Author's notes: This piece is the result of an, admittedly, harebrained plotbunny (pun intended). After reading a long series of the ever-present "girls fall into sewers, meet the TMNT, fall in love, stupidity ensues" type of fiction, I started to wonder if I could somehow grab on to that concept and turn it into something I would want to write.
This is the result.
The TMNT world in this story is a mix between the 1987 cartoonverse and the 1990 movieverse. Some aspects of the 1987 cartoon were necessary: the campy humor, the somewhat greater connection to humanity, and the more unified turtle team. The dialogue is written with the 1987 cartoon particularly in mind (albeit a more mature version of the toon). But the theme and mood of the story fit more closely with the 1990 movie: a place where you can drop bad puns in the direst situations and then have the scene change a second later to something rather serious. All that being said, the TMNT are set in the present day.
Once again, I started this fanfiction in 2008. In 2011, I tried to come back to it and finish it, but I found that I had gaping plotholes in my original plan. I sat down and thought long and hard about what I wanted to write and it struck me that I wasn't writing a parody… I was writing a humorous ghost story, and the only way I could push it to completion was to gut it and carve out the good bits and start anew.
Disclaimers: the verses that start each chapter are from an old English nursery rhyme: "April, Come She Will" I make no claim to the rhyme, nor the TMNT franchise.
I did, however have way too much fun writing this.
Come She Will
A darkly humorous look at Ninja Turtles and the girls who follow them
"April, come she will…"
Lexington Avenue Line, New York City subway: February 14th, 1928
"Kyoko… Kyoko!" The sound of the shout was drowned out by the screech of the train as it started to roll down the dark underground tunnel, prompting the owner of the voice to throw his hands up in despair. The immigrant youth huffed for breath while skidding down the last few steps and into the platform area. Dim, flickering lights cast a sickly orange glow over the grimy tiled expanse. He could hear the crack of his heels as they hit the floor with each step, like miniature gunshots. As the headlights of the train died away there was a deafening inrush of silence and bitter, stale air.
He pushed a clump of dark hair from his face and stared into the darkness. In the empty station his voice sounded small and hopelessly alone. "Kyoko? Are you here?"
There were several seconds of lingering silence before he got the response he had so dearly hoped for. Or at least the voice he wanted to hear. "Go home, Haruo."
His eyes creased at the edges, turning towards the shadows at the back of the dock. "Not without you, Kyoko." His expression looked like it was hung up in the indecision between worry and anger.
Brown eyes peered out from the bleak shadows, and the voice that accompanied them was stiff and determined. "I said go home. There is nothing you can do for me, and mother will be worried about you."
Haruo swallowed, his mouth feeling dry. He could hear a thin, tight tone of venom in his sister's voice, and it cut through his brave demeanor. "Mother is equally worried about you. She has been ever since that man started hanging around our door." The last few words dripped with acid, as if he was describing a monster lurking in the shadows.
"If she was smart, she would have worried more before I left with him." Kyoko stepped out into the flickering lights, fixing her brother with an even stare. Her face still had the same pudgy-cheeked innocence Haruo remembered, but her eyes were cold and empty.
"She did, but what could we do?" the young man protested. "He was…" He trailed off, looking for the right word.
"Determined." His younger sister filled in for him.
"Yes, determined." He paused, blinking at her before lowering his eyes to the floor, kicking at the tiles with his toe. "If Father was here, things could have been different." He kept his tone low, as if he was muttering to himself more than actually speaking to her. He almost hoped she didn't hear him, but when he lifted his eyes, he found them caught in her relentless gaze.
Kyoko's voice was soft and even. Despite the breathy tone, it held an undercurrent of determination. "You're wrong. Father's presence would not have changed a thing; he was as powerless as I am." She paused and her next words cut through the air like a knife. "As I was."
'Was?' The breath caught in her brother's throat. "Then why didn't you tell us you had come back to New York? Why didn't you come back to your family?" He creased his brows, listening as the next train gave a blast of its horn in the distance. In the dim echoes of the subway it lent an eerie ring to the station.
As the sound cleared, Haruo became aware of a new tone; a low, bitter pain emanating from a woman who he thought he knew. "You don't understand, Haruo." She paused just long enough to let that sink in. "I never had the choice to come back. My life was forfeit from the first night we spent together."
