The Haunted Hero

Cover by Au Goose

Thank you so much to Au Goose from for creating the wonderful cover for this story.

Ultragirl blocked the fist flying directly at her face and countered with a jab to the mouth of the black-clad man in front of her. His head rocked back from the power of her blow, spittle seeming to fly in slow motion away from his lips as her super-speed ability seemed to slow down time itself.

She grabbed the large mitt whose powerful blow she had just blocked and placed her other hand on the side of the villain’s head, using a burst of super-strength to propel him into the wall across the alley. As she watched him fly across the alley at supersonic velocity, her eyes widened in shock.

She had forgotten about the dead victim’s innocent, little girl in a cute, white dress, standing in the center of the dark alley!

Ultragirl watched in horror as the supervillain flew into the child from the force of her throw, the small girl’s body splattering to send a spray of flesh, bone, and blood all over the pavement and alley walls.

A millisecond later, the villain smashed into the brick wall in a cloud of red dust. As the dust cloud cleared, Ultragirl saw Vile Vern held in place by the indentation he had made in the wall, head lolling to his chest.

Ultragirl walked to the center of the alley, her hands rising to cover her mouth as she saw two feet still in place in the center of the alley, the rest of her body splattered over the rest of the alley. How could she have done that? She had known the girl was there, noting the child’s presence the moment she entered the alley to find the supervillain in the act of dispatching the young girl’s mother.

She was only superhuman, after all. All people made mistakes, right? Even superheroes! She looked to the body of the little girl’s dead mother, then to the unconscious supervillain. No one else had witnessed their deaths. The supervillain was flying across the alley and was unconscious within a second of hitting the girl. He almost certainly wouldn’t know–or remember, at least–that he had killed her. He probably wouldn’t care even if he did remember. He certainly didn’t have any qualms about killing the girl’s mother. If he tried to blame the girl’s death on her, no one would believe him anyway. Right?

Hearing the sirens in the distance, Ultragirl knew the right thing to do. She should tell the police everything that had actually happened. There might be an inquiry into her actions, possibly even a trial. She could be sued by the girl’s surviving family for wrongful death. She could be forced to pay millions of dollars that she didn’t have. Superheroing didn’t pay particularly well, or, like, at all. Should she be forced into bankruptcy in return for the countless lives she’d saved? That didn’t seem justified at all!

It would be so much easier to blame the young girl’s death on Vile Vern, the unconscious supervillain embedded in the brick wall. After all, none of this would have happened if it weren’t for him. The girl’s DNA was all over the man, no one would believe that he hadn’t been the killer if he tried to place the blame for the child’s death on her.

As the police parked at the entrance to the alley and began to walk toward her, she came to a decision. She would lie. It was better for everyone, except, perhaps, the supervillain–but who cared about him? The fact that there were no living witnesses to her mistake was a gift! She would be foolish not to accept it. Right?

“I’m so sorry, officers. I arrived too late to help this poor girl and her mother. Vile Vern did it again. At least this time, I was able to put him down, so it can never happen again. Be sure to use the reallyverytoughium handcuffs, though, to make sure that he can’t escape!”

The officers nodded and took Vern into custody as Ultragirl breathed out a sigh of relief. Good, no further questions. Everything would be just fine. Right?


Ultragirl tossed and turned in bed that night, having trouble sleeping as the memory of today’s events ran through her tortured mind again and again. As a shadow passed over her, she shot up from her pillow, eyes darting to every corner of the room. Her lips trembled in fear. Was there someone in her house? Why was she so afraid? She could handle anything that might get inside… couldn’t she?

She lay back down and closed her eyes, but the frantic patter of her frightened heart made sleep impossible. Why was she so frightened? This was insane!

She let out a long, slow breath through her mouth, then brought in a lungful of air through her nose. Deep breathing was a technique she had learned to calm herself during the most dicey situations with the most powerful opponents. It should certainly get her through a couple of nighttime shadows.

Except that it didn’t. Another shadow and glimpse of something… was it white?… sent her heart and mind racing again. Damn it!

As she began to lay down and close her eyes from the latest scare, a glimmer of white caught the corner of her eye. Her eyelids rebounded from closed to open in an instant and her eyes shot to where she had caught the unexpected color.

There was nothing there.

