A Single Life

By: Mark J. Hadley

The City of Townsville…typically a safe place to be; however, any kind of problem, big or small, can spring up suddenly in a town like this. A couple innocent citizens taking a shortcut home through an alley found this out firsthand, as the masked criminal blocked their passage, gun in hand.

"Don't even think about calling for help," the robber warned them, seeing their panicked expressions. "Just hand over your money, and everyone gets out of this safely, okay?" As the two terrified people started digging through their pockets looking for their money, the robber sweated, taking a few brief glances up towards the skies. He knew it was a stupid idea, trying to rob someone in Townsville, but he needed the money.

The people handed wads of cash over. It wasn't much, maybe about fifty dollars. Still, he decided it was better than nothing. He said, "Now, scram!" and carefully backed further into the alley, watching the skies again. The people took off without a second thought. Everything seemed to be going according to plan, and there was no sign of danger. He started to relax as he realized that he was going to make it through this after all.

"Going somewhere?" a voice came from behind him, causing him to freeze in fear. He slowly looked behind him, and saw what he had hoped he wouldn't see. The Powerpuff Girls, all three of them, were standing in the alley behind him, looking up at him with smug expressions. The robber yelped, and started running out of the alley as fast as he could.

Buttercup rolled her eyes and sighed, "They always run, don't they? Okay, let's just take 'im down…race ya, Bubbles!"

"You're on!" Bubbles replied, and the two of them flew towards the robber in a flash. Blossom just grinned and watched. This was just a petty criminal, after all…she figured she'd let them have their fun.

The robber must have realized the girls were flying towards him, because as he ran, he knocked over a trash can behind him. This sudden movement took both of the girls by surprise, and they slammed into the side of it by accident. It didn't do much other than daze them slightly, but it gave the robber enough time to reach the end of the alley and take off down the street.

"I've got him!" Blossom said, shooting out from the alley after him. The robber was running as fast as he could, weaving through a crowd of people, who were backing away from him as they saw the gun in his hand. Blossom cringed… I hope he doesn't start shooting in panic, she thought…innocents might get hurt! She slowed her pursuit and flew higher, looking at the situation from above and trying to find a safe moment to fly in and stop him.

The robber finished making his way through the crowd and ran down another alley. Blossom smirked and flew after him…apparently, he didn't know that this particular alley was a dead end. Going in after him, she spotted him staring at the wall at the end of the alley with a defeated look on his face.

Blossom landed on the ground in front of him and said, "Easy now, just give up…there's no way out of here…" The man was clearly panicked, though, and immediately grabbed the closest thing at hand, the lid of another garbage can, swinging it at her. She blocked it effortlessly with her hand, but in that instant, he had also brought up his gun in his other hand and took a shot at her, point-blank.

She closed her eyes just in time, as the bullet bounced off of her eyelid…thanks to her Powerpuff invulnerability, she wasn't wounded, but the impact still caused pain to shoot through her eye. She cried out, clasping her hand over it and gritting her teeth. Without thinking, she lashed out with her other hand, punching back hard. It connected on the robber's chest with a loud *krakk*, knocking him clear off his feet and into the wall at the end of the alley.

Blossom reeled for a moment until the pain in her eye finally subsided, then slowly reopened her eyes. She blinked a few times and noticed the robber slumped up against the wall from her punch. He looked like he was unconscious, so Blossom flew over to pick him up. As she got closer, though, she noticed that he wasn't moving at all. In alarm, she kneeled down quickly next to him and put her ear next to his chest to listen. No heartbeat.

Oh no, she thought. Frantically, she tried to remember what the professor had told her about CPR. She reached down with her hands to start chest compressions, when she felt something wrong with it. She gasped, and grimly decided to take a look with her x-ray vision, seeing the awful truth. His chest had been completely caved in from her punch…there was no way he could have possibly survived it.

Shaking, Blossom stood up and took a few small steps backwards. She heard movement through the air behind her, and knew that the other girls had shown up. "Blossom, are you ok—" Buttercup began, but then cut herself off as she saw the robber at the end of the alley. Her voice fell to a softer volume, "…whoa…what happened?"

"I…I…" Blossom stammered. She couldn't make any other words out, nor could she take her eyes off the robber's body. What have I done?! she thought.

The girls flew over to the robber's side to check him out. Bubbles covered her mouth with her hands at the sight, and said, "Is he…i-is he…"

"Yeah," Buttercup confirmed, not as shaken as Bubbles, but still a little disturbed. "Blossom, what did you do to him?"

Blossom tried to explain, "I…I just…he…" but then fell silent again.

Things started happening quickly after that…people started looking on into the alley, and a few police officers showed up. After examining the scene, one of them sadly informed Blossom that he had to place her under arrest. The other girls protested, but Blossom didn't resist. Even as they lead her out of the alley towards the squad car, her gaze was still fixed on the robber's body, still in total disbelief of herself at what she had done…

* * *

Professor Utonium hurried to the police station when he heard what happened. They had given him all the details over the phone, and he was shocked at it. When he entered the station, Bubbles and Buttercup were seated out in the lobby, and looked up when he came in. Bubbles called out, "Professor!"

"Girls," the professor said. "Where's Blossom?"

"They've got her in a cell back there," Buttercup said, "but…"

Ignoring the rest of her statement, the professor started heading straight back towards the jail cells. An officer blocked his path, and he said, "I want to talk to Blossom…"

"I'm sorry," the officer replied, "but we're not allowing visitors at the moment."

