So I managed to find a couple other writers who are interested in actually producing some writing instead of falling into the pit of uselessness that I have only just recently crawled out of.
So once a month I will be posting my exploits! This month’s theme was fan fic — you know, start us off easy. I went with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, if that wasn’t already obvious from the post title. I didn’t polish it or anything, I mostly just wanted to get my muscles moving again. Also, I grew up on the ’80’s cartoon and the live action movies, so I’m working from those universes. I decided to go with the lore where Splinter was once Hamato Yoshi, as opposed to Yoshi’s pet rat. (A pet rat learning karate? That’s just nuts!) Enjoy!
Here’s the super awesome theme song to get you in the mood :)
The sewers were super Mother-of-God stinky that day. Michelangelo, in his usual almost-helpful way, had ordered several anchovy and bleu cheese pizzas in an effort to cover it up, but it really wasn’t working. Plus, to add insult to injury, the other three turtles thought bleu cheese on a pizza was practically sacrilegious.
“You might as well put ranch dressing on it and move to Santa Monica,” grumbled Raphael. “You can’t even pick this crapola off.”
“Leave him alone, Raph, he was just trying to help.” Leonardo diplomatically chewed his slice, but his heart wasn’t in it.
“I like it!” Michelangelo enthused, helping himself to another half of a pie.
“Yo Donnie, can’t you dream up some sort of wind machine to blow this stink outta here? It fricken reeks!”
Without removing his protective goggles, Donatello poked his head out from the second story of his workshop and looked down at his brothers. Raph’s red-masked green face glared up at him. “There are too many tunnels. By the time I finish building enough turbines, it would be high tide again.”
“Besides, it’d be a waste of energy to power them all,” added Leonardo. “Just deal with it, Raphael. There’s nothing we can do. Master Splinter said we had to stay down here while he was away.”
“We could have asked him before he left, but someone wanted to be a goodie goodie two-shell. . .”
“How many times do I have to remind you that Master doesn’t like to be interrupted while he’s packing?! He could forget something!”
“Yeah, like his toothbrush!” Michelangelo said helpfully.
“Damn it, Donnie, can’t you do anything? Aren’t you supposed to be some sort of genius inventor dude?! Ouch!” Raphael rubbed his nose and looked down at the projectile his brother had chucked at him with stinging accuracy. At his feet was a clothespin.
“Ooo, Donnie’s throwing presents!” Said Michelangelo, bounding to Raphael’s side and leaving a trail of toppings and hot pepper packets. “I want one! Ouch!”
Smoke curled up from the manhole covers and onto the wet street, caressing crumpled fast food wrappers and broken beer bottles. The docks were mostly empty at this time of night, save for the requisite goons lurking in the shadows of the warehouses. The stranger’s black boots clicked on the pavement as she walked with purpose toward the ramshackle shanty, seemingly abandoned and riddled with bullet holes. She stood in front of the old shop (now hers, she reflected) and marveled at how not much had changed.
“Hey there, sweet cheeks.”
She sighed without turning around. “Let me guess. You want to know what a pretty little thing like me is doing in a place like this?” Her voice was deep, wizened, not the breathy purr you might have expected from the lithe figure with the full length, black leather coat.
The two thugs looked at each other. The shorter one sighed.
“Look, lady, we’re just here to do a routine robbery.”
“Uh, yeah, so uh why don’t you hand over your purse and no one will get hurt.” The tall one looked to his partner for approval. It was given grudgingly.
In one smooth motion, the woman twirled around and unsheathed two katanas, each a red and silver blur in her white-gloved hands. Her face was hidden by a ghostly Noh mask, tilted down so the eyes were mere slits and its twisted scarlet mouth a sneer.
A cigarette fell from the tall one’s gaping mouth. Before either could gather their wits and fire their guns, the twin katanas fell, disarming them both easily.
She hissed at their retreating backs, “I do not carry a purse.”
