Jane had never seen anything like the images that lay on her desk before. The best words she could use to describe them would be "organized chaos". They were a wild jumble of seemingly random splashes and angry strokes of paint, ink, charcoal, crayon wax and whatever other materials the patient had gotten his hands on. It was a total mess.

And yet... and yet, if you looked at it for a second, an image seemed to jump out at you. Through clever tricks of light, negative space and even texture, images were hidden in the colourful morass. This was no rorschach, it wasn't your brain trying to make sense of complete randomness with imagined pictures of, say, a pretty butterfly or a herd of beautiful wild ponies running free across the plains or a dog, dog with head split in half. No, there was intent here.

And they were terrifying.

Most of them were of fires consuming buildings and people. The warped, multifaceted blend of colour and texture lent the burned, skinless bodies a visceral quality so powerful that it brought a taste of bile to the back of Jane's throat.

"My God, you're beautiful." Jane thought, relishing the sickness, awash in the power of the images. She loved art that provoked powerful emotions. It was work like this that had saved her life countless times, especially back when she was a lonely little girl. A lot of girls cut themselves when they felt numb, when they felt like nothing mattered. Or they did things that were even worse. Jane spent her days at galleries or at home or the library devouring artbooks, searching desperately for something that could stir her scarred, frigid heart. Something that would make her smile or cry, anything that would wash away the gray, suffocating ennui of day-to-day life.

As much as she loved the rough things the paintings of burned corpses were doing to her soul, she had to put them away for a while. Jane didn't want to get stomach acid on her teeth.

There were other subjects, too, besides the fire and destruction. There were many images of a bizarre, demonic creature with its arms raised in a strange pose. In one it was holding what appeared to be a roll of toilet paper triumphantly. Jane screwed up her face in confusion at this, "Apophenia, perhaps?", she wondered. The tendency, especially prominent in schizophrenics, though present to some degree in all Human minds, to assign significance to completely random objects and events.

The meaning of the last painting, however, was crystal clear to Jane. And all too familiar.

It was a man being ripped in half. His facial expression was not one of pain or terror, but profound sorrow and loss.

After she had composed herself, Jane returned the paintings to the storage cabinet and pulled out her copy of the patient's case file.

The patient's name was Robert Michael Beavis, born October 28th, 1979 in Highland, Texas. Jane remembered hearing the name of the town somewhere before, but couldn't place it. Despite the amount of time he had been in care, his diagnosis was still uncertain. One doctor or another had pegged him with everything from schizophrenia to autism. What was certain was that he was seriously unstable and spent most of his early life causing random acts of mayhem in his hometown, always accompanied by fellow delinquent Buford Tarkinton "Butt" Head. They had run afoul of local law enforcement a handful of times, but somehow always managed to avoid serious charges.

The duo's path of destruction came to a permanent end on November 7th, 2007. The two men had broken into the basement of their neighbor, one Thomas Henry Anderson and tampered with his water-heater, disabling the fail-safes and causing it to explode. The resulting blast killed both Head and Anderson, who had been using the toilet when the sabotaged heater rocketed up through the floor underneath him and carried him up through the attic and out the roof, his shattered corpse coming to rest on the sidewalk out front. Beavis escaped with only minor burns and several broken bones and was quickly arrested and taken to the prison ward of Highland's Ramirez Memorial Hospital.

Beavis was found incompetent to stand trial and spent two years in West Oaks in Houston before his transfer to The Arkham Center for Addiction and Mental Health (the one in Massachusetts, not to be confused with the more (in)famous facility for the criminally insane in New Jersey with a similar name) was arranged so he could be closer to family. His only living relative was an uncle who lived in Massachusetts. His mother had died from a heart condition brought on by side-effects of the anti-retroviral drug AZT. His father's burned body had been found in The Painted Desert next to the remains of a campsite.

His parents' deaths hadn't seemed to faze Beavis, but the loss of his friend had sent him into a deep depression. The only things that could rouse him from it for any length of time were indulging in his unfortunate habits of pyromania or consuming large amounts of stimulants, which had the unfortunate side-effect of triggering bizarre outbursts of glossolalia and other bizarre behavior. Obviously, this was considered to be less than optimal. The patient was currently on a regimen of mood-stabilizers and anti-psychotics and was considered to be making some progress in the Art Therapy program, though the same could not be said for anything else.

Jane remembered the first time she'd seen him. She had signed on as the Center's new Art Therapist almost straight out of school with a glowing letter of recommendation from one of her professors. She was nervous. She didn't know if she was safe, many of the patients at Arkham were violent cases. She wondered if there was really anything she could do for them. Out of all the patients in her first group, he had caught her eye. There was just something about him. He wasn't handsome by any means, with his pointed nose, immense forehead and prominent underbite, but there was something fascinating about him. And the look of profound, confused loss in his eyes just broke Jane's heart.

Jane had been blown away by the work he produced in that session and had pulled up her predecessor's records to see if there was anymore. She couldn't believe it. He was amazing. Utterly amazing.

Jane cleared the files from her desk and headed out the door. She needed to see the director to schedule some one-on-one sessions with him... perhaps for her sake as much as his...

