It started out normal enough.
He was running across the rooftops late at night, burning off the excess energy that had built up in his muscles from the lack of activity throughout the day. It felt good to move, to be out in the world after being stuck underground for what seemed like an eternity. A soft breeze cooled his hot skin that glistened with countless sweat drops. Using his powerful legs, he leapt easily to the next building.
That's when Raphael's dream began to change.
As he landed on the neighboring ledge, the masonry crumpled. The sudden loss of support caught the turtle unawares and, arms flailing helplessly, he began to fall. During his descent, Raph tried desperately to catch hold of something – a window ledge, the fire escape, any of the clothes lines strung between the residential structures – but to no avail. His fingers lost their grip on all of it, but not before they were scraped, cut, and bloodied. He spun in the air until he was falling face first. The dirty alley floor loomed closer and Raph squeezed his eyes shut, unwilling to watch himself meet an unjust demise.
And just when he should have plowed into the old, cracked concrete, he instead belly flopped into a large pile of moss-cushioned dirt.
Though a lost less damaging, the impact still stunned the sai-wielder. For a moment he lay unmoving, the vegetation's earthy smell flooding his nose. Carefully, he rolled over onto his shell. A quick flexing of his limbs informed him that he had no broken bones, but he knew a dull ache would soon settle into his body and remain for some time. Raph sat up slowly and looked around to assess his surroundings.
The landscape was dull and depressing. Huge rocks were scattered between the few pathetic dead and dying trees. Weapons, rusted and broken, littered the ground. Overhead, the sky was nothing but dark, heavy clouds that grumbled threats of impending rain. The familiarity of the place puzzled Raph and he wracked his brain trying to figure out if he had even been here before. Finally, he recognized it as the same location that Renet had unintentionally taken his brothers and him to on the night they were first introduced.
Mid-evil Europe. Year 1406.
Twisting his upper body around, Raphael spotted the towering fortress that Savanti Romero had occupied. The red-banded turtle cursed both the demon sorcerer and the Timestress as he got to his feet, groaning when his battered joints popped in protest. Those two idiots had been responsible for his predicament then and he was willing to bet that they were to blame now.
Raph brushed dirt from his plastron as he glanced around again. He half-expected and half-hoped to find his brothers standing somewhere close by dressed in full battle gear and ready to strike down any of the zombie soldiers once they erupted from the earth. To his disappointment, there was no one. Glancing back at the castle, Raph noticed the unmistakable orange glow of fire burning atop the roof. Intrigued, and with few other options, he made his way towards the stone building, ever wary for Savanti's Dark Warriors.
Within minutes he arrived at the great wall that guarded the castle. Raph reached inside his belt and extracted his set of shuko spikes. Slipping them on, he scaled the wall just as he and his brothers had done whilst on mission to save Renet. The hothead jumped from the battlements to the inner grounds and almost immediately his attention was drawn to a heap of clothing three feet to his left. Raph walked over to it and picked it up. After a brief examination, he realized he was holding the armor that Michelangelo had reluctantly shed. Confused, his gaze swept the courtyard, searching for his only younger brother. As his focus drifted to the south wall, he felt his stomach drop.
There, crouched down low to the ground, was a giant mutated cockroach.
The beast's bright red eyes were trained on Raphael. A loud growl rumbled forth from its chest and strings of saliva dribbled from its partially open mouth. Rising up on its hind legs, the insect began to advance, each step made faster than the last.
Raph swore under his breath. Reaching for his sai, he braced himself for the impending fight. He managed to dodge the first swipe of the creature's handless arm, but the second one struck him squarely in the gut and sent him hurtling backwards. Shell slamming into the wall, Raph grunted and dropped to his knees. In an instant he was up again and charging towards the roach. Snarling, he sunk a sai into its thigh and smiled when it shrieked with pain. But instead of collapsing as Raph had anticipated, the insect kicked out and the turtle was sent flying once again. This time he landed on the ground, limbs sprawled and staring at the overcast sky above. He didn't even have a chance to think about moving when one of the roach's clawed feet drove into his chest, effectively pinning him. Faster than Raph could blink, the beast leaned in and snatched him up with its strong pincers and shoved him between its jaws.
Panic began to flood Raph's bloodstream and his heartbeat picked up speed. Never had he imagined that he would have to suffer this terrifying experience more than once. Stretching out, he tried to stop himself from sliding any further down the roach's slick gullet. It was hot and already his oxygen supply was running out. Trying to remain calm, Raph wriggled his arm, intentionally trying to cause his adversary pain, until he could reach his belt.
To his disbelief and horror, his other sai was gone.
Swearing, the red-banded turtle frantically searched his belt for anything – shruiken, smoke pellets, his shuko spikes – that he could use to bust his way out or at least force the bug to regurgitate him. There was nothing. All of it had somehow vanished and he was left with nothing.
Raphael began to beat wildly at the roach. Punching, kicking, scratching, he desperately tried to escape. Yet, for all his effort, all he accomplished was to slip a few more inches down the roach's throat. The rotting stench of its stomach contents hit him then and he tasted vomit at the back of his mouth.
Darkness. No air.
He didn't want to die like this. Not as some bug's dinner.
Slipping a little more, he swore he could feel the roach's stomach acid start to burn his toes.
Raphael started screaming.
It was what finally roused him from his slumber. Bolting upright, he rocked dangerously in his hammock as he looked around his room wide-eyed. His shouts died away as he realized where he was, safe at home and not in the belly of the beast. Breath came in short gasps, eventually slowing to the point that he could suck in big lungfuls of air. He felt completely drenched. Swiping a hand over his forehead, Raph cleared away some of the sweat that had collected there. A shiver ran down his spine as he tried not to imagine that he was coated with mucous from the roach's insides.
Pulling his blanket off of his hot, sticky body, Raph dropped it on the floor and flopped back into his suspended bed. He stared up at the ceiling, the dream replaying itself in his mind.
Darkness. No air.
The sai-wielder sincerely doubted that he would be getting anymore sleep tonight.