Phantasmagorier

by

Brian Taylor

* * *

This story is rated TV-MA for graphic violence and gore, profanity, and brief nudity.

And contains spoilers of varying degrees of severity for the films "Phantasm," "Phantasm II," and "Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead." Consider yourselves warned.

(A new writer's note appears following the proceedings; read it if you dare.)

* * *

Perigord looks like a basic horror movie bone yard - dancing shadows, trees, massive and ornate tombstones; the full monty, in other words. A road cuts through the center of the screen, and on the road's a hearse. The car's lights are on, but by all accounts, nobody's home. Until the car begins to rock, as if a struggle is underway inside.

After a few beats, the passenger side door opens, and REGGIE emerges. Reggie's a medium-height, bald guy with longish hair in the back. And he looks pretty bad - bruised and bloodied and as if some wild animal has just mauled him; to a certain extent, one has. He staggers to the back of the car, and pounds on the glass window in the trunk as if in warning to other potential passengers. He collapses, and the car pulls away. Sounds of screaming can be heard faintly.

We see a certain familiar teenage girl - DARIA - standing there, watching impassively.

Daria: Hope he has insurance.

A hand drops on her shoulder, and Daria spins around in shock.

Daria: Eap!

She looks up at the face of THE TALL MAN, a strange looking dude with shoulder-length grey hair who towers over her like... the Chrysler Building over the Empire State Building. In the background is the sound of glass breaking, and the screams continue, louder. The man speaks with a primal roar, slow and loud and menacing.

Tall Man: Girl!

He reaches out to grab her, and...

Daria is sitting upright in bed, obviously in a cold sweat. Morning sunlight trickles in through the uncovered window. Fumbling for her glasses, she sets them on her face and glances over at the clock on the bedside table. The display reads 10:30.

Daria: Damn. Overslept.

She gets up, and walks over to the closet. She opens the door, and our view is conveniently blocked by it as she begins to change...

It's a full house, all wearing black. HELEN and JAKE sit on the couch, he in a tux and she wearing a dress with veil. They look forlorn, and as if they may have been crying. Jake's mother RUTH sits to his right, looking as if she is trying to be supportive. AMY stands behind the couch, pacing; she looks somewhat somber, but otherwise almost normal. RITA can be found sitting in a chair. ERIN and BRIAN stand near the door.

It is abundently clear that the old sibling rivalries are still in place, although -- today -- they've taken on a kind of perfunctory, routine feeling, as if the sisters Barksdale are using the customary bickering as a coping mechanism.

Rita: I swear, Helen, if that kid of yours doesn't come down soon... Late for her own sister's funeral.

She shakes her head disapprovingly.

Erin: Mother!

Rita: Yes, Erin?

Amy (butting in): Knock it off, Rita. Even I can bury the hatchet over this one. Helen's daughter just died.

Helen lets out a choked semi-sob at mention of Quinn.

Amy: The least you could do is try and be civil.

So saying, when Rita's not looking, Amy sticks her tongue out at her.

Helen (distantly): Amy...

Amy: What?

Helen's on the verge of speaking, when Daria walks down the stairs. Like everyone else, she's wearing black.

Rita: Well, it's about time.

Helen: Ready, Daria?

Daria (deadpan): No. First I have to powder my nose, and then check the seams on my nylons.

Helen looks... resigned, as Daria enters the room proper.

Jake: How are you doing, kiddo?

Daria: I'm fine, dad.

He reaches out to hug her, and does so. Daria looks somewhat... uncomfortable at the contact, as if he's squeezing a mite too tight, and looks around almost desperately for some way out. None's in sight.

Caladan's on the outskirts of Lawndale, surrounded by large grassy fields and agricultural areas in general. The mortuary building itself looks like nothing so much as an old and renovated mansion, surrounded by numerous tombstones.

As we watch, several cars pull up in front of the building. The entire party of Barksdales and Morgendorffers pile out, as well as the Griffins and two other families, presumably the ROWES and the BLUM-DECKLERS, by all indications.

As the mourners and family file in. Daria sits on the steps for a moment, before sighting JANE and TRENT pulling up in Trent's Plymouth P.O.S. They pile out, looking generally grave and somber. Trent even looks neat. By all accounts, they haven't been in touch with Daria for a few days.

Jane: How are you doing, Daria?

Daria: Is everyone going to keep asking me that until I have no choice but to become a chainsaw murderer?

Jane: You're not using my chainsaw, little missy. I don't want the police getting my fingerprints on file.

Trent: Hey, Daria.

Daria: Mmm... hey.

Trent: Sorry to hear about your sister.

Daria: So am I.

Jane: Do I detect a chink in somebody's armor?

Daria: Without her, it's that much harder to collect from my parents.

Jane: I guess that answers that question. (bt) I've got to admit, though - you're taking this rather well.

Daria: Well, either I'm more than overjoyed at finding out that I'll never have to spend another moment with those vultures she called friends, or it's just a phase.

Jane: Like puberty?

Daria: And likely to last as long. (Bt) Thanks for coming. If I had to spend any more time with those people that claim to be my family without some bastion of sanity like yourselves, I think I'd need to be locked up.

Jane: Oh, I know this one - the voices in your head are acting up again?

Daria: And they're saying "Kill Jane with a grapefruit spoon."

Jane: I can take a hint.

Trent looks around.

Trent: This is a nice place.

Daria and Jane look at him curiously.

Trent: Haven't been up here since Aunt Jennie's funeral.

Daria: Aunt Jennie?

Jane: Please don't ask. Whatever you do, please don't ask.

Trent: Yeah. Remember the dreams, Janey?

Jane (too quick): No.

Daria (curious): What dreams?

Trent: I think those were the ones where Aunt Jennie came back to life and tried to kill all of us. (Bt) Or that could've been that dream I had last night. One or the other.

Jane: Thanks so much, Trent.

Daria: I'm never letting you live this down. How old were you?

Jane mumbles something.

Daria: What?

Jane: Fifteen.

Daria stares at Jane.

Jane: What? She looked so damn creepy in that coffin. And that place...

She shudders.

Daria (deadpan): I believe you, Jane.

Jane: Have you ever been to a mortuary before?

Daria: Standardized tests to the contrary, no. (Bt) Although, if we don't go in soon, I'll have to take up permanent residence here.

Trent: Your parents would get angry?

Daria: Worse. Much worse. (Bt) If I get out of this, but aunt Rita doesn't, she'll blow a whole box worth of fuses.

Jane: Ah. Miss Congeniality.  

Daria: In the solitary confinement wing.

She starts walking towards the door, followed a moment later by Jane and Trent.

The place is packed practically to the rafters, with acquaintances, mourners, school faculty, and family. Jane and Trent have a seat in one of the rear pews. In the next row are JODIE and MACK, obviously there more for Daria's sake than for any other reason. TIMOTHY O'NEILL weeps uncontrollably in one of the center aisles, and JANET BARCH sits next to him, elbowing him the ribs. ANTHONY DEMARTINO sits in the next one up, a cross between annoyance and relief on his face. ANGELA LI mutters under her breath about the expense of this little "shindig."

On the other side of the room is the family section. All the afore-mentioned family of QUINN MORGENDORFFER sit, with expressions ranging from grief-stricken (Helen and Jake, Erin, Ruth) to boredom and disinterest (Rita, Brian) to stoically deadpan (Daria, Amy). LINDA and TOM GRIFFIN sit in the next pew back - with their surviving kids SAM and CHRIS - and both look beside themselves with grief.

In the front of the chapel are four caskets laid out in state, each containing a member of the Lawndale Fashion Club - Quinn, SANDI GRIFFIN, STACY ROWE, and TIFFANY BLUM-DECKLER. At the pulpit is a priest, pretty much generic in both appearance and performance. Funereal organ music plays in the background.

Priest: Our father, who art in Heaven...

The ceremony over with, family and friends file by to pay their last respects. The Three J's stand in front of Quinn's coffin, tearfully arguing.

Joey: I want to be buried with Quinn.

Jeffy: No, me!

Jamie: No, I do.

Amy stands behind Daria, who is more or less next to Helen in the line to view Quinn's body.

Daria: No, I want to be lobotomized first.

Amy: No, me.

Daria: No, I do.

Helen frowns at their behavior, but doesn't say a word. The Three J's depart, still arguing about who is going to be buried first. Helen and Daria step up to the coffin, Helen silently looking in at the face of her dead daughter.

Daria (under her breath): Well, sis, you always wondered whether or not a long-distance relationship would work. I guess now's your big chance to find out. See you in seventy years or so.

She files past. She walks to the rear of the of chapel, towards the exit to the vestibule, when Jodie and Mack "accost" her.

Jodie: I'm so sorry, Daria.

Mack: Is there anything we can do to help?

Daria: Unless you know how to stop acquaintances and wellwishers from asking how they can help, no.

Jodie looks a little shocked at Daria's apparent callousness.

Daria: I mean, okay, so I miss her mindless chattering about the fall's new hot lipstick color, but I don't see the point of getting all teary-eyed about it. She's dead, and we're alive - and we can't change that.

Jodie: Oh.

Daria: And if you tell anyone I said that, I am going to see to it that your suffering is long and painful.

Jodie: Daria...

Jodie seems about ready to begin on a reproachful speech; Mack -- taking Daria's point -- cuts his girlfriend off.

Mack: See you on Monday.

Mack and Jodie walk away. We hear a faint chittering sound in the background, loud enough over to be heard over O'Neill's frantic sobbing and the general murmur of the crowd, but not overly so. It seems to be emitting from beyond the door leading to the crypt area itself. She stares at it curiously for a moment, before dismissing it as a figment of her imagination. She continues her stroll towards the exit when the sound can be heard again.

Daria: What is that noise? A rabid chipmunk?

She heads towards the door in question - conveniently labeled "Mausoleum" - and walks through.

The hallways of Caladan Mortuary are - by day - a brightly-lit yet somehow sinister affair of green marble floors, tall arched ceilings, and numerous nooks and crannies. Not to mention all of the slots in the walls where coffins and ashes have been stored.

Daria walks along slowly, eyes darting around, slowly taking in everything she's seeing. The sound of bootsteps echoes through the massive hallways. She passes an alcove containing an altar - of sorts - with what looks like a miniature coffin on it, but does not seem to see it.

The chittering sounds again, from around the corner at the crossroads ahead. Daria pauses for a moment near the corner, hands lightly tracing one of the slots in the wall. And - for just an instant - her stoic mask slips away, replaced by a look of sadness and melancholy. And just as quickly, it's gone. Almost as if it were never there. As she passes on around the corner, we can easily see the tag on the alcove. It reads MORGENDORFFER in shining bronze letters; it is obviously a recently-installed plate. Quinn's final resting place.

