Cold Shower

All the things one has forgotten scream for help in dreams. --Elias Canetti

As Dr. Jonathan Crane rose from his bed, leaning over to turn on the small, green bedside lamp, he tried to ignore the fact that his hand was shaking. His mind was quickly making order of the fuzziness that came immediately after sleep; his thoughts were organizing themselves according to his wishes. He swung his legs over the side of the bed and reached underneath it for a yellow legal pad and a pen. He flipped halfway through to the first clean sheet.

He bit the end of the pen nervously, a habit he had been admonished early was "nasty" and so reverted to it only in times of stress. Slightly annoyed at its sudden reoccurrence, he slid it out of his mouth and wrote the date in the top left hand corner, very neatly. May 2nd. And the time. 4:21 AM.

He wrote: As noted before, dreams have been less frequently memorable upon waking, due to development and exposure to toxin.

But he wasn't having any trouble remembering these dreams. He just preferred to forget that he had had them, preferred not to have to write them down. "Don't be absurd," he said, taking his glasses from the bedside and putting them on, as if their clarity could assist him in focusing. He was a scientist, first and foremost, and there had to be no emotional investment in recording events. As a psychiatrist, he was skilled at analyzing all the quirks of a mental state; he couldn't shy away from examining his own.

First dream remembered upon waking. Setting: Gotham City High School.

What he did not mention as he began the dream description was that it was less a dream than a memory. Therefore, its clarity was unrivalled. He could see the fresh sunlight coming through one of the few windows of his old chemistry classroom; he saw clearly the backs of the students at the worn-out wood tables in front of him. Though his already-poor eyesight had weakened as he had gotten older, he still tried to sit at the back of the class whenever possible. Most students did this so they could disappear from view of the teacher. He did it so he could disappear from the other students.

A girl came bounding into class just as the tardy bell rang. In her rush to find an open seat, she flew into the chair next to young Crane. He didn't remember her name. He remembered the name Susannah, though he knew that wasn't correct. He only retained the sense impressions of her face. Broad and moon-shaped, with wide-set brown eyes and freckles. The reason he didn't know her name was that she was new. It was well into the spring semester, so new students were rare. Normally they were announced by the teacher and were required to speak, shuffling and embarrassed, about themselves and the schools they had just left.

Mr. Sheffield, the chemistry/physics/biology teacher, was late.

She wasn't looking at him as she sat down. She was busily setting out her books on the smooth surface of the table, over carved-in hearts and invocations of cuss words. He noted her book-bag was new, as were her clothes. She was trendily dressed, with a short skirt that he knew wasn't allowed by the school's dress code. She appeared older than he was, too, though his being undersized and emaciated made his true age difficult to guess. Unlike her shiny, well-made jean jacket and cute sandals, his clothes were old, second-hand, about ten years out of style. They were yet another source of embarrassment for him, but when he had asked his mother at the beginning of high school if he could please have some new clothes, his mother had snapped, "These clothes were good enough for your older brother, they're good enough for you! Or if you'd prefer, I could send you to school in a paper bag." He didn't relish the thought of going to school in a paper bag, so he stopped complaining.

Though the girl was ignoring him, the other students weren't ignoring her—or him. It was the first time anyone had sat next to him voluntarily. It was the first time a girl had sat next to him. Had he enjoyed literature more than case studies, he would have thought of Quasimodo on the pillory next to Esmeralda.

When she spoke, it was a bit like stepping onto a live wire. "Your watch got the same time as mine?" Her voice was loud, brash, and she was chewing gum.

"E-excuse me?" He was so startled that she had spoken to him that all the quiet, icy, rehearsed words disappeared. She thrust her left wrist with its pink plastic watchband into his face. He jumped back, startled by imminent physical contact.

Girls were giggling from the row in front of him. "Don't try to talk to him," one of them said. "He's never had a girl within ten feet of him, let alone talked to one." Crane moved his chair as far away from her as he could physically go, while more and more students snickered. He gulped. Her watch had said 9:01. Surely Mr. Sheffield would enter soon, surely he would end this before it started.

"I don't understand," said the girl, a bit crestfallen.

"You're new here," someone stated.

"Yes." There was a defiance in her voice that had heartened Crane, made him believe that perhaps she was used to bullying too, that maybe, for once, he had found someone on the same side.