Jane was glad the mood stabilizers had worked well enough that Beavis no longer needed a padded room. Being in one of those again would bring back too many memories. Beavis sat nervously on top of the sky blue sheets of his small bed by the window, the sun sparkling in his thick, blond hair. Jane couldn't help thinking it looked nice. Almost enough to make up for that weird face. He was in his 30s now, but the way he acted around women was still rather childlike. He was awkward, jittery and had trouble speaking. Fortunately, unlike his deceased friend he was not one for crude sexual imposition.

Beavis' voice was shakier than usual as he addressed the blue-eyed beauty. "Uh... hi." he said, weakly.

Jane introduced herself calmly and professionally. She told him she admired his work and she wanted to discuss it in depth with him. His responses, unfortunately, were somewhat incoherent. The most she understood was that the recurring demon character in several of the paintings was meant to be some kind of lake monster from South America that periodically emerged from beneath the waters in search of toilet paper, of all things. Jane now almost wished she hadn't skimmed over, out of mild revulsion, the rather lengthy section of the patient's file dealing with his coprophilic tendencies. Perhaps that would offer some insight. Then again, probably not.

The intellectual part of her knew this wasn't getting anywhere. He'd be better served by a male doctor, somebody he wasn't attracted to. It was painfully obvious what he was trying to hide with his hands held anxiously in his lap. But in her heart, Jane knew she had to press on until she got what she needed.

Whatever that was.

Jane's breathing slowed dramatically until it was a deep, almost sensual rasp and she lowered her voice almost conspiratorially as she asked the million dollar question. "Tell me about the picture of the man in pain. The man being torn in half."

Beavis couldn't even speak. There was something unfamiliar about the art therapist's demeanor that made him uneasy. His eyes began to dart across the room.

Jane could see how uncomfortable the patient was, but an almost predatory instinct had taken over. She needed this. Damn everybody else.

There was no telling what could have happened if something inside Jane hadn't stepped in forcefully to rein in the tiger pacing hungrily in her heart, "No, no, stop it, what's wrong with you? Can't you see what you're doing to him?" She needed to calm him down before things got more fucked up than she had already made them.

"Beavis... please." She put on her most soothing voice. Her Summer's grandkids are crying voice. Her Daria's having anxiety issues again voice... for all the good that had done...

It was also her you've had such a long day, come to bed voice.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry I upset you, Beavis. Please calm down... this is very important. I want to help you."

Beavis' eyes stopped darting, but his breath was still rapid and his teeth clenched.

"It's about your friend, isn't it? The one who died. You felt like you were being ripped in two, didn't you? Like you'd had a piece of yourself torn out."

Beavis' anxiousness suddenly turned to rage. He jumped up from the bed, foaming and the mouth, his hand raised as if to strike Jane, who shrank in fear into her chair.

"Rrrrrraaaaah! Shut up, you bitch! Shut up! Stop talking like that! Stop pretending you understand!"

"I do understand..." Jane said, quiet and fearful at first, then more forcefully as her confidence returned. "I understand exactly what that painting you made is all about because the exact same thing happened to me."

Tears were welling up in Jane's eyes and Beavis began to back down, confused by this outpouring of raw emotion. When the other shrinks weren't playing at being the perfect little detached, clinical robots, the only feelings they would deign to show him were poorly disguised revulsion or the insincere saccharinity of a kindergarten teacher. Usually some combination of both. Who was this woman? Why was she telling him this?

"You spend the first half of your life thinking you're just too fucked up for anybody to ever understand, much less give a damn about, surrounded by people who are nothing at all like you and every time any of them looks at you it burns, it just fucking burns you because you know they're thinking "Why can't that freak just die?". And then one day you finally meet somebody who's different, somebody you can actually connect with and somehow, even though it shouldn't be, everything's ok now. None of the shit people give you matters anymore because you have each other. You're parts of a whole. You can't imagine life apart anymore. You can say anything to each other, you can do just about anything together and you hope to god it can always be that way, that you can grow up together and be with them until you're both grumpy old farts laughing at how stupid all the young people are like those goddamn Muppets, but no!"

Jane couldn't help it. It was just spilling out and she didn't care.

"Yeah! Yeah!" Beavis shouted, getting caught up in Jane's sorrow and frustration.

"Nothing lasts forever, you always know that in the back of your mind... one day they're just gone, you never even got a chance to say goodbye, you never... It's not fucking fair, goddamnit!" She shouted, lost in her own anguish, banging her hand on a nearby desk for emphasis.

"Yeah! It's no fair! Dammitdammitdammit! Arrrrgh!" Beavis screamed. Cracks began to form as he punched the walls and slammed his over-sized head into them viciously. Jane began to recover from her outburst enough to realize she had made a terrible mistake.

"Beavis! Beavis, stop! You're going to hurt yourself! Please, stop!" Her words had no effect on the mental patient's rampage. Blood was now spilling down from his forehead and a small crater in the wall beside the window. Not wanting to call the orderlies and get anybody else involved in the mess her unprofessionalism had caused, Jane rushed over to restrain him. He struggled at first, but his scrawny frame was no match for her. Even with all the work she had to deal with at The Center, Jane still found time to exercise every day.

