Phantasmal Truths -- Chapter 1

Phantasmal Truths

By:  Mark J. Hadley


                The city of Townsville…Buttercup soared through the night sky over the city, towards the towering monster in the distance.  "Where are the other girls?" she said to herself aloud.  "Heh…looks like I'll have to do this by myself…"  She flew into an attack pattern, circling it around from behind and opening fire with her eyebeams.

                The monster seemed completely unfazed by the attack, and slammed one of its clawed hands down.  Buttercup barely avoided it, as it smashed into one of the buildings nearby, completely destroying it.  She quickly flew towards it, ready to attack by hand, but its other claw had already come about, grabbing her right out of midair.

                Buttercup struggled to free herself, but it was too strong.  Watching in horror, the creature lifted her towards its gaping mouth, lined with razor sharp teeth and dripping with venom.  She panicked, and tried desperately to break free, but to no avail.  As its teeth started to close towards her, she screamed…

*              *                *

                Buttercup sat awake suddenly, a scream escaping from her lips.  She glanced around in the darkness of the room, and realized where she was.  Oh, wow, she thought.  It was only a dream…what a nightmare, though!  She wiped the sweat from her forehead, and clenched the bed sheets, pulling them back over her again.  She was shaking a little.  Oh, come on, Buttercup, calm down.  It didn't actually happen…but…it was so real…I've never had a dream that was that real before…

                She cast a glance over at the other girls.  They were still asleep.  Well, at least I didn't wake them up, she thought…although I don't know if I can get back to sleep myself, now…  Slowly, she closed her eyes once again.

                At that moment, she heard something that caused her eyes to fly open again.  Sitting up, she looked over at Blossom, who was mumbling in her sleep, "…no….gotta stop…can't…no…NOO!!"  She sat up suddenly, sweating and breathing heavily.  Buttercup thought she saw tears in her eyes.

                "Whoa…you too?" Buttercup asked.  Blossom looked over, and seemed to calm down a little as she realized she had been dreaming.  Buttercup continued, "I had a nightmare that some giant monster was about to eat me…"

                Blossom nodded, wiping her eyes, "I-I was trying to stop a plane from crashing in my dream, but I couldn't make it in time.  Everyone we knew from Townsville was on that plane.  I know it was just a bad dream, but…"

                "But what?"

                "It…it was all so real," Blossom said, "I mean, I've had nightmares before.  They usually don't bother me…but this…"  She shivered, "When I saw that plane hit the ground and explode, I really thought we'd lost everyone…"

                "My dream felt real, too," Buttercup said, cringing a little, "I could swear I still feel the claw marks where the monster grabbed me…"  She double-checked to make sure that there weren't any claw marks on her, and felt a little sheepish, since there wasn't.

                "Well, I guess if we…" Blossom began, but she trailed off as she noticed that Bubbles was mumbling softly in her sleep.  An instant later, she suddenly stirred, frantically waving her arms and legs around and screaming.  Blossom quickly shook her, "Bubbles!  Bubbles, wake up!"  Bubbles slowly stopped struggling and opened her eyes, blinking a few times.  Blossom continued, "You were having a nightmare…"

                Bubbles examined her arms, and whispered, "I'm…I'm okay?  But…the bunnies, they were chasing me, and…"

                As Buttercup rolled her eyes, Blossom said, "It's okay…everything's fine.  We all had bad nightmares, too."

                "Really?" Bubbles asked, glancing at Buttercup, who nodded.  "Were there big scary bunny monsters in yours, too?"

                "No, we…" Buttercup began, then shook her head, "Look, let's just forget about it.  We can talk about it in the morning.  Right now, let's just get back to sleep."

                Bubbles sank halfway under the covers and said, "I don't wanna go back to sleep…what if the monsters chase me again?"

                "Just remember, it's only a dream, they can't hurt you," Blossom promised.

                Bubbles didn't seem too reassured.  "I'm scared…"

                "I know, me too," Blossom admitted, "but we have to get some sleep, or we won't be rested enough to fight crime and stuff tomorrow.  That goes for you too, Buttercup."