"Then we'd better let you in on the rules early." Crane recognized the voice as belonging to Stevie Cartwright, who wore glasses too and was a Grade-A nerd, but because of his status as kicker on the football team, was liked by everyone. He was compact, short but muscular; rumor was he did his economics homework in his head while running three laps around the school every day. His father was a powerful stockholder of Wayne Enterprises, too, and therefore he was both teacher's pet and a popular figure among the students.

The girl—Susannah—appeared to be ignoring the others. She turned back to Crane. "What are they talking about?"

He couldn't find his voice when she was staring into his eyes. No one did that. They either raked over his thin body with appraising, hurtful eyes—or ignored him altogether. He wanted to speak, to help her to understand that not only was he intellectually superior to all of these students, but that there was nothing wrong with him that warranted their derision. Really, inside, wasn't he just like them? Didn't he feel like they did?

You're not like them, said a dark voice. You're better than them. And one day they will know.

"This is ridiculous," the girl said. "I've moved three times in the last year, been to three different schools, but I never found someone who wouldn't talk to me."

He froze when she reached a hand toward him.

"Don't touch him!" one of the girls shrieked.

"You're not going to warn me about cooties, are you?" Susannah asked with heavy irony.

The other girl was silent, a bit rebuffed, until Stevie got out of his seat. He looked at his watch, peered down the corridor, and began to speak. His father was a politician, and he had acquired that oily way of speaking. Crane despised him. "We're all beyond that here, of course. Why you shouldn't touch him—and should probably move seats as soon as possible—is because he's dirty."

Snickers filled the room. Crane felt his heart pounding so loudly he didn't understand why Susannah hadn't heard it. She said, "He looks okay to me," but now there was a tremor of uncertainty in her voice.

Stevie continued, "Isn't that right? He wears the same clothes to school every day." A chorus of mocking laughter.

"Not everyone here is as well-off as you or me—I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch your name . . .?"

"Stevie Cartwright." Crane saw, from the dangerous gleam in Stevie's eyes, that he'd found a challenge in Susannah. He was glancing back at the girls, and then at Susannah. If he couldn't impress Susannah, he was certainly going to impress the other girls—at Crane's expense. "You're new, so I'll make allowances. You would think that external appearances might not matter in a world such as ours. Just because he's scrawny, ugly, dirty, and weird wouldn't necessarily mean anything, yes?" Susannah was staring at him, anger evident in her eyes. Crane had registered the insults, though his ears had been dulled to them, as he'd heard them for years.

He was fascinated, despite the growing anger and shame, to watch how Susannah reacted to Stevie's taunting—was her personality one that would cow under Stevie's faux logic, or would she argue just for the sake of arguing? "But I'm afraid, that's not all. There are other things at stake here." He turned directly to Crane; eyes behind glasses locked in mutual loathing. "You've never had a girlfriend, have you, Crane?"

The entire class turned from their seats to stare back at him, accusingly. Even Susannah turned, cautiously and not without pity in her glance.

Crane had practiced his superior, uninterested tone. Under the table, where no one was looking, he was gripping his pencil with rage. "I don't see that it's any business of yours."

"Too ugly, too scrawny, too weird, too dirty." Soon the class was chanting in.

"I wonder if he'd even know what to do with one."

"I don't think he even has the right equipment."

At this, Crane felt himself flushing to the dark roots of his hair. Susannah was now looking at him with curiosity and repugnance, which she was trying to disguise, but unsuccessfully. Livid red swirled behind his eyes; Stevie had succeeded in turning a possible ally against him. And Stevie wouldn't stop there; since Susannah hadn't caved to his charm, she would be next.

The pencil snapped in two, cutting into the flesh of his palm.

"Do you think he even gets hard-ons?" It was a question from one of the stupider football jocks. He was miming an obscene gesture under the table. Crane trembled in indignation; this brute was so stupid he'd had to repeat this grade twice before. How dare he—

The girls were squealing, "Ewww! Ewww!" but the boys were laughing loudly. Susannah had turned red and was looking away from him.

"Maybe we should find out," said Stevie. Susannah bolted upright from her seat. The laughter increased. "C'mon, Susannah," Stevie continued. "Wanna feel the Scarecrow's hard-on?"

