Disclaimer: Daria and associated characters are owned by MTV. This is fan fiction written for entertainment only. No money or other negotiable currency or goods have been exchanged.
Original characters and plot copyright Richard J. Lobinske. 2005.
This is the Thirty-Second story in the Falling into College series.
Bump in the Night
While closing the front door of her south Boston apartment, Jane Lane said, "Hey, Daria. You and Michael have any plans for next Saturday?" to a young, auburn-haired woman seated at the kitchen table.
Comfortable in a loose t-shirt and shorts, Daria Morgendorffer looked up from some homework at the sable-haired woman in paint-splattered jeans and sweatshirt. "We were contemplating hitching a ride on the Concorde for a quick night of dining and dancing in Paris, but otherwise, no."
Chuckling, Jane went to her room and casually tossed a bookbag inside. "A likely story. You, dancing?"
"Who was I trying to fool with that line? Anyway, it sounds like you're trying to make plans for us."
Jane poked her head into the kitchen, to see the third resident of the apartment cooking dinner. "Karen, this applies to you and Derek, too."
"Wonderful." Karen Myerson pushed a lock of dark blond hair from her eyes. "Why is this starting to sound like another of your parties?"
"Damn, you're good." Jane sniffed the pot of spaghetti sauce simmering on the stove. "And you're starting to figure me out."
"Okay, now out of my kitchen and tell us the details." Karen shooed Jane away.
"It is when I'm cooking."
Next to the table, Jane turned and said, "The BFAC Student Association is holding a Halloween party as a fundraiser to help pay for a trip to New York and the Met, right after finals. It's five dollars each to get in. I really want to go on this trip. Please?"
Daria sighed and lowered her head. "Let me guess: a costume party?"
Jane grinned. "What other kind do you have for Halloween?"
"Hell, I haven't done one of those in years," Karen said. "I think I can talk Derek into springing ten bucks."
"Daria, there is a tiny risk you might have fun, but can I talk you into it?"
"Good." Jane put an arm around Daria's shoulder. "And no cheating, you have to have a real costume."
"I bet Michael will like the idea."
"Yeah, right. The only reason he has matching socks is that he buys a dozen identical pairs at a time."
Jane grabbed the telephone and handed it to Daria. "Okay, let's make it interesting. If he agrees right away, I get to pick out your costume."
Daria began dialing. "And if he's reluctant, I get to pick yours. You're on."
In room 244 of Milton Hall, the men's dormitory at Raft University, Todd Baker was stretched on his bed, reading a physics textbook. "Mike, the poker game's here this Saturday, you want in?"
Seated at a computer desk at the opposite end of the room, Michael Fulton said, "No, thanks. You know I have a lousy poker face." He turned to look at his dark-skinned roommate. "Or is that why you want me in?"
"Can't blame a guy for trying."
"Yes, I can. I assume the game will go almost all night."
"That's a good bet." Todd turned in response to the wall-mounted telephone ringing. He reached over to answer it. "Yeah?"
Daria said, "Hi, Todd. It's Daria. Michael around?"
Jane leaned close to hear the speaker.
He put a hand over the handset and called Michael. "Mike, your girl."
Michael finished typing a sentence and walked over, taking the handset. "Thanks." He sat on the bed and said, "Hi, Daria."
"Um, Michael. Jane's invited us to a Halloween costume party at BFAC this Saturday."
Michael thought of Todd's poker buddies and their cigars. Daria, thank you for giving me an escape. "Sure! Sounds like fun; let's go."
Daria's eyes flashed open as Jane pumped both fists in the air and danced. Daria said, "Oh, yeah, thanks. Jane will be happy."
"I bet she's got all kinds of wild ideas for costumes. Personally, I don't have a clue, but figure I can think of something."
"Yeah, I'm sure Jane has a lot of ideas. Karen almost has dinner ready. I'll see you tomorrow."
Mike looked at his takeout burger and fries. "Enjoy dinner. I'll be there tomorrow. I love you."
Daria lightly blushed and turned away from Jane and Karen. "I love you. Good night."
"Night." Michael hung up the phone. "I'll be over at a BFAC party this Saturday. Please don't let anyone puke on my bed this time."
"Dude, sorry. I promise it won't happen again."
Daria set the phone down and scowled at Jane. "You're enjoying this way too much."
