Weirdness in Lawndale continues (set after the Daria episode “Depth takes a holiday” and my previous story “Depth takes a Holiday – 2”)
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.
“Hey guys, did you hear? The school elections for the next year are starting!” Stacy Rowe turned to her friends of the Fashion Club. Her frantically enthusiastic report was met with less than unenthusiastic response. Well, from Tiffany no one could’ve expected anything else but lack of enthusiasm. As far as everybody in school knew, there was nothing that could cause enthusiasm in Tiffany Blum-Deckler, except for somebody calling her fat. That would cause a reaction, similar to most girls when they were “courted” by Upchuck. It was the lack of enthusiasm of the other two members of the FC – Sandi Griffin and Quinn Morgendorffer – that surprised Stacy. “Why aren’t you excited, guys?” she asked them lamentably.
“Stace,” Quinn said, not unkindly, “I had a taste of school politics back at mine and Daria’s old school in Highland, and I can tell you that for once, me and her are in agreement: school politics stink. Badly.”
“Exactly,” Sandi nodded her agreement. “Everybody knows that Jodie Landon’s going to win anyways. She’s a suck-up, has no principles whatsoever, is photogenic, and is addicted to work. She’s like one of those mixes that my mom likes to drink after visits of Grandma and Grandpa Griffins’ – a rather detonating mixture.”
“But you guys, there’ve been other nominations already!” Stacy protested. “Kevin Thompson, for example.”
“Ah! The QB,” Sandi nodded wisely. “Who else?”
“Well, Joey, Jeffy, and Jove, are thinking of asking Quinn,” Stacy’s mouth blurted-out, before her brain realized that mistake.
“Oh really?” Sandi turned to Quinn. “If Quinn is so popular, maybe she should be FC’s president!”
“Oh Sandi, I could never replace you,” Quinn replied. “Still… why won’t you ballot for the school’s president?”
“Because I hate politics!” Sandi snapped.
There was some stirring in the shadows, but nobody noticed it.
“I love politics!” the anthropomorphic personification of Fear responded from whatever sub-dimension he was in at that moment. “But I love causing fear and stealing hope even more! Let’s see if I can’t combine the two of them together – and let’s see if Miss Griffin won't agree to help me!”
With a swish and a crackle of his mottled serpentine body, Fear left his sub-dimension and went to the halls of Lawndale High.
“Boss, did you see that?” the secretary asked her employer, the Seven-headed Dragon of the (future) Apocalypse. “Fear is going back!”
“Yes, but he’s not messing with the Morgendorffer girls yet,” the Dragon shook his head. “This, consequently, means that we shouldn’t go all red alarm on him, and instead… use it to our advantage?”
“How so, sir?” the secretary asked.
“My dear Wila, how can we use Fear? Easy. Go to that Chinese place, and see if you can find Fear’s immediate supervisor.”
“But Boss, you know her, and you know she hates our guts!”
“Wila, that’s an order! You’ve got to casually inform her about Fear’s latest hi-jinks – in a casual way.”
“And then let me worry about ‘and then’,” the Dragon assured her. “Now – go!”
“Ah Jane; Daria,” Ms. DeFoe enthusiastically greeted the two girls, and not with that so-cheery-that-it’s-almost-fake enthusiasm of Mr. O’Neill, but with the genuine thing. “I’m glad to you could come over.”
“No problem,” Jane said, rolling her eyes, thinking about those twenty bucks that she’d promised Daria in return for the bespectacled girl to help her draw and colour and make the posters for the near future. “We're glad to help. Who’s balloting so far?”
“The old candidate, Jodie Landon, and her usual opposition, Kevin Thompson,” Ms. DeFoe shrugged.
“Ah, I thought so, and even brought some black copies with me,” Jane said cheerfully.
“Glad to hear that,” Ms DeFoe paused. “Girls, can I leave you two alone for a short while? My cat had eaten some of papier-mâché that I’d left at home and has to be taken to the veterinary, and I-“
“No problem, Ms. DeFoe,” Jane said kindly. “You can go, me and Daria can handle things here.”
“Is that right?” Ms. DeFoe asked the other girl, who hadn’t uttered a sound so far.
“Yes,” Daria curtly nodded. “Far it’ll be for us to stand between a pussy cat and its’ salvation!”
