Chapter 2: Chain reaction

"The end of life makes a long and a short life to one and the same. For one life is not better and the other worse, or one longer and the other shorter, when neither of them are any more. The human life is short in itself. From childhood to the highest age of an old man it is short, whatever the case is. If Adam had lived until now and died today, in what way would his life's length have benefited him?"


"I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith. For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow."


"What's up with this schism between realism and pessimism? I really don't see why there would have to be any difference."

-Daniel Suni

Daria entered her room with a deep sigh. The evening had been pure hell. While crying she had lost track of time, and had been suddenly alerted by her Dad's voice calling her down for supper. Why he had decided that the family should have a common supper tonight was anyone's guess. The point was that Daria had entered the kitchen so red-eyed that she hadn't even made it to the table before Helen had asked her what was wrong, with a voice that indicated she had at expected the end of the world as we know it - minimum. It was understandable. Daria couldn't remember the last time she had cried. Possibly when she fell off her bike at age seven?

For this reason, however she had been forced to tell her parents about Jodie's suicide. She had just come to the part about how the other students had taken it, when she was suddenly interrupted by an excited Quinn who wanted to tell everyone the news: That Daria had encouraged one of the best students of Lawndale High to hang herself with a piece of barbed wire. Fortunately - and this Daria took as a rare sign of intellect and understanding from her parents - Quinn had been abruptly cut off by three synchronised death glares from the remaining family members. And it wasn't all bad that Quinn had said what she said either. At least now Daria knew that the rumour mills were grinding, and she could be prepared. She had already decided to take Jodie's advice and save the letter. She might need it as a last line of defence against false accusations.

The rest of the evening had been a pain. Helen had been so touched by the fact that Daria had been touched, that she had embraced her for a long time, and almost refused to let go. Daria had also had to convince her at least ten times that she did not need to see a psychiatrist to "talk through" the events. Daria shuddered. It had taken her almost an hour to escape the sudden affection and comforting of her parents.

Daria quickly dug out the letter from the drawer she had stashed it in (just in case), before going down. She hadn't mentioned it to anyone, but there were two people she still thought she had to show it to. One was Jane. This was too big for her to handle on her own, she needed to share it with someone - not a shrink, who was a very good listener for seventy bucks per hour, but with someone she knew and trusted. The other was Mack - Jodie's boyfriend who surely had more than a few questions on his mind right now. That had to wait until tomorrow, though. Right now she would listen to whatever Jodie had recorded on the cassette. Daria made sure her door was closed, turned down the volume button on her boom box, inserted the tape and pressed play.

She was very glad she had turned down the volume as the loud guitar riffs of a heavy metal tune emanated from the speakers. Daria was no expert in the field of heavy metal, but she thought she recognised this song. It was Metallica's "Master of puppets". She had never listened closely to it before, but she tried to get the lyrics, because she wanted to understand what Jodie was trying to say with this.

End of passion play, crumbling away
I'm your source of self-destruction
Veins that pump with fear, sucking darkest clear
Leading on your death's construction

Dark. Something about the source of self-destruction... That was probably the point. That was what Jodie wanted to reveal - the source.

Taste me you will see
more is all you need
you're dedicated to
how I'm killing you

Come crawling faster
obey your Master
your life burns faster
obey your Master

Master of Puppets I'm pulling your strings
twisting your mind and smashing your dreams
Blinded by me, you can't see a thing
Just call my name, `cause I'll hear you scream
Just call my name, `cause I'll hear you scream

"Whoa!" Daria thought. This was almost precisely like the things she had described in the letter, and directly to her before she died. She could almost see Jodie's parents as puppet masters pulling her strings. This song was a manifestation of how she had felt - an extension to her suicide note. This also explained the bitter comments about them at the very end.

