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a mirror, darkly

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Welcome To Gotham City, the sign says piously. Underneath, someone has added in shining purple: We're glad you're here – for some reason people keep moving away.

It takes a particular type of mindset to move to Gotham. It belongs to the kind of person who looks at a big red button with 'do not press' figuratively written all over it and presses it, the kind of person who walks into the darkest, grungiest bar and insults the mother of the biggest, meanest looking guy there.

It takes something special to move from Gotham. It takes common sense. Common sense in Gotham twists upon itself to allow you to survive as best you can. Common sense is: always lock your doors, always have a weapon in your home, be quick about your business, don't ask questions, don't go out on certain days, never walk alone at night. Common sense anywhere else is: looking at the mess made by the fifth robbery that year, or reporting yet another mugging, and deciding enough is enough.

Gotham uses you, beats you, wears you down and destroys you and everyone you care for – it is the crucible in which you are tried, the anvil upon which you are tempered or broken and for no reason except it can.

To stay in Gotham requires a certain tenacity, a fierce, unshakable belief: in God, perhaps, in self-sufficiency – in the Bat. The longer you stay, the more you believe, the more you feel that you have to stand firm, to show that the city has not won and broken you.

You see: you can be grounded if you can prove you're insane, but to fly a plane you must be insane in the first place, and wanting to stay on the ground is therefore proof of sanity. To live in Gotham is like that.

(Gotham: suicide by proxy.)

*

The city of Gotham has been in love with London since the autumn of 1888; one mention of Saucy Jack and that was it, it fell for London like no other city before or since.

(This is the making of Jack as Gotham imagines it, as Gotham would do it:

London reaches, steady and nowhere near slow, slips into Jack's head like water through a tunnel carved out by centuries of river flow, like walking a path marked out by a thousand different feet in defiance of a road perfectly set down.

In Jack's head is cramped, hot and damp and bloody, the way London thinks hearts must be, flesh in a way London has never understood and never will.

In Jack's head, London is filthy, dirt and smog, Thames water and sewer stink and flickering gaslight. In Jack's head London looms, something vast, something heavy, suffocating, and whispers I'll make a legend of you and try and stop me and Jack, Jack, Jack.

There are puddles beneath his feet when he looks down, enough for reflection, and "Jack is not my name," he tells the man in the water, but the thing blurs, a shadow, a swirl of ink, so maybe it is.

look at them, whispers London, and all Jack can see are the doxies and the dollies, painted up and worn down. London whispers of (flesh) skin against skin and skirts shoved up or aside and tired moans and filthy coins passing from hand to hand, and Jack can't stand it.

"Out, out, out," Jack mutters, but who he's talking to he can't tell.

legend, croons London, Jack in his head struggling and struggling like a fly in a web. such terrible great things you're going to do, my Jack, such Lore you are.

When Gotham thinks of London, this is the image it cherishes.)

There had been many murderers before Jack, as there would after, but in the man Jack was Lore indefinable, the envy of cities, and Gotham, two hundred and fifty-three and still Lore-less was struck by the realisation that London had just shown it the future and the shape of all it wanted to be.

There are no human words for what the appearance of the first modern serial killer did to/for Gotham. There are barely even city-words for it.

The Opening Salutation of the Gotham/London love affair: the subtle transmogrification of a prosperous port city into the City of Night.

*

There is much of London that Gotham can admire, once it understands what it is looking for, what it wants in all London's vast age and experience.

There is beauty in decay, in destruction, in chaos. Gotham has always thought so (or maybe it didn't, but time is a human construct and it thinks so now) and by such values as Gotham holds dear (madness-in-the-earth, madness-in-the-blood) Bedlam is the most beautiful place in London. Not what it is (now), but what it was, fifty, a hundred, five hundred years ago, the name that became the sound.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and Gotham is an eager student. It might not have the same resources available to it as long-shadowed London but it knows its own special brand of magic, studies and emulates to the best of its ability London's innate sense of Lore-that-is, Lore-that-will-be.

The first building in Gotham was its madhouse. It was not called Arkham then but the seeds of it were there, in the brick, in the mortar, in the earth, and all it took was a little blood to make them grow.

(hUngry. I'm sO hUngry, GOthAm. WOn't yOu fEEd mE?)

Amadeus Arkham in the second year of the new century writes that he has caught a glimpse of the other world, speaks of the house of his family as reality and himself as a ghost. His mother swallows symbols of rebirth and listens to the beating of wings beneath the bed.

