Author's Note: Daria Morgendorffer and her fellow characters from Daria are owned by MTV/Viacom. Any other characters in this story are the property of Doggieboy. This is fan fiction and no money or other items of value have been exchanged for this story.
A Little Vacation
Part One: Somewhere Over the Rainbow
"O.K., why did you skip out of class?" Daria Morgendorffer asked as she and her best friend, Jane Lane, walked down the street.
"Ah...Ms. Li had me in the office for awhile," Jane replied, her expression blank.
Daria stared at her silently for several seconds as they walked, then smirked. "Let me guess," she said, "she found hidden porn in your locker."
"No, that was last year."
"You painted small smiley faces on the security cameras' lenses?"
Jane stopped and thought about that. "No, but that's a good idea," she said and smiled at her best friend. "Thanks, amiga."
"Well, are you going to keep me in suspense all day? Just tell me what happened."
The tall, raven-haired girl said nothing for several seconds, then spoke. "Ms. Li wants me to create a poster for the Lawndale Chamber of Commerce. You know, something that sells the community, but doesn't cost them anything, except all the brownie points Li earns. I'd get extra credit to use where I'd need it."
Daria adjusted her book bag and smirked again. "I'd like to sell the community."
"Yeah, but where would you spend the half-dollar?"
They passed a utility pole with a small poster attached. Daria stopped, walked back and looked at it. A picture of an elementary school age black boy with the words MISSING printed above it centered the paper. The rest of the message identified the boy as Billy Smithson, age nine, and gave details about him and the Lawndale Police Department.
"What's up, Daria?" Jane asked. "Do you know him?"
"I've seen him before," the auburn-haired girl said as she pointed at the poster. "He came to our house last year selling popcorn for the Cub Scouts. He got Dad going on one of his rants and, as a result, also got Dad to buy $50 worth of popcorn." She shook her head. "It says here that he disappeared while coming home from school three weeks ago."
"Remember that realtor who always made those commercials on Channel Four?" Jane asked. "The one who always showed too much of her boobs? She's missing, too."
Daria glanced at Jane. "I heard Mom say something about some shady deals that realtor had. I'm not surprised she disappeared."
They walked on down the street. "So what do we do today?" Jane asked. "Get a pizza and watch Sick, Sad World? Or do we try to watch the soft-core porn on Cinemax through the squiggly lines again?"
"Not that again," Daria replied. "Not only did I get a headache, but you fell asleep and loudly fantasized about Alan Thicke. I nearly lost my pizza when you went into detail about what you wanted to do to him."
"No, it wasn't Alan Thicke! It was Leonardo DiCaprio!"
"Oh, that's right. You fantasized about Thicke when you fell asleep in O'Neill's class."
Jane smiled at her best friend. "Keep it up, Daria, and I'll tell everyone about the love letters you wrote to Don Knotts."
Daria decided to play along. "It's just that Mayberry charm. That's my weakness."
"That and seeing Trent in his underwear."
"I hate you, Lane." Daria blushed and looked away.
Jane smiled at her friend and they walked on down the street in silence. Finally, she said, "There's no harm in liking him, Daria."
Daria grunted, but said nothing.
"You ought to ask him out."
"What? Are you nuts?"
"Hear me out, amiga, hear me out. He's ambling around, clueless as ever. You ask him and if he says 'Yes', then you work on it from there."
"Well, suppose he says 'No', smart ass. What then?"
"Then you can chase after Mack instead." Jane grinned at her. "Seriously, Daria, if Trent turned you down, then you let him go and pursue someone else. It would be his loss, anyway."
Daria sighed, looked down briefly, then looked back up at Jane. "It's not that easy, Jane. You're more outgoing than I am."
Jane looked ahead. "Well, speak of the devil. There's Trent. Lift your skirt up, Daria. Show him some thigh."
"Bend over, Jane. You have something on your ass."
Jane laughed and moved slightly out of reach. "I've heard that one before. Let's at least say 'hi' to him and find out why he's awake." She lifted her hand to wave at him.