Once they’d gone (and mysteriously other lingering degenerates had managed to find something to do on the other side of the docks), she sheathed her weapons and walked up to the door of the old shop. She ran her hand over the rusted sign, clearing dirt and dried salt.
Kimura Haruki – Apothecary, Potions, Charms
“Alright, Mother, let us see what you left me.”
Raphael waited until Leonardo was deep into lecturing Michelangelo on the proper way to fold a lawn chair before donning his trench coat and fedora. Donatello was parked in front of the TV, his mouth hanging open while intently playing Skyrim.
“So, uh,” said Raph, keeping his voice low and eyeing Leo further down the lair. “I’m going up above ground to walk around. Sound good?”
“Yeah, yeah, you can use it,” Donatello muttered, his eyes never leaving the screen.
“Great, thanks, man.”
“And bring me back one of those big bags of Cool Ranch Doritos. And a Cherry Coke.”
Raphael grinned. “You’re the best, Donnie.” With a sweep of his coat, the red-masked turtle disappeared into the dark.
The teenage mutant ninja turtle surfaced near the docks — his preferred spot when he wasn’t supposed to leave the lair. It was easy to get to the city from the shipyard and along the way he could mess with as many thugs as he pleased. There were always one or two lurking around. However, the shipyard was unusually quiet. A little too quiet. As he scanned the alleys, he noticed a strange purple light coming from an old building. Had that building always been there? It was very different from the boxy warehouses that lined the docks — made entirely of wood and, obviously, much smaller.
Raphael’s hands strayed to the twin sai at his side and approached the eerie light. When he made it up to the door, a deep voice from inside disrupted the silence.
“Come in, come in. We’re open.”
The turtle shook his head a little. He could have swore there was an echo. The door was not shut all the way so he nudged it open with his foot, a sai in each hand. Surprisingly, the interior was well-lit; violet paper lanterns cast shimmers on the black lacquered walls, lined with Noh masks of varying expressions. Several shelves of dusty books and small vials formed a mini-maze with neat pathways between them. Finally Raphael realized that he had heard a voice and his eyes snapped front to the glass counter where a tall woman (maybe?) stood patiently, cloaked in black with a scarlet Noh mask covering her face.
“Who are you?” said Raphael, his weapons still at the ready.
The figure chuckled. “You have very little manners, ninja. You come into my shop and demand who I am?”
“Yeah, well, I’ve been told I’m rude. It’s in my nature.”
“You didn’t answer my question. How’s that for manners?”
The woman drifted out from behind the counter, her mask tilted up to reveal a jolly, if not predatory painted smile. Raphael stood his ground, but raised his weapons a little, eyes narrowing from behind the red bandana. She opened her hands to show she was unarmed.
“I am Kimura Noriko and this is my shop of illusions. Turn about is fair play, ninja.”
“Raphael. Just Raphael. Your English is pretty good.”
“Very funny. Why don’t you take off that mask?”
“Why don’t you take off yours?”
Noriko slowly raised her hand to her mask and lifted it to reveal a young Japanese face with sharp black eyes and a hungry red mouth. “Now you, Raphael ninja.”
“I changed my mind. I think I’ll keep my clothes on.”
Noriko laughed and returned to her original place behind the counter, easily running her white hands over the glass top. “I don’t hear that very often.”
“I can see that. Why don’t you take a look around? You would not have come here if you weren’t looking for something. You can put your sai away and be safe, I promise.”
Raphael waited a good ten minutes before sheathing his weapons — just so she didn’t think he was doing it because she told him so. The shelves were too pushed together for him to get between them without knocking anything off, so he examined the Noh masks on the wall. “Master Splint, I mean, a friend of mine is from Japan. He’s told me about these sorts of masks.”
“Ahh, someone from home. Yes, these Noh masks belong to my family. They have been passed down for generations, each mask representing a different era of family history.”
“Most of them seem pretty pissed.”
“I have an angry family. What about yours?”
“They’re alright. Not so much angry as uptight. So what are you, a bunch of actors?”