"What?" Haruo creased his brows, flinging his hands to the side. Confusion poured into his eyes, and it only deepened as he watched his sister draw aside her coat. There was a dark shadow staining her simple cotton dress, and if she had not just been standing there speaking to him, he would have sworn it was blood.
The young man shook his head and rushed forward to grab her arm. "What has happened? If he has hurt you…" His brown eyes lifted to hers, going from righteous anger to widened shock as her slight hand grabbed him and flung him backwards with a vicious strength he never knew his sister to posses.
"Do not follow me." Her voice softened a touch, hints of concern bled in. "But one day, when the memory of him has all but faded, please let me sleep…" as she spoke she slowly walked towards the edge of the platform.
"I don't understand, Kyoko..." her brother slowly picked himself up from the sticky tiles. "I just don't understand." He blinked back the wave of heat building up behind his eyes. As he stood, his only wish was to hear her laughter again. Not the bitter sound she had made before, but the bell-like giggle he had come to cherish.
For a few seconds she stared at him, the horn of the train sounding louder. It seemed to rattle her a little and she blinked once, almost as if she were coming out of a trance. When she spoke there was a hint of the tone Haruo remembered, light and soft. "You don't have to understand, Haruo. You just have to trust me."
"Trust you in what?" His eyes were searching frantically for some clue about what was going on.
"Trust me that I will protect you." she replied, watching him with her dark eyes. "Trust me, and remember me…" She paused for a second, holding out a hand. Haruo rushed forward desperate to reach her, pulling as his fingers closed around her delicate hand.
"I'm your brother. I'm your family, I will protect you…" He reached up to stroke her hair, blinking a little as she stopped him.
She stretched up on her tiptoes and planted the lightest kiss on his cheek, her lips as cold as ice. For a second, fondness flowed through her eyes and she sniffled slightly. "Not this time."
"What do you mean?" He barely got the words out before he realized that she had slipped through his grip. Clenching his fists, he started forward, his brain sluggishly trying to match the surge of adrenaline that propelled his body forward. The screeching roar of the train horn filled the station as the lights blazed forward. He was at a dead sprint, stretching so hard that his shoulder ached. His fingertips brushed hers before he felt them pull away a second time.
Time seemed to crawl by, agonizingly slowly. Unable to pull back and desperate to stop moving forward, Haruo found himself suspended horizontally in the air above the dock. His eyes were glued forward as Kyoko's thin form leapt off the platform. She, too, seemed to hang in midair momentarily, her skirt billowing out behind her like wings. She turned her brown eyes to Haruo and mouthed one word.
The sickening impact of the train with the body was mercifully drowned out from Haruo's ears by the impact of his chest on the frozen floor tiles. He rolled, his vision going white, the cacophony of the train filling his ears. He lay on his back, feeling the cold seep up from the ground, into the tiles, though his coat and into his flesh. He waited until the silence once again ran into the platform before he dared to move.
His chest hurt. His ribs hurt. His lungs hurt. None of that was important. The sound that ripped from his breast was distraught. Blood was flecked in his spittle and it hung in front of his face like a fanfare to the shattered words. "Kyoko?" He paused, and the silence was complete. "Kyoko!"
He couldn't bring himself to look. The police found him three hours later, curled in a ball in the corner of the station, sobbing.
Sewers: New York City, September 8th, 2007
"You do know that it's not going to work?" Raphael's voice had a sing-song tone to it as he threw a leg over the couch and rolled down the back to land on the cushions.
Leonardo chose to ignore the taunt and bit his tongue in concentration. Prodding at a small hose with a mini screwdriver, the coffeepot gave a grumpy gurgle. "I think it's just a little bit of sludge, and if I can just get it cleaned out… gyahh!" The blue clad brother winced as the hose popped free, spraying thick brown sludge that smelled heavily of coffee and mold into his face. He dropped both the coffeepot and the screwdriver in favor of rubbing his eyes.
Raphael sat up from his lounge, a grin playing across his features. "I told you."
Leonardo gave a short huff, standing up and walking for the sink in the kitchen. "Yeah, I suppose you did. I guess I'm going to have to get Donatello to look at it."
