Disclaimer: Naruto (and Jurassic Park) belong to their respective owners! I'm making no material profits here.
Notes: This was written for a challenge and I was so pleased with the end result that I decided to post it here, even though it's a self-insertion fic and it's bound to draw out some anti-Mary Sure fanatics... Please take it for what it is, and if you'd be so kind, let me know what you thought at the end! I love getting criticism. I learn so much through your opinions. ^^
Original challenge: The main character of the story is you. Yes that means you, the person reading this! And an accurate portrayal too. Put yourself in a situation where either you a) are somehow traveling to a fandom world of your choice or b) have something/someone from that fandom world come to you in this world. The how and why the above is happening must be expanded and must make logical sense. (Someone cannot just 'randomly' show up out of no where for no reason. Use the fandom to help, ex: Harry Potter is all about magic, so maybe a spell went wrong and it magically transported them to another world.) The plot must center around how you would make sense of what is happening and the interactions, etc. that go with that. The story cannot be written as a journal or monologue and must feature at least one other major character who is from whatever fandom you choose.
Waterfall by Night
It had been some time since the last car had passed by on that street. All the windows had already gone dark except for one. There, inside a small bedroom, a deluge of angry keystrokes kept the quiet of night from settling in like the workings of a giant, frustrated elephant.
A brown tabby, curled on top of the unmade bed, lifted her head to inspect the disturbance. Not finding anything out of the ordinary under the light of the single lit lamp, though, she eased back down to sleep. Her owner-slash-mother was just up to her usual midnight thing.
"Ghhurrgh... where did I see it before?" the only other occupant moaned from her seat at the desk. Pushing up the glasses that had slid down her nose while she had been reading, Jo closed the browser window taking up the computer screen and proceeded to open a new one.
A fresh start was in order and a quick look at her current background picture would do wonders to clear her head and remind herself of why she did not mind losing shut-eye over this bothersome, self-appointed task.
Writing fanfiction was not easy, she reminded herself. As if it were not hard enough to find the right words to transcribe her thoughts on paper and keep track of a large cast of characters hell-bent on daring each other to go on unpredictable tangents and side-stories (not that it wasn't amusing to watch, but the merits of installing some mental ticket-picking waiting line system on that area of her imagination were getting ever more attractive), apparently all the research material that she had been counting on to write the night's chapter had up and vanished without a trace.
"Where... where... where..." she muttered as she surfed through search result after search result, each as helpful - or rather, not - as the last. "That picture shouldn't be this hard to find..."
Eventually, Jo called it quits. It was getting harder to focus on what she was reading and, as she happened to gaze at the wall in front of her, covered in taped annotations and magazine clippings, she realised that her vision was starting to emulate the blinking lights of the computer screen. She had not even gotten any writing done yet and the time she had allotted for the night was running out.
With one final great sigh (not yawn), she closed the lid on her laptop - "that was a nice waste of time..." - and turned to the (still flickering) notebook occupying the other half of the wooden tabletop. The cap of the pen she picked up came off with a "pop!" and Jo figured that that was as good a place to start as any.
The blond dropped to a crouch behind a rock as he heard a snap somewhere to his left. Earth was his natural element, the one he felt most comfortable about, and a childhood of hiking through the steep mountains cradling his home village while learning the ways of the ninja ensured that the wilderness held no mysteries to him. Right now, the very earth under his feet was telling him that the source of the sound had only been a small animal, probably fleeing as the vibrations on the ground warned it of his own approach. It was of no consequence to the mission he had been charged with. Relaxing out of the state of sudden alert, Minato took the time to study the foreign landscape before him. Beyond the cliff
Earth was his natural element, the one he felt most comfortable about, and a childhood of hiking through the steep mountains cradling his home village while learning the ways of the ninja ensured that the wilderness held no mysteries to him. Right now, the very earth under his feet was telling him that the source of the sound had only been a small animal, probably fleeing as the vibrations on the ground warned it of his own approach. It was of no consequence to the mission he had been charged with.
