Summary: There's a reason why Raphael never ventures into the far eastern sewers, and a reason why he uses his anger as a shield. So what did happen to him down there all those years ago? What did Raphael see that makes him wake up screaming every night?
Disclaimer: I think if I owned the Ninja Turtles you would all know by now…
A/n: Just a little angst one-shot to distract me from the real world for a few minutes.
WARNING: Contains some scenes that may be disturbing to some.
I still remember the world, from the eyes of a child,
Slowly those feelings were clouded by what I know now…
~Evanescence, Field Of Innocence
It's not surprising that the root of my nightmares, the presence in my mind that lingers, whispering cold things in the dark, the reason why I can't sleep at night, all started with a fight between me and my nine year old brother. Trust me; if you knew our family you'd know that fights between me an' Leo aren't an uncommon sight around here.
Is it fair to blame Leo for what I saw that day? I've been asking myself that same question for a few years now. But even though, at times, I want to blame him for what happened to me, I know that I can't; because it was my fault in the first place. It was my fault we started to fight. And it was my fault that led me to seeing the things I saw. It was easy, at first, to blame someone else for what happened. But now I realize I was a fool to blame anyone but myself. I think it's fair to say that I've more than learnt my lesson for that.
It all started in the dojo, where everything seems to star and end these days. We had just turned nine, and felt like we were already adults. We were confident now, to the point of being overly cocky. After all, we weren't practising with wooden weapons anymore.
Leo an' I were fightin'. I can't remember what tha' fight was even about. Same old, same old I guess. But whatever we were fightin' about, one thing for sure I knew was that I was mad, real mad. We started yellin' and callin' each other names. Fists flew, punches flew, unreined, as we tussled for tha' upper hand. We were evenly matched, Leo an' I. We couldn't hold tha' other down for more than a few seconds.
I remember tastin' blood. When we finally broke apart and leapt back to our feet, I saw tha' thin trail of blood drippin' down Leo's beak. I could taste an identical trail comin' from my mouth and dribbling on my chin. We were both pantin' for breath, and shaking with barely suppressed anger. Even now, I can't believe I had that much anger in me at such a young age. I often lay awake at night wonderin' if I didn't see what I saw on that day, if I'd still be as broken as I am now.
I needed time ta' cool off.I could still feel the anger and tha' hurt shimmering just below tha' surface. Master Splinter had gone out with explicit instructions to stay in the lair. So of course, I did what any other rowdy kid would do, I ran away, just for a while. I needed time to breathe and ta' cool off, and I couldn't do that in the lair, not in such a confined space.
I ran, at first, not paying attention to where I was going. I just wanted ta' be as far away from the lair as I could. After a while I slowed down to a walk, feeling my lungs burning in my chest, and feeling the sweat dripping down the back of my neck. It was only then that I realized I wasn't in a familiar part of tha' sewers.
We had been exploring before, walking the twisting catacombs of our home. But we had never been this far before. It was then that I realized that I was in the lower eastern parts of tha' sewers, a place where Master Splinter didn't want us to go. He wouldn't explain why, only that it was a 'dark place with a dark energy.'
It was then that I started ta' get a little scared. It seemed ta' be a lot darker in this part of the sewers and a lot colder to. I felt a shiver run down my spine and felt goose-bumps rise on my arms. My imagination started goin' into overdrive, thinking that tha' shadows were movin' towards me, reachin' out with wispy black hands. So I did tha' only thing a scared kid would do; I ran.
It wasn't long before I got lost. I hadn't been paying attention, so I had no idea which turn I had taken or whether the left or right tunnel was tha' right one ta' go through. I must have run deeper into tha' sewers because tha' next thing I knew I was standing on an old rickety platform above a churning mass of sable water.
At tha' end of tha' platform was another tunnel, and a part of me, (most probably the scared part), was convinced that that was tha' way home. So I walked out onto tha' platform.
It groaned under my way, and swayed slightly with every step I took. I held my breath and stretched my arms out, like I was trying to balance on a wire. I failed ta' notice the rusty hinges that creaked in warning the further out I walked. I failed to notice that all tha' bolts that had been holding it erect over the years, were all starting to fall apart.
