It's Halloween, and someone at Lawndale High is taking the holiday far too seriously. A Lovecraftian tale of madness, magic and social events.
This story uses the Comic Sans MS font for the journal entries. You won't see that on fanfiction.net since they strip font identification, and you won't see it if you got this story elsewhere if you don't have that font installed. That's fine; it doesn't change the story. But I think it does add something if you can see the "handwritten" journal entries.
Daria (and associated characters and locations) is copyright © 1997-2001 MTV Networks
This story is copyright © 2001 Mystik Slacker (firstname.lastname@example.org) and has been written for personal enjoyment. No infringement of the above rights is intended.
Written: September/October 2001
As she folded it, her hand encountered an object in the inside pocket. She pulled out a small, leather-bound volume held closed by a rubber band, one of Daria's journals. It appeared to have been soaked recently, but the tight cover had kept the pages from harm. Curiosity got the better of her, and she opened it to a page near the end and began to read.
After three years as best friends we make a good team. I looked in nineteenth-century archaeology journals for pagan rituals, while she sketched, using the pictures and inscriptions I found for inspiration. Interesting reading, although the distinction between science and speculation seems to have been lost on some of the authors. Not to mention the patronizing attitude of most of the "educated" scientists towards the "primitives" they were studying. From where I'm sitting, some of those scientists were less civilized than the people they claimed were inferiors.
I'm not sure what Central American pagan cults have to do with a European Christian holiday (Halloween is the eve of Hallowmass on 11/1), but Jane mumbled something about everything being connected. Artistic license, I suppose. Still, it was a fun way to spend a day. School will be mindlessly dull in comparison. But then, school is mindlessly dull anyway.
Monday, 29 October,
Another wasted study hall. At least O'Neill has the duty this week, so I can write what I want. If it were DeMartino, I'd have to do actual homework. Of course, if it were O'Neill's ladylove, Barch, I'd be able to go to the library and read.
Jane gets to leave study hall to work on her art project--Defoe is such a soft touch--why can't I get a pass too?
It's all Li's fault. She's really been cracking down on hall passes lately, ever since someone put a web-cam in the girls' showers; as if it weren't obvious who did that. But that's Lawndale: the guilty go free, while the innocent suffer.
And speaking of suffering: the school is abuzz with speculation about Wednesday's party. It starts at 10 PM, after younger siblings are done trick-or-treating, and apparently there's a big event planned for midnight, but nobody who knows the details is talking. Rumors range from a giant pumpkin Pinata (oh, please!) to a celebrity appearance (as if Li would pay for one!). My money is on the scariest announcement of all: eight more hours until school. I intended to be home reading something appropriate to the holiday, perhaps some Poe, or maybe Dracula again.
How Li talked the school board into allowing this on a weeknight is a mystery, rivaled only by the question of why. She probably has some scheme to get media coverage for the school (and herself, of course).
Monday, 29 October, 9:12
I stopped in to see Jane after school. She was working on the sculpture in the art room. Defoe gave her a key and Jane plans to stay there late. She seemed distracted. Said that working alone was really inspiring her. I took that as a hint to leave; I'm not sure she noticed.
The high point of the day was getting home in time to see Quinn having a panic attack. It seems her date, Jeffy, stood her up. Apparently this is the first time that's ever happened. Like I can talk. I've only dated Tom. He doesn't have the guts to stand me up. That's a terrible thing to say about my boyfriend, isn't it? Well, what did you expect, sloppy sentiment? Right, I'm glad we've got that straight.
I suggested she call up Joey or Jebedieh (or whatever the third one's name is), since they were all interchangeable anyway. Quinn just glowered at me. I didn't know she knew how. Imagine, Quinn not talking. She must be upset.
Tuesday, 30 October, 12:22
I brought Jane her lunch. She practically inhaled it; I think she forgot to eat dinner last night. I might as well be alone for all the attention I'm getting here, but that's Jane in a creative frenzy. I should be used to it by now, although her intensity this time is almost frightening.
The rough sculpture is done, and she's working on adding detail. It's a pyramid of some kind, looks vaguely Mayan, but not quite. There's something wrong about the proportions, but I can't figure out what. I spent some time looking at it, trying to determine why it makes me uneasy, but I gave up. And now I have a pounding headache, probably from the paint fumes in here.
Quinn's date is the talk of the school. Apparently Jeffy never went home last night after football practice. Nobody knows where he went. The cops were in talking to the other two J's. Quinn's walking around wearing dark glasses and a scarf; trying to avoid her "friends". I overheard Sandi making cutting remarks to the other two fashion zombies, so perhaps my sister's got the right idea. I'd suspect Sandi of foul play, but she's too dumb to pull it off.
