Weirdness in Lawndale continues (set after the Daria episode “Depth takes a holiday”)
Daria (and associated characters and locations) is copyright © 1997-2000 MTV Networks.
This story is copyright © 2002 by Bacner () and has been written for personal enjoyment. No infringement of the above rights is intended.
The day that the FC later called “The Day of Fashion Infamy” or TDFI, and Daria and Jane and quite a few others called “a hoot”, started as a long, lazy, April Break day. Jane was at Casa Lane, sketching the more particularly spectacular effects of air pollution in the upper layers of the atmosphere, and Daria was privately wondering in her own room, whether or not the atmosphere at the Lane house got too polluted.
And where was the rest of Daria’s family? Why, the answer to that question Daria neither knew nor cared-
“Ku-Winn, are you sure that there’s nobody home but your geeky cousin?”
-all right, now that was just wishful thinking. The older Morgendorffers were at their corresponding places of work, and Daria’s younger sister, Quinn, was holding a Fashion Club court downstairs, to Daria’s greater irritancy. “Why can’t the earth just open-up and swallow them whole?” she grumbled.
“Gee, Ku-Winn, it was so not nice of you to invite us home and not have anything to eat,” Sandi said sarcastically.
“Quinn is sorry, Sandi, aren’t you?” Stacy squeaked, looking like she wanted the earth to open whole and swallow both Quinn and her.
“No food… that’s right… no food – no fat!” Tiffany added.
Sandi, who was preparing to speak herself, choked on whatever she wanted to say to Quinn, and instead turned to Tiffany with a compact mirror in her hand. “Tiffany, look! A reflective surface! Run along and play with it for a while!”
“Ooh! Shiny!” Tiffany spoke, fiddling with the mirror like a monkey. “Hey! A solar speckle!” she said excitedly.
Quinn stared. “How long she was like that?” she asked Stacy.
“Shouldn’t her parents be told, or something?”
“Absolutely not,” Sandi re-attached herself to the conversation. “We got your lack of food to discuss.”
“But Sandi, we wouldn't eat it anyways!” Stacy protested.
“That’s the point! Ku-Winn was supposed to have the food so that we didn't eat it and demonstrated our will-power!”
“To who?” Quinn asked, curious, but keeping half an eye on Tiffany and Tiffany’s new toy.
“Um… how about that geeky cousin of yours?” Sandi finally said. “She looks like she could use a few good tips from Tiffany! She’s, like, too fat for height, or something!”
“…Or something!” came from downstairs, and Daria groaned. Ye gods, didn’t this quartet shut-up? Well, maybe it was more of a trio, since Tiffany tended to speak about eight to ten words on an hour, and at least four of them would be “Am I too fat?” – or something along similar lines. But the others – God – they never shut-up!
Daria looked thoughtful, and looked at the wall. The latter just not-stared back, as walls are wont to do, because that’s what they are, even ones with the name of ‘Thomas’ written on them. “On one hand,” Daria started to speak to ‘Thomas’, “this is my sister and her friends downstairs and at least one of them is may be mentally deficient. On the other hand – I really don’t want to hear what they’re talking about, either. So-“ Not waiting for ‘Thomas’ reply, Daria walked over to the door into her room and closed it.
“That’s better!” she said. “Now nobody is going to bother me in my domain!” Then she looked around her room, and added, more quietly. “Maybe I should invade somebody else’s domain instead.”
Back at Casa Lane, Jane Lane was getting increasingly aggravated. “No, no, and that’s not right at all!” she exclaimed, angrily, stomping around her room like a crazed rhino.
“Hey Janey, what’s up?” her brother Trent appeared in the door-way, looking half-asleep, even though it was closer to noon than to sunrise proper by now.
“Don't you have a nap sometime around now?” Jane grouchily snapped.
To her surprise, Trent nodded wisely and walked over to her bed, yawning so hard, that Jane expected his jawbones to unhinge like a snake’s. That fascination caused a delay of a realization in Jane’s brain, that on her bed lay several draft canvasses, left to dry-
Jane’s mouth formed an ‘O’. For several minutes Jane tried to say something, anything, that would convey as to how she felt at that moment and failed to accomplish this even by a long shot.
