A ficlet by Brother Grimace
Huge, emerald eyes wide in awe, eighteen-year-old Pris Henry watched the perennial Perseid meteor shower from her vantage point atop her parents’ motor home. “This is so cool…”
Like Pris and her family, a great number of people had come out to the edge of the Highland city limits to watch the meteor shower; this year, scientists had stated that because of the unusually clear weather over the central United States, this would be a particularly good year to see the shower, and many people were taking the opportunity to do just that.
A pimple-faced man with sunglasses (yes, even at night) started up the mounted ladder, but Pris accidentally dumped a pitcher of iced tea on him. “Hey-!”
“Sorry, Todd… my hand slipped.”
“Bitch!” The mullet-haired thuglet stomped away, the sound of tea squishing inside his cowboy boots echoing in the night, followed by muffled giggling. Pris looked about, and smiled as her eyes landed, not unexpectedly, on a small, auburn-haired girl with glasses.
Of course Daria would be here… and, of course, Daria would have seen the sideshow along with the main event. Pris liked the eleven-year-old who lived with her family three houses down from her family, and on occasion, let her borrow books from her mother’s small, but impressive, library. The kid already read more and comprehended more than most of the kids in her own senior class, she reflected, but she didn’t talk much, and rarely showed much of herself.
Pris could respect that, and gave Daria her space. That kid’s out of here as soon as she turns eighteen, she thought. The littleminds aren’t going to wear her down into one of their own – they’d better hope she doesn’t decide to start slicing them open with that tongue of hers. She’s a sharp little thing…
A quintet of meteors lit up the sky, bringing sounds of admiration from the scattered crowd; Pris noticed that Daria was quiet, yet her eyes were wide and shining…
Yeah. She’s not like the losers who decided that they don’t want to make an effort and get out of here. She’ll do anything to leave; you can see it in her eyes.
The flurry of incoming meteors grew more intense; the flashes of light as several collided in mid-flight, only to have the remaining fragments burn away in the upper atmosphere, looked like giant fireworks high in the sky. Feeling the nip of the cooling night desert air, Pris reached down and zipped up her Air Force jacket, then turned her eyes skyward.
Yep. Just another month or so, and then I’ll head over to Lackland for Basic Training. I am so out of here…
“Daria, we are not going to look for meteor fragments in the middle of the night! Especially in the middle of the night!”
“Mommy, I don’t wanna go looking for meteors – I wanna watch the meteors!”
“Go chew your gum!’
“Muh-ooooooom! Daria’s teasing me!”
“Daria, stop teasing your sister. Quinn – do not swallow that gum!”
Pris sighed as she ran long fingers through short-cropped, jet-black hair. The only reason Helen Morgendorffer’s probably even out here is because her boss at that law firm’s here with his four bratty kids, and probably mentioned it to her. Suck-up…
“I saw a couple of them hit! I know I saw them! I know where it went – over by the cactus by Mariggan Creek-“
“Daria! We ARE NOT going and that’s final!”
Daria watched as her mother turned away and Quinn – her little sister – smirked and stuck out her tongue before skittering over to their mother and grabbing her hand. “Mommy, can we go home? I’m so tired…”
“Well, I think we’ve seen enough of the fireworks for one night – JAKE! Wake up! Why is it that you can’t stay awake for one minute – We have children to watch over! Here we are, out in the desert, at night, and YOU can’t be bothered to keep your eyes open!”
“Ooooooooh! Come on, we’re leaving!”
Pris shook her head as the Morgendorffers started towards their car, and she waved as Daria waved goodbye to her. Poor kid… the trees, over by Marrigan creek, hmn?
She’d probably like a couple of fragments… probably one of the few people around here who’d appreciate them for what they were…
“Hey, Pris! The principal wants you in his office!”
Pris looked up from her locker, shrugged, and closed it before she turned and walked down the hall and around a corner to the principal’s office… only, a crowd of students was gathered outside. “Pris – what did you do?”
“Nothing…” She went inside and passed through another gauntlet of staring students and adults, only to be let into the principal’s office, where the principal, a trio of serious-looking Air Force officers (two men and a woman), a very handsome Army officer with the Green Beret of Special Forces, and an African-American Marine officer were waiting for her.
