Disclaimer: Daria and all related characters are the property of MTV and Viacom productions.

Note: This story is the next in the Unseen Phenomenon Series. It takes place approximately thirteen years after "Whichever Way the Wind Blows"

The Empty Hourglass

The house was Dark with exception of the dim glow of a flourescent lamp lining the top of the stove... it was one in the morning in the eastern US time zone. A weary Jake makes his way down the stairs occasionally tripping over this, that, and the other thing. He couldn't sleep this night... he had once again burst a blood vessel in one of his eyes and the pain killers were not being as effective as they had been on past occasions and as such Jake had tossed and turned for half the night. It was a strange pain he felt... phantom pains as the doctor had put it. Where the pain caused by one thing manifests itself in a completely different part of the body. "Ha... what the hell do doctors know. They can't even tell the body that it's having pain in the wrong place." Jake scoffed as he rubbed the persistent ache towards the back of his head. "Control your blood pressure they say... it's too high they say. I'll be the judge of my own body dammit... maybe if I burst all of those little buggers there won't be any left to burst." Jake said to himself as he continued to rant finally arriving at his destination in the kitchen as he did so. Jake paused as he opened the refrigerator door... the light bulb inside the unit cast an almost soothing glow about the white linoleum floor. A red LED number on the nearby answering machine displayed the number one indicating that it still held the message from his seven year old granddaughter who had called from Scotland earlier that day. The thought of Daria... her husband, and their granddaughter vacationing for the summer over seas passed through Jake's mind as he connected a recent postcard with their picture on it with the message on the answering machine. Jake withdrew a plate of leftover lasagna from the fridge and placed it down on the kitchen table without even turning on the lights. He didn't want to wake Helen up for fear of what she would say to him... another one of her hour long lectures again no doubt. "For god's sake Jake... the doctor TOLD you that you have to watch your cholesterol. You DON'T want another heart attack do you? Your first one has put enough of a strain on this family already." Helen's voice pierced Jake's brain as the thought of her last lecture rang as clearly in his ears as if she were actually talking to him right now. "Don't need another one of THOSE do we... nope don't want to put any more strain on the old family now DO we" Jake said to himself as he sighed and thought of his granddaughter once again.

Jake walked over to the answering machine and turned down the volume before pressing the play button so as not to wake Helen upstairs,... She always was a light sleeper. A smile crept over his face as Ariel's voice came over the speaker as clearly as if it were stereo... "Okay maybe not stereo... but who cares. It's my kiddo's kid." "Hi granpa" said the little girls voice just before she began to describe what a great time she was having and that she had met some kids her age over there. A tear came to his eye as he pictured her the day she was born and Daria reluctantly allowed him to hold her for the first time. It was like magic to him... such a tiny person she was and yet so beautiful. And the fact that she came from his little girl made her all the more perfect. Jake wiped the tear from his cheek and pressed at his left eye which had felt like it had been under pressure since that blood vessel burst earlier that day. The ache at the back of his head seemed to lighten when he did this so he tried to keep pressing against his eye as he moved to sit down at the kitchen table as the message on the machine ended with a beep. Jake sat down at the table and put his head down hoping that the cool surface would offer some relief from his constant discomfort. As his head came to rest on the table Jake felt a sudden slight breeze... almost unnoticeable but yet still there if only for a moment. Jake stood up and began to walk about the room in search of the drafts origin. "Maybe there's an open window"... it had been hot out lately and to keep down energy costs he and Helen had been putting fans in the windows during the day instead of using the central air and then shutting the windows at night when it got cooler. "Probably forgot to close one... that's all." To Jake's sudden surprise there came a reply to his words which he had intended to be heard by only himself.