A squat, shadowy figure darts around the corner at this hallway's end.

She looks... a little unnerved. A hand drops on Daria's shoulder.

Daria: Eap!

She spins around, only to come face to face with... Amy.

Amy: "Eap!"? Is that any way to greet your favorite aunt?

Daria: Amy? What are you doing in here?

Amy: I could ask you the same thing, you know.

Daria: I thought I heard something, but...

Amy: Now you're not sure whether or not you really did.

Daria: How'd you guess?

Amy: E.S.P. It's a family legacy, and you should begin to exhibit the symptoms any day now. (Bt) Actually, your mom asked me to find out where the hell you'd disappeared to, and to bring you back. They're about to perform the burial rites.

Daria: Let's just hope it's not premature.

Amy: Not likely.

Daria: I know, but a girl can hope, can't she?

Amy: You do miss her, don't you?

Daria: Don't tell anyone, or I'll -

Amy: Have to dispose of me?

Daria nods.

Amy: I know. I used to be the same way. (Bt) Come on, I'll take you out later for a pizza or something and we can "reminisce."

The two start walking, re-rounding the corner. At the end of the hallway with the shadow, the Tall Man rounds the corner and watches the two depart.

BGM: "After All (The Dead)" by Black Sabbath. The Fashion Club's four coffins have been lowered into the ground. The priest stands before rows of grieving family and townspeople, concluding his eulogy.

Priest: Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

He gives the signal, and - after a few moments - the assembled congregation begins to gradually file their way out of the church.

Reggie (VO): Michael.

The car is driving down an empty, narrow road leading into a town that looks to be equally empty. A sign out the left-hand window proclaims it to be Highland. Reggie is driving; MIKE, a handsome and rather ordinary looking guy, is sitting in the passenger seat, evidently asleep.

Reggie: Hey, Michael. Wake up. We're here, man. Highland.

Mike: Wha?

He sits up and looks around, and out the windows we see boarded-up houses and rusting hulks of metal that used to be cars.

Mike: Damn. We're too late.

Reggie: Looks like it.

The car passes another boarded-up house, the words "The End is Extremely Fucking Nigh" spray-painted on the boards in bright red.

Mike: I had one of those dreams, again, Reg.

Reggie: With the girl?

Mike nods.

Mike: I think she might be in danger.

Reggie: It could be a trap, Mike.

Mike: I don't think so.

He looks out the window again, at all the desolation and destruction.

Mike: These places all look the same after, don't they?

Reggie doesn't reply verbally, merely nods grimly. The car rolls on.

The 'Cuda pulls up in front of the gates, and stops. Reggie and Mike get out of the car, and walk up to the gates. We can see that every single grave in the cemetery has been emptied, now nothing more than six-foot pits in the ground; to the rear is the building itself, dark and and as dead as the rest of Highland.

Reggie: Let's get the tools, scope it out. Maybe there's a clue.

Mike: Or a trap.

It swings open, revealing enough weapons and tools to fortify a small army. The duo start to remove all sorts of stuff. Reggie takes a bandolier of shotgun shells and straps them on, also grabbing a chainsaw, a flashlight, and the prize of the collection - a four-barreled shotgun. Mike collects a handgun, a flamethrower and a welder's mask. The two look at each other and nod.

The two friends walk around the empty holes where the graves used to be, looking down into them with impassive stares; they've seen this before. Soon they arrive on the porch. The door is boarded-over. Reg starts up the chainsaw and steps towards it. Mike ignites the flamethrower and lowers his mask.

The chainsaw easily cuts around the doorknob area, and the door swings open, boards and all. The two pour into the room; it's pitch black except for the light of Mike's flamethrower and the beam of the flashlight. Walking towards the antechamber to their left, they see a crucifix broken in half, lying on the floor. Reggie stares at it, almost incredulously.

Mike: You take this way.

So saying, he departs. Reggie sighs, and continues on past the crucifix.

Mike enters the room flamethrower-first, using the flickering flame to look around. There are jars on a shelving unit along the wall, and a stainless steel table resting in the middle of the room. Two other things of interest - a body on the embalming table, and a shadowy figure huddling in the corner, not moving. He lifts the visor of his mask, taking a closer look.

The body on the table - nudity NOT withstanding - looks an awful lot like Amy. A Y-incision runs down her chest and along her sternum. She's obviously dead. He turns to the figure; at the light, it moves a little. And that means only one thing - survivor.

Mike: Reggie! Reggie!

After a few beats, we hear footsteps. Another two or three beats, and Reggie appears at the door, huffing and puffing.

Reggie: Yeah? What is it?

Mike: We got a survivor.

Mike points in the direction of the shadowy figure, barely illuminated by the flickering beam.

Reggie (surprised): Shit.

The two walk to within five feet of the thing, before stopping.

Mike: Who are you?

No answer; the two look at each other and draw closer. They hear the figure whimpering. Mike steps closer, reaches out and pulls back the hood of the robe, revealing... Daria's face. Her mouth is taped over, and her eyes are frightened.

Mike: Oh, my God. What has he done to you? (Bt) Reg, this is the girl I was telling you about! The one from the dreams!

He looks like he's about to say more, but... the back of Daria's robe begins to move. Oddly. Reg and Mike look at each other with looks of semi-disgust on their faces. Mike hands the flamethrower over to Reggie, reaches out and pulls the back of the robe down. The cause of the movement is revealed - a bug-like creature with the face of the Tall Man is resting in her back.

He looks mortified.

It looks right at them.

Tall Man: You play a good game, boy. Come east, if you dare.

Reggie (OS): Get the fuck back!

A giant burst of flame from the thrower catches the creature dead on. It roars.

A longer shot, revealing Mike staring at the thing in disgust and Reggie continuing to fry the thing until "Daria" has been engulfed in flames and is melting, to put it delicately.

Reggie: That's not the first time he's left a calling card for us.

Mike: But it's definitely the worst. (Bt) Let's go. This place is dead.

The two head out of the room. A few beats, and then Mike comes back and looks at the autopsy table. The body is gone.

Reggie (OS): You coming, man?

Mike: Yeah.

He leaves, shaking his head. When the door closes...

It's a video montage, ladies and gentlemen. BGM: "Dropping Like Flies" by Armored Saint. Mr. O'Neill stands in front of the class, discussing something. We never hear what. As time goes by, students in the class start... fading out of view, at the rate of one every ten seconds or so. After five or six are gone, and Mr. O'Neill on top of that, end music. Cue ANGELA LI, Lawndale High's Principal, through the classroom in the door.

Li: Good afternoon, students. Unfortunately, Mr. O'Neill will be unable to teach class today because....

Li continues on in the background during this conversation. We don't make out much of what she has to say, but a few choice words and phrases  -- "disappearance," "pending investigation," and "a reward is being offered" -- peek out between our Dastardly Duo's words.

Daria: Unfortunate for who?

Jane: I'm going with the chalkboard.

Daria: Don't forget about Ms. Barch.

Jane: What's the difference? They both screech when he's around.

Daria looks at her friend strangely. Jane shrugs as if to say, "Tell me I'm wrong."

Li: Do you have something to say, Ms. Lane?

Jane: Free Tibet.

Li: Tibet is no laughing matter, and neither is this, Ms. Lane. Speak out of turn one more time, and I'm afraid I will have no choice but to give you detention.

Daria: And that's really going to do the Tibetans a lot of good, isn't it, Jane?

Jane: Quiet, you.

Li: Miss Lane!

Daria and Jane walk down one of the main drags of Lawndale, which is beginning to look like something out of Highland - there are fewer people, and fewer open businesses, then ever before seen. Many of the businesses that are closed - like the Funky Doodle - have been boarded up. BGM: "This Lonely Place" by Goldfinger.

Daria: Have you been noticing anything unusual around here lately, Jane?

Jane: You mean besides your third eye? I told Trent not to tell anyone. Now I'm just going to have to make him pay, damn it!

Daria: I knew you were going to say that. (Bt) But I was talking about the fact that it seems even deader around here than usual.

Jane: You noticed that too? What gave it away - the lack of people or the prevalence of boarded-up store fronts?

Daria: What do you think?

Jane: Both?

Daria: Exactly.

Jane: And don't forget about the number of missing students.

Daria: Don't forget about what?

They walk on in silence for a few moments, beyond Axl's place.

Jane: So... what do you think is causing it?

Daria: How should I know?

Jane: I'm betting it's the mortician.

Jane receives one of the Looks from Daria.

Daria: Houston, we have total system failure.

Jane: Well, think about it for a second. The mortician wants more business, so he tells his employees to kidnap and poison everyone in town.

Daria: This is even stupider than your theory about the Mario Brothers.

Jane: Hey, have you ever seen them do any plumbing? I don't like the way they treat Yoshi, either. They're always beating on the poor dino's head in order to get him to eat monsters. Damn you, Mario!

Daria ignores this outburst.

Daria: How would the mortician be paid for doing all of this? (Bt) Hypothetically speaking, of course.

Jane: Simple. He steals the money from every corpse's wallet before embalming them.

Daria: You're crazy.

Jane: And you're just jealous that I came up with this idea first. (Bt) So I'll probably be sneaking up to Caladan later tonight to scope things out. Want to come with me?

Daria: Much as I'd love to see you make a complete and total jackass out of yourself -

Jane: Thanks for the support.

Daria: I can't. I promised Amy I'd watch the skies with her tonight. Besides, aren't you afraid of - ?

Jane butts in, as if to avoid revisiting the whole "Aunt Jennie" episode.

Jane: Watch the skies?

Daria: Yeah. She's an astronomer. Something about wanting to find a planet with fewer imbeciles on it, I think. (Bt) And since she'll be going home in a few days...

Jane: Guess I'll just have to tell Trent that you won't be able to come along on this little joyride. (Bt) And I was going to throw in five bucks to sweeten the deal, too.

Daria: Trent?

Jane: Yeah. Who do you think's going to drive me to this thing? You?

Daria: Uh...

Jane smirks, because she knows she's scored a point.

Jane: Uh-oh. It looks like I'll be bringing someone with me after all.

Daria: Yeah. The coroner.

Jane: Hmmm?

Daria: I'm going to kill you, Jane.  

Jane: You say that every week.

Daria: And one of these days I'll actually get around to doing it.

Reggie's 'Cuda pulls up in front of the giant clog, and we get our first real look at the establishment. A sign on the clog reads "Hans' Dutch Diner." The inn itself is your basic roadside motel - brown, ugly, and run-down. The parking lot is totally empty, but there are lights on inside the building.

