Stuck in Lawndale

By Neal C.

 

Ch. 1

Falling on Dega

With each step I told myself, itís all a dream. Thing was, I already knew that. It had to be didnít it? I mean if I wasnít dreaming, and I wasnít writing, then how could I be stuck. And in Lawndale of all places!

I paused and looked down at the notepad in my hand. It had seen better days; it was battered, dog-eared and scuffed. I turned to the previous page. It contained my sermon to the Daria Community. The one I read in the church. I had scratched out most of it hoping that it would make Daria and Jane and everyone else forget. I turned further back to find ripped out pages where the story began. I couldnít remember how I ended up here and the pages werenít there to tell me.

Thatís right. How did I get there in the first place? First I was typing at my computer thenÖ Best not to dwell on it. But everything in the church had changed, after I talked to Daria. How much did she remember? How much did they all remember? How much do I remember?

"Dammit, what do I do now?" I mumbled to my self. I guess I do as I promised and have pizza with Daria and Jane. Hell, I guess itís my turn to go out and play in the hallucination. Hmmm. Maybe I should avoid contact with others though, who knows what else could happen. I started to walk again. Wait, how do I get to the Pizza King?

"Aw, hell."

So I kept walking. I figured if I kept pounding pavement I would either find the Pizza King or a payphone. Instead, I found myself on Dega Street. Which would have been great, except it was getting dark and all the shops were closed. Sighing, I sat on the curb to think over my fate.

Then I felt the vibrations. I know that hum, thatís a guitar! Hmmm, power chords, bad vibes. Itís gotta be The Zon.

I stood; I could hear the music now. Or, more precisely, I could feel the chords. I walked towards the source. The Zon was just like in the show; run down, dirty, boarded up windows. But now there was also a humanized gorilla guarding the door. He was holding a clipboard and letting in the people on "the list".

Oh yeah, like he can read. Ugh, he isnít gonna let me in. What do I do now? Bluff.

I walked up and made as if to go inside. Just as I figured he would, he grabbed me roughly by the shoulder.

"Where díya think yer goiní?" He asked, not removing his hand.

"Inside. I know Iím not on the list, but I have an urgent message," now for the gamble, "ForÖ Trent Lane."

"Oh yeah? Who from?"

"His sister Jane." Thatís right, play it cool. He canít get to you; heís a minor annoyanceÖ a minor annoyance that could throw you across the street.

He eyed me suspiciously. "Well, you can give it to me. Iíll make sure he gets it."

Just buy it asshole. "Uh, now. Jane really wanted me to tell him in person."

"Tell who what?" I heard a familiar feminine voice drawl from behind me.

Oh hell, just what I need. I sighed and turned around. When I saw her Iím fairly certain my jaw dropped. Now you get the Idea that Jane is good looking by watching the show. But it does no justice to how she looked in person. Maybe itís just Ďcause I go for that type of girl, but either wayÖ DamnÖ sheÖ sheís perfect.

As I stood there goggling and trying to get my brain to function, the bouncer spoke up. "Jane, do you know this chump?"

I guess she recognized my expression. She either felt sorry for me or wanted to get to know me better. Either way she eyed me up and down then finally smirked and spoke.

"Yeah, I know him, heís with meÖ You can let go now Dino."

Dino grudgingly let go of my shoulder. Jane grabbed me by my arm and dragged me into the club before he could say anything else. I guess I was still on autopilot because she kind of looked at me weird as we approached the bar.

"You can pick up your jaw now." She smirked as I turned red. "Yeah, I noticed."

I guess that brought me more or less back to reality. As we sat at the bar my thoughts were racing. Aww, hell. I must look like an idiot. Now what do I say? Damn lack of social skills.

She was watching me with interest as I sat. I was deep in thought and embarrassed self-loathing. She smirked and finally said. "So, whatís your name?"

"UhÖ Neal." Thatís it?! Say something else stupid!

"Okay ĎUhÖNealí. Why did you invoke the name of Jane the Great, Artiste ExtraordinaireÖto get into this dump?"

"Oh, I wanted to hear the band, Iíve heard great things." Idiot! Now you sound like a sarcastic assholeÖ Wait. Here that could be a good thing.

"Ha! At least you have a sense of humor. Now, really."

I sighed. "Really? Well I needed to use a payphone."

She arched an eyebrow. "With this noise? Good luck."

I smirked. "Yeah, I guess it was a bad idea. I guess itís too late now anyway."

She looked at me kind of apprehensively. "Oh. Hot date?"

Iím glad itís not. Dariaís pretty and all but youÖand our personalities are closerÖ I gave her a rueful smile. "Nah, nothing like that. More like a late lunch with a friend. I was supposed to be at a place called the Pizza King. But I got lost." Great how do I tell her the truth?

"Tough break. New in town?"

I nodded. "You could say that."

"So whoíd you stand up?" She was still looking a little nervous. Whoa, does she like me. Nah, canít beÖ Does she know who I am!? Better tell her the truth, the sooner the better.

I sighed and looked away. "You and Daria."

I braced myself to be slapped or yelled at. It didnít come. I apprehensively looked back to Jane. To my surprise she was smiling.

"So youíre the mystery writer! I guess you arenít a hallucination."

That caught me off guard and my sarcasm center took over. "Not the last time I checked, but thatís what anti-psychotic drugs are for. SoÖ you arenít mad at me?"

"I guess I canít blame you for getting lostÖ but how did you get lost in Lawndale?"

I shrugged. "Dunno. How did Daria take it when I didnít show."

"She was more bewildered than mad I think. I couldnít get her to say why. She said youíd explain it all. So, explain."

I nodded. "Thatís probably a good idea. Lets go for a walk. I could use the fresh air. Iíll try to explain."

