How Deep it Goes


"What is the meaning with our lives, what is the meaning of the existence of the living beings on the whole? To be able to answer these questions is to be religious. You ask: 'Is there any meaning in asking the question?' I answer: 'He who perceives his own life, and the lives of his fellow human beings as meaningless is not only unhappy; he is barely capable of living.' "

-Albert Einstein

Those of you who have read my previous stories may be in for a surprise. This story has practically no resemblance to my previous work whatsoever (exept maybe mine grammar and speling). My previous stories are script based - this is prose. In my previous stories I tried to stay as close to the real Daria episodes as I possibly could - here I'll throw the characters into a situation we can never expect to see on MTV. My previous stories have been pure comedy - the idea of this story is to be slightly more thoughtful. The plot is actually one that I've had in the back of my head for quite some time... Why I chose to do it now is anyone's guess. I don't even know myself. I do know I first started to think about this story the after the first time I saw "The Misery Chick" (that is long before I started to write fan fiction). I immediately noticed that it was an episode designed "to make you think", but it really didn't bring up anything I hadn't already thought of. I however hope that after you've read through this story you will have found at least one thing you hadn't thought of before. Oh, yeah - one more thing. I'll start studying again in February, and that means: No more time for fan fiction. This may be my last fic for a long time. (And there was much rejoicing.)

In this story I discuss among other things God and religion(s). If you feel uncomfortable around subjects like these (or think that "This guy might try to convert me/ruin my faith.") please feel free to read something else since you probably won't like this story. I'm not twisting your arm to make you read it, and all flames I receive because you didn't like what I had to say will be promptly deleted. You have been warned...

Okay. Now that that's over with. Let's just get to the story...


Chapter 1: The letter

"He who does not see the emptiness of life must be very empty himself. Everybody sees it though, except for the youngsters who are completely caught up in the noise of their amusements and with thoughts of the future. But deprive them of their amusements and one shall get to see them become parched with tedium! They then feel their nothingness without understanding it, because he is truly unhappy who lives in unbearable melancholy as soon as he is forced to see himself and lacks the opportunity to distract himself."

-Blaise Pascal

"Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun? One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose. The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits. All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again."


"If you want a job where you get to meet only nice people - become a pathologist."

-Daniel Suni

Daria just stood, staring out the window of her room. The sky was grey as ashes, and the wind forced the rain toward her window almost horizontally. Her face betrayed no emotion whatsoever, but in this case looks were indeed deceiving. She glanced at the unopened letter lying on her bed. Had she known that something like that was waiting in the mailbox, she would have let someone else get the mail. That would have postponed this.

She looked back out the window that was barely transparent because of the immense amounts of rain, at the trees bowing deeply toward the house under the strain from the wind. She listened closely to the wind, as it howled when it encountered the Morgendorffer residence, and was forced to change its path. At its most intensive peaks the howling sounded almost like a cry - a desperate cry for help. A cold shiver went down Daria's spine at this thought, but in her mind she repeated to herself that "This is just a storm - nothing more, nothing less." and to her slight surprise that actually helped. They said these were the remains of a hurricane named "Dorian". It sounded slightly like Daria, and she seemed to remember actually having been called this by Mr. O'Neill, a couple of times. Right now she didn't have a problem with that, as the weather just happened to be a perfect match to her mood.

She glanced back at the letter. Suddenly she was overwhelmed with an urge to just throw it away - to spare her from what she suspected it contained... but no. She couldn't do it. She had to open it. She had to taste all of the bitter contents inside, and she knew it. She sat down on the bed, picked up the letter and read the address for at least the fiftieth time.

Ms. Daria Morgendorffer
1111 Glen Oaks Lane

There was nothing special with the address as such - it was the handwriting. As soon as her eyes had caught a glimpse of the letter she had immediately recognised the always equally flawless handwriting of the most ambitious student of Lawndale High - Jodie Landon. Why? WHY had she sent her this letter? Well, actually Daria had a hunch - and that was also the reason she was so reluctant to open it. She took another look at the handwriting. She knew that Jodie easily could have contacted her through e-mail, but for some reason had chosen to employ the slower services of the US postal office instead. Perhaps that was one of the reasons... timing. Jodie hadn't wanted her to have this too soon. She picked up a ruler and opened the envelope. This was it. D-day. The hour of judgement. She emptied the contents of the envelope onto the bed and looked at it. It was several pages written with the same perfect handwriting and an audio tape. Daria picked up the pages but she couldn't bring herself to read them - not yet. Instead she closed her eyes and leaned back toward the comfortably padded wall and thought of the day it all started...