"Nope... they're all closed" said a voice as a man appeared to step out of the shadows. "You always were good about securing the house before you went to bed... Helen may have to get used to doing that on her own from now on though." Jake felt the sudden urge to pee himself as the man came close enough for Jake to recognize his face in the low light... it was Paul (1) . "What... what are YOU doing here?" Jake stammered "You promised... I remember it perfectly." (2) Paul crossed his arms across his chest and studied Jake for a moment before he chose to reply... "Yes... and I held up my end of it and then some. In fact... I even gave you some extra time so that you could get to know Ariel. The original deal was to let you live long enough to see Daria married rather than when you were supposed to go... if I had wanted to be literal about it I could have had you drop as soon as the ceremony ended. That WOULD be characteristic of my sense of humor you know." (3) Paul stated before a worried Jake Morgendorffer. Jake paused for several minutes before saying another word... " Does it have to be NOW? What about my family, What about Helen? She's not as young as she used to be you know." Paul tried not laugh at Jake's remarks as he pleaded for time that just wasn't there anymore. "Neither are you, Jake. And Helen can take care of herself... she'll have to because you no longer have a say in the matter" At this Paul motioned for Jake to turn around and look back at the kitchen table which he had left only moments ago. To Jake's semi-horror he turned to see his lifeless form lying head down on the table... his weight being supported by both the chair and the fact that his chest was resting against the table. In an odd sort of way he actually looked asleep,... what with his cold uneaten plate of leftover lasagna still out in front of him. "I never felt it... how?" Paul approached Jake and placed a hand on his shoulder "Sudden stroke... it's quick and painless. Sometimes it's almost as good as going in your sleep... which is how I was GOING to go about things. That is until you decided to head down stairs and get a midnight snack. But then now that I think about it... this was probably better. At least Helen won't have to wake up next to you in the morning... that tends to be just a tad more traumatic because she'll want to make herself believe at first that this was all a dream." Paul was about to continue but he is cut off by a saddened Jake wanting to find SOME way to hold on for just a moment longer. " Don't I even get a chance to say goodbye to Helen?" Paul scowled at this... "You'd haunt her Jake... not intentionally of coarse. But you'd give her clues to your presence every chance you got and you know what... the longer it takes for her to let go the more painful it will be for her. I've seen it before... some people inadvertently drive their spouse to suicide because they don't want to deal with the pain of not letting go anymore. And then they can NEVER be together again... they create their own personal hell. A clean break is the only way in your case, Jake. You have to deal with it... however you won't be alone." Paul motions for Jake to turn around yet again and as he does so he comes face to face with Quinn.

"Hi dad" Quinn sputtered... "I've missed you so much." Jake stood there wide eyed as he attempted to take in the situation. Jake began to look Quinn up and down paying specific attention to the cobalt blue overcoat. Finally he pushed all of this aside and gave her a good stiff hug. Quinn just smiled and returned his embrace "We've got a lot to talk about... let's get you out of here before mom wakes up. We can talk in my office... you'll love what I've done with it." Jake while still holding his belated daughter in his embrace squeezes out another few words before he begins to cry. "Where the hell have you been all this time?" Quinn smiled at the sound of his habitual use of the word and replied "Not hell... that's for damned sure. Come on... we'll go find some old relatives to talk to before mom wakes up and finds you... we'll the physical you lying on the table there." Quinn stares at Jake's lifeless body still at the kitchen table for a moment before making additional comments, "a sudden stroke huh... well it beats two bullets in the chest that's for sure." (4) Quinn turns to thank Paul for letting her know about her fathers imminent passing but finds that he has vanished into the shadows from whence he had first made his appearance. "I hate it when he does that... oh well what are you gonna do? Come on dad... we can come back for the funeral if you want. That way you can see everybody all at once." "Even my dad" Jake quipped nervously while giving the impression that he might go off on either one of his rants or dwell on memory about what a horrible childhood he had because of Mad Dog Morgendorffer. "No" Quinn replied sternly "He DID go to hell... although I heard he almost got kicked out for threatening to send the devil to your old military academy. I'm told god STILL gets a laugh out of that one every now and again. Now come on... it's a lot easier than you think." With that Quinn takes Jake by the hand and leads him out of the kitchen fading from view as they went.

Helen was distraught later that morning when she came downstairs for breakfast and found Jake had been dead for several hours. She cried profusely... called Daria to come home early from vacation and then called everybody else who was important... Amy, Rita, and just about everybody else whether she liked them or not. Daria's daughter Ariel never really understood the concept of death at that time... she just knew what Daria and Duncan had explained to her and could only accept it as something that just... was. No matter how much she wanted to "go find granpa" as she put it, wherever it was that he went. Daria herself understood better than anyone as she had knowledge of Jake's "extension" (5) and knew that this moment was inevitable. In fact she was surprised Jake had held out this long... but in knowing Daria found it difficult to weep. As far as she was concerned her father wasn't gone... just out of touch for an undetermined number of years.

The End...

Footnotes :

1) Paul was introduced in "A New experience" as being the angel of death.

2) The promise Jake mentioned was in vague reference to "A New Experience" where Paul had told Daria that Jake, when he had his heart attack, pleaded for more time so that he might be able to see one or both of his daughters walk down the isle to be married.

3) Paul has a rather unorthodox sense of humor which on occasion has gotten him into trouble. This is mentioned in "All Good Things" where he was temporarily reassigned because when a man was hit and killed by a bus he walked up to the man... or his soul for that matter... and asked if the man would mind going through it again because Paul had forgotten to put film in his camera.

4) A reference to "All Good Things" Where Quinn had been murdered by an armed bank robber who put two forty four magnum hollow points through her chest for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

5) A reference to "A New Experience", Paul had told Daria about her fathers wish to see her walk down the isle someday and of the favor he had granted because of that wish.