These are long notes, so if you don't care to read them, just skip on to the fic. )
Generic Note - I haven't written fanfics in years. I stopped four years ago, and the last things I wrote that I ever really immersed myself in fanfic-wise were Harry Potter fics about the Malfoys. I have the tendency to take my favorite characters of series and blow their backgrounds wildly out of proportion, re-writing them to better fit the way I see them. I'm now working my way into the Batman fandom. I always liked Batman, but I never got into the fandom until I saw the movie so I'm a 'newbie', so to speak, and I understand I am hated by many older Batman fans. But the way I see it, none of us are original Batman fans unless we were there before Word War II. And this fic is, of course, about The Scarecrow. Which is yet again a black mark against me. I kind of dumped most of the whole movie-Scarecrow though. There just wasn't enough of his background in it to work off of. Much as Cillian Murphy is gorgeous, I just am not seeing Dr. Crane looking like that. Acting? Yes. But I don't think someone looking like CM could possibly have been so abused/tormented/hated as a child, and he sure as hell couldn't have gained the nickname of Scarecrow. So…if you're looking for HotScarecrowSmutFic, where he acts all seductive and fan girl-worthy, you might as well just leave right now. Try for Scarecrow Year 1.
A note on Background - I'm working mainly off of Scarecrow: Year 1, The Long Halloween, Haunted Knight, Scarecrow comics, all the older Batman/Detective Comics/Gotham Knights comics he made appearances in (especially Batman annual '95 and 523-524), Batman: TAS, and Batman Begins. Mixed them all together, added some stuff of my own, and here it is. I plan to launch into an immense fic-epic on this character. I also see his Scarecrow side a lot more complex than a simple costume he throws on when he goes out to commit murder and theft. He is not suffering a split personality either, like Two-Face. He is just hideously complicated and messed up, and he manages to defy all psychological terms. And despite the comments made in the comics on occasion, I believe Crane knows right from wrong, he simply does not care. Therefore he is NOT sociopathic. I do not even believe he is psychopathic. I don't think he is mad at all. Simply hurting enough to do what all of us want to do, but never dare…maybe he's just got a creative fling.
A big thank you to everyone who has put up with this obsession of mine, listened to my ravings, stared at my art and others' art when I shoved it in their faces, went to the movie with me, studied the comics with me, bought me books, especially my Dad, who gave me all his old Batman comics and carted me to all his comic book conventions everywhere in New England. And a huge thanks to Char, who will probably never read this. But she got me obsessed with the singer Casey Stratton, and when I got his CD and listened to the songs "Blood" and "Hollow", Scarecrow's world and mind completely opened themselves up to me. Also a big thanks to AluminiumDonut, who draws the most badass Scarecrow art and has helped me with this fic.
Disclaimer: Scarecrow belongs to DC Universe, as do any other characters that appear. I do not claim to own anything, and any quotes are near the respective author.
In the Very Haunts of Men
And you remind me of my sanity, doctor,
Teleport me out of your design.
This is Fear - Welcome to my little flood.
And now - Give me a little of your blood.
- Blood - Casey Stratton -
The Scarecrow was sitting in my chair. I knew he would be there, from the moment I found a few scraggly straws outside my front door. But it still shocked me. His feet were propped up on my desk, stirring my papers, and his gloved hands were folded under his chin. His head was low, his shoulders hunched around him as he studied me intently with those dead, direct eyes. That is how I found The Scarecrow. Again.
That was the first thing I noticed about him, that he had returned after so many years of silence, and his eyes were the same, so hideously direct in their gaze, as if he saw nothing in the world but me. I could almost immediately feel the panic rising up in me, the fear, the loss of control over my emotions. The ugliest feeling in the world.
"Crrranne…" he whispered slowly, his voice not a voice, but the rustle of dead leaves in the night, the sound of brittle cornstalks rubbing together in the breeze. "What are you so afraid of…?"
I ignored his question. There was no need to answer it. He knew what I feared, and he knew why I feared it. Him. "What are you doing here?" I swallowed hard, advancing to the desk, stopping a foot or so in front of it. He had left straws on my desk. My papers. I also noticed he had siphoned through them, for there were several folders sitting there that I had not touched in years. For the last several years of my life, I had lived in fear of him. Or perhaps not fear, only unease, as if my past would catch up to me. I started at any symbol of him, and the shadow of a blackbird has given me such a fear I find myself akin to a character of Wallace Stevens'.
He said nothing for a moment, then slowly lowered his feet to the floor and leaned forward onto the desk, never once taking his eyes off mine. I dully found myself wondering if he were even capable of doing so. "Nothing." A subtlety caught my attention, and I realized with a start he was attempting to evoke pity. I couldn't remember him ever showing emotion before. But then again…acting was not the same as truly feeling. He was nothing, had nothing. I must have imagined it. Or he was acting. "How has it gone?"
"How has what gone?" I snapped, enunciating every word. I didn't have to pretend. That spark of emotion he had faked was enough to make me angry with him.
"Our life." he suddenly cocked his head, almost sideways, so suddenly and strangely it was almost as if he had snapped his head clean off. But things that are not alive never die. And things that do not possess necks can not break them.
The ex-English major in me caught him. Grammatically incorrect. It did not make it any less true. Oh God, why was he back? Wasn't it enough that he lingered in my mind every moment? "I don't need you anymore. I don't even live there anymore. You don't even exist anymore." It had to be true. It was only logical, wasn't it? Thirteen years ago…I left my home thirteen years ago, and he had stayed behind. Stationary objects do not move.
" 'There he is who is my friend, Damned, he fancies, to the end-Vanquished ever since a door, Closed he thought, forevermore, On the life that was before.' That is what you thought?"
"Yes." I said haughtily after a moment, because I honestly did not know what else to say to that. Why was he quoting Robinson, one of my favorite poets? Did he really remember them, from all those years ago?
"You can not leave me behind. I move with you." he snarled, his voice no less human, though he was mocking me now, clearly having dropped all means to move me. "You didn't really think…you could escape me…did you? I have been with you from the start, and I shall never die." He leaned back in the chair quite suddenly, his movements as jerky and peculiar, as inhuman as ever. Pulling a piece of straw from his hat, he examined it for a moment before pointing it at me. I found my mind wandering again, as if his very presence induced me to do so. He was no more threadbare and worn-looking than he was thirteen years ago. And by all reality, he should have been falling apart, gnawed by rats and rotting away, the dead eyes slowly becoming more alive as his body decayed. No skeleton would have remained. Only the coat. And the hat. Maybe a few scraps of clothing still clinging to the ragged cross. But he remained, as whole, as imperfect, as frightening and ethereal as he had all those years ago, when I first ran into him….I narrowed my eyes, suddenly desperate to find something wrong with him, some sign that he was fading. I could remember him as he was then perfectly, and there had to be some sign of the decade and more that had passed since I last spoke with him. His head lowered again as he smiled crookedly, silently. He knew what I was seeking, I was sure of it, yet under my scrutinizing gaze he was merely amused, waiting in silence until the verdict we both knew was to come.