Finally, after several moments of impersonating a fish out of water, Jane gave up, turned around in a military style and walked out of her room and out of the house, going in no particular direction.
At that point in time, Jane Lane really wished that Upchuck with his “Feisty!” get-up line would be around. She would really enjoy tearing him apart.
And so, whilst Jane Lane has started on her March of Doom down the Lawndale streets, Stacy Rowe was experiencing a totally different feeling, one that was as familiar to her, as frustration was for Jane, and aggravation to Daria. It was panic. Stacy Rowe was afraid because Sandi and Quinn were fighting, and Tiffany… was, well, Tiffany – not a good state-of-matter to be, as even Stacy would agree.
Then again, the Morgendorffer living room downstairs seemed to be cutting pretty close to Tiffany-verse from Stacy’s P.O.V at least. As it has been mentioned before, Sandi and Quinn were fighting verbally, Sandi doing her “primadonna” routine, and Quinn using logic. If this was fighting, Sandi would be swinging big blows, and Quinn would be jabbing short ones. And since both girls were (obviously) in the same weight category, neither party did much damage to each other, not even to their respective egos – after all, this was a lazy day, slightly foggy and misty and damp, but otherwise quite okay. And thus, if the fourth FC member was anybody but Stacy Rowe, the “meek mouse” of the FC, nothing would’ve happened that was going to happen in the future.
But this was Stacy Rowe the “Scaredy-Cat”, and so, quite naturally (or unnaturally, this was the Fashion Club, after all, the almost-epitome of all that was sick and sad in this world, at least according to Daria and Jane), she was becoming almost as scared as a hobbit locked in a same cave with a dragon – or at least an horde of goblins. Consequently, of course, she panicked. True, it wasn’t a loud type of panic, the same type that a chicken experiences when a farmer goes after it with an axe in his hand, intent of making serving it with noodles as a side-dish, but a quiet one, which meant that she was merely breathing heavily into one of sofa cushions, looking at the other three with wide eyes. But because in the school of LH only Brittany Taylor the head-cheerleader had actually bigger eyes than Stacy, nobody noticed it.
Stacy looked-on… Tiffany Blum-Deckler was trying to catch the solar speckles that appeared due to some angles between her compact mirror and the sun outside. It was hopeless, of course, for as soon as Tiffany got either between the sun and the mirror, or the mirror and whatever shiny surface that the mirror ‘broadcasted’ the sun’s reflection, the speckle would vanish from existence, but that was okay. Tiffany didn't get it.
Meanwhile, Sandi Griffin and Quinn Morgendorffer had lost too much steam to continue talking. They just sat in opposite corners, and glared. ‘Oh my God!’ this caused Stacy to think. ‘Sandi and Quinn just may decide to disintegrate the Fashion Club right then and there! They're so upset at each other, and Tiffany doesn’t help matters much either – I got to do something! Hey! Maybe Quinn’s parents do have some food! I'll go and check it out!’
…Both Quinn and Sandi were pretty surprised when Stacy Rowe got off the sofa and ran into the kitchen. Sandi opened her mouth to comment, but-
“Hey! The spot is getting warm!” Tiffany spoke suddenly. During her hunt for the ‘elusive’ solar speckle she had somehow figured-out that the speckle, the mirror, and the sun are connected somehow – in a stationary arrangement (even though Tiffany didn't even know the word ‘Stationary’), and so if the mirror doesn't move (even Tiffany knew that sun didn't move – the planet earth did), the solar speckle stayed in the same place. And so, she established the mirror in one place, assured that the speckle stayed in one and the same place – a spot on the Morgendorffers’ floor carpet – and began to lunge at it, hopelessly and without any results, for the reasons given above. Since it was Tiffany though, she didn’t grow discouraged.
“Tiffany honey,” spoke Sandi, completely uninterested in Tiffany’s pastimes. “You interrupted me again.”
“I'm sorry Sandi – you’re not fat,” Tiffany said.
Quinn blinked and stared at the other two, forgetting about Stacy for the moment. At this moment in time, Sandi’s face looked nothing more than a rather overripe tomato. “Tiffany,” she began to say, but unfortunately she was interrupted now by Stacy, who also overheard Tiffany’s latest niblet of wisdom (as far as Tiffany’s sayings went, that is), and reacted in her usual wont – completely off the mark.