"He already did." Raph's voice was light, almost nonchalant. Leo looked over to his brother, still dabbing at his face with the washrag.
"He did?" He paused, wringing rotten coffee grounds from the cloth. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"Well, you looked like you were having so much fun trying to repair it..." The red clad brother trailed off into a sarcastic grin, prompting Leonardo to shake his head.
"Thanks, Raph," he replied, dryly, before bringing the washcloth over to the living room. Kneeling, the eldest started to scrub grounds out from the carpet. "And what did Donatello have to say about it?"
"After he rolled his eyes at us for breaking it, he said that he thinks it just wore out." Raphael propped himself up on one elbow, picking up the coffeepot so Leo could clean underneath.
"Just wore out?" Leonardo looked up mid-scrub to give his younger brother a patient, mildly reproachful look.
"Yeah, you know… wore out?" If Raphael noticed the slight accusation, he chose to ignore it. "As in conked off, gave up the ghost, crapped out, broke down and shit the bed."
"Raphael, watch your language!" Master Splinter's voice was light but unmistakable coming from the next room. Raphael jerked his head around, suddenly wondering if the old rat had a radio antenna attached to the tips of his ears.
The red clad brother frowned slightly, trying to cover his embarrassment with an angry gaze. Behind him Michelangelo ventured out of the training room, drawn in by all the commotion.
"Things just don't break down," Leonardo protested.
"They do when they are picked up from the junkyard, dude," Mike replied, grinning. On the couch, Raphael was inwardly thankful for his younger brother's timing. It drew the attention away from him for a while.
Leo picked up the partially dismantled pot and poked at it again. "I still think I can fix it." Leaning back, he pulled a wrench from the open tool kit and tried working one of the machine bolts loose from the plastic carapace.
The youngest scooted over, settling down on the hassock and rolling it towards Leo so he could look over his brother's shoulder. Leonardo, for his part, took to ignoring his brother, sticking his tongue out in concentration. It was the expression that made Mikey start to giggle.
Turning petulantly, the eldest terrapin watched Mike with curiosity before finally asking, "What is so funny?"
"The look on your face, dude! It's so like, 'we canna push her any faster captain! The warp percolator is gonna explode!'" the orange clad brother grinned, adopting his best fake-Scottish accent.
Over on the couch Raphael clamped a hand to his mouth, desperately trying not to laugh as Leo frowned. "This happens to be delicate work, Michelangelo," the eldest chided lightly. "You could help by bringing me over some light." He was hoping it would give him some room to breathe.
Mikey stood, stretching and heading over to the lamp to turn it on and drag it forward when he heard a solid 'thump' of something hitting the floor. When he turned, his eyes widened and his face erupted into a grin. Leonardo was left holding in one hand a pair of pliers with the unscrewed bolt between its jaws; and the shell of the coffeepot in the other. Lying on the floor was the main heating element.
Leo looked from the faces of his brothers, each wearing a veil of thinly concealed laughter, to the ground where half of the guts of the coffeepot lay, to the coffeepot itself, and back to his brothers, offering up the only word that struck his lip. "Oops?"
The wide-eyed innocence of his brother's expression pushed Michelangelo into a fit of giggles. He knelt beside the fallen chunk of pot, picking it up. Leonardo was still staring at the piece, flabbergasted that it would have broken off and fallen out in the first place.
Mikey closed one eye, using his open one to inspect the broken chunks of plastic and burned out metal before looking straight into Leo's eyes. "I think it's dead, Jim."
At that comment, Raphael stopped trying to hide his laughter and rolled back on the couch, his sides shaking. Leonardo looked floorwards, his cheeks burning. "Well…" he started simply. "I thought I could fix it."
Raphael wiped tears from his eyes and rolled off the couch to sit near Leonardo, clapping a hand on his shoulder. "Bro, I'll be the first to say that you're a good ninja and a fine leader, but a technical genius you ain't."
Donatello had poked his head out from his room, watching the entire situation with a mixture of curiosity and amusement. "I thought I had already told Raphael that it couldn't be fixed…" his voice had a soft scolding tone mixed with genuine warmth.
"You did," Raph countered. "It's just that our fearless leader decided that he had the magic touch."