“She means yes,” Jane said, noticing how her favourite teacher eyed her best friend oddly. “You can go, Ms. DeFoe.”
“Thanks again, Jane and Daria.” Still eyeing Daria strangely, Ms. DeFoe left the building.
“Lousy, stupid, foolish, needless, waste of time!” Sandi Griffin cursed quietly under her breath, while she was powdering her nose in the school ladies’ washroom. “Who needs them, anyways? Everybody knows that Jodie Landon’s going to be the winner!”
“Is that so?”
“Eek! Gah!!” Sandi whirled around. “This is the ladies’ wash- Gah!”
“Remember me?” Fear calmly hissed. “I see you do.”
“What do you want, you, you, you – thing!”
“An excellent come-back indeed!..” Fear hissed quietly, untouched by Sandi’s retort. “But what I want, is to be out here, in the open!”
“But you are!”
“Well, no. I'm just a hologram, all seeing and no touching. But, if we were to bond, then that would change! I would free to create and scare all and everyone around me! And all you have to do is to agree to be my avatar.”
“And why would I do that?”
“Because if you agree to, I'll help you to repair the wrong that had been dealt to you so long ago,” Fear hissed, coiling and uncoiling his rattlesnake-like body.
“What do you know about that?!” Sandi exclaimed in anger.
“My dear Sandi, I was around this planet before people lost hair growing on their bodies and realized that fire bad, tree pretty,” Fear hissed. “Naturally I was around Lawndale High at that time too. I know all that had transpired and all that is transpiring, and sometimes I can get a peek at what will transpire too! So do we have a deal?”
Sandi paused. “You honestly mean what you said?”
“Yes! If I'm lying, our deal will be dissolved immediately!” Fear thrashed his tail on the washroom’s floor in anger.
“Then we have a deal!” Sandi said. “Let’s shake on it!”
There was a brief flash of yellow light from underneath the washroom’s door, and nothing more.
The crowd that day at the Chinese restaurant had been the usual – human people. Well, mostly human people. The restaurant’s staff by now learned to not distinguish between the humans and the non-humans, and no longer was surprised at some of their customers.
Meanwhile, one of such not-quite-human customers was sitting in a booth, drinking something with such an expression, as if this was raw pumpkin juice. With pulp. Which it wasn’t – pulpy, that is. Or raw, either.
“Hello, Hogwarts,” spoke-up another of the customers of the similar non-human vein.
The first customer looked-up, and her eyes narrowed. Both of the customers were female, not-human, and if they’d been wrestlers, both would’ve been in the almost same weight categories – but that’s where the similarities ended. The juice-drinker had been one of the last descendants of the once great and mighty pagan gods. The other one – having a tray with some Chinese food, including a pair of chopsticks, has been an initially petty demoness, risen to greater power through her wits and the power of her immediate superior…
“What do you want, Wila?” the holiday Halloween asked crossly. “Don't you have anybody else to bother?”
“Aw, come on,” Wila shook her head, briefly showing two small horns hidden in her coiffure, and sat down. “Still angry about the whole Samhain thing?”
“Still angry? Wila, Samhain had almost obliterated me, and caused an imbalance in the worlds and realities… which is just what your boss had wanted, didn't he?”
“Hey, he’s the dragon of the Apocalypse, Niddhogr, for crying outloud!”
“Yeah, but a plot of such elaboration and magnitude-“
“He’s got seven heads, each capable of individual thought as well as shared kind. Naturally, the wyrm’s a genius!”
“Yes, well,” Halloween nodded absent-mindedly, slurping down some more of her juice. “Why are you here?”
“Boss gave me a vacation – he’s got his conspiracy-paranoia mode on,” Wila shrugged. “Also, he wanted me to tell you that Fear’s out of the bag?”
“What? But how? The patch-piece…” Halloween’s face fell. “Oh darn. When I’ll get my hands on Cupid and Pat, I'll-“
“I think Fear’s out to get an avatar for himself once again,” Wila added quietly. “That can complicate things somewhat, wouldn't it?”
Halloween’s eyes widened. “Darn it! Now I'll have to go and check!” She snapped her fingers, and vanished, leaving Wila… with the check for both of their orders.
The demoness cursed under her breath, and wished Halloween a lot of things, all of them unmentionable.
Everybody knows demons hate to pay.