“Miss Henry, these gentleman want to talk to you,” the principal said, obviously cowed by the military officers in his office. “They’ve questions for you about-“
“In the past eighteen hours, have you come into contact with any meteor fragments?”
Pris turned to the Marine, and noticed how the other officers grimaced ever so slightly at his directness. “Yes…”
“Where did you find them, and where are they now?”
“Over by Marrigan Creek, a few hundred feet away from a clump of cacti, and at my house-“ Something suddenly told her that it wouldn’t be a good idea to mention that she had taken one of the larger fragments over to Daria’s house that morning (under the guise of picking up her mother’s copy of the Lesser Edda). “They’re in my room. You want them? Why? They’re just fragments-“
“Did you give any of them to anyone, and did anyone go with you when you found them?”
The female Air Force officer took a device the size of a pocket radio from her attaché case. “Please hold up your hands.”
Pris did as she was asked; the woman looked at the reading, and nodded to the Air Force colonel, the shortest person in the room. “All right, then. Principal - no matter. Please give this young woman her diploma. She’ll be coming with us.”
The Marine drew himself to his full height, and the SF officer turned when the Colonel faced them both, an amused look on his face. “Don’t even argue, Davers – and you can forget any tricks you’ve got planned, Armalin. She’s already in the Air Force.”
“Excuse me – but I don’t go in until next month, until after I graduate…”
The Colonel took another look at the device, then turned back to look at Pris. “Plans change in the military, Airman Henry. You’re in, as of right now.”
“Why are you listening to that CD, Jane?”
Jane Lane looked up from her canvas to see Daria Morgendorffer standing in the door of her room in Schloss Morgendorffer, a can of Ultra Cola in each hand. “What, are you trying to be hip by listening to the dance music of when we were ‘tweens?”
“Hey, don’t knock C&C Music Factory! It is real music!”
“That’s what you said about ska…” She walked in, and handed Jane her soda. “At least you aren’t trying to dance like that.”
“Hey, I’ll have you know that I, Jane Lane, Mistress of all that is Art, am a damned fine dancer!”
“Does the phrase ‘Two left feet’ sound familiar? It should, because you left them somewhere in order to not embarrass yourself dancing!”
“Oh, now you’re going to get it…” A sneaky look crossed the young artist’s face. “Quinn told me how you were the fashion editor on that paper your freshman year in school…”
“I feel a nightmare coming on…”
“She also told me about ‘Party Daria’, and how she could dance…”
“Well, if you don’t shut my mouth by showing me how you’re a better dancer than me, well… I think I’ll have to spread the word about how we have a previously unrevealed Dancing Queen here at Lawndale High!”
Daria stopped in mid-step, and paled. “You wouldn’t…”
Defeat raised its hooded head, and struck. “Fine. Just this one time…”
“Fine by me – IF you can actually dance…”
“As many times as I’ve had to watch that video when we were little, I know it by heart – Quinn was too hung up on MTV. God, what an insipid channel…”
“Always had to watch what she wanted?”
“The fairy princess always won the right to the remote. Fashion shows, beauty pageants, history of fashion design, even stupid half-hour makeup infomercials. At least they didn’t bother me if I read while she was watching her brainfluff programs… but, yeah, I had to watch that stuff over, and over, and over… I was so glad when we moved here and I got my own room – and my own TV.”
“Well, that means you know all the moves! Start hoofing!”
Daria sighed, and stepped into the middle of the floor as Jane reset the CD player; the opening beats of ‘Gonna Make You Sweat’, began to play, and Daria began to move…
Jane sat on the edge of Daria’s bed, her mouth locked open is complete surprise.
Moments earlier, she watched as Daria danced; danced better than she ever could, better than anyone she’d seen at school – even better than some of the cheerleaders, or some of the people who took it seriously. As she watched Daria perform the dance routine from that C&C Music Factory video with the same flawless moves that the dancers did, Jane noticed something interesting… that Daria was really getting into it… that this was something she really loved to do…
Man, she could do this professionally, if she wanted to… Daria as a professional dancer… man, that would shock every single person who knows her, and Quinn would hate it, because Daria would get way more attention than her-
Daria jumped as the contents of Jane’s soda exploded all over her. “Oh, thanks. Now I get to go scrub Ultra Cola out of my hair.”
“Yeah, well, that’s what you get for scaring me like that!”
“What were you thinking of – that Evan guy, or ‘Nathan from ‘1946’?