"Shhh... shh... I'm sorry. Shh... it's ok." Jane whispered gently in his ear. Beavis calmed down and his helpless jerking subsided, but she didn't let go. On the contrary, he brought his arms around her and they embraced each other gently. They stood there like that for several minutes, with no sound but the soft rhythm of each others' breathing. Jane didn't resist when Beavis put his head down to rest on her bust. That is until she yelped at a sharp pain in the side of her chest.

"Ahh!" Jane yelled, pushing Beavis away, "You bit me!"

Beavis fell back onto the bed, a look of sadness and confusion on his face. "Gaah! I'm sorry! I'm sorry!"

"What the hell?" Jane shouted angrily.

"I... I just... aaaah! Stupid worthless piece of-" He raged as he started beating himself about his still-bloodied head with his fists. Jane's anger abated, replaced by concern as she grabbed him once more.

"Beavis, stop! Stop! Don't hurt yourself! Stop!" She said firmly before her voice softened again, "I'm sorry I yelled at you, but you can't go around biting people. Why did you do that?"

"I...I..." Beavis was jittering again, his cheeks red with embarrassment.

"Beavis, it's ok. Please, tell me what's wrong."

"It's... it's just... the way you held me. It's like how my mom did. You made me, like, remember all this stuff, 'cause... like, nobody else ever held me like that. You made me remember when I was really little and... I'm sorry..."

The realization dawned on Jane as she felt the wet mark on the left side of her blouse. She knew she ought to be disgusted, but it was just too sad for that.

"So, I was making you... thirsty, huh?" She said, summoning up her classic sardonic wit as she tried to clear the tension from the air.

"Heh... yeah..." He smiled a little before his expression sank again. "I guess now you're not gonna... like, ever hug me again, huh?"

"Well..." That voice of reason was giving Jane a lecture again. This is so unprofessional, what the hell are you thinking, you can't touch him like this, he's your patient...

"We can if you promise not to bite me again."

They embraced once more, this time with Beavis resting his head on Jane's shoulder and sniffing at her hair.

"You smell good." He said, dreamily.


"Is that, like, that shampoo where the chick's, like, gettin' off in all the commercials?"

"Nah. I make it a matter of principle to never buy any product with commercials that stupid. Unless it's something that tastes really good..."

"Heh... heheh... yeah, commercials suck..."

"Heh, yeah. That they do." Jane smiled, before she recovered enough from the flood of warm feelings to remember the man in her arms was still suffering from a minor head wound. "C'mon, we need to get you cleaned up and put some disinfectant on that cut in your forehead."

After Beavis' cut was tended to, Jane checked her watch and saw it was almost time for her afternoon art therapy group session. Jane promised they would see each other again soon.

There were ways of getting into the patients' rooms after lights out. Jane knew, as she reached behind her to undo the hooks, that she was probably throwing everything away doing this, but she couldn't remember the last time she had felt such an overpowering need to be with somebody before. It didn't make any sense in any rational context, but that was just it. There was nothing rational about this. It was a torrent of raw emotion. There was so much going on inside both of them, so much despair and yet so much fire. They couldn't stay apart and let each other burn themselves out and turn to dust in solitude. The fire would destroy both of them either way, best to join together and let it consume them quickly.

"Are you still thirsty?"

"Heheh... yeah..."


It was after midnight when Jane finally got home. She collapsed into bed, sweaty, exhausted, covered in bites, bruises & scratches and happier than she could remember being since... since before what had happened with Daria. But any dark thoughts that threatened to rise to the surface and destroy her ecstasy were banished as she wriggled out of her top, peeled away her bra and squeezed herself hard with both hands, the wonderful pain of the teethmarks that decorated her breasts forcing a moan from between her cherry lips, lips covered in a mixture of dollar store lipstick and newly-dried blood.

Never let it be said that Jane Lane couldn't give as good as she got.

That rational part of her was just a voice in the distance now, grousing about somebody noticing the marks on Beavis, about security cameras, about her future or lack thereof. Was it really worth it?

"I am so fired." Jane said in her most blase voice to her otherwise empty apartment.

Yes, strangely it had been.

Jane didn't have long to wait for the ax to fall. She was woken at 5:30 in the morning by a telephone call from the director. She would not be coming in to work that day. Instead, she would meet with him for lunch at a small cafe by the river, on the other side of town from The Center.

"Damn." She thought as she hung up, absently fingering a bruise on her thigh.

Director Gilman, a large, imposing, bald 40-something with an appropriately piscene countenance, addressed Jane in the manner of a disappointed father. It was an unfamiliar experience for her, as to be disappointed, a father must, generally, be paying attention.

He never told how he had found out. There were any number of options. What he did tell her was that she had a choice. This wasn't the first time The Center had a situation on its hands involving inappropriate relationships and the last thing they needed was the publicity that news of her tryst would bring. Jane could tender her resignation, make up any excuse she wanted so long as it wasn't the truth and receive a very generous severance package as well as the chance to continue her career at another location, so long as it was far, far away from him. If she tried to fight it, if she ever let anything slip about the affair, Gilman would see to it personally that whatever nasty fate befell his beloved hospital, hers would be far worse.

Either way, she would never see Beavis again.