"Okay, where are we going?"

"Infinity and beyond? Itís your town, you guide me."

"Sound like a plan, letís go."

We walked for a while. I tried to explain what happened as best as I could. She seemed to accept it, just as Daria had. We finally found ourselves in front of the Lane Estate. We stood on the sidewalk and watched the moon and stars for awhile. Thinking and letting things sink in.

Finally after what seemed an eternity of silence, Jane spoke. "SoÖyouíre a writer. You made this version of our universe or at least you write about it. Daria died because her show was cancelled and people were going to stop writing. But you showed up and brought her back by warning other writers to keep writing. And as long as this bunch of losers." She looked at me for a second. "Sorry, no offense to you or your friends."

I smirked. Iíd been called worse and this wasnít exactly a stress free evening for her. "Donít be, itís alright."

She nodded and continued. "As long as you guys keep writing weíll all be alright. Then you talked to Daria and promised to meet us for pizza after you cleared some things up. After you did this you got stuck here and this is all some psychotic episode on your part, or a dream or something. We arenít event real, and this is a story that you should be writing. Buuuut, your subconscious took over and is telling the story so even you donít know how it ends. Is that about right?"

I just stood there trying to think of something comforting to say.

Interpreting my silence as assent Jane continued. "Great. Perfect. Lovely. Just when you think things canít get worse. This is justÖ I donít know. Itís right out of fucking Sick Sad World or something!"

I looked at her. "Close, but not exactly. I think youíre as real as I am, just in a different world. I donít know how I ended up here, or how I get back orÖ or if I can get back. But thatís neither here nor there. I think after Iím gone, youíll still be here, so will everyone else."

She gazed off into the distance. "So what was so important that you had to clear it up instead of go with Daria and explain this to me together." She sounded hurt.

"IÖ I erased the funeral. Maybe that screwed things up enough to get me stuck here. I dunno. Lot of good it did, youíre still hurting. Daria probably is too, not that sheíd ever let on. But everyone else seemed to forget. ThenÖ" I shrugged and trailed off.

It had gotten chilly out and Jane was hugging herself against the cold. Hereís your chance, show her youíre a good guy. Sheís been through the wringer tonight. She needs courage. I shrugged off my trench coat and draped it over her shoulders.

"Here you look like you need it more than I do." I gave her a lop-sided grin.

"Yeah, thanks." She sounded distant. Well what do you expect? You just gave her the shock of her life. At least you erased the funeral before you got stuck... Yeah but I had to tell her about it afterwards.

She looked over at me and said, "You know I was wondering. What is the story?" She stared at me, waiting for an answer.

I was more surprised by my next move than she was. As a rule I donít go for physical contact of any kind. Especially with people Iíve just met. But this seemed to be a special situation. I stepped over and put my arm around her shoulder.

"I dunno. I guess weíll just have to drum it up on our own. Pure gonzo journalism."

To my surprise she drew herself closer. "Hunter S. Thompson. Fear and Loathing in Lawndale. Sounds like a good story." She looked up and smirked at me. Thereís the Jane I know.

"Youíve read Thompson?"

"Nah, I watched the movie with Daria." She looked up at me. "UmÖ I guess I should ask. You got a place to stay?"

Dammit, another unforeseen problem. I donít know if my ATM card will work here eitherÖ UGH! I shook my head. "Nope, didnít plan on getting stranded in a different world. This ruins my preparedness record. Damn parallel dimensions!" I smirked.

She tilted her head towards the house. "Great! You can crash in Windís old spot. Mom and Dad are both out of the country for the next few months so they wonít mind. And I donít think Trent will even notice." She got on her tiptoes and kissed my cheek. "Thanks for explaining thingsÖ uh and uh, yeah." Things were getting awkward.

Then she turned and walked towards the house, ending the moment as abruptly as I had began it. I stood there looking at the sky and rubbing my cheek. Whoa, what the hell am I doing! Coming on to Jane? Was she coming on to me? I donít like where this is going. Damn, this is getting really complicated. No way, sheís just freaked out by everything. And sheís a little out of character at the moment. Itíll just be affable sarcasm tomorrow, youíll see. Yeah but do I want it to be? Man youíre falling.

I rubbed my temples. A headache was rapidly forming.

"Coming?!?" Jane yelled from inside the doorway.

"Yeah!" I called back. Am I falling? I looked at the sky for some form of guidance or assurance. When none came, I turned and headed for the house.

 

Authorís notes: Iíll be brief. I wanted to explore what I would do if I got stuck in Lawndale. So I started writing these stories. Theyíre kind of like and experimental art piece, as in yeah I know itís weird. The next Installment will be about my first full day in Lawndale, as I try to get used to the places and people while Daria and Jane show me around.

About Jane: Yes I know sheís out of character after I explain things. But if someone dropped a bomb like that on me Iíd kinda be out of character too. Some of you might think she was out of character before. But sheís gone off with guys that she didnít know before (Bobby Bighead, That rat bastid poochie) so I donít think she is until I explain things. Also some of you may think itís blasphemy that I would rather go out with Jane than Daria. Itís just that Jane and I match up much better, personality wise. Iím just as cynical, sarcastic and fiercely individualistic as Daria and Jane, but like Jane Iím also a little more open to new experience (Hence purple hair, multiple peircings and aspirations towards tattoos). And Iím a slave to my arts (vices), of which I have two, writing (DUH!) and my guitar (Iím much better than Trent in case youíre wondering.)

Well I guess itís way too late for brevity (sigh) I guess Iím just long winded. But like I said this is an experimental art piece and I would really like to hear what you have to say about it. Please email me and tell me at NetUrza@hotmail.com.