The professor narrowed his eyes and said, slowly and with some force, "Let me see my little girl." The officer looked back at him silently for a few moments, then decided to let him pass. He watched as the professor made his way back to the cells, then looked back over towards the other girls. They looked like they wanted to go too, but he quietly shook his head.

Another officer, next to the cells, walked with him. Making their way down the rows of cells, they finally reached the one that held Blossom. She was seated on the edge of the cot in the cell, staring down at the floor in the center. She didn't look up as they came in, nor when the officer unlocked her cell and motioned for the professor to go on in. Once he was inside, the officer closed and locked the door again, leaving the holding area.

The professor sat down on the cot next to Blossom, who still hadn't looked up from the ground. "Blossom," he asked, "is it true?"

Very slowly, Blossom lifted her eyes from the ground and looked up at the professor, tears filling them. In a voice that was almost a whisper, she said, "Yes…" She immediately buried her face into the professor's side and started crying.

Running his hand through her hair consolingly, the professor softly said, "It's all right, sweetie. You didn't mean to do it…"

"No, it's not all right!" Blossom insisted through her tears. "I killed him, Professor…I k-killed him with my own hands…"

"He was a criminal, you were just…" the professor started.

She lifted her head from his side and shouted, "He was a person! I- I don't care if he was a criminal, or just some regular guy on the street…he was still a person!" The professor wasn't sure what to say. In his silence, Blossom swallowed and asked, in a lower tone, "How much did the guy steal?"

The professor hesitated. "Blossom, I…"

"How much?" Blossom asked again, insistent.

After another pause, the professor sighed and answered, "Fifty-three dollars."

"Oh god…" Blossom cried, burying her head in the professor's side again. She shook with each sob, and the professor's heart ached to see her like this. He had no idea what to say to ease things for her. Instead, he just let her continue…she wept, "How…could this h-happen…it's so senseless…killed him o-over nothing at all…I'm a murderer…a murderer…"

She slowly trailed off, and the professor just held her like this until she eventually fell asleep from exhaustion. Lying her back down on the cot, the professor got up and looked down at her sadly. I don't know what's going to happen, he thought, but I hope for the best. She's going to have a hard time getting through this, so I'd better be there for her if she needs help. He leaned down and kissed her on the cheek, then left the cell, allowing her to sleep and gain strength for the hardships that would undoubtedly follow…

* * *

Blossom saw herself in the alley, oddly distanced from her, like she was watching it from afar. She saw the robber facing the dead end and turning around, and saw herself landing in front of him and demanding that he give up.

No, he won't give up…

The robber grabbed the trash can lid and swung it at her with one hand, and though she blocked it, his gun came up and opened fire, the muzzle flash briefly lighting up the darkened alley. The air seemed to turn blood red and fuzzy when the bullet bounced off of her, and yet, distanced like this, she could still see everything happen.

No…don't do it…calm down, please…

She saw herself clutching her eye, and then swinging a fist slowly, as though it was happening in slow motion. Striking him in the chest, sending him flying up against the alley wall, where he landed in a slump like a rag doll.


She watched herself opening her eyes again and seeing her handiwork. Then something different happened: she saw herself smile slowly, then start to laugh cruelly. The laughter echoed off the walls of the alley and seemed to be coming from everywhere at once.

What…does this mean…?

The sound of her own evil laughter sent chills through her, and she clasped the sides of her non-existent head to try and shut it out…but it was everywhere, and growing louder, until it became impossible to shut out…

* * *

Blossom sat up sharply, waking up from her dream with a start. The bars of her jail cell reminded her where she was, and she lay back down again, staring up at the ceiling. The details of her dream were fresh in her mind, and she didn't feel like falling asleep again. Did I mean to kill him? she thought…No, it was an accident…but I got angry…did I punch harder on purpose? No, it couldn't be…please, I never intended anything like this to happen…why did this have to happen?

* * *

Due to the high volume of crime in the city, Townsville's legal system there worked fast, otherwise it would be tied up in legal proceedings until who-knows-when. As a result, they were able to bring Blossom into court that morning. The news had only now begun to reach the citizens of Townsville, that one of their beloved protectors was going to be on trial for homicide. As a result, there was quite a turnout of people that wanted to watch the proceedings, and that just made Blossom feel worse about it.

Sitting at the desk near the front of the courtroom, Blossom just wanted to get this over with. She just wanted to get her sentence and be done with it. At least that would give her some semblance of responsibility to this whole matter, some way of paying it back, although to her, no sentence they give her could possibly justify what she did. Except maybe a death sentence. An eye for an eye, she grimly thought.

Blossom had talked the situation over with the court-appointed attorney seated next to her, who was still surprised at her intentions. "Are you certain you want to do that?" he said, protesting a little. "You understand what it would mean…"

"Yes, I do," Blossom nodded. "And I'm certain."

The attorney sighed and said, "As you wish. I guess I can't talk you out of it…" Blossom shook her head, and the attorney started going back through his papers. As he did, Blossom looked back towards the people seated behind her, particularly towards her sisters and the Professor. They tried to give her a comforting smile, but she could see how frightened they were for her.

From the front of the courtroom, the bailiff announced, "Please rise…court is now in session, the honorable Judge Marshall presiding." As everyone rose, the judge came into the room and took his position. He motioned for everyone to sit, and lifted the documents on his stand to examine them.

