Description: Leo encounters a demigod and a detour as he journeys East, and, in the darkness of an interminable cave, encounters the consequences of brotherly inaction. A fic for Winny.
Author's Note: This fic is inspired by the new album by Enigma, the Flobots album, and a bunny Winny told me about that I hope she someday writes. In any case, I meant for this fic to sort of presuppose it, though it can easily be set in her verse or mine. Also part of a contest made by Kismet at TT. Enjoy.
Disclaimer: If I owned these turtles, I would not be whoring myself for fellowships.
The Same Parents
We all have the same parents. Somewhere, many years ago. So why, Leonardo, do we harm one another? Why do we not clothe and feed our brothers? Answer this question, and you shall proceed to the next task.
I've been wandering this hallway, this non-Euclidean space, for ages with those words echoing in my mind. Morgana set me loose in these caves as I traveled Eastward toward the coast of Scotland for the next plane, the next barge, that would take me to another lesson on the five-pointed flower of my journey. In the darkness the walls are talking to me. I stopped using the light except to write. I don't know anymore who I'm writing to. The letters to home grow heavy in my bag.
Why do people hunger?
The walls themselves speak now with Morgana's strange and otherworldly voice. Her hair was white and her face younger than April's; in a purely Buddhist fashion I suppose I don't understand. Is she death? Shi no shiroi iroiro no you na… Why am I writing this? Roman letters cannot catch the cadence of these othered thoughts, and the walls cannot read the words that I carve. My impression will leave nothing of gravity behind. These are Scottish caverns, deep beneath the city of Edinburgh, catacombs deeper and colder than the modern subways of New York. I feel I'm walking into the bowels of the planet, something beyond the work of man. The glittering light of gaseous pockets and unknown substances that slither along the rock gutting tells me that the work of creation, the tectonic labor that continuously births and swallows the contours of the Earth, is nearby. Some unholy heat calls to me from deeper down. Born from eggs, I fear this mammalian shuddering, this suffocation, the nearness of this alien mother. Will it lie atop and smother me?
The pressure rises. I want to scream.
Did we not have one mother, one father?
We did not have one mother and one father. Morgana talks about mankind—they had one mother and one father, sometime, centuries ago, and still I've watched them fire heedlessly and rip the flesh from one another, board ships with their nieces and nephews and sell them into slavery. Brothers rape their sisters, fathers molest their sons, and surnames hold the excuse. Brotherhood is meaningless out here, in their world.
There's only one world.
That world, and the world of dreams.
Too much time in the darkness, and I begin to see them, other people in the blackness with me, the palpable inky shadows that press against my eyeballs. I see them running along the corridors in front of me, disappearing around corners, and they remain even when I close my eyes. They are small, shorter than myself, and at my feet I feel strange currents of lilting, sucking cold, the tendrils of a stream passing around my ankles. I am in a dark, carnivalesque version of my home sewers. With a shudder, I must stop, and feel the ground with my fingers, to discover that what my ankles and feet feel, my hands cannot. There is only air and darkness below me, and the jutting, smoothed contours of rocky outposts, leading down into the caverns of my heart.
Answer this question, and you shall proceed to the next task.
Morgana left the words with me as she sealed her mouth of the cave, sending me forward into that terrible black. I read it over and over, puzzling over its English syllables, one of my native tongues, and though I knew every word, I could not see how my understanding of the roots of mankind would get me out of this cave. She left me at the surface, and does not follow me here; this journey is leading down, down, down, into a spiral toward the center of the earth. I read it again after a day, and the note made no sense. It makes still less as the heat down at the molten core draws nearer. My own cool blood is the alien here; I can feel the rejection of the world that declared my kind unfit for the surface, except as small pests and lazy sun-drinkers.
Perhaps it is only my own voice; I have to place a hand on my face to see if my mouth is moving—to see if my mouth is still there. Perhaps I am nothing but wandering eyeballs in the dark. Perhaps I am dead.
My mind seems determined to foil this thought, and I see the little figures disappearing around corners again. A white mist replaces the black, ambient light, through which I can see very little, except that it seems to be snowing without source, from a ceiling that isn't there. My feet or the floating sentience of my eyeballs carries me further forward, and I see him through the mist—a young turtle. Is it me? No—I can see the eyes. Gray as a February morning, as seawater reflecting a sunless sky.