“Isn’t that what I said?”
“Mmm, there is a difference.” Noriko regarded Raphael in silence and then sighed. “The coat does little to conceal what you are hiding, Raphael-sama. Does that costume actually fool people into thinking you’re human?”
Raphael silently considered a blue-ribboned box with a dark vial inside.
“It must be difficult for you to do what you really want. I’m sure you’ve wondered many times what it would be like to walk around freely.”
Raphael said nothing. Noriko’s mouth slid into a smile.
“I wear a mask to honor my family. You, ninja, to cower.”
With a definite click, Raphael set down the box on the shelf. He turned to Noriko. “One of these goofy masks ain’t gonna cover what I got to hide.” He took off his fedora and let his trench coat fall from his shoulders. There he stood, in all his rippling turtle-y essence, shell exposed, green face unshielded. He was unnerved by her lack of reaction. “So, what, you came all the way here from Japan to open a crappy shop by the docks filled with weird potions and stupid scripts about gods and dragons? What’s your deal? You must have more going on if you’re not surprised by the likes of me.”
“I told you, I’m from a family of illusionists. I’ve seen many costumes and disguises.”
“Huh, this ain’t no costume, sister.”
“Isn’t it? Are you exactly as you seem?”
“I’m getting real sick of this slimy sort of questioning, lady.”
“Oh very well.” Quick as lightning, Noriko pulled down her Noh mask and threw a vial at Raphael’s feet. A noxious cloud enveloped him instantly and he thrashed the shelves, shattering glass, clutching his throat with both hands. He was vaguely aware of her cackling laughter as he fought to find the open door and threw himself out into the biting sea air. His lungs burned and his stomach writhed as the smoke snaked its way through his body. After stumbling and screaming over the wet cobblestones, he fell to the ground unconscious.
When Raphael woke, he was freezing. The mist was heavy and covered him with cold droplets of water. He groaned and sat up, his head pounding. Something was wrong. His belt, sai, and red mask were on the ground. When he could focus his eyes for more than seconds at a time, he realized that he was staring at two skinny, hairy legs. Human legs. He swallowed the rising dread in his throat when he realized they were his.
April O’Neil had had a real doozy of a crappy day. The old entertainment reporter had retired and, because of budget cuts, the station was not going to hire a new one. But they wouldn’t stop reporting on stupid fluffy A&E stories, oh no. And they couldn’t get one of the macho sports writers to do something frivolous, that would ruin their image and mess with ratings. So they just had to send the lady reporter down to the stupid ice rink to cover the Rockettes teaching blind children how to skate. What a mess.
She poured herself a stiff drink and brooded, staring out the window. “My story won the damn station a Peabody, for pity sakes. Bastards.”
She heaved a sigh and drained the glass. That’s when she heard it. Someone was rattling the window outside her fire escape. Without hesitation, she picked up the bat she kept leaning against the fridge and walked over to the window. Standing shivering in the cold was a teenage boy clutching an over-sized trench coat around him. Bat still aloft, April glanced to either side of him and then cracked the window open.
“Isn’t it past your bedtime, kid?”
“April, please. . . it’s. . . it’s me. It’s Raphael.” His voice was so much smaller.
“Is this some sort of joke?” Snapped April, but she opened the window all the way.
“I’m in big trouble, April, please let me in.”
Wordlessly she allowed him to enter her apartment. He was tall with broad shoulders and his neck was skinny — he couldn’t have been older than sixteen. His eyes were green and liquid, his face had never known stubble. A shock of auburn hair wildly crowned his head. In one white-knuckled fist was a red mask. Standing before her, he swallowed and then wordlessly pulled out his belt and weapons, flashing a glimpse of his pale hairless chest.
“How do I know it’s you and you’re not just some joker from the Foot?”
“You really don’t think much of me, April, if you think a goony-looking kid like this could take me down!”
“You’re certainly arrogant, that’s for sure.”
“It’s me! Ask me anything!”
“What did you get me for my birthday?”