Jane showed no emotion as she agreed to Gilman's terms. No sense fighting it. What she had done was completely reprehensible and this agreement was far more than she deserved.

After the director was out of sight, Jane collapsed face-first into the untouched club sandwich before her, the splintering toothpick protruding from it bloodying her forehead as she wept silently into the bread.

Jane never did move on to another art therapy job. Or any job, for that matter. For a period that may have been months, or years, she no longer bothered to count, she simply existed, relying on her severance pay (read: hush money) to take care of the bills.

It was a stupid idea, anyway, becoming an art therapist. She thought maybe she could learn how to ease people's pain, to stop what had happened to her best friend from happening to somebody else.


Helping people, making the world a better place... these things were beyond her. She couldn't help anybody. She had made Beavis smile for a short time, but in the end she had only brought both of them more misery than they started out with.

Beavis... why had she fixated on him so? He was a talented artist and they understood a lot of each others' pain. That and he was probably the best fuck Jane had ever had in her entire goddamn life. But was that really enough? Enough to justify risking so much for?

What kind of husband, what kind of father could somebody like that be? What kind of children could he have given her?

Jane wasn't even sure why she would ask that question. She wasn't sure if she really wanted kids. She was good with them, but she had trouble picturing herself as a mom. She was very leery of anything that would limit her independence. Sometimes, though, Jane thought about it. She wanted to do everything she could to be less of a fuck-up than her own parents were. Not that it would be much of a contest. They meant well, but you know what they say about the state of the road construction business in Hell. Plus, she was afraid that she'd turn out just like them anyway, or worse.

And now she was an even bigger fuck-up than they could have ever dreamed. Jane wondered, idly, if either of them were still out there somewhere. What would they think of her, now?

A memory clawed at her brain about something she read online, back in college, something about scientists discovering a way for two egg cells to combine into a healthy baby. She laughed at herself for it, but she wanted to have Daria's babies. The men in her life came and went, but she figured she and Daria would be together forever. Why not have kids? Their daughters would be so smart and so beautiful. They'd have crystal blue eyes and rich auburn hair and never take shit from anybody.

Daria had had one of her vanishingly rare laughs at the idea when Jane told it to her over a glass (or two, or three) of cheap wine cooler.

God damn it. God, God damn it.

Jane thought about crawling into a bottle. About drinking herself to death. No, she'd seen first hand how bad a way that was to go. It still made her skin crawl thinking about how hideously jaundiced Daria had been when she'd identified the body. She had no idea Human skin could be that yellow. Somehow it disgusted her even more than the way the shattering windshield glass had ripped half her face to shreds.

Jane was mildly surprised as she surfaced from the torrent of painful memories she had allowed to wash over her to realize she had been screaming.

Maybe she should talk to somebody... but who? She didn't feel up to getting a therapist, especially not after all the trouble she'd had in the psychological profession. "What if they turn out to be as big of a creep as I did?", she mused sardonically.

Jane didn't really have friends. After Daria's death, she had returned to her old solitary ways. No sense letting anybody else get close enough to invite that kind of pain again. Her social life never went beyond a series of one-night stands. Before she found herself falling for Beavis she had always pushed away those who got too infatuated.

She wished she could talk to Trent about it. He was the only family she had left. Penny caught a stray bullet in a shootout between some Latin American drug lord or other and the authorities. Wind hung himself after his 4th (or was it 5th?) marriage disintegrated. They found Summer on the bathroom floor of an AM/PM in Canada with a bad batch of speedball in her veins. Jane kept meaning to try looking the kids up on Facebook or something one of these days, but never got around to it. As for the parents, nobody was quite sure. Neither of them had been heard from in so long, the government had declared them legally dead.

Trent, he didn't need to get caught up in this bullshit. Jane loved him too much to do that to him. Things were tough enough with all the drug use and other youthful indiscretions of his past hanging over his head like the Bong Of Damocles. The best thing she could do for him now was leave him the hell alone, at least until his position was more secure. Maybe sometime after the next election.

Trent's story was an interesting one. After Jane had taken off to Boston, he had sold Casa Lane and moved away from Lawndale with the rest of The Spiral. They'd hired a new manager and made a serious attempt to hit the big time that was over before it even really began. Somewhere along the way the rest of the band had got religion and joined a church choir, but it just wasn't for Trent. He had returned to Lawndale and stayed at the old Moreno place with Jesse's brother Danny and tried to hammer out a new musical project. Somehow, the two of them had hit upon the idea of buying up the flagging local music store with what was left of the money Trent made from selling the house. Unfortunately, many of the "improvements" the duo made to the store brought them into conflict with the local zoning board. It was through his battles with the city council to save the store that Trent had discovered a hidden talent for politics.

To make an already long story short, after a few years on the city council he'd been elected twice as mayor of Lawndale and was now in the process of attempting to break into the state level. His opponents already had enough to use against him with his past without Jane getting him involved in the godawful mess she had made of her life.

Not even her love of art could pull her out of the emotional sucking bog Jane was trapped in. She had no motivation to create anything and nothing she looked at affected her anymore. Until one day...