(don't let it take me!)

Perhaps Gotham puts too much of itself in Arkham in its loneliness, in its eagerness.

sO hUngRy.

(Gotham City is the mother of monsters. Gotham City eats its children. Arkham is Gotham in miniature, in concentrate, eats itself alive.)

*

Gotham looks at the world through Arkham and sees so many things. Time is not a line, a thread, a spiderweb of choices, time is an idea of order placed upon chaos, it is madness and through its mad eye Gotham sees it all.

(These things, always: It means a safe place for goats! And do you know what feeds on goats?
Bats...

surely the fiercest survivor, the purest warrior... glaring, hating... claiming me as his own

The house is an organism, hungry for madness. It is the maze that dreams.

devil is double is deuce. and joker trumps deuce.)

Living on Baker Street (past/present/future/multiversal) is something else of London that Gotham admires enormously.

The world's greatest detective is not something Gotham would have thought to want, so entranced with Jack and Bedlam and Newgate and London's dark side – but that is why London is a world city, it supposes. London knows how to use its years, how to craft legends that will be perpetuated and make it renowned.

It makes Gotham feels young and foolish but that is why London is there – to show it how it's done, that Gotham may one day do it better.

London is beautiful and grim and everything Gotham could want, but Gotham is not London and never will be, however much it wants the London of 1888, full of shadowy menace and malicious joy. The streets of Gotham will never be paved with gold, only dreams, trod flat and dark beneath a million uncaring feet.

Not for Gotham the shining tomorrow and gleaming towers of Metropolis, the glass and steel skyscrapers of Chicago or the sleepless lights of New York. Gotham is a city of neo-gothic spires and gargoyles and graveyards, alleys and asylums; the city it wants to be is the truth in the saying that civilisation ends at night.

(GiVe tHem To mE, GoThAm. iN mY waLLs aLL yOuR aRcHitEcts.)

*

Love to London is like this:

A soldier returns from a war in a strange land, lonely and heartsick and wounded. A friend of past years greets him by name, shakes his hand and says 'I know a man who is everything you need', and introduces him to the rest of his life.

"Doctor Watson, meet Sherlock Holmes."

"The name is Sherlock Holmes and the address is 221B Baker Street."

/

Love to Gotham is like this:

Outside Gotham's limits but upon Gotham-land lives a family of three. They are old blood, the finest Gotham blood, born and bred, there at the city's birth, there at the shaping of the city skyline, one day to be there at the end of everything.

They are Gotham's royalty and it loves them so very much. It wants to give them a gift.

A man, a woman and their only son cut through an alley after an outing one night...

bang
bang

London can make legend of nothing, but Gotham knows it needs a sacrifice in the true meaning of the word, of itself, to itself, for itself. All heroes need an origin story.

*

Gotham City Herald, Tuesday, June 19X9, Vol., XXLVII,

WAYNE DOUBLE MURDER

CITY'S FIRST FAMILY SLAIN BY MUGGER

...Many citizens as well as residents of Park Row are concerned about what the death of the Waynes will mean to the city.

"There's no doubt in my mind that Gotham City was built on a powder keg," said Dr Edward Burton, a prominent psychologist and expert on urban behaviour. "When something this horrific, this random and unexpected, happens to such a prominent couple in such a safe neighborhood, the best case scenario is that the city pauses to reflect on this senseless tragedy and on their own personal safety. The worst case scenario is that tensions explode, and the city crumbles, unable to find a firm standing on the shaky ground of fear and mistrust."

(They ask themselves, looking at Bruce Wayne's dead eyes, looking at the chalk outlines on the pavement, the blood and scattered pearls, If Gotham can let that happen to the Waynes –

And If thAt tHeRe City wAs tO wAke, yOu'd gO oUt— bAng!—jUst lIke A cAndLe!

if Gotham can kill its own first family just like that – what will it do to me?

BANG!

The answer they reach is exactly the one Gotham wants to hear.)

*

The boy (little prince/youngest of old blood/last of the first family) leaves Gotham after its gift.

(no! mine mine mInE mine!)

Gotham allows it – understands, in its way. As it studies the best and worst of other cities to make itself more than them all, so does its prince/knight/first of the new Gotham perfect himself for Gotham's sake.

The (Lore-that-will-be) idea of him waits, Arkham waits, Gotham-as-Bat waits, the whole city takes shallower and shallower breaths, counting years, counting time, waiting, waiting, waiting – making itself into a city worthy of his unwavering attention.

