Silent Isolation

Silent Isolation


By: Mark J. Hadley

The city of Townsville.  It was a Monday afternoon.  Underground, beneath the Utonium household, Buttercup was busy fighting a host of monsters in Professor Utonium's training room.  She had been doing great, handling each monster with ease, and now that the simulation was drawing to a close, she quickly dispatched the rest of them, and flew out from the room in triumph.  "How was that, Professor?" she said proudly.

"I'm amazed, sweetheart," the professor replied, shutting down the training room computer from the console.  "You handled Level 11 effortlessly that time!  Your skills are really improving."

"Hah, it was a piece of cake!" Buttercup bragged.  "No monster can get the better of me!"

Nodding, the professor said, "I'd almost have to agree with you there.  Still, don't forget what you've learned here, because real monsters can be a lot more unpredictable and dangerous than these simulations."

"Bring 'em on, I say!" Buttercup exclaimed, punching one fist into her other.

Almost as if on cue, she heard the familiar buzz of the Powerpuff Hotline upstairs.  Dashing out of the lab, she found Blossom already answering it, "What?  Okay, we're on it, Mayor!"  She hung up the phone and said, "Another giant monster's attacking Townsville…let's go!"

Bubbles flew into the room just soon enough to hear Blossom's order, and all three of them left the house, heading towards Townsville.  Buttercup smiled and said, "All right!  More action!  I bet I could take down this monster all by myself…"

"Buttercup, we have to work together on this, all right?" Blossom said.

Buttercup huffed, "Man, I'm tellin' ya, there's no monster I can't handle!"

"Blossom's right," Bubbles said.  "We're a team."

"I don't care," Buttercup yelled.  "Team or not, I can take 'em alone!  I'll prove it to you…"

Blossom frowned, and yelled back, "No!  Listen, we're doing this the right way, okay?  I'm getting sick of hearing you brag about how good of a fighter you are.  This is way too important for you to put all of Townsville at risk just so you can show off!"

They saw it in the distance.  It was a huge pink blob-like thing, with a single large eyeball in its forehead, a gaping mouth lined with teeth, and several tentacles sticking out both of its sides.  It was currently holding a building in one set of those tentacles, crushing it.  "Okay," Blossom ordered, "Let's start with attack plan alpha-gamma-thirteen!  Go!"

Buttercup watched as Blossom and Bubbles circled around opposite sides of the monster.  She gritted her teeth and thought, Ah, forget the lousy plans, I'm doin' it my way this time!  Instead of flying high over the monster like she was supposed to, Buttercup just opened fire on it with her eyebeams.

Blossom looked back over her shoulder and said, "What's she doing?!  Buttercup!"

Ignoring her, Buttercup continued to fire her eyebeams…unfortunately, they didn't do any good, as they passed harmlessly through the creature's jelly-like body.  Blossom and Bubbles broke off from their attack, and both of them tried attacking with their own eyebeams, having similar results as Buttercup.  The monster roared and swatted at them with his tentacles, but the girls all managed to dodge.

Blossom stopped near Buttercup and yelled, "What's wrong with you?  Why aren't you following orders?"

"Alpha-gamma-thirteen stinks, and you know it!" Buttercup said, folding her arms.  "That stupid plan never worked before, so why should it work now?"

Blossom narrowed her eyes angrily and said, "It would have worked this time!  But no, you had to go and disobey a direct order!  I've had it with you!  One of these days, your recklessness is going to get Townsville destroyed!

"Now listen here!" Buttercup growled back.  "I'm not the one always coming up with some cockamamie scheme instead of learning how to fight!  That's what's most impor—…"

Bubbles interrupted with a shout of warning, "Look out!"  As the girls looked up, they saw the monster swinging its tentacles at them.  Blossom spotted it first and quickly dodged out of the way.  Buttercup's back was to it, though, and by the time she had started to turn around, a tentacle slammed into the back of her head, knocking her from the sky.

Everything seemed to go black all at once, just for a moment, although Buttercup got the vague feeling that she was falling down through the air.  She saw debris flying around her, having crashed through a building or two, but she didn't feel anything…probably from the adrenaline rush, she decided.  She didn't feel herself hit the ground either.