The Scarecrow was the same. Imperfect as ever.
"Are you satisfied now?" he finally spoke.
"Yes." I sighed. "What do you want this time?"
"Why do you act as if I never helped you? You accuse me of only coming to you when I want something, not when you want something."
"I want nothing from you!" I hissed.
He stared at me a moment, then abruptly laughed. The husks of dead insects tapping against the windowpane. "As a child….you did. You had nothing then, as you have nothing now. I watched your fall. I watched over your pathetic childhood. I watched you be beaten and tormented and harassed to no end by the other children." Here he stood up and slowly began circling, walking around me, his dead eyes never taking their gaze off of me. "I watched your witch of a grandmother sic her 'pets' on you and lock you away whenever you looked at her sideways. I watched her curse and threaten you, and I watched the world laugh whenever you cried. I watched you grow into adolescence, no closer to being wanted as you were forced to sleep in the barn with the horses, as you trudged down the dirt road to your school, only to be eschewed and laughed at, and I watched you stagger home every afternoon, bearing new injuries because you were caught looking at someone's girlfriend or little sister. I listened to you condemn your whore of a mother who left you as soon as she was able. I listened to you cry and howl and swear revenge on the world that had forced you to grow so crooked, so…hollow…because after a time the emotions inside you curled up and died, worthless things that they were. And I watched and listened and lorded over you, taught you how to take control of your life and your mind, and exact revenge…And when you did not need me anymore, I stood there just where you had left me, silent, dormant, waiting…"
I twitched, despite myself, curling and uncurling my fingers very quickly. I could not deny what he told me, for I knew it was all true. The Scarecrow in the field. God only knew how long he had been there…But I did not find him until the Halloween night I was eight, when my grandmother called me a heathen and a Pagan when I had asked if I could go out, and she had banished me from the house. I had been determined to go out anyway, and attempted to get to town through means besides the main road, which she would surely be watching. And after getting hopelessly lost in the cornfields, I panicked and bolted. I had never been lost in them before, normally being able to merely duck between the row in a straight line due to my scrawny posture. But then again, I had never run through them aimlessly either. I had only been running for maybe ten minutes when I smashed into something unexpected and fell. I will never forget the feeling I got when I rolled over and sat up, staring up at the wooden cross and the figure hanging off of it standing before me. Despite all my grandmother's shrieks and accusations of heathenism, she rarely took me to church, believing it to be a sort of punishment to be able to sleep in and have the house to myself. I did at least understand, however, that there was something hideously old, pagan, unnatural, about this figure rising above me that was making a mockery of Christ on the cross. There was something about him though, that I understood.
That was when I had first ran into The Scarecrow, as old and unchanged as ever, as unnatural and eerie…I will never forget that moment when I first saw him and fully understood what he was. My mother had told my grandmother my surname before she was banished from the house forever, and it was Crane I was to be called thereafter. The earliest and only present I could ever remember getting was a copy of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving, illustrated, but unabridged. Though only four or five at the time because I never had birthdays, I never knew my exact age until I was eighteen, I was able to read it agonizingly slow. It was meant to be a joke gift from my grandmother, a lesson to me of what happened to anyone foolish enough to possess the name 'Crane'. I sincerely believe she wanted me to die horribly. It was never a joke. It never scared me. It only caused me to launch into my obsession with books, which is quite possibly what fed my intellect enough to get me the full scholarships to go to college. But ignoring sentimentality, that book forever possessed a sort of power over me. I started collecting it, stealing copies from the town and school libraries and even from the store around Halloween, when it cropped up everywhere. I only had three by the time I was eight, but every single one of those editions had the same sinister figure on the cover. The Scarecrow. In fact, the image of a lone scarecrow in a field at night was so prevalent, regardless of the illustrator, that it began to represent the story, and even myself, to me.
And there, standing before me, hanging from the wooden cross, tied and nailed to it, was not only a scarecrow, but the Scarecrow. The Scarecrow that quickly became me. He was thin, and unusually human-looking, a stick-figure swathed in patched, torn, burlap clothing. An ancient tan trench coat was draped over him, tied on around the wrists as if he feared the wind crawling up his arms, and a crude hat, of an era and an origin that would remain forever a mystery to me, lay cocked on his head at a strange angle. I stared at him a long time before standing up before him. It never occurred to me to consider him an 'it', an object. He was always human, alive, to me. I think that's how he wanted it to be.
A part of me wishes I had run then, regardless of my intrigue. As I wished I could run now, but I could not. He stood behind me now, his eyes suddenly off me, though I could still feel them, and I knew that somehow, he was still watching me. "Jonathan. Who was Jonathan?" he whispered from the back of the room. I braced myself and turned to face him just as he looked over his shoulder and our eyes met again. Blue on blue as he slowly pulled a book from the shelf.
I didn't have to ask what it was. I didn't even have to look. I knew perfectly well what it was. That entire shelf was devoted to a hundred different versions of the same book. The book that my name was taken from. He smiled.
Tossed it to me. I didn't try to catch it. I let it fall. Just as I had fallen all those years ago, and looked up to see my own twisted savior standing before me, shadowing the moon. I looked up at him and smiled back, met those eyes so like mine.
He had never terrified me, even in the beginning. He merely had some sort of hold over me, and I found myself traipsing through the fields with a book or two every time I had a free few hours. I started going there after school, so to better avoid the bullies in the schoolyard who had the habit of chasing me and beating me whenever they had the chance. There was one day though, when they caught me leaving the school and took turns putting matches out against my arm while the rest of them held me down. I still bear the scars, a half a dozen ragged circles on the inside of my left forearm. And they took my book, a copy of The Hound of the Baskervilles, and set it afire before finally letting me go. I was only ten or so at the time, and I had run all the way home and through the fields to the Scarecrow, never crying a single tear. That was the day it all began to change.
It had been nearly two years since I had first run into the Scarecrow at that point, and up until then he had been silent and rather pointless. Why I ever found comfort in sitting under him, leaning against the pole he was crucified on, was something I never understood. But that day when I collapsed in the clearing before him, refusing to cry as I cradled my burnt arm, I had the distinct feeling that he was not the same. Or perhaps he was, but merely….awake. Because I stood and stared up into his eyes; he still stood much taller than me at that point, and when I met his eyes, I realized with a start that they were blue. I had never even know him to have eyes, only jagged holes in his burlap face. I stood on my toes and reached up, without thinking, and quickly plucked one of his eyes out. It bothered me a moment, for I always considered him alive in a vague sort of way, but the glass marble rolling in my hand replaced my uneasiness with a new one. It was a brilliant blue, a rare sort of blue, the exact color of my eyes, a blazing, bright, sapphire blue that my grandmother claimed to be the proof of my devilish heritage.