Jane was surprised to find the latest issue of Art Condition magazine in her mail. She was sure her subscription had expired ages ago. The cover story didn't look particularly interesting. Something about the latest installation work of Paris Sakhalin. Jane wrinkled her nose. She had actually met the woman a few times and found her to be a tedious, self-absorbed harpy. The best thing that could be said about her was that with her uncanny turquoise hair she did a decent job of pulling off the whole "Japanese Cartoon Character" look. Jane was seconds away from chucking the thing into the trash when a cover blurb caught her eye.


Gaze into the face of madness with the strange mindscapes of Robert Beavis.

Jane tore through the thick, glossy brick looking Beavis' article with a sense of purpose she thought she would never feel again.

There they were. The streaks and smudges and stipples that came together to form bizarre and moving pseudo-images. Images of The Great Cornholio, the fires consuming the world, the people shrieking in pain and loss.

And there was something new as well. A photograph of the artist himself, his arms blurred as he spasmodically threw himself at the canvas. The partially formed image was of a beautiful woman covered in bitemarks wearing what was obviously a joyous O-face.

Jane felt the now-unfamiliar sensation of a smile coming to her face.

She knew she needed to find him again, no matter what it took.

Getting to see Beavis again was easier than it should have been. The fact that Gilman had done his absolute best to make sure that as few people as possible knew what had happened between Jane and Beavis meant that nobody who was looking after him now had any idea there was any reason for them not to see each other. All Jane had to do was look up his uncle and, after testing the waters to make sure the man knew nothing about who she was or what had happened, asked if she could come by to meet with him. As his former art therapist (having had to leave The Center due to some unfortunate family issues that needed tending to), she was curious about his progress, both in his work and his psychological treatment. She was delighted to hear that Beavis' Uncle Max would be more than happy to have her come and visit.

Beavis and Uncle Max lived in a spacious, though sparsely furnished apartment overlooking a handsomely tended courtyard on University Avenue, just a few blocks from MU's prestigious exotic physics building. As Jane made her way to the apartment building, she noticed several garish, green banners proclaiming "Go Cephalopods!", indicating the area was mostly student residences. The elevator was down for maintenance, so Jane ran up the stairs as quickly as she could.

She was greeted at the door by Uncle Max, an enormous, burly man who apparently worked as the head groundskeeper for the university. It was partly through this position that Beavis was able to become the outsider art sensation he was. Jane's successor from the art therapy program had recognized Beavis' talent immediately and believed he deserved some kind of exposure. Working together with Uncle Max, who had a good relationship with his superiors at the university, they were able to secure a showing at the art department's Thurber Memorial Gallery to great acclaim. Gilman had even, reluctantly, allowed Beavis to move out of the hospital in the care of his uncle, as it was believed he had made sufficient progress that he was no longer a threat to himself or others. Jane wondered to herself if Beavis' release had been a reward for keeping his mouth shut.

As Max brought Jane down the hall to Beavis' studio, where he was currently working on his latest masterpiece, she wondered what she would say to him, what he would say to her. What was going to happen between them now? What would Max say if he found out? Would any of it make a difference? She had given up on living. She had no job, no plans and the money was beginning to run out. Would seeing him again really make anything better?

For a while, Jane thought, when she could bear to think about it, that her depression was brought on by her relationship with Beavis being forcibly ended before it had even really had a chance to begin, or perhaps because she was so deeply upset with herself for acting so irresponsibly.

No, that wasn't it at all. What it really was, was that the despair and listlessness had been there a long time before she had even met him. Her hope for a career as an art therapist and being able to help people had given her something to hold on to, to keep her from sinking in too deep, but when that all came apart, there was no point resisting anymore. She had sank into the misery that had been with her since her best friend's death. Maybe the physical one, where she downed so much Smirnoff she was more vodka than woman and wrapped her father's old Lexus around a tree (Jane was still tortured by the question of whether it was just the booze or if she had meant to do it). Maybe it was earlier, when she had died inside.

Jane tried to fight back the memories, but they wouldn't stop assaulting her. It was a long weekend and they had been planning to finish up a project for Daria's screenwriting class that she had roped Jane into helping with: a short film satirizing vapid morning talk shows. Instead, Daria had to head out west to attend her cousin Erin's second wedding. It was a shame about her first husband, Brian, a deliveryman who claimed he was actually working for the Central Intelligence Agency because he wanted to look like a big man. He had an unfortunate run-in with a young Neo-Nazi Skinhead whose own idea of being a big man involved killing a government agent and whose own intelligence, unsurprisingly, was not sufficient to realize when smoke was being blown up his ass. Daria was characteristically unenthusiastic about the event, but felt she had to attend after missing out on the last family get-together, partly due to airline problems, mostly to lack of interest. That and the reception was being held at Universal Studios Hollywood and she wanted the chance to finally see a giant shark up close, even if it was animatronic. 9/11 was still a recent memory then and there was no way Daria was getting on an airplane when the few airlines that weren't still in total chaos had given the frotteurs and sadists among their security personnel free reign to explore their sexuality, so she would have the "pleasure" of driving to the West Coast. She expected to be back in a week and after arranging for acquaintances in her various classes to send her their notes, she was off.

