Category: Writing (page 3 of 3)

A Shade of You

CHARACTERS

Narrator – an unseen noir-style storyteller
Joe – a private investigator plagued by love
Dr. Sol – a mad scientist
Violet – Dr. Sol’s stoic assistant
If – a tall, dark and handsome thing
Bobby – a smooth-talking playboy
Bobby-Two – Bobby’s sidekick/lackey
Clara – Bobby’s pretty little girlfriend
Then – ethereally beautiful young woman
Other Recorded Voices

Notes.

Though the entirety of this play occurs in the present-tense, its style rests firmly in those of film that encompassed Depression Era America. The piece, while melodramatic and strange to the point of comic at times, will maintain a generally tense mood; one that is both dark and gritty when the situation permits. Until Act Two, that is, when the status quo meets its opposition. Also, all sets, props, costumes, and even the actors themselves will be rendered completely in gray-scale, giving the overall appearance of a black and white film unless otherwise noted.

~PLAY BEGIN~

ACT I

Scene i.
Joe’s office: a small, dark, and gloomy space, riddled with shadows. JOE, mid 30s, a guy who was once perhaps successful, attractive and sober, sits at his desk, hunched over piles of paperwork and unread files. There is a phone, a bottle of scotch and a half filled glass. He sits, suffering under the weight of what he’s allowed his life to become. Despite all this, there is an intensity to him fueled by his innermost demons. The NARRATOR’S sharp and confident voice pierces the darkness as lights slowly rise…

Narrator: Here sits Detective Joseph Powers. “Joe” to his friends…if he had any, that is. A sadder soul you’ve never seen. You can trust me on that one. Used to be a time, not too long ago, when Mr. Powers was on the up and up. A favorite on the local police force, Joey here was destined for greatness…but he got cocky and lost it all when word about him getting mixed up in the wrong side of the law…I’m talking the mob…got to the wrong ears of the wrong reporters. One thing led to another and here we are. Detective Joseph Powers. Detective. Ha. Just some private investigator, desperate for booze money and picking up any half-baked sideways case to get it. Take his latest: There’s a murderer on the loose who’s raped and killed the type of girl who, judging by her lifestyle, was asking for it. Cops can’t figure out whodunnit. What makes this pathetic excuse for an inebriate think he can succeed where decent guys have not is beyond me. Maybe he’s finally lost it. Maybe the cops just don’t give a damn. After all, there is a high-profile serial killer on the loose. And what’s worse is that the ol’ Detective here can’t keep his mind on a damned detail because of her, which is ironic because she’s the reason he’s in this pickle in the first place. Her. The object of his desire. A femme fatale in five-inch heels. An acid-tipped trick that he just can’t kick. I’d feel sorry for him if it was worth my time…

Scene ii.
The living room of Bobby’s condo. It’s a modern trendy place; simple yet elegant. The ultimate bachelor pad. BOBBY, 30, a striking man of average looks made to seem above average by his dual senses of fashion and self-worth, sits on his couch, playfully sipping a mixed drink. BOBBY-TWO, 30, his dopey friend, stands near him, a small planet orbiting the sun.

Bobby: Another successful night on the town, wouldn’t ya say, Bobby-Two?

Bobby-Two: You did good, Bobby.

Bobby: Good? Man, I was incredible! Remember the babe with those big green loopy earrings…

Bobby-Two: I-

Bobby: You didn’t think I could do it, did you? Thought she was out of my league…

Bobby-Two: Well-

Bobby: I was hurt. Really. My best friend betting against his truest bluest. But I showed you, didn’t I?

Bobby-Two: Yeah-

Bobby: Yup. I did. I did indeed. Because when Bobby wants something, Bobby gets it. The world is full of low-born ladies who will do anything for their moment in the sun. Ha! (takes a sip of his drink) (to Bobby-Two) A little bitter, huh, Bobby-Two? Not your best work. Next time let Rosa make it. That’s what she’s for, after all.

Bobby-Two: (takes a quick sip of his drink) (under his breath) S’not that bad.

Bobby: What’s that?

Bobby-Two: Nothing.

Bobby shrugs. Takes another sip and overreacts to its bitterness.

Bobby: Blech! Did you even try?! I’m kidding…mostly. Rosa’s is better, but I guess I could-

Bobby-Two: Why do I have to be Bobby-Two?

Bobby: Huh?

Bobby-Two: (fights an impulse to say “nothing”) Bobby-Two.

Bobby: Aw jeez…

Bobby-Two: It’s degrading!

Bobby: I think someone’s upset he didn’t get any last night.

Bobby-Two: Bobby…

Bobby: You’re just Bobby-Two. It’s who you are. I mean, I’m certainly not Bobby-Two. (gestures towards himself) No. Some people are destined for greatness and others are destined to make sure they get there…Bobby-Two. (notes Bobby-Two’s less than amused expression). …Other Bobby? Ha, I’m joking. I’m kidding. I’m a kidder. (looks at his glass) Mix us up another round, pal?

Bobby-Two: (cold) How’s Clara?

Bobby: Fine.

Bobby-Two: Okay. (pause) She doesn’t mind all your little side projects?

Bobby: What she doesn’t know isn’t going to hurt her. Plus, a girl like that…as long as I keep her drowning in dresses and jewels she’s not going to go raising a fuss about my extracurriculars.

Bobby-Two: Hm.

Bobby: ‘Nother round?

Scene iii.
Lights rise on the laboratory of Dr. Sol. It is a place of clutter and intrigue, filled with all manner of experiments in the works and, of course, a table on which lay some humanoid thing completely draped in a white sheet. DR. SOL, 40-60s, a kooky-looking intellectual fellow and VIOLET, 22, his assistant, a dark and Gothic thing in headphones, toil away at this and that as a storm rages around them. They both wear lab coats and black rubber gloves. An ode to the age of silent film and the general theme of this piece, the scene, and all others that take place here during Act I, are completely without sound (save for the option of a light piano backdrop). All character dialogue will be portrayed via written text (CAPTION) presented to the audience by way of projector.

CAPTION: The Laboratory of Dr. Sol

Dr. Sol speaks excitedly as he looms over the sheet-covered creature.

CAPTION: “Soon, my dear Violet, all of our work will come to a head!”

Violet looks to Dr. Sol, shrugs, puts on her headphones, and returns to work. Dr. Sol shakes off her apathy and returns to his work. He pours liquid from one beaker to another and an eruption of smoke appears, causing him to choke. He begins to falter, unable to breathe, convulsing as he collapses to his knees trying to get Violet’s attention. It is when Dr. Sol is lying on the ground, nearing his last breaths, when Violet turns with a question and notices his dire situation. With utter calm, she plucks a potion from her coat pocket and pours some down his throat. Once again able to breathe, he climbs to his feet and scolds her.

[NOTE: Depending on the resources of the production, the previous “silent gag” scene can involve any science-related physically comical situation that results in Dr. Sol almost dying and Violet realizing it in the nick of time to nonchalantly save him]

CAPTION: “You infernal girl! Take off those blasted things! I could have died!”

Violet points to her headphones, gesturing that she can’t hear what he’s saying. She removes her headphones. He is preparing to repeat himself, but a (silent) knock at the door startles them both. Dr. Sol points to Violet, hoping for an explanation. She shrugs. They react to another knock. Dr. Sol exclaims.

CAPTION: “Who dare travel so far and be so brave as to rap at my door at this hour?!”

Dr. Sol thinks of his creature, exclaims again.

CAPTION: “We must protect it at all costs!”

Violet nods, reaches into a bin and produces a large weapon, like the 1930’s version of a gun from the distant future. She returns to Dr. Sol’s side, nods and points the weapon in the direction of the door.

Dr. Sol shouts.

CAPTION: “The door! It’s opening!”

A moment of terror quickly gives way as Dr. Sol falls under a spell of childish gleeful disbelief and Violet, suddenly bored, hands the gun to Sol, returns her headphones to her ears and goes back to work. Enter IF, mid-20s, a disarmingly beautiful, chic and modern, strapping man who is a bit too tall and has a pair of bolts sticking out of his neck. He wears a pair of aviator glasses and is utterly drenched. Dr. Sol, hardly able to contain his excitement, exclaims anew.

CAPTION: “If! My dearest If! I knew you’d return to me! I just knew it!”

Dr. Sol captures If in a warm embrace. If stands perfectly still. Sol looks to him, lovingly, and speaks.

CAPTION: “You’re back, my love. Just in time to meet the newest addition to our little family…”

Lightning strikes.

Scene iv.
Joe’s office. There are even more papers piled on his desk. Joe roots through them, wildly, until he becomes overwhelmed.

Joe: DAMMIT!

Joe drops his head onto his desk.

Narrator: Well, will you look at this? Can’t say much has changed since the last time, eh Detective? Well, except maybe that your workload is piling up faster than you can keep it down. You lost five cases in the past week, Joe! Get a hold of yourself! You used to be one of the best, Joe. Every one of these cases you let pass by is less money in your pocket. You have to sustain yourself…even if you’re method of sustaining involves a pit stop at the local liquor store.

Joe: ARGH! I have to get to the bottom of this…

Narrator: You can’t let her get to you like this, Joe.

Joe: She loves me…

Narrator: Joe… (sighs) Alright. Alright. Let’s see what we’ve got so far. Take a deep breath. (Joe does so) That’s right. Now exhale. (he does) Good. Good. Alright. The facts.

Joe: The facts. The facts… (examines a sheet of half-crumpled paper) Whew. The facts. Mary Sandino, Caucasian, twenty-three years old, murdered in her boyfriend’s apartment. She was found naked on the floor, half way between the bedroom and the kitchen. She’d been raped and strangled, but the kill wound was one of fifty or so gashes received by a letter opener from the night stand. Boyfriend couldn’t’ve done it. He was a whole state away. We have confirmation of that from his trucker buddies and managers at most of his drop-off spots. There were no prints. Neighbors didn’t see anything. Hear anything. (pause) I…

Narrator: Yeah, Joe?

Joe: I…I don’t know! The cops couldn’t figure it out! How can I?!

Narrator: Give up, Joe.

Joe: I can’t give up! I…can’t…

Narrator: And to think, if you weren’t so pathetic you’d be working on that high profile serial killer case with your old cop buddies. You’d probably be captain by now. It’s a damn shame and that’s a fact.

Scene v.
Bobby’s condo. Bobby is talking on his cell phone, pacing, serious.

Bobby: Hello? (irritated) Oh. Oh, it’s you. Put my uncle on the phone. (a moment passes and he brightens up) Uncle Bill! How are ya? It’s your favorite nephew. Ha ha. Oh, I can’t complain. City life is city life, ya know? You should come visit some time. Come down from the mountains and get a little taste of culture and life, for once. Ha ha…just kidding. But seriously, I’d love to have you. Work going well? Oh! Oh, I understand. I’ll just be a minute, I promise. See, the thing is, I’m running a little low on cash. It’s…the recession, ya know? No one’s safe. Heh. Yeah, no…I’m…my job’s…coming along. The economy…Wow, ya know? I mean…It’s like…hard out here.

CLARA, mid 20s, enters, a beauty from head to toe, but something about her is a little off.

Clara: Who’re you talking to, baby?

Bobby: (surprised by Clara’s entrance) Ah! Oh! Hey, it was great talking to you as always! Think about what I said! Do you still have my… Okay! Great! Good! Tell what’s-his-face I say ‘Hi’! Bye! Bye! (hangs up the phone and scoops Clara in his arms) Hello, beautiful.

Clara: Who was that on the phone?

Bobby: That was my Uncle Bill.

Clara: Oh. You never mentioned an Uncle Bill…

Bobby: Really? Are you sure? We’re pretty close, Uncle Bill and I. We’re all each other have left in the family since my father died…

Clara: And left you all alone…

Bobby: And six million dollars richer. Right. How ever did I find the strength to go on?

Clara: Bobby…

Bobby: Clara…

Clara: You sure did seem to hang up in a hurry when I came in.

Bobby: My Uncle’s a sweetheart, he really is, but he’s losing it, I think. There was the stroke and…I can’t talk to him for too long, ya know? It reminds me of my dad. I feel guilty sometimes, but I just…can’t. You came in and I used it as an excuse to hang up.

Clara: You promise?

Bobby: Cross my heart, beautiful.

They kiss.

Clara: So, what are we doing tonight?

Bobby: It.

Clara: Bobby, you gotta lower a girl’s defenses with expensive wine and a night on the town before you get the prize at the bottom of this box. I was thinking Le Fleur…

Bobby: Le Fleur. Isn’t that place reserved for the foreseeable future?

Clara: So what? Slip the hostess a couple hundreds and we’re golden.

Bobby: (thinks) What about McCabe’s?

Clara: McCabe’s?!

Bobby: What’s wrong with McCabe’s?

Clara: It’s beneath us.

Bobby: It got four stars!

Clara: Out of five!

Bobby: I- (tries to find the logic in her retort and fails) You were raised on freakin’ Happy Meals and TV Dinners! Ruby Tuesdays should be a god-damned gourmet restaurant to you!

Clara: What did you say?!

Bobby: Kidding, kidding. Honestly, I’m in a meat and potatoes sort of mood. We can do Le Fleur on Friday.

