This is an odd sort of one-off I wrote in response to an Iron Chef Challenge on PPMB. WellTemperedClavier challenged us to write a story where Daria becomes religious or joins a religion. Now the first part of what I wrote below was originally written last year for a different challenge, to whit, Daria's response to the end of the world so I've taken that as a starting point and have let my imagination run riot from there. Due to the nature of this piece I must point out that this is an intellectual exercise only and I certainly do not intend any insult or offense to any person's beliefs, nor does this in any way reflect my beliefs, I write only to entertain. I apologize for the tired plot device I use near the end but I couldn't think of a better way to get where I wanted to go. This is fan fiction, written for fun and no money is being made, any recognizable characters are the property of their respective owners and the use of the names of real persons, specifically actors, is purely a reflection of their position as reference points in the world of popular culture. No offense is intended to any of those persons so named, the characters they play or the owners/writers of those original works. This story only peetz5050 2013.

Rapture

Sunday, September 2nd 2012 10:47 a.m.

Sixteen year old Daria Morgendorffer stretched and yawned as she descended the stairs of her new home and walked into the kitchen. "Mom?" no answer "Dad?... Quinn?" nothing.
She walked to the large picture window at the front of the house and looked sideways to the driveway, no cars. Mom was probably at her new office proving how keen she was and Quinn had probably cajoled her Dad into one more shopping trip before the siblings started in their new high school the next morning. Typical.

The sunlight coming through the window looked somehow weak, insipid, 'Maybe we have weather coming' she thought. Dust motes hung lazily in the air seemingly inert, as if the air in the house hadn't been disturbed for ages, rather than just an hour or so… odd. She shrugged and re-entered the kitchen.
She took two pop tarts out of a box and put them in the toaster, pushing down the slider she then went to the coffeemaker and turned it on, no red light, huh? Plugged in? Yes. She opened the fridge, no courtesy light, tried the overhead light, nothing. "Damn power cuts…" Took a carton of milk out of the fridge, sniffed it, seemed ok and was still cool so she made herself some cereal and popped a can of soda. "Breakfast of champions" she muttered to herself as she sat at the table.

'What to do, what to do…watch TV? … Well duh, genius' "We are only three square meals and the cancellation of 'Jersey Shore' away from barbarism" she said to her cereal. "I'm looking forward to it".

'Maybe I should walk around the neighborhood' she thought 'Get a feel for the place and time the walk to school'. Dad was going to drive them in the morning but after that she'd be on her own, in every sense of that word. 'Just like Texas'.

A few minutes later she stepped out of the front door buttoning up her green jacket and checking she had the unfamiliar new keys and her cell phone. She turned on the phone to use the Maps app so she wouldn't get lost and noticed there was no signal. 'Mmnn, power must be out over a wide area for there to be no coverage at all in a town this size'. She looked up and down the road at the comfortable houses and well kept lawns and noticed there was no traffic, no children playing, nobody washing cars or mowing lawns.'Another Pleasant Valley Sunday' she sang quietly to herself. 'Here in status-symbol land'.

In the distance toward the town center she saw what she at first took to be a flock of large birds ascending toward the burgeoning clouds now covering half the sky. She then stood stock still for several minutes blinking rapidly and swallowing hard trying to maintain control of herself. Her knees started to tremble and her breakfast threatened to make a reappearance as she realized exactly what she was looking at.

Even at this range she could clearly see large winged humanoid creatures wearing silver breastplates and some sort of leather kilt alighting on the ground and taking off moments later with a man, woman or child cradled in their arms and vanishing up into the murky overcast. No one seemed to be struggling or resisting. They didn't look dead…

Taking deep breaths to get herself under control Daria re-entered her house and went to the garage door. It only took a few minutes for her to set up a deck chair on the front lawn with a picnic table holding more soda and a carton of popcorn.

Her Kindle still held a charge so she went back to the novel she'd started reading on the drive from Highland. After a few minutes she changed her mind and selected another book from the free classics collection she'd downloaded. 'Dante might have a few pointers for what happens next' she thought… "The Rapture will not be televised, the Rapture will not be televised…"


Daria noticed that despite the wan sunlight it was getting colder. She felt a shiver run down her spine and contemplated going indoors for a coat... or a brandy. A flapping noise to her left drew her attention to one of the creatures... she couldn't bring herself to think of them as angels... it was getting closer. She reckoned it must be about nine foot tall with a wingspan of about twenty feet. Memories of her nature study class told her there was no way this creature could fly, yet there it was... coming this way. Oh sh...!

As it crossed the street to where she sat what she had at first taken to be an androgyneous being seemed to shrink as it's wings evaporated and resolved itself gradually into a youngish man with a close resemblance to Keanu Reeves. Dammit it WAS Keanu Reeves, looking stressed and smoking a cigarette. He flopped down into the other deckchair which hadn't been there a moment before and stared moodily off toward the horizon. Daria just gaped at him.

After a while he tossed his cigarette away into the grass where it immediately vanished. He sat forward to the edge of the chair, clasped his hands together and gave her a stern look. 'Daria.' He said. 'What, exactly, are you doing here?'

