"There once was a little dream."
"Such a tiny dream it was, no one knew who had dreamt it."
"The tiny dream thought,"
"I don't want to disappear ..."
"How can I make humans dream of me?"
"The little dream thought and thought, and at last had an idea."
"I will make humans become lost in me, giving birth to a new world."
The world of humans was unlike anything the Joker had ever seen. More than anything, what surprised him was just how many people there were. Young, old, wise and foolish. The latter soon became his favourite; stumbling about like the blind idiots that they were, it was almost pathetic how easily they could be manipulated into doing anything he wanted.
As he ambled lazily through the streets, he thought aloud to himself. He was running out of time, but what could be done about it?
“Perhaps,” he thought, “I could take the path of a demon. Leading humans to temptation... Nah. What a bore, working for my superiors. I’m a nightmare, that’s what I do best.”
Sighing melancholically to himself, the Joker frowned as a human walked past him, oblivious to his presence. As always. Reaching up to his face, now almost like ceramic, the Dream winced. There were cracks running down his cheeks now. Hastily withdrawing his hand, he glanced around in a surge of panic. He needed a victim, any victim, to stay alive...
Meiko was a knight. One of the few women with her position in this kingdom, she took great pride in her work. Of course there were those who looked down at her, but it never really bothered her. Right? Right. Any feelings of regret that she hosted for them were buried deep. So long as she could protect those who she loved, she was content.
Now, lying asleep in her bed, Meiko smiled a bit. Her dream was a sweet one: as she walked through the streets -softly bathed in the light of the setting sun- it was as though nothing could possibly go wrong. Everyone passed by her with a smile, her armor and sword were polished to a glow, the kingdom was at peace. So why did something seem off?
Turning the corner, the knight felt her blood run cold. There was a man in front of her, dressed in a stark white suit. In contrast with all the other soft, reddish colors, he stuck out. Her eyes narrowed and her hand slid down to the hilt of her sword.
“Who are you? I haven’t seen you before-” But before she could finish, he leapt down lithely from the wall from which he had been sitting. Smiling smugly from behind his white mask -one that only covered the top half of his face, and just as spotless as everything else he wore- the man gracefully stepped towards her. Running one white-gloved finger lightly down her cheek, the Joker leaned down to whisper in her ear.
“You hate them, don’t you?” His soft words sent a shiver down her spine.
Somehow frozen to her spot, Meiko watched out of the corner of her eye as the colors around her turned darker. Shadows writhed in the corner of her eye, yet his voice was like a lullaby.
“Surely you do. All the men who laughed at you, all the women who looked away in disgust. And you know what? They hate you, too.” It was true. After gaining her status, Meiko had lost almost all her friends. No one wanted to be seen with the female night and her bad temper. Nodding, she felt a tear run down her cheek, and his next words were like a purr. “Kill them all.”
The Joker laughed in delight and withdrew his hand. He had been sitting on her bed, one finger trailing down her cheek. Oh, how he’d missed this. Now all he could do was wait. It didn’t take long until Meiko sat up in bed. Almost sadly, numbly, she stood up reached over for her sword. She could no longer see the white-clad figure beside her, but knew he was there. His smile widened.
“Come, my dear, erase them all from this world.” With another nod, a hint of a smile played on her lips. They deserved it. Listening to his sweet words, Meiko slid on her coat and walked outside, now smiling fully. She felt happier than she had in a long time. Coming across a man in the street, she hesitated. He was a stranger, and had never hurt her. But his silken words coaxed her to raise her arm above him and brought it down with a splash of red.
How lovely. Unexpected laughter bubbled from the back of her throat. This was much, much better than anything else. One after another, the bodies fell like flies. All of the cries for help and desperate words were drowned out by the Joker at her side. And as each person died, he stood up a bit straighter. His skin, now void of cracks, seemed to glow brightly. As did his smile.
But this enjoyment was short lived. As panic arose, many more guards were sent after her, armed to the teeth. Chasing her into the forest, the knight was covered in chains and hauled off to an asylum. Her screams echoed across the white walls of her room, yet they greyed in comparison with the brilliance of the Joker.
