"June, she'll change her tune…"
Sewers: New York City, September 8th, 2007
Raphael bit back further cursing, feeling Master Splinter's gaze upon him. He took a stuttering breath that would have flunked him out of meditation class and shut his eyes. No matter how bad he was at meditating, it helped cut the pain that ranged from a dull frozen throb to the searing white-hot flare wherever Donatello pressed down the warm rag. It was an agonizing process, Don slowly warming small patches of skin and then bandaging the raw areas. Slowly the layer of frost that covered his right arm faded from a pale blue haze over his dark green skin, to a deep red wound edged with a purple-black bruise.
As the painkilling ointment Donatello was liberally applying kicked in, Raphael let out a foggy breath, closed his eyes and let his tense shoulders collapse against the couch cushions. His siblings gathered around him with worried glances watching their brother succumb to bone deep shivering.
"Michelangelo, please get more blankets." Master Splinter looked to his youngest son, who scampered off to gather what he could. The old rat came around to the front of the couch and knelt beside Raphael. "Tell me, my son, what happened?"
Another failing meditative breath, Raphael cracked his eyelids open and bit his bottom lip. "I… I don't know, really."
Splinter's voice was gentle, coaxing. "Can you describe what you remember?"
Both eyes opened and Raphael fixed his father with a stubborn gaze that barely concealed his wide-eyed look of fear. "It's crazy," he tried to brush it off in a low tone.
"What's crazy?" Michelangelo bounded back with a stack of blankets almost taller than he was.
"Are you going to bury me in those?" Raph quipped back weakly.
His younger brother bobbed his head towards Splinter. "Father's orders!"
Drawing his bandaged arm closer Raphael attempted a sarcastic groan, but it dribbled out more like a whimper. He confessed that he wouldn't mind another blanket. Shrinking under the new-found heat Raphael kept carefully silent, trying to gauge how well he could avoid explaining what had happened.
His father's paw on his shoulder told him that it wasn't going to be long. "Very little seems crazy to me anymore, my son. Please describe what happened."
Raph sighed, leaning into the touch on his shoulder like a lifeline. "I… I was having this dream. This crazy dream about some girl saying she was watching us for years and I snapped at her and told her off and she got mad and came after me, except she was…" He swallowed, wondering if he was trying to wash away the fear of recalling the nightmare or the fear of having his family think he was insane. "She was already dead. And that's when I woke up, slammed my head on the headboard and I thought it was just some stupid dream…" He trailed off, unable to finish.
"Go on, my son."
Heaving in a breath Raphael dropped his voice to barely a whisper. "It wasn't. Someone was there, the same girl. Pale… like a ghost. No, not like a ghost. She was a ghost. I swear she was a ghost. And she came after me and I attacked her and my sais went straight through her. But when she touched me it was like ice. And then she just giggled and vanished." He took a few more panting breaths and looked to his family. "I'm nutters, right?"
Donatello rocked on his feet. "I don't know. Hitting your head can do some strange things to a person, but I don't think it can create frostbite."
"Frostbite?" The eldest brother blinked, looking back at Raphael's arm. "In September?" Don's nod of confirmation was solid.
Mike juggled the blanket pile, setting them down beside Splinter and turning to his brothers. "Maybe someone wants to make us think there's a ghost?"
"Something that can get through walls?" Leonardo mulled this over. "Master Splinter, perhaps we should check the lair, to see if anyone could have gotten in."
"Or if anyone got something in. Technology can be remotely controlled." Don added, packing his supplies away.
Master Splinter gave a short nod as he wrapped his son in additional blankets to fend off the lingering cold that clung to his skin. "Yes, Leonardo. Take Michelangelo with you as you search." He settled down in the chair beside Raphael as his sons headed off, crafting a nest of blankets over the tattered cushion. As unusual as his son's tale was, it couldn't hurt to sleep out here tonight.
Clean. Every bit of the lair was checked and there were no traps or signs of intrusion. Despite the nagging tiredness from the midnight search, Leonardo had made sure to be thorough. He found Raphael's secret stash of magazines on loan from Casey, the ragged teddy bear he used to carry around as a small child stuffed in a box in a back corner where he felt no one would ever find it, even a cache of discount firecrackers back from when Michelangelo and Raphael used to room together. But they found no signs of entry, forced or otherwise. He sighed, with an admission that they weren't going to find anything.
