They were...they were everywhere!
Dozens of them in town, grabbing out at any living being that came within reaching distance.
Xack was utterly horrified as she watched terrified people fell victim to these horrible creatures. Zombie teeth ripping right into the flesh as if the living were made out of tissue paper. That sickening sound it made as it peeled away from the muscle and bones, it was enough to make Xack want to vomit in absolute disgust if she wasn't so paralyzed in fear at the moment.
While still in that panicked state, the girl didn't realize that a zombie had already snatched at her wrist from behind, catching her off guard. Before it could try to bite, or even scratch her with its dirty nails, Xack hastily but the barrel of her gun to the head and pulled the trigger. Blood splattered all over her, but she took no notice as she ran off in a random direction, hoping to find some place free of this nightmare.
There was nowhere to run though. Zombies were all around, closing in on Xack and any escape route she could of taken. She started sobbing, not wanting her life to end this way--
Xack immediately woke, tears already welled in her eyes from her weeping softly in her sleep. Sweat lingered on her forehead, and by now, a bead had already trickled down her face.
"Have another bad dream, Xackie?" Joker asked, and oddly enough, it sounded quite cheerful rather than concerned for her wellbeing.
Her head snapped to the area she heard his voice. She saw Joker seated in front of a large, slanted desk, his eyes glued to the large spread of paper as his fingers were at work with whatever he was drawing or writing. Xack caught a mere glimpse of a strange looking fish on his paper, but she didn't understand what it could mean though.
At that instant, she knew something didn't feel right about the room, or rather, something didn't feel right beneath her. What she recalled last was falling asleep on the couch, but now beneath her frame was a mattress. Judging by the brightly colors of purple, orange, and green designs on the sheets, she assumed this was Joker's bed.
"Oh!" Xack gasped, the sweat beginning to glisten on her forehead from an oncoming sickness. Her eyes were wide and frantic as she didn't recognize the room she was in. Panic was beginning to rear its ugly head within her.
"Wh-where am I?" Xack stammered frighteningly, clutching the sheets closer to herself.
"My bedroom, dearest," Joker practically purred, his face never turning to her to say it. "Thought the couch was a little on the uncomfortable side, so I brought you here."
"You didn't bring me here before-- I mean earlier-- I mean, in the past," Xack quaked, her eyes examining all the assorted gadgets and other accessories he had thrown about the room.
With each passing object her eyes scanned, she grew more dizzier. If Joker was speaking to her at this point, his words fell on deaf ears. The only sounds buzzing in her ears was her rapid heartbeat.
"What's wrong with me?!" Her mind cried with fear. "Did Joker do something to me?! Why do I feel so hot?! So cold?! I can't...I can't breathe!"
Joker's words seemed to float into one ear and out the other.
Xack could barely feel herself teetering back and forth on the bed. All and any remaining thoughts in her head had vanished into the setting darkness before she collapsed onto the mattress unconsciously.
At least she thought it was unconsciousness.
"Xackie!" The Joker shrilled, hopping off the stool he sat on and rushed over to her side.
He wrapped an arm around her and got her into a sitting position on the bed, using his own body for her to support on. He gave her a once-over and the first thing he noticed about her...was the fact that she didn't seem quite so attractive when she appeared sickly-like. Her eyes were barely keeping themselves open, and her skin had become so flushed that it almost resembled Joker's!
Joker put a hand to her head, and when he did, he couldn't help but smirk. "I always thought you were kinda hot, Xackie, but you're taking it a bit too literally, don't ya think?"
Suddenly realizing that she was too feverish to answer, the clown barked out, "BRING ME SOME ICEPACKS-- AND PRONTO!" He hoped he shouted loud enough to be heard from his bedroom. Few seconds passed. Still no ice. Joker was in no mood to be patient. "WHERE'S THAT ICE, OR DO SOME OF YOU WISH TO BE PUT ON ICE, HMMM?!"
Joker didn't know if it was that enraged threat or just plain coincidence, but one of his men burst into the bedroom with wads of icepacks in his arms, a few falling to the ground from being in such a rush with them. He dumped them next to Joker and awaited his next orders, just in case the clown wanted something else.
Joker growled lowly at him. "If I wanted something else, I would of SAID SOMETHING BEFORE, wouldn't I?!" The goon jumped to his maddening words. "Now scram before I get any ideas on how to end your life..." Joker's psychotic smile said it all, and the man wasted no time on dashing out of the room in a hurry, slamming the door behind him.