“I’m disappointed in you, Meiko. Getting caught that easily?” He sighed and shook his head. Againsts her protests, he faded into the background, leaving only a card in his place: the ace of spades.
And so, the first Alice met her demise.
The second Alice, as it came to be, was a young man. Sickly as he was, Kaito had the most beautiful voice in all of the lands. Those who heard him sing were healed of any and all ailments, made younger and more beautiful. Now if only the Joker could twist this in his favour...
In Kaito’s dream, it was quiet. Strolling through a garden of blue roses, he allowed himself a small smile. He enjoyed the calm, the way everything was dyed in soft blue hues. Singing a few melodious notes to himself, there was a rustle behind him and he jumped.
“What are you doing? This is my dream, only I’m allowed here!” He whimpered as he backed away. The Joker paused at this. Most humans couldn’t tell the difference between the world of sleep and the world of wake. This one would prove to be fun.
“Oh, simply strolling by to greet you. I have heard, ahem, stories about your greatness. It’s too bad,” his lips quirked into an understanding grimace, “that even with this beautiful voice of yours, no one cares. Not about you, anyway.”
There was a flicker of recognition in Kaito’s eyes. Shaking his head, he sank to his knees and covered his ears. “Th-that’s not true! I have plenty of friends! They’ve told me so!” But now that there was a distinct waver in his voice, the Joker knew he had the young man in the palm of his hand.
“They? Who, the impostors? Tell me. Were they ever truly there for you? Did they laugh at your jokes, hold you when you cried? Did they ever really care?” There it was. At the Joker’s words, his resolve crumpled and the human fell to the ground with a sob. The blue was gone now, everything washed in white, just like the the Joker himself. After waiting for a few moments, he stepped forward and patted his head.
“There now, I know it hurts. I understand. But no matter what, they never will, and you deserve better.” Helping him back to his feet, the nightmare smiled a bittersweet smile. Now the fun would begin.
Awaking to the long, sweeping curtains surrounding his bed, Kaito sighed. Like all humans, he remembered their conversation as a mere dream. But... No, he -his friend- was here in this room with him. Not that he could pinpoint where, exactly, but he was definitely there. And as the memories of his every word rushed back painfully to his mind, the human covered his face in his hands and sobbed.
“Hush now, this too shall pass. Don’t you fret, my dear, I’m right here for you. I’m your friend.” As the words slithered their way past his sobs, Kaito nodded and wiped away his tears. “But they aren’t, now are they? They don’t deserve your voice. They don’t deserve to breathe the same air as you. Do they?”
They young man shook his head. Now that his friend mentioned it, they really didn’t deserve to. He was above all them. So he agreed wholeheartedly when the Joker chuckled softly and whispered, “in fact, they don’t even deserve to live. Wouldn’t you agree? Maybe, just maybe, you could sing them a song. A lullaby, if you will; drown them in the very nightmares that they fear most.”
“Okay, you know best...” Slipping on his shoes and carefully wrapping his pale blue scarf around his neck, he walked out his bedroom door into the hallway. He took a deep breath. He began to sing. Within moments, the hallways of the mansion were filled with the sickly sweet notes of song and the echoing screams of the servants, his parents, anyone and everyone who was there. Standing quietly beside him, the Joker watched the scene unravel as one would an interesting card game. Oh yes, the Second Alice was much more fun.
The last few notes fell from his lips and Kaito sank to the ground, coughing. Taking a handful of lives back at the mansion had been simple: but here they stood, in the market place, surrounded by the bodies of the fallen. Their limbs askew and blood soaking the well worn flagstones, the Joker hesitated. This was, what, the third crowd they had ‘put in their rightful place’? Had he pushed the boy too far? As Kaito drew himself back up again,
panting, a smile painted his face. It was excitement and glee and freedom. He was just fine.
“Soooo, dear friiiend, where too next?” Staggering a bit to the side and clutching at his throat there was clear bloodlust in his eyes. “Ya knoooow, I’ve just been dying to take down a feeeeeew guards.”
