The honest-to-God conclusion of a Daria fanfic by Rey T. Fox
CHAPTER 9: Gut Feelings
"Watch out for that lone lovely lady by the side of the road, she may take your breath away, literally! The infamous fox-women of Japan, NEXT on Sick Sad World!"
"Boy, they're really reaching today," said Jane as she muted the TV.
"Yeah..." said Trent weakly from his bed. Jane had brought the TV into his room, since mindless entertainment is the best cure for what ails you. Jane wasn't quite ready to call a doctor about Trent's condition yet, especially since Mom and Dad were gone, as usual.
Just then, the phone rang. Jane picked it up, and handed it to Trent, upon finding out that Rachel was on the line.
"Hello?...Hey...Yeah, feelin' kinda down...that would be cool...thanks...bye." Trent hung up and turned to Jane. "Rachel's comin' over here. It will be a while since her car is still in the shop, so she'll walk."
"I dunno, Trent, it's getting dark out there."
"Don't worry, there are street lights. Besides, this is Lawndale, I don't think she's got much to worry about."
"Whatever you say, Trent." Of course, Jane couldn't drive, so it was a moot point.
Rachel stepped out of the phone booth and walked through the apartment complex, still counting her lucky stars that she had been able to go out with Trent for so long without him ever really pressing to go to her place. "Her place" was Hargrove's Woods, insofar as she had slept there for the last few days. She would get a bit dirty doing that, but she liked it fine, and changing clothes was a pretty small bit of magic compared to changing her entire form. THAT took work. But still, it was the means to an end, and an end that she intended to bring about tonight. She had gotten about a block down the road when she noticed a figure step out from the side street. It was that gloomy girl, Daria. Hmm, she thought, what's she doing out tonight?
Daria had gotten to the street leading back to her neighborhood before she really stopped to think about how ridiculous this was. First off, she didn't know Rachel's apartment number (if she really lived in one). And even if she did, it was no guarantee that she would be home. And even if she was home, then what would happen? Hi, Rachel, she thought, I'm Daria, and I was just curious about something. I was wondering, are you were really a fox-being out to drain the life from Trent? I've got five bucks on it, you see. Then, out of the blue, she heard Rachel's voice calling her.
"Uh, hi, Rachel!" Rachel jogged across the street to meet her, with a strangely light trotting gait. Daria remembered what Andrea had said about her gut feelings. Well, she thought, the butterflies are really going in there, but that's just because you got me all worked up.
"What are you doing here?"
"Uh...I'm just...taking a walk. How about you?"
"I'm going to visit Trent," she said, and smiled. There's that smile again, thought Daria. And those EYES. The pupils were glowing green with the reflection from the harsh streetlights. Daria gave in to paranoia.
"Uh, are you sure you should be out alone right now? It's getting dark."
"Well, come on, I see that isn't stopping YOU. Besides, this is a quiet town, and I've taken self-defense courses."
"Well, either way, I don't think you can visit Trent."
"Why not?" Rachel sounded hurt.
"He's in a delicate condition."
"I know, he's sick, that's why I'm visiting him."
"Aren't you worried about contracting it?" "Who are you, his nurse? He's just feeling a bit under the weather!"
"I'm afraid that he's being kept in a sterile environment."
"In his house?"
Rachel was rapidly losing patience. "Look, I just got off the phone with Trent, and he's expecting me to visit him, not that it's really any of your damn business." With that, she stormed past Daria.
"Actually it IS my business if you're going to go over there and ignore medical warnings."
"Daria, I'm his girl, all right? You seem to be having trouble accepting that. How about you go home and play with yourself for a while? Then it won't seem so bad."
That crossed the line. Daria snarled at her back, "You don't really love him."
Rachel froze. She turned around slowly. "WHAT did you say?"
"I said, you don't love him. And I know what you want from him."
"Oh really? Well, tell me, Miss Know-It-All!"
"I'd rather hear it from YOU, Kitsune."
Daria had only a split second to marvel at what had just come out of her mouth before Rachel grabbed her by the shirt, and shoved her up against a streetlight pole. The back of Daria's head connected with the cold metal, making black flowers bloom in front of her eyes. She squinted through a haze of pain to see Rachel's face directly in front of hers. Her pupils were glowing faintly from the next street light, and as she spit out her words, Daria noticed that her canine teeth were now full fangs that glistened in the cold halogen light.