"The people of Townsville vs. Blossom," Judge Marshall said. "Blossom is hereby charged with the voluntary manslaughter of Jonathan Christopher Malloy. How does the defendant plead?"

Blossom slowly stood up and took a deep breath, then said, "Guilty, your honor."

A series of gasps and whispers went up from the people in the courtroom, and the judge quickly banged his gavel once, shouting, "Order!" As everyone settled down, he said, "You plead guilty to the charge, is that correct?"

"Yes," Blossom said, letting her eyes fall to look at the ground.

"Very well," the judge said. He quietly examined the papers for a few moments, and Blossom looked back at her family again. They were clearly afraid for her, nervous to see what her sentence would be. She herself was a little frightened, but waited for the verdict just the same.

The judge looked up and said, "I have reviewed the evidence in this case and have reached a verdict. Blossom, this court finds you guilty as charged for the voluntary manslaughter of Jonathan Christopher Malloy." The people reacted again, and he silenced them quickly by holding up a hand, the continued, "However, in light of your service to the city Townsville, and due to the defensive nature of the attack, your sentence will be reduced to two weeks of confinement in Townsville jail."

There were murmurs from the people in the courtroom over this decision, which seemed like a light sentence, considering what Blossom had done. As the court session closed, she was ushered out of the courtroom to begin her sentence. As she passed by the Professor and the girls, they met her gaze with sad, compassionate looks. She took a little comfort in that, but it still didn't make her feel any better about the whole situation. She had been hoping for the sentence to provide some kind of redemption, some way of atoning for what she did, but she felt that this was far from it. She began to wonder if anything could make up for it…

* * *

Even right after Blossom had been transferred to Townsville Jail, they were allowing her occasional visitors. Buttercup, who hadn't had the opportunity to talk to her at all since the incident, insisted that she be the first visitor. The professor and Bubbles let her go on ahead; they could wait. Buttercup was ushered back to the cell by one of the officers.

Blossom was lying on the cot in the cell, staring up at the ceiling. The officer let Buttercup into the cell, then left the two of them. She flew over and took a seat on the opposite edge of the cot, then said, "Hey."

"Hey," Blossom replied, not taking her eyes off the ceiling.

Buttercup watched her and asked, "What are you doing?"

"Just counting cracks in the ceiling," Blossom said. "Not much else to do in here."

"Yeah…" Buttercup said. She hesitated for a few moments, kicking her legs a little from where she sat. After this brief silence, she asked, "Are you all right?"

Blossom sighed, closing her eyes. "No…I'm not…" she told her. "How would you feel in my shoes? Knowing that you ended someone's life? That it was all entirely your fault they died?"

"I…" Buttercup started to say. She thought for a second, then said, "But he's just a criminal…he was tryin' to kill you, for cryin' out loud, or have you forgotten that he shot at you?"

"Come on, you know perfectly well that bullets can't hurt us," Blossom said, sitting up. "What I did was…it was completely unforgivable…"

Buttercup shook her head, "I forgive you. I know that it was just a mistake, and…"

Blossom cut her off, "I had a dream last night…I saw the whole incident again, every detail, right up to me delivering that fatal blow…except I wasn't feeling sorry about it…" Blossom's eyes started to water, so she closed them as she continued, "I was laughing…laughing at him, like I'd done it on purpose. It made me wonder…did part of me do that? Maybe this wasn't an accident at all…"

"Blossom, no, you…" Buttercup tried to say.

Blossom continued anyway, her voice building in fervor, "Maybe I didn't lose control…maybe part of me really wanted to kill him…wh-what if it happens again? I don't want people to get hurt…but what if part of me does? I c-can't be trusted around people again, I just can't…"

Buttercup put a hand on her shoulder and said, "It's just a dream, it doesn't mean anything. C'mon, I know you, and you'd never do anything like that intentionally…you know it too!"

Blossom shrugged Buttercup's hand away and turned to face the wall, "Maybe I'm not who I thought I was…maybe I'm not who you all think I am…"

"Blossom…" Buttercup said softly, but then stopped, not knowing what to say.

In the silence, Blossom finally sighed and said, "I'm glad you came, Buttercup…but I really think you should go; I just want to be alone right now…"

After a moment, Buttercup got up from the cot and said, "All right, I'm going, but listen…take care, all right? You're not…I repeat, not…a murderer. It's all a big mistake. Just give it some time and you'll feel better, okay?" Blossom didn't respond, but just kept staring at the wall, so Buttercup flew over to the bars and signaled the guard that she was ready to leave. The guard came and let her out, then closed the bars up again. As soon as everyone was gone, Blossom covered her face in her hands and cried some more, for the next hour…

* * *

Blossom saw herself in the alley, oddly distanced from her, like she was watching it from afar. She saw the robber facing the dead end and turning around, and saw herself landing in front of him and demanding that he give up.

No, not again…I don't want to see this, please…

The robber grabbed the trash can lid and swung it at her with one hand, and though she blocked it, his gun came up and opened fire, the muzzle flash briefly lighting up the darkened alley. The air seemed to turn blood red and fuzzy when the bullet bounced off of her, and yet, distanced like this, she could still see everything happen.

Oh god…I can't watch this again…

She saw herself clutching her eye, and then swinging a fist slowly, as though it was happening in slow motion. Striking him in the chest, sending him flying up against the alley wall, where he landed in a slump like a rag doll.