Looking hopefully at the Joker -who he trusted by now- there was a slight flicker where he knew his ‘friend’ was. The nightmare smiled inwardly. If the human was beginning to be able to see him... He was stronger now than he could have hoped for. Stretching his arms, he patted Kaito’s’ shoulder.
“Sure, come on. You’ve earned it.” The smile returned to the human’s face, even wider now, and he ran up ahead. Much like a puppy, the Joker thought. After all, humans are just dogs. As they neared the palace gates, there were a few yells and the guards ran towards them.
“Halt! You do not have permission to be here right now!” One of the guards shouted. Soon the two of them were surrounded, staring down the barrels of rifles. Kaito smiled up at him innocently. Then he began to laugh. It was a cold, cruel sound, blood leaking out of the corners of his mouth.
“I don’t? I don’t? I can be whereeever I want! This world belongs to me! Begone!” Before any of the guards could even pull their triggers on the obviously insane lunatic, he began to sing. His words, now twisted and broken, fell from his mouth mingled with droplets of blood. Falling to the ground, clutching their hands uselessly over their ears, one of the guards exploded. He was the lucky one.
Kaito looked awful, haggard. There was a steady stream of blood trailing down his chin and his eyes, crazed and bloodshot, were dilated into black pools. He was no longer standing up straight, and the only sounds coming from his were hysterical giggles and hiccups. The Joker frowned down on him with disdain. They were standing in a street, once filled with laughter and chattering. Now the only sounds were coming from the human.
“Really, my dear, we should take a break. You might hurt yourself-”
“No! Please, just one more, pleeeeeease?” He begged. There were tears in his eyes now. “I want to go to school, my parents never let me, and all the other kids would just laugh at meee...”
“Very well. One more.” Although it was obvious that Kaito needed to rest, he couldn’t help but agree. Just one more couldn’t possibly hurt. And the power was exhilarating, the surge of strength he felt with every life that he took. And the Joker was definitely stronger now, strong enough to be visible in the realm of the living. They were about to leave when there was a shot. The noise pierced the air and the nightmare swiveled around to see from where it had come. A man leaned against the wall, grimacing and holding a gun. Was he... Deaf?
“H-help... Me...” The Alice’s words came out in a few short gasps, no longer sweet and melodic. Reaching uselessly towards the hem of the Joker pants. Moving his foot away, the nightmare sighed at the look of betrayal on Kaito’s face and stooped down beside him.
“Shh, it’ll be fine. I promise.” Placing his fingers carefully over the open wound on his chest, he withdrew with a smile.
The only sign that he’d even been there was a card on Kaito’s chest, the ace of diamonds, blue against red.
And so, the Second Alice met his demise.
Miku was, like the previous two, asleep when the Joker found her. Lying on her small cot, her long hair trailing across the pillows, she was the very image of a princess. It was a shame that she was nothing but a commoner. As he sat down next to her, the nightmare thought for a moment. She had the makings of royalty, if not the heritage. Maybe if he tried something different this time...
His first impression was that there was green. Everywhere. The grass, the trees, even the sky itself was a light aquamarine. And there she sat, in a light green dress with her dark green eyes sparkling amiably as she made small talk with the little green birds. As the Joker approached, she gave a small yelp and jumped to her feet.
“Easy now, no need to be afraid. I’m completely harmless.” Putting his hands in the air to prove that they were empty, he smiled. “Actually, I have a proposal for you.”
Miku blinked. A proposal? Even though the young girl mistrusted most everyone, there was something about the man in front of her that seemed... Sincere. Of course he wouldn’t hurt her, right? Hesitantly, like a small bird, she nodded and sat back down.
“One that will make you a princess, a queen. See,” he sat down next to her, “I only wish for the best. Consider me a... Guardian angel, of sorts.”
This piqued her attention and he silently congratulated himself. Angel? Ha. There were no such things. But, in the imagination of someone as young as she, of course they existed.
“Really? An angel? Where are your wings?” She was smiling now, entirely at ease. He chuckled at the question, his mind racing.
“Well I, er, don’t have wings right now because, umm... It was raining? And I didn’t want them to get wet?” Wow, that sounded better in his mind. For a moment he was sure she wouldn’t believe him, but she simply nodded solemly.
