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By michael harneyPublished 3 years ago 17 min read
Photo by Obi Onyeador on Unsplash

In the span of five days, the Joker killed the woman I love, Selina Kyle, known as Catwoman, my son Damian who the world knows as Robin, and the man I considered my second father, Alfred Pennyworth.

For the past thirty-six hours, I've lived in the Batmobile, searching the dark nooks and crannies of Gotham City for the Joker. Yet, a serial killer with green hair, a plastered white face, and red lips wearing a purple jacket and pants has seemingly disappeared from the face of the Earth.

All the Clown is doing is delaying the inevitable. I will find him, then I will kill him.

A beep from the vehicle's communications system erases all thoughts of revenge, and I press a button showing a live video feed from Wayne Manor. In the dining room is the smiling face of the Clown raising a glass of wine to the camera.

I slam my foot on the accelerator.

This ends tonight!


Ten minutes later, I speed into the Batcave under the Manor. The Clown has a baseball bat standing next to several destroyed computer systems. He smiles as I hit the brakes.

I’m leaping out of the Batmobile before it even stops and I charge at the Clown. He throws the bat away as I attack with a series of punches and kicks using a hybrid form of boxing and martial arts. But the Clown not only blocks each strike, but counters with a series of attacks that I'm barely able to evade.

I leap back to reassess. The Joker’s a street fighter. Yet he’s attacking me with my own style. One that took me years to master.

Two can play that game, Clown.

I attack once again—only this time as the Joker would. My strikes are wild and chaotic, with punches and kicks coming from awkward and weird angles, which barely allow a defender any chance to block.

However, he deflects each strike with a calm practiced precision I’ve never seen him exhibit before. In the next instant, he becomes the attacker and I the defender. And unlike the Clown, I'm quickly forced backward by his onslaught. I block an incoming kick only to discover at the last minute it’s a feint. Two hard punches later followed by a kick to my head send me crumbling to the floor.

The Joker’s infamous laugh echoes through the cave as he advances on me. I force myself up and prepare a defense for his upcoming strikes.

Instead, he just points his hand like a gun. "Remember, Bats. This is all your fault.”

His words are like a knife piercing my skull. I fall to my knees, and the next thing I know, I'm in an open grassy area about twenty feet off the main road. To the right is a car smashed headfirst into a tree. I look to the left and see my mother and father dead from gunshots to the head. The man who shot them, Edward Nygma, pulls my father's hair forcing his head up, and shoots him once again. He turns and walks toward me, pointing his gun.

“This is all your fault.”

I shut my eyes in fear as the last thing I hear is a gunshot.


I find myself curled up on the floor in the Batcave, crying a moment later.

“Damn, you’ve looked better, Bats.”

I force myself to my hands and knees, trying to shake the cobwebs, and the fear, from my body.

“I see you’ve upgraded your aromatic narcotics.”

His response is a loud laugh followed by a kick to my stomach that knocks the breath out of me.

“Ya know, for a genius, you're not very smart. Tell you what, let's play hide and seek. If you want answers, find me."

I watch as the Clown hops on the elevator platform, then takes out a device and presses a button. Instinctively I shrink back, expecting explosions. Instead, I hear music. It's a familiar tune, yet I can't remember the name. But four words float through my mind: traveling in a world.

“Just a song to soothe the mind, Bats."

With the push of a lever, the platform moves upstairs to the Manor.


It takes a bit, but I finally catch my breath and take the platform up. The song is playing throughout the house. Not loud, more like background music. But it's still there. I've heard it before. I just can't remember the title.

The platform stops, the bookshelf slides open, and I’m in the master study with one step. I crouch into a defensive posture expecting an attack. A glance reveals no Clown, but I see a new addition to the room. A chessboard on my desk with the white pawn two squares in front of the King. A typical first move in chess.

I look at the board, smiling. When I was three, I was measured to have a 250 IQ and possessed a photographic memory. I was a genius. The problem was that when your three with an IQ that high, growing up can be difficult. All I wanted was to play with computer software. On the other hand, my parents wanted me to interact with others.

Enter chess.

After my father introduced me to the game, I was beating Grandmasters within weeks. But after a few months, I became bored with the game. The problem was chess is based on a finite number of pieces with a limited number of moves. It was all mathematics to me. After several moves, I could tell if I should play for a win or a draw. The game became no fun.


After a quick inspection for traps, I smile and move the pawn in front of the bishop on the King's side forward two squares. I always did enjoy the Sicilian defense opening for black.

Then the room started spinning.


Damn you, Clown!