Clara: Nice try. You’ll be in Vegas on Friday.

Bobby: Oh, that? I’m not going anymore.

Clara: (serious) What?

Bobby: Yeah, we had to cancel. (softly) Between you and me, I think Bobby-Two’s having some serious money issues.

Clara: Oh…

Bobby: Yeah, poor kid. (notices the look of concern on Clara’s face) What’s up, baby?

Clara: Nothing. I… I have plans this Friday.

Bobby: Oh?

Clara: I was going to have a friend over.

Bobby: A friend. What kind of friend?

There is a spell of silence in which their eyes lock and the answer makes itself known to Bobby.

Bobby: Ah, I see. And when were you planning on telling me this? (she does not respond) I see.

Clara: It’s none of your business.

Bobby: Oh. Right. My girl invites some man into my house without telling me…it’s none of my business.

Clara: (in tears) You don’t even care about her!

Bobby: I’m paying-! (swallows his frustration) Put your coat on. We’re going to fucking Le Fleur.

Clara: (distant) If only I would’ve gotten there a second sooner…

Bobby: Let’s go.

Scene vi.
Dr. Sol’s laboratory. The storm has subsided. Dr. Sol and If sit on a freshly placed carpet in front of the covered creature, tea cups in hand. Violet sits in her usual spot, bobbing her head to the music playing in her headphones. Dr. Sol gazes lovingly at If as he pours him some more tea. The moment is ruined as Violet’s head-banging becomes more fierce and she uses some nearby objects as drumsticks which she (silently) bangs against anything within reach. Dr. Sol scolds.

CAPTION: “Violet, will you stop that racket?!”

Violet hears nothing and continues her raucous activity. Dr. Sol, patience worn, marches over and tears the headphones from her ears. He points toward the hallway, barking.

CAPTION: “Leave here this instant! I need peace! Unplug everything in the house! Internet. Cable. Telephones. Everything! No more interruptions from you or the outside world today, thank you!”

Violet leaves in an irritated huff. Dr. Sol, smiling widely, returns to If. Sweetly, the doctor speaks.

CAPTION: “It means so much to me that you’ve returned.”

If gestures to the thing under the sheets, saying.

CAPTION: “Says the man who’s almost done building my replacement.”

Dr. Sol is aghast. Shaking his head, he assures.

CAPTION: “Oh no! No! No! No! Nothing could ever replace you! This is something…else entirely.”

If’s eyes narrow and he takes a sip of tea. Dr. Sol places his hand on If, whispering.

CAPTION: “My bed has been quite the lonesome place without you.”

If freezes, grows somber and removes Dr. Sol’s hand from his person. He explains.

CAPTION: “I only wanted to see if you were okay. Nothing more. Feelings do not just…fade away into time and distance, whether they are good or bad.”

Dr. Sol, saddened and embarrassed, turns away, muttering.

CAPTION: “I made you.”

If, for the first time exhibiting his power and monstrous potential, turns Dr. Sol’s face to him, snarling.

CAPTION: “But you do not own me. Just like you will not own this newest creation. Mark my words, old man.”

If rises and Dr. Sol reaches for him, distraught. If speaks.

CAPTION: “It was good seeing you, William.”

Dr. Sol jumps to his feet and pleads.

CAPTION: “Dearest If, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I kept you from the world for so long! I’m sorry I lead you to believe that this was it and that my love was the only love! But please, stay. Help me make things better with this one.”

Dr. Sol gestures toward the thing under the sheets. If looks at it, then at Dr. Sol. If closes his eyes and declares.

CAPTION: “I will visit when I can. If only to make certain this creature knows that it is its own master.”

Scene vii.
Joe’s office. The papers are piled even higher. Joe is eating a sandwich as one might imagine a  starving wolf tearing through a young deer.

Narrator: Isn’t this a sight? Slow down, man! As much of a welcome surprise it is to see you putting something into your mouth that isn’t 40 proof and wrapped in a paper bag, you’re no good to anybody dead on the floor from a clogged trachea. And don’t think I didn’t see the way you looked at the girl who put that sandwich together for you. You should go down and talk to her. Ask her out. She’d make an honest man out of you. Get your act together. Ah, what am I saying? As far as causes go, you’re about as lost as they come. How’s the case coming along?

Joe, sandwich in one hand, forages through his mess of papers.

Joe: Jesus!

Narrator: That good, huh?

Joe continues to scan his notes. He comes across a newspaper clipping. Just as he’s about to cast it to the side, he is struck with a thought.

Narrator: What’s this? A newspaper clipping?

Joe sits his sandwich on the table and lifts a small journal in his free hand, looking curiously between it and the clipping.

Narrator: That article, that’s…that’s about the serial killer half of the city’s looking for. You don’t think-? No. That there’s a connection between the serial killer case and your insignificant little side project, do ya? Come on, Joe! Yours is an isolated incident in the city. We’re talking about sixteen girls all raped, strangled to death and found in the woods…miles away. Sure, your girl was raped. Strangled, too. And yeah, most of the girls found in the woods had homes in the city…and just about all of them were confirmed runaways. No friends. No real family. Just like yours. Hm. It’s a longshot, Joey, God knows…but maybe you’re on to something…

Scene viii.
Bobby’s condo. Bobby is sitting in the dark, talking on the phone. There’s a storm rumbling on outside.

Bobby: Bobby-Two! How are you doing tonight, my best of friends?! What?! No. Nothing like that. Can’t a guy just call his friend and- Look. Okay. I need you to come over on Friday. Yes, I know! Don’t- I’m not asking you to cancel your trip to Vegas. Just to postpone…a little. Come on! After all I’ve done for you! Look! Wait! Listen! It’s Clara! No, she’s fine. She’s fine! It’s just…that guy I was telling you about. Yeah. Him. He’s coming over for some kind of…talk and I need you there in case we have to…in case he starts to put the moves on her I need you to help me maintain my property, ya know? Because I love her, that’s why! (pause) Nevermind that. They’re just whores. Barely people. Just get your ass over here on Friday. (pause) Ah, that’s my Bobby-Two! Ha ha! What? Oh. Fine. That’s my…Bobby (he mouths the word “two”). What’s that? Oh. Oh, that. I’ve got enough to get by. Don’t worry. I’ll bounce back from this. I’m Bobby Sol. Ha. See ya Friday, bud.

Scene ix.
Dr. Sol’s lab. The storm is (silently) raging like never before. Dr. Sol, Violet, and If surround the thing under the sheet. The Doctor is giddy with excitement. If stands expressionless. Violet chews on gum, blows a bubble and holds up a wired plug of some kind. All are wearing their goggles up. Dr. Sol looks to Violet. Violet pulls her goggles down over her eyes and nods. Dr. Sol nods, pulls his goggles down over his eyes and produces a device from his lab coat pocket with a large switch on top. Dr. Sol and Violet turn to If and he, too, pulls his goggles down over his eyes. Violet plugs in her wire and all manner of things start to light up. All eyes are on Dr. Sol as he makes a spectacle out of flipping the switch in his hand. When he at last does so, lights flicker and flash. The Doctor bellows.

CAPTION: “It’s alive! IT’S ALIVE!”

Violet rolls her eyes behind her goggles, smacks herself in the face and shakes her head at the Doctor’s cliched statement. If crosses his arms. The arms of the thing under the sheets rise toward the sky and it sits straight up, still completely covered.

Scene x.
Bobby’s condo. Bobby sits on the couch, deep in thought. Clara enters, dressed to perfection, as she fastens her earring.

Bobby: Well, look who’s all dressed up. What’s the occasion?

Clara: I don’t need an occasion to look spectacular.

Bobby: Obviously.

Clara: Zip me.

Bobby rises and zips Clara’s dress.

Bobby: The things I do for love.

Clara: Thank you.

Bobby: No problem. So, when’s the man of the hour coming over?

Clara: He should be here any minute. And be good.

Bobby: You got it. Oh, I invited Bobby-Two.

Clara: What?

Bobby: I figured, you’re bringing a friend. So can I.

Clara: You’re a bully.

Bobby: I thought that’s one of the things you loved about me. Like how I handled those guys at the bar that one time.

Clara: That was a horrible day for me.

Bobby: It was the day we met!

Clara: It was the day she died! It was the day I found her… And this isn’t some frat party, Bobby. Mary was very important to me.

Bobby: You hardly even knew her.

Clara: I knew enough to know she deserved better than what she got.

Bobby: Hmph.

The doorbell rings.

Bobby: (moves toward the door) Allow me.

Bobby opens the door and Joe enters.

Joe: (obviously surprised to see Bobby. He’s immediately unnerved by the other’s presence as he tries to hide it) Bobby.

Bobby: Joe. It’s been too long, bud. Come on in.

Bobby leads Joe to the couch,being certain to place himself in between he and Clara. He places his arm around his girlfriend and smirks at the detective. Joe’s eyes rarely leave Clara. It is obvious that she has a firm hold on him from the start.

Bobby: What do you have for us? Something? Anything? Lord knows I pay you enough. You’d hope something would come of my investment of love.

Clara: Bobby…

Bobby: What? I hired him to find out who killed your friend and it’s been, what, five months and he hasn’t given us anything we couldn’t get from the evening news. So Joe…whaddaya know?

Joe: (clears his throat) Well, I-

The doorbell rings.

Bobby: Hold that thought. (rises and moves toward the door) Jeez, Joe, you smell like cheap liquor. (opens the door. Bobby-Two enters) Bobby-Two! My friend! Just in time for the party! Get in here!

Bobby-Two: Hi, Bobby. Clara. (produces a bottle of wine) I brought wine. (to Bobby) Hey, Bobby, help me bring up my luggage? The cab driver’s charging by the minute. I figured I’d just leave for the airport from here in the morning.

Bobby: I… (looks to Clara, who is concerned with Joe) Yeah. Okay. Hurry up.

Bobby and Bobby-Two exit.

Joe: I thought he wasn’t going to be here!

Clara: I know! Me too.

Joe: Thanks for the head’s up…I can’t face that man, unprepared.

Clara: Sorry, Joey.

Joe: Don’t worry about it. (pause) You look real nice tonight.

Clara: Thanks. You, too.

Joe: Ha.

Clara: Ha. You do…

Joe: How much longer is this going to go on? I can’t stand it anymore.

Clara: As long as it has to, Joe. You know this.

Joe: It’s making me crazy. I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. The thought of you and him…It just-

Clara: I know. I know. But this is how it’s gotta be. You’re saving up all the money he’s paying you, right?

Joe: As much as I can. Work’s been a little slow lately.

Clara: Maybe if you didn’t drink so much…

Joe: Clara…

Clara: I’m serious.

Joe: I hate this.

Clara: We need the money.

Joe: So, what? We just keep robbing this guy while you pretend to give two shits about this sleazy little girl-

Clara: (smacks Joe) Don’t you dare speak about Mary that way.

Joe: Jesus…

Clara: I loved that girl like a sister. That’s why this is all so believable.

Joe: Remember the old days? Before all this shit?

Clara: I remember you were a handsome cop and I was a bad girl.

Joe: You still are.

Clara: (playful) Joe…

Joe: The guys told me to stay away from you, but I didn’t listen. You got me wrapped up in all sorts of nonsense, but I didn’t care. I knew from the moment I laid eyes on you that you were the one.

Clara: (half-listening) Yeah…

Joe: (sobers up) Can I say something?

Clara: Ha, of course you can, Joey.

Joe: Sometimes I think there’s no expiration date on this scam…That you like being with this guy. That I’m the one getting used.

Clara: (pause) I don’t know what to say to that other than you’re just going to have to trust me.

Bobby: (enters,dragging a small suitcase) We’re back! Hope I didn’t miss anything good!

Bobby-Two enters with two large suitcases.

Clara: Nope. Nothing.

Joe: We were waiting for you.

Bobby: I bet.

Clara: Bobby, what’s with all the luggage?

Bobby: Baby, don’t be upset but…Bobby-Two’s going to be staying here for a little while. Until he gets himself back on his feet. (to Bobby-Two) I know you didn’t want me spilling all your secrets, but we’re all friends here. We know you’d do the same for us. (guides Bobby-Two and seats him between Joe and Clara) Sit down. Take a  load off. I’m going to see how Rosa’s coming with the drinks. (exits)

Clara: Bobby, this is Joe. Joe, Bobby. He’s the one investigating Mary’s murder for me. Bobby’s my Bobby’s friend from college.

Bobby-Two: Nice to meet you.

Joe: Same.

Clara: Bobby, I’d heard about the trip to Vegas getting cancelled but I had no idea things had gotten like this. You know you’re always welcome here. Anything Bobby or I can do to help, just let us know.

Bobby-Two: (irritated) Clara…

Clara: Yes?

Bobby-Two: Listen. About all this talk about-

The doorbell rings. Everyone pauses, as if sharing the same feeling of unease for no good reason.

Clara: (calls to the kitchen) Bobby!

Bobby: (off-stage) Yeah?

Clara: Are you expecting anyone else?

Bobby: (off stage) No. It’s probably the cleaning lady.

Bobby-Two: (stands up) I’ll get it.