Michelangelo stuck to his eldest brother's side throughout the search as if he had been pasted there. Every flicker of light, every tiny squeak prompted the sleep deprived teen to spook, usually pouncing on Leo's shoulders or sliding behind him before he peered out with wide blue eyes at the VCR or a dust ball or a stray spider.
Leonardo had had it.
"Mike." He started, grabbing his youngest brother's shoulders and gently pushing him down to sit on Raphael's bed. "Calm down. We don't know what's happened with Raphael yet, we're just looking to make sure we're all safe."
Michelangelo looked chagrined, his eyes casting to the floor with a faint pout. "I'm sorry." He started, sounding more exasperated than sorry, "I just…"
Leo's eyes creased with concern as he slowly sat beside his brother. "You just, what, Mike?"
"You remember in the sewers, when we were dragging the toasters back and I asked you to check and see if we were being followed?" He started, the words tumbling out in a fast stream.
A slow nod. "Yes. I figured with the tumble you took and the talk of ghost stories you were just spooked."
Mike bit his lower lip, his pale blue gaze piercing through Leonardo's fatigue. "I heard someone, Leo. Footsteps, and this weird sound like drops of water in a sink or slapping your knee with your hand or…" his eyes widened to the size of dinner plates as realization hit, "gum. Chewing gum."
His theatrics earned him a heavy look of confusion from his older brother. "Mikey, I don't think ghosts chew gum."
The orange clad brother winced slightly. "All I'm saying is I heard something. But I never saw anything and you never saw anything… and Raphael never saw anything either, but something came in after him, right?"
"Raphael thinks something came after him…"
"Leo, when does Raphael, the sarcastic hothead, willingly tangle with ice? Even if it's all in his head?" Mike shot back. Leonardo paused and blinked. His younger brother had a point.
"All right, so we'll keep alert. And if you hear anything else, tell me, ok?"
Michelangelo offered a light grin, "I hear something now…"
"That's Master Splinter snoring." Leonardo gave him a faint smile back. "Which we should all be doing."
"Right." He slowly rose from the bed, watching his older brother while a furrow formed across his brow. "Leo?"
"You don't think I'm crazy, do you?"
Leonardo indulged in a grin, "no more so than usual."
Sewers: New York City, September 9th, 2007
"How are ya feeling?" The voice was chipper. Way too chipper. Raphael stubbornly kept his eyes closed, pretending he hadn't heard. There was a muffled thump and he felt the cushions by his hip sag. Betting it was a certain brother's buttocks causing that sag he gave a faint groan. "Come on, I brought you breakfast…"
"Can I sleep in 'till lunch?" Raphael muttered, still not opening his eyes.
"It's quarter past one," a second voice called with a clinical tone.
Another groan, Raph pulled his eyelids apart, and took in a startled breath as he found Michelangelo looming over him with a tray full of pizza and cereal. Standing several paces away, Donatello has a bundles of bandages locked and loaded. "Oh. Hi guys. Did I miss morning training?" he asked casually. Too casually. Donatello eyed him silently as if wondering what his brother was trying to avoid thinking about.
"Master Splinter said we should leave you sleep. But we all slept in some. Even him!" Mike said cheerily, shifting blankets to make a proper nest for the tray of food.
"Great." Raphael shifted up to a sitting position, wincing as he put weight on his injured arm and finally accepting Mike's offered help. He rubbed his temples with his good hand. "Did anybody get the plate of the truck that hit me?"
"Truck? Last night you said it was a ghost." His younger brother plopped down in the chair beside him.
Raphael absorbed this for several seconds, his eyes going wide. "Ghost…" he repeated and followed it with a weak laugh. "Who believes in ghosts?" He sounded like he was trying to convince himself of something and failing miserably.
Donatello crouched down beside him, looking his brother over. "Well, you tangled with something last night. But I don't think trucks give you mild hypothermia and acute frostbite."