"All right," she hissed at Daria, her voice now gravelly and bestial, "I don't know how you found that out, but I DO know that you will NOT stop me from getting what I want! Do you under- stand? Answer me, BITCH!"
As she was saying this, Daria was slowly raising her right foot. Suddenly, she kicked Rachel hard in the shin with her steel-toed Doc Marten boot. Rachel shrieked with pain, and Daria kicked her other shin. Once free, she bolted down the street, leaving Rachel in a heap beneath the streetlight. "Go ahead, Daria, run! Flee to Trent's house! See if he believes you!" Rachel screamed after her. Daria ducked into the forest, hoping that Rachel wasn't waking the whole neighborhood. She was on a trail that she knew ended up in someone's backyard not far from Jane's house. She hurried down the beaten path with her hands out in front of her for navigation. Once through the backyard and out onto the street, she allowed herself to catch her breath. Her head still throbbed from the impact with the streetlight. So much for the direct approach, she thought. She then refocused on the matter at hand. She tried to calm herself down, and think fast at the same time, but it didn't work. Time to play the hero, thought Daria. We're all doomed.
CHAPTER 10: End Game
"Could you help me up? I wanna meet Rachel at the door."
"In your condition?"
"I think I can make it. She'd be happy to see me up and at 'em."
"Boy, Trent, you really ARE smitten."
A short time later, Rachel turned the corner onto Howard Street, and faced the Lane house. Every step was a pain from Daria's self-defense measures. Luckily for Rachel, Daria was nowhere to be seen. Should have played it cool, she thought, rather than flipping out like that. But that Daria just had a way with pushing her buttons. Hopefully I put a good scare in her, anyway. She was just about to the Lane property line when she heard a noise off in the distance that froze her to the spot. Then she saw its source, and was petrified instanly. About 100 feet in front of her was a group of five dogs. Not just dogs, but hounds, most likely trained hunting hounds. They had gotten her scent and were now coming closer, growling angrily. The fact that they were all on a leash did little to comfort her. The lone person holding the leashes was a vaguely familiar red-haired youth. He shone his flashlight ahead, and eventually trained it on Rachel.
"Hello there," said Upchuck enthusiastically, "What's a gorgeous babe like you doing out alone on a night like this?"
"Stay away from me," Rachel choked, already feeling herself give in to her primal fear.
"No need to be afraid, lady, these puppies wouldn't hurt a fly, unless they had to!" He then addressed the dogs, who were still slowly pulling him forward despite his attempt to stand his ground. "Hey, stoppit, what's wrong with you?" By then, they had gotten within ten feet of the terrifed girl.
Just then, Jane and Trent appeared at the door to see what was going on. Jane took one look at Upchuck, and ran out into the lawn.
"Dammit, Upchuck, get these mutts out of here! What are you trying to do, give Rachel a heart attack?!" Jane yelled over the fury of the hounds.
Upchuck didn't answer. He was too busy gaping at what was happening in front of him. Rachel was there, shrinking away from the hounds. Literally. Jane turned her head and watched in stunned fascination as Rachel went down on her back, and became ever smaller, her clothes somehow disappearing under a thick carpet of scarlet fur. Rachel's mouth and nose stretched forward, and her ears were growing and migrating up her head. As this was happening, a figure stepped out from the darkness behind Upchuck. Rachel recognized her immediately.
"YOU BITCH!" the woman/fox screeched just before it lost the capacity of speech.
"It's over, Kitsune," Daria said defiantly, and folded her arms on her chest. Seconds after it had started, the transformation was now complete, and where Rachel had stood before was a red fox, average in every respect except that it had three tails. In the blink of an eye, it righted itself, and tore off down the street in the direction of Hargrove's Woods. The hounds, which had also been somewhat stunned by what was going on, suddenly snapped out of it and bolted after the fox, with sufficient force to pull Upchuck off his feet. Jane, however, was rooted to the spot. Trent was still standing by the door, but he looked semi-conscious at best. Jane looked over at Daria, and tried to form a complete sentence, but got stuck on "Daria, wha...huh?"
"Stay here and look after Trent, I'll be right back," said Daria, and with that, she took off down the street after Upchuck, cursing her fickle conscience for acting up again.