Bobby-Two opens the door and in walks Dr. Sol, dressed in a three-piece suit, with If, stunning as always.

Bobby-Two: Um…

Bobby enters, happily, with a tray of mixed drinks.

Bobby: Round one is served!  Hors d’oeuvres will- (he notices Dr. Sol and musters all available self-control to keep from dropping the drinks all over the floor) Uncle Bill?! W-what are you doing here?

Dr. Sol: You extended an invite, my boy, and I accepted!

Bobby: But…but-

Dr.Sol: If we’re not welcome here, we can surely-

Bobby: No! (calms himself) No. Stay. Of course. Sit. Drink. Everyone, this is my Uncle Bill and his…

If: Associate.

Dr. Sol: If.

Bobby: Right. If, the associate. Great. Okay. Come, Uncle. Both of you. Sit. Drink. Be merry and all that. Ha.

Joe: (to Clara) Maybe I should come back at a better time…

Bobby: I think he’s on to something…

Clara: (to Joe) Not until you tell me what you’ve discovered.

Dr. Sol: Discovered…?

Bobby: He’s our personal psychic. All the rage in the city.

Dr. Sol: Personal psychic? No wonder you’re running out of money…

Clara: What?

Bobby: Oh, Uncle Bill and his crazed accusations. Ha…stop it, Uncle. You’re too much.

Bobby-Two: Maybe I should be going…

Bobby: No! No…you’ve got nowhere else to go…

Bobby-Two: Oh, I can think of a couple…

Bobby: (sharply) None as surrounded by love and loved ones and fun and games as right here so stay put! (to Dr. Sol) Uncle. Uncle’s giant friend. Sit, please. Regale us city folk with tales of the countryside.

Dr. Sol looks to If, who nods in agreement.

Dr. Sol: That is exactly why I am here, my boy. You see, I, Dr. Sol, have been working on a project like none the world has ever seen. Equal parts science and art and magic and (glances at If) love. Yes. In my constant quest for perfection my experiments have born many fruit, each a different flavor from which I sampled and, through them, acquired a higher, more fulfilled plane of existence. I was recently informed by my wise, wonderful…associate…that to keep such things to myself was selfish…it was cruel…and I’m sorry (to If) I am so sorry… (gathers himself and addresses all) and vow, from this moment forward, to share all my discoveries will the world! And so, without further rambling on my part… (calls to the hall outside of the condo) You can come in now!

In enters something covered in a sheet held tightly against itself so that not an inch of it is visible. There is a crackling tension rising from Joe, Clara, Bobby, and Bobby-Two.

Dr.Sol: Introducing my latest creation: The incomparable Then!

THEN, early 20s, a girl with unnatural beauty, removes the sheet from herself at last. She stands before the others, fully in color from head to toe. Her clothing, like a rainbow. Flowers are braided into her hair. The others are in complete shock. Bobby-Two is frozen in disbelief. Joe leans forward, mouth hanging open. Clara shrieks and Bobby passes out.

Lights down.

ACT II

Scene i.
Act II begins with darkness. Then emerges the voice of a radio newscaster, guns blazing.

Newscaster (recorded): Kip Freely here, bringing you breaking news from KP997, The Buzz. What started as a loose sprinkling of crazed conjecture has exploded into near frenzy as more and more citizens of this fair city are reporting sightings of something beyond our vocabulary to properly describe!

Guy (recorded): I was grabbing a hot dog on the corner of Second and Houston when I saw her. It…it was definitely a her but…I’d never seen anything like it. I only saw her for a split second- she was in the back seat of an old Caddy, head poked out of the window, full of wonder- but I can picture that face like I had a lifetime to study it. Incredible. There was something about her that I…I just can’t find what to call it…she was…brighter, somehow. Yeah. Brighter.

Newscaster: These “Bright” sightings have been popping up all over the city. The phones here at the station have been ringing off the hook. No one’s quite sure how many are out there, where they came from or what they want, but I think I’m with the rest of my listeners when I say, I’m chomping at the bit to find out!

Scene ii.
Joe’s office. It’s a bit brighter than it’s ever been before. There are less papers on his desk and the ones that are there are, for the most part, neatly organized. There is a half-filled glass and no bottle of scotch in sight. As always, he is burdened by some weight on his shoulders, but the burden seems lighter somehow. Joe toils at his work, focused like never before.

Narrator: Hey, Joe. Whaddaya know? (pause) Joe. There’s something different about you. I haven’t seen you looking this put-together since you were on the force. That’s been what? Ten, fifteen years now?

Joe’s phone rings. He answers.

Joe: Hello? Oh, Mr. Henderson. How are you? Fine. Fine. I uncovered some information on the whereabouts of your son, including an address and a friend he’d been tagging along with for the past few months. I emailed it to you about an hour ago. Right. As soon as you’re home then. Let me know how it all works out.

Narrator: I can’t believe what I’m hearing. Joseph Powers working on a case that isn’t connected to that two-timing floozy, Clara. What’s going on here?

Joe stops what he’s doing and rests his head on his hand, staring longingly into nothingness.

Narrator: Ah, I see it now. It’s that girl from the other night isn’t it? What was she called? Then, I think. The one they’re calling…bright in all the papers. It’s been days, Joe, and you only saw her for an hour, hour and a half. Two, tops! Jeez, Joe, sure she was the most beautiful girl this side of the ocean, seemed about as sweet as a cherry pie, sharp as a razor and said the most interesting things anyone’d ever heard…but that’s no reason to fall head over heels for her; especially since, not three days ago you were tangled up in hurricane Clara…not that I’m complaining, of course. You seem to be doing okay for yourself. And if I had to choose between one or the other, well…I think you know where I’m going with this.

Joe rises from his chair.

Narrator: Joe?

He straightens his tie.

Narrator: Joe. What’s going on? What are you doing?

He exits in a hurry.

Narrator: Joe!

Scene iii.
Bobby’s condo. Bobby sits, hunched over, upset. Clara is dancing around him, admiring herself. Bobby-Two sits beside him.

Bobby-Two: How are you feeling, Bobby?

Bobby: I’m fine.

Bobby-Two: You don’t look so good.

Bobby: I’m fine, I said!

Clara: It’s no use trying, Bobby. It’s been a week and he still won’t talk about it.

Bobby: What’s to talk about?! I saw that…thing and I fainted!

Clara: My baby’s just embarrassed.

Bobby: (snaps) Would you two just-?! (calms) Leave me alone.

Clara: (to Bobby-Two) How was Vegas?

Bobby-Two: It was great.

Clara: I’m so amazed you could afford it with all those money issues…

Bobby: Clara…

Clara: Bobby.

Bobby: Shit.

Bobby-Two: Tell you what. There wasn’t a thing in that entire city that could hold a candle to your Uncle’s “creation”. All the glitz and glam and flashing lights and all I could think about was that girl, Then. Wow.

Bobby: Feh.

Bobby-Two: Ha. You weren’t conscious long enough to catch a glimpse of her.

Bobby: I caught enough. It’s not right.

Clara: She was beautiful.

Bobby-Two: And the way she’d speak…the things she’d say… Wow.

Bobby: Could we talk about something else, please?

Clara: I highly doubt you’d want to do that right now.

Bobby: Ugh.

Clara: Anyway… (to Bobby-Two) Robert Johanssen, I think you’re in love.

Bobby-Two: Clara!

Bobby: Clara…

Clara: I see that little twinkle in your eyes. You love Then.

Bobby: Quit it, Clara.

Clara: It’s adorable! Oh, I know… (Clara produces a piece of paper from her purse) You should go see her! Yes!

Bobby-Two: I…um…

Bobby: No!

Clara: Yes! Yes! Yes! (hands the paper to Bobby-Two) Here is Uncle Bill’s address. He’d said that if we needed anything to just come by for a visit. Such a sweet and not at all senile old man. (to Bobby) Has he turned his phone back on?

Bobby: Clar- Ugh. No. Not since yesterday.

Clara: Perfect. (to Bobby-Two) Then you go visit. Say that we tried to call and couldn’t reach him. Tell him that Bobby’s condition has gotten worse and we’ll need…five…six…eighteen thousand dollars to cover the procedure. Yes! There’s your excuse! You’ll see the girl and pick up the check and we all win! (forces Bobby-Two toward the door) Now go, Bobby-Two! Go! Go! Go! (pushes him off-stage)

Bobby-Two: (re-enters) I don’t know-

Clara: Do you want to spend your whole life being Bobby-Two or do you want to start taking some risks, following your heart and maybe even becoming Bobby One? (to Bobby) I hear there’s an opening. (to Bobby-Two, sweetly) Please, Bobby. I can’t go all the way out there alone and we really need the money.

Bobby-Two: Fine.

Clara: Yay! This the the beginning of something wonderful for you. I can feel it!

Scene iv.
Dr. Sol’s lab. Violet is working, headphones on. Then enters, unknown to Violet, a splash of color. When Then speaks there is none of the rest of the play’s style in her voice. She is utterly and genuinely real.

Then: Hey. I’m Then. (Violet hears nothing) You’re Violet, right? I remember you were there when I woke up. Dr. Sol and If say that you don’t like to be bothered, but…you’re a girl like me and I was hoping that we could be friends.

Violet starts to (silently) drum on the counter.

Then: Oh, that looks like fun.

Then picks up two random items from the lab and begins to drum as well…except her drumming produces an actual sound. Violet slowly notices Then mimicking her actions as well as the sound that Then is able to produce. Violet removes her headphones and produces a small beat with her makeshift drumsticks. Then imitates it, with the addition of sound. Violet does this twice more, with increasingly complex beats. Then executes them perfectly and Violet stops and stares at the strange girl beside her.

Then: Hi, Violet. I’m Then. Would you like to be my friend?

Then extends her hand and, realizing that Violet has no intention of responding, pulls it back.

Then: Why do you stay hidden in this laboratory when there’s so much world to discover out there? (Violet is quiet, but listening) I don’t know much of it yet, but I would be happy to show you. (pause) You should come with me into the house. Dr. Sol and If are talking and laughing and everything is wonderful now! You won’t even recognize them!

Violet: I can’t. Eep! (covers her mouth, startled by the sound that burst forth from inside her)

Then: Hehe. (takes Violet’s hand in hers) I can see in your eyes that you’ve been hurt. I’ve seen the hurt in so many eyes these days. It’s cold and it’s dark and it makes everyone afraid of love. But I’m telling you, Violet, that there is no need to be afraid or to hide in this place. Dr. Sol couldn’t survive without you here. If would not exist. And certainly not me. You are needed. You are loved.

Then releases Violet and takes a step back. She then extends her arm with a wam smile.

Then: Friends?

Violet shows signs of emotion and slowly removes her glove from her right hand. Much to her surprise, her bare hand is in full color. Then giggles. Violet smiles and grab’s the other’s hand in her own.

Violet: Friends.

Dr. Sol: (from off-stage, drunk with joy) Then! Violet! Get down here! The party’s just getting started! Woohoo!

Then: Ready?

Violet nods excitedly.

Then: Excellent.

Then grabs Violet’s colored hand and pulls her toward her creator and If. Before they exit there is a knock at the laboratory door. Both stop and look at one another. There is another knock.

Bobby-Two: (off-stage) Hello? Is anybody there? There’s so many doors in this place. It’s Bobby’s friend! I’m here for Dr. Sol. It’s about his nephew.

Then: Oh! The nice man from the city!

Then skips to the door and opens it. Bobby-Two enters, clutching a bouquet of flowers, instantly smitten.

Then: Hi, Bobby’s friend! Welcome! Come on in! You’re just in time for the party!

Scene v.
The woods at night. In addition to the trees there are a few stones and fallen branches on the ground. The design makes it seem as though the forest is larger than the actual space of the stage, allowing characters to travel substantial distances without exiting. Wolves and owls and other creatures of the night perform their off-putting symphony as Joe enters then stops, spotting something in the distance. He keeps moving.

Narrator: Well, isn’t this a sight? Joe Powers scampering around in the forest like a lost squirrel. How in the world did we get to this juncture? Everything seemed to be going so well for ya. Wait a minute. This is the forest that all those girls were buried in, isn’t it…give or take a few miles? What’s your angle, Joe? What’s-

Joe pulls a single withered flower out of his pocket. He then pulls out a pair of binoculars from the same pocket and looks intently through them, off into the distance.

Narrator: I should’ve guessed. That serial killer case is the farthest thing from your mind, isn’t it, Joe? You’re peeping into the old doctor’s house, trying to catch a glimpse of that Bright girl, aren’t ya? Jeez, Joe, you’re an embarrassment to us all.

Joe’s demeanor brightens.

Narrator: Spotted her, did ya?

Joe’s expression goes blank…and then annoyance sets in.

Narrator: What now? Oh, I see. She’s in there dancing with another man…and, from the looks of it, he came with a bigger bunch of flowers, too. This is an inescapable product of the life you chose, pal. Go home. Get your head together. And don’t go running back to you-know…oh who am I kidding?

Joe throws the flower on the ground and sulks away. His foot kicks a pile of leaves, revealing a small wallet.

Narrator: What’s this?

Joe picks up the wallet and examines it with a detective’s eye.