"Hey, I don't win that many bets with you."
"And dressing me up in something embarrassing doesn't enter into it."
"I promise not to go too overboard. After all, you know where I sleep."
Daria's cell phone rang. She pulled it from her belt. "Mom's probably still at work, so it must be Quinn." She opened it and answered, "Hello."
Quinn quickly screeched, "Oh, my God! Oh, my God! Oh, my God!"
Balancing the cell phone away from her ear, but close enough to speak into, Daria said, "Quinn, I'm here. Please calm down.
"Oh, God! Daria!"
"Quinn. As much as I would like the promotion, I'm not ready to move into senior management yet."
"Quinn, take a deep breath."
Quinn nodded to herself and complied.
"Good. Now, tell me what's going on."
"I got my mid-term grades today."
"Please don't tell me you have grades that look like they came from your Fashion Club years."
"Um…I wish they looked that good."
"What the hell happened? You said you were going to be serious."
"I was…but, I got distracted."
"Distracted? Uh, huh. What's your dates-per-night average these days?"
"Two point six."
"Quinn! That's up there with where you were in tenth grade."
"I know. I messed up."
"Okay, we need to work with this. What's your GPA?"
"Quinn! You're going to have to bust your butt to salvage things. You don't want to get behind in college. This isn't Lawndale; they won't give you make-ups."
"I'm sorry. But, after living like I was in a nunnery for most of last year, I wanted to have fun."
"I hope you did, because if you want to stay there, you're not going to have much for the rest of the semester."
"Depending how deep you are, you're going to need 'As' and 'Bs' for the rest of the term to pull things up. You have all freshman survey courses and stuff, right?"
"Okay. You'll need to keep focused and remember those test-taking tricks that David taught you that summer. You can do this."
"Okay, Daria. Thanks for listening."
"Hang in there, Quinn. Remember, the alternative to staying in college is living with Mom and Dad."
"I thought that would get your attention. Now, I have to get back to my problems."
"Your problems? What kind?"
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you. Bye."
After dinner, Karen went to her room to play with chemistry models, or "tinker toys" as she usually called them, while studying organic chemistry. Daria had plopped onto the sofa in front of the Forecast Channel, reading a book. Jane went into her room.
"What to put her in." Jane sat back on her bed in thought. "Can't push the limits too much; she's still sensitive about those things. I need something that just slightly embarrasses her…but still has the spirit of Halloween." Eyes twinkling, she said, "Halloween spirit."
With a sly grin, Jane went to a shelf and scanned for a manila folder. "There you are." She pulled it out and removed the story Daria had given her and Trent a little over a year ago. "Depth Takes A Holiday."
Cecelia "CC" Czernicki looked up from the work table in her RA dorm room at BFAC in response to a knock. "Yeah, it's open."
Jane entered and looked at the pile of loose metal rings in front of her old roommate. "CC, what the hell are you doing?"
Holding needle-nose pliers in each hand, CC looked over. "Hi, Jane. Just working on my Halloween costume."
"Pliers are not normally used for sewing, are they?"
"Who said I'm sewing? Anyway, what brings you over?"
"I need your help in finding something."
Daria looked at the costume arrayed on her bed and then at Jane. The knee-length black skirt and soft, black leather boots were from Daria's closet, but the long black gloves and black, cloth collar were new, as well as the final item. "Where in the hell did you find an orange bustier?"
"It wasn't easy." Jane held the garment against Daria. "But with a little professional help, you'd be amazed at what you can find in those shops behind sorority row at Raft."
Great concern crossed Daria's face. "You didn't pick up anything else there, did you?"
"Well, at least not for you."
"Jane, if you value your life, you will never tell me what else you bought there, or for whom."
"Don't you at least want to know if batteries were included?"
Ignoring the comment, Daria took the bustier from Jane. "I should be glad you didn't pick out something too revealing."
"Daria, all anyone is going to see of you in that is your shoulders and your upper arms."
Opening the bustier for emphasis, Daria replied, "And the upper part of my boobs."
"Hey, I've waited years for you to show me your boobs."
"Daria, it won't be that bad. You'll look good, and I'm sure Michael will like it."
"It really isn't that revealing." Daria sighed. "Okay, I'll try it on."
"Great! I'll try mine on. Just to be fair."
