Author's Note: Daria Morgendorffer and her fellow characters from Daria are owned by MTV/Viacom. All other characters in this story are the property of Doggieboy. This is fan fiction and no money or other items of value have been exchanged for this story.
Part 2: There's No Place Like Someone Else's Home
When Daria came back from the bathroom, she found Jane not only asleep on the couch, but her mouth wide open as she snored a full symphony. She picked up one of the bras from the pile of clothes, stood over Jane's head and held it over her mouth, a smile on her face, but resisted the temptation.
Instead, she walked back to the desk and sat down. She took off her glasses, rubbed her bandaged eye gently and sighed, not sure what she should do first. She saw the wrapper of Jane's sub from lunch in the trash can and dug her food out of the bag. Quietly, she ate the sub and chips and drank the soda with a slight grimace from it's warm taste.
After she ate, Daria put back on her glasses and left the office, then walked to the vestibule. An outdoor light had come on, apparently by timer and it's glow came in through a cross-shaped window above the door. For several seconds, she looked at the lighted cross on the floor and listened to the wind outdoors.
Daria unlocked the door and stepped outside. The wind had shifted back from the southwest and she looked out at the southern horizon in the night sky. Most of what she saw was darkness, with a few outdoor lights on in the distance. There was no way to tell from where she was whether or not people were located at the lights.
To the southeast, the horizon glowed brightly, in contrast to all the blackness everywhere else. Washington, she thought and felt cold from the knowledge of its destruction. I wonder how long it will burn? I wonder if we even have a government anymore?
In the distance somewhere, she heard car tires squeal and what sounded like gunshots. Somewhere else, dogs barked. She thought that she could also heard people speak, but with the wind, she didn't know where they were or what they were saying. Quickly, she stepped back inside the church and relocked the door carefully.
The church had a small library in what appeared to be a smaller version of the sanctuary. She resisted the temptation to turn on the light and squinted with her right eye to read the book spines.
A car sped by the church going towards the highway; the headlights shone through the stained glass windows and she tensed as she listened to it go by. It didn't slow down and she only relaxed as the sound of it vanished in the distance. She looked back at the shelved books.
From what she could see, most of the books were of religious themes or personal testimony biographies. She saw several Bibles, a couple Left Behind novels and some older general fiction novels, but what got her attention was a Boy Scout Manual. The words "Be Prepared" came to her mind and she took the book with her back to the office.
Jane still sawed logs, her mouth wide open and her right side hanging over the couch's edge. Daria smiled at her best friend and gently pushed her back into the cushions. Then she sat behind the desk and noticed the black book labeled "RECORD". She set aside the Boy Scout Manual and opened the black book to read in the candlelight.
When Jane awoke later that morning, she smelled hot food and looked to see a paper plate filled with ravioli on a TV tray near her. "Aw, breakfast in bed," she said, yawned and stretched. "You shouldn't have."
"I know. But someone had to cook since you slept for nearly ten hours." Daria had thrown her ruined pullover and bra away and now wore a cream-colored blouse with a slender pair of black jeans. Her skirt laid on the desk, folded neatly. She sat down on the desk and leaned back slightly.
Jane gulped down half a bottle of water and sighed loudly. "Ten hours? Dang it, I lost two hours of much needed sleep. Have you been awake the whole time?"
"Pretty much. I washed up in the bathroom, changed my clothes and read some things."
"Did you read Carter's diary?"
Daria cringed and shivered. "We were damned lucky yesterday," she said. "If you hadn't woke up and shot him when you did...we'd still be alive right now, but we wouldn't want to be." She wiped her right eye. "We were too nice to him when we left. We should have chopped up the sadistic, psychopathic son of a bitch and poured salt on his remains."
"He was a real piece of shit," Jane said and shook her head. "I feel sorry for all those families he's hurt. Some of them probably still don't know about their missing wives, mothers and daughters."
"The entry about the twelve-year-old girl made me sick," Daria said and closed her eyes. "It also made me want to cry. I wanted to go back to his body and burn it. We should at the very least burn that diary. It's worse than pornography. It's just evil in writing."
"I know," Jane said. "But he can't hurt anyone else, thanks to us." She yawned widely and stretched again.
"You needed to wake up anyway, Jane," Daria said quickly as she changed the subject. "It's Sunday morning. We should be ready when the church members start showing up. I don't think a war will stop services. In fact, I'm surprised that none of them were here when we got here yesterday. Hopefully, they won't be too mad at us for spending the night in their church."
"Amiga, I think this church is abandoned, or maybe even closed."
Daria shook her head in disagreement. "If that was so, this place would have smelled musty when we got here. I didn't think about it until you were asleep, but this place really smells clean. If it had appeared closed or abandoned to me, then I wouldn't have touched the food at all."
"Their sign was missing letters and numbers." Jane shrugged. "That's why I thought it was closed up. Did anything happen while I slept?"
"I went outside for a minute," Daria said. "It hadn't rained as far as I could tell. I heard cars, gunshots, other sounds. Several times, cars sped by the church. I even heard voices, I think. It may have just been the wind, though. I don't know."
"Did you find any clothes you could use?"
Daria motioned towards the pile on the desk. "I found quite a bit of clothes that may be useful. In fact, I've been thinking about clothes most of the time you were laying there snoring."
"I was snoring? So that explains why my mouth is dry."
"No, your mouth is dry because you drool in your sleep." She smiled as Jane stuck her tongue out in response. "Besides thinking about clothes, we need to decide what we're going to do next. Are we going to stay here awhile with the church's permission or are we going to try and get to one of the Cumberland refugee shelters?"
Jane ate a couple of spoonfuls of ravioli and drank some water. "Daria," she finally said, "before we go anywhere, we need to find out what's going on out there. I didn't even think of looking for a radio while you slept. Did you look?"
Daria pulled a small transistor radio out of one of the desk drawers. "It works, but all I've picked up so far is one station that's too far away to clearly understand. It goes in and out."
"Is it an American station?"
"I think it's out of Cincinnati. At least, that's what I think they said." She turned the radio on raised the volume to it's full limit.
"...least twenty American cities have..." The radio squealed for several seconds, then came back in. "...word on whether the president or vice-president has survived the events of yesterday morning. The destruction of Wash...." The radio squealed again. "...chaos in coordinating any kind of emergency management in the path of destruction. The last known bomb to explode in the U.S. was just before midnight in St. Louis...." Another squeal interrupted the signal again. "...at least twenty nuclear explosions have been reported from Russia and the Ukraine. Border fighting between Russian and Chinese forces has also been reported. Nuclear explosions have also been reported in the Chinese mainland, but there is no word on just how many bombs have went off there. Western European nations, as well as Japan and Australia, have reported no..." This time the radio went out for more than a minute and Daria turned it off.
"We'll try again later after breakfast," she said.
Jane wolfed down more of the ravioli, sat back and stretched, then belched loudly. "O.K.," she said. "I think we should try to get to Cumberland and get in one of the shelters. As much as I appreciate using this church as a shelter, I'm not so sure it'll be safe in the long run. Too many windows to protect. Plus, in a shelter, we might have a better chance to see a doctor. Which reminds me, we need to take off that bandage and check your eye." She ate another spoonful and motioned at her with the spoon. "Where's your plate?"
"I ate already. This place doesn't have a microwave oven, so I had to cook it on the stove. I ate my breakfast while I cooked yours."
"Well, thank you for breakfast." She finished off the food and drank the rest of the water. "Let's take care of your eye." She threw the plate and bottle in the trash and looked at how full the trash can was. "We should clean up our mess, just in case the members come here today."
Daria pulled the bottle out of the trash and set it on the desk. "We may need that bottle later on," she replied to Jane's curious glance.
They walked to the bathroom and Jane took a paper towel and wet it down. "You take off the bandage and keep your eye closed, Daria. Let me wipe it off before you open it."
Daria carefully pulled the tape off her face and winced when she pulled a few hairs out of her left eyebrow. She waited as Jane gently washed the eyelid and lashes.
"O.K., Daria, let's see how you look." Daria opened her eye and Jane shook her head. "Really, really bloodshot. You look like you're drunk, Morgendorffer."
"It's all that positive influence that you exude, Lane. At least that's the excuse I plan to tell the cops when they stop me."
"You're a laugh riot. How well can you see?"
Daria wiped her left eye and said, "It's all a blur out of that eye and my tear ducts apparently are working overtime."
Daria shook her head. "Just a feeling that I've got some sand in my eye."
Jane stroked her chin and thought about it. "I'd say that you're healing and are not infected. That's good. But we should probably cover it up again."
"Let's leave it uncovered awhile. I'll just shut my eye for now."
"Sounds good to me, Daria. By the way, I like the blouse you picked out. It looks like something that you bought at Cashman's."
"Smile when you say that, Jane. For your information, it fit me perfectly. That's why I'm wearing it. About clothes, I was going to tell you that we need to stock up with what we can before we leave."
"Oh?" Jane raised her eyebrows in question. "Why?"
"I have a...deep feeling that we may not see Lawndale for a real long time. Maybe never again. We need extra clothes so we can change them everyday. We need to pick out sturdy clothes, such as jeans and long-sleeved shirts, and jackets. But we especially need underwear and socks. A shelter will be smelly enough, but if we can at least change our underwear and socks regularly, then it will be a little more bearable."