She watched herself opening her eyes again and seeing her handiwork. Then something different happened: the man stirred, and clutched his chest. He was still alive! Groaning, he sat up slightly and held the back of his head where he was thrown against the wall.

But…he's okay? Ohh…if only it were true…

Even though the robber was incapacitated, Blossom watched herself fly towards him, and she suddenly unloaded a flurry of punches. The robber was slammed by each hit, feebly waving his arms in desperate attempt to get away. With one final blow, Blossom saw herself punch him strongly in the chest, her fist passing right through it like it wasn't even there.

What am I doing?! Stop it! STOP IT!!

The robber was dead, and Blossom was standing there, staring at him impassively. She was suddenly seeing through her eyes again, and watched herself look down at her hand, covered in blood. As she watched, she felt a chuckle erupt from 'her' throat, although she was nothing less than horrified by what she saw herself do. She watched her hand move up to her chest and trace an 'X' across it, slowly, using the blood. Her whispered, distant voice came, "Cross my heart and hope to die…"

* * *

Blossom gasped and woke up, sitting up from the cot in her cell and breathing heavily. She brought a hand up to her chest and looked down at it, along the spot where her hand had traced. Right across her heart. She slowly lay back down and clenched her eyes shut, but couldn't get back to sleep, as thoughts began to clamor in her mind again. What on Earth did that mean?! Why would I keep attacking him, even when he's down? Why would I…do that…?

She opened her eyes and just stared at her hand, picturing it covered in blood like in her dream. No, it's only a dream, she reminded herself. It means nothing, like Buttercup said. Just some insane ramblings…yes, that's right. It's crazy. It's nothing at all. Still, she couldn't stop thinking about it. Especially the chilling end of it, which made her shake when she thought about it. Not wanting to fall asleep again, she lay awake for the rest of the night, allowing her thoughts to come and trying to sort them all out…

What am I going to do?

* * *

The next time they could visit, Bubbles got her chance to see Blossom. The guard let her in, and she gingerly flew into the room. Blossom was seated over on the ground in the corner of the cell, holding her legs curled up against her chest. She lifted her head slightly just to acknowledge that Bubbles was there, but let it fall back down again.

"Blossom?" Bubbles asked. "Are…are you feeling any better?"

In an almost annoyed tone of voice, Blossom said, "What do you think?"

Bubbles was surprised a little, "I…"

"Everyone's so worried about me," Blossom interrupted, "and no one seems to care about the guy I…" Her voice broke, and she buried her head between her knees. Her shoulders shook as she cried silently.

The sight of her like this brought tears to Bubbles' eyes as well. She floated over and sat down next to her, putting an arm around her for comfort. "It's okay, Blossom," she managed to say. "Really, I mean it…it'll be okay…"

"Okay?" Blossom half-chuckled, raising her head slightly and still teary-eyed. "Bubbles, don't you get it? What makes it 'okay'? What gives me the right to take away someone's life like that?! And before you say it, I know all of you keep calling it an accident, but it's not…I got upset, and I punched him too hard…there's nothing accidental about it!"

"I just…" Bubbles tried to compose herself, but was having a hard time doing so. "…I just…h-he was a bad guy…a-and just one person. There's a lot of criminals…this is just one…"

Blossom looked her into her eyes. It was difficult to do; Bubbles had a look right now that just made her want to offer reassurance that she was going to be all right. She spoke softly, "Bubbles…if something were to happen to me, how would you feel?"

Bubbles grew fearful all of a sudden and asked quickly, "What's happening to you?!"

"Nothing is, I'm just saying, if something were to happen to me…" Blossom explained, "…how would you feel?"

"Terrible," Bubbles said. "I'd…be sad…really sad…"

"Now, imagine how this guy's family and friends must feel," Blossom told her. Bubbles looked confused for a moment, and Blossom added, "That's right, even criminals have people close to them. How do you think they feel right now?"

Bubbles swallowed and said in a shaky voice, "Sad…"

"And how do you think they feel about me?" Blossom asked.

"P-probably mad at you…." Bubbles admitted, realizing what Blossom was trying to say. "Oh, I'm so sorry…" she apologized.

"It's okay," Blossom said, returning her gaze to the floor in front of her. "You see the difference one life makes, though. Even a single life can be important to a lot of people. That's why I feel so terrible about this, Bubbles…I took a life, and there's nothing I can do to change it…it's gone forever."

"But this guy was a criminal," Bubbles said. "What if…what if maybe he got away and…and ended up doing something to hurt someone else?"

"We don't know that he would have," Blossom answered.

Bubbles shook his head, "If he shot his gun at you so fast, he mighta done the same with anyone…"

Blossom closed her eyes and said, "You're right, of course…but that still doesn't give good reason for this. Not nearly. Otherwise, why don't we just kill all the criminals? That way they'd never hurt anyone ever again..."

Bubbles started to say something, then hesitated…she whispered, "I…I see what you mean…"

"Nothing's going to change what I did," Blossom said. "I'm not going to sit here any longer and try to come up with ways to justify this anymore. I did it, and I need to face that. I need to get over it, not keep coming up with excuses to avoid dealing with it. But I…I don't know if…I can…"

"You can, Blossom," Bubbles said, forcing some confidence into her voice. "I believe in you." She gave Blossom a comforting hug, who hugged back, tears flowing from her eyes. It made Blossom feel a little better that someone believed so strongly in her, although she still couldn't help but be afraid of facing herself, which she knew she had to, eventually…

* * *

Blossom's short, two-week sentence was over in no time, and she was released from custody. On the way out of the station, she was mobbed by dozens of reporters asking her for comments on what happened and how she felt. She ignored them and flew straight for home, along with her sisters and the professor. It felt odd returning back home again after having been in the cell for all that time, sort of like remembering a distant dream. It was almost like a lifetime ago. Although, in a way, it was…she hadn't been home since the incident, and it had left her so changed that it almost was like another life.

