Posted by Lawndale Stalker on Mar-29-2003 2:13pm
Courtney walked down the sidewalk, looking all about her for signs of Adrian. She was pretty sure that he would have come this way, and as soon as he came to a good place, he would stop and wait for her. Courtney and Adrian had done this many times before, and they had sort of developed a procedure.
It was much easier to slip away one at a time. Summer had gotten crafty and wise to some of their tricks, but Adrian was adept at taking advantage of any unguarded moment, and once Summer started to look for him, that would give Courtney the opening she needed. This time she’d even managed to bundle up a few things into a shirt to take with them.
It had been fun visiting Grandma Amanda and Aunt Jane and funny Uncle Trent, but Courtney hated to stay in one place more than a day or two. Once she and Adrian had seen and done all there was to see and do at the Lane house, the need to be going returned. She wanted to walk down new streets and roads, to see new places, smell new flowers, meet new people. That was one of the most fun parts, to find someone who would take them in and talk to them and make a fuss over them, and give them stuff to eat and maybe even a place to stay the night; and yet to be smart enough to be long gone before Child Services got there.
Courtney listened for the sound of a slide whistle. Adrian had had one earlier, and he’d made sure she saw that he’d had it. This was part of their secret escape procedure. The first one to go, usually Adrian, would have something to make a noise with that the other one could home in on, so they could connect up easier. Courtney hadn’t heard the slide whistle yet, but she was still confident thet Adrian had come this way.
This was a nice older residential street, with big trees and small houses. The kind of houses older single women often lived in, Courtney knew from experience. Women who wished they had children. They were some of the easiest marks, and most of them were better cooks than Summer.
Something blue and yellow lying at the edge of a lawn up ahead caught Courtney’s eye. It was a slide whistle, just like the one Adrian had been playing with earlier in the day. She ran to it and picked it up. Why would Adrian have dropped it here? He must have wanted her to stop here. He must want her to signal with it. So she blew in it , sliding the slide in and out, sort of making music, while slowly walking along the sidewalk and looking all around for Adrian.
Courtney heard a door open. Looking toward the sound, she saw a fat lady in a flowered housedress standing in the door of the house in whose front yard she had found the whistle. The woman smiled and waved, but didn’t say anything.
Courtney waved back, and walked back up the sidewalk to where it was joined by the walk that led to the woman’s front door. Putting on her third cutest smile, she called out, "Hi. I’m looking for my brother. Have you seen him?"
"You mean Adrian? Yes, he came in and I gave him some milk and cookies. Come on in and I’ll give you some too." The fat woman turned and went back into the house, letting the screen door close behind her but leaving the wooden door open. Courtney wasn’t sure whether she’d meant that Adrian was still inside, so she went up the walk and stepped just inside the door. "Lady?" she called.
"In here, dear. Here’s your milk and cookies." The fat woman appeared in the kitchen door holding a saucer of cookies in one hand and a big glass of milk in the other. The house was filled with the wonderful odor of chocolate chip cookies just out of the oven. Summer never baked cookies.
Courtney entered the small but cheery-looking kitchen and sat down at the table where the milk and the saucer of cookies were set. She took a big bite out of one of the huge, soft, warm cookies. It was delicious. This was one of the best parts of running away from home. She took a big swallow of milk to wash the cookie down with. Mmm. Whole milk. Not that watery one percent mess that Summer bought. "Ma’am? Where’s Adrian?" she asked.
The fat woman turned from the counter where she was mixing something in a bowl and pushed a ringlet of black hair out of her eye. "He’s, uh, washing up right now," she smiled. "He’ll be out in a few minutes."
She probably meant that he was in the bathroom, Courtney thought. That wasn’t surprising. When you were on the road, you took advantage of toilet facilities when you had the chance. Some old folks didn’t like to just come out and say it, especially to strange children. Courtney said, "Oh, okay," and turned back to her cookies and milk, and the woman turned back to her mixing bowl, humming cheerily.
A few minutes later, having finished the cookies, and an extra one, and drunk all her milk, Courtney was feeling very relaxed and ready for a nap, which was unusual, because she and Adrian never took naps anymore, even though Summer tried to get them to. "What’s your name, Ma’am?" she asked the fat woman. For some reason, she sounded like she still had a cookie in her mouth.
"You can call me Mrs. Johansson, dear," she replied, looking at her strangely. "Would you like to take a nap?"
Courtney would indeed like to, but she knew she and Adrian needed to get as far away from Grandma’s house as they could before they stopped for the night. "Where’s Adrian, Mrs. Joha... Johan... Mamum?" she asked, having trouble with her tongue. She was feeling a little chilly too, maybe from drinking that big glass of cold milk.
"Oh, I think he’s down in the basement now," Mrs. Johansson replied, smiling cheerily and stirring the contents of her bowl vigorously with a large wooden spoon.
Wherever Adrian was, Courtney really wished he’d come on. She blinked and tried to focus on the fat woman’s face. "Whass he doin inna basemen’?"
Mrs. Johansson took a long, slow lick off the wooden spoon. "Aging, dear. I always age my meat properly before I cook it or freeze it. That makes it nice and tender."
Courtney badly wanted to jump up from the table and run away, back to Grandma’s house, but her legs wouldn’t do what she wanted. "Adrian!" she tried to scream, but all that came out was "uhh..."
Mrs. Johansson waddled over to the table and pinched Courtney’s cheek really hard. Courtney tried to jerk away but found she could not move her head. Through blurry eyes she saw Mrs. Johansson smile very unpleasantly, and then everything went black. The last thing she heard was: "Adrian’s down in the basement, dear, where it’s nice and cool. Don’t you worry, I’ll hang your carcass right next to his."
COURTNEY AND ADRIAN’S BOGUS ADVENTURE
TO SERVE MAN
(This ficlet is for Roger, the Angst Addict, who has no taste in literature, but who somehow manages to turn out an awful lot of good Daria fanfic (sandwiched in amongst an awful lot of angsty awful stuff.) ;-} )
The two amigas walked down the quiet street, looking ahead and around for any sign of the two little blond runaways. "You do know this is a wild goose chase, right?" Daria said to Jane.
"Adrian and Courtney are missing! We need to find them. How is that a wild goose chase?" Jane asked.
"In the sense of:
‘Their hearts know what the wild goose knows
And they must go where the wild goose goes,’
that’s how. Those kids inherited a double dose of the Lane wanderlust gene, and until someone figures out how to treat it, or until something awful happens to them, they’re gonna keep doing this. Has Summer looked into those police house arrest anklet things?"
"Y’know, that’s a really good idea. But we can’t put anklets on them till we find them." said Jane. "Hey, look at this! This looks like one of Courtney’s shirts that she’s made into a bindle, and Trent bought Adrian a slide whistle just like that!"
Daria looked up the walkway at the house in whose front yard the items were laying. "Why does this house look so familiar?"
Jane looked too. "Yeah, it does, doesn’t it? Mmmm... something about chocolate. Chocolate..."
"Bars. Chocolate bars. This is one of the streets we tried to sell chocolate bars on in sophomore year. We went up there and ..."
"And that weird fat lady wanted to buy all we had! Mrs.... some Norwegian name..."
"Johansson. Mrs. Johansson. This is where she lived. We thought she was gonna die. Guess she’s tougher than she looked. C’mon, let’s go." Jane reached for the shirt and the whistle. "No, better leave them there. Let’s go back to your house and call the police."
Jane hung up the phone. "The cops say they’ll send a squad car to check it out." She looked around. "Where’s Summer?"
Daria shrugged. Jane turned to Amanda, who was looking very centered, or vacant or something. "She heard what you told the police, and she left," Amanda said calmly.
"Mom, she’ll run off and do something stupid! Why did you let her go?"
Amanda smiled that spacey smile of hers. "Oh, Jane, if you try to hold a butterfly in your hand, it will die. But if you let it---"
Jane grabbed Amanda by the shoulders. "Dammit, Mom! Summer is not a butterfly! I’m not a butterfly! Adrian and Courtney aren’t butterflies! You can’t raise a child like a f—king insect!" Then, seeing no signs of comprehension, she rushed out the front door. With a last glance at Amanda, Daria followed.
Summer saw the little shirt that had been made into a bindle to hold a few other things. Courtney’s shirt. They were running away again, like she’d figured. And that whistle was like the one Adrian had been driving her nuts with this morning. Why were they lying here in this yard? Summer started up the walk.
When Mrs. Johansson answered the door, Summer came right to the point. "I’m looking for two children, a boy twelve years old and a girl ten. Have you seen them?"
"I’ve seen quite a few children today. Come in and describe them for me, dear. Do you have pictures of them?"
Jane was leaning against a tree, catchng her breath. She pushed off against the trunk and was about to run on when a hand grabbed her by the collar. Turning, she saw Daria, seriously out of breath, panting like a racehorse. "I saw her, Daria. I was just in time to see her go into Mrs. Johansson’s house."
Daria managed to gasp out, "Not... come... out?"
"Not yet, she hasn’t," replied Jane, breathing more normally.
"At least two minutes. It shouldn’t take that long for one question and one answer. I’m going in there." Jane started in the direction of Mrs. Johansson’s house, but was hauled up short by Daria’s grip on her collar.
"No... Something... wrong...wait for... police," Daria panted.
"Daria, that’s my sister in there, and probably her two youngest kids. I have to."
"Just don’t... go in."
"Okay, I won’t. You, uh, stay here and keep an eye out." Daria nodded weakly and leaned on the tree, still panting heavily. Jane started to run toward the house, then thought better of it and slowed to a walk.
Daria watched as Jane walked up and rang Mrs. Johansson’s doorbell. The door opened. Jane spoke, then seemed to listen, then spoke again, more angrily and with gestures. Then a huge fat arm shot out of the door, grabbing at Jane. Jane dodged the grab and ran away, just as a police car pulled up at the curb. Jane ran to the police car and leaned on its roof, talking rapidly through the window.
Just then, unseen by Jane, Trent ran up from somewhere and started beating on the door of the house with his fists. Daria yelled out "Trent! No-o!" just as Jane yelled out the same. But it was too late. The huge fat arm shot out, seized Trent by the neck, and jerked him inside as if he were a dust mop.
Five minutes later, there were three police cars, a van from a local TV station and another van from a radio station parked in front of Mrs. Johansson’s house. Jane had come back to where Daria still leaned against the tree, now more from shock than exhaustion. A portly policeman with a bullhorn got out of one of the police cars, identified himself, and demanded that Mrs. Johansson come out with her hands up.
Suddenly a segment of the roof rose up on a metal pillar of some sort. It was bluish metal, like iridium. A thing that somehow looked like a weapon deployed out of the metal column. Quicker than it could be described, it locked onto the policeman with the bullhorn. A blinding red ray blasted out from it and held on the policeman for a fraction of a second. When the ray cut off, the policeman’s arms fell to the ground, one of them still holding the bullhorn. The stump of the policeman, charred off below the waistline, toppled over backward, giving off greasy smoke. No trace remained of his head or trunk.
The weapon thing, meanwhile, rotated, locked on, fired, rotated, locked on, and fired with terrible speed and efficiency. Within a couple of seconds, more than twenty policemen, several rubberneckers, and three newsmen were dead. Then it stopped, but did not retract.
Mrs. Johansson stepped out of her front door. Grinning evilly, she reached up, seized the greasy black ringlets on top of her ugly head, and pulled. Her face and scalp came off, revealing a green, warty gumdrop-shaped head beneath, a head that somehow still looked like Mrs. Johansson
In a voice that sounded like Mrs. Johansson’s but lower pitched, and amplified, the creature roared out, "Foolish humans! Your primitive weapons are useless against me! You have merely succeeded in hastening your doom! My work on your planet is done. I was merely relaxing for a short time before reporting in. But now that I am discovered I shall depart. As soon as my vessel clears your magnetosphere, I shall signal to my people and they will send a Planetary Harvest Fleet. Within a month, there will not be a single human left on earth, or any other animal or plant which we consider edible, which includes most multicellular lifeforms! So give your souls to your deity, succulent humans, for we shall feast on the rest of you! I shall depart in eleven of your minutes." And with an evil laugh, she/it turned, re-entered the house, and shut the door. A couple of surviving policemen aimed their weapons, but were burned down by the thing sticking out of the roof before they could fire.
Daria said a bad word, reached down and picked up a cell phone, pulled the charred hand of its former owner off it and punched in a number. After waiting impatiently for a few seconds she said, "Upchuck? Daria. I need the thing. ...Yes, that thing. ...What!? You maggot-infested... All right. All right! Just bring it to the seven hundred block of Appletree right now. Yes, I know! Bring it!"
Not quite two minutes later, an older model pink Cadillac convertible pulled up. The trunk popped open a crack and a maniacally grinning Upchuck got out. He came around, lifted the lid, and, with difficulty, lifted something out of the trunk. Turning to Daria, he asked, "Are you certain you can lift this, my fair flower?"
"Anything you can lift, I can juggle, maggot. Give it here."
Upchuck handed the bulky, evil looking, electronic/pneumatic hybrid appearing thing to Daria. "Remember, one power pack equals one shot, and there are only two power packs," he said.
Daria’s hands found the grips and her thumb flipped off the safety. The dangerous-looking thing in her hands began emitting a low hum, which quickly climbed the tonal scale and became a whine, and kept increasing in pitch till it was beyond human hearing. "Bring the spare power pack and stay right behind me," she ordered.
"Your wish is my command... for now." Upchuck crooned saponaceously. He hefted a boxy object out of the trunk and followed Daria.
Keeping the trunk of a large tree between herself and the house, Daria approached as closely as she dared. Amid loud groanings and rumblings, the walls and roof of the house were opening up like the lid of a cardboard box, revealing a huge cavity in the earth. With a sound like a gigantic theremin, a gleaming, glowing saucer-shaped craft rose out of the hole. The creature could be seen leering evilly out of a transparent dome in the center of its top surface, still wearing the flowered house dress.
Daria carefully aimed Upchuck’s bulky weaponish thing around the tree trunk and pulled the trigger. With a sound like the fabric of the universe being ripped asunder, a searing beam of actinic blue-white light shot out and struck the saucer. There was a blinding flash and a deafening explosion.
When Daria’s vision cleared, she saw that the saucer was wobbling drunkenly in the air, like a top that was about to fall over. Its glow was gone, and there was a big ugly scorch mark on its side, with what looked like some damage visible in its center. After a few seconds, however, it seemed to regain some stability, and slowly resumed its upward progress.
Daria pushed a button on the side of the weapon and the power pack dropped out its underside, to thud heavily on the ground. Turning to the cowering Upchuck, she barked, "Load me." He shoved the power pack he carried into the cavity left by the other one, and it locked into place. Daria turned again, took aim at the alien vessel, and pulled the trigger once more.
With a sound like the fabric of the universe being ripped asunder yet again, the terrible beam lashed out and struck the alien craft. With its force field disabled, the adamantine metal of which the vessel’s hull was made buckled and vaporized beneath the ferocious impact of that ravening beam. Deeper and yet deeper it clawed into the vitals of the ship. Superheated plasmas given off by the coruscating collision of its unimaginable energy with the herculean materials of the craft’s construction blasted through all the corridors and interstices of the vessel and ripped the alien flesh off the carcass of its pilot. The unnameable thing died screaming and writhing in indescribable agony. Then the unstoppable ray struck the mighty intergalactic craft’s power plant. Slashing through its casing in mere nanoseconds, the beam tore into the vessel’s very heart.
Freed from its prison, the unimaginable power that was to have driven the alien craft across the galaxy blasted its way free of the ship’s remains. The titanic explosion shredded the very air over sleepy little Lawndale with a sound that was beyond mere sound. Windows shattered to powder. Paint fell from walls in tiny flakes. Leaves and birds rained down for miles around. The sundered, gutted shell of the invader’s spacecraft wobbled across the sky and crashed onto Lawndale High School, right about at the principal’s office.
The terrible weapon fell unheeded from Daria’s hand, to be lovingly scooped up by Upchuck. Jane rushed up to her friend, standing zombielike by the tree. The part of Daria’s face that hadn’t been shielded by the weapon or the tree was bright red from radiation burns. "You did it, Daria! You destroyed the alien spy before it could transmit its report! You saved the world!"
Daria looked at the wreck with not a hint of triumph, relief, or any other happy expression, then turned her bleak face to Jane. "Whoop de doo. My life is still over," she said as she walked over and got into the Love Machine.
"Daria, where are you going?"
"To Upchuck’s, to pay the rent on the BFG."
"What do you mean?"
"I’m going to be deflowered by Upchuck."
"While the video cameras roll. R-R-r-owwrrr!" exclaimed the grinning orange-haired troll from the driver’s seat.
"Upchuck, you scum! Daria just saved the world here. How dare you even think of trying to coerce her into doing such a thing?"
"Hey, a deal’s a deal, toots!"
"Daria, say the word and I’ll rip his head off."
Daria turned and looked at her friend with dead eyes. "No, Jane. A deal is a deal."
Jane stared dumbly at the hopeless countenance of the best friend she had ever had. Of course Daria would never go back on a deal. She was too honorable. "Well, when you’re... through, will you come back to Casa Lane?"
Daria turned and stared at the bleakness that lay ahead. "I’ll either go to Japan and make animé, or strap on forty pounds of Stellite and walk into the MTV building. I haven’t decided yet. Goodbye, Jane."
With tears running down her cheeks, Jane watched her friend disappear down the street. She wondered what would happen to her and Lawndale if Daria blew up the MTV building. She wondered if this would be a good time to go visit her aunt Lois in Metropolis. Then she thought, "Why bother? Without Daria and Trent, my life is over too. Maybe she can use some help carrying that Stellite."