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Gnome Alone

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Gnome Alone

(TMNT-2K3, Rating:T for some coarse language.  All characters are the property of Eastman/Laird and Viacom, and no profit is to be had in fanfic, so I don’t know why anyone would bother suing.  Created for this month's writing challenge at :icontmnt-allstories:.  I have no idea how this one hooked me.)

**This fic won for the literature category for September at :icontmntcommunityawards:!  Thanks to all those who voted for it!

Michelangelo was already late coming home from sewer-skateboarding, but he wasn’t picking up his pace any… He’d been late so much over the years, he’d discovered that there was an upper end to how much punishment Master Splinter would dole out for such an infraction, and he was already past that threshold, so there was no point in hurrying any further.  Besides, the later he arrived, the less time Leo would have to lecture him.  He dawdled, executing a few more tricks against the pipe-like walls of the sewer tunnels.

As he turned the corner at the next juncture, a small figure came into his view, standing in the middle of the tunnel, motionless in the gloom of the enclosed underground space.  He blinked at the little pointy-hatted figurine that grinned up at him with a somewhat demented smile.

Mikey contemplated the lawn gnome for a moment.  It was smack-dab in the middle of the tunnel, and standing upright, and wasn’t the least bit dirty, so it wasn’t as if it had simply fallen or floated there, and he hadn’t seen it on his way in.  Weird.

His sense of humor piqued, he crouched down to the little statue’s level.  “Whazzup, Gnome-boy… You’re a long way from Alaska!  Nome, get it?  Maybe if you click your heels three times and say, ‘There’s no place like gnome!’  Gnome sayin’? “  The gnome only smiled back.  “Yeah, I knew you’d like that one!  Well, I better get going… I’ll leave you alawn.  Bye, little gnome dude!”  He grinned at his own puns, striding off.  He still couldn’t think of how the lawn ornament could have ended up there… who knew?  People did strange things sometimes to amuse themselves. 

He was still thinking along these lines when another little figure caught his eye in an adjoining tunnel, this one a lady gnome, with squinting, crow-footed eyes peeking out over the rosy apples of her cheeks.  But once again, the effect came off more psychotic than welcoming.  Why would anyone want these things in their yard??

“Erm… sorry, Mrs. Gnome,” the turtle said meekly, “I used all my gnome puns on your husband back there.  Er… gnome hard feelings?”  That one was reaching.  Mikey shrugged apologetically and moved on.

However, at the next tunnel, he was met with a quandary.  He found himself looking at the same little gnomish man as before… or was it another one?  Mikey’s brows knit in confusion… Same red pointy hat, same blue jacket, same crazy-eyed expression.  Just to make sure he wasn’t seeing things, he decided to backtrack.  There was the female gnome, still in the tunnel entrance, but where was the first?  The turtle ninja trekked back much further than the spot where he swore the gnome had been before, and then back to the tunnel with the gnomish woman, but there was no sign of gnome #1.  A chill tingled its way up his spine.  If he’d had hairs on his neck, they would have been standing on end.

“Raph?  Leo?  Is that you guys?” he called tentatively, but received no answer.  Of course not… why would there be anything to give him a little comfort right now?

He decided to put the weirdness behind him and hastened his ride home.  His eye caught another gnome, this one with a yellow shirt, brown vest and hat, and a white chin-beard, standing in the next alcove.  He didn’t give this one the time of day, skating quickly onward, getting thoroughly weirded out.  “Get a hold of yourself, man,” he chastised himself.  “They’re just pieces of porcelain… they can’t even do anything!”  He’d almost talked himself down, almost calmed his heavy breathing when that red, pointy hat and blue coat appeared in front of him again.  His breathing and heart rate shot up again, as he let out a startled yelp, skidding to a stop in front of it.

A sudden wave of anger and resentment hit him.  Here he was, a fully trained, armed ninja, running from ceramic garden ornaments.  How was he letting  a few creeptastic sculptures get the better of him?  Out came a nun-chuck, down flew the wooden handle, and shatter went the evil-looking little gnome, cracked to pieces by the impact.

