If there were in the world today any large number of people
who desired their own happiness more than they desired the
unhappiness of others, we could have paradise in a few years.
-Bertrand Russell

Bringing the Angst

"Everything I touch turns to angst," Daria Morgendorffer said quietly to herself as she walked down the halls of Lawndale High School. "Everything becomes ash. Everything."

She saw Kevin, the brain dead quarterback of the school's football team. He was, as usual, leaning against Daria's locker as he waited for one or more of his brain-dead buddies to come along. Daria approached him, but instead of telling him to shove off like she normally did, she merely brushed her hand against his shoulder pads and kept walking. He stared after her, not sure what to make of the unexpected contact.

Before he could call after her, his girlfriend Brittany walked up, crying her mascara off. She pulled at her ponytails, tore fretfully at the cheerleader top she was wearing, and seemed close to clawing deep furrows into her own skin with her press-on nails.

"Oh hey, babe!" Kevin said, cheerfully oblivious to Brittany's suffering. "What's up?"

"What's up?" the blonde girl asked, her voice even squeakier than usual. "What's up?! I'll tell you what's up! I'm pregnant, Kevvie!"

"Oh! Cool! Can I watch the abortion?"

Brittany stamped her foot. "You don't get to decide if there's going to be an abortion or not!" she screeched, turning from sad to angry in the span of a second. "You're not the father!"

"I'm not?!" Kevin said, suddenly horrified. "You're cheating on me?!"

Daria nodded in silent satisfaction as Kevin burst into tears too. She continued down the hallway, walking right between Jodie and Mack, touching them both lightly on the arm as she passed through.

"Was that Daria?" Mack asked, hitching his backpack up on his shoulder.

"I think so," Jodie replied, "but . . . well, she's rude, but usually not that rude. Anyway," she said as the two of them continued on their way, "as I was saying, I got a letter from Turner University this morning!"

"Wow, that's great!" Mack said happily as she showed him the envelope. "Open it up! I could use some good news now that my family is bankrupt and homeless."

Jodie ripped the top of the letter off, fished out the letterhead inside, and started reading. "'Ms. Landon, we at Turner University would like to thank you for considering us for your continued educational needs. However-"

She blanched, reading the next part to herself before shakily saying it out loud. "'However, we feel that a person with your particularly high level of accomplishments would be far happier attending elsewhere, perhaps Crestmore- "

Splotches began to appear on the letter, and in her shock it took Jodie a few moments to realize they were from the tears of anger and frustration that were rolling down her face.

Further down the hall, Daria passed by the Fashion Club, giving each girl a light touch of her hand on their shoulders before moving on.

"Like, wasn't that your cousin or whatever, Quinn?" Sandi asked, frowning at Daria's retreating back.

"She's my sister, you bitch!" Quinn snapped, shoving Sandi back several steps. "You know, I'm really sick of your crap, Sandi! I think it's time I took over this club!"

"Bring it on, Morgendorffer," Sandi snarled back, pulling a pearl-handled switchblade from her purse.

As Sandi and Quinn laid into each other, Stacy watched and whimpered. "Oh, I hope Quinn wins so I can tell her that I've secretly been in love with her since the day we met!"

"I'm adooooooopteeeeeeed," Tiffany droned sadly.

Joey, Jeffy, and Jamie tried to stop Daria and ask where Quinn was, but the girl silently touched each of them on the arm and ignored their queries. Almost immediately they started arguing about who loved Quinn more, the ensuing brawl smashing open a nearby display case and breaking one of Tommy Sherman's old trophies in two.

Upchuck tried to hit on Daria in his normal feisty way, but he burst into drooling, sobbing tears after she ruffled his hair. His plaintive moans about how he was going to spend the rest of his life alone and unloved could be heard across the entire school.

One gracefully placed finger across Ted's jawline caused him just enough distraction to accidentally run into a wandering pack of varsity football players. Apologies were given but not accepted, and despite the moves Ted had learned from reading judo diagrams, he was overwhelmed and given a severe beating.

Just the edge of a fingernail on the tip of Brooke's nose made it implode for a second time.

Even the teachers were not immune to Daria's angsty touch. Ms. Barch began to tear her hair out one fistful at a time while screaming out her ex-husband's name. Mrs. Bennett started choking on her lunch and had to be given an emergency tracheotomy with a pen. After being touched, Mr. DeMartino calmly went back into his classroom, took the whiskey and cigarettes from the bottom drawer of his desk, and stared into space as he slowly worked his way through both. Ms. Li broke down into paranoid ravings about school shootings, secret agents, and space aliens.

Mr. O'Neill burst into wracking sobs before Daria even had a chance to get close.

Daria turned a corner and almost ran face first into her best friend Jane. She merely stood and stared at the dark-haired girl, neither giving an apology nor seeming to expect one.

"Whoa there, amiga," Jane said as she steadied the other girl. "I'd like to save my front end collisions for when I actually have a car. And speaking of total wrecks, have you noticed what's been going on today? I haven't seen this big of a pity party since the cafeteria stopped serving chunky sals-"

Daria silenced Jane with a finger carefully laid across her friend's lips. She then pulled her hand back and turned to Tom, who had suddenly appeared next to them. Tom leaned in and gave Daria a super-hot, ultra-passionate, toe-curling kiss. After nearly half a minute of lip-lock, he pulled back and looked over at Jane.

"Oh, hey," he said. "I just wanted to tell you that breaking up with you and getting with your best friend was the best possible thing that ever happened to me. I asked Daria to marry me, and she said yes. But don't bother getting excited, because you're not invited to the wedding. In fact, Daria asked me to tell you that you're not best friends anymore, so why don't you go find someone else to cling to for a while?"

Eyes wide with terror and filled with tears, Jane took a few staggering steps backward, running right into the chest of the police officer that had been standing behind her.

"Sorry, ma'am," the officer said, "but are you Jane Lane?" When she nodded, he sighed heavily. "I'm afraid your brother Trent was caught in a shootout at a bar called the Zon. He's still alive, but he's at the hospital in critical condition. I can give you a ride there if you want."

Jane nodded blankly and followed the officer as he led her to his squad car. Daria looked around to see that Tom had wandered off at some point, so she decided to do the same. Eventually she found her way through the front doors of the school, leaving a tangled mess of broken hearts, broken minds, broken bones, and broken souls behind her as she went.

Outside it was bright, sunny, and cheerful. A wave of Daria's hand across the flawlessly clear sky caused it to become dark, bleak, and filled with roiling storm clouds. Rain began to pour, immediately soaking her clothes down to the skin. The sound of a car horn brought her attention down from the flashing of lightning and peals of thunder to see her parents sitting in their car at the nearby curb.

"Hey, kiddo!" Jake yelled over the rain. "We thought you might like a ride home today!"

"Come on now, Daria," Helen called out, "get in before you catch your death of cold out there!"

Walking toward the car, Daria remembered that her father had a heart condition. She thought briefly on the agony it would put her family through if he were to suddenly have another attack. A slight smile threatened to cross her face as she leaned down at the open car window to touch her father's arm . . .

END

Roland 'Jim' Lowery

Original - November 23, 2009
Rewrite - February 6, 2018