“Uh Sandi, what Tiffany said you shouldn’t worry about your weight, she didn't mean that she thought that you should be fatter – eep!”
That “eep” resulted because Sandi gave Stacy a ‘look’ that she had inherited from her mother. That look, executed by Linda Griffin, could even stop fights-slash-rambles of Sam and Chris Griffin, Sandi’s younger brothers, who had much more backbone than Stacy, who, upon seeing the look from her friend and FC superior, fainted altogether, luckily – or not so – not breaking the yellowish bottle she was holding in her hand.
“Maybe Daria is right – maybe our house needs to have a better ventilation,” Jane muttered. “I am no longer as angry as I was before – at Trent or at my muse. Still, I don't think I will paint again anytime soon; I mean, facing the exasperation of-“
“Whoa there girl, slow down!” spoke another female voice.
Jane whirled, around, startled, and stared. “Uh, who are you?” she finally said.
“I, Jane, am your muse.”
It would be an extreme unfairness to say that Jane Lane the unflappable girl was so shocked, that she fell flat on her ass. No, it was merely that a smooth pebble, slickened further by some residue morning dew was caught under Jane’s foot, causing her to lose balance and fall flat on her ass all the same. But… the latter version is much nicer to the Jane’s ego and self-respect, so let’s stick with it, okay?
So, at any rate, there Jane was, sitting flat on the grass which was still wet and cold from residual morning dew, staring at a girl whose make-up was seemingly done by Picasso, and her clothing was done by-God-knows-who. In other words – this was Jane Lane’s art taste gone square. In other words – Jane Lane was awed, and that was an understatement to the least. “My… muse?” Jane finally said, unaware that the clothing on her lower body was now soaked to the skin.
“Ye gods, those art fumes have gotten to me by now!.. Why are you here?”
“To take a walk with you, and talk with you about in what direction in art are you going to?”
Jane slowly got-up. “This is not going to be fun, is it?” she quietly said.
“I don’t know – but let’s find-out!”
“All right,” spoke Daria Morgendorffer, approaching the bedroom of her sister Quinn. “Maybe I should’ve called Jane instead of naming my floor David and my other walls Frank, Liz and Marc, but this as an ounce of prevention to counter the pound of cure is too bizarre!” She looked around. “Then again, I’m having an intelligent discussion with myself. This is much more uncomfortable, thank you very much!” She shook her head. “And I’m arguing with myself, also. This settles it – I’m going in!”
The first realization that hit Daria’s neural centre – aka the Brain – was ‘Pink’. Quinn’s whole room was pink. Also cherry, crimson, red, cerise, and so forth, and so on. “Monochrome much?” Daria whispered darkly under her nose, after her senses finally kicked-in their auxiliary emergency repair energy jousts – and Daria needed. Quinn’s whole room reminded her of a blazing bonfire or the innards of an exploding volcano – so full of hot colour and energy her sister’s room was. “Hmm,” Daria scratched her head. “Wasn't Jane once quoting one of her sisters, abut how a person’s taste in colours reflect a person’s state of psyche?.. Mmm, Quinn maybe my sister, but I think I'll settle with the idea that I'm the bizarre one in the family right now. And speaking of right now, what other treasures this ‘Cave-of-40-thieves’ wannabe has to offer?” Daria paused. “And God – I really need a life.”
Absent-mindedly, Daria waved her arm around and hit a button. A built-in closet door opened, and Daria’s eyes widened. “Oh God!” she had only time to say before she fainted.
“Is she dead?” Tiffany briefly stopped hunting for the speckles. That wouldn’t be important, if one doesn’t keep in mind Tiffany’s rather bizarre attention span and its’ rather narrow angle of sight: as long as anything is in it, Tiffany will have it in an endless re-run of her rather small memory; but if it gets out of there, Tiffany will forget about it, if not altogether, then for a long while. And sometimes it’s not as harmless as it may seem…
“No Tiffany, she’s not dead, she has fainted,” Sandi spoke-up crossly. “Try to be even a bit observant, why don't you?”
“What is she holding, then?” Tiffany pressed-on.
“I think it’s some sort of a fruit juice,” Quinn said, shrugging. “I think some friends of my parents’ from college send those things over to them every once in a while. I think Daria once tried it and claimed to have holidays staying-over in her room, or something.”
