Raph leaned gratefully against the wall of the shower, allowing the
hot water to trail over his body. He slid down the wall into a sitting
position and closed his eyes. he couldn’t deny it anymore. Something was
definitely wrong. Something was wrong with *him*. It had to be some sort
of disease. Damn these sewers. Suddenly remembering part of his bizarre
dream, he opened his eyes and looked down at his sprawled legs. He made
a small choking sound and bent over his left thigh. Running up the inside,
from his knee almost to his groin, were four ragged scratches. They weren’t
deep, and only oozed enough blood to scab over, but still… it was as if
they were made by the raking of long, sharp fingernails.
Although the water was hot, he suddenly began to shiver uncontrollably. He grabbed a washcloth and soap and began to scrub his entire body, from head to toe. When he finished, he began again, scrubbing himself until his skin was raw and glowed slightly red underneath the green, and still he felt compelled to wash himself again.
Still trembling, he shut off the water and pressed his forehead to the wall, forcing himself to take deep, slow breaths. Think logically. How would Donnie approach a problem like this? by freaking out? By getting drunk in an effort to forget the whole thing?
No, Donnie would examine the facts and, based on those facts, try to deduce a logical explanation. The problem was, how did he explain a dream of getting scratched on the leg, and wake up to find the wound there, clear as day?
He exited the shower, and once again tried to calm his racing mind. Okay, what were the things he knew? Well, whatever this force was, it was definitely female. Either female or preferring to manifest itself that way. He had seen it four times: once in the tunnels, once in the dojo, and twice in his sleep. Twice he’d felt a crushing sensation on his chest, depriving him of his breath. It seemed to have an attraction to him, almost like. . . dare he think it?. . . a lover.
As he toweled himself off, another image from the nightmare slammed into his mind’s eye.
The gravestone. . .
he paused, trying to think of the name that had been on it. . . Amy. . . yes, the name was definitely Amy, and the date. . .
“1895” he said to his reflection in the fogged bathroom mirror. As he stared at his unclear visage, it seemed to shift into the reflection of someone else. a dark-haired woman, the flesh on the face hanging off of the skull, a dead grayish tone.
Shaking his head and grunting, he threw the towel on the floor and stalked out of the bathroom. He flopped onto the living room couch, glancing at the clock: 5:30. Well, it was pretty evident that he wasn’t going to get any more sleep tonight. Might as well zone out in front of the boob tube. Before he could switch it on, he felt a dry hand on his shoulder.
He gave a small cry and jumped up, turning about and landing on his feet in one smooth movement.
“Raphael. . .”
“s-sorry master Splinter.” He muttered, sitting back down. He did a double-take “what happened to your face? You alright?”
splinter nodded. The cuts hadn’t been deep, his fur providing a cushion to whatever claws had raked his face. “I think perhaps we should talk, my son.”
“can’t it wait?” whined Raph, “I really don’t want to talk about it right now.”
“I think it would be unwise to delay this. whatever is happening seems to be beyond my, and your, understanding.”
Slowly, reluctantly, Raph related his encounters to splinter. When he finished, he looked expectantly at the rat.
Splinter stared straight ahead, a slight scowl on his grayed features.
“well? what do you think? Am I going nuts or what?”
splinter shook his head. It was uncommon for Raph to see his sensei without some sort of reassurance on his lips. But the ninja master was silent. He presently stood up, “I think we would be wise to investigate into this further in the morning. you have had an aggrivating night. you should rest for some more hours.”
Raph shook his head, “no way.” He growled.
“excuse me?” splinter cocked his head to one side.
“you go back to bed. I can’t sleep anymore tonight.” Scowling to the air in front of him, he muttered through his teeth, “she’ll come back for me if I do. . .”
splinter drew a breath, as if to say something, but allowed the protest to die in his throat. Were he in his frightened son’s situation, he would not wish to sleep either. “well, in that case, I will see you in the morning.”
“yeah. See ya.”
Casting a last, worried look at his son, splinter retired to his own quarters.
April swiftly ducked. As she did so, she swept her leg along the ground. Her opponent neatly jumped over it and in doing so, launched himself toward her. She allowed the momentum in her leg to bring her to the side. Her opponent hit the floor as she stood up. before he could rise, she planted a sneaker on his back and planted the end of the bo against the back of his neck.
“your ass is mine, Donnie!” she huffed.
Panting heavily, Donnie rolled over and accepted April’s proffered hand. “jeez, you’re getting good!” he smiled slyly, “I’m going to have to stop taking it easy on you.”
“easy?!” exclaimed April. Whipping off her padded glove, she whapped him with it, “easy, my ass! Don’t even go there, turtle-boy!”
snickering, Donnie dodged her flailing gloves, finally managing to grab it. “go cool it in the shower, hothead, you piss me off.”