"It's not that cold out." Raph protested, shaking his head. He didn't want to think about last night, the lingering fear he might actually be crazy still hanging about his head like an ill omen. He decided to distract himself by nibbling on one of the slices of pizza Mike had brought, pointedly ignoring the fact that he wasn't really hungry.
"I know." Leave it to Donnie to make even the simplest deduction sound like a piece of scientific brilliance. "We're trying to see if any strange technology could have breached the lair."
"Strange technology," Raphael mulled it over. That explanation certainly sounded better than 'you're going crazy and being attacked by ghosts.' "You think so?"
Don gently pulled Raphael's injured arm to the side, changing the bandages. "I think it is a likely solution." He quieted, his fingers gently working the last of the old bandages off. The wound had swollen, raw red meeting the white areas of dead flesh ringed in dark purple. Raphael winced as the air met the damaged area. "Father took Leo to do another search of the lair, to make sure nothing will get in tonight."
Raph managed a thin nod, waiting as Donatello worked a layer of pain-killing salve over the wound and bandaged it again with a practiced hand. As the sharp pain faded into numbness, he found the words his brain had been fishing for. "I don't suppose they found anything yet?"
"Not yet." Don started cleaning up, casting a gaze back at his brother, "but they're careful."
Raphael nodded. "I suppose they are." He fell into silence, staring off towards the back halls as Donatello gave Michelangelo strict instructions to make sure Raphael ate the majority of his breakfast. The brainiac even went so far as to give Mike permission to annoy the heck out of his patient if he refused to eat, which only prompted a look of utter glee from the younger turtle. Raphael groaned inwardly, deciding they were both enjoying this too much.
So he ate, picking at his food while Mike chattered on about comics and training and the strange things you find in the bottom of cereal boxes, how he found a toad in the back hall where they kept the coats for going topside and that low confession he believed in ghosts.
Raphael turned, staring at his brother with an expression that plainly said you could have knocked him over with a feather had he not already been reclining on a couch on strict doctor's order's to stay put. "You… what?"
"I believe you, Raph. About the ghosts and everything."
Oh no, there was not a tone of seriousness in his voice. There couldn't be. But oh, there was. There most certainly was. A low frightened tone that struck a chord with the gnawing pit of worry building in Raph's stomach. "I don't even believe myself…" He started.
"No, Raph. I heard something last night. After I found that finger bone I heard something following us, but I never saw it. Leo never even saw it, even though I tried to tell him. I swear something followed us, though…" Michelanegelo's voice had tight tone of tension in it that gave the young turtle's plea a stabbing severity.
"Mike…" Raphael started as gently as he could muster, "I think we all spooked ourselves out with all the talk of ghosts and whistling and whatever you found. I don't think it was a finger bone."
"It was!" The younger protested.
Raphael fixed him with the 'serious older brother' expression. "Mike, I admit it, I was spooked. But it's over, Master Splinter and Leo will find the problem and we'll all be fine."
Michelangelo bit his lower lip, watching Raphael's gaze for any signs of falsehood. Slowly his worry faded. "You sure?"
"I'm sure." Raphael gave a nod, finishing the last of his breakfast and nudging the tray towards his brother. "Thanks, the pizza's good." He even worked up a smile as Mike headed back towards the kitchen and he sank back into the cushions of the couch.
As soon as Mike has disappeared Raphael indulged in another inward groan. He felt sick. Sick, unsure and decidedly more spooked than before.
Sewers: New York City, April 23rd, 1985
"Where are they?" Radiata's voice escaped her lips in a soft whining tone, her flashlight cutting a morose little path through the black underground hallways. She wrapped slender fingers around the amulet and shoved her hands underneath her armpits, fending off a case of the shivers. "Why did they have to get freaked out and run?"
Radi's breath died in the back of her throat as she froze in place. Finally, as her heart slowed back down she started to coax words from her mouth, her voice making a croaking sound. "Who are you?"
The voice had a smooth, attractive slightly foreign quality to it; a fine male tenor. "Why, my dear child… I'm a ghost."
"No you're not." The teen momentarily forgot her fear and put her hands on her hips. "You're probably just some creepy construction worker trying to scare me."
"Suit yourself," the voice chuckled back lightly.
Radiata frowned into the bleak corridor and started swinging her flashlight about. "Why can't I see you?"