Needlework the way, never you betray
life of death becoming clearer
Pain monopoly, ritual misery
chop your breakfast on a mirror

Master, Master, Where's the dreams that I've been after?
Master, Master, You promised only lies
Laughter, Laughter, All I hear and see is laughter
Laughter, Laughter, laughing at my cries

Another perfect match. Precisely what she had been saying. All her life had been a lie. Where were her dreams now? That was a question Daria had asked herself about Jodie as soon as she had begun to see the changes in her.

Hell is worth all that, natural habitat
just a rhyme without a reason
Never ending maze, drift on numbered days
now your life is out of season

I will occupy
I will help you die
I will run through you
Now I rule you too

Numbered days? Wasn't that like something out of the letter too? Well, Daria could certainly understand that. She didn't feel too comfortable when thinking about her numbered days either. But to consciously even further limit that number? There was something missing... She listened as the song died out with an evil sounding laughter, and left only the howling wind and the rattling rain to listen to. It seemed as if the wind was slightly abating, though. Daria let the tape play a while further, but there was obviously nothing more on it, so she hit rewind instead. She knew she should go brush her teeth, and get ready for the night, but for some reason it just seemed overpowering to stand up. After reading the letter and listening to the tape, there was something inside her that felt hollow. Why did it have to be this way? She almost immediately regretted asking that question. That was the question Jodie had tried to answer in her letter... and in a way Daria already knew the answer. The consolation from knowing that was petty indeed.

No the question "Why?" was bigger than that. Why did the universe have to be constructed in such a way that it allowed something like this to happen? Who was responsible? Was there even anyone responsible? Or was everything just a part of the inevitable passage of time? Something predestined to happen on the day of the Big Bang? No. Daria had never believed in the "billiard table" theory. She remembered first reading about it in a book when she was eleven. The theory in all its simplicity stated that the universe was much like a (complex) billiard table, and the elemental particles were the billiard balls bouncing into each other. If one at any specified moment knew the position and velocity of all particles one could in theory calculate both the future and the past, as it would be possible to exactly predict how the particles interacted. Even at age eleven Daria had thought it was stupid that someone could make such a claim (and with that claim - among other things declare the free will of man invalid) without any solid evidence to prove a theory like that. With the defiance of a witty eleven year old, she had declared that she would believe in the theory the second someone proved it correct through scientific experimentation. (Even then she had realised the impossibility of such a task.) Later she had come to understand that the theory was not based upon science - it had been based upon the mechanical paradigm(*) of the 19th century... a paradigm that more or less crashed and burned with the introduction of quantum physics.

(*): A paradigm is a set of "truths" accepted by most of the people in a certain time, place and culture. (Just in case you didn't already know.)

No. Daria didn't believe that man's free will was just an illusion. Of course she could not proof her opinion correct - it was just as impossible as proving it wrong - she simply had found no reasons to believe otherwise. Funny though, she thought - how the people who came up with these theories and defended them, wanted credit for their smarts and efforts - as if they had not just claimed these efforts to be merely the result of the inevitable way of the world. In the name of honesty Daria had been forced to admit to herself that one of the reasons she didn't believe in this theory was that she didn't want to believe it. It would be too depressing to know that nothing you said or did actually mattered.