“There!” Mikey cried triumphantly.  “That’ll teach you to follow this turtle around!”

Or, maybe it didn’t.  Maybe it only pissed them off. 

At the next corner, he saw Gnomette and Brown Hat together.  “Seriously, who’s doing this?” he hollered, hoping for a reply, but even if there’d been one, it would have been drowned out by Mikey’s startled shriek when he came up against Red Hat right in front of him again, eyes set sadistically on Mikey as though turtle was going to be the main course.  The turtle smashed the gnome—again—and bolted up a side tunnel, only to have five of them in his path: two Gnomettes, two Brown Hats, one Red Hat.  He ground to a halt on his heels.  If he smashed them, would it just bring more?  He could jump them easily, even in the spread formation they were in, but would they follow him?

He eventually opted for backing away.  Common sci-fi knowledge dictated that you never took your eyes off an ominous statue, not even to blink.  He practiced closing one eye, then alternating with the other, until his eyes got dry and he blinked as a reflex.  His breath hitched, but he let it out again when he was sure none of the five had moved.

“Okay… good.  You just… just stay th—!”  Mikey let out a squawk at the top of his vocal range as his heel contacted ceramic, drowning out the tiny clink the thing made when it fell over.  He charged through the gnomes before him in a blind panic, abandoning his skateboard as he bowled over and cracked three of them. 

They seemed to be everywhere as he fled, peeking out of drainage pipes and alcoves  all along his haphazard route.  He could swear he heard the rattling of ceramic as he ran, but it was hard to tell over the whump-whump of his heart pounding in his ears and the hiss of his own breath.

He was forced into a left turn as he encountered a tunnel full of NOPE ahead of him—the floor a sea of the figurines.  And he was still running at full-tilt when he rounded a corner and came face to face with— “HEY!  WATCH OUT!”

Plastrons smacked together and limbs flailed out in every direction as Michelangelo crashed into his brother.  Both landed skidding on their shells, groaning as they tried to recover the  breath that had been knocked out of them.

“What in all shell, Mikey…?”

“Don! ...go… coming… gnomes… run!” Mikey huffed out, hoping to spur his brother into a run to safety.

Don’s condescending  chiding was only to be expected.  “Mikey…  seriously?  Gnomes?” he scoffed, dusting himself off.   “You couldn’t come up with something a little more… you know… feasible?  Sharks with legs, or demonic unicorns… but gnomes??  Not your most creative…”

“It’s not a prank!” Mike screeched at him, knowing full well that was exactly what Don was expecting of the family trickster.

“Sure it’s not,” Donnie conceded flatly.  “As long as you’re here, though, I could use your help… all the security cameras suddenly went offline.  I came out to see if it’s a problem in the hardware—“

“Donnie, we have got to get out of here.  They’re after me!”

Don let out an annoyed sigh.  “Mikey, there’s no such thing as—“  But the purple-banded brother was interrupted by a clinking sound in the tunnel behind the two turtles.  Mikey stiffened, turning sheet-white.  Donatello cocked a curious brow at the little figurine.  “Where in the world did that come from?”

“Donnie!”  Mikey frantically tugged at his brother’s shell, only to be batted away as Don picked up the figurine to inspect it and look about the surrounding tunnels.

“It seems perfectly normal, aside of the really ugly paint job… or maybe gnome-al, you’d say?” Don quipped, looking back to his brother for approval.

“Donnie, no!  The puns only seem to aggravate them!” Mikey whimpered, then begged,  “Please, Don, please let’s go!”

The scientifically-minded turtle, still befuddled, turned back toward the gnome once more, still trying to figure out why his brother was so terrified, as well as where the statuette had come from, only to see that now the little red-capped man was flanked by two brown-caps, with a pudgy-cheeked gnome woman in a blue hat bringing up the rear.  More clinking echoed through the gloom around them.  He knew very well that there had to be some logical explanation for this, but the shiver up his spine was preventing him from thinking of one.

Mike picked up on his brother’s increasing apprehension, and pulled his brother back by a shoulder.  “Don, you’re good at thinking on your feet, right?”

“Yeah…?”

“Then could you do it while we beat feet out of here?!”

