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A New Smile

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After a long and draining day working on your future exhibit, you decided to call it a night and went for a walk in the city of Gotham. The weather was kind for a night of November; the gentle breeze touching your skin was soothing and pleasant. The street lights added something almost whimsical to the city, you thought.  Gotham was surprisingly quiet tonight; except for the few people you could hear discussing on the terrace of a restaurant, or some others laughing while exiting a bar, the city was relatively calm.

Once in a while, however, the bright lights of a police car would pierce the shadows of the night, and you could hear some people shouting at each other, reminding you that you were still in Gotham after all, and wandering in its busiest part. You often debated the idea of living further away from the center, but you had your own habits that were hard to break. 

You appreciated how easy it was to find someone to talk to whenever you were in town having a drink, going grocery shopping, or even while buying the newspaper. There was always something to do in Gotham, a special event such as a food or music festival, the beautiful Christmas market that you like so much, a sport competition, and whatnot. The city really tried to be as close to its citizens as possible, involving them in activities and proposing them safe places, perhaps to compensate for the high criminal activity more or less visible.

Gotham was an important source of inspiration for your work. The city’s architecture, the old botanical garden, or the very different sceneries you could witness were the main subjects of your paintings. Adding your own subjectivity and interpretation in the process, you transformed Gotham into very interesting and delicate works of art that started to get noticed. In fact, after years of hard work, the owner of Gotham’s most popular art gallery contacted you and proposed you to be part of their next exhibit. You of course accepted, promising to provide five new paintings before December. You were still working on your last one, when you decided to go get some fresh air.

After a while, you decided it was time to head back home, and took a different route through a smaller street, thinking you would be less disturbed by the multiple police officers, probably looking for some thief or drug dealer. For a moment, you tried to grasp what they were talking about but finally decided to brush it off as you couldn’t clearly understand what was going on, besides the fact that the person they were looking for was shot and thus couldn’t be far, which was more than enough information. Even as a born and raised Gotham citizen, you were still not completely used to preoccupied cops or questionable business happening around you. Although you weren’t exactly a fearful person, the atmosphere would make anyone slightly anxious at best.

As you almost reached home, you slowly reduced your pace. You could have sworn that you heard someone panting nearby. You progressed through the street until you reached the level of a poorly lighted alley. The labored breathing was clearly noticeable now.  What little you could see was a man sitting on the floor, probably 5 meters (16 feet) away from you at best, badly hidden behind a garbage container. He was wrapped in a dirty purple coat, wearing an even dirtier makeup of a clown with roughly dyed green hair. In addition to his coat, he was wearing matching purple pants and a green vest. In any other situation you would have loved the eccentricity of this man, but in this instant you completely froze.

He was pressing a gloved hand against his thigh. Visibly harmed, you figured he was the person the officers were looking for. You wondered if he even noticed you; his eyes, covered in smudged black makeup, were closed and he seemed like he was trying to calm down. A wide red smile was painted on his white face. You could feel your heart pounding, unsure of what to do; this was such an unusual situation, and you were mildly scared of that strange man. He licked his lips, and took a deep breath. Under the poor light of the old street lamp you noticed the important scars on his cheeks, like another macabre smile. He suddenly looked much more dangerous, and you felt anxious.

You recollected yourself and as you thought you finally found the courage to leave the place, the man opened his dark eyes and looked at you. He clicked his tongue and offered you a wide chilling smile. He was staring at you, and chuckled. He cleared his throat.

“Well, hello beautiful !” he finally said in a soft and playful voice. “Wonderful evening, isn’t it ?” he frowned, then laughed. You took a step back. “Come on, come on, come on. Don’t be scared, look at me. I’m not gonna hurt you ! You see, I got shot just a little while ago !” he laughed once again, making you question his sanity.

A blue and red light flashed in the distance, and you could hear footsteps approaching. You turned your head in the direction of the sound, opened your mouth, but got interrupted before you had the time to say anything.

“Hey, would you mind not moving and staying quiet just for a minute ?” he asked. The footsteps got closer, and two cops finally passed in front of you. One of them looked at you and gently waved, probably trying to reassure you. You realized that you were blocking the alley, thus hiding the clown, still sitting behind the garbage container. The officers then left, and the night was quiet again.

It was too late to do anything now. You were staring at the empty street and heard the man behind you standing up with immense difficulty. He chuckled once again, visibly in pain, and approached you. You started walking away, trying to leave that hell of a place, but he then grabbed your arm. His grip made you panic, you then faced him, terrorized. You could clearly see the scars on his face now, two wide cuts covered in red. His piercing eyes were shining in the dark and his smile was absolutely chilling. He looked tired however; his makeup was partially running, he still seemed to have difficulties standing up and breathing.

He ran his hand through his hair and clicked his tongue.

“What’s your name ?” he said in an incredibly serious voice. You reluctantly gave him your name, you didn’t exactly know why; probably because you didn’t want to upset him. His grip didn’t quite hurt you, but it was firm enough to intimidate you. He licked his lips and stared at you, nodding. You couldn’t really tell what was going on inside his head. He then laughed hysterically, destabilizing you completely. He pointed a finger at you.

“I really owe you one, uh ?” he clicked his tongue one more time. For a moment, he seemed calm; you could feel his grip loosening.

– Maybe you could… let me go then ? you asked firmly, which surprised him, and made him chuckle.

– Now, I told you I wouldn’t hurt you, did I ?” he rolled his eyes, as if you said something stupid. “Go, go… I’m a man of my word. Maybe I'll see you again, who knows ?” he said in a deep voice, releasing you.

You then ran away, and didn’t look back even once. You could hear him laughing in the distance, giving you shivers down your spine. Out of breath, you finally reached your apartment, frantically locked your door behind you and sat on the floor. In a state of panic and confusion, you tried to understand what the hell just happened. Who exactly was that scary clown ? What has he done, why was the police looking for him ? 

After a cold shower to calm you down, you directly went to bed, hoping that tomorrow would be a better day. You struggled to fall asleep, perturbed by tonight's events. The idea of meeting him again sent chills down your spine. You could still hear his laugh, haunting you.