It had been about a month ago on a Friday. The previous week had been unusually intense. They had had tests and exams in almost every conceivable subject. Especially the math test had been very hard, and Daria still remembered Jane's jeremiads after that one, as well as her relief later on when she found out she had actually passed. It was at the very end of this hectic week that Jodie had unexpectedly approached Daria in the hallway of Lawndale High, in one of the rare moments when she hadn't been together with Jane.

As if trying to stall the process of this flashback, Daria tried to remember where Jane had been at the moment, but despite several minutes of effort she couldn't, and finally decided that she had probably been in the bathroom or someplace equally banal.

At the time Daria hadn't paid much attention to the fact that Jodie had come to her when she was alone, but later she had realised that it was probably intentional, and that Jodie actually had been waiting for an opportunity to speak to Daria alone...


-"Hi, Daria. Can I talk to you for a minute?" she asked with her usual polite businesslike tone of voice.
Daria didn't quite feel like talking and decided to say something that would put Jodie off a bit.
-"Let me check my calendar... Well, okay. As long as it's not more that a minute, and it's not about extracurricular activities."
The last part Daria had added because Jodie was frequently trying to get students to sign up for extracurricular activities, and Daria - mostly because of her intelligence - was a frequent target for these recruiting campaigns. Jodie was involved up to her ears into almost every conceivable activity that the school arranged, and she would probably have dragged Daria into the same position, were it not for the fact that Daria responded with the same complete lack of enthusiasm to everything that did not involve an opportunity to make fun of the system - a system Jodie almost religiously respected, by the way. Considering all of this, Daria had been quite surprised at Jodie's response. Instead of displaying any irritation over Daria's quip, she had just sighed deeply and lowered her eyes, and gazed at Daria's large boots. She had just stood like that for several seconds.
-"Can I talk to you about something?" she finally said, her voice almost pleading.
This kind of behaviour was extremely unlike Jodie, and although Daria was clearly not what one would call a "people person" and no master in picking up on the fine nuances of facial expressions and tones of voice, it would have been impossible to miss the "something is wrong - big time"-message that was written all over Jodie. Daria didn't consider Jodie a close friend, but despite her annoying efforts to get Daria to engage herself more in her school, Jodie was still one of the less bothersome of Daria's classmates and there was no way Daria could turn down a plea like this - at least not without being blunt and rude to the extreme. Daria had no problem with putting off people that annoyed her, but she was not insensitive, and found no pleasure whatsoever in hurting people's feelings just for the sake of it.
-"Umm... Sure. What do you want to talk about?"
-"Could we go someplace more private?" Jodie looked around the hallway as if to focus Daria's attention to all the people who were seemingly randomly strolling around.
-"Well, we have a free period before science... I guess we could go to the library." Daria replied with aroused curiosity (that she would have denied if confronted with.)

For these reasons she found herself only moments later in the school's otherwise empty library together with Jodie. The library was completely deserted as usual, and was the ultimate place for privacy. They sat down at a table, and despite the situation Daria had to fight the reflex to pick up a book from her backpack and start reading.
-"Well?" She gently inquired.
Jodie seemed a bit nervous, as if she almost regretted coming to Daria in the first place. Daria couldn't be sure of this, though.
-"I've been thinking..." she slowly started, then stopped and looked like she was looking for the proper words, with which to continue. "...about what we do..."
Daria felt even more curious, but she said nothing. She figured that it was best to let Jodie get, whatever it was, off her chest at her own terms.
-"I guess... what I want to ask you is: Why do you put all the effort you do into your schoolwork?"
If Daria hadn't had a lot of practice in the field of not betraying emotions, and had also acquired the poker face of a dead horse her jaw would have dropped slack from the surprise. Now she just raised her eyebrows a bit. After several seconds of not being able to think of anything to say to this highly unexpected question she finally replied:
-"I just want to ask you: Why do you put effort into your schoolwork? What is your motivation? What makes you care?"
Daria's thoughts rushed away like an express train. They weren't so much about the question(s) Jodie had asked her as they were about Jodie's reasons for asking them. Jodie of all people should be the one capable of answering questions like that. She was the Queen of Achievers in this place. She was the one who was always on the move, always involved, always pushing forward. She was the one who was most likely to be elected valedictorian... Again several seconds went by until Daria realised an answer was expected from her.
-"Well, I guess the motivation comes from the knowledge that a third rate college might be as bad a place as Lawndale High..." she finally answered in her typical dry, deadpan voice.

