The nightmare didn't come until I woke up.
Through closed eyes, I could feel myself being stared at. Whispered words of shock and disbelief greeted my ears and made their way into my still half-asleep mind. The voices belonged to young men, teenagers from what I could tell. I kept my eyes shut, not willing to give away the one advantage I had at that moment: they thought I couldn't hear them.
"What the hell is that?" one of them asked. "Is it real?"
"Geez..." another said, this one had a deeper voice than the first. "That is freaky! Hey, touch it!"
"Man, you must be drunk!" the first exclaimed in a low voice. "I ain't touchin' that! It'll probably bite me..."
I felt something poke my arm and I ventured a look past half-closed eyelids. One of the kids was nudging me with a broomstick, the other was nowhere to be seen.
"Check this out!" the one I could see said in an excited voice. "I think this thing is alive!"
The deep-voiced kid came into view, carrying a camera. "Hey, step back..." he said to his buddy. "I'm gonna' take a picture of it..."
I didn't want that... there was no way I was going to let them take my picture. The way I figured it, they had already discovered me... I might as well give them a show. I opened my eyes full and the boys jumped back. The one dropped the camera and ran into the kitchen, leaving his friend behind. I sat up on the couch and stared at the kid as he stood, gaping. He began to stutter out a prayer and bolted for the kitchen. I followed, walking slowly in a way that I knew the kids would consider abnormal - not much of an effort, considering I still hurt from head to foot from the day before. Walking into the kitchen, I turned to face the deep-voiced kid. He was standing by the table muttering swear words and cracking his knuckles.
"What the hell is going on out here!" I heard Jim say. I looked towards his bedroom door, he was standing there in long john bottoms, his gray hair mussed. I had been so intent on frightening the kids that I hadn't even considered that Jim was still there. I noticed from the look on his face that he wasn't any happier to see them as I had been.
I heard a noise behind me and turned just in time enough to see the coffee pot before it hit my face. The glass shattered and the still-hot coffee poured into my eyes, burning them and forcing them shut. My reaction time was way off after all that I had been through, I kicked myself mentally for not anticipating a desperate move like the one the teen had taken. The self-damning didn't last long, though, as I felt something hit me from behind. I fell to my knees and stood up again just as fast, throwing a fast punch out in the direction I knew the kid was still standing. I hit something that felt like it was maybe his shoulder, but at that point it was hard to tell. I heard him yell and felt another strike, this time it was harder - much harder. I sensed myself falling but I didn't feel when I hit the floor.
I tried to open my eyes. That was all I could do... try. I reached up and felt my face, touching the gauze that was taped there. My head hurt, too. It slowly began to dawn on me that I had been knocked out - again. That was getting tiresome. I felt around me and discovered that I was on a bed, Jim's bed, most likely... the sheets smelled like Old Spice and cigars. Past a dull hum in my ears I could hear the sound of voices in low conversation - one man and one woman. I recognized both of them. I pulled myself up to sitting and put my feet on the floor, my brain exploded in pain.
"Damn!" I said out loud. The voices stopped and I heard the sounds of chairs being pushed away from the table, followed by a few quick footsteps in my direction. I gritted my teeth in a faux grin.
"Don!" I heard Linda exclaim. "Settle down."
Jim laughed. "See, told you the kid was tough."
"Be that as it may..."
I began to stand and felt a hand on my arm, guiding me up. "Linda, how'd you find out I was here?" I asked, accepting the aid in the gentleness of her touch.
"I called her," Jim's voice went on ahead of us as the woman and I walked arm-in-arm into the kitchen.
"You know her?" maybe it was just the knock on the head, but I felt as if I were getting more confused with each passing word. Linda guided me into a seat. "How?"
"Nuh-uh," Jim said from across the room. I heard the beeping of the microwave as he pushed a few buttons. "You told me about a nurse named Linda who worked the night shift at Mercy..."
"Last night... yeah," I said. "I told you at the shop."
"From there on out it was easy enough to find her number."
The microwave beeped again and I heard a cup being set down in front of me. I reached out to grab it and found my hand being guided by Linda's. I lifted the not-too-hot cup and took a drink. Coffee... of course.
"Instant," Jim said, I heard him pull the chair out from under the table and grunt as he sat down. "Damn kids owe me a new coffee pot."
I laughed. It made my head hurt, but I didn't really care. "What did they hit me with, anyway?"
"Cast-iron skillet," the old fellow said. "Great for frying, not so great for the head."