This new uneasiness was composed of two things. One, that I knew for a fact he had never had eyes before. And two, that his eyes were blue. Not just any blue, but my blue. And I knew it was not a coincidence. For the first time, I was suddenly aware of something ugly within me, something that felt no fear, only delight.
He was wandering my office again, aimlessly, bored. He was making me uneasy, and not just because he had returned after all these years. Of all the places he could have found me, my own personal home office was the one I wanted him in the least, and judging from the folders he had placed on my desk, he knew this and had found exactly what I wanted kept from him. But whether he had looked through them yet or not I could not tell. And whether or not he had any intention of mentioning them to me was again unknown, for he was still on the far side of the room, half-climbing up the bookshelves, looking like a crippled spider.
"Ten thousand books in the house and not a one…not a one…" he growled, still not facing me.
"What are you talking about?"
"Why, Jonathan?" He was throwing books now, grabbing them in his claws and hurling them onto the floor behind him. "Why did you destroy your journals?"
My stomach lurched. So he had read through the folders, and he had been unsatisfied. "Get away from me!" I shouted suddenly, losing my temper. Losing control…falling…fading… "Get the hell out of my house!" I lunged forward. I was inches from him before I realized it, and grabbing for his shoulders, but I didn't have to, for he leapt to the floor and dodged from me.
"You can't catch me, I'm the…" he gritted his teeth, smiling coldly, and he was suddenly hostile, dangerous. "Straw-stuffed Man…How we do cherish our childhood. Pity you never had one."
His words stopped me dead, froze me in my renewed attack on him. No one was allowed to say that, not even him. "Oh dear, did I say something horrible? Something you were perhaps trying to forget? Something in those journals?" He covered his mouth with his hand in mockery, acting shocked and concerned. I hated him. All the times I myself had admitted it did not change the fact that someone else had spoken those words, someone else had acknowledged that gaping emptiness in my life. The hole that should have been bridged with a loving mother and father, with someone to tuck you in every night, read you nursery rhymes and fairy tales, someone to go into town with, someone to take you trick-or-treating and Easter-egg-hunting, someone…someone who was never there for me, the boy who grew up as a bastard orphan in a small town in Georgia in a time and place when children without parents were mocked and shunned from society.
"So many have the plight now. Why, the streets of Gotham are crawling with silly little urchins. But then again, I suppose you never had friends and allies like they have…And I suppose growing up a bastard or an orphan in Gotham City is a bit different than it was to do so down south when you were born. Isn't that so, Jonathan?" His eyes gleamed blue and glassy, as I knew my own were.
That same day I returned home to find my grandmother waiting for me. My Sunday suit was on the table beside her. She glowered at me and calmly spoke. "I believe you have something of mine, Jonathan."
I blinked at her stupidly, not understanding a thing. I had fully intended to slink upstairs, wash and bandage my arm, and hide in my room until supper. "I do?"
"Don't be smart with me!" she lashed out with her hand so quickly I never had a chance to react, and I feel back, cowering. Panicking.
"I wasn't…I don't know what you--" I never got the chance because she hit me again.
"My sapphire globes." She said, regaining her posture and smoothing out her dress, "You stole them. I know it was you. You're the only one it could be." She smiled coldly. I just sat there, so confused I know I looked a fool, blinking up at her. It took me a full half minutes to remember that she collected glass spheres of various sizes, the same way some old ladies collect china plates and others pewter spoons. A mail-order catalogue had a few of them in it long ago, and they quickly became something for obsessive women to collect, especially this far from the nearest city, where everything came via mail and no one sold china plates that way. Some were small enough to be confused with marbles, except marbles were not worth hundreds of dollars. I thought they were stupid. I thought my grandmother was stupid. But I did realize quickly enough that I had seen them, and I had to say something fast before she hit me again.
"They're outside, in the…" I sputtered, scrabbling backwards on the hardwood floor. "In the field."
"And what are they doing there, you dirty little boy? Get up off the floor!" She kicked at me and I squealed despite myself as her boot connected with my burned arm.
"I didn't put them there." I snapped. "They're the eyes of your scarecrow!"
That made her pause a moment. "The scarecrow out back has no eyes." She said calmly after a moment. She knew she had me.
"Not that one!" I cried frantically, staring at my Sunday suit and knowing I was going to have to go out there, to the aviary, where nothing could save me once the birds came… But I knew it was hopeless. I knew right off that the Scarecrow I went to was not one she knew about. She only knew of the other one, only a hundred yards from the house, the one she trained her crows to attack me on…
"There is no other scarecrow." She smiled pleasantly and grabbed my arm roughly. Now go get changed." She handed me my suit and shoved me towards the stairs. And I started to cry in frustration and panic.
That day ended like so many others in my childhood. In screaming pain as her crows tore at me.
"But there was another scarecrow. There was me. You."
There was nothing I could say to that, so I whispered out a weak "I know," not that it mattered…
"But did you know that then? You were such a pathetic little child, so weak and helpless, yet so angry, hounded…useless like a scarecrow that could not scare." He had me backed up against the door now. "It was only logical that you kept journals, having nothing better to do, no friend to be with, and no one to talk to besides an effigy in a cornfield."
I contemplated for a moment just ignoring him, not responding to a thing he said, but I knew it was impossible. And I knew he knew I had not destroyed my journals, merely moved them to a place where they would not haunt me. A dozen thick volumes of grief. They never did a thing for me, so I threw them in a box and shipped them off to my old homestead in Georgia, the great mansion that would bring in so much money had I the deed to sell it. As it was, it was useless and in disrepair. I went up there a couple of times a year, just to make sure it hadn't fallen completely to pieces, and then I would go lie down in the bed I had as a child and stare out the window and pretend I could start all over…
"You can't erase it. And you can't rewrite it. And you can't go back to it and pretend it's all okay." he snapped, startling me out of my reverie. Reading my thoughts, ripping my skull open, climbing the walls of my brain. I understood that he has been talking long before I heard him, but I knew what he meant. "However…" trailing off, whispers in the field as the wind changes direction.
"What?" I slowly slid to the ground, suddenly exhausted. I wanted to sleep, to just close my eyes and wake hours later to an empty room with only a memory of the horrible nightmare that stood before me.
"You can work with it." He narrowed his eyes, clasping his hands behind his back and leaning forward to smile at me.
I leaned back in my chair and stared up at the ceiling, mindlessly bored as the teacher droned on and on about legends and folk tales. Junior year in high school, and they insisted on teaching us The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, a book I read as the merest child. But then again, those other students who shared my class were infinitely stupid, and our school was too small to bother with an Honors division. Yet I managed to look on the bright side of it, for after all, there was another copy of the story for me to steal, fresh from the storage closet of Arlen High, so old the price on it was a nickel and the pages were yellow and brown. The illustrations were few and shabby, but there was still the scarecrow. There always was. I smiled slightly and flipped through the pages of the small paperback on my desk. Page 14, a ragged creature made of sticks and straw and old clothes, the epitome of empty fear and loneliness. He looked nothing like my Scarecrow, my crooked, disturbing guardian angel…
"Jonathan, class is dismissed, in case you did not notice…" Ms. Arena drawled from her desk.