Ughh, she thought.  All right, that's it!  That monster's history!  She tried to get up, but couldn't budge.  She didn't feel sore at all, but she still couldn't lift a muscle.  From the position she was lying in, she could see the monster in the distance, and saw two blurs, one pink and one blue, slashing around it.  They flew through it from multiple angles, ripping through its blob form each time, and the monster was slowly disintegrated completely by it.

Buttercup smiled inwardly and thought, What do you know…the plan actually does work.  Great, just great.  Now Blossom's probably gonna flaunt this in my face for the next few days.

Trying to get back up to her feet, she still couldn't budge an inch.  Man, I must have been hit harder than I thought…guess I'll just rest here until I'm strong enough to move again.  She waited, and saw Bubbles flying over in her direction.  I feel ridiculous.  They didn't even get hurt at all, and here I am, on my back like some weakling.

She could see that Bubbles' expression was strange, though.  Her hands were covering her mouth in shock, and she yelled, "Blossom!"  A moment later, Blossom appeared next to her, and gasped, looking down at her.  What's wrong?  What, am I really badly hurt or something?  I wish I could see myself…I can't move my head, though…

Blossom flew down and grabbed her shoulders, shaking her.  Oddly, Buttercup felt nothing, not even the touch of her hands.  "Buttercup!" Blossom said, looking like she was on the verge of tears.  "Are you all right?  Say something!"

I'm fine, Blossom!  Really, I don't feel hurt at all… It took Buttercup a moment to realize that her words weren't coming out of her mouth.  They were just in her mind.  Confused, she tried again.  Blossom?  Can you hear me?  Blossom?  Again, nothing.

Blossom cocked her head to one side, listening carefully to her, and said, "I-I don't think she's breathing…"

Bubbles, barely visible off to one side, said, "Oh my god…I-is she…d-dead?"

What?  Dead?!  No, I'm not!  I'm still alive!  She tried to move something, anything…her field of vision changed slightly, and she knew that all she managed was to move her eyelids slightly.

Blossom said, "Her eyes moved!  She's still alive!"  She lowered Buttercup down for a moment, whose head lolled to one side.  She couldn't see Blossom from this angle, but she could still hear her say, "C'mon, Bubbles, we gotta get her to the hospital, fast!"  From this position, though, she could see her reflection in a window on a nearby building.  She didn't look hurt at all, no cuts or wounds, but she was hanging limply.  Her eyes were partly closed from when she moved her eyelids, and her mouth hung open loosely.  She was surprised by that, and tried to close her mouth, but her reflection didn't change.

What happened to me?  Why can't I move?!

She saw herself lifting off of the ground, and knew that Blossom was flying, carrying her.  Her voice, laced with sadness, said, "Hang on, Buttercup…y-you're gonna be all right…you'll be just fine…"

*              *                *

What happened at the hospital seemed to pass in a blur.  She was wheeled into the emergency room…all she could see as they went down the hallway were the lights on the ceiling, and an occasional doctor's face peering over her.  They hooked her up to a few life support systems, something to help her breathe.  One of them shined a light into her eyes…it was blinding, but she could barely move her eyelid enough to close it halfway.  The doctor said, "No pupil response…pulse?"

She still couldn't move, still couldn't feel a thing, as they ran various other tests on her.  She couldn't understand anything they were saying, although "concussion" and "possible trauma" leapt out.  It was maddening, though, not being able to do anything.  She felt like she was watching it all on television, a moving image of light and sound, with no other feedback or input, just a spectator to everything that was going on.  Every so often, she tried to say something, but it did no good…she remained as silent as before.

Eventually, they put her in a hospital room.  They inserted an IV into her arm, and even then, she felt no pain when the needle went in.  After this, they left her alone for a few minutes.  She thought, I need to know what happened to me…was I paralyzed?  I probably was.  Am I going to stay this way for the rest of my life?  What a waste!  I was just starting to become such a great fighter, too…stupid monster, had to do this to me!  Everything I've been training for, wasted, gone in one stupid punch…

She heard the door open, and some people came in.  As they came into view, she saw they were Blossom, Bubbles, and the professor, as well as one of the doctors, whose nametag she could finally see clearly: 'C.EVANS, MD'.  The professor and the girls looked down at her with sad expressions.  "Will she be all right?"