“Yo, Mack Daddy!”
Michael Jordan Mackenzie jerked upon hearing that voice. Kevin ‘the QB’ Thompson! The bane of Mack’s existence! The champion of Lawndale Lions! The-
“What do you want?” he asked Kevin instead.
“To ask if you’re not mad, getting you in the middle between you and Jodie,” Kevin said.
Mack stifled a laugh. One thing Kevin wasn't (besides smart) was humble. Then again, at that point in time, he was the king of the world – his world, at least. And after that – may a flood come, Kevin didn't care!
Only Kevin wasn’t no Noah, he had no arc, no supporting family… Then again, the Landons, family of Mack’s girlfriend Jodie, the current school president, were too supporting as far as Mack’s opinion went. Jodie’s too, for that matter, but Jodie wasn't here, so that didn’t count.
“Ye gods,” Michael muttered dejectedly. “I really am in the middle – between an idiot next-close-thing-I-have-for-a-friend and a smart my-so-called-girlfriend.” That realization hit him like a brick load and he froze like a deer in headlights.
“Hey bro, are you okay?” Kevin asked.
Mack exhaled sharply. “Yeah, I was just thinking about what you said.”
“Oh. Well, no hard feelings?”
“No, Kev. Uh, if you don’t mind, I have to go and think; bye!” And Mack hurriedly walked away, leaving Kevin actually worried for a change.
“I think I should talk to Brittany about that,” he finally said. “I think Mack is really upset.”
Kevin was one-third right, two-thirds wrong, but this was his best, don't be too judgemental. After all, he’s just a QB.
In another part of the town, a different supernatural event was unfolding. There was no flashing lightning or booming thunder, but the sky did suddenly grow overcast and at least half-a-dozen tombstones cracked apart and split open. And from those cracks and splits rose several long, spindly limbs, each looking like a human – human corpse, that is. The hands were followed by hands and torsos, all grey and ill-smelling. These creatures were ghouls, and they weren’t very happy.
“Why have we been awakened, Benito?” one of the ghouls asked their leader.
“Because master Mathew had commanded us to,” the ghouls’ leader Benito rasped.
“To what end?”
“We are to go,” Benito said, “back to school!” and he laughed.
“Can I ask you a question?”
“Will I get an answer?”
“Maybe. Maybe not.”
“Good enough. So why don’t you ballot for the president?”
“Because, from my point of view, the responsibilities of being in charge overweight the privileges of the same position.”
“Ah, the old half-full half-empty glass thingy, is that it?”
There was a pause. “So why are you being so uncharacteristically quiet?” Jane pressed-on.
Daria didn’t have time to answer, for Stacy Rowe of the Fashion Club suddenly popped-in. “Did any of you see Sandi?” she asked in her usual lamentable tone of voice.
“Did you check the washroom?” Daria said instead of whatever she was going to tell Jane.
“Yeah, and she’s not there!” Stacy said.
“Is she in class?”
“Yeah, and she’s not there!”
“Is she on the roof?”
“Isn't it locked?”
“Did you check it?”
“Then why don't you go and check it?”
“Oh right,” Stacy nodded and scurried off.
Jane and Daria exchanged long looks – both at each other and at Stacy’s retreating forms. “There goes on messed-up kid,” Jane sighed. “And it’s me who’s saying that, too.”
“I agree, Jane, I quite agree,” Daria sighed. “Now let’s get back to these posters.”
“Jodie, can we talk?”
“Brittany, what do you want?”
“It's about Mack. He’s terribly upset about that both you and Kevin are balloting for the president.”
“He is?” Privately, Jodie thought that Mack either got exasperated by Kevin’s stupidity, or played some sort of a joke on him.
“Yes, he is,” Brittany nodded sincerely.
“So? So, maybe you can do something about it?”
“Like drop out of the race and let my Kevvy win? Mack would be happy too.”
“Why I should drop? Why not Kevin?”
“’Cause you’d be a good girlfriend and all, and I think that a good girlfriend is better than a good friend,” Brittany said.
“Tell you what, Brittany,” Jodie said. “If you’ll be able to persuade Ms. Li into getting me out of this race, I'll drop it.”
“I don't get it.”
“Oh, I signed a deal with Ms. Li about continuing to be president,” Jodie vaguely said. “She’ll explain everything.”