“Well, mister angel, I certainly wouldn’t want your wings getting wet. Anyway, what was this about becoming queen?”
He smiled. “See, I have a plan...”
It had been a week. Through Miku’s charm, the Joker’s powers, and the overall chaos due to the first two Alices, it was almost pathetically easy. Some legal papers here, forgery there, a couple of ‘accidental’ deaths along the way. Oh well. Soon, he had showed her how to charm people into doing whatever she wanted. See, this young girl had a ‘talent’. With practise, she could ‘suggest’ that someone do something. And they would do it.
Needless to say, it was easy for the Joker to use this to his advantage.
So here they stood -him invisibly- at her coronation. The other princess had ‘accidentally’ died, leaving the prince grief-stricken. Miku, sweet and innocent, had suggested that he marry her, instead.
“...You may kiss the bride.”
Leaning in to peck the prince’s lips with a laugh, she glanced over at the Joker -or as she called him, Mr. Angel- and he smiled. Now the real fun could begin.
“What do you mean, he’s dead?!” Grabbing a vase, Miku hurled it at the guard and ran away sobbing. The nightmare watched her leave and grimaced. The king had been a necessary death, the beginning of a domino effect. Now the queen was unstable enough that it would only take a tiny shove in the right direction.
Following her to the drawing room to which she had fled, he sat down and patted her shoulder comfortingly.
“There there, I’m so very sorry about all this. Whoever did that was simply terrible. They should die. Unfortunately,” she looked up at him, “we don’t know who did this. So should we simply let them be?”
She shook her head, tears starting anew. “No! I hate them! I just want my beloved back!” And with that, she buried her face in her hands again.
“Exactly. But, my dear, it could have been anyone. One of the guests at the ball, a servant, one of his royal advisors. What should we do?”
Her words were soft, yet steady. “Kill them all.”
“Of course, my dear.”
The orders were given. And they were given in such a cold, harsh tone that even the Joker was pleasantly surprised. He wouldn’t have guessed that she would have it in her. But he was quick to react, standing faithfully at her side.
“Very well spoken, your highness. Yet... I am an angel, and I think- no, I know- that they’ll try and kill you next.” She froze at his words. There was no way she could have possibly known that it was the Joker who had killed her husband. He was her dear guardian angel, and would never do such a thing. She believed any word he said.
“That said, I don’t know who you could trust. There’s me, of course, but anyone could be the killer. I would caution you to be wary.” He knew exactly what he was doing. And it was with those words that he manipulated her into believing that she really couldn’t trust anyone. With a nod, she looked like she was about to cry and smiled instead.
“Well, at least I have you, right Mr. Angel?”
It had been a week since then. The more people came -either over legal matters, or to offer their condolences, or to simply see if she was okay- the more Miku pushed them away. They wanted to kill her. All of them. They didn’t, of course, but why would she need to know that? The little queen executed anyone who visited, anyone who advised her otherwise, anyone who so much as ‘looked suspicious’. To the Joker, it was heavenly.
But this could only last so long. Watching as madness slowly consumed her, he knew it was only a matter of time before she decided that her precious ‘Mr. Angel’ was plotting against her as well. But he would take advantage of it while he could.
The day came earlier than he had expected. Her majesty was curled up under her blankets, shaking and refusing even the Joker’s consolation. After sending all of her handmaids and seamstresses to be executed after ‘holding the scissors too close’, she was truly alone. And that was exactly how he had wanted it.
As for her kingdom, the lands lay in ruins. Without a proper ruler or even proper nobles(she had killed them, too) there was no one left to handle the responsibility of ruling. Not, of course, that Miku cared about this.
“Y-you-” She struggled to find the right words. Tilting his head to the side, the Joker’s eyes narrowed.
“Yes, your majesty?”
“You’re plotting against me too, aren’t you?!” She screamed, and he sighed.
“Of course not, your majesty. I’m your guardian an-”
“Liar! You want me dead too! Guards! Guaaards!” But there were no guards left in the castle, or anyone else, for that matter. Everyone had either been killed or had fled by now. So her words echoed down the empty hallways, not a soul left to hear or care. The Joker shook his head.