“Y-yeah,” Don finally agreed.  “Yeah.  Let’s head back to the lair…”  He followed the orange-masked turtle into a run, lagging only slightly behind due to the duffel full of tools slung over his shoulder.

The orange-banded turtle shook his head as they ran.  “Nuh-uh.  I don’t wanna lead those things into the lair!  We should go topside ASAP.”

“Topside?  Mikey, it’s still broad daylight out!  It won’t be full dark for more than three hou—AUGH”

“Don!  What is it?!” Mikey called over his shoulder, slowing to a stop when he received no response from his brainiac brother.  “Don?  Don?!”   His panic spiked even higher when he realized his brother was simply gone, his duffel left abandoned on the ground.  He backtracked to the t-junction they’d just passed and hollered for his brother once again, but the only sounds that reached his ears aside of his own voice were the usual drip-drip of the sewers and the faint ceramic tinkling, which seemed to echo at him from every direction, making it impossible to pinpoint.

The junction tunnel  was devoid of gnomes, and Mikey hadn’t noticed if there had been any when he’d run past, frightened as he was, though he was even more unnerved now that he couldn’t locate his brother, who had been right behind him just moments before.

The experience of too many horror flicks catching up to him, he gulped, proceeding through the dark passageway on his own, and he couldn’t keep the waver out of his voice when he called meekly for Don again.

The shape of a singular gnome came into sight as he approached, a brown-hat, but it appeared to have something wrapped around it.  Mikey leaned down cautiously to see what the item was, and while he dreaded being right, he already knew it was Donatello’s mask. 

This possibly was some kind of message from the non-verbal creatures, he ventured.  The implications weren’t entirely clear, but Mikey had his guesses, and neither of them were good: either that Don had been captured, muffled, unable to answer Mikey when he’d called… or, somehow, this was Don… that somehow he’d been transformed into one of the little figurines himself.

While the turtle froze to the spot, eyes locked on the grinning lawn ornament draped in his brother’s mask, Mike’s mind was a flurry of horror-movie situations.  If Don had been captured, where would the gnomes have taken him, and would Mikey have any hope of freeing him if Don himself had been so easily overwhelmed by them?  If this was Don, what had invoked the transformation?  Don had picked up the red-hat in the corridor… was it from touch?  No; he remembered the porcelain that had touched his foot… Or maybe he was immune… Was it contagious, like a zombie-virus?  Did it turn Donnie against him, or was the genius‘s consciousness trapped within the figurine?  Then, were the rest of the gnomes just regular New York citizens?  Victims of some sort of gnome-plague?

…Had he killed people when he smashed them?  Would he have to kill more, just to escape?

Mikey’s stomach rolled.  The pizza he’d eaten earlier wanted to come back up, but he swallowed it down in favor of hyperventilating.   “Don!” he hollered down the passageway, just in case he got an answer, but there was none.  He took a breath to get a hold of himself and set his lips firmly together, eyes on the small figure before him.  “Don, if you’re in there, we’ll find a way to get you back to normal.  If you’re not Don and you took my brother…” —his eyes narrowed— “…I’ll smash every last one of you to get him back!”

He cautiously backed his way out of the tunnel and turned to look for Don’s dropped bag—gone, of course.  These gnomes were sneaky little bastards!  Fine… he doubted anything in Don’s bag of tricks would have actually helped anyway.  He had what he needed, though.  He pulled his Shell-Cell from his belt and dialed Leo.

“Mikey?  You’re nearly an hour late, where are you?” Leo immediately started mother-henning.

“Leo, something weird’s going on, and something’s happened to Don…”

“What happened, Mike?  Is he okay?”

He swallowed.  How in the world was he going to get Leo to believe him?  This whole situation was ridiculous!  “Listen, Leo… I know this is gonna sound completely crazy, but, we’re being attacked by gnomes.”  Several moments of dead air greeted him.  “I know, I know, you think it’s a prank, but it’s not.  I wouldn’t joke about Donnie being in trouble.  One way or another, I think the gnomes got him!” 