“So, if she agrees – you’ll go?” Brittany said.
“Yup. Then Kevin will get a shot at being the school’s president in my place. Deal?”
“Yeah!” Brittany nodded, and run, skipping to the principal’s office. “I told Kevvy that all will be okay! Bye!”
Jodie looked after Brittany’s vanished behind and shook her head. “This is one messed-up kid,” she muttered, “and this is me saying that.”
“Stacy, did you find Sandi?” the rest of the FC was having what cheerleaders called an emergency huddle.
“No,” the pig-tailed girl shook her head. “Nobody has seen – it’s like she has vanished off the face of Lawndale High!”
“I've ran into Brittany in the hall,” Tiffany said.
“She said that Ms. Li got Jodie’s soul in a big book.”
“That us what makes Jodie so busy.”
“Maybe she got Sandi’s soul there too, now, and but had decided to make Sandi disappear instead.”
After some more prolonged silence Quinn turned back to Stacy. “Maybe we should go and speak to Ms. Li – after all, Sandi is missing.”
“But won’t Sandi get in trouble?”
“Since we can’t find Sandi, she already may be in trouble!” Quinn exclaimed. “Come on girls, let’s go!”
Both Stacy and Tiffany nodded in agreement. “Besides,” Quinn added rather quieter as the trio of them began to make tracks to Ms. Li’s office, “I’m rather curious to see what Brittany will be up to!”
While the three girls made tracks to Ms. Li’s office, one third of the 3J’s known to his parents as Jamie, was suffering. He was suffering because the plan of his and the other two Js’ had failed. They failed to find Quinn and persuade her to ballot her self as a possible new high school president! Also, whoever of the 3J’s would’ve given the chance to persuade her, would’ve gotten the first dibs on her in whatever dating stalemate situation that would arise in the future! And Jamie, had failed!
“Ahh! Life isn’t fair!” the foot-ball player wailed in the changing room. “Now Quinn will not care as to whether or not I’m alive!”
“Is that so? Then that’s good!” spoke another voice – so raspy and gravely, then Jamie wondered if the speaker was actually alive. His suspicions increased even more, as he saw what exactly had spoken to him: a glowing-eyed, clawed, grey-skinned humanoid who smelled sepulcharally, for the lack of a better word.
“What do you want?” Jamie rasped. “Who are you?”
“I'm Benito,” the ghoul rasped.
“Mussolini?” for some reason the voice of the history teacher surfaced in Jamie’s brain and he made it into words.
Benito’s facial expression didn't flinch. “Get him,” he merely commanded to the shadows and they stalked forwards, taking-on the shape of other humanoids.
“What’s going-on in here?” Jamie then heard the voice of Michael Jordan Mackenzie and then, in the dimly lit and shadowed boys’ changing room, was light!
“Ms. Li? Are you in here?” Brittany’s curious phizog appeared in the half-opened doorway. “Hello?”
The cabinet was empty, only the jade Buddha looked at Brittany accusingly.
“Great! Nobody!” Brittany said cheerfully. “Now to look around and to find that book!”
“Who's there?” Jodie rose her voice a few octaves higher. “Brittany, is that you?”
“Chill, girl,” Sandi Griffin walked into the room instead. “Brittany is far away from here.”
“Sandi,” Jodie blinked. “What do you want?”
“To say hi, of course, ‘cause otherwise we became complete strangers to each other.”
Jodie blinked. “Well, it wasn't my fault back then,” she said firmly. “You broke-up with me!”
“And now I'm willing to give-out the hand of truce, and get assigned to you… as your image-maker and PR specialist,” Sandi smiled.
“Sandi, thanks but no thanks,” Jodie shook her head. “My image is just fine the way it is!”
“Is it?” Sandi smiled in a feline fashion. “Take a good look in the mirror, Jo – you obviously need it.”
Confused but also partially curious, Jodie followed with Sandi’s advice. She immediately regretted it, too.
“What the Hell was that?” Michael wondered, seeing how Jamie scurried past him faster than a speeding bullet. Then he looked into the boys’ changing room, and his eyes bulged and rounded out. “And what in Hell are you?”
“In Hell we’re called the un-alive,” the leader of the things in the changing room smiled. “But here we’re called ghouls.”
“Aha,” Michael nodded dimly. “And what are you doing here?”