Relaxing out of the state of sudden alert, Minato took the time to study the foreign landscape before him. Beyond the cliff
"And this is where that research would come in handy," Jo snidely remarked at the powers-that-be. "So: what does that place look like...?"
Waterfall village: the location she had chosen for the main turning point of her story. It was perfect for what she had planned: neutral to all parties and relatively isolated yet close enough that she could wreak as much havoc as she wanted and no one would interrupt. It would be hard to find some other setting that worked as well. If only there was a picture of what it looked like...
But there wasn't, and Jo would have to roll up her sleeves fast before her blond decided that the small animal he had crossed paths with was not an animal at all and ran off in chase of some other plot bunny.
"Best not think about it," she cut herself off.
Jo pondered whether she wanted this elusive village to be high up in the clouds or way down in a secure little crevasse complete with a giant waterfall just like the one from Zimbabwe currently taped to her wall. Meanwhile, her hand kept itself busy by doodling on the corner of the page. It drew an eye, an eyebrow, and then added a second pair to mirror the first. Two dots for a nose and a one-line mouth followed, and soon a full bust representing her main character had emerged.
"Yes, yes, I know you're awesome and all that, but hang on a second," she told the disproportionate sketch with a fond smile.
A huge yawn kept her from resuming her internal debate for a moment, and she had to admit as she leaned back on the chair that her hand had the right idea. Coming up with sceneries could be so boring. She would much rather be thinking about that dashing blue-eyed blond.
It was a mystery to her what those eyes would look like in a live face, so open yet unreadable, because Jo had never seen anything like them in the real world. Maybe it was because the character they belonged to was such an unknown himself. He could be anyone, anything, good or bad, with the exception of two constants that were intrinsically his: a deep sense of loyalty and strength of heart. Those two qualities would draw Jo to him like a magnet even if he were the most despicable man in the world (and she always did make a point of writing him in questionable ways).
Jo rubbed her forehead in an attempt to get back on track, thinking of the early hour she would have to get up in the morning, and when she looked at the notebook to reread what she had just written, she found a pair of actual eyes looking right back at her.
Her heart nearly shot out of her chest and she jumped back from the chair. Then, after a second thought, she leapt on top of the bed too - if there were eyes on her book, who knew what might be under the bed!
It took longer than it should to calm down and convince herself that she was just imagining things - "that's what happens when you don't get enough sleep, idiot," she mumbled aloud - and that it was supremely stupid to be afraid of a doodle she herself had drawn. Taking in a deep breath, she prepared herself to face the horrors of the blank page again... and that breath whooshed right back out at the spectacle unfolding on top of her little desk.
Very slowly, like a copier's print out, a two-dimensional human shape was curling upwards from the innocent page. It steadily grew bigger and bigger, widening and fleshing out into the size of a full grown man. The colours were just as slow to fade in: white at first, then pale pastels, until finally taking on the lively colours of a real - flesh and blood? - human.
Jo's eyes threatened to pop out and she stood very still, half hoping her heart would give out before anything even more horrifying happened (and vaguely remembering some line from Jurassic Park where it was said that the scary giant monster could only pick up on things that moved). The cat had deserted the room as soon as she had jumped on top of its sleeping place, so at least she would not have to worry about it getting hurt.
The blond man was smiling a most sinister smile - it was so casual! - that put a sparkle on his eyes, and the black handles of the knives peeking out from the pouch attached to his thigh reflected the light of the meek lamp like the instruments of a psycho serial killer. Yet, all that ran through Jo's head was, "so that is what his eyes look like in real life."
She was probably going to die, but hey!, at least she was getting some serious eye-candy before she went... Immediately, she tried to chase that hysteria-driven thought out of her head and snap out of it.
"Hi," he said after a few awkward minutes of silent staring. The simplicity of it blew Jo's already frail mind away and she returned the greeting automatically. "Why are you looking at me like that?"
She almost - almost - snorted, but held it back. She was most definitely not going to say "duh" to that man - thing - whatever it was. If he was a killer she would risk pissing him off and if, somehow, he was the real thing... well, she would rather keep him from thinking she was a complete idiot for as long as possible.