Once they got back, Bubbles and Buttercup each gave her a big hug. Bubbles cried, "We missed you, Blossom…"

"Yeah," Buttercup agreed, "Things just haven't been the same 'round here without you."

"I'm glad you feel that way," Blossom said, forcing a smile, "but if it's all right, I'd like to be alone for a little bit…" She started to head for the stairway.

Buttercup was confused, "Why? You were alone almost the whole time you were in jail. You don't have to be alone anymore."

"I know, but I just need some time to think," Blossom answered, hesitating and looking over at the professor, who nodded his okay. "I'll be back down for dinner, okay?"

"Okay," Bubbles said.

Blossom resumed flying upstairs and went into their bedroom, lying down flat on the bed and staring up at the ceiling. The bed was so comfortable compared to what she had been sleeping on in her cell. She didn't feel like resting just yet, however. There was too much to think about.

Why am I like this? she thought. How can it be that I try to be good, but end up doing something so…wrong? There has to be an answer. Maybe I was right…maybe I don't really know myself like I thought I did. But the people, they'll see me the same way. They thought they all knew me, but they'll probably treat me the same way, now: as a criminal. They put their trust in me to do what's right, and I betrayed that trust. All of it, gone…just as fast as that guy's life when I hit him.

What does one life even mean anymore? It can be ended so quickly by anyone. And if that life is ended, what about the life that ended it? What about my own life? What is it worth now that it has ended another? Is it worth anything anymore?

She decided the answers were out there…she just had to look for them. Getting up from the bed, Blossom found some paper, scribbling a quick note:

Professor, Girls,

I can't sit around here anymore thinking about what happened. I need to go out and seek guidance. I won't be far, since there's someone in Townsville I want to talk to, but I want to do this alone. I'll be back when I find what I'm looking for, I promise.

-- Blossom

Leaving the note on the bed, she quietly flew out from the window. It was raining, but she didn't care…she heading towards her destination, someone she figured would be able to help…

* * *

Ms. Keane answered the knock at her door, looking down with some surprise to see Blossom standing at her doorstep in the rain. "Oh, hello, Blossom! Come in; you're going to get soaked…"

"Thank you," Blossom said. She flew inside, and Ms. Keane closed the door behind her.

"Please, have a seat," Ms. Keane said, and Blossom nodded, flying over and landing on the couch in her living room. Ms. Keane sat down as well, and even though she already knew the answer, she asked, "Is there something you wanted to talk to me about?"

"Yes," Blossom answered. "I…I guess you already know the whole situation, right?"

Nodding, Ms. Keane said, "I do. And I know you're probably not here to catch up on your missed schoolwork…is something wrong?"

Blossom let her eyes drop to the floor as she said, "Well, I'm…still not over the whole thing. I still feel awful about it…I thought I'd feel better in time, but I'm not. Am I good anymore after what I did? Am I really the same Blossom? I feel like…I dunno, like someone that I'm not." She started to cry but held it back. "Ohh…I need some help, I'm so confused…I don't know what to think anymore…"

Ms. Keane frowned sadly as Blossom spoke…she wasn't sure if she could say the right things to help her out, but decided to try anyway. She carefully said, "Dear…when you think about what happened, did you really mean it? I mean, did you really intend on what happened?"

"Well, no," Blossom admitted, "but I did swing harder. I wasn't thinking. I got angry, and just lost control."

"So it really was an accident," Ms. Keane pointed out.

Blossom shook her head, "No, it wasn't. I know it wasn't."

"Let me ask you, what was running through your mind just before you punched?" Ms. Keane asked.

"I was…" Blossom thought for a second. "I was hurt…I-I felt like he had to pay for hurting me. All I cared about was hitting him back, hard."

"Blinded by rage," Ms. Keane said. "It's not uncommon, unfortunately. All things being normal, would you have struck him that hard?"

"Never!" Blossom exclaimed. "But that still doesn't mean anything. If there's a part deep inside of me that's…" She cut herself off, "No, I can't think about that anymore. No more coming up with excuses. The fact is, he's dead, and I'm responsible for it. What's done is done. The question now is…what will happen to me?"

Ms. Keane put a hand on her shoulder and said, "That depends on you. As you said, what's done is done. You can't change the past, but you can use the knowledge of your mistakes to prevent it from ever happening again."

"But that's just it!" Blossom pointed out. "If it happened once, it could happen again! I can't let anyone else be hurt…I just can't! But how can I prevent it?"

"By never forgetting what you did, and minding the lesson you learned, always," Ms. Keane suggested.

Getting up from the couch, Blossom hovered over to look out of a window, "Not good enough. The danger will always be there, and the cost would be someone else's life. Maybe even multiple lives. I can't take that risk. And neither should anyone else around me…"

Ms. Keane got up and joined her by the window, saying, "Everyone has the potential to be dangerous, but it's common sense that keeps us from going out of control. It's something you learn and develop. Sure, mistakes do happen, even ones at great cost, but they shouldn't dishearten you."