"Makes sense to me." Jane smile and touched Daria's left shoulder. "If we stick together, mi amiga, that will make staying in a shelter a little more bearable."
Daria smiled back, patted Jane's hand and they walked to a room labeled "CLOTHES PANTRY".
In the clothes pantry, the two girls sorted through several piles of clothing while they searched for what they needed. Suddenly, as Jane looked through costume items, she said, "A-ha! I have the perfect thing for you, Daria."
Daria looked up from a stack of blue jeans at her. "Why are you going through Halloween costumes for, Jane? I'm not going to a shelter dressed as an alien or a cowgirl."
Jane turned around with an adult pirate costume and held up a black eyepatch. "You can put this one on and look tough while you rest your eye."
"Words fail me," she said in a monotone.
"Oh, don't be so lame and try it on." She handed it to Daria.
Daria put it on and said, "Well? How do I look?"
"Like Black Daria--the scourge of the seven seas, eight rivers and Dega Street."
"I feel like and also probably look like a dork." She gave Jane a small smile. "But at least it feels comfortable on me."
Jane nodded and looked closely at how it looked on Daria. "Well, keep it on awhile and we'll see how you do with it."
Over the next several minutes, both girls had formed a small pile of clothes, but not very much. "Their selection is kind of limited," Jane remarked.
"You have to remember that most of this stuff is rejects," Daria said, "or, like the blouse I'm wearing, probably out of fashion or season."
Jane held up several small backpacks. "We have bookbags to carry stuff in. If we end up on foot, then it'll be easier to carry. What color do you want?"
"Stick to something dark and non-reflective," Daria answered as she rejected several flimsy skirts. "Something that doesn't call attention to us."
As they spent more time looking over the clothes, Daria found a long, dark brown leather jacket and put it on. The jacket went down to about six inches from her ankles and she looked at Jane. "This might come in handy," she said. "How does it look on me?"
Jane looked her over, from the eyepatch to the long, opened jacket and a smile formed on her face. She walked over to a counter near the door, grabbed a box and slapped it down on the table in front of Daria. "Matches," she said. "Plain old-fashioned wooden stick matches. Never know when you need them."
"What in the hell are you talking about?" Daria asked; her expression betrayed her confusion.
"Aaaahh! Escape From L.A., Daria. You know, the movie with Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken. When they outfit Snake and give him all that fancy equipment, they also give him plain old matches."
"Oh, yeah. I remember it now. Where's my nuke-powered mini cam?"
"You'll have to wait on that. Why don't you let me see your belly? I want to see if you have a big snake tattoo that goes on down below your waistline."
"You can see what it feels like to have my boot kick your ass."
Jane laughed. "Yeah, you're definitely Daria. Or should I call you Snake Morgendorffer?"
"What does that make you? Cuervo Lane?"
"Works for me." She looked at the clock. "It's almost 9:00. Shouldn't someone be here by now if they have Sunday school at 9:15?"
"You would think so." Daria sighed as she thought. "Let's go back to the office and see what the preacher had written on his schedule, or even if he has one."
In the office, Daria searched the calendar on the desk, while Jane looked over the bulletin board next to a book/video storage case. "Daria? I just found a video tape made last Sunday."
"Last Sunday? Let's check it out."
Jane turned on both TV and VCR and inserted the tape. As it rewound, she said, "Maybe the war scared them into staying at home."
"Perhaps." The tape stopped rewinding and Daria pushed the remote control's play button. For the next several minutes, they listened to a tall, thin woman with short ash-brown hair as she prayed and led the congregation in a hymn.
"Now for the announcements," the woman said.
"Pastor Marion, don't forget next Saturday," a man's voice called out from the congregation.
"That woman's the preacher," Jane said and Daria nodded.
"You're right, Calvin," the female preacher replied. "Next Saturday morning, we'll meet in the parking lot and leave by eight a.m. sharp for our trip to our nation's capital. Our goal is to be at the Lincoln Memorial by eleven a.m. and then after a picnic lunch, we'll see the Washington Memorial and then the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and head back here. Since all of us are going, except for our ill and our shut-ins, it should be a blessing for all. Now, let's have the children's story time. All the children come up to the front." The tape showed between fifteen and twenty children, some just barely toddlers, going to the front of the sanctuary and sitting on the floor as the preacher sat down with them and told them about the history of the church in the early years of America.
Daria stared at the TV and blinked. "Oh, my God," she said and looked at Jane. Tears had formed in her friend's eyes. The image of one toddler, who had red hair and resembled Quinn at that age, came to her mind. She closed her right eye and felt her own tears form.
On the tape, the preacher finished the story and said a prayer for the sermon, those on the prayer list and their trip to Washington.
The tape stopped suddenly in mid-prayer and Daria looked to see Jane push the remote buttons stopping the VCR and turning off the power to both it and the TV.
"It was just after eleven when we were at the mini-mart yesterday, Daria," Jane said quietly as tears ran down her cheeks.
"Why am we crying for strangers we've never even met when there are probably tens of millions dead from the bombs?" Jane asked and wiped her eyes. "I don't even know if Trent is still alive and you don't know about your family either and we're crying for strangers. Why are we crying?"
"We just made them real to us," Daria said and swallowed hard. "Whatever happened, I just hope that it was fast and painless for them. Especially those little children."
Jane covered her face with her hands and broke down. Daria walked back to the pantry and began folding the clothes they selected and packed them in the bookbags. She could hear Jane sobbing as she worked. Quietly, she took a deep breath and wiped the tears from her eyes.
Daria walked back to the office and sat the bookbags on the desk as Jane wiped her eyes and blew her nose. "Jane, when we leave, maybe we should take anything we can possibly use, and not just the clothes. All the food, for instance--"
"Especially the Ultra Cola," Jane interrupted her. "We can't abandon any caffeine to be neglected. That would just be wrong, evil and totally uncivilized."
Daria smiled at her and said, "Too bad we didn't have an IV set up for you to get your Ultra Cola that way."
"Is that so wrong? What can I say? I just need my caffeine." Jane then gave her a weak smile. "It's not working, Daria. I can't get them out of my mind."
Daria sighed. "Neither can I. But we can't do any more for them now except mourn and we've already done that. What we have now is a responsibility to ourselves. Now, as I was saying, we take all the non-perishable food we can, all the blankets and anything we need that isn't nailed down. Toilet paper, Kleenex, soap, towels, washcloths. Too bad this place didn't also have a food or soap pantry as well. There's so much health and hygiene items we need that they don't have. Especially medicines." She looked over Jane's head. "Didn't they have disposable diapers?"
"Is there something you haven't told me yet?" Jane asked, as a smile broke out on her face. "Did Trent give you a little 'gift'?"
"Lane, I still have my boots on and I do kick hard. Keep it up and you'll find that out personally. As I was getting ready to say, we also need bandages, not just the ones for little cuts, but big ones for really bad injuries, like they used on M*A*S*H. Until we get some, 'clean' disposable diapers will make a reasonable substitute."
Jane grimaced at the thought. "Would they even be sterile?"
Daria shook her head. "No. But if you don't have sterile bandages, then sanitary ones are your next goal. After that, just plain clean would have to do. Then after that, if you get injured, I'll be forced to use your dirty socks and underwear."
"As long as you don't use yours, Morgendorffer. I want a chance to survive." The two smiled at each other and Jane continued, "They had several packs of diapers, as well as rubbing alcohol and pain reliever that hasn't expired yet," Jane said.
"That's still just scratching the surface," Daria replied. "We vitally need potassium iodide, not to mention any good sport drinks, cold and allergy medicines, and anti-bacterial ointment."
"The sport drinks, medicines and ointment I understand, but why potassium io-whatever? What is it?"
Daria leaned against the office wall and said, "Potassium iodide. Basically, it's a salt used in radiation treatment. It protects the thyroid gland from radioactive iodine, especially in light of a recent nuclear attack. It also has uses in photography and in the making of cough syrups."
"How do you know this?"
Daria sighed and looked up. "I always believed that there was uranium in the drinking water at Highland when I lived there. I researched what I could, especially effective preventative treatments for radiation sickness." She then looked at Jane. "Given the closeness of Three Mile Island to Maryland, I'm surprised that potassium iodide wouldn't be commonplace here."
"Maybe it was when that accident happened. I wasn't around then and Mom and Dad never said anything about it." Jane stood up quickly. "Wait a minute. They have iodine here. Could we use that instead? Or would table salt help us out there?"
Daria shook her head. "Regular iodine is poisonous to consume and table salt doesn't have enough potassium iodide in it to help." She stretched and coughed briefly. "Then, there's our weapon situation."
Jane pulled the pistols out and laid them on the desk. "When you were asleep, I checked out how many bullets we have," she said. "We have half a box of .357-Magnum shells, plus two still in the pistol itself, while the .38-caliber has four shells period. We use them up and that's it. Oh, and we have one switchblade."
For several seconds there was silence, then Daria laughed hard and sat down on the couch beside Jane. "I said yesterday that a pistol would give us some security. I still believe that, but we need even more than that. More bullets for the pistols, a couple of shotguns and shells for them. Suppose that there are no emergency shelters or that there is no room in ones that exist. We'll be totally on our own." She sighed. "Most of the people we run into may be nice and helpful. I think what happened with those two yahoos and Carter was just bad luck and Murphy's Law. But if the government doesn't keep or restore somewhat normal order, then we'll end up meeting more men like them." She covered her eyes and sighed again. "We may not be quite so lucky next time."
