Author's Note

Hey all! Sorry about the wait for this chapter...mix of crazy life stuff and the fact that this actually took me a really long time to write. I want to write up an explanation, but I'd like to see what you guys make of the whole thing. Let's see how good you are at interpreting dreams!

Not mine and such. Enjoy!

EDIT: This is a repost because I'm an idiot and somehow accidentally deleted this chapter. Gah. One of those days I guess. So yeah, if you've already read this, go do something else with your life. :)

4. Dark

It begins the same way, every night. He is standing alone in a vast field, surrounded as far as he can see by knee high grass that sways softly in the wind. The dying light of the sun spills across the low clouds like paint on a canvas, the colours so brilliant they almost hurt to look at. (But none of this is real, so how exactly can it hurt?) The pale moon hangs behind him and a silent raven wheels through an unfamiliar sky.

He knows that the city will be there when he opens his eyes, knows that it will always be there. The rest of the world will crumble, of this he is certain, but the city will remain. (But he isn't there now, so what does it matter?) He knows all of this and still he is terrified of what he will see when he turns around. He has seen it before, a hundred times or a thousand or more, and still he cannot bring himself to face it. It will go as it always goes, as it always must.

The raven drifts towards him, almost lazy in its elegance. Beside him a tree springs from the ground and grows and thrives and withers and dies, all in the space of a second. His eyes remain on the raven as it lands on one of the cracking branches, only inches away from his face. It stares at him for a moment and then looks out toward the setting sun. When he follows its gaze he sees that the grass is gone, dried up and dead like the tree, leaving behind only dust. The raven, still silent, looks at him again as though it too knows what is coming next. (But of course it knows, because he knows, so why is he so afraid?)

Without any warning (But he knows it's coming, so why is he startled?) the raven lifts its head and cries out, piercing the silence. The earth starts to rumble beneath him and the dust, shaken free by the movement, rises into the air. The raven flies off, and he knows that he won't see it again, at least not until the next time he closes his eyes. Far in the distance the dust begins to blot out the horizon as the rumbling becomes louder. He can't see it yet, but he knows the ground is cracking, heaving itself upwards and then inwards as if in throes of pain.

He won't run this time, he tells himself, as he tells himself every night. He'll wait this time, and let the earth take him. (Because it's going to happen anyways, so why run?) But as the dust cloud grows closer and the shaking more violent and the cacophony of the world dying practically unbearable, he turns, and he runs.

Every night he knows what he'll see when he turns, and still he has not grown accustomed to it. The city looms on the horizon, the same city he has always known, but this time (And every time he turns around to run) it seems alien to him. It's his city, he knows this in his head, but he does not feel it in his heart. The people are gone, the places they left behind a mere shadow of what they'd been, desecrated temples of empty glass and cold steel.

As he runs, an orange glow suddenly illuminates the dark clouds that hang just above the skyscrapers. The city is burning, and he can't shake the feeling that it burns because of him, because he was too weak, because he turned away from the collapsing earth. Even though there was nobody there a moment ago (But he is too far away, so how could he know that?) a scream torn from the collective throats of millions rises into the air, drowning out the sound of the world falling into itself behind him. He is far from the edge of the city, but he can taste the heat as acrid air fills his mouth and nostrils. He runs faster now, desperate to reach the inferno before it consumes everything and everyone he loves.

He is close enough now that the heat of the flames makes it difficult to keep his eyes open, and even though he knows that he will never get there (Because he never gets there, so why does he keep trying?) he forces himself to run faster. As his skin begins to blister he hears the shrill cry of the raven, turning his head towards the sound even though he knows he will see nothing. He looks back at the city for the last time, tears filling his eyes as a rain of fire decimates the last buildings standing and the roar of the flame stops as suddenly as it started. Now all he can hear is the earth cracking behind him, and underneath him. The ground pitches below his feet and he is sent sprawling on his hands and knees. And then there is nothing below him, save for the darkness that envelopes him as he falls into the earth.

And then he is standing on a shoreline, the vastness of the ocean spread out before him, and he is no longer alone. His brothers and father are standing in the water, ankle deep, beckoning him to join them. He is afraid to for a moment (And he can't decide if it was worse the first time when he didn't know what would happen or now, knowing that there is nothing he can do to stop it) but he steps tentatively to the edge of the water, heart pounding in his ears.

They motion to him to follow them and then begin walking slowly into the sea. He follows them, as he always does, as he always will. (Because what else can he do?) The current tugs at his legs gently and the water is warm. He knows what will happen, but he can't help being happy as he walks with his family. As they get deeper, they turn their heads and smile at him sadly, one by one. They stop when the water reaches their waists, the five of them forming a circle.

Donatello is the first. His genius brother gives him a long look and then shakes his head, disappointment crossing his features. He wants to call out to him, beg him not to leave, but no words come out of his mouth. He turns to his other brothers, hoping as he always does that they will stop the inevitable destruction of their family. (But he knows they won't help, so what makes him do it?) They are both looking away, not paying attention to either of their younger brothers. When he looks back, Donatello is gone. He does not know why, does not understand why his brother would disappear without saying a word.