Cynicism, had Daria discovered, was a great way to cope. It was a lifestyle that suited Daria perfectly, and everything in her life was built around this, creating a whole that was as well co-ordinated as ever one of her sister's outfits. Cynicism is basically founded on always seeing things from their negative aspect - and there always is one. Most people do not realise the benefits of such a worldview, and people like this would usually view Daria as odd and uncomfortable - a dark cloud on an otherwise clear sky, if you want to. Daria herself knew very well why she had begun to walk the path of cynicism. It was a wall that allowed her to isolate herself from people she wanted to isolate herself from. It was a weapon that let her fire volleys of murderous criticism at things she resented and despised. Cynicism allowed you to say things, and express opinions without exposing yourself. It was a castle of negativism with cannons of intellect on the coping, and a moat of apathy surrounding it. It could also - in the right company of people that shared her bleak view of life - be a strong source of understanding and synergy, and in those cases people could even think of her as humorous, so the castle had a drawbridge too... That understanding had gotten her at least one strong friendship. Cynicism was the way of life for people who had been through so much deception, so many broken promises, and seen so many confidences turn to ashes that they had slowly come to think of human relationships as warfare, where you made allies as well as enemies, and the key to survival was recognising the latter as soon as possible. This lifestyle had become so natural for Daria (especially through interaction with her sister) over the years that she didn't even have to think to say something cynical anymore. It came automatically - so also in this case.

Jodie sighed. This was obviously not the answer she had hoped for, but she didn't comment this any further - she knew Daria well enough to expect this.
-"And why do you want to go to college?"
Daria's amazement continued to grow. It almost seemed Jodie was teasing her with her questions, but deep down she felt that wasn't it. This time she was faster with her response, though.
-"To get a job that doesn't involve flipping burgers or waiting tables... and preferably one that doesn't involve people." The last thing she added with just a hint of a smile.
Jodie smiled a tired smile. She was aware of Daria's antisocial tendencies.
-"I'm afraid you're out of luck on that second objective... All jobs are fuelled by demand - and without people, no demand."
-"I think you've just discovered the reason why work will always suck."
-"So if work always sucks, what's the difference between flipping burgers and... doing whatever you want to do?"
-"More ergonomic working position, and about thirty bucks per hour."
-"That's it?" Jodie sounded almost disappointed.
At this point Daria's curiosity really started to get to her. She had never seen Jodie like this before, and there was something very disturbing about it.
-"Hold it for a moment there. Why are you asking me all this?"
Jodie's expression suddenly got even more sincere than it had been so far.
-"Because... I want to know if there is anything worth fighting these books for." Daria couldn't quite pinpoint it, but there was something dark in Jodie's voice. Something that almost made her sound like a doomsday prophet... "Anything more than money, comfort or..." She almost shuddered with disgust as she pronounced the last word. "...prestige."
-"Uh... I'm not sure I follow you." Daria admitted. This conversation was going too fast for even her. She would have needed more time to think through what Jodie said, but it was obvious that Jodie had been thinking about this, and so she was left only with the (for her slightly humiliating) option of asking for clarification.
-"The question I want answered is: What are we working for? What are we using our resources for, and even more importantly: Why?" Jodie saw that Daria was beginning to understand what she meant, but that she probably wouldn't have an answer just yet, so she proceeded with the explanation. "I can study because of preference. I could possibly get a job that I like better than flipping burgers, and if I can find I job I really like that way, then okay. But is that the only reason we torture ourselves with these books? Torture now, so we can be comfortable later?"
Daria almost jumped at the word "torture". It was a choice of words she would have expected from Brittany or possibly even Jane, but not Jodie. She had already realised that there was something going on with Jodie, but she couldn't seem to get used to it. Jodie was completely oblivious to Daria's reaction and thus kept talking.
-"Or do we do it for the money? How noble! Watch out Bill Gates here we come." Her voice was dripping with sarcasm in a way that really impressed Daria - not that she showed it. "And then there is always the fact that a better job gives you more popularity. But..." She smirked. " must be careful not to make too much money, as that will make people envious and, thus hurt your popularity."