"Fucking weirdo…who the hell misses the dismissal bell?" someone hissed from the hallway. I sighed, grabbed my textbooks, and headed for the door, decidedly ignoring them. I had in my hand a book the school would never see again, something that would satisfy me and please The Scarecrow, who was arrogant enough to love all the pictures of his likeness I collected. I envied his confidence.
I took several steps out into the hall before suddenly I was slammed against the wall. I let out a startled hiss and leapt to the side, turning to face my well-known adversary. Bo Briggs. It could only be Briggs. The captain of the football team, the ringleader of them all. All being the whole school. All being everyone who hated me and mocked me just because I was smart and quiet and strange, and because I was thin and scrawny enough for them to deem me a fairy.
"So, Mr. Geek, you have anything to do this fine Halloween? Any killer parties? Oh wait, you never get invited to those…" he leered up at me. Nothing nothing say nothing. I wanted to punch him, but the words of Prufrock came to me then. "Do I dare…" No. I could never even run the risk of wearing my shirts differently. Much less hitting someone who could kill me. So I ran.
I always ran.
Not that it mattered. Nothing I did was ever to any effect. He had a team waiting to ambush me outside. Clearly I had done something to deserve this…I thought as I dodged one and smashed right into Henson, who laughed and punched me in the stomach. And I was down and cowering and I couldn't ever remember how much they smashed me around, but after several minutes Bo pulled me to my feet, dragged me to his pickup, and threw me into the back. I scrambled into the corner, knowing full well that if I ran for it again, I'd just have more bruises to show.
They took me to the nearest cornfield, which was very close, considering how Georgia is. And Bo ordered me to march to the fourth or fifth row while he and his gang looted his truck, following me with several poles, a lot of rope, and an ugly old hat. Scarecrow. I knew what they planned to do before they even did it.
I kicked and hollered as much as I could, but it didn't matter. The fact that my grandmother only bought me clothes that were stylish fifty years ago didn't help, for they provided me little flexibility and completed the costume for the goats. They didn't even need to waste time finding old clothes to force me into, and I was inwardly thankful for that.
They left me in the field, tied to a pole with a rope as thick as my arm wrapped a dozen times around my waist and legs, with another pole perpendicular to it to tie my wrists to…A cross. A scarecrow. Complete with the charming hat and the setting sun over the fields. It would be dark soon, and it was Halloween. And Grandmother didn't give enough of a shit about me to wonder where her "dirty teenage son" was. I was too exhausted from fighting, and I was probably too weak besides, to break free, so I settled down for a long night and hoped vaguely that someone would find me soon.
Halloween in Arlen is a frightening thing.
He noticed my trembling, and I hated him for it. He wandered aimlessly back to my desk and, smiling all the while, rooted through my folders. Full of newspaper clippings. After a moment, he paused and flicked one into my face. The headline read "Local Farmer Finds Injured Teen in Field; Are Halloween Jokes Going Too Far?" I had the article half memorized, and it spoke of a certain Pendergast finding a 16-year-old boy, thin and beaten up with blue eyes and brown hair, tied to a cross like a scarecrow in his field…
I felt as if he knew what memories he was forcing to erupt inside of me, and it was like he was purposely placing them there too. "Do you fear me? Believe me to be the harbinger of your loss of control? You know that is a lie, for if you'd let me, I could destroy all the fear you've ever faced, all the pain and suffering, the torture and abuse….I could end it all. I wield the utmost power in every situation. I am The Scarecrow. I am Fear."
"You're a figment of my imagination. You're a pile of straw rotting in a cornfield hundreds of miles from here."
"You can move on with your life. Let me handle all the punishment. You think you are in control now, but you are wrong. You have been reduced to nothing as you have allowed others to dominate your every thought, your every action. Look at you, a scrawny ex-professor of psychology, living in squalor and poverty, blaming your life's problems on the parents who were never there for you, the bullies who waited to jump you on the side of the road after school, and the cruel grandmother who hated you for existing. It isn't their fault. It's your fault. You did nothing."
"What could I have done?" I snapped. "I tried…! You know I did! You were there!"
"Attacking a few random classmates throughout your younger years is nothing."
"So what am I supposed to do?"
"Do what you've always wanted to do. You have always envied me; I am the darkest corner of your mind, I am the part of you you try to block out. Yet you want to be me. So give up. And we can take over this city. We can ruin the lives of everyone who ever ruined yours…" He was acting mad. He was always mad, but now he was beginning to sound completely crazy.
Him. Not me.
Waiting outside during the best night of my life. Supposedly. The best night of any teenager's life. Not mine though. Good old prom. I hadn't been planning on going, because after asking a girl or two only to be stared at blankly and turned down, there's no point in going. But several days before, I had gotten the idiot idea into my head that I might actually enjoy myself, might find someone, and I had gotten a ticket. I took the train into the city nearby and sought out a tuxedo shop. After searching for hours, I found one only to realize I hadn't the money, and I wouldn't if I saved for a decade. So I returned home devastated and curled up in the loft of the barn, where I was forced to sleep now, and cried. I don't cry much anymore, but in the thirty or so hours I had had the ticket, my hopes had been raised to a ridiculous height, only to be crushed by my poverty. God forbid I ASK for money.
"What are you whining about?" a bored hissing drawl had come from the back of the loft, where it was always dark regardless of the window overlooking the fields. "You wouldn't enjoy yourself anyway."
"Bugger off, Scarecrow." I had snapped, not wishing to talk to anyone, even him.
He had come forward into the light and smiled crookedly at me, though he couldn't do much but smile the way his face was sewn. I had learned not to question his origins and his maker by then, but I still wonder… "I don't know what you're expecting at this little shindig, but I know a way that you can enjoy it."
"This is supposed to be the best night of my life. And I get to spend it at home, lying in the dark, hating myself and being hated by everyone at school. They'll be expecting me not to show. I can't let them be satisfied. I can't let them all laugh and rave about how poor old Crane is probably off swinging in the breeze somewhere, unable to find a girl. By not going, I just prove to the world how pathetic I am. You were never a teenager, what do you know?" I had returned his mock, sullenly turning away from him to face the mirror by my bed, where I could still watch him.
"It can still be the best night of your life."
"Oh, really?" Sarcasm.
He had walked up to my bed and dropped a burlap sack onto it. "Revenge." he had whispered, and faded off into the shadow.
And here I was, twelve hours later, sitting in a tree outside the school parking lot full of cars. Wearing a makeshift scarecrow costume.
And the prom was over. I smiled to myself, taking odd satisfaction in knowing that even if someone were to see me, they had no way to know I smiled under the burlap sack covering my face, for the mask permanently frowned. Maybe later, the Scarecrow had reflected, I could make it smile and leer. But there would be no need to don this costume again.