"Actually mattered." She felt almost like she had stepped on a landmine. This was just the kind of thing Jodie had been talking about. To know that the world continued just fine without her had, to her, been the same thing as knowing that "she didn't matter". Well did she? Of course she did. "If she didn't matter, then why would I feel this way?" Daria thought. But how does one explain something like that? What would she tell her now if she had the chance? It bothered Daria a lot that she still couldn't find a satisfactory answer to that. Had Jodie in fact had a point there as well? After all, what would the consequences be? All of this would settle of course. It might take some time, but it would settle. Daria actually felt a slight sting of guilt for thinking that, but she kept pushing anyway. Nothing would get better from lying to herself - she had to be realistic about this. Lawndale wouldn't be quite the same place it would otherwise have been, but would anyone notice that in ten years? Probably not. What was that thing Jodie had written about "Kill 'em all, and you're God"? Suddenly Daria realised Jodie's dilemma. She bolted upright like she had received an electrical shock. Jodie had wanted to matter. Daria had been telling her that she could in fact matter - to other people, but Jodie had wanted more than that! She had wanted to matter in a way where she was not dependent of people to do so! She had wanted to make a difference, but according to her there was no difference to be made. If all the people were gone (and eventually they would be gone) - what could she do that mattered then? If everything you did was done for the sole purpose of either other people or yourself, could you truly do anything that mattered? The other people were in fact as good as dead already. Their days were all numbered. No matter what you built - nothing was more certain that the fact that it would not last! And if you could do something that "mattered" today but didn't matter tomorrow, could one really claim that such an act mattered at all? Now she finally began to realise the meaning of Jodie's letter where she claimed that there was nothing left to struggle for except the pleasure of the moment. If eternity was out of reach, beyond your grasp - what else did you have left?

Daria stared into the opposite wall. She had begun to see what Jodie had seen - and she definitely did not like it. Daria felt she was going through a moment of revelation: She was looking into hell. On the one hand it was extremely exciting - she had never seen anything like it before. On the other she didn't like what she saw - in fact she was terrified by it. She shook her head vigorously as if to shake away the unpleasant thoughts, stood up and headed for the bathroom. Tomorrow would be bad enough without the added disadvantage of sleep deprivation.


-"Didn't get much sleep last night?"
Jane had immediately noticed the give-away dark circles under Daria's eyes. Daria slowly shook her head in response. She had been tired all right, but when she had gone to bed the thoughts had once more attacked her. She figured she had slept a total of three hours, or so.
-"I didn't sleep a whole lot either." Jane confessed.
-"You were up all night thinking it over?"
-"No. I didn't want to think... So I spent the whole night painting."
-"Oh. What?"
-"I have no idea what it is, but it looks depressing... In fact I ran out of black."
-"I've got to see it. It might cheer me up."
There was a long period of silence. Normally they would have enjoyed this kind of "in-joke" depressive dialogue, but the gravity of the situation sucked all the fun out of it, and instead they just walked in silence. It was not until they could already see the school that Daria finally broke the silence.
-"There is something I have to show you after school."
-"Jodie sent me a letter. I got it in the mail yesterday."
-"You heard me."
Jane stopped, standing right in front of Daria, forcing her to stop as well, and grabbed her by the shoulders.
-"You have got to show that to her parents. Do you have any idea what they're going through?"
-"I know... But she specifically asked me not to show it to them."
-"Yes, but still..." Jane's voice was a little more uncertain, and she let go of Daria's shoulders.
-"Listen. Why don't we talk more about it after you've read it?"
-"But what about Mack?"
Daria smiled on the inside. She and Jane were so much alike...
-"I intend to show it to him."
-"Okay, then."
Jane resumed walking, and Daria followed.
-"There is one more thing you need to know."
-"Will this depress me even further?"
-"Not much. It just seems that the rumours around this have gone out of hand as usual."
-"Yesterday evening they had reached the point where I had convinced Jodie to hang herself with a piece of barbed wire."
There was a short period of silence. Jane had a hard time believing what she had just heard.
-"You're not joking now, are you?"
-"I wish I was."
-"Why is it that the stupidity of people never ceases to amaze me? One would think that one would learn in seventeen years."
-"I guess you're just too stupid to learn."
They looked at each other and exchanged brief dry smirks. They had the right to insult each other, their friendship was strong enough for that already - had in fact been for quite some time, and it was a privilege they both often used. This kind of harmless mocking was actually a good sign, Jane thought. It was a sign of that things would eventually return to normal. She thought about sharing that thought with Daria, but decided not to. And she had no idea how good it was that she didn't. Daria had just - for the first time in almost twenty-four hours been able to get her mind off all of it. A comment like that would have sent her right back into a spin of melancholic brooding. Now she managed to avoid this for almost five whole minutes.