Daria listened to the rain as it cascaded against her window as she thought of these events. Jodie had probably known her better than she suspected at the time. Her words were chosen in a way that touched a nerve with Daria, and actually provoked an understanding. Daria had always despised the "popular" crowd. In her eyes they were nothing but a bunch of superficial and shallow airheads, whose main goal in life was to set a new world record in cancelling dates. Daria had immediately agreed with Jodie, that getting an education and a job because it is appreciated by other people, was a stupid and ridiculous thing indeed...


-"So, if we immediately can rule out 'prestige' as a good reason for education, is there anything else left than money and preference?" Jodie was very persistent with her questions.
-"Does there have to be?" Daria asked. Partly as a stalling question to get some time to think of an answer, partly because she wanted to get a deeper understanding of just what kind of crisis Jodie was going through.
-"Yeah, well. Aren't those pretty cheap motivations?"
-"Well... You sort of need money to survive."
-"Burger-flippers survive."
Daria thought about commenting the average burger-flipper's standard of living, but she realised that it would have no effect on Jodie. She started to understand what Jodie was going after - getting yourself a fancy house and a new BMW could be classified as a cheap and egotistical motivation for something. She thought it over for a couple of seconds, and finally decided to move to the last point on the list...
-"Okay, you have a point. But at least I wouldn't say that doing what you want is a cheap motivation... I mean, why do something you hate when you've got a choice?"
-"Well, what if you don't like to do anything...? You said yourself a while ago that I had discovered the reason to why work will always suck."
-"Umm..." This was a very rare moment in the life of Daria Morgendorffer. She was lost for words. She could have kicked herself in the behind for talking herself into a corner like this, but at the same time she didn't want to take back anything she had said. She had often cursed the fact that there seemed to be no way to become completely independent of other people, and she knew that all human interaction also held the potential for a disaster.
-"Or are you saying..." Jodie continued. "...that we go through all of this for the sole purpose of getting a job that sucks a little less than flipping burgers?"
-"And how, pray tell, do we even know that these high education, high paying jobs do in fact suck less? I mean, look at my dad for instance. A successful entrepreneur that has a job with a stress level that has been proven to cause cancer in hamsters, and whose interaction with his family members is restricted to finding out if they're following him in his footsteps or not. I'D PREFER FLIPPING BURGERS, DAMMIT!"

Several seconds of awkward silence followed. Jodie was staring into the table, and Daria was too stunned to say anything. It was obvious that Jodie had been thinking a lot about these things. She had completely disarmed Daria in this (non-hostile) verbal contest. Had this been a debate tournament Daria wouldn't have stood a chance. That was when it finally occurred to her: Jodie wanted to be proven wrong. That was the sole reason she had come to her. She had been thinking through this. The results of her thinking had depressed her, and now she had come to Daria hoping that she, with her intellect, would find a weak spot in the chain of thought. Daria didn't give her intellect very much credit at the moment. Her arguments had been weak and useless, and in fact she had to admit that Jodie had a point. She wouldn't want to have a job like the ones her own parents had either... Finally Daria broke the silence.

-"So... What were you hoping that I'd tell you?"
Jodie slowly looked up from the table and into Daria's eyes.
-"Like I first told you: Why do you keep studying the way you do?"
Daria took a deep breath. After the discussion they had just had she honestly didn't know what to answer... She kept thinking. What had in fact kept her going? What did she really want to do? Well she had aspired to become a journalist for some time already... Why? Because she hoped to make a difference... even if it was a small one. THAT WAS IT! Finally that grey substance inside her cranium was doing some good.
-"Well, I guess I hope that I'll be able to make a difference one day."
-"Oh." For the first time all day there was actually a lighter, hopeful nuance in Jodie's voice. "What kind of difference?"
-"You never know what kind of difference you might be able to make if you get a chance to write stuff that may influence people."
-"Oh." This time Jodie sounded even more dejected that she previously had. "Just think of all the ants making a difference pulling straws to the anthill."
After saying this she stood up from the table and smiled a tired smile at Daria. Daria couldn't be sure if it was because she wanted to show her appreciation that Daria had taken the time to listen to her, or because she was so used to smiling at people.
-"Thanks for taking the time anyway..."

With those words Jodie left quite a puzzled Daria sitting in the library. Daria knew that whatever help Jodie might have wanted from her, she had somehow failed to deliver it. It had seemed promising at the end, but then it had suddenly come to nothing... Why? Obviously Jodie wanted to make a difference too, otherwise she wouldn't have reacted positively at that comment, but it was as if that wasn't enough either. She had wanted more clarification on what kind of difference Daria had had in mind, and when Daria had tried to give it she had reacted... like she'd already been down that road, and found it to be a dead end. Daria pondered this for several minutes. She still wasn't quite sure what Jodie was going after. It was like doing a jigsaw puzzle with some of the pieces missing. Daria didn't have the whole picture... but maybe... just maybe that was the point. Jodie was doing some sort of puzzle too, and wanted help finding all the pieces. But what had she meant with that final comment about ants?