Speaking of disappearances, O'Neill's out sick today, so we had Barch for study hall. It was easy to get permission to "help" Jane with her sculpture. Barch seemed distracted, probably up late nursing poor Timothy, or something. Maybe he's not sick at all. Maybe she got carried away and injured him. I don't think I want to think about that. This just leaves History to ruin the afternoon.
Tuesday, 30 October, 10:00
What a day. The police arrested DeMartino during History class. Apparently they found bloodstains on the trunk of his car. Human blood. I told Jane. I thought that would get through to her, but she just nodded and said "it's begun." I couldn't get any sense out of her.
This sucks. Jeffy was a self-centered idiot, but even he doesn't deserve a shallow grave somewhere. Quinn's devastated. Mom's threatening to sue for mental duress. I think Dad's blaming his father, but it was hard to make out what he was raving about. I'm not too happy either. I sat with Quinn in her room for nearly an hour and held her while she cried, but we were alone and I'll deny it ever happened.
Wednesday, 31 October, 2:44
Jane just left. She woke me up an hour ago by throwing gravel at my window. How high school. There's a full moon tomorrow but a storm is moving in, and the night was pitch black with no moon or stars for light. At first I didn't see her, and she had to yell before I would go down and let her in, but nobody noticed. It's a good thing she wasn't a burglar.
The sculpture's finished and baking in the school kiln. She said that tonight, at midnight, a portal to another dimension is going to open, and some really nasty deity is going to come through. She wasn't amused when I asked if it looked like a giant marshmallow man.
I asked her how she knew all this, and she said something about second-sight running in her family, and the power that DeMartino had invoked manifesting as visions. Weird. I'd think the paint fumes were getting to her, but she's been exposed to much worse without effect, unless you count a tendency to oversleep, and I think that's genetic.
Anyway, she wants me to help her with some ceremony. I asked if it involved blood, and she said no, just candles, and nudity. Great. It's Halloween, and I'm going as a witch. The things I do for friendship.
Wednesday, 31 October, 1:27
Study hall again. O'Neill's still out, and now Barch is among the missing too. They've got Manson watching us. I think she's worried about the effect of Jeffy's disappearance on the other students. She tried some psychobabble on me earlier, but I made her go away. I think it was when I suggested that it was something O'Neill and Barch ate that had disagreed with them. She turned white and ran for the Ladies' room. She didn't come back. I've never liked her, but that may have been excessive. I've been reading too much about those cults and it's affected my already twisted sense of humor.
I convinced Quinn to skip the party tonight. It wasn't hard, since her friends seem to be blaming her for Jeffy's disappearance. I suppose it's a form of denial, but do they have to take their problems out on my sister? Some days I think this town deserves to be razed to the ground and the earth salted. But I'm still going to help Jane. It's purely selfish: I live here too.
Wednesday, 31 October, 7:00
Jane came over for dinner, and then we retired to my room to plan for the party. Jane brought a really old book she "borrowed" from the University. It's in German, which neither of us read, but she's been translating parts of it with a dictionary. If she's right about the ceremony DeMartino was planning, it's much worse than I thought.
According to Jane, DeMartino was going to sacrifice the students at the party to this god, in exchange for wealth and power. Sounds like a fair trade to me. He wouldn't have been working alone, and his accomplices are likely to try to continue without him. She said that what they're probably going to get without his help is a fast-track to the afterlife. Yeah, who didn't see that one coming?
Her sculpture is some kind of lock, to seal the door before this squid-god or whatever can come through and make a meal out of Lawndale. She thinks we can stop it before the sacrifice. I hope so. All kidding aside, not even my idiot classmates deserve to be an appetizer.
Wednesday, 31 October, 10:45
Jane and I are locked in a storeroom beside the gym, along with the sculpture. It's been fired, and Jane had painted symbols all over it first so now they're baked on. I tried to look at it, and it pulled my eyes somewhere else. It's like a 3-D Escher painting. I don't think it's entirely in the same four dimensions I'm occupying.
Even though the storm finally broke, and it's raining buckets outside, the party is in full swing next door, so it wasn't hard to get away. O'Neill and Barch even made it. They came as mer-people or something: scaled skin and webbed fingers. Their costumes are professional: body-paint and latex appliances. At least, I hope they're costumes. They bear an unsettling resemblance to one of the illustrations in Jane's book.