Bo Briggs and Sherri, the girl I had once loved, the girl who slighted me, were one of the straggling couples, as I figured they would be. I watched and waited as Bo flung the passenger door of his car open dramatically and ushered her in, kissing her before he got into the driver's seat and slammed the door again. Another moment passed before I climbed to the ground, grateful I had stuck with hiking boots as opposed to the strange shoes Scarecrow had suggested. Now I had to wait for them all to start driving…I had chosen a tree right down the exit of the parking lot, and now I ran a few hundred more yards until I was out in the open road. Here they would have picked up enough speed. Here was where I would exact revenge.
In a small town like Arlen, there are a hundred bullies, and there is only one loser for them all to feed on. But now the tables had turned. I had sustained thirteen years of school, and from kindergarten I had been beaten and tormented and laughed at. Now they had all gone to the prom, beautiful popular glamorous people, and they had wasted the night drinking and dancing and making out with their dates. Dozens of cars would soon be leaving the lot, full of people already tired, drunk, and distracted.
I vaguely hoped I wouldn't get killed. The chances of my getting run over were great, but it really didn't matter. I had just about nothing going for me. Several prestigious colleges had offered me scholarships, and while learning intrigued me, I couldn't bear the thought of more begging for money from Grandmother. There was nothing else for me. And life certainly hadn't offered me so much.
"It hadn't offered you much until that night, did it?" he leered at me. "But don't you see? You did try, but you only killed one of them. Only Sherry died that night while a half a dozen other students were merely injured when you threw a handful of smoke bombs into the road and leapt onto car hoods, yelling and swearing at everyone you always despise. You could do so much…So much more…"
" 'There will be time, there will be time, To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet; There will be time to murder and create.' I believe that was-"
I heard myself saying it before I knew I had heard him even. " 'I have seen the moment of m greatness flicker, And I have seen the eternal footman hold my coat and snicker, And in short, I was afraid.' T. S. Eliot. The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock."
"So good of you to teach me Eliot." He replied, and I realized suddenly there was something different about him, something of the old Scarecrow. It was as if he knew my mind was closing up, reverting back to that of a child's as fear surrounded me, and he was suddenly less sinister. Or maybe it was me.
There were several minutes of silence, and I tried to collect myself, but found it difficult. I was suddenly unsure of myself and the world. Something had fallen apart, but I couldn't quite place my finger on it. I straightened my glasses and pulled my knees up under my chin.
"Crane," a sigh. "Why did you let it all go? You had the world that night, you were in utter control of the minds and lives of a dozen other people. You had power over them that you never had over yourself."
"I wanted to go to college!" I suddenly exploded. His pleading tone was killing me. "I wanted to do something with my life, not don a mask forever and run around like a madman!"
"Look where that got you." he was angry again. I had insulted him somehow. "Everything you learned you could have taught yourself. You had a job and lost it just as quickly. Now you're back where you started. But there is still time. There is always time, Jonathan…"
I stepped out into the night, squinting and shading my eyes, though I had nothing to shade them from. "Scarecrow?" I said tentatively.
I stood there in the silence another moment, waiting. He would come. He always came. Especially now that I was…leaving home. Probably forever. And he was here. He was a part of the place. He was as part of the country as the fields and the air and the ghosts, older than me, older than the buildings. I never understood what he was or where he came from, but whenever I saw him, with the dark fields and the dark sky around him, I felt everything that was familiar, everything that was of mankind, shrink away into nothing. He was nothing of nature, I knew that much, and I knew he could not exist without us, and I knew that somehow he was a part of us, yet he still managed to make us feel like tiny, helpless children.
He came then, quite suddenly, materializing out of the night. Silent.
"I'm leaving. On the first train out of here in the morning. I just received the confirmation letter from the school. I have the money, and I sure as hell can't stay here." I spoke quickly. I hadn't bothered to rehearse anything, because it never occurred to me that I would miss him, my dark mentor and savior. Yet now that the time had come, I suddenly was at a loss, and I knew I would miss him more than anything, even more than the fields and the air at night and my horse. He was the closest thing to a father I ever had, the closest thing to a friend I ever had. Regardless of the fact that I seriously questioned his existence at times, for he never appeared to anyone but me, and regardless of his cruel, heartless tendencies, he was all I had out here, and indeed anywhere. "I just-"
"Wanted to say goodbye?" he growled out in that ugly hissing voice of his that I had grown to find comfort in.
"Yes." Thank God it could be fast.
"You don't have to." he turned to go
"I said you don't have to!" spinning to face me so fast I jumped back, he snarled. He was always annoyed, but I had never seen him honestly angry before. In fact, I had never seen him show any emotion.
"But I'm never going to see you again! I can't just go off to Gotham City without saying something to you, without giving you…" I flung a notebook at him and he caught it, but didn't look at it.
"NO! Wait!" I stumbled forward a few steps. The coldness in his eyes was something I had never seen before. They weren't just cold, they were empty. "You'll find someone else, won't you? You'll just stay here forever, and there will always be more like me, others for you to help…"
"No." he said curtly.
I was stunned. Was he just angry and hurt? What did he mean?
"I'm leaving now. Good luck in Gotham. You always were a smart one." he turned on his heel a third time and started to fade into the darkness again. "Oh, and Jonathan?" he said quietly, at almost a whisper, just before he was in the stalks.
"What?" I said weakly.
"I love you." And he was gone.
I was completely and utterly alone in the world. And afraid.
"You believed me to be a part of the country, a ghost of some sort, a phantom bound to that piece of land forever. I didn't have the heart to tell you that wasn't so, because I didn't know if you would ever need me again." Looking back on it now, I don't know how I ever thought he was something that had nothing to do with me. He continued, "I thought you understood what you had to do."
That last remark caused me to jump up again, regaining a part of myself, perhaps through anger. "I never would have kept doing that. I never would have done what you wanted me to do. I didn't have to do that. I don't have to now either!" I fumed, hands into fists, not that I could ever fight him. I could lash out at people and run, and that was all I was good for, but not even a master at fighting could win against him. He wasn't real. That was why.
"If you didn't have to do it, why did you?" And I knew he was right. I groaned and slid down into my chair, last inhabited by him, and buried my face in my hands, glasses going askew.
"I wanted revenge…just that once, I wanted revenge."
"Just that once?"
Right again. "Yes." I lied, for I had spent my whole life wishing revenge on all those who ever insulted me, not to mention my parents who abandoned me and the people who fired me and mocked my teaching ways.
He did something unexpected then. He sighed. And the frustration was very believable. He leaned on the chair behind me, so close I could smell him, and he smelled of intangible things, like sadness and loneliness and fear. But he also smelled of wind and corn and dead leaves and the fall. "Then answer this one honestly." he said calmly, dead insects rattling in my ear. "Were you not always tempted by a life of criminality?"