Just then, a tall, skinny man with a fringe of white hair and bulging eyes jumped out from behind a parked panel van. He carried a black box the size of a trumpet case and pushed something on the front. The sound of thunder could be heard as a white light shot out from the box towards the girls.
"Daria! Look out!" Jane jumped aside quickly.
Daria wasn't as quick, however. The light engulfed her and she cried out loudly in shock as she vanished in the bright luminescence.
The light faded and Daria Morgendorffer was gone.
Jane stared in shock at the spot where Daria had stood before she vanished. "Daria?" she asked, her voice weak and uncertain.
"Shit!" the old man said, anger and frustration obvious in his voice. "You moved! This test was supposed to be on dual subjects, but you moved! Dammit!"
The teen turned towards the man and glared at him. "Where's Daria?" she asked. "What did you do to her?"
The man ignored her questions, however, and continued his rant. "I made detailed notes concerning this test and you moved!"
"WHAT DID YOU DO TO MY FRIEND?" Jane yelled at him.
"You want to see your friend, you stupid bitch?" he asked and glared back at her. He aimed the box towards her. "Very well, girl, you shall."
Before the man could push any buttons, however, Trent tackled him onto the ground near the curb. The box was knocked from his hands and landed on the ground near Jane's feet.
"NO!" the man screamed and tried to dive for the box. Trent kept a tight hold on him and the two struggled on the ground.
Despite the younger man's strength and agility, it took a lot of effort to hold the man down. He looked at his sister as he struggled with the older man. "Janey!" he said. "What happened? What did he do to Daria?"
"I don't know! The bastard shot her with some sort of weird light beam and she...just vanished!"
The man gasped and swung a now free right arm back to hit Trent. "Let me go, you damned lousy punk!"
"What did you do to Daria?" Trent asked and tightened his hold on him.
"Get off of me!"
Jane grabbed the old man's right arm, pulled it up and twisted it hard. The movement forced the man's face into the dirt, which muffled his pain-filled scream. She leaned down and said, "If you don't want me to dislocate your shoulder, I suggest you talk to us."
"Stick it up your ass, bitch! I'm telling you nothing!"
Trent looked at Jane and said, "We have to get him somewhere off the street. Some place where we can question him alone."
"Why?" she asked.
He grabbed a broken chunk of yellow-painted curb and hit the man's head with it.
The old man collapsed in Trent's arms and laid still.
"What did you do that for?" she asked. "We have to find out what he did to Daria!"
"Somebody may call the cops, Janey. They may already have. We don't need that trouble."
"Why not?" she asked. "We'll tell them what he did to Daria!"
Her brother released the unconscious man and took a deep breath. "What will we tell them? That he...disintegrated her? They'll arrest us for trying to mug him and let him go...and we may never see him or Daria again."
Jane looked from the man to Trent and then around the neighborhood. So far, nobody had come outside to investigate the fight...or the bright light.
Trent pulled the man up into his arms. "I saw him get out of the back of the panel van. We'll put him in it, tie him up and drive him somewhere else...away from here."
The brunette girl blinked several times and said, "O.K." She helped put the man into the back of the van and got in with him.
Trent shut the door, then picked up the box the man had dropped. He then got into the driver's seat, found the keys tucked into the sun visor, and looked back through the rear-view mirror. Jane had already bound the man's arms behind his back and was now working on his ankles. He started the van and pulled away from the curb.
When the light faded, it took Daria several seconds to re-orient herself. She was no longer a few blocks from Lawndale High School. In fact, she stood alone in what appeared to be a strange neighborhood. Maybe not strange, she thought, but I sure don't recognize it.
She was on a sidewalk in front of a two-story house with a badly faded white paint job. Its front yard was in desperate need of a lawnmower. Part of a tricycle was visible in the overgrown grass.
Thunder rumbled in the gray skies and she looked around uncertainly. "Jane?" she asked; her voice sounded small and muffled in the wind.
She shivered. "O.K.," she finally said. "I guess I'm not in Kansas anymore. Better figure out where the heck I am before the rain gets here."
The real question is how the hell did I get here? What did that man do to me? And where's Jane? Where's Trent? Where am I? She stood still as she thought and finally looked down at the ground. I can't just stand here.
