Salt The Earth
For miles and miles they had traveled, based on nothing more than the printed directions Daria had gotten for the trip back when she was still in Lawndale. From the looks of it, they weren't anywhere near to the Mid-Atlantic, as most of the landscape was still desert.
Most of the other Highland survivors were in the school bus. Ahead of the school bus was Van Driessen's van, which carried Daria and the surviving young adults.
"What I wouldn't give for a good meal," Tom held his own stomach. "We've had nothing but junk food this whole trip."
"Beavis and Butt-head don't seem to be complaining," Daria glanced back one seat behind her as the duo continued munching on nachos. "But then again, nachos are their bread and butter."
"You think everybody back in Lawndale is okay?" asked Tom.
"Hey, if my family is still alive, then there's also a good chance your family survived too," Daria pointed out.
"I'd hope so," Tom looked out the window. "You think we still have a fighting chance against this demon god?"
"Mr. Buzzcut promised me he'd use the fragments of the Spear of Destiny to create new arrows for me," Daria told him. "I trust him."
"Hey guys, there's something ahead," Van Driessen told the gang to the back of his van.
He pulled up at an exit where there was a large castle. Soon after, the bus followed him and once parked, everybody got out.
Daria looked up at the large sign.
"Texas Tournament and Dinner," Daria read. "Too bad there will be no jousting tournament and no dinner."
"No, but we can still get some rest here," Van Driessen pointed out. "It's getting darker after all."
"We probably could use some sleep," Tom agreed. "And what better place than a castle that hosts medieval shows?"
"Alright everybody," Buzzcut said to the Highland survivors. "We rest here tonight. Be sure to bring in the food and water."
Everybody headed towards the castle. Around the castle walls, however, Daria noticed several bodies lying around, some even clad in knight's armor. No doubt they were some of the performers who had been caught in the Armageddon.
"Hey Beavis, check it out," Butt-head pointed out. "A jousting tournament!"
"You mean that place where medieval dudes, like, knock each other off horses with spears?" asked Beavis.
"Yeah, except I'd win all the rounds 'cuz my spear's the longest! Uh, huh huh huh!"
"Heh heh heh heh heh!"
"Feeling comfortable now, Mrs. Anderson?" asked Daria.
Daria helped Tom Anderson's wife onto the bed in one of the hotel rooms that the castle had available.
"Thank you dear," Mrs. Anderson told her. "I should feel better after a full night's sleep."
"You gonna be okay, Mr. Anderson?" asked Daria.
"Hey, I survived the Korean War," Mr. Anderson told her. "I'll survive this."
"Glad to hear it," Daria nodded and walked out the door. "Get a good night's sleep, you two. We'll head out tomorrow."
"Well, everybody's settled in for the night," Buzzcut walked up to Daria.
"You gonna hit the sack too?" asked Daria.
"Not yet," Buzzcut told her. "I still have to fashion those arrows for you. Let me see your crossbow. I have to take measurements so I know what length to make 'em."
Daria reached inside her bags and got her crossbow out along with the arrows.
"Here you go," Daria handed them to Buzzcut.
"Thanks, I'll go get the Spear fragments and get started," said Buzzcut.
"High Priest?" Graham asked as he and Mr. Candy walked towards the castle in the desert.
Mr. Candy calmly walked towards one of the bodies on the ground.
"Eww," Graham looked down.
"It won't be long before most of them are asleep," Mr. Candy smiled.
"What then?" Graham asked.
"More like what now," Mr. Candy smiled. "Graham, go gather all the bodies."
"Wait, you want me to gather the bodies?" Graham grimaced.
"Yes, you," Mr. Candy said plainly.
"But, I could get a disease from touching them!" Graham protested.
"This isn't up for debate," Mr. Candy glared at him while revealing an extra set of claws on his left hand.
"I… okay," Graham sulked, finally agreeing to the orders of his superior.
"It's mine, Butt-head!" Beavis protested.
