As Many Worlds as There Are Artists
Text ©2003 Roger E. Moore (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Daria and associated characters are ©2003 MTV Networks
Feedback (good, bad, indifferent, just want to bother me, whatever) is appreciated. Please write to: email@example.com
Synopsis: Daria and Jane consider their future after high school, while Trent and his friends discuss Mystik Spiral’s next masterpiece—but what if things had come out differently, artistically speaking?
Author’s Notes: This story is based on two Iron Chef contests from PPMB. One, by WacoKid from late May 2003, asked for alternate-history stories in which Trent, Max, Jessie, and Nick were brought together by a common interest in something other than music. The other, from angelinhel from the same time, asked for ideas on how Jane Lane manages to pay for college, assuming her family isn’t rich and no money was left for her to finance her education. The Internet was kind enough to provide technical details on Mystik Spiral’s new path to artistic glory.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to WacoKid for the contest. Thanks also to Nemo Blank, for his inspiring idea about Jane Lane’s new artistic interest after college (from his unfinished story, “One Step,” on http://www.fanfiction.net). And special thanks to Marcel Proust, who had a remarkable observation that is repeated below.
of the universe which is not the same as ours and see landscapes which would
otherwise have remained unknown to us like the landscapes of the moon.
Thanks to art, instead of seeing a single world, our own, we see it multiply until
we have before us as many worlds as there are original artists.
The Maxims of Marcel Proust (trans. Justin O’Brien)
Daria Morgendorffer lay on her back with her head hanging off the foot of Jane Lane’s bed, her brown hair brushing the floor. Soft guitar chords floated through her head. A few feet away, Jane sat on a stool and studied a painting. It was Saturday, late in the afternoon of early June. School was over. The summer—and the future—lay ahead.
“Somehow,” said Daria, “I expected things would be different.”
Jane glanced at her friend’s upside-down face and smirked, then leaned closer to the painting before her and squinted. “From where you’re at, the floor is the ceiling and the ceiling’s the floor. This isn’t different enough? What were you expecting, the Spanish Inquisition?”
“Okay—really then, what were you expecting now that school’s out?”
“Oh . . . freedom. Fame. Knowledge. Power. Immortality. Something more than a diploma and hanging out at a party afterward—and a trophy with a golden gorilla on it.”
“You expected maybe . . . college, midterms, finals, getting drunk and puking on your date at a frat party, that kind of thing?”
Daria rolled over on the bed and supported her head on her hands, elbows resting on the edge of the bed. “I dunno. Just something different.”
“Different,” said Jane. The guitar music stopped. She put the pick in her mouth as she reached out and turned a few pages in the art book. She shifted her position on her stool and took the pick from her lips again. “Maxfield Parrish,” she said. “Maybe the mountain vistas will inspire me.”
“I liked what you were playing just a moment ago.”
“That was from one of Cézanne’s water lilies.”
“Play that again. It made a good impression.”
Jane obediently flipped back to the book’s section on Cézanne, looked at the picture there, and after a moment began to pick out a tune. The notes drifted across Jane’s bedroom like ripples in a garden pond—reflective and peaceful, though with a touch of melancholy.
“What do you call that?” Daria asked after a minute, when Jane stopped.
“I dunno. ‘Water Lilies,’ I guess. It’s not very original, but sometimes it’s better that way. I never was good with titles.”
“At least you didn’t call it, ‘My Night with Kevin Thompson.’ What were you thinking about when you were playing it? Don’t say Kevin.”
Jane didn’t answer. She began playing again, the same quiet tune as before but with a more complicated melody. After a couple minutes, she stopped, put the pick in her mouth again, and pulled a pad of paper—complete with predrawn musical bars—from behind the art book on the music stand. She took a pencil from behind her right ear and began making notes on the already heavily marked page.
“I liked what you did,” Daria said. “That last part, that sounded great.”
“Yeah.” Jane completed her notes, then tucked the pencil back behind her ear and put the paper pad behind the art book again. “Need to think of some lyrics, maybe something about getting drunk and puking on your date at a frat party. It needs that romantic touch.”
“You didn’t answer my question,” said Daria.
“Mmmm.” Random notes drifted from Jane’s guitar.
Daria sighed. “Okay, just give me your answer in the form of a song.”
Jane stopped playing, then changed her fingering and started a new and quicker tune.
“Oh,” said Daria, looking at Jane. “The Harpies. ‘Kill Your Boyfriend.’”
Jane smiled and stopped playing. “Call me sentimental,” she said.
“Yeah. A girl’s gotta have dreams.”
“He’s long gone anyway.” Jane paused, then went back to playing “Water Lilies.” After a few bars, she said, without looking at Daria, “You kinda liked him, didn’t you?”
“Tom? He wasn’t bad, for a creep.”
“He had nice eyes.” Jane hit a wrong chord but kept playing, her brow furrowing as she concentrated. “You and Tom were kind of on the same intellectual level, more than he and I—”
Daria drew in a deep breath and interrupted. “He and I were on the same level in that we were both carbon-cased life forms. Any other similarity was only rumored. He was a jerk. C’mon, Jane.”
“Well, you could have gone out with him eventually, after—”
Daria gave Jane a warning look. “We’re not going through this again, are we? He made a pass at me. He even admitted it. If I’d wanted that, I could’ve gone out with Kevin and stuck it in Brittany’s face, not yours.”
Jane looked away, but she was smiling. “Knowing Brittany, she would have stuck it in your face instead.”
“So would Kevin, but we’re not talking about the same thing anymore, are we?”
Jane snickered. Her playing improved. She began to improvise on “Water Lilies.”