Three days before Daria was supposed to return, Jane came home from school and noticed the Lexus was parked outside of the house in which the two shared a basement apartment. Jane bounded in the door, happy her friend was home early, as it had been getting boring around the place with nobody to share sarcastic observations with. That happiness evaporated when no answer came when she shouted "Honey, I'm home!" and saw all the lights were still off. "Guess she walked down to the store or something..." Jane thought. She was proven wrong when she entered the bedroom to find the contents of a large box that they had not yet bothered to unpack after moving in spilled all over the floor. The box sat between the two cheap mattresses on the bedroom floor, muffled sobs coming from within.

"Are you alright, Miss?" Uncle Max said with concern in his slow, deep voice, noticing Jane was about to bite her own lower lip off.

"Yeah..." She said, trying not to show any emotion in her voice, "Yeah. Just some dead skin's been bugging me."

The explanation must have been satisfactory, as Uncle Max presently began to bang on the door at the end of the hall with his massive ham-hock of a hand.


"Uhh, yeah?" Came the muffled voice from the other side. "It's not time for, like, more pills already, is it?"

"No, not until after supper."

"So, like, what do you want? I'm, like, busy and stuff." Beavis said, agitated.

"He doesn't like to be interrupted when he's painting." Max said to Jane, apologetically. "Oh, but I guess you probably know that, huh?"

Jane nodded as Max called out to his nephew again, "There's somebody here to see you."

"Tell them to piss off! I'm working!" Beavis shouted, angrily.

"Hey! What did I tell you about swearing!" Max shouted, pounding on the door for effect.

"It's ok," Jane said, pulling Max's arm away from the door. As she turned around, she called out in a raised voice, "I guess I'll piss off, then! Bye!"

It was less than a second before the door slammed open, generating a wind that blew Jane's hair in her face. Beavis emerged, clad in a paint-covered white apron with various brushes sticking out of the pockets and an immense, ***** grin on his Fetal Alcohol Syndrome-deformed face.

"JANE!" he shouted, wrapping his arms around her without a care for what the paint would do to her outfit, planting kisses energetically across her face and neck before his uncle stepped in to wrench him free.

"Hey!" Max shouted angrily at the mental defective now writhing in his arms, each one bigger around than Beavis' waist. "You stop that! Settle down! You want to go back to that goddamn hospital? Do you?"

Jane knew she had to calm everybody down before things got ugly.

"It's ok, Sir. I'm fine, really. I've... I've missed him, too." She said, putting one hand on the bigger man's arm and squeezing Beavis' hand with the other.

Once Beavis had calmed enough to be let go, The three of them spent a few moments looking at each other awkwardly. Jane almost jumped when she heard a cellphone ring. She checked her pockets before remembering she hadn't brought one.

"That'll be for me." Said Max, pulling out a black rectangle that looked positively minuscule in his huge hand. Jane wondered how he was supposed to work the buttons with fingers like that. They must've been bigger around than her legs.

"Hello? What? Is he...? Uh-huh? Uh-huh. Um, look, isn't this more something a family member should take care of? I'm kinda busy right now. Ah, I see. Ok, I'll be right there."

Max switched the device off and returned it to his pocket. "Crap."

"Problem?" asked Jane.

"Friend of mind got hurt on the job and I'm the only one on his contact list they could get a hold of. I gotta go down to the General Hospital. Hey, you mind I ask how long you were planning on staying?"

"Well, I figured I'd just see how it goes, I'm free all day. Do you need me to leave?"

"Just the opposite, actually. Would it be too much trouble for you to keep an eye on things here while I go sort this out? Just, you know, make sure he stays outta trouble?"

Jane had to struggle to keep from smiling. "I think I can manage that..."

Uncle Max hadn't been gone two seconds when Beavis picked up right where he had left off before he was so rudely interrupted. The two of them did their best to navigate their way to the bedroom as they continued to hold each other, kissing and biting all the way. Against all odds, they managed to make it there and collapsed, writhing onto white sheets that the pair wasted no time covering with wet spots, some of them red, thanks to their mutual appreciation for the erotic possibilities of fingernails and incisors.

"Ah! Aaaah! I love you! IloveyouIloveyouIloveyou!" Beavis cried joyfully as Jane sunk her teeth into his left shoulder.

Jane came up for air long enough to moan "I love you, too. I missed you so, so much. You can't even imagine..."

As Beavis went to work on her breasts, the waves of pain and pleasure were so great that Jane couldn't stop her legs from thrashing. A ceramic table lamp went crashing onto the floor along with several books no longer held up by a set of Spiderman bookends. Neither of them seemed to notice or care. That is until they smelled something burning. The now-exposed, white-hot filament of the shattered lightbulb had set the paper of one of the books alight.

"Yeah! Fire! Firefirefire!"

"Beavis!" Jane shouted, "Not now! Unplug that damn lamp while I put it out." Beavis complied dejectedly as Jane threw the blanket over the burning book, smothering the flames.

"Aw, man..." Beavis sighed in disappointment as Jane pulled the blanket back to survey the damage. The lamp was utterly destroyed, pieces of broken glass and porcelain littering the ground. Other pieces of ceramic from the bookends that had once been statuettes of Peter Parker in full superhero regalia and his sometimes enemy, sometimes reluctant ally against even nastier monsters, the parasitic alien known as Venom were also lying on the floor. It made Jane very uncomfortable the way the extra-terrestrial's disembodied, orca-esque head leered up at her naked body, licking its lips suggestively with its ludicrous tongue. Only the one book had been singed, thankfully.