"Because you're not looking in the right places." The voice came from beside her, but when she turned towards it, all she saw were shadows.
The young girl's voice was brash and impudent, hiding the fear that was returning. "That's not funny."
Again the chuckle slid through the darkness, this time behind her. "I find it rather amusing actually."
"I don't." She spun around, and this time her flashlight caught the figure before it moved. She blinked, catching only part of the features. Wearing an old fashioned suit, with wavy dark hair and a thin frame, he hardly looked like your average construction worker. She furrowed her brows, and turned to make sure there weren't more of them. When she looked back he was gone.
She pressed her lips together into a thin, firm pink line. Heat flared into her cheeks and she stamped a foot on the stone floor. "Stop that! It's not funny!"
"Sure it is." Again the voice was behind her, and as she turned, she caught the figure in her flashlight beam again. "The question isn't whether it's funny, but who it is funny for."
The teen pursed her lips, putting her free hand on her hips. "It isn't funny for me!" she whined. Sucking in a breath, she turned about again, raising the flashlight. Again, all it met was the blackness of the sewer tunnel. Radiata frowned heavily, shaking her head. "I hate this game."
She had just started to walk off, her legs shaking both from cold and fear, when the voice came back, plaintive and almost pleading. "Don't go…"
"Come on. You play with me, insult me and now you don't want me to leave. That's bull." She snapped back, flicking the flashlight around. To her surprise the man was standing there, watching her with wide eyes from the darkness. She could feel her fingers clench the flashlight a little tighter.
"Bull?" He queried lightly. "No matter. You are chosen."
Radiata screwed up her face to one side in a half snarl. "Chosen? That's just cheesy. Cheesy and stupid. I'm going home."
"You can't." He tossed the words so nonchalantly that she froze in place, swiveling halfway between looking at him and walking away. He gave a small smile as his response, stepping forward more into the light. Slowly Radi felt her jaw drop, imitating a deer in headlights as the ragged beam from the plastic torch finally illuminated the whole of his face.
The old fashioned suit was torn and ragged in the middle, soaked in blood all down the right shoulder. Powder burns still coated the lapels, all leading up to the top right side of his head where the skull had been blasted off, dried blood still draining down the preserved remnants of his ear and past an unmarred cheek. The wound itself was ringed in blood that still looked fresh and wet, but the interior was a deep black void.
"You… you're hurt…" the words straggled out of the young girl's mouth like worms coming to the surface after a rainfall.
He shook his head calmly. "I'm not hurt. I'm dead."
"You can't be." Her voice was barely more than a whisper.
He perked a thin brow at her, and gave a light ringing laugh. "I already told you child, I'm a ghost."
Radiata could feel all the warmth draining from her face, like water from a tub. "What do you want from me?"
"I don't want anything. I simply do as my sister asks." The man gave a soft smile, taking a faint step forward.
"Your sister?" The words shot out of her mouth before a realization crept in, remembering the hovering white lady frozen in death. "What does your sister want?"
"What she could never have in life. Companionship. Children."
The teen felt her blood run cold, breath coming out in steaming puffs. Slowly, behind the man's spectre she could make out a face… no, two faces. She let out a faint whimper, feeling a lump form in the back of her throat… she knew those faces.
"Sarah-Kay? Ashlee?" The faint outlines of the girls screamed and clawed at thin air, as if fighting their own deaths. Radiata sucked a mouthful of stale air into her lungs before she looked up and screamed, "what have you done with them?!"
"I haven't done anything." The man replied evenly. "But she… she has made them immortal."
The young girl looked up, tears starting to well in her eyes. "Go away! Leave me alone!" she yelled, backing up. Clenching a fist around her flashlight, she tried to slam it into the ghost-man's chest, but her hand simply passed through feeling like she had tried to fight a frozen cloud.
"Why? Isn't this what you always wanted?" The man flickered and rematerialized directly by her side. His deathly pale hand brushed her cheek, with the sensation of a cold breeze across the skin. "A gothic tragedy, yours for the taking."
"I want my friends back," her lower lip was trembling.