'What am I...?... What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be in Hollywood or something making a blockbuster?'

'The soul is dead that slumbers, and things are not what they seem.' Was his cryptic answer. 'I am not who I appear to be. I thought this shape would make it easier for you to talk to me, was I wrong? Is this better?' The angel now looked like Nicholas Cage in a long duster wearing a somewhat constipated expression.

'Actually no, not a fan... oh that's better.' Daria now found herself addressing John Travolta. 'If it's not a silly question, why are you here? What's going on?'

'There are no silly questions, only silly answers. For you, and I think you already know that.'

'What?'

'You asked two questions, I gave you two answers which I think is very kind of me as you haven't answered mine.'

Daria had to think her way through this for a moment. 'Waiting for you I guess?'

'Was that an answer or a question, either way, it worries me, you've been waiting for the Angel of Death, is that what you're saying?'

'What? No! Is that who you are?'

'Yes, you may call me Azriel... and you still haven't answered my question.'

'Well... no... I wasn't waiting for you... specifically... I saw all that... rapture or whatever and I was waiting to see what happened next...' Daria was getting pretty scared now. The angel's genial expression seemed to bely something else, something... darker...

'So this is what you've been doing, sitting around waiting to see what comes next. What if nothing came next, would you sit here until you rot or become petrified into solid rock?'

Daria thought long and hard before attempting to answer that one. The angel helped himself to some of her popcorn and popped a can of soda, he didn't seem to be in any hurry at least.

Eventually Daria plucked up the courage to speak. 'Please tell me... am I pleading for my life here? Is this... is this... I don't believe I'm saying this but... is this Judgement Day?'

'What does it look like?' He asked, gesturing at the lowering sky. Daria had to admit the angel had a point. He added. 'And no, you are not pleading for your life.' Daria felt some relief at that. 'You are pleading for your soul.'

'My... oh God!'

'A little late to start praying, don't you think?'

'Is it... oh... but wait a minute... hold on... you said I was pleading so that implies that I have a chance to... to... to redeem myself, right?'

'That is a logical conclusion.' Leonard Nimoy in a Star Fleet uniform answered from the deck chair. 'The question remains. What exactly are you doing here?'

Daria sat back in her chair and closed her eyes for a bit. This was too much and the way he kept changing his appearance was making her dizzy. Finally she sat forward and looked him in the eye. He raised a Vulcan eyebrow at her quizzically. 'Correct me if I'm wrong...' She began. 'But this is not about where I'm sitting here and now, is it? We're talking about my life and how I'm living it, right?'

'Wrong.'

'What?'

'You said to correct you if you're wrong, you're wrong.'

'Oh.'

Patrick Stewart looked at her with a kindly expression. In his deep, soft voice he said. 'Daria, stop trying to work this out as if it was a mathematical equation. Look into your heart, it's not made of stone no matter how much you've tried to make it so.'

'You're talking about my heart and soul and all that metaphysical crap that I just don't believe in. I believe in my brain, the physical world... science... what can be proven to exist.'

'And what does your scientific brain tell you about your life?'

'That it sucks.' Daria answered without hesitation. Then she said. 'Oh...'

'Yes... and who's fault is that?'

'Well my... and Quinn...' She stopped. After a while she continued. 'I suppose there's no point in me trying to fool you, huh?'

'No.'

'Yeah well... Look I tried... in Highland I tried. I tried to be friendly with people, I tried to be nice. Nobody gave me a second glance. I was that brainy girl nobody wanted to know. And before you say it Beavis and Butthead only wanted to know what I looked like naked. That girl Sarah invited me to her birthday party but that was just to make fun of me...'

'Yes, she did. That was five years ago and you've refused every invitation of any sort since. You've honed your sarcasm into a fine weapon to cut your enemies... and anyone else you choose to turn it on.'

'I never picked on anybody, I never sought them out to insult them I never casually abused someone just because they thought differently to me...'

'Did you not? What about your sister?'

'Quinn? She treats me like dirt, she denies me she pretends...'

'And is she the one sitting here today?'

'No I... so... turn the other cheek is it? Well let me tell you...'

'What could you tell me that I don't already know? It's not my mind you need to change after all.'

'What? That doesn't make any sense! I thought I was on trial here.'

'You thought wrong.'

'But you said I was pleading for my soul! Surely that means... wait, what does that mean? I didn't think I had a soul. Tell me the truth, do I have a soul?'

'Yes... and here's something for free... to save time if nothing else. You are your soul.'

'No, no, I'm a flesh and blood human being, I eat and drink and break down sugars and generate electricity to run my brain, I'm a biochemical machine.'

'That's your scientific definition of what a human being is then?'

'Yes.'

'Very well, within those parameters please explain to me what "Mind" is as you understand it.' The angel seemed fond of Patrick Stewart as he hadn't changed in a while.

'It's the... the... processes that take place, the neurons firing... the electrical impulses passing back and forth... It's...'

'Oh do please continue Daria, this is fascinating... wrong, but fascinating.'

'You keep telling me I'm wrong! You're sitting there all smug judging me and...'