Narrator: A wallet. What’s a wallet doing out in the middle of the-?

Joe’s eyes widen as he examines its contents.

Narrator: Is that? It is! It’s Then’s driver’s license, but she’s not so…bright in it.

Joe draws out a set of plastic-sleeved photos and explores them. A few moments pass and he pulls a particular picture from it’s sleeve, pocketing the wallet and the rest. Mouth hanging open he can’t take his eyes off of it.

Narrator: Joe? What’s going on in that- ?! Oh. I see. That picture. It’s a picture of Then and…and…

Joe exits in a hurry.

Scene vi.
Bobby’s condo. Bobby and Clara sit on the couch, spread out and dazed as if all the class had seeped out of them.

Clara: Being poor is awful.

Bobby: No. Having people know you’re poor is awful. This is fine. This is temporary.

Clara: How do you know?

Bobby: Because anything else would be unacceptable.

Clara: Ugh. I’m hungry.

Bobby: Have Rosa make you a sandwich.

Clara: I fired Rosa.

Bobby: You did what?!

Clara: I fired her. She was expensive.

Bobby: She’s been with the family for eighteen years!

Clara: She cost you $8,500 a month.

Bobby: Oh.

Clara: Yeah.

Bobby: Well then. No more sandwiches.

Silence passes between them.

Bobby: Clara?

Clara: Huh?

Bobby: Do you love me?

Clara: What a silly question. Of course I love you, Bobby Sol.

Bobby: Even poor?

Clara: (pause) Even poor.

Bobby: You’re a better man than I.

Clara: What about you, Bobby? Do you love me?

Bobby: Honestly? I don’t know if I’ve ever loved anything. I’m almost positive I’m incapable of such a thing. But if, by some off-chance, I have it in me…you’d be the one I’d spend it on.

Clara: How romantic.

Joe bursts onto the scene, waving the wallet in the air.

Joe: I’ve done it!

Clara: Joe!

Bobby: What in the name of-?!

Joe sits down beside Clara and shows she and Bobby the picture. Bobby looks queasy.

Clara: (gasps) It’s Mary! And is that…?

Joe: Yeah. It’s Then. Before she turned Bright and changed her name, I guess. She was a girl named Alice Swanson, according to her driver’s license. She fits the M.O. of all the other victims. No family. On the wrong side of the law. And, according to my files, has been missing for over a month.

Clara: Where did you find this?!

Joe: I was…investigating the forest where they found most of the bodies and came across this.

Clara: What does it mean?

Joe: (to Bobby) The place I found the wallet…it wasn’t too far from your uncle’s house.

Bobby: Oh yeah?

Joe: And that’s not all. On my way out of the woods I almost fell right into it.

Clara: Into what?

Joe: An open grave.

Clara: No!

Joe: It was fresh, too, and a set of footprints lead right up to your uncle’s doorstep.

Bobby: Oh…

Clara: (tearing up) Bobby. Bobby, do you know what this means?!

Bobby: I…

Clara: Your Uncle Bill killed those girls! He killed my Mary!

Bobby: That’s…I mean, I always knew he was eccentric, but…never this…

Clara hugs Joe tightly, for a moment.

Clara: (to Joe) You did it! You really did!

Joe: (practically gushing at the attention she’s giving him) Well, I…

Clara: What happens now?

Joe: (gathers himself) I march up there and I bring him into my office for some questioning. I just wanted to tell the both of you in person first.

Bobby: Thanks, Joe. Whatever we can do to help…

Joe rises as Bobby-Two, in full color, enters as if king of the world.

Bobby-Two: Hey, guys, notice anything different about me?

Bobby: Jesus Christ, Bobby…wh-what happened to you?

Bobby-Two: It was Then. She and the doctor and If and Violet…it was incredible. Ha. (reaches into his pocket and throws Bobby the envelope) Here’s a check from your uncle for twenty grand. Money. Ha. All paper and nothingness. Enjoy it while you can, my friend. Soon you will understand that this is all meaningless. Pollution. A diversion. The weak man’s refuge. Bobby…the future is bright.

Joe exits as the lights go down.

Scene vii.
Dr. Sol’s living room. Everything, people included, is in full color as the music plays and Dr. Sol, If, Then, and Violet dance and prance and lounge and play in their righteous rainbow world.

Dr. Sol: Eat, drink and be merry, my friends! Wahoo!

Violet: I feel like I’m flying!

Then: You are, Violet! Your feet will never touch the ground again!

If: (to Dr. Sol) I’ve seen the world. I’ve felt its pain and I’ve felt its pleasure, but this is my home. This is where I am from and this is where my story will end.

Dr. Sol: Oh, my love, you have no idea how that makes me feel!

If: If it’s half as good as I’m feeling right now then the rest of the world will envy us both.

Dr. Sol and If embrace.

Dr. Sol: Then! Violet! Get over here!

Then and Violet join the embrace.

Then: I think I’m the happiest that anyone has ever been.

Violet: I feel more complete than I ever thought possible!

Dr. Sol: Oh, my precious Then. My beautiful If. My blossoming Violet. We’ve found perfection, haven’t we?

Suddenly, as if snapped out of a trance, Then steps away from the others and stares to the ceiling.

Dr. Sol: Then? What’s wrong, dear?

Then: It’s just that there’s so much sadness in the world, Doctor. So very much. And we’re so happy. The world is full of the most wonderful people and they suffer while we have everything. It’s not fair…

Dr. Sol: You can’t save everyone.

Then: But we can try.

If: She’s right. We have too much to offer. We can’t keep it locked inside this one house. It’s selfish. It’s…evil.

Dr.Sol: Yes. Yes, of course. I almost lost you once because I did not give you to the world. I’ve learned from my mistake. To the car, everyone! There’s work to be done!

Scene viii.
Darkness. A montage of voices fills the air, starting with that of the radio newscaster from the beginning of the act.

Newscaster: Kip Freely from KP997, The Buzz, here to interrupt coverage of yet another body found in the City Strangler case with breaking news! The Brights are out tonight! The calls are flooding in as Bright sightings reach a fever pitch in midtown! For more, let’s go to Fiona Ferrara on location at 43rd and Broadway…

Fiona: Thanks, Kip! I’m standing here with Teddy Fox who claims to have… (fades out)

Partygoer: It was crazy, man! Me n’ my bros were chillin’ at the bar and there they are! Like, ten of ‘em! Dancing and smiling and…it was- it was nuts!

Young Woman: Oh my god! Oh my god! It’s the Brights! They’re real! They’re really real!

Man: One of them. The one with flowers in her hair. She sat down with this guy. They were talking, just talking, but there was this…I don’t know…this connection between them. You could almost see it. Then he starts crying. I swear to God, this huge guy breaks into tears and, I kid you not, his eyes turn that kind of blue and his cheeks turn that kind of red…just like a Bright’s.

Bag Lady: They’s angels, they is. Angels sent from above to save us all! Alleluia! Alleluia…

Scholar: I looked at one of them, a tall, handsome fellow, straight in the eye. We took each other in. There was nothing but purity in there. Truth and happiness and…purity. And then he moved on. The moment passed. I don’t know how I can look at anything else and find it the least bit beautiful again…

Wildman: I’m transformed! I’m beautiful! Look at me! I am the future! I am eternity! I am love!

Woman: I don’t know what to make of this…

Boy: …it’s weird, but cool…

Old Man: No such thing…

Officer: …keep everybody calm…

Old Woman: It’s an epidemic!

Partygirl: I wonder if the tall one’s single…

Fiona: What a night it’s been so far and the stories keep coming in. Here with me is Dan Sanders from out of state. Tell us what you saw…

Dan: Yeah, okay, so the Brights were doing there thing, right, when this guy comes up and starts talking to the old Bright. He was, like, getting in his face and things got pretty heavy. Guy pulls out a pair of handcuffs and the tall Bright looks like he’s ready to fight, but the old one calms him down. Guy slaps the cuffs on the old guy and they go driving off. The other four Brights stand around for a while, crying or whatever, and then hit the scene some more.

Fiona: Fascinating. If what this boy says is true, what people are calling Bright Night is just the beginning of the headlines these people will be making come tomorrow.

Scene ix.
Joe’s office. The desk is turned perpendicular to the audience and Joe, sitting on one side, faces Dr. Sol, on the other, handcuffed to his chair. The Doctor is completely at ease, taking in his surroundings and the situation with wonder and curiosity. The same cannot be said for Joe, tense as ever with so much riding on this interrogation. He places a recording device on the table and begins,.

Joe: I’m going to record this.

Dr. Sol: Alright.

Joe: (gathers himself) January 18th, 2012. Detective Joseph Powers here with Doctor William Sol discussing probable connection to the City Strangler serial murders. (to Dr. Sol) Do you know why you’re here, Dr. Sol?

Dr. Sol: (chuckles) Well, judging by your conversation with that little machine just now I’d say you’re trying to convict me of murder.

Joe: (clears his throat) Are you a murderer, Doctor?

Dr. Sol: Heavens, no. The decision as to when someone’s soul departs this plane is not a judgement call I, or any other man, has the right to make.

Joe: What do you know about Mary Sandino?

Dr. Sol: Nothing at all, I’m afraid.

Joe: What about the City Strangler?

Dr. Sol: I’m sorry?

Joe: Dammit, man! They practically found the bodies in your back yard!

Dr. Sol: (thinks) Ah, yes. I recall Violet mentioning something about police officers and questions and whatnot a while back. I was in my lab at the time. Not to be disturbed.

Joe: Who’s Violet?

Dr. Sol: My lab assistant. Not very talkative until recently, but a sharper youth you will never find.

Joe: So you knew nothing of the Strangler?

Dr. Sol: You must understand, I don’t get out much. And television and the Internet are not for me. I can’t waste time when there’s progress to be made.

Joe: Hm. Okay then. What’s your relationship to Alice Swanson?

Dr. Sol: I don’t know anyone by that name.

Joe: Hm.

Joe reaches into his pocket and slides the picture across the table to Dr. Sol.

Dr. Sol: (scoops the picture in his hands) Oh, how delightful! It’s Then before the transformation. It seems like just yesterday…

Joe: Her name is Alice Swanson.

Dr. Sol: I’m sure it was.

Joe: I found her wallet in the woods about a quarter mile away from your home.

Dr. Sol: I see.

Joe: Not fifteen feet away from what I can only think was an open grave.

Dr. Sol: Yes. Yes. Of course. That’s where we found her.

Joe: Found her…

Dr. Sol: Oh, yes! What fortune. Violet and I were searching the forest for some inspiration…sometimes scientific breakthroughs can exist right under your nose and, lo and behold, we stumbled upon this freshly covered grave. My assistant and I spent half the day digging her up, carrying her to the lab and cleaning her off.

Joe: You dug her up?

Dr. Sol: Oh yes. The specimen was in wonderful condition. Not a discovery to be left to waste! Did you know that during the civil war, scientists such as myself would use the bodies of fallen soldiers to further their studies? Why, a pair of anatomists-

Joe: She wasn’t dead!

Dr. Sol: Of course she was! She’d been down there for days!

Joe: (pauses to take it all in) But- If she was-

Dr. Sol: Oh, basic re-animation. I’d be happy to walk you through the process…

Joe: So you brought her back from the dead…

Dr. Sol: Oh no! I’m not God. I simply utilized the body as a sort of foundation from which to bring a whole new life into existence. Between you and I, I’d never planned on re-animating anything again.

Joe: You’ve done this before?

Dr. Sol: Only once. A few years ago. You’ve met If. Wonderful as Then is, If will always be my first and hold a special place in my heart.

Joe: Jesus…

Dr. Sol: …had nothing to do with this. Though I cannot help but think he’d approve. Soon peace and love will spread throughout the entirety of this planet. Go out into the streets. Its already begun.

Joe: You’re nuts.

Dr. Sol: (chuckles then grows deadly serious) How quick you all are to defend a status quo that has brought you nothing but grief. You think you understand; that you’re in control of your destiny when the reality is that allowing yourself any sort of freedom; any sort of power, terrifies you. So you accept your shortcomings, your pain, your fear, your grief as an inescapable part of life when they are actually the weapons used by the powers that be to imprison you…and you accept this as the way it must be. Well, let me tell you this, Detective: You might have convinced yourself that you enjoy the life of a lonesome, hardened slave, but myself and those like me are the truth. We are freedom, change and immortality. Either you will accept our truths or fade, half a man, into oblivion.

Scene x.
Bobby’s condo. Clara rests on the couch, flipping through a magazine.

Clara: (speaking to Bobby, off-stage) It’s all over the news, Bobby. The stuff with your uncle. He’s in police custody now. Can you believe it? They say there’s fifty Brights protesting outside of the station. Fifty! Can you believe it? There were barely five of them a couple nights ago. And that poor Alice girl. She’s protesting, too, after what he did to her. She doesn’t even remember her own name, poor thing. I wonder how he did it. I wonder how long he’ll get in prison. Life I bet!

Bobby enters, zombie-like, slowly moving toward Clara, who is wholly unaware of him.