Looking down at the icepacks next to him, Joker took one up to place it on Xack's forehead. Before he even had a chance just to barely press it against her skin, Xack swiftly struck her hands out to weakly push the icepack away. The clown almost wanted to cackle at her feeble attempts.
"N-no!" Xack groaned, her voice as weary as she appeared to be. "I'm...so cold! So cold!"
Ignoring her pleas, Joker quickly set the icepack on her forehead. "You really are a handful, you know that?" He told her frustratingly. "I knew you were a little on the 'high maintenance' side, dearie, but this is ridiculous!"
Xack wanted to answer him, to say something in her own defense, but all she managed to get out of her were moans and groans of absolute woe.
Though he would never admit it to her out loud, but seeing the girl in such a distress state made his body surge with...sickening pleasure. A nagging part of him wanted to make her misery even more apparent. Make her squeal in pain. Make her beg him to stop the torture. Make her succumb to insanity even more so than she even realizes. Oh yes...these demented thoughts were slowly forming a large, malicious grin on his face, and if Xack just happened to peer up at him now, she would no doubt become terrified of his crazed expression.
... Then again...
"She won't really like me anymore, would she?" Joker theorized.
Sighing somewhat sadly of these ideas probably never coming to light, Joker shook his head a little to get rid of these prickly feelings of wrongdoing. He reached into the many pockets of his coat to fish something out of them.
When Xack caught a glimpse of a pill between his fingers, she shook her head tiredly. "No...I...I don't want any of that ecstasy...heroin, dope, marijuana-stuff you have..." She groaned loudly to show her dismay of it.
"Silly girl. Fevers do make people a bit delirious, don't they?" Joker smiled delightfully, bringing it closer for her to see. "It's just an aspirin. Nothing to get excited about!"
She was about to protest some more, but Joker already took the opportunity and shoved the pill into her mouth. She didn't spit it out immediately like he thought...but she didn't swallow it either.
Joker rolled his eyes. "What's wrong now?"
"Kina har to swawo withou water," she told him, trying to talk as normally as she could, regardless of a pill in her mouth.
"Well, just...do it anyways! Geesh!"
Xack grunted, but swallowed and hoped the pill would just go down without any problems. After a few moments when it seemed she couldn't feel a pill in her esophagus (and that she could breathe normally), she assumed everything was fine.
Joker patted the top of her head. "There, there, Xackie... Dr. Joker will make you all better in no time..."
This got Xack to relax more, nuzzling into his side to get herself to warm up. Her eyes just stared off to whatever was in her line of sight, not really focusing on anything in particular. "I...I don't feel right," she decided to announce quietly, taking in deep breaths as she did. "I want to be left alone, and yet...I don't." She made a few sobbing sounds, and then added, "How did I even get sick anyway?"
Xack really didn't expect Joker to answer her, but he did, after thinking it over for a few seconds. "Well...you never been into my bedroom before, so...perhaps it just doesn't like you," he teased playfully.
Joker heard her chuckle pitifully. A few tears rolled down her cheeks, but she hastily wiped them away. "Even when I feel like...like crap, you try to cheer me up."
Just then, a single thought started to poke at her again, wanting itself to be known once more. Xack faltered a breath and bit her lip nervously, not sure if she really wanted to share some of the things that's been bugging her about Joker from the past to recent days. This one thought-- this one question has been pestering her time and time again now since the clown has been uncharacteristically "gentle" with her. Perhaps now would be a good time to ask such question, since she really didn't give a damn with her feverish head and all. If Joker was to kill for such a question, then so be it. She couldn't care less right now.
"J...Joker...? There's, um...there's something that's been bugging me a lot, and, um...there's something I've been wanting to ask you for a long time now..." She turned her head the other way, cheeks turning redder than they already are.
Joker merely smiled. "Oh? And what's been racking at your brain?"
"Why are you nice to me?"
He froze up, a little taken aback to say the least with her question; however, it was only a moment's hesitation for him. His smile grew more cheeky as he responded casually with, "Why? Why? Well, dearie, I don't think you'd like me if I was mean to you, would you?..."
Xack blinked. Thinking. "Why would you care if I liked you or not? I mean, from what I understand, even if you still, um, 'like' someone, you're still mean to them...or cruel...or you end up killing them anyways..." She bit her lip afterwards.
Joker grinned. "Heh...I like you, because...I was wrong about you."
Xack tilted her head upwards to get a glimpse of him.
