Saturday, February 2, 2008


Everyone gets good fanfic ideas. Not all of them pan out. My hard drive is jammed with folders labeled with provisional story titles, holding only file notes and pictures and not much else. Brainstorming is wonderful but leaves behind a lot of litter. One of those nowhere litter-type ideas was "Downbelow."

You would expect this kind of story from someone who used to work with fantasy role-playing games. The premise is that somewhere beneath Lawndale is a vast labyrinth of mines and caverns, inhabited by strange and dangerous creatures. The storm drain system under the suburb became part of it after something tunneled into the huge concrete pipeline. The abandoned rock quarry includes horizontal and vertical shafts carved out decades ago by machines, now connected to the underground network by erosion and cave-ins. Natural sinkholes open into it, as does the town's unstable landfill. Think of the Mines of Moria, lying only a hundred feet below the cafeteria of Lawndale High School.

Who or what would inhabit this underground world? The much-rumored satanists in High Hills Park, spoken of in The Daria Diaries, might use them for their evil worship. Perhaps with the spare body parts they get from Dr. Shar they create undead zombies who manage to get themselves filmed for Sick, Sad World episodes that no one believes. Horrific creatures mutated by long-forgotten radioactive wastes and contaminated with ebola might prowl the subterranean corridors. Maybe the tunnels lead into a bizarre new world that surface dwellers would never imagine, filled with dinosaurs and cavemen and vampires and homicidal house plants.

My notes on Downbelow describe how the story would start. A giant sinkhole opens up under the basement of the Lane home soon after Daria leaves for college. Jane discovers the world below by accident when she opens the basement door, investigating rumbling and creaking noises, and discovers the stairway leads down into nothing. The basement floor has given way, and the Lane home now sits precariously above a wide, echoing shaft. (Something like this happened to me once, when a water pipe burst beneath the front yard of a home I owned. One night I walked outside after hearing the sound of running water and nearly fell into a huge pit that had appeared out of nowhere in my lawn. That was a special moment, let me tell you.)

Anyway, Jane is encouraged to explore the new realm below her feet when the house begins to come apart. Dropping into the pit, she manages to break her fall by grabbing broken wires, boards, pipes, etc., and gets safely into a side cavern before the house crashes down. The collapse unfortunately seals the cavern off from the pit, so escape is impossible. As she was the only person home at the time, Jane has no worries about her family. Looking around with a miniature high-intensity flashlight conveniently attached to her car keys, she begins to explore . . . and the adventure begins.

That's all there was of the story. I'm tossing it out here for someone else to adopt and care for. Any character or group could find a way into the Downbelow. That part is easy. Finding a way back out is the real problem.


The Angst Guy said...

Oh, well, it seemed like a cool idea to me. I am a product of my past, alas.

the nightgoblyn said...

"Daria, this is my new boyfriend. His name is really hard to pronounce, and he's kinda angsty . . . but you wouldn't believe what he can do with those two scimitars!"