Ah, Halloween rolls around again and I have another one-shot with a spook-tastic theme. I may, in fact, have two. Or more. Halloween does make me feel oh-so-productive.
Summary: Halloween in Gotham always carries an inherent element of risk. That's what makes it so much fun. For the Scarecrow.
There were five people, four male and one female, all bound with duct tape and seated in sturdy wooden chairs. Their ages ranged from the early teens to the early twenties. One figure was slumped in his chair, unconscious. The young man sitting next to him was covered in an absurd amount of blood: it obviously wasn't his own blood, as such a hemorrhage would leave a person dead. The only female in the group had been sobbing, and had been so completely given over to her hysterics that she'd been gagged with a sock. She continued to cry, though she was muffled now.
Around the five hapless souls, a dark figure circled. He paused at each of his victims, not speaking to them, merely observing them. Beneath his steady gaze, each one of them suddenly found his or her self shivering. The only exception was the unconscious man, who was mercifully unaware of his surroundings courtesy of a blow to the temple he'd never seen coming.
"Wake up. It's time to join the group," the menacing figure said. He slapped the unconscious man, none too gently.
A few stern blows roused the man, and his eyes blinked open. When he saw what was leering down at him, his eyes grew wide with fear.
"Everyone is now present and accounted for. Let's begin with you telling me your names. I assume you already know who I am, so I find no need to introduce myself."
Nobody spoke. Even the girl managed to choke down her tears and remain silent.
"Now, now. This is not the difficult part of the lesson. Cooperation will make your time here much easier. If you would rather, I could always torture them out of you."
"Leon, I'm Leon," the bloody boy said.
"I didn't do anything, I don't know why I'm here, let me the hell go!"
"That is not your name," the figure said.
Instead of coughing up his name, the kid decided to make a scene. He kicked his feet—ankles bound with duct tape—against the concrete floor. Though he was not particularly muscular and had no chance of breaking the heavy layers of tape, he struggled fiercely anyway.
"How unbecoming," the figure said, shaking his head in disgust.
While he waited for the holdout to tire, the figure approached the girl and removed the sock from her mouth. She peered up at him with wet, wild eyes. He regarded her with a steady, analytical gaze that was completely unsympathetic to her terror.
"Your name, child?"
"Do you normally suffer from a speech impediment, or did all that blubbering turn your tongue to mush?"
"N-no. I don't have a speech impediment. I'm just s-scared," Sandy whimpered.
"Of course you're scared. That's exactly how I want you," the figure said.
"But why? I don't understand. I never meant any harm."
The figure snorted. "You never meant any harm? You thought dressing up as the Master of Fear and cavorting around in these mocking imitations was going to impress me?"
Now Leon, soaked in his two liters of fake blood, spoke. "I'm not even the you version of the Scarecrow! I'm a zombie Wizard of Oz Scarecrow! I want brains, get it? The Scarecrow and the zombie both want brains. I don't know about anyone else, but my mom would kick my ass if I dressed up as a maniac. No offense."
The Scarecrow stepped closer to Leon and examined the costume he wore. He took in the hat that was far too jolly to be anything he'd ever consider wearing, the ungodly splatter of faux blood, and the green and gray makeup that made the kid look like a rotting corpse. Upon inspection, it did look as if the boy had been merely trying to turn a beloved classic film character into an undead eating machine. Crane had to approve of that.
"Clever costume. You've earned a reprieve from my vengeance."
Leon let out a sigh of relief. He didn't know what the Scarecrow's vengeance would entail, but he felt bad for the four idiots that had actually ripped off the villain's costume.
Leaving Leon in peace, the Scarecrow turned to the man who'd refused to give his name. He was probably the oldest member of the group; Crane estimated him to be 20 or 21, more than old enough to have outgrown such blatant stupidity.
"Your name, sir, or I will fetch my spiders and dump them on your head."
"That worked well. Are you afraid of spiders, Richard?"
"No, my name's not Dick. It's what I'm calling you. And I like spiders. I have three tarantulas."
Crane frowned, though his mask hid it from his prisoners. There were some people that reacted to fear with anger. The ones that, when it came to fight or flight, always chose to fight. The Scarecrow had no patience for their ilk.
"Snakes? Heights? Needles? Blood? What are you afraid of?"
"I own an albino python, I stood at the top of the Grand Canyon, and I have six tattoos. None of that shit scares me."
"That simply won't do, my stubborn young friend. I'll discover what makes you break out in a cold sweat. Just give me a few minutes with the rest of your unthinking compatriots."