"You see, when I first heard about you-- when I first saw you at Arkham...I had you pegged for this whiny, little emo girl who was nothing more than a brat with some family issues! Turns out..." Joker cackled slightly between sentences. "...turns out, you're MUCH crazier than you and I thought!"
Xack huffed. "What the hell does that mean?"
Joker snickered through clenched teeth. "Oh, I don't want to spoil everything now! You'll see for yourself in time..."
She frowned. "No...no-no, no-no-- you're going to tell me what you mean by that! Are you implying that I'm...that I'm actually as crazy as you?!"
Joker looked a tad upset now. "Ooooh...you see? I answered your first silly little question, and now you've gone and made yourself upset! Why can't you just let things be the way they are? You seemed, uh, 'content' before your interrogations." He finally removed the icepack from her head and laid her back down upon the bed. "I think that fever is really gettin' to ya, dearie!"
"It's not getting to me! All I want is some Goddamn straight answers from you!" Said Xack, sitting herself up on the bed, but Joker immediately pushed her back down onto it.
"You shouldn't use such foul language with me, little girl!..." His tone suddenly darkened, "It's upsetting when people speak to me that way..."
Xack's eyes got wide with fear. She never liked it when Joker got this way. She hastily turned herself over on the bed to lay on her side so she didn't have to look at that deathly expression of his.
Joker's angered nature had suddenly ceased when he watched Xack turn away from him. He grinned innocently as he very carefully and gently flipped Xack around to lying on her back. "Don't be like that, dearie!" He cooed. "You know I could never stay mad at you..." Xack shivered when she felt a finger slowly trace her jawline.
Joker noticed that little tremble run through her, and his grin widened. He ended up propping himself on his elbow. This caused Xack's breathing to become slightly more erratic. She turned her head away so she wouldn't have to look into those rather predatory eyes of his, but it was short lived; Joker grasped her chin and turned it back around to face him. He leaned himself more into her, drawing his face closer hers. She squeezed her eyes shut and parted her lips when she felt his warm breath hitting her face.
Her eyes shot open when she felt the touch of his lips on hers. He was so close to locking their mouths together, but at that instant, Xack blurted out, "I...I don't feel good!" In a flash, she went on her side and bunched up some of the sheets close to her mouth for comfort. Joker sat up, scowling down on her. He thought of just forcing his mouth to hers; it was becoming more of an urge the more he dwelled on it. Of course, than the thought of her illness and how sickly she appeared also surfaced his mind. A twinge of revulsion set in with Joker, and the idea of making out with her had eventually left him.
He got up from the bed and made his way to the bedroom door. It was then that Xack finally spoke up again. "Wh-where are you going?" She wondered.
Joker grabbed the door. Not looking back to her, he grinned evilly and replied casually, "Just going out for a bite. I'll be sure to bring you back a lil' something." Then he left the room, shutting the door quietly as he did.
Xack let out a sigh of relief, grateful that Joker didn't force himself on her.
"...you're MUCH crazier than you and I thought!" Those words of Joker rang through her head.
It bothered her. A lot. She didn't and never wanted to think of herself as that mentally insane...but...deep down...she wondered...
Lying there unmoving, she blinked. Her thoughts all in a tangled mess. She let out a deep breath, holding back tears.
"Am I really as crazy as he is?"
Stephanie never liked working those extremely late hours at Bonnie's Bakery, but tonight was one of those nights she hated the most: on weekends, the place was open twenty-four/seven, and she got the "all night" shift.
She groaned exhaustedly. All she wanted to do was close up and go right to bed. It was bad enough that it got quiet at nights, but tonight? When she heard the news of Joker going on one of his escapades throughout Gotham City, she really just wanted to go home and lock up the doors and windows tightly.
She tried turning on the news with that little TV above the register. Still, all she got was the latest on Joker; something about him throwing gas grenades in one of Gotham's malls. A lot of people injured, some even died, and the police lost the whereabouts of him some hours ago.
Stephanie sighed and turned off the television. There weren't that many channels on the bakery's TV, but she knew she wasn't going to get much else except for the scoop on the mad clown. She decided to go into the employee break room behind the counter and read a magazine to pass the time. It was then she heard the little bell of the front entrance ringing, signaling that someone entered the establishment.
"Hellllooooo! Anyone home?!" Someone called out in a tuneful voice. Stephanie assumed it to be a male.
"Just a moment!" Stephanie shouted back, hastily fumbling through some magazines on the little coffee table in the break room. When she settled on a few she thought she might enjoy reading, she quickly strode out, never taking her eyes off the covers of the magazines to get an idea of what could be inside the pages.
