, honest, I didn't even really want this job."

The whole time Jason pleaded, Joker regarded him with silent fascination, those terrible eyes never leaving him, the grin never faltering.

Jason glanced at the still body of his friend; Corey had passed out from the pain in his lower jaw, having bit through his lower lip. Blood trickled down his cheek from his lip.

"Please, Joker!" Jason pleaded-and was immediately shut up by a large white hand that clamped over his mouth.

Joker lowered his face to his level, narrowing his eyes, grinning even wider (was that even possible?).

Jason felt tears welling up, fueled by fear at being this close to the madman. He wished he could be anywhere but here, anywhere but near this clown.

"Oh, don't cry, kid." Jason started at the sound, his eyes widening. Joker smirked at him. "You make anymore noise, however, I may just have to kill you." The red eyes glanced at the open door left open by the boys, clearly debating to make a run for it or not. Then they looked at Jason again.

This is what I get to taking up a summer job, Jason thought, staring back at Joker.

The harlequin slowly removed his hand, then gave Jason a look of disgust, wiping his hand off on Jason's shirt. The boy gave him an apologetic look, still very much afraid. He didn't know what could set Joker off and he very much wanted to stay alive.

Joker turned, facing towards the door, then suddenly grabbed Jason by the collar, dragging him out of the cell. The clown pulled him along at great speed, racing through the halls, taking turns Jason had yet to wander.

The hall suddenly erupted in a great shower of noise, alarms going off, guards yelling from different halls of the Joker's escape.

Jason's heart skipped a few beats. Oh, God. Joker's taking me with him. What about Corey? I'm such a flunkie. But isn't that what Joker calls the guards here? Damn, we were stupid.

He was pulled through several halls before they were suddenly outside by means of an open, shattered window. And outside was the wrong word. Tumbling through open air from a sixth-story window was more like it.

"Holy shit!" Jason screamed, eyes wide, watching as the river rose up to greet them. He had a glimpse of Joker, mad delight in his eyes, focused on the water, before they plunged under.

I I I

It's been a while since I've written a story of any kind, my last being Monster. Reviews are greatly appreciated, but please, no flames.