Every parent wants the best for their child.
My daughter Lily was a fan of a cartoon show called the Power-Puff Girls on Cartoon Network. I remember a smile used to curl on my face as I watched her play; how she used to dart about the kitchen, arms stretched out, mimicking the sound of rushing wind. I was aware of how violent the show was, but I knew my darling was smart and knew not to take such a show so seriously into course of her own actions. Again, I was a parent and had to make sure she was looking up to the right people... or things for that matter.
Her birthday wasn't too far off and I really wanted to give her something she couldn't ever forget; a real treasure, something she wouldn't expect. So, I took my curiosity of the show off to Amazon.com and eBay. The search results appeared promising. There, it was a trove of children's treasures, but most of the products looked liked valuable collectables or were plushies (Honestly, she's got enough of those things). Then I happened across the image of a DVD case. The casing had this groovy lava lamp effect in black and blue, with half of Bubbles head peeking up from the bottom of the case with her eyes staring out. At the top, there was this Japanese text that I just couldn't understand (悪霊) and alongside, the traditional PowerPuff Girls Logo in Pink and Black swerving bold lettering.
Oddly enough, there were no details about the product. It was to be shipped from Japan though, meaning it would take a while for postage. So I emailed the person selling it, who replied: 'There's just nothing like it', with no signature.
Only selling it for a tenner overall, including the shipping, I took the chance to buy it. But I was wise to check the thing before giving it to my Lily. After all, I only want the best for her. When it arrived, I hid the package in my room until late at night, when my girl had fallen asleep. I took myself down to the living room, made myself some tea, opened my laptop and removed the packaging.
Just as it appeared on the eBay page, with no details, just the imagery. Not even a barcode or hint of credit. The covering was a shiny plastic and as I opened it, I saw two DVDs with the same imagery description, of Bubbles half head peeking out from the bottom. What threw me off guard more than anything was the certification. For some strange reason, although I'd received it from Japan, it had a BBFC certification of an 18. An eighteen? Well, no way am I showing this thing to my Lily! I checked back on the account on eBay, but the sellers account had been removed. Gone. I was stuck with this thing. Damn!
Regarding my own thoughts of the show, I felt it was my obligation to judge this thing for myself. How was I supposed to get rid of it without knowing anything about it? Well the seller did and it was because of my raging curiosity... Shoulda just bought her a plushie.
I was still puzzled by how I was managed to be given what appeared a Japanese title from Japan but was manufactured in Britain. If Britain certified it, surely there would be more copies available around, wouldn't there? I concluded my own pondering assuming it was a unique product, that there was only this single copy and was perhaps posted to Japan as some form of special gift to whoever. The seller himself maybe.
I put the first disc, simply entitled 'Episode', into my laptop. I plugged in the headphones and watched as it set itself up. It came up with a naked start screen, just black and the white lettering 'Episode', which I selected. The screen suddenly flashed white, just a seconds worth of frame, making me a little uneasy. I swore I'd seen something in that single white frame but I shrugged it off, perhaps an error or some kind. No introduction like any of the regular episodes had. It started with the Professor, can't quite remember his name, Utonium or something, staring out at the night sky in his front yard.
I noticed how it was just dead silent, I checked my volume, but it was a considerable level. I wasn't having any desire to have it any higher. He looked utterly withdrawn from his surroundings, as he stared up at the moon just hanging there. He then proceeded to walk into the house and he sat himself down in a chair in front of a fire.
Everything about him was just pitch black, focusing in on him. Something subliminal, like a glitch, a frame flickered of an image of Bubbles. She looked enraged, a dark red surrounding her pupils. Lily had seen that image the other day in an episode, where they'd been surrounding her sister Blossom into a corner. I'd no idea what that episode was about, but it kinda gave me chills, how the grey figures slowly approached the camera with those sickly, red eyes. It was just like that.
Back at the screen, the Professor appeared distraught, as the camera lifted from behind the flicker of the fire to see him, alone in the dark in his chair. The animation looked... somewhat spectacular, how it focused in on his heavy breathing. The colour tone on his face was... almost real. You could see the flickering of the lights and the wave of the shadow reach around and about his face. He was leaning forward, hugging himself, looking scared out of his mind. His breathing was all I could hear in the headphones. What was going on?