"I'm so sorry I kept you waiting," she apologized in that standard procedure of hers, eyes still glued to the magazines as she approached the counter. "So what can I get for...?" It was then she peered up and over the magazines in her hands, and when she immediately recognized this so-called "customer", she gasped loudly in fright and dropped them to the floor.
Joker's grin widened evilly upon her fearful cry. His eyes looked as sinister as ever when she got a good look at his trademarked features. He leaned against the counter, still patiently waiting for her to finish her sentence to him.
Upon instinct, Stephanie spun around and attempted to run for the back exit. She screamed and skidded to a stop when she noticed his hyenas blocking the only other escape, growling at her fiercely and ready to attack if she tried running past them.
Joker rubbed his knuckles against his purple coat, pretending to clean and overlook the state of his turquoise nails. "Forgive the pups, kid," he said to her in feign apology. "They tend to get a little cranky when they're hungry." His eyes sparkled with malice on his last words.
The hyenas got the girl to back up behind the counter once more and to face the Joker she was forced to service.
Joker and Stephanie just stood there staring at each other, the latter not know what to do or say. Stephanie had tears streaming down her face, and resisted the urge to just sob uncontrollably in front of him.
Since Joker wasn't getting any response from the girl, other than her silent sobs or her hitched breathing, he decided to break the silence himself. "Well hi-dee-ho--" He squinted his eyes to read the nametag pinned to her apron. "'Stephanie', huh? Can I call you Steph? I find nicknames much easier to remember."
Still nothing from Stephanie. Joker gazed past her and onto the shelves upon shelves of baked goods. All the donuts, breads, fancy pastries, and even cinnamon rolls were making him even hungrier than he already was. "Mmm...they all look so yummy..." his eyes locked onto hers again. "So what do you recommend, Steph?"
The hyenas growled loudly again, making Stephanie snap back into reality. With a little shake of her head, she finally answered Joker in a quivering voice, "W-well...a lot of people l-like the jelly-flavored...donuts..." Her shaky hands gestured to a shelf over on the right, where Joker took more notice into the larger donuts.
He put a hand to his chin, thinking. "Hmm...got any strawberry-flavored ones? Love strawberry-flavored..." He seemed to speak more to himself than to the quaking girl behind the counter.
He then began mumbling to himself which Stephanie couldn't quite make out what it was he was mouthing. She thought about his previous question to strawberry-flavored jelly donuts, so she took the liberty to nod her head enthusiastically and say, "Y-yes! Yes we have strawberry-flavored ones-- lots of them!" She turned around to grab a large bag to put the strawberry-flavored jelly donuts in. "Actually, this flavor isn't that popular with people. They prefer the cherry-flavored--"
"Cherry-flavored?" Joker couldn't believe his ears. "Appalling! Cherry-flavor is downright atrocious if you ask me..." he stuck out his tongue in disgust.
Stephanie quickly filled the bag with the jelly donuts Joker wanted, and nearly threw it on the counter for him. She stood completely still, waiting to see what the clown desired next. She hoped to God he wasn't going to hurt her...or worse...
"Jelly ones are great and all..." Joker trailed off, taking the bag of jelly donuts slowly in his hand. "But I have a girl back home who doesn't share the same love of jelly donuts as much as I do! A crazy one, she is!" He circled a finger to the side of his head, indicating that his "girl back home" is a real piece of work. After a few short chuckles, he added, "Have anything chocolate left? She goes absolutely mad for it."
Stephanie became frantic when she heard the question, grabbing more bags to put donuts or the likes in. "Yeah, we have tons of chocolate ones!" In the blink of an eye she started to scoop any chocolate donut she could find and put them in bags for Joker to take with him. Her sweat could be clearly seen on her with the poor lighting of the bakery.
Joker's smile was beaming with amusement to her panicked behavior. "Not just donuts, mah dear, everything that is chocolate in this quaint little place!" He threw his arms out to make his point more clear.
Stephanie bobbed her head in acknowledgement, not taking her eyes off on the task at hand. Her mind was so frazzled that all other things that she cared or worried about before had vanished as soon as her eyes set on Joker. The only question running through her head was, "Am I going to live?"
When the young woman finally finished filling bag after bag with chocolate pastries, Joker grabbed one of these bags and dug around for something in it. Eventually, he took out two chocolate sprinkled donuts, and put them up to his eyes so that he could see out from the holes in the middle. "Hands in the air, Steph!" He spoke teasingly in a bad impersonation of a western accent. "This is a stickup, see?"