Crane leapt to his feet. His entire being was rippling with hate, a bloodthirsty, pounding hatred to rip out the tongues of each of the girls who were caterwauling in piqued disgust. Underneath it was a hot, flooding shame. He had the jagged edge of the broken pencil in his hand, the blood seeping out of the wound. It was sharp enough . . .

The girls had stopped their melodramatic squealing and there was silence, a dark silence that said that anything might now happen. Stevie looked at him, silently daring any kind of move. No one had touched Stevie since second grade. Crane strode forward, knocking Stevie's glasses off his face—

"Now what's going on here?" It was the blustery voice of Mr. Sheffield, neither concerned nor particularly authoritative. In the moment's distraction, Stevie batted Crane's hand away and gave him a shove. Crane hit his head hard on the edge of the table. He heard Susannah vaguely cry out. He tried to get to his feet.

"Fighting again, Mr. Crane?" Sheffield's voice was vaguely disapproving.

There was no use in describing what had happened. To try to get Stevie Cartwright into detention required a teacher of more moral fiber than Sheffield possessed. Crane waited for Susannah to say something—anything—in his defense, but she was silent as he was hoisted to his feet and sent to the principal's office. The feeling of betrayal was especially painful. The next class, she had taken a seat near the front of the room.

As he walked to the principal's office, his hand rippling with pain and still bleeding, the taunts of earlier school years, blunt and cruel, were deflected. Scarecrow. Weirdo. Freak. But Dirty was new. He had reflected enough times, as he had walked by in silence through the halls when kids were making out noisily, that he had never even touched a girl, much less had a girlfriend, and had begun to resign himself to the fact that he might never. The idea that there was something physically wrong with him, something that precluded any kind of physical contact, filled him with an animal despair and profound frustration. He had long ignored girls in moral and intellectual superiority, citing them as a distraction from his more important interests. In some ways, though, he was like everyone else.

Or he had been, anyway.

Dream recalls repressed memory. Further link to childhood trauma, see file 1.34A.

He stopped writing to wipe the sweat from his brow with the back of his hand. The incident with the girl whom he could only remember as Susannah had convinced him of what he now knew, that romantic entanglements were seriously detrimental to his work and psyche. Since college onward, his work had been far too labor-intensive to allow anything but the most platonic interactions with anyone.

There had been something, though, something completely out of his control . . . which brought him to the next dream.

"You won't be leaving here anytime soon, Dr. Crane."

"Miss Baker . . ."

This memory had been buried closer to the surface, but it was no less troubling. Recording it, even if he would be the only one to ever reread and analyze these dream journals, was an act of willpower he could only accomplish with the assertion that recording it might make it go away. Absurd notion, the man of science would say.

Even scientists could be hypocrites.

It had been two years before his appointment at Arkham. He was only a staff psychiatrist at the separate facility for Gotham's psychopaths of the female variety, Sarah Trilby Memorial Institution for Women. At the time, Crane had been significantly bored. Work on the fear toxin had hit a snag, and most women, he was finding, were so much easier to scare than men.

There were some significant exceptions, of course—the study of fear was no discipline in which to generalize. Colleen Baker, a permanent resident at Trilby since the serial murders of a long list of ex-boyfriends, had been a memorable challenge. Strictly speaking, she was something of a masochist, suffering from a histrionic personality disorder, with heavy emphasis toward nymphomania, and after her incarceration in Trilby had added Munchasen Syndrome to her long list of disorders. As she had only shown violent tendencies after the third boyfriend she had dated in a month's time broke up with her, she was classified as less violent than some of her more psychotic counterparts. Crane had disagreed with this analysis; her histrionic behavior was such that he was certain, if bored enough, she might resort to violence just to keep herself from frustration. It had been his comments on her Munchasen Syndrome that had brought her to him as a patient in the first place.

Because her greatest desire was to be noticed, he had not at first been successful in inflicting fear upon her. She did not fear violence as a general rule; if she was to gain attention from jumping out a window, she would be too happy to do it. If she could catch someone's eye by trying to seduce him or her, she would have been very eager. This, Crane suspected, was how she had lost the boyfriends. He remembered his first therapy session with her. The orderly had told him as he entered, "She's restrained in that chair for a reason."