Suddenly Daria realised that she would be late for science if she didn't hurry. She had been so lost in thought that she had almost completely forgot about the passage of time. She was about to throw her books into her backpack, when she realised they were all already in there. She had never taken out a single one. Instead she just flung the backpack onto her shoulder and hurried out of the library.


Daria pressed the back of her head against the padding on her wall, as if she hoped to be swallowed by it. It was amazing how clear the events of that day were still stuck in her memory. She remembered having been able to sit through science class without having a single clue as to what was going on around her. Later, when Jane had pointed out to her what a total space cadet she had been, she had joked that now she finally knew how it felt to be Kevin. She hadn't told her about the real reason for her mental absence, though. Although Jodie had never particularly told her not to say anything, she somehow felt that the entire discussion in the library was something spoken in confidence, and that talking about it would have been a bad idea. She remembered not having been able to push that conversation aside in her mind all day. It had been like an itch or a piece of gravel in the shoe - it had been impossible to avoid thinking about it. One of the reasons that had made it so hard for her to let go was an eerie feeling that there was something important that she had missed. She recalled trying to think of what it was, until she almost went nuts, but not having been able to grasp it. When Jodie, about a week after the first discussion, had told her that she had quit all school clubs, including the tennis club, and the French club because she was suffering from burnout, Daria's first reaction had been: "That's it, how could I have missed that!" But later that day the weird gut feeling had returned. The burnout was not it... it was something else. Something about the way Jodie had argued with her in the library.

She kept thinking back at the days following Jodie's retirement from the school's clubs. The first day there had been a bit of tittle-tattle about it, but nothing to really get the school's gossip mills started... It was merely a slight curiosity, something people used as a conversation starter: "Hey, by the way did you hear that..." After the first day everyone knew, and nobody really cared, so people stopped talking about it. This had proved Daria's theory that people don't care about you even half as much as you think they do. But Jodie had actually been grateful for that and had, for the first time in her life realised the benefits of hiding in obscurity the way Daria did. A few days later Daria had, despite her nature, asked Jodie how she was handling it. Jodie had told her she was okay, but it had been obvious that she was lying, so Daria had confronted her about it. This was how she came to find out all about the hell that Jodie's parents had been giving her. Daria had seen some grotesque scenes of misguided parenting in her own home, but the story Jodie told her sounded more like a nightmare...


-"YOU DID WHAT?!!!" Andrew Landon's voice abruptly ended the moments of silence following Jodie's announcement at the kitchen table.
-"I quit the clubs at school."
-"But you've been working so hard on this." Michele just didn't know what else to say... This had come as a total surprise for her.
-"That's the point - I've been working too hard."
-"Nonsense! There is no such thing. Have I taught you so little? Don't you know that for the hard working, there are no limits, not even the sky!"
Jodie fought the urge to throw her dinner in her father's face. If he only knew how much she despised his motivational speeches, he would probably have had a heart attack at the spot. If he only knew how much she hated him when he tried to be a coach instead of a father (and that was most of the time), he would probably have collapsed under the burden of guilt. But he didn't know, and so he kept going...
-"When I was your age I had already made a small bike repair shop in my dad's garage, and..."
There was another moment of silence following Jodie's outburst. Would they finally realise she meant business? Would they finally leave her alone, respect her privacy, and let her live her own life, instead of trying to micromanage every miserable second of it? Would they finally---
-"That's no way to talk to your father! You're grounded for a week, my young lady!"
-"Please. You must understand that we only want what's best for you."
The rage was boiling within Jodie. She was honestly wondering if she was facing the two biggest hypocrites in the world. Here they stood, claiming to support her while what they in reality did was drive her, whip in hand, closer and closer to the edge of the cliff. The solution to all problems was in their eyes to push forward. They claimed they were aiming for the stars, yet they refused to see the precipice she was about to fall into, even when she pointed it out to them.
-"Yes, I understand. And I also understand that all that Stalin ever wanted was peace."
Jodie's voice was ice cold, and had she not been overwhelmed with rage, indignation and disgust, she would probably have realised that this is how cynics are born. The sarcasm went right over the heads of her parents, though. Many parents fail to see when their children are starting to develop intellectual capacity, and the Landon's were no exception. Thus the point of the sarcasm went by them completely unnoticed, and the comment was taken only as a sign of juvenile bad-mouthing.
Jodie slowly rose from the table, her face betraying no emotion at all. She refused to let out the emotions of hopelessness, powerlessness, and rage that wallowed around inside her. She would leave the table... right now she wanted nothing more than that in the entire world, but she had to let her parents know that she was not giving in an inch.
-"Who will decide when I've come to my senses?" She asked with a calm, but chilly voice.
-"I will." Her father answered. He knew that one has to be firm in a situation like this.
-"Then I hope you'll have your lawyer notify me of your departure, so I know when it's okay to come down." With those words she receded from the dinner table, leaving a very quiet family behind her. As if on cue baby Evan started emitting a high pitched shriek that made the unpleasant atmosphere complete...

