I collapsed on the small worn chair. Exhausted. More exhausted than ever before in my life.
It had been three months since my transformation. In that three months, I have had to adjust to my new life. No longer was I an ordinary rat fending for only myself. It was far easier back then to be sure! I had to scavenge the garbage cans for leftover food. What I found kept me full for days. Now, the meager amounts I could find, could not even keep one of my new charges full for long.
What had I been thinking that day I rescued them? I know what I was thinking. I was remembering my own…"mother", Tang Shen. How she had saved a starving rat and treated him as she would a helpless child. What would she do upon finding the vulnerable turtles in the sewer? I had to stay true to her memory. How I missed her. And my master. What would they think of me now, I wonder?
The small piercing cry echoed through the room. This lair was very small. Soon enough I would have to find something larger. But for now, the five of us crowded into one large room. I had piled blankets on the floor in one corner for the four turtles to sleep. However, one of them seemed to be on a sleeping strike.
It seemed that he insisted on testing his new lungs daily and for hours on end. No amount of rocking, singing or walking would quiet him for very long. His screams grew louder, and I feared not only that he would wake his brothers, but that he would be heard topside.
With a groan, I pushed myself to my feet and walked over to the blanket pile. He lay there having kicked the blankets from himself. His knees were drawn up tight and his fists clenched in frustration, anger, pain or something else I could only begin to guess. All I knew was that tears streamed his face and his mouth was wide open.
The ear ringing scream coming from the mouth was enough to make me want to run and hide. Instead, I knelt down beside him patting his shoulder.
"Shh shh," I said over his screams. "Quiet now, before you wake your brothers."
His screams only increased in volume to my gentle tones. I had been trying to read a book on human infants. My command of the written word was getting better, but definitely not perfect. The book advised to try rocking fussy children. I had been rocking him all night. Could he not give me a minute's peace? With another sigh, I picked him up and carried him across the room away from the others. This was the seventh night of this. The three remaining turtles must have become immune to his cries. I wish I had.
I sat down and rocked the chair gently. His screams did not quiet and the tears were dripping down off his chin onto me. "Quiet now," I said. "They will hear us above. Shhh." He did not quiet. If it were possible, I think he became louder still.
He was frustrating me. I was tired. So very tired. And he was so very noisy. We were going to be found out. The humans would take us all as captives. The child's screaming increased and I could feel myself trembling.
"Quiet!" I snapped. "SHUT up!" He didn't even look at me. His eyes were closed tight and he appeared to be in a fit of rage. I knew how he felt. I reached over with one hand covering his mouth. He inhaled sharply and his eyes widened. He was quiet for a second before the screams began anew. Even though they were muffled behind my hand, the sound still grated on my sensitive hearing.
"SILENCE!" I yelled now in danger of waking the remaining children myself. I moved my hand from his mouth. I picked him up to shake him. I would shake him until he was quiet. I was so tired. I needed just an hour's sleep and this child would not shut up.
I stared at him. The red face. The tiny mouth open with screams of frustration. But even as I gripped him to shake him, he did not scream in fear. He was not afraid that I may hurt him. As angry and as tired as I was…as much as I was wanting to hurt this small creature…he trusted me. What would the shaking have done to him? He and his brothers seemed so fragile. I could have hurt him. Done irreparable damage to his brain. I could have killed him.
I sighed shakily and pulled him close to my chest in a comforting embrace. "Gomen. Gomen nasai, youji." I rocked him quickly murmuring the whole time. "Gomen. Gomen nasai."
Nearly an hour later the screams quieted and with a belch the child's eyes closed in sleep. Even then, I still rocked and whispered my apologies to him. What would I have done had I hurt him? What if I did hurt him? Perhaps I did do some damage to his brain. I comforted myself with the knowledge that I did not shake him. And I would never again come to the point where I would. Even still, I would watch this one for many years to come. I would watch for some sign of injury. Just in case.
I fell asleep with the child against my chest. One last time, I murmured my apologies to him. "Gomen Nasai. Gomen Donatello."
((Never, never shake a baby or a small child. It can lead to brain damage or even death))