Jane said it was obvious that they are here to finish the ceremony. I asked her why we didn't just call the cops. She laughed. Good point. Lawndale's finest would lock someone up, but it would almost certainly be us.
October, 11:30 PM
Li just made a PA announcement. We can hear it through the ventilation ducts. Just before midnight there's going to be a ceremony in the gym to invoke the spirit of the holiday. What drivel. She wants everyone to chant along with her. The sheep will no doubt go to their slaughter happily bleating.
Wednesday, 31 October, 11:58
I'm standing here, naked, watching Jane draw a pentagram on the floor around the pyramid with a red marker pen. I'd be embarrassed if I wasn't so scared. Not horror movie scared, but really, deep-down, adrenaline-pumping scared. I asked Jane, rhetorically, if we were going to be okay. She shrugged. She didn't say anything. That can't be a good sign.
We're running late: the first marker pen dried up before Jane was done and I had to break into Coach Morris' desk. I can hear chanting coming through the ducts. And something's answering the chant. A voice I can't quite hear, but I know it's speaking. Even though I can't understand the words, there's an attraction to them that's hard to resist. There's a smell of salt in the air too, like the ocean, but there's no ocean near Lawndale.
Jane's almost ready, so I'll have to put my pen down shortly. The chanting's stopped. I can hear waves crashing somewhere, and there are screams from the gym. Horrible screams.
She set the book down, and hugged herself, shivering. Her shivering turned to uncontrollable sobs.
"Well, Jane, this is another fine mess you've gotten us into."
This story was finished just before the terrorist attack on the World Trade Towers. I had been considering delaying publication until Halloween was closer anyway, but that event decided me. Nobody needs to read a horror story when you can see one on the news. I later made some minor changes to improve the flow of the story, but it's essentially unchanged.
I've wanted to write a Lovecraftian horror story for months now (ever since Brian Taylor wrote The Statement of Daria Morgendorffer, actually), but I could never find the inspiration. Then inspiration struck. As far as I know, nothing specific kicked it off. I haven't even read any horror stories since spring. Well, okay, a couple of vampire stories, but nothing Lovecraftian. Weird.
I was actually planning to write a more "normal" Daria story after my last one, as I try to alternate mainstream stories with the really outre ones, if only to keep myself grounded. But my muse was having none of it, so here I am.
Lovecraft fans may recognize the "German book" as Unaussprechlichen Kulten, by von Juntzt, one of Lovecraft's many fictional occult books.
For those who aren't familiar with Lovecraft, his Cthulhu Mythos stories involve a group of beings from another universe that came to this one millions (or billions) of years ago. Some of their slaves, including Cthulhu, escaped and set themselves up as deities. Later they were recaptured and sentenced to various exiles (Cthulhu lies in semi-eternal slumber on the usually sunken island of R'lyeh in the Pacific Ocean). Various followers (human and other) periodically try to restore them to power, generally with really unpleasant results. Cthulhu, also known as Lord of the Watery Abyss, has a group of lizard-like followers who may be devolved humans, and who live in undersea cities. He sends his dreams out to them and receptive humans to influence them in an attempt to escape his prison.
Lovecraft was also noted for the fictional occult books that were mentioned so seriously in his stories, people would bother used bookstores looking for copies. In addition to von Juntzt's book, the Necronomicon is frequently mentioned, and has even had several purported "translations" written. The Necronomicon: The Dee Translation (Lin Carter, 1989, reprinted in The Necronomicon, Chaosium publications, 1996) is the most complete of these, and notes that when conjuring Cthulhu that Hallowmass (November first) is the best day, (it also notes that when it falls on a new moon the rites are easier and that having it fall on a Monday is best, but I didn't use those here, as there isn't going to be a new moon on November first for more years than my lunar phase tables show; maybe that's why it went wrong :-)).
Lovecraft's stories often end with the hero dying, or worse (he was quite inventive with the "or worse" scenarios, too). I didn't think that appropriate for a Daria story, but being dumped in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, on an island that's probably due to submerge in short order, isn't exactly a happy ending. Maybe they'll find a way off. I'll leave that to your imaginations; I'm not planning a sequel.
The idea for a journal style (and the use of the Comic Sans MS font) I took from another Daria story I'd read last year, North Star by Wouter Jaegers. Journal entries are a natural for a Lovecraftian tale; most of his stories are first-person narratives.
"She wasn't amused when I asked if it looked like a giant marshmallow man." - Ghostbusters was very Lovecraftian in its use of a special building, constructed by cultists, for the summoning of a gateway to another world.
Happy holidays, and watch out for those school parties...