He paused, waiting for Leo’s reaction.  The silence went on way too long.  “Leo?”  Mikey prompted.  No answer.  “Leo, are you there??”  He terminated the call, and tried Leo again, this time being sent to voicemail.  Frantically, he speed-dialed Raph, received no answer, and got the same result trying to get a hold of Master Splinter.  Cold dread spilled over him.  He might be the only one of his family left now.  He had to get to the lair!

He ran on, not slowing or stopping, leaping small clusters of gnomes where he could, pelting down another route when he was blocked by too many.  Finally, he made it to the lair entrance, punched in the security code, and ducked inside before the door had even fully slid open.  He was greeted with ominous stillness. 

“Raph?  Leo?  Master Splinter?” he called, glancing around for any trace of them, but stopped dead in his tracks when he entered the main living area.  Gnomes… several of them, arranged to form words  in front of him:

TOO LATE

His heart tried to escape his throat.  He shook his head in denial.  An inarticulate shout of rage, terror, and remorse tore from his throat.  Wildly he rushed through the lair, tearing open the doors of his brothers’ rooms, the bathroom, the dojo, and finally Master Splinter’s sanctum, where he screamed until he was out of air and fainted at the sight of a red cap, blue coat, and demented eyes staring blankly up at him from the ceramic figure nestled in Splinter’s brown robe.

 

Raphael chuckled to himself as he hefted a pair of boxes.  “You don’t mind if we take a few more of these off your hands, do ya, April?” he asked.  “Me an’ Leo have been havin’ a blast settin’ ‘em up and movin’ ‘em all over the tunnels to mess with Mikey.”

The turtles’ ally waved a hand at him in disgust.  “Please, take as many as you like… Take them all!  At least you guys are getting some use out of them.  Maybe they’ll make good shuriken target practice… I don’t care, I just never want to see them again!”

“Really got skunked on that storage box auction, huh?”

April blew her bangs up out of her face, cheek leaned into her hand, elbow propped on one knee..  “Well, there were a couple of good antiques in there, but they’re not going to make back what I paid for it…  I’m out maybe six hundred dollars…“

“How many boxes of these did you say were in there?” Donatello chipped in.

“Eighteen!  Eighteen boxes; a gross and a half of badly-painted lawn gnomes!” April raved, apparently not for the first time, as Raph mouthed the words along with her.  “Never again!”

“I can’t even imagine what anyone would have wanted so many of these things for in the first place,” Don mused.  “They’re hideous!”

“Yeah, nothin’ so quaint as a little statue in yer garden that looks like it wants to shank you in yer sleep with your trowel…”

April gave a defeated sigh and looked to her third houseguest for a distraction.  “Can I get you some more tea, Master Splinter?”

The aged rat, wrapped in a green-striped bathrobe in place of his usual attire, waved her off.  “Thank you, April, but four cups, though delicious, is, I think, quite enough,” he smiled.

Raph’s phone went off.  He checked to see who was calling and then answered.  A big grin spread across his face as he spoke to whoever was on the other end.  “Time to head home,” he relayed to his father and brother.  “Leo says he can hear Mike screamin’.  Thinks he’s been spooked enough.”

April looked dubious.  “Are you guys sure this isn’t too much for him?”

Don brushed her off.  “We allow ourselves one payback prank per year.  This one’s a doozy, but he’ll shake it off.”

“ ‘sides, the nutball has really been askin’ for it lately… comin’ home late all the time, not really catching a clue from Leo or Master Splinter’s punishments, and the pranks lately have been way out of line.”

April nodded.  “I can tell, if even Leo and Master Splinter are in on the act… what in the world did he do to set everyone off?”

“Rigged the whole lair with rubber bugs that drop down anytime someone opens a door.  And I mean complicated… Leo opens his door, one falls down in the dojo.  Open the fridge, one drops down over the TV.  Every door in the place was rigged!”

“He threw a snapper into the pile of smoke pellets I was working on, and they all blew up in my face,” Don added. 

“And he filled Leo’s katana sheaths with chewed watermelon Bubble-Yum.  I see Leo pick a little more out of them every day.  It’s been a month, and the smell hasn’t dispersed yet.  ‘s like he’s waving candy katanas around.”