Clara: Or- (gasps) -maybe he’ll get the death penalty. It’d serve him right after what he did to my dear Mary and all those other girls. On the bright side, if they kill him all of that money he’s been hoarding will probably go straight to us. You don’t think he’d leave it to that big guy, do you? No. Of course not. You’re family. So far they haven’t connected you to that homocidal bastard, thank God. What would our friends say? It’s all anyone would talk about the second we entered a room. I don’t know if I could stand it-

Bobby strikes, grabbing Clara by the neck.

Clara: Bobby!

Bobby: Shut your mouth, you fucking slut!

Bobby tightens his grip as Clara struggles to speak; to fight him off with no success.

Bobby: You traipse around like you’re some perfect little princess, but I know you’re the same low-life breed of whore that your friend Mary was. I heard you snooping around her boyfriend’s front door when I was finishing her off, so I stabbed the bitch and ran out the back way. I had to see how much you saw, so I followed you to the police station, the post office, the salon until you finally stopped at that bar where we had our “chance” meeting. I knew you didn’t recognize me by the way you didn’t scream bloody murder when our eyes met. Your so-called devastation over Mary’s death sure didn’t stop you from noticing my fancy watch and fucking me in the back of my limo.

Clara goes limp.

Bobby: I would’ve killed you right there, drove you out into the forest, if you hadn’t mentioned your detective friend somewhere between those stripper-whore squeals and how you’d hired him to find out who killed your friend. I figured, what better way to keep one step ahead of the cops than to keep you close.

There is a knock at the door that goes unnoticed.

Bobby: It wasn’t until later that I realized he was just some washed up investigator, but I thought, what the hell. Even if he never came up with anything, a gold-digging bitch like you would be the perfect alibi while I was out strangling all your old friends to death.

Another knock.

Bobby: But now…now I’m off the hook. My uncle’s taking the hit for me, bless his heart. I’ll get his money and- and I’ll disappear. Ha

Joe enters, not realizing what he’s seeing at first.

Bobby: And if that detective tries to point a finger at me I’ll drag his alcoholic ass into the-

Bobby stops. He slowly turns to Joe, who is moving toward him. Bobby stands and tries to speak, but is knocked to the couch by Joe’s left hook. Joe looks at Clara.

Bobby: (hazy) She ain’t worth-

Joe knocks him out. He kneels down beside her, checking her pulse. He goes pale and numb at the realization, taking his time taking it in.

Narrator: (pause) Dead.

Joe rises to his feet, eyes fixed on her.

Narrator: If you had been a few minutes earlier instead of wasting time with all those reporters, maybe things would’ve been different. But here you are. Too little, too late. When they make a movie about you, I think that’ll be the title. Too little. Too late. She’s gone now, Joe. How are you feeling? What are you thinking? Say something for Christ’s sake. Anything!

Joe: I…I’m free.

Joe lets out a nervous laugh.

Joe: I’m free.

Narrator: Hm. Hey now. Maybe there’s hope for a guy like you yet in this world…

Joe smiles to himself. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a single flower. It’s a beautiful rose, red, fully colored. He gently drops it on Clara’s body.

Joe: The future is bright.

~PLAY END~

Universese: The Language of All Things

[I wrote the following essay about 3 years ago and while my opinions have changed a bit since then, I think there is value in the arguments being made even if simply to spark an opinion in the reader]

 

WARNING: This essay combines many facts that I have enjoyed as a part of my philosophy for many years intertwined seamlessly with theories I’ve concocted within the past few weeks (or even while writing this thing). Also be warned that this essay works under the assumption that Earth is the first and only life-bearing planet in the universe (something that I myself highly doubt and don’t feel affects the points to be made in any strong way). This is my elementary attempt seek out what connects us (humanity) to the vastness of the universe and how that relationship affects our lives and future.

 

…..

 

I’m in the middle of a science and philosophy kick (which explains my writing this in the first place as you’ll soon see), delving just a little into collected works written by and about some of the top intellectuals past, present and future. Whilst careening through a world of theory after theory (some of them even fascinating) the thing that continues to catch my attention the most is not what is being said so much as how these doctors and masters of their fields are saying it; billion-dollar words to express and explain ideas in ways that only those on their own realm of study, their peers and intellectual equals, can fully comprehend. In this way, knowledge becomes much like a fancy car or new iPhone is to others; a shiny and coveted something or other occasionally used to boost ones own self-esteem since they possess it…and we don’t. The one major difference here that separates a 2010 Mercedes from a the latest theory on the application of stem cell research is that intellectual discoveries serve as mental stimulants to society, challenging the mind and bringing forth a series of opinions and arguments that eventually foster growth. In short, and to get to the point, it is the duty of those who know to teach. Scientists, philosophers, psychologists…and those in tune with the inner-workings of the Universe.

 

Theories and hypotheses are the inventions of mankind, long ago made inseparable from the man-made words that brought them and continue to bring them into reality. But what about the sorts of things that are beyond words? Those that have existed since the beginning of time and are far bigger than anything our minds can fully comprehend. The Universe- and I mean this in both the sense of planets and stars and everything that exists as well as I do the energy that gave birth to the cosmos and therefore is a part of all of us and connects us to everything. This collective energy is the central vein of all existence and is able to be tapped into a number of varied and fascinating ways by all of us (and just as some of us are better singers or biologists, some of us are better than others at this as well). And those few truly versed in the pseudo-language of “Universese” must try our best to take what we are given by the powers that be and use them for the betterment of our world.

 

As I’ve mentioned at least five times before in previous essays and obnoxious rants, The Universe is not be to humanized like so many do to God (‘God’ and The Universe are one, by the way). It is not one thing, but everything that was, is and will be. It is not perfect nor is it imperfect, it simply is. It is ever-growing, ever expanding and becoming more and more with each passing second. It cannot hate or love. It cannot hope or doubt. I understand how these preceding sentences can be upsetting (sacrilegious to many), because millions of people rely on some almighty benevolent force who understands them- even when no one else does.  But, people! The Universe understands because the Universe is a part of you! You ARE never alone! It is our primary provider and here’s how…

 

The Universe’s prime function is to expand and continue its quest to become more. Suns were born and suns died, taking out entire planets with them. Asteroids annihilated spatial bodies that took billions of years to form, but still, overall, expansion continues. Sometimes the greatest destruction can result in the most growth, creating a chain of events that the usual way of things would have never yielding, resulting in something completely new. Something the Universe had never seen before. Enter: Earth (or Earth’s equivalent(s) some lightyears away)

 

There are always an interesting series of feelings I get when thinking about our little green planet. I start by thinking about myself, my friends, my job, my family, that restaurant I like around the corner. And then it branches out like wildfire in my mind and I am overwhelmed with all the plants and animals and landscapes and history and technological advancement and war and music and it’s so much to take. Too much to take! Next I remove myself from our atmosphere, into the Milky Way and beyond, and see Earth as a tiny insignificant speck in an infinite sea of black holes, quasars, suns and supernovas. For the first time it seems so small; so meaningless in the great scheme of things. (This is the place where many people stop, but oh there’s one more absurdly important step…)

 

There are billions, BILLIONS, of planets in the known universe that have been coming and going for trillions of years, moving and grooving to the beat of the usual course of things- and out of all these planets and countless cosmic scenarios, out of every corner of every place that science has allowed us to see- only ONE place has life -abundant life: Earth. We are an anomaly, a freak accident. We are the next evolutionary step. Tiny as we are, we’ve got the Universe’s attention, like the Universe’s core is one of those novelty plasma globes and our planet is a finger placed firmly against the glass.

 

It was a long time coming, but the Universe did something new and unexpected. Teeming with life and diversity and energy, Earth is a major focus of the Universe from a growth perspective. With the creation of Life, the Universe soon experienced the first glimmers of conscious thought through its children, the earliest proto-creatures and through that became a part of it alive itself. Evolution continued to test and rise to the challenge eventually resulting in the crown jewel thus far: humanity.

 

You. Me. Us. Wow. I mean, really…wow. Living. Breathing. Feeling. Thinking. Complex. The Universe’s most noteworthy accomplishment (that we know of). We are the favored children of the Universe, displaying our omnipresent parent’s knack for mass creation (invention), destruction and chaos-gone-good-or-bad. But as is the way of most offspring, we humans put our own spin on things, taking the energy that created and connects all things and morphing it (as we evolved from atoms to cells into free-thinking social mammals) to a set of complicated brain signals simply called ’emotions’ that act as outward signifiers of our inward states so that others might help to remove or perpetuate them. These emotions fuel our deepest fears and desires (or are fueled by them) and give us the ability to identify and actively alter the state our world, i.e. to create our own destinies.

 

For the aforementioned reasons the Universe’s relationship with Earth is as unique as the planet itself. There is a very real and special connection existing between the two that is more evident in some areas than others, a global consciousness that can be seen, for example, when animals sense a storm approaching when there are no visual signs. Sadly, for most humans, the millennia-old separation from nature in exchange for a dependence on our own inventions and self-importance have separated us from these instincts. Though that same high-functioning brain of ours can allow us to have a more personal relationship with the Universe, which brings us closer to the point…

 

The basic collective consciousness, that which connects humans (and sometimes animals) to each other on a level deeper than that of our own subconsciousness. This is a part of those versed in Universese that allows for such phenomenon as shared dreams, telepathy and various levels of empathy. Deeper still is the global collective consciousness that attaches us to the entire earth as it does with the animals, but our minds allow us to take it a bit deeper to global precognition. Skipping a few of the between-consciousnesses, the rarest and greatest of them all is universal consciousness, this one dealing with the ebb and flow of all things in existence. Allowing people to sense the goings on in distant planets and any supernovas or asteroids headed our way. Perhaps even altering the very laws of physics through telekinesis (a boy can dream, can’t he?). The Universe attempts to protect and lengthen our existence through these gifts. And this is all well and good, but the real problems arise when trying to explain so metaphysical a ‘science’ to other people.

 

Belief, the ability to accept or reject something as true, is a cornerstone of our mental experience based on socio-cultural stimuli and so on and so forth. Unfortunately, society does not readily accept Universese as a viable option. If someone were coming up to you shouting about a volcano that was going to engulf the world in eight days you would be a little skeptical. It is no secret that Universese can sound an awful lot like crazy.

 

An even more dangerous roadblock comes from those who speak the language itself. Because the energies that fuel precognition (which is merely a hyper-awareness of the Earth so acute that it can predict what each living and nonliving thing will do and project an image/feeling in your mind), dream sharing, empathic animal- and ghost-whispering (reading the emotional codes of the mind and translating them into recognizable words) and more is so closely related to the energies that allow us to feel joy and anger it is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between a real run-in with Universese or mistaking excitement or depression combined with stray thoughts as a real vision and not just normal mental image, daydream. If people want to see signs, they will see signs. People believe what they want to believe, an affliction that affects us all without proper inner-balance and/or grasp of Truth.

 

The practitioners of Univerese are a diverse bunch. They have a higher universal energy level than most people which can actually result in electrical problems in their vicinity when emotional (I’ve seen it and done it and it’s weird). They usually have a sort of glow that can’t be seen but can be felt by the average person, something beyond words that draws you to them. They experience one or two or more of the areas governed by the collective consciousness on a frequent level (as we are all high-functioning beings there are many who will experience a flash of Universese a few times in their lives- more if they are open to it. Through prayer, for example). They can be unrealistically lucky at times, but also seem to be live a life of more chaotic twists and turns that tend to test them for what is to come. Letting the Universe in lets it all in. They tend to have a knack for multiple arts, including the art of conversation and manipulation. They are usual pretty good at detecting one another. Some had a hard childhoods that literally forced them to escape deeper into their head while the mind was still forming and find the Universe hiding in there. Indigo children would be a way of thinking about it in modern terms, including a general awkwardness when dealing with (oppressive) social norms.

 

As I said before, to the expected dismay of many, the God that so many of us envision is actually no  more or less than the Universe. And amidst the many arguments that could rise up from this statement comes the question of morality. Many religious folks say that without their version of God there would be only chaos and evil, that God is inseparable from morality, a debate that has shaken the philosophical world for thousands of years. If the Universe is as unfeeling as I say it is (though it is ‘aware’ of feeling through us), then how can we possibly care about how well we treat our neighbors? What’s stopping us from stealing the new tractor our neighbor bought across the street? I’ll tell you: Universal Morality.