According to Jodie this was just one scene out of the many, that she claimed occurred on a nearly daily basis. She probably wasn't exaggerating either. She wasn't that type. When Daria made closer inquiries Jodie told her that the stress had actually gotten worse since she quit the clubs. This because of her parents' persistent nagging and "innovative" ideas on activities that she might like better than the ones she had quit. Also it would seem that Ms. Li had trouble accepting the meaning of the word "no", and therefore she didn't get away from the pressure at school either. Daria almost found it hard to believe that people could spend so much energy on counteracting themselves. If they had been able to see beyond the length of their own noses they would have realised that the best thing to do was to just let it slide, and let Jodie have her way. They didn't see that they had not only led the horse to water, but they were trying to force it to drink as well.


Daria couldn't help but wonder whether she could have made a difference in this case or not. Sure, she had spoken to Jodie a few times during this time, but it had always seemed like she had nothing to offer Jodie but her sympathies. No creative insights, no clever solutions, nothing that had any concrete value for her in this crisis. Oddly enough Jodie had still seemed to enjoy talking to her. Still Daria had felt quite powerless. During the last month she had begun to care more and more for Jodie, as she had begun to realise that they had more common grounds that she had initially thought. Yet, there seemed to be nothing she could do for Jodie. Once she and Jane had taken her with them first to Pizza King, and later to Jane's place for a nice relaxed TV-evening with nothing in particular going on, but Jodie had seemed very restless all the time until she had finally excused herself just before Sick Sad World was about to start. The next day she had explained that she really appreciated their thoughtfulness, but that she for some reason couldn't relax. She had said it made her feel useless to just "hang around doing nothing".

Daria removed her glasses, and wiped them with her sleeve. They didn't really need cleaning, but she felt she had to do something with her hands, and this was as good as anything else. She let out a slow breath on the lenses, and wiped them again. In a way she could understand Jodie... especially after the conversation they had had that day. She tried to remember exactly when it had been, and came to the conclusion that it had been six days ago on a Tuesday - it had been the last in depth conversation they had had.


-"But if you're too burned out to do lots of stuff, and feel useless while doing nothing, what are you going to do?" Daria inquired.
-"I... I don't know."
Daria didn't think she had ever heard Jodie sound so down in the dumps before, not even that day in the library.
-"Listen to me. The world's not going to end just because you take a day off. If you don't learn how to relax you'll kill yourself."
-"I know." The answer was laconic and unusually monotone for Jodie, but then again nothing about Jodie was like Jodie these days.
-"O-o-okay... Well then we agree on something, don't we?"
-"I guess." Jodie said, without sounding the least bit convincing.
-"What have you been doing these days, anyway? When you haven't been attending the clubs." Daria was getting a bit suspicious. She had been under the impression that Jodie hadn't been doing much, but she suddenly realised that that assumption could be wrong.
-"Thinking. Writing. Reading."
-"Sounds familiar." Daria couldn't help but give up a little smile.
-"Yeah, well..."
There was still something bothering Jodie, and it was obvious. Daria tried for several seconds to figure out a way as to gently inquire about what it was, but finally decided to simply confront her with it.
-"Come on, already. There is something bothering you, isn't there?"
Jodie just dropped her gaze toward Daria's boots again. Somehow Daria felt that a little humour of the right kind might solve the situation.
-"It's a pair of Doc Martens. You've seen them before. They're black and bulky on the outside, and smell like a dead man on the inside."
This actually got a slight smile from Jodie, and she raised her eyes again.
-"Well, it's the fact that no matter how hard I try to tell myself to relax, I still feel useless when I do." Jodie sighed deeply. "And telling myself that the world doesn't end because I don't do anything doesn't help at all. In fact it just makes things worse, because it's just another way of saying that I don't matter." There was a brief pause as Jodie caught her breath. "I mean: HOW CAN I JUSTIFY MY EXISTENCE?!!"
Daria startled at the unexpected outburst. This felt just like that day in the library, only much worse. Again she found herself unable to bring forth an intelligent answer, that was obviously desperately needed. Instead she just had to settle for a meek:
-"I see."
-"Thanks for trying to cheer me up anyway." Jodie said, and with those words she left.

