Wake Up Dead
"Well, what do we got so far?" asked Jane.
The two were in the public library researching the kind of mythology that was appropriate to the situation they were in.
Daria put down the book.
"Well, this Angra Mainyu has an archenemy," Daria pointed out. "Some benevolent god called Ahura Mazda."
"Shame we can't just summon him with a magic lamp," Jane crossed her arms.
"Yeah," agreed Daria. "Would've saved us all a lot of trouble…"
"Does it say anything else about this evil god?" Jane inquired.
"Yes," Daria acknowledged. "Supposedly there's also a savior figure called the Saoshyant who will vanquish Angra Mainyu and all his evil."
"This Saoshyant," Jane mused. "Who do you suppose it is?"
"I… wait, there's more," Daria continued reading. "Supposedly there are three Saoshyants and the third one will destroy evil."
"Wow, ancient texts really have a way of making themselves applicable to our modern day lives," Jane noted dryly.
"Would be nice," confessed Daria. "Anyways, what do you say we head out? I think we've gotten about as much done today as we possibly could."
"I'm with you on that one," Jane agreed.
The two of them put their books away and left the library. On the way home, however, they saw a familiar face.
"Whoa, hey Daria," Tom looked surprised. "Hey Jane."
"Tom… didn't expect to see you here," Jane greeted him with a wave. "What're you back in town for?"
"I'm back for a vacation with my family," Tom replied. "Besides, most of my classes don't have mandatory attendance and I can listen to them online."
"Ah, so you didn't drop out of college," Daria asked. "Good to know."
"Wait, one of you dropped out of college?" Tom looked at the two with a shocked expression.
"I'll give you three guesses," Jane winked.
Tom looked at Daria, then Jane, then Daria again. Then it dawned on him.
"Why would you do that, Daria?" Tom's jaw nearly dropped.
"Well, I got mixed up with the wrong crowd," admitted Daria. "I had to drop out for my own safety."
"Well, that's understandable," Tom calmed down.
"Same here," Jane confessed. "Honestly Tom, you wouldn't believe us if we told you what happened."
"Try me," Tom looked interested.
"Well, no harm in hanging out and catching up again, eh?" Daria looked at Jane.
"Don't see why not," Jane shrugged. "You want to join us for pizza tomorrow?"
"Sounds good to me," Tom agreed. "The usual place?"
"Pizza King's it is," Daria nodded.
That night, Daria twisted and turned in bed, trying her hardest to sleep peacefully.
However, the night seemed to have other plans as any peace she could have had was interrupted quite abruptly.
Daria looked around. She was in what looked like a vast desert with an eclipse covering the sun.
"Where is this?" she asked.
"The world as it was meant to be," a figure in a white robe spoke.
He was covered in white Zoroastrian robes with a hood over his head, hiding most of his facial features.
"Who are you?" asked Daria.
"You may not know me," the figure replied. "But I know everything about you."
"Do you know how many Sick Sad World marathons I've watched with Jane?" Daria asked, testing out the stranger.
"Sixteen," the stranger replied matter-of-factly.
"Okay… you are good," Daria admitted. "Look, what do you want?"
"I wish to inform you to not resist what is about to come in this world," the figure told her. "Everything will happen as has been foretold. Already a hero has sacrificed himself."
"Don't you talk about Ted!" Daria said, with a sudden burst of fury as she grabbed the stranger by the collar.
Immediately, the robes seemed to go limp as if there were no person inside. Before she realized what was going on, Daria stood there holding onto a white piece of cloth.
"Already a virgin has lost her purity," the figure stood behind her with new, black robes.
"It's already happened?" Daria was surprised. "How? Who is it?"
"Such matters are not for you to know," the stranger told her. "But when the time is too late, you will be allowed to bear witness."
"You're him, aren't you?" Daria demanded.
As Daria blinked, she saw that she was no longer in the desert, but rather, behind the football stands of Lawndale High.