Jane touched Daria's right shoulder gently and said, "Then we need to be extra careful. You watch my back and I'll watch yours."
Daria gave Jane a sideways glance. "As long as you watch my back and not my butt."
Jane smiled. "Spoilsport."
They laughed together.
Outside, Daria pushed the last box in the back seat and asked, "Is that everything? I wish I had made up a list before we came out here. We'll have to do that or we'll lose track of what we have."
"I think so, Daria. It's almost one. Let's make tracks." She got behind the wheel and Daria got in the passenger seat. She started the car and revved up the engine. Then she put the car in drive and accelerated out of the parking lot and back onto the road.
"You got the toilet paper, didn't you, Jane?"
"No, you did."
"No, I didn't. You were supposed to."
Jane slammed on the brakes and put the car into reverse. "Amiga," she said as she backed the car up to the church and parked it. "That's a dangerous thing to do. If I had to use leaves, I would become violent and anti-social."
"I see you've already used leaves before."
"Statistics show that sarcastic friends would be the first to die in such a rampage. I do not ever want to use leaves. See, there are three things that are vital to life itself. Caffeine, pizza and toilet paper. Everything else is just secondary."
Daria held up a canister of potato crisps. "These are pizza-flavored. I found them in a cabinet in the kitchen."
"Not good enough, Morgendorffer," Jane said and waggled her right index finger at her. "But they have my name on them. Hand them over."
Daria pulled them to her chest. "Do I know you?"
Jane smiled. "You're about to find out. I'll hold and protect them and the car while you go inside and get all the toilet paper."
Daria got out of the car. "There better be some left when I get back."
"I'll save you some crumbs, Daria."
It took Daria nearly two minutes to come back to the car with two plastic shopping bags filled with toilet paper. She tossed it in the back with the other supplies and took the canister from Jane. It was half-full with potato crisps and Jane simply grinned at her sloppily as she chewed on her food. Daria rolled her eyes and muttered, "You're hopeless, Jane."
Jane pulled back out on the road and drove back to the highway.
The atmosphere of the area seemed to change from the day before, Jane noticed. She saw that most of the houses they passed either seemed quickly evacuated or somewhat blocked off by vehicles or debris in the driveway. At no time did they see people at any of the houses.
Daria suddenly said, "Is it just me or does things seem...off out here?"
"I noticed that," Jane replied. "It wasn't like this yesterday when we came through."
Daria looked up at the sky. "The skies are gray and the look of those clouds isn't very good."
"That's not it. It feels like...we're being watched when we get near some of the houses."
"We probably are." Daria leaned back in the car seat. "Most of those who stayed at their houses are probably scared and seeing an unfamiliar car doesn't help the situation." She then looked out the back window and gasped. "We have a new problem, Jane."
"I don't see anything, Daria," Jane replied as she looked out the rearview mirror.
"'Anything' being the operative word here."
Jane looked again and muttered, "Oh, boy." Louder, she said, "Snow?"
"Try 'blizzard' and you'll be closer to getting a prize."
"Shit!" Jane sped up and asked, "Is it...could it be radioactive?"
Daria nodded. "It's possible. We have no way to tell." She laughed briefly and nervously. "Make that four things that are vital in life. Caffeine, pizza, toilet paper and Geiger counters."
"Maybe we should stop at the house up ahead," Jane said. "It's not blocked off and it doesn't look evacuated either. Maybe they'll shelter us until the snow passes."
Daria looked at the home carefully and said, "The front door looks like it's partially open. Maybe it's empty, but then again, maybe it's not. Might as well check it out."
Jane pulled into the driveway, parked and turned off the car. They got out, each with their hands on a weapon and carefully advanced on the porch. "I don't think anyone's here," she said quietly.
"We'll see," Daria replied and lightly knocked on a storm door.
"No one's answering," Jane said and squinted to see better through the window.
Daria looked at the approaching storm, shivered in her uncertainty and finally said, "We might as well check it out. It's better than nothing."
They slowly entered through the front door, with their pistols now drawn and cocked. They stood on what had once been a porch years before, but was now an entryway into the house. The sound of static came from a TV set in the living room. Daria saw a man as he sat on a recliner in front of the TV. "Hey!" she called out. "Mister!"
Jane looked around, lifted the pistol and moved closer to the recliner. She looked at the man and let out a deep sigh. "He can't hear you, Daria," she said softly and carefully released the pistol's hammer.
Daria did the same with her pistol and walked up to where Jane was. She saw the frozen, pain-filled expression on the man's face, his glassy-looking eyes and the right hand clawed at his chest. For a second, she froze in shock, then looked the scene over a little more. He was heavyset, appeared to be in his sixties and was dressed in a sweat suit. A bag of potato chips and a six pack of beer sat on a table at his side; one can was opened and apparently drunk from. His left hand held a remote control. "I'd say he died of a heart attack," she said. "Probably getting ready to watch a ball game when the bombs went off. He must have been alone when it happened."
"Pretty damn quick for a heart attack," Jane commented. "He never even dropped his remote."
"Sometimes they are. I know of one guy in Texas who just closed his eyes and died in his kitchen chair. Didn't even fall over."
Jane shivered at the thought of that and said, "I'm going to check out the rest of the house. Keep an eye on him."
"Oh? Do you expect him to go somewhere?"
Jane stopped and smacked her head. "O.K., smart ass, that didn't come out right. But the snow's almost here. If we're going to stay here awhile, then we'll have to get him out of the house or he'll be stinking within the next day or so." She left the room.
Daria moved away from the body and turned off the TV. A part of her wanted to bolt from the room and the other part wanted to toss his body outside. She felt ashamed over that thought, looked down and said, "I'm sorry about what happened to you, but your house will protect us. So I guess I thank you as well."
A minute later, Jane came back in the living room and put the Colt back in its holster. "Are you two having a good conversation?" she asked.
"I was just thanking him for...oh, never mind. What did you find?"
"He lived alone, but had a wife at one time. A couple of the rooms still had a woman's touch to them. She probably died sometime back." She motioned towards his body. "We might as well get him out of here."
"Where are we going to put him? Every place I think of seems so wrong. Just being here with him feels so wrong."
Jane put her hands on her hips and shook her head. "Yeah, I know. But it can't be helped. He's dead and we can't help him, so we have to help ourselves, like you said at the church. So, let's just put him outside on the back porch."
Daria pocketed the .38 and the two of them pulled the man onto the floor with the aid of the recliner's slipcover. His body was still partially rigid; the hand retained its claw-like position, and the legs stayed bent. The head lolled around slightly as the body was moved, but the eyes remained open. The girls drug him through the kitchen door and onto the back porch.
As they went back inside, Daria stopped and looked at the man's body. "This reminds me of that scene from the remake of Night of the Living Dead, when they drag the fat zombie outside." She looked around the yard quickly, shivered and turned away from the door.
"Yeah, but we're not dealing with zombies," Jane replied as she shut and locked the door. "He wasn't that fat either."
"He was heavy enough."
Jane looked at Daria and pulled the car keys out of her pocket. "I'm going to check out the garage and see if we can put the car in it. That way, if the snow is hot, then at least it won't get on the car."
"Good idea," Daria said and nodded. "I'll see about what there is to eat here." She stopped and blinked. "Jane, what we just said sounds so wrong on so many levels."
"This stuff won't help him anymore, Daria. He's dead, just as dead as all those church members are."
"It's just going to take a little getting used to." She laughed, lifted her glasses and eyepatch and rubbed her eyes. "So I guess we're looters now."
Jane nodded. "Something I heard in a movie once went like 'we're thieves and we're bad guys, that's exactly what we are.'" She held up the Magnum. "We'd better be damn tough ones. But our motives are better than others."
"Are you so sure of that?"
"Of course. We're dealing with our survival. We aren't going to hurt anybody who doesn't try to hurt us first. Others can't say that." She looked over the pistol. "I never shot anybody before yesterday. I know it's odd, but I can't say that his death bothers me at all. It was like stepping on a cockroach."
"I'm glad to hear you say that, Jane, because I still think of his wife and family alone in New Jersey, waiting for him to come home and be with them."
"They're better off without him. Hopefully, she thinks he died in Philadelphia. Then she can find a better guy to take care of her and her kids." She stepped out the front door.
Daria nodded and opened the freezer door, then smiled. There were three frozen pizzas inside, as well as French fries and ice cream. "Bingo," she said and pulled the pizza and fries out.
Ten minutes later, Jane came back inside and locked the door. "Hey, we're in luck!"
"Why's that, Jane?"
"There's an SUV in the garage, with a nearly full gas tank. I put all our stuff in it and locked up the garage." She sniffed the air. "You're fixing something, but I can't tell what it is yet."
"French fries," Daria said. "After they're done, then I'll bake us some frozen pizzas."
"Pizzas! What kind?"
"Pepperoni, combination and a spinach mushroom."
Jane made a face. "That last one doesn't sound too good, but I'll try it. Hey, it's pizza."
"I was going to fix all three anyway," Daria pointed out. "We may lose power at any time."
"This area may get its power from a nuke power plant. I'm fairly certain that Lawndale did as well."