I felt startled at the loud creak in the living room, of the door slowly opening by my side. I hoped it not to be Lily, for fear of spoiling this for her, but that was why I was watching this to begin with, if it was suitable. With the way the atmosphere was now, I had no wish to hand this to her at all. I felt the draft and relaxed a little bit, cursing under my breath. Why had I gone and shut off the lights? I was... kinda afraid to move. I resumed watching and Utonium turned to look up at the stairs, gasping, hearing the creak of the door to the girls' bedroom.
Seeing the similarity of what just happened, I attempted to laugh a little. To calm myself I realized. I reached out and pushed the door shut and picked up my tea to drink, when I noticed it had gone stone cold and so quickly. Looking back at the screen, Utonium's eyes were bulging, reddening at the sides, his pupils large, swallowing the whites. I felt I started to understand why the DVD wasn't so popular. It may have been an experiment for an episode not aired. Maybe it was a side project or was marketed to older fans. That perhaps made sense, but this was a show designed for young girls.
The Professor had risen from his seat and ever so slowly started to make his way to the stairs. The angle was shot over his shoulder so you felt you were walking with him. The stairs seemed so distant, like miles away. Every step he took, the stairs seemed to draw away from him, reeling back into the dark. A faint figure shot across the screen in front of him and he froze. So did I. He span round to face the camera, looking side to side, dripping with sweat. A bubbly giggle echoed faintly and then disappeared.
Reluctantly, he made his way up the stairs. As he reached the top, he went to grab the handle of the girls' room, when he noticed something from across the hallway. At the end, lurking, there was a short, pitch black form, standing and facing him. A number of seconds passed by uneasily, until it appeared to move forward, gliding in the dark. The Professor's breathing was picked up again on my head phones and I scratched the sides of my face a little watching. What was this? What the fuck was this?
A bold warmth clutched at my shoulder and I felt somebody's breath on my ear, with the words 'Asobu' muttering softly from a pair of lips. I yelled, swiping out blindly at the dark and switched the light on to find nothing. Absolutely nothing. I realized how loud I was and felt tempted to check upstairs for Lily in case I'd woken her. I pressed stop and listened out for her. Not a single sound. I felt the need to turn the DVD off, but I felt hooked. Perhaps this was a version intended for adults, if so, maybe one day when Lily's old enough... no. No, what're you saying? You can't give this to your daughter!
I pressed play and found that the dark figure was only standing inches away from Utonium. It looked up at him, with a round grey face and no eyes. It stretched open its mouth slowly, with a loud inhale. As it did so, its high pitch descended into a long, deep drone, reaching a pitch I don't think can every be attainable by any voice or instrument. The screen warped and twisted into itself slowly, as it reversed its pitch to being suddenly high, like a siren. White noise sounded for brief moment and then the figure flickered out of vision, resorting to the standard, fixed format again. Utonium looked around him, panicking, to see if it moved. Where had it gone? Had reality slipped from him? Was he imagining it? Was I imagining it? He turned to face the camera and the screen shot to a close up of the creature's face screeching loudly. Jumping, I turned down the volume, completely shaken. There was another single frame that flashed for a second.
I re-wound the DVD and stopped it. It was of her sisters, standing side by side, all in grey and their bed clothes torn as if they were rotting or decaying, Smiles carved edgily onto their faces. Utonium burst into the girls room, to find the two were sleeping soundly and safely. Buttercup, Blossom, but no Bubbles, something he'd grown used to now. He got on his knees as he reached the side of the bed, watching them sleep. He smiled, stroking Buttercups hair. Back on his feet he looked to the end of the bed by the windows, where the blonde darling should've laid rest. A stark white form rose slowly from the end, darkened eyes and torn mouth, screaming. The screen went to black abruptly, cutting out the sound and the title 'Episode' re-appeared. It was finished.
I sat in astonished silence for a second before I'd ejected it.
I just didn't know what to do. What could I do with it? There was still the other DVD to watch. No chances. I didn't want to take chances of an innocent person stumbling across this.
I inserted the next DVD, shivering at the stare Bubbles gave my on the cover it. It was entitled 'Real'.
This one did start out at usual, the theme played and I felt my heart calm itself a little. There was the title announced again, Real, but no credits. Then another black screen card appeared with Japanese lettering (遊ぶ) and then in bracketing 'Asobu'. Loud static and a collection of echoes, sounding industrial, as if recorded in a factory, emerged before the screen went dark again. Utonium was in his lab and it looked as though he was planning another concoction.