“I was wondering,” said Daria, rolling on her back again and letting her head droop off the bed, “what the world would have been like if things had come out a little differently.”
“If you’d asked Kevin to stick it in your face, you mean?”
“Bite my butt. No, I meant . . . if I hadn’t been so interested in writing stories. What if I’d wanted to do something different, like be a mathematician, go into science, something like that.”
“Cheerleader, Fashion Club member, nude exotic dancer . . .”
“Or serial killer,” said Daria with a glare.
“Doesn’t count. You have to pick something that came out differently.”
Daria snorted. “A serial killer would be better than being a cheerleader, I guess. How about you?”
“I disagree. You would’ve made a great cheerleader. I can hear it now.” Jane assumed a deadpan expression, freezing in place with her guitar in her lap. “One, two, three, four,” she said with a monotone, “watching football is a bore. Five, six, seven, eight, I got Kevin for my date. Nine, ten, ‘leven, twelve—”
“—one more word, you’re off to hell. I meant, how else could you have come out, in another world?”
“Out of the closet? When did I do that?”
“No, out of the blender, after I stuck all your body parts in there. Forget it.”
Jane put the pick in her mouth again, made more notes on the paper pad with her pencil, then got off the stool. “Ready to hit the Zon, amiga?”
“Why now? You don’t come on stage until eight-thirty, right?”
“Monique asked if I’d jam with her and the Harpies for a while. The Zon’s paying extra for a live session, unrehearsed. People love watching a girl band, I guess.”
“No accounting for taste.”
“Good thing you don’t have any.” Jane put her guitar into its case. “Doesn’t bother me if no one at the Zon has taste, either. With all my gigs this year so far, I’ve just about got my first year at BFAC’s music school paid for. Let’s do it.”
Daria made no move to get off the bed. “What would you have been if you hadn’t been a musician?”
“Don’t know.” Jane bend backward at the waist, stretching her lower back. “Didn’t really have a choice.”
“Someone had to be a musician in this family.” Jane smiled and waved at a corner of the room. “Isn’t that right, Trent?”
In the basement of the Lane home, under a lone light bulb, Trent Lane smiled at the camera monitor when his sister waved at him. He raised a hand and waved back.
“Cute, real cute,” said bald-headed Max, sitting on a folding chair behind Trent and watching with a frown. “We’ll have to cut that.”
“Nah, leave it in.” Trent reached over and snapped off the video and audio feed. “It’s funny.”
“This is a serious movie! We can’t be doing this self-referential stuff! Mystik Spiral Productions is all about hanging it over the bleeding edge! Cinema criminale!”
“It’s a movie about Janey,” said Trent calmly.
Max threw his hands up. “Man, we need to burn holes in audience retinas! Why else did you make me the DP, right? Okay, okay, later, whatever. Listen, when we shoot at the Zon, see if the Harpies’ll wear some low-cut tops, jiggle a little, you know?”
“Dude,” said Nick, making adjustments on a soundboard with his earphones around his neck, “a little is all they can jiggle.”
Trent rolled his eyes and shrugged. “Monique might do it. She’s kind of—”
A cell phone went off. Trent sighed and pulled the phone from a pants pocket, turning away from the rest of the Mystik Spiral Productions staff. “Yo,” he said.
Max turned to Jesse, who was playing with the buttons on the digital camera they had rented. “Look, what do you think? Leave that bit from Jane in, like the ghouls in Hollywood would do, or cut it like a true indie revolutionary?”
Jesse grunted, peering into the camera lens. “Janey’s cool,” he said.
“I’m not asking if Janey’s cool, man! I’m saying—”
“He did?” said Trent to his phone.
“Max,” said Nick, “Trent’s right. We’re just making a movie about Janey getting ready to go to college. It’s not like Dregs, where we were—”
“Screw it, then!” yelled Max, standing up. His head almost bumped the light bulb overhead. “I’m walking! Mystik Spiral Productions is no more! I can’t hack this we-ain’t-got-no-money, let’s-make-a-movie-about-the-director’s-kid-sister existence! I’m going to find a real crew and be the next big name on the big screen! I’m . . . what?”
The cell phone pressed to his ear, Trent waved for Max to be quiet. “What do we have to do?” Trent said into the phone. Silence. “I think we can, if we can find wheels. Okay, man.” Silence. “Thanks. That’s cool.” He lowered the phone and snapped it shut, then played with it in his hands. He looked around with a dazed expression.
“What?” said Max. “Did they repossess the Tank? They can’t do that to me, man! We don’t got no more money!”
“No,” said Trent. “That wasn’t about the Tank. That was Lew.”
Everyone fell silent for a second. “Lew?” said Nick. “Like, the Lew in L.A.?”
Trent nodded as if in a dream. “He called about Dregs.”
The silence became so deep, the world fell into it.
“He said Dregs got into Sundance.” Trent paused and looked at his friends. “We made it in.”
The silence held for two seconds more.
“What?” gasped Max. He voice rose to a shout. “We what?”
“What’s Sundance?” asked Nick, leaning closer.
“Spiral made it,” Trent repeated, still stunned. “We’re in Sundance.”
“Is that good?” asked Nick, frowning.
Max sat down, then burst into tears and buried his face in his hands. His shoulders shook in the faint yellow light as he sobbed.
“We did?” asked Jesse, holding the digital camera.
Trent grinned, staring at the basement furnace. There, in the darkness of the basement, he saw the future. “Yeah,” he said softly. “We did.”
Jesse thought about this, then nodded. “Cool,” he said, and he went back to playing with the digital camera.