Jane watched Daria stare almost reverently at the box before them. "Well, you spoke the truth. It's a box, alright," Jane observed, hoping to draw a snark out of her friend. She had been acting strangely lately.
"It's more than a box," Daria responded cryptically. Crap.
"Um, from here it looks exactly like a box." Calling Daria on her bullshit sometimes worked.
"I mean, that box is trying to tell me something." Crap.
Jane shrugged. "If you say so. All I hear is the rustling of a gentle breeze wafting through cardboard. Quite soothing, really." Playing along might snap Daria out of it too.
"...You're right. It is soothing." Crap!
"I was kidding," Jane assured her friend.
"No, there's something about it..." Daria abruptly got on her hands and knees and crawled inside.
"Um, Daria? What are you doing?" Jane was starting to worry just a little bit now.
"Yes. This is...This is...this is almost right..." Jane watched as Daria's hands reached out to close the box flaps.
Daria clutched her bedsheets anxiously as her parent's angered voices entered the room. "Damnit Helen, that's it!" her father ranted. "How much am I supposed to take?"
"Jake, this isn't about you -- it's about her, having a little trouble fitting in," she attempted to reassure him.
"She doesn't WANT to fit in, damnit! Why can't you admit that?!"
"Jake, she's a child, she doesn't know any better!" her mother defended.
"That's what she WANTS you to belive!" Jake exploded in a burst of paranoia.
"Where are you going?" Helen cried as Jake's footsteps echoed off, followed shortly by the slamming of the front door and the sound of a car's engine starting up and driving off.
Daria listened as hard as she could for a few minutes, but heard no sign of her parents coming by to check on her. She tentatively stepped out of bed, grabbed Black Beauty and a flashlight off of the nightstand, and approached her box. She opened the box flaps and crouched down to crawl inside. She was actually halfway inside the box when she noticed the woman sitting at the far end of the box, hands on her knees, gawking at her.
"Crap," they said simultaneously.
"Daria? The neighbors are starting to talk," Jane said, trying to coax her friend outside of the box.
No answer. Crap.
"Daria!" Jane turned. It was Quinn, coming towards Jane and the box. "Hey Jane, where's Daria?"
"In the box," Jane said, gesturing toward the popular carton.
"Daria! I remembered! You were right!" she said. "I remembered I was three or four and it was nighttime and I woke up because Mom and Dad were fighting, and then Dad was yelling and a door slammed and then I heard a car start up and he drove away."
Jane was impressed that Quinn didn't rupture a lung. Quinn, however, stared intently at the box. "Damnit, Daria, are you even listening?"
Jane knelt down onto the grass and opened the box. There was nothing inside.
"Crap," she uttered, her face going pale.
The elder and younger Darias were sitting at opposite ends of the box, staring at...themselves.
"Are you from the future?" Daria the younger finally asked. "Like in the H.G. Wells book The Time Machine?"
"I...guess so, if this is the past and not a hallucination brought on by a blood clot in my brain."
"So, how much did Quinn go for?" Daria the younger asked.
"When we sell Quinn, how much did we get for her?"
"Uh, well...there wasn't really a market for annoying little sisters, so we had to keep her."
"Darn it!" Daria the younger frowned.
"Well, she does get...uh, tolerable. Later in life."
"Jane, Daria isn't in that box!" Quinn said, annoyed.
"Quinn, she was just a minute ago! I swear!"
"Yeah, right, then where did she disappear to?"
"I...I dunno! The last time we dealt with something like this was when that...uh, that strange thing happened. With all those people who were dressed up as holidays."
Quinn was silent for a moment. Then, a look of horror appeared on her face.
"Oh my God! This can only mean one thing!"
Jane waited. "Yeeeeeeees?"
"Daria found out that mom and dad are going to try to have another kid again and she became a horrible misanthrope when I was born and that made mom and dad fight about her and now she's worried that she'll go even more antisocial and she'll break up mom and dad, so she decided to run away!" Quinn dashed back to the house as fast as she could.
