The Fool

The Joker has an encounter with a prostitute.

“What are you hiding under the makeup?” She stroked his cheek and flinched gravely. She immediately hid her revulsion, but he saw the shiver pass through the tendons in her tightly held throat. It was there in the way she bit down on the end of each word as if spitting, the stiffness of her cold hand. Her distaste was almost erotic. Whatever else she felt, she was not afraid of him.

There was some fight in her, some misplaced pride. It would be so much… fun to bleed that out of her. The allure of this game was what had attracted him to her. She was young, he thought, or that was simply what a prostitute meant to look like. It was hard to tell. There was such anonymity to lingerie and binding laces, to makeup on ageless faces. But she had such a prim little mouth for a filthy, common whore. It was as perfectly pouted as a rosebud of blood blooming from the end of a gun held at close range. She had a bedroom between her legs and death in her eyes. Death became her. Contempt aged her. Such a pleasure, such a pretty little pleasure to break.

It wasn’t an innocuous question she had asked. She had said, “What are you hiding under the makeup?” leaning on the word “you.” The stupid whore, she didn’t want to believe that they were the same. There was a sweaty mascara tear on her ripe cheek. He grabbed her powdered, rouged face roughly in both hands and twisted her neck so she faced him.

“Likewise, my dear,” he said, pulling the last word into a growl as he held her by the hair and tilted her head back.

He moved the words around his torn mouth lasciviously, slobbering tongue lolling uselessly over them. He spoke like a person with numb lips, swallowing and gasping insatiably. That gaping mouth sucked ravenously at hers, and she felt the wet squelching of his mangled, exposed flesh. Both crimson, lipsticked mouths smudged into anonymous bloodlust. Then, he looked at her and laughed quietly, a terrible sound in its containment, the danger of a caged maniac.

She eyed him stoically and did not attempt to break his hold. Even with his fingers contorting her hollow cheeks garishly upward, she held herself with a strange dignity. As he forced her naked body closer to his, he decided that he would have to dig deeper into his bag of tricks for the greatest sleight-of-hand of our time—sympathy.

“Wanna know how I got these scars?” he rasped into her ear. His fingers tightened. He would make her see.

“No,” she said immediately, her voice impassive. “We’re all scarred, honey. Don’t think you’re special.”

His eyes had widened in shock, like he reacted to a physical slap. It had a chilling effect with his mask of makeup. The rings of black around his eyes expanded like the funnels of a tornado bent on destruction. He dropped her, and caught off-guard, she fell backwards and cut her lip on the headboard. There was masochistic pleasure in his contorted face. He threw back his head and laughed.

“Oh, so… true,” he hissed. “But where are your scars?” He drew his knife with dangerous tenderness across those maddeningly sedate lips. “Smile, beautiful. Because we all hate… to be… alone.”

If she was afraid, she did not show it. The revulsion was gone. Her face was as impartial as a mirror. She blinked those lifeless eyes at him in several slow circles. He was so close to her that he could feel the delicate flutter of her eyelashes against his face. So small and so resistant, the beating wings of a broken bird struggling helplessly to escape. Her lashes came away flecked with red. He wanted her to sob, to grovel, to lie down at his level and die, but she merely looked at him. However, his frustration was mingled with expectation. His victory would be all the more gratifying for waiting.

You are alone,” she whispered finally. Her words were rather slurred; she was moving her face carefully against the edge of the blade. “I know you. You’re sick. It’s not enough for you to take me. You want to masturbate to your tragedy. It’s never enough for you.”

He scrutinized her for the briefest, most fleeting moment, before the maniacal laughter returned.

“Oh, so… feisty. I like that. But so… rude. But I think I’ll tell you anyway. It’s kind of a… funny… story.”

Like an expert raconteur, he cast around for the thread of a narrative that would stir her. “Years ago, when I was a little boy, I was on the streets, just… like… you. The life was hard, the pimp was a drinker. And the customers would say, ‘Such a handsome little thing. But why… so… serious? If only he would smile.’ So one day, I’d had enough. So, I decided to end it all myself. So I took my knife…” He stroked her cheek tenderly with the flat edge of the naked blade. “…like this, and now I can never stop… smiling.” He breathed the rancid word in her face, leaving a trail of spittle.

“You’re lying.” It was stated without anger, the declaration of a naked fact.

His derisive laughter spiraled wildly out of control. Once again, he had underestimated her. The little slut was perfectly implacable. Not a spark of emotion in that small, carved face—a poker face. Such a delight, a rare treat. He would have to raise the stakes of this little game—call forth the most dangerous trick in his arsenal.

“I assure you, darling,” he cooed harshly. “I’m quite… serious.” The clown face leered at her, taunting, and moved the knife to her throat. His morbidly elongated smile was soft and deadly as he came down heavily upon her. She let out a faint involuntary moan.

“You’re going to kill me.” Her voice was as flat as ever, but now it was breathy and thin. She was such a small thing. She couldn’t take the weight of him against her.

“Don’t spoil… the punch line.”

He was surprisingly agile with the knife, applying the slightest amount of pressure like a true master of his art. Enough for her to feel the cold blade against her skin, but not enough to cut her. He was playing with her, taunting her. She noticed that he had strangely beautiful hands—long, tapered fingers, fine-boned and delicate. They looked like they should be holding an instrument.

Slowly, methodically deepening the contact between the blade and her flesh, he savored his restraint and watched her for signs of fear. Moments passed. He waited.

Finally, she rolled her eyes back in her head to look at him. And then she laughed, a silvery, music box sound—an empty, tinny echo.

“I’m waiting,” she said hoarsely and closed her eyes. Her face took on the childish serenity of an innocent sleeper. Confusion stayed his hand. He couldn’t kill her like this. There was no begging, no tears, and the scent of fear had never, for an instant, permeated her painted skin. She smelled like sweat—sex and despair—and noxious perfume, but underneath, there was a trace of something that maddened him—something he couldn’t name. It smelled the way you would imagine china bowls to smell—or snow.

“I know a liar when I see one,” she gasped in that constricted voice. Her lips were beginning to take on the sickly blue tinge of asphyxiation. “Hell knows I’ve seen enough of them.”

He smirked and brought the hand with the knife melodramatically to his forehead, playacting hurt. “I am a man… of my word.” He lifted the knife and dangled it above her, swinging it like a pendulum, but he did not strike. Before he could fully comprehend what had happened, her small hand had snaked into his and torn his fingers, one by one, from the knife. To his gleeful surprise, she drew it blindly to herself. The pale fingers clenched around the naked blade, and a thin red line glistened at the base of her throat like exotic jewelry.

“Oh… isn’t this… fun?” he lilted, clapping his hands in delight.

For the first time that night, she smiled. It was as thin and radiant as a crescent moon—or a blade. Then she plunged the knife deep into her throat with a contented sigh of agony. His perpetual smile dropped away, like an actor through a trapdoor, and was tugged up at the edges again by the scars, like a puppet on strings. He was dumbfounded. He fought to wrench her hands from the weapon, but the damage was done. She wouldn’t feel anything else now; any stabbing of his would only hasten her already quick death. He had been cheated. It was just such a shame.

The blood spurted madly from her severed veins, and she calmly traced her little fingers down the lines of his scars, mesmerized. “You only wish you’d done it yourself,” she whispered. Her voice was the faintest scratching of needle on bone. “They made you. You didn’t choose this… to be a… freak.” The last word was a rattling breath, wrenched from her dying lips. “And you have to live with it.”

The final convulsions of her body resembled the heaving of mirth. She died laughing at him.

The End

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