Frostily, he had replied, "There's always a reason for a restraint."

"No, but Doctor . . ." The orderly was pock-marked with acne scars, a scared-eyed kid. "It's not a question of her hurting anyone. She's flashed the last three doctors!"

"Flashed them?" He could not help a fascinated chuckle.

"More than one of 'em ready to go with it, too," said the orderly in a confidential manner, and shuffled off.

Colleen had drawn enough attention to herself in Crane's presence that he didn't doubt she would have been quite immodest if unrestrained. However, he had progressed so far with her that by the time of the power malfunction that she was free to wander her cell.

It was a rainy February afternoon, but as there were no windows in Colleen's cell, all of this was unimportant. She was a beautiful woman, undoubtedly. Even dressed in the bulky, unattractive powder-blue uniform of the women inmates of Trilby, she had a pleasing face not yet ravaged by her restricted life. When he entered her cell, she was lying very still on her bed.

He seated himself very confidently in the blue plastic chair, writing in his notes that she appeared to have lost weight since their last session. Consult nurse about actual weight before next session. "Hello, Colleen," he said in a flat voice.

She was still. He stared at her. She stared at him. At last she said, "Dr. Crane. I'm being very still."

"I can see that, Colleen."

"I haven't disappeared yet, have I?" Her voice was spidery-thin.

After weeks of enduring her exhibitionistic behavior, Crane had convinced Colleen that she was going invisible—the thing she feared most. "As long as you stay still, you'll be fine. Now, is there anything you'd like to talk about this week?"

She lay there for several minutes more. He continued to write about her, hiding a grin of satisfaction behind his cool blue eyes. Suddenly she shot up out of bed. "Explain to me again, Doctor. How do I become invisible? It seems to me that I'd be more visible if I did the splits."

Crane removed his glasses, as if the effort of speaking to her was too much. "Now, Colleen, you know that people are only going to ignore you if you do irrational things like that . . ."

She leapt off the bed and executed a very accomplished set of splits in front of him. She looked up at him expectantly with the eyes of a child. He bent down over his notepad, writing unhurriedly. "Dr. Crane?" Her voice was higher, squeaking slightly. "Dr. Crane, I'm still here. Look at me."

"I'm sorry, Colleen, but I can't see you. You've disappeared."

"No! That's not true!" She waved a hand in front of his face. He put his glasses back on, did not focus on her, his eyes glazing over. "You bastard! I don't believe you!"

"I'm afraid you're wrong, Colleen. Why would I pretend not to see you? Why would I pretend not to see you, unless you're really not there anymore?"

She gurgled. She waved her hands again in front of him, furiously.

"Colleen, don't you think you'd be much more comfortable if you were visible?"

She burst into tears. She heaved out a hiccupy sob. "I don't believe you! Look at me!" One of her thin wrists shot and clung onto his pen and threw it across the room. Through her tears, she sobbed, "There. Now pay attention to me!"

Calmly, Crane removed another pen from his inside jacket pocket and began to write again. "I won't be able to see you again until you've gone calmly and lied down, Colleen."

She furiously grabbed for the pen again, but he was quicker and pulled away. She latched onto his wrist, unhooking his watch before he got to his feet and turned away from her. "Colleen . . ."

"What!"

"I'm going to count to ten. By then, I hope you will have come to your senses. I hope to be able to find you lying on your bed and very still. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven . . ." He had to keep himself from displaying his grim amusement. The fear of disappearing was so potent—who would have guessed? He could hear her footsteps receding. ". . . eight, nine, ten."

When he turned, she was as still as a corpse upon her bed. "That's better. I see you now. You don't have to worry. As long as you do what I say, you won't have to disappear. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Doctor."

"Good."

She had remained on her bed for the remainder of the session, calmly answering Crane's questions. He glanced at his watch; ever punctual, he now had five minutes to get to his next appointment. "You've been very good, Colleen. That's all for today."

He pressed against the button that activated the voice com. No response. He pressed again. He hazarded a glance at Colleen. She had sat up in bed and was watching him with interest. He cleared his throat and ignored her. He pressed again. Nothing. He removed his cell phone from his pocket. The maintenance center's number was speed-dialed.