The day went by slowly. Daria thought it felt like a slow march through a tar pit. There had fortunately been a lot less harassment from other students due to the rumours than she had expected, but otherwise everything had been a total pain. She wanted to have some time for herself - to think everything through. She hadn't had time to do that yet, and every sensation, every sound at this place was nothing but a distraction. She also needed to sleep, and by the beginning of the third recess she felt she was walking around in a weird blur; unable to see where she was going, and unable to care. She almost didn't find the way to her locker, and she was almost late for history. To make it all complete she still hadn't told Mack about the letter, and she knew that she had to.

She tried to listen to Mr. DeMartino's exposition of the French Revolution, not because she felt particularly interested hearing about which celebrity of the time got guillotined when (a subject she normally wouldn't have minded), but merely because she wanted something that would take her mind off things. (If she couldn't think through the matter undisturbed, it was better not to think about it at all.) It turned out it was harder than she thought. Everything Mr. DeMartino said suddenly seemed so ridiculous, puny and insignificant. HOW COULD THE MAN BE STANDING THERE TALKING ABOUT SOMETHING THAT HAPPENED CENTURIES AGO IN A COUNTRY THOUSANDS OF MILES FROM HERE?! Jodie was dead, and here he kept talking about the assault on the Bastille! WHO THE HELL CARED!? The contrast was just too much for Daria to stomach. Insignificant... she couldn't think of any better word to describe the verbal flow that emanated from behind the desk. Totally and completely insignificant. Something slowly hardened inside Daria's stomach as she listened to the insignificant words. She thought about all the times she had been sitting in this class taking notes, trying to remember everything that was said - trying to learn. She looked back at all the dates and years that were stored in her memory. How insignificant they all were! How little they actually mattered. How useless they were. It felt almost like an echo inside her head, an echo caused and enhanced by the emptiness of the knowledge in it.

That was when it struck her: Was this possibly what Jodie had felt? The emptiness and the futility of it all? If this information didn't matter now, why would it matter later? It almost felt like a big cold hand had grabbed her by the throat and began to strangle her. This was who she was: A Brain. But what if all knowledge was insignificant? Had all her life been a lie? She almost felt sick when recognising the same thoughts as she had found in Jodie's letter. She kept thinking about it... A Brain. It was her identity, just as "Achiever" had been Jodie's. Jodie had lost her identity, and declared it all to be a lie and then she had---

-"Miss MORGENDORFFER! You appear to be in a state of, FOR YOU UNUSUAL MENTAL ABSENCE!" Apparently Mr. DeMartino had asked her an insignificant question that she hadn't even noticed.
-"Uh... I'm sorry. I was thinking about Jodie." Actually she would have preferred to tell him to go to hell, but she had no desire to pick a fight right now, especially not with Mr. DeMartino.
The comment had the desired effect of calming Mr. DeMartino and also sending the class back into the "cemetery-mode" that she had seen yesterday. Besides, she wasn't really lying either.
-"I see... It would still be GOOD, if we could all put this UNFORTUNATE incident behind us."
"Put this 'incident' behind us?" Daria thought, and barely managed to hold back a frown. In favour of what? The damned Bastille? What the hell was he thinking? Where had everyone's sense of priorities disappeared?

Daria exited the history class feeling like a zombie. Never before had she experienced such a complete lack of interest as to what happened next. Would she get run over by a truck on the way home from school? Would the world end? It all seemed strangely insignificant. She didn't know the reason, but that too seemed insignificant. The only thing that didn't seem insignificant was that she wanted to sleep, but unfortunately that was not possible. Instead she went to the bathroom and splashed some cold water in her face. After doing this she felt almost human again, and decided this would be a good time to look up Mack and show him the letter. Mack wasn't hard to find. He was standing by his locker trying to get rid of a certain annoying quarterback.