Gotham thinks such Lore you are in the voice it imagines London to have – smoky, intense, weighted with history and blood – and feels a little less alone.

sO vuLnErAblE sO smAll sO EaSiLy dEstrOyEd. hOw cOuld yOu lEt Him gO, hE's oUrS, whAt if hE StRays, wHat If He sTAys?

hE'LL gO to LONdOn, yoU knOw He wILL, GoThAm. iT'll wAnt hiM, liKe It waNted aMaDeus.

But London didn't keep Amadeus, he saw Bedlam in its newest incarnation and came home to Gotham/Arkham and is still there, in his cell, carving with his fingers a binding spell for part of Gotham that doesn't exist yet.

He'S leFt Us hE's lEfT uS wHat maKEs You tHink hE wOn'T dO iT aGaiN--

The boy will come home because Gotham brands its children, there is nowhere in the world one of its own can run where Gotham will not follow – always the biting question will be asked, "So – how long did you live in Gotham?"

(And when he comes home, Gotham's beloved boy, he will never leave again, never never never.)

*

The boy travels, the boy learns and Gotham gnaws at its guts and hollows itself out with jagged teeth - look at me, look at me, how could you ever think of anywhere else, I need you more.

A new/old Gotham joke: broad daylight, there's this guy being beaten up by a bunch of Maroni thugs, the works, bone-shattering stuff, and this non-Gothamite, they go 'help, police!' and a Gothamite, they grab their arm and say, 'shut the fuck up, lady – better Maroni than the cops!'

It's not funny but it's true so it gets a bitter laugh.

(this fucking city, i'd move if i could, christ, who'd want to live here

place was buried with the waynes)

Paris says Henri Ducard is training your boy, London says -------- ------ is training your boy, [Cain/Kirigi/Shiva/Tsunetomo/Zatara] is training your boy and Gotham says anything happens and I will destroy you (Arkham lends its weight, the shape of Gotham's future hisses in the dark).

London doesn't look at Gotham and says that's the way to do it.

*

"Tell me about the history of London," someone said.

"It started with me; it ends with me," a teenager said.

The boy comes home and Gotham gets a little giddy on hope until it crashes on disillusionment – all those years and the boy doesn't recognise it, thinks it takes nothing more than a man to make Gotham live/love/strong.

Gotham is not London, and its boy is not Sherlock Holmes, much as he owes him – Gotham has a love of theatricality London can't match, too young and too mad to know better.

"Tell me about the history of Gotham," nobody said.

It starts with me; it ends with me.

Literal truth.

How do I do it? the boy asks (Gotham), blood dripping from his fingers on to the floor of his father's study. What do I use... to make them afraid?

The window is open, the window is closed, (the omen) is old and dying, it is young and fierce, it settles on the bust of Shakespeare, it crashes to the floor –

A Treatise on the Criminal Mind: "Criminals are a cowardly and superstitious lot."

I must be a creature of the night, black, terrible.

(I see it. And it is a bat. A BAT!)

I shall become a bat.

Gotham wonders if this is what London felt with the first Ripper murder, with the shaking of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson's hands.

No wonder London is smug. But that's okay. It's got the trick of it now, watch me, London, see what I do with your teaching, how I improve upon it.

*

Bats are social creatures – and what is Holmes without his Watson, without Moriarty or Lestrade or Adler or his long list of clients and enemies?

It's about balance – so Gotham lets him keep Alfred Pennyworth, late of London, to talk to and be comforted by and write his stories down. It takes the cop that left it years ago for Chicago (thought you could leave me? no need to look in Arkham for insanity) and lifts him up and casts his enemies down, puts him in a position to be of use. It takes a girl of its streets and shapes her into something dark and tempting (and never quite enough to take his attention away) and it takes his friend and divides him in two so that he can understand Bruce Wayne and Batman, something for both.

It makes his chosen partner welcome, takes him in as one of its own, free of ties so the Bat can take him into his shadow without regret. welcome and well met, little robin - MaKe Him beTTer Or i'LL GiVe yOu tO oNe oF MiNE, nOt-GoTHam bRaT, LeArn quick, little robin.

And of course, it makes its own Moriarty.

London's – the majority of Londons, anyway – is cunning and patient, a spider, and crime is a business.

Gotham loves London, but – almost sacrilegious to admit, Jack still vivid in Gotham's memory – its taste in crime these days, it's almost dull. It doesn't have that itch any more, not like Gotham does; the taste of it is washed out, it's just ink in Gotham's ears, nothing like the rich libation of blood in 1888.