"Yeah, and knowing that just comforts the hell out of me. Not only do we have to deal with fallout from nuke bombs, we may have to deal with more and more nuke waste when the power plant's reactor core finally melts down."
"So we'll glow in the dark, Morgendorffer." Jane laughed. "Admit it. Nuke power or not, you still enjoy having electricity, don't you? It makes life just a little easier. Besides, we could always be cooking our meals outside at an open pit. Imagine what fun that would be in the snow. We still may end up doing just that. Or we could be dead within the next week. Who knows?"
"Jane, what if our...what if Trent and my family are all dead?" Daria asked, her voice fearful. "What do we do then?"
Jane stopped, looked at Daria silently, then turned away. "I don't want to think about that," she said.
"But there's a possibility that--"
"I said I DON'T WANT TO THINK ABOUT THAT!" Jane yelled and glared at her. She closed her eyes and took several deep breaths. "I'm sorry, Daria, but I can't talk to you about that. Part of the reason I cried about those children from the church was because I also thought about Trent. He...he can't be dead. He's been the one relative who's always been there for me, even if he was asleep through most of it." She wiped her eyes. "He can't be dead. Your family can't be dead, either. They can't be. They just can't be. We just have to find all of them." She laid the front of her head against the freezer door. "We just have to find them."
Daria's face was red from Jane's sudden burst of emotion. "I'm sorry," she said quietly and moved behind her.. "I didn't mean to upset you."
Jane turned and put her head in Daria's shoulder and they wrapped their arms around each other. They stood there in silence for nearly five minutes, then broke the embrace to look at each other. Both of their faces were tear streaked. Jane looked away, cleared her throat and said, "I'm going to the bathroom. Be right back." She walked out of the kitchen.
Daria checked the time on the fries and wiped her eyes with her hands. She heard a spattering sound from outside and looked outside to see snow coming down heavy and wet.
After dinner, the two girls double checked the locks and kept off the lights except in the living room. In there, they stapled blankets over the windows and turned up the heat. But the real surprise came when Jane found several different firearms in a gun rack located inside a closet. She carried several into the living room to show Daria.
As Daria looked at the newfound guns, she also searched the TV channels for news, but there were no stations broadcasting, at least none that the TV could pick up. "Not bad, Jane," she said as she turned off the set. "It looks like we're covered when it comes to firearms."
Jane smiled. "We're better off, at least."
Daria picked up a double-barrel .12-gauge shotgun. "Kinda heavy to lug around," she said, "but I'll get used to it. The strap on it helps."
"What if it kicks?" Jane asked as she picked up a .22-caliber single shot rifle. "This might be closer to your speed."
"Nah. I kick, too, so it fits my personality. What about that bigger shotgun?"
"It's a .10-gauge." She looked it over. "I think it's an antique. It's certainly not new. There were only five or six shells for it upstairs."
"We can still use it, Jane, or trade it later on for something else we need. Oh, I almost forgot the radio." Daria laid the shotgun down and turned on a radio that she had found earlier. She searched for the same station they had listened to before. Suddenly, they heard the familiar voice of the president as he spoke to the nation, "...ask you to pray for our nation, to be patient in this time of trial and to help one another as best you can. It has been said that America shows its greatest strength in its times of adversity. So may this time be our time of greatest strength..." The station squealed and went out. Daria tried for nearly a half hour to get the station back and finally gave up.
"Damn!" she said and exhaled loudly. "The only thing we were able to find out was that the president is still alive."
"We still have a government," Jane said.
"That brings up my next question," Daria said. "Suppose we get to a shelter and they take our guns away from us? What do we do then? I don't plan on staying in a shelter the rest of my life. We'll have to leave some time and those weapons will still be needed in a lot of areas."
Jane thought on it for several seconds, lightly touched her nose and then said, "Maybe we shouldn't go to a shelter. My nose is just tender and not broken as far as I can tell and your eye looked like it was healing."
"We still need to check out shelters," Daria said, "to see if our families are there. Here's my idea. We stop at one of the shelters at Cumberland to get any food and more importantly, potassium iodide, they may give us. We still try to get a doctor to check us out to be safe. Maybe we can get more news than we've gotten so far. Now I doubt that Trent or my family will come that far. Maybe they'll go to Westminster or even Frederick or somewhere around there. Maybe even somewhere in south-eastern Pennsylvania, but I really don't know for sure. I know they won't go to Annapolis or the other side of Chesapeake Bay, however."
"Why not there?"
"Fallout from Washington."
"Before we leave here, we need to take anything of value that can help us survive."
The two sat on the couch and started making out lists. On the wall behind them, a clock struck ten in soft chime-like tones.
Outside on the road in front of the house, a car slowed in the raging snow. Inside sat three men in their late twenties or early thirties, and they looked at the house with interest on their faces. All three wore winter wear, except for gloves. The front passenger smacked his left palm with his fist and said, "I've been waiting for a chance to get that old bastard for getting all of us fired before Christmas. Now's our chance."
"What if he ain't alone?" the man in the backseat said. "I heard he had a daughter in Virginia. She and her family might be here with him now."
The driver pulled an automatic pistol out of his coat, looked at it and said, "It doesn't matter. We'll take care of his guests first so that he can watch them die. Then we'll finish him off." He pulled the car into the driveway slowly and parked.
The three men got out of the car and pulled hoods or hats onto their heads. The driver looked up at the sky, noticed that the snow tapered off to a just a few flakes here and there. He asked one man, "Bill, where's your pistol?"
The man called Bill smacked his fist into his palm again and did it several more times. "I don't need my pistol, John," he said. "I just want to beat old man Cord to death. Listen to him cry out each time I hit him. I want to make him beg me to stop."
"Have it with you, in case we need it to get in the house," John said. "After we get in, then you can get your jollies beating on Cord or on his daughter, if she's in there." He turned towards the third man. "How about you, Harry? You ready?"
The third man held up an axe and smiled. "I'm ready to get it on," he said and licked his lips.
John shuddered and turned away from him. "Nuts," he whispered and released his pistol's safety. "O.K., Harry, go around to the back door and wait. If they try to run out, stop them. I'll yell for you if we manage to get in the front door." As Harry moved towards the back, John looked at the house and muttered, "Paybacks are a real bitch, Cord." Then he said to Bill, "Let's get the bastard."
Inside the living room, Daria opened the .10 gauge shotgun's breach and looked down the barrel. "As far as I can tell, it's clean," she said.
"Is there any blockage?" Jane asked.
"No. Why is that important? Wouldn't the shot force anything out the end?"
Jane smiled and shook her head. "When I was eleven and at a...retreat or commune - I'm not sure which, an older kid used a shotgun as a crutch in the dirt." She shook her head again. "It was some dumb game to him. He kept pushing the barrel in the dirt and thought nothing of it. Until he shot it."
"The end of the barrel ripped apart and the shotgun backfired into his face."
"Ouch." Daria grimaced at the thought.
"He would've been king of the morons--had he survived. It was strange. Guns were so plentiful and common in that part of the country, that even the dumb ones knew better than to do that. But he did it anyway."
Daria stood up. "I'll go back to his room and look for a cleaning kit or cleaning supplies."
"Better wait until morning," Jane said and stopped her with her right hand. "The less lights we use tonight, the better off we'll be."
Harry ran to the front where John and Bill were several yards from the porch. "John! Bill! Wait a minute!"
John stopped and asked, "What is it?"
"I just found Cord's body on the back porch. He's dead!"
There was silence for several seconds, then Bill asked, "Did someone kill him?"
Harry shook his head. "I think he had a heart attack. What if it ain't his daughter inside? I don't think she'd leave his body like that. What if there are strangers in there?"
John blinked and looked at the house. After a few seconds, he said, "Cord had money, guns and a new SUV. We are taking them all. We go on in and take what we want anyway."
"I hope there's some girls in there," Bill said and smacked his palm. "I need someone to punch around awhile."
"Jane!" Daria said quickly and held up her right hand.
"What is it?"
"Someone's outside! I heard a voice. A man's voice."
Jane put a shell in the .10 gauge. "Remember what I said earlier. We have to be tough."
Daria picked up the .357 and both girls moved together to the entryway and stopped. "I don't feel tough," she said and shivered.
"Which would you rather be?" Jane asked and looked at her. "Scared, yet tough, or raped and beaten half to death? I'll choose tough and scared any day of the week."
"Point made, Lane."
"I feel cheated, though," Bill said. "I really wanted to give Cord a long, bad night."
"So did I," John said. "I wanted to shoot his kneecaps out." He looked at Harry. "I don't want to know what you had planned."
Harry kissed the axe blade and laughed.
"You heard that?" Daria asked in a stage whisper. "They wanted to kill that old man."
"Must have pissed them off sometime before...Saturday," Jane commented. "Let's go outside and try to diffuse this." She cocked the .10 gauge.
"Jane, they just might shoot or kill us."
Jane blinked and looked with determination at the front door. "Not yet they won't."
"How do you know?"
Jane then looked at Daria with a sad expression on her face. "They won't kill us until they either screw us till we're unhinged or...torture us till we're ready to die." She hefted the shotgun in her hands. "This is my way of saying 'No, you won't.' Put on your jacket. Hold the .357 under the jacket, but keep it cocked and ready to shoot. Don't let them see it yet. I have a plan. Let me do the talking and just stand there until I need you."