-"Hey, man I can understand you're real bummed out and stuff - I mean I'm too, sort of. But I'm always here if you need to talk to someone."
-"Yeah, whatever." Mack sighed. Kevin meant well, but even when he did he had the most inappropriate way of showing it. Mack was therefore quite pleasantly surprised when he heard the voice of an intelligent human being calling his name.
-"Listen, Mack. Can we talk... about Jodie?" The voice, of course, belonged to Daria.
-"Thanks. I've actually been hoping you'd ask. I heard you spent some time with her just befo..." At this point his voice failed him, and he swallowed hard.
-"Yeah... Umm..." Daria looked at Kevin who stood by Mack's locker with an intelligent look worthy of a crash test dummy - after the crash. "Could we go someplace private?"
-"Oh, absolutely."
Mack tried desperately not to show how much he wanted to get away from Kevin, yet two minutes later he was sitting on the lawn outside the school with Daria. The lawn was still pretty damp from all the rain they had had yesterday, but neither of them let themselves be bothered by it.

-"So... You wanted to talk." He didn't quite know how to get a conversation like this started. The news had come as a total shock to him on Saturday night. He had had a date with Jodie - the first one in three weeks, and he had really been looking forward to it. He was probably the one who had been most delighted by the news that Jodie was cutting back on her intense schedule. First of all he knew how well she needed it, second he hoped that she would finally have some more time to spend with him. The entire scene when he had showed up at the Landon residence had been about as pleasant an experience as getting a gallon of ice water poured into one's pants. He vividly remembered the face of Michele Landon, eyes red swollen with weeping, and the expressionless face of Mr. Landon who had eyes that just looked through everything they pointed at, without focusing on anything. He remembered receiving the news, but not quite being able to believe it. He remembered driving home, completely oblivious to the other traffic. It had almost felt like being in a coma. He couldn't recall a single separate thought from that entire evening. It had all been just a blur - one big "feeling" that had laid upon his shoulders like a gigantic rock, slowly crushing him under its weight.

-"Yes, well..." How was she going to say this? Man! How could something so simple be so hard to say? She resented her own voice when she heard it quivering, but she went on anyway. "Before she died, she mailed a letter to me. She asked me not to show it to anyone, but I thought you'd like to read it anyway..." She handed Mack the letter.
Mack was really surprised. He definitely had not expected something like this.
-"Uh... Thanks." Was all he could think of saying. Then he started reading.
Daria felt quite uncomfortable. She didn't know where to look, or what to do with her hands. The entire situation felt very awkward. She couldn't say anything, because he was reading. She didn't want to look at him because it might seem ill mannered, she didn't want to look away for the same reason... In reality it didn't matter so much what she did. Mack was completely absorbed by the letter, and almost completely unaware of Daria. Daria felt a lump form in her throat when Mack let out a sob. She couldn't resist looking at him, and a brief glance revealed that his cheeks were already moist from tears.
-"This... This is almost unbelievable. I had no idea that she was feeling this way. How could I have missed it?" He wiped away a tear that had found its way to the tip of his nose. "Did you have any idea?"
His voice was not accusing, but Daria felt a sting in her conscience anyway.
-"Well... I knew something was going on, but I had no idea..." Her words suddenly got stuck in her throat, and she tried to fight the tears.
-"It's okay." Mack sobbed out with a voice that did not make him sound like the captain of the football team. "She doesn't blame you, and I don't blame you." With those words he gave her a big hug. All these elements combined became too overwhelming for Daria. For the second time in just two days her defences broke down and the tears were running down her cheeks, as she actually returned the hug. She had never realised how good it could feel to have someone to hold on to in a situation like this - she would probably feel pathetic later when thinking back, but right now she didn't care... They held on to each other for about a minute, just sharing their sorrow, until Daria finally let go.
-"I really miss her." She said with a voice that sounded more like a whimper.
-"I know you do. And thanks for showing this to me."
-"You're welcome."
With those words Daria picked up the letter, put it in her backpack and left. After just a few steps she started to wonder why her skirt felt so weird and then she realised there was a big wet patch on her butt from sitting in the damp grass. She went straight to the bathroom to rinse her face with cold water again. Partly because she still needed to fight the sleep deprivation and partly because she didn't want to be seen red-eyed in public. "So much for not being vain." She reflected with a sigh as she put her glasses back on. Now if she could just survive English class this day would finally be over...


