The following short story is based on characters created and/or copyrighted by Glenn Eichler, Susie Lewis Lynn, and MTV. All other characters were created and copyrighted by Roland Lowery.

The author gives full permission to distribute this work freely, as long as no alterations are made and the exchange of monetary units is not involved. Any questions, comments, suggestions, or complaints should be sent to esn1g(at)yahoo(dot)com. Thank you.

"Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first."
-Mark Twain

by Roland 'Jim' Lowery

"Okay, kids, come on!" Jake shouted cheerfully over his shoulder. "Lawndale isn't getting any closer!"

Daria and Quinn picked themselves up from the couch - which the moving men then picked up from the front lawn and loaded up in the van - and trudged dutifully over to the car. Quinn was quiet, strangely subdued compared to her normal manic state. Daria was also quiet, but there was little strange about that.

"Let me just shift this over here," Jake said with a grunt, shoving over a suitcase he had just put in the back seat. "Aaaaand . . . there! Plenty of room for three people!"

The sisters shared a longsuffering glance. "Duh-ad," Quinn huffed, "there are four of us!"

"Huh?" His face a mask of concentration, Jake pointed at Quinn, Daria, Helen, and then himself. Almost instantly his face dropped in comic surprise. "Gah dammit!" he yelled, smacking himself on the forehead.

"Settle down, dear," Helen said, placing a comforting hand on his arm. "We'll just see if there's any room to shift some of our luggage over to the van."

"Don't put yourselves out on my account," Daria told them. "I'll just ride in the van with the big, sweaty, hairy guys."

Jake brightened. "Really, Daria? That'd be swell! Let's go, everyone!"

"Ugh, thank gawd," Quinn said, flipping her hair back as she opened the car door. "Now I won't have to constantly pretend we're in different vehicles because we actually will be!"

"Behave yourself for the nice gentlemen, honey, and if they don't behave themselves, remember you're wearing reinforced toe boots!" Helen waved, then she, Quinn, and Jake were all gone before Daria could tell them she had been kidding.

She looked up as one of the big, sweaty, hairy moving men walked up to her.

"If you're going to serial murder me," she told him, "please have the decency to bury me deep enough that the coyotes can't get at my bones."

The ride up from Texas to Maryland was going pretty much as Daria had expected it would, though she wasn't quite sure which part was worst. The horrible smell of sweat and dirt that permeated the van's cab? The constant barrage of sports radio just barely audible over the screeching static? The most boring scenery known to man zipping by outside the windows? The rusty springs trying their best to pop out of the seat and into her butt cheeks? Or the slimy aftertaste of the convenience store burrito she'd eaten half an hour ago?

So far, she figured, the trip had managed to offend every single one of her basic senses, and they weren't even halfway done yet.

She had tried at one point to engage the movers in conversation, but that had been a futile effort. Unless she wanted to talk about shooting and skinning animals, sports teams, or table saws, it seemed they weren't really good conversationalists. And she didn't want to talk about those things, unless it was specifically about shooting sports teams and then cutting them up with table saws.

A long stretch of highway passed off into infinity before them, with farmland and the occasional bit of forest making up the majority of the monotony to either side. The only major landmarks for miles around were the vehicles themselves, either zooming along in the opposite direction or seeming to almost be stuck in amber nearby thanks to the relativity of their motion.

Daria almost cheered at the sight of a car transporter pulling around one side of the van. Then she got depressed when she realized just how excited she was to see such a relatively mundane sight. But at least the colors of the cars it was hauling were something different to look at.

As soon as it got far enough ahead of the van, the large truck then pulled over into the same lane. This put it in a somewhat uncomfortably snug position between the van and Jake's car up ahead, but Daria figured they must be getting close to an exit or something. She couldn't really find fault with the driver's impatience. She was pretty impatient to get off the road herself.

Something flew off of the transport and smacked the van's windshield, leaving a massive set of cracks radiating off of a central spot about the size of Daria's fist. The moving men swore simultaneously as Daria - to her immediate chagrin - gave out a small, girly squeal. She had just barely seen the small piece of metal before it had bounced off, and she realized with no small amount of horror that if it had actually managed to break through the safety glass, it would have undoubtedly embedded itself somewhere in her body or skull.

Relief flooded through her body as the van's driver let off the accelerator and backed away from the truck. That relief was short lived, however, as she watched the car on the top rack of the transport suddenly tilt backward and fall onto the highway.

Her jaw hung open as she saw the suddenly loose car almost bounce when its back bumper hit the asphalt. With a shout of surprise, the driver tried to swerve over into the other lane, but it was too late. The front end of the car was falling back, coming straight at the van's cab.

"Wait," Daria said, begging the universe for just a few more seconds.

Then everything went black.

Jane tapped a pencil on her lips and stared down at the sketchbook in her lap. A slight frown creased her brow as she stared intently at the blank piece of paper. Then, without quite knowing why, she tore it out, crumpled it into a ball, and tossed it into the corner of her room.


Roland 'Jim' Lowery

May 8, 2011