"Hello." He could not conceal the irritation from his voice. "This is Dr. Crane. I am in Cell Block B, 14. With a patient." Colleen was staring at him. She was smiling. "There appears to be something wrong with the com system." He gave the door a jiggle. "And the doors."

The voice on the end indicated the power mechanisms that opened the doors in the entire Cell Block had short-circuited and had automatically sealed. There was no way to open them from the inside.

"I'm aware there's no way to open them from the inside," he snapped. "What about back-up power?"

"I'm sorry, Dr. Crane. Our back-up generators were being inspected earlier this afternoon. There's been a problem, and we're having trouble getting them on again."

He was not frightened. He still had a good supply of sedative drugs in his jacket pocket. If Colleen got close enough to attack him, he could restrain her with ease. "When do you think this problem will be solved?" he spat.

"Ten minutes, Doctor, if the back up generators come back on."

"Very well." Inwardly he'd resolved to have this incompetent idiot fired when he got out of this. He hung up and sat back down in the chair, straightening his tie.

"Are you thirsty, Dr. Crane?"

He looked at her. She was still smiling stupidly. "No," he said, barely glancing at her. Considering, he turned to her. "Why do you ask, Colleen?"

"You look a bit nervous. I thought you might like some water."

"I'm not—" He took a deep breath. "Thank you for the offer, but I assure you that I'm fine." He fished in his briefcase. He knew he had a progress report for one of the other women inmates that he had hoped to read before the day was done.

"I know you said that I'd disappear if I did things." Her voice was close by, in a tone he could only conclude was hungry. He looked up from his briefcase to see her standing next to him, her hands at her sides. "You wouldn't be able to see me, but you could still feel me."

"Miss Baker," he said, his voice a parody of its normal calm and coldness. Before he could continue, she had leaned forward and was placing her hands on his shoulders. She blew a hot breath against his temples.

He leapt from his seat and backed against the wall. "Still can't see me, can you?" she taunted. She began moving from left to right, shuffling like a basketball player with no ball to dribble, laughing. From her grin, she seemed genuinely delighted.

He was indeed caught in an interesting dilemma. Ruin the patient rapport, his power over her, by revealing that she was very much visible? Or tackle her and administer the sedative? He considered his options carefully. Why was it suddenly so hot in the room?

"You're so nervous, Dr. Crane. Why is that?"

"I find it a bit warm in this room. I'm afraid that I still can't see you, though, Colleen."

She giggled. "That means you can't see this—" She began to remove the top button from her complicated one-piece suit.

"Colleen, listen to me. Lie down on your bed, and—"

"—Or this—" She had succeeded in getting the twenty or so buttons of her top undone and was now working on her bra.

Crane colored against his will, remembering stupidly Susannah—the girl's—dress-code-violating short skirt. He turned away toward the door, pressing the button with a bit more fervor than he had before. He heard her footsteps moving closer; she was giggling like a child. He knew there was no way he could shoulder the door open. He bent down for a moment to take a closer look at the button.

In a movement so swift he had not thought it possible, she had thrown her body weight against him, pinning him awkwardly against the door. She shouldn't have been able to keep him down; she weighed scarcely anything, but he found himself unable to throw her off or reach the sedative in his pocket.

"Miss Baker, kindly remove yourself from me or I will be forced to restrain you."

Her hands interlaced over his shoulders and one spidered its way up his throat.

"No, my dear Doctor. Do you know that I haven't had a man in six months?"

"M-Miss Baker . . ." he tried one more time, at once repulsed and—and a little curious at what she might do next. Curious, in the strictly scientific sense, of course. He reached for the sedative, trying not to look up at her and the pale purple of her bra.

Her hand was now at his tie. Her fingers were dipping below it to the skin of his neck. He prickled. "Has Dr. Crane not had a little fun lately?"

His skin felt incredibly warm, especially where her fingers were touching him. He wanted to knock her unconscious. He wanted to break her mind with fear. He wanted her to stop. Didn't he!

Her hand loosened his tie. Her other hand was on his back. "Has Dr. Crane not ever had any fun? Not ever?" She pulled his face close to hers, until their noses were touching.