At first, Daria looked at the house directly in front of her. Then she shook her head and muttered, "Nope. That place nearly screams out 'mean old man with a shotgun lives here.'" She turned to her right and walked down the sidewalk.
As she walked, the state of the neighborhood she was in increased her nervousness. Many of the yards were overgrown and littered and several of the houses were badly damaged, some with broken windows, others with smashed doors and holes in the walls.
"Abandoned neighborhoods and vandalism," she whispered and looked around nervously. "This is not a good sign, Morgendorffer. You're in a very bad place."
She quickened her pace and looked around carefully as she walked. She also listened for any sounds other than her footsteps on the cement or that of the thunder and the wind. All she heard, however, were the sounds of birds in most of the trees.
In the distance, she saw a water tower and near that, what looked like a few four- or five-story buildings. They looked to be maybe a mile ahead of her. I'll head downtown, she thought. I'll find myself a cafe or a donut shop and call Mom collect from a payphone.
Then she stopped and blinked twice. How the hell do I explain to her what happened? Ah, that's not important right now.
The street ended in a T and Daria turned right, then stopped suddenly. A yellow Volkswagen Beetle had collided with a blue Chevrolet Camaro about a hundred feet from the intersection. Broken glass and plastic littered the street around the collision site.
Daria stared at the wrecked cars for several seconds and felt a chill go down her spine. A rather large branch from a nearby tree rested on the crushed hood of the Camaro, but the leaves on it were long dead and dried up.
I don't understand. When there's a wreck in Lawndale, even in the bad neighborhoods, the authorities have it cleaned up within a few hours at the latest.
Slowly, she walked around the two cars and shuddered as she saw what looked like a rat scampering around inside the VW. I don't like this neighborhood. Not at all. She zipped her jacket up and moved a little faster down the sidewalk.
After she passed several houses, Daria saw a man. More accurately, she saw the man's back as he sat in a yard. It looked to her as if he were working in a flower bed, since there were quite a few roses around him. I hate speaking to strangers, she thought as she walked into the yard, but this neighborhood is creeping me out and he looks like an old man working in his flowers. That is somewhat normal.
"Uh...excuse me, sir?" she asked, then cleared her throat. A blush covered her face and she said, her voice louder, "Excuse me, sir?"
The man turned and Daria gasped. The man held the remains of a raccoon in his hands. His lower face was covered with blood, fur and entrails. The irises of his eyes were a blank white and his face was mostly blue and gray in color. A portion of his throat and right arm were missing and the remaining area was covered in congealed blood. He saw Daria and grunted. A piece of the dead animal fell from his mouth as he stared at her.
"Oh, shit!" she muttered and her face paled.
The man slowly got to his feet and Daria saw that the front of his clothes were covered in dirt, blood stains and other things she didn't want to try and identify.
She backed up slightly, turned to run, then stopped. Three other people were coming towards her from across the street. All looked much like the man did, with the discolored skin, serious injuries and filthy clothes, except one old woman who was totally nude.
Daria froze as the people moved closer and closer to her. Three of them had their arms stretched out towards her as they moved. One of the four had no arms below the elbows. ZOMBIES? But...but that's impossible!
She jerked to her right, stopped, then to her left and stopped again. Then she shivered and hyperventilated as she heard them groan.
A noise to her right then caught her attention. She looked that way; her eyes bulged and a whimper escaped her lips, followed by a sob.
A male zombie ran fast towards her from two houses away. He wore a large coat that flapped behind him as he ran and his right hand stretched out in front of him.
Oh, shit! Some of them can run, too. I'm dead! I'm dead! Daria felt her bladder release and sobbed again. Tears filled her eyes and she shook her head. "Omigod! Omigod! Omigod!"
"Hey!" the running zombie yelled at her. "Get down! Drop! Now!"
She looked at him through tear-blurred eyes and thought, shocked, He's not a zombie. She saw a weapon of some sort in his right hand.
"Get down, girl!"
She fell quickly then and the running man fired his weapon three times. The bullets hit the zombie who held the dead raccoon. The dead man wavered, then fell hard onto his back.
Daria stared at the fallen body from her crouched position and wiped her eyes.