"No way, give it to me, asswipe!" Butt-head grappled against the one guy who could be considered his only friend in the world.
The two of them had found a handheld game. No doubt it had been left behind by a young child. And just like young children, Beavis and Butt-head were squabbling over the small gaming console, which was already low enough on batteries as it is.
"I forgot how much I enjoyed this spectacle," Daria sat in one of the seats further up the tournament arena.
"Get off me, fartknocker!" Beavis kicked Butt-head off of him.
"Hold still and give me that game!" Butt-head got up and tackled Beavis from behind again.
"It loses its charm after four years of high school," Cassandra appeared next to Daria and sat down.
'Hey Cassandra," Daria acknowledged. "Can't get any sleep?"
"No, I usually don't go to bed until later," the hippie chick answered.
"I can relate," Daria nodded.
"So what is this Lawndale like?" asked Cassandra. "Will we be safe there?"
"Well, I can't make any promises," Daria said honestly. "And to be even more blunt, Lawndale is the kind of town that's a tad materialistic… socially pretentious… class conscious… and completely consumer-driven… but it might be our only hope if my parents managed to survive the apocalypse."
"So it may as well be our promised land in this hellish landscape," Cassandra blinked.
"Yeah, more or less," Daria smiled a tiny bit. "Beggers can't be choosers and all that."
"Hey ladies?" one of the survivors walked into the tournament arena.
Daria looked up. It was the Burger World manager who had managed to survive the firestorm and previously had Beavis and Butt-head working under him.
"Hi, I found some hamburgers buns and patties in their freezer," the Burger World manager told the two. "I was wondering if either of you wanted to help me out. We can make enough meals for everyone on this trip if I get started tonight."
"Not gonna ask your star pupils for help?" Daria gestured towards Beavis and Butt-head.
The two of them were still wrestling on the ground.
The Burger World manager took one look at them and grimaced, remembering all the times they had screwed up on the job and made his life very difficult.
"I'll take that as a no," Daria remarked wryly.
"I can come help," Cassandra offered. "Daria, if you're tired, go ahead and get some rest."
"Thanks, I'll go lie down in just a little while," promised Daria, who wasn't too sleepy just yet.
As Cassandra and the former Burger World manager walked away, she looked around. All she wanted at this point was a nighttime walk to figure things out and get some privacy.
"Well that was revolting," Graham wiped the sweat from his brows with his relatively untouched wrists.
Mr. Candy had drawn what looked like a crop circle in the ground where all the bodies had been gathered in. Graham had been the one who did most of the dirty work of gathering the bodies and being an amateur mortician was not something he wanted to do. Worse yet, there was no place he could go to in order to wash his hands with soap, especially considering the state of the world currently.
"Good work," Mr. Candy told Graham. "Now for our ritual."
"And what, pray tell, is the purpose of gathering all these bodies?" demanded Graham. "Something tells me it's not because you want a big cremation ceremony."
"You'll see," Mr. Candy promised.
He took out a golden chalice put it on the ground. Taking out a knife, he cut the palm of his own hand and then allowed the blood to drip into the chalice.
"Ewww," Graham looked disgusted.
After enough blood had filled the cup, Mr. Candy bandaged his hand up and used his other hand to lift up the chalice. He then poured the contents of the chalice into the circle where all the bodies lay.
Soon, an eerie red glow enveloped all the dead bodies as Graham watched on in horror.
"Arise," Mr. Candy ordered. "Serve the will of Angra Mainyu!"
At that moment, one of the bodies came to life as its eyeballs rolled back properly into its sockets. After that, more corpses began to move and come back to life… or what passed for life.
"I… I don't like the looks of this," Graham stammered as the corpses all got up and started walking.
"Don't worry, they know who to go after," Mr. Candy promised.
Having left the castle, Daria walked outside and took a deep breath, taking in the cooler night air.