Leonardo indulged in a small sigh while Donatello looked him over with a small, sympathetic smirk. "There was always the hope that if we fixed it we wouldn't have to go out and find another one," the blue clad brother affirmed.
Raphael got up from his crouch and stretched. "Scavenging isn't so bad. I, for one, could go with a night long walk around the town."
"Scavenging isn't a walk on the town, dude, it's a walk in the junkyard." Mikey's face was taunting and excited all at the same time.
"Out of the house is out of the house." The red-clad terrapin reasoned, heading over to the closet to grab out a coat and a red knit hat.
"I just don't think we should go out tonight, guys," Leonardo protested, hanging back cautiously as Michelangelo donned his coat.
"Why?" Raphael was halfway out the door as he asked the question. His brows knit under his mask and he turned to the doorway where Master Splinter was watching this all with curiosity. "Master Splinter, is there any reason we can't go out tonight?"
The elder rat rocked on his heels a bit, pondering that question. "I would imagine that the bad weather we have had lately would keep most people at home. As long as you are careful, you may leave."
Raph smiled with an edge of victory and Leo slowly picked himself to his feet. "All right, guys, let's go." He rallied them up, figuring that if he had to go, he would at least take point. He slipped into the coat and pulled the blue knit hat over his head, before heading out the door. Lingering at the threshold, he could feel a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, as if some internal warning system was ringing. His breath hung in a fog just past his beak, which made him furrow his brow in distress. "It's unseasonably cold out here," he murmured to himself, running to catch up with his brothers.
Manhattan: New York City: April 23rd, 1985
"Get your butt in gear." Joanna Worthing rolled her eyes and tapped her foot impatiently as her little sister dawdled by a shop front. "You don't have any money, so why even look?"
The shorter girl turned and rolled her eyes. "I'm not shopping, I'm checking my lipstick." She had a light, exasperated tone that seemed to say 'get with the program, sis.'
The elder of the two gave a small huff and caught the teenager by the arm. "You're beautiful, Steph. Simply gorgeous. Come on."
"I'm not done!" the younger whined, touching her fingers gingerly to her light brown bangs which had been meticulously fluffed for maximum volume.
"Then stay. You can walk into the train station looking stunning five minutes after the train has left." Joanna let go of her sister's arm and turned, walking away.
Stephanie paused a few more seconds before she realized her escort meant business. She turned, waving her hands at the disappearing back. "Jo! Jo?! Wait up!"
The elder slowed just enough to make catching up easy on her little sister, running a hand through her short cropped curls as she walked. As they fell into pace with one another she sighed a little. She wished she hadn't given in to Steph's pleading, but there would be no concert without an escort, so 'older sister duties' were invoked. She gave another soft sigh before turning towards her sister. "So, who are we meeting at the station?"
"Oh, just Sara-Kay, and Ashlee and Radiata." The younger girl replied, stuffing her hands in her back pocket.
Jo nodded slightly at that, running the names through her memory. "Ok… wait. Radi-who-a?"
The younger girl huffed a little. "Radiata."
I didn't know you knew anyone by that name," Jo remarked evenly, knitting her brows.
"It's Rebecca's new nickname, duh." Steph rolled her eyes lightly, shaking her head.
"Why did she choose a name like that?"
A long, put upon sigh escaped the mouth of the younger girl. "Because she says that Rebecca is a boring name. Everybody has it, and she thinks that Becky sounds geeky. Radiata is much cooler."
Jo shook her head, her eyes drifting over to a newspaper stand. The front-page pictures showed the wreckage of a large airliner, Air India 182. The headlines read that no survivors were found. She felt her skin pull tightly against her cheeks and looked back towards Steph. The girl was humming the latest Michael Jackson tune, oblivious to it all. "I guess," was the only response she had for the names discussion.
When the two sisters arrived at the station, they found their three companions easily. Sarah-Kay and Rebecca (the girl refused to answer to the name when Jo greeted her with it, leaving the elder sister sighing as Step ran forward screaming 'Radi!') were having a heated argument about whether or not the Lexington line was haunted. The former had her hair dyed a remarkably false color of red, ripped jeans and a sweatshirt laboriously decorated with her mother's safety pins. The latter had long dark hair, brushed to a shine and a consistently bored expression.
