Visions of What's to Come
In his dream, he stood before a vast desert that looked like it was made up of a mix between molten and cooled lava pooled together as far as the eye could see. Husks of plants that he could not identify jutted out from their crevasses, some with flames or smoke still billowing from their charred carcasses. The land, or whatever this was, was barren and desolate, filled with hopelessness but teaming with something else – a something Donatello could not put his finger on as if life loomed just beneath this forsaken surface. He stared out at it for many moments, or perhaps hours, waiting and watching, but nothing happened. He remained vigilant however, unsure of what it was he wished to see or what he might be waiting for.
There was no sun in the sky, yet there was a definite light source that emanated from somewhere above. In fact, if he looked up, Donatello was fairly certain that the sky was not a sky at all – it looked more like the high ceiling of a cave lost in rising mist, or could it be smoke? He couldn't tell, but it seemed so strange that there would be lava flowing through a cavern, and with such a high ceiling? And plants? It was all so very surreal in its own right, and yet the imagery looked more symbolic than literal.
He had the sense that everything he saw spanned into eternity, yet for its entire expanse there was no possible means by which to escape. The sky, the land, all of it was a void that left Donatello even in this dream state feeling hopelessly lost and abandoned, as if nothing could find him here, and because he was here, there would never be anything that wanted to find him, or this place. It set him apart from the world he was in, made him feel alone, and for the first time in a very long time, scared.
"It's supposed to make you feel trapped," came an unexpected voice to his left.
Donatello didn't jump, which surprised even him, for he was certain that had he thought about it he would have concluded that he neither want or expected to meet anyone in a place the likes of this.
The person, or creature, was perched animal-like on a rock that, again, Donatello had not noticed was there. This entity was shrouded in a cloak that, while tattered and even charred in some spots, still managed to cover all of his physique so that the turtle could not see to whom he was speaking.
"Who are you?" Donatello asked, a rigid warning in his voice. The creature took no offense to this though. He, or it, shrugged and turned its head out toward where Donatello had been gazing.
"A resident?" Donatello raised an eye ridge in disbelief. "You…live here?"
"Not by choice."
The statement was mind bogglingly casual, as if this person was unbothered by their surroundings. Perhaps they weren't, he supposed as he glanced around. Perhaps, if somewhere long enough, one could get used to anything.
That was a depressing notion to Donatello, especially when considering this place.
"Why not leave?"
The creature's head turned now, back to face Donatello, and cocked ever so slowly.
A pause as the creature looked back outward.
"The way is shut."
Donatello frowned and followed the thing's gaze. He got the strictest sense that this was going to be a conversation of riddles – and began to feel himself get frustrated.
"Can it be opened again?"
"It may be yet."
"Is that why you wait here?"
He looked back at the creature that still gazed outward.
"What is this place?"
"A prison. As wide as the eye can see and as terrible as any can imagine." At that moment he rose from his perch and jumped to the ground, standing before Donatello with purpose in his stance. "I am not here waiting for the door, however. I was waiting for you."
"For me?" Donnie laughed, and for the first time was consciously aware of how dry the air was even as his friend dropped beside him. "That's ridiculous. This is a dream."
"It's a dream," it said in agreement, "but things are changing, and this is not just a dream. I've come here to tell you something Donnie."
Now Donatello jumped, not out of fear but of surprise.
"How do you know my name?"
He thought he sensed a smile beneath the creature's hood.
"I've always known your name."
In dramatic slow motion the hood fell backward and revealed a face that Donatello had not laid eyes upon for six long years – and yet at the same time – it was not the same face at all. Bright blue eyes stared back at him but the mirth they once contained was gone. Those eyes that had once held so much happiness were now dulled by years of hardship and pain. The skin was cracked, bruised, scarred, and in some cases it looked like the very environment that he'd been ensnared in for so long had tattooed it onto his flesh. Long sinewy vines of cuts wound around his left eye socket, following his cheekbone, down to his neck and likely spiraling to hidden depths beneath the cloak. The orange mask of fabric was gone, likely destroyed long ago, but there was still no mistaking this face no matter the changes it had undergone.
It was not a question, but a statement. This was a dream – and as his brother had said – it was not a dream as well. It was something more.