I have to admit, I like the feel of these satin gloves. Daria shivered in pleasure as she ran her hands over her shoulders.
"Hey, you decent in there?" Jane called from the hallway.
Daria looked in her small mirror. I also have to admit that I have cleavage in this thing. "Technically, yes," Daria called back.
Jane wolf-whistled after she pushed the door open.
With slight irritation, Daria turned to see Jane wearing a tight, black body suit with a square buckle, clearly based on the character of Emma Peel from the old television show and recent movie, The Avengers. Daria said, "Okay, you're showing less skin, but you're also leaving less to the imagination."
"Why, thank you. How does yours feel?"
She looked down at herself. "I…um…I've never shown off this much of them before."
"Just think of it as a safe place to keep your keys."
"Now the black hair." Jane rubbed her chin in thought. "Dye or a wig?"
"Forget it. You might be tempted to get even for the last time I dyed your hair. Besides, my hair's never done a thing to me, and I'm not going to try to keep a wig on all night. We go with my normal hair."
"I suppose so. You can have that much."
"By the way. You owe me forty-two fifty-seven." Jane held out her hand.
"Daria, you didn't think that grew on a tree, did you?"
"Forty-two and change for something I'm going to wear once?"
"Maybe. But, maybe not. Somehow, I think you'll find an occasion or two in the future to wear it."
Fran Lawrence noticed a gaggle of young men, mostly freshmen, waiting around the front entrance to her dorm building. They all turned as she walked up. A young man with dirty blond hair approached her nervously. "Um, Fran?"
The small woman stopped her hand from automatically going to her face. In the couple weeks since the date boycott organized to support her, she had been better able to deal with the scars there. "That's me."
"Um…Is Quinn all right? It's Friday and she ain't been on a date since Sunday."
"She's okay." Fran smiled at the boys' obvious relief. "She's been studying."
The men stood around, stupefied.
Fran exhaled. "You know, studying? What you do around colleges? Part of that whole learning thing?"
The spokesman forced a laugh. "Funny, now really, where is she?"
The men looked at each other as if they'd been told the World Series would be pre-empted by reruns of The Golden Girls.
"Guys, she does have to pass her classes to stay here."
More stupid looks.
"You do want her to stay?"
"Yes!" was the unified answer.
"Then let her study. She has some catching up to do, and then she'll be dating again. But, it will only be one date per night. Understand?
The men looked at each other.
They muttered responses, of "Yes," "Sure," "I guess," and "Aw."
"Good." She dug a notepad from her backpack. "If you write down your names, I'll let her know you were looking for her."
"At least Todd can pick up after himself," Daria observed as she leaned against the doorframe of Michael's room.
Michael finished putting his watch on and grabbed a camouflaged jacket. "And he understands the concept of regular bathing."
Daria laughed. "Compared to that guy you had last year."
"Ugh the cave man would have been neater. Todd's actually a pretty good roommate. Electrical engineering is no slacker major."
"And, he can fix your electronics."
"Bingo." Michael put his wallet in his pocket. "Okay, ready to go. I hope that they have at least something left."
"If not, you'll get what you deserve."
"What did you come up with?"
"Um…you'll see tomorrow. A bit of a surprise."
He went over and softly wrapped his arms around her and gave her a long kiss. "I like your surprises. I think I can wait."
The costume rental store was pretty well ransacked by the time they got there. Michael wandered through the vacant racks while Daria stood back and watched.
Holding a clown suit, Michael said, "You know, a sheet with two holes cut in it is sounding pretty good about now."
"Forget it. If I can't get away with a simple costume, you can't."
"What do you mean? 'I can't get away with a simple costume.'"
"I…uh, lost a bet with Jane. She came up with my costume."
Michael let a slight grin slip by. "So, how revealing is it?"
Daria scowled. "I see that grin."
"It's not really that revealing…but it is, um, kind of provocative."
"Hmm." His eyes brightened.
Michael went to her. "You're wearing it, right?"
"So, I know it can't be too bad, or you would refuse."
"It's not entirely that, it's…a design I came up with."
"Let me get this straight, Jane has you wearing a costume that you came up with, and you're nervous about it."
Daria looked away for a moment. "It was for a character in a story I wrote for her and Trent. A little fun about a restaurant back in Lawndale. Something I never imagined I would wear."