He couldn't reach the sedative. He gave a violent kick, but she clung onto him as he dragged them both into an upright position. He reached into his pocket. He did not look at her. She had succeeded in unbuttoning the first button of his shirt.

"This feels good," she whispered. "I know that you think this feels good—"

She let out a loud cry as he stabbed the syringe into her arm. As she fell backward, her hands caught hold his tie and the collar of his shirt. She fell, tightening the material around his throat until he fell down beside her, gasping for air. He was on his hands and knees; she had fallen, legs akimbo, a few feet away. Four buttons were ripped from his shirt, revealing several inches of pale skin.

"Dr. Crane! Are you all right?" He was gasping, unable to speak, clawing at the tie. He looked up to see a burly orderly extending a hand down to him. He looked back at Colleen, open-shirted and comatose. "Dr. Crane!"

"Yes, I'm . . . all right," he croaked through his hoarse throat. He took the orderly's arm and stumbled to his feet. His neck was raw and red, and his glasses had been knocked off his face. His vision swam for a moment.

"Did she attack you?"

He almost struck the orderly for his ineptitude. "I've . . . sedated her. See that her . . . medication is . . . considerably augmented, starting immediately."

Crane knew that some dreams were incredibly vivid. But waking up from this one, he could feel her fingers again on his throat, more than he could feel the shortness of breath that had accompanied near-strangulation.

He did not wish to think about this incident, anymore than he had after it had occurred. It was the only time in his career he had walked away from a patient. Perhaps there was some sniggering on the part of his colleagues. Dr. Jonathan Crane, brilliant and amoral, who had broken the minds of some of Gotham's most twisted individuals, was afraid of a woman with a simple histrionic disorder?

He wasn't afraid of her. He was afraid of what she made him feel. Things he would have preferred to have disappeared entirely.

He did not write this in his dream journal. He concluded with a slight flourish, Dream obviously recalling professional failure. Incident would not have occurred post-toxin. Illogical to dwell on it.

He threw the pen and pad down on the floor. He stared at the clock long enough to watch its digital face blur from 5:01 to 5:07. He eased out of bed. It was time to start the day. It was time for a cold shower.

Author's Note

"So even monsters need something driving them more than wicked hearts." --Ben Nyberg

Blodeuedd, author of the excellent "Dark My Night," said it best: "In a world beleaguered by AIDS, poverty, terrorism, and war, the last thing we need is another lovesick homage to Dr. Jonathan Crane à la Cillian Murphy. However, resisting the impulse to write such a tale has proved too vexing for me." How superfluous this piece of writing is remains up to you to judge. Although, as an author, I often write for myself as the first audience in mind, this is the first piece I have "published" that was written completely as an indulgence. If it exceeds its genre constraints, all the better.

Why Jonathan Crane? Well, why not? I confess, like so many before me, that it was Cillian Murphy's good looks and acting prowess that first attracted me to write this, and after such intriguing examples of "Dark My Night" and Azina Zelle's "Shadows of the Mind," my overactive imagination ran rampant. After all, my great literary love Erik (of Phantom of the Opera)—who also wears a mask—seemed to me to have quite a few traits in common with Dr. Crane: misanthropic tendencies, intelligence, arrogance, a penchant for creating terror, and finally, madness. It didn't seem such a leap to elaborate on Bill Finger and Bob Kane's vision of a mercilessly teased young man, leading to a childhood tinged with shame, anger, sexual frustration, and an explosive urge for revenge.

Strictly speaking, it seems unlikely that Crane should suffer the sexual/romantic problems often attributed to him. Would he really have such a bipolar relationship to heterosexual relationships as I have painted? We know nothing from the movie.

Are we reading too deeply? Is Jonathan Crane of the movie really imbued with as much complexity as we "Crane fic" authors are giving him? Are we all just desperate to pick apart a past that isn't there, dissect a psyche that just isn't that intricate? Though these questions are intriguing, the only answers we are likely to find are in continued writing and reflection into why exactly we love this man.

I would like to acknowledge my great debt to Wikipedia (http/en. for its extensive articles on mental illness, especially on sadism and masochism, psychopaths, factitious disorders, and personality disorders. And, as a final, very flippant question: readers, what do you think Crane wears to bed? I'd like to do an illustration to go with this story and I value your opinions.