Reggie: A giant clog?

Mike: Now we've seen everything.

Reggie: That's kind of cool.

Mike: We'd better check in and find out where the funeral home is. It looks like we made it in time.

Beat.

Reggie: Maybe now we'll be able to give that Tall Dude exactly what's coming to him.

Mike nods.

The lobby is - like the rest of the place - your typical roadside motel. Except for the Enya music drifting out from the employee room behind the desk. Reggie rings the bell, and through the glass doors we can see Mike trying to unload the muscle car.

Clerk (OS): Just a minute.

The CLERK appears. He's balding, bespectacled, and possesses a totally emotionless voice. Some might call him a zombie, but they'd be wrong - the zombie would be more lively.

Clerk: May I help you?

Reggie: Yeah, man. I'd like to get a room for the night. Two beds.

Clerk: Fifty bucks. No questions asked.

Reg pulls fifty out of his wallet.

He walks into the lobby carrying two duffel bags, one over each shoulder. The welder's mask is on his head, the visor flipped up. He carries a chainsaw in one hand, and the modified shotgun in the other. On his back, Reggie's guitar is strapped.

He blinks, yawns, and then does a double take.

Clerk: I'm sorry. You can't bring that in this building.

Mike: What?

Clerk: The guitar. No musical instruments allowed.

Mike: Oh. Sorry.

He turns and walks back out to the car, but not before giving Reg a "What's with this guy?" look. Reg shrugs, then turns back to the clerk. Who takes his proferred cash and gives our bald-headed friend a room key.

Clerk: Room 17. Thank you for choosing the Dutchman Inn.

Reggie: Say, man - can you tell me where the funeral home is?

Clerk: No questions asked. Remember?

With that, the clerk departs into his back room. After a few beats, "Orinoco Flow" by Enya begins to play again. Mike returns, the guitar nowhere in sight.

Reggie (to no one): Well, that guy was really helpful.

Trent - needless to say - is behind the wheel. Through the windshield, we see the front gates to Caladan Mortuary.

Trent: It was good of you to call me.

Daria: We really didn't have much choice. It was either this, or call a taxi.

Jane: And you can just imagine what that would be like.

Daria: "Please wait here while my friend and I break into this funeral home to find out if the mortician is killing people. And be sure to leave the meter running while you're at it."

Trent chuckles.

Trent: You're funny, Daria.

She blushes. A temporary return to normality out of the increasing surreality of her situation.

Daria: Mmm. Thanks.

Trent: Here's the plan - I'll sit right here with my foot on the accelerator, ready to burn rubber.

Jane: Trent, just go home and go back to sleep. We'll walk home.

Trent: An alternate plan of action. Cool.

Daria and Jane emerge from the car. Jane turns to Trent in the driver's seat.

Jane: And whatever you do, don't try to write lyrics and drive at the same time.

Trent: Hey, you know how it is. Inspiration.

He pulls away, and we see the car vanish in a puff of foul-smelling exhaust into the darkness surrounding the road.

Jane: Don't worry about Sleeping Beauty. He's used to doing things like that. Remind me to tell you about the milk carton sometime.

Daria: Who said I was worried?

Jane: Never mind. (Bt) Shall we?

Daria: Why not? This felony isn't going to commit itself.

Jane: That's the spirit. Now, how do we get past this gate?

Daria rolls her eyes.

They're on the front porch of the place, which looks even creepier by night. Jane tries the front door.

Jane: Locked.

Daria: What a surprise.

Jane: Hey, it worked in that movie.

Daria: No, it didn't. (Bt) Are you ready to call it a night yet?

Jane: Bah! You're too timid, Daria. Besides, we haven't gone around to the back yet.

BGM: "Faces in the Window" by Dio. The "house" has no doors back here that we can see, but there are a few windows close to the ground that'd be big enough to get the job done. Daria and Jane approach from around the side. Naturally.

Jane: Well, what have we here?

Daria: It appears to be a window.

Jane: Which would let us in.

Daria: Which might also have an alarm attached to it that will bring the rabid Dobermans out after us, so I say we just call the whole thing off and go home. 

Jane: Ah, loosen up.

She kicks the window in. It breaks with a satisfying smash. However, no alarms go off, no rabid dogs come running for their throats, and there is no sign that anyone heard them. 

Daria: Way to keep a low profile, Jane. 

Jane: What can I say? I like breaking things.

She climbs through the window, and disappears into the inky blackness within. Daria does not follow, and after a few beats Jane sticks her head back out. 

Jane: Are you going to come willingly, or am I going to have to pull you in myself? 

Daria: I don't want to go in there. It never did anything to me, so why should I trespass inside it? 

Jane: Will you just come on?

She disappears back inside, and doesn't stick her head back out. Instead, the beam of a flashlight is visible through the broken glass. 

Jane (OS): This is so cool. 

Daria: Jane? 

Jane (OS): Quit stalling, Morgendorffer. 

Daria: I will kill you. 

Jane (OS): You already said that.

Daria: Then this is a friendly reminder. (Bt) You do realize that you will suffer greatly for this, don't you? 

Jane (OS): Sure, sure. Now, come on!

Daria sighs, and climbs through the window. Of course, she catches her skirt on one of the shards of glass still in the frame, and we hear a ripping sound as she does so. Once inside, with the flashlight beam on her face, she scowls.

Daria: What the hell was that?

Jane looks Daria up and down, back and front, with the flashlight.

Jane: Hmmm... Hanes Her Way. And they're pink? (Bt) No offense, Daria, but you might want to get a new skirt. Some folks don't take kindly to being able to see a person's underwear. 

Daria: Ah, humiliation. Where have you been for the last six hours? 

Jane: Don't get so uptight, Pinky. So you wear pink panties. It's not the end of the world. 

Daria: No. Just of my dignity. 

Jane: What dignity? Anyway, check this out.

She hefts the hand not carrying the flashlight, and we see a severed mannequin's head in it. 

Daria: It looks like one of yours.

Jane (smirking): Yep. (Bt) I take it back; I think I like this place. 

Daria: What is it with you Lanes and funeral parlors? 

Jane: I think it has to do with that whole "eternal sleep" thing.

She shifts the flashlight around, looking for the door.

This is a rather thick and solid door, made out of heavy and durable wood. It's been plated with metal, and it has a drop bar. The sort of thing that could easily keep someone out. Or in.

Jane (OS): Shall we see what's behind door number one?

Daria (OS): I'd rather take what's in the mystery box, Monty. 

Jane (OS): Tough.

We see the 'Cuda - Reggie and Mike inside - pull out onto the road.

The room is pitch black until Jane opens the door and comes in with the flashlight. She looks like a kid in a candy store; Daria looks apprehensive as she follows.

Jane: What I wouldn't give for one of these babies.

Daria: That can be arranged.

Jane: Can't you wait to kill me? They say you're not supposed to die for at least one hour after eating.

Daria (flatly): Right.

The beam darts around the room, and we see that - if fully lit - it'd be a nice place. The carpeting's soft, the walls white, and there are a few bay windows conveniently covered up by big drapes. The beam illuminates an empty and open casket.

Jane (reverently): Oh, yeah.

Daria: No.

 Jane: Take this for me, would ya?

She hands Daria the flashlight and gets in the open casket.

Daria: No, Jane. There're no dead bodies, and no people around at all. Can we leave?

Jane: And now for my Dracula impression.

She raises her arm to her face, in an imitation of the typical vampire pose. 

Jane: "I vant to suck your blud."

She swings her arm outwards, away from her face. It bashes the coffin lid, which then proceeds to begin to close on her.

Jane: What the fu - ?

Thud. The lid shuts.

Jane (muffled): Let me out.  

Daria: Have you learned your lesson yet, Vampirella? Or do you want me to go and get a stake?

Jane (muffled): I'll stake you if you don't get me out of here. 

Daria: Bite me.

Jane: You wish.

The sound of rapidly approaching footsteps can easily be heard. Daria ducks behind the coffin and turns the flashlight off.

Daria: Shut up, Jane. Someone's coming.

A door opens, and a sour-faced, big, BEEFY MAN takes a few steps into the room. He is stopped by the sound of a throat being cleared, and turns around. The Tall Man looks at the man, and makes one small gesture with his hand.

Daria (VO): Looks like that guy in my dream. What the hell?

The other guy turns with a grunt and walks out of the room, slamming the door behind him. Daria sighs in relief as she turns the flashlight back on, and Jane starts pounding on the roof of the coffin.

Jane (muffled): I've had enough and I want out!

Daria: Patience, Queen of the Damned.

She stands, and lifts the lid on Jane's coffin as she does so. 

Jane: What took you so long?

Daria: Do the words night watchman and his boss mean anything to you?

Jane prepares to do her best Tiffany impersonation.

Jane: Night... watchman?

Daria: Let's get the hell out of here, Jane. There's nothing here.

Jane gets out of the coffin.

Jane: But we haven't finished exploring yet. This place is like MYST - you never know what the next room will bring.

Daria: A criminal record.

Jane: Move it, Morgendorffer.

She walks towards the door, dragging Daria along with her. She opens it, and the two step through into the awaiting hallways.

CUT TO:
INT. MAUSOLEUM HALLWAY

As bright as they were by day, by night the hallways have an evil, more ominous feeling to them. Minimal light filters in from the skylights, and from occasional lights ensconced upon the walls, but they do little to alleviate the darkness. Daria looks around with some reluctance, and Jane looks around with complete abandon as the two walk.

A thermographic look at the hallway, recognizable as the section of hall immediately behind the door Daria and Jane emerged from.

A faint whistling sound is audible. Daria looks around for the source of the noise as they round a corner.

Daria: What is that?

Jane: Sounds like "Oh, Suzanna."

Daria glares at her friend.

Jane: What? It's not my fault if you don't like Name That Tune.

The whistling gets increasingly louder, and Daria looks behind her.

It glints silver in the dim light. And it's barreling down on our heroines fast.

Daria: Duck.

Jane: Nah. You go ahead. I'm not hungry.

Daria: No, duck.

So saying, she throws herself to the ground, pulling Jane after her. The silver sphere goes sailing by overhead harmlessly. Jane and Daria rise to their feet not long afterwards; Jane didn't see it.

Jane: What did you do that for?

Daria: Well, there was this... er... thing flying right for us.

Jane: Thing? You mean a disembodied hand?

Daria: No. It looked like a silver tomato with spikes sticking out of it.

Jane: Sure. Why not? (Bt) You know, Daria, if you want to get me to crawl, you're going to have to do a lot better than that.