“Really?” Sandi said, getting the bottle open, and a smell spread through the air – a warm, pungent smell, smell of grapes growing and fermenting right on the vine, of figs ripening on trees, of swarthy men gathering dates of really tall palms… In short, it was a very interesting smell, especially to four high school girls who have all-too-many-free-time on their hands. “Holidays, eh?” Sandi spoke with a weird-yet-thoughtful expression on her face. “Well now Ku-Winn, do you think that we should try it?”
“Do bees buzz in the Lawndale Park?” Quinn replied rather snappishly. “Want me to get glasses?”
“Nah, my aunt Vicki can drink cognac right from the bottle’s neck, and so can I,” Sandi said more confidently than she felt.
“This is why you’re the FC’S president,” Quinn replied. “Who will be the first?”
Sandi’s face formed a rather malicious and nasty-looking smirk. “Oh Tiffany!..”
Trent Lane opened his eyes – his front hurt. “Uh! Did I fell asleep or something Janey? Janey?..” No answer went back. “Hmm… Must’ve gone-out or something. Oh well. Can get a whiz without needing her,” Trent muttered and went to the bathroom of the Casa Lane, still clutching his guitar, in a manner similar to Peanuts’ Linus holding his blanket, only without the thumb in his mouth.
It must be pointed-out at that point that the Lanes of Lawndale didn’t fare all that good in matters of mirrors. The only actual mirror, made out of glass, not a bowlful of water or an odd-job made out of some bronze (done by Amanda Lane during her Oriental phase), was on a medical cabinet in the same bathroom into which Trent Lane, still more than just half-sleepy, was going into. Consequently, that mirror was located nearer to the ceiling than to the floor, and thus was position around Trent’s upper torso and face, both of which (plus his pants) were now coloured in paint that Trent had ‘borrowed’ from Jane’s painted drafts that lay on her bed. And so, when Trent Lane turned-on the bathroom’s light (a single, small, very lonely, dim light bulb glowing vaguely in the ceiling), what Trent saw was his reflection – but what he actually thought (as a male musician you couldn't count on Trent to remember such unimportant things as mirrors) he saw was a Papuan in full war paint, with wildly dishevelled hair, and with eyes blood-shot from some inner anger.
“Gah!” the musician bellowed bravely, swinging his guitar as some sort of a club. If the blow had landed on the mirror, it would’ve shattered it. However, Trent miscalculated and the blow slammed into the cabinet’s side, jarring its’ door open, which immediately swung, due to the residue force of Trent’s wild blow.
“Hurk!” the opened door hit Trent directly in the right side of his face (keep in mind that the Lanes’ bathroom was rather small), and Trent promptly fell down and out – like a rock, that is.
“So uh, what do you want to talk about?” Jane Lane, the younger sister of Trent asked her muse. At least, she supposed that if was her muse. That theory was supported by the fact that no person – no matter how insane – would dress into something that looked like an exploded – either fruit salad or a macaw parrot.
“Why Jane, your art, of course!” the muse said, swinging her arm. Jane, however, didn't notice that; her attention was too occupied with the sight of the muse’s sleeve, very loose and transparent, swinging through the air. “Hey! You're not paying attention!”
“Sorry,” Jane said petulantly. “But can you change into some other clothing get-up. Seeing you alone makes me want to start creating wildly, and down with everything else – starting rodents and ending with other countries.”
“How ‘bout leather pants and a corsage to match?” the muse suggested.
Jane exhaled through her teeth. Sharply. “Just start talking already!” she said.
“As you wish.”
There was a pause. “Well?” Jane said, feeling that that was rather anticlimactic.
“Look in the water.”
Jane looked. “I see nothing but ripples.
“Try to look harder, would you?” the muse suggested.
Jane did. And she didn’t like what she saw.
The room was messy to the extreme – mayhaps even more messier than Trent’s, even though that was hardly possible, and it wasn’t Trent’s either. There were no signs of music sheets or instruments, but there were plenty of artworks – if you could call them that. Rather, they were some sorts of expressions of shapes and colours, bizarre and abstract to the max.