How can I justify my existence? The words echoed through Daria's mind again, and again. That was a question she had never asked herself. She had never felt any need to justify her existence, and she still didn't... but how do you explain to someone that one doesn't need to justify one's existence? Or does one? If so, to whom or what? And how? And why? The questions cascaded over Daria much like a swarm of bloodthirsty mosquitoes, and ultimately she treated them in the same manner. She whisked them all away and tried not to think about it.


The rain showed no signs of decreasing and neither did the wind. Daria thought about the dinner she had had with her family that same day. She had been forced to listen to Quinn's annoying comments on her and Jodie's discussion that she obviously had eavesdropped on... at least the last part, anyway.
-"And then she said 'Thanks for trying to cheer me up'... to Daria, can you believe that? I mean someone would, like have to be totally suicidal, or something to ask her to cheer you up."
Daria remembered this comment clearly. She had resented it at the time, but it had turned out to be nearly prophetic in accuracy. This seemed to prove that even a blind hen can find a grain of corn once in a while, and even an airhead can find a grain of truth.

It had been three days since Jodie had committed suicide, but Daria hadn't found out until this very morning. Daria had noticed that there was something different about Jodie that day. She had seemed more like her former self. More confident, more positive, even more active. She had actually asked her about it, and the reply she got was: "I've finally found the solution." She had gently tried to ask what that solution was, but she had dropped it when it was obvious that Jodie didn't want to give any details. Little had she expected that the details involved a rope and a hook in the ceiling of her room...

When her mother had found her she had been dead for at least two hours. Daria shuddered as she tried to place herself in the position of Michele Landon. To enter your daughter's room only to find her hanging from her neck a foot above the floor, her tongue sticking out of her mouth in a sickening manner, eyes wide open staring into nowhere. That had to be one of the worst experiences one could ever go through.

Daria looked at the letter again. Jodie must have posted it on Friday - possibly one of the last things she did while she was still alive. The letter had been sitting in the post office over the weekend, and now it was lying on Daria's bed, opened but not read. Daria still thought about how everyone had reacted to the news. There had been no official announcement, but the rumour had spread like wildfire, and by the end of the second period the school hallway bore more resemblance to a cemetery than a school. People were moving slowly down the corridors, walking around almost like zombies, doing their best to avoid eye contact, and an unnatural silence topped it all off. It also seemed that people were afraid to break the silence and spoke with whispers and hushed voices whenever they had to say something.

There had been a death at the school before, but that time it had been a football player, whom nobody really knew because he hadn't studied at Lawndale High for years, and most didn't care a whole lot about because he had a bad habit of pissing people off. His death had also been caused by a freak accident, not suicide. This situation was totally different. Everybody knew Jodie Landon, and most people liked her, including the teachers. Mr. DeMartino had not betrayed a whole lot of emotion, but he had started his class by holding two minutes of silence, and he had held the class without shouting even once. Mr. O'Neill's classes had to be cancelled because the man couldn't finish a sentence without bursting into tears. Daria and Jane had... well talked is probably the wrong word. They had both just sat on Jane's bed and stared into the wall. They communicated all the time, but not with words. Their friendship had already grown strong enough to allow this. After a while Daria had decided to drag herself through the storm all the way home. On her way in she had picked up the mail, and immediately noticed the letter from Jodie. She had however not dared open it; instead she headed upstairs, took a shower and changed to dry clothes. After that she tried to stall the process by looking at the storm raging outside, and then by going through the last month's events in her mind... but now she had ran out of excuses. She picked up the letter from her bed and started reading.

Dear Daria,

By the time you read this I'll be gone, (and I assume you already know that). The reason I'm writing you this is that you're the only one I feel I owe an explanation.