The two Darias were sneaking into the kitchen to grab a bite to eat. Younger Daria had assured older Daria that their mom would be asleep after having her medicine (which Daria strongly suspected to be a few martinis).
Daria the younger fixed herself a bowl of ravioli, while Daria the elder contented herself with a bowl of Squirrel O's (A prize in each box!). As she wondered why they had stopped making the brand, she observed her younger self read the ingredients label on the can.
"Poly...poly...polysodiumglucoselactate...what does that even mean?" she complained.
"It means it's probably a preservative that's going to give you cancer in 20 or 30 years," Daria answered helpfully.
"Oh." She continued eating her ravioli nonetheless.
"So...do you know what mom and dad were arguing about?" Daria the younger finally asked.
Daria sighed. "No. I only just remembered the fight today...er, in 2000, I guess."
"Tell me about the future!" young Daria insisted, suddenly remembering that this was her older self from the future.
"Well, it isn't all that different from your present day. Of course, we have to harvest clones for spare body parts since my arms and legs keep falling off from Super Leprosy."
"Damnit, Daria, what are you doing up so -- who are you?"
Daria froze at the voice. It was Helen. Her voice had gone into Mama Bear mode at the end of the sentence, and Daria knew she would have to tread on eggshells or else go to prison and end up spending the rest of her life in the 1990s. (She would probably kill herself before living through the Macarena a second time).
She slowly turned around. "Uh, I can explain..." she started off, clamming up as she became very nervous.
Helen's face softened. "Amy! When did you get in town?"
After ushering Daria the younger back to bed, Helen turned her full attention on 'Amy'.
"Amy, you look fantastic! You look ten years younger! You must tell me your secret." Helen leaned forward over the cabinet island.
"Uh...well..." Daria fumbled for a response. "It's this new thing they've got called botox. What they do is inject snake venom into your face-"
Helen sighed. "Oh fine, if you don't want to tell me, Amy, just say so. I'll fix you a drink...your usual?"
Crap. "Uh. Sure."
Jane pondered the box.
Fearing that Daria's mom might get it in her to throw the box away (as Daria had told her earlier that day), she had dragged the box all the way back to her house, where it was sure to never see a garbage truck again.
Now, she had to try to figure out how to...find Daria? Save Daria? She would have to figure out what to do first.
Trent wandered into the room. "Hey, Janey. Cool box."
"Yeah," Jane agreed distractedly. "Daria vanished inside of it, so I have to figure out how to get her back."
"Whoa. Sounds serious. Need any help?"
Jane was about to shake her head, when a thought occured to her. "Actually, Trent, yes, I could. Get in the box."
Trent saw the look in Jane's eye, and one word ran through his mind: Crap.
Daria held onto the cabinet island in front of her as hard as she could. It seemed somebody had put the house onto a boat, and it was now lurching back and forth, trying to upend her. "So, Amy, tell me: Are there any men in your life?" Helen asked. Her voice was a bit slurred; she had had as many drinks as Daria, but she obviously had a lot more practice, as she was still standing unsupported.
"Uh...well...there's one guy...Tom."
"Oh? And what does Tom do for a living?"
"He's, uh...he's a member of the idle rich."
"Oh, a wealthy man? Are you finally going to settle down and stop having your way with all those men barely half your age?"
Daria let the thought sink in for a moment before she lurched to the sink and began filling it with Ruttheimer.
"Oh, Amy, you poor dear!" Helen cried out as she made her way to Daria to hold her hair out of the way. "You usually hold your liquor better than I do. Are you sick?"
After Daria finished heaving, she contemplated the question. "It must have been the shellfish I had for dinner," she finally said. "Food poisoning."
"Oh. Well, let me get the fold-out bed ready for you, and you can rest. I'll get a bucket for you in case you need it during the night."
As Helen prepared the couch, Daria remembered what had happened to herself a few hours and ten years ago. "Um. Helen, where's Jake?"