Jo was quickly being reminded of why she would make the worst spokesperson in the world. Her life could be on the line and all she could come up with to answer that simple question was a prolonged string of "ahh"s and "uhh"s. Thankfully, the familiar stranger did not seem bothered.
Instead of waiting for an answer that would not come, he was quite happy to regard the rest of the room. He poked the chopsticks holding up the straw mat covering the windows and toed the collapsible chair that had fallen back to rest against the wardrobe when Jo had jumped. He spared only a brief glance at the books lying in piles on the floor, as the fluffy pillows and patterned eiderdown seemed to be much more interesting to him.
"You got it all wrong, you know," he said at last, fingering the sea shells hanging from the bed frame. "Waterfall doesn't look anything like that."
He was obviously talking about the picture that Jo had just been contemplating on using as reference, but as far as she had seen, he had yet to even look at that wall. Why he would care was also beyond her, but figuring that that was the least of the strange things going on at the moment, she gave it no heed.
"It doesn't?" she replied and mentally tried to slap some eloquence back into her brain.
His sinister smile returned full-force and he was suddenly reaching forward to get a hold of Jo.
"It's much better than that. I'll show you!"
"You'll what now...?" she said, doing her best to melt into the wall and escape the fictional-now-turned-real object of her daydreams. The bedroom only had so much width, though, and strong fingers soon grasped her bare arm.
The shrill yell that erupted from her at the contact would never disturb the neighbours for, in the next moment, the two had disappeared into a blank piece of paper.
Jo froze for the second time that night as she realised that there had been an echo to her shout. An actual echo - not the amplifying reverberation of a confined room. Daring to crack one eye open, she understood why that was so.
The comforting off-white walls of her home had disappeared, to be replaced by a black forest of burnt tree trunks and sun-bleached hills. Even the time had gone back a few hours so the sun was still shining.
It was pointless to keep screaming at this point - or trying to get away from her favourite character turned kidnapper as she had no idea where she was or how to get back - but she was not quite ready to give in yet. She yanked her arm out of his grip and took a couple of quick steps back, putting in some much needed security distance between them. The fact that he made no effort to hold on or follow her was a small relief... a sentiment which vanished as soon as her heels bumped against something behind her.
She hadn't quite finished turning around when it registered that she was looking at something that would haunt her nights for years to come. Nothing spoke of death and doom like the black twisted branches and desolate, empty husks of a burnt down forest that had once thrived with life, but even that paled in comparison to the grotesque monument behind her.
Jo's feet had found a shallow gap on the ground filled with the stumps of hundreds of hands reaching for the sky. They were carved out of stone but so realistic that, with their curled fingers and protruding tendons, they made it look like their non-existent owners were begging to be saved from unspeakable horrors. As if that was not terrible enough, on the opposite edge of the gap, a snarling gargoyle loomed like it was the pit's demonic care-taker. One of the eyes hung from its socket and the mouth had been made to gape like the flesh holding the jaw had rotted away.
All that Jo could think of doing was to backpedal to her hero and hide from that hideous sculpture behind him. All doubts about whether or not he was going to murder her were quickly put on hold.
"What... what's that?"
"That's a shrine to Jashin. We are close to Bird Country."
"You're a Jashinist!" she whispered, afraid that saying it too loud would make it so - and that too much noise might cause the gargoyle to wake up just like her innocent sketch had back at her room. (Had one of the hands just twitched?)
"Ahh, no, don't worry," Minato said over his shoulder at the girl whose eyes would not leave the pit. "You must have been thinking about something related to this, so that's why we were brought here."
Serial killers, sharp knives, murder, kidnapping, death and bodies dumped in the middle of burnt woods: Jo could see where Minato's suggestion that she might have been thinking about a religion whose main (and single) tenet was "kill thy neighbour" came into play. But she did not have to admit it.
"Why would I be thinking about that?" she asked, pointing at the rock sculptures. "Please, just tell me you didn't bring me here to kill me..."
"What? I'd never do that!"
Jo could hear in his voice that he was being earnest. He had even dropped his cool front so that the sentiment was mirrored in his clear blue eyes. She still did not know what was going on, but she figured that trusting him was the only thing she could do for the moment. If he really was who he seemed to be, Jo knew that he would not go back on his word, and she felt so out of her depth that she had to hold on to something.