Buttercup nodded, and tucked herself back under the covers, as did the other girls.  However, she couldn't bring herself to close her eyes.  The thought of the monster in her dream getting ready to eat her was too frightening.  What's wrong with you? she thought.  It's not real…  Hours passed, and she remained awake, as did the others…

*              *                *

The morning sun was up at last.  The girls hovered downstairs…their hair was a mess, and their eyes showed fatigue.  Buttercup rubbed her head, and groaned, "Ughh…I feel awful…"

                "Me too," Bubbles agreed.  Her eyes were clenched shut against the light, and she was feeling her way cautiously down the steps.  She yawned, "I wish we could stay in bed today…"

                Blossom floated past her, her eyes also clenched shut.  "We can't be late for school," she said.  "No matter how tired we are, it's something we've got t—…"  She broke off suddenly as she smacked face-first into the wall next to the kitchen door, not watching where she was going. 

                "You okay, Bloss?"  Buttercup asked.

                Blossom didn't move, but stayed pressed against the wall, too tired to react.  "Mm mky," she mumbled.

                Bubbles made her way into the kitchen and went over to the cupboard.  She spotted a box of cereal and took it out, along with a bowl and spoon.  She set it down on the table and went to the fridge for some milk.  Buttercup finally made it to her own seat.  As Bubbles sat down, she picked up the cereal box and started pouring herself a bowl.  Buttercup rubbed her eyes for a second, and said, "Uh, Bubbles…"

                "What?" she said, setting down the box and pouring the milk over her cereal.  Buttercup cringed a little, and glanced over at Blossom, who had just made it into the kitchen and looked equally surprised.

                "Bubbles…" Blossom said, "That's…err, that's not…"

                Bubbles scooped a spoonful of cereal up and said, "What are you talking about?"  She took a bite…and her eyes flew wide open in surprise.  She spit it out…whatever it was, it wasn't cereal.  "Bleah!  Pthh!"

"Eech…Bubbles, I know you're tired too," Buttercup said, "but you really should keep your eyes open."

Confused, Bubbles looked down at the cereal bowl, and suddenly noticed that it wasn't cereal.  It was flour, all pasty from the milk she poured on it.  Glancing at the "cereal box", she realized it really was a bag of flour after all.  She felt embarrassed, and said, "But…but I thought it was…"

                "It's okay, Bubbles," Blossom said, hovering over to her chair, "We're all a little tired.  I guess mistakes like that are understandab—…"  As Blossom tried to sit down, her chair was missing, and she landed on the floor with a *whump* instead.  Buttercup tried to restrain herself, but couldn't help it, and broke out in laughter.  Bubbles giggled at this too.

                Although Blossom was momentarily stunned—the chair was there a moment ago, she could have sworn it was—she realized how ridiculous she probably looked right now, and in her tired state, she couldn't help but laugh along with them.

                Their laughs eventually died down, as Blossom flew over to where her chair really was, feeling it to make sure it was indeed there.  She said, "Heheh…I hope we're not like this all throughout school today, too…"

                "Yeah," Buttercup said, "the other kids probably won't let us live it down."  She glanced up as she saw Professor Utonium come into the kitchen, and said, "Morning, Professor."

                Blossom and Bubbles glanced at each other, and Bubbles turned back to Buttercup saying, "Who are you talking to?"

                Buttercup pointed over to where the Professor was, and said, "The prof, who…else…"  She suddenly realized he wasn't there.  The kitchen was empty except for them.  Her jaw dropped a little, and she said, "Wait, but…but I…"

                Holding her head tiredly, Blossom sighed, "This is worse than we thought…we gotta make sure we get some sleep tonight, okay?  If this keeps up, we won't be in a good enough condition to fight crime."

                "Yeah, really," Buttercup said.  She took another glimpse of the area where she had seen the professor.  Still not there.  Wow, she thought.  I guess tired eyes can really play tricks on you…

*              *                *

                "…and so, if Billy has four pennies, and Susan gives him five more," Miss Keane said, writing on the board, "then Billy will have nine pennies total…"

                The class listened to the math lesson…or most of them were, anyway.  The Powerpuff Girls, at their table, were mostly just trying to stay alert.  Blossom whispered to the other two, "How are you holding up?"

                "So tired…" Bubbles said quietly.

                "Yeah…and this math lesson isn't makin' it any easier to stay awake," Buttercup added.

                "I know, girls," Blossom nodded, "but we can't let this interfere with our learning, because…"

                Miss Keane looked over at their table and asked loudly, "Blossom?"  Blossom's head snapped up to attention at the sound of her voice.  "Do you have something you want to share with the rest of us?"

                "No, Miss Keane," Blossom said, hanging her head slightly.

                "Well, maybe you'd like to come up and demonstrate this next problem?" Miss Keane asked.