I'm all right, Professor…I can't move, but I'm all right…

"I don't know," Dr. Evans said.  "She suffered a rather heavy concussion right on the base of her skull."

Bubbles was looking at him tearfully, "What's wrong with her?"

Dr. Evans went over some papers on a clipboard, "Physically, she's okay.  Mentally, though, I'm not so sure.  She's been unresponsive, and it's my suspicion that the blow she received likely caused her permanent brain damage…"

What?  No, I'm fine, I can still think just the same!  I swear it!

"What kind of damage?" the professor asked.

"The EEG we ran on her has had some disturbing results," Dr. Evans replied.  "We're detecting very little brain activity at all.  Most of it seems to be coming from her autonomous functions, although even those have diminished.  She can't breathe on her own right now.  Her heart is still functioning, thank goodness, but just barely."

                Bubbles said, "You can fix her, can't you?"

                Dr. Evans hesitated, and took a deep breath…it was a bad sign.  He finally said, "I admit that the nature of the injury is somewhat of a mystery to us without further research, but we've still been able to draw a number of, we believe, definite conclusions.  The only time we're reading surges in brain activity is when her eyelids occasionally move, and there's practically zero brain activity during any other time."

The professor said, "What does this mean?"

Dr. Evans continued, "Right now, the tests indicate to us that she's clinically brain-dead.  We don't know the extent of the damage, but…there might not be a way to restore her back to the way she was.  Even if you could repair the damage, she'd still be brain-dead, like you see her now, unable to move or respond…"

No!  No!  My mind is still okay!  You gotta believe me!  I just can't move, that's all!  I'm still all right! Buttercup tried as hard as she could to move or do anything, but still, all she could do is move her eyelids slightly again, and that wasn't good enough.

"Buttercup," Blossom said sadly, clutching her hand.  She looked up at the doctor and asked sadly, "W-we can't get her back?"

"No," Dr. Evans said, shaking his head.  "As I mentioned, there are surges in brain activity when her eyelids move.  We thought this was due to standard motor functions at first, but the pattern is erratic, and we believe it may just be a pain reaction.  This leaves us in a very difficult position…if she's in pain, we're forced to ask ourselves if we really want her to suffer like this."

The professor blanched a little and said, "You're not suggesting…"

"I only ask that you consider it," Dr. Evans remarked.  "She can't live out her life this way.  We can keep her alive for as long as you want, on life support systems, but all this is doing is prolonging her suffering.  The only other option, I'm afraid, is to disconnect her.  That may be the most humane option…better for her to pass on, rather than live mindlessly in pain..."

Though she gave no outward reaction, Buttercup was chilled inside, and her mind screamed, Oh my god, no!  Professor, don't let them do it!  I don't want to die!  I want to live!

Bubbles hugged Buttercup's other arm tightly, and cried, "No…"

The professor rested a hand on Bubbles' shoulder in comfort, and looked back at the doctor, "I…I just…can we think it over?"

"Of course," the doctor nodded, "I realize that this is a big decision to make.  I trust that whatever you decide, it will be the best for Buttercup."  The doctor walked out from the room, leaving them with Buttercup.

Oh please, Professor…say no, say no…don't let them do it to me…please…

"Professor?" Blossom said. She was trying her best to keep from crying.  "I don't want her to die…"

The professor said, "Me either, Blossom…but I…I don't want her to suffer either…"

I'm not suffering!  I'm not!!  Please, I'm begging you, don't let them do it!

"No, me either…" Blossom said, hanging her head sadly.

Bubbles closed her eyes, and nodded, too. Then, tears streaming down her face, she got up and flew out from the room.  The professor picked up Blossom, hugging her tightly, and said, "I'll tell the doctor to keep her life support systems active for a few days…but then, I'm afraid we have to do what we have to do…"

NOO!  Professor, no!!!