"Okay, now you've really got me interested."
"I can't believe I…" Daria stopped when she saw a costume. Misery loves company. "I think I found what you're going in."
Michael looked at the costume, alone on a rack. "No."
"If I'm going as a character in that story, so are you."
"But, that's a…what kind of story was it?"
"I'll email you a copy. Let's just say that I'm going as the spirit of Halloween, and you're going as Cupid."
"We ate each other's brain." Derek Adler said as he and Karen left her room dressed and made-up as zombies.
"That explains a lot," Daria quipped, looking over the back of the sofa. She was in her costume and already wearing a jacket against the evening chill.
Jane barely slowed as she headed for the door, also in costume. "I'll see everyone there. We still have a few decorations to finish before things start."
Karen said, "Figures an art college would go so whole-hog on this."
Jane paused at the door and smirked back. "That's what happens when you give us creative types a creative holiday. Later."
"Daria, you got it right in that story. I feel like I'm wearing a diaper." Michael walked out in his costume, a white, cherub-like toga with a small quiver over one shoulder. A pair of small plastic wings and a plastic bow was tucked under one arm. "I'd rather have the taser; that was cool."
Derek pulled a dark green trenchcoat off a chair back and tossed it to Michael. "Yeah, you're going to need this, unless you want to freeze stuff off out there."
"Thanks." Michael caught the coat. He sat on one of kitchen chairs and pulled on some boots. "I'll do the sandals when we get there." He looked at Daria. "You owe me for this."
Daria rose from the sofa "That's what you get for agreeing so fast."
"Hey, if you'd ever smelled those nasty stogies Todd and his friends smoke at their poker games, you'd agree to almost anything to keep away."
"A good cigar doesn't smell that bad," Derek said.
"These are college students. Who said they buy good cigars?"
"So, just think of this as the price you pay to breathe." Daria moved very close and whispered, "Though you can stay close to keep warm if you like."
Daria drove all four to BFAC in her black sedan, keeping extra heat on the floor vents in deference to Michael's bare legs. Using a flashlight, Karen and Derek read the story on the way.
"Daria, you can be one twisted individual. You know that, don't you?" said Karen.
"So I've been told on more than one occasion."
Michael gave her a lopsided grin. "Must be one of the reasons I stick around."
Daria gave him a quick look. "Maybe I should have tried to find a leprechaun costume."
Derek said, "But then, you'd need to give him green beer breath."
"Don't forget whose car you're in. The forecast is for a low of forty-two tonight.
"Hmm. Point taken." Derek retreated back to reading.
After hurrying inside BFAC's main exhibit hall from the commuter parking lot, they found a pair of makeshift dressing/coat check rooms next to the entry foyer. Karen and Derek wore coats as part of their costume, so they went straight in. Daria and Michael split up to their respective dressing rooms.
Daria checked her coat and paused before going out. The cool air over her shoulders and across the top of her chest was slightly disconcerting. She took a breath to calm down and stepped out. Several of the young men in the hall gave her long looks, one long enough to earn one man a smack from his date, and earn Daria a dirty look from the same woman.
Michael felt silly in the costume, especially the plastic wings that bobbed and weaved when he moved in an entirely unlifelike fashion. "The things you do." He shrugged and went out to the entry foyer.
Daria quickly walked over to him. "Ready?"
"If you can stand being seen with these skinny legs, sure."
"I think they look nice." Daria put an arm around his waist.
He moved one arm around her shoulders. "Your…uh, look nice, too."
"Thanks," Daria quietly said. "I feel partially naked."
"You feel naked?"
"Misery loves company: let's go get this over with."
Entering the exhibit hall, they heard on the PA system a recording of orchestral instruments playing to a rock beat, along with singing:
"The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one," he said.
The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one - but still they come.
The room looked like a giant, metallic cylinder had plunged through the roof. The top slowly rotated like it was unscrewing, showing about a foot of threading. The space above faded into darkness, where theater-style lighting scaffolds supported drop lights shining on the centerpiece. Around the crater-like base, what looked like red-leaved weeds abounded.
Daria smiled at the scene. "I think we have a theme here."
Walking around the cylinder, they saw that a portrait of a young Orson Wells was painted on it, below the logo, Mercury Theater Express.