The gunman reached her then. He turned to the nude zombie and shot her head twice. The old woman's body jerked backwards as the bullets hit it, then fell onto the street.
When he turned to shoot the third zombie, the hammer clicked wrong. "Dammit! Misfire!" He released the pistol and it swung loosely from a cord that connected the trigger guard to the right side of his coat. Then he pulled out a second pistol and fired two head shots each into the next two zombies.
As the bodies fell, the man turned towards Daria and asked, "Are you hurt? Did any of them bite you?"
Daria saw another zombie quietly move up behind him. "Look out!" she yelled and pointed.
Before the man could turn around, the zombie, once a teen boy, clamped onto his right arm and bit into his right shoulder. The coat material tore as the dead teen pulled back with his head.
The man's scream was more angered and frustrated than pain-filled. He elbowed the zombie hard twice and broke its hold. "YOU BASTARD!" he yelled and kicked the dead youth to the ground. "That was my best coat!" He lifted the pistol, screamed again and emptied the weapon into the creature's head.
Then he panted and looked at his right shoulder. "Dammit, that hurt!"
"There's more of them!" Daria said and pointed back the way she came.
The man released the second pistol as he turned towards two more zombies; it swung loosely on another cord attached to his left side.
He drew a sawed-off shotgun from inside his coat, primed and lifted it, then fired once. The force of the blast separated the duo's heads and their bodies fell backwards. Their bodies twitched as they laid on the ground.
Daria was temporarily deafened by the shotgun blast. She closed her eyes and held her ears.
The man grabbed her left shoulder and she looked up at him. He said something, but the words were lost to her shocked and ringing ears. "Huh?" she asked.
"I said to get up and let's go! We haven't got much time!" He pulled her to her feet and then ran back the way he came. The two pistols swung freely on his coat as he ran. "Come on! Follow me!"
Daria ran after him, but after several seconds, it was apparent that she couldn't keep up with him.
He stopped, turned to see where she was and ran back to her. Without a word, he tossed her over his left shoulder and she grunted loudly. He then gripped her left thigh through her urine-soaked skirt, turned back around and ran again.
She moaned as he ran and looked at his right shoulder. I can't believe this is happening!
Trent parked the van in a supermarket parking lot and turned to Jane, who looked over a notebook. "How tight is he tied up?" he asked.
"He can't get free," she said, "but he's still out." She held up the notebook. "I don't understand what the hell this guy's written in here, but he's some sort of scientist, or maybe an inventor or something like that. He's got words like 'electronic transportation' and 'power flux' and 'energy fluctuations.'" She took a deep breath and sighed. "I think that he used Daria in some sort of experiment. In fact, he planned to use both of us."
"Yeah," Trent said. "I heard him bitch about you moving off."
The look on Jane's face reflected her worry as she asked, "Trent, what if he disintegrated Daria and killed her? What do we do then? How do I explain that to her parents?"
The young man shook his head. "You said something about 'electronic transportation.' I don't think he killed her."
"Well, what did he do to her then?"
He sighed. "I think he...transported...her somewhere else. Like on Star Trek."
"How do you know that?"
"It's a hunch I have, Janey. Just a hunch. Gag him while I search more of his books.
Jane grabbed a towel from a tool kit and shoved it into the unconscious man's mouth, while Trent grabbed several notebooks and sat down to look them over. Daria better be alive, you son of a bitch! If you've killed her, I'll burn your nuts off!
The man ran with Daria on his left shoulder for quite a while. In fact, she lost track of time while being jostled as he rushed through block after block of what was obviously a dead city.
It was apparent to her that he had stamina. The fact that he hadn't slowed down yet was proof of that. He wasn't even breathing heavily.
Or else he was operating on blind panic and adrenaline. Either way, she couldn't tell.
Despite the lack of effect on him, though, she felt worse as the minutes wore on. Finally, she turned her head to her left and yelled at the back of his head, "I'm gonna puke! I'm gonna puke!"
The man stopped and set Daria on her feet. She wobbled over to the side of a yard, got on her knees and vomited in the grass. As she did that, the man loaded the pistol hanging on his left side and holstered it. At the same time, his gaze darted in every direction. He also loaded the sawed-off shotgun and placed it back inside his coat.