She was still deep in thought. Truthfully, she didn't know what she would do if she got back to Lawndale or if her family would still be alive by the time she got back. And there was also the matter of her friend Jane. She didn't know yet what happened to her best friend and that suspense alone was enough to make her very uneasy.
Daria whirled around, surprised that somebody had followed her. However, once she saw who it was, she became less tense.
"Mr. Van Driessen, what are you doing out here?" she asked.
"Well, I came to talk to you for one," Van Driessen replied.
"Well, here I am," Daria replied sarcastically, wanting to have some alone time more than anything. "So what do you want to talk about? Current events?"
"No Daria," Van Driessen shook his head. "I want to talk to you about what you've been up to ever since you left Highland."
"Well, what is there to talk about?" Daria shrugged. "I went to a well-to-do town called Lawndale after my family moved. The standard deviation of that place on the IQ bell curve ranked just a little higher than Beavis and Butt-head's collective intelligence but even that wasn't saying much."
"Look Daria," Van Driessen sighed. "I know a young person can change a lot in just four years. Maybe I'm no longer a teacher but I still want to be able to re-connect with one of my former students and get to know her again, mmmkay?"
Daria had to admit he had a point. While Van Driessen's concern reminded her of Timothy O'Neill's pushy ways, he did bring up something valid. She had been gone from Highland in all this time and by the time she waltzed back to Highland, she was more of a stranger to everyone there. He did have some right to know what she was like now and how much she had changed.
"Take a seat," Daria gestured towards a nearby rock. "I'm not sleepy anyways so I guess after everything that's happened, you have a right to know what I've been up to. Especially since I wasn't too forthcoming when I first came back."
"Well, you can start by telling me what you life was like in Lawndale," Van Driessen sat down. "If you don't mind, that is."
"Well, high school itself wasn't all that glamorous," admitted Daria. "Lots of people there were shallow and materialistic. But it wasn't all bad. I got to meet my best, and some would say only, friend, Jane."
"At least something good came out of it," Van Driessen offered.
"Yeah, and I almost ruined it," admitted Daria.
"Yeah, Jane was dating this guy named Tom and at the time I didn't fully approve," Daria told her former teacher. "Funny story really… at some point, before I knew it, Tom and I were making out in a car behind Jane's back during a heated argument."
Van Driessen looked like he felt sorry for her.
"Well, I suppose one doesn't make it through their teenage years without making some mistakes," her hippie teacher remarked.
"Eventually Jane forgave me," Daria confessed. "She even encouraged me to date Tom, and I did. But I guess I never forgave myself for how I betrayed my best friend and eventually, at the end of my senior year of high school, I broke up with Tom."
"That's quite the story," Van Driessen confessed.
"And that's just my high school years in Lawndale," Daria smirked. "Wait'll you hear about what I did in college."
As Van Driessen listened to his former student eagerly, he saw in the corner of his eye some dark figures walking towards them in the distance.
"Um, Daria… do you see that?" Van Driessen pointed out.
Daria stopped herself from continuing the story. She looked up and sure enough, several figures were walking… or rather shambling towards them.
"Are… are those survivors?" Van Driessen asked hopefully.
Soon, the figures came into plain view. They were undead corpses with rotting flesh walking towards Daria and Van Driessen with malicious intent.
"Great, zombies," Daria frowned. "Yeah, definitely not survivors…"
Daria took a step back, realizing both she and her teacher were in potential danger.
"Raaaahhh," one of the undead corpses growled.
"Daria, do you hear that?" Van Driessen paused.
"Hear what?" Daria scowled. "These are undead corpses!"
"Kill…" another zombie blurted out.
"They… they can talk," Van Driessen looked at Daria. "Maybe we should stay and hear them out? What if they're intelligent?"
Daria shook her head.
"Beavis can talk," Daria pointed out. "Do we call him intelligent?"
At once Daria dragged Van Driessen back to earth with her perfectly logical, yet condescending, statement.