The girls emerged from behind him and watched him as he took the Chemical X and poured the entire contents into the mix, a stern, determined look appearing on his face. The girls, frightened, kept distance as the pot grumbled and smoke rose from the mixture. Utonium stood back, disconcerted, before Bubbles flew over to the dully coloured collaboration of gunk in the pot. The smoke, in a swirly, curling motion swept across her face and invaded her lips to her throat, so she inhaled it as she floated. In a fixed state of puzzlement, she begun to twitch. The light in the living room went out, making me jump. I looked about me, stopping the DVD for a moment. I had to make sure.
There flickered numerous odd frames at her twitches, some where... oh my... just unlike anything I'd seen... Most of the images were of the villains, displayed in a realistic fashion, that the girls occasionally fought in the series, for all I know. Some appeared mangled, deranged or dead.
'There's just nothing like it'.
It went silent again and there was static on the screen until it flickered back to Bubbles, staring on at the screen with red eyes, her colour switched to grey. The soundtrack begun again in reverse. She shot out through the ceiling. The girls didn't follow her, but stared out at the hole she had made in the ceiling.
I... I'll never forget this.
The next shot was of the teacher, their teacher, in the classroom at the desk. She looked towards the door Bubbles had entered, as she glared over at her, teeth bare. She threw herself at the screen, with a high pitched scream, surprising me again, before static sounded and it switched to a real life scenario.
It was hard to make out. Several rippling lines ran up the video as it played. The recording was choppy and the audio rather weak. It showed a man, in formal dress, approaching the person holding the camera. It was hand held and jolted in some places. The entire conversation was in Japanese and the man held an unnaturally large, stretched out smile throughout.
His eyes contained greed and an indication of loathing, directed towards the camera. Judging by the surroundings, it looked like an airport. I frowned a little, puzzled. It resorted to static for a split second, then returned with clear picture, clear audio of a young girl holding exactly the same DVD I had. The Bubbles picture stared on at me, as the girl stood up, smiling proudly at that unique specimen in her hands. The same language chirped from her, as she stood before the camera, pointing out Bubbles. It went fuzzy again, loud static.
The emotion of it all tore suddenly and I found myself gripping at the material of my chair. Japanese was been spoken fluently, rushed and in a panicked tone, as the shaking and movements of the camera stopped and focused on a classroom of children in Japan, wailing and sobbing as they scrambled into the corner of a room, desperation and horror hanging in the sound and sensation of it all. My heart just pounded like a jackhammer, especially when I heard the blubbering of the cameraman. He was trembling. A small figure was stood at the other end of the room, dressed in a robe of grey, hiding itself from vision.
The cameraman called out to somebody, before a splatter of red hit the lens. The man bellowed, expressing grief and further sobbing, the children screamed and the focus died, as the camera flung itself back and forth along the hall, indicating the man running, the children following behind him with piercing yells. More blood hit the lens before it resorted to static and the cartoon returned to the screen. I realized something from when I'd watched it. The cameraman, the one recording it. A moment he was fixing his recording close to a mirror, where the creature was standing. It was him. The one who sold me the DVD. I knew from his image on the account.
Oh, God... I was just gob-smacked. It hadn't just been an intrusion of random real-life sequences. It was a warning.
Silence once more, the camera was reeling out of a crowd of people, staring at Bubble's lifeless, mangled grey body. Blossom was crouched, staring at her sisters corpse sadly. Buttercup was at Utonium's side, comforting him as he sobbed. Black started to eat at the screen until there was nothing left. It faded into the next shot, of Bubbles marching slowly towards the camera, red eyes and angered. Heavy breathing, as if struggling, flooded the headphones, gradually getting louder and louder, as the wall behind her scrolled slowly. Suddenly, I found myself back to the title screen. Silent. It was over.
Overwhelmed with shock, I couldn't find myself to move. After a minute, I reached for my headphones and removed them from my ears. I collected the DVD from the Laptop and placed it back into the case. I had to get rid of it, I couldn't even believe what I'd just watched. Walking up to my room, after turning off the light, I heard a subtle hiss; like a whisper, directed from across the hall.
I got goosebumps. My skin crept and my eyes darted back and forth along the hall. I came to the last stair and found myself staring at a short, black form from the end of the hall. It give a light giggle and I rushed into my own room, slamming the door shut. My heart was caught in my throat. I couldn't breathe, I couldn't think. It knocked on my door and I almost cried out. Biting my lip, gripping my own skin, I yanked open the door to find Lily.
Large bags rested under her eyes and she croaked:
'I had a bad dream...'