 

The Universe, like I said before, exists to expand and to become more than it is. Before Earth came along this merely meant birthing stars and galaxies of different shapes and sizes. Simple enough. Then comes Earth and a bunch of little cells and things. The pieces are different but the game is still pretty much the same: expand and become more. Cells multiply and evolve. Reptiles, fish, birds, mammals, strength in numbers: the importance of working together emerges in living things and therefore makes the universe aware of it. In humanity this brings forth the tribe mentality then the rise of the civilization. Brotherhood.  Expansion. Becoming more. As in space when planetary forms collided so did/do these civilizations, each scenario yielding destructive results. Death on this level surely stunts growth, removing branches that could lead to more possibilities. In short, war goes against the function of the Universe. Humans have the power to think on their own and can choose war or peace. Discrimination or equality, the former leading to dead ends and stagnation and the latter leading to shared ideas, mutual development and love. Love, the ultimate result to understanding and togetherness which fosters new ideas which foster growth (knowledge is fundamentally the same as ‘becoming more’) is therefore in agreement with the Universe. The Universe does not love but it is aware of love through us and works to preserve it (through Universese) as it is the fastest way to growth. Love of oneself, love of each other, love of the plants and animals, love of the Universe, which leads us directly into the meaning of human life (an answer that is not as complex and unreachable as many might think). The Meaning of Human Life is to use our free-will to preserve our fellow living and non-living things and work together to create a place of peace and discovery. In short, the meaning of life is love. It is the Golden Rule on a global- a universal scale. It is the only moral needed and all other things flow from it. Many fundamentalists and politicians attempt to project their own image onto that of a god and inflict upon the world a multitude of rules that stand in the way of our growth as a people and therefore a global love. The Universe does not need to be praised. Love does. And this is done by praising and supporting our fellow women and men who work for a better today and tomorrow. This is our earth and it is drifting into shambles. Only together will be be able to set things right. This is the major burden that those teachers of Universese must bear and are given the stuff to counter if only more people would listen.

 

We are chosen to save the world through a deep commune with it and others like us, to lead, to fight for what is right just as scientists must save the world through experiments and invention. And, yes, we are human and these gifts can be used morally (for good), immorally (for evil) or not at all. There will be battles to come unlike anything we as Earthlings have faced and we had best be prepared to face them as one or else become the ushers of our own destruction in direct violation of our place in the Universe.

 

Thresholds and Breaking Points

There’s no great surprise in my saying that life comes accompanied by a roller coaster, jam-packed with every twist, turn, loop-de-loo, and technical difficulty you can conceive, not all of them bad, most of which we are fully capable of coping with in time while keeping true to our usual selves. It’s healthy. It’s normal. It’s not what this blog is about.

Thresholds and Breaking Points. Our human selves, the ones we’ve been dealing with for years, cultivating for years, sometimes witnesses a total shift in self, usually brought on through some form of tension which roots from a powerful emotional stimulus. This total shift, infusing us with abilities beyond those of our normal selves, can be perceived as either good or bad. When good we call them, letting loose or breaking free. When bad, we call them lapses of judgment or my controversial favorite: temporary insanity.

There exists an invisible barrier that separates our usual self from the ones we become. This barrier, or threshold, differs from person to person. A timid girl is dragged to an wild dance club by her outgoing best friend. She watches with a potent blend of jealousy and shock as the best friend dances without restraint in the arms of strangers, laughing and thrusting about without a care in the world. Normally, the timid girl wouldn’t dream of joining in, couldn’t dream of joining in. She had placed a set of blocks up early on prohibiting her from such uncalculated and free actions. But as she watches her friend, the beautiful men seeing only her, beads of sweat rolling down their bodies under the multi-colored spotlights, the jealousy, the desire, creates a sort of tension that grows and grows and boils and boils until- POP -the girl throws caution to the wind and joins her friend on the dancefloor. She’s never felt so alive. Breaking free.

A boy, small for his age, finds himself friendless and awkward in the seventh grade. Every day he is picked on by the popular kids, but he ignores it, keeping to his sketchpad and doodling out his feelings of being unwanted, unloved. Then one day a bully steps up to him and tries to snatch the pencil from his hand while he’s drawing his latest piece and- POP -the boy lets out a scream at the top of his lungs, jumps out of his chair, throws the chair to the opposite end of the room, and stabs the bully in the arm with said pencil. Temporary insanity.

First and foremost, these reactions are in no way the manifestation of something that is separate from our core beings, nor do they come from nowhere. Obviously the idea of dancing freely and attacking the bully had been building up in the girl and boy respectively. There exists an invisible barrier that separates our usual self from the ones we become. This barrier, or threshold, differs from person to person, but it is an integral part of who that person is.

Much like when something is stuck in our throats, it is our body’s natural reaction to choke and cough it up, when tension or discomfort rising this breaking point is reached and a strong emotional response surges in order to quell the tenseness. Choking isn’t something our body does on its own, but it is a physical survival tactic. The breaking point, this loss of control, is our body’s mental survival tactic, a last-ditch effort for giving us what we secretly want.

Having said all that, it is truly amazing how good we feel after breaking free, how terrified we are after a stint of temporary insanity (there are few things more frightening than being afraid of the monster within). Following each there is always the choice of whether we will continue to explore this new internal world or struggle to push it back where it came from. Both extremes are dangerous as the former runs the risk of forgetting that there was probably a reason why it was hidden away in the first place, the latter merely avoids a problem, allowing it to grow until it bursts out again in any of an array of potentially violent displays. Instead of taking extreme measures, it is best by far if we use these breaking points as portals of self-discovery to neglected areas of our personality that, much like a chicken bone stuck in our throats, are yearning for our attention so that we might fully live. Question where it came from, why it came, effects both positive and negative, and how it can be successfully integrated or removed from the person we wish to become (be it through practice, thought, prayer, meditation, and/or psychiatric help [for extremely negative situations]).

Utu

CHARACTERS

Anansi
Lion
Crocodile
Gazelle
Crane
Dodo

 

~PLAY BEGIN~

The play takes place exclusively in a clearing in the Serengeti. The play begins with Lion, Crocodile, Gazelle, Crane and Dodo, froze and under dim. Each character embodies the animal of which they are named after. Crane is the only female of the group. Standing, lit, front and center stage is Anansi, addressing the audience.

 

Anansi: (to the audience) Hello, my friends! I am Anansi, the spider, handsome and wise. You have heard of me, yes? Ha ha, of course you have, for my name, or variations of it, have spread far and wide, from the blistering plains of the Serengeti to the clear blue waters of the Caribbean isles. They call me “Aunt Nancy” in America, but we won’t talk about that. You see, I am many things, but above them all I am a storyteller. Did you know that once, long, long, long ago, my father, the sky god Nyame had all the stories? Well, it’s true! Nyame said that I could not have his stories unless I brought Onini the Python, Osebo the Leopart, the Mmoboro Hornets…and a dwarf. It was tricky but I did it! And now I’ve got a million stories to share. Let’s see, let’s see, let’s see…which of my stories will I share with all you fine people today? Hm?! What’s that Nyame? You- you want me to tell that story? No. No. No! These people didn’t come here for that! They came here to be entertained, right people?! To laugh! To love! To- What’s that, Nyame? In these times it is more important to teach? To inspire? Oh…well, you are the Sky God. (to the audience) I am sorry. I wanted to make you laugh until your sides split at my antics, but Nyame bids otherwise. The tale begins where most of the greatest tales do…in Africa, where five animals have come together to speak of pressing matters. But first: a quick story. (looks to Nyame) It is a short story and fits in nicely to this one, I promise, sky god! (relieved) Ah, good. He will allow it. (to the audience) A long time ago, when the earth was but a child and its mountains and valleys still soft as clay, when the serpent gods were newly hatched, a great and powerful witch lived in a cave deep in the Ol Doinyo Lengai. This was not any witch, but the father of all witches, for it was the last of the dark beings that once encompassed everything before the gods made the universe and all that is good within it. This witch, Bori-kuu was his name, was jealous of the gods and all their power so one night he went over all of Africa and gathered up all the animals, from the great elephant to the diligent ant, and made from them a great crown which he wore around his head and hurried them to his cave by daybreak- all but one: the lion. Lions, you must know, were not like they are today. They were small and thin and ugly, hairless things. A curious lion went to the demon Bori-kuu’s cave and asked, “Witch King, why have you taken all of the animals except for me and my kind?” The witch replied, “Because you are a frail and fragile and ugly thing and not worthy of the crown of a king.” Hurt by Bori-kuu’s words, the lion swore to free the animals. The following morning the lion asked the sky god Nyame for a cloud. The god granted him this wish and, tying one end of the cloud to a mighty baobab tree, he took the other end in his mouth and stretched it into a long rope. The lion tied the rope into a lasso and threw it in such a way that he captured the sun. With all his strength, the little lion pulled the sun from the sky. He pulled and pulled, until his muscles grew, making him big and strong and the sun tanned his fur a golden brown- as it is to this day, across the Serengeti and to the Ol Doinyo Lengai into the witch’s cave. The sun’s light destroyed Bori-kuu instantly and the animals rejoiced, crying, “Hail the mighty lion, the greatest and wisest of us all!”. The gods were so pleased with the lion’s work that they made him and all of  the males of his kind receive a crown of long hairs on their heads, one strand for each animal over which they were now guardians and protectors for the rest of time. And that is how the lion became king of all animals… (exits)

 

Once Anansi exits, the others unfreeze. Dodo dawdles.

 

Lion: RRRROOOOOAAAAR!!!!

 

Dodo: Ouch.

 

Crocodile: Show off…

 

Gazelle: Why so angry? Why now? They’ve been around forever.

 

Crane: Not as long as we have.

 

Gazelle: Not as long as we have, but, still, a very long time. What I’m asking is, what makes today especially different from the nine or ten million before it?

 

Lion: They’ve gotten worse, Gazelle.

 

Crocodile: Much worse…

 

Lion: Once they roamed with the animals, living off the land as we do, killing only what they needed to survive. Power. Power is all that matters to them now. They destroy our land and replace it with monuments of silver, closer and closer to heaven on a foundation of the blood and bones of our kind.

 

Gazelle: Right, Lion. As usual you are correct, but, I ask you, what is the point of complaining? It has been made quite clear that they are the gods’ favorite? We are powerless against them. Why meet like this when we could be better spending our time hunting and gathering with our own kind?

 

Anansi creeps in, unseen.

 

Lion: I am king and it is my duty to protect you all, my subjects. The human menace is real and it is a plague. If we do not react in some way, I fear that we will all be dead within five generations…

 

Crocodile: A bit dramatic, don’t you think?

 

Lion: No, Crocodile, have you ever known me as one to exaggerate a tale in any way?

 

Crocodile: I suppose not.

 

Crane: You are an honest king and we are honest subjects (to Crocodile) for the most part. Lies are a human thing. They have no control over their vices or the emotions that fuel them.

 

Crocodile: You hurt me, Crane, with the things you say…

 

Dodo: You’re all crazy! Humans are a wonderful thing! They are gods among us! They have fun and can do whatever they want! They can fly like a crane or swim like a crocodile or move faster than a cheetah and can do anything any of us can a thousand times better! To be human is to be alive!

 

Lion: You sin with your talk, Dodo.

 

Dodo: It’s the truth, your majesty! And I stand by it!

 

Anansi: (drawing all attention to himself) As you should, Dodo! As you should… (They animals are clearly unnerved by Anansi’s presence. Anansi’s overall demeanor seems slightly darker and more calculating than when he addressed the audience) Hello, all! My, my, my what an odd assortment of animals here! Gazelle, do you have a death wish with the company you keep?

 

Lion: What do you want, trickster?

 

Anansi: Trickster? Me?! I am offended, King Lion! I am but a humble storyteller, I assure you. Once, Nyame, the Sky God, had all of the stories, but-

 

Crocodile: We know the tale, Spider…

 

Anansi: I’ve got a billion more!

 

Lion: We have no time for your stories. There are pressing matters…

 

Anansi: Sounds serious! What are these ‘pressing matters’?

 

Lion: None of your concern. This involves the animals and the animals take care of themselves.

 

Anansi: I am offended! I am an animal, just as much as you all! I am a spider…and sometimes a hare, or a tortoise, two tortoises…or whatever else I want. I am more animal than all of you combined…and, when the world was new, human and animal alike would come to me for guidance. So, tell old Anansi, what is the matter?

 

Gazelle: Humans.

 

Lion: Gazelle!

 

Gazelle: What is it, Lion?! What will this change? The humans have won. We are nothing more than a source of food or money or slavery or-or…artistic inspiration to them!

 

Crocodile: (to Gazelle) You are nothing more than food to me, as well…

 

Gazelle: (ignoring the other) I have said it once and I will say it again…this is a waste of time!

 

Crane: (bitingly) Then why are you here?

 

Pause.

 

Gazelle: …because we must hope. Even if there is no logic to it.

 

Anansi: Hm. Hmmm. Hm! Hmmm? Hmmmmmmm…

 

Crocodile: What is it, Anansi?

 

Anansi: I’m going to have to agree with Dodo on this one: Humans are quite fun. And they continue to tell of me and my stories- unlike you people. But! I am wise and I am animal and I would love nothing more than to help you, my brothers (to Crane) and sister, in any way I can. So, tell ol’ Anansi, what exactly is your problem with humans?

 

Gazelle: Aside from the fact that they’re going to cause the extinction of us all.

 

Anansi: (faking a yawn) Yes, yes, the dinosaurs said the same thing about all of you…

 

Gazelle: Well…I especially hate the way that humans think they are better than everyone else, when all they do is attempt to breathe underwater like us, fly like us, see in the dark like us, attack with spikes and poisons like us! Without us they are nothing!

 

Anansi: Superiority complex, yes. Crocodile?

 

Crocodile: There is no honor in their actions. I kill to survive. Meat and marrow crunch between my teeth, red blood mixing with the muddy water of my lake because that is as it has to be. Humans, they lie and lie and lie again while they have everything they could ever want. Brothers in the sun, enemies in the shadow.