A serial killer is rare front page news. It hurts Gotham's soul to see it.

Where Bruce Wayne has family and history and weight, his Moriarty is nothing but a blank slate, wiped and rewritten over and over and over. Where Gotham's hand-crafted god is so serious, law and order and black and white and hard adherence to the One Rule, and the devil of Gotham is endless laughter and green and red and no rules whatsoever, changeable as the wind. Balance.

that's the way to do it.

*

Like this

"Batman, he must be a meta, no way he could do that stuff otherwise.”

The world works differently in Gotham, like reality has slipped a little to one side, like Arkham seeps into the bedrock and lets the whole city shudder and chatter and hiss and flex and breathe, be the madness that lets it see the world exactly as it is.

“What are you, crazy? He’s a robot of course!”

Oh no no no, Batsy is as soft and squishy and filled with red as anybody else. (Therein lies the fundamental joke of the Bat, the Man, the Bat-Man: as anybody else.)

“Batman can fly.”

You see: you’re climbing to the peak of the tallest mountain you’ve never seen. And once you’re there, you freeze. You know you should do something. You know what you’ve climbed all this way for. But you're so afraid you can't move, can't look, so afraid you want to shrink into a little ball and shake. Clinging to the mountain isn't going to save you. You can't stay frozen forever. Take one step, and you're falling faster than Lucifer from heaven, and when you hit the ground, you're going to make an awful mess. But don't forget, there is always three options – three fates, three paths, three brothers, three tests, three deaths, three lives. One, You can fall, you can meet the ground and die. Two, you can remain at the top, frozen by fear. Three: you can fly.

“Batman knows everything, everything. Your name, where you live, what you ate for lunch, the name of your teddy bear when you were a toddler, that guy who pulled your pants down in first grade, your favourite ice cream, your secret ambition, your first crush, what you once wanted most in all the world. Batman knows everything  about you. You can't run. You can't hide.”

He knows it because he is believed to know it, the World's Greatest Detective.

“He’s just a man.”

Like Alexander was just a man? Discuss.

“Nah, nah, Batman, ‘s like, made of shadow. You’re running away like holy hell, right, and you look back to see how far behind he is, and you think you’ve lost him because he’s gone, and then you face front and he’s right there in front of you even if he was a hundred yards away last you saw him, and Jesus, I pissed meself the first time he pulled that trick on me, actually pissed meself, and holy shit, he smiles a fuckin’ gargoyle, like he’s gonna chew your bones and spit ‘em back out.”

(This is the truth he can say a thousand times and never have it heard: Whatever you do, don’t face the Batman at night, in the dark, in any kind of darkness. He's not just good in the dark – he breathes it, he owns it! It feeds him, caresses him! It's the only thing in the universe that loves him more than I do.)

“I swear, shot him point blank, point blank in the chest, and he gets right back up like it was nothing! Armor-piercing rounds! He’s not human!”

God moves in mysterious ways, and in Gotham, He moves in the Bat.

“I can't believe you believe this tourist bait crap. Hello? Batman's not real! You ever seen Batman? Hell, no! All we have is like, word of mouth that there’s actually some kinda, I don't know, urban legend of an über-hero running around, de-shitholing Gotham one alley at a time.”

He ought to be ridiculous. A man dressed as a bat, he should make you laugh, but he doesn't. It’s like he believes so utterly in himself that you're suckered into believing too. You don't see a man in a batsuit, you see an urban legend come to life, you see a creature made of shadow, a monster in the dark, and you know he can break you in so many ways. He's terrifying. You're not even remotely tempted to laugh.

"He and I are the only things that are real; everything else is just something we imagined to populate the void between us. Listen: this is why I can kill you. Your life, anyone's life – none of them matter. I'm not talking about a fundamental inability of mine to perceive you as a human being. I have no problem understanding that you are a human being, that you think and feel, that you have a name and a family and dreams and hobbies. It's just that you're not real. Nobody I hurt is real. I don't believe this because I'm a psychopathic killer. I'm a psychopathic killer because I know this. I'm beyond solipsism –


and I'm right."


"You know what I heard about the Joker?"