The ghost ran an insubstantial hand across her cheek again, before willing his flesh to solidify. With an iron grip, he clasped her arm, pulling her chin to face his. "I'll do one better. I can take you to meet them." He dipped his head to hers, locking her lips in a kiss as she tried to strangle out a scream. Radiata's hands clawed against his arms, trying to find purchase to tear herself away.
Cold pushed down past her lips, and into her mouth. Sinking down into her throat, she could feel her breath freeze in her lungs. Her eyes grew wide, unable to push away as the cold stretched out into her chest. Her heart felt like it would shatter with every beat as the cold stretched into her arms and legs. Her struggles grew weak as her blood started to freeze within her veins and the cold surrounded her.
Her body hit the ground with a solid clang, crystals of ice scattering away from the corpse as the ghost who held it dissipated back into the mist.
Sewers: New York City, September 9th, 2007
The imprints of keyboard keys against his forehead stung ever so slightly as Donatello realized he had fallen asleep at his computer. The scent of stale coffee and the sweat of training mingled with the damp moldy scent of the walls to make it a most unpleasant wake up call. Running his tongue across scummy teeth, Donatello decided what he really needed to think this through was a shower, a toothbrush, and another cup of coffee. Crap, the coffee pot was broken. He sighed and decided Master Splinter's tea would have to suffice.
He was halfway out of his chair when he heard the voice, no more than a whisper. He turned around to survey the room in the shadows of his monitor light. Nothing. Pushing it out of his mind as jumpiness after what happened to his brother, he grabbed his coffee mug and rose.
"Please don't go…"
Don's head snapped towards the monitor, he caught it, if only a glimpse. A face, the face of a young girl trapped just behind his monitor. The faint image was super-imposed over tabs of Wikipedia and medical journals on head injuries and frostbite. Don blinked and rubbed his eyes in disbelief, and the next time he looked she was gone. "Raphael has me spooked now" he muttered, really wishing he could wash the nagging feeling of being watched away with some fresh coffee.
"I said don't go."
This time the voice was pointed and audible beyond the faint whisper of his imagination prompting Donatello to whirl and grip the monitor with both hands, growling at the glowing screen "who are you and what are you doing with my computer?"
Edgy, Don looked behind his shoulders, equally relieved to see no intruders and none of his brothers there to laugh at him for yelling at his monitor as if it was out to get him. "I really need some coffee…" the words were pushed through clenched teeth as the researcher forced his muscles to relax. Tea would have to suffice; at the very least the caffeine would put his nerves to ease. Picking up the cup he dropped in his fury at the monitor phantom, he headed for the door.
"I meant don't go."
The white-rimmed form of a teenage girl with jet black hair and pale white skin that appeared permanently frozen stood in the doorway, highlighted by the monitor glow. Donatello leapt backwards, his hands flailing for his bo staff as the coffee cup shattered against the floor. A moment's regret - that was always his favorite mug - was soon pushed away by his ninjitsu-honed survival instinct as a wave of radiating cold rushed towards him. He dropped to one knee and rolled out of the way, coming cleanly up and to the side of the bossy apparition. The back end of his bo tucked into his side while the front end snapped forward, striking the ghastly white figure square in the chest.
And it moved directly through her.
Donatello ground his teeth together and leapt back, using his staff as a shield as she reached out for him. Her fingers struck the middle of the staff, a rime of frost spreading out where she touched. He could feel the unearthly cold seeping through the wood, into his fingers and he twisted the staff to one side, pushing her extended arm into her side. With a cry she released him, floating back towards the wall. Don skidded back, flicking his staff out for a second strike. Again it passed through her faint form, striking the file cabinet in the corner of the room. There was a brittle crack and Donatello stumbled to keep his balance as his hands went awry and his staff snapped in half like a bitten toothpick.
Warily eying the goth ghost, Don took a moment to inspect the break area. His staff had never broken on him like this, no splinters just a jagged edge like broken glass. As if the middle of the staff had been dipped in liquid nitrogen. The young girl smiled viciously at him.
Taking the defensive, the young turtle ran through his mind what that sort of cold would do to flesh and Raphael's sickening raw red wound jumped to mind. "What do you want from us?" he asked, buying some time to make it to the door.