“We're the body of the electors of the election to come,” the leader said.
“Uh, we didn't call you,” Mack said.
“Oh? You didn’t? Then you get fined for the wrong call!” the leader smiled, showing teeth that could probably bite through steel bars and wire. “Boys – get him!”
Michael Jordan Mackenzie slammed the door and ran.
Back in the art classroom, the works were going on full steam. Both Daria and Jane had abundantly blotted, splashed and smudged both their surroundings and themselves. “And now, Daria,” Jane began but didn't finish, as Jamie White flew in, splashing paint and stomping on the posters like a frenzied Clydesdale.
“What gives?!” Jane exclaimed. “Now see here, you crazy jock!..”
“They're going to eat me!” Jamie yelled.
“Hah?” the lower jaws of Daria and Jane dropped-open.
“What he means,” explained Mack getting inside and locking the door, “is that – what’s this smell?”
“Don't ask,” Daria said. “A pail of paint mixed with Jane’s socks.”
Mack stared at Daria. Jane stared at Daria. Only Jamie, huddling behind Ms. DeFoe’s desk didn't stare at Daria.
“…Anyways,” Mack said, making a capital effort to get back to his old topic, “there’s a bunch of strange-looking things that call themselves ghouls in the boys’ changing room, and I think they are going to eat somebody, they certainly got the looking thing down pat.”
“Right,” Jane began, but Daria put her finger to the lips and indicated that Jane should fall silent, and so Jane did, followed by Mack (Jamie, who was only whimpering slightly by now didn't count). And then they heard something outside – some sort of a clattering sound. Jane’s eyes rounded from surprise, and there were still other surprises to come.
“The tracks end here, I think,” spoke a voice, full of sepulchral cold.
“Good, John, good. Do we go in inside?”
“I don't think so. The smell alone makes my eyes and nostrils water. If there’s anything alive, it won’t last for a long time. Let’s go back to Benito and decide what to do now.”
There was some more clattering on the school’s stone floor, now retreating, and then silence.
Jane and Daria stared at Mack. “What?” the latter irritably asked. “Why are you staring at me?”
Quinn, Stacy and Tiffany were walking to the principal’s office quietly. After all, a visit to Ms. Li’s cabinet was no joke, that woman was like an alpha-leader in the high-school system! And currently, there was Brittany the blonde ditz of destruction in her office. That made Quinn shiver. After all, if Tiffany was dim enough to not understand what she had done – made Brittany’s train of thoughts wander astray – then she and Stacy didn't have such excuse. And if they got caught…
“Hey Quinn, I think I hear a horse,” Tiffany spoke-up.
“What? A horse? In school? Tiffany, that's rid-“ Quinn’s voice trailed-off, as she and the other two girls came nose-to-chest with two or three grey-skinned human-shaped things with seemingly razor-sharp teeth.
“Ah! Food!” one of them spoke loudly.
The girls squealed so loudly that their usually fashionably-made hair rose up in a completely punky style, and fled as fast as they could. Hooting and laughing, the ghouls made chase.
“Success!” Brittany exclaimed happily. She had at last found the bad book!.. As for the matter of her suspicions’ originality, Brittany held no doubts: no book this big and black could be good.
Somebody, or several somebodies, smashed into Brittany, carrying her out of the window with them, making her drop the book. Brittany didn’t have any time to squeak once, let alone notice, how the supposed book of badness was ripped apart, by a ghoulish maw…
“Well, Jodie?” Sandi cheerfully asked, sitting on a desk. “What were you saying about not needing an image-maker?”
Jodie just stared, and the girl in the mirror stared back. True, that girl was wearing Jodie’s colours – grey and pink – but that was where the similarity ended. The girl was just a few inches shorter than Jodie was, but at least twice as thick in body, dressed in grey sweat-pants, and a shirt that was once pink, but now had faded to some whitish colour. Jodie’s mouth fell open, and so did the girl’s showing a row of yellowing, dirty teeth.
Jodie tore her eyes from the mirror and looked at herself. Then she took a good look at her body, screamed, and raced outside. “All right,” the avatar of Fear spoke through her lips. “Let the fun times begin!”
“Okay, let’s summarize what we know,” Jane turned to Daria and Mack. “Clawed or hoofed feet, clawed hands, fanged mouths, leathery skin, grey in colour, faces that look like a mockery of human ones – did I miss anything, Mack?”