She starts to walk on, and Daria follows after a few beats.

Daria: Why don't we just leave already? There's nothing here, Jane.

From around the next corner comes an odd mechanical buzzing.

Jane: Nothing, huh? Then what made that noise?

Daria: The wind?

Jane: Nice try. March.

They walk past a crossroads, and the sour-faced guy from before jumps out and grabs Daria.

Daria: Eap!

She struggles against the guy, but his grip is just too damned hard to shake.

It rounds a corner, and we see the three people. Jane stands off to the side, beating on the guy with her flashlight. That doesn't work. Daria is the one wriggling in the dude's arms, getting increasingly more violent as the ball draws closer, but she can't shake loose. Finally, Daria rears back and kicks the guy in the cojones with one of her combat boots. That works. She sees the ball, and hits the ground as it advances. Jane sees it, too, and ducks.

The ball attaches itself to his head through the prongs, and extends a drill from the front that draws ever closer to his face...

They watch as the drill starts to bite into the guy's nose. Blood shoots out the back of thing in large jets, pooling on the marble floor, as the drill works its way deeper inside his head. Daria turns as green as her jacket.

We see two pairs of boots. The ball's still attached to the face. There's a retching sound, followed by the sound of something semi-solid splattering against the marble floor.

Jane: That was cool.

Daria (weakly): Jane...

Jane: What? It was.

Daria (weakly): Can we just leave now before we end up having to answer a bunch of questions from the police? Like "What were you doing in the funeral home after hours?"

Jane: Fine. Have it your way.

While Daria and Jane begin to walk in the other direction, the Tall Man emerges from behind one of the corners and begins to follow them. Jane and Daria start looking around, hearing the new set of footsteps and trying to locate their source. Jane finally looks over her shoulder.

Jane: Uh... Daria?

Daria: Yeah?

Jane: Might want to take a look back there.

Daria: Is it another one of those [urp] things?

Jane: Not exactly.

The Tall Man - illuminated by the flashlight beam - is beginning to walk a little faster...

Jane: Run!

They turn and do so, Jane going along just a little faster than her friend. The Tall Man follows at a speed at least as great as their own.

The room's as dark as before. The door to the hall opens, and Daria and Jane enter the room, running at top speed. Beat, as they dash through, the beam of Jane's flashlight jostling about like no tomorrow; the Tall Man enters and continues to stalk, his tall and trim figure drawing ever closer.

In double-quick time, Daria and Jane enter the room and slam the door, lowering the drop bar. They rest against the door, panting from the run.

Daria: Can we go home now? (Bt) Being chased by a psychopathic mortician right after seeing a man get his brains drilled out is not how I usually see myself spending Friday nights.

At mention of the drill, Daria begins to turn green again. Jane doesn't reply for a few moments, and then she nods.

Jane: Daria?

Daria: Yes?

Jane: If I ever come up with an idea like this again, I want you to kick me.

Daria: Does it matter where?

Jane: No.

Daria: Good.

A curious flopping sound can now be heard from just offscreen to the right. Jane looks over, and does what anime fans would call a facefault.

Jane: Um... Daria?

Daria: What is it, Jane? Decided that you'd rather have me shoot you?

Jane: No... look...

She takes Daria's head and turns it to the left.

The Tall Man's hand is halfway into the room, fingers flopping back and forth like beached trout, as it somehow manages to fit between the door and the frame.

Daria has a look of utter shock on her face.

Daria: Leaving.

Jane: Leaving?

Daria: Now.

Jane: Yes.

They begin to head towards the broken window.

The gates are hanging open, presumably because Daria and Jane managed to open them earlier. They emerge, only to stop in front of them, panting.

Daria: Never again.

Jane: Huh?

Daria: I'm never listening to another of your crazy ideas again.

Jane: What? (Bt) Why?

Daria: Because you almost got me killed, damn it!

Jane: So now it's my fault that there are brain-sucking spheres flying around in there?

Daria looks ill again. Not like it's the sort of thing a person can forget seeing, really. They stand in silence for a few moments, continuing to recover their breath. And that's when Reggie and Mike pull up in the 'Cuda, stopping the car and getting out. Mike looks at Daria for a moment, while Reggie goes around to the trunk and pops it open.

Mike: Hey... I know you.

Daria: Excuse me?

Mike (earnestly): From my dreams.

Reggie, meanwhile, is collecting his weapons. He looks up at the sound of Mike's voice, four-barreled shotgun in hand.

Reggie: Who are you talking to?

Mike: It's her, Reg.

Reggie: Her who?

Mike: The girl from my dreams. And she's with someone else.

Reggie looks at him, and for the moment, Daria and Jane's presence seems to be ignored and/or forgotten.

Reggie: Do you remember what happened the last time you said that?

Mike: I don't think this is a trap. Not this time.

They look more or less exactly what you'd expect anyone else to look like in this situation: weirded out and a little disturbed.

Jane: Aw... Isn't that sweet, Daria? That psycho has dreams about you.

Daria: Correction - heavily-armed psycho.  

Jane: Are you pondering what I'm pondering?

Daria: I think so, Brain, but if we run screaming into the night, won't that waste breath?

Jane: Whatever. (Bt) On three.

She takes a deep breath.

Jane: Three!

Daria and Jane take off at high speed down the road, headed towards town.

Mike: Hey! Wait! Come back!

Reggie walks up to Mike.

Reggie: Way to scare them off.

Mike: We've got to go get her, Reg. She's in trouble.

Reggie: Look, I know that, Mike. But they don't know us. Didn't anyone ever teach you that it's not a good idea to just approach someone like that?

He watches the two girls running in the distance.

Reggie: The black-haired one is fast, though.

Mike: Come on. We should follow them.

Reggie: Hopefully, they don't press charges like the last girl you followed.

Mike: Actually, wasn't that the last girl you followed?

Reggie shrugs, and turns back to the car. Mike follows.

They're running down the road, obviously. Behind them, we see headlights appear - it's the Cuda. Jane looks back for a moment.

Jane: Well, isn't that something?

Daria: They're behind us, aren't they?

Jane: And in a muscle car, to boot.

Daria: If we ever get home, I'm going to make you suffer for this.

Jane: Now, now - no need to turn sadomasochistic on me, Morgendorffer.

The 'Cuda approaches, and we can see Mike's head sticking out of the window.

Mike: Hey! Wait a minute!

Daria: Think it's time for me to get the can of Mace out?

Jane looks back for a moment.

Jane: I don't know. We could hear what they have to say for themselves. They seem pretty nice for armed psychos. (Bt) Besides, that young guy's kind of cute.

Daria: In an axe-murderer sort of way.

Jane: You just love looking at the bright side of things, don't you?

Daria: Yeah. Remind me to give you a shiner.

Jane stops running as the 'Cuda pulls up right behind them and comes to a stop.

Daria: Thank you so much.

Jane: No problemo.

Daria turns to Mike, in the passenger seat.

Daria: You have approximately five seconds to explain yourself.

Jane: And then we get physical.

Daria: Tell me, have either of you gentlemen ever been kicked by a steel-toed combat boot in the nether regions?

Reggie and Mike look at each other with a simultaneous wince.

Reggie: Well... uh...

Mike: Have you ever seen the Tall Man?

Jane: We've seen lots of tall men. My brother's in a band. Goes with the territory. They usually have lots of tattoos. (Bt) What's so special about this one?

Reggie: This dude's about seven feet tall, grey-haired, looks sort of creepy. And he's from another dimension.

Jane: Oh. That Tall Man.

Daria: About a minute before we ran out of the mortuary. We were being chased by him. Why are you asking?

Mike: We've been looking for him for a while.

Reggie: More specifically, to stomp the shit out of him.

Mike: And it looks like we've finally found him.

Daria: Right. (Bt) And why are you looking for him?

Mike: He took my family.

Reggie: And mine. And he's been sweeping through this country, stealing all of the corpses from small towns and building an army of the undead.

Jane: I knew the mortician was behind it all.

Daria glares at Jane; Jane looks back with a "What?" look.

Jane: And what's the deal with all of those flying balls?

Reggie: Don't know. But they're always there.

Daria: This is all well and good, but I don't see any reason to believe you.

Mike: Look, why else would we be in Lawndale?

Jane: He's got you there, Daria.

Daria: Because you're psychotic drifters looking to go on a multi-state killing spree. Because you actually like boring little small towns like these. (Bt) I don't know, and I don't care.

Reggie: Man, why do all the chicks always say that?

Mike: Look, even if you won't believe us, can we at least drop you two off somewhere other than the road near the funeral home? (Bt) It's not safe after nightfall when the Tall Man's around.

Daria: And why not?

Reggie: Because of the shrunken-down dwarf critters.

Daria: Wonderful. In one night, I've managed to rip my skirt, see a man get his brains drilled out, get chased out of a mortuary by a sinister mortician, and been warned by two heavily-armed psychopaths about being attacked by killer dwarves. (Bt) What next? It's going to rain blood?

Jane: I'm thinking frogs on that one. (Bt) Drop me at home, would you? It'll save me from having to wake my brother up and come get us.

She walks over, and Mike opens the door and gets out. Jane climbs into the backseat, and Mike stands by the side of the car, waiting.

Daria: I hate you, Lane.

Jane: I know. (Bt) So are you going to come along for the ride, or just walk home?

Daria: No way. I may be talked into breaking and entering, but I draw the line at getting rides with total strangers.

A faint chittering sound, highly similar to the ones heard in Caladan earlier, can be heard coming from somewhere along the road behind Daria. As she hears it, she's moving towards the car rather quickly. Mike graciously holds the seat forward for her.

Daria: However, on the offhand chance that you're right about all of these dwarves and things, I'll come along anyway.

She gets in the car, Mike follows, and the door closes.

Daria and Jane are in the backseat, Reggie and Mike in the front. Without further adieu, the car starts up and begins to drive away.

As the car pulls away, we can see a figure that's little, brown, and low-to-the-ground emerge from the underbrush, followed by two or three others... They stare after the car.

Jane: So, how did you two manage to end up here, anyway?

Reggie: It's sort of a long story.

BGM: "Never Land (a fragment)" by the Sisters of Mercy. Reggie has reached the end of his story; Daria and Jane are in the back seat, Jane enrapt and Daria bored. Mike looks like he's heard it before, or - more to the point - lived through it.

Reggie: We had no choice. We burned that mother. And then we came here to get this tall bastard once and for all.

Jane: And this thing had Daria's face?

Reggie: Yeah. (Bt) The Tall Man likes to leave these little presents for us, from time to time.