Raphael snorted. “Nothing.”
“Oh my God. Raph!”
When Raphael finished telling the story, April had finished her third Manhattan.
“So now I don’t know what to do. I don’t even know what she threw at me!”
“I’m sorry, I just can’t get over that you’re human. . . look at you.”
Raphael ran his hands through his hair. “Yeah, I hafta admit, it was pretty cool walking through the city. I could get used to this!”
April gave him a big t-shirt and a pair of sweatpants Casey had left the last time he was over. Raphael went into her bedroom to figure out how to put them on.
“What about your brothers?” April called back from the livingroom. “Are you going to tell them?”
As if on cue, three fourths of the green machine came tumbling through her window.
“Bon soir, mademoiselle!”
“Do you have any pizza?”
April whirled around in shock and stammered, “Uh, h-hey guys, how are you?”
“We didn’t catch you at a bad time, did we?” Said Michaelangelo. “We’re looking for Raph-”
“Who completely disobeyed Master Splinter and just left the lair without telling anyone!” Said Leonardo, scandalized.
“Yeah.” Said Donatello.
“We figured we’d start here first,” continued Leo, looking around. “He always whines to you when he’s in a mood.”
“Whines?! Screw you!”
Raphael stood in the door frame, glaring at Leo. The three turtles gasped and jumped back, getting into a Raph-less formation and drawing their weapons.
“April, you should have told us you had company,” said Leo reproachfully, his eyes never leaving the new human. “Can we trust him?”
“Yes, Leo, he’s fine-”
“A little young, isn’t he?” Said Donatello, waggling his eyebrows.
“Shut up, let me explain-”
“Fellas. It’s me. It’s Raph.” Raphael opened his arms and did a standing flip, landing neatly on his feet. “Hey, that was way easier without a shell. . .”
The three turtles stared in stunned silence for a moment. Then Michaelangelo came forward and shoved his green nose into Raph’s face.
“No way, dude,” he whispered, his eyes searching. “How did you do it?”
“Hold on a moment, Michaelangelo.” Leonardo kept his weapon out. “How do we know it’s really him?”
Raphael sighed and rolled his eyes. “Michaelangelo’s favorite pizza is ‘more pizza,’ Leo keeps his collection of bottle caps alphabetized first by source then by color, and Donnie downloads every new episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.”
“Donnie! You’re a brony?!”
“Mikey, I swear I will kill you in your sleep if you ever say that again.”
“THAT’S ENOUGH!” Leonardo slammed the hilt of his sword hard on the floor. “Raphael. Tell us everything NOW.”
Another belabored sigh escaped the teenager’s lips before he draped himself over an armchair and reexplained what had happened. Leonardo and Donatello listened with rapt attention, while Michaelangelo wandered off to explore April’s fridge.
“And then I pretty much just came here.” Raph ran his hands through his hair again, then tossed his head for good measure. “C’mon, guys, why are you freaking out about this? Donnie can just figure out some magic way to turn me back, right?”
“I’m a scientist, Raph, not Merlin,” said Donatello, who had stepped forward to observe Raphael’s features close up. “I have no idea what you took.”
“But about ooze? Can’t you do something with ooze?”
“Radioactive ooze causes mutations. This is. . . different.”
“Unless you want Donnie to turn you into an X-man!” Said Michaelangelo cheerfully from the kitchen. “Donnie, can you-”
“No, Michaelangelo. Just no.”
“This is the worst thing you’ve ever done,” snarled Leonardo. “What if you’re stuck like this forever?”
“You’re so dramatic, Leo.”
“Wait, are you joking?” Said April, crossing her arms and raising an eyebrow. Donatello and Michaelangelo snickered. “Did you seriously just call someone else dramatic?”
“Hey, no one asked you!”
“Don’t yell at her!” Leo pointed a finger at his brother. “You got yourself into this mess, you get yourself out of it! And don’t come back to the lair until you’re. . . yourself!”
“Well maybe I won’t ever come back then!”