"Okay, good point," the hippie teacher had to concede.
"Come on," Daria told him. "Let's get back inside!"
Without another word, Van Driessen followed Daria and she headed back to the castle. Fortunately for them, the zombies were far too slow to catch up.
"Daria, what's the rush?" asked Tom as she and Van Driessen got back into the castle in a huff.
"We need to barricade this door now," Daria told Tom.
"Wait, why?" Tom looked at her funny.
Van Driessen shut the door behind them and made sure to install all the locks.
"Are there any other entrances in this tournament castle?" asked Daria.
"Well, I did take a look around but there wasn't," Tom confirmed. "But seriously, what's the hurry?"
"Better if I showed you than told you," Daria looked at her ex.
"Uh, okay?" Tom agreed.
"Wake everybody up," Daria walked down the hall. "It's not safe to rest here."
"Yeah, that's not good," Tom looked down from the castle tower.
Daria, Tom, Kevin, and the Highland survivors looked down and at the castle walls were hordes of undead corpses shambling and clawing at the doors, trying to get in.
"Well damn," Tom Anderson rubbed his eyes to clear the drowsiness. "This is one helluva situation. Worse than a lot of what I saw in Korea."
"Um, think they want to eat our brains?" asked Kevin who had seen one too many zombie movies.
"Huh huh huh, this is like Night of the Living Dead," Butt-head chuckled.
"If they catch us, they better not eat my nads, heh heh heh!" Beavis added.
Coach Buzzcut said nothing. He loaded his gun, aimed it down, and fired. The bullet struck one of the undead corpses in the skull, knocking him down.
Soon, however, the shambling corpse got back up in spite of the bullet wound he suffered.
"Okay, we know horror movie rules don't apply to these guys," Daria noted.
"Yeah, you'd think a bullet to the brain would stop them on their tracks," Tom agreed.
"Great, we're in for a real thrill ride," Buzzcut frowned, realizing normal fatal measures wouldn't deter these undead corpses by much.
"Hey Beavis," Butt-head told his friend and confidante. "If these zombie dudes get you, I'll be sure to, like, go comfort your mom."
"Whoa, really?" Beavis smiled. "That's, like, really nice of you."
"Yeah, I can tell her what a loser you are while she polishes my schlong, huh huh huh!"
"Damn up, shut up Butt-head!" Beavis growled. "Besides, is my mom even alive anymore?"
"Uh… good point, huh huh huh!"
"How many firearms do we have?" Buzzcut turned to Tom Anderson.
"I brought a shotgun," Anderson replied. "But I don't think we got the firepower to put all those zombies down. The slugs I have might be able to blow up their heads but I don't got enough for all of 'em."
"Damn it, looks like we're walled up in a siege then," Buzzcut shook his head.
"Maybe not for long," Daria told the gang. "Maybe a bullet to the head or a stake through the heart won't work but there are other foolproof ways of killing the undead beyond any hopes of recovery."
"What do you have in mind, young lady?" Anderson asked.
"So they may be reanimated by a demon god's power," Daria continued. "But their bodies are still physical and they appear to still be in a state of decomposition. We could use fire to destroy them by spreading it through their ranks and making sure they all go up in flames."
"Good idea," Buzzcut admitted.
"Yeah, heh heh heh!" Beavis smiled. "Kill 'em with fire… fire! Heh heh heh!"
"So, uh, anyone got a match?" asked Daria.
Tom and Kevin looked at each other nervously. Neither of them smoked so they wouldn't have such a thing on them.
"Well, uh, I had a lighter but I left it back home… which got destroyed not long ago," Anderson scratched the back of his head.
Daria looked at her teachers. Neither of them had a lighter either.
"I don't have a lighter," Buzzcut told her. "But in the medieval stable of this building, I did see some sticks lying there. "We might be able to start a fire the old fashioned way."
"Guess we'll have to make do," Daria sighed.