I couldn't lie suddenly, not with him so close. "Yes." I answered through gritted teeth, remembering the last time I had been asked such a question, and had given a lie as an answer…
" 'What is the use,' " a voice coming up suddenly behind me cooed, " 'of a book without pictures or conversations?' " My book was snatched violently from my hands before I even had the chance to react, and by the time I jumped to my feet to hunt my adversary, the short little man was already flipping through my poetry text, humming a strange little tune to himself. He was Jervis Tetch, the strange man who lived in a tiny house next to the University's dorms. Everyone knew of him, and while he had a slightly disturbing reputation in the city, he left us students alone unless we were girls named Alice. Seeing as I was not a girl named Alice, I had never run into him before. I had hoped not to.
"Give me back my book, you crazy." I sighed, trying to hide my nervousness. It was middle school all over again. Except instead of being the geeky little fifth grader, I was the geeky senior undergrad who was actually trying to finish his thesis as opposed to partying every night while he still could. I really did think the man was crazy, too. He was very short, a bit stout, and with flaming red hair that was already showing signs of grey, though he couldn't be more than forty, if that. Dressed in a hideous checkered purple suit, a green waistcoat with tails, shoes from a century past, and an immense top hat, I could have guessed who he thought he was without the Lewis Carroll quotes.
Even so, his next comment unnerved me. "Ah! Silly boy! 'Whose face was very like a crow, With eyes, like cinders, all aglow, Who seemed distracted with his woe!' "
"What do you know about that?" I snapped, narrowing my eyes. The insults of my youth came with the flood of fear I had felt when I first had my book taken from me.
"Nothing!" he suddenly shrieked, throwing the book into the air. "I know nothing! Oh, oh, off with his head!" he leapt back a pace and began to run in circles in a startled manner.
I also didn't need to be a psychology major to know he was suffering severe schizophrenia combined with a seemingly permanent manic stage of bipolar. But again, he surprised me when he suddenly stopped, looked at the book, then at me, and said "Would you like to come for some tea?"
I looked at him warily.
"I need a partner. A March Hare! Oh, the Inventions of the March Hare!" he held my book up, though I knew full well what the title of my book was. A rare text by T. S. Eliot.
"Give me my book." I snatched it from him suddenly. I was hungry, after all, and having no pocket money, I could only eat what the University had, which was usually disgusting. "What do you need a partner for?"
"Oh, this and that. Literary minds. Tormented minds. A crime spree or two, steal some tarts." That one took me a moment before I realized it was another Lewis Carroll reference. Because it had sounded hideously vulgar.
"A crime spree or two?" I stared. Was he a thief, after all?
"Oh yes!" he said gleefully. "Shall we go?"
"But we can be a pair! 'Two thieves went out to steal one day, Thinking that no one knew it!' "
"But haven't you always wanted to be rich? And powerful? Have control over others?" he was suddenly serious. "All men want that. Every day you're out here, reading. Only those who hate their own life, who wish for something more, read so much as you do." His grey eyes were calm, perfectly sane, and strangely wise. And he was right in the fact that I love to read in hopes I will get lost. I have found security in this loneliness, and no one can destroy it. And it occurred to me that were I rich, I could have all the books in the world.
"That would be fantastic. However, I am not one of you." I snapped, then started to walk away. Let the library pay for the damn book. It wasn't like I hadn't stolen books from them before.
" 'Puck has ventured back again: Ridicule no more affrights him: In the very haunts of men-Newer sport delights him.' " It was this last quote that caught me. But when I turned to face him, he was staggering off, dazed and confused again, in his own world with Lewis Carroll. But what did he know of me? He knew I was afraid.
Fear. It always fell back to fear.
"You were intrigued by the idea, even then."
"Okay, so I was interested in money! Nothing more! Tetch said nothing about murder, though God only knows he commits it." I said petulantly. His ability to cause my own past to spring up was starting to grow on my nerves.
"Not murder. Revenge." he retorted, always having an answer. His hands on the back of my chair tightened, claws curling into fists that seeped dust. "Yes, you could steal and murder and plunder. You could have all the money you could ever wish for, build a great mansion out west, far away from the rest of the world, and fill it with books. But revenge is what will drive you."
"Oh, really?" I was mocking him, I knew that, and I knew he wouldn't even notice it. "And how?"
"What was it you felt whenever they tormented you? What was it you were drowning in when your grandmother locked you in the aviary at night?"
"Fear." He repeated. "Fear is everything. The world reduced you to nothing. You were forever a tiny, helpless child crying in the dark, curled up, trying to make yourself even smaller against the horror that was the rest of the world. Man is surrounded and driven by fear. And all the fear is that which we create. The world will end one day, and man will go out 'not with a bang, but a whimper.' "
I looked up at him, startled. Yes, I had done my thesis on the psychology of fear in modern man, and I had opened and closed it quoting T. S. Eliot. "And how would fear help me?"
"The same way it has hindered you all your life." he said shortly, standing to his full height again. "Make the world fear you. Destroy all those who have once hurt you, make them fear you as you once feared them, and watch them die in terror. You know how to do that. I've watched your studies, read your notes. You have dabbled in chemistry, have experimented with pathological toxins…"
"Nevertheless, you know I am right. There is nowhere else for you turn, the world has rejected you, and you know that."
"November fourteenth, 1991, Psychology Professor Jonathan Crane fired a blank in his classroom. James Stanton, an undergraduate junior, was giving a short presentation at the time, discussing how our tendency to assume certain patterns in the behavior of others causes us to undermine fear in our lives. He was demonstrating by aiming a toy water gun at a classmate, proclaiming that because the students understood it was a toy and because they believed he knew enough not to bring a real gun to school, they had no fear of him. At this point in the presentation, Professor Crane shouted a clear 'Hey, Stanton!', leapt from his chair, aimed a gun at the student's head, and added 'What if it's a REAL gun?' The gun went off, and though it was a blank, the class was severely shaken up and dismissed early by an irritated Crane. Stanton was unhurt, but suffered a nervous breakdown shortly thereafter, and has spent the last week recovering. Given this information, we have unanimously voted that Crane leaves the University to seek work elsewhere. He is a highly intelligent teacher, and his students have all learned much from him, but because of his unorthodox teaching methods and his reluctance to follow safety regulations, his work has become of questionable status. However, because of his excellence in the classroom, and his exceptional articles and work for the University's Psychology Department as a whole, there is one possibility he might be allowed to stay here and continue teaching."
I sat there numbly, not daring to breathe or think or…
"He has a clean record, indeed an exceptional one, and clemency will be considered if any one of us are to come to his defense. If any one us of assembled today would argue his case, he will be granted pardon. Professor Pigeon, I understand you are this young man's mentor, indeed his teacher before he became one himself here….Have you anything to say?"
I stared at Pigeon then, hard. He had sat there, his face in his hands, the whole meeting, his gray-brown hair a mess and his glasses on the table before him. Now he raised his head and heaved a great sigh. The other eight professors assembled were glowering at him, pointedly ignoring me, the demon teacher. But I did not care for them. If anyone could save me, it was him.
"No." he said suddenly, standing up as my stomach lurched horribly.
"No?" the director looked startled.