Michael laughed. "The man who scared the crap out of America."
One of the suspended lights suddenly began to sway on its mounting, casting eerie shadows that danced and swayed. Jane walked up. "Ulla, Earthlings. Welcome to BFAC."
Michael looked up. "Nice light effects."
Jane looked up suspiciously. "That wasn't an effect. We haven't figured out what's going on."
"Really. Some people claim to hear some skittering going on up there in the light grid, too."
"Do I look like I'm dressed to go up there?" CC, wearing a chainmail bikini lined with black fur and elf ears under her blue hair, yelled at a figure wearing a scale model of a haunted house.
A male voice came from the house. "Do I look like I can get around up there?"
Another young man wearing a black and white football uniform walked up. It looked straightforward, except the black helmet was backward with no visible sign of holes to see through. A muffled voice within said, "I'll go. At least I'm protected if I run into any disgruntled spirits."
"Thanks, Cal," CC told him.
Daria looked at Jane. "Let me guess: there's some legend about the place being haunted."
"No, we just don't have a clue of what's…" Another light began to sway. "…going on. Got to admit, it's freaky."
His stomach rumbling, Michael said, "This is all well and good, but where's the munchies?"
Daria gazed sideways at him. "Males, always…often thinking with their stomachs."
Jane pointed to one wall, where a long table was set up. "Over there. Be advised that the food is also themed."
Michael started over. "I can deal."
Jane elbowed Daria. "And what else are they thinking with?"
"If you don't know that one, you and your mother need to have a nice, long talk."
True to Jane's word, the snack table was Halloween themed, from such staples as pumpkin-shaped cookies and candies to the true oddities such as a mix of crumbled cookies, chocolate ice cream and gummy worms in a flower pot, with a plastic flower sticking out. There were also petri dishes filled with jello and lady fingers that looked like fingers. Daria pointed to a human skull replica with the brain case filled with onion dip. "Hmm, might want to try that one some time."
"Ah, converts," Karen said, coming up from behind. Derek was heading to a punch bowl filled with some green concoction and glowing from several matching light sticks floating in it.
"Ack!" reverberated from Cal up in the lighting scaffolds. He loudly scrambled back to the access ladder. "There's something up here!"
Daria looked up. "Rats or bats, what do you say?"
"Most of the native bats would be too small to move stage lights," Karen said.
Daria shaded her eyes and squinted up at the lights. "Those look like the mini lights we used over at Raft's theater. They're pretty small and light. The grid monkeys like them a lot more than the older, heavy ones."
Cal jumped the last couple feet and landed with a thump. Keeping his eyes upward, he moved away from the ladder.
Balancing two drinks, Derek crunched chips and said, "Whatever it was, it was big enough to freak him out."
Karen took a drink from Derek. "Now, if they get rats the size of some of those I've seen around the zoo, I could see where it would freak out a city boy."
"It had glowing red eyes!" Cal said as he went by them.
Jane walked up and grabbed a petri dish of jello. "You know, with those dark lenses Cal has over the vision holes, I bet he couldn't see squat up there."
Michael looked up and smiled. "Well, whatever it is…it's alive."
He was very annoyed to discover how easily a toga trapped the chips and other items thrown at him for that remark, especially the jello.
Fran looked at a notebook and then at Quinn sitting at her computer. "I suppose it was cruel to cut them off cold turkey. And, it's not good for you. Look, Alain is on the top of the list; isn't he that French exchange student in your Comp One-Oh-One class?"
Quinn nodded, with a dreamy look in her eyes. "Yeah."
"So, go out with him tonight. It's a weekend."
"I've got to study."
"Don't go from one extreme to the other, or I'll start poaching on your territory."
Fran smiled. "I'll at least try."
Laughing, Quinn said, "Okay, I'll go out with Alain tonight. You're right; cold turkey was cruel to them."
"That beat puppy look on them was so sad."
"And I'm supposed to have some fun in college. What about you? Are you doing anything tonight?"
"I'm heading out with a couple girls from Epsilon Alpha Phi to catch some tear-jerker chick-flick."
"You're a sucker for those, aren't you?"
"Call it a habit. No, call it an addiction. Have fun."
"And I'll make sure you're back to studying tomorrow."