“Glad to hear that. Any idea, Daria, as to what they are?”
“Well, yeah. They're ghouls – like from ‘Arabian Nights’,” Daria said.
Jane and Mack blinked. Jamie just continued to whimper behind Ms DeFoe’s desk. “And how are we to deal with them?”
“I don’t-“ Daria froze in the middle of a sentence, and then asked Jane, still staring at one point. “Jane, please look at where I am looking: I want to know, am I hallucinating or what?”
Jane and Mack looked in that direction and also froze.
“Hey there girls, who is your friend?” nonchalantly spoke the holiday Halloween.
“It was all a dream, a bad, bad dream,” Quinn groaned. “There was no monsters, there was no crazy jump from Ms. Li’s window, there was never anything!”
“Your logic is false,” Tiffany spoke-up suddenly. “There had to be something, lest this whole world would’ve never come to be.”
Quinn glared at the Oriental girl. Stacy, meanwhile, was being near comatose, and Brittany whom the other three girls had dragged-out of Ms. Li’s office actually was. That meant that Quinn and Tiffany had every chance to have a one-on-one discussion, if they were actually interested in something like that. And even though they actually weren’t, they were going to have one all the same.
“Tiffany,” Quinn began, “you don't speak sense. Please-“
“No, Quinn, you don't get it. There’s never nothing, there’s always something,” Tiffany said firmly. “We all saw something.”
“Yeah! A bunch of guys in strange suits had startled us! We did an obstacle race, and helped Brittany turn Ms Li’s office into a mess! But there were no real monsters!”
“They were real,” Tiffany shook her head. “They weren’t figments of our imagination, and they weren’t illusions. They were real.”
“Tiffany,” Quinn began, slowly realizing something. “Now’s not the time to demonstrate your amount of depth. Now-“ Quinn drawled-off. “Tiffany, is it just me, or has the weather change?”
Tiffany nodded. “I think it became somehow dim and murky.”
Quinn looked around. Sure enough, once clear, now sky and the air itself, became somehow smoky and murky, like before, when Quinn and Tiffany and Stacy and Sandi had met
“Fear!” Quinn hissed. “It can’t be back, it was all alcohol and smoke fumes!”
Suddenly, crying and screeching, somebody ran past the four girls, who lay sprawled behind some shrubs.
“Jodie?” Quinn looked surprised. “What is she doing?.. Shouldn’t she be preparing for the election?”
Suddenly, Tiffany grasped Quinn’s mouth shut and pointed her in the direction opposite to the one in which Jodie had fled. Quinn looked in that direction and saw… Sandi, peacefully pacing down the street after Jodie. Only this Sandi was no longer Sandi; now she was someone – or something – else. And that something or somebody made Quinn and Tiffany and others feel…
“Um, miss? Who're you?” Mack, seemingly, managed to deal with numbness that had overtaken him earlier, and now was at least partially back to normal.
“She’s Halloween,” Jane replied instead.
“Like in the holiday?”
“Mack, she is the holiday,” Daria explained. “At least the closest thing to the holiday ever.”
“Ah, Daria,” Halloween snorted, “still the charmer.”
“Uh, what does she want here?” Mack asked Jane. “Does it have something to do with the ghouls?”
“What ghouls?” Halloween asked, startled for a change.
“These ones,” Jane said, lifting the drawing of one them, made from Mack’s words. To her surprise, Halloween was no longer half a room away from them: now she looked over Jane’s shoulder very attentively at the picture.
“F*ck, Morgendorffer!” she exclaimed loudly.
“Excuse me?!” Daria instantly prepared for an attack.
“Not you! The other Morgendorffer – your grandfather!”
“Oh!” was all that Daria said.
“What’d he do?” Jane asked.
“Taking the advantage of the mess that Fear’s made. Samhain wasn’t enough for him, no…”
“Eh, what are you talking about?” Mack asked the two other girls, who could only shrug.