Mike: That was just the worst one we've seen yet. (Bt) And then - like Reg said - we came here.

Jane: What do you think of that, Daria?

Daria: Psychic dreams, evil Tall Men from other dimensions, semi-intelligent murderous flying spheres that drill brains out and slice ears off, hallucinations... it sounds a lot like a B-movie to me.

Jane: But what a B-movie. (Bt) The paintings I can get from this stuff alone are enough to last me for a year!

Beat.

Mike: So... where can we drop you two girls?

Daria: Anywhere but off of a bridge.

Jane: How about Glen Oaks Lane? We can walk from there.

Reggie: Sure. (Bt) How do we get there?

Jane looks at Daria.

Jane: Daria?

Daria (sighing): Pass the Giant Strawberry and the mall, make a left, and then take the next right.

Reggie nods. Daria turns and looks out the window, thinking. A few moments go by in near-total silence, before the sound of hissing gas and an explosion can be heard over the soundtrack. Daria looks around for the source of the sound, but no one else appears to be hearing it.

Tall Man (VO): This game is finished, girl!

Her eyes go wide, as she puts two and two together.

Daria: I need to get home. Now!

Reggie: Now? Why?

Daria: I don't know... something bad's going to happen. (Bt) And if I wasn't so worried, I'd kick myself for saying something so melodramatic.

In the front seat, Reggie and Mike exchange knowing - if grim - looks, and Reggie speeds up.

Jane: What's going to happen, Daria? Your mother's going to burn the house down trying to cook lasagna?

Daria looks at Jane, but doesn't say anything.

Jane: Oh, you have got to be kidding me. Your mother might not be Emeril, but she's not that bad a cook. That's really more of a Jake thing.

Daria: Shut up, Jane. This is serious.

Seeing that Daria means business, Jane shrugs and looks to the guys in the front seat.

Jane: Can either of you two explain what's going on here?

Mike: Psychic vision. It's happened before, and it's always right. (Bt) It's his way of taunting the prey.

Jane: You mean...

Mike: Yeah. Her parents are in serious danger if we don't get there in time.

Daria: And my aunt.

Jane: God forbid we could forget about her.

Daria glares at her friend.

The car passes the strawberry, doing gods-only-know how many miles an hour.

The 'Cuda pulls around the corner, tires screeching on the pavement. It pulls up in front of a familiar red brick house... Which proceeds to go up in a gigantic explosion of brick, glass, and wood. Everyone piles out of the car, Reggie and Mike watching the house begin to burn down to its foundations with looks of amazement, Daria watching with apparent placidity, and Jane watching Daria worriedly.

Reggie: Whoa!

Jane: Daria?

Daria doesn't respond; just stares at the remnants of her house.

Jane: Daria?

Silence, except for the crackling of the flames.

Jane: You're scaring your friend. (Bt) Say something, dammit, even if it's wrong!

Jane continues to look at Daria, who continues to say nothing, do nothing, and in general look like she's gone catatonic. Over the sound of the fire feeding on the remnants of the Morgendorffer household, we hear a rustling sound. Like someone's walking over shards of glass.

She's coming around the side of the house, and she's not in the best shape. Her clothes are ripped, and torn, and in many places singed. She's bleeding from numerous small cuts and scrapes, and she looks more or less like she's just walked out of a blast oven. But she's alive, and heading for the crowd that has begun to gather around the curb.

Amy: Did anyone order a well-done aunt?

She staggers over to Daria and Jane. Reggie and Mike look like they're about to draw near, but a Look from Jane manages to push them back for the time being. Amy hugs Daria rather tightly for a few moments, as if in great pleasure at finding some relative among the living. Daria still doesn't react.

Amy: I'm so sorry, Daria. Your parents were...

She trails off, seeing that Daria's apparently gone out for a bit of a mental holiday.

Amy: Daria?

Jane: I don't think she's all there right now, quite honestly. I'd feel the same way myself, if I just saw my house explode. (Bt) What happened, Amy?

Amy: I have no idea. I was out back, gazing at the magnificently boring tapestry of the cosmos, when it just... well...

And with that, she breaks down and starts crying. A rather fair and believable reaction, considering that her sister and brother-in-law just got atomized, along with their house.

It's later. Reggie's 'Cuda pulls up front, and - gradually - everyone manages to pile out. Jane and Amy have Daria supported between them, while Reg and Mike hang back.

Trent and Jesse are engaged in another of their many musical collaboration sessions at the kitchen table.

Trent: A diminished, man. I'm telling you that it sounds better.

Jesse: But I'll get another cramp!

A faint thudding sound can be heard in the background.

Jesse: And we still need a lyric to go with "Moth to a flame."

The thudding continues.

Trent: I'm calling your name?

Jesse: And living in Maine?

The thudding stops.

Trent: Do you hear something?

Jesse: Yeah.

Trent: I think it's the door.

He stands up and heads out of the room. Jesse follows.

Trent walks to the door and opens it.

Jane and the bedraggled Amy enter, leading Daria between them; she's still not saying or doing much of anything. Reggie and Mike enter at a respectful distance. Jane fixes Trent with a rather, er, dangerous stare.

Jane: Trent, as you favor your life and your guitar, you will not have band practice here tonight.

Jesse: Whoa.

Trent: What happened?

He looks at Amy's appearance.

Jane: Who gives a fuck what happened? You're not playing here.

Amy: Jane...

Jane (dangerously): What do you want, Amy?

Amy: Just... (Bt) Never mind.

She turns to Trent.

Amy: Daria's house just blew up, so we'll be staying here for some time. And as if that weren't enough, her parents were inside at the time. So your sister kindly requests that you not play here tonight.

Jesse: Bummer.

Trent (sincerely): Sorry, Daria.

Daria doesn't reply; she continues to stare listlessly into space.

Jane: Can you say anything that isn't one syllable, Jesse?

Jesse: Uh...

Trent (taking the hint): C'mon, Jesse. We'd better get over to Nicholas'.

Jesse: Huh? Oh, yeah.

They leave, not saying anything else. They don't even stick around to ask about Reggie or Mike. Jane and Amy lead Daria over to a couch. She just stretches out on it and seems to go to sleep.

Jane: Now what?

Reggie: I guess we wait for your friend to snap out of it.

Jane: And if she doesn't?

Reggie: Then we make that tall bastard pay even more.

Mike nods. Amy stands by the couch, and watches.

She rolls over on the couch, the most action she's shown in the last hour or two.

Through the window, we can see the sun shining through the trees. It's really a rather pleasant afternoon outside. Inside the house, however, it's another matter. Daria is still asleep on the couch, by all accounts. Jane is sitting on the floor, staring up at her friend. A few beats of this, and Amy walks into the room with a sigh. Jane looks up at the sound of her entrance.

Amy: Some days it seems like insurance agents don't have the foggiest idea what sarcasm it.

Jane: Had a good conversation, did you?

Amy: Of course. The gist of it was that a gas-related explosion isn't covered by the existing policy. Apparently, it's an "Act of God."

Jane: And that means?

Amy: In a phrase? We're screwed like a serving girl on the Jolly Roger.

Amy glances over at her niece worriedly.

Amy: How is she, Jane?

Jane: The same. She hasn't even moved in an hour. (Bt) If she wasn't breathing, I'd swear she was dead.

Beat.

Amy: What were you two doing last night, anyway? And what do those two guys have to do with anything?

Jane: Well... uh... (Bt) I really can't answer that question right now, Amy.

Amy: It was illegal, wasn't it?

Jane: Well, no more than stealing a car.

Amy: That's reassuring.

Jane stands up and starts begins to walk out of the room.

Jane: Just let me know if anything changes, okay? I think I'm going to try and find something to eat.

Amy: I looked in the kitchen briefly. I don't think it's such a wise idea to eat anything you find in there.

Jane: What are you, my mother?

As Jane leaves, the older woman takes her place on the floor.

She looks so peaceful, almost like she's dead. But she moves very slightly. And then her eyes open.

As we pan back from her face, we see that Daria is being dragged along the ground by one of the dwarf-creatures seen earlier. The creature's face is hidden in the hood of its robe, so we don't know what it looks like. She begins to struggle, but it's useless - her arms and legs have been tied. The dwarf rounds a corner, and pulls her towards a door labeled "EMBALMING ROOM" in faded black letters.

We see the Tall Man standing with his back to the camera. The dwarf drags Daria over to one of the stainless steel tables, and sets her on it.

Daria: I don't know what's going on, but I want to get out of here.

The Tall Man turns to Daria, quite unmoved by her plea, and walks towards her. He pulls a tray piled with all sorts of arcane, keenly sharp, wicked-looking medical implements behind him.

Tall Man: It is time for me to release you from this imperfect flesh, girl. It binds you to this time and space.

Daria: What the hell are you talking about?

He tilts her head to one side, and begins tapping her jugular as if preparing to draw blood. He reaches down onto the tray, and...

He's holding a long metal rod with a spinning saw blade on the end of it.

She starts to frantically struggle, realizing that words or questions really aren't going to help her here.

Tall Man: This won't hurt a bit.

He brings the blade down towards her neck, and she screams once...

Daria is sitting bolt upright on the couch, shrieking and possibly still asleep. The entire crew is standing at the doorway to the room, save for Amy and Jane. They stand over Daria, trying to wake her up.

Jane: Daria?

The scream cuts off as abruptly as it began, and Daria looks around the room. She raises a hand to her neck, and gingerly feels around.

Amy: Daria, are you all right?

Daria looks at Amy, and blinks.

Daria (quietly): Let's kill that tall son of a bitch.

Amy: Who?

Jane: We'll have to talk.

BGM: "Have You Seen It?" by Reggie B and the Jizz Wailin' Ya' Doggies. It plays in the background throughout this entire sequence. Reggie is standing next to a few mannequins, which are arranged in the center of the floor. Mike stands in the rear of the room, watching. Amy, Daria, and Jane are in front of the mannequins.

Reggie: There are a few things you need to keep in mind when using a chainsaw.

Jane: Keep both hands on the grips at all times.

Reggie: That's one of them. How'd you know?

Jane: Evidently, you've never heard of common sense, but I'm way ahead of you, Reg.

Jane gets up and heads for the shelves in the back of the room. Reggie watches her confused.

Reggie What's she doing?

Daria: Just watch.

Reggie: But how am I supposed to - ?

Daria: Just watch.

She points to Jane, who has found what she's looking for. She turns back to the camera holding a big chainsaw in both hands, an evil grin on her face. The word "Maurice" is painted on the red case in thick black letters.