“I can see how that would do it, but I would have thought Master Splinter would be dead-set against taking vengeance on your brother…” April stated, looking toward the rat in question.  He raised a finger, looking the way he did when he was about to dispense a token of wisdom.

“A tea,” he said stoically, “which turns one’s tongue, and whiskers, blue.”

April chuckled.  “Oh dear… he’s invoked the wrath of God now!”

“Guess we won’t be needin’ these,” Raph said, moving to set down the boxes of gnomes.

The young woman looked alarmed.  “No, please take them!  I don’t care if you just put them in the dumpster downstairs, but please, don’t leave them here!  I can’t stand the sight them!”

 

“It would’ve been nice if you guys had let me know about this ahead of time… I could have rigged some quick-and-dirty special effects for you…” Don complained.

“Whaddya think I been trying to get your attention for all day, genius?  Only way I could get you outta your lab was ta unplug one’a your systems an’ get you out ta fix it!  ‘sides, ya ain’t got a poker face ta save your life!” Raph teased.  “We needed you as scared as Mikey ‘til Leo could grab ya.”

“I do so!” Don retorted, looking miffed.  “Don’t I, Master Splinter?”

“Mmhh…” sighed the old rat, then tilted a hand back and forth.

Don huffed.  “Fine, Leo will back me up.  Leo, tell Raph I have a poker face!”

Leo spared him a sideways grin as he met up with the other three on their way through the abandoned subway tunnels, though he didn’t dignify Don’s complaint, an impish smile on his face that rarely evinced itself.  He slapped hands with a likewise smirking Raphael.  “We got him!” he laughed, then looked down at the three boxes Raph and Don were carrying.  “I thought I said we didn’t need any more… I’m gonna have to go back and pick up a bunch of the ones in the tunnels so they don’t lead directly here as it is…”

Raph shrugged.  “April wouldn’t let us leave without ‘em.  Target practice, she suggested.”

Leo made a  non-committal sound.  He punched the security code in and led his brothers and sensei into the lair.  “Mikey, we’re home!  Are you here?” he called.

“’D’ya find our little surprise, bro?” Raph asked, apparently to the open air, as no one responded, though a faint murmuring could be heard.

Splinter’s ears perked.  “Something is wrong,” he stated, hurrying toward Michelangelo’s room, the others in tow.  He shoved the door open without knocking, calling his son’s name softly.  The muttering was definitely Michelangelo’s, but it continued on as though he had not heard his father at all.

Leo entered the room, Don and Raph staying outside, but peeking through the door concernedly.  “Mikey… are you all right?” 

In the low light, he could see his brother sitting on the bed, knees drawn up to his chest, rocking back and forth as he cuddled a red-hatted gnome and his father’s robe.  Raphael crowded in beside Leo despite the closeness in the room.  “Mike… Hey, Mike… You all right, bro?”  He slapped Mikey on the cheeks a couple of times gently, then a little harder to try to get his attention, then looked to Leo.  “I think we broke him.”

Splinter and Leo stepped back to allow Don in to assess the situation.  He blinked, tugged a blanket up over Mikey’s shoulders and swallowed.  “I… I think he’s in shock.  We might have overdone it a bit…”

“Mike… It was just a joke, bro… Come on, snap out of it,” Raphael coaxed, guilt splayed across his face.

But nothing they did stopped the rocking or Mikey’s terrified chanting: “There’s gnome place like home, there’s gnome place like home, there’s gnome place like home…”

 

Mikey encounters the horrors of too many gnomes.  Why it's not good to push your brothers too far.

This fic won for the literature category for September at :icontmntcommunityawards:!  Thanks to all those who voted for it!
© 2016 - 2022 RavenshellRorschach
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Laurakie87's avatar

Whoa...I really did NOT see THAT coming!!! I was shocked when I realized that it was a Damn PRANK!!! The others really scared the heck out of poor Mikey...I feel bad for him. Congrats, you managed to scare me to death...Man this was totally creepy, amazing idea!! but for a plot and story,this is absolutely original! I liked it:clap: