A Daria Fanfic by Rey T. Fox
It had taken the better portion of a night, but the transition was finally complete. There still remained work to be done, though. Getting out of the forest was part of that. She stood up, and wobbled uneasily, still woozy from her exertions. Still she half walked, half staggered until the trees thinned out, then ended, and she stumbled and fell as the ground rose somewhat sharply ahead. She got back up and realized that she had reached a roadway. Her left side was suddenly illuminated by a white light, and she turned to notice a pair of headlights about 100 yards away. She collapsed again, this time on purpose. The ruse worked, because the lights began to slow their approach and finally stopped a shot distance away from her. A good Samaritan, she thought, always the best kind of victim. Things were looking up already.
The lights were attached to a smallish, beat-up sedan, and the driver was stepping out of the car. As he walked into the field of the headlights, she finally got a good look at him. He was a young man, probably 19 or 20, she thought. A faded green T-shirt and a pair of old gray corduroy pants (with a hole in the knee, no less) covered his lanky frame, and his head was topped with a nice crop of tousled black hair. Hmmm, cute, she thought, in a strange sort of way.
"Hey, are you alright?" he asked. A nice smooth voice, too, she thought.
"Uh, yeah, I think," she answered, "I must have gotten a touch of amnesia and wandered out into the woods. I'm coming out of it."
"Do you need a ride?"
"Well, yeah, that would be real nice, thank you. It's a bit of a walk from here. You're going in the right direction."
"Cool. Hop on in, I'll get you home."
Not a bad pick, for the first one to come along. It must have been predestined, or something. And there was a definite gleam in his eyes when he said that last line. Hook, line, and sinker. She smiled as she slid into the front seat of the car. He'll do just fine.
CHAPTER 1: Silly Love Songs
"What are the eleven herbs and spices in Kentucky Fried Chicken? And why are they such a secret? The shocking truth, NEXT, on Sick Sad World!"
Jane Lane pushed the mute button on the remote control. Commercials should be seen, not heard, she thought. Then she revised it: Commercials shouldn't be seen or heard. But what can you do about it? She turned to her left and addressed her friend, the reigning queen of cynicism, Daria Morgendorffer.
"Well, tonight is Saturday night," she said.
"It sure is," Daria said, matter-of-factly.
"Well, aren't you planning a wild night of drunken debauchery?"
"Nah, that would require moving. And an initiative."
"Dually noted. But how about coming with me to The Zen tonight? Mystic Spiral's doing another gig. I'm sure you'd be happy to see Trent pour out his soul again."
There she goes, twisting the knife again, Daria thought. An unrequited crush is bad enough without having your "best friend" know about it. Or even worse, having that crush be your "best friend's" brother.
"I'd also be happy to see you in traction. But I'm not sure how to make it look like an accident."
"So, now that you've delivered your empty threats, how about answering the question?"
"Yes, I would like to go. Anything would be better than Saturday night with the folks. Not to mention the wicked cousin, er, sister."
"Good. How about we pick you up about sevenish? Dress appropriately."
"I'll make a note of it."
"This should be a good show. Trent has been down in the basement all day by himself. I think he might be birthing a new idea or something. In fact, we better go down there, and see that he hasn't gotten lost in thought. It would take days to find him."
"Gee, I dunno. I would sure like to see what ol' Colonel Sanders has really been selling us all these years."
"Surely you could let that wait? For Trent?"
"I hate you, Lane."
They made their way down to the basement, where Trent was playing a new tune on his guitar. Daria wasn't sure, but she could have sworn that he looked more animated than usual. Which was no little thing for Trent.
"Hey Trent," greeted Jane.
"Hey Janey," Trent montotoned back. "Hey Daria."
"Um, hi." Daria said mutedly.
"Had any moments of inspiration yet?" asked Jane.
"As a matter of fact, I have. I'm on a roll with this new song. I just got the first verse down. Wanna hear?"
"Lay it on us."
Trent started out with a few power chords, and progressed with the main riff, a surprisingly upbeat one. Then he began to sing:
"I know that we have only just met,
But I can't shake this feeling that I get
When I see you smile at me,
Could it be that you've come to set me free?
With your long red hair like a copper river,
Your golden brown eyes that make me shiver,
Your sweet face is always on my mind,
What I feel must be true this time!
I believe in love at first sight,
I do believe it, I believe that it's right!
Trent reached back and turned off the amplifier and looked at Jane and Daria.
They just stared back at him, goggle-eyed. Trent suddenly felt strangely naked.
"Uh, I guess it's confession time."
Jane folded her arms on her chest. "Confess away, young man!"
"I met someone."
"Judging by the song, I would guess that she's a supermodel. Or a mind-controller."
"Nah, she's just a girl, although she could pass as a supermodel. Her name is Rachel. I went to the 9-To-5 last night to get some Ding-Dongs, and when I was driving by Hargrove's Woods, I saw this girl by the side of the road, and she looked like she had walked a long way through the woods, and was really tired. Anyway, I stopped and asked her if I could give her a ride, and she said yes. You oughtta see her. She's a TOTAL knockout. And it's not just that. She's nice, too, and she likes musicians."
"Yeah, a lot of them do. I don't think she could take that to the bank with you, though."
"Come on, Janey, she's not a groupie or anything, in fact, she's never even heard me play. Besides, I told her that we're not that big, she didn't care. Some girls just like sensitive guys with creative talents."
"More girls than you may think, Trent. Ow!" said Jane. Daria had given her a hard elbow to the side.
"Exactly. Not all girls are shallow. Rachel is definitely not shallow."
"Well, I'm glad to hear that, really. So's Daria." Daria elbowed her again. "In fact, Daria seems even more playful than usual today." Daria almost hit her in the arm, but decided that it would probably be futile.
"Well, I think I might need to get home for dinner now," said Daria. "See you all at seven. And Trent, you might wanna bounce that idea off Jesse before you go anywhere with it."
"Good idea," Trent replied. "See you later, Daria."
PART 2: Jealous Girl
Daria laid on her bed, staring at the ceiling. Her stomach felt somewhat queasy from the combination of her father Jake's latest attempt at cooking, and the thought of Trent with a girlfriend. Not all girls were shallow, he had said. But guys, that seemed different. The guy that Daria had the most respect for had just fallen for a pretty face. Just goes to show you that you'll never get anywhere in life without a pretty face, Daria thought, I've dropped him hints for I don't know how long, and here comes one damn redhead with a flawless complexion, and, what did he say again? Oh yes, GOLDEN BROWN EYES, and now all of the sudden, he's gaga. The story of my life.
Daria turned over, put her chin on the pillow, and stared straight ahead at the padded wall, for a little variety. I suppose I shouldn't be so judgemental, she thought, maybe this Rachel person really is a nice, sweet, intelligent girl. Besides, why would any girl take advantage of Trent? What would there be to gain? Other than his soul. Great, she thought, now I'm REALLY going out of my head. Either way, she'll probably be there tonight. I'll have to give her a thourough inspection.
As if tuned to her thoughts, the doorbell rang. Daria bolted up, and walked quickly down the stairs. She knew she had to intercept the door from Jake, before he could end up embarrassing Trent, and/or himself. Luckily, she was able to get down to the door without competition. She opened the door, and the reality of Trent's words hit her all at once. Trent was at the door, and Rachel was at his side, with both of her arms around him, one in front, one on back.
"Hey, Daria," Trent said, noticably chipper.
"So this is the happy couple?" asked Daria, as if it needed to be questioned.
"Yeah, Daria, this is Rachel, Rachel, this is Daria, my little sister's best friend."
"Hi, Daria!" said Rachel, extending the hand that was previously draped across Trent's chest. Daria clutched it as if it were a week-dead carp and shook gingerly. Rachel withdrew her hand and put her arm around Trent again.
"Now now, don't be shy," she said. "I won't bite." Daria was more than a little shy, however. Rachel looked like she had just stepped off the pages of one of her sister Quinn's Waif magazines. Only she didn't have much makeup, her face was just naturally beautiful. Her hair did remind Daria of a river of liquid copper, just like in the song, but perhaps more red, and with highlights more golden. Her eyes were also remarkable, they were deep and brown, but also strangely golden. The more Daria looked at her eyes, however, the more she sensed a deep disquiet within herself. There was something not right about this girl.
"Daria, who are you talking to?" Daria instantly recognized that shrill, horridly cute voice. She turned around to see Quinn standing in the middle of the stairs. How long she had been monitoring this conversation was unknown.
"I'm talking to a couple of friends, if it's any of your business," Daria shot back.
"You don't have any friends," oozed Quinn, "am I missing something?"
"I won't go into all the things you are missing right now, but one of them is the point."
Quinn was undeterred. "Hey, who's that girl?"
"Earth to Quinn, come in please, this doesn't concern you..."
Rachel piped in, "Oh Daria, don't be so mean to your sister."
"Um," Quinn stammered, "We're actually cous-"
"Sisters." Daria interrupted, pleased at the opportunity to exploit a chink in her sister's armor.
"Hi, sister Quinn!" Rachel exclaimed. "I'm you sister's friend's brother's...girlfriend!" She giggled about this, the sort of lilting feminine giggle that brings men to their knees. Wonderful, thought Daria, they met yesterday, and they're already boyfriend and girlfriend. Somebody pass me a noose.
Naturally, by this point, the encounter was becoming a family affair. Daria's parents, Helen and Jake stood on the far side of the living room.
"Hey, Trent, how's it hangin'?" Jake shouted, in his familiar pseudo-hip tone.
Daria decided to cut this off before it got any more embarrassing. "Um, I think we better go now, you guys need some time to set up and do sound checks and all that."
"Oh yeah. Uh, see you guys later."
"Goodbye, Daria, don't stay out too late!" Helen shouted, quite pleased that Daria was getting out for a change.
"Bye, Mom," Daria said, with no particular attention paid to whether Helen heard her or not.
"Get jiggy with it!" shouted Jake.
"Wait, Rachel, what shampoo do you use?" yelled Quinn.
"If the Mystic Spirals play too loud, just stick a couple pieces of paper towel in-" Jake's last instruction was cut off by the slamming of the front door.
"Now do you see why I am the way I am?" asked Daria.
CHAPTER 3: Suspicions
Once in the car, Daria tried to gather more information about this Rachel person.
"So, uh, how long have you lived here?"
"I moved here recently after graduating from Middleton. I got an entry-level job at Halcyon Hills, doing secretarial stuff. Kinda boring, I would really like to get into music, somehow."
"You know," said Trent, "we could use a backup vocalist. I bet you got a great singing voice. You could probably even take over lead vocals."
"Oh no way! I couldn't possibly steal that from you. I'm certainly not THAT good. Besides. you look like you got stage presence."
"Yeah, I've been told that," said Trent, smugly.
"Now, now, Trent," said Jane in her matriarchal voice, "let's not let all this attention go to your head."
"Yeah," agreed Daria, "One groupie isn't quite enough for that."
"Daria!" exclaimed Jane, surprised at Daria's gall.
"Oh, she's just joking around again," said Trent, "Daria's like our comedian, or something."
"Um, thanks," said Daria, unsure of what to make of that remark.
Shortly after eight, Mystic Spiral took the stage. The Zen was in its usual state, dark, smokey, and filled with people only slightly less grimy than the walls. The house lights went down, the P.A. went silent, and Trent stepped forward to address the small, but loyal crowd.
"Hey everybody. We're Mystic Spiral. If anyone has an idea for a better name, just give it to Janey over there."
Jane was standing a ways to the right of the stage. She gave the crowd a small wave, arched her back, and stuck out her lips, then quickly went back to normal.
"She's our agent. And manager," Trent quipped, then turned to face Jesse, did a short count-in, and the band burst forth into the thundering sound of "Behind My Eyelids." The crowd mostly stood and watched, but a few of the more dedicated fans proceeded to the front to do their strange dances. Rachel stood off to the side with Jane and Daria and nodded her head apprecia- tively. Daria stood motionless, but eventually started tapping her foot.
"I gotta hand it to you, Daria, you can really cut a rug!" shouted Jane over the music.
"Yee-haw, I'm shakin' mah groove thang!" Daria yelled back, without losing her sardonic tone.
Trent squealed into his guitar solo, periodically looking up at Rachel, as if seeing if she was approving. Daria looked over and saw a sanguine smile spread across Rachel's face. She looked up at Trent, and blew a kiss. Trent's eyes grew wide, and he lost the beat momentarily, then regained it. Daria turned and walked towards the back of the club. Jane followed her, and the song ended.
"Daria, what's wrong?" she asked, as if she couldn't tell.
"Nothing. It was just a bit too loud up there."
"You get used to it after a while."
"I don't wanna get used to it," Daria heard herself say. Great, now I'm pouting, she thought.
"Admit it, Daria, you're jealous."
"I'm not jealous. You know me, I'm bigger than that."
"Daria, don't be ashamed."
"Okay, so I am jealous, what's it to you?"
"I just wanna see you enjoy yourself, Daria, and since that may never happen, I would at least like to know that you're not in the back of the room here, beating yourself up."
"I just wish she wouldn't...it's all happening so fast."
"Relax, Daria, it might not last very long. It seems to good to be true, so it probably is. Trent is smitten, but Rachel might just be grateful that he helped her out, and this is how she shows her gratitude."
"You might be right. Lord knows you always are."
Jane smirked. "That's why I'm here."
"I'll be right back, I have to go to the bathroom."
Daria didn't really have to go that bad, but she felt like having a little space, at least until she could get herself together. She stood by the sink and pondered, as one stall was occupied, and the other had a crudely written "Out of Order" sign duct-taped to it. She thought again about what Jane said, and brightened up a little. It still wasn't right, though. Rachel wasn't right, either.
Daria had never believed in Women's Intuition, but she was starting to think that she might have been getting a touch of it. Rachel was beautiful, but TOO beautiful to be believed. She had lovely red hair, but it was just TOO red. And Daria didn't pour over fashion magazines like Quinn, but she knew that it wasn't dyed. The color went all the way to the roots, for one thing, and the highlights shimmered just a bit too much. Her eyes, however, were the most telling thing. The color was part of that, but so were the pupils themselves. Daria could swear that they weren't quite round, but more elliptical. And the weirdest thing about them was the way that they dimly reflected any light that shone into them. She could see that when Rachel was standing by the stage.
Just then, the stall door opened, and Daria jumped. Coming out of it was Rachel.
"Oh, hi, Daria, enjoying the show?"
"Well, you oughtta be a little more enthusiastic."
"I try to conserve my energy for emergencies."
"Boy, you're weird, Daria."
"Yes, I am," Daria dead-panned.
"You probably get a lot of that at school."
"Yeah, when I get anything, it's usually along those lines."
"Well, anyway, I'm going to catch more of the show. Trent ROCKS, you know that?"
"I'm aware of it."
"Um, bye," said Daria as the bathroom door shut. She stepped into the grimy stall. Upon reaching the toilet, her nose detected a odor uncommon to the club. She bent over as close to the toilet as far as she could bring herself, took a sniff, and winced. The toilet had a fresh, yet somewhat faint smell that was reminiscent of skunk spray. Daria straightened up quick, backed out of the stall, and burst from the restroom feeling queasy. There was quite definitely something not right about this girl. And she was the only one that noticed.
CHAPTER 4: Nudge Nudge
The next day, Daria and Jane were at their normal booth at the pizza parlor. Daria had allowed herself to relax after last night, but some doubts still lingered.
"So what do you suppose REALLY goes into Kentucky Fried Chicken?" asked Jane.
"Oh, I dunno, opiates, possibly heroin. Stranger things have happened. You do know where Coca-Cola got it's name, don't you?"
"Any idiot knows that, Daria."
"Hey Daria, I don't know. Could you tell me?" Kevin, the clueless quarterback of Lawndale High's football team was sitting backwards in the booth next to them, looking over the top.
"How long have you been listening to us?" asked Jane, annoyedly.
"Only since you mentioned heroin. I thought, it wouldn't be very cool if Daria was taking heroine, so I-"
"I'm not taking heroin, Kevin, life here is enough bliss for me," said Daria, "But anyway, Coca-Cola got its name from the cocoa beans that they get the juice from."
"Dude, I thought that was chocolate!"
"No, they mine for that," said Jane, as if this were common knowledge.
Kevin stared into space for a second, then said, "Cool!"
"Kevvie!" called his cheerleader girlfriend, Brittany.
"Coming, Babe!" answered Kevin, and he disappeared back into his booth.
"Well, that was fun," said Daria, "Anyway, what happened with Trent last night?"
"Well, after he dropped you off, he dropped me off."
"Dunno. But this morning, he was really tired."
"So what else is new?"
"I mean really tired."
"And I mean, so what else is new?"
"I mean REALLY TIRED, nudge nudge!"
Daria choked on her pizza.
"Cool!" said Kevin. "Ouch! Hey, babe, whatter ya hittin' me for?" Brittany just grumbled.
A while later, Jane and Daria were walking home.
"Daria," said Jane, "I hope that you're not making a big deal out of this."
"Why should I? This situation has just gone from bad to worse in the space of a night."
"Just remember what I said last night. It might just go boom-and-bust."
"And in the meantime, I'll just lock myself in my room with the life works of Kafka."
"Daria, you do that when you're HAPPY."
Just then, they noticed Rachel across the street, walking in the opposite direction. Well, speak of the devil, thought Daria.
"Hey, Rachel," Jane called, "What brings you 'round these parts?"
"Oh, hi, Jane! I'm just going for a stroll!" Rachel answered as she crossed the street.
"Speaking of which, where DO you live?" asked Daria.
"In the apartment complex down the road from the 9-To-5. My apartment is being painted during the day, so I usually meet Trent outside. You should consider yourself lucky to have a brother like him. He really cares about you."
"Yeah, I guess I am lucky," said Jane.
Just then, their conversation was interrupted by high-pitched barking. The dog, a dimin- uitive Jack Russell terrier, was across the street, on the end of a leash. At the other end of the leash was a face that Daria and Jane knew all too well.
"HELLO, ladies!" shouted Upchuck, and he began to lead the dog across the street.
"Don't you have some other nasty little business to attend to?" sighed Jane.
"As a matter of fact, I do, and as a matter of fact, I already am. I was just wondering if any of you three lovely ladies have a special canine companion."
"As a matter of fact, I do," said Daria, "And as a matter of fact, he's with me right now, trying to communicate with us, in his cute little subhuman way."
"Well well WELL, I'm FLATTERED, but anyway, my gist is that I am currently offering a dog- walking service to the people of this town."
"Since when did YOU have to go extra-curricular to get a little cash?"
"Since I decided to upgrade my prehistoric Macintosh. Besides, my dad had to earn every penny of his fortune, so it's only fair that I should do likewise."
"Couldn't nag the old man into a handout, huh?"
"No," said Upchuck, resignedly, "Anyway, how about it?"
"Huh?" shouted Daria over the noise of the dog. By this time, the little terrier's yapping was getting truly savage, and it seemed to be directing its fury at Rachel. Rachel was backing away from it, and she had suddenly grown rather pale.
"Hey, Upchuck, call off your hellhound now!" Jane growled. "Rachel, are you all right?"
"Uh, yeah, I'm fine," Rachel stammered.
"Suit yourselves," said Upchuck, "Come on, boy, lets go, don't scare the poor fox-I mean lady. Come on now, come on..."
Even as the dog was pulled away, it still shot glances and little yaps back in their dir- ection, as if to say, "This is FAR from over, baby." Rachel was still breathing hard.
"Are you afraid of dogs?" asked Jane, sympathetically.
"Don't like 'em," panted Rachel, "It's a phobia, I guess, they just...I just don't trust them. It seems like...they don't like me."
"That's okay. I'll make sure that little turd never comes near you with any mutts. Well, we're heading home, take care."
It was true, thought Daria, that dog sure seemed to have a bone to pick with her personally. Daria suddenly froze. There's that feeling again, she thought. Could it be that animals could sense evil? Nah, that was silly. But she still felt uneasy about it.
CHAPTER 5: The Stranger
Another day passed uneventfully, and Daria found herself back at school. It was lunchtime, and the sun was warm and pleasant. Many of the students were socializing in the field in front of Lawndale High School. Daria was sitting by herself near the parking lot, when a familiar beat-up sedan pulled up. Trent stuck his head out the window and greeted Daria.
"Hey, whassup?" His eyelids were hooded, and he looked like he could fall asleep at any mom- ent. Sheesh, thought Daria, he's usually at least somewhat alert when he's behind the wheel. Well, hopefully if he nods off, Rachel will wake him up. Rachel waved at Daria from the passenger seat.
"Uh, not much, I'm at school."
"She's doing make-up work in Math class. Trying to keep that straight-C average."
"Aw, darn, I wanted to say hi. Me and Rachel did."
"Well, she won't be getting out of there today."
"Okay, later then."
"Hey Trent," said Rachel, "Lets go get something to eat."
"Anything you say, Rache."
Rachel giggled. Then Daria noticed Rachel smile at Trent. An icy chill ran down Daria's spine. That smile, she thought, why did it look so...predatory? And did her canine teeth look just a bit too sharp? Trent sped off, leaving Daria back in his dust with her worries.
"Damn it," she said out loud, "That girl just...isn't...right!"
"I know what you mean."
"What?" Daria whirled around to face this unexpected guest. She was a dyed-black-haired girl, with black clothes, black eyeliner, and a single fishnet glove over her left hand.
"I said, I know what you mean," Andrea answered calmly, "She isn't right."
CHAPTER 6: Midday Confessions
Daria stared at Andrea, unsure of where to start with how wrong this was. She wondered briefly where she had lost control of things in her life. Then she wondered if she had ever had control in the first place. Then she decided that it was a moot point, and came back to the situation at hand.
"How long have been monitoring me?" blurted Daria. That seemed like a good place to start.
"Well, I was over in this area thinking to myself, and then I noticed a car pulling up, so I was naturally curious. Then I saw that the driver wanted to talk to you, which was quite a sur- prise, no offense, and then I sensed that you had some issues between this person, and also the girl in the passenger seat, and then I saw the way that she looked at the driver, and I got a flash of something quite unfamiliar when I concentrated on her, and then you cursed out loud, and I got a feeling that you may be on the same wavelength as me. And that's it, in a nutshell."
Daria tried to gather her thoughts again, but they kept jumping away. "You...he...what the HELL are you trying to tell me?!"
"I'm trying to tell you that the girl in question really ISN'T right, and that the driver of that car might be on danger."
"First off, 'The Driver' has a name, Trent Lane. And 'That Girl' is Rachel Last Name Unknown. And Second, and probably most importantly, where do you get off...saying all this?"
"It's my guilty little secret," deadpanned Andrea.
"Well you'll have fill me in on it, Andrea, I don't know you. Oh sure, we see each other in school sometimes, I mean, I don't know how anybody could miss you with that whole Elvyra thing going on, but the point is that I don't know you, you don't know me, and this isn't any of your business, or at least it wasn't your business until now, and I want to know why it is all the sudden." Daria finally took a deep breath.
"Okay, here it is, in condensed form. I may not have been told these things, but I know them. Why? Because I SENSED them. With my mind, I suppose."
"So you're telling me that you're psychic. That's wonderful. But I gotta tell you that the only psychics I know either run 900-number services or do staged tricks on Sick, Sad World."
Andrea weathered that remark as well as she could. "Actually, I wouldn't call it 'psychic.' E.S.P., maybe. I'm more of an empath. Or an aura-reader, or some of that new-age garbage. I can sense feelings and other intangible things, but I couldn't tell you what number you were thinking of."
"Hmmm, Mrs. Li was right about those RPGs. They really ARE a bad influence. Good thing she banned them from Lawndale High before it was TOO late.
"Daria, do you REALLY think that I go around telling people this? I could tell this was a special case, and I thought that just MAYBE you'd be a little more open-minded."
"There's a fine line between open-mindedness and gullibility, Andrea, and I don't feel like skating it right now."
"Well, for all I've told you, maybe you oughtta start. Here's another fascinating tidbit. I saw quite an emotional leap in you when this Trent person pulled up. If I didn't know better, I'd say you were attracted to him."
"Yeah, I know, I didn't think you had the capacity for that either, but apparently it's true."
At another time, Daria might have been able to lie, but this whole situation had caught her off guard. As it was, she could only stammer, "That's...not true!"
One didn't have to have E.S.P. to tell that Daria was covering something up there. Andrea decided that she'd push Daria a bit harder to get her to come clean. It would probably do her a lot of good, she thought.
"It is true, Daria, you seem to have a crush going. I got to admit, he is kinda cute. Isn't he just a bit old, though?"
This brought Daria to the breaking point. "Okay, fine. You've just found out my deepest god damned secret. You can stop by my house later, and I'll throw you my fucking diary."
"I thought it might feel good for you to let that out."
"Well, seeing that you stole it first, I would like to have it back now, if you don't mind."
"Too bad it doesn't work like that. Anyway, I won't tell anyone else, since I don't believe in using this talent to run the gossip mill, so don't worry. I know that this jaded exterior of yours must be hard to keep up sometimes."
"Okay, let's not start psychoanalyzing me. I don't have time for that. Or if I DO have time, I still lack the patience."
"Now that we've got that out of the way, I guess it won't surprise you that I could also divine that you were quite green at Rachel."
"I think I might be getting over it. I still wouldn't mind leafing through my copy of Steal This Book and cooking up something for her."
"Go with it, Daria," Andrea quipped, "Anyway, I then focused my mind on the people in the car. Trent was glowing, but I suppose you could tell that."
"I dunno, he seemed kinda lethargic to be glowing."
"Yeah, I thought that, too. He was at sort of a loss for energy."
"He always is. But not quite this much."
"Hmmm. Anyway, just before they left, I focused on Rachel. She didn't seem to have quite the same feelings for Trent as Trent did for her. And when she smiled at him, I felt a chill."
"Damn, I did, too."
"Then Trent peeled out, so I couldn't focus on her for too long. But do you know what the feeling that I got from her was?"
"I don't know, YOU'RE the psychic."
"What, she's a cannibal?"
"Not quite that type of hunger. I can't put my finger on it. And there was another thing. >From her aura, for lack of a better word. She doesn't seem human."
"What do you mean?"
"Exactly what I'm saying. I could sense...a sort of animal-like quality to her."
"Well, she does seem just a little too beautiful to be human. And that does explain some strange things about her, though."
"Like her hair. Like her eyes. Her pupils aren't round. And they reflect light, like a cat's eyes at night."
"Are you serious?"
"Dead serious." Andrea could tell that now.
"Wow, that is weird. I think we're onto something here."
Unfortunately, the fifth period warning bell chose that moment to ring. The assorted students on the lawn began to file in toward the building. Daria could never see that without immediately thinking of Pavlov's dogs. She also felt the urge to go inside, for they had conditioned her too, but there was still business to be done here.
"You know," said Daria, "I just remembered, Trent volunteered to pick up me and Jane after school. He must really be glowing. Anyway...oh Jesus, how do I say this...you suppose you could possibly...uh..."
"Stake her out?"
"Somthing like that..."
"Rent out my talent?"
"Well maybe not..."
"Yeah, I'll do it. This has piqued my curiosity."
"And since Trent seems to be dating some kind of cat-woman, and a near-total stranger just told me that I have a thing for him, I think I'm ready to believe anything."
"That's the spirit."
"You sure you don't have to catch a ride?"
"I walk. And I don't have anything to do this afternoon."
"Good. Just sit on the other side of this little entry road and pretend like you're doing homework."
"Oh boy, undercover work, this sounds fun."
"Just do it."
CHAPTER 7: The Stakeout
Naturally, Daria was unable to concentrate for the rest of the day at school. In fact, for the first time that she could remember, she was unable to answer when Mr. DeMartino inevitably called on her for a question about the Mexican War. Coming as it did after three unsuccessful tries from other students, Mr. DeMartino nearly lost it. Daria thought about changing her bet in the "When DeMartino Gets Another Heart Attack" pool she kept with Jane, but even that was pushed out of her mind by the impending Rachel issue. The sheer ludicrosity of the whole situation also entered Daria's mind, but she decided it was too late to turn back now. We are now beginning our final descent into Madness, she thought, please return all tray tables to their full upright and locked positions.
Finally the bell rang and Daria went to her locker to gather her stuff, and then went to the front lawn to meet Jane.
"By the way, Jane, Trent stopped by during lunch to say hi."
"He did? Was, by any chance, Rachel in the car with him?"
"Yep. She's turning Trent into a nice guy. She must be stopped."
"If I ever see him in a suit and tie, then I'll get concerned."
Andrea was across the street by the Lawndale High sign, as promised. She looked up at Daria once, and Daria gave a small head nod. Andrea went back to her studies.
A short time later, Trent finally appeared. He pulled the car over.
"Hey everybody, hop in," he said.
"Hey Trent," said Jane, "you look like you could use some sleep."
"Point well taken. Soon as I drop you all off, I'm gonna take a nice long nap."
"Okay, Trent," said Rachel, "Just remember to be up by eight so we can go to the movies."
"I'll set my alarm."
"Hey Rachel, don't you have to work today?" asked Daria.
"I have the day off, thankfully," said Rachel, "That job's a real soul-crusher. It's only temporary, though."
"You seem to be asking a lot of questions, Daria," said Jane suspiciously, hoping that Daria wasn't still jealous. This seemed beneath her, but Jane wasn't really sure.
"Okay, you caught me, I'm a Private Investigator, and I'm running a background check. Admittedly, I'm not very good at it."
Rachel giggled at this. Trent said, "Cool, Daria." Then he finally put the car into first, taxied out of the parking lot, and took off into the street. Daria hoped that Andrea had enough time to give a better reading. After that, she wasn't sure what she would do.
Upon reaching home, Daria was glad to see that Quinn was for once not on the phone. Daria snatched it, went into her room and shut the door. For extra security, she put on some music. Quinn seemed busy organizing her vanity chest, so Daria figured that she would be preoccupied all day, but there was still need to take precautions, so she took the downstairs phone as well. She got out the little piece of notebook paper that she wrote Andrea's phone number on, and dialed it in. Luckily, Andrea herself answered the phone.
"So, Kreskin, did you get any more insight into this matter?" Daria inquired.
"I think I did. It's still fuzzy, though, and I don't think it can get any clearer."
"Just tell me what you know."
"Well, to start with, she's most certainly not human. At least not in the classical sense."
"That's good news to start with. Any ideas on what she might be?" Daria peeked into the hall to make sure Quinn wasn't listening in. There was no telling what she might imply from this conversation.
"Well, she looks human, but that doesn't seem to be her primary form."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that she spends most of her time in another form. That of an animal."
"Yeah. A forest animal, a carnivore. Not a great man-eater, but something smaller and quicker. Taking together all I could sense, and adding in the physical factors of her hair and eyes, I would have to say that she is a fox."
Daria paused a monent before answering. "Andrea, that's not even REMOTELY funny."
"It's not supposed to be."
"Some kind of fox-creature. I have some books on totemism and mythology. Maybe I can find it in there."
"I dunno, this is just too weird. I mean, why would a fox or whatever become a beautiful woman in order to seduce Trent?"
"Maybe he's just THAT cute."
"That's not funny either."
"Funny or not, we can't really do anything until I find out more. I gotta go now, bye."
"Wait-" Andrea hung up. Daria listened to the phone make it's impatient little clicks before the dial tone came on.
CHAPTER 8: Behind Her Eyes
And, inevitably, the day passed, and another took its place. At school it was the usual boring and aggravating routine, only this time Daria was unsure of the fate of a friend. She looked all around for Andrea, but she couldn't find her. She was just another random student, after all, and they didn't share any classes. Well, she better show up pretty damn soon, thought Daria, 'cause she had some 'splainin' to do. But the day ended with no sign of her.
Daria came home and tried to call Andrea, but she wasn't home. So she sat down and did homework, but it was a slow process. At about 6:30, the phone rang, and a visibly annoyed Quinn gave it to Daria, saying that it was "that weird art girl that you hang out with." Daria took it from Quinn, shooed her out of the room, and said hello.
"Daria, do you think that you could come over to my place now?" asked Jane.
"Uh, no, Mom is home early tonight, and she's cooking something special. Lasagna, I think. So naturally I got to attend. Why?"
"Oh, nothing, I wanted you to give Trent a little company."
"Boy, Jane, this is your most direct attempt yet. You must really want me and him together."
"It's not that, Daria. Trent is sick."
"Yeah, he's been in bed all morning, says he's too weak to get up. Looks like he really means it, too. Plus, he's kinda pale. I think Rachel gave him mono, or something."
So that's the evil plan, Daria thought ruefully to herself. "Well, I'm sorry, maybe I'll call you later tonight."
"That's cool. Bye."
Mono, hmmmmm. Daria tried to call Andrea again, but she still wasn't there.
"Man, this is great lasagna!" said Jake over-enthusiastically.
"Thank you, honey," said Helen, "How about you girls?"
"It's good," said both Daria and Quinn, with considerably less enthusiasm. With that, Helen relaunched into her epic tales of her day at the firm. Jake did his obligatory smiling and nodd- ing while busying himself with the newspaper. Daria and Quinn picked at their lasagna in silence until the phone rang. Helen reached for the phone, and Quinn sprung into action.
"If it's Tommy, I'm not home, if it's Jason, I'm not interested in him in that way, if it's Ryan, I don't live here anymore, and if it's Clive, Chase, or Josh, then gimme the phone!"
Helen gave her a look, and answered the phone. "Hello? Yes, but you'll have to make it quick, we're eating dinner. Daria, it's for you."
The usual surprise at getting a call passed over Daria briefly, and then she took the phone.
"Hey, this is Andrea. I'm at the library, and I've found some fascinating info. I suggest that you see it for yourself."
"Uh, okay, could I at least finish dinner first?"
"Yeah, but hurry up. This is important."
"Yeah, okay, bye."
Daria pushed the phone's POWER button. "Uh, Mom? I was just reminded that I need to meet someone at the library for a school project. Could I possibly get a ride?"
"Daria, I have some important work to get done tonight."
"More important than your daughter's educational future?"
"Mom, I'm the one with potential, remember? You wouldn't want to squander that, would you?"
Helen cracked. "All right, FINE, Daria, I'll give you a ride, and call me when you're ready to go home."
Andrea met Daria outside of the county library, which overlooked Hargrove's Woods not far from the 9-To-5 Mart. They went inside, and Andrea led Daria to the table she was working at.
"By the way, did you read my mind to get my phone number?" asked Daria.
"Hell no, I looked it up in the phone book. How many Morgendorffers do you think there are in this town? Besides, I already told you that my abilities don't work that way."
"Right, right. Now anyway, are you sure you couldn't just tell me about this over the phone?"
"You seem like the skeptical type."
"Well anyway, Mulder, what did you find?"
"Some confirmation of my suspicions."
Daria looked at the table, which had a number of books on Chinese and Japanese mythology strewn about.
"I told you before that Rachel appears to be some sort of fox/human being, right?"
"You told me that."
"Well, most of the mythology and folklore of the Far East tells of these foxes, which today are commonly known as 'kitsune', which is a Japanese word."
"Japanese for what?"
"Says they transform themselves into beautiful girls or boys, in order to seduce or make mischief with people. According to myth, these women are more seductive than any human woman, which would explain how she reeled Trent in. Have you ever noticed any strange odors about her?"
"Well, I used a toilet after she did. Well, actually I didn't use it, because it smelled... skunky."
"Aha. That's one way to tell. No matter what form they take, they never lose their natural scent. Although humans could probably only detect it through urine."
"So then, another animal, like, say, a dog, could probably smell it right away."
"You catch on fast. That's the most tried-and-true test of the kitsune. Sic the dogs on her. Sometimes they'll scare the kitsune so badly that it will revert back to their fox form."
"Well this is all truly fascinating, but-"
"It gets weirder. Do you remember how pale and tired Trent was yeterday?"
"Yeah, in fact, Jane just called to say that he's even worse today. Says he can't even get out of bed."
"That's really bad news. The intentions of fox-women vary, but there are some that seduce their victims so that they can drain them of their vitality, of their...being, of their...life force, for lack of a better word. They can do this to a succession of victims to prolong their own existence."
"Sort of like Liz Taylor," quipped Daria.
"If Trent is in as bad a condition as you say he is, she might only need one more time with him to finish the job and return to the forest."
By this point, Daria was becoming quite overwhelmed. "Wait, time out," she said, "this is insane. Completely insane."
"You're telling me."
"You don't understand. What if we're just chasing a bunch of ridiculous coincidences? I mean, a Chinese myth? What's a Chinese myth doing in America, let alone Lawndale? What's a Chinese myth doing ANYWHERE?! It's all insane, and I don't feel like going insane until I turn 18 and can move into a shack in Montana."
Andrea looked frustrated, then offered her opinion. "Look, I honestly don't know why it's happening here, maybe she hopped on a plane. But I can tell you two things. One, I know this is real, I can sense it. And you'll just have to trust me, because you already know that I know a thing or two about you that logically, I can't know. But I found out, the same way I found this out. I wouldn't lie about ANY of this, Daria, why would I? I hardly even knew you before yester- day. Two, you were first to notice that there was something wrong with her. How did you know?"
"Well, the hair, the smell, the eyes, mostly the eyes."
"Exactly. It wasn't all physical things, was it? A good part of it must have been behind her eyes, right?"
"Behind her eyes?"
"Intuition, Daria. What I'm trying to say is TRUST your intuitions. Your gut feelings are what alerted you to her true nature. Your gut feelings don't lie."
"I'm having a gut feeling right now. In fact, I think I might vomit."
"As for me, I have to use the bathroom. Be right back."
She sure knows how to make an exit, thought Daria.
Andrea passed the circulation desk on the way to the resrooms, and there, standing off to the side, was her father. He was a big, intimidating man, a retired Naval officer, and his presence got Andrea's immediate attention, as it always did.
"Come on, you've been here long enough, we've got to get to your sister's recital,"
"But Dad, I have still have important work to do!"
"You can do it afterwards, it won't be long. Besides, you promised her you'd be there."
"It must have been in one of my weaker moments," said Andrea in a Daria-esque tone.
"Either way, you're going, and you're going now," said her father firmly.
"No excuses. After all, it might be good for you to see one of your family members doing something normal."
"Please don't get into this again..." pleaded Andrea as she was led into the parking lot.
Ten minutes later, Daria checked the women's restroom. She's probably doing her makeup, thought Daria, it must take a lot of effort to stay looking so gaunt. But when she didn't find Andrea in there, or in any other part of the library, her annoyance turned to anger. Daria considered calling her mother, but then remembered that Rachel's apartment complex wasn't too far away. Gut feelings, huh? She decided to find out for herself.
CHAPTER 9: Gut Feelings
"Watch out for that lone lovely lady by the side of the road, she may take your breath away, literally! The infamous fox-women of China, NEXT on Sick Sad World!"
"Boy, they're really reaching today," said Jane as she muted the TV.
"Yeah..." said Trent weakly from his bed. Jane had brought the TV into his room, since mindless entertainment is the best cure for what ails you. Jane wasn't quite ready to call a doctor about Trent's condition yet, especially since Mom and Dad were gone, as usual.
Just then, the phone rang. Jane picked it up, and handed it to Trent, upon finding out that Rachel was on the line.
"Hello?...Hey...Yeah, feelin' kinda down...that would be cool...thanks...bye." Trent hung up and turned to Jane. "Rachel's comin' over here. It will be a while since her car is still in the shop, so she'll walk."
"I dunno, Trent, it's getting dark out there."
"Don't worry, there are street lights. Besides, this is Lawndale, I don't think she's got much to worry about."
"Whatever you say, Trent." Of course, Jane couldn't drive, so it was a moot point.
Rachel stepped out of the phone booth and walked through the apartment complex, still counting her lucky stars that she had been able to go out with Trent for so long without him ever really pressing to go to her place. "Her place" was Hargrove's Woods, insofar as she had slept there for the last few days. She would get a bit dirty doing that, but she liked it fine, and changing clothes was a pretty small bit of magic compared to changing her entire form. THAT took work. But still, it was the means to an end, and an end that she intended to bring about tonight.
She had gotten about a block down the road when she noticed a figure step out from the side street. It was that gloomy girl, Daria. Hmm, she thought, what's she doing out tonight?
Daria had gotten to the street leading back to her neighborhood before she really stopped to think about how ridiculous this was. First off, she didn't know Rachel's apartment number (if she really lived in one). And even if she did, it was no guarantee that she would be home. And even if she was home, then what would happen? Hi, Rachel, she thought, I'm Daria, and I was just curious about something. I was wondering, are you were really a fox-being out to drain the life from Trent? I've got five bucks on it, you see. Then, out of the blue, she heard Rachel's voice calling her.
"Uh, hi, Rachel!" Rachel jogged across the street to meet her, with a strangely light trotting gait. Daria remembered what Andrea had said about her gut feelings. Well, she thought, the butterflies are really going in there, but that's just because you got me all worked up.
"What are you doing here?"
"Uh...I'm just...taking a walk. How about you?"
"I'm going to visit Trent," she said, and smiled. There's that smile again, thought Daria. And those EYES. The pupils were glowing green with the reflection from the harsh streetlights. Daria gave in to paranoia.
"Uh, are you sure you should be out alone right now? It's getting dark."
"Well, come on, I see that isn't stopping YOU. Besides, this is a quiet town, and I've taken self-defense courses."
"Well, either way, I don't think you can visit Trent."
"Why not?" Rachel sounded hurt.
"He's in a delicate condition."
"I know, he's sick, that's why I'm visiting him."
"Aren't you worried about contracting it?"
"Who are you, his nurse? He's just feeling a bit under the weather!"
"I'm afraid that he's being kept in a sterile environment."
"In his house?"
Rachel was rapidly losing patience. "Look, I just got off the phone with Trent, and he's expecting me to visit him, not that it's really any of your damn business." With that, she stormed past Daria.
"Actually it IS my business if you're going to go over there and ignore medical warnings."
"Daria, I'm his girl, all right? You seem to be having trouble accepting that. How about you go home and play with yourself for a while? Then it won't seem so bad."
That crossed the line. Daria snarled at her back, "You don't really love him."
Rachel froze. She turned around slowly. "WHAT did you say?"
"I said, you don't love him. And I know what you want from him."
"Oh really? Well, tell me, Miss Know-It-All!"
"I'd rather hear it from YOU, Kitsune."
Daria had only a split second to marvel at what had just come out of her mouth before Rachel grabbed her by the shirt, and shoved her up against a streetlight pole. The back of Daria's head connected with the cold metal, making black flowers bloom in front of her eyes. She squinted through a haze of pain to see Rachel's face directly in front of hers. Her pupils were glowing faintly from the next street light, and as she spit out her words, Daria noticed that her canine teeth were now full fangs that glistened in the cold halogen light.
"All right," she hissed at Daria, her voice now gravelly and bestial, "I don't know how you found that out, but I DO know that you will NOT stop me from getting what I want! Do you under- stand? Answer me, BITCH!"
As she was saying this, Daria was slowly raising her right foot. Suddenly, she kicked Rachel hard in the shin with her steel-toed Doc Marten boot. Rachel shrieked with pain, and Daria kicked her other shin. Once free, she bolted down the street, leaving Rachel in a heap beneath the streetlight.
"Go ahead, Daria, run! Flee to Trent's house! See if he believes you!" Rachel screamed after her. Daria ducked into the forest, hoping that Rachel wasn't waking the whole neighborhood. She was on a trail that she knew ended up in someone's backyard not far from Jane's house. She hurried down the beaten path with her hands out in front of her for navigation. Once through the backyard and out onto the street, she allowed herself to catch her breath. Her head still throbbed from the impact with the streetlight. So much for the direct approach, she thought. She then refocused on the matter at hand. She tried to calm herself down, and think fast at the same time, but it didn't work. Time to play the hero, thought Daria. We're all doomed.
CHAPTER 10: End Game
"Could you help me up? I wanna meet Rachel at the door."
"In your condition?"
"I think I can make it. She'd be happy to see me up and at 'em."
"Boy, Trent, you really ARE smitten."
A short time later, Rachel turned the corner onto Howard Street, and faced the Lane house. Every step was a pain from Daria's self-defense measures. Luckily for Rachel, Daria was nowhere to be seen. Should have played it cool, she thought, rather than flipping out like that. But that Daria just had a way with pushing her buttons. Hopefully I put a good scare in her, anyway.
She was just about to the Lane property line when she heard a noise off in the distance that froze her to the spot. Then she saw its source, and was petrified instanly. About 100 feet in front of her was a group of five dogs. Not just dogs, but hounds, most likely trained hunting hounds. They had gotten her scent and were now coming closer, growling angrily. The fact that they were all on a leash did little to comfort her. The lone person holding the leashes was a vaguely familiar red-haired youth. He shone his flashlight ahead, and eventually trained it on Rachel.
"Hello there," said Upchuck enthusiastically, "What's a gorgeous babe like you doing out alone on a night like this?"
"Stay away from me," Rachel choked, already feeling herself give in to her primal fear.
"No need to be afraid, lady, these puppies wouldn't hurt a fly, unless they had to!" He then addressed the dogs, who were still slowly pulling him forward despite his attempt to stand his ground. "Hey, stoppit, what's wrong with you?" By then, they had gotten within ten feet of the terrifed girl.
Just then, Jane and Trent appeared at the door to see what was going on. Jane took one look at Upchuck, and ran out into the lawn.
"Dammit, Upchuck, get these mutts out of here! What are you trying to do, give Rachel a heart attack?!" Jane yelled over the fury of the hounds.
Upchuck didn't answer. He was too busy gaping at what was happening in front of him. Rachel was there, shrinking away from the hounds. Literally. Jane turned her head and watched in stunned fascination as Rachel went down on her back, and became ever smaller, her clothes somehow disappearing under a thick carpet of scarlet fur. Rachel's mouth and nose stretched forward, and her ears were growing and migrating up her head. As this was happening, a figure stepped out from the darkness behind Upchuck. Rachel recognized her immediately.
"YOU BITCH!" the woman/fox screeched just before it lost the capacity of speech.
"It's over, Kitsune," Daria said defiantly, and folded her arms on her chest. Seconds after it had started, the transformation was now complete, and where Rachel had stood before was a red fox, average in every respect except that it had three tails. In the blink of an eye, it righted itself, and tore off down the street in the direction of Hargrove's Woods. The hounds, which had also been somewhat stunned by what was going on, suddenly snapped out of it and bolted after the fox, with sufficient force to pull Upchuck off his feet.
Jane, however, was rooted to the spot. Trent was still standing by the door, but he looked semi-conscious at best. Jane looked over at Daria, and tried to form a complete sentence, but got stuck on "Daria, wha...huh?"
"Stay here and look after Trent, I'll be right back," said Daria, and with that, she took off down the street after Upchuck, cursing her fickle conscience for acting up again.
Upchuck ran along at full speed behind the hounds, trying every command he knew to get them to stop. When that proved futile, he started fiddling with the leash that he had looped around his wrist. Finally, he broke free, and stumbled to a halt, as the hounds disappeared into Har- grove's Woods, still binded to each other by the leashes that Upchuck had tied together. Between his heavy pantings, he heard jogging footsteps behind him.
Daria was relieved to see that Upchuck had had the sense to let go of the leash, and contin- ued to jog toward him. I ought to be excused from P.E. for a week after this, thought Daria. Upchuck stood pitifully on the sidewalk, his clothes rumpled and his wrist red.
"Daria, what the HELL just happened?" he asked.
"It's a long story. Either way, I would...just like to thank you for what you have done tonight."
"What, escorting you home, or scaring off that...whatever it was?"
"Well, I didn't really want or need an escort, I just told you that so that I could get you, and more importantly, those dogs in the right place to do the latter job."
"Well, happy to be of service," said Upchuck sarcastically.
"I'm glad. Whether you know it or not, you just saved a friend's life. Again, thank you. Now I gotta go."
Upchuck watched her walk away for a second, then piped up again. "Waaaait a minute."
Daria froze, but didn't turn. "Yessss?"
"I just saved your friend's life, got dragged down the street by a gang of crazed hounds, and most likely lost the biggest dog-walking paycheck in this whole town! I'd say you owe me big."
"Being a hero isn't enough for you?"
"I was thinking more along the lines of...Chez Pierre. Friday night. You and me. What do you say?"
"I would start by saying you're crazy."
"Come ON, Daria, are you going to go out with me, or will I have to make your life a living hell?"
"Is there a difference?"
Daria mulled this one over. That Upchuck is a devious little weasel, she thought, there's no telling how annoying he could be when he put his mind to it.
"Okay, (gulp) I'll do it. But only this once. And you had BETTER keep your filthy hands to yourself."
Upchuck raised his fist in the air and shouted, "SCORE ONE FOR CHUCKY! Now if you'll excuse me, I gotta go catch up with Mr. Oatley's hounds." He jogged off into Hargrove's Woods.
Would have been better off with the kitsune, thought Daria.
CHAPTER 11: Drained
Meanwhile, back at the Lane house, Jane had escorted Trent back up to his room, whereupon he immediately fell into a deep sleep. Daria came back and went over the details of the previous four days leading up to the events of that night, skipping lightly over the deal she just made.
"Well, it sounds pretty far-fetched, but I can't deny what I just saw," said Jane.
"Well, it's all true, I swear on my sister's grave," said Daria.
"The bit with Andrea, too?"
"Yep, even that. If it weren't for her, I would have never figured Rachel out. Of course, I'll need to have a word or two with her later."
"Well, that's all well and good, but what about Trent? If what you said is true, and I'm not saying it isn't, then you may have saved him now, but what about later? Look at him. Is there any cure for his condition?"
"All I can think of would be plenty of fluids and the like, and see if he comes out of it."
"That's REAL comforting."
"I know. I'm sorry."
"It's not your fault. I'm going to get a glass of water and come back."
"No, that's okay."
Jane left the room and Daria looked over at Trent. He slept a lot, sure, but never quite like this. His face was pale, and his chest rose only very slowly. Daria was somewhat surprised to find that her eyes were filling with tears.
"Trent? I don't know if you can hear me or not, but I need to say a few things. First, what you just saw was real. That girl was not human, nor was she really attracted to you, in the way you thought she was. I'm sorry if this didn't turn out like you wanted it to, but when you wake up, and I know you will, don't let it get you down. It wasn't your fault. You are a special person, and you deserve MUCH better than her. And I know that there are plenty of girls out there who would appreciate and love you for who you are and nothing else." She took Trent's hand in hers and added, "Some of them are closer than you think."
Daria dropped Trent's hand and whirled around. Jane was standing in the doorway with a glass of water.
"Sorry if I scared you," she said, "Uh, would you like some water, too?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah, sure."
"I'll be right back," she said and walked away. Then she turned back and said, "And Daria? Trent looks pretty out of it, but still, I hope he heard all that stuff you said."
Daria stared at her for a moment. "Jane, prepare to die."
CHAPTER 12: All's Well That Ends Well
By that Friday afternoon, Trent had built up enough strength to go to the pizza parlor with Jane and Daria. Trent was talking about Rachel.
"Well, that's the last time I ever fall for a pretty face. Should have known she was too good to last. Still, she could have at least called me before she moved."
"Her neighbors said she already had her stuff in a U-Haul last week," said Jane.
"And then, pfft, gone, with no forwarding address," Trent completed, "She was probably planning to move all along, and she was just using me for a cheap screw or something before she left. World's full of girls like that."
"Well, you know what they say," said Daria, "Beautiful people rarely have beautiful personalities."
"I feel like an idiot."
"Come on, Trent, it could happen to any of us," said Jane.
"Yeah, but you know what? I really should have figured it out sooner."
"That's not true, Trent."
"No, it IS true. I haven't told you yet, but I had the weirdest dream on Tuesday night, when I was sick the worst. I dreamed that I was standing outside of the house, and Rachel was there, but she looked at me, and then, she started SHRINKING."
"Yeah. That's not all, though, she was also like growing fur. A second later, she had changed into a FOX right in front of me!"
"That is WEIRD."
"It goes on. Next, I'm in the woods, watching her run away. I tried to chase her, but you know how when you're dreaming, you can never move? Then I look over to the left, and Daria's standing there."
"Huh?" said Daria as she turned bright red.
"Yeah, it was you. You took me by the hand and said, 'It's okay, Trent, she didn't really love you. You're a special person, and you deserve much better.' And then you led me away into a clearing."
"And THEN what?" asked Jane, arching her right eyebrow like Spock.
"Then I met Frank Zappa and we jammed for a while. Like I said, it was a WEIRD dream."
"Yeah, Freud would be up all night with that one."
For once, Daria was completely speechless. An awkward silence fell over the table, and was interrupted even more awkwardly by Kevin peeking over the top of the booth behind Daria.
"Hey Daria, I was thinking about what you said a few days ago."
"You were THINKING?"
"Yeah, dude. If Coca-Cola comes from cocoa beans, and chocolate comes from mines, then what about vanilla?"
"Uh, they get that from...goats."
"Really? What part?"
"The intestinal juices."
Kevin stared into space for a moment before saying, "Dude, that's SICK," and ducking back into his booth.
Daria turned back toward the table. "I suppose this is where I make a wisecrack, we all laugh, and the camera does a freeze-frame on us while the credits start rolling."
"It suuuure is!" said Jane. She and Trent laughed. Daria just smiled.
"Who were you talking to, Kevin?"
"Just some girls I know from school. I don't hang out with them usually. What did you say your name was again?"
"You have beautiful red hair, Rachel."
la la LA la la...
The folklore of the Far East makes several mentions of mischievous fox-spirits, which are sometimes good, and sometimes bad. The kitsune in this story is more closely based on Chinese mythology. I orginally got the idea for this story from the Sierra Club book, "The World of the Fox," by Rebecca L. Grambo, which is a very good book about foxes with a small section on the fox's relationship with humans that covers some basic fox mythology. Mention of fox-women that drain the vitality from men can be found in "The Fox Maiden Lien-shiang", which is one of the Liao Chai stories written by P'u Sung-Ling in the seventeenth century, A.D. The Liao Chai stories are based on traditional Chinese folklore, and are generally considered to be China's answer to the Arabian Nights tales.
The word "kitsune," (kit-SOON-ee) however, as mentioned in Part 2, is a Japanese word, and I used it for this story because it's relatively well-known and used among people interested in animal mythology, and also because I couldn't find the Chinese word for "fox." I also just like the sound of the word, and I figured it was obscure enough as to not give away the premise of the story to too many people. If you already knew what a kitsune was, then I hope you liked the way the story unfolded anyway.
As for what a Chinese mythological being is doing in Lawndale, she stowed away on a cargo plane with the sole purpose of being in my fanfic. That's all I can say about that.
For the purposes of this fanfic, Hargrove's Woods, the 9-To-5 Mart, the county library, and Rachel's apartment complex are located off the left side of the map in "The Daria Diaries". Hargrove's Woods, specifically, should be considered an extension of the large wooded area to the left of Cranberry Commons.
Please send all questions, comments, constructive criticism, glowing praise, naughty letters, and souffle recipes to email@example.com Thank you, and good night.