I'm not counting this as a superhero story, so my retirement still counts.
We All Float Down Here, Joker…
The Joker's corpse—which had eluded both Batman and the Gotham police department for what felt like centuries—was found in such a state that even the Dark Knight himself could only spare an occasional glance. The reporting officer was nowhere to be found (having fled the scene shortly after radioing in), and the exact cause of death could not reasonably be established, or so said the Corner. The truth was that not enough of the Joker was transportable—far too much had drifted down the sewer drain.
Because of his own neurosis, Batman dedicated what his extended family considered to be a worrying amount of time to solving the Joker's murder. Despite his resources and intelligence, Batman would never be able to produce even an educated guess—a severe heart attack would drop him dead in an alleyway around the same time Commissioner Gordon decided enough was enough and closed the file. No one else cared enough or dared question their sanity enough to take up the cause after him.
That would have been for the best, in any event, because even someone as untethered from reality as the Joker felt reason decay around him as his attacker delivered their killing blow. That feeling had been present for most of the night, in fact—something the Joker became aware of when he realized his otherwise loud and colourful liar had fallen noticeably silent, and looked oddly even a bit grey. What was once a large manufacturing plant dedicated to making children's toys (and kept up that front just as much for personal amusement as plausible deniability) looked more to him like the abandoned parking garage of a funeral home. For the first time in his life, the Joker wished he was surrounded by henchmen stupid enough to cause a racket.
A blue-print for a series of parade float—ones he intended to turn into a lumbering bombs—were spread out on a work-bench in front of him. Instead of paying attention to the shadows and the silence, he opted to focus on all the possible gas combinations he could fix to the bottom of the floats. He was, in fact, too focused on the blue-prints—Joker knew that he was going out of his way to distract himself, and that had the nice cyclical effect of making him even more jittery about his surroundings than he was when he first sat down. He even thought about turning on every light in the building, but despite suggesting this mostly in jest, the jitters grew stronger when he realized that, no, all the lights were already on. For some reason, the shadows just seemed not to care.
So he sat and stared at his blue-prints, hoping that eventually he'd become lost in his work and he'd curse the rising sun for not giving him enough time. The idea that the Joker of all people would be wishing for the sun like a scared child was enough to draw out one of his patented laughs, though it sounded mirthless and desperate and he knew it immediately.
Just the echo, he thought, shaking his head like he had something in his hair. I'm in a bunker for god's sake—nobody's laugh would sound jolly there.
Oh, but you're the Joker, another thought said. You could make any laugh sound like a riot anywhere and anytime! And you'd kill anyone who said otherwise, too.
Joker snorted. "Shows how much you know, you Peeping-Tom you. My laughs aren't for fun—they're expressions of my inner torment!"
No voice piped up to answer him or accuse him of lying. They had all fallen silent at the same time the Joker swore the lights had become even dimmer.
"Well don't leave me hanging boys! Can't you see I'm scared shitless?"
On instinct, the Joker whirled around in his chair and snarled into the darkness. "Nobody heard me say that!" he said. "Nobody—"
His vocal cords stopped producing sound. In the corner of his eye, as he spun to accuse nothing in particular, he could have sworn he saw a flash of red. Searching more desperately than he cared to admit, he couldn't find a single trace of anything except black and grey and muted shades of brown…until, that is, he heard a rustling directly behind him. He heard his spine pop like a dislodged floorboard as he twisted around to track the sound.
The sound turned out to be easily identifiable, as directly before his eyes he saw a bright red balloon detach itself from a wall of shadows. It seemed to appear out of absolutely nothing, like an apple bobbing in a pool of oil. Joker stared at it, barely breathing, trying desperately to figure out what could be giving the balloon its shine when all the lights seemed so terribly dim. No answer presented itself, but the balloon began bobbing rapidly on its string, and any questions about light source disappeared from Joker's mind as a white gloved hand reached out of the blackness to grasp the bottom of the string. An arm, decked in rainbow colours, followed suit, and soon there was an entire body standing below the balloon that the Joker swore could not have been in those shadows without being clearly visible. It was, after all, a clown in bright white make-up with tufts of hair so red they hurt the Joker's eyes—nobody with functioning eyes would have had any difficulty noticing those colour patterns.
Joker realized his entire upper half was leaning over his work-desk, and like a recoiling leash he shot back into his chair. The other clown just smiled at him, doing nothing else and saying nothing at all.
It was the eyes that held Joker's attention the most. They looked like the eyes of a possessed animal.
"Who the hell are you, and how the hell did you get in here?" The Joker said. He hoped his voice sounded as commanding as he wanted it to, but he seriously doubted it. The other clown just kept smiling.
"I'm serious!" Joker said, reaching for his gun. "Trespassers get no favours from me, and I'm already in a jumpy mood!"
"Aww, what's the matter?" the other clown said. It was the voice of a man, albeit a man who was a heavy smoker. "Don't like my suit?"
"If you're looking for a job, we're not hiring."
The clown shook his head, kept smiling, lightly pulled on the balloon so it noticeably bobbed. "Ohhh, I'm not looking for a job," he said, "I've already got a job. A good one! Betcha can't guess what it is." He took a sweeping bow, honked his bright red nose, and then laughed like he was pretending a child's bad joke was actually funny.
Joker unconsciously took a step backwards, but his gun remained pointed at the other clown's head. "Right, yeah, cute trick Mr. Copy Cat. But that doesn't tell me a damn thing in the slightest. So," he swallowed hard, hoped the clown didn't notice, "I'm going to ask again—just who the hell are you?"