“Well maybe that would be best!”
“Good! You’d be useless in a fight anyway!”
Raphael scrambled to his feet to make a lunge at his brother, but April caught him by the back of the shirt. He was horrified to find that she could actually hold him back.
Leo shook his head grimly and headed out the window to the fire escape, motioning for his two other brothers to follow. Donatello stopped at the sill and glared at Raphael.
“That’s two bags now for outing me as a brony,” he whispered fiercely before disappearing after his brothers.
Raphael crossed his arms and growled, but it really didn’t have the same effect as it did when he was a mutant turtle.
“You can sleep here as long as you need to, Raph,” said April kindly.
“I’ll figure out how to get you some actual clothes and shoes tomorrow. I had planned to take a personal day anyway.”
Raphael looked down at his feet and felt a lump in his throat. What if he actually could never go back?
He looked up into April’s face, beautiful and round, her caring brown eyes smiling at him. She nodded, her hand massaging one of his shoulders.
“It’ll be alright, Raph. I promise.”
He cleared his throat and shrugged her off, scrubbing his face with one of his palms. “Yeah, yeah. So, uh, which side of the bed do you want?”
“Nice try, jailbait. On the couch.”
“Thanks, April. I mean it.”
The next few days saw Raphael walking around the city during every inch of daylight. He went to a movie matinee. He spoke to hot dog venders. He flirted with girls hanging out at records shops in Greenwich Village. He even went to FAO Schwartz and played the floor piano like he saw Forrest Gump do in one of Mikey’s movies. One afternoon Casey Jones took him to Central Park to throw the ball around in broad daylight. He almost got mugged once and, though he fought off the guy, he admitted that he missed his muscular, turtle-self. He never got a black eye as a turtle. New York was his, but in a different way than when he fought its dark underbelly. The one place he didn’t go was back to Noriko’s shop. By the end of the week, he wasn’t sure if he even wanted to know if it was possible to turn back. Every night he returned to April’s apartment and she fixed him dinner. Cheeseburgers never tasted so good.
“Master Splinter, I’m so glad you’re back, but. . . I hate having to do this.”
“Yes, my son. Michaelangelo has explained why you consider it dishonorable to be a rat.”
“. . . that was poor choice of words on his part. But I don’t want my brothers to think of me as a snitch!”
“You are simply doing as your Master bids you. Now tell me everything about Raphael.”
Splinter had heard that a member of the Kimura family was in New York City. His connection to the Kimura family was tenuous, bordering on dangerous. He had meditated on the upsetting news for several days before deciding to track down this potentially perilous person. After forbidding the turtles to leave the lair, he set off. He had checked the major underground casinos, money laundering dens, and cockfight arenas with no luck. In his heart, he knew he would end up at Haruki’s shop and Leonardo’s admission confirmed this dreaded suspicion. Grudgingly, he made his way to the docks.
Noriko was putting to right the final few shelves Raphael had knocked over when Splinter entered.
“I see you wear your mother’s mask.”
The woman whirled around, freeing her twin katanas and lowering her face. “It’s mine now.”
“Your mother was clever and mischievous. She might have even been described as a trickster. But she never would use her illusions and stories to harm others. She used them to teach, to reveal truths.”
“Then I was right. You must be Hamato Yoshi. At last we meet.”
“My name is Splinter now.”
“I have waited for you to find me here.”
“What do you want with me?”
“You killed my mother!”
It took everything Splinter had to control himself. He blinked slowly and spoke softly. “That is a lie. I would never harm Haruki.”
“My brothers told me everything. When you left, my mother died of a broken heart,” Noriko spat, ever coming closer. “I was just a child, too young to be without a mother, too young to be without a mentor!” She decimated a shelf full of bottles with a single sweep of a katana. “I swore your sons would know the bitter taste of regret and lingering doubt. Since you obviously couldn’t find a woman who’d lower herself to bear you children, your green mutants will have to do.”