Blossom fell silent, gazing out the window at the falling rain and contemplating what Ms. Keane had just told her. Eventually, she whispered, "One life…ending another…it just doesn't seem worth it to try to learn from it. More lives can be lost…there's a good chance of more lives being lost, if it happened once. So I ask you…which is more worth it? The loss of many, or the loss of one? Shouldn't I just be…so that…it'd never…" Her voice became fragmented as she broke down into tears while she spoke.

Seeing her like this, Ms. Keane suddenly felt afraid for her. "Blossom, no…don't even think that!"

Blossom took a deep breath and tried to regain her composure, though she still sniffled, "You're…right…but I gotta find a better reason. Everyone I talk to is gonna try to talk me into being more cheerful, or just forgetting about it. I need to sort this out on my own. I'll…I'll be at the library, I just feel like reading instead. I think I'll have a better chance of finding some answers this way…but thank you, Ms. Keane, you gave me a lot to think about."

Before Ms. Keane could say anything else, Blossom flew up and hugged her warmly, then went over to the door. As she opened it, she noticed the rain had slowed to a drizzle, then eventually stopped altogether. Maybe that's a good sign, Blossom thought, a sign that I'm doing the right thing… She looked back and smiled at Ms. Keane, who gave a reassuring smile back…then she continued out the door, closing it behind her and soaring in the direction of the library…

* * *

It was quiet, naturally. Blossom had come here many times in the past to find a good book to read. The librarian was always amazed with her level of reading ability, unusual for someone her age. She often came here to find something to teach herself, or occasionally something to read for recreation. Today, though, she had a different goal in mind.

Perusing the shelves, she came across a selection of psychology and philosophy books, ones that dealt with death and the human reactions to it. They were a little beyond her reading level, but she figured that anything she didn't understand, she could just ask the professor to explain. But if at all possible, she decided that she'd try to understand it by herself. Surely one of these will give me some kind of insight, she thought. Enough has been written about it.

Next, she looked for any books that grabbed her attention, ones on dealing with loss or anything that seemed relevant. A book that could offer her some consolation would be invaluable to her. She found a good selection of books both in non-fiction and fiction, because she knew that even writers of fiction tended to have a lot of insight into matters of the human psyche.

Another book caught her eye, while she checked from shelf to shelf. Pulling it down from the shelf, she looked at it…'The Holy Bible'. Admittedly, religion wasn't something that was practiced often at her home, since the professor was a man of science. However, she knew that a lot of people found comfort and peace of mind from this book and its teachings, so she decided to see what she could learn from it.

She carried her sizeable stack of books to the desk and checked them out, then left the library and started for home. She had committed herself to a lot of reading, but anything would be worth the effort to ease her troubled mind.

* * *

Once home from the library, she went back up to the room…she hadn't been gone as long as she expected, so her note was still sitting there. She smiled a little…at least that meant they had respected her wish to be alone, as she knew they would. Sitting down, she took a few of the books out and decided to select one to start reading. Her curiosity got the better of her, so she picked up the Bible first.

It was a slightly different style of reading than she was used to, with a lot of imagery in the text. As she read the first section dealing with God's creation of the Heavens and the Earth, she was astounded…simple enough for even a youngster to understand, yet full of insight into the meaning of life. No wonder it has so many followers, she thought. There's no proof that any of this happened, of course, but that doesn't matter…I can see it's something to be taken on faith.

When she had completed the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, she was exposed for the first time to the idea of "original sin". This alone made her feel a little better, because it explained how she could have been so good, yet do something so wrong. She interpreted it as meaning that everyone had some inherent evil, but it was through their own actions that they could be redeemed.

She was also impressed as she read the story of Moses. He became such a great leader of his people, and helped rescue them from slavery. Heroes existed even back then, she thought, smiling. He even brought God's laws to the people, ones that would gain them entrance to Heaven instead of Hell…the Ten Commandments. Only ten, also, she thought. If only today's laws were so clear and to the point…

As she read through them, her eyes stopped on one, and a chill shot through her. She read it aloud, her voice a whisper, "…Thou shalt not kill…" That was all, too. No special circumstances, no "in self-defense", nothing. Clear and to the point, just like the others.

Oh my god, she thought…What does this mean…? Am I…am I… She looked up from the Bible, staring blankly forward, shaking a little. Slowly closing the book, it dawned on her just what this meant. She didn't just do something that was morally wrong…she was violating one of God's very own laws.

Am I…going to…Hell…?! No, how can this be? I've been so good…I've tried to be so good…I…

"Blossom!" came a shout from downstairs. "Dinner!" Blossom weakly got up from where she was sitting and flew out from the room slowly, starting to head downstairs. She couldn't take her mind off of what she had just read. Is it true? she thought. Is it really all over for me? Am I really doomed?!

Throughout dinner and the rest of the evening, she didn't say anything to anyone, didn't even really listen much to what they were saying. She barely noticed their concerned looks. Nightfall came, and it was time to sleep…part of her knew she should have been glad to sleep at home in a soft bed again, after two weeks in jail, but she just couldn't take her mind off of this. She lay awake for a while, before finally falling asleep out of exhaustion…

* * *

Blossom saw herself in the alley, oddly distanced from her, like she was watching it from afar. She saw the robber facing the dead end and turning around, and saw herself landing in front of him and demanding that he give up.