"Why did you bring me here, then?"
"Well, you wanted to know what Waterfall looked like, so I thought I'd show you," he said like it was the simplest thing in the world and not at all physically impossible.
"How are you even here?... How am I? What did you do?"
"Don't worry about it," he told her with a disarming - yet infuriating - smile. She wanted answers! "I'll let you know later. Now, let's get going. I want to get there before nightfall."
Jo followed him, more than happy to go along if it meant leaving that morbid place behind (forever, with a little luck). Minato's pace was brisk and her ego revelled in the fact that she could keep up with it as easily. Meanwhile, her mind was awhirl with possible explanations for what was happening.
She halted as a sudden thought hit her. Realising that he could no longer hear her footsteps, so did Minato. He looked back towards her and frowned at the suspicious look she was giving him.
"Is something the matter?" he prompted.
"You're not going to tell me that this place was real all along and that the author of Naruto happened to discover it and based his story off of real events from this world, are you?"
"Hell no." The way he said it, she could very easily imagine him drawing the symbol of the cross in front of him, like her goody religious aunt would when she heard something that she considered particularly blasphemous.
"Good," Jo said, unable to help a chuckle, "because that would be pretty damn stupid."
"Yes, it would," Minato agreed. When his companion did nothing more than to keep gauging every aspect of his appearance with a pensive look, he continued: "Can we move on now? It's getting late and we're going to miss the show."
Jo did not bother to ask "what show?" Instead, she nodded and resumed walking, sure that she would find out sooner or later and unsure as to whether she really wanted to know. She was relieved by his straight answer to her question, though (because if it had been an affirmative, she very well might have to start subtle inquiries as to whether or not it would be possible to order a few hits on some of her least favoured characters). Still, her brain-cells laboriously twisted and turned for alternate explanations.
This night was simply not making any sense.
Eventually, even her legendary stubbornness gave out, as she discovered that the scenery was changing into something much more worthy of focusing her attention on.
There were rivers and gorges, and mountains and forests. The world seemed never-ending and the possibilities infinite. Minato was proving to be a wonderful guide. His confidence assured her that he knew every inch of the path they had ahead of them, and he allowed a break every time she said she wanted to try the water on one of the fresh springs along the road. (Soon enough, he started pointing them out himself and then she was the one stuck saying "no".) Jo even recognised a few hallmarks of the world of her fantasies, like the species of giant mushrooms that made up the jungles of Grass, and canyons similar to those that had given River Country its name.
It was curious that they did not come across anyone else on the way, but "then again," she thought, "this is a world of ninjas. They're meant to be unseen!"
There came a point where the beaten road they had been travelling split in two directions.
"We're very close," Minato said. "And just in time too. You should try to be as quiet as possible from now on. And mind your step, it's going to get tricky!"
He was not exaggerating.
He followed neither of the two routes, diving instead to the side, to cut a path through the wild. The low vegetation was thick and tended to trip Jo's feet. More than once, she nearly twisted an ankle. Some of the bushes were prickly too, and every time she heard something move unseen beneath the leaves and ferns close by, she paused to make sure that it was going in the opposite direction. Keeping quiet as Minato had requested was impossible, although he was not having much trouble with it, jumping from tree branch to tree branch as he was, like some bloody tamed monkey.
The scenery took second place as she admired her hero moving with such grace and style. All the guys she knew would probably rather lose a limb than being referred to in that manner, but she could not find another word to describe the smooth flow of his movements. She gave her inner fangirl permission to release one sigh, and then moved on.
The low vegetation (of hell) ended just as Jo started to wonder if she would still have pants afterwards. Minato rejoined her then with a cheeky grin on his face.
"Laugh it up," she groused, only for her ninja to shush her by placing a hand over her mouth.
He dropped to a crouch and brought her down with him. Together, they crawled until they reached the shelter of a rock. Jo's heart was beating in anxiety. A dangerous encounter with unfriendly ninjas was just what she needed to make the night complete.