Halloween stopped observing Jane’s picture and looked at the three teens. “Okay, people, here’s what we need to do stat. We got a Demodragon of a situation, and here’s my idea of how we're to deal with it…”
Jodie was no longer feeling scared; now she was feeling panicked! Wild, crazy panic was what was fuelling her body and in particular her legs, and was in turn generated by Jodie’s nearly crazy desire to get away from Sandi and whatever she was doing! It was her doing that made Jodie… into somebody else! But… as soon as she got back,.. all would be okay, all would be back to normal…
Jodie overpowered the last turning point (her new body, on top of everything else, suffered from shortness of breath during running), and froze again. Her house and the neighbourhood had changed also!
The yell that Jodie emitted held such a power of jeremiad, that one expected somebody to come to her help. But all that came back with a flat, barking, squealing, roaring laughter.
Of Sandi Griffin, who wasn’t that far behind her.
For her part, Sandi Griffin didn't have that kind of fun for a long time. Come to think of it, she never had that kind of fun before. This type of fun was… fun, for the lack of a better word, but somewhere in the back of her head something similar to a tick-bite was bothering her, it was as if something was trying to make itself heard.
“Forget it!” the voice of Fear boomed in Sandi’s head. “Now it is on to part two for us! Are you ready?”
“What is going-on here?”
Quinn and Tiffany weren’t sure why did they have followed Sandi and Jodie in that direction. In fact, they weren't sure if they were going in the right direction. The neighbourhood was seemingly twisting, shifting into new, bizarre forms and shapes and sizes, something out of Dahl’s children books, more exactly. “This is freaky,” Tiffany said.
“You're telling me,” agreed Quinn. “And we have to go and save Sandi, because she’s our friend! Why can't we be comatose like Brittany and Stacy?”
“I don't know,” Tiffany admitted. “But-“
“What’s that?” Quinn interrupted her suddenly-deep friend.
“It’s a piece of skin,” Tiffany stated the obvious.
“This means that either Jodie or Sandi is shedding it,” Quinn shook her head. “I don’t think that this is right. I think we should-“
Suddenly, a truly piteous cry came from the turning-point before the two girls, followed by some very inhuman laughter. The two girls made to that direction and saw Jodie and Sandi standing in a line, looking up ahead. In other words, Sandi was staring at Jodie, and Jodie was staring at her house. “What is going-on here?” shouted Quinn.
“What do you mean, the boys has escaped?” it seemed that the stones of the school building itself would fall from Benito’s roar. “Three ghouls cannot track-down two boys?”
“You got that right, buster!” Mack’s voice ran loud and clearly through the changing room. “What are you going to do about that?”
The ghouls turned in that direction. Sure enough, there stood Mack, flanked by Daria. Benito and other humanoids roared. The palms of their hands opened wide, and the claw on each finger almost doubled in length. The same thing happened to their fangs. The ghouls themselves also grew, but what they gained in length and height, they seemed to lose in width. Soon, several skeleton-like creatures draped in greyish-green skin stood before Mack and Daria, each spawning several scythe-like claws and dagger-sharp tusks.
“Mad enough?” Daria asked Mack, who nodded. “Then let’s run!”
The two teens turned around and fled, followed by ghouls, who merely screeched ape-like cries and gave chase.
At the sound of Quinn’s voice Sandi Griffin turned around and looked at the two new girls, and blood turned to water in the veins of the latter, because those eyes belonged to no human, but to a ancient, evil, cold-blooded, blood-hungry thing. And that thing had currently made its’ nest in Sandi’s mind. “Oh my God!” Quinn exclaimed. “Sandi, what has that Fear-thingy done to you?!”
“Fools!” the voice that came through Sandi’s mouth was only vaguely Sandi-like; it was mostly Fear’s. “There is no more Sandi in the building, there’s only Me!”
“Liar!” Quinn shook her head. “I had a talk with Daria, and she told me that you were nothing! Just an illusion!”
Sandi’s body laughed. “Fools! Will an illusion hurt me like I will?”
“You won’t. ‘Cause you’re Sandi. Deluded, but Sandi still. And Sandi, you are our friend,” Tiffany spoke suddenly.
The roar that burst through Sandi’s lips was ear-splitting. It made a small tornado out of dust and garbage. Lightning now did flash overhead, and there was a thunderous sound, like a bubble bursting.
And after that-
“I didn't know that dead people could run so fast!” Mack wheezed into Daria’s ear, who could only nod. She felt like she was in the “Mummy Returns’” movie, when several warrior mummies chased a double-decker bus. That was disturbing to say the least.