A forced smile cracked the surface of his little brother's countenance, but it did not extend any further. As Donatello watched Mikey step forward he observed his gait, how different it was – how different everything was – about his baby brother. He seemed older now somehow, older than Donatello, but that couldn't be possible. Perhaps it was the experiences here that had aged him, but he remembered the demon saying how time passed differently here, and how his brother would not be the same in many ways that he couldn't yet understand. Perhaps this was one of them.
But, Donatello reminded himself, this was still a dream and he could not hope to gain much from his time here.
"It's not a dream," Mikey replied, turning his hardened gaze upon his brother. "Not in the typical sense."
Donatello blinked, focusing intently on this new face before him, trying to feed on every detail.
"How did you..? Never mind. What is this then, if not a dream?"
Mikey cocked his head, an unfamiliar gesture on the younger turtle. His gaze drifted upward in thoughtful contemplation before coming back to the conversation.
"A brief moment of spiritual lucidity?"
Donnie cocked an eyebrow.
"You've picked up a new vocabulary while here I take it?"
Mikey laughed at that notion, a dry and humorless sound that wasn't Donnie's baby brother at all.
"Nah," he smiled, sounding only somewhat like his old self. "I paid more attention than you all thought I did when you lectured about that crap." Mikey's face fell almost as instantly as before and in half a second he closed some of the distance between himself and Donnie, his face becoming somber all of a sudden. "But we don't have time for this. I've siphoned your consciousness here because what Abyzou told you was true."
"Because of what-who did what?"
"Abyzou, that was that demon that put you in the condition you're currently in after your little run in with her you and Raphael had."
"She has a name?"
Mike smiled grimly. "They all have names, brother. And you're about to learn more of them then you ever wanted to."
"So they are opening the door to hell then?" Donatello felt his heartbeat quicken. "That means you could get out?"
For a second, Donatello saw a flash of something in his brother's eyes. Was it hope? Happiness? Whatever it might have been, it was soon gone and replaced with the same hard countenance Donatello had first seen his brother wear upon meeting him in this place.
"I could, but the risk involved isn't worth it. Nevertheless, for as long as I've been trying to stop it, I've failed." Mikey turned back and grinned at his brother. "As I'm sure you can imagine, the idea of staying here isn't exactly a popular one."
"I imagine it isn't, but how do we close it once its opened?"
"Haven't figured that part out yet, other than whatever it is will likely have to be closed on this side since that's how it's being opened."
"We'll figure it out. Do you think you can bring anything to help back with you?"
Their eyes met, and Donatello felt sickness at his brother's expression. "Donnie there's no guarantee that even if these doors open I'll be able to get out. Everything else that's here? It didn't come here in a physical form like Shredder and me. Going back through one of those doors might kill me. I'm surprised it didn't the first time."
"Where is the Shredder?"
Mikey shrugged and kicked over a stone.
"No clue. We didn't exactly become best buddies upon our arrival here."
Donnie nodded. "Do you think he could be behind this?"
"It wouldn't surprise me."
Each gazed out at the landscape for a few moments longer until Donatello began to grow feint.
"It's getting time for you to go," he heard Mikey say, even as Donnie swayed and his vision began to darken. "But one last thing."
Mikey reached out and touched Donatello, and as he did so visions swarmed in his head of massive armies, grotesque creatures with faces and bodies contorted and deformed in manners Donatello would have never believed possible before, all of them were rallying beneath a shadow. It didn't make much sense, but as Donatello began to feel his knees grow weak he felt Michelangelo take each of his elbows.
"Donnie, that's just a small sample of what's about to come your guys' way. You have to be ready to stop it. I'll do what I can on my end but a lot of this is going to fall to you, Leo and Raph. I'm sorry."
Donnie heaved, trying to steady himself long enough to meet his brother's eyes.
"You…you have to find one of those doors. You have to come back!"
A flash of anger went through Mikey's eyes, sobering Donnie immediately.
"Are you listening? This is the end of the world we're talking about here!" he snapped angrily. "You have to focus on the battle at hand! What are you going to do if these things come after you guys?"
Donnie stared long and hard at Mikey, not believing what he was hearing his baby brother say.
"Forget me Donnie, the family has a much bigger battle to fight."
"I spent years - " Donnie gasped as his vision was spent. He felt Mikey's arms tighten on him to help ease his fall, but even as he slipped away from this world he protested " – trying to find you – won't forget…you must…come home…."