"No!" Brittany screamed. "Don't do this to me!"
Daria saw several Death Apostles holding her down as the leader walked towards Brittany menacingly.
"Brittany, no!" Daria shouted.
The Death Apostles seemed to have not heard her. Daria attempted to rush forth, trying to stop them but an invisible force seemed to freeze her in place.
The leading Death Apostle raised a ceremonial dagger above his head, chanting in an ancient language.
All Daria could do at that point was watch helplessly as he brought it down upon the panicking Brittany.
At once, Daria woke up, fully covered in sweat.
She looked around, seeing nothing out of the ordinary. Neither did she see any Death Apostles there to murder her.
"Breathe Daria," she told herself. "Breathe…"
Daria got out of bed, drank from a water bottle, and turned the lights on.
She left her room, going to her parents' room to take a peek. To her relief, they were sound asleep. After that, she went to Quinn's room. Also of equal relief, Quinn was asleep on her bed, snoring loudly.
Daria then went downstairs, taking her crossbow. She scoured the area for any potential trespassers but found none.
"Waking up in the middle of the night to look for assassins?" Daria said to herself, after turning off the lights again. "Is this what my life has come to?"
Tom stared at Daria with widened eyes as she told her story to him. She could not quite tell yet just what he was feeling, whether it was disbelief or something else.
"And… that's how I ended up back here," Daria finished.
"Wow, that was…" Tom tried to articulate how he felt but failed utterly.
"Let it out Tom," Jane encouraged him. "If it's too out there, just let it out…"
"Yeah," Tom's shoulders slunk. "I won't lie. It really is out there."
"If you don't believe me, I won't blame you," Daria sighed.
"Honestly, I don't know what to think," Tom took a drink of his coke. "I mean, murder cults… dragons… demon gods? I mean, it sounds unbelievable but yet… I can tell you're both serious about what you're saying."
"I wouldn't lie to you," Daria told Tom honestly.
"This is a lot to take in," admitted Tom.
"Cross my heart," Daria promised. "Hopefully with nobody dying this time…"
"Look, I believe you two are genuine," Tom told them. "But the skeptic in me wants to see some proof of all the things you're saying."
Jane and Daria looked at each other. They had no hard evidence for all the things they were saying.
"Well, until then, I'll still try to keep an open mind?" Tom offered sincerely but somewhat weakly as well.
"Well, you at least heard us out without writing us off as future mental asylum patients," Daria said
"Hey, we at least promised we'd still remain friends after high school," Tom told her. "I don't have any intentions of writing either of you two off."
"At least you heard us out," Jane admitted, "which is more than can be said for anyone else in suburbia."
"Anyways, I gotta head out," Tom told them. "Let's keep in touch?"
"Sure," Jane agreed.
"You bet," Daria nodded.
Tom waved goodbye to the two and headed out the door after paying for his tab. As soon as he was outside, he sighed deeply.
Though he hid it well, Tom did feel a slight pang of sadness that Daria had moved on after their relationship had ended and found love with Ted De-witt Clinton. The way she spoke of him during her story of her short college tenure belied a certain closeness and intimacy that he had never achieved with Daria during the time they were together in high school.
And while Ted was no longer of the living, it did not in any way brush away the melancholy Tom felt that Daria had found another man.
Finally, Tom looked up again.
"Life goes on Tom," he told himself ruefully and walked to his car. "Life goes on."
As Daria walked home, she cut a corner across the pharmacy to pick up some supplies. A lot of things were still weaving their way through their mind. In addition to the Death Apostles she was paranoid about, she was still reeling from the deaths of all the holiday spirits she had met once.
Inside the pharmacy store, there appeared to be no more ornaments or anything else related to the upcoming holidays, including Thanksgiving or Christmas.
She walked up to the register with some of the medicinal kits she had bought.
"Got any holiday specials?" Daria asked the employee working at the cash register who happened to be an older gentleman in his fifties.
"Holidays?" the employee asked. "What's that?"