True Joker stories are told in whispers: he came home late from a work trip in Metropolis and found the Joker had decided his house look like a good place to stay the night – he could never get the smell of his wife's rotting body to leave the kitchen. The day they snuck away on the school field trip to the aquarium and saw someone selling animal-shaped balloons, balloons that burst later on, filled rooms with gas that made everything funny, even when it wasn't. The time a street gang made the mistake of underestimating the Joker – or made fun of his suit, one or the other or maybe something else entirely, who knows – and by the end of the week, the gang didn't exist any more and nobody would even say their name.

"You couldn't get me into a house near Arkham if they paid me. There's practically a revolving door on that place, and who wants to be close by when the Joker walks outta there?"

There is in fact a church of the Joker on the outskirts of Arkham. It makes perfect sense by being perfectly mad – the only way to escape is to go insane. There are higher forms and lower forms of madness and the goal is to achieve the highest, where the collective delusion called reality ceases to matter; the Joker is a merry bodhisattva, delaying his own enlightenment to teach others of the unimportance of the physical world in myriad painful ways. (He keeps telling them there's no need for a church – just go about your business and there's a good chance that sooner or later you'll be saved! but Gothamites, they never listen. It goes by a different grandiose name every time he escapes but he always finds it, and it makes for one hell of a firework display. He'd hate to disappoint after all.)

"Sure, I've worked for the Joker. Sure. He pays good, real good. There's only so many places you can go when you've a criminal record longer than your arm, and anyway, there's something to the Joker. He calls you back. When you work for the Joker... he gives you the power to dismantle everything that people have worked so hard to build. You’re no longer working a shitty minimum wage job, you don't have to cower to the mob. You’re fucking them all over, and it feels great. You can do anything, if you just paint a smile on your face."

The Joker tends to regard his henchmen as something to do in on a rainy day, yet there will always be someone willing to ignore the clown's insanity and work for him. The smart ones won't risk a repeat, but there are always more, waiting. It makes outsiders wonder about Gotham.

“Just some whackjob in a purple suit, right?”

The way you tell if someone is a born and bred Gothamite? It's how they react to the Joker. If at first sight a damp stain starts spreading at the crotch, that's pretty much a big red stamp with 'Gotham' in copperplate letters. Failing that, a stutter, minor or major shakes, at the very least a faint sheen of sweat – and a look, unique to Gotham-bred – a look of true despair. The realisation upon sighting the Joker that no matter what their age or profession or intelligence, they are well and truly fucked. Out of towners, now, they laugh. They might try pulling a gun. Or mouthing off. They look blank, and wonder why everyone else is running away screaming or shaking in absolute terror. They might just shrug and keep walking. They don't get it – what's so scary? What is it about a clown makes Gothamites, widely recognised as the hardiest of breeds, hide under their bedcovers?

"Mommy says if I'm bad, the Joker will come and get me."

Every child in Gotham grows up afraid, not of the monster in the closet, but of the monster on the TV, on the radio, waiting in Arkham, wandering the street. Every child in Gotham understands the word coulrophobia.

"Ain't human, ain't human, ain't human--"

He takes on mythic qualities in your mind and the first time you see him you're surprised by how thin he is, how much smaller he seems to be than your mind painted him, even though the chances are that he's taller than you by at least three inches. He just stands there, looking at you, and he's not smiling that (in)famous smile but something lighter, weaker, almost normal – just filling space, you think – and you have a split-second to wonder why you were so afraid – and then he spots something in you, like a wolf picking out weakness in the prey, something that makes the hideous grin spread over his face and his eyes light up with a delight that you think must be the same a demon would show in hell, and he starts walking towards you. If you survive the encounter, you'll never be same.

"I heard he's so crazy, he's becoming god."

look at me, London, LOOK at ME see how I turn your blueprints into archetypes into icons into gods into Lore.

*

Love in Gotham is not like this, will never be like this:

the madman himself? He's fascinating. Arrogant, imperious, pompous. He's not safe, I know that much. I'm not going to be bored and I doubt we're going to be arguing about whose turn it is to pay the gas bill or what we're going to watch on the telly. And yeah, he is probably most likely definitely mad. But, he knows a couple of nice restaurants so he's not all bad.

or this:

"Want to see some more?"

or this:

"We can't giggle, it's a crime scene!"

or this:

"Look at us both."

or this:

"You're not hurt, Watson? For God's sake, say that you are not hurt!"

It was worth a wound - it was worth many wounds - to know the depth of loyalty and love which lay behind that cold mask. The clear, hard eyes were dimmed for a moment, and the firm lips were shaking. For the one and only time I caught a glimpse of a great heart as well as of a great brain. All my years of humble but single-minded service culminated in that moment of revelation.

or this:

He was my best friend and I will always believe in him – The best and wisest man whom I have ever known.

