Under the Red Sky

Under the Red Sky (Joker) Part 45


Death had never held me like this. Never lingered this long.

But I savored the ethereal silence of the Inbetween, drowning in the velvet black and silver.

Space materialized. White and nebulous at first but then taking clear form. I thought of heaven, of pearly gates and blinding light. But, no.

It could never be that easy.

The shore.

Why my subconscious always chose to spit me here, I’d never know. I gazed out across the dreamscape, the wind pulling through my hair and smelling of ash and blood.

No sludge. Just miles and miles of ebony water. Liquid marble, foaming and crashing beneath a sky streaked with red and black. A warzone sky. A catastrophe sky. The clouds rolled by with frenzied haste and I wondered where they were going in such a hurry…

“Weird, huh?”

I gave a start as I realized I was not alone in my little reverie. I turned.

Charlotte. Shady little Charlotte, settled at a quaint table of twisted metal. She seemed to glow as she beamed at me and I felt a small rush of happiness. No bullet hole; Good as new.

“Get a load of that sky,” she sighed and her voice had a ghostly, haunting ring to it. Like the echo of brass bells. She patted the seat next to her and I felt myself move to the table.

“Am I dreaming?” I asked, glancing around as I took the chair beside hers. “Or am I dead?”

She made a face. “Why the hell are you asking me? Like I know.” She patted the pockets of her leather jacket for a minute before slumping in her seat, frustrated. “I keep forgetting – no cigarettes.”

“Then I’m definitely not dreaming. Heaven wouldn’t cater such a vice,” I smiled and she shoved my shoulder playfully. I looked out across the water and up at the streaming, bloody sky. “Besides… this place was never this pretty. I never felt this safe…” I glanced back at Charlotte, sighing heavily, “And it’s all going to spoil isn’t it.”

She smiled crookedly. “Hate to be cliché, but it’s not your time.”

I sniffed. “And I’d just started to feel…passive.”

We were silent for a moment, watching the water swell and fall and glow with the red of the sky. I heard vague, incoherent mumbling and cast my eyes over the shore, searching for the source.

And there he was. His face clean and perfect, his hair wholly ordinary, tied in a knot at the back of his head.

Jack Napier.

He was playing in the sand, building castles out of grit only to destroy them, reducing them to salty rubble with his fists. He looked up at me and smiled, waving a grimy hand.

A warm, sickening feeling roiled in the pit of my stomach.


“He’s not so menacing without the scars,” Charlotte observed, leaning back in her chair to look at him. He returned to his briny empires, humming a little rhyme to himself, his voice knelling pleasantly.

“The cat was feeling hungry, thought she’d like him for her lunch…”

My lips twitched and I sheepishly turned back to my cousin, “I’m sorry I couldn’t save you, Charlotte. I was stupid to just let you wander around in a city like Gotham”

“I’m not a child,” she snapped, rolling her eyes, “And besides,” she fixed me with a roguish grin, nodding to Jack “You were busy with other things, other people.”

“That doesn’t justify my ignorance,” I murmured and she shrugged. “But at least I did one thing right - I killed the bastard who shot you.” I grinned smugly, glancing at her. “Turned him into toast.”

Jack’s verse malingered on the wind. “Put her foot on the electric wire, which tied her in a knot…”

A laugh sputtered at the back of Charlotte’s throat. “Knew you would.”

“That’s the whole reason I’m here,” I muttered, standing up and taking a few shaky steps in the sand, my arms opened wide to embrace the brine. I peered over my shoulder, grinning. “I went a little overboard with the theatrics.”

She smiled, suddenly at my side. “Then the clown’s rubbed off on you.”

I moved towards the shore with leaden feet and she frolicked beside me, nudging me, pinching my side. “He loves you”

“I know.”

“And you love him.”

I swayed slightly as she prodded me again. “Yeah.”

“So show him that,” she exclaimed, her voice pealing like silver chimes, “Love is sacrifice. Sacrifice and stupidity. And you already got one part down.”

I scowled, shaking my head as we reached the very edge of shore, the tide reaching dangerously for our feet. She hung back slightly and I turned to face her, my back to the water. Over her shoulder I saw that Jack had disappeared. Only the ruins of his kingdom remained.

“When did you get so…right?”

She shrugged. “Death has a way of opening one’s eyes.”

I cocked my head, staring at her, my brow furrowing in thought.

Now where had I heard that before…

She narrowed her eyes, staring up at the sky as if looking for signs of rain. She spoke after a moment or two. “Do you remember that silly rhyme Mother used to say?

I swallowed hard, kicking the sand feebly. “Yeah.”

We recited it in unison. “Red sky at night, Selina’s delight. Red sky at morning, Selina take warning.”

Her lips swung a smile. “But you’re not Selina anymore, are you?”

The rock in my throat worsened as the silence waned between us. I would miss her. Dear God, I would miss her most of all.

“Do you suppose this is goodbye?”

Her head lolled once more as she turned her gaze to the heavens. “Don’t know. Plan on dying any time soon?”

I made a face, thoroughly confused. “So this is heaven.”

She snapped her head down to catch my eye, grinning wildly. “If you say so.”

In one swift movement, her hands were at my shoulders and suddenly I was falling.

She’d pushed me. Hard.

