Disclaimer: Batman belongs to DC Comics and Warner Bros.
A/N: Originally written as a 500-word drabble for the "Birds" theme at batfic_contest on LJ.
I kind of wrote Scarecrow as an amalgamation of the DCU, TNBA, and Nolanverse versions.
Sylvia's mind always played tricks on her in the dark. She thought the noises were in her head until it was too late.
"Flimsy locks for someone afraid of the outside world," the intruder said, cutting the phone line. "Anyone could just burst in unknown during a power outage."
Sylvia scrambled into the kitchen, blindly reaching for a knife.
"Tut tut." The man grabbed her, holding scissors to her throat. "Drop it."
She let go of the knife. It clattered on the cold linoleum floor and was kicked away. Moonlight from the window revealed her attacker to be a tall figure wearing a grotesque mask. A hangman's noose dangled from his neck, giving him the appearance of a walking corpse. This was no burglar. This was a sick monster. Sylvia dropped to her knees, screaming.
The cadaver put a bony finger to her lips, silencing her. "Do you really think anyone cares? You haven't left this house in six years. Your neighbors don't even know you."
Somehow, Sylvia found her voice through her terror. "How do you know about me?"
"Medical files are easy to find, Sylvia Lily Dove, age 26, history of panic attacks and agoraphobia. It's a lovely name. How could I choose anyone else?"
"Choose me for what?"
"I wonder… what makes someone cage themselves for six years. Something traumatic I bet. Something like this?"
In the darkness, Sylvia tried to feel the floor for something, anything she could use as a weapon. There was nothing. She was backed into the corner, no escape.
"But I don't look down on you, Sylvia. No, I admire you, sitting in your little cage. You have the right idea. The world is a callous place. Humanity's natural response is fear. And I'm going to teach everyone the meaning of fear…"
The monster patted her cheek with one hand, pleased to find it wet with tears. She shuddered under his touch. Suddenly he grabbed the back of her neck and held her head still.
"Are you frightened?" he said as she tried to struggle.
"Why are you doing this?" she sobbed.
"Are you frightened?!" he repeated, with a rage that chilled her blood.
"Yes," she whispered.
"That's what I like to hear." And still gripping her neck, with his other hand he released a burst of poison into her face.
Sylvia hacked and coughed, gasping for breath. Then, as the poison began taking affect, she fell over, too terrified to scream or move. Everything was in a haze. The floor seemed to open up and she felt herself falling through an endless tunnel. Shadows reached out to claw her. And through it all, her tormentor towered over her, a demon with crazed eyes and flashing teeth, spreading his arms wide in glee, and in her drug-induced state, she saw him as he truly was: A twisted scarecrow come to life.
"Tomorrow, the police will find you, a shell driven mad by fear, a living mission statement for the city. You see, Sylvia, people are nothing but a flock of birds. You frighten one bird, and the whole flock will follow. Flock mentality breeds panic. And I love panic."
"You love power."
A new, dark voice. One that seemed to terrify even the master of fear.
"No… it can't be…." The Scarecrow turned in all directions, looking for the source of the voice, holding his arm out, the poison canister attached to his wrist, ready to spray.
Sylvia watched as the shadows themselves seemed to leap out, knocking the Scarecrow over. He fell into darkness beyond the reach of the window. She heard the spray of poison and a man's screams. Punches. Grunts. Gasps for breath. More struggling noises. Then, she felt something pinching her neck.
Suddenly the lights came on. The shadows receded and the world seemed to still. Sylvia felt like she had been falling but was suddenly caught. The haze faded. Her eyes focused. What she saw made her gasp.
The Batman stood before her, calm, still, bleeding slightly from a wound on his chest. A bloody pair of scissors lay on the floor. His appearance and demeanor should have been frightening, but Sylvia saw a kindness in his eyes, and felt peace.
"I just gave you the antidote to the Scarecrow's toxin." Batman gestured to the monster tied up on the floor. "I need you to do something for me. Take off his mask."
The thought of approaching her attacker made a wave of anxiety rush through her body. Batman saw her hesitation.
"You're safe. I promise I won't let him hurt you. Please, take off his mask."
Something about his voice made her trust him. Slowly, Sylvia crept to the figure, reaching her hand out to him.
"No, don't!" he snapped, and she jerked her hand back, scared.
"Go on," Batman said.
She took a breath, and before her nerves could get the better of her, she snatched the mask away. The Scarecrow growled.
There, the harshness of fluorescent light revealed nothing but a gangly, weak, pathetic man. Sylvia took a good look at him.
"This is Jonathan Crane," Batman said. "Fear always makes things seem worse than they are, doesn't it?"
"How did you find me?!" Crane snarled.
"Medical files are easy to find. It was no problem deciphering who you'd choose to victimize."
Crane began raving like the madman he was. Batman looked at Sylvia, and said, "I'll get him out of here."
Crane ranted as Batman forced him out, and he could continue to be heard all the way down the driveway until Batman shoved him into his car and slammed the door. The he returned to Sylvia, who was waiting in her doorway.
She looked up at him, eyes shining. "The world doesn't seem so scary, knowing you're in it."
"I'll send police to check on you. They'll want to take a report. I'm taking Crane to the G.C.P.D. Take care of yourself." He turned to leave.
Sylvia took a deep breath.
"Can I come with you? I mean, to the police department? I think I'd like to give my statement there… if that's all right."
There was a slight look of surprise in Batman's eyes, and Sylvia swore she thought she saw the barest hint of a smile. He held out his gloved hand to her. She clasped it. It felt strong, steady, and secure. Now all she had to do was take the first step.