The lights go out again; I feel the world rocking, flickers of manmade bulbs, showing me the inside of a subway car. I am alone, but the mist continues to seep from a place deep beneath me, from the bowels of a manufactured earth, from tunnels paved in concrete. Underground, where the dark desires of mankind seep as a slop of excrement and condoms. A strange smell, something from my brother's lab—isopropyl alcohol. The scream of brakes, the squeal beneath me of something outside my feeble control. Sepia tones overtake my vision, and the spinning of an umbrella heralds the darkness.
Why is there war? We have the same parents. Answer me this, and you may leave.
Was it the note, or are the walls speaking to me once more?
My eyes are streaming, and I do not know why; coughing, I run at a heedless pace for an unknown amount of time, screaming, and hearing the cavern echo my screams back to me. When I am exhausted, I stop. The screams echo back and grow further and further away, petering out into a little whimper of loneliness.
Why cannot we feel what others feel? I am sending you into the nightmare of another.
I have never faced things of this caliber, and I cannot determine what it is I am meant to learn from the experience. I am not accustomed to it; this, this bottomless failure, never drawing to the close of it… That is one thing I can say I have never done before. Maybe I need it. Am I done yet? But no. The darkness only presses closer, like an insistent lover. The air grows warmer, enveloping me, and I long to shrug it off.
A TV news reporter is speaking to me from the long corridors, and I long to listen to it, but another voice is insisting on asking me questions, a gnat buzzing around my ears.
"Isn't that insane? Have you ever heard of something like that before? Do you know how similar it is to insecticides? I mean, I could make it myself. How crazy is that? Leo?"
The words spring to my mouth because they have come there before, like a memory of vomitus.
I can see it then—a small, fuzzy white box, floating about in the pressing darkness—confused faces, people on stretchers, and Donatello's little figure suddenly opening the box, before the sweep of a dark umbrella forecloses on my vision once again. Discordant instruments scream from the blackness. When he opened the box, it was empty, but I still I see the odd white mist as it sweeps up from its confines. It surrounds me in the underground, and my lungs feel strangely tight.
White noise, then silence in the mist.
We all have the same parents.
If they were all born from this interminable rock, then I can see the truth in it. But how does it signify? This rock is only a mother, after all. What piece of sky and spiritus dared to stir this cauldron and pull from it the stirrings of life, and how would that signify? It has nothing to do with me.
It has nothing to do with me.
"I wonder what kind of people they were?"
"Oh, rocket scientists, doctors, lawyers, scientists. Trying to upset the Japanese government. Hey, Leo? What does Shinrikyo mean?"
"The ultimate truth. They were trying to purify the world."
From underground. The mist grows stronger, and the rock that rejected me swells up towards mankind. Throw the baby out with the bathwater. I can sit and watch, like that young boy on a couch, catching a glimpse of the end of the world. Purifying. I am Buddhist; I can understand.
"I told you, that's not what they were doing."
"You weren't watching hard enough."
"I can tell you what kind of people they were, Leo."
"You already told me, Don."
"I dunno. Maybe their brothers ignored them."
I am surrounded on all sides by the crush of people, and for the first time in my life I am in close contact with innumerable people and they do not stare, nor notice, my presence among them. I am a face, anonymous, Joe McHuman, a number in a crowd, a wandering set of eyeballs. Their hair is all alike, coarse and long or short, dark or bleached. I can see my mother's nose in the woman in front of him, my sister's jaw line in the schoolgirl reading a textbook on the seat beside me. When I drop the packet of newspaper to the ground, I cannot help but look at it. What precious irony. Death wrapped in exclamation marks, excited advertisements for products no one needs, and trivial news about people no one cares about. Buy your soul! As if any company would carry one in my size.
The people ignore me as the packet drops, and as I leave on the next stop, I jab it with the end of my umbrella, as though it were ninjaken stabbing a fallen foe—one, two, three times. One for the manifest, two for the dharma, three for my karma, and leave to face the pain. Already I feel the white mist snaking up my leg. I cannot touch the taint without leaving some corruption on myself.
I shake my head to clear it, hearing the cacophony of instruments invading my eardrums. Why am I seeing this, here in remote caves under the city of Edinburgh? They have nothing to do with these events—this place, now, so many years and miles later, from so far away.
The same mother, the same father. Why do we not clothe our brothers, feed our sisters? Why do we not offer them a helping hand?
Through the mist I see my brother now, a figure in sepia tones, carrying a box wrapped in newspaper. He is grown now, far older than myself, and I feel dwarfed suddenly. His eyes find me, but do not see what I'm going through. He is immune to me, but I suddenly know that I am not immune to what he holds in his arms.