Helen paused for a moment, then returned to folding the couch out. "Oh, we got into a little argument and he left...probably spending the night at a hotel."
"What did you fight about?"
"Oh, nothing," Helen said tiredly. Daria figured she wouldn't get any new information out of her tonight...besides, she was looking forward to her first hangover tomorrow.
Jane stared at Trent from her position outside the box. Three hours, and nothing happened except that Trent had decided to go to sleep. She massaged the bridge of her nose and wished Daria were here to help her figure out the box's mystery.
Then, inspiration struck. Daria had closed the box's flaps before disappearing. She reached out and closed them. Instantly, Trent's snores ceased. She opened the flaps again hurriedly. Trent was gone. "Yes!" Jane cried out victoriously. Then, she looked into the empty box again. "Crap," she lamented. She had disappeared her brother too.
Jake gently inserted the key into the lock, turned, and opened the door as quietly as he could. He poked his head inside, seeing that the coast was all clear, and inserted the rest of his body. He walked six steps into the house before he saw somebody was sleeping on the couch.
"Yes, daddy?" He turned and did a double-take seeing his little girl on both the couch and the stairs. Then he realized the woman on the couch was much older than Daria, and then realized it had to be Amy, Helen's sister. He wondered if it was too late to sneak back out for the day.
"Hello, Jakey," Helen greeted him, and he silently cursed. "Breakfast will be ready soon."
"Nooo," Daria complained.
"Wake up, 'Aunt Amy', there's a weird guy in our box."
Daria opened her eyes to find her younger self staring at her. "What?"
"There's a weird guy in our box. He has tattoos and pierced ears -- why does he have pierced ears? -- and he smells funny."
"Trent," Daria sighed. Her head was throbbing in pain. Thanks, Helen. "He's Jane's brother."
"Who's Jane?" Daria the younger asked.
"Our best friend in the future. She's pretty cool."
"Oh. Is Trent your boyfriend?"
Daria felt her face begin to heat up. "Uh...no. But, confidentially," Daria leaned in to whisper into her younger self's ear. "We do have a bit of a crush on him for a while."
Young Daria's nose wrinkled. "Ewww, really?"
Daria sighed. "Let's just go say hi to him."
"Why am I not surprised," Daria said. Trent was quite obviously sawing logs inside the box. Daria thought about it for a second, then leaned over and closed the flaps of the box.
Jane heard snoring suddenly come out of the box and raced to open the flaps. It was Trent!
"Wake up, Trent!" she shouted in his face, pulling on his ears for good measure.
"Whaaaaaa!" Trent cried. "Janey, what the hell! I told you it's not cool to pull on a guy's piercings."
"Trent, did you see Daria?"
"Daria? Is she here? Sorry, I was asleep."
"Damnit, Trent!" Jane shouted, and pulled him out of the box by his hair, eliciting more screams of pain from Trent. She then crawled into the box herself and closed the flaps.
"Hm, he should be gone now," Daria said, and opened the flaps back up.
"Amiga!" Jane greeted as she crawled back out of the box. She looked around. "Where is this place?" Finally she noticed who Daria was standing with. "Who might you be, young...uh..." Jane looked from Daria to the younger Daria and back again. "I'm not in Kansas anymore, am I?" The two Darias simultaneously shook their heads.
The two Darias watched Jane as she drew on the box with some of Daria's crayons. After Daria the elder had introduced Jane to her younger self, she had looked around the room a bit, asking a few questions, and had then seized upon the crayons and began doodling on the side of the box, which Daria the younger had already drawn windows and a door upon.
Daria the younger looked at her older self, shrugged, and joined in the doodling next to Jane. Daria the elder watched them for a moment, shrugged, and joined them too.
Trent was in the kitchen preparing a bologna sandwich when he heard knocking coming from the front door. He opened it to discover Daria's younger sister, Quinn. "Hey, Daria's sister," he greeted.