Radiata smiled sweetly, folding her hands in front of her. "Only to love you. We have been so lonely down here all alone."
"I don't think freezing someone to death is a great definition of love." Don failed to keep the shock off his face.
"But after you die, we can spend forever together." Her voice was silky and pleading.
The purple turtle's jaw slowly loosened as he gaped at her in an expression that clearly asked 'who said I wanted to spend forever with you?' The goth girl was not to be dismissed that easily. She took a step forward, herding her chosen turtle back towards the computer and folding her arms across her chest. "We have so much in common, Dontaello. We're both teenagers, we're both stuck in the sewers. I always loved computers and pizza and I even got an A in Chemistry."
"Lots of people have that in common!" Don tossed back in an exasperated breath. "Well, except for the living in the sewers part, but a list of random co-incidences does not make people fated to spend the rest of their deaths… I mean lives together!"
"I dyed my hair purple, I am chosen for you!" she shrieked back, throwing her hands in the air in her fervor. It gave Donatello just enough time to dodge past her frozen form and dash to the door, bee-lining towards the main room.
Donatello burst into the living room holding two halves of a bo staff and an expression that would have curdled milk by looking at it. It was only Michelangelo's canny warning that prevented his older brother from tripping over his skateboard taking a header into the couch and sandwich a sleeping Raphael. And nobody likes to wake Raphael.
"What's up, bro…" Mike asked cautiously, setting down the remote and tearing himself away from late night cartoons.
"Raphael, I believe your story. I believe every word of it. I'm sorry." The words tumbled out of Don's mouth in a fast stream as he stared towards the back room. Nothing followed him. No cold breeze, no form, nothing. He slowly sunk down into a chair and gave a sigh.
Raphael blinked sleep from his eyes and drew himself up to an awkward sitting position, peering at Don curiously. "What happened? And why are you sorry?"
Shoulders still tense, Donatello looked warily about before speaking, "When I first examined you and you said you hit your head, I started looking for psychosomatic reasons – or if there was anything in your room you might have bumped."
"You did think it was all in my head!"
Don cut the protest off with a raised hand. "But I couldn't find any cases of spontaneous frostbite. So I started just research frostbite, and while I did I heard this voice…"
"Gum chewing?" Mike squeaked.
"No, just female. This strange teenage girl professed her love and tried to freeze me to death." Donatello gauged his brothers reactions in an almost clinical manner, watching as two pairs of shocked eyes fixed on him. They were rattled. He sighed and started again, "I'm not convinced about ghosts. I still think it's more likely that our enemies have found some way to create a ghost-like projection with a weapon that uses super-cooled gases. But I am convinced it is real and dangerous."
Raphael rolled his eyes. "Well that makes me feel better."
As thunder rolled across the city, Michelangelo tried to blot the worry from his mind. With Donatello's confirmation the brothers had gone back into full paranoia mode, despite not finding a trace of the intruder beyond Don's shattered staff.
Raphael had been quick to note that they, by and large, left stories of ghosts and boogeymen behind when they were eight. Mike had stifled a giggle listening to his older brother's 'tough' voice, more so when Donatello recommended Raphael head back to his room and the red clad turtle protested on grounds of his injury. They had both nodded to one another, that unspoken agreement: all three of them were spooked, even if nobody wanted to admit it.
It left them restlessly bunked out in the living room. Donatello was lightly snoring amidst a pile of research, Raphael on the couch, Leonardo off speaking in quiet tones with Master Splinter in the kitchen. Michelangelo listlessly flicked to another channel, the television tuned just loud enough to drown out the hammering of raindrops on the streets above but low enough to hear if anyone was coming. He didn't actually care what was on anymore, the simple flashes of color and light were as comforting as an old blanket.
Slowly he started to drift off, lulled to sleep by exhaustion and the gentle rhythm of his brother's snoring when his head snapped up. Was that gum snapping? Did he hear it again?
"It's only the rain." He murmured to himself, checking behind his shoulders once again, comforted to only see the silhouettes of his father and brother in the kitchen and the gently sounds of their late night talk. "Only the rain."
As he drifted off to sleep the pale ghost peered out from the shadows, the soft smack of gum fading into the sounds of the night.