I don't understand. Is this what he could become? My gentle brother, inquisitive eyes deadened. Perhaps this is only what I could become, as my thoughts of purifying the world seize me and drift over my mind.
"Leo—what do you say when you meditate again?"
"Om," I whisper. I see it in katakana suddenly. It struggles to translate, a million meanings and none at all—a symbol in an alphabet, the Aleph, the Alpha, the A, Ay, Ah, symbols I cannot enumerate.
The ultimate truth.
Then his eyes are gray and young again, no longer deadened, and the box he's carrying is only a crate of tools, after all. He pitches forward, falls at my feet, and someone beyond him laughs but doesn't help him up.
I don't understand.
A Holocaust lies in the box that pitches forward, screwdrivers and hammers and materials, a tiny can of insecticide. He gathers it all up, not seeing me there, standing in the mist as it flows up at me, from underground. Even as I begin to choke, he continues gathering, eyes intent. I hear screams within the box.
But my eyeballs must drift onward.
The pressure rises. I want to scream, but my mouth is filled to brimming with thick, voluminous humidity, and the water once drifting cold around my ankles has risen, though my fingers cannot feel it. I realize blearily that the darkness is pressing on me harder.
Somewhere, many years ago.
Morgana has sent me on this journey already—somewhere once, she set my soul on a boat, and left me adrift on a small red river in the mouth of this cave. The boat seemed to be made of paper. She bid me live long and well with a kiss that seared hot on my brow, a touch of life, a spark that caused me to happen, suddenly, like a rupture from underground. Man cannot replicate it. Neither can Donatello.
I hear the laughter of boys at the same time as I see the red glow, and feel my brother's eyes on me, watching as I traverse the years of my life.
"Maybe their brothers ignored them."
I see the many eyes averted on the train, and hear the clum-click of heeled shoes on a street above me, passing by as I live below, in another world. Among and without, in both cases, alone. I realize I am seeing these things with gray eyes, as though I am looking at them again, drifting through the white mist in the black darkness. Those eyes, in that gray place. Sirens call me forward, alarm klaxons and women's voices.
In the spark of the earth, in the red chamber, I see the emergence of something new, something of the future. I see my brother ensconced in silence, a being floating along a red river; in a sudden blackness, I hear a noise; like a doctor at the birth of a baby, I understand that when my brother screams, it means he is alive. But as I gaze at this being, I must know that he is something else entirely; he is fully grown, and lines of cruelty trace around his mouth and eyes. Objects appear in his hands—detonators, microphones, vials, electrodes, packets of newspaper.
Why can't you feel their pain?
This is not Donatello as he his now, but what he may become. He exists in several frames of a broken stained glass window, silent and staring. His eyes are cold marble.
The pressure is rising. I want to scream.
"What's it called again?"
"Sarin. Want me to tell you what it is? Leo?"
"It's amazing. More people could have died, but they messed it up when they mixed in too much isopropyl alcohol. They botched it. Idiots. Even I know that's a dumb mistake. People could smell it."
But could they see it? Could darkness be seen?
We all come from the same parents.
I just don't understand.
The words are on my tongue when I awaken to the sun filling my eyelids with a hot red color, showing me my blood through the thin layer. I am alone, but I am out.
"Apparently you do understand."
I cannot see Morgana on the grassy hill, but I can hear her, echoing from the rocks. Perhaps there is not so great a difference between the bowels of a corridor beneath Edinburgh and a Tokyo subway, this time and place and a seemingly normal day in 1995, between now and a time with Don and I, the eldest, were allowed to stay up late and hear the news about a terrorist attack, on an April night those many years ago. A little befuddled I have reemerged from the underground into the light, still sepia-toned from the taint I experienced alone. There is no escaping the white mist in the world; we are all implicated. I begin to understand that there is no Morgana, and as I look back, the rocks and the cave too are gone. Again, I open my eyes. There is only grass and sun, the interminable march of light to dark and dark to light.
We all come from the underground, slithering on amoeba legs, miniscule and faceless from the rocks and red waters. We ignore our brothers; it has nothing to do with us. I feel the weight of my letters and let them go into the breeze. Perhaps it is a kind of despair, seeing the hardened face of my future brother. I need to see him, but I do not know the path he will take, nor how to save him. There is only one world.
Perhaps it was all a dream.