A maniacal grin comes over her face as she walks over to the mannequin in the center and starts ol' Maurice up. The revving sound nearly drowns out the song in the background, and she brings it around to slash the dummy's head off. It drops to the ground with a small thud. Reggie, Mike, and Amy look at her with awe; Daria like she's seen it one too many times. Jane powers down Maurice and looks at her handiwork.

Jane: Like that, right?

Reggie: Uh... yeah.

Daria: Meet Maurice. She uses him for woodworking, mostly.

Jane: And a few other things.

She grins somewhat... ambiguously. Reggie takes a step back from her, eyes wide, and looks at Mike. He shrugs.

A series of targets have been set up in a nice, neat row in front of the doors. Mike is trying to explain the basics of handgun operation to Daria, Amy, and Trent.

Mike: The thing about having a handgun is that you don't point it at someone unless you intend to shoot him. And you don't shoot someone unless you intend to kill him.

Amy: You mean like this?

She aims the gun she's holding at him; he looks at her warily.

Amy: And all I have to do is pull the trigger, you say?

Mike: That's right, ma'am. (Bt) So let's see what you can do with these things.

With that, he practically runs out of the way as Amy gives him a meaningful Look.

She aims with great concentration, and fires steadily.

She fires almost wildly, just sort of pointing the gun towards the target and pulling the trigger.

He's aiming, which is about the best thing that can be said for him.

Mike and Reggie look at the targets. Trent is a passable shot -- passable enough for shooting up dwarves, anyway. Amy seems to be some sort of Wonder Woman sharpshooter. Daria? Reggie looks at the target with a somewhat fearful look in his eye.

Mike (to Daria): How about we give you a shotgun? You won't have to worry about aiming with it.

She scowls, and the background music fades away with the picture.

Daria is sitting at the table quietly, looking at the shotgun resting on the table in front of her and making sure she's got enough ammunition in her pockets, before beginning the reloading process. Amy walks into the room.

Amy: Hello, favorite niece.

Daria gives a start.

Daria: Hi, Amy.

Amy walks over and takes a seat.

Amy: How you holding up, kiddo?

Daria: Better than I was. I think.

Amy: You think? I'd say walking and talking is a vast improvement over going catatonic. (Bt) Unless you're a morning deejay.

Daria: That goes without saying.

Amy: Yeah.

Beat, as Amy looks acutely uncomfortable and Daria peers quizzically at her aunt.

Daria: What's on your mind, Amy?

Amy: Are you sure you want to do this?

Daria: Who else is there?

Daria finishes reloading.

Daria: That seven foot son of a bitch killed my entire immediate family and apparently is turning the entire town into a race of killer dwarves. Mike and Reggie can't stop him on their own... so...

Amy: So you have to do it?

Daria looks at her.

Daria: What exactly are you trying to say?

Amy looks... pained.

Amy: You're not going to make this easy, are you?

Daria: Make what easy?

Amy sighs in resignation.

Amy: Dammit, Daria - I don't want you to go. All right?

Daria: You don't?

Amy: What? You think just because I don't live with you, I don't care about you? I don't exactly want to see you end up dead, you know.

Daria (quietly): I just thought you wouldn't want to bother with me.

Amy: What?!

Daria: I just thought that I might be bothering you, or something.

Amy: Daria, if there's one thing I'd wished for, it's that you and your sister would call me more often. Even if it was just to get away from the tightly-coiled insanity that is your parents.

Daria: You mean "was," right?

Amy (uncomfortably): Um... right. Sorry.

Daria: It's okay.

An awkward silence reigns for a few moments.

Amy: Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say is that while I haven't been around for most of your life, I'm still family and I don't want to see you end up like... them.

Daria: I didn't know that.

Amy: You didn't? Maybe you're not as smart as I thought you were.

Daria: Can we just stick to the subject at hand, please?

Amy: Why on Earth would you not want to "bother me," as you put it?

Daria: Uh... it's because I uh... (muttering) I love you.

Amy blinks.

Amy: Did I just hear you correctly?

Daria: You'd better have, because I am not repeating it. Not even under penalty of death.

Amy thinks for a few moments.

Amy: You feel that way, and you didn't want to bother me?

Daria: I didn't want to alienate you.

Amy: You didn't want to...?

She thinks for another few moments.

Amy: Ah. I think I understand now.

Daria: I'm still going, though. My family may have been a pain in the ass, but I lo -

She stops for a moment.

Daria: But they were my pain in the ass.

Amy looks like she's about to respond, an understanding half-smile on her face, when Jane pokes her head in the kitchen door.

Jane: Hope I'm not interrupting anything, but we're ready to roll.

The 'Cuda and the Plymouth pull up in front of the gates and stop. Reggie and Mike emerge from the 'Cuda, looking grim and ready to do battle with almost anything. The other four emerge from the Plymouth. Daria scowls, Amy glances apprehensively at her niece, Jane looks keyed-up, and Trent looks like... Trent.

Reggie (to Mike): I'd feel a lot better if that Daria chick wasn't such a bad shot. The rest of them aren't bad; hell, Jane and Amy are downright scary. But...

Mike: Don't worry about it; she's got a shotgun. What's the worst thing she could do?

Reggie: Man, I didn't want to hear you say that.

Daria - overhearing this last exchange - scowls again.

Jane: Ah, lighten up, Daria. Odds are that we're not coming out of there alive, anyway. So I say live it up.

Daria: Now who's the optimist? (Bt) Besides, you get to use the chainsaw.

Jane: But that's because I own it.

Daria: Why couldn't my parents - just once - have asked me what I wanted for Christmas? Then I wouldn't have to be stuck with this thing.

She hefts the shotgun in her left hand.

Amy: I don't know - a shotgun's a pretty good weapon. You can do lots of damage with it.

Daria: If it were for any reason other than this, that might have been enough to cheer me up.

Amy: I know what you mean.

Jane: Well, look at it this way, Daria. If you survive, you've got one more tool to use against the mindless jerks when the revolution comes.

Amy: I like the way you think, Jane.

Jane: Thanks.

Reggie and Mike have proceeded to outfit themselves with the whole nine yards of stuff they had earlier - Mike with chainsaw and flamethrower, Reggie with the four-barreled shotgun and a power drill. Amy and Trent are armed with automatic pistols, while Jane has Maurice.

Reggie: Are we ready to do this?

Daria: Do you want an honest answer to that question?

Jane: Let's kick some ass.

Daria glares at her.

Jane: I always wanted to say that.

Reggie: The easiest way in is through the back.

Jane: Yeah, yeah - through the window, right?

Reggie: Actually, the easiest way is through the back door.

Jane: What back door?

Mike: Never mind.

Lo and behold, a back door is present, off to the side and just out of sight from the way Daria and Jane went around before. Reggie and Mike walk up to the door and try it - naturally, it's locked. Mike looks at Reggie, who nods and pulls a power drill out of a holster at his side. He revs it up, drilling through the door and the lock mechanism.

The door swings open, and the motley crew enters.

Amy: This place is ugly.

Jane: Hey, it's not ugly. It's just misunderstood.

Amy: Huh?

Daria: She and the funeral home came to an understanding the last time we snuck in here.

Amy: You do this sort of thing a lot, don't you?

Daria: Unfortunately.

Reggie: Remember to keep an eye out for those balls.

Daria turns slightly green.

Amy: I wouldn't worry about that too much. I like my brains right where they are.

Jane: That would be in your head, right?

Amy: The last time I checked, anyway.

Jane: Just making sure.

Daria: Speaking of brains, where have yours disappeared to?

Jane: Margaritaville.

Daria: Wonderful. (Bt) Where are we likely to find this Tall Man?

Reggie: How should we know? We've never actually found him before. Not when we could do anything about it, anyway.

Daria: So this is basically a kamikaze mission?

Jane: You hadn't figured that out yet?

Daria: Shut up, Jane. I didn't want to figure that out.

Jane: Then why'd you ask?

Beat.

Trent: So... what's the plan?

Mike: We split up and find the bastard.

Jane: And then we drive a stake right through his heart?

Reggie: He's not a vampire.

Jane: I know that. But I always wanted to do that to someone.

Daria: Can we just get this over with? If I'm probably going to die anyway, I don't see any point in delaying the inevitable any longer than I have to.

Reggie: Sure. Jane? Trent? You two come with me.

Jane: And Daria and Amy get to go with the cute one? Damn it!

Daria: Down, tiger. We promise not to put the moves on him. We'll be too busy being attacked by all sorts of zombie dwarves.

Amy: Right.

Mike: We'll take the South. You take the North.

Reggie: Yeah.

The teams split up, with Reggie's group heading off to the left.

Amy: Well, now what?

Daria: We could always try something drastic, like looking around.

Amy: Isn't that a little extreme?

Daria: Probably.

Mike heads off down the hall, rolling his eyes. Daria and Amy reluctantly follow.

Reggie and Trent are walking along in front, Jane taking up the rear and glancing back and forth rapidly, almost nervously.

Reggie: So you're in a band?

Trent: We're called Mystik Spiral. But we might change the name.

Reggie: That's cool. Why change it?

Trent: Well, Nicholas thinks that it's holding us back.

Reggie: Nicholas?

Trent: The bass player.

Reggie makes a face like he's tasted something unpleasant.

Reggie: Bass players. What do they know?

Trent shrugs.

She's stopped, and is looking at one of the many doors in the hall. It has a row of ceramic heads over the door frame.

Jane: Hmmm... This must the guillotine room.

She looks after the departing forms of Reggie and Trent, who seem to be in the midst of a discussion about the musical arts.

Jane: What the hell? You only live once.

She shrugs and opens the door.

Daria, Mike, and Amy are walking along side by side, weapons armed and at the ready.

Amy: When we get out of here, I am going back to Hawaii and never leaving again.

Daria: More of that good old-fashioned family loyalty at work here?

Amy sighs.

Amy: All right. You can come, too.

Daria: Thanks.

They pass the altar with the mini coffin on it, and continue on their merry way.

It sits there, a quiet humming emanating from it. And then the side drops down, forming a sort of ramp. We see three metallic objects glinting in it. Could they be...? Yes, they are: three of the brain-suckers. They roll out of the coffin and onto the ramp, the one in the middle gold and the two flanking it silver. With a clanking sound, they take off, one of the silvers heading after the three people, while the other two head in the opposite direction.

She looks around suspiciously.

Daria: Did you hear something?

Amy: It was just the wind.

Daria: Don't say that. You know what happens to people who say that.

Amy: They get gutted by psychos with big fish hooks. (Bt) Do you see any of them running around here?