Ashlee stood slightly in back, chewing an enormous wad of gum. She was a fair haired, sweet-faced child, with big doe eyes. The combination of the wide-eyed expression and the ever-present wad of gum always made Jo think of a cow chewing its cud. Still, when Stephanie ran up, all three girls broke out with bright smiling faces and greetings. They had a tendency to ignore Jo until she reminded them that she was, in fact, the woman with the tickets.
The small group boarded the train, the four younger girls hanging in back. They all stayed silent for several long minutes as crowds of people filed on and off the train. Sarah-Kay shoved her hands in her pockets and glared at their chaperone. She gave Stephanie a sideways glance. "Can't we ditch the escort?" she muttered.
Stephanie Worthing only shrugged, chewing her lip. Her general inclination was to agree, but she didn't want to push her luck so soon. "There'll be lotsa people at the concert. Let's do it there."
The other teen picked idly at the frayed edges of her sweatshirt. "It's embarrassing being seen with her."
Ashlee stopped chewing only long enough to breathe and speak. "Coulda been worse. It coulda been my Mom."
"Your Mom's a hose-bag," Radiata muttered, brushing a long thin chunk of hair back from her face. In the fading lights of the train she looked gothic and fragile, a faux finish created by enough makeup to make KISS blush.
Ashlee rolled her eyes, snapping her gum in irritation as Sarah-Kay pushed past. "Duh, that's what she just said. It would be worse."
The thin Goth curled her lip at her punk friend. "I'm not stupid, you know."
"I wonder sometimes." Sarah-Kay put her hands on her hips and walked towards the door to the cab. "Come on, the train's almost here. Time to get off."
Junkyard: New York City, September 8th, 2007
Michelangelo stood shifting his weight from one foot to the other, his hands stuffed underneath his armpits. A few feet away Raphael chuckled to himself, thinking that his brother looked very much like an odd, green version of a Cossack dancer. The younger turtle watched as Leonardo gently sifted through yet another pile of refuse. "Man, when did it get so cold outside?"
"Um… maybe since it became… fall? Don't know, but that's just a guess." Raph replied with a perfect deadpan. Sifting though a bin of random items, he pulled out a small appliance. "Hey look… a toaster!" He gave a sarcastic grin and tossed it over to Michelangelo.
Leo sighed. He wanted to rub his temples, but decided that he should wait until after he had the chance to wash his hands. "That's how many toasters total?"
The terrapin in the dashing orange hat dipped into the bag, rummaging as he counted. "Uh, seven, dude."
"Must have been a mass toaster changeover that we missed out on." Raph remarked, shrugging and going back to the search.
The eldest brother shook his head a little. "Seven toasters and no coffeepot. How fortunate."
"No coffeepot, and no anything else Donnie has on this list." Michelangelo groused lightly. "Do we have to carry all these toasters back?" He lightly hoped that with them leaving the brainiac behind he might get to dump at least a few of them off, but Leo's expression was firm.
"No, Mike. We need the heating elements in the toasters, and the wiring is useful." The blue clad brother sounded stern, almost academic as he went back to searching vainly for their desired appliance.
Behind him Raphael put a gloved hand to his mouth and spoke in an exaggerated stage whisper. "Actually Leo has this toaster fetish, and he plans on making all the toasters do an impressionistic grilled-bread version of "Swan Lake" in the kitchen." He grinned widely as his younger brother's eyes widened in an expression of '…really?' before both turtles doubled over with a wave of chuckles.
It was times like this that Leo wished that Donatello joined them on scavenging missions. But since their brother spent a good deal of his free time fixing and repairing all the household items, they had long since decided to cut him some slack and dismiss him from foraging missions unless he really needed to pick out a special part.
Instead the elder turtle slowly tuned out his brothers' joking. Something still unsettled him, and Mikey's awareness of the cold had brought it to the forefront of his mind again. For most of the walk Leo had thought it was just himself, perhaps he was coming down with a cold or just chilled. But he remembered hoisting himself out of the sewers, and feeling the day's heat radiate from the pavement. The air felt like something had literally sucked the warmth out of it.
"Oh, hey look at this!" Raphael's voice broke him from his reverie. "Just what we needed!" His eyes were sparkling as he held his prize out of sight.