"Thankgiving?" Daria offered. "Christmas maybe?"
"Uhh, never heard of those," the employee scratched his head.
"Nevermind, don't worry about it," Daria put her items on the counter. "I'll just get these."
After she got what she needed, Daria stepped outside. Things were changing and it wasn't for the better. The holidays being gone were like a dark omen that had been cast over the entire world.
In truth, the holiday spirits weren't her only concern. She had met Tom again and in a moment of honesty, told him everything that had happened. Did he think she was crazy and making the whole thing up?
Suddenly, her train of thought was interrupted by someone familiar.
"Daria?" a high-pitched voice alerted her.
"Oh," Daria stared at Brittany, who was about to enter into the pharmacy.
"Uh… fancy meeting you here," Brittany told her.
"Look, if it's about me pointing a crossbow at your new boyfriend, I'm sorry?" Daria offered.
"No, it's not about that," Brittany admitted. "It's just that even though I broke up with Kevin, I just want things to be over. I never wanted Chris to threaten him or for Kevin to suffer because of me. I'm the one who should be apologizing for my new boyfriend's behavior."
Daria looked at Brittany with a surprised glance. Perhaps there was more to this girl that she had once thought was a vapid airhead.
"Since you and Kevin seem to be getting closer now, could you tell him I'm sorry for everything that's happened?" Brittany requested.
"Uh, I'll be sure to relay the message if I ever see him," Daria scratched her head. "Though it may be a bit of a stretch to say Kevin and I are getting closer…"
"Thanks Daria," Brittany hugged a surprised Daria. "Anyways, I gotta head out now. Gonna go show Chris my old high school!"
With that, Brittany went off and drove away in her car as Daria was immensely flustered that she had been hugged by Brittany of all people.
"Okay, now that that's over with," Daria shook her head to clear everything.
Suddenly, she remembered. The prophetic dream she had last night involved Brittany Taylor being a sacrificial lamb for the Death Apostle cultists. And if Brittany was headed there, there was a real chance of that becoming reality.
Based on everything she had seen already, Daria knew deep down to trust her instincts. While there was a chance that her nightmare had been the result of an undigested bit of beef as Ebeneezer Scrooge would put it, she was not willing to take that chance after everything she had seen.
Daria put her pharmacy supplies in the passenger side and then went over to the trunk, opening it to reveal the crossbow she had, along with several arrows and some of the tear gas Ted had made.
The first thing Daria did was go over to Jane's house and tell her everything, from her dream to how she had met Brittany again.
"Yikes," Jane said as she went inside to her mom's room. "We'd better get ready for this."
"What are you doing?" asked Daria as she followed Jane upstairs.
"You'll see," Jane replied. "Right now my mom's away so I should be able to get access."
Daria watched in curiosity as Jane opened up a shelf. From there, she took out a gun that belonged to her mom.
"Uh, Jane," Daria looked at her friend oddly. "Do you at least have a concealed carry permit to bring that outside?"
"Long story short… no," Jane admitted sheepishly. "But hey, we're going up against a deranged murder cult. May as well get every advantage we can."
"Have you ever fired that thing before?" asked Daria.
"Well, back in high school, I may have gone to a range a few times," confessed Jane. "But otherwise it's been months since I fired this thing."
"There are so many things that can go wrong with this," Daria eyed the gun warily.
"Hey, aren't you the one carrying around a medieval weapon?" Jane pointed out.
"Touché," Daria had to concede. "Well, what can I say? The holidays are now gone and who knows, society's laws may not apply to us much longer if everything pans out the way Eric said it would."
"I knew you'd come to see it my way," Jane patted Daria on the shoulder.
"Just one more thing before we go," Daria mentioned. "I think Lawndale High has security cameras in the building. What will we do for that?"
"I think I have just the solution," Jane smiled, walking towards Trent's room.
"What's that?" asked Daria, following her.