Why do I have this dream every night? I just want to forget it…please…

The robber grabbed the trash can lid and swung it at her with one hand, and though she blocked it, his gun came up and opened fire, the muzzle flash briefly lighting up the darkened alley. The air seemed to turn blood red and fuzzy when the bullet bounced off of her, and yet, distanced like this, she could still see everything happen.

Every night…it happens again…and I can't stop it…

She saw herself clutching her eye, and then swinging a fist slowly, as though it was happening in slow motion. Striking him in the chest, sending him flying up against the alley wall, where he landed in a slump like a rag doll.

No…I didn't want to do it, I didn't want to do it…

She watched herself opening her eyes again and seeing her handiwork. Then something different happened: a ring of fire burst into existence on the ground, surrounding her in a circle. She glanced around in a mixture of confusion and fear, and then the flames closed around her on all sides…

Wh-what's happening?!

The invisible force behind the blaze grasped her and pulled her down…abruptly, she was falling, plunging down a seemingly endless tunnel of fire, stretching into infinity beneath her. As she fell, she screamed and struggled against the pull, but to no avail…

Oh god…help me!

She emerged into an enormous cavern, over a sea of lava that stretched for miles. All around her echoed the shrieks and cries of thousands, filling the air in a terrible cacophony of tormented voices. Falling, she landed on a large rock floating above the lava with an explosion of burning embers. She could see into the lava now, and saw arms reaching from it, pleading for escape but finding none…

Is this…Hell? No…I don't belong here! Let me out!!

As she desperately looked around for a way out, a giant shape rose up out of the lava. She recognized him instantly…it was the master of this place, and somewhere in the back of her mind, she knew that he had always been, even during all the times they had previously met…

The towering form of Him gazed down at Blossom, grinning triumphantly, "Well now, isn't this a surprise," he cackled in his familiar, high-pitched voice. "One of the Powerpuffs, in my clutches…I would never have thought any of you would ever do something evil enough to end up here…"

"No…" Blossom protested. "I didn't mean it…I didn't…"

Waving a claw at her, he said, "Now now, save your strength…oh, what fun this will be; to be able to bring you anguish, and suffering, and for once you can't do anything about it!"

Getting up, Blossom turned and tried to run away, shrieking, "No! Let me out of here! LET ME GO!!" She only got a few feet, though, before her route was blocked off by Him, materializing in front of her. The hopelessness of the situation dawned on her, and she shook with fear.

"You're not going anywhere," he said excitedly, like a gloat. "You are mine, little Blossom…mine for all eternity!" His laughter echoed from everywhere, and as it did, the rock Blossom was standing on shattered into pieces. Blossom plummeted down towards the lava below, screaming her heart out…

No!! NOO!!!!!!

* * *

Blossom woke up with a scream. Sitting up in bed, she panted heavily, holding a hand over her chest and trying to calm herself down. It was only a dream, she told herself…It was only a dream it was only a dream it was only a dream…

Covering her face with her hands, she started to cry. It was only a dream, she knew that, but a dream that she also knew would come true. Her very soul was doomed, through her own actions. Despite everything that happened before, she had never felt so totally and completely lost.

I…I can't stay here anymore, she thought…I have to go… Without a second thought, she got up and left through the window, nightgown and all. She wasn't sure where she would go, or what she would do. She just had to get away…

* * *

Sitting on the edge of a building in Townsville, Blossom stared out at the moon above. Her mind was filled with conflicting thoughts and images as she tried to sort everything out. I wonder if people would miss me, she thought, if I just disappeared…

Bubbles and Buttercup would…so would the professor…

Would they? After what I've become? I'm a killer…

Maybe I should live up to that title…

No, I won't make it even worse! It's bad enough…

Maybe I can still save myself…give my life…one life for one life…

But Bubbles and Buttercup would miss me…and the professor…

No, maybe he deserved to die, he was a criminal!

NO one DESERVES to die!

I wonder if they would miss me…if I just disappeared…

As these thoughts continued, she spotted someone walking down the sidewalk next to the street below her. An elderly man, in a long, black coat, and a walking cane. Sunglasses covered his eyes, and a fedora sat atop his head. He made his way slowly down the street…Blossom watched him as he went, finding it odd that anyone was out and about at this time of night.

At that moment, a figure dressed in black leapt out from the alley, barely visible in the dim streetlights. Knife in hand, Blossom heard him say, "All right, pops…take it easy, and hand over yer money, 'k?" The old man looked disturbed, and Blossom narrowed her eyes at the criminal, who probably didn't know any of the Powerpuffs were awake at this time of night.

She took off from the rooftop, but even as she did, she felt a surge of uncertainty. What if I kill again? she thought. I can't…take that risk…but…I have to! That man is in danger! She put her doubts behind her and flew in, taking the criminal down with one kick. He slumped against the side of a building, out cold…Blossom took a quick listen, just to make sure he was still alive, even though she knew he was.

The old man was still clutching his cane tightly, and called out "Hello?"

"It's all right, mister," Blossom said, flying back over and landing in front of him. "I took care of the robber. You're safe now."

"Is that one of the Powerpuff Girls?" he said. "Blossom, isn't it?"

"Yes, that's right…" Blossom nodded.

With a smirk, the man said, "Aren't you out a little late, Blossom? It's past your bedtime, isn't it?"