I had made it about halfway across when the entire structure gave way. One minute I was walking on cold metal, the next I was walkin' on air. I flayed in the air for a few seconds, as if time was on slow motion, then I plummeted into the cold dark water below. I surfaced coughing up lungful's of the foul tasting water. The current was to strong, and though I was a pretty good swimmer, I wasn't as strong as the current. It stared ta' darg me down through tha' twisting and turning sewer pipes. I was slammed into the walls and pushed under the water, the water so dark I couldn't tell which direction was up or down.
I scratched my arm against a rusted pipe that was stickin' out of the wall. I felt the hot blood run down my arm before I could smell the coppery tang that mixed in with tha' foul smelling water.
I broke tha' surface again, arms flaying wildly to keep me afloat. I groped around blindly for something, anything, ta' grab on to. I was surprised when I actually did come into contact with something. Feeling something brush against my side, I reached out blindly and grabbed onto it. Immediately I realized that whatever I was holding was cold and…and fleshy.
I remember turnin' my head as the object that had brushed my side was pushed to the surface. Then, the memory that has been pierced into my mind ever since, branded to the back of my eyes every time I go to sleep, popped into view.
It was a dead body. The pale form of a young woman floated into view, inches away from my face. I've never forgotten how pale she was, and how her skin had turned green and blotchy in some places. I'll never forget the way her hair, the same inky blackness as the water, swirled around her in a tangled mess, like it was alive. I'll never forget the way her mouth was open, frozen in scream of terror. And I'll never forget those clouded eyes, frozen open and staring at me.
I remember screaming and trying to push the body away. But the water continued to drag us along, and I was stuck for what felt like hours with the grotesque body staring at me, reaching towards me…
The water dragged us out of a large drain and out onto hard concrete. I scraped my skin across the rough ground, trying to cough up the mouthfuls of dirty water I had swallowed. And then the body fell on top of me, pinning me down and staring at me with those lifeless eyes. I screamed and flayed wildly, pushing the body away from me and scrambling to my feet. My screams echoed around the empty space, and I could have sworn that tha' body was screamin' right along with me.
I turned and fled in blind terror, not caring or knowing where I was going, I just wanted ta' be away from this nightmare. I hadn't made it fifty metres before my legs gave out and I let the contents of my stomach splash onto the ground.
Master Splinter found me ten minutes later, curled up in a ball and crying. He tried to comfort me and tell me that everythin' was going ta' be okay. But I didn't believe him. How could everything be okay after that? Eventually I was able ta' tell Master Splinter what had happened. I don't know what he did to tha' body, but I think he tried to bury it as best he could. After that he brought me back to the lair. He didn't yell at me for running away or for fighting with Leo.
Instead I went straight ta' bed where I curled up and cried. For a whole year after that I woke up in the middle of tha' night screaming, flaying at the pale hands that reached for me in my dreams. For a long time I wouldn't go anywhere near water, let alone have a bath. I was too scared, to scared of what I might find if I did.
Master Splinter never told the others what happened that day, and for that I'm glad. I don't want their sympathy or their pity. I don't want them ta' have ta' live through what I see every night when I close my eyes.
It's been eight years since I saw my first dead body. My brothers and I see a lot of bad stuff every day. We face a lot of scary things, and sometimes we have to do a lot of things to make sure our family is safe and protected. But everythin' I've seen, everythin' I've done, none of it haunts me as much as tha girl's pale body does.
It's been eight years and I still have nightmares. I still wake up screaming in a cold sweat, I still shiver every time I'm near water, and sometimes, I swear I can still see her. Sometimes I think I see her standing at the end of the table, watching me. Sometimes I think I see her in the mirror, staring back at me with those lifeless times. Hell sometimes I think I see her in the dojo. And every time I do, every time I think I see her again, I have ta' try and hold back a scream. I have ta' try and hide it from my brothers.
Over the years I've found a way ta' help me channel this fear, so I'm not afraid every waking hour of the day. I let all my fear turn into something else. I let it all turn to anger. I lash out at people, and get defence. I argue with my brothers, just so I can be distracted. I like being angry because it makes me forget, even if it's just for a little while, the fear I still have. So I shout and yell and let my brothers' believe that I'm just a hot-head.
After all, it's better than closing my eyes and seeing it again.
It's not noble by any means, but it's a way for me to cope.
This is tha' first time I've ever told anyone apart from Master Splinter this story. I know simply writing it all down on paper won't make the nightmares go away, but I don't feel as trapped anymore.
And I've never been ta' that part of tha' sewers since.