Minato put a finger to the ground and, after a mere second, he was letting out a relieved breath. "It was just a small animal, probably running away as it sensed our approach."
Both relaxed out of the state of sudden alert. Jo took a little longer to get her breathing under control (and wonder why he had not batted an eye to all the other small animals she had scared during her short cross-country adventure), while Minato took the extra time to study the foreign landscape before them.
"We're here," he announced, before parting some leaves to reveal a grandiose waterfall on the opposite side of a steep cliff.
Waterfall village: it was nothing like she expected and yet exceeded anything her imagination might have conceived. The houses were built directly into the rock wall and the streets (if they could be called that) zigzagged a path that connected all of the vertical levels. The waterfall that lent the village its name came down from above like a thin curtain of white on top of the small houses, whose roofs had the necessary slant to break up the sheet of water and direct it harmlessly to a lower level of the city. Archways and aqueduct-like structures filled in the gaps where there were no buildings, so that every street remained sheltered and dry.
Overall, it was not very big and, were it not built into a vertical setting, the architecture would not have been very catching. Jo and Minato, however, had gotten there just as the last rays of sunlight touched the water, which made the tight valley glow. The show did not end at sunset, though. As the lights in each house came on, they created diffuse shapes on the waterfall surface that danced like shifting flames in various shades of white and yellow and some other gaudier colours too.
"It's beautiful," Jo breathed, trying to memorise every detail of it. "Oh, and look down there! Is that an elevator?"
A group of ninjas had just approached the base of the waterfall and appeared to be waiting for a platform suspended by ropes and pulleys to pick them up and carry them to the village.
"Awesome..." she was saying, then paused as she noticed something about the people in the arriving group. "Wait, aren't those Iwa ninjas?"
"Yes. They're hard to mistake, with their silly half-skirted uniforms, aren't they?" Minato confirmed much to Jo's amusement.
"I don't know about silly," she remarked. "They look kind of cool to me."
Minato looked at her doubtfully before ascertaining the facts: "'Cool' is the last thing they are."
"Actually, I think you would look rather-"
"But it would accent-"
"It flares as you move!"
"Don't get any ideas."
Jo took a long minute to simply observe Minato and superimpose the image of an Iwa half-skirt over the left side of his pants in her imagination. He looked good, but the general picture was made all the sweeter by his "I know what you're doing" face.
"Anyway," he interrupted her daydreaming, "what do you think?"
"I like it! You were right, it really doesn't look like any of those things I was imagining. Thanks for showing me this."
"You're welcome," he said, bringing his hands together for a silent clap on an accomplished job. "And so my work here is done. That means it's time for you to go back."
That caught Jo's attention.
"But you still haven't told me about this place or why you're here!"
"Oh, you'll find out soon enough. Bye!" Minato cheered at the same time he patted Jo on the back with a little too much force.
She felt herself tipping forward towards the edge of the cliff and there was nothing she could do to prevent it. Her hands had nowhere to hold on to and when a blast of rushing air surged upwards and hit her on the face, fear froze up her body and turned her into a living toy on gravity's hands.
"Minato!" she called, hoping that he might catch her. When she somehow managed to look back, though, he was nowhere in sight.
And down the canyon she fell, into a darkness that seemed to have no end...
Jo woke with a start back in her bedroom, sitting at her desk at looking at a spot of drool that had fallen over her notebook, right next to Minato's doodle. The first rays of sunlight were peeking in through the blinded windows, and the cat was lightly snoring on top of the bed (twisted so her tummy was facing the ceiling now).
"It was just a dream..."
The first thing Jo did was go to the kitchen to fix herself a hot cup of tea (with extra sugar). This fanfiction author wanted to be well awake to remember every last moment of what would follow.
Her next step was to go back to her desk and pick up her pen. Dream or not, one did not just throw people off into gaping chasms. She would have her petty revenge.
Minato Namikaze would so be wearing a skirt soon.
Final Notes: On the rare occasions I remember my dreams, and on the even rarest ones that they happen to involve known fictional characters, they are never as cool as this. (Take a hint, subconscious mind!)