Blossom sobbed, resting her head on the professor's shoulder, and softly said, "I understand…"  The two of them left the room, leaving her alone once again.  Buttercup's mind raced, No, no no no…oh god, this can't be happening…I want to live…I want to live… Although she shed no tears, she cried inwardly for the remainder of the day…

*              *                *

The next few days passed painfully slow.  Doctors and nurses came into the room from time to time, and she occasionally got a few bits of information from listening to them.  She found out that the professor had set that Friday, at eleven o'clock PM, to be the time.  It was unsettling to hear them discussing it so casually right in front of her.  They had no idea that she understood every word they said.

When will this nightmare end? she thought to herself.  Of course, she already knew the answer to that: Friday night.  It would end, and all be over, and the knowledge of that fact terrified her beyond belief.  One moment, she was on top of the world…the next, she was waiting helplessly for her death sentence to be carried out.  That's all it really was.  She wasn't being put out of any kind of misery like they thought.  Was this some bizarre way of her paying for the way she treated the others?  If she had been nicer, would this have even happened?  All of these thoughts wracked her brain endlessly.  She couldn't help but think about them…what else could she do?

Occasionally, she moved her eyelids to try to see if she could get any attention from the doctors and nurses.  Why did that have to be the only thing she could move?  Every time they saw it, they just thought she was in more pain.  It seemed like it was doing more harm than good.

Eventually, she gave it up, and spent most of her time in quiet thought, reflecting over all the things she had said and done in the past.  She regretted a lot of it, and it occurred to her that there probably wouldn't be an opportunity to make it up to them.  She wished, at the very least, that she could say she was sorry, but even that was impossible.

The professor and Bubbles visited her on Tuesday.  They had a long talk in front of her…Bubbles kept asking the professor dozens of questions, about what was going to happen to Buttercup and where she was going, and the professor tried to answer them to the best of his ability.  After a while, though, Bubbles stopped asking questions, and then suddenly said that she didn't want to see Buttercup like this anymore, that she didn't want to remember her this way.  The two of them stopped by one more time on Wednesday, but only for a minute, because that was all that Bubbles could bear before flying out of the room, crying.  Buttercup didn't see her again for the rest of the week.

Blossom was a different story, however…she visited her after school every day.  Each time, she stayed by her side, quietly, just holding her hand, sometimes for hours.  Just before leaving, she would give Buttercup a big hug, and she could always see the tears flowing from her eyes.  Buttercup wanted so badly to hug her back, but couldn't, and each time, she was sad to see her go.  She desperately wanted to cry.  Her unshed tears were burning a hole through her, and she couldn't take it anymore.

*              *                *

Friday arrived.  Buttercup hadn't gotten much sleep in her condition during the past few days to begin with, but she hadn't slept at all the previous night.  She felt more and more like a prisoner, waiting for her execution.  Only they usually got a last meal, or some way of reconciling their actions.  All she could do is wait for it silently.

Blossom came after school as usual, and she looked more distraught than ever.  After sitting by her side for an hour, she finally said something, for the first time on any of these visits.  "You know, Buttercup…" she said, lost deeply in thought, "I-I'm sorry for everything I've done.  I've been pretty mean to you in the past, and bossy at times…I didn't realize how important your opinions are to me.  I was so stubborn about being the best leader I could, that I didn't listen to your advice, just because it sounded brash and unorganized.  Sometimes your ways really were the best…and I was too blind to see it."

She sat back and, although still showing an expression of sadness, chuckled a little to herself, "Why am I even saying this?  You can't understand me…I guess it's more for myself."  She looked back at Buttercup and said, "I wish…I wish I could change things, I wish I could have had the opportunity to value your opinions…I don't want to see you go…"  Her eyes filled with tears, and she said, "I promise to try and live up to your potential in the future, and consider your methods instead of ignoring them…would you like that?"

Buttercup wanted to say something, anything, but could do nothing to respond except move her eyelids a little.  Blossom seemed to take that as a 'yes', and smiled, "I'm going to miss you, sis…more than you'll ever know.  Bubbles, too…she's cried herself to sleep every night, and I know she feels the same way.  Whatever happens…" Her voice became choked with emotion, "…whatever happens, I hope you'll be happy where you end up…and that you'll…you'll watch over us…a-always…w-will you do that?"