"How will I know when that is?" Daria asked as she put back on the jacket.
"You'll know. I'll shoot the first one who rushes at us. You go for the second one. We'll work it out from there." She turned on the porch light and stepped out on the porch, followed closely by Daria.
The men froze briefly at the sight of the two teen girls on the porch. John looked at the shotgun in Jane's hands and kept his pistol down. "Ladies, we came to check on Mr. Cord, but Harry found his body on the back porch."
"He was dead when we got here," Jane said. "We needed shelter from the snow."
"He was a friend of ours," John added, "and you two are obviously squatters on his property. If you leave now, we won't call the cops on you."
"Are you going to tell the cops why you planned to beat him to death?" Jane asked, a smirk on her face. "Why don't you go ahead and call them? Phone line didn't work the last time we checked it."
"You're a little bit of a smart ass, ain'tcha?" Bill said, smacked his palm with a fist and moved a few feet closer to the porch. "I'll cure you of that."
Jane suddenly lifted the shotgun barrel and aimed it at Bill's chest and he stopped. "I'd say the same to you, but you obviously aren't smart," she said.
Daria felt her right hand shake and held it to her belly to steady it.
John started to speak, but Bill cut him off with a chop of his right arm. "I never knew a bitch who could shoot a gun for shit!" He rushed at Jane.
Jane pulled the trigger and the force of the shot hit Bill in the chest and knocked him back into the yard.
Daria winced as she was deafened by the shotgun blast. The man with the pistol said something and lifted his weapon and she pushed the pistol she held out of her coat. Then she fired it once.
The bullet hit John in his belly and he doubled over with a cry of pain. At the same time, he pulled the trigger to his pistol and the bullet hit Jane's right arm just below her elbow. Daria heard her as she yelled out, but it sounded funny to her still shocked ears. Jane dropped the shotgun and gripped her arm where the bullet hit.
As the gunman collapsed face down in the yard, Daria turned to the third man who still held the axe in his hands as he froze his movements. "Normally, I would be merciful," she said as she cocked the pistol again. Her voice echoed as she spoke. "This isn't personal."
"NO! Please, don't shoot me!"
"If I said 'please, stop' during my rape, would you stop?" Daria shook her head. "I doubt it." She pulled the trigger and the shot hit him dead center in his chest. The man didn't cry out; he stared at the injury and he moaned as he fell onto his back. The axe remained in his hands and he closed his eyes.
"Dammit!" Jane said and groaned. Blood seeped out between her fingers and dripped onto the porch floor. She wavered on her feet and moved back against the brickwork near the front door.
Daria watched the men's bodies warily as she moved to Jane and asked, "How bad is it?"
"It's bleeding real good," she replied and sat down hard. "I think he only grazed me, but damn, it hurts!"
Daria pulled Jane's hand away, gave the injury a quick glance and said, "At least there isn't a bullet lodged in your arm. Thank God. Wait a second." She looked briefly at the men's bodies again and went back inside. She came back out with a washcloth and pulled Jane's hand off the wound. She folded the cloth quickly, applied it to the wound and wrapped a shoelace around the arm. She tied a knot directly over the wound and tightened it.
"Ow!" Jane said.
Jane looked at it and said, "It's still bleeding, Daria."
Daria held up a second shoelace. "I'm prepared for that," she said and wrapped it around her arm as well. She tied the second knot an inch from the other knot and glanced at the men's bodies once more. Then she looked at the bandage and said, "Looks like it's working. Let's get you inside."
"What about them?" Jane asked as Daria helped her to her feet and led her in.
"I'll come back out and get their guns and that axe. But we've been outside enough. We need to get you inside where it's warm. But I'll try to move their bodies when I can. I'm not exactly Superwoman here so I may not accomplish much. But I will try." She sat Jane on the couch and said, "Wait here. I'll be right back."
Daria went back outside and looked at Jane's blood on the porch floor. I'll have to wipe all that up, she thought as she picked up the shotgun. Then she moved out into the yard and was thankful that the snowfall stopped for the present. She grabbed the weapons and carried them inside the house. As she laid them on the living room floor, she looked at Jane, who looked pained and tired. "How are you holding up?" she asked.
"I've had better days."
Daria gave her a small smile. "I can imagine. I'm going to see if I can move their bodies."
Outside, Daria tried without success to pull the men by their arms. Instead, she settled for rolling their bodies towards a bush where they were at least out of sight of the road. She started to walk off, then as an afterthought, checked their pockets. The leader had extra shells for his pistol in his coat pockets and a wallet and keys, while the one Jane had shot had a small revolver in his pocket and the other had nothing except his wallet on him. She took all of it inside with her and laid them on a coffee table near Jane. "Any problems?" she asked.
Jane gave her a very weak smile. "My arm's numb below the bandage. I can't feel anything."
Daria frowned and moved up to her. "Uh, oh, I must have cut off your circulation." She quickly untied the shoelaces and said, "Hold that there while the circulation comes back. I have a little more to do and we'll see what else I can try."
She grabbed another washcloth, wet it down and went back out onto the porch. As she wiped Jane's blood off the concrete, she saw a snowflake land near her hand and looked up. The snow was back. She sighed, went back inside and locked the door.
Back inside the living room, Daria checked on Jane and removed the washcloth bandage. The wound bled again and Daria pressed down on it, then thought about it. "Outside of a pressure bandage, the only things I know that will help you is sewing you up or cauterizing you."
"O.K., then," Jane said. "Sew me up." Her forehead was now covered with sweat and she shivered slightly.
Daria blinked several times and looked at Jane with her mouth open. She covered her wounded friend with a comforter and said, "I've never done anything like that before. Not only that, but there's nothing here that we can do it with. We don't even have plastic gloves."
"Then, Daria, we'll have to make do with what we have. Set up what you think we'll need and let's get it done."
Daria got up from the couch and moved quickly. She stood a TV tray near Jane, got a soup bowl from the kitchen and hunted through the house and found string, sewing needles, a small pair of scissors, tweezers and a bottle of rubbing alcohol. Then she moved to Jane and uncovered her arm again.
Jane sighed and closed her eyes in anticipation.
"I...I can't do this," Daria said as she stopped and looked at the wound.
"You have to!" Jane said and looked at her quickly. "Neither of us can hold the washcloth on all the time and tying it off enough to stop the bleeding also makes my arm numb."
"There's no anesthetic, dammit! It's going to hurt like hell!"
Jane gave her a weak laugh and smiled briefly. "It already does, Daria. It already does. Please, remember what I said about us being 'damn tough bad guys'. It's time for us to live up to that statement."
Daria poured some rubbing alcohol in the bowl and laid several cut-off pieces of string, two needles, the tweezers and a small pair of scissors in it. "This is the wrong kind of string," she said quickly, her voice nervous. "I don't know how to suture. Shit, I could be infecting you big time here."
Jane still smiled. "I have faith in you. Besides, I'd rather you do this than cauterize me."
Daria turned to Jane and said, "Understand this. Nothing we are using here is sterile. There is no...sterile field to work within, plus the needles and string come from sewing gear that probably hasn't been used for years. You will have a scar from my work. I just don't want to mess you up or kill you."
Jane took her right hand and grabbed Daria by the chin. "I. Have. Faith. In. You. Just do it, please?"
There was several seconds of silence, then Daria cleared her throat, stood up and nodded. "I'm going to do my best imitation of a surgical scrub. Just hold that on for several more minutes. I'll be back to do this."
Slightly more than 10 minutes later, Daria returned, poured alcohol on another washcloth and had Jane bare her arm again. She quickly wiped the wound with the cloth and noticed Jane's grimace of pain. "Sorry about that," she said.
"De nada, mi amiga," Jane said. "De nada." She clenched her teeth tightly.
Daria pulled a needle from the bowl of alcohol, fed a string through the eye and tied it off. She moved her right eye closer to Jane's arm, took a deep breath and began. Jane looked away, bit her lower lip and closed her eyes tightly as the needle went into her arm.
For more than two minutes, Daria sewed Jane's wound, careful to pull the skin together, but not too tightly. She made no small talk and tried to keep calm and collected. She still shivered slightly as she worked and her chin quivered occasionally. Finally she took the scissors, cut off the string and worked on tying it off.
"Daria?" Jane asked and sighed loudly after the string was tied off. She glanced at Daria's handiwork. Her face was coated in perspiration and her hair was wet with it.
"What?" Daria said and wiped off the blood carefully and bit her lip when Jane grimaced in pain.
"Don't use my dirty underwear as a bandage, O.K.? I haven't changed since Friday night."
Daria blinked twice, looked at Jane and said, "TMI, Lane, TMI. I did not need to know that." She smiled and added, "I noticed that the guy had a washing machine and since there is still power and running water...maybe we can take care of that problem."
"Since when have you done laundry?"
"Since never. But I can learn and it beats scrubbing them on a rock." Daria inspected the sutured wound and applied a dab of anti-bacterial ointment. "Well, Jane, I have good news. You don't need a diaper, but if you happen to want one anyway while I wash your underwear, well, that's your business."
"Daria, let me know when you say something funny so I can laugh."
Daria smiled and applied a three-inch square bandage and taped it on the wound. She signed in relief and said to Jane in a monotone, "That'll be 300 bucks. Please pay the receptionist on your way out the door."