 

Lion: Crocodile is right. This lack of honor feeds well into my complaint…their thirst for power. There are few things a human will not do to achieve control over other humans. There is a hierarchy in the animal kingdom and all respect it.

 

Anansi: Ah-

 

Lion: Their power takes the form of gold and coins and other humans and they fight to have more, more, more than their brothers until their last breaths.

 

Anansi: Power-hungry deceivers. Got it. Crane?

 

Crane: (She pauses, then speaks as if lost in her thoughts) Humans. I cannot help but feel sorry for them. Do I wish to see them extinct? Yes. Yes, of course, but I watch them from above, closer than any of you- aside from Anansi perhaps “and I see how tragic their lives are.

 

Gazelle: Of course their-!

 

Crane: Gazelle. (Gazelle is silent) I cannot say how much of the fault is their own and how much is their nature, but their lives are so complex. We adhere to the laws of the jungle: Only the strong survive. Kill or be killed. Protect the young. The laws might be brutal sometimes, but they are simple. And Lion upholds them. Simple. Humans have a thousand laws for a thousand things. They are imprisoned by them. We know fear and we know anger and we know various levels of contentment, but they are poisoned…yes…they are poisoned by doubt and pride and shyness and hatred and ignorance and…and love. They have let these emotions get the best of them and their complexities have infected the other facets of their lives and the lives of all things on the earth. This is why they must go. They have overcomplicated the beauty of the simplicity of this world…

 

Anansi: Drama queens. Check. Dodo, is their anything you’d like to say before I make my verdict?

 

Dodo: Humans are great and the only reason you are all complaining is because you’re jealous!

 

Crocodile: (to Dodo) I’m going to eat you when this meeting is over…

 

Anansi: (pacing) Hmmm. Hm! Hm. Hm! Hmmmm…mmmmmm….mmm….

 

Lion: Get to it, Trickster!

 

Crocodile: (to Anansi) I’ve got room for seconds…

 

Anansi: As you wish, your majesty, of course. I am Anansi, son of Nyame the sky-god, keeper of stories, shape-shifter, bringer of rain…but there is far more to my power.

 

Lion: Hmph.

 

Gazelle: Go on…

 

Anansi: I will make a deal with you…

 

Lion: No. I will never deal with your sort!

 

Gazelle: (enwrapped and empowered by Anansi’s words) Go on.

 

Anansi: Come close. I must speak low so that my father does not hear me. (Gazelle is the first to move closer. Followed eagerly by Dodo and a hesitant Crane) Come! Come! (Crocodile shrugs and repositions himself so that he can hear) (to Lion) Lion?

 

Lion: I will not.

 

Anansi: Then stay there. Keep quiet. Use your ears. (to the others) I can make them disappear.

 

Gazelle: What?

 

Anansi: I can make the humans disappear.

 

Dodo: No!

 

Anansi: Shh!

 

Crane: But…how?

 

Anansi: It’s easy, really. I am a god. What we create we can destroy.

 

Crane: You would do that for us?

 

Anansi: Of course I would! I live to help. But, as I said…

 

Crocodile: The deal…

 

Anansi: The deal. It is nothing, really, compared to what you all will gain.

 

Dodo: Gain! I don’t want any of this!

 

Anansi: Shh!

 

Crocodile: Your opinion doesn’t count, Dodo. You are the last of your kind.

 

Dodo: But I still matter!

 

Crocodile: Untrue.

 

Gazelle: This deal…

 

Anansi: It is nothing. Really. All you must do is live as humans for one year.

 

Gazelle: What?! You mean…

 

Anansi: I will use my powers to make you all human for exactly one year- I will provide you each with clothing, language and enough money to live comfortably “and at the end of that year I will get rid of those pesky humans forever.

 

Crocodile: What’s the catch…?

 

Anansi: No catch, no catch at all! (darkly) Spend the year as humans, come back with your fears and accusations validated…and they disappear. Forever.

 

Dodo: Humans for a year…Woohoo!

 

Anansi: Shh!

 

Crane: This is too good to be true…

 

Anansi: (laughs, bright again) Not at all, my dear, not at all. Too good, yes.And too true. Both things! (to Lion) But I cannot perform this magic unlesseveryone agrees to it.

 

Lion: No.

 

Gazelle: No? No! You were the one who called this meeting. The sun is almost set and we are no closer to reaching a solution than we were at midday. A god has come to answer our prayers. If you have a better idea than Anansi’s please let us know. If not, let us know why you would see us all dead, king.

 

Lion: (growls)

 

Gazelle: Go on! Devour me! If you do not agree to this I will be dead anyway.

 

Lion: (calms himself) I have a kingdom to rule.

 

Dodo: Uh…i-if I may, Your Majesty.

 

Lion: What is it?

 

Dodo: Well, Anansi here is a great and powerful god…and a shapeshifter. He could take your place as king while you are away…

Lion: Never!

 

Anansi: You have my word as a god and friend that no drought or sickness or death by unnatural means will occur while you are away to any of your subjects. (extends his hand- Lion hesistates)

 

Gazelle: I don’t understand how this is a difficult decision. A god’s word is gold. Even a trickster-god.

 

Crane: You are our king. Do and we shall follow.

 

Crocodile: Hm.

 

Dodo: Please, Lion! Please! Please! Pleeeease!

 

All But Dodo and Lion: Shh!

 

 

Lion: Do you swear to serve the best interests of my subject while I am away?

 

Anansi: I do.

 

Lion places his paw in Anansi’s hand.

 

Anansi: It is settled then! (moves to the middle of them slowly, extravagantly) I raise my hand. I snap (snaps his fingers, one hand then the other, and the animals begin their transformation) my fingers. Spin around and dance like so (dances and the animals transform to human) and…you are human. (the animals explore their new bodies) That’s it, that’s it…get used to your new bodies…especially you animals with four legs…or eyes on the sides of your heads. You will all travel east to the man-city. You will live there amongst the humans, telling no one of my magic or your former paws and claws and scales and feathers. We will all come to this very spot to talk of our adventures and discoveries. We will do this after one week, one month, one season and, finally, one year. Yes. That will suffice. (Pause.) Well, what are you waiting for? (shoos them away) Go! Go! Go!

 

Lights fade to black. Lights rise up on Anansi, who addresses the audience.

 

Anansi: Hello! Hello! It is Anansi, here with another story for you! This one takes place in the wetlands. Personally I want nothing to do with them. So muddy and sticky and…oh, the mosquitoes! Pesky little things. At least when I suck the blood out of something I finish the job… (catching himself on a tangent) Anyhow!…waaay back when, the wetlands were even dirtier and smellier than they are today- if that were possible- and everything that lived in the wetlands was brown or gray and filthy, filthy and ugly. Among these ugly creatures were the hippos and the mudskippers and so many other ugly things that I would have to list them for twenty-seven years to get through them all…but the ugliest of the ugly was the crane. I mean ugly! They were tall and gangly and covered in spots and lumps and things that do not even have names they are so repulsive…but they could fly. And though they did not migrate like normal birds, the cranes would fly up, up, up in a straight line so that when they looked down they could see far beyond the wetlands to the grasslands and the jungles and the deserts where the prettier animals dwelt. Fully aware of their utter hideousness they spent most of their day crying and hiding from the other animals until one crane thought to ask for the help of the greatest of all the gods…Me. Anansi. And so I descended from the heavens…but didn’t touch the ground because…yuck!…and heard him say, “Great and wise, Anansi!” – that’s me -“my kind are ugly”- I was not blind -“Please lend me your paintbrush so that I we can show our faces in public without frightening cubs and fledgings!” And so, being kind and generous, I gave him my paintbrush and told him that I would collect it in seven hours. The crane rejoiced and got to work. The sun was high when the crane took the brush and- SWOOSH “dipped it into the sunlight and painted a golden ray crown upon its head. It then dipped the brush into the sky and made his eyes sparkle a brilliant teal. He approached a young hippo, and when the hippo opened his mouth in awe at the golden crown and sparking eyes, the crane took his brush to the hippo’s teeth and ” SWOOSH -painted his great wings and parts of his face a blinding white. As the sun set he returned to his fellow cranes, who were impressed at his colorful accessories. He noticed a cluster of girl cranes looking his way with lustful eyes and- SWOOSH “the crane used my paintbrush to take the red from their cheeks and apply it to his gular sac- that’s this thing (gestures towards his nonexistent gular sac), and face. The crane then did an extravagant dance for the girls of his flock, cooing and swaying for hour after hour until, before he knew it, I returned to take his brush. “But, Anansi!” pleaded the crane, “I was so busy entertaining these girls that I lost track of time! Please give me one more hour so that I can paint my middle!” “No, no, no!” I replied. “Rules are rules!” I snatched it away and disappeared. And that, my friends, is how the crane became beautiful…except for their middles, which to this day are a drab, drab gray.

 

Anansi exits. Lights rise on the rest of the stage. Crane, Lion, Crocodile and Gazelle are there. Anansi enters.

 

Anansi: Greetings, animals-no-more! It has been one week since I made you all human. Tell me of your discoveries!

 

Lion: First, you tell me how my kingdom fares.

 

Anansi: Flawlessly, that’s how, your majesty! No illness or unnatural death as promised! All are happy and none suspect your absence!

 

Lion: Fine. Well, humanity is worse than I thought it before. Sneaky, awful things.

 

Gazelle: Petty, self-indulged…

 

Crane: Too many problems. Too many problems… (catches Gazelle staring at her) What is it?

 

Gazelle: Nothing. Nothing…

 

Lion: Begging on the streets. Not putting in their honest effort…

 

Anansi: And you, Crocodile?

 

Crocodile: There’s nothing to say about them that I haven’t said already…

 

Anansi: When you say, ‘Too many problems’, Crane, what do you mean?

 

Crane: Life does not have to be as hard as they make it. If only they would see the beauty in simply being oneself. If only they would not want more and more and more…

 

Lion: We have been humans but one week and have all found homes, correct?

 

Gazelle: Right.

 

Crane: Yes.

 

Crocodile: Correct.

 

Lion: And these humans have spent their whole lives as humans and somehow some of them have made nothing of themselves.

 

Anansi: You, Lion, cannot make such judgments without knowing the reasons why these people have ended up this way. Not everyone has a god hand them a pile of gold before they enter the world, king.

 

Lion: Hm. (thinks) Then I will rid myself of your money upon returning to the city…and we will see what becomes of me then.

 

Anansi: Bold choice, your majesty.

 

Dodo: (enters in an excited flurry, dressed more extravagantly then before) Sorry I’m late!

 

Anansi: Ah, Dodo, I was wondering when you would show up. How has your week been?

 

Dodo: The best of my life! Wooeee! These humans are a thousand, a million, a…zillion times more wonderful than I ever could have dreamed with my Dodo brain! I have danced, oh have I danced! And the food! The fashions! I have drunken drinks that free your spirits and taken many a human woman to bed and, in bed did a different kind of dance entirely! I am in love with this life and want to be human forever!

 

Anansi: Ah, I see. (claps his hands together) Whelp, I guess that settles it. You are all as stubborn as before. Go then, go back to the human world and I will see you all in three weeks!

 

Lion and Dodo exit first. Crocodile lumbers off behind them. Crane looks longingly around her. Gazelle remains, fixated on Crane. Anansi approaches Gazelle.

 

Anansi: (whispers) I cannot help but notice you have taken a liking to Crane.

 

Gazelle: What are you talking-?!

 

Anansi: It’s only natural, young Gazelle. After all, you are a man…and she is quite beautiful… (exits)

 

Gazelle: Crane…

 

Crane: Oh! I didn’t know anyone was still here.

 

Gazelle: I- You…you seem troubled.

 

Crane: No. I just want to savor as much of my animal life as I can before….

 

Gazelle: I understand.

 

Crane: I’m afraid, Gazelle.

 

Gazelle: We will do this for a year and then there will be nothing to be afraid of ever again.

 

Crane: I notice how they look at you, the humans.

 

Gazelle: What do you mean?

 

Crane: How they respond to your voice and your looks. Men and women alike, they are mesmerized by you.

 

Gazelle: I haven’t noticed.

 

Crane: They talk about you in the market and on the streets. “Who is this new guy Gazelle?” they say. “He is so charismatic, so charming and bright…and easy on the eyes as well.”

 

Gazelle: Ha, they say that?

 

Crane: They do.

 

Gazelle: Well…let them. I don’t care. They always need something to gawk over.

 

Crane: Indeed.

 

Pause.

 

Gazelle: You know, you are “easy on the eyes” as well.

 

Crane: What’s that?

 

Gazelle: You. Everyone can tell. You are a beautiful human.

 

Crane: Am I?

 

Gazelle: Yes.

 

Crane: Oh. I had no idea…

 

Gazelle: Everyone can tell.

 

Crane: Oh.

 

Pause.

 

Gazelle: We should go. It’s getting dark and this place isn’t safe for humans at night.

 

Crane: You’re right.

 

Gazelle: (extends his hand) Come. Come back with me. I promise I won’t let any harm come to you.

 

Crane: (takes Gazelle’s hand) Alright. (both exit)

 

Lights go down on the scene and come up on Anansi, front and center.

