Disclaimer: I do not own the rights "Batman" or any of its characters, including Scarecrow, nor do I own any rights to the comics or the films. I own nothing!
A solitary crow flies through the night sky of Keeny Farm, black wings spread as he soars gracefully across the abandoned family mansion, long ago surrendered to the ravages of time and rot. With a swooping glide he comes to rest atop of the Keeny Aviary, gripping the twisted metal of the open ceiling with his claws before giving his wings a final, relaxing stretch. He closes his eyes and is still, slick feathers blending into the gaping darkness of the aviary.
His rest is interrupted when he hears a rustling in the tall grass below him. The sound is different than the strong wind he is accustomed to; this noise is different, one he has never heard before. Opening his beak, he lets out a loud, throaty caw, a warning to any potential intruder or predator.
Jonathan Crane glances up at the sky as the caw echoes through the farm, ringing in his ears. He tightens his jacket around him, defenseless against the cold night air as he navigates his way through overgrown pasture. The flashlight in his hand starts to flicker; with an annoyed sigh, he smacks it against his hand until it resumes a normal glow.
Clumps of dirt crumble under his feet, caking the soles of his shoes. The grass brushes against his face, dry blades scraping across his glasses. The property has not been maintained for years, inhabited only by vermin and mold. The Keeny Farm now serves only as a decaying relic of a family who was once respected and admired before their sharp decline into obscurity and shame.
Granny liked to blame Crane and his mother—whom she often referred to as the whore--for soiling the family name; in reality, their lineage was useless long before Jonathan's arrival into the world.
The crow lets out another cautionary caw as Crane approaches the aviary.
"What is this?" Granny yells, her face inches from Jonathan's. Spittle flies out of her mouth with each word, spraying his glasses and face. He does not dare reach up and wipe it away.
"I-it's just a p-picture Granny," Jonathan stammers, fat tears rolling down his cheeks. "I f-found it in an a-album in-"
His teeth dig into his tongue when her hand connects with his face. The coppery taste of blood fills his mouth, and he gags as she grabs his hair and yanks his head forward. He lets out a yelp as his nose connects with the picture smearing blood and snot across the its smooth surface.
"Don't sass me, boy! I know it's a picture. Who is it a picture of?"
Jonathan swallows, struggling to keep himself from retching as blood slides down his throat.
Granny releases her hold on his hair and pushes him backwards; he stumbles before regaining his footing. Raising a small, shaking arm, he wipes away the snot and blood coating his face with his sleeve.
"Mother?" Granny grins widely, baring yellow dentures. "Is that your Mother, Jonathan? I thought Mothers lived with children." She gestures around the room in an exaggerated motion, the cruel grin still plastered across her face. "Why, I don't see her anyway around here! Do you happen to know where she is, Jonathan?"
Jonathan lets out a sniff, wiping his nose again.
"I asked you a question, boy. Where is your mother?"
Fresh tears spill out of Jonathan's eyes. "I don't know."
Granny stands in silence for a few moments, watching as Jonathan's small body wracks with sobs, before reaching forward and encircling his arm with her bony fingers. He holds back a cry as her fingernails dig into his flesh—he knows he is about to be punished, and he does not want to further anger Granny.
But when she opens the front door and drags him into the cold night, he cannot contain his fear.
"Please, Granny, no!"
She tightens her grip on his arm as she drags him along the familiar path towards his torture.
"Please, please, don't! I'm sorry!"
Granny responds to his pleas with silence.
When they reach the aviary Granny releases him to fumble with the lock. Despite the overwhelming temptation, he does not run—he has nowhere to go, and when she caught him his punishment would be even worse.
"This is for your own good, Jonathan," Granny says, her words dripping with mockery and delight. "This is going to teach you to be a good man. One day you'll thank me for this."
She reaches down and pries open his fingers, forcing the photograph into his hand.
"Now, go spend some time with your mother."
Before Jonathan can even close his hand around the photo, Granny has pressed her knee into his back and pushed him onto the aviary floor. He lands face-first onto the dirty floor, shuddering when he hears the door slam behind him.
He lies still on the floor for what feels like an eternity, sobbing into the filth.
Eventually he rises onto all fours, crawling towards the glow of the moonlight. He sits up, bringing his knees to his chest, and opens his hand to reveal the crumpled, dirty photo.
A woman smiles at him; although the photograph is in black and white, he sees her with brown hair, pale skin, and blue eyes. Anyone else who saw the photo would see a plain woman with a forced smile and thinly veiled sadness, but to Jonathan she is the most beautiful woman in the world, with a radiant smile that could light up a room, a crowd, his life.
She is his mother.
She is a stranger.
His heart skips a beat when he hears the first rustle of feathers.
Slowly, he forces himself to look up towards the open ceiling.
Dozens of crows sit perched on the twisted metal branches of the broken roof. They look down at him with dark, beady eyes, remembering him, pleased to be reunited with their familiar target.
He lowers his head as they begin the spread their wings and clutches the photograph close to his chest. Shutting his eyes, he covers his ears as the birds make their descent.
Crane stands in front of the aviary door, his expression blank, his body still. He had wondered if returning to Keeney Farm would create some sort of emotion within him. Anger, sadness, fear.
Instead, he feels nothing. Empty.
He reaches up and jerks on the door's lock—rusted from neglect, it falls away without resistance. He pushes against the door; it swings open slowly with a high-pitched creak that echoes throughout the aviary.
He shuts off his flashlight and steps forward.
Years worth of filth crunch underneath his feet as he walks. He remembers huddling on the floor, his face covered in tears, wishing himself away from the aviary, away from the farm, away from his life. He remembers wishing himself into his mother's arms, into her accepting embrace, as if she had never left, as if they had never been apart.
The crow caws again and Crane glances up at the ceiling. The crow sits perched on the roof, surveying him, questioning whether he is predator or prey.
In the past, the sight of a crow would have sent a jolt of fear through him, turning his stomach with anxiety.
But not anymore.
He is no longer that scared little boy on the farm. He is no longer the stammering, nervous mess in university. He is no longer the paper-pusher in Arkham Asylum.
His life now is like nothing he could have ever imagined. He is enlightened beyond the realm of what he thought possible. The Jonathan Crane the world knew is now gone, never to return. His return to the aviary has proved that.
He did not return to relive memories, or open old wounds. He did not return to find peace, or to heal.
He has returned to Keeney Farm to bury Jonathan Crane.
Reaching into his pocket, he retrieves a crumbled, dirty photograph. A woman looks back at him—a plain woman with a forced smile and thinly veiled sadness.
He tosses the photograph onto the floor and walks out of the aviary.
As he walks towards his car, the crow lets out a final caw, relieved to be free of the stranger.
Crane smiles. The sound no longer frightens him.
Instead, he finds it comforting.