I must have tripped something on the chessboard. I have another hallucination. I’m in the study, but my desk is replaced with a large rectangular table holding two lamps fashioned in the shape of dragons. The table is covered with maps, pencils, notepads, and tiny miniatures of Dungeons and Dragons figures. Around the table are several teenagers, each with their own copy of the fifth edition D&D core rule books.

Everyone watches as a young girl takes a deep breath, then rolls a single 20-sided dice across the map. When it stops, the number 18 is on top, and the room erupts into a roar of cheers. The group looks across the table, and rising out of a chair is a ten-year-old version of me.

“You have scored a critical hit killing the last remaining frost giant guarding the entrance to level five. Thus I, Mathias, of the Honored Viper Clan, grant you and your clan access forward. Congratulations.”

The unknown tune still plays in the background as the room erupts into another round of cheers. A bit of envy rolls over me as I watch everyone. I never had friends or events such as these. I was too engrossed in creating better cybersecurity for Wayne Enterprises.

How I wish this was my childhood.

My younger version smiles, walks up to me and throws a punch.

It connects, sending me several feet backward.


My back hits a wall, and the room shifts back to the master study. I shake my head to see the Joker laughing as he holds up a fist.

Well, it’s a Joker, just not one I recognize.

This Joker is more… clownish. He has bright green hair with a white face and red lips. He’s wearing purple pants and a matching blazer with an orange shirt, green bowtie, and topped off with a wide brim purple fedora.

Why does he look familiar?

This Joker throws a wild haymaker that's easily blocked. He punches again, adding a kick afterward. I deflect both and counter with a punch that sends him backward three steps. Just as I'm ready to leap at him, he pulls out a Smith and Wesson.

“You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?”

I jump to the side as Joker fires a wild shot while running out the door.

His words ignite more sharp pain, followed by an image of that Joker and I fighting in a bell tower. A fight that never happened. That drug-induced image combined with the unknown tune playing throughout the Manor is causing havoc with my mind.

I can’t think straight.

My hands cover my head in a foolhardy attempt to erase the pain. But noise from the second floor brings me back to the here and now. My head pain vanishes as memories of those I’ve loved whom the Clown killed give me the strength to stand and run into the hallway and up the stairs after him.

I will end this.

There are several rooms on this floor. But I don’t have to guess which room the Clown is in. He’s waving at me with that silly ass smile from the movie room just before closing the door behind him.

My first instinct is to crash through the doors, throw some smoke pellets and then rush in to tackle him.

That’s what he’s expecting, so let's change things a bit.

I crash thru the door as expected. But, instead of throwing smoke, I charge in and dive to the side, then throw one smoke pellet to his left, followed by a Batarang to his right.

The Clown avoids the pellet and steps to the right. When he does, he walks into the thrown Batarang, which slices his cheek open. As blood flows down his face, I bull rush him, slamming my shoulder into his midsection and ramming him into the wall.

I hear air leave his body then throw a punch that connects with his mouth. As the Clown falls backward, his damn song gets louder, and his body changes to another version of the Joker. This Clown version is darker than the last iteration. His face is painted white, but it's cracked and peeling like worn-out paint on a wall. His lips are painted red but scarred from each side of his mouth to his ears. I grab him by his purple trench coat and punch him again.

This Clown smiles as his back slams into the ten-foot-wide movie screen. “Why so serious?”

The music becomes deafening. And that's when everything makes sense. It's not just the narcotics in the air causing the visions. It's the music itself. That's the primer for these drug-induced images.

New plan. Get rid of the music. Get rid of the visions.

I look to see this darker version of the Joker laughing, and my mind snaps. I begin throwing punches at his head and body. I never give him a chance to mount any defense. I just keep attacking. In less than a minute, he's a bloody mess. I end my attack with a knee to his ribs that sends him backward into a table.

Beaten and bloodied, the Joker pulls out a small pencil-like device from his jacket pocket. He holds it with his thumb, ready to press the top.

“I’m sure you know what this is.”

"Let me guess. Press the top, and somewhere in the city, people die."

“You're half right, Bats. Press the top, and Wayne Manor explodes. Only you and I die."

"What game are you playing, Clown?"

“Game? Let’s call it: Whatcha gonna do? If I make it out of this house alive, you know I’ll kill again. Oh, I might get locked up for a bit, but I’ll escape. I always do. And then, well, next to driving you, dare I say… batty, my next biggest joy in life is the sound of people begging and pleading for their life just before I pull the trigger, stab them or whatever.”

I step forward, but his thumb moves slightly closer to the trigger, stopping me.