She arose from the bed and walked over to that area, but there was nothing. If she hadn’t known better, she would have thought that it was the image of the little girl, standing, eyes wide, in anticipation of the hulking supervillain colliding with her delicate body…

…but that was impossible. Impossible! she told herself. Right?

She lay back down but couldn’t bring herself to close her eyes again, the vague image of a child’s white dress lay on the back of her eyelids, and she did NOT want to see that again.

She didn’t sleep that night.


Ultragirl entered the courtroom the following day and took a seat. She knew that she might be needed as a witness if the judge wanted to hear from her before she set bail.

As the bailiff brought in Vile Vern, he gave her a seething look. Did he remember what had happened? She wasn’t sure. It was quite possible that he would give her that look regardless, since she had been the one to capture him.

As the judge entered and everyone in the courtroom rose for her entrance, Ultragirl saw another glimmer of white, standing just past Vile Vern in the corner of the courtroom. Her tired, bloodshot eyes shot to the source of the color… but it wasn’t there. Again! The last thing she needed was to be seeing things right now. She needed to make sure that Vile Vern was put behind bars, then she would feel better. She just needed closure, and that would provide it. Right?

She was called to the stand, placing her hand on the bible and swearing to tell the truth. Ultragirl recounted the events of the day right up until the part where she had accidentally killed the girl.

“Then, to my horror, Vern grabbed the young girl and blasted her with an energy blast right in front of me. I was shocked and angered, and I threw him across the alley into the wall, finally ending the fight!” she testified, her real guilt bringing real tears to her eyes.

Another flash of white caught the corner of her eye, but, again, nothing was there when she looked. It must just be the guilt causing these hallucinations of white dresses. Right?

She watched as Vern whispered in the ear of his public defender. The attorney seemed to consider, but when the judge asked if he had any questions for Ultragirl, he declined. His decline seemed to enrage Vile Vern, who spoke in short, hissing whispers to the suited man. Ultragirl wished she had super-hearing right about now. It seemed that Vern might remember what actually happened after all…

Ultragirl felt sick to her stomach as she left the witness stand and shakily walked to her seat. She barely heard the rest of the proceeding, so consumed was she in her guilt over her lies–this time under oath!

That night, Ultragirl didn’t sleep. Again. She didn’t dare close her eyes, knowing she would see the girl in the white dress in the darkness, in her dreams.

As she showered the following morning, she simply stood under the steaming hot water, her invulnerable skin soaking in comfort from the scalding heat. As she dressed in the clothes appropriate to her secret identity, she caught another bit of white in her peripheral vision. And… nothing was there, as always.

Ultragirl chided herself. You need to stop this! It’s over. Done. It’s Vile Vern’s fault. It wouldn’t have happened if not for him. You don’t need to feel guilty about anything. It was an accident!

Her internal advice seemed to calm her for the moment. She steeled her nerves with a deep breath and went to work.

That night, however, she couldn’t sleep. Again. White would appear in the periphery whenever she attempted it–the white fabric of that little girl’s dress.

The following day, a beyond-tired Ultragirl looked up at the television in the reception area on her way into the office and saw the breaking news.

“Vile Vern, recently apprehended in connection with the murder of a woman and her six-year-old child, was found dead in his cell today…”

Ultragirl wasn’t sure how to feel about that. Should be happy that the only possible witness to her accidental killing was now dead? Maybe. But happiness wasn’t what she felt. In its place was the perpetual dull, aching dread of the last few days. If anything, the feeling was still more intense. It seemed that nothing could make her feel anything but this grey, will-sapping, funk of guilt anymore…

Her eyelids sagged as she nearly fell asleep numerous times throughout the work day. Every time her head began to nod downward into much-needed sleep, however, a glimpse of white would shock her into wakefulness.

As she sunk into her mattress that night, Ultragirl tried to reassure herself. She had gotten away with it. There were no more witnesses, not that she had really even done anything wrong. It had been a complete accident. She had needed to lie about it to the police. She had needed to lie about it in court. She had needed to lie about it under oath. But it was over now. There was no further need to worry. She was invulnerable; she was superhuman; she was respected by the community; she was past this whole thing. She had nothing more to worry about. Right?


The next morning, the television blared in the reception area of her office with news of another death.

“Amazingly, within a span of 24 hours, there was a second death due to extreme sleep deprivation. These two cases are the first such deaths to occur in the past fifty years, and they were both on the scene of the death of a young girl and her mother mere days ago…”

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