Quinn huffed. "I have a name, you know," she informed him as she brushed past him into the house itself. "Is Daria or Jane here? Mom and Dad want to talk to her."
"Uh...Jane said that Daria was in the box, and then she went into the box." A thoughtful look appeared on Trent's face. "It might be a code. Do you suppose Daria and Janey...?"
Quinn stared at Trent with just a hint of contempt. "Whatever," he shrugged. "Janey should still be in the box, I guess."
Trent led Quinn to Jane's room, where the box held center stage. "Janey, Daria's sister is here," Trent called out.
"Janey?" Trent called out again. He walked over and opened the box.
It was empty. "Whoa."
"So how do you suppose the box works?" Jane asked. They had finished their improvement on the box's decoration and were now in full chill-out mode.
"Maybe it's like those other portals we've run into," Daria suggested.
"You guys have dealt with this stuff before?" Daria the younger asked, a note of incredulity in her voice.
"Oh yeah!" Jane answered. "Let's see...there was that portal behind Good Times, there's that doorway in your attic, the one under the Giant Strawberry..." As Jane listed them, she ticked them off from her fingers.
"Don't forget the one in my laundry room," Daria the elder helpfully added.
"I thought your entire house was one?" Jane added.
"Yeah, I guess so, but it's easier to work in the laundry room than anywhere else in the house."
Daria the younger just stared at them, brow furrowed. She didn't know whether or not they were pulling her leg. Sometimes the older kids -- like that fifth-grader Todd -- would make up far-out stories to test her gullibillity.
She reconsidered, though, realizing that if you couldn't trust yourself, then you were doomed anyway. "Maybe it's box physics," she offered.
"Box physics?" Jane asked. "I hope that's not on Ms. Barch's test."
"Well, it's like in Calvin and Hobbes," she said. "Sometimes, Calvin uses a box as a cloning device, or a space rocket, or a...time machine. It's...it's where I got the idea, actually."
"You mean you wanted the box to be a time machine?" Daria the elder asked.
"No. I wanted it to give me a family who loves me," she said, gesturing to the crude stick figures on the box she had drawn, which looked like a stick-Daria holding hands with a smiling stick-Jake and stick-Helen.
Daria found Helen downstairs almost out the door.
"Amy, I'm going to go grocery shopping, can you watch Daria and Quinn for me?" she asked.
"Mo-Helen, we need to have a serious talk now."
"Amy, tonight's lasagna isn't going to cook itself. Now, please-"
"Daria doesn't think you or Da-Jake love her."
"What? She said that?" Helen reached behind her for a chair, and half-fell into it. "Why...why would she think that?"
"She told me that the argument you had last night with Jake was about her. She seemed to think that you felt she intentionally misbehaved just to give you a hard time."
"How in the world could she...Jake." She stood up and walked to the back door. "Jake, get in here! We have to talk to Daria!"
"But Helen, if I don't water the grass, it'll wilt!"
"NOW, JAKE MORGENDORFFER!"
"Eep!" Jake dropped the hose and hurried to his wife. Together, they went upstairs.
Daria watched them go, then remembered. "Jane!"
Jane finished washing her hands and ducked her head out into the hallway. Seeing nobody coming, she hurriedly walked back over to Daria's room, but stopped short when she heard voices.
"...It's the other side of you being so smart and perceptive," she heard Jake say.
"What do you mean?" Daria the younger asked.
"Daria, we didn't expect a child with your kind of intelligence to fit in easily with other kids. We aren't happy to be called into school because we know it means that you aren't happy," Helen continued.
"But we were never unhappy with you," Jake finished.
Jane nudged the door open a crack and saw Helen and Jake enfold young Daria in a family hug. "Aww," she whispered out.
"How about we go to a...museum together?" Jake suggested. Daria actually smiled. The family turned toward the door.
"Oh crap," Jane muttered, and ducked into the next nearest room until the Morgendorffers had passed.
"Hi who are you?" a voice asked. Jane turned.