But what were chasing her and Mack were no “civilized” mummies, but a pack of ghouls, just as wild and feral as if this was a desert of Sahara or Arabia. And they were after blood, not capture.
“Gotcha!” Benito roared, jumping off the ceiling onto the teens backs.
“No, got you!” Mack and Daria heard the cry of avatar of Halloween, and fell onto the floor. Instantly, two stream of chocolate-black glow burst from the doorway, covering and drowning the pack of ghouls, for ever and for good.
“Uh, what has happened?” Brittany Taylor got up and looked at Stacy Rowe.
“I don't remember; I think I and Quinn and Tiffany saw a bunch of monsters and ran,” Stacy replied truthfully.
“You sure?” Brittany said, confused. “What about the book?”
“There wasn't any book,” Stacy said. Then, seeing how Brittany’s face fell, she added. “But maybe the monsters ate it.”
“You sure?” Brittany said, confused. “Well, maybe that’ll work too. One never knows with magic books. But… I guess getting eaten by a monster is pretty final, too.”
“Oh yeah,” Stacy agreed with a natural ease. “Now I got to find Quinn and Tiffany and also Sandi.”
“I'll help,” Brittany said. Her initial mission was complete, she could now help others.
“Uh, what has happened?” Sandi Griffin got up. “Quinn, Tiffany?! Where’s Stacy?”
“We don't know,” Quinn scratched her forehead. “I think she’s comatose.”
“We don't know,” Tiffany said. “Hey, Jodie!”
“Hah?” Jodie Landon got-up and examined herself. “This is weird, I dreamt that I was someone else!”
“It sometimes happens,” Sandi shrugged. “All I can remember is light on dark water or other such murky malarkey, kind of like when we at the FC tasted Quinn’s parents’ booze…” her voice trailed-off. “Oh boy.”
“Sandi, are you okay?” Quinn nervously asked.
“Something tells me that I've messed-up,” Sandi said nervously. “Guys, let us go and find Stacy.”
“Good idea,” Quinn nodded. “Jodie, are you coming or staying?”
“I'm going. To Ms. Li’s,” Jodie said thoughtfully. “I think I have some business to do with her too.”
“Well, that was fun,” Daria exclaimed, wringing dust of her jacket. “Let’s do this again… seven years hence from now, all right?”
“’Fraid I can’t promise,” Halloween shook herself, now separated from Jane again. “Something has changed while were busy dealing with the ghoul pack, I can feel it.”
“Well, when it’ll come to our attention, we’ll deal with it.”
Halloween just snorted. “You try to outsmart a genius with seven heads!” she wanted to say, but she didn't. These were just teenage humans after all, they shouldn’t be running from ghouls by now, let alone exorcising Fear. Speaking of the latter, Halloween had to investigate and find-out as to who had actually done it. So, what she said was “All right; bye; see ya!” and vanished.
Daria and Jane looked at Mack. “Not one word,” the boy firmly spoke. The girls nodded, and only now remembered the whimpering Jamie, who still hid behind Ms. DeFoe’s desk. They hurried there.
Jamie White only now began to gather his senses. It all must’ve been a dream, a really, really strange dream. And nothing else, yes. Smiling happily at his logic, Jamie White stood up. He heard the door opening. He looked in that direction. He saw the newcomer. And fell unconscious.
“Damn!” spoke Ms. DeFoe. “What is he doing here? Jane!”
“Ms. Li, can I talk to you?”
“What is it, Jodie?”
“I think I want to retire. The whole school presidency thing – it got too hard for me.”
Ms. Li looked at irritation at her usually-favourite student, but with the current mess that was once her office she didn't have times for this. “Yes, certainly, whatever – I don't have time for this.”
Smiling and praising her lucky stars, Jodie Landon left.
“Well, this was one weird day,” Jane Lane turned to Daria Morgendorffer. “And I'm not saying this only because I got to know Halloween a little bit more closely for comfort, but because-“
“Daria?” Quinn materialized next to the latter. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Quinn is willing to ask me a question,” Daria added. “What is it? If it is abut socks and scrunches, then-“
“No, it’s about Jodie and Brittany and Ms. Li,” Quinn began to speak.
“What about those three?” Daria asked, surprised.
“You wouldn't believe what have happened to us today,” Quinn said, and began her narrative.