Daria thought about this. From what she had heard at school Jodie had left no suicide note of any kind behind her. Of course that had been just a rumour, but these words from behind the grave seemed to confirm that rumour. Daria suddenly felt her hands break into a cold sweat. The urge to throw the letter away returned, but she fought it. She felt she owed Jodie that much.

I'm sure you remember the discussions we had, and by now you've probably realised why I wanted to have them. I have come to realise that all my life has been nothing but a big lie. Do this. Achieve that. Conquer this obstacle. Fight your way forward! Forward to what? Cold, lonesome, inevitable death. What I have done has changed nothing. Why postpone the inevitable? Why spend your life fighting windmills when the end result will always be the same?

I wanted you to prove me wrong. You couldn't do that, and for that I do not blame you - after all, had I been able to accomplish this myself, I would never have sought your help.

Perhaps my previous choice of words has confused you? I spoke of cold, lonesome, inevitable death. "Lonesome?" you might ask. She was never lonesome a day in her life! If you only knew... You, at least have one true friend. That is one more than I have ever had. On the surface it of course looked like I had lots of friends, but when are people going to learn that looks can be deceiving, and that quantity can never replace quality?

Did you know that the Eskimos in their language have nine different expressions or "grades" for people, ranging between enemy and friend? One of these, if memory serves, was an expression meaning approximately "I really like you, but I wouldn't want to go seal-hunting with you." This accurately describes the most intimate "friendship" I've ever had, with one exception - you. In this last month, I've felt that you've become closer to me than anyone else ever has. This is also the reason I'm mailing this to you, and not to someone else. I know you may find this a bit surprising... but then again that's probably because you actually know what a real in-depth friendship is like.

Daria was really surprised. Not so much about Jodie's statement that they had become closer during the last month - that was something she had noticed as well, but at the fact that she claimed that Daria had actually been the closest friend she had ever had. Daria read the paragraph over, and over again, but the message was equally clear all the time, and equally unambiguous. She stopped reading. Involuntarily she pictured Jodie's face before her inner eye, and a thick lump rapidly formed in her throat.

But back to the issue: Why this?

Like I said - All my life has been a lie. I have been told/taught since I was old enough to walk that the most important thing in life is success. But why is that? What is the point of success? What is success? We're all going to die anyway, and in death the rich is truly equal to the poor, and both are equally happy. There is no point in struggling. Not with studies, and not with anything else. I would really like to make a difference, unfortunately there is no difference to be made. We're all ants building a giant anthill. The anthill is not dependent of a single ant. Like you said - it's not like the world will end, just because I will no longer be around to support it. But what if there were no ants to build the hill? Yeah, well SO WHAT! Just as you wouldn't notice the disappearance of an anthill in the nearby woods, the universe wouldn't notice the disappearance of mankind. Someone once said: "Kill a man, and you're a murderer. Kill a million, and you're a conqueror. Kill 'em all - and you're God." When I die, it'll probably be regarded as a tragedy - and you're probably already able to tell whether I was right about that or not. If an earthquake struck Los Angeles and a million people died it would be regarded a terrible tragedy... but if a giant meteor wiped out the Earth, why would that be a tragedy? I mean who would mourn? Who would care? Nobody! There wouldn't be anyone left! People only matter to other people - and therefore people don't matter.

What then do you have left to struggle for when you have realised that you're irrelevant? The pleasure of the moment - period. If the destination is always the same at the hands of the Grim Reaper, what could possibly matter but the road itself? Fight for that promotion or career boost! Fight for that precious money! Hey, the winner might get his high-score carved into his headstone! Fight for your pleasures! Jump into bed with as many people as possible, as often as possible! Have some of that cocaine! Why, not? You only live once. It's not like you're ruining something that wouldn't eventually shrivel up and die anyway.

Too bad I don't want to live that life...

Now that you know my reasons for doing what I did, I would like to ask you not to show this letter to anyone, especially not my parents. They don't have to see this. Let them figure it out for themselves! Of course - it might be a good idea for you to save this in case they start looking for a scapegoat - if they're masters at something, then that is it. They might find out that we've been "hanging out" more lately, and they might want to roll over the blame onto you. Should they ever attempt this, I hope you will shove this letter so far down their throats that they choke on it.

Yours truly,

Jodie Landon
(who really would have liked to go seal-hunting with you...)

Those last words punched right through Daria's stoical exterior. She had been holding back the tears for several minutes already, but now they just flowed over. She removed her glasses, lay down on the bed, buried her face in the pillow and let out one pitiable sob after another.

Go to Part 2