And then there was a figure standing in the middle of this exploded cornucopia of mess and colour – a very thin figure, almost naked save for some smock and a beret all dappled and drappled. A figure, who was swinging a pint-brush – wildly. A figure, who suddenly turned-around and stared at the ‘Real’ Jane Lane with blood-shot eyes stuck in an almost skull-like face… of the same Jane.
The vision ended.
Stacy Rowe was falling – or rather, she was pushed. She was pushed down through some deep dark tunnel by Sandi Griffin’s medusa-like stare and she felt so alone – or was she?
“What’s going-on here?” she heard a voice of Sandi Griffin, and suddenly there was a burst of yellow light, and then-
There was everything.
“Uf, where are we?” Quinn Morgendorffer exhaled.
“Good point,” Sandi agreed. “Tiffany, Stacy – you two here?”
“Yeah,” Stacy nodded. “Both of us are here.”
“Good. Then here’s where?”
“Uh, Sandi – I think we’re still here, here being the Morgendorffers’ living room,” Stacy bubbled.
“All right, this is weird,” Quinn blinked. “If here’s our living room, then where’s the bottle? And the compact mirror with which Tiffany was playing?”
“Tiffany?” Sandi said in a warning tone, “you didn't break it and forget about it did you?” After all, there were precedents…
But Tiffany shook her head. “No.”
“And then there’s some other, different stuff,” Quinn continued. “Just look around, you guys: everything looks different, yellowier, older – you savvy?”
“Come on Quinn, that must be the drink talking,” Sandi said uncomfortably. “I’m sure that this is just a trick of the light, that everything looks the colour of really old newspapers.”
The four girls whirled around. “Who said that?” Sandi demanded. “Show yourself.”
“Gladly.” And out of thin air appeared… a biggest, most unpleasant-looking rattlesnake that Quinn Morgendorffer had ever seen! And she used to live in Highland, Texas!
“Who or what are you?” Sandi, meanwhile, insisted. “You're not a snake – snake can't talk!”
“I am the shadows in the night,
I am the darkness against the light.
I am the lonely day when friends aren’t near.
I am frustration. I am fear,” the snake hissed.
“Fear? Humph! You don't look so scary!” Sandi insisted.
“Oh I don’t?” the snake smiled. “Well, let me show you your future - the future of the Fashion Club!” and it maniacally laughed.
“Bring it on!”
And so, while Jane was having an eye-opening experience and the FC were about to confront Fear, what was Daria doing? Well, Daria opened her eyes, and realized that she was in Hell. Wherever she looked, all was red, or crimson, or scarlet, or ruby, or burgundy, or cherry, and so on, and so forth. “This is either Hell or innards of a volcano before it goes all Pompey on the neighbourhood,” Daria muttered. “Yo! Who’s owning this joint? Show-up!”
“There’s no need to shout - I’m here!” spoke a voice.
Daria whirled around. And stared.
The creature that appeared looked like a cross between a human mannequin and an Oriental dragon. Its’ skin shone like lacquer wood, and it was composed of two colours: red and black. “And what, or who, are you?” Daria said slowly.
“I am the monster under the bed.
I am all the worries inside your head.
I am every drop of every tear.
I am the fever. I am fear.”
Daria frowned. “Fear, hah? Wait a second – you mean you’re the anthropomorphic personification of it, yeah?”
“What if I am?” Fear looked confused. “What is it to you, then?”
Daria smirked. “See, I once had to deal with a whole bunch of such personifications – only they were holidays. Luckily for me, a couple of friends joined me on that trip – as in alcohol-induced, that’s it. It means that mom and dad received another bottle of fermented cactus juice and it’s been open…” Daria trailed-off. “Quinn! I've got to talk to her.”
Fear – whether real or hallucinogenic jumped between Daria and the doorway. “I don't think so missy, you’ll still have to confront me!”
“Oh yeah?” Daria frowned. “We're going to see about that!”
Feeling braver that she looked, Daria charged.
“Eesh!” Jane Lane shook her head, banishing the last vestiges of the vision from her eyes. “Is this supposed to be me, turning recluse and completely art-driven?”
“Yes. Jane, extreme amount of art never did anybody good.”
“So what you’re saying? Should I abandon art altogether?”
The muse rolled her eyes. “Take another look.” And this time Jane wasn’t distracted by the sleeve – she looked in the ripples right away.
