"I'll give you that, but Michael F. defies nature altogether. He breaks every rule it has. It's like a mockery of the familiar, whereas I'm used to the totally whacked-out." Michelangelo thought it amusing that his brother, a five-foot-two anthropomorphic turtle who once plowed over three rooftops on a motorcycle, threw a hand grenade into the fourteenth-story window of the fourth, chucked the motorcycle, grabbed onto the fire escape of the next building, rode the ladder down until it stopped, fell onto another motorcycle moving at 60 miles per hour, and later said it was all kinds of fun, was freaked out by a formerly black pop star.
"A mockery of the familiar? And you're what?" Raphael snorted. "Granny Smith?"
"I am a balanced mixture of the mundane and the alien and one hundred percent awesomeness," Mikey said, closing his eyes and stretching pleasantly. They had been having this discussion back and forth for about three minutes, and all the while, the Lord of the Dance had been convulsing on the television. Mikey had begun the discussion by saying that the dancer terrified him beyond all reason, and Raph had shrugged off the claim, mentioning another Michael which he found more unnerving.
"One hundred percent moron," Raph said gruffly but fondly, hooking an arm around his brother's neck, yanking him in, and giving him a noogie.
"I didn't do it!" Mikey yelped automatically.
Splinter was calling from the dojo. "You forget your practice."
Raph, arm still hooked around his brother's neck, pushed himself to his feet, dragging Michelangelo up and forcing from him an involuntary "ulp!" "C'mon, General. Time ta get your butt kicked ta Bangkok."
"Lemme go!" gurgled Michelangelo, and his brother obliged with a chuckle. "Can your granny do this?" He leaped onto the coffee table and did a swift backflip, springing off the back of the couch and landing perfectly on the floor.
"Yes, and with greater finesse," replied Raph, ambling toward the dojo.
Mikey stuck his tongue out at his back and started to follow. Pausing by the wall, he bent over to tighten a knee band. Untie, straighten, retie. The lights dimmed slightly. Donnie's gonna be fixing the electric crap tonight, he thought wryly. He stood up and jogged into the dojo.
It was empty.
The dojo was empty.
Raph had just gone in. Splinter had called them from there. Leo must have been in there warming up before their sensei ever called them, because that was what he did.
And the dojo was empty.
"Guys?" he called tentatively, stepping into the room. No one answered. Everything was fairly normal otherwise, just a little...dark.
"Guys? You there? It's not my birthday." He wandered a little further before the strangest sensation overcame him. He stopped. He could go no further.
That was weird.
He leaned forward and tried to take another step. His foot wouldn't lift. The open air seemed to harden around him, and he could almost lean against it. Experimentally, he pulled back a pace. That worked. He could go backward, but not forward.
"Guys, I am getting incredibly creeped out."
No one seemed to care. No one was there.
He continued to walk backwards to see how far he could get. After about ten slow paces, his heel nudged something and he heard the creak of wood sliding against stone.
It was a chair that hadn't been there before, a few inches from where he had stopped to tighten his knee band. One of the ones from the kitchen. About two feet from the other side of it was another like it. They were pushed up against the wall, backs facing each other. He reached forward and touched the closest one. It was solid enough. He wasn't hallucinating.
"Raph?" he called, finding this situation less spooky and more alarming. "Donnie? Leo? Master Splinter?"
Only echoes answered him.
Mikey turned and dashed for the stairs. Maybe they're in their rooms.
WHAM. The wall of air again, ten feet from where he'd started.
He fell back, bewildered. Okay, that's another rule to remember, he thought before he could pin down why. He leaned forward, testing the air with his arms. Finding no resistance, he tried to take a step forward. He couldn't.
It's not so much like a wall. It's more like someone has me in a bag, and the end of the bag's tied down to something, and every time I try to walk away, I just strain against the bottom of the bag.
Tied down to something. That wasn't an idea Michelangelo cherished.
But what is it tied down to?
An odd but subtle sensation caught his attention. It was as though he was suddenly light, light enough to float, but remained as rooted to the ground as before. His eyes blurred slightly, then focused, and he found himself staring at the room from beside the wall, in front of the two chairs, as though he had never left it. The lights were back on, and before his brain could process what had happened to him or search for a meaning, someone leaped up from the couch.
Someone who hadn't been on the couch before.
Mikey stood gaping as his brother Leonardo spun from the couch and jogged toward him. "There you are," gasped the de facto leader of the turtles. "Have you thought of anything yet?"
"Huh?" Mikey offered brainlessly.
Leo stopped and stared at him, keeping his distance to about four feet. "You...forgot?"
"I don't know what you're talking about, bro," Mikey admitted helplessly.
A light came on in Leo's eyes. "Ohhhhhh," he said softly, eyes trailing away from his brother and shining with thought.
There was a pause.
"Dude, ya might wanna explain what just happened. One minute you guys're there, and the next minute you're not there, and I friggin' wish you'd stay in one place!"
Leo shook his head. "It's not like that, Mikey."
Mikey froze. "Then you know what's going on?"
"I wouldn't say that."
"What would you say?"
The look Leo had when he locked gazes with his younger brother was a mixture of solemnity and pity—never a good sign. "We're not the ones phasing in and out, Mikey. You are."