"Looks like only that Spawn book got burned."

"Heh... good. Spawn sucks. Heheh."

Jane took a moment to inspect the books that lay on the floor. Beavis' choices in reading material seemed more or less fitting, the predictable jokes about his literacy aside.

There were a few trade paperbacks of various superhero comic books; Lars Ulrich's autobiography; about a half dozen science fiction combat novels, the thickness of which somewhat surprised Jane, adorned with garish covers depicting battles between high-tech knights in shining armor and monstrous space demons. There was also an old high school yearbook. Jane picked it up curiously.

"Hey, mind if I take a look?" She asked.

"Uh... I guess not."

Jane flipped through the pages aimlessly, briefly scanning the various photographs and laughing to herself. God, their principal looked even more angry and stressed out than that crazy history teacher she had way back when. Jane never imagined such things were possible. "And that hippy teacher, you gotta be kidding... hey, wait a minute..."

Jane held the yearbook open at a page detailing the various charitable extracurricular activities the students were involved in. There was a photo of the participants in a charity walkathon, including a young Beavis; an ugly, smirking child with a harelip she assumed was Buford Head, the creep who had dragged Beavis along when he blew himself and that poor old man up with the water heater; and a short, auburn-haired girl with glasses dressed in a black jacket, red skirt and and expression that said she would rather be anywhere else.

"Beavis." Jane turned to her lover with a look of urgency, "Who is this girl? Did you know her?"

"Heh... heheheh... Cha-cha-cha... heheh..." Beavis chuckled.


"Heh... yeah, she was, like, this chick who hung out with me and Butt-head sometimes. She just did it to, like, laugh at us 'cause she thought we were stupid and stuff... but, I kinda liked having her around, anyway. She didn't have hooters yet or anything, but her hair was pretty and she, like, smelled good 'n' stuff. And she was the only girl who ever talked to us..."

As Beavis reminisced, Jane flipped her way back to the student photo section and skipped to the Ms. There she was. She wore her hair a bit differently and her unsmiling face betrayed more unhappiness than the attitude of deliberate indifference she had honed by the time Jane had come to know and love her, but the name printed below the photograph proved it.

Daria Morgendorffer.

"Hey, what's wrong... how come you're all, like, crying?" Beavis said, somewhat uncomfortable as he put a hand on Jane's bare shoulder.

"I'm... I'm sorry, it's just..." Jane sniffed, trying to calm herself. "I knew her, too. We went to high school together, right after she moved away from your town. She was the best friend I ever..." She broke down sobbing again, burying her face in the angry, red teethmarks on Beavis' shoulder.


"Oops. Sorry." Jane said, sheepishly, her composure returning.

"Hey, is she, like, that friend you were talking about? The one who died? Is that why you're crying?"

"Yeah... she got in a car accident. When we were still in college."

"Oh... that sucks. I didn't even know she was, like, dead." Beavis said, sadly.

The two of them held each other in silence for several minutes before Beavis finally spoke up again.

"Hey, you think, like, she and Butt-head are up in heaven together, like, watching us and stuff?"

Jane debated for a moment whether or not to voice her disagreement with Beavis on the likely post-mortem destination of a man who died in the process of killing an elderly man with a sabotaged heating fixture, but ultimately decided that disparaging her lover's dead friend wouldn't do either of them any good, even if everything she knew about him pointed to him being a major league piece of *****

"Well, I certainly hope they're not watching us now. That would just be embarrassing." Jane said, her smile returning.

"Heh... hey, maybe they're, like, doin' it up there while we're doing it down here. Heheh..."

Jane's smile quickly vanished. "Um... I don't think..."

"Heheh... you know, she was, like, the first chick Butt-head ever scored with."

"What?" Jane was shocked by this sudden revelation, though dubious of its provenance, "That's weird, because Daria never told me about any guys at her old school. In fact, she told me she was a virgin..." "On the other hand," Jane thought to herself, recalling the bizarre-looking youth in the photo, "I wouldn't blame her for not wanting to brag about that."

"Oh, uh, this was, like, after school was over. Well, for me and Butt-head, anyway, 'cause we got expelled and stuff. I dunno about her."

"Wait, when was this?" Jane said. She felt a sense of dread tugging at her. Something wasn't right.

"Uh... I dunno... I think it was, like, back when that Bush guy was still president... heheh... Bush... heheh... Uh, the second one, not the "Read My Lips" guy. Anyway, she came back into town 'cause, like she was on her way to see, like, this big shark or something in Hollywood and she was gonna stop for the night at the crappy motel where my mom used to, like, do all those guys. Butt-head was really happy to see her again, 'cause he'd been all pissed off 'cause none of the chicks around there wanted to, like, do it with him. He asked her out and she said OK, 'cause, like she thought it'd be funny watching us get drunk and stuff. So, then, before we go to the bar, we meet this dude we know, Todd, who was, like, cool and stuff, and Butt-head bought some pills off him that were supposed to help you score with chicks."

Jane did not like where this was going.