Upchuck ran along at full speed behind the hounds, trying every command he knew to get them to stop. When that proved futile, he started fiddling with the leash that he had looped around his wrist. Finally, he broke free, and stumbled to a halt, as the hounds disappeared into Har- grove's Woods, still binded to each other by the leashes that Upchuck had tied together. Between his heavy pantings, he heard jogging footsteps behind him.
Daria was relieved to see that Upchuck had had the sense to let go of the leash, and contin- ued to jog toward him. I ought to be excused from P.E. for a week after this, thought Daria. Upchuck stood pitifully on the sidewalk, his clothes rumpled and his wrist red.
"Daria, what the HELL just happened?" he asked.
"It's a long story. Either way, I would...just like to thank you for what you have done tonight."
"What, escorting you home, or scaring off that...whatever it was?"
"Well, I didn't really want or need an escort, I just told you that so that I could get you, and more importantly, those dogs in the right place to do the latter job."
"Well, happy to be of service," said Upchuck sarcastically.
"I'm glad. Whether you know it or not, you just saved a friend's life. Again, thank you. Now I gotta go."
Upchuck watched her walk away for a second, then piped up again. "Waaaait a minute."
Daria froze, but didn't turn. "Yessss?"
"I just saved your friend's life, got dragged down the street by a gang of crazed hounds, and most likely lost the biggest dog-walking paycheck in this whole town! I'd say you owe me big."
"Being a hero isn't enough for you?"
"I was thinking more along the lines of...Chez Pierre. Friday night. You and me. What do you say?"
"I would start by saying you're crazy."
"Come ON, Daria, are you going to go out with me, or will I have to make your life a living hell?"
"Is there a difference?"
Daria mulled this one over. That Upchuck is a devious little weasel, she thought, there's no telling how annoying he could be when he put his mind to it.
"Okay, (gulp) I'll do it. But only this once. And you had BETTER keep your filthy hands to yourself."
Upchuck raised his fist in the air and shouted, "SCORE ONE FOR CHUCKY! Now if you'll excuse me, I gotta go catch up with Mr. Oatley's hounds." He jogged off into Hargrove's Woods.
Would have been better off with the kitsune, thought Daria.
CHAPTER 11: Drained
Meanwhile, back at the Lane house, Jane had escorted Trent back up to his room, whereupon he immediately fell into a deep sleep. Daria came back and went over the details of the previous four days leading up to the events of that night, skipping lightly over the deal she just made.
"Well, it sounds pretty far-fetched, but I can't deny what I just saw," said Jane.
"Well, it's all true, I swear on my sister's grave," said Daria.
"The bit with Andrea, too?"
"Yep, even that. If it weren't for her, I would have never figured Rachel out. Of course, I'll need to have a word or two with her later."
"Well, that's all well and good, but what about Trent? If what you said is true, and I'm not saying it isn't, then you may have saved him now, but what about later? Look at him. Is there any cure for his condition?"
"All I can think of would be plenty of fluids and the like, and see if he comes out of it."
"That's REAL comforting."
"I know. I'm sorry."
"It's not your fault. I'm going to get a glass of water and come back."
Jane left the room and Daria looked over at Trent. He slept a lot, sure, but never quite like this. His face was pale, and his chest rose only very slowly. Daria was somewhat surprised to find that her eyes were filling with tears.
"Trent? I don't know if you can hear me or not, but I need to say a few things. First, what you just saw was real. That girl was not human, nor was she really attracted to you, in the way you thought she was. I'm sorry if this didn't turn out like you wanted it to, but when you wake up, and I know you will, don't let it get you down. It wasn't your fault. You are a special person, and you deserve MUCH better than her. And I know that there are plenty of girls out there who would appreciate and love you for who you are and nothing else." She took Trent's hand in hers and added, "Some of them are closer than you think."
Daria dropped Trent's hand and whirled around. Jane was standing in the doorway with a glass of water.
"Sorry if I scared you," she said, "Uh, would you like some water, too?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah, sure."
"I'll be right back," she said and walked away. Then she turned back and said, "And Daria? Trent looks pretty out of it, but still, I hope he heard all that stuff you said."
Daria stared at her for a moment. "Jane, prepare to die."