"Speaking of which..." Linda began in a scolding tone. "Why didn't you call me when you hit your head the first time?"
"Jim told me you got hit by a car."
"Uh... yeah," I confessed sheepishly. "I'm kinda' not used to getting medical help."
"I guess you wouldn't be," she said. "You know, for a while - until I got Jim's call, I was actually beginning to believe that you were a dream." I heard a smile in her voice. It was nice. "Anyway," she continued, "getting hit by the car and then smacked with a frying pan hasn't done anything great for your head. You should try to take it easy for a while. Try to rest."
"How about my eyes," I asked, resisting the urge to reach up and touch them.
"They should be fine. I didn't see any major problem, I covered them to keep them protected until they heal and they're going to hurt for a while but there shouldn't be any permanent damage. I took a good look at them, I think they are a little tougher than human eyes, at any rate."
"Good to know," I said with a sigh. It was a relief to hear that I wasn't going to be blinded. "I wanna' thank you guys. I'd never have made it here if not for you two."
"No problem, we might just call on you one of these days," Jim said.
"You can count on me for that," I told him. I felt Linda's touch on my arm again. I put my hand on hers and squeezed it gently. "I promise."
For a few seconds the room was quiet, then there was a knock on the door. Jim's chair screeched across the old linoleum and I heard him by the door as he said "who's there?"
"We're looking for Don," a muffled voice said from the other side of the door.
"Leo?" I yelled as I jumped to my feet. I hit my shin on a nearby chair and fell back onto my butt on my own seat. "It's my brothers," I announced.
The door squeaked open.
"Don!" Mikey yelled. Barely a second later I felt his arms around me in a big bear hug. "I missed you, man!" he yelled in my still-ringing ear.
"Hey, hey!" Raph yelled. "Let the guy breathe, will ya?"
Mike let go and I heard a trio of gasps. Mikey had been so eager to see me that he hadn't noticed the bandages on my eyes, and his hug had kept the others form seeing it, as well.
"What the hell happened to you?" Raph asked in his most concerned tone.
"Long story," I said.
"And getting longer by the moment," Jim added.
"Uh... hi," Leo said.
I shook my head, forgetting to be polite in the midst of the reunion. "Sorry, guys. This is Jim and Linda, they've been... helping me out here. Jim, Linda... these are my brothers: Leo, Mike, and Raph."
"Good to meet you," Leo said.
"Hi," came Mike's usual greeting.
Raph, true to form, said nothing.
"I see the family resemblance," Jim joked.
"How did you get here?" Linda leaned closer to me as she asked the question of the guys.
"Borrowed April's new car," Mike said in my direction.
"You've gotta' be kidding!" I cried out. "There is no way she'd have let you borrow it!"
"Well, the van broke down," Leo said. "And without you there to..."
"She let you borrow the Eclipse?!"
"She was worried about you, man," Mike told me. "We all were."
"Now tell us what happened to you," Raph said.
Jim cleared his throat. "Anybody care for coffee? This is going to take a while."
Leo and Raph opted for coffee and Mike had a glass of ice water as I told them everything that had happened. Jim was right, the story was getting longer by the moment and some of the details were beginning to escape me. Thankfully, Jim and Linda were there to fill in the gaps. I got down to the part about being hit in the face with the coffee pot and knocked out with a frying pan and decided to end the telling there.
"...And I woke up, a few minutes later you guys arrived."
"Maaannn!" Mike said. "I'd hate to be you, bro!"
"Who were those kids, anyway?" Leo asked.
"Michael and Ian, my hotshot nephew's friends," Jim said. "They busted in here again. Jackasses..."
"They've done that before?" Raph asked, his ire rising.
"Never busted up a guest in my place, no... but they have broken in before."
I could almost hear the gears begin to grind in Raph's mind. "Want us to fix that up for you?" he asked, a decidedly sinister tone to his voice.
Raph began to laugh low, a few seconds later he was joined by Mike and Leo in their own chuckles. I already knew what Raph had in mind... and I had no problem with it, whatsoever.
It wasn't easy traveling around without eyes to guide me, but I managed with the help of my brothers. It was good to be with them again, it hadn't occurred to me how much I had missed them. And it had only been two days... it felt like so much longer.
"This is the place," Raph said as we stopped our skulking.
Jim had given us directions to the house where the kids spent most of their evenings, usually tossed up in some drug-induced stupor and half-aware. He also gave us his blessing to scare the living hell out of them. Mike pried open a window and I smelled the lingering smoke of pot as it wafted out from the inside.