-"Want a cup? You look terrible."
Daria looked suspiciously at the black steaming fluid in the cup that Jane extended toward her.
-"You call this coffee?"
-"This is not just coffee." Jane replied, with a theatrical pseudo-offended voice. "This is coffee á la Lane. Do not take while on other medications."

Surviving English had been easier than she had thought. It turned out that Mr. O'Neill had not yet been able to "get over" the incident, and so they had spent the entire lesson reading. Daria had gratefully slid into the world of Mika Waltari's "The Egyptian". It was a nice thick book that was just depressing enough for Daria's taste. After school she had headed straight over to Jane's place, and now she had to face the decision of whether to accept a cup of Jane's rat poison or risk hurting herself by falling asleep standing.

-"Okay, hand me the cup." She reluctantly accepted the cup and took a sip. It was worse than rat poison and apparently involuntary reflexes in her facial muscles gave away just how much she enjoyed it, because Jane had suddenly started to giggle loudly.
-"Sooo... You like it?"
-"I'd pour it down the sink, but I'm afraid that the environmentalists will get me for it."
Daria tried to drink it as quickly as possible without thinking about what it tasted like and two minutes later she had actually managed to empty the cup. The effect of the caffeine wasn't far behind, and when she just a few minutes later was upstairs in Jane's room handing her the letter she noticed that her hands were pretty shaky.
-"There you go, but please do me a favour and don't start weeping."