                Blossom smiled, and said, "Sure!"  Maybe she was tired, but she didn't want to pass up an opportunity like this.  She flew up to the front of the class, picking up the chalk from the board and examining the problem.  6 + 2, she thought…Easy.  Writing an 8 below the problem, she smiled, and looked back out at the class.

                The class started to giggle, and for a moment, she didn't understand.  Miss Keane gave a comforting smile, and said, "Err, that's not right, Blossom…but it was a good try anyway."

                "Not right?  But six plus two is…"  She looked at the board again, and her hands flew to her mouth.  The problem that was written there wasn't 6 + 2, but rather, it was 5 + 5.  As the class continued to chuckle at her, she felt herself turning a color not unlike her hairbow, and hurriedly made her way back to her seat.  She sat down and covered her head with her arms in embarrassment.

                Bubbles and Buttercup were the only ones in the class besides the teacher that wasn't laughing at her.  As Miss Keane returned to writing on the chalkboard, Bubbles whispered to Blossom, "It's ok, we understand…"

                "Yeah, it's not your fault," Buttercup said.

                Blossom, in a soft voice, said, "It was six-plus-two…I know it was…how could I make a mistake like that?  It's not possible…"

                Bubbles hesitated, then whispered, "I'm scared…what's going on?"

                "I don't know," Blossom said, trying to think clearly.  "It's like we're hallucinating…"

                At that moment, the hotline buzzed, from its position on the table across the room.  Buttercup frowned, "Well, that's no hallucination!"  Blossom nodded in agreement, and flew across the room to answer the phone.

                "Yes, Mayor?" she said.  After pausing a moment, she said, "We're on it."  She hung up, and said, "The bank's being robbed again.  Miss Keane, may we be excused?"

                "Of course," she said.  "Hurry back, though."

                Blossom said, "Thanks…ok, girls, let's move!"  The three of them immediately crashed out of the classroom through the roof.  Miss Keane winced slightly, but then casually walked over to the telephone and hit the speed-dial for Marty's Roof Repair…

*              *                *

                The girls soared over the city of Townsville, heading for the bank.  As they headed for their destination, Bubbles asked, "You know, I don't feel as tired anymore.  Must be the fresh air.  Guess I just needed to wake up…"

                "Yeah, me too," Buttercup said.  "Heh…'fact, I think I'm ready for anything right now."

                Blossom warned them, "Don't push yourselves too hard, though.  Awake or not, we still didn't get much sleep, so it wouldn't be good to wear yourselves out, okay?"

                "Okay, no problem," Buttercup agreed.

They spotted the bank down below.  "All right," Blossom ordered.  "Standard plan Beta-Alpha-One.  Go!"  They descended towards it in a V-formation, with Blossom in the lead, and crashed through the front doors.  Landing on the ground, Blossom shouted, "Not so fast, bank ro—…"

They froze…they weren't at the bank, but rather, a fish market.  The man behind the counter looked down at them in surprise.  For a moment, they just stared at each other, speechless.  After a few seconds of complete silence, the man asked, "Er…can I…help you?"

Blossom smiled, slightly, and said, "We're…we're sorry…heh…I think we got the wrong place."  She took each of the other girls' hands and flew back out the way they came in, pulling both of them with her.

"What was that?" Buttercup said, as they flew up and away from the fish market.

"We all saw it was the bank, right?" Blossom asked.  "I mean, we all mistook it, didn't we?"

"Well, I was following you," Buttercup admitted, "but…but yeah, I thought that's what it was…"

Bubbles glanced back down at the shop, and said, "I don't even feel tired anymore…why are we still seeing things?"

Down the street, something else grabbed their attention.  It was the real bank…the robbers were emerging from the doors, and rushing for their getaway car.  "There it is!" Buttercup shouted, pointing.  "Let's get 'em!"

"Ok, but carefully," Blossom said.  "What if we're seeing things again?"

"What if we're not?" Buttercup countered.

Blossom thought about that, and nodded, "Good point.  After them!"  They flew after the robbers, imposing themselves between them and their getaway car.  As usual, the robbers were stunned, but tried to shoot at them anyway, to no effect.  When they attacked, Blossom felt grateful in a way that her punches were actually hitting something.  It this had turned out to be another illusion, she thought, I'd probably think I'd gone crazy…it's kinda good to see that I'm not…

The robbers were dispatched with no problem.  They heard the police sirens approaching, and left them to be captured.  Flying back on course for the school, Buttercup said, "Ok, let's go over this again.  We were all awake, right?  And all of use didn't feel as tired as before, right?"  The other girls nodded, and she continued, "So then how come all three of us saw the same thing?"