Daria: Well... no. But we haven't been here very long yet.

Amy: Good point.

Jane enters, closing the door behind her. She looks around. The walls are a bright white, and seem to glow. It's a dazzling light, and Jane squints. Columns of black plastic barrels are stacked against the rear wall, from which the sounds of growling can be heard. In the center of the room are two metal posts standing upright, about a yard long each and about four feet apart.

Jane: This is definitely cool.

She walks over to the metal rods.

Jane: What the hell are these?

She sticks her hand between them, and it proceeds to disappear with a pneumatic hiss.

Jane: Whoa.

She pulls her hand back out, and as it seems to be fine, she gets an idea...

Jane: Sometimes you just have to say, "What the hell?" (Bt) If nothing else, maybe I'll get some more abstract art out of it.

She walks between the posts and disappears. Beat. A loud screaming sound is now audible, if a bit distorted, and it sounds like... Jane.

We hear the scream. Trent perks his head up.

Trent: Janey?

Reggie: What?

Trent looks behind the two, only to find out that Jane's not there.

Trent: What happened to Jane?

Reggie: I dunno. Isn't she back there somewhere?

He, too, looks back.

Reggie: Shit.

We hear the scream again, a little fainter, and a little more... confident. Reggie and Trent look at each other before breaking into a run back in the direction they came from.

The ball swoops around a corner, and we can see three figures. Based on height and weight, we can correctly assume them to be Daria, Amy, and Mike. Amy stands next to the wall, walking along in silence. The other two stand somewhat farther out in the hallway.

Daria turns around to see the ball approaching.

Daria: Ball!

Mike looks on, but due to lack of a firearm, he can't really do anything. She turns and aims her shotgun at it as it moves in on her aunt, who is still facing Daria and Mike.

Daria: Get out of the way, Amy!

Amy: Huh?

It extends two prongs from the front and speeds up a little.

She spins around just long enough to see the ball bearing down on her fast, prongs extended. She raises a hand to her face, and the prongs sink into it.

Amy: Guess I'll be feeling that in the morning.

The drill attachment extends from the sphere and moves towards the palm.

She winces in great pain, and then proceeds to scream in agony. Her hand flies back against the wall, and we can see that it's more or less impaled against it by the bit. A metallic whirring sound indicates that the drill's still active.

Amy speaks between gasps and shrieks of pain.

Amy: Get... the... fucking... chainsaw!

Mike nods, drops the flamethrower, and takes the chainsaw off of his back. The flamethrower hits with a clatter. He revs the saw, and moves in closer.

Amy: Do it!

It approaches Amy's wrist, while above we can see the ball still trapped in the palm, as if she was about to throw it.

She looks on in horror, as the revving and screaming indicate the fate of Amy's left appendage. And then her cheeks puff out, and she spins around frantically and starts moving at high speeds.

She is now holding her stump - which is bleeding like a faucet got turned on - and gritting her teeth through the pain.

Amy: Now, can anyone do anything about a tourniquet?!

We hear the clatter of a shotgun on marble flooring and a retching sound in the background as Mike rips the sleeve off of his sweatshirt and prepares to tie off the wound.

Reggie and Trent burst into the room, leaving the door hanging asunder. Reggie looks at the metal rods, and utters one syllable.

Reggie: Shit.

Trent: Where is she?

Reggie: Through there.

He points at the metal fork things.

Trent: Oh. (Bt) After you, man.

Reggie: You're not going to ask how I knew that?

Trent: Nah. You've done this before.

With a resigned sigh, Reggie sets forth into the gate. Trent follows, and there is a moment or two of absolute silence in the room.

Reggie and Trent are immediately crushed to the ground by the gravity. Jane lies not too far away, in a pile of dismembered dwarves. Behind them, we can see the dimensional fork leading back to Caladan Mortuary.

Trent: Janey?

His voice has a weird echo effect on it.

Jane (weakly): Over here, Trent. I'm in the pile of dead Disney rejects.

Trent crawls over to her, and grabs her hand.

Trent: What happened?

Jane: What the hell do you think? I stepped through that thing and got attacked.

Reggie: And you killed all of these things by yourself?

Jane: No. I had help from my fairy godmother. (Bt) Can we leave now? This is really freaking me out.

Reggie: Sounds good to me.

The three start crawling back towards the gateway.

A few beats go by, and then Reggie emerges from the gate. When he finally clears out of the way, Trent and Jane come through simultaneously. Jane does not have Maurice with her anymore.

Jane: Dammit! Hack and Wrecker's not going to like this.

Reggie: What?

Jane: This'll be the third time they'll have had to replace my chainsaw. (Bt) I wonder if this is covered under the warranty?

Trent: What?

Reggie: Being left on an alien planet?

Jane: Well, that and being choked by zombie midget blood.

Reggie: Somehow I doubt it.

Jane: In pace requiescat, old friend. (Bt) How do you think Daria's faring?

Trent shrugs, and the three leave the room.

Daria emerges from behind a column, looking rather pale and ill. She carries the shotgun, though. We see that Mike's sweatshirt has now become sleeveless. Amy's left wrist is bandaged with one sleeve, while the other is tied around her upper arm. The hand - with ball still attached - can be seen sticking to the wall.

Mike: I've never seen that before.

Amy: What?

Mike: Most people don't vomit when they see one of the balls in action.

Daria: Really?

Mike: Of course, since most of them end up dying not long afterwards, I guess it makes sense.

Daria (deadpan): You're really making me feel much better.

Mike: No problem.

Reggie, Trent, and Jane round the corner and approach. Jane breaks into a run, seeing her friend still alive and well.

Jane: You're okay.

Daria: Uh... yeah. We're just fine.

She glances over at Amy, who's glaring at Jane and still holding her wrist. Jane looks over, and takes in the gory aftermath of the attack.

Jane: Oh. (Bt) What happened?

Reggie and Trent approach and - naturally - look at the hand on the wall.

Reggie: Whoa.

Trent: Why is there a hand on the wall?

Reggie: And whose hand is it?

Amy's pained glare transfers over to the two guys staring at the hand curiously.

Daria: We'll tell you later.

Jane: But I want to know now!

Amy: Don't tempt me, Jane. I still have one good hand, and two loaded automatics.

Jane: All right, all right. No need to be so pushy.

We see four dwarves walking along in a column. The one in front walks along almost haughtily, with the one directly behind her walking at an equal pace. The dwarf in the very rear walks along a step or two out of sequence with the rest, almost as if afraid of disrupting the first two. And the dwarf in front of her keeps walking into things.

Amy (OS): If I weren't in so much pain, I'd shoot you for that one.

Jane (OS): I thought you were going to shoot me, anyway.

Amy (OS): Well, I would out of principle, but Daria seems to like you for some reason.

The haughty dwarf stops, followed a second or two later by the rest. It growls, and the second one growls back. The other two stand around like vacant nitwits.

Daria (OS): Right. Some reason.

Jane (OS): What is this? Insult Jane day?

Daria (OS): Well, I wasn't going to say anything, but...

The haughty dwarf and the other two round the corner, leaving dwarf number two alone for the moment.

Reggie turns his head away from the hand and looks down the hall.

The three dwarves are approaching at high speeds, teeth bared and ready to do battle. In this light, we can see that they look like... the Fashion Club.

Reggie: Uh... we've got some dwarves headed this way.

Jane: Is Bashful here?

Daria: Not those kind of dwarves.

Jane: Oh. The zombie dwarves?

Daria nods.

Jane: Why did I have to leave Maurice on that planet?

Daria: What?

Reggie loads the four-barreled shotgun. The fourth dwarf is sneaking up on Daria craftily - or as craftily as one of these things can. It darts behind a column, just out of sight.

Jane: Ask me later.

Reggie: Might want to cover your ears. This is probably going to be loud.

He pulls the triggers, and...

They go down in a blaze of yellow gore and gunfire thunder.

Trent: Whoa.

Jane: That was cool.

Amy: Even I have to admit that was impressive.

Reggie: Thanks.

Daria walks forward a few steps, and dwarf number four chooses this opportunity to pounce. It leaps into the air, and lands on Daria's back.

Daria: Eap!

She begins to struggle with the thing on her back, as Reggie and Amy step forward for her defense. Amy takes a handgun in her good hand and aims it at the dwarf. It, meanwhile, is busy pounding on Daria mercilessly.

Daria: I don't mean to be rude, but could someone get this thing off of me now?

Amy: Give me a second, would you? This isn't quite as easy with one hand.

She pulls the trigger, striking the dwarf somewhere underneath the hood. It falls back off of Daria, landing face-up on the floor. Daria collects her bearings, gathers herself, and turns around, looking down at the body.

Daria: Quinn?

Sure enough, the dwarf has a face that rather closely resembles Quinn's.

The ball swings around a corner, and we can see the heat signatures of the group. It's flying dead-on for the one standing over the big black spot that represents a dwarf corpse.

Jane: Who?

She's looking down at the body, completely unaware of the gold sphere flying right for her head.

Amy: Daria! Get down!

Daria: Huh?

Three very sharp serrated saw blades spring out of the front. The ball begins to rotate, faster and faster, the blades spinning in a vicious circle.

She rushes forward and pushes her niece out of the way, just as the ball reaches the spot she's standing. The ball hits her right in the face, and she has time to scream once before she dies, the ball slicing through her head like soft butter.

She looks back just long enough to see her aunt's body hit the ground, the ball flying up and away towards Daria. She raises her shotgun, and pulls the trigger. The sphere explodes in a shower of gold metal and sparks that rain down on the multi-colored gore puddled and drying on the ground.

Daria: Take that, you motherfucker!

In the background we can see the group silently watching as Daria walks over to the remains of the ball and empties the contents of the shotgun at its remains over and over again, continuing long after it's totally empty. Her eyes glisten with tears as she does, and she's started whispering something totally incoherent.

Jane approaches after thirty seconds of this, and gently touches Daria on the shoulder.

Jane: Daria...

Her friend spins around and points the shotgun at Jane. She pulls the trigger. The chamber clicks empty again.

Jane: Daria... put the gun down. You've destroyed it. It's gone.

The green-jacketed girl does so, and it drops with a clattering before Daria slumps to the ground against the wall herself, her system having gone back into total overload mode.

Jane: Daria?

Reggie: Oh, not now!

Mike: We should get her out of here. We can come back and get that old bastard later on. (Bt) She's not going to be any good to us.

Jane (quietly): Yeah.

She stands up, and tries to take Daria's hand.

Jane: Come on, kiddo. Let's get out of this place, okay?