'Ah but that's where you're wrong again you see, I'm not judging you.'

'But wait but you said I had to plead for my soul.'

'Yes, you do.'

'But to who? Whom? Whatever... If not you then...' Daria was in tears now, utterly unable to process this and frankly terrified as she sensed that the abyss was nearby and looking back, hungrily. 'Who? Please tell me who? For God's sake have mercy I beg you, have mercy on me... please...'

'And who art thou, who begs for mercy from the death of all living things.' He was an angel again, huge and terrible, his face clouded in an impenetrable darkness, a mighty sword, longer than Daria was tall clutched in his right hand, a balance scale in the other.

Daria fell to her knees before him, utterly abject in her terror. She tried to speak but couldn't.

He bent his head to look down at her. 'You told me your life "sucked", you had not a kind word for any one. You do not know why you are alive and yet here you are, begging for mercy. Tell me, are you convinced that you have value enough to be spared?'

Daria opened and closed her mouth like a goldfish. Trying, straining her powerful intellect to find some glimmer of hope, some titbit of kindness, some iota of her being that she could offer up as proof of her worth. She found none. She bowed her head, accepting the inevitable.

In a tiny voice she said. 'I have no value, I accept that now but please tell me... before I... go... what happened to my family? Are they... are they in heaven? Are they safe?'

'Do you wish them to be?'

'Yes, oh yes!'

'Even if it means they will go to one place while you will not?'

'Y.. yes!'

'Why? What are they to you but a constant source of irritation? What are you to them? You know you're smarter than them, better than them. Why do you care?'

'I don't know.' She wailed. 'I don't know I just know that I do.'

'Do you love them?'

'Yes!'

'In spite of...'

'Yes, yes, in spite of everything I love them and don't want them to suffer, please...'

'So... you are saying you are capable of love. You care about someone other than yourself. Is that what you are saying?'

'Yes.'

'Do you expect me to believe you?'

'It's the truth, I swear to you it's the truth.'

'Do you believe what you are saying?'

Daria wept and wept. She grabbed the hem of the robe the angel now wore and buried her face in it. 'Yes... I believe... I love... I believe...'

'Daria!'

'Daria!'

'Daria... what are you doing on the floor on your knees, are you praying? Are you...?'

'Mom?'

'Sweetie are you all right? What's wrong? Why are you so upset?'

'Mom? I was... I was... you were... wait no it couldn't have been a dream, it couldn't...'

'Well you'd better hurry up and get dressed, your Father is waiting to drive you to school. You don't want to be late on your first day.'

'Su... sure Mom, I...'

Feeling somehow displaced or disembodied Daria dressed and ate a couple of poptarts. The dream... if it was a dream... wasn't fading, it was as clear as any memory she had, like something that happened only yesterday... yesterday...?

'Dad?'

'Yes Daria.'

'What did we do yesterday?'

'Is this a joke or something? Like knock, knock or something like that?'

'No Dad, really, what did we do yesterday? I've forgotten, honestly.'

'Well ... not much... your Mom went in to the office to make an early start, impress the new boss and all that and I took Quinn to the mall again.'

'Oh... OK, nothing unusual then.'

'No, of course not, we just went to church and then you said you wanted to read and we all went out.'

'Oh... wait, what? We went to church! We never go to church.'

'Yeah I know but your Mother and I thought it might be good to... you know maybe say a prayer for our new life here in Lawndale. I'm still surprised you came along, usually you're so opposed to anything like that... or doing anything with the family, it was nice.'

To Daria's amazement Quinn turned around from the front seat. 'Yah Daria, thanks for coming with us, I was a bit nervous coming to a new school in a new town and all... it was good you came to keep me company, I hope we can make some friends here.'

They came to a halt in front of the school. Daria was still feeling a little dreamy and spacey as she watched Quinn get out. In her hypersensitive state Daria noticed that Quinn's knees were actually trembling with nervousness until a couple of pretty, well dressed girls addressed her in a friendly fashion and Daria could see the stiffness vanish from her sister's shoulders.

She looked at some of the other students. There was an African American girl about her own age walking purposefully toward the school entrance, outrage at the injustices of the World radiating from her matched only by her determination to do something about it. A blonde girl in a cheerleader costume bent down to smile at somebody's little brother in a pushchair. A tall dark skinned boy with dreadlocks clapped his hands to attract attention and led his team mates toward their lockers. Hundreds of teenagers, all of them the sum of their collective insecurities, hopes and dreams. She saw them all and there, a girl watching... just like her. Alone and lonely, seeking. A kindred spirit... perhaps?

'Daria I just want you...'

'Dad, please, it'll be OK... it'll be fine, I promise.'

'I hope so Kiddo... I love you Daria and I'm proud of you, you know that don't you?'

'Thanks Dad.' She found herself smiling. 'I love you too.' His smile lit up the car.

'So what happened was a dream... or it wasn't a dream and my life ended... and began again... Move forward or stay still? Silly question, sensible answer - Let's go'

And as she left the car Daria Morgendorffer did something she had never done before... she offered up a little prayer of thanks for her life.