The Scarecrow turned now to Javier, who refused to meet his eyes. The teenager was so terrified he was barely able to maintain control over his bladder.
"May I ask where you got the idea my costume included my grandmother's sun hat?"
The boy whimpered. He knew how stupid the old, wide-brimmed straw hat looked. He should have just left it in the attic where he'd found it. But no, he'd taken it along, if only so his friends could laugh at it. Now his friends were probably home watching Halloween Part 150, and he was taped to a chair and about to piss himself.
"I couldn't find a hat like you wear. I know I shouldn't have, and I'm sorry. My friends—"
"If you'd like to give me those friends' addresses, I may pay them a visit this fine Halloween night," the Scarecrow said.
"No! Please don't do that! It's my fault, I chose to wear the hat."
"Accepting responsibility for your actions is a mature thing to do, Javier. I may consider that later."
"What's happening later?"
With Javier properly shaken, Crane moved on to the last male. "Tony, wasn't it? Oh, this is just insulting. My mask is precious to me, and you've given yours mismatched eyes and a unibrow."
"I can't draw," Tony said.
"No, you can't," the Scarecrow agreed.
"The eyes weren't supposed to look like that."
"But it was supposed to have one thick, caterpillar-like eyebrow?"
"No! I really, really, really suck at drawing. It was supposed to be scary like yours, I swear."
The Scarecrow snorted. "Like mine? Humph."
Sandy was the last in line, and she had taken to crying again. The longer he looked at her outfit, the more contempt Crane felt growing inside him. With the boys, at least they'd had the propriety to keep their outfits a decent length. What the girl had done disgusted Crane.
"Explain this monstrosity," the Scarecrow demanded.
Said monstrosity consisted of what amounted to little more than a burlap bikini. There was a swatch of burlap around the girl's chest that exposed her midriff and what little cleavage she had to offer. A short skirt, made of burlap and—how enraging!—black leather, kept her just north of public indecency. She had fastened a little pumpkin broach to the front of the revealing top, and the spot of orange stood out like a target among the rough brown fabric.
"My girlfriend and I were going to a party. She dressed up like Harley Quinn and I didn't want to go as Poison Ivy because I hate dying my hair. I decided on the Mistress of Fear, instead."
"Harley enjoys the attention! But to consider yourself worthy of being my Mistress, you must be daft, girl! Are you even old enough to drive?" Crane asked.
"No, I can't drive yet. I'm only 15."
"Only 15, and already you're throwing your life away."
The girl's lower lip trembled. "What do you mean, 'throwing my life away'? Are you going to kill us? Oh my God, are you?"
Now panic swept the group. Not-Richard renewed his struggles against the duct tape. Sandy began to weep again. Javier pressed his face against his shoulder and let his own tears come. Leon wondered about his immunity.
Crane basked in the misery and the fear. He rarely allowed himself to indulge in the terror of people this young—there was nothing like a missing child to stir up an old-fashioned mob—and he intended to savor every minute of it. For the Scarecrow, Christmas had come on Halloween, and now it was time to open his presents.
"Every year I expect it, the cheap insults of your cheap costumes. But this has to be a new low. Four silly trick-or-treaters who thought they could mock me and I'd ignore them. Three silly little boys, and one silly little girl dressed like a whore who couldn't afford anything better than burlap."
Sandy blushed at the harsh words. Leon breathed a sigh of relief. He was not included in the doomed group, and the Scarecrow hadn't even hated his costume.
"But we didn't do it to make fun of you. That's the thing. It's not like when people dress up like politicians they really hate and act likes assholes. We did it because you're scary and you've got a good costume," Tony protested.
"I'm supposed to be flattered by your actions? Your wretched straw hat? And your mask, thick eyebrow and all? I'd be more flattered by a pair of dogs copulating in my front yard," the Scarecrow said.
"Would you like to go first? I believe you do."
"Go first with what? Jesus, with what?" Tony asked.
"Just a moment, boy. I'll be right back."
The Scarecrow crossed the room and exited. The moment the door closed behind him, the room became as noisy as a classroom after the teacher stepped out.
"We're dead. Dead. He's gonna kill us so bad," Javier said.
"Shut the hell up! Does anyone have anything that can get through this tape? A pocketknife, a lighter, a key?" Not-Richard asked.
"I don't even have pockets," Sandy said.
"We can see that. Does anyone not dressed like a skank have anything useful?"
Whether they were dressed like a skank or not, nobody had anything remotely useful to offer. Not-Richard swore. He owned a pocketknife, but he'd considered it too risky to carry around on Halloween, when so many kids were out and about. Now he wished he hadn't left it under the seat of his car.