"However, this time, I'm giving you a choice, Bats." Joker holds the device in front of him. "You press the trigger, and it's just you and I that die. Don't, and you will be the reason so many others will die. Whatcha gonna do?”

A warm calm settles over me. I take off my mask and cowl, then smile as I cover the Joker’s hand with mine while placing my thumb over the trigger.

“You don’t have the guts!”

“In the past, you would have been right. But now… now Gotham's lost too much. I've lost too much. I'm tired, Clown. I’m tired of the endless fighting, pain, and loss of those I love. I'm tired of the endless cycle you and I have put ourselves in. But in your madness, you've given me an out. You’ve given me a chance for… peace.”

“Then what are you waiting for, Bats? Kill us!”

"Yes. I think I will. Goodbye, Joker."

My thumb presses down, and the Manor shakes as the explosions start.

The Clown takes several steps back, laughing. With each step, a different version of the Joker appears and disappears.

"If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it.” Joker sings.

The Clown's last words send a chill of understanding through my body.

The song! Oh my God! The song! I understand!

The last thing I see is the flare of another detonation.


The truth is a funny thing. It’s always there in front of you. The problem isn’t that you don’t see it, but that you hide it to protect yourself from it.

I hid the truth to protect myself.

The Joker wasn't a villain. He was a gatekeeper of sorts. A gatekeeper protecting me from the truth until I was ready.

The Joker protecting Batman from the truth. Talk about irony.

The Clown’s actions made me open the door to a truth I wasn’t even aware of.

“If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it.”

I thought he was talking about the explosions, the kind of thing the Clown would view as paradise.

I was wrong.

They were words to a song from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory called "Pure Imagination."

The visions I saw were all true.

I did play Dungeons and Dragons with those children as Mathias. Every Saturday for two years, we played in the study at Wayne Manor.

My parents died just as my vision showed. They were forced off a road by a man named Edward Nygma. He killed them because I discovered he was stealing money from my father's company. He used a backdoor he accidentally found with the software I created to protect Wayne Enterprises.

I was shot that night. But just before Nygma pulled the trigger, several police cars showed up, and their lights distracted him. Instead of the chest, I was shot in the side of my head.

But I didn’t die.

The Doctors induced a coma to reduce the brain swelling. The problem was my brain wasn’t fully asleep. A part of my consciousness was still awake.

I was still awake.

That part of me knew why I made a mistake with the software. I didn't double-check myself. The night I finished the security software, I was rushing to finish it. I wanted to get back to creating the next D&D adventure for my friends. I was overconfident and left a backdoor open that Nygma found. Because of me, he killed my parents.

It was all my fault.

Batman, that entire… universe, never existed. It was just a part of my brain that created everything so I wouldn’t go mad while in a coma.

Mad from my own guilt.

And when my body healed, and I was ready to wake up. That part of my mind started events into motion that would end with me killing both the Joker and Batman.

In essence, destroying my "reality."

The song explained everything. It was just "Pure Imagination."


It’s a strain to open my eyes. Everything’s blurry, but I'm in a room lit by the soft glow of two elegant and familiar dragon-shaped lamps on a small circular table. Things are still out of focus, but sitting at the table is a well-dressed man, late fifties, reading a book. I focus hard then smile.


I startle my long-time guardian, and he rushes to my side.

“Master Bruce.” Alfred grabbed a cup with a straw. “Don’t try and talk. Your throat must be dry as a desert. Take a sip and gather your strength.”

I reach out, and I'm shocked to discover the hands of a ten-year-old wrapping themselves around the cup. I try to play it off, but Alfred notices, then his hands cover mine to help me grip the cup.

The water is cool and refreshing. It gives me enough strength to look around. I'm in my bedroom, but it's now a hybrid bedroom/hospital room. I take another sip, and memories start coming back to me.

“This isn't the first time I've woken up, is it?”

I watch Alfred’s eyes drop a bit, confirming the answer. But I need to hear him say it.

“It’s good to see that genius mind of yours is still working.” Alfred smiled. “Yes, you’ve woken up before. A few times. But within a few hours, your mind couldn't accept the reality of ... past events.”

“By past events, you mean the death of my parents and that I was responsible.”

"Sir, I never said …."

“No, I understand, Alfred. Unlike past… awakenings. I think I’ve finally come to terms with reality.”

“And Batman?” Alfred asked.

“You know about him?”

"Yes, sir. In the past, when you woke, you thought this was an elaborate scheme by someone called the Joker. Within a day, you would lapse back into a coma."

“Is this time different?” Bruce asked.

“Quite so. You're not throwing things; you haven't questioned that you're a ten-year-old boy. Well, eleven now. More importantly, you're not claiming I'm a stooge working for this Joker fellow. You seem to be more accepting of things."