I hit the water with a gasp and I sunk like a rock, the swells crashing over me, smothering me, velvet and plush. All I could see was black and shadow. And the brilliant red of the sky…


“Is she alive?”

The voices were garbled. I wondered if I was still underwater.

“I’ve got a pulse…but look at her – she’s absolutely charred.”

I stirred slightly, feeling hands pumping at my chest and fingers at my wrist.

“She’s coming to.”

Snow White rousing from her slumber, ready to kiss her prince…

My eyes fluttered open.

No prince.

Only a couple of cops and a nervous looking woman.

“Can you hear me?” she said quietly, putting a sweaty hand to my forehead. She had a gentle, patient manner, the trademark of someone who was good at fixing the broken, “Are you alright?”

I coughed horribly, watching the smoke plume from my lips with a sick sort of delight. I managed a nod.

“Get her some water,” the woman commanded and the cops nodded, blinking dazedly at me before shuffling away.

The pain hit me all at once, instantaneous and overwhelming. Put simply, bullets were sweet kisses compared to violent voltage. My lips were still crackling and the horrid stench of burning hair filled my nostrils.

I must look terrible, I thought miserably and knew at once that my disguise was shot.

If the coppers didn’t recognize me now, I could be sure that my face had melted off.

I giggled at the thought and moved to get up, bored already with the scene and wanting badly to find a mirror.

“No, no,” the woman chided, laying a chubby arm across my chest to stop me. “You need to wait for the ambulance. You’re badly hurt – the damage could be catastro-”

“I’m fine, I’m fine,” I muttered dismissively, pushing her arm away and winching into a sitting position, “Now where the hell are we?”

She was completely flummoxed, blinking at me in shock. Maybe she’d finally recognized me. Or maybe she thought it odd that I should be talking, surprised that my tongue hadn’t turned to cinder in my mouth.

I gave her a pointed look and she seemed to snap out of it. If only for a moment. “You’re on the roof of a ferry full of-″

I rolled my eyes, waving my hand wildly. “Yes, yes, I know.”

“We’ve docked.”

My lips puckered slightly and I sucked my teeth, glancing around. The city glistened beyond the pier, which was littered with the ferry’s occupants. I supposed they’d stuck around out of curiosity.

Anxious to know who had blown the fuses and all of them grateful for their lives.

I’d saved them all. And they hadn’t a clue.

Funny. I didn’t feel like a martyr. I felt like a lighting rod.

“Here you are,” the woman cooed and I snapped back to attention as she shoved a water bottle into my hand. The cops did not linger beside us, stalking off a little ways but keeping their distance from the mottled remains of Shrek.

I watched them as I hungrily guzzled the water to the nurse’s chorus of cautions. They kept shooting me wary looks, nodding and murmuring to each other, gripping their belts to look important. One of them made a little call on their radio.

They knew; the fear was blatant and settled contentedly in their eyes.

Smacking my lips in satisfaction, I tossed the water bottle and turned to the nurse. Her warnings turned into mumbles that quickly waned to silence. She stared. She knew.

I smiled thoroughly enjoying all of this gradual comprehension. I was a dirty joke, cackling, basking in my own dastardly ambiance as one by one the prudes began to wrinkle their noses in distaste.

“Know that your kindness was not in vain,” I chattered, running an affectionate hand along her cheek. She was much too alarmed to flinch. “And greatly appreciated.”

With a quiet grunt, I got to my feet, the awe-inspiring pain I’d felt upon waking considerably diminished. A little sore here and there, a certain odd tingling in my lungs –

Electricity trickling across my bronchioles…

But other than that, the usual corporal indifference.

I rolled my neck, reaching my claws for the sky. My hair bristled and absentmindedly brushed at my dress, which had been reduced to charred, tattered strips of polka dotted shit-fabric. Clicking my tongue in regret, I set my hands on my hips. No whip. Another pang of anger.

There was the scuff of leather shoes and I turned my face to the approaching coppers. They opened their little mouths but I beat them to the punch, holding up a perfectly elegant hand.

“No need for introductions, boys. I know the drill,” I drawled, thrusting my wrists at them.

They exchanged nervous glances, slightly taken aback by my sudden surrender. I couldn’t say why I was making it so easy for them. Maybe my conscious had finally kicked in. Maybe I was being lazy.


I was just fucking tired.

Murder took a lot out of you.

And besides…I had to keep them on their toes.

“Hello?” I called, impatiently shaking my wrists at them.

They snapped to attention, nodding to one another. The first hurried to the door at the top of the stairs. I watched him disappear as the second took up my wrists.

“You have the right to remain silent,” he murmured, the handcuffs clicking merrily. His hands were shaking. “Everything you say can and will be used against you in the court of law…” I stared at him. He wouldn’t meet my eyes.

Smirking, I threw my head back to the nurse; she was getting to her feet, dusting the knees of her pants. I caught her gaze and smiled, wiggling my fingers at her.

“Toodaloo,” I giggled and felt the officer’s fingers dig into my arm.
“No talking,” he hissed and I snapped my head down to glare at him, pursing my lips sourly and wrenching my arm out of his grasp.

“There’s no need to put your hands on me, officer,” I spat, “I’m not going anywhere.” Without a word, I started for the door, striding into the sickly, yellow light spilling coming from within the boat.

“Well, hurry along,” I called back, throwing a wicked glance at the officer, who seemed petrified with bewilderment, “My public awaits.”