After nearly a minute, Daria took several deep breaths and said, "I think I'll be O.K." She got to her feet slowly and asked, "Do you have to carry me? I get motion sickness easily."
"We still have a few blocks to go," he said, his voice low. "Talk quietly and stick to the pavement or sidewalks, plus stay with me. I'm used to fighting these things and we can outrun them...but they're real dangerous in large numbers." He walked ahead and she stayed beside him.
"Those were zombies, weren't they?" she asked, her voice as low as his.
Daria looked at his right shoulder. "What happens if a zombie bites you?"
"You'll be dead within three days, though most times it don't take that long. Nobody survives a zombie bite."
She pointed at his shoulder. "Then your shoulder..."
The man stopped, turned to face her and pulled open his coat and shirt. Tightly woven chain mail could be seen under his shirt. "Chain mail," he said. "I never leave home without it. There's more at my shelter that you can wear. Come on." He led her on.
A couple of minutes later, she started to ask, "How did..."
The man held up his left hand and looked around, instantly alert. Suddenly, a tall dead man came out from a large bush and moved towards them. In the distance several more zombies moved in their direction. Their moans alerted even more to their presence.
Daria stepped back as the man quickly drew the left pistol and fired two shots into the closest zombie's head.
As the dead man fell, her rescuer said, "I'm sorry, Miss, but..." Then he quickly tossed her back over his left shoulder, gripped her thigh again and took off at a run again.
Daria groaned and saw the remaining zombies follow slowly behind them. She closed her eyes to minimize the nausea. Dammit, this sucks!
Trent and Jane froze as a cellular phone rang near the driver's seat. "What do we do?" she asked as they looked at each other and then at the bound old man.
Before Trent could answer, the phone's voice mail kicked in and played audibly. "Dr. Stone, Spotter still here in Fostoria, and still no package. I know that you're sick of me asking you this, but are you certain of your coordinates? I'm not complaining, mind you, but I hate the fact that you're wasting your money like this. Call me back and give me an update. Later." The phone then clicked off.
After several seconds, Jane asked, "Where's Fostoria?"
"I don't know," Trent replied, "but if I understand what that guy said right, this 'Dr. Stone' is testing a transporter and sending things to this person in Fostoria...wherever that place is."
"But that guy said he hasn't gotten anything yet."
Trent nodded and said, "Which means that Daria is somewhere out there...lost."
Jane glanced at the unconscious doctor and glared at him. She pulled his wallet out of his back pocket. "His driver's license says that he's Ezra Stone." She looked inside and whistled. "Full of twenties. Payday."
"No, Janey," Trent said. "We're not taking his money. We just want Daria back."
She saw his look, sighed and put the wallet back into his pocket.
"We'd better have some questions prepared for when he wakes up, Janey."
A small, vicious smile crossed her face. We'd better have... motivation...prepared so that he'll answer the questions.
The man stopped at what looked like a recently built office complex or lodge. After he set Daria back on her feet, he looked around several times, then quickly worked at unlocking a metal door.
She leaned against the brick wall to steady herself and looked around as well. She noticed that there weren't any windows on the first floor. "Do you..."
"Wait!" he said quickly. "We'll get inside and secure first, then talk." He opened the door. "Come on! Let's go!"
No need to be rude! she thought, but obeyed him.
When the man shut the door, Daria shivered at the sudden darkness. She heard him lock at least five deadbolts, then heard him slide something heavy against the door.
"Go on upstairs, Miss..."
"Daria. Daria Morgendorffer."
"I'm Robert Nelson, Daria. I'm pleased to meet you, despite the horrible circumstances. Take hold of the handrail and go on up. I'll finish securing the door and join you in a minute."
She felt around on the wall and found the handrail. As he worked on the door, she walked upstairs slowly and stopped when she reached the top. She waited until she heard him follow her and backed up a couple of feet.
Before he reached the top, he lit a cigarette lighter and gave her a small smile. "Follow me, Daria, and we'll see about getting you cleaned up."