Blossom grinned a little at that, but then noticed the man was still facing forward the entire time, and not looking down at her. She looked at his sunglasses again, and said, "Are you…blind?"

The man nodded, "That's right. Sorry about this…I took a little longer getting home tonight. Didn't mean to be out this late myself."

"Do you need some help getting home?" Blossom offered.

"Nah, I'm fine," he said, waving it off. "I've been down this street hundreds of times…know it better than the back of my own hand. Wouldn't mind the company, though…unless you're going back home, now…"

He started walking down the sidewalk again, and Blossom flew up next to him, keeping pace. She was curious, so she asked, "What happened to…I mean, how did you become…"

"Blind?" he finished for her.

Blossom nodded…then realized he didn't see her, and said aloud, "Yes…"

"That's quite a tale, if you're willing to hear it," he said, his features softening a little at the memory. "It was years ago. I was a rookie cop, first day on the force. Hard to believe it was so long ago, seems like only yesterday. I was walking my beat, when I spotted a man snatching someone's purse…chased him almost three blocks before I cornered him in a parking lot."

"Then what happened?" Blossom asked with interest.

Gripping his cane tighter while he walked, he continued, "He had nowhere to go. I had my gun leveled at him and told him to freeze, but he threw the purse at me. It distracted me long enough so that he could scoop up some glass from a broken bottle lying on the ground and throw it at me. Struck me right in the eyes with them."

Blossom winced, and said, "That's terrible…did it hurt?"

He nodded and said, "It hurt like crazy…I was both angry and in pain at the same time, so even though I couldn't see, I squeezed off a few shots from my gun, before I collapsed. Woke up at the hospital, and everything was dark…a doctor told me I was going to be blind for the rest of my life. Ended my career as a cop rather quickly."

"I'm sorry to hear that…" Blossom said softly.

"Yeah," the man said. "I also found out not much later that my shots were on target. One of them hit the robber right in the head…"

Blossom blanched a little, "What? You mean…you killed him?"

"That's right…I was a cop, after all, we have to be prepared to do that," he replied.

"But…" Blossom protested, "…but doesn't it bother you that you ended a life? Especially over something small like a purse snatching?"

Shaking his head, he said, "Not at all. The circumstances don't matter…what matters is, he was trying to kill me. If I hadn't shot him, he might have succeeded. As for ending a life…well, I'd never actually killed someone before, so I guess I did feel a little shaken up about it. But after a while, I realized it wasn't my fault. Sure, I'd been trying to shoot him, but the pain and anger and everything is what made me do it. I was blinded in more ways than one."

"I see…" Blossom said slowly…but something else bothered her. "Mister…are you a religious man?"

He shrugged, "I think so. I don't read the Bible, mind you, but I go to church, to have it read to me. Why?"

Hesitating, Blossom asked, "Well...doesn't it bother you, the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill'? You killed someone…"

He grinned slightly and said, "As far as I'm concerned, God is forgiving. In the years since, I've been a good father, and a good grandfather. I've helped people out, even spent time teaching children who were blinded, like I was. I didn't do this to seek forgiveness; I did it because I wanted to. Deep down, God knows I'm a good person, and deep down, he also knows that robber's death wasn't my fault. Does that answer your question?"

A smile spread across Blossom's face, filled with joy, and she said, "Yes…yes it does. Mister, how can I ever thank you?"

"No need, I'm just glad you young people take an interest in what you elders have to say," he answered. As he felt around with his cane, he said, "This is my home we're coming up to. I want to thank you again for saving me, earlier."

"It's no problem," Blossom nodded. "Take care of yourself, okay?"

He climbed the steps to his front door and said, "I will…have a good night, Blossom."

"You too!" she said cheerfully. After taking a moment to make sure he got inside all right, Blossom headed back up into the sky, heading for home. She felt a hundred times better…with her confidence returned to her, she was prepared for anything. Tomorrow, I return to fighting crime, as I did before, she thought. I'll never forget what I did, but that won't stop me from doing good. I just have to learn from it, and try to make sure it never happens again. But above all, I have to keep fighting crime, for the good of Townsville. She felt at peace once again, but now she needed to get back home and get some sleep for tomorrow…

* * *

Blossom saw herself in the alley, oddly distanced from her, like she was watching it from afar. She saw the robber facing the dead end and turning around, and saw herself landing in front of him and demanding that he give up.

I'm having this dream again? Why?

The robber grabbed the trash can lid and swung it at her with one hand, and though she blocked it, his gun came up and opened fire, the muzzle flash briefly lighting up the darkened alley. The air seemed to turn blood red and fuzzy when the bullet bounced off of her, and yet, distanced like this, she could still see everything happen.


She saw herself clutching her eye, and then swinging a fist slowly, as though it was happening in slow motion. Striking him in the chest, sending him flying up against the alley wall, where he landed in a slump like a rag doll.

It really wasn't my fault…maybe I can be redeemed after all…

She watched herself opening her eyes again and seeing her handiwork. Then something different happened: someone put a hand on her shoulder. She looked up to see the old man standing next to her. In a sympathetic voice, he said, "Don't feel bad. You did what you had to do. Just be strong, and live up to your potential, and all will see the good deep within your heart."

He's right…the future awaits, and I can't be afraid of it…not anymore…

The two of them walked out of the alley together. Blossom knew that the nightmare was finally over, that she had found the answers she had been looking for. She was ready to confront what lay ahead without fear, knowing that whatever she faced, she would do what was right.