"No. And if you'll excuse me, I have business to take care of." he turned abruptly, put on his glasses and hat, and swept from the room, walking by me without a word or a glance. I sank down in my chair numbly.
I had lost my job because I had actually managed to teach my students something useful. I had lost my job because I fired a blank, a god-damned blank…and the only person in the whole University I could call my friend wouldn't stand up for me. I narrowed my eyes and looked defiantly up at the director. He turned nervously away after a moment. It was all I could do though.
Because I was back to nowhere.
"I know I have nothing. It's been months since I was fired. I'm living off of nothing. I can't find another job anywhere. Not with a record like that. Why must you taunt me with it?" I raged mindlessly, just wanting him gone. The fact of the matter was, he was making me feel giddy and nervous, but intrigued. The idea of revenge…Hunting down those who were in the room that day, my family, those I went to school with…No. "No!" I exploded.
"No what? I haven't said anything." he remarked nonchalantly, flinging his hand back.
"I jumped on a few car hoods. I fired a blank at a student. I wanted to strike fear in their hearts. I wanted them to understand what it was like to be truly terrified. That was all I ever did. Two instances, in my whole life….and the second one doesn't even count, for it wasn't personal at all, it was a demonstration. So one instance. And what you're asking is a life of that."
"Would that really be so horrible? You could turn the tables on the world. You could make them fear you, as you once feared them. Besides….you're forgetting something." he suddenly leaned over me again, and I could smell the emptiness and the dark again and I scrabbled backwards, pressing into the back of my chair, breathing hard. "You know what I'm talking about." he leered.
"No." I said sharply, but I heard my voice crack. Unconvincing.
"There was that time, after you graduated, when you finally lost it. You wanted to go to college, but you couldn't because of money. And you finally lost it."
His smile was mocking me. I hated him deeply and the memories came flooding back up and I couldn't breathe so well any longer. I had wanted to forget. I had forgotten. I had done a fantastic job at forgetting. But he had brought it back, that one true instance when I knew I held the power of fear and death in my hands….that one moment in my life when I felt control and was exhilarated by it…No, no reason to remember it. It was gone. Past and it had never happened besides…If I remembered, I'd want it, the power… I lashed out at him. Forget it again forget it forget. Nothing to forget because it never happened.
He dodged my kick and in a single gesture grabbed my around the waist and flung me back into the chair. I kicked and struggled, swearing violently and ordering him gone forever, but he held me down, his claws iron though I knew they were nothing but sticks and straw. "And so you tried to kill her."
The room was silent but for the soft click of a handgun being loaded. Then there was nothing again, and the house was filled with the empty sounds of the world outside, wind rustling through the August cornfields, a whip poor will hooting softly in the gnarled apple tree by the window, and nothing besides. The boy raised his head slowly and stared at the door leading out into the hallway. Silence was suffocating him and he knew that any moment now, when he finally got up the strength to do what he had planned for so long, there would be enough noise to last him the rest of his life. His gaze then darted to the envelope on the sill beside his chair. A letter from Gotham University, asking if he had yet received the check for the full scholarship, requesting he confirm before they finalize it, before he were allowed to cash in and use the money to go to school. Where he could finally escape the hell of his life, where he could learn everything he ever wanted to know, where he could possibly find a place in the world…
He stood up and pocketed the letter. He had never received the scholarship. And he knew exactly why he had never done so. His grandmother wasn't home yet. She had not gotten to the mail in time. She had not received the letter. And so he had taken it, and he had realized that he did indeed have a chance to go to school, but he could do nothing about it. She had taken the money. And he was still a minor. He could not even take what was rightfully his.
The floor creaked softly as he began to pace the room mindlessly. He wasn't born in a hospital. He was born at home, and his great-grandmother, before she had died, had filed for his social security number and his birth certificate. But because he had never had birthdays, he had never known how old he was until the other night, when he had stumbled across a yellowed envelope locked away in the attic. And so he learned how he had been lied to his entire life. He was not a minor. He could go to Gotham University with the scholarships that were rightfully his.
He suddenly stopped before the door, opened it silently, and walked downstairs. It was dusk, but all the lights in the house were off. He had spent the last several hours sitting upstairs, mindlessly watching the road and the door. Waiting for her to come home.
Marion Keaney stormed into her run-down plantation home with a sigh of irritation. The lawn had not been mown, and it looked atrocious, and she knew exactly who to blame it on. "Jonathan!" she shouted after being in the house for less than a minute.
"Yes?" he answered, and she glanced up to see her grandson standing in the shadow of the landing on the other side of the room. She had been about to launch into a tirade against him when something made her give pause. The look he was giving her was unnaturally calm. Even cruel. But then again, she had always known he was the devil's child.
"What have you done with yourself all day?" she snapped, advancing towards him.
"Thought." a bored shadow of a smirk flickered across his pale face.
"And a lot of good that will do you. You have nothing ahead of you, why waste your time thinking?" she sneered out the last word, straightening her hair which had been so recently cut and dyed.
"I believe you are mistaken." Again his words made her stop. "I believe I have much ahead of me. And I believe you are all that still stands in my way."
"Why, you ungrateful little son of a bitch!" she cried. "You and your good-for-nothing mother-"
"When was I born? You seem to know so much about me. About her."
There was something wrong. Her grandson's face was paler than usual, but set and determined somehow, and the hardened glint in his blue eyes that came from so many years of torment and pain was more prominent than usual. "November 14th, 1961. You're too young to go to college."
"Oh?" he smiled then, and his white teeth shown oddly in the half light. He slowly produced a sheet of yellowed paper and tossed it onto the table in front of him. "I believe it was 1960, making me nearly 19. Making me quite old enough to receive this, which I am let to suspect you have already taken and placed under your care. Pity you need to sign this. And pity I am old enough to sign for myself now." His eyes narrowed further. Cold.
Marion stared down at the paper he had tossed onto the table. It was his birth certificate, after all. Jonathan Diedrich Crane, born November 14th, 1960. "You went through my…?" she glared up at him again, furiously, but was stopped by the muzzle of the gun aimed at her, mere inches from her face.
"So, dear Grandmother, are you going to allow me to go off to the University now? You'll be rid of me, and we all know you've wanted that so badly. I've been such a horrible burden on you. You've undergone so many hardships to raise me to be the nice young man I am now." his voice dripped with sarcasm, but other than that it was completely lacking of emotion.
The safety clicked as it was released. Marion stumbled backward, shocked and horrified. Without realizing it, she clutched at her cross around her neck.
"Give me the money, and you'll never see me again."
"It isn't yours! I deserve it." she cried back, continually edging away from the mad creature who had once been her grandson. Much as she hated him, she had never suspected that he hated her so greatly in return, and it terrified her to suddenly have the tables turned on her. "I raised you, even as you admitted!"