She opened up Trent's door and the two walked in. The room was messy with soda cans and clothes decorated randomly throughout.
"Here we go," Jane opened up a drawer and took out two ski masks, commonly used for skiing and robberies alike.
"Dare I ask if Trent fought the law and the law won?" Daria raised an eyebrow.
"Nah, when Trent and the guys toured in Colorado last winter, they bought these balaclavas when they hit the slopes," Jane tossed Daria a mask. "We're not likely to see Trent on the eight o'clock news tonight. Unless he does something really dumb like playing a concert near a retirement center and gets arrested for noise pollution."
"Alright, that's everything then?" Daria took the mask and tried it on for size.
"Yup, let's go," Jane acknowledged.
The two of them walked out to take Jane's car but just as they did, they saw Kevin walking down the street, twirling his football in hand.
"Hey Daria!" Kevin greeted. "Fancy seeing you again! You know, I was thinking—"
"Uh, hold that thought," Daria told Kevin. "We're in a hurry right now."
"Oh, what for?" Kevin asked naively.
Daria and Jane stared at each other. Jane decided to concede to Daria in that moment as to whether or not she wanted to tell Kevin what was going on.
After a few seconds of thought, Daria finally decided that Kevin had a right to know what could be going down with his ex-girlfriend.
"Kevin, this is going to sound weird," Daria told him. "But I think Brittany is in serious danger."
"Whoa, seriously?" Kevin was shocked. "How do you know?!"
"I just… know," Daria sighed. "Which is why Jane and I are heading over to Lawndale High."
"If that's the case, I'm coming with you!" Kevin declared.
Daria sighed. She knew she was going to regret it somehow but right now, the die had already been cast and she had to do something to stop the Death Apostles if her dream was to prove true.
"Jane, you got one more ski mask?" Daria looked at her friend.
Jane shook her head in frustration but decided to head back inside to find one anyways.
"Three's a crowd," Jane muttered.
"No, don't do this to us!" Brittany begged.
"Quiet!" Kenneth Malone slapped her across the face hard while his face was still hidden under his hood.
Both Brittany and her new boyfriend Chris had gone to Lawndale High for her to give him a tour of her old school. The lovemaking session that followed afterwards had been impromptu.
However, they had been interrupted during that session and kidnapped by the Death Apostles who had also been on campus. And now they were both tied up in the school's basement and begging for their lives.
There were five masked Death Apostles on the scene and that had been more than enough to overpower and capture the couple.
"Listen man," Chris pleaded. "I got a long life ahead of me! Please don't do this!"
"Same goes for you!" another Death Apostle punched him.
"Alright you two, what do you say we play a little game?" Kenneth asked in his smooth voice as he brandished a dagger in his hand.
"What kind of game?" Chris asked
"I'll be generous and allow one of you to go free," Kenneth offered. "Provided one of you pleads first!"
"I will!" Chris shouted as Brittany stared at him in shock. "I'm begging you! Let me go! Take Brittany! Just let me out of here!"
"Very well, you are free to leave," Kenneth cut the ropes binding his hands and held him up.
"Chris, what are you doing?!" Brittany was on the verge of tears.
"Sorry babe!" Chris waved, running off towards the stairs. "Just looking out for number one!"
As soon as Chris reached the stairs, he opened up the door… and came face to face with the High Priest Moloch himself. In one swift movement, the owl-man stabbed Chris through the chest with the claws mounted on his wrist.
"But… you said I could go!" Chris stared in shock as he saw the blood running down his shirt.
High Priest Moloch yanked his claws out and kicked Chris down the stairs. Chris fell until his body hit the floor with a thud. After that, he moved no more.
"High Priest," Kenneth got up. "It's an honor to see you again!"
"Likewise," the owl-man walked down the stairs past the body of Chris to greet the other cultists.
"I trust your journey was safe?" asked Kenneth.
"Yes, there are some loose ends I would like to tie up in this town," the owl-man nodded.