It was young Quinn.
"Oh, hi Quinn!"
Quinn opened her mouth in shock. "How did you know my name?"
"I'm the...Tooth Fairy!"
"Really? But I don't have any loose teeth!"
"Well, uh...I was sent here on an important mission from, uh...Santa Claus."
"Santa Claus?!" Quinn said, wonderment in her voice.
"Yes, Quinn, Santa Claus," Jane reassured her.
"Oh, just get out of my way," Quinn said to Trent as she got on her hands and knees. "Can't believe I'm freakin' doing this," she muttered to herself. "Close the box, Trent!" she called out to him.
She turned around and pushed the flaps back open. "...Daria's room? In the old house? Okay, wasn't expecting this. At least I don't have to deal with those weird holiday guys this time...Damnit, Quinn, you're talking to yourself! Pull yourself together!"
She left the room, took a moment to orient herself, and went to her room. "Jane!" she called out. "...Me?"
"Hi! You look like me!" Quinn the younger greeted. "Are you another fairy?"
Quinn the elder looked to Jane, who gave a subtle nod. "Why yes, Quinn, I am the fairy of beauty and wisdom. You see, beauty only comes to those who are wise. So study hard in school, and don't treat your frickin' sister like an outcast!"
"You said the F word!" Quinn pointed out in shock.
"I'm a fairy, I'm allowed to say the frickin' F word! Jane, where's Daria?"
"She should be downstairs."
Quinn left Jane and her younger self. A minute later, she returned. "She's not here."
"Thanks for coming along with us to the museum, Amy. This is a real family bonding moment!" Helen chirped.
As Daria the elder stared out the window, she remembered something. "Yeah, you, Jake, Daria, and me. It's a good thing we didn't leave anybody behind."
"Oh my God!" Helen shrieked. "Turn the car around, Jake!"
Jane and the two Quinns heard a car pull up outside. "Oh, they just went out for a drive," Jane observed.
"Well then why the heck did they leave me here?" Quinn demanded.
"Well...your parents and Daria -- little Daria, that is -- had an emotional family bonding moment type thing, so I guess they got swept up in the moment. You know..." Jane said, changing the subject. "We should probably hide if we don't want to get caught and...arrested or something."
They turned to Quinn the younger. "Quinn, I need you to do us a big favor, okay?" The child nodded, wide-eyed at being able to help the fairies. "We don't want you to tell your parents we were here. Santa doesn't want adults knowing that he's real, and you'd be doing us -- and him -- a big favor. Will you keep quiet?"
Quinn nodded, not even willing to voice her consent.
"Good girl! Your family will be here in just a moment, so we have to leave now. Farewell, Quinn!" The teens waved as they closed the door. "Quick, into mom and dad's room," Quinn directed, and there they hid. Seconds later, they heard a relieved Helen and Jake take Quinn from the house.
Quinn peeked out of the door, seeing that the coast was clear. "They're gone, Jane," she said as she turned to the older girl. "What are you doing?!"
"Shh!" Jane shushed her as she held the phone up to her ear.
Amanda Lane checked the kiln. Good, none of her pots appeared to have exploded yet. She was about to start up the spinning wheel again when the phone began to ring.
"Hello?" she said after picking it up.
"Summer? Is that you? How was your honeymoon?"
"Uh, mom, it's not Summer. It's Jane."
"Jane, how wonderful to hear from you! But...aren't you upstairs?"
"No, mom. I'm an older Jane, from the future."
"Oh, how delightful. How is the future?"
"Well, we don't have jetpacks yet, so it's pretty lousy."
"I'm sorry to hear that, Jane."
"Look, mom, can I talk to, uh, myself?"
"Of course! Let me go get you."
"What the heck are you doing?" Quinn demanded during the lull in conversation.
"I'm getting in on the action you and Daria are, naturally. If you guys get to change the future to make your lives better, so do I."
"Oh. I guess that's okay."