April aimed a kick at him and missed completely. Chuckling at herself, she stripped off her pads as Donnie gathered up their bos and placed them on the rack. April quickly glanced around to check that Raph wasn’t nearby. She trotted toward Donnie, “hey, don,”
“I’ve been meaning to ask you about Raph. It’s been three days since he acted weird during our session, and he looks. . . I dunno. . . distracted. And tired. Is something wrong, or is he just going through a late-adolesence PMS stage?”
Donnie sighed and pursed his lips “you know, ape, the truth is, I’m not sure. All I know is, he’s awake when I go to bed, and he’s awake when I wake up. this is the guy that’ll sleep until 1:00 in the afternoon if he can.”
“do you think he’s not sleeping?”
“well, it would make sense. I think he’s been having some strange dreams and. . .well, I don’t think he wants to face them.”
April stood back, hands on hips, “so you’re telling me that he hasn’t slept in two or three days, and no one has approached him about it?”
Donnie faced her, hands in front of him, defensively, “no, not at all! In fact, I’ve tried to approach him about it several times, but he just gets angry, you know how he is when he’s being stubborn.”
“well, what about splinter?”
“well, that’s the frightening thing. I don’t think splinter has the slightest idea of what to make of this. he seems. . . I don’t know, distracted and confused. Mike and I have both tried to talk to him about Raph, but he just says that he’ll deal with it and ends the conversation.” Donnie looked earnestly into April’s eyes, “something bad is happening here, April. Something’s happening to Raph. Sometimes it seems like. . . I dunno. . . there’s some kind of force just. . . following him around.” Donnie shook his head and gave a halfhearted laugh, “listen to me, what the hell am I saying? I don’t even believe in ghosts. Maybe he’s got insomnia or something. I’ve been meaning to look up his symptoms in that medical journal you got me for Christmas. Great present, by the way, it makes for a great afternoon read.”
“coming from anyone but you, that would sound really strange.” Said April, patting Donnie affectionately on the shoulder.
The two friends walked toward the two showers, Donnie letting April have the one in the bathroom, with the ajustable settings. Hey, she was a lady, after all.
“so, what are you guys going to do about all this?” asked April.
“wait it out I guess. Do what research we can. I may have to pay a visit to the city library.”
“we’d never see you again.”
April gave Donnie a strange look. Donnie returned it. they both burst out laughing.
Raph sat on the sofa, staring intently at the tv. It was an infomercial for hair plugs.
His skin had assumed an unhealthy, grayish pallor. His eyes were red and sunken-looking. He would often glance back and forth, as if trying to catch a glimpse of something that remained consistently at the corners of his vision.
He was tired. He had never been this damn tired in his life. He hadn’t slept in four days. He was all too aware that he had started to see things. It would seem as if inanimate objects, such as chairs and silverware, would pick themselves up and move about. He’d blink and they’d be back in place. Shadows seemed to dart to and fro, taunting the edges of his vision, daring him to try and catch them. at first he would walk around in a silent daze, until he had finally taken to the couch. The meals that Mikey tried to coax into him had been discreetly emptied into the trash. He hardly noticed his family anymore. They seemed like trivial, unreal things that moved around him. Their voices sounded like they came from far away. No, they didn’t matter to Raph. It was the shadows that he could hear, the shadows that he could almost see. They would whisper to him, in one voice, a young, female voice. She would sigh to him, and blow rank breath across his face. Occasionally, he could have sworn a dry, cold, bony hand caressed him.
“why don’t you come to me?”
“d-don’ want to.” he murmered, barely moving his lips.
“we can be together. We can finally be together. I thought this was what you wanted?”
“no. . .”
“I want to be with you. I will be with you.”
“leave me alone. . . Amy. . .”
“No. We will always be together.”
“please. . .”
“always. . .”
“no. . .”
“always. . .”
he gave a ragged sob and leaned his face into his palms. Forever. She would haunt him forever. Unless. . .
he raised his head.
Unless she wasn’t attracted to him anymore.
Mikey rolled over in bed. damn. Raph was talking to himself again. He heard the low murmurs coming from the living room. Groaning, he looked at his clock. 3:25.
3:25 in the frikkin’ morning.
growling to himself, he rolled out of bed, stood up, tripped over his nunchucks, stood up again and walked into the living room. This just had to stop.
“hey Raph, do you think you could-“ he trailed off when he saw the couch was empty.
“m-Mikey. . .?” Raph’s voice, sounding small and weak, came from behind him.
“there you are Raph,” Mikey said, turning, “I wanted to ask you if- JESUS CHRIST!!!” Mikey stumbled back, bumping into the couch. He clamped a hand over his mouth to keep from crying out.
“I thought maybe you’d be alarmed. . .” said Raph, “but it’ll be alright. I’ll show you. I have to protect you from her. . .” holding a bloody sai in front of him, Raph staggered toward his petrified brother.