"Mommy, is Christmas like a bigger Halloween?"
"Then how come there's a witch in the sky?"
Overhead Roxy Rocket soars cackling through the skies.
"Because we live in Gotham, sweetie."
"Mommy, there's a monster under my bed!"
"What does it look like?"
"It's raggedy and has straw all over."
Her shoulders slump and her breath quickens.
"Dr. Crane, we've talked about this."
The room is quiet. She sighs.
The silence stretches on. Then suddenly there comes a deathly whisper from underneath the bed.
"I'd prefer it if you called me Scarecrow."
"Okay, Scarecrow, will you please come out?"
A pair of thin hands crawl out from under the bed and claw at the floor. Slowly a spindly scarecrow emerges, its eyes darting around the room.
"I'm not afraid of anything. Just-"
"Of cour -"
"Just doing some research."
"And it's very important, I'm aware. But it's late and we would like to get some sleep."
"I'm the god of fear. I am not afraid of Batman."
"Yes, yes. Good night. Say good night, sweetie."
"Good night, scary god!"
He slides open the window and puts one leg through. He turns around and waves stiffly, the wind tussling his ragged clothes. The little girl stares at him with frightened eyes.
"Do you think Batman is coming after me?"
He stares back.
"No, this room is safe. I looked under the bed and everything."
Then he drops down and sets off running through the snow laden streets.
"Mommy, why is a robotic clown spanking the mayor?"
She hesitates, pondering the scene on the steps of city hall.
"For no real reason, I think."
"Did he do something bad?"
The little girl tugs on her sleeve.
"Mommy, why is that clown wearing Santa's hat?"
"Because he's in a festive mood."
"Can I get one of those?"
Harley Quinn springs over them on a pogo stick, chucking dynamite at an approaching Batmobile.
"Mommy, I like lizards!"
"I want a lizard pet!"
"Sweetness level dropping."
"I want that lizard!"
The little girl points at Killer Croc, who's sitting on a wooden bench and eating from a huge bowl of ice cream.
"And we've reached sour."
Croc looks up from his treat with an awkward look.
"What are you lookin at?"
"No, it's- Sorry to disturb you. We'll just be going now."
"It's not what it looks like! These are frozen…rocks. Sprinkled with tiger teeth. And I'm- I'm eating them."
She feigns awe.
"Wow. Well, I guess we should get going, then."
Croc stands up, tucks the bowl under his arm and trudges away.
"Don't judge me."
The bench comes undone.
"Mommy, what happened to the house?"
"I wish I knew."
They walk up to the door. Suddenly a woman's face pops into view, peering down from the roof.
"Do you live here?"
"I made some changes."
She climbs down from the roof and through an open window. Soon she opens the door and lets them into their own house.
"Welcome to your new and improved home."
A bouquet of flowers grows from her palm.
"Here. A gift."
"I took out all the lightbulbs. Now you have glowing moss. Rub these leaves gently to turn them off."
She stares expectantly, but receives no response.
"In the backyard there's a plant that eats all trash you can't recycle. The floor is now alive and cleans itself. I also made hammocks."
She points to the hammocks. Silence reigns.
"You don't like hammocks?"
"No, they're fine, it's just-"
The hammocks fall to the floor and slither away.
"I'm trying to save the world, one random house at a time."
The little girl starts braiding the leaf-clad woman's hair.
"I also destroyed your car."
"Now you can travel in a slithering leaf vehicle. I call it the Green Octospeedster. No, wait. No, I have yet to name it."
"How would I even-"
"There's a manual growing under the seat."
"But I'd get arrested driving that."
"I wrapped a few people around my finger yesterday. They legalized it."
The house looks clean, very organic.
"Well, I suppose I should thank you."
"That won't be necessary. All I need is love."
The green woman hugs her. She hugs back after just a little while.
"Fight the power."
The woman breaks off the hug, looking refreshed. Suddenly her head is yanked back. The little girl laughs happily.
"Darling, don't climb up the nice lady's hair."
"Please, it is no matter. I am used to all sorts of critters crawling over me. I am very much in touch with nature."
As if to back up her claims, a snake pokes its head out and slides down onto her forehead. Her eyes rise to assess the situation.
She pushes it back into the 'do.
"Call if you need any help."
"Oh, I'm afraid I don't have your number."
"Just gently say my name three times to the ivy over there."
With that the woman walks gracefully outside, blowing a kiss as a final farewell.
"Mommy, do penguins like bread?"
She throws a few more crumbs into the pond and watches happily as the ducks eat their fill.
"I don't think so."
"I'm gonna find out."
She throws more crumbs.
"Sweetie, you have to throw it into the- Sweetie, what do you think you're you doing?"
"Research. I'm gonna talk to Scarecrow about it. He'll think I'm smart."
The little girl throws another piece of bread at the portly man standing beside them.
"No, stop right now. Apologize."
The man gnaws his cigarette holder.
"Harumph. Scarecrow, eh?"
He raises his umbrella and takes to the sky. The little girl shouts after him with a hurt voice.
"Penguins can't fly!"
Her mother shrugs her shoulders.
"Maybe emperor penguins can?"
The little girl shakes her head.
"Penguins can't fly. The book said so."
"I guess they've evolved since they wrote that book."
The girl stares awestruck at the diminishing figure in the sky, his regal winter coat flapping magnificently in the wind.
"Mommy, why is that man running?"
"Maybe he left the oven on."
"Mister, why are you running?"
The man stops and points down the street.
"Because that monster is after me."
His ghastly pursuer, a petite girl in black with pointy ears, appears.
"Aaaah! What's wrong with her mouth, mister?"
"It's sown shut to scare her enemies."
"Who's her enemy?"
"Anyone who's scared of mute murdering machines."
"I'm scared, mister!"
The girl catches up.
"Then you should run, I'll hold her off," he says as he starts running again.
The little girl stares as he runs in circles around a parked car, keeping the monster at bay.
"You're a hero, mister!"
He gives her a thumbs-up. His demonic pursuer jumps on top of the car.
"Wait! There's an order to these things! You can't just punch me!"
She punches him and he bowls over. The little girl starts running towards them.
"Oh, no! Mister!"
He stares up at his vanquisher and chuckles.
"I congratulate you on stopping me. But you didn't solve the riddles."
The merciless foe ties him up at an astounding speed.
"That means my men are robbing this city blind as we speak."
She steps back and looks at him ponderingly.
"Are you even listening?"
She hefts him into the air and flings him across her shoulder.
"Put me down, you brute!"
He meets the terrified eyes of the little girl and winks.
"Don't worry. It's all part of my fiendishly intelligent plan."
The little girl goes slack-jawed.
"Wow. You must be smart."
He smirks mightily.
"Heh, yeah. Smarter than you."
He raises his head and stares at the crowd of onlookers.
"Did you get that? I'm smarter than you! All of you!"
He is bodily carried out of sight.
"Mommy, guess what I'm going to be when I grow up!"
"Please don't be him."
"I wanna work at Arkham, just like you! That way I can be with our friends all the time!"
Joan Leland jerks awake. She looks around dazedly and rubs her eyes. She stares tiredly at the photo of her cousin and her family. Maybe not having children of her own isn't such a bad thing. She groans as she wipes a speck of drool from the open file on her desk. Suddenly the door to her office flies open and slams into the wall. She winces and looks at the intruder.
"It's Tetch! He's taken control of D-wing!"
She tries to shake herself awake.
"How bad is it?"
"He's demanding a deck of cards!"