And then, without warning (But he knows it's coming, so shouldn't that be warning enough?) Master Splinter begins to sink beneath the dark water. Leonardo and Raphael watch, eyes wide and terrified, but they do nothing. He tries, he tries as desperately as he does every night to cross the short space between him and his father, but he cannot move. All he can do, all any of them can do, is watch in horrified silence as their father and master slips away from them.

He braces himself for what will happen next. Even after all this time, all these nights, this part still hurts the most. Donatello he could explain to himself, make excuses for, never allow himself to think the worst. Master Splinter had no choice, and he knew that his father would have stayed longer if there was any way to have done so. But his older brothers...(Why does it still make his heart clench, his breath catch in his throat, his soul sick with what he can't help but see as their betrayal?)

It happens quickly, as it always does. First they turn away from each other, then they turn away from him. This time when he tries to call out, the words come and his voice sounds strange to him echoing over the endless water. He shouts, begs, pleads for them to stay, but they ignore him and begin walking in opposite directions. He screams until his throat is raw, looking back and forth between them until he can see them no longer. (And he always feels so broken by this point, so why does it hit him so hard every damn time?) He's alone now, and night has fallen. He stares down at the dark water, lost in the reflected light of millions of stars. There is only one thing left to do here, and he does it gladly. The water is suddenly deep, his feet no longer touching the soft sand. He casts his eyes upwards, gazing directly at the stars as he allows himself to sink below the surface.

This used to be the end, this gentle descent into the abyss. He would open his eyes and it would all be over, at least for that moment before he remembered that he wasn't home, could never be home again. (He wills it to be over, to open his eyes...but it won't end here, so why bother?) As he sinks he feels something hard beneath his feet, and suddenly he is standing on the roof of a gargantuan tower with the city, his city, sprawling far below him.

This part is new, although the tower is old. It is bigger here, far taller than any tower as a right to be, but it is the same tower that he has seen so many times with his eyes open. He looks over the landscape and knows that despite the obvious devastation spread out before him, this is his city. Not empty, not defeated, only broken. He would fix it if he could, restore it to the way it was before, but he does not know where to begin. (Nobody knows where to begin, so why do they keep trying?) There is life here still, and people willing to fight for it, but they are few against many. He knows, somewhere in the deepest part of him, that he will never see the city of his youth again. He'll still fight for it though, will do so until his last breath.

"You know that it's useless."

The voice comes, as he knows it will, from behind him. If he had the choice, he would stay where he is and just let it happen. He has learned though over countless nights that choice is not his, not here. Turning slowly, he faces the Monster. His brothers stand behind it, motionless. They watch as the Monster steps towards him, as it grasps his wrist tightly and lifts him into the air. He is crying now, begging them to help him, to do something that will stop what is about to happen. (But they never do, so what's the point?)

"This won't hurt."

And with that the Monster brings down a blade, cutting deep into his arm just above the elbow. Then there is fire and pain and darkness and still his brothers watch. He is screaming in agony as flame consumes the lower part of his arm and he is left in a crumpled heap on the ground, clutching at the bloody stump that was once a healthy limb. (And he's felt this before, so why can't he shut out the pain?) He lifts his head to look at Donatello, but there is nothing in his brother's eyes. He looks to Leonardo and Raphael, only to be met with the same blank stares. Then there is a clawed hand around his throat and the Monster is raising him into the air.

"Pathetic," the voice drips with contempt. He tries to reply, but the hand around his neck clenches tighter, choking the words from him.

"You are the reason they left," the Monster continues, its voice growing louder until it practically deafens him, "You are weak."

"No," he croaks, grasping feebly at the Monster's arm with his remaining hand. He looks over the Monster's shoulder at his brothers, who continue to watch the scene unfold.

"You are pathetic," the Monster continues as tears spill silently down his cheeks, "You are nothing." With a vicious snarl the Monster hurls him off of the tower, and he is plummeting through the air with nothing to stop him. (It will be over soon, so why is he so scared?) The pain in his arm grows worse with each passing second, until it is the only thing he can think about. His eyes are squeezed shut against the winds whipping at him as he falls, but he forces them open to watch as the ground speeds towards him.

He can see details now, parks and trees, people and cars, dumpsters and sewer grates. And then the sound of wind is gone and there is nothing but the silence and the sidewalk rushing up to meet him. He closes his eyes, ready now to welcome the sweet oblivion that will relieve him of this eternal cycle of forced memory and waking nightmares. (But he can't abandon the city now, so why does he dream it?)

He opens his eyes with a start, jolted from sleep by that all too familiar sensation of falling. For a moment he is home, and his brothers and father are sleeping just a few short steps away and he is happy. But then a searing pain shoots up from his elbow and he feels where his arm should be and oh god it's not there anymore. It all comes to him, flooding through his mind, wave after painful wave. He remembers where he is, he remembers the nightmare that has plagued him for so many hundreds of nights, and he remembers what happened two weeks ago to change it.

It is dark here, and he is alone.