"Ah, then I trust Daria will be taken care of?" asked Kenneth.
"Yes she will be," High Priest Moloch clenched his fist. "I will personally make sure of it. In any case, I must be heading out now to take care of those loose ends. We shall reconvene tomorrow to discuss matters."
"Very well, High Priest Moloch," Kenneth bowed. "In any case, if I may be so impertinent, I've never once seen you without your mask. We all knew who 'Eric' really was. However, I'm still unaware as to who you are."
High Priest Moloch paused. Finally, he decided that there was no harm in letting the young man know, especially since they were already on the eve of victory.
The man in the owl mask slid his own hood off and removed the owl mask.
Kenneth looked a bit perplexed. The man underneath the owl mask certainly looked anticlimactic and none too intimidating to say the least.
"Aaaaannnd… I have no idea who you are," Kenneth sighed, trying but failing to hide his disappointment that the High Priest looked no different from the average car salesman.
"My real name is Mr. Candy," the lanky man told Kenneth. "Pleasure to speak with you for the first time… without the mask that is."
"Pleased to meet you, Mr. Candy," Kenneth finally acknowledged.
"In any case, I must head out now to take care of some business so we can talk more later," Mr. Candy told the young man. "And with any luck, I won't even have to return to Highland for the final phase of our plans."
"Something in that backwater town you don't like?" inquired Kenneth.
"More like someone," Mr. Candy shuddered. "The thought of dealing with some of the delinquents there makes my skin crawl."
"I can only imagine," Kenneth shrugged.
"You don't know the half of it," Mr. Candy put his mask back on and left.
When Mr. Candy was finally out of earshot, Kenneth shook his head.
"Is it me or does our High Priest look like a car salesman?" he asked his fellow cultists.
"Salesman," one cultist responded.
"Definitely car salesman," another replied.
"Used car salesman in his case," a third cultist nodded his head.
Daria, Jane, and Kevin snuck towards the back of the school. Sure enough, Brittany's car was parked outside. There was also a door on that building that led to Lawndale High's school basement.
"That's her car," Kevin pointed out.
"Now it remains to be seen if she's being sacrificed in a blood ritual or she's just making out with that new guy," Jane noted.
She noticed Kevin's face getting red with anger and clenching his fist.
"Uhh, sorry Kevin," Jane said sheepishly. "Didn't mean to get you riled up there."
"No… it's fine," Kevin finally breathed. "I just want to make sure Brittany's fine. That's it."
"Wait, I think I hear someone coming," Daria told the two. "Let's hide."
The three of them took refuge behind a large trash compactor near the side of the building as Daria peeked out.
Immediately her eyes widened as she saw the man in the owl mask walking out casually from the door and leaving in a black car.
"Alright," Daria turned back to Jane and Kevin. "Everything's definitely not fine. We need to go down there."
"What did you see?" asked Jane.
"Remember that man in the owl mask?" Daria reminded her. "He's here in Lawndale now."
"Okay, that's not good," Jane admitted.
"I always assumed Eric was that masked killer," Daria admitted. "However, that may not be the case now."
"Speaking of masks," Jane reminded her.
"Got the masks ready?" asked Daria.
"Ready," Jane took them out.
The three of them put on the balaclavas and gloves, heading towards the door.
Daria turned down on the knob and to her relief, it was unlocked.
The three went down the stairs until they were in the hallways leading to the main basement room. As they got closer, they heard several chants getting louder and louder.
"I hear them," Jane whispered to Daria.
The three hid behind a statue of a winged lion to observe what was going on.
At least six cultists were there, tying up their sacrificial lamb onto a table. Daria took a closer look and noticed that it was Brittany Taylor that they were tying up. A few feet away was the body of Chris that appeared to be a fresh kill.
It was just as she feared.
"Got everything ready?" Daria asked Jane.
Jane revealed her loaded gun to Daria and nodded in the affirmative. Before Daria could plot a course of action, however, she realized she had made an error in calculations by allowing Kevin to tag along.