Today, John will still be able to laugh at Sherlock's black mood but his eyes will be on the window or the door, looking for Lestrade and the hope of a case. He will shrug off barbed words in his direction, careless, knowing they have no intent behind them (every word Sherlock says has meaning, to John). He will chivvy Sherlock into getting up, getting dressed, going out; they'll eat in a restaurant and he'll goad him into scanning the other patrons and revealing the secrets of their shoes and shirts, hands and jewellery, and he'll be a little better on the trip home for it.

If there is a case, John will have his gun and Sherlock will give him his back, an apology, an offering, an unthinking gesture of trust. They will break into houses, laugh helplessly at an attempted bank robbery, trick confessions out of murderers and scammers, run across London fearlessly, knowing it will give them what they want.

Tomorrow it all begins again.

*

Love, Gotham style:

Today, if he sees Batman he will call him darling, honeycakes, my sweet.

Today he will watch Batman fly with one hand over his heart feeling it go batman batman batman against his fingers, one hand curling beneath his clothes to rest gloved fingers in the groove between hip and thigh as he sways to the beat of the city, to the snap flap and sea-scream sound of a cape in the wind. He can’t see anything except that dark shape against the skyline.

Today his every thought contains a teeny little bat somewhere, his every plot and plan makes a great twisted web with Batman in the middle, Batman is the centre of everything.

Today he cannot breathe for the feeling flooding his veins, humming in his bones, resting in a solid twisted lump in his throat, he wants to kill and kill and kill until it stops. He wants to carve his name into Batman’s skin, wants to kiss him wants to sink his teeth into his throat wants to make him smile.

(He asks a lot of his psychiatrists about this. They go pale and green and refuse to listen when he gives them everything they’ve ever wanted to hear and then they wonder why he does such things to their families the next time he gets out.)

He’s never made Batman smile. The day he does he thinks his heart might give out.

He cannot imagine life without Batman, the thought is like the nothingness that sinks into his brain the moment before he dies, the moment before he comes back, but if he kills him, maybe everything will stop hurting. Like wiping out his reflection – if there’s no you there's no me because there can't be a Joker without a Batman, and then – and then--

Then there’s nothing, but nothing might not be so bad compared to the intolerable ache in his bones, because it isn‘t fair that he should be forced to live, forced to feel this, forced to be the only one willing to admit he feels this.

He lives to make Batman hurt.

Tomorrow, if he sees Batman he will smile like he has seen the end of the world and he and Batman are left in the ashes.

Tomorrow he will watch Batman fly with one hand over his heart feeling it go batman batman batman against his fingers, pumping acid, one hand curled tight into a fist in his pocket, just imagining the line snapping, the bat’s wings crumpling like a piece of paper as he falls to hit the ground with a crack-splat of breaking bones and spilling guts. He is blind to everything but that dark shape against the skyline.

Tomorrow his every thought contains a teeny little bat somewhere, his every plot and plan makes a great twisted web with Batman in the middle, broken and bleeding, Batman in the centre of everything.

Tomorrow he cannot breathe for the feeling flooding his veins, humming in his bones, resting in a solid twisted lump in his throat, he wants to kill and kill and kill until it stops. He wants to carve his name into Batman’s skin, wants to hurt him wants to destroy him wants to make him scream.

(He asks a lot of his psychiatrists about this. They go pale and green and refuse to listen when he gives them everything they've ever wanted to hear and then they wonder why he does such things to their families the next time he gets out.)

He makes Batsy scream all the time, mostly rage but sometimes pain, and the day he doesn't he thinks he might just lay down and die.

He cannot imagine existence without Batman, the thought is like the nothingness that sinks into his brain the moment before he dies, the moment before he comes back, but if he kills him, maybe everything will stop hurting. Like wiping out his reflection – if there’s no you there's no me because there can't be a Joker without a Batman, and then – and then--

Then there's nothing, but nothing might not be so bad compared to the intolerable ache in his bones, because it isn‘t fair that he should live, live like this – because deep deep down he knows himself like the oracle's command, knows that pain has made him ill, has twisted him beyond repair – and it isn't fair that Batman won't let him end.

He lives to make Batman hurt.

*

"Tell me about the history present future of Gotham."

I've always been in Gotham.

I am Gotham.

*

(I had a dream, Gotham says. you were it.)