“So, there’s no Batcave under the Manor?”

"No, sir." Alfred laughed. "But when you're ready, you will have to tell me how you and Robin slid down Batpoles and miraculously changed into super-hero costumes.”

My face flushes with embarrassment as I take another sip of water.

And from the shadows of the room, the Joker leaps at Alfred.


Watching Joker leap out was shocking enough. Seeing him pass through Alfred made me spit the water out of my mouth.

“Master Bruce! Are you alright?”

I watch in amazement as the Clown continues his assault on Alfred. But each kick, each punch, simply passes through my long-time guardian. At one point, the Joker even tries to pick up a chair. But his hands go through it. Frustrated, the Clown turns toward me.

"What the hell did you do, Bats?"


"Nothing? Sir, I don't understand." Alfred asked.

My head turns from Joker to Alfred.

Alfred can’t see or hear him.

“I’m standing right here! How can he not see me?” Joker yelled.

You can hear my thoughts?

“I… I guess so. Your lips aren't moving.” Joker said.

“I’ll get the nurse.” Alfred said.


I see his concern and throw a quick smile.

"I drank the water too fast, and I'm still overwhelmed by everything. I'll be alright. I just need a moment.”

Alfred hesitates but finally nods. “I have to make a phone call. Would you like to be alone for a few minutes?”

I look at the Clown giving Alfred the finger, and hide a laugh. "I'll be fine."

As soon as Alfred leaves, the Clown comes stomping at me with a murderous glare. “What the hell did you do?”


"Then what the hell am I doing here? In the past, you wake up, I disappear. Yet here I am, you little shit."

I’m as confused as he is when a wild thought pops into my mind. “As I understand it, every time I woke up previously, my mind wouldn’t accept reality and shut back down. Each time I shut down, I changed the Batman universe a bit.”

“Hence the different versions of Robin, me, blah blah blah.”

“What if I changed things because my mind was trying to find a way to accept reality? What if my mind decided the only way to accept reality and stay sane was to keep you around? A yin to my yang if you will?”

“You mean I’m a ghost!” Joker screamed.

“Well ...”

“I refuse!”

“Who says you have a choice?”

“I’ll kill you first.”

The Clown leaps at me with murder in his eyes and passes right through me.

"Who's your daddy now, Clown?"

I laugh as the Joker screams in frustration.

And I discovered that if I concentrated hard enough, I could even lower the sound of his voice.


From a dark corner of the room, the Joker watched as a nurse gave Bruce medication. Within thirty minutes, Bruce was fast asleep. For the next fifteen minutes, the Clown just walked around and through objects until finally he stood at the foot of the bed and glared.

Real cute shutting me up before Bats. But it begs the question: does it work both ways?

The Joker looked at Bruce’s hand, then lifted his own hand.


The Joker cursed as Bruce’s hand refused to move. Frustrated, he screamed and shook a fist at Bruce’s head.

And a finger on Bruce’s hand moved.

Did I do that?

The Joker tried to make Bruce's hand move. Nothing happened, but the Clown refused to accept failure. An hour later, he smiled as Bruce's fingers moved if he concentrated hard enough.

The fingers are connected to the hand bone. The hand bones connected to the…

As the Joker faded back into the shadows, he let loose a maniacal laugh only he could hear.


The following day Alfred returned, and thankfully the Clown was not present. Which brought up the scary question of: where does he go? But that aside, for the next hour, Alfred filled me in on everything I've missed in the year I've been in a coma.

My God, it’s only been a year. It’s been several lifetimes for me.

My father's will stipulated that Alfred would run the company if there were no other Wayne to run it. Which made sense. People never realized that Alfred was my father's right-hand man when it came to Wayne Enterprises.

Now that I’m awake… and sane. When I’m caught up with the company business, we will run Wayne Enterprises together.

We then spoke about Arkham Asylum.

“You took over Arkham?”

"Yes, sir. There were whispers about having you committed to that rat hole if you didn’t regain your sanity the next time you woke up. I did an end-around on the board, took over as director of Arkham, replaced most of the staff, and upgraded the place. We did quite the turnaround. In fact, we get our first new patient this week."

“What’s his story?”

“Well, this gentleman won the title of World’s Strongest Man for the last three years. He broke almost every record they had. Yet there were always whispers he was using PEDs. During an intense workout one evening, he collapsed due to some custom-made PEDs and went into a coma. Three weeks later, he wakes up convinced he’s from another world.”

“Damn. What’s this guy’s name?”

“Clark Kent.”

--- END OF STORY?---

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