Jane didn't start. After reading, she just handed the letter back to Daria with a deep sigh.
-"I'm not sure I get it..."
-"Be glad you don't. If you did you might want to join her."
Jane knew that Daria's sense of humour was dark enough, so that she could retain some even in a situation like this. What she didn't know was how small the percentage of humour actually had been. When Daria didn't say anything else she continued.
-"Are you saying you understand why she did it?"
-"Well... I'm no reader of minds but... there are some parts of this that I think I do understand."
-"Do you think you could enlighten me?"
-"Well, basically I think she did it because she thought her life to be meaningless."
There was a period of silence. Daria could almost hear the wheels turning inside Jane's head as she tried to grasp this.
-"That's it?" She finally asked, sounding quite puzzled.
-"Yeah, I think that's it." Daria saw that Jane hadn't gotten the point, but she wasn't going to force her explanations onto her. If Jane wanted clarification she could ask for it.
-"Whoa. You're serious aren't you? I always thought that 'the meaning of life' was something philosophers that had nothing better to do argued with each others about."
-"Yes and no." Daria replied. "Do you know what a philosopher is?"
-"I've got a feeling you're about to tell me."
-"A philosopher is a person who starts to question his or her self-certainties."
-"Self-certainties. We all have them. We couldn't exist without them. We couldn't make any rational decisions whatsoever if we had to think every situation through from scratch. It would take us hours to decide whether we should buy oatmeal or corn flakes when we go shopping if we really started to think it through."
-"That's ridiculous."
-"Yes it is. That's why we rationalise. We have a number of self-certainties that we make use of in our everyday lives. This helps us think - that is make a decision - without thinking. Or to use a computer geek term: It cuts down on the processor time needed to perform a task. What I mean is: How could you so spontaneously say that the guy who spends two hours trying to figure out whether to buy oatmeal or corn flakes is ridiculous?"
-"But isn't that obvious?"
-"Obvious, self-certain, whatever." Daria said with a smile. "That's my point. Of course you're right - it's ridiculous, in the sense that this is not a sensible way to act. But how do we know that? If we start to analyse the whole thing we'll have to start with the question: Why buy this? We can answer: Because we need to eat. Why do we need to eat? Because we die if we don't. Why do we need to live? Well, we don't, but we like it better than dying. Then there are other questions that need to be answered as well. Which foodstuff is healthier? Why is health such a concern? Why buy it? Why not manufacture it? Et cetera in absurdum." Daria paused and took a deep breath. "Now you didn't ask yourself all these questions before saying it was ridiculous, did you? But how then could you know that it was? Because of your self-certainties! You already have the priorities set for the process of acquiring foodstuffs, and therefore you don't need more than two seconds to make a decision that would otherwise take God-knows-how-long."
There were several seconds of silence.
-"If this is the result of serving you coffee á la Lane, it's the last time you're getting any."
-"That's truly a relief." Daria smiled. She enjoyed the back-and-forth teasing with Jane. "But did any of it make sense to you?"
-"Yeah, I think so. If you start questioning these self-certainties of yours you'll become a totally unworldly geek who mumbles lots of logical stuff without practical application... And that, I guess is a pretty good description of a philosopher."
-"Thanks a lot." Daria replied with the same pseudo-offended voice that Jane had used when Daria had mocked her coffee-making talents.
-"Aw, the poor girl was offended. Since when do consider yourself a philosopher?"
-"Well..." Daria said, suddenly getting serious. "...I guess that I previously just like toying with thoughts like this, for... whatever reason. Probably the same urge that drives young future engineers to disassemble their mothers' coffee makers. But yesterday... ...yesterday I actually started to question these things for the first time."
-"Well why do you need to question anything?"
-"Just because something is self-certain to us, it doesn't necessarily mean it's true. At one time it was a self-certainty that the world was flat - it didn't make it true. And if our self-certainties are false all conclusions we make based on these will probably be false too."
-"Sooo... Which self-certainties do you think might be false?"
-"I'm not sure... But Jodie definitely has some points in her letter. About the necessity of life, for instance..."
-"Daria. You're scaring me. Whatever made Jodie write that letter also made her---" Jane cut herself off. For some reason she thought saying "kill herself" would have sounded coarse, so she didn't.
-"I know."
There were several seconds of silence as Jane waited for Daria to continue her sentence, but she didn't.
-"I know, but...?"
-"But I've got to keep going anyway."
-"Daria." She said very slowly. "You... are... scaring... me." Every vibration of her voice indicated that she most definitely was not kidding.
-"You know what Jodie's problem was?" Daria suddenly asked.
-"She understood the question: 'What is the meaning of life?' but she never found an answer."
-"And this relates to you... how?" Jane inquired, fearing for what the answer might be.
-"Yesterday I understood the question for the first time."

There was an almost unearthly silence in the room. Neither of them were even breathing. Jane just stared with horror at her best friend as she tried to think of something to say to her. Finally she grabbed her by the shoulders.
-"Daria, please tell me you're not saying what I think you're saying."
-"I'm not planning to kill myself."
Jane let out a long breath of relief.
-"I understand the question..." Daria went on. "...and I don't have the answer... yet."
-"And... what if you don't find it?"
-"Would you look at the time! I'd better get going."
Jane couldn't believe her ears. The lack of a response had in this case been the most powerful response one could think of. Daria got up and started leaving, but Jane didn't want to let her go just yet.
-"For crying out loud, Daria! Can't you just... let it go?" She exclaimed as a final resort.
-"I have already understood the question. I can't un-understand it. There is only one way: Forward."
-"But you don't know where that road is leading!"
-"To heaven or hell, Jane. To heaven or hell."
With those words she left a very unhappy friend behind her and headed home hoping to be able to avoid her family...

Go to Part 3