"You said that you were a painless doctor," Jane played along and complained. "That hurt the whole time you did it."
"It was painless," Daria replied. "I didn't hurt at all when I stitched you." She coughed. "If you want to cover up while I wash your clothes, feel free. I found an old granny gown I'll use while I wash my underwear." She sighed. "Pity we didn't find any panties at the church."
"Maybe we can trade some of that man's medicines for panties. They still have several months until they reach their expiration dates."
"Why don't you take a nap after you give me your clothes?" Daria said. "I'll wash and dry our stuff, then it'll be my turn to get a little rest." She laughed briefly and shook her head. "I should have had you lay down while I sewed you up. You could have fainted."
"I'm made of sturdier stuff than that." Jane stripped off her clothes and grimaced in pain when her shirt hit the bandage. When she was naked, she handed Daria the clothes and laid on the couch.
"I'm not," Daria said and spread a blanket over her. "You were calmer than I was. Go to sleep, Jane. I'm too worked up, so I'll be awake awhile. I'll take care of the laundry situation and you just rest."
Jane yawned and snuggled under the blanket. "Daria, one nice thing about a refugee shelter would be the chance for both of us to sleep at the same time."
"Maybe if we can find a secure one, with lockable rooms. Otherwise, another refugee could clean us out in no time. And I really don't want to kill another person if I can help it. It's getting to be a habit that I don't want."
Jane's response was to snore.
Daria smiled at her friend and lightly stroked her hair. "Sleep well, amiga," she said and lightly kissed Jane's forehead.
As Jane slept, Daria checked all the window and door locks once again. The only sounds she heard were the wet sound of the snow as it hit the window panes and the wind. Unless you counted, of course, the loud snores that came from the living room couch. She walked in the bathroom, quickly stripped and put on a flannel gown that reached to the floor. His wife must have been a tall woman, she thought and sighed. As long as I don't trip on it, I'll be happy.
Quietly, she gathered both her clothes and Jane's and took them to a small utility room near the back door. She laid the clothes on top of the washer and glanced outside briefly. In the dim light available, she saw the homeowner's body, which was lightly covered with snow. We'll have to bury him. We just can't leave him like that when we leave here. We owe him at least that much. We'll have to bury those idiots, too.
She turned away from the window and for the next hour, as their clothes were washed and dried, Daria sat on a kitchen chair and thought over the events of the previous couple of hours. She looked at both of her hands and felt her chin quiver. I've killed three men with these hands, she thought. What if I've killed Jane, too? What if I did something wrong? What if I've caused an infection?
The nervous tension of the encounter and her doctoring of Jane flowed out of her and she shook as she cried. As she cried, the snores continued and the snow still hit the window panes.
After awhile, Daria finished the laundry and laid the warm clothes on the kitchen table. She then walked to the bathroom's full-length mirror and removed the eyepatch. She saw from her reflection that she was still bloodshot, but her eyesight was normal at least. Damned tear ducts are still working overtime, too, she thought as she wiped her left eye. She pocketed the eyepatch and walked back to the living room.
She picked up the .357 and its holster and walked back to the bathroom. She stood in front of the mirror, holstered the pistol and tried to buckle it around her waist, but the tightest hole on the belt still left it loose. "I need to fix that," she said to herself. "I will never go unarmed again."
The sound of Jane's snores suddenly grew louder and Daria smiled. I have found a use for her dirty underwear. A pity that they're already washed and dried.
As sunrise came, Jane yawned and threw the covers off herself. Daria looked away as her naked friend stood and stretched. "Have you taken a shower, Daria?" she asked. "I know I need one."
"What have you been doing while I was healing?"
"You mean snoring, Lane. A couple of bears came around, but they heard you snore and it scared them off."
"I don't snore that bad."
Daria turned to Jane and looked up at her face. "I had to wear ear plugs and put on some 70s metal to counter the effects."
Jane laughed and shook her head. "You have to sleep sometime, Morgendorffer. I'll record the sounds of your snoring, or better yet, I'll record your farts for the historical record. In fact, remind me never to feed you beans." She looked closer at Daria's face and added, "I see you took off the eyepatch. How's your sight?"
"My eyesight is as normal as it ever was. I can't seem to shut off the tears, however."
"Maybe I should call you faucet-face, then. What all did you do while I was out?"
Daria raised her eyes and sighed. "To answer your question, I fixed this holster," she patted the holster on her waist, "because it was loose on me, then I searched the late Mr. Robert Cord's bedroom. I found cleaning kits for each of his guns. Not only that, but I found several unopened packs of toothbrushes. I also found plenty of sweats, T-shirts and underwear."
"The T-shirts I can see, but not the sweats and underwear."
Daria smiled and shrugged. "We may never find any panties out there, or at least have to wait months to get anymore. We can, however, sew up his underwear somewhat so that it'll stay up on us. The sweats can be worn as a part of layered clothing, especially on cold days or if we lose power while it's snowing. Now, to continue, I washed our clothes and inventoried the food in the house. He apparently liked to have a few weeks of supplies on hand. We're set for food that long, or at least as long as the power doesn't go off. I also found out that he liked his whiskey. He had Old Crow, Old Grandad and Old Potrero."
"So he liked the 'old' stuff, huh? I've heard of the first two, but what's Old Potrero?"
Daria walked to the kitchen and picked up a bottle. "It's a single malt rye whiskey, made in San Francisco. Expensive stuff, if the price tag on the bottle is right. It cost him ninety-three dollars. If we don't drink it ourselves, his stock should have a good trade value."
"I'm not so sure we should ever get drunk, Daria," Jane said. "Based on what we've experienced so far, I think we should remain mentally alert at all times. However, a shot every once in a while shouldn't hurt us. Now talking about this reminds me that I'm thirsty. Is there any cold water?"
"Hold on a second, Jane, I have just the drink for you." Daria opened the refrigerator and pulled out a glass of a kid's flavored punch.
Jane eyed the offered drink suspiciously and asked, "What's this?"
"It's cherry and I made it just for you. Drink up and I'll get you another glass of it."
Jane gulped down the drink and then coughed several times. "What the--? You put salt in it!"
Daria took the glass and filled it up again. "You're right, I did. You bled quite a bit last night and we don't have any sports drinks." She handed it to Jane. "This will help you to restore your fluids and electrolyte balance some. When you're done with that, Mr. Cord had some bananas and you need to eat at least one for the potassium in it. He didn't have any multivitamins or I'd have you take one of them too."
Jane gulped down the glass and grimaced at the salt taste. "Well, I can't argue with you," she said, "even if it tastes like crap. But I am going to shower. Do you have my clothes?"
Daria pointed at folded up pile of clothes on a chair, yawned and said, "I'm going to lay down awhile. In fact, I'm going to lay down on one of the beds. Couches get old real quick." She turned to leave the living room.
"Wait a minute, Daria. What about my bandage? Don't I have to do something to protect it before I shower?"
Daria stopped, turned back and stroked her chin in thought. She said, "You're right. I was going to check your wound out later, but let's take a look at it now instead. If things look O.K., then you can go ahead and shower with it uncovered and when you're done, I'll put a clean bandage on it." She moved to Jane's arm, gripped the bandage and pulled it off quickly.
"Sorry." Daria looked the wound over. It still looked pretty much as it did before it was bandaged. "No inflammation or other signs of infection. That's good." She looked at Jane's face. "Don't scrub on it. Just let the water run over it. I'll clean it after you're done in the bathroom, then cover it back up."
Jane grabbed her clothes and said, "I'll hurry," then left the room.
After Daria fixed up Jane's arm, she took the time to brush her teeth before she laid down. She was thankful for the extra toothbrushes.
After she worked on her teeth and gums, Daria closed her eyes and the brush hit her tongue. Suddenly, the memory of Larry Carter's mouth on hers came to the forefront of her mind; she quickly yanked the toothbrush out of her mouth and vomited into the sink.
As the nausea and dry heaves faded, she heard Jane move into the bathroom behind her. "Yuck! What happened?"
Daria took a deep breath and rinsed out her mouth three times. Then, she answered, "Got sick."
"Yeah, I can see that." Jane grimaced and covered her nose gently. "Something you ate or morning sickness?"
Daria didn't take the bait; she gripped the sink hard and took several more deep breaths. "Neither. I just...thought of that Carter...asshole's mouth on mine...his tongue in my mouth...and I blew chunks."
There was an awkward silence for several seconds, then Jane asked, "Do you need any help?"
"No. I'll clean up my mess and go on to bed. I'll be O.K."
"What brought that freak up in your mind, Daria?"
"I hit my tongue when I brushed my teeth." She rinsed her mouth out again, then dried her face on a towel. "For some reason, it brought it all back." She grimaced at the thought of it. "Brought it all back and made me sick."
"Are you bothered by what you did to him?"
"No." Daria turned to look at Jane. "I would do it again, but I've already killed three men! Before Saturday, my biggest worry was having to live in Lawndale. Now I'm wondering if I have to shoot people everywhere I go. I don't want to kill anyone else! I don't like it!"
"I'd be worried about you if you did like it, Daria." Jane put her right hand on her friend's shoulder. "It's a whole new world out there, Morgendorffer. We don't have to like it, we just have to deal with it."
"I want to go back to the old world," Daria said and laid her face in Jane's right shoulder. "I just want to be home again."