Before Not-Richard could think of anything else, the door opened and the Scarecrow walked in. He was carrying a small aerosol spray can, similar to the kind certain deodorants came in. The contents of the can, however, were much more potent than Axe body spray.
Tony and Sandy stared blankly at the can. Javier and Not-Richard began to raise hell. They recognized what the can had to contain, and they wanted no part of it.
"You dress up like me, and you have the gall not to know what this?" the Scarecrow demanded when he caught Tony's clueless look.
"It's…a can of spray paint?" Tony ventured.
"One of you slightly brighter trilobites, won't you kindly tell him what this is?"
Not-Richard, his breath ragged from his panicked attempt to get free, said, "Fear gas, kid. It's fear gas."
Tony knew about fear gas, but from what he'd gleamed from the Internet—which was also where he'd found pictures of the Scarecrow he'd based his costume off of—the villain's preferred methods of delivery tended to be a skull-shaped atomizer or other ghoulish device. A can was hardly frightening.
"Exactly." Crane held the can in front of Tony's face.
"Begging will get you nowhere."
A bitter mist, thick and choking like smoke from an oilfield fire, flooded the teen's face. It obscured his vision, and burned in his nostrils. Before he could think to hold his breath, the toxic mist had found its way into his lungs. Tony began coughing, inadvertently drawing in more and more of the gas.
Tony coughed until his throat was raw and his eyes were watery. Finally, the fit subsided and he was able to raise his head. He blinked the tears from his eyes, and promptly began to scream.
In the space of three minutes, the Scarecrow had covered himself in every species of scorpion known to man, plus a few that looked far too big, their stingers too swollen with venom, to be natural. As the scorpions crawled across Crane's body, Tony's voice became shriller, all traces of the masculinity he'd endured puberty to achieve vanishing.
"That's quite the scream you have there. I'd expect the pitch from Sandy, but it's lovely nonetheless. And speaking of Sandy, my little burlap Barbie…"
Sandy soon joined Tony in the land of mindless terror. Instead of scorpions, she hallucinated worms, thick as pencils and as long as her forearm, creeping in and out the Scarecrow's body. They wriggled out his nose, between his lips, into his eye sockets as though they were burrowing through a corpse.
Not-Richard was the next in line. He tried to keep a brave face as the can was brought up to his eyes. Unlike Tony and Sandy, he held his breath. The Scarecrow waited patiently for the man to finally release his pent up breath—it took nearly a minute—before spraying the poison into his face.
Once Not-Richard was howling about bears, the Scarecrow turned on Javier. The boy was too frightened to resist. When the gas enveloped his face, he sucked it in without a fuss. His compliance did not lessen the poison's effects, and Javier also began to scream.
By the time Crane faced Leon, the boy had taken on an anemic, ashen pallor. His eyes were so wide they bulged from his head and he was shaking uncontrollably. A combination of sweat and tears ran down the youth's face.
"There's nothing to fear. I told you I approved of your creativity and I'm out of toxin, anyway," Crane said. He depressed the can's nozzle, and it hardly emitted a trace of gas.
"Then what are you going to do to me?" Leon asked.
"Absolutely nothing. I'm going to linger here, drinking in the fear, for a while longer. Then I'm going to secret myself in a Bat-proof place for the rest of the night."
"What are you going to do with them, then? Are they going to die?"
"If they haven't yet, they probably aren't going to. None of them are allergic to the gas—believe me, we'd know if they were—and they've all got young, strong hearts. No, they'll recover in a few hours."
"And you're not going to hurt me?"
"No. You can watch, learn, and appreciate my genius with me. Are you honored, boy?"
"Yes, absolutely, I'm honored."
For the next hour, Crane and Leon watched the four unfortunate bodies contort, and listened to the screams. Abruptly, the Scarecrow decided he'd stayed long enough. One or two parents must have called the police by now, and the longer he tarried, the higher the chance the Bat would be on the lookout for him.
"Wait! Aren't you going to let us go? You can't leave us taped here like this!" Leon said.
"I can and I will. Don't worry. I'm sure the Batman will find you eventually. I wish I could see the look on their faces when a massive flying rat breaks down the door."
Grinning at the open-mouthed look of horror on Leon's face, Crane bid the boy adieu. He then slipped from the room, the delicious sound of screams ringing in his ears.
If those terrified, hysterical cries were any proof, the lesson had been well learned. Halloween had only one Scarecrow, and any pale imitations would be punished accordingly.
Hope everyone enjoyed that. I'll do my best to have another one-shot up by the time Halloween arrives.