"You raised me?" he suddenly cried. With his free hand, he grabbed the edge of the table and flipped it over, causing everything upon it to crash to the floor. He ripped a candlestick from the wall and hurled it at the window behind her. "Is that what you call it? You hated me, you wished me dead. You used to forget to feed me. You locked me up in the aviary for days at a time, making me entertainment for those hideous pets of yours, you used to pay the other children to make sure I got in trouble at school so you could gossip to your friends about what a horror I was and how great you were to take care of me anyway, you forced me to do all the work around the house and the farm even though you knew I was sickly and weak, you wanted me dead. Don't think I never knew that. I always knew, and I'm going to remember it for the rest of my days. I was created out of a short, drug-induced love fling, and the first eighteen years of my life were pure hell. I've been hated and tormented by everyone who ever met me, and I've had it. I'm leaving this shithole, and I'm never coming back. If you won't give me the means to do so, I'll shoot you and find the money myself. I have no use for you, as you had no use for me. But it's over now. I'm the one with the power now."
Marion didn't even have a chance to scream before the first bullet smashed into the wall a foot or so beside her head.
"I don't want to kill you. It would make a gracious mess of this place. Much as I despise the town, I love this building, and I'd hate to turn it into a haunt for ghosts." he smiled again, crookedly.
She said nothing, stunned into silence as he advanced towards her again, something from hell, the Devil himself, come back to Georgia. He even looked as if he could be the Devil. Over six feet tall and barely holding a hundred and twenty pounds on him, every part of his body and face an angle, pale and pointed and undeniably cruel. He was not an unattractive boy, but the hate and pain that lay behind his haunted blue eyes distorted his features, making him appear unnatural and demonic, something out of a ghost story or a folk tale, a legend…but certainly no ordinary human.
"On the other hand…" he continued, "There's something funny about these Southern small towns. People just…disappear sometimes. Murder runs rampart and we're all so caught up in the ghosts of the Civil War still we never stop to think about a more…human cause of death. Oh I know they'd talk about Marion Keaney's disappearance for years to come, but they'd never find anything for it. There's just too much out here for them to search. Besides, people up and leave Arlen all the time. And who cares much where they go?"
There was another explosion echoing through the house, and silence followed. The whip poor will flew from her perch outside.
"I didn't kill her though. I didn't-" I stammered, not wanting to believe it, knowing it wasn't true because I had been there after all, all those years ago…
"No, but you terrified her so badly she died of heart failure three days later. Not that you ever knew. You were long gone by then, already settling down in Gotham City." The Scarecrow shrugged, as if it were no big deal. "You might as well have killed her, though what you did was almost better. You ruined her, and her death lingered on those three days as she lay there in horror, fearing her mad demonic grandson return for her…"
"I didn't mean…" I stopped myself in time, feeling his grasp on my shoulders tighten violently. I had meant to kill her. I had wanted to very badly, and I knew exactly what I was doing. I had planned that day for years, but I had never had the proper excuse to come out and do it. Nor did I have the courage. But my desire to be able to go to school was enough to drive me to do it…The last memory had run me to the ground.
"You see, Jonathan? You are perfectly capable of doing great things."
"Murder isn't great." I said quietly. I was having trouble talking, too tired. And thinking hurt quite a bit too. The truth was, it was all flooding back to me. The insatiable lust for power and control was running in my veins again, and I had no control over it or myself. It was all I could do not to agree with him. Because that day thirteen years past I had felt true power. I could feel her fear. It was tangible in the room, oozing forth from the walls and poisoning the air. I could smell it and taste it and even hear it, a hideous drone and scream resounding from every corner, echoing forever and ever in my mind. Fear was being, alive and horrible, and I had been in control over it that day.
"What are you thinking?"
"You know what I'm thinking." I hissed.
"I am well aware of that. But you're smiling. You want it back, don't you? You want to be able to throw fear out to others, to be in complete control of their every thought as you reduce them to whimpering puddles of complacency. When people fear you enough, they obey you, and you can control their lives through fear. Admit it." his tone was so dead and blank, the way it always got when he was so desperate for me to agree with him…
"I want it back." I heard myself say dully, though I was unaware of even saying it.
"Do you know what to do?" he visibly relaxed.
"No. I can't hold up Gotham City with a gun."
"But there are your parents."
"Yes, but for the rest, I need something less…"
"Yes…attack them from inside…with what they personally fear most…" I whispered quietly in reply. I knew exactly what I could use, but I couldn't quite comprehend how to create such a thing, if it were ever possible.
"Fear gas." he said promptly.
"Exactly. But how?"
"You know how. You have the intelligence and the lab equipment and the knowledge to create such a thing. Psychology and biochemistry. A physically harmless gas that would work solely on their minds, cause them to see and feel and believe they are surrounded by their worst fears. Then drive them to madness and death."
"I could control the world."
"I wouldn't go that far, not yet anyhow." he laughed to himself, or maybe to me. I couldn't tell, but he was calm again, a partner…It occurred to me then, quite suddenly, that he was no partner, that he was merely telling me everything I already knew, reminding me of all I had tried to forget…There was something wrong.
"Where's the book I gave you? When I left?" I asked.
"Where are your journals, Master Crane?" he laughed again and leapt over my desk with the agility of a cat. "You know as well as I the answer to both those questions, for they are one and the same."
I said nothing, so he continued on a new thread. "Do you know what it is you must do? What you want to do, what you have always wanted to do, but never dared?"
But my mind was off again. I no longer cared for who or what he was, for it did not really matter to me. He would always be there, and he was there for me and only me. He haunted the nightmares of every other human ever born, but he was an ally to me. I instead turned to the matter at hand. Revenge. "Finding my parents would be a rather quick and easy matter…" I said thoughtfully, already picking up another of the folders on my desk, which housed all information on a certain Gerald Crane and Karen Keaney.
"And the rest of them?"
"Later." I stood up, looking around the room in a bored fashion. "I need a disguise, one that will instill fear on all who see it, and one that will protect me as well. Now that I even need to say what it is I'll use." I laughed suddenly, realizing how simple it was all becoming. I had everything I needed. "I want to go home though."
"Simple enough. Your mother isn't far from your original home anyway."
"No. The father first." I said calmly. Too calm. I wondered vaguely what I had done, but I suddenly did not care. "Then I go home, but never to stay."
"Very well, though I have one request of you…and it is one you may find useful in the long run…" The Scarecrow looked at me, though he had been retreating to the far side of the room again.
"What is that?"
"Visit me." he laughed, removed his hat in a sweeping bow, and was suddenly gone, his voice echoing in my mind. "I have something you may appreciate."
Part of my mind.
-- The End --
This is actually a bridge fic between two other larger ones I plan on writing. One is his background in greater depth, coming right up to where this one starts. The other begins right where this one ends, with the earliest starts of his criminal life. So I hope to see you all again soon!
Any comments/questions/requests/complaints welcome. If you have any constructive ideas, please tell me. There were a few things in this I couldn't get quite right and I'm wondering if it was obvious. But all in all, I hope you enjoyed it, because I loved writing it! Thanks for reading.