Overcome, but unable to cry, Buttercup moved her eyelids, as her way of saying that she would.  Blossom sniffed, and said, "You will?"  Buttercup immediately moved her eyelids again.

Blossom's expression abruptly changed as she took a small, sharp intake of breath.  Something was showing in her face and eyes, something that wasn't there a moment ago…almost like recognition, or comprehension.  She suddenly leaned across Buttercup, almost face-to-face with her, and said, "Buttercup! Move your eyes if you mean 'yes'…is my name Bubbles?"

In shock, Buttercup realized what Blossom was trying to do, and remained perfectly still.  She continued, "Is my name Mojo?  How about Fuzzy?"  She stayed still.  "Okay…how about, Blossom?"

Buttercup moved her eyelids.  Blossom gasped, and her face suddenly wore an expression of joy.  "Buttercup!  Y-you understand me!"  She quickly moved her eyelids three more times, and Blossom repeated it aloud, softly, "Yes, yes, yes…"  She flew out from the room in a flash of pink light, shouting, "Doctor Evans!!  Doctor Evans!!"

Buttercup was ecstatic…She knows!  She knows I'm all right!  Way to go, Blossom!  I-I'm going to live after all…thank you…

*              *                *

Nobody could believe the timely discovery that Blossom had made, until they witnessed it with their own eyes.  By simply moving her eyelids, Buttercup could answer any yes-or-no question.  When Bubbles and the professor found out about this, they were overjoyed.  The professor went to work in his lab to build something that would help Buttercup communicate easier.  The doctor was also intrigued by the case.  All signs had pointed to brain damage, but instead she was merely paralyzed.  He ordered a few more tests to determine what had happened, but this time, he didn't want to take any further chances on guessing at the Powerpuffs' physiology, so he had EEGs taken of the other two girls as well, for comparison.

Now that they knew she understood what they said, they were able to fill her in on everything that had been happening while she was gone.  Blossom and Bubbles had to stop another bank robbery on Wednesday and another giant monster the day after that.  She also learned that the citizens of Townsville had been deeply concerned for Buttercup, and had been waiting and listening to find out what would happen to her.  When the news hit them that she had a chance of recovering, they were overjoyed, and waited for the test results just as eagerly as the girls did.

By that night, they were able to see her again.  Blossom and Bubbles kept asking questions, and Buttercup kept answering them, happy that they knew the truth about her.  While they were asking these questions, the professor showed up finally, with a pile of equipment.  Blossom asked, "What does it do, Professor?"

"Let me set it up, and I'll show you how it works."  He carefully attached a few wires with sensors on the ends of them to the muscles just above Buttercup's eyes.  He swiveled two small screens around in front of her…one facing her, the other facing away.  A row of alphabet letters appeared on the screen facing her.

Indicating them, he said, "To start communicating, Buttercup, simply move your eyes as before, and a cursor will start moving across the row of letters.  When it reaches the letter you want, move your eyes again.  Continue doing this to spell out what you want to say, and move your eyes one last time when it passes over 'END' to finish.  It will be displayed on the opposite screen to the people you're talking to.  Do you understand?"

Buttercup moved her eyes a few times.  It was a little bit of a time-consuming process, but the other screen eventually displayed: YES

"Great!" Blossom exclaimed.  She stepped in front of Buttercup's field of view and said, "How are you feeling?"

After a few minutes, the screen displayed: OK CEPT I CANT MOVE

Dr. Evans nodded, "The results from the tests should be back any minute now.  You aren't feeling any pain or anything?"

Buttercup displayed: NO

Smiling, Bubbles said, "You really had us scared, Buttercup…I thought…"

She stopped talking when she saw that Buttercup was working on a message, and waited to see it.  After a few minutes, she displayed: I WAS SCARED TOO

"You're not still scared, are you?" Blossom asked.

Buttercup displayed: A LITTLE BUT HAPPY NOW

The professor nodded, "Well, I'm glad to see this is working properly.  I'm even happier to see that you're all right, Buttercup."