"When the snow lets up, we'll do what we can." Jane lightly patted her back. "Why don't you go to bed? Get some rest. I'll fix us some dinner for when you get up."
When Daria woke up later, she got out of bed, stretched and shuffled into the living room. She found that Jane had cleaned and oiled each of the weapons, which were laid out side by side on the floor near the couch. "You know," she said, "for two people who started out unarmed, we've seemed to gain a lot of weapons in two days."
"What did you say the man's name was?" Jane asked from the floor where she wiped the .10-gauge down with a cloth. "Robert Cord?" Daria nodded. "Well, we have him to thank for the bulk of this. He apparently loved hunting, or at least he did years ago. The good news is that we now have several boxes of .38 shells, but he didn't have a .38 pistol. He did have a .357-Magnum though, like Carter did. It was loaded with .38 shells."
"Interchangeable," Daria said and nodded. "That's good. But I don't think a .357 is a hunting gun."
"It's not, Daria, at least I don't think it is. I don't think any pistol is. Given that those men were after him, I'd say he had it for personal protection." She shrugged. "However, there's probably some people who do hunt with them. I'd say that Cord's probably had problems with those freaks in the past. Now, we also have several boxes of .12 gauge shells and a whole case of .22-caliber shells." Jane pointed at a wooden case near the recliner. "It was pretty damned heavy, but will come in handy. Now the other rifle was a .30-06. I've never shot one before, but there are five boxes of shells for it. I wonder if it kicks?"
Daria shrugged. "I'll try it out when it stops snowing," she said. "What about Mr. Cord's other pistol?"
"It's a .22-caliber, and shaped like a Derringer, but double-barreled and slightly larger. Looks like a lady's gun." She stood up and stretched. "I found some TV dinners in the freezer, so let's heat 'em up and eat."
Jane set the dinners on the kitchen table and said, "When I laid down earlier, I thought of some things."
"How can you think with all that snoring?"
"Hush, you," Jane said. "Seriously, we need to critique our actions last night."
Daria handed her friend an Ultra Cola and opened one for herself. As she sat down, she asked, "Oh? Did we make some mistakes?"
"Several. To be fair, I made two bad ones. First off, we knew that those guys were up to no good. We should have simply stepped out and blew them away, instead of talking to them." She picked up a piece of chicken and bit off a portion.
"What about giving them a chance to run off?"
Jane swallowed, laughed and shook her head. "You're funny, Daria. I like that one. Think about this now. Three strong and armed men, worked up and determined to beat and kill an old man and his family, show up here. Instead, they find the man already dead and now there are two armed teen girls in the house. Suppose the girls run them off with threats. What would they do next?"
"I see your point," Daria said, took a bite of a turkey dinner and nodded as she ate. "They'd come back."
"Maybe with friends. Can you imagine running off six to ten armed men who have a different goal in mind now? Within a half hour, they'd overrun us and...we'd be lucky to die quick." Jane wrapped her arms around herself and shuddered. "Promise me something."
"If we do get overrun and I get captured, but you can get away, kill me first."
"Dammit, I'm serious! I do not want to spend the last hours or days of my life being passed around and used like that. I don't want to kill myself, either." She gave Daria a weak smile. "I would do the same for you, amiga."
"But killing you..."
"...would be a mercy and an act of love. Please, Daria."
Daria blinked, took off her glasses and wiped her left eye again. "O.K. I'll do it, but we'll never be in that boat." She put back on her glasses and stared in Jane's face. "We'll watch each other's backs and protect each other."
"Thank you, Daria. You don't know what that means to me."
"What was your second point?"
Jane gave a brief laugh and said, "I should have went outside with the double-barreled .12-gauge. I was so excited that I didn't think about being unloaded until I actually was."
"I was there and armed as well."
"That brings me to your mistake."
"Do go on, Jane," Daria said dryly.
"Why did you even talk to that one guy? We'd already started shooting, so you should have just turned to him and shot him. If he had a gun instead of that axe, he could have shot you while you were speaking."
"If he had a gun I would have just shot him," Daria said. "I don't know why I talked to him."
"As long as we learn from our mistakes and not repeat them, we'll stay alive and healthy." Jane raised her bottle and looked at it with a smile. "You know what?"
"I don't like TV dinners much, but talking with you makes it taste better."
"I bet you say that to all the cynics."
The days passed slowly for Daria and Jane as the snow continued. They searched the house room by room, prepared food and packed items for either their own use later or for trade for needed things.
On Thursday morning, both girls were up and after breakfast, sat in the living room. Jane had found a sketch pad and some pencils and amused herself with them on the couch as Daria settled down on the floor beside the large stereo radio set up in an entertainment center.
Daria slowly tuned the radio as Jane sketched her. Suddenly, the device boomed to life, as music filled the room. Both girls jumped in fright and Daria quickly turned the volume down as she said, "Sorry. I didn't realize that I had it that loud."
"It's a good thing I'm already used to sudden loud noises," Jane said and settled back into the chair. "Sounds like Led Zeppelin."
"You're right. Kashmir. I find it odd that there's music on, though, given the situation."
"At least it's not country," Jane said and squinted at her work. She glanced at Daria, then back at her paper, then back at Daria. "Damn." She erased a small part and re-drew over it.
As the song ended, the disc jockey came back on. "That was Led Zeppelin, with Kashmir, and you're listening to Dr. Neon on Pirate 97.1. If you just tuned in, you have not reached a normal commercial top 10 or top 20 radio station or one of the talk shit stations..."
"Whoa," Jane said and she and Daria looked at each other with raised eyebrows.
"...you have found FREE RADIO," which was echoed as it was spoken. "If my signal seems to waver a little, please keep in mind that not only is the atmosphere slightly off, I'm using multiple transmitters to keep the FCC Nazis off my ass. That is, if they're still out there working. I'll operate as if they are. I've been doing this for the last fifteen years, so I know what I'm doing.
"For those of you who slept through the events of Saturday, here's the rundown. We're at war, or at least I think we are. Details are kind of sketchy and it's hard to track down any government authority who will talk to me. I've had to lie to those I did talk to, or promise anonymity to those who knew of my 'pirate' status. I'll do my best and tell you what I know.
"I have been in touch with the Forecast Channel, which is still operating, though not back on the air in this part of the country yet. According to an unnamed meteorologist, the wind for this section of...let's just say the state of Virginia/Maryland, will continue to come out of the southwest for the next three days. The snow we've been getting is not some nuclear aberration, but a simple Spring storm. It is still April out there, folks. Snowstorms still do happen this time of the year, you know. The snow will stop sometime Friday and temperatures will go back up to the fifties.
"That doesn't diminish the threat of radioactive fallout, however. If you can hear me and are between north-northeast and due east of Washington D.C. and Philadelphia and to the direct north of Norfolk, get out of the area. The same advice applies if you are within twenty miles of those cities in any direction. Annapolis, Baltimore and Wilmington, Delaware and their suburbs are all under evacuation orders. Any snow falling in those areas will be radioactive, though it has had the effect of putting out many fires started by the bombings. Rescue centers are set up or are being set up for evacuees. Check with each town you get to for information on rescue centers.
"I don't know for sure what cities have been destroyed, outside the three I mentioned earlier. Pittsburgh and Jacksonville appear to be certain, as does St. Louis. New York City was bombed, but reports I've gotten have been that the most severe damage is confined to the Bronx and was not bad as that suffered as in other cities. Not that it really matters much. A nuke still devastates an area. Other reports I've gotten have said that there have been no cities bombed west of St. Louis. I don't know how accurate these reports are, though.
"That doesn't mean that this country hasn't been hurt. I can't even begin to estimate the dead, but the number is certain to be at least ten million people. Probably many millions more in the weeks to come."
"My God," Jane whispered and Daria closed her eyes and shook her head.
"That doesn't even count the wounded." Suddenly there was a boom in the background sounds and Dr. Neon yelled out, "Oh, oh. It's the Nazis, folks." The theme music from Hogan's Heroes played as he said, "It looks like they're still on the job, after all. I'm going off the air and am escaping to my backup facilities. When you hear the commercial for Roly-Poly Jock Itch Powder, you'll know I'm back on the air. Until then, if you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with. But not if you're with the family dog. That's just gross."
Then the sounds of a man on the run and a slammed door could be heard, followed by a commanding voice that yelled, "Where is he?" Another voice said, "Captain, he's booby-trapped his equipment!" "Shit! Everyone get out! Call in the bomb squad! Out! Out! Out!" The station finally went silent and Daria turned the radio off.
"That was weird," she said.
"What do you think about what he said?" Jane asked. "All the deaths and the radioactivity?"
"The wind has mostly been out of the southwest since last Wednesday," Daria said. "Remember we noticed it when we left school and went home. I nearly lost some of my homework."
"What I remember is your skirt blowing up," Jane said as she sketched a little more. She looked back up at Daria, then sketched some more. "You would have thought that you had no panties on the way you acted. Admit it, Daria. You were really just upset that Trent wasn't there to see your 'religious' underwear."
"What drug are you smoking, Lane?" Daria asked. "And what the hell is 'religious' underwear?"
"'Holy' panties, Morgendorffer." Jane smiled. "Showing your goodies to the world. More specifically, to Trent."
Daria stood up and smiled at Jane. "I'll be right back, Jane. You wait right there."
