A/N: This short vignette was inspired by a lovely image I saw over on the blog Joker's Lair. The title of the image was "The Smile In The Mirror" drawn by someone over on dA who goes by the name Elfsar. I thought the drawing was just so visually striking and perfect for the Joker as a character that I was inspired to write this. I was particularly struck by how the artist seemed to blend Comic!Joker and Ledger!Joker into one entity, making it almost a mix of the two, blurring the lines between those two universes. I found it oddly perfect and couldn't resist getting a little poetic.
Consider this a small vignette, a potential origin, but not THE origin, of one of my favorite comic book villains. I know I've done a Joker origin tale before in my Nolanverse Batfic Smile, but there are just so many ways the Joker could have come to be, too many to really choose one specific one, that I don't mind writing another. It never feels right to me picking one single past for the Joker anyway – even the character himself said he liked having his past "be multiple choice". That's what makes the Joker's defining trait, his mercurial trickster nature, so interesting. Once you give a full explanation to his backstory, a little bit of the mystery behind him is gone. He's not as scary and out of left field anymore somehow. He's not as Eldritch and unapproachable. He's a little too human, and whether than makes him more or less scary is a matter of opinion and who is writing him and what the origin version dictates. This Joker is sort of a hybrid of many different Jokers, though specifically it's a blending of Ledger's Joker with the comics' Joker. This tale takes place in no particular universe, with no particular bearing on if it's pre- or post-reboot and no real introduction. It's just one of the many, many multifaceted explanations of where a monster came from, so take that for what it is and enjoy the story.
Disclaimer: I don't own the rights to the Joker, the Batman franchise, etc. I am not doing this for money, but a read and review would be greatly rewarding and appreciated for me. :)
The rain came down in torrential sheets that night; the thunder cracked the sky like stained porcelain.
The man remembers stumbling through the doorway of the rundown apartment complex, rain drenching his messy, tangled waves. They stuck to his face like limp seaweed, clinging to his pale skin as if afraid to detach. The aching sensation in his jaw line, the awful stench of acid, the burning that covered every square inch of his being – oh yes, he remembered it all.
And certainly, he remembers the first time he saw it.
The real him.
The sterile light of the fluorescent bulb reflected off the bathroom tiles, reflecting onto a scene of almost tragically funny absurdity. All his flesh drained of color; panicked eyes turned a piercing, toxic green that burned (or was that from chemicals?); hair a shocking verdant hue. And still this was not enough, still he couldn't un-see what he was now, still he couldn't unfreeze the rictus from his face; still, still!
Something had snapped then, or perhaps it was a realization. Perhaps time realized he was an anomaly and just stopped working for him. Perhaps reality simply abandoned him then, like an unwanted child. He doesn't remember anymore, even if it was just a few short days ago. Even his reflection doesn't remind him.
And it hurts.
He doesn't know why, he can't even begin to piece together why. But it hurts. It sears and burns, an ache, an emptiness, a… something. A joke?
Yes, that was all it was. That was all it would ever be.
Some urge possesses him, and he pulls the surgical mask from his face, showing that sickening grin of his again, the thing he'd hoped to cover up. The thing he'd hoped to remove by forgetting, even though he never could. It feels almost natural now. Almost right. The jagged edges of the broken mirror reflect his image back tenfold. His hand still hurts from when he punched it. Little fractured pieces of scattered memories. Little things he wished he could forget, but couldn't.
It makes him look even more demented. Even more wrong.
His hands shake horribly, holding the straight razor with a dangerous white-knuckle grip. He wouldn't cut too deeply, no, just enough to bleed a bit. Just enough to prove he was still a human being, that he wasn't just some freak result of a chemical accident, that he wasn't a clown for the world to mock. He had to. Maybe then he could bring himself back home again, maybe then he could remember.
The blade bites into his cheek, and he grimaces. The pain feels no worse than anything else he's felt, no more than an inconvenience. Blood pours from the fresh, rough wounds into the porcelain sink, tainting its pure white innocence. Staining the floor in little droplets.
Somehow, the red felt comforting, the iron salt odor, the color and consistency. It soothes him as he runs his fingers through its trails and droplets and spatters. It was almost an infectious giddiness that gripped him, a whimsy, a joy he hadn't felt in a long time.
Finishing the other side, he sets the blade down, and sops up the blood from the cuts with a rag. He turns the sink on and wets the rag, trying to scrub the blood from the sink, but cannot. His iron grasp on the cloth wrings out red liquid each time he clenches his fist, sending pinkish-red streaks back into the sink. He'd never get the stain out. Never.
But the rag and the sink? Easily fixed with a little hydrogen peroxide.
His eyes glitter feverishly, and an impulse grips him unshakably. His face continues to bleed. He smears at it with his hand, wiping the blood in a wide red swath of a smile before it clots fully.
Gently dipping a dexterous finger into the red on his palm, he begins to write. Why? Nothing so serious. Nothing important. But something nonetheless… perhaps a warning of the storm to come. Perhaps the last ramblings of a sane man gone mad, perhaps nothing more than a whimsy. He doesn't know why he wrote it and he doesn't know what it means – but it amuses him.
He pulls the surgical mask up over his mouth once more, concealing his unshakable smile. He must blend for now. A good showsman doesn't reveal his secrets until the best possible moment. The surprise wouldn't be as fun if he gave it away too soon. The punch line would have no punch…
Beneath the mask, he smirks as he finishes writing. At least he had a purpose. At least he remembered what he was now.