Daria and Michael wandered around for a while. Most of the attendees were BFAC students, and Daria found the many original costumes fascinating. Irregularly, something would bump a light and it would sway. Nobody wanted to go up to look. The next song over the PA caused Daria to stop and hold Michael tight.
Oh, no Nathaniel
No, Nathaniel no
There must be more to life.
There has to be a way
That we can restore to life
The love we used to know
There must be more to life
There has to be a way
That we can restore to life
The light that we have lost.
Daria looked up at Michael. "That was kind of creepy. I was imagining my Grandma Ruth's voice in that."
"Why would…oh, yeah. Your grandfather's name was Nathan."
"There are times when I wonder what she went through." She pulled tighter to Michael. "To see the one you love so changed."
Michael put both arms around her and gently leaned her head against his shoulder. "It must have been scary."
Along one side of the light scaffolds, a bright blue flash erupted, accompanied by a loud "pop" and a puff of smoke as the lights went out. Everyone went silent for a moment before a fresh bustle of conversation started.
Daria could hear the voice from the haunted house say, "CC, could you help get this thing off me?"
"Normally guys want things to come off me. Sure," CC replied. "Hey, Cal, bring that flashlight over here."
Cal said, "I…dropped it up on the grid."
"Great, I get to do this by Braille. Joe, I hope you don't mind."
"Um…no, not really."
Daria went to the punch bowl and fished out the light sticks, wiping them on napkins. "Okay, pass these around." She gave several to those nearby. "Jane, any more?"
"Sorry, we used all of them in the punch," Jane's voice said from the darkness.
Daria took one over to CC, who had her arms under the house to undo the fasteners. She looked at Daria. "Good thinking. Hold it next to the house so I can look through the windows to see what I'm doing."
"Okay, though that sounds awful voyeuristic to me."
"And people say my mind's in the gutter." Looking inside the small windows, CC could see the buckles and quickly undid them, freeing Joe from the house.
He lifted it carefully and set it on the floor. "Thanks, CC, and you are?"
"Daria. Friend of CC's old roommate."
"Jane? Okay , you're one of the cool people." He pointed to the light stick. "Can I use that? Since Mr. Brilliant over there dropped the flashlight up in gridland."
Daria handed it over. "Sure."
Joe took it and grabbed Cal, now sans the football helmet. "Come on, something blew on the patchboard. That can't be good."
Cal stammered, "B…but…"
"You got that. It's our butts if something is screwed up."
The two young men went up the slightly angled ladder while the crowd waited and watched their progress across the scaffolding. Soon, Joe picked up the flashlight and used it to finish the trip to the lighting circuit patchboard. He took one look at a spilled drink cup on it and yelled, "Who the hell left a soda on the board!"
Standing near the ladder, Daria could hear a series of soft thumps as something came down it unseen in the darkness. She whispered to Michael, "Please go get one of those light sticks."
"Sure, Daria." Michael walked away just as Daria felt something brush against her boot and walk around her legs. She held still while waiting, and felt something settle onto her feet.
Michael returned with the light stick and giggled. A black cat was lying on Daria's feet, with a dead rat in front of its paws as an offering. He said, "Now we know what was going bump in the night."
Just as Daria looked down, it looked up and softly meowed. The cat's nose was white, as were both front paws. Daria slowly reached down to it. Mom and Dad always avoided letting us have pets. Now it looks like one found me.
From above, Joe said, "Okay, I've got it cleaned up. Throw the breaker."
Cal flipped the breaker switch and the lights came back on.
Daria picked the cat up, saying, "Hello, Bump."
Karen, Derek, and Jane walked over to Daria. Karen said, "It looks like you've been adopted."
Jane smirked. "And gifted. I think it likes you."
"I think so." She looked at the dead rat and then at the cat. "While your gift is appreciated, no more of them will be necessary."
CC looked at the two men coming back along the scaffold. "Cal, it looks like we found your fearful beastie. It's kind of cute."
Daria looked down at the purring cat in her arms. "Okay, Bump. I need to scrape together a pet deposit for Mrs. Lyndon so you can stay in the apartment."
Bump nuzzled the underside of Daria's chin and meowed.
Lyrics from The Eve Of War, and The Spirit of Man from Jeff Wayne's Musical War of the Worlds.
Thanks to Kristen Bealer, Ipswichfan and Mr. Orange for beta reading.