He heard a resigned sigh and a softer, more Mikey-like voice whisper; "I'll try big brother."
And with that Donnie was gone.
Donatello awoke with a violent start, which frightened Leonardo – who had been standing over his prone form – greatly.
"Donnie!" He roared between his brother's heaves and inaudible shouts. "Donnie calm down! You're okay! We're in the lair now!" He grabbed his brother's shoulders and began shaking him – albeit gently so as not to upset his injuries.
Eventually Donnie calmed, looking up at Leo with a renewed sense of surprise. For a second he thought he could still smell the charred and sulfur-ridden air of the place he'd been dreaming about – only it hadn't been a dream, or had it? Groaning Donnie grabbed his head and lay back down.
"I'll get you water," Leo offered, but before he could rise Donatello reached out and grabbed his hand.
"I saw Mikey," he whispered, and was shocked to find his throat sounded so damaged, or maybe he was that weak? "I saw him!"
There it was, the typical tired sigh that Leo often gave when this topic came up.
"It was just a dream, Donnie,"
"No! It wasn't…it was…different this time."
"He told me about that demon – she had a name. Abby…Abby Sue?"
Leo snorted. "A demon named Abby Sue?"
"No…I'm getting it wrong but that's what it sounded like, but there was more…something's coming, Leo. Something big! And I think…for as terrible as this sounds…I think it might give us the chance to get Mikey back."
Donnie looked up to Leo and for the first time was shocked to see how aged his elder brother looked. Wrinkled lines were peaking out at the corners of his eyes and mouth, and dark circles were forming just underneath his eyes, visible even underneath the ninja mask he wore. His eyes were bloodshot and even looked slightly swollen…had he been crying?
"I…I'm sorry," Donnie whispered, suddenly ashamed of himself.
"I know you…don't want us to think about this anymore. I know you want me to let go…stop blaming myself…believe me, I've tried Leo – but I'm sure this time. Please, I'm asking you this one time to believe me."
Donnie rarely begged or pleaded, he rarely had to – but he had never been in a position like this before. He felt that he was bartering a life for a life, and in some way he likely was, but he didn't care. He wanted his baby brother back, and knew that if given the opportunity Leo or Raph would do anything they could to get him back too. It didn't seem right not taking this opportunity, even if he was ignoring ever rule the dream Michelangelo had issued him.
He just had to try.
Donatello blinked. "What?"
His big brother's smile was tired, but it was one of utterly submitting to his demands.
"I give up. Let's do this. Whatever you think is necessary, we'll get it done. We'll get Mikey back if we can. I'm tired of fighting it and I'm tired of us feeling broken. I'm tired of how empty this place feels. We can't get Splinter back…but if we can get Mikey I know he'd want us to try."
The youngest turtle leapt from his cot and wrapped his arms around his brother.
"Thank you Leo!"
He returned the gesture in time for Raphael to barge in on them, his expression grim.
"Guys? You need to see this."
On the TV was a very haphazard looking reporter; behind her was a group of people, and beyond that it looked like the sight of an explosion. She was difficult to hear above the din, and even putting the captions on proved of little assistance in the wake of all of the noise and shoddy transmission.
"It's like this on every station right now," Raph told them, showcasing his point by flipping between all of the major news networks. "It wasn't this chaotic in the beginning, but this isn't isolated. It's happening all over the city and a few reports of elsewhere in the country too."
"What are they saying?" Leo asked.
"They have no idea. At first they thought it was fanatics trying to make a point but the more their investigations are turning up the more they're saying that there's no known source for the lights and the heat emanating from these areas."
"Where are they?"
"Everywhere," Raph sighed, turning up the volume hoping that that might shed some light on things. "Underground, on top buildings, there's one that's opened up over the river if you can believe it."
"So these aren't fissures or manmade gas explosions?"
Raphael shook his head. The closer each of them looked at the details, the more each of them became aware of what it was they were looking at, but no one wanted to admit it.
"Donnie," Leo whispered. "That dream you were telling me about…what did you see?"
Donnie waited for a very long time as he stared into the depths of the wormholes that were beginning to open up all over the city. He saw in them a similar sight he saw six years ago when they had attempted to send Shredder away for good, and he knew then what was coming, and what Mikey had said had been true.
"The end," he replied quietly as smoke and shapes started to trickle slowly from the openings all over. "The end of everything."