"Ah!" said the clown, "a very pertinent question indeed! Allow me, then, to introduce myself to you, Mr. Joker!" He took a step closer to the Joker, and in doing so let go of the balloon. Somehow it stayed floating in the exact same spot it, and for reasons Joker didn't fully understand himself, he couldn't take his eyes off the damn thing.
"My name," the clown continued, "is Mister Bob Gray. But you, good sir, can call me Pennywise the Dancing Clown!" He clapped his gloved hands together, and to the Joker it sounded like a broadside canon going off. He jumped backwards, but this Pennywise seemed just as close as he was before.
How the hell is that balloon staying still? It makes no sense! None of this makes sense!
"Alright then Pennywise," Joker said, sticking the pistol further out in front of him. Pennywise's eyes seemed an even more repulsive shade of yellow from a distance. "Why are you here though?" Another gulp. "I don't need the extra help, and I certainly don't need any balloons."
Pennywise's grin grew to grotesque proportions, but yet again it was the eyes that filled Joker's vision. They seemed to almost retreat into his brow, covering them in shadows so that only the glow of the yellow irises was visible. Joker felt himself shudder.
"You don't like my balloons?" Pennywise said. "Aww, Mr. Joker, everybody likes my balloons!"
"Why?" Joker said, snorting despite himself. "Because you can get them to float on their own?"
Something shifted within Pennywise then, but Joker couldn't see it, only feel it. It was like invisible strings hung all around the two clowns, and Pennywise managed to strike a sour note with his very presence.
"Oh yes," Pennywise said, "it's because they float. Everybody likes it when they float. Wanna know my secret?"
Joker felt the tips of his fingers turn to ice.
"My secret is, when you're around me, YOU'LL FLOAT TOO!"
A laugh erupted from what sounded like the depths of the Earth, freezing Joker in place. He watched Pennywise hunch over as his red lips stretched and stretched to accommodate every heavy cackle, like something evil was trying to claw out his throat. But then Pennywise straightened his posture out, and the laughter mutated into a growling no animal or human could possibly make.
Pennywise's eyes found Joker's, and the yellow was bright enough to burn them like he had just washed with vinegar. He doubled over backwards, but not before stealing a glance at Pennywise's face—his teeth had turned into fangs, and his lips looked like two bloody worms pinned to a white wall.
The Joker screamed and fired his gun. Two bullets tore into Pennywise's head, blowing chunks of white and red meat into the darkness beyond. To Joker's horror, Pennywise didn't so much as flinch. The growling turned to laughter again, only now it was all around him.
Joker fled, dropping the gun and kicking over the table in his wake. His eyes traced the floor as his brain refused to look up, in fear that Pennywise would be standing over him like a cathedral painting from hell. But it felt as though he was making no progress, and as Joker raised his eyes he saw that he was running not towards the exit but towards a ceaseless wall of shadows, one that appeared to remain the same distance in front of him no matter how fast or slow he was running.
The laughter grew louder and more guttural. Joker felt like screaming.
Skidding to a stop, Joker took off in the opposite direction. He encountered the same moving wall of shadows—it was like he was running in an endless void, where a steel grey floor grew under his feet to prevent him from falling into oblivion. That thought didn't comfort Joker in the slightest, and his fright finally got the better of him.
"WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?" he screamed, swiping at the darkness that lay in front of him. Pennywise answered, but the laughter never ceased.
"I'm the thing waiting for you at the very end, Joker," it said. "I'm the thing on the other side of the door. You've been sliding my way since the day you took your first breath, and I've been licking my lips and planning my fun from that day on."
Joker screamed again, and despite feeling the futility of his actions deep within his mind, he bolted head first towards the darkness all the same. Pennywise was still laughing, and the laughter seemed to be dripping with the sound of something unspeakable.
"I wait for everyone," Pennywise, or whatever it was actually called said. "But just because I don't play favorites doesn't mean I'm not looking forward to this. I knew where you'd be and what you'd do before anything on this earth even knew you were due, and nothing you've ever done has changed that. Not. One. BIT."
The darkness gave way to a solid gray wall. Joker groped it was shaking fingers and slid his way along it, hoping to find a door or a window or something, anything, that could be a way out. But he couldn't even find a corner—the wall was endless.
"Think of the fun, think of the thrills! Think of all the people who said death was terrifying, and then think about how this'll be worse."
Joker couldn't manage even the simplest reply—his gloved fists kept pounding at the endless wall, and the endless wall refused to give. His knuckles were torn and bleeding all over his purple jacket.
"Don't worry about getting lonely—you'll have plenty of friends! All the people you've killed will be there. All the failed things you've created are waiting for you too! And soon, your old pal Batman will join us. But until then…"
Joker rocketed backwards off the wall, blubbering and screaming and scratching at his hair just to feel something, anything, other than his pounding heart. He backed further and further into the darkness, his hands numb, his chest on fire.
A gloved had slapped down on his shoulder, and the Joker spun roughly. Pennywise was behind him, and his eyes were glowing like dying stars.
"Until then," Pennywise said, "you'll just…have…ME!"
The bright light swallowed the Joker, from skin to his very soul.
No one would find the body until a real estate agent mentioned the smell wafting out of the basement.
All I'm saying is: if I had to pick a clown to throw my lot behind, I know where I'd stand.
See it's funny because Stephen King.
Also, sorry that this sucked.