"Where are you going?"
"There's a nice hammer under the sink. I'm going to introduce you to it, personally." She walked into the kitchen.
Jane hopped off the couch, laughed and said, "I'll be in the bathroom awhile." She ran out of the living room.
Daria came back in the living room, a ball peen hammer in her right hand, and a smile on her face. She stopped outside the bathroom door and said, "Let me in, Jane."
"I'm not decent."
"Tell me something I don't know."
"Do you think we should chance going outside in the snow?"
The question caught Daria off guard. She let the hammer hang down at her side and sighed. Then she leaned against the wall and said, "I don't know."
Jane opened the bathroom door and stood in the doorway. "As much as I appreciate having shelter here, we need to get moving again. I...I really miss seeing Trent."
Daria looked at her and nodded. "I have an very strong desire to hug Quinn as if my life depended on it." She laughed briefly and smiled. "I want to hug her and never let go."
"What do you think about the deaths?"
"Jane, I've tried to think the numbers out in my mind. Each time it scares me. My guess is that up to twenty million has died and up to thirty million more will die by the end of the year. This isn't based on any knowledge or anything; it's just a...gut feeling."
"Your gut feeling scares the hell out of me, Daria."
"Try this one on for size. The fallout exposure will probably cause reduced immunity in the affected population. A lack of safe, clean food and water, as well as less vitamins and less minerals added to that could cause, oh, let's say a flu epidemic. That wouldn't just affect the exposed population, but anyone who ends up exposed to the flu virus. I can't even begin to guess the effect radiation would have on such a virus. Plus keep in mind that the medical facilities in place as of Saturday are all overwhelmed with people. Those facilities not overwhelmed will probably get low on supplies as emergency teams try to get a handle on this."
"Forget I asked, O.K.?"
"One more thing, Jane. I don't know this for certain, but I'm betting that people too far gone to help will be...put to sleep, euthanized. This doesn't even cover the burial of the dead. Especially the ones just outside this house."
"No more, Daria. Please."
"Sorry, Jane." She smiled and said, "Let's take a look at your arm. Maybe I can take your stitches out."
"I hope so. It itches." She pulled off the bandage and moved to the bathroom's mirror lights and let Daria look at it.
"Not yet. You're healing and you have no infection. Maybe I'll remove them tomorrow. Your doctor did a professional job, by the way, if I do say so myself."
"My doctor is biased."
"I prefer the words 'honest' and 'modest'."
"'Full of bull' is more like it. Look at that hammer in your hand. You were actually going to beat your patient."
Daria smiled at her. "Diarrhea of the mouth is curable by repeated blows to the head, or so the theory goes. It's up to me to test that theory."
"I'll shut up for now," Jane said as Daria applied more antibiotic salve and a bandage. "That's a less painful cure than yours."
"My cure's more certain."
They walked back into the living room. Jane sighed and said, "I have an idea. If the snow stops tomorrow and melts off, we'll try out that .30-06. It wouldn't hurt to see how it feels and we have plenty of shells for it. Then maybe we can leave later on that day or on Saturday. Head on to a shelter."
Daria nodded. "Sounds good to me." She looked at Jane. "You do realize that we just can't leave those bodies out there like that, don't you? We'll have to bury them."
"How can we dig four graves? I'm not sure I can even dig, and you're neither that energetic, nor strong."
"We'll, or I'll, have to dig shallow graves. I don't really want to do it, but if I don't, it'll eat at me."
The snow stopped later that afternoon and the sun came out for the first time since Saturday. Daria and Jane looked outside from the windows. The snow already melted some.
"Well, Daria, one thing's for sure. With the ground wet, it'll be easy to dig holes."
On the next morning, Daria dug in the wet ground of the back yard. Sure enough, the ground was easy to dig into, but her arms, boots and jeans were covered with mud as she finished.
"You know, Daria, if you ever wanted to get into mud wrestling..." Jane started to say.
"Watch it, Jane. The more experience I get at this, the easier it'll be to hide your body." She wiped sweat off her forehead on the back of her left forearm. From her expression, she also didn't realize that she had rubbed mud on her forehead.
Jane laughed and looked down. "Let's take care of Mr. Cord and see what we can do about the other three."
It took the girls a few minutes to move the old man's body to the grave. Daria covered his face with the slipcover and stood aside as Jane grabbed the shovel and moved the dirt over his body.
When the body was finally covered, Daria said, "I'm not much on eulogies, and I didn't know you. Maybe you were a real jerk while you were alive. It doesn't matter. You helped us and you're still helping us. Thank you. May you rest in peace."
"Rest in peace," Jane said softly and they walked up to the front yard.
They stopped at the bodies of the three men they killed Sunday night. Daria sat on the porch and said, "I don't think I can dig another grave. Digging the first one was more work than I expected."
"We can burn them."
Daria wasn't sure if Jane was joking or not. "No, we can't. Let's just scoop some dirt over them. It's not like we owe them anything more."
"We don't even owe them that."
Daria stood up and took the shovel from Jane. "I know." She started scooping dirt up and tossing it on the bodies. "But this will give me some peace."
They finished at about sundown and Jane looked at Daria. "You'd make a sexy mud wrestler, Daria. Just make sure you show your boobs to all the guys when you do."
Daria sighed and looked at Jane as if she were an alien from Mars. "You're hopeless, Lane. I'm too tired to bury you or even use the shovel on you. Let's get inside. I'll eat, drink some of my home-made sports drink, clean up, and then I'll kill you."
Jane turned to look at the pile of earth that covered the men and most of the shrub they were next to. "We didn't say anything over their grave."
"O.K.," Daria said and turned around. "Screw you. Good riddance. May you do more in your deaths than you did in your lives."
Jane stared at Daria and laughed. "What are you going to say over my grave, amiga?"
"Here lies Jane Lane. Killed by her best friend, 'and there was much rejoicing. Yay.'"
"You're exhausted and hallucinating. Let's go inside."
The next morning, Daria and Jane went outside behind the garage at the side of a slight hill. Daria held the .30-06 in her hands as Jane hammered the cardboard target on the utility pole. Then the tall girl jogged back to her friend and smiled at her.
"Are you sure you want to be first?" Jane asked, a smile on her face.
"Why do you keep asking me that?" Daria asked back and stepped off the porch. "The .357 had a slight kick to it. This will be nothing. Don't worry about it."
"O.K., if you say so." Jane smiled at her and watched as she positioned the rifle stock in her right shoulder and looked down the sights. "Don't miss!" she yelled and laughed.
"Be quiet, Jane," Daria said and pulled the trigger. The rifle boomed, lifted slightly and kicked back hard into the diminutive teen's shoulder. She lost her balance and fell onto her butt right in the mud. As she tried to get up, she fell back down and this time, slid a foot down the hill. She looked at her situation while trying to keep the rifle off the ground. "Dammit!"
Jane shook her head and held in her laughs. "I see that you really do like mud wrestling."
"I'm still armed, Jane! Be quiet and help me up."
Jane took the rifle and propped it up against the garage. Then she reached down and grabbed Daria's outstretched hand. She lost her balance as well, however, and fell right onto Daria, whose back was now into the mud and she slid a little more down the hill.
Daria, who was now face to chest with Jane, said, "O.K., Jane, you can get off of me now."
Jane lifted her chest off Daria's face, smiled down at her friend and said, "Gee, Daria, if you really wanted me on top of you like that, you should have said something earlier. It's kind of cold out here with the mud and all. We could have done this inside and stayed reasonably warm."
"You'll think cold, if you don't get your body off of me! I'll bury you neck deep in this shit!"
Jane pulled herself to her feet and grabbed onto a elm tree branch for support. Then she grabbed Daria's hand again and pulled her up. "Ow! That hurt my arm!" She released Daria and gripped her bandaged spot briefly.
Daria looked down at herself in disgust, then at Jane. "You knew the rifle would kick me like that, didn't you?"
Jane helped her back up the hill. "I suspected it would."
"I need to take a shower and wash all my clothes. I feel filthy."
Jane moved away from her, smiled and said, "We could always shower together, since you wanted me on top of you. We'd save on water that way."
For the next couple of minutes, Jane ran through the back yard as Daria chased her, the rifle held in her hands like a club.
After the two calmed down and went back inside, the wind blew through the area. The target on the utility pole swayed slightly, but mostly stayed still. The center of it had a hole a couple of inches wide and a small chunk of wood was missing from the pole.
(To be continued...)
Author's Notes: This section is chapters five through nine of Apocalyptic Daria, as it was originally posted on the various message boards and ff.net
Thanks once again to Brother Grimace and WacoKid, who had multiple suggestions and ideas.
Thanks also to The Angst Guy (Sorry I didn't thank you in Part 1, dude - I owe you an Ale-8-1, whenever we meet), vlademir1, E. A. Smith, Robin Sena, Prince Charon, Richard Lobinske, NightGoblyn, smk, Staren, echopapa, Gouka Ryuu, Caira, MrMagnum, Mike Xeno, Ranger Thorne, Steven Galloway, and psychotol for their comments as I posted these chapters on the PPMB.
For comments for these chapters on the SFMB, thanks to Malevolent Turtle and Dervish, plus, on ff.net, thanks to rachor and cmanuk.
Finally, thanks again to CINCGREEN, whose review comments did guide me in my editing - somewhat.