CHAPTER 12: All's Well That Ends Well
By that Friday afternoon, Trent had built up enough strength to go to the pizza parlor with Jane and Daria. Trent was talking about Rachel.
"Well, that's the last time I ever fall for a pretty face. Should have known she was too good to last. Still, she could have at least called me before she moved."
"Her neighbors said she already had her stuff in a U-Haul last week," said Jane.
"And then, pfft, gone, with no forwarding address," Trent completed, "She was probably planning to move all along, and she was just using me for a cheap screw or something before she left. World's full of girls like that."
"Well, you know what they say," said Daria, "Beautiful people rarely have beautiful personalities."
"I feel like an idiot."
"Come on, Trent, it could happen to any of us," said Jane. "Yeah, but you know what? I really should have figured it out sooner."
"That's not true, Trent." "No, it IS true. I haven't told you yet, but I had the weirdest dream on Tuesday night, when I was sick the worst. I dreamed that I was standing outside of the house, and Rachel was there, but she looked at me, and then, she started SHRINKING."
"Yeah. That's not all, though, she was also like growing fur. A second later, she had changed into a FOX right in front of me!"
"That is WEIRD."
"It goes on. Next, I'm in the woods, watching her run away. I tried to chase her, but you know how when you're dreaming, you can never move? Then I look over to the left, and Daria's standing there."
"Huh?" said Daria as she turned bright red.
"Yeah, it was you. You took me by the hand and said, 'It's okay, Trent, she didn't really love you. You're a special person, and you deserve much better.' And then you led me away into a clearing."
"And THEN what?" asked Jane, arching her right eyebrow like Spock.
"Then I met Frank Zappa and we jammed for a while. Like I said, it was a WEIRD dream."
"Yeah, Freud would be up all night with that one."
For once, Daria was completely speechless. An awkward silence fell over the table, and was interrupted even more awkwardly by Kevin peeking over the top of the booth behind Daria.
"Hey Daria, I was thinking about what you said a few days ago."
"You were THINKING?"
"Yeah, dude. If Coca-Cola comes from cocoa beans, and chocolate comes from mines, then what about vanilla?"
"Uh, they get that from...goats."
"Really? What part?"
"The intestinal juices."
Kevin stared into space for a moment before saying, "Dude, that's SICK," and ducking back into his booth.
Daria turned back toward the table. "I suppose this is where I make a wisecrack, we all laugh, and the camera does a freeze-frame on us while the credits start rolling."
"It suuuure is!" said Jane. She and Trent laughed. Daria just smiled.
"Who were you talking to, Kevin?"
"Just some girls I know from school. I don't hang out with them usually. What did you say your name was again?"
"You have beautiful red hair, Rachel."
The folklore of the Far East makes several mentions of mischievous fox-spirits, which are sometimes good, and sometimes bad. The kitsune in this story is more closely based on Oriental mythology. I orginally got the idea for this story from the Sierra Club book, "The World of the Fox," by Rebecca L. Grambo, which is a very good book about foxes with a small section on the fox's relationship with humans that covers some basic fox mythology. Mention of fox-women that drain the vitality from men can be found in "The Fox Maiden Lien-shiang", which is one of the Liao Chai stories written by P'u Sung-Ling in the seventeenth century, A.D. The Liao Chai stories are based on traditional Chinese folklore, and are generally considered to be China's answer to the Arabian Nights tales.
The word "kitsune," (kit-SOON-ee) however, as mentioned in Part 2, is a Japanese word, and I used it for this story because it's relatively well-known and used among people interested in animal mythology. I also just like the sound of the word, and I figured it was obscure enough as to not give away the premise of the story to too many people. If you already knew what a kitsune was, then I hope you liked the way the story unfolded anyway.
As for what a Japanese mythological being is doing in Lawndale, she stowed away on a cargo plane with the sole purpose of being in my fanfic. That's all I can say about that.
For the purposes of this fanfic, Hargrove's Woods, the 9-To-5 Mart, the county library, and Rachel's apartment complex are located off the left side of the map in "The Daria Diaries". Hargrove's Woods, specifically, should be considered an extension of the large wooded area to the left of Cranberry Commons.
Please send all questions, comments, constructive criticism, glowing praise, naughty letters, and souffle recipes to firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you, and good night.