"Hi, Jane? It's me -- er, you -- from the future! ...You want proof? Okay, you're the reason mom has that rule about no fires in rooms without fireplaces. Now about the future, there's a few stocks I want you to have mom invest in..."
"...and whatever you do, stay away from boys named Tom. You meet one in high school, and he has cooties up to his EYEBALLS. Oh, and one more thing." Jane pressed the phone to her chest. "Quinn, what's the number here?" Quinn told her. "Your best friend -- in the future -- lives at this house right now. If you want her to be your best friend in the past -- er, the present, for you -- call this number and talk to her and stuff." Jane told her the number. "Okay, have a great life! I guess I'll technically see you in ten years. Bye!" Jane hung up.
"...So, what do you want to do now?" Quinn finally said.
"Let's dig through your parents' closet!" Jane suggested.
Well, it wasn't the Museum of Medical Oddities, but a good dose of cultural enrichment was welcome nonetheless. She even recognized the museum as one she had gone to on a field trip with Mr. Van Driessen's class...and Beavis and Butt-head had subsequently sabotaged many of the paintings in their usual stupidity. She shook her head, shaking off the memory and bringing herself back to the 'present'. She saw that they had arrived back home.
"Jake, I'm going to take a bath. Do you think you can get dinner started?" she asked as they walked to the house.
"Lasagna, a la Jake, coming up!"
"Jake," she sighed. "Please just make it lasagna a la Helen, okay?"
Jake stopped fumbling with the house keys. "Come on, Helen! I'm a great cook!"
"You know, I've never had lasagna a la Jake before," Daria the elder commented.
"A la daddy!" Quinn chimed in.
Helen sighed again. "Okay, Jake, just don't go overboard with the hot sauce this time." She retreated upstairs to the bathroom. "Oh, and Amy, keep an eye on Daria and Quinn, would you? Thanks."
Daria found Jane and Quinn hanging out in Daria's room. "Quinn?" she called out at the same time the younger Quinn squealed "The fairies!"
"The fairies?" Daria mouthed to Jane.
"I'll tell you later," Jane mouthed back.
"Why are you still here?" Quinn the younger asked.
"Well, it turns out we're fresh out of fairy powder, so we have to wait for it to charge back up before we can actually leave," Quinn the elder explained.
Daria heard the phone ringing. "Hey, that might be me!" Jane said. "Daria -- no, not you, Daria, the young you -- go answer the phone. I called myself today and gave me your phone number."
Daria the younger nodded and left her room. A few minutes later, they heard Jake call out "Amy, could you come down here for a minute, please?"
Daria passed her younger self on the way downstairs. "Have a seat, Amy," Jake offered. Daria sat. "Do you know who that was on the phone, Amy?" he asked. Daria shook her head.
"It was Amy Barksdale. Do you mind telling me who the hell you are?"
Daria was speechless.
"Well?" Jake demanded, arms crossed.
"Uh." Daria said. "I'm...look at my wallet." She pulled it out and handed it to him.
He opened it up and pulled out the money inside. "What the hell is this supposed to be? Monopoly money?"
"Uh, no. Look at the driver's license."
He looked at it. "Daria Morgendorffer? Is this some kind of joke?" But he looked more confused than angry.
"In August of 1969, you and mom were arrested in Boulder for 'public lewdness', something I really don't want to think about."
"I...I don't know what to think..." Jake said, his voice uneven.
"Dad, it's me. Daria. From the future." Daria tried to ignore how ridiculous the sentence sounded. "Come on upstairs -- Quinn's there, too."
"When are we going to go back already?" Quinn complained.
"I don't know," Jane said. "I guess nothing's really stopping us. Let's wait for Daria and see what she thinks.
The door opened and Daria -- the younger Daria -- entered. "Hey, that was quick," Jane said. "What did I have to say?"
"It wasn't you," Daria shrugged. "Say, Quinn," she said, disdain in her voice. "How did you figure out the box? Did I draw you a diagram with one-syllable words?"