Michelangelo turned, his teeth chattering. "A coffeepot?" he asked, all too eager to get home.
"Oh… yes… it's… another toaster!" Raph grinned as the youngest brother gave an audible groan, catching the toaster that came sailing through the air.
Leo sighed, looking up at the sky. It was getting late, and both his brothers were getting restless. Pretty soon they would have to head home, with or without their prize.
Lexington Avenue Line: New York City: April 23rd, 1985
"You just don't want to do it because you're a baby!" Sarah-Kay's tone was sharp and taunting, her finger pointing out at Steph like a javelin.
All four girls were crowded at the end of the empty train station, bored, listless and irritated. The night had not gone off as they'd planned; every little trick they had connived to make this concert a truly awesome party had been squelched. The bartender refused to believe Sarah-Kay's lie that they were of age, and didn't even fall for Steph's perfect smile as proof that they were 21 and just forgotten their IDs. Jo had caught up with them in the restroom, found them smoking and had proceeded to confiscate every cigarette she could find. Radiata thought she had lined up a ride with some college boys to a party afterwards, but they ditched her, leaving Jo running around the fairgrounds calling out every version of 'Rebecca' she could think of before they found her outside the convenience store a block away. By that point Steph's feet were aching from her high heeled shoes, Sarah-Kay was getting testy and Ashlee had run out of her favorite gum and had to settle for cracking open a pack of wintergreen. The whole ordeal had made them late at the train station and now they were stuck in the middle of the city with the subways closed for the night. Now Jo was off trying to decode the bus routes and find a pay phone, leaving the four teens saturated with ennui and itching to find some trouble.
Steph folded her arms across her chest with indignation. "I am not a baby. I'm just not stupid enough to go walking in the sewers just to find some ghost."
"Oooh, some ghost. I think she's calling you a liar." Radiata put in her two cents, fanning the fire.
"Oh yeah?" Sarah-Kay pushed back a spike of neon-red hair and thrust her padded bra forward. "Well guess what? I been hearin' those stories since I was a toddler. I know they're true. If you're callin' me a liar, you're also calling my entire family liars too."
Stephanie rolled her eyes a bit. "I'm not calling you a liar. I'm just saying that the old story of a immigrant girl and her brother committing suicide at this platform on the same day years apart may be creepy, but it doesn't make me want to, you know, go tromping around in dirty sewers."
Sarah-Kay pushed past her, heading for the access stairs that led away from the tracks. "So you're a baby."
"I never said that!" Steph stood there, her arms folded daintily across her chest as her two other friends flocked after their ringleader. "Guys, don't leave me alone here." She paced a bit, unwilling to believe her friends would do something as dangerous as to go wandering off in the sewers alone. Thirty seconds passed. A minute. Finally when no one returned and Jo still hadn't appeared, the tawny haired girl stuffed her hands in her pockets and went running down the stairs.
She blinked at the bottom, finding it much darker than she expected, and she brought a hand up to pinch her nose. She took a few tenuous steps forward, soon finding herself completely lost in the bleak wash of black. "Guys…?" She walked forward again, digging in her pockets for her smiley-face key chain, pressing the little red button on the back.
The happy little round ball lit up with a weak glow, just enough for Steph to see directly in front of her hand. In the darkness she could hear the scraping of feet, or maybe claws upon the stone. Off in the background she could hear the rush of the rain-swelled sewers trying to flush the spring floodwaters. This time when she spoke her voice was wavering. "…Guys…?"
"What's up, baby?" Sarah-Kay's sharp voice came up so suddenly behind her that Steph shrieked and nearly jumped directly out of her hip huggers. The older girl gave a wicked laugh as she flicked on a flashlight. "You scared?"
Steph bit her bottom lip. "No, I was looking for you."
"Well ya found me. Now what?" The young wanna-be punk held her flashlight so it illuminated the bottom of her face, giving her a distinctly devilish countenance.
Steph waffled for an answer for a few moments when Radiata's voice lilted across the echoing tunnel. "Why don't you guys come here and check this out?" The two held their face off for a few more seconds before Steph broke away.
"I'm going to go see what she found," she stated, putting one hand on her hip.