"Oohh-ee!" Mike exclaimed. "That stuff stinks!"
"Will you pipe down!" Leo admonished our brother. "Geez..."
We waited a few minutes for the air inside to clear out then we climbed through the window. I could hear snoring and a TV somewhere within the house. We followed the sound to what felt like a small room.
"Okay," Leo whispered. "Don, we got here three guys. Teens. One has long hair back in a tail, he's wearing khakis."
"I remember him," I said, recalling the deep-voiced kid from earlier. "Another one spike-haired? Dyed blond?"
"Well, then..." Raph said, the old evil tone in his voice. "Shall we?"
I couldn't help but smile. "You know it!"
I heard the light switch being thrown and three bodies being lifted up off the floor. There were murmurs of confusion and then screams of recognition.
"It's it, it's it, it's it! It's the thing!" The spike-haired kid yelled. "Oh, god! I told you! I told you! It's going to eat us!"
I guess it was only then that they realized there was more than just one monster.
"Let go! Augh!" the deep voiced kid yelled.
"Ian! Ian! What the hell are these things?" I heard Pete's voice say, he had been the only one of the three to not actualy see me.
"Quiet!" I yelled, trying not to smile. I put on my most sinister face. "You tried to kill me..." I began.
"No! No! He did!" the deep voiced kid said.
"You hit him! You..!"
"What the hell are these things?!"
I notched my voice down to demon mode. "We are something you were never meant to see... and now that you have... you can never be allowed to tell about us!"
"They're gonna' kill us!"
"Kill him! He's the one that hit you!"
"I didn't see you! I wasn't there!"
I could hear Mike begin to chuckle. I heard three bodies hit the floor and my brothers joined me before them.
"There is only one other option..." Raph said. "You must never tell a living soul about us. Ever!"
"Okay! Okay! I can do that!" the deep-voiced kid stammered. "Right, guys?! We can do that!"
"And," Leo said, beginning to enjoy the ruse - uncommon for him, for certain. "You must be nothing less than kind to Jim."
"Uncle Jim..?" Pete said. "But... what does he have to do with..."
"Just do it!" Raph bellowed.
"One more thing," Mike said, in a softer tone than Raphael's. "This stuff... make it disappear."
I wondered for a few moments what Mike was referring to, but then I began to her the sound of plastic bags being gathered up. Three sets of feet ran into another room and then I heard the sound of a toilet flush. "Good call, Mikey," I whispered with a smile. At least the drugs that the kids had on hand were gone. The three teens came back to us much slower than they had gone.
"Okay," I said, wiping off the smile. "If you ever break the rules we have set out before you, we will return - and you will see what real pain is." I told them.
I heard a couple of "yes, sirs" and one of the boys whimpered. Me and the others left the way we came in, happy with ourselves.
"Do you think they'll do it?" Mike asked, helping me out the window.
"Maybe," I offered. "Maybe not. But it was worth the try, at least."
"Damn, I haven't had that much fun in... I don't know how long!" Raph exclaimed.
I nodded. It had been fun... I just wished I could have seen the looks on the kids' faces.
Back at Jim's apartment he offered us to spend the night. It was a nice offer, but we didn't really want to be traveling by the light of day.
"Call me," Linda said. I felt her push a piece of paper into my hand. "It's my phone number."
"We'll call," Mike said. I'd heard that tone in his voice before.
I leaned over to him and whispered "she's too old for you."
"Says who?" he protested.
I smiled and held out my hand to where I knew Jim was standing. He gripped it and shook. "Gonna' miss you around here." he said. "You sure make life interesting."
Down the stairs and out the door, my brothers and I piled into April's new car, a tight fit for our shells - but at least the seats were soft. A good thing for my bruised body. Mike and Raph began to argue about who would drive back, I wondered if I would have to listen to those two all the way back to New York. Somehow, that thought was more of a comfort to me than anything else. I was back with my family, we were on our way home.
I once heard a quote, I can't rightly remember who it was that said it, but it says something about traveling the world looking for what you truly need and then returning home to find it. I may go on the road again, of my own volition... but I don't think it will be out of the need to escape, though I am sure that urge will again strike me. Next time I believe my travel will be so that I can feel what I felt at that moment - as my brothers and I left for home. I will go, but only so that I may return.
Yes, that was a pretty old story, but I hope you liked it, anyway! If anyone is at all interested in Jim (who is based on my father) or anything else regarding this story, you can go to my Author's Info page and click on Efiwyvan (or just click on "where it comes from"). Thanks again!