"We coulda all mistook it…I guess…" Bubbles said hopefully.

"Maybe," Blossom said, "but if this keeps up, we gotta stop trying to find a way to explain it off, and find out what the real reason is.  The first thing we're doing when we get home from school is to have the professor examine us for anything that might be wrong, all right?"

"Fine," Buttercup replied.  "Whatever it takes.  I don't think I like hallucinating…I like to trust my eyes, you know what I mean?"  Blossom nodded, and the three of them veered off from the city, curving down to head for Pokey Oaks once again.

*              *                *

                In his lab, the professor shined the light into Bubbles' eyes from an angle as he said, "All right, sweetie…now, count the number of black lines you see on the board across from you."

                "Four," Bubbles answered.

The professor nodded…there were indeed four lines on the board.  He sat back up, as the other girls looked concerned, and Blossom asked, "So is there something wrong with us?"

"I tried every test I knew," the professor said, "and I can't make heads or tails of it.  There's absolutely nothing wrong with you girls.  And these hallucinations you've apparently been having seem to have gone away, so if there was something wrong, it's probably gone away now."

"We were just really tired this morning," Buttercup pointed out.  "Could that be the problem?

"Perhaps…you are still showing signs of fatigue," the professor said.  "I recommend getting a good night's sleep, all three of you.  It's almost 7:30 now; I think you should turn in early today."

Blossom smiled, "Fine by us.  Right?"

"I guess so," Buttercup said.  Bubbles nodded her approval.

"All right, girls, off to bed, then," the professor said, putting his equipment away from the tests he ran.  The girls flew up and out of the lab, and the professor smiled, saying to himself, "They'll be just fine…"

*              *                *

                Blossom and the other girls had barely been asleep for an hour, when they awoke, as the hotline in their room buzzed.  Oh, rats, Blossom thought.  I was really hoping on getting some rest first.  She immediately flew out of bed and picked it up, "Hello, Mayor?"

                "Powerpuff Girls!" came the Mayor's unmistakably panicked voice, "A giant monster's attacking Townsville!  We need your help!"

                "We'll be right there!" Blossom promised, hanging up the phone.  She turned to the other girls and said, "Giant monster downtown, let's hurry!"  The three of them changed back into their normal outfits in a flash, and flew out through the windows, heading for Townsville in the distance.

                It was already visible over the city skyline.  A hideous, fleshy creature with eyes and mouths scattered across it seemingly at random.  Large tentacles were smashing into buildings as it moved around.  There was an awful odor hanging in the air, like rotting leaves.  Blossom said, "All right…it's covered with eyes, so we can't sneak up on it.  Eyebeams!"

                The three of them circled around it and fired their eyebeams together.  The creature, though, raised its tentacles up, and deflected the beams harmlessly away from itself.  Unfortunately, the beams' new direction caused it to slice through the sides of a few small buildings in Townsville.  Blossom cringed, and said, "Ok, bad idea…no more eyebeams!  Just try to hit it with something…"

                Buttercup shouted, "Right!" and flew down, uprooting a tree and heading towards it, ready to swing the tree like a baseball bat.  In mid-swing, though, a tentacle lashed out, grabbing it and yanking it away.  It was immediately followed by another tentacle that smacked into Buttercup, knocking her down into the ground with tremendous force.  Blossom started to fly down to help her out, when she saw the thing toss the tree away…it impacted into a gas station, which exploded in a massive fireball.

Bubbles, from the air above, shouted, "Nothing's working!  Blossom, we need a better plan!"

"I know, I'm thinking!" Blossom said.  As she helped Buttercup out of the crater in the ground, she called out, "Bubbles…grab that power line, and try to electrocute him with it!"

"Got it!" Bubbles said without question.  She flew down and pulled up one of the poles supporting the power lines.  The lines snapped away, and immediately, nearly half of the city's power went out.  Blossom thought to herself, Eeep…that must have been a key power line…

Bubbles flew towards the monster and swung the pole, the cables sparking with electricity.  As it connected, the electricity surrounded the monster, and it twitched uncontrollably, as the extremely high voltage ran through its system.  As it did, though, the monster slowly started to grow larger…

"Oh no!  Bubbles, stop, quickly!  You're just feeding it!" Blossom said, quickly.  Bubbles followed orders immediately and pulled the line away…she wasn't careful enough, though, and the lines snapped back right into her by accident.  The force from the electrocution knocked her out of the sky, and the lines fell into the park below…they sparked against the trees, and a huge fire started to burn.  This is a disaster, Blossom thought.  Why aren't any of my plans working?!