The party begins to trek out of the mortuary, feeling pretty defeated because one of their number is dead, and the other as good as. The three men head forward, around the corner and towards the back door they came in at. Daria doesn't move. After a few beats, Trent returns from back around the corner to see Daria still slumped against the wall and clutching Jane's hand as if it were a gold bar.

Trent: Let's go, Janey.

Jane: She won't leave.

She gestures to Daria, who's staring off into space. Her eyes are still wet, but her cheeks are streakless.

Jane: And I don't go without her. Do I make myself clear?

Trent nods, and approaches.

Trent: Daria? Do you want to leave?

No response.

Trent: What are we going to do?

Jane: How the hell should I know? She's totally gone now, Trent. And I don't think she's coming back.

Trent: Can we carry her?

Jane: That's a good idea.

Trent: What are older brothers for?

Jane: Providing transport for minor vandalism and teasing younger sisters.

Trent: And helping you carry your catatonic friends out of funeral homes?

Jane: Yeah. That too.

They lift Daria up, and she still doesn't respond to a damned thing. Without another word, they head after Reggie and Mike. Rounding the corner, they run right into the Tall Man.

Tall Man: The girl is mine.

Jane is very surprised to see him, but she covers well. Trent is Trent, and therefore not all that startled by this. Daria - off in La La Land - is set down on the floor.

Jane: Over my dead body, you tall son of a bitch!

His lips quirk in what one might generously refer to as a smile.

They're approaching the back door, and just as Mike is about to step outside... we hear Jane's angry scream from offscreen, followed by one or two pistol shots.

Mike: Goddamn it!

Reggie: Let's go.

He reloads the four-barreled shotgun, and they look at each other meaningfully before running back the way came. As they do so, Mike grabs his chainsaw.

He has two bullet holes - neat and tidy - through his chest. Trent takes careful aim and shoots again. With a roar, the Tall Man approaches him, arms extended.

Reggie (OS): Hey! Suck on this!

The sound of his shotgun being fired booms out in the hallway, and the Tall Man's front erupts in a bright yellow explosion. He turns, and Reggie and Mike are standing there, Reggie holding a smoking shotgun. He reloads as quickly as he can, while the Tall Man turns to them and starts to walk at a fairly rapid pace.

Reggie: The game's over, you bastard!

He pulls the trigger again, having aimed upwards slightly, and the Tall Man's head dissolves in a cloud of yellow mist. The body hits the ground with a smack. Jane and Trent look at each other with relieved looks as they pick Daria back up from where she was not-so-gently dropped and head towards the exit. Reggie starts doing a little victory dance kind of thing. Mike just looks at the corpse, as if expecting it to stand up and keep coming.

The area around the front door seems more brightly lit than usual, and as the camera zooms in it becomes quite obvious why - the place is on fire. Mike holds the flamethrower quite assuredly as he waves it back and forth over the exterior of the house. Reggie assists by tossing a few hand grenades in the remnants of the front door, before the two men run back into the cemetery portion of the grounds.

She is sitting on the grass, Jane and Trent flanking her on either side. All three stare at the burning mortuary, but only one doesn't seem to have any visible reaction.

The camera continues to zoom into the eye, until the only thing visible are the flickering flames of the funeral home reflected in Daria's pupil.

Flames leap and frolick about the logs, and there's even a shape that looks kind of like Caladan. BGM: "Mother Stands For Comfort" by Kate Bush. The song plays through until it's over. The camera continues to pull back, and we discover that we're in the Morgendorffer living room. Outside, the sound of thunder is clearly audible, and we can see that there don't seem to be any lights on in the house aside from the fireplace.

Daria is stretched out on it, obviously asleep and in the thrall of a dream. She wears an all-black variation on her usual outfit.

In a chair, watching Daria sleeping with a look of undisguised melancholy and/or sadness, is Amy. She's also wearing all black. There's a gasp from the couch, and Daria sits up.

Amy: Have a nice sleep?

Daria: Sure. If by nice sleep you mean one plagued with nightmares.

Amy: Is there any other kind?

Daria: I know you're trying to cheer me up, but it won't work.

Amy: And I have all of these great jokes lined up, too. (Bt) Honestly, though, what do you expect? You haven't slept much since the funeral last week.

There are now a few beats of silence, in which the thunder and the pouring rain outside - and the crackling of the fire inside - blend with the background music.

Amy: You want to talk about this nightmare of yours?

Daria: Do you really want to hear about?

Amy: Of course. (Bt) I love hearing all about what frightens my niece silly, so I can use it against her later.

Daria: If you insist.

Amy: I do.

Daria: It was about this alien undertaker who was trying to take over the world with an army of the undead and a legion of flying power tools. (Bt) Oh, yeah, and you were there, too.

Amy: Let me guess - I saved the world at the last minute.

Daria: Actually, you got your face sliced out by one of the flying cuisinarts.

Amy: Thanks for sharing.

Daria: Hey, you asked me.

Amy: But I'm starting to wish I hadn't.

Daria: You and me both.

Amy: It sounds like you could use a vacation.

Daria: Yeah. From myself. You wouldn't happen to have any mescaline, would you?

Amy reaches into a pocket.

Amy: Hmmm... marijuana, LSD, angel dust... Nope. I'm fresh out of mescaline. How about a nice road trip instead?

Daria: Sounds like about as much fun as a root canal.

Amy: I'm serious, Daria - you need a change of scenery, instead of moping and mourning around here into the distant future.

Daria: Fine. What did you have in mind?

Amy: How does Hawaii sound?

Daria: Like a barrel full of tropical delight.

Amy: Ah, you need to lighten up a little. Your family'll still be here to be mourned when you get back.

Daria looks crestfallen at mention of the family, and Amy looks... guilty. Thus prompting her next words.

Amy: I just want you to know that I'll be here for you for as long as you need me to be, Daria. You do understand that, right?

Daria: Yeah. (Bt) But sometimes it feels like they'll come back any second, like they've only gone out for a few minutes and if I close my eyes, they'll be back.

Amy: It's normal. Trust me. But it will get easier in time. (Bt) Now, why don't you go and get some of your things together? The sooner we get out of this hurricane weather, the sooner you'll start feeling better. Two weeks of fun in the sun is exactly what we need to begin to put all of this behind us.

Daria rises to her feet, and begins to walk towards the stairs.

Daria: I hope so.

Amy: Just don't forget to pack the rubber shark fin. I have big plans for torturing some of the other tourists.

She smirks at this comment, and for a moment it looks like Daria might smile, or chuckle, or even laugh. But she doesn't; instead - on impulse - she gives Amy a small hug before heading up the stairs. Amy turns her head and watches her niece ascend.

Amy (aloud): Well, sis, you sure managed to raise a good kid. Too bad you couldn't be around to see her grow all the way up, eh?

And then Amy says nothing more, and we can see that her eyes are growing damp.

A suitcase is open on the bed, and there are one or two articles of clothing inside of it. Daria herself is standing at her desk, staring at a picture of her family taken right after they'd moved into the current house.

A single tear falls upon it, and a hand returns it to the desk from whence it came.

Daria wanders over to the closet - the door to which is ajar - and begins to rifle through it, looking for clothing that might be appropriate for a trip to the islands. Finding nothing, she sighs and closes the door. In the mirror hanging on the back, we see the Tall Man reflected. She doesn't seem to see him, though.

Tall Man: Girl!

She spins around, looking right at him, her back to the mirror.

Daria: Eap!

The mirror breaks. Brown-robed arms reach through it and pull her into the blackness behind it as she screams...

=END=

* * *

Daria, and all related characters and events are 1993, 1997, 1999, 2000, and 2001 by MTV Networks, a division of Viacom International. All Rights Reserved. Used Without Permission.

All "Daria" characters were created by Glenn Eichler and Susie Lewis Lynn.

All "Phantasm" characters and events are 1978 New Breed Productions, and 1998 Starway International. All Rights Reserved. Used Without Permission.

All "Phantasm" characters were created by Don Coscarelli.

Any exact dialogue or scenes borrowed from either of the above properties are owned and controlled by the copyright holders. I didn't write those, and so therefore would sooner have my fingernails ripped out by rusty pliars than claim credit for them.

* * *

Thanks, Apologies, Disclaimers:

My thanks to Erin Mills, who served as the "Primary Beta Reader" for this project, and who also ended up being the primary author of the conversation between Daria and Amy before the final (dare I say) climactic section in the mortuary. Also, thanks to Medea42 and Robert Nowall, whose suggestions helped shape the majority of the final revisions made to this story's original form.

My apologies to the creators of both "Daria" and "Phantasm" for doing this to their characters and situations, but every once in a while insane ideas won't go away unless you write them to completion.

ADDENDUM

I'm sure I can think of maybe a dozen people who are surprised (and/or pleased) to see this story -- and, by extension, myself -- pop my head back up in the community I wandered out of three years back. I assure you it's entirely a surprise to me, too. Believe me: I never had any intention of coming back. Was riffling through some old files on this hard drive, and I found a text  copy of "Phantasmagorier" sent me a while back by Erin Mills. I read through it, found myself impressed by how much better it was than I remember, and decided, "Hey, what the hell, I'll put it back in play."

It's hardly a grab for glory or anything, and this is hardly on par with -- say -- anything from the Grand Masters of the "Daria" Fanfiction Community -- but it's an amusing enough trifle, I think. Some great lines, some great quips, and at the end of the day I think it's respectful to the spirit of both franchises.

It's been three and a half years since I wrote the original draft, of course, so the Contemporary Brian made a few select changes here and there -- patching small plot holes here and there, reinforcing or explaining a couple of quizzical motivations. That sort of thing. Nothing major, and if you didn't like it the first time out, you won't like it now. Hell, unless you have an old copy of the story, it's quite likely you won't notice anything different. But I think it reads marginally better. Although this particular perversion of the script format isn't all that easy to read in the first place.

At any rate, for the three of you who still remember me, I'm not exactly what you'd call back in the game -- I'm just putting this story back into circulation, because it seems to me that it's funny enough and odd enough to have deserved a slightly better fate than I consigned it to. I hope you old hands found this as amusing now as you did then. If you found it amusing then. And if you came along after "Phantasmagorier" (and myself) pulled a disappearing act from the whole "Daria" scene, well, I hope you enjoyed reading this.

Thus concludes tonight's installment of "A Voice from the Distant Past Speaks." Thanks, and take care, everybody. (And yes, the e-mail address way the hell at the top of the page is current -- just don't forget to get rid of the capitalized letters. In case anyone is still reading this and cares to send me e-mail. I'll probably reply, but don't expect an immediate answer.)

-- Brian Taylor
June//2004