Quinn rolled her eyes. "I'm not stupid, Daria. I know about how stuff works, even the weird crap that happens, like those holiday guys. It's just that this stuff is weird because it's not supposed to, like, actually happen. And, like, the regular stuff, it's just not what I'm really interested in. It's like how you're not really interested in talking to people. Okay?"
It took Daria a moment to finally process Quinn's output and nod. "I guess."
There was a knock on the door, then Daria the elder entered. "Guys..." she started. Then she opened the door all the way, revealing Jake.
Quinn's mouth fell open. Her father looked...so young.
"...Quinn?" he said. She nodded. "How is it possible?" he asked, turning back to Daria.
"The box, somehow," she said, gesturing to it. "It's impossible, but it happened."
Jake put his hand to his head, as if trying to still the chaos inside. Finally, he spread his arms. "My girls."
Quinn came forward first, followed reluctantly by Daria. He embraced his teenage daughters, and almost managed to restrain his tears.
"T-tell me about yourselves."
"JAKE! YOU HAVEN'T EVEN STARTED DINNER!" Helen shrilly shouted.
"Uh oh," Jake said. "You know, girls, I don't think we should tell your mother about this. I don't think she would understand."
The three girls nodded.
Jake finally noticed Jane. "Say, who are you?"
Jane stuck out her hand. "Jane Lane, your daughter Daria's best friend."
Jake smiled. So his daughter finally had a friend. He shook Jane's hand vigorously. "It's good to meet you, Jane."
"Actually, Dad, I think it's time we left," Daria said. "We wouldn't want you -- the future you -- to worry about us."
"Sure thing, kiddo." Jake hugged them one more time, then watched as they crawled into the box one by one.
Quinn was the last person into the box. "Oh, by the way, Daddy, eat healthy foods, exercise, and for God's sake see a heart doctor every six months!"
"Wait, what? What do you mean?" Jake asked, suddenly worried. But Quinn had already shut the box flaps.
As Quinn closed the box, she suddenly slid back a bit, as did Jane and Daria.
"What the hell?" Jane called out, sandwiched between the Morgendorffers.
"The box is at an angle in the present," Daria said. "Jane, did you prop it up on something? Trent, maybe?"
"No..." Jane said.
"Well, let's go see what's happening," Quinn finally said, opening the box and pulling herself out. "Oh my God..."
Jane climbed out after her. "It can't be."
Daria finally emerged from the box herself. The first thing she noticed was the pervasive smell of ash. They appeared to be in the Lane basement, but there was no house above them. The sky overhead was a dull grey. The basement was half-full with dirt and stuff which might once have been the house: half a wall, a burnt couch, the refridgerator, stuff like that.
"Come on, let's see what happened," Daria said, picking her way over the rubble to the staircase, which was still intact (but looking the worse for wear).
Daria was speechless for the first time in her life. The entire neighborhood was just...gone. Most of the houses had burned down entirely; a few were merely gutted. The grass was all dead, as were the trees. No color showed itself in the wasteland.
Quinn and Jane joined her. "What could have done this?" Quinn asked in a small voice.
"Look," Jane said, pointing to the road. There lay a figure. As they approached, they could see whoever it had been, they had died some time ago. It looked like he (or she) had been burned to death. They had been riding a bicycle when it had happened.
Daria noticed a sack pinned beneath the body. She had a hunch what had happened, and wanted to confirm it. She pulled the sack out from under the body, ignoring Jane and Quinn's protests. The outside of the sack was charred, but inside she found an intact newspaper.
"June 3rd, 1999," she read the date of the paper aloud. "'US - China Standoff Intensifies' says the headline," Daria informed her friend and her sister.
She turned to them. "We did this."
Daria crawled out of the box to find a gun pointed at her. Jane and Quinn had their arms raised, terrified looks on their faces.
Jake Morgendorffer was holding the gun.