"Those pills sucked, though. I tried one, but all it did was make me really sleepy and I forgot a bunch of stuff that happened that night."

Now Jane didn't know whether to be amused or horrified. She would get her answer soon enough.

"Anyway, the next thing I remember, we're in that hotel, and, like, Butt-head and Daria are, like, doin' it. Then, when Butt-head's done, he says I can do her, too. He's like, "C'mon, Dillweed, huhuh..."" Beavis affected his best impression of his erstwhile friend's distinctive voice, ""...Put your thing in Diarhea. Huhuhuhuh... you like scat, don't you?" but, I was still to sleepy and I couldn't, you know, do it. And... uh... I forget. I think I went back to sleep again. And the next day, Butt-head said she went back home, and I guess that was the last time I saw her."

So, that was it. The pieces all flew into place at once.

Daria would never say what had happened to her on that trip out west. No even to Jane, though she could guess. And now she knew. She knew why Daria had stopped going to class and spent her days drowning herself in liquor. Why she had run away when Jane tried to talk to her about it. Why she had drunk driven her car headlong into an ancient oak tree.

And Jane knew, too, why she was here. Why she had been drawn to this grotesque little man in the first place. Why she had been allowed back into his life after she blew the first opportunity. It all made sense now.

"Apophenia." That rational voice in the back of her mind tut-tutted. "It's only apophenia."

Those were the last words it ever uttered before it was silenced forever.

Jane said nothing as she grabbed the thin man and returned to the activity the fire had distracted them from. As Beavis slid inside her, Jane began to kiss his neck, slowly and gently at first, then faster and harder as Beavis pounded harder against and within her. Soon the kisses turned to nibbles and the nibbles to bites.

Beavis barely seemed to notice, his yelps of pleasure intensifying but sounding no less positive, as his jugular artery opened up and the red torrent rushed forth. Strangely, Jane could have sworn that despite the fact he was bleeding out, for a time he became even harder and his death throes made the act more intense and pleasurable for her. It reminded her of something she saw on TV once, about a type of praying mantis whose males could only climax after the females bit off their heads.

Masochist Mantids, next on Sick Sad World...

When it was done, Jane couldn't believe how much blood had been in his small body. The bedsheets were awash in it. But it still felt unfinished somehow. Jane pondered for a moment before the final piece of the puzzle locked into place. She picked up the biggest shard of the broken lamp and the brushes from the pocket of the discarded apron.

Hours later, when her work was finished, Jane felt as empty the shriveled thing lying on the bed. This was something she needed to do, there was no doubt, but she had no illusions about making the world a better place by the doing. Healing tormented souls as an art therapist was beyond her. Doing any good was beyond her. The best she could do was remove something ugly from it. Even then, the man who was really responsible was beyond vengeance. All that was left for her was his hopelessly naive accomplice.

What was the use? What was it all for? What was her life for?

It occurred to Jane that the despair and purposelessness in her heart was not put there by what had happened to Daria. It had been there all along. Their friendship and the quest that had followed it were but a brief respite. A vacation. And now it was time for Jane to return home.

Filthy, disheveled and empty, Jane wandered out of the building, through the courtyard and into the night.

When nobody heard from Beavis or his uncle in nearly a week, the police were summoned. They found Uncle Max curled up and shivering in the doorway of his nephew's bedroom, gibbering nonsensically under his breath, his mind broken by the horror before him.

That horror was the sight of Beavis, or rather a bloodless, flayed husk sitting on the bloodstained mattress that had once been part of Beavis. The rest of him, the organs, blood and other fluids, had been used to paint the far wall of the bedroom in a twisted imitation of the mad artist's own style. Hidden in that wild congerie of red and brown was the image of a woman with long, thick hair and round eyeglasses. She looked down on all before her like a goddess of judgement and found all she gazed upon wanting.


Stacy Rowe stepped out of the studio into the alley for a smoke break. The shoot was proving to be more enjoyable than she had imagined it would. She was happy for the chance to do a sportswear shoot, though somewhat skeptical when she found out said sportswear was a new line of motor racing jumpsuits. Still, they were surprisingly comfortable and the photographers had been great to work with... to say nothing of the pay.

Before she got a chance to light up, she noticed something disturbing. A pair of boots were sticking out of a large, cardboard box sitting against a dumpster. A body? Against her better judgment Stacy went over to take a look. Maybe it was just a pair somebody had thrown out. No, as she got closer she could see the legs they were attached to clearly, covered in badly torn black stockings.

"H...hello? Are you alright in there? A... anything I can do to help?" Stacy called out nervously as she peered inside. The figure inside the box was that of a woman clad in ragged black shorts and a stained red hoodie. Bits of debris clung to the ratty black hair that fell out from under the hood to cover her face. She was emaciated-looking, aside from a large, rounded belly. Was that just swollen like those starving kids in Africa you see pictures of sometimes, or was it...? Stacy wondered sadly before a flash of recognition hit her.

"Hey, don't I know you from somewh-AAAAAH!"

Stacy screamed as the homeless woman jerked her head up and locked her bright blue eyes, shining like gems in the middle of so much abject filth, onto Stacy's own, bearing a meth-mouth full of broken, yellowed teeth and growling like an animal.