“Mom, dad do we have to visit your aunt?” the kids whined. Jane idly observed that both kids had black hair and neither had glasses, though what that had to do with vision she sure as Hell didn't know. What she noticed though, that the vision showed the anteroom of a house that somehow seemed familiar – oh yes, Jane had seen it when the annual Lane reunion was hold at aunt Bernice’s. So what?
“Sister!” the man yelled, and Jane couldn't quite see him or recognize his voice, though the latter seemed familiar. “We're here! Say high to your kids.”
“Hey kids,” and a stocky, average, somewhat unpleasant-looking woman appeared in the doorway. The woman resembled aunt Bernice but was somewhat younger, her hair was somewhat blacker. “Say hello to your auntie Jane.”
“Uh! Where am I?” Daria grumbled, rubbing her forehead. “What did I do – run into the wall?” She looked around. “Uh, maybe I did. What is this place, anyways? Oh yeah – Quinn’s room.”
Daria paused, remembering. “Well, the pain cleared-away all the hallucinations, but this – hey, do I smell smoke? Quinn!”
Daria quickly – though unsteadily – got on up on her feet and ran downstairs, suddenly very concerned for her sister’s, and her sister’s friends, welfare.
…“Bring it on!” Sandi had yelled and the world exploded in rain of tongues of yellowish flame. And the rain fell, the four FC girls changed…
“What has happened?” Stacy asked, suddenly feeling confused. “I don’t feel different, guys… Guys? Guys? Guys?! Where are you??”
“Somewhere else,” the girl then heard the hiss of Fear. “The Fashion Club is no more - it fallen apart! You all went your separate paths and forgot about each other; except for Tiffany, who’s quite another story. How’s that for Happily-Ever-After, hmm?”
“No!” Stacy yelled very loudly. “No!!”
“Hey, where am I?” Quinn looked around. “This is weird. This is so weird. This is Daria’s room – what does it have to do with me?” She paused. “Wait a second, something’s wrong. Why does Daria has my smiling-face pillow nailed to the wall, and why her photo has her hair dyed…”
Quinn’s voice trailed-off. That was no photo. That was mirror. And staring from the mirror was a tad perkier, a tad slimmer, and a tad less stocky image of Daria with somewhat reddish hair. “That can’t be me,” Quinn shook her head stubbornly. “I'm not a socially-skilled, mentally retarded version of my sister!”
“Is’t so?” Quinn heard Fear’s voice hiss. “Blood is thicker than water, and as for DNA... your sister may become you, but you may become your sister! Isn't it ironic?”
“Ouch, my head! I think I've landed on something hard!” Sandi Griffin groaned. An echoing groan came from some distance away from her. “Who’s there?”
“Tiffany?” the other girl’s voice sounded different, but Sandi couldn't figure out how – the place was now even dimlier lit than before, and there were no signs of either Quinn or Stacy. “What’s going on? Wait, you couldn't know-“
And then the chamber lit-up, and Sandi and Tiffany saw each other, reflected in a mirror.
Sandi saw Tiffany first: a chubby, overweight woman with slightly blurred facial features. Tiffany’s eyes looked especially small in her face that resembled a well-oiled pancake. Sandi smirked – and then saw her older self, a woman with hair tied in a horse-tail, her own features – both facial and bodily – large again, though nowhere as bad as Tiffany’s, but large all the same.
“That is your futures,” Sandi heard Fear hiss. “Two overweight housewives with no skills and no careers. What do you say now, Sandi Griffin? Who's laughing now?”
Tiffany did. “You're funny,” she said to her reflection. “Who are you?”
“It’s yourself, Tiffany,” Sandi snapped – and so did the right-hand reflection. “It’s your own future!”
“Okay, now I'm confused,” Jane turned to the muse. “What is your point exactly?”
“My point exactly – gods, sometimes you can be so dense – that you should learn to moderate, girl, your art and your life!”
“I do! I'm a straight C student!”
“And you think you’re going to succeed in life with it?”
“You're not saying that I should be like Allison, sleeping with whoever she needs to get advanced in the world?”
“Jane! Listen to me: what do you do: live to paint, or paint to live?”
“Isn't it kind of similar? Option one makes painting the only worthwhile pastime in my life. Option two makes painting the only reason for me to live.” Jane paused. “Got to admit, neither sounds that great an option.”