Splinter launched himself at her and the battle was joined. Splinter deftly avoided Noriko’s twin blades — she was skilled, but he was Master Splinter. He found the cold hard place inside of himself that allowed him to remain cool in combat. Noriko, however, was unfettered, viciously swiping with every ounce she had. One of her katanas had lodged itself in a mask on the wall. After several minutes of battle that had nearly broken or ruined every item in the shop, the rat ricocheted off a shelf and kicked the remaining katana out of her hands. In one graceful movement, he reclaimed them both and held them crosswise at her neck.
“You will tell me how to change him back. You will not try to deceive me. You will not say anything clever. You will do this now or you will die. No amount of feeling I had for your mother would stop me from ending you here and now. I promise.”
Noriko’s face clenched behind the mask and her black eyes bulged with rage. Splinter tightened the space between the katanas and she gasped, feeling a slim trickle of blood at her neck.
“It will wear off on its own. Tonight. At midnight. Now let me go.”
“I will name conditions. You will go, most definitely. You will go from New York City and if you ever try to harm my sons again, you will not live long enough to regret it.” He released her and she sank to the floor quivering. No matter how many creepy backstage stories one might have, nothing was more frightening than to be inches from a sneering human-sized rat’s face as he threatened you.
Effortlessly, Splinter traversed the wreckage of the shop and stopped at the door frame. He spoke, but did not turn around. “I loved her. Leaving her behind was not my choice.” Then he was gone.
Splinter found Raphael at the carousel in Central Park after dark. April had told the rat that she had sent him out since Casey was coming over. Splinter stood for a moment and watched his rebellious son, noticing how small he seemed, how vulnerable. He was just a boy.
The rat took a deep cleansing breath and then barked, “Raphael! Stand before me now!”
Instinct and training took over and the teenager scrambled to obey.
“Master Splinter, it stunk like hell in the lair when you were gone and I had to leave-”
“I did not ask you to explain. Your appearance betrays what you have done.”
“What do I do, Master?”
“I have already been to the shop. The effects of this potion will wear off by midnight tonight. In the meantime, we will wait here.”
“How do you know?”
“Too long have you been a human teenager instead of a trained ninja like I left you. Only this could account for your inability to hold your tongue at a time like this.”
“Leo! He ratted me out, didn’t he?”
“Two hundred push-ups!”
“Master, my arms, I can’t-”
“There is still one hour to go before midnight!”
Though he glared and grumbled, the lanky boy dropped and began his punishment.
“And two hundred more for the ‘ratted out‘ comment. It is like you boys speak before actually finishing the sentence in your head.”
It was much more difficult in human form and soon his baggy shirt was soaked in sweat. About half past eleven, he noticed that his skin was starting to develop a green tinge. Soon his hair fell out and his back arched in pain as his shell began to form. The two waited in silence for the final drops of Noriko’s potion wore off. Raphael didn’t dare lift his burning eyes, continuing to stare at his fleshy hands as the morphed back completely into the green.
“Young people make mistakes, Raphael. It is unfortunate that your mistake collided with Noriko’s.”
“But it felt so real, Master. I was human!”
“Illusions can be powerful. You were still Raphael, the turtle, even in human form. You do not know what it truly means to be human.”
“But I do! I can feel it still inside of me! Don’t you ever regret being who you are?”
Splinter said nothing for a long while, simply placing his paw on Raphael’s muscular shoulder. As the pair began the journey home, Raphael snapped his fingers, remembering. “Master, we gotta make one stop first.”
When Raphael and Splinter entered the lair, the other three turtles had the decency not to stare or comment. Splinter went immediately to his study and motioned for Raphael to follow him. As the red-bandanaed turtle passed Donatello in front of the TV, he dropped a paper bag.
“Thanks for not telling Master Splinter I had gone, Donnie.”
“You were gone?”
Raph smiled and then followed Splinter.
Donatello actually paused the game to dig into his Cool Ranch prize, but not before yelling after his brother, “What, no Cherry Coke?”