That did it. Right on cue, Stephanie started to cry. It wasn't loud enough to be heard outside of the vicinity, but loud enough to annoy the hyenas, and make the crazy clown cringe with revulsion. "Eesh, kid, you don't look so good when you cry!" The Joker stated rudely.
His rather insulting words didn't make Stephanie stop her blubbering nonetheless. Joker rolled his eyes, waving his hands out innocently to her. "Calm down, Steph! I was just messin' with ya!"
Slowly but surely, Stephanie began to calm down, hearing those somewhat reassuring words from Joker's own mouth. "Wh-what?..." She wiped the tears from her face as best as she could. "R-really? You-you're not going to...to hurt me?"
Joker shook his head, now stretching himself out to rid some of the tiredness in his muscles. "It's been a fun evening, but all I want now is a little snack to take home." He started getting his bakery bags in order.
Watching this, it gave Stephanie some hope that maybe she will live through this outcome. Maybe she will be able to go home unscathed by the Joker. Then these thoughts started to go even beyond that. "Who knows," Stephanie thought with optimism, "This stuff is all on the security cameras here. Maybe I'll get to be on TV for living through this night! Hardly anyone ever survives seeing the Joker--"
Her thoughts were suddenly interrupted when Joker shoved money to her face. Stephanie became startled, backing up a little to get a better look at the dollar bills he had in his hand. "For you, dear Steph. I never let a good deed go unnoticed." The mischievous look in his eyes said otherwise, in Stephanie's opinion.
She was hesitant on taking the money, but did so anyways, not wanting to anger him after being so close to coming out of this unharmed. After all, she was shocked that Joker was even willing to pay for all the donuts and other pastries he's taking with him!
Stephanie opened the register, but right before she placed the bills in their proper spots, her eyes narrowed suspiciously on the money. She raised an eyebrow when she inspected it more carefully. "Wait a minute..." She held it up to the light to see better. "This bill has your face on it..." Sure enough, even though it looked like any other dollar bill kept in people's wallets, but the only changed detail is that instead of a US president in the center, it was Joker's face. She wiped her eyes just in case she wasn't seeing things, but the bill stayed the same.
"It also has a lot of your silly tears and sweat on it too, I might add," said the Joker gleefully, watching the events slowly unfold before his eyes.
Stephanie's head immediately snapped back in his direction. "Wh-what does that mean?--" Suddenly, she felt it. As quickly as her words came, her whole insides felt like they were on fire, literally. It's as if someone had started a fire right in her very organs. Anyone experiencing this would be screaming in complete agony, but another change was occurring within her own nerves. Instead of shrieking in pain, the only sounds coming forth from her lips were contrived fits of...laughter...
"Ha...ha, ha... HA, HA HA HAAH!" It was bad enough that her insides were burning up, but to be forced to laugh like this was just too much for her to bear! "Wh-what's happening...t-to me?!" She screamed in-between the fits of laughter. As hard as she tried, she could not resist the convulsions that came about in her body too.
Joker clasped his hands together joyfully. "Do you like it?" He squealed excitedly in a falsetto tone. "It's a brand new, concentrated Joker venom I created! Activated by the mere tears and sweat of you humans!"
Stephanie thrashed around behind the counter, but ultimately, she dropped to the floor like the stack of magazines she held in her arms some time ago. Her body still continued to twitch and contort into painful positions.
Joker smiled so sickeningly happy as he witnessed Stephanie's suffering. "The venom seeps into your pores and-- well...I think you can imagine what the rest does..."
After Stephanie had collapsed onto the floor, he couldn't hear any more movement from her end. He waited a few more minutes before he finally decided to go behind the counter to see the state Stephanie was now in.
The girl lied there completely still.
When he started to approach her, he could see that the venom in her body began bleaching her face. Blood could also be seen trickling out the sides of her mouth, and the corners of her bulged eyes. He kneeled down to her and put a few fingers to her jugular to see if there was still a pulse. He grinned psychotically when he got his answer. "Ah, well...one can never guarantee that they'll live when I'm around..." He snickered to himself, and with those donuts that he placed on his eyes earlier, he now set them on Stephanie's dead ones. "So long, dear Steph. It's been nice talking to you!"
Joker stood back up, and that maniacal laughter of his bubbled up from his throat and came out in full-force. He took up his bags of bakery goods and made his way for the exit. The hyenas quickly scampered along in toll, laughing it up with their master.