"Fine." The slightly older girl stood her ground, running a hand though her neon red hair, watching as Steph wove her way past the corner and towards the light of the second flashlight. In the darkness Sarah-Kay thought she could hear whispers. Whispers and other sounds: a far off blaring of a train horn, the muffled screams of a man, and the running of an underground river. She shook her head. She didn't believe in ghosts, and she certainly didn't want her friends to think she was scared. She stuffed one hand in her pocket and walked forward; to find all three of them huddled in a group around one of the walls. "What the hell are you guys doing?"
"Check it out." Radiata looked up and grinned at her, somewhat smarmily, waiting patiently for her friend to lean over, waving her flashlight enticingly, as if they had unearthed a great treasure. Steph leaned over and strained to see as Sarah-Kay raised her hands.
"OhmyGod, ew…" Steph started, her eyes widened before Sarah-Kay struck, lightly tickling her friend's sides. Stephanie let out a sharp high-pitched wail.
The three other girls doubled over in fits of giggles, as Steph shook, fighting to control her fear and anger. "You guys brought me down here to see a dead rat…?"
"Why not? It's the best entertainment we've had all night." Sarah Kay stuck her chin out as she frowned.
"Steph's got a point, a dead rat is pretty gross." Radiata folded her arms across her chest.
Sarah Kay was not about to be bested. "You're scared too! You wouldn't even watch movies with us on Halloween. You're just a big baby!"
"Not my fault you picked stupid movies…"
Stephanie turned away from both of them as the conversation devolved into an insult flinging match, kicking the dirt beneath her shoes. Rat scratches were visible in thick oily black dirt with tiny shards of white. Almost like bone.
Her head perked to one side. Far off, in the distance she could hear the blaring of a train horn, reverberating through the sewer. She frowned, and rubbed the tops of her arms, trying to ward against the chill that came over here. "Guys…" Her voice was plaintive and stopped the two girls in the middle of their insults just before they got to the point of hair pulling.
"What, Steph?" Sarah-Kay asked with considerable irritation, turning her flashlight towards the younger girl.
"I just think we should be getting back to the platform," Stephanie replied in the best no-nonsense tone she could muster. Sarah-Kay pushed her hair back from her forehead and looked like she was about to fling the second round of insults when the same ghostly horn reverberated through the sewers again, this time much louder and closer. It had an odd, rippling sensation to it, as if it wasn't passing through the bricks, but filtering through time.
All four girls turned to each other and the argument ceased. "Let's go," Sarah-Kay ordered, taking point, nearly dragging the others after her.
At the back, Radiata shivered as they made their way back towards the steps that led up to the platform. "Is it me, or it is unusually cold out tonight?"
"It'll be warmer on the platform, come on." Stephanie pulled her raven-haired friend forward, stopping as they rounded the corner. She blinked in the darkness and Radiata raised her flashlight as a woman started walking down the steps.
"Jo!" Steph waved her arms in the air, breathing a sigh of relief. "Jo, don't get mad, we're coming back." But the figure didn't respond. In the front of the group Sarah-Kay stopped in her tracks, her eyes growing round like a cat hissing in the night.
The figure stopped, standing at the bottom of the stairs like a guardian. Steph paused and froze like a statue, slowly understanding that this was not her sister. Her breath was raspy in her throat, fogging up as it came from her mouth in tiny puffs. The woman didn't say a word, grasping one of the railings to catch her balance. She had long, dark hair that fell over a loose dress that struck Steph as something out of a black and white movie, but there was a curious sense of billowing to the skirt, which made the dress look like the figure was constantly in a perpetual state of falling, the fabric flying up in wings behind her.
"We're sorry… we didn't mean to be trespassing…" Steph started, hoping the figure might let her pass.
Instead the woman looked up, her eyes fixing on Stephanie's. For the first time the teen could really focus on the details of the figure. The woman in front of her had no neck.
No neck, no ribcage, only tiny sinews holding porcelain chunks of flesh together. She could see bones, smashed, twisted and spattered with blood sticking up from her torso, but her head seemed to be levitating on its own, connected only by the thinnest filament of silver smoke. When she opened her mouth to speak, no words came out, only a long, thin trickle of blood.
Stephanie screamed; flinging herself backwards and yelling out the only word her brain could comprehend.