“I must say, I’m disappointed in you, Miku. But so what if I am? There’s nothing you can do about it. As a matter of fact,” he gave her a cold smile, “I killed your husband as well.”
She paled. “No... No, no, no, no!”
Hurling herself towards the cabinet -as though he would try and stop her- and pulled out a jewel encrusted dagger. This she brandished at him fearfully.
“I trusted you! You’ll never get to me! I won’t let you! I won’t give you the satisfaction of killing me!”
“Really now, your majesty? And how do you plan on doing that?” He took a step closer, smiling wickedly.
“I’ll- I’ll- I’ll do it myself!” And with that, she sank the blade into her own chest with a gleeful laugh. Falling to her knees, blood bubbled up at the corners of her mouth into a possessed smile. “Th-there... Ha, ha, ha...”
Her eyes lost their light and she slid to the floor. The Joker couldn’t help but be impressed by her little display. Clapping his hands slowly in the now silent room, he smiled.
“Well played, Third Alice. Well played.” Carefully setting a card on her hand, the ace of clubs, he walked out of the green and red-stained room.
And so, the Third Alice met her demise.
As this passed, two children walked through the woods. They were young, and twins at that. Tired of all the bickering and yelling and crying, the two had left their parents. Really now, Rin and Len couldn’t care less about ‘economic collapse’ and ‘psychopathic rulers’ or anything else, to be fair. They had eachother and that was all that mattered.
The trees’ bark had a yellowish hue, with brilliant yellow leaves. It was their dream of course -but why would anyone want to live in the world of the awake? The Joker watched them run about and play, laughing and exploring. After finding their two bodies under a tree, covered in snow and fallen leaves, he had realized: they knew they were in Wonderland, and probably knew the state of their bodies: frozen and dead. Yet they had somehow ended up trapped here, in their own dream. It wasn’t unheard of, but still. Smiling as he ducked behind a tree, he wondered what kind of fun he could have here.
“Come on Len, it’s not that high up!” The sister called from up in a branch. Her brother looked at the ground and shook his head.
“But Riiiin, what if I fall?”
“You won’t fall, dummy!”
“Better safe than sorry.” He shrugged and sat down at the base of the tree. Len picked up one of the yellow leaves and inspected it and, after a few moments, his sister got bored and continued exploring the branches. Perfect.
As powerful as he was now, it was simple to simply summon the First Alice into the dream. Her hair in a wild disarray, straightjacket pulled tight over her twitching body, she smiled at the young boy.
“Leeen, come play with us, you don’t need her.” At her words, he shrieked and jumped to his feet.
“Stay away from us! I don’t need you! Go away! Rin? Rin!” His sister jumped to the ground beside him, clearly terrified.
“Len, what is it?”
“She-” He blinked at the spot where she had stood and struggled to find his words. “She was right there, in the weird coat, and said-”
Rin stared curiously at him. “Len, there’s no one there. Come on.”
Taking his trembling hand, she sighed and began pulling him towards another copse of trees. The Joker watched them leave, tapping his chin thoughtfully.
The two never seemed to part. When they ate, or slept, or explored, they were always hand-in-hand. Running through open doors so endlessly, a brother and a sister runing lost through Wonderland. They never hesitated, never looked back. The Fourth Alice was a duo of curiosity, and his favourite by far.
It was when Len had left Rin to go get a drink of water from the stream that Kaito appeared beside him. Blood dripped from his mouth, which was parted into a ghastly smile as he hummed a few tunes.
“Hello Len, how are you?” He took another step towards him, still humming.
“No! Stay away from me!” The young boy hurriedly scurried a little ways away, caught between water and the Second Alice.
“Why? Dear Len, don’t run, I’ll teach you how to sing the sweetest melodies~” He said in a singsong voice, lulling his head from side to side and tapping his foot to an uneven rhythm. With every tap, another drop of blood fell from the bullet wound in his head. Len screamed.
“Len?! What’s wrong?!” HIs sister appeared a little ways away, a look of confusion on her face. The boy blinked. The Second Alice was gone.