After a few moments, she displayed: LOVE YOU GUYS

Everyone tried to hold back their tears of joy, but the silence was interrupted by Dr. Evans' pager beeping.  He looked at it and said, "I'll be right back, they have your test results."  He left the room.  Bubbles was about to say something, when she noticed Buttercup was busy writing.  The screen displayed: CAN I TALK TO BLSM ALONE

The professor nodded, "Sure thing, sweetie…"  He patted Bubbles on the shoulder and said, "Come on, let's leave them to talk."  Bubbles nodded and left the room with the professor.

Blossom hovered over by the edge of the bed and sat down.  She smiled at her and said, "So, uh…hi, Buttercup…"

Buttercup displayed: HI RED

Grinning, Blossom said, "I hope they find a way to fix you up, 'cause I'd really like to have you on the team again.  We haven't really been the same without you this past few days."

After many long minutes of writing, Buttercup finally displayed: THANX FOR VISITING ME EVERY DAY IT MEANT A LOT

Blossom bit her lip and nodded, "It's the least I could do.  You're my sister."


Wiping a tear from her eye, Blossom said, "Me too, Buttercup…"  She hesitated, looking at the ceiling for a moment, and said, "Is there anything I can do for you?"

Buttercup displayed: IM DYING FOR A CORN DOG

Blossom laughed at that, "Yeah…you probably are getting sick of this IV stuff, aren't you?  Tell you what…if you ever get out of here, I'll buy you a dozen corn dogs, how does that sound?"

Buttercup displayed: COOL

Leaning forward, and being very careful not to dislodge the wires the professor had set up, she hugged Buttercup and said, "See you soon…"

She turned to float out of the room, and stopped to read Buttercup's message as it was displayed: CYA BLSM

*              *                *

As it turned out, Buttercup was in luck.  According to the tests, the blow she took had damaged the portion of her brain that controlled almost all of her muscles, except for a few autonomous ones.  It was extremely close to the thinking center of her brain, so close that it had initially baffled the doctors, because it wasn't a standard type of paralyzation.  It had given every indication that it was the thinking center of the brain that was injured instead.  The lack of brain activity was also puzzling, but when compared to the other girls' tests, it began to fall into place.

At first, they had thought something was wrong with those tests, because Blossom and Bubbles both had almost zero brain activity as well.  It was then that they found the reason: the Chemical X in their bodies was interfering with the scans.  Its concentration was particularly strong in some areas, and fairly weak in others, which is why they could still pick up brain activity when she moved her eyelids.  Those readings were erratic not because of pain, but because there was still some mild interference, and also because they were a little damaged, like the rest of her motor functions.

Luckily, the damage wasn't permanent.  Thanks to her own Chemical X physiology, the affected brain cells were extra receptive to chemical treatments, and were successfully treated in no time.  Buttercup had to undergo some physical therapy before she could move around easily, though, but she was glad to be back on her feet again.  After about a week of this physical therapy, the doctors decided that she was well enough to leave, but it would be best if she didn't fight any monsters for at least a few weeks or so.  She whole-heartedly agreed, and just decided to take it easy for a while.

With that agreement, she was released from the hospital.  She was so happy that she was making a full recovery; Blossom, Bubbles and the professor also couldn't be happier for her.  When she got home, a large gathering of citizens from Townsville waited for her outside the house to cheer her and welcome her home.  In their room, she found a huge assortment of flowers and cards…as well as a plate of twelve corn dogs, from Blossom.

All in all, it had been a frightening ordeal, but had given Buttercup time to think and reflect on herself.  She really felt like she had come out of it as a changed person.  During her resting period, she worked with Blossom on a few new formations and strategies, and Blossom took all of her ideas and suggestions into consideration, as she had promised.  Buttercup was a lot more cooperative…she got along a lot better with her sisters, and they didn't have heated arguments like they used to.  She still occasionally made fun of them from time to time, but she made it clear that she was just joking around, so they didn't mind.

Yes, it was a terrible thing that happened to her, and the experience was very trying, but when she thought back on it, over what she had gained, she decided that she wouldn't change a thing of what had happened, even if she had the chance.