“This from a girl who won’t get interested in a guy unless his name starts with a ‘T’?
“I’ll go take a shower.”
“That’s what I thought you’d say.”
“I’ll go get another soda – since you’ll be busy for a bit-“ Jane waggled her eyebrows, and Daria rolled her eyes. “-I’ll raid the refrigerator. Does your dad have any of that spicy Italian meatballs in the mushroom pasta sauce left?”
“His Mount Etna recipe? Yeah – there’s more than a bit left. Dad just can’t seem to understand that his ‘hot’ puts people in the hospital. At least Mom made him fix the meatballs separate from the sauce, so normal people can actually eat them.”
As Daria grabbed a towel, Jane said, “Don’t spend too long in there – otherwise, I’ll have to call Trent and have him come in as a one-man search party.”
“Look at the date on the calendar, Lane. That era is past.”
Several minutes later, Daria stood before the mirror in the bathroom, toweling her hair dry when her eyes fell upon Quinn’s handheld hairdryer.
Look, a weapon of the Shallow Ones… She hesitated a moment, then took her towel away from her head before picking up the dryer and flicking it on. She began to run it over her head, and as she did, it was as if her hands took on a life of their own…
She reached for a hairbrush, and her gaze fell upon Quinn’s eyeliner…
“Hey, Miss Van Winkle! Get your butt out here!”
Jane sat her plate of meatballs on Daria’s desk, and knocked on the door. “What’s up in there – did you fall in, or meet the love of your life? Weigh anchor in there, already!”
“Oh, hello, Jane,” Helen Morgendorffer said, poking her head into Daria’s room. “When Daria comes out, please tell her that I’d like to talk to her downstairs- oh, my…”
A supermodel stepped out of the bathroom. “Daria…?” Jane gasped, coming to her feet. What… what the hell happened to you in there?”
Helen was struck mute at the sight of the auburn-haired woman who turned to face her, complete with perfectly applied makeup and a hairstyle that would have cost four figures in a major salon. “My… my…ohhhhhhhh.”
The older woman fainted dead away as Quinn bounced up and caught her before she hit the floor. “Mom? What happened? Daria, what’s wrong with-”?
Quinn looked up as Daria stepped into view, and the sound of her scream was heard several blocks away. “Somehow, I knew she’d have reaction if this day ever came,” Jane said, her food forgotten as she walked up to her friend – my best friend, the supermodel, she smirked. “What the hell did you do to yourself – get swallowed by a copy of The Princess Diaries?”
Daria gave her a glare that proved without doubt that it was actually her. “Yeah – I read. What happened?”
“I don’t know,” she stuttered. “It was like, I started to towel my hair off, I saw Quinn’s dryer, and then, my hands had a mind of their own. They,” she motioned to herself, “they did this… the way it was going, it all felt as if this was right – as if this is the way it should be…”
“You’re kidding-? You’ve developed super-powers?”
“Oh, there’s no such-“
Jane darted past her into the bathroom, and came out with a hand mirror, which she thrust into Daria’s face. “That hairstyle alone would cost several hundred dollars and take a few hours if you went to a beauty salon – and you came out like that in ten minutes! What else would you call it?”
“Jane, don’t say it-“
“You’ve got the super-power to apply makeup and do hair perfectly? Oh, this is TOO funny!” Jane laughed, and Daria kicked her feet out from underneath; she landed on her rump, and kept laughing. ‘Please – tell me that you don’t have the power to coordinate and accessorize perfectly, too…?”
The look on Daria’s face said it all. “I have a strange feeling that… yeah. Yeah – I probably can…”
Jane’s laughter said it all. ‘Oh, that’s too perfect! That’s cosmic justice! I can see it now – ‘Miss M - Fighting Crimes Against Fashion! Will you design me a cute little sidekick outfit, and let me date your male stripper minions?”
Quinn looked up to see Daria turn towards her, and the way Daria’s hair moved as she turned – the way the light caught it to bring out the perfect shades of color, the way it had the perfect amount of fullness, and bounce…
A tear slid down the redhead’s cheek, and Jane smiled at her. “Oh, look on the bright side, Quinn. Now, Daria can give you the perfect makeover!”
The way Quinn began to cry brought a smile to both Jane and Daria’s faces.
7 July 2006