"Well, here goes nothing," Daria stood a few feet away from the castle door that was still locked up.
Outside, however, she heard a lot of banging. Though the undead corpses didn't seem exceptionally strong, they still numbered enough that they could cause a commotion and if they pushed hard enough against the door, who knows if they'd make it through or not.
Daria grabbed a stick and began rubbing it against another larger stick on the ground in hopes of making a flame.
Soon, however, she saw that her own labor was in vain. She simply didn't have the strength or speed to generate the kind of momentum needed for fire.
"Ugh, this is hopeless," Daria groaned.
She heard a creaking sound, realizing that the door that held back the massive horde of zombies was beginning to give. Their relentless pushing was finally starting to bear unholy fruit.
"I dipped some of the arrows in oil I found in the kitchen," Buzzcut came up next to her, holding her crossbow and arrows, along with a medieval sword he had picked up along the way. "We can set them on fire that way."
"Appreciate it… but who knows how much longer we have," Daria told him.
Finally, the wooden door broke open as the undead started pouring in.
"I'll hold them off," Buzzcut promised, gripping the sword.
Thankfully, the undead corpses were not exceptionally fast, just like in the movies. Buzzcut ran towards them, cutting some down. As soon as he cut down the initial wave, however, more zombies began to enter into the building, making him retreat back further.
"Ugh, come on you stupid piece of wood!" Daria tried rubbing the sticks against the wood faster.
"Hey, what's going on?" Beavis walked up to Daria.
He was together with his usual partner-in-crime, Butt-head.
"Beavis, why aren't you with the others?!" Daria demanded.
"Um, we wanted to see the dead dudes!" Beavis said excitedly.
"Yeah, zombie movies are cool!" added Butt-head.
"Well, you're in one right now!" Daria said angrily. "Which means you might die!"
"Any progress?" Buzzcut shouted, punching back a walking corpse that got too close.
"Look," Daria said while trying to start a fire. "Unless I get a fire started, we're all going to die!"
"Whoa, fire?" Beavis looked excited.
"Uh, huh huh huh, don't get Beavis started?" Butt-head chuckled.
"Wait, don't get him started?" Daria stopped what she was doing. "Beavis can start a fire?"
"Yeah, he can make fire as fast as he spanks his monkey!" Butt-head pointed out.
Finally, Daria got up. She had a crazy idea but considering the circumstances, it was crazy enough to work.
"Beavis, would you do the honors?" asked Daria. "Rub these sticks together and start a fire. Then you can see some real action."
"Whoa, really?" Beavis looked especially motivated. "Alright!"
Beavis sat down and began rubbing the sticks together. Daria noticed that he was even faster at the task than she was, especially given his pyromania and obsession with fire. Under ordinary circumstances, it was not a condition she would have encouraged. But in a fight for survival, she was willing to be much more lenient.
As Daria looked back at Buzzcut, she noticed she he was backing away as he continued to hack at the zombies. As he cut another down, two more came at him from the side. Quickly, he decapitated them but at that moment, another zombie came in at his blind spot.
Grabbing one of her arrows, Daria fired it. The arrow struck the zombie in the eye, impaling him against the wall.
"Thanks," Buzzcut said gratefully.
"Fire!" Beavis cried. "Yes!"
"Good job, Beavis," Daria grabbed one of her oil dipped arrows. "Mr. Buzzcut, fall back!"
Buzzcut ran back to where Daria was.
"Only a few arrows we can use to set them ablaze," Daria said to her teacher and former classmates. "But in these close quarters…"
She set the arrow on fire, then put it on her crossbow and fired. It struck one of the zombies at the front, impaling him and setting his shirt on fire. The undead creature cried out in pain, flailing about wildly and even turning back to push against the rest of his companions, setting them on fire as well.
And in the close quarters of the corridor they were in, the fire spread among them much more quickly. Quickly, Daria took a few more oil-dipped arrows and set them on fire, unleashing them upon the other zombies. Thanks to that, the fire began to spread amongst the undead much more quickly until soon, all of them were consumed.