“Len? Play with me! Let’s be friends! We don’t need her!” Miku was standing in front of Len, who was sitting once again under a tree. His twin lay curled up next him him, dozing softly. As for the deceased queen, she once again looked playful and friendly. Well, if you ignored the knife in her chest and the blood soaking the front of her dress. By now, Len didn’t look as horrified, just confused. And a bit annoyed. But, under all that, there was a spark of curiosity.
“Who are you guys? And why the hell are you following me around?” He glanced down at Rin, who was snoring lightly at his side. “And of course I need her, she’s my twin. My other half.”
The third Alice pouted at this. “No, you don’t. You should leave Rin, come be with us instead. I’m so bored. Why would you need her when you could have me?”
He shook his head again. “You don’t understand, she’s all I have left. I can’t just leave her.”
“Fine, be that way then. But you will play with us, in the end.” And with that, she was gone.
Days passed. Every time Rin was out of sight they would appear, beckoning, whispering sweet promises about how much better off he would be without her. And after a while, Len began to listen.
“Meiko? Kaito? Miku? She’s gone now, I distracted her, you can come out now.” Len sat happily on the large boulder, Rin being nowhere in sight. One by one they appeared; each one as bloody and haggard as before. Meiko, with her straightjacket; Kaito, coughing up blood with a bullet in his head; and Miku, with her bloodied crown and jeweled dagger in her chest, just as regal as ever. He smiled at three Alices.
“So, what shall we play today? Tag? Hide-and-go-seek?” His smile faded a bit as they shook their heads. Meiko spoke up.
“Len, we can’t play with you anymore. Rin is always around, and we don’t like her one bit.”
The Joker snickered lightly from above them. In his hands were the strings to his marionettes- they weren’t actually the Alices, just puppet look-alikes. He always had been a good puppeteer.
Below him, Len gave a start but then sighed. His shoulders slumped.
“What do you want me to do? Run away with you?”
“No no no, she’ll find us eventually. This is Wonderland, after all. We need to get rid of her permanently.” Chimed in the Third Alice’s light voice.
“What do you want me to do...?”
“Oh, you know,” the Second Alice made a flicking motion with his finger. Len nodded sadly.
“If I get rid of her... Can I stay with you? Forever?”
They all smiled and said unanimously, “Forever.”
Len sighed and began walking back to where his sister was. Looking up at him with a smile, Rin jumped over and ruffled his hair.
“Silly thing, where did you run off to?”
“Nowhere, Sis. Don’t worry about it.” He glanced over to the trees behind her, where the Alices stood, waiting. He swallowed. “Say, do you want to climb a tree with me? One of the really tall ones?”
She blinked at him, surprised.
“I thought you hated climbing trees?”
“Well, I don’t now. Come on.” Taking her hand, he lead her across the yellow leaf-strewn ground and up to the tallest tree. “This one seems good.”
They began climbing, Len with some difficulty, his twin still slightly bewildered. When they finally got to the top of the tree, the two of them looked out across the tips of the trees. It was beautiful. He took a deep breath.
“Rin, I love you.”
“I love you as well, but why does that matter right no-” Before she could finish, he took her arm and shoved her out of the tree. Panicking, Rin took a hold of his sleeve with a scream and pulled him down with her.
As they hit the ground, Rin died on impact; he, however, lay bleeding above her with a smile.
“You guys, I did it, now we can be together forever right?”
But no one answered. Instead, the Joker stepped over to him. The boy narrowed his eyes.
“Who are you? Where are my friends?”
Without answering, the Joker pulled the puppets out of his pockets. Smaller ones, but the message got across. There had never been any ‘friends’.
“Right here, Len. I have to say, you two were by far my favourite Alice.” Confused by all of this, his body broken from the fall, he began coughing. Where had all this blood come from? Why couldn’t he move? Unable to speak, he groaned and closed his eyes as he held his sister’s hand. Carefully, almost lovingly, the Joker set a card against their intertwined fingers: the ace of hearts.
And so, the Fourth Alice met their demise.
Who is the next Alice?