She then remembered wetting herself and blushed. But something in the way he said it caused her to hold back slightly. "What do you mean by 'see about getting me cleaned up'?"
Robert stopped and looked at her. "I have a solar shower set-up here. So even though I don't have power or actual running water, there is at least hot water." He noticed her reticence and added, "You're safe here, Daria. You have nothing to worry about, and I'm not going to hurt you."
"You have me locked up and alone with you. I can't go anywhere and I don't even know how to get out. How do I know you won't decide you want to...collect payment...from me, for my rescue?"
Irritation crossed his face and he looked at her, one of his eyebrows raised. "For your information, I don't rape women, little missy. I've never had to and I never will. I have a sense of honor." He waved his hand briefly. "Plus, I'd never betray Maggie like that."
"My wife. She died after the dead rose."
"Oh. I'm sorry."
"Don't worry about it. I understand that this is all a shock to your system. After all, you're from Lawndale, aren't you?"
The teen looked shocked. "How did you know that?"
He smiled briefly. "You aren't the first person I've met from there."
"There's others from Lawndale here? Where are they? Where are we, for that matter?"
"We are in Fostoria, Ohio, a little more than 30 miles south of Toledo." His smile vanished and he looked away. "Buster! Come on in here, boy!"
Several seconds later, a beagle walked slowly into the room and stopped when he saw Daria. He moved behind Robert's legs and moved his tail between his hind legs.
"This is Buster. He's the property of one Anthony DeMartino of Lawndale, Maryland, at least according to his ID tag." He knelt down and lightly petted the dog. "She's O.K., Buster. She's a friend."
Daria blinked as she looked at the frightened dog. I didn't know that Mr. DeMartino had a dog. "When did he get here?"
"He's been with me for nearly nine months. I found him cowering behind a restaurant dumpster. It's a miracle that the zombies didn't get him."
The dog cautiously moved up to Daria and sniffed her left leg. Before he could lick her, Robert pulled him back and continued, "I don't know of any other animals sent from Lawndale. But there were at least six people sent from there, not counting you. Maybe more. I don't know. Four of the six were already dead when I found them. The other two were already bitten and died in my care." He stood back up. "Follow me."
He led her to another room, which was filled with books, music tapes, CDs and albums, video tapes and discs, as well as assorted cardboard boxes. One nearly clean table stood out among the piled up items in the room. The table held two purses, three wallets, a briefcase, a child's bookbag and a couple of cell phones. "This stuff belonged to the people from Lawndale."
Daria picked up the bookbag and removed a third grade math book. Inside, the name 'Billy Smithson' was written in a child's cursive style.
"Billy was the one here before you, Daria." Robert's voice seemed tired. "I reached him too late. Right as I got there, he got bit on his left arm. I brought him back here and took care of him as best as I could. He died after two days."
She blinked as she remembered the young Cub Scout. "What...what did you do then?"
"I shot him in the head. Twice. Then I dumped his body outside until I could properly dispose of it." He took a deep breath. "I need to let you clean up." He walked out of the room; Daria set the book on the table and followed him.
Robert led her to a bright room where a shower stall stood. A pipe ran down from the roof to a shower spigot. "I'll get you a robe and we'll wash your...um, dirty clothes."
"How do you do laundry?" she asked.
He looked at her. "I use a plastic bag, filled with water, detergent and the clothes. Then I hold it shut and shake it for fifteen minutes. After that I rinse them off and hang them up to dry." He moved to leave the room. "Go ahead and wash. I'll knock when I have the robe. Besides, I want to get out of this stuff." Then he shut the door.
Daria moved to the door and locked it before she began to undress.
Author's Notes: This comprises parts one through four of A Little Vacation, as it was originally posted on various message boards and on fanfiction.net.
From the Paperpusher's Message Board, thanks go out to Staren, Wormbait, LSauchelli, Brother Grimace, smk, vlademir1 and kalad1 for their comments and suggestions
Others I want to thank for their comments include psychotol from the Sheep's Fluff Message Board, Robin Sena from the Icarus Message Board and from fanfiction.net, Paisleygal, eltf177 and HecatonchirestLM.