"C'mon," Buzzcut told them. "Let's get away from the smoke!"
The former teacher led the younger adults away from all the charred corpses.
"Whoa… fire!" Beavis said excitedly. "Fire!"
"Uh, calm down Beavis, huh huh huh!" laughed Butt-head.
"Well, who says vices can't be turned into virtues?" Daria smiled. "Good job, Beavis."
"So, like, want me to start more fires?" asked Beavis.
Daria cringed. "Eh, not now. I'll let you know when…"
"Hey guys," Tom called out as he and Kevin entered the scene.
"It's been taken care of," Daria assured the two. "Let the other survivors know we took care of these zombies."
"On it," Kevin promised, running off to alert the others.
"Dare I ask how you immolated every last zombie?" asked Tom.
"Heh heh heh heh heh!"
"Uh, huh huh huh huh!"
"Well, it pays to have a pyromaniac on your team," Daria pointed a thumb at Beavis. "When the going gets tough, the tough gets burning…"
"Uh, nice work Beavis?" Tom offered with a weak smile.
"Heh heh heh, thanks."
"Don't encourage him," Buzzcut told Tom sternly. "Alright you two, go pack up what you have and hustle! We're leaving!"
He grabbed Beavis and Butt-head and ushered them away.
"Pyro, huh?" Tom asked.
"Anything else about these guys I ought to know?"
"You should see Beavis when he becomes the Great Cornholio," Daria said sarcastically.
"The great what now?"
"I'll tell you all about it when we're back on the road," promised Daria.
"Back when we were going out, there was a lot you never told me about Highland," Tom admitted. "I guess I can kinda see why."
"Baby steps Tom," Daria smiled. "Baby steps."
"Well, that was a waste," Mr. Candy looked at the trail of burnt corpses at the now-abandoned castle.
By now, all of the Highland survivors had left and driven away. And unfortunately for Mr. Candy, the undead corpses he revived weren't able to complete their task of slaughtering Daria and all the survivors.
"Yes, what a pity," Graham said sarcastically. "And to think I had to touch all those dead bodies for nothing."
"No matter," Mr. Candy got up. "The will of Angra Mainyu will ensure that we will have further assistance in our righteous cause."
"Um, yes, actually I was wondering," Graham said with a hint of weariness to his voice. "Will we be able to make it back to my hometown? I was kind of wondering if my parents were okay…"
"Ah, speak of the Devil," Mr. Candy looked into the distance, almost ignoring what Graham was saying.
Graham looked up. Driving towards them was a motorcycle gang. It was almost like something out of a post-apocalyptic cyber-punk story.
Soon, all of the motorcycles stopped in front of Mr. Candy. Each and every one of the cyclists got off their bikes. They were all rough and thuggish looking men, particularly their leader whose sunglasses glistened.
Graham gulped, realizing that he was way out of his element with rogues like these.
"All hail the great god Angra Mainyu!" Mr. Candy declared.
"Hail!" the biker gang all shouted.
Looking at them more carefully, Graham noticed all of them were tattooed with Angra Mainyu's symbol, a winged lion.
"Whaddya want us to do?" asked the leader.
"There are a group of survivors in the distance," Mr. Candy instructed. "I would like for you to take care of them."
"No prob," the biker gang leader agreed.
"Oh, and there is an extra request," Mr. Candy added.
"Among those survivors is a specific girl I wish for you to deal with," Mr. Candy told him. "Her name is Daria Morgendorffer. And I believe you may or may not be acquainted with her, Todd."
"Daria, huh?" Todd Ianuzzie sneered. "Nope. Name don't ring a bell."
With that, Todd took out a knife and stabbed a lizard that was crawling up a cactus.
"But hey, there haven't been many chicks available since Armageddon," Todd grinned like a sociopath. "I'll take what I can get."