Author: Kat Lee
Fandom: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Character/Pairing: April, OCs, Splinter
Challenge/Prompt: 1_million_words Monday Flash Challenge: Reptile
Word Count: 1,550
Date Written: 20 July 2018
Disclaimer: All recognizable characters within belong to their rightful owners, not the author, and are used without permission. The Snake Charmer is mine while Sir Hiss belongs to himself, wherever he may be these days. His story is based on a real little snake's life story.
She had always wanted to interview the Crocodile Hunter but had never had the chance. Interviewing the Snake Charmer was just as good, though, April thought -- and then she almost scoffed aloud. Who was she kidding?! She didn’t want to be in this room with this woman or her pets! As much as she had admired what Steve Corwin had did for animals across the world, she had never wanted to be close to his crocodiles, and she most certainly didn’t want to be near all these snakes now!
She curled into her position on the stranger’s couch, trying her best not to show her fear or revulsion. She knew some animals could sense fear and figured snakes were one of them. She tried to think about what the turtles would do if they were here, but she couldn’t see even Michelangelo willingly playing with snakes. Donnie might get excited at the opportunity to study them, and Raphael would never show his fear and might even find something in common with them. But that was as far as she could imagine even her guys’ tolerance of the slithering, slimy reptiles going.
Her mind flashed back suddenly to a memory. Snakes were kind of cousins to turtles, she recalled, as they were all members of the reptile family. She remembered being surprised at the revelation that Donnie had made. She’d always thought turtles were amphibians, but they weren’t. Frogs and toads were amphibians, but turtles were reptiles, like snakes, crocs, and gators.
“This one,” the woman spoke into April’s outstretched microphone as the reporter tried not to shudder visibly at the way a long, green snake slithered over her shoulders and curled into her hands, “is a very special case. I didn’t find Sir Hiss out in the wilds. I found him right here on a street in New York City.”
“Really?” April’s voice came out as a squeak. “I’m sorry,” she said, glancing at the glass of water the woman had offered her. It sat on the table in front of them, but it wasn’t alone. Three more snakes were curled on that table, and she didn’t dare reach for her water even if she was dying of thirst. “I must be getting thirsty,” she murmured aloud. She glanced at her cameraman, but he shook his head quickly. There was no way he was getting any closer to those snakes either!
“Yes, I found him right here in New York, a few neighborhoods over from where we are right now, where he had been left for dead.” April’s eyes flicked questioningly back up at the older woman. “Someone had broken every bone in his body and had left him for dead. He was suffering terribly, but he was far from dead.”
“Wow. Do you think they felt threatened by him?”
“They may have, but they really were not in any danger from Sir Hiss. He and others like him are far more in danger from us. You see, April, Sir Hiss is what is commonly known as a grass snake. He may eat mice, but he’s not about to harm any human being. If given the chance, he’d run away from us.” She chuckled, and the snake’s tongue flicked in and out of his little mouth as though he was laughing with her. “Except for me now, of course.”
“Of course,” April murmured, watching the snake. The woman’s words seemed to echo in her mind. She also could not forget the fact that the snake she held, as dangerous as April still felt certain he was, was a relative of sorts to her very best friends, her only real, trusted friends in this maddening world. “So someone just broke every bone in his body and then left him for dead, knowing he was alive?”
“Yes. The argument could be made, I suppose, that he was ran over, but I do not believe that the villain used an automobile. There were handprints on his body, and some of the bones that were broken would have been missed by nearly any car.”
“They did it,” April asked, feeling queasy, “with their bare hands?”
“They may have wore gloves, but yes, they did it with his hands. Like I said, there were handprints on his body.”
“But you have no idea who did it?”
“None. We’ll never know,” the herpetologist answered sadly.
April stared at the snake, whose tongue still hung out of his tiny mouth. All she could think about was what might have happened to the turtles when they’d been babies if Master Splinter had not found them. They could have easily had every bone broken in their bodies and been left for dead.
“If Sir Hiss could talk,” she asked, speaking into her microphone, “what do you think he would say?”
“Unlike humans, snakes don’t tend to hold a grudge. I think he’d tell the person they were forgiven but would ask they not do it again, that they not visit the same kind of heartless cruelty upon any of his cousins.”
“And you’re certain he presents no harm to humans?”
“He’s a grass snake. They will only bite a human if they feel severely threatened and unable to escape. But when I found him, when he had that happen to him, he was nothing more than a baby. His bite at that time would not have eaten broken our skin.”
“Wow.” The word slipped out before she could stop it.
“Would you like to pet him?” April stared at her, wide-eyed. “It’s okay if you don’t want to, if you’re too nervous.”
She felt her cameraman watching her and knew that so, too, were the eyes of millions of other humans -- and, undoubtedly, four, very special reptiles. Her fingers trembled as she forced her hand to reach toward the snake. She shook inside from head to toe, but only her fingers moved visibly as she stroked the snake’s small head. “He’s not slimy at all!” she exclaimed in surprise.
“No, that’s another common misconception. Snakes are not slimy creatures.” The scientist smiled. “I’ve known humans who were worse.”
Slowly, April’s hand travelled further down the snake’s body. “You’re right,” she agreed, beginning to smile. “I have too.” She looked into her camera. “And I’m certain you have too, viewers. This is April O’Neil for Channel 3 News signing out.”
The cameraman cut the feed and began to pack up the equipment. April turned back to the doctor and held her free hand out. She stroked Sir Hiss’ head again. “Thank you, doctor,” she said, “for opening my eyes. I’ll never look at a reptile again in the same way.” She knew that she should have already been open to the experience of meeting other reptiles. After all, she reminded herself, the turtles were reptiles, and she could ask for no better or kinder beings than they.
“Thank you, Miss O’Neil, for giving me the opportunity.” She walked April and her cameraman to her door. April stepped out after her cameraman and turned back again to the herpetologist. Before she could speak, the Snake Charmer told her, “And do tell Master Splinter I said ‘hello’.” She winked and closed the door in April’s face, leaving the reporter once again open-mouthed and full of questions.
That evening, in the lair, Master Splinter confided, “I needed someone who knew how to handle baby turtles. I turned to her more than once for help when they were little and hurt themselves. Michelangelo once became very ill from something unidentifiable he had eaten, and Donatello had an infected wound from trying to create something out of a rusted piece of metal he’d found. She is a friend,” he confirmed, his tail swishing, “and to be trusted.”
“Wow,” April breathed, leaning back in her seat and studying him. She shook her head in hushed amazement. As big as the world was, it constantly seemed to turn in on itself, to circle back together. Perhaps everything really was connected, as she had heard their Sensei, Donatello, and Leonardo all say more than once.
She looked up as the turtles returned. Mikey raced to her side and knelt before her. “How was it?” he asked her eagerly. “Was he really not slimy at all?”
She shook her head, smiling. “No, not at all,” she answered. “In fact, he rather reminded me of someone.”
“Who?” Mikey asked.
“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe another reptile?” The elusion was lost on him, but she saw in the others’ eyes that they understood. “It was terrible what happened to him,” she added before Mikey could ask further questions, “how he was so hurt as a baby.”
Splinter nodded sagely. “I thank God every day that I found my sons when I did,” he whispered to her after the boys had scattered, going in their own directions, Leonardo to study, Donnie to invent, Raphael to fume over the latest battle with the Shredder, and Mikey to find pizza.
April looked at him, her eyes big and luminous in the dark shadows of the sewer. “I do, too,” she whispered back fervently, “and that you found me when you did.” She couldn’t imagine her life without these reptiles and their kind, old rat of a father, and she most certainly never wanted to.