"No!" Kevin screamed at the top of his lungs, revealing himself. "Let Brittany go!"
"Oh no," Daria muttered, realizing Kevin had just given himself away.
Kevin charged bravely but foolishly into the cultists' ceremony, tacking one of them to the ground and punching at him. Soon, however, the other five tackled him, throwing him off and kicking him repeatedly.
Soon, three of them held Kevin in place.
"Who might you be?" Kenneth growled, upset that his sacrificial ceremony had been interrupted.
"Let Brittany go!" Kevin screamed.
"Kevin?" Brittany looked up. "Is that you?"
"It is, babe!" Kevin smiled.
That smile was short lived, however, as Kenneth punched Kevin hard enough in the stomach to knock the air out of him.
"The more the merrier I say," Kenneth sneered.
From their hiding place, both Daria and Jane looked at each other, realizing that while Kevin had compromised himself, he hadn't yet compromised their position.
"You ready?" Daria asked.
Jane nodded, picking up her gun.
The two of them came out from the statue they were hiding behind. Daria fired two shots that struck the legs of two Death Apostles and took them down. Jane fired another two shots that took out the remaining cultists, starting with their kneecaps.
"What the hell?!" Kenneth spun around.
"Don't move!" Daria ordered.
Kenneth put both hands in the air as Jane helped attend to Kevin while Daria trained her crossbow on Kenneth.
"Let's see who you are," Daria grabbed Kenneth's hood, removing it.
Immediately, Daria's mouth widened.
"You!" Daria recognized. "I remember you. You're Quinn's—"
Quickly, Kenneth took advantage of Daria's surprise and kicked the crossbow out of Daria's hand. As Daria clutched her arm, recoiling from the blow, Kenneth ran towards Brittany, cutting her from the table and holding her hostage.
"Don't try anything," Kenneth ordered. "Or this bitch gets it!"
"Let her go!" Jane ordered, training her gun on Kenneth but not able to fire since Brittany was being used as a shield.
In a flash, a knife appeared in Kenneth's hand as he held it in front of Brittany's throat.
"Don't try anything brave," Kenneth ordered as he backed away with Brittany.
The three trailed him as he moved away with Brittany in tow until he went up the stairs that led out of the basement.
"That's far enough," Kenneth told them. "Don't move unless you want her gutted."
"You son of a bitch!" Kevin practically screamed.
"Kevin, don't let him hurt me!" Brittany cried as he took her up the steps until he reached the door.
"Babe, no matter what, I won't let him—"
It was too late. Without warning, Kenneth stabbed Brittany from behind, piercing her heart and then kicking her down the stairs. He wiped away the blood from his knife and then ran away through the door.
"Brittany!" Kevin screamed.
"K-Kevy…" Brittany held her hand across Kevin's face.
Brittany's hand turned cold and fell to the floor lifelessly.
"No!" Kevin cried. "Brittany! Babe!"
As Kevin howled in anguish, Daria and Jane could only look on sadly, not knowing how to comfort the young man in his sadness.
Later that night, the black car parked in front of the Morgendorffer household ceremoniously like a carriage.
"Will you need any assistance, High Priest?" asked Graham, the driver.
"No," Mr. Candy told the younger man. "I'm going to do what I should have done at Raft College with my own bare hands."
"Alright, guess I'll be on standby," Graham shrugged.
"I should be back shortly," promised Mr. Candy as he put on his owl mask.
Already it was night time and there was little chance anybody was out and about at this hour. That alone made his job all the more easier.
Silently, Mr. Candy walked towards the Morgendorffer household and knocked. It didn't take long before Jake opened up the door to greet him.
"Hi, can I help you?" asked Jake.
Mr. Candy said nothing as he revealed the razor-sharp claws on his wrist for Mr. Morgendorffer to see.
"Uh, I think Halloween's over?" Jake stammered nervously as the man in the owl mask advanced upon him menacingly.