"Daria, Daria, Daria. Did you really think you, your stupid friend, and your stupid sister could so casually violate causality? Your meddling actions almost destroyed the universe, you pathetic little bitch."
Daria felt her bladder let go as Jake berated her.
"Are...are you going to kill me?" she asked.
"No...no, I won't kill you. I'll just give you an amnesia shot, like I did ten years ago. He pulled the dart gun out from inside his suit jacket and fired it into Daria's neck.
"Owwwww..." she said, before trailing off and fainting. He fired off another shot into Quinn, who also shrieked in pain before becoming unconscious.
"Wait, Mr. Morgendorffer!" Jane called out. "You lived a thousand miles away from me ten years ago! How could you have erased my memory then?"
"My boss. He's lived in this town his whole life." He ended the sentence by shooting Jane, then holstered the dart gun and brought out a cell phone. He punched in a number and held it to his ear. "Mr. Landon? I've neutralized my daughters and Lane. Once I burn the box, there shouldn't be any further problems. No, sir. Thank you, sir." He closed the phone and began dragging the box downstairs.
Daria, Quinn, and Jane sat in Jane's room, thoughtful looks on their faces.
"How could nothing have changed?" Jane asked aloud. "I mean, the changes we made should have improved our lives a thousand times over!"
"Maybe we can't violate causality, Jane," Daria said.
"But we violated the hell out of it! I gave myself stock tips, for crying out loud! Trent didn't have any memories of being rich!" They had interrogated him after returning, and sent him off after he had answered their questions.
"Well...maybe it was a different universe," Quinn suggested. "Like in Squanto theory."
"Quantum theory, Quinn," Daria corrected her.
"Whatever. But, doesn't that theory allow for multiple universes and stuff? Like, there's a universe where I'm the smart one and you're the popular one."
"As much of a stretch as that one is, you might be right, Quinn," her sister acknowledged. "Still, it would have been interesting to see the results of our meddling first-hand..."
They were quiet for a few minutes. Then, Jane spoke up.
"Daria, Quinn and I were poking through your parents' closet, and we found a jockey uniform and a horse costume. Do you know why they would have something like that?"
A strange look appeared on Daria's face. Then, her eye twitched a little. "Well, thanks Jane. I worked really hard to repress that memory, and now it's come back in surround sound and technicolor."
"Did they win first prize at a Halloween party?" Jane asked, an evil smirk on her face.
"I'll kill you, Lane," Daria threatened.
"So, girls, are you excited to meet her today?" Jake asked.
"Yeah," Quinn said; Daria just nodded. "I still want to kick her butt for not being the tooth fairy," Quinn said, a mock-hurt tone in her voice.
"Quinn, you know that was the other Jane," Daria said, playing along.
"I know, it's just fun to beat stuff up," she said. Daria rolled her eyes; Jake just chuckled.
They played a brief game of Picnic until Jake arrived at the high school. "Have a great day, girls," he said as they piled out of the car.
"Daria?" Daria turned to the voice.
It looked like Jane, alright. Same face, haircut, and earrings. Oddly enough, she even wore the same clothes that other Jane had worn.
"Jane," Daria greeted.
"All this time, I thought it might have been a joke," Jane admitted. "Even with mom and dad getting filthy rich off of...'my' stock tips. But to actually see you..." Jane embraced Daria, who warmly returned the hug.
"And you must be Quinn!" Jane greeted after breaking the hug. "Glad to meet you, I'm the Tooth Fairy."
"Oh, you!" Quinn cried, doing a few air punches in Jane's direction.
"Mm, what do we have here?" A voice purred. They all turned to see a red-haired guy leering at them all.
"Who are you?" Daria asked.
"Oh, Daria, this is my boyfriend," Jane explained.
"Daria? Ah, you must be her phone friend. She's told me so much about you, but she never mentioned you were the second-most beautiful woman alive. My name is Charles Ruttheimer the Third."
The real ending is the third one, I should say. (Since it's the most horrific of them all).