Buttercup looked at her and said, "What now?  Hurry, think of something!"

"I…I…" Blossom stammered.   She finally said, "Buttercup, just try attacking it by hand…give it everything you've got!"  Buttercup nodded and flew at the creature, dodging her way around the tentacles and dashing towards the main body, rearing back to throw a punch.

She didn't get the chance, though, for at that moment, one of the many mouths across its surface suddenly reached out from the body with a huge set of teeth.  It took her by surprise, and she didn't have the chance to dodge.  The teeth clamped down half-way around her…only her legs were visible, which started kicking and thrashing wildly in an attempt to get free…but only for a moment, before they tensed up, and fell limp.

Blossom gasped in alarm, and was about to fly in to try and help her free, but in another quick snap of the teeth, the monster swallowed the rest of her.  "Buttercup!!  No!!!"  Blossom cried out.  Oh no…she can't be dead…please, no…

Bubbles was staring in shock as well, and shaking with fear, "Wh…wh-what are we g-gonna do?!"

Blossom couldn't stand it…she couldn't bear the thought of Bubbles getting killed by the monster over one of her orders as well.  "Bubbles," she said, trying to keep the panic out of her voice, "you'd better get out of here…I'll take care of this thing myself, I don't want to lose you, too…"

"But…" Bubbles began.

"Just go!" she ordered.  Bubbles swallowed once, and nodded, turning and starting to fly away.  As she gained some distance from it, Blossom suddenly noticed something lancing out from one of the creature's mouths…a long, pink tongue, almost like a frog's tongue…it was shooting towards Bubbles with incredible speed.  She was in the middle of retreating, though, so her back was turned and she didn't see it coming.  "Bubbles, look out!!"

Too late…the tongue struck Bubbles in the back, sticking to her.  She yelped in surprise, and then was abruptly yanked out of the air.  She screamed as the tongue pulled her back towards the creature's mouth almost as fast as it had shot out in the first place.  Blossom started flying towards the tongue to stop it, but she could see the awful truth: it was retracting far too quickly…she'd never make it in time.  "Bubbles!!" she yelled out desperately.

"Blossom!!" Bubbles shrieked, her tears leaving a trail in the air in front of her, "Help me!!!  HELP M--…"  Her cries were cut off as she was pulled into the mouth, and it snapped shut instantly.  Blossom stared in horror, watching for some sign that she was okay…but none came…

Oh no…oh god no…please, not both of them…not like this!  Not on my orders!  It's all my fault…if I hadn't given those orders, they'd still be alive…it's all my fault!!  As these thoughts clamored in her mind, she hovered motionless, unable to move, watching the thing continue its rampage.  I can't stop it…everything I've tried just makes it worse…I can't do it…I can't do it anymore!!

*              *                *

                Blossom's eyes opened suddenly.  She took in a deep, sharp breath of air.  Her eyes darted about, and she thought, How did I get back here?  What am I doing in bed?  What about the monster?!  She suddenly saw something that she didn't expect…two other forms sleeping soundly next to her.  Bubbles and Buttercup.

                For a few moments, she wondered how it was possible that they were still alive…and then she figured it out.  She had been dreaming again.  But…that's impossible!  I was so sure it happened!  Everything…the feel of the heat from the fire, the smell of the monster's stench in the air…it was all so intense!  Not like a dream at all!  Not at all!

                Yet, faced with the facts, she knew it had to have been a dream.  She felt a great surge of relief that the girls were alive, especially after she was so convinced that they were dead.  But then it left her with a horrible sense of anxiety…what did it mean?  The thought crossed her mind that maybe the dream was trying to tell her something.  Every choice I made lead to another failure…what if something like that really happens?  What if one day, I make all the wrong decisions, and I end up leading us and the whole city of Townsville into ruin?

                She didn't want to think about it anymore, but she just couldn't help it.  Lying back down, she clutched the covers and shook uncontrollably, her eyes clenched shut as she desperately attempted to forget what just happened.  She finally flipped over and buried her face into her pillow, crying.

Hallucinations…terrible nightmares…my god, what's happening to us…?