“Then perhaps you should put your painting aside and concentrate on other topics – like turning that C average to a B?” the muse suggested.
“You know?” Jane frowned. “For a muse you’re pretty discouraging.”
“You know,” the muse said back, “for somebody quite intelligent, you can be so self-destructive.”
“Aren't artists supposed to be self-destructive?”
“Aren't you supposed to have your own identity?”
Jane froze, looking as if somebody stuffed a working tazer stick up her arse. “Let’s try again,” she said. “You're… worried that I might destroy my life for art?”
“But… it’s want I want to do!”
“But is it the right thing to do?”
Jane froze. “You haven’t been talking to Daria, have you?”
“No, I've been talking to her muse – she got one of her own: a writer, not an artist, but a good girl all the same.”
“Mm. Got to meet her one day.”
“Not if you’ll be dead or so wrapped-up in art,” the muse said.
Jane sighed. “All right. You’ve proved your point. I'll go and talk to Daria about changing my lifestyle.”
“You do that,” the muse said. “It’ll be much better for you.” Then – she vanished.
Jane was left alone on the bridge over the Lawndale stream (a tributary of the Merrimack river) that ran through the town.
“That was weird,” she shook her head.
Then she heard the sirens of Lawndale’s fire department. Curious, she followed their sound.
“What has happened here?”
“Remember when your folks sent our folks a bottle of that fermented cactus juice?”
“Oh yeah! Me and you and Trent drunk it up and had to deal with a whole island full of holidays, that we did!”
“Yeah. This time it was my sister and her fashion cronies.”
“And the fire trucks?”
“Do you remember that trick with sun and magnifying glass that Ms. Barch demonstrated in the science class?”
“If you point – or aim – solar heat at one point – that consists of something that is flammable – it’ll go whoosh. So?.. Oh!”
“Yeah, ‘Oh!’ A compact mirror ‘warmed-up’ a patch on our carpet, and it started smoking. If it wasn't for me dismantling the whole thing and getting everyone into fresh air outside – who knows what would’ve happened!”
“Yes, fresh air,” Jane nodded wisely. “It’s a very good thing. Speaking of it, Daria, can you tutor me for a change of our social table? I had… a revelation, sort-of.”
Daria arched an eyebrow. “Something I should be aware of?”
“Let’s just say that maybe I've inhaling paint fumes. Or something. But back to this tutoring thing. Will you do it?”
Quinn Morgendorffer opened her eyes. “What has happened?”
“Smoke and alcohol poisoning young lady, that’s what!” Helen Morgendorffer, Quinn’s mother, spoke sternly. “How could you and your friends drink something that you didn't know what it was? It- It could’ve been rat poison, or paint remover or something!”
“Mom, I've got to call-“
“You’re going to call no one, young lady, simply because they're all as sick as you.”
“But mom, you see, there was Fear, and-“
“Fear? I'll show you fear!” Helen Morgendorffer raged. “Young lady, you’re grounded! For a week!”
“No buts! As long as you stay in this house recovering from your poisoning, you might as well suffer! And no friends over – certainly not that Tiffany idiot! She almost started a fire, understood?!”
Later, during the evening, Daria visited her sister. “Daria, about today’s,” Quinn began.
“You didn’t do anything embarrassing,” Daria said.
“Oh! Whew!.. How’d you knew I was going to ask you about that?”
“Had a similar experience too,” Daria shrugged. “With Jane and Trent along for the ride. You got lucky. And Quinn?”
“What’s with the pink setting?”
“I like pink,” Quinn said defensively. “You got a problem with that?”
“No,” Daria shook her head. “Any other questions?”
“N… Y… N… Daria, did you hear anything just now?”
“Hah? You heard something?”
Actually, Quinn did. She heard – or thought she heard – a semi-familiar hiss by now: “I'm not a friend. I am fear. I'll be back,” but that was ridiculous. Fear wasn't real, it had been just a combination of strange alcohol and smoke.
Quinn shook her head. “No. Good night Daria.”
“Good night Quinn.”
Daria left and Quinn fell asleep, and neither saw how in the shadows of Quinn’s dressing table something re-hissed “I'm not a friend. I am fear. I'll be back,” and vanished.