 

Anansi: (looks distant, a little upset, until noticing the audience) Ah, there you are. My friends. Ready for another story? Ha! Ha! Of course you are! (to the sky) No, father, of course these little stories are not interrupting the flow of the primary tale at hand! If anything, they amplify it! Note how each one deals with a character from the story. (Listens) I knew you’d see it my way. (clears throat) The mighty river Nile, since the beginning of time, was a happy place. A paradise! The cradle of life for the world! And of the creatures of the Nile, none were happier or more well-loved than the crocodile! They would spend the day dancing and playing in the water, singing their songs to the lion and the eagle and all who would listen. Always smiling a smile that warmed hearts and formed fast friendships, they were. Smile, smile, smile all day long! The crocodiles were guardians of the river, but would turn none away from its clear, cool waters. No, sir! That is until, one day, a mother Dodo lost one of her chicks along the shore- it was swept away in the current. Too embarrassed to admit she had not been watching her children all that closely she sang out, “It was the crocodiles who ate my baby! They gulped her right up!” “No!” the crocodiles replied, “we only dance and sing and play and smile all day and all night- eating babies is not our thing!” But the rumors spread throughout all of the Nile…and further still. One by one the lions and the eagles and all the others stopped speaking with the crocodiles. “Would you like to dance and play?” the crocodiles would ask with a grin, and the animals would pretend that they heard nothing. “Fine!” snarled the crocodiles, fed up. “If you think us so bad then so bad we will be!” and all the crocodiles did a new kind of dance: They gnashed their teeth and thrashed their tails in the water until they had kicked up the sand from the riverbed, turning the river a muddy greenish brown. Since the river was the only source of water for miles, the animals were forced to come and drink the mucky stuff. And every once and a while- SNAP! “a crocodile would rise from the murky river and eat one of them whole. And that, my friends, is how the crocodile became feared. (Crocodile enters) And if you don’t believe that they were once happy things, look no further than the smiles that they still wear to this day.

 

Anansi exits. Crocodile sits, smiling. Content. Anansi enters the scene, intrigued by Crocodile’s expression.

 

Anansi: What is so amusing, Crocodile?

 

Crocodile: Hm?

 

Anansi: Why do you wear that smile on your face?

 

Crocodile: Because I know.

 

Anansi: Know what, Crocodile?

 

Crocodile: I know that this is a trick…

 

Anansi: Ha! A trick?! That is rich! Besides, how could one so honorable as you know the smell of such a thing?

 

Crocodile: One must know a trick to know honor…

 

Pause.

 

Anansi: You are most intelligent.

 

Crocodile: Lion knows, too, of course. We carnivores have to be a step ahead of the rest. But he will say nothing. His pride will not allow it. (Pause) Tell me.

 

Anansi: (Pause) You cannot trust a crocodile.

 

Crocodile: I suppose not. (Pause) I can help.

 

Anansi: Hm.

 

Crocodile: Hm?

 

Anansi: Perhaps you can. (Whispers to Crocodile)

 

Crocodile: Hm…

 

Lion enters and both Crocodile and Anansi pull away from each other. Lion looks suspicious at them both.

 

Lion: How is my kingdom?

 

Anansi: Better than ever, your majesty.

 

Lion: Good. (sits)

 

Pause. Dodo stumbles in, dressed in a dusty and disheveled version of his previous garb. He shows the beginnings of instability but is still mostly optimistic. Gazelle and Crane enter together, then find separate places to rest.

 

Anansi: Hello, my friends! It has been one month since you embarked on this journey. Tell me now what you have learned.

 

Pause.

 

Gazelle: I was late because I was telling stories by the pier. You should see how the humans line up to hear me tell my tales, to perform and sing.

 

Anansi: Stories, eh?

 

Gazelle: Yes, Anansi. Some yours, some my own. I act them out. I entertain.

 

Crane: He is quite good. I watch him from time to time.

 

Gazelle: A man approached me. He manages a group of performers and wants me to audition for their next show.

 

Anansi: Interesting, Gazelle. You seem to be doing quite well for yourself amongst the humans. Not as bad as you thought them to be, eh?

 

Gazelle: Worse, Anansi. I smile and twirl and dance about to pass the time, but these humans drooling over me. It’s sad, really. Pathetic. Animals have far more self-respect.

 

Anansi: So you do not get even the least bit of enjoyment out of it?

 

Gazelle: (Pause) It’s just a way to pass the time.

 

Anansi: Very well. (Pause) Lion, what about you? How was it to be penniless?

 

Lion: I persevered. Through honest labor and strength of character I was able to find a job. I helped an old man drive a nail into his wagon and did it with such force of will that he hired me to work as his assistant on the spot. He is a notable blacksmith. Well-known throughout the city and the ninth in generation of blacksmiths with no children of his own. He is the president of the Smiths’ Guild. A man who knows how to maintain a kingdom.

 

Anansi: Well, look at you go, Lion. Surely this opportunity has opened your eyes to the generosity of the human species? The old man giving a complete stranger a chance…

 

Lion: You heard nothing I said, Trickster-god. There was nothing generous about it. A frail man without sons encountered a promising successor and acted accordingly. There is nothing generous about it. It was an act of self-preservation and good common sense.

 

Anansi: Ah, yes. Of course. I always mix the two. (to Crocodile) Crocodile?

 

Crocodile: I am getting by in my own way.

 

Anansi: That is all you have to say for yourself?

 

Crocodile: Yes.

 

Anansi: Fine, then. (to Dodo) Dodo? You are uncharacteristically quiet today.

 

Dodo: Hrm…

 

Crocodile: Has the poor little birdie come on rough times?

 

Dodo: No…

 

Crocodile: Low on money? Spent too lavishly?

 

Dodo: N-no!

 

Anansi: Settle down, Crocodile, I’m sure Dodo is doing just fine.

 

Dodo: (it becomes clear now that he is drunk) Yes. Yes, I am! Great! W-wonderful! You all might have you prejudices, but not me! Not me! Humans are great, I said and I still say the same! They’re great! You’ll see! (to Lion) Don’t judge me, king. You claim to be fair and generous but you are just a pompous ass hovering above all of us hard-working animals. You lie there and you roar at us about an honest day’s work and what did you do as king? You let your females do your hunting for you!

 

Lion: Silence.

 

Dodo: No! We’re human now, Lion! Hu-man! I am not your subject.

 

Lion: I said ‘silence’.

 

Dodo: (to Crocodile) I know what you do, I do! I do! You talk about honor…but we all know a crocodile’s honor is worth less than this (gesturing toward Anansi) this beautiful, magical creature!

 

Crocodile: I will make you extinct…

 

Crane: Let’s all just calm down.

 

Dodo: Ha! Crane, quiet and beautiful. Innocent and pure. Ha! Unlike you all, I actually talk to the people! I-I hear their stories and many (gesturing at Gazelle) are about you, their new favorite- and don’t pretend you do not enjoy their applause “and I heard many interesting things about you. Do you want to know the most interesting? Anyone?

 

Gazelle: Dodo…

 

Dodo: (wildly, gesturing at Crane and Gazelle) These two are sharing a bed! (All eyes move to Gazelle and Crane)

 

Gazelle: I-! It’s not…

 

Crane: It is not safe, the human world- especially for a female. We are both pack animals by nature. This arrangement- it’s easier.

 

Gazelle: That’s all.

 

Dodo: (mutters under his breath, to Gazelle) You love it when they cheer… (gesturing toward Crane) You love it when she cheers.

 

Anansi: (to Dodo) Alright, my friend. I think you have proven your point. Thank you. Thank you, and now it is time for you to go. I am sure you have much to do tonight.

 

Dodo: I do. Thank you. (starts to exit. To Anansi) They love it. Don’t let them fool you, they love it. (exits)

 

Anansi: Unfortunately, I must go, too. I hear there is a feast in honor of me at sundown. I am not one to miss being honored.

 

Lion: Do not stay too long. You have a kingdom to rule.

 

Anansi: Ah, yes. Of course, Your Majesty. That is something I have indeed… (exits)

 

The rest start to leave except for Crocodile.

 

Crocodile: Wait. (They stop) Stay.

 

Lion: What is it, Crocodile? We have-

 

Crocodile: I spoke with Anansi about our arrangement.

 

Lion: And?

 

Crocodile: And you were right to think it was a trick, Lion. This is a trick he has performed a dozen times before. A group of animals agree to give up their animality for a year in exchange for the promise of human extinction. The story unfolds like this: Four animals are certain that humanity must go. The fifth finds humans to be a absolutely fantastic.

 

Gazelle: Dodo…

 

Crocodile: Right. And when the year is up, Anansi asks the five animals if they are ready to see humanity destroyed. While the four are ready indeed to rid the earth of the human plague, the one has grown to love them even more. Anansi then explains that humans cannot be all that bad if, out of five animals, one finds them acceptable. He explains that most animals do not receive a one-out-of-five approval rating and that that alone is reason enough for humanity to remain. The four animals are then trapped as humans forever and Anansi has another tragic story to tell.

 

Crane: No…

 

Lion: How do you know this?

 

Crocodile: Anansi told me.

 

Gazelle: Why would he do that?

 

Crocodile: Because I am supposed to help him. I have been in this human city for only a month, like the rest of you, but in that time I have taken to the shadows, the cover of night where another sort of person dwells. I am big and strong and terrible, you know, and my sort has a lot of pull in a world like that. Though I am only scratching the surface of this underworld I see that its claws stretch into all facets of religion and politics and other manifestations of human power. Not to mention that my world of ill repute is the one in which Dodo gathers much of his pleasures…

 

Lion: What are you saying?

 

Crocodile: I am saying that, to ensure the story pans out as Anansi wants it, the god enlisted me to make sure that Dodo remains enwrapped in the women and drink and erotic vice that only my world can offer.

 

Gazelle: No. No, we can’t be humans forever!

 

Crocodile: Agreed.

 

Crane: What can we do?

 

Crocodile: While the human underworld offers many pleasures it can tear a life apart as well. We will use what power we have to bring misery to Dodo’s life. We will make sure he despises humanity as much as we do. We will outthink the trickster.

 

Lion: You have done an honorable thing today, Crocodile. Your king will not forget it.

 

Crocodile: Trust me, I will not let you.

 

Crane: But what if you would have followed through with Anansi’s plan? How would you have benefitted?

 

Crocodile: I would have been allowed to return to my animal form…unlike the rest of you.

 

Lion: Dodo will be undone.

 

Gazelle: Yes.

 

Crane: It’s the only way. (to Crocodile) Thank you.

 

Crocodile: Save your ‘thank yous’. I only want to make certain than manipulative little god doesn’t get his way. Nothing more.

 

Lights fade to black. The animals exit and Anansi returns, once again standing in a spotlight. The light this time is dim.

 

Anansi: (to the sky) Well, father, we’re almost at the end of your story. I hope you are happy. Yes, I figured you’d be. (to audience) Hello, people, I am Anansi, wise and handsome god and keeper of all the stories- (glances at the sky) almost all. Did you hear the one about how the Gazelle learned to leap so high? This is one of my favorites. You see, way, way back when the Earth’s clay was soft and the serpent gods had not even shed their first skin, the gazelles wobbled around, stocky creatures on stubby legs. (sighs) (to the sky) Maybe we should just move on to your story. Maybe that is best to, you know, get it over with. (listens) Yes. Yes, it is good to finish what one started. Yes, father. Perhaps quitting now would set a bad example to the audience. You are right, of course. It is my responsibility as storyteller to…tell…the story. It is who I am and what I am for. I know, father-Nyame. I took your stories willingly. I wanted them. They could have still been yours and I-Back to the story. (to the audience) Two gazelle were rolling a papaya back and forth when that troublesome Black Tom Eagle swooped down and grabbed with melon in his talons. With a sinister laugh, ol’ Black Tom sat the papaya way up in the sun singing, “Stupid pudgy little gazelle! You’ll never in a million years play with your favorite papaya again!” The gazelle, furious, could not reach as high as the sun, or even as high as the lowest branch on the tiniest tree. Upset, the gazelle trotted off to their favorite rock on the jungle to think. “Ah ha!” said one of the gazelle. He had an idea. The other gazelle gathered all the fallen vines he could and brought them back to the rock. He tied some tightly around the legs, antlers and neck of the first gazelle. Then he pulled and pulled until the vines were so tight around his friend that the gazelle’s legs and antlers and leg were squeezed long and thin. The gazelle returned the favor and soon enough both were tall and thin. Proud of their new stature, the gazelle looked up at their papaya and…

 

Lights up. Gazelle enters with Crane, Dodo and Lion listening to his every word. Dodo trails behind the others and is a tattered mess. Anansi exits.

 

Gazelle: (genuinely enjoying himself) …and they stretched their necks high into the sky and…couldn’t reach that papaya. Black Tom Eagle laughed, “Haha! All that and you still can’t reach the papaya! What a shame” The gazelles grumbled. Then one of them had an idea. They trotted off to the other side of the valley where a lone tree stood, and in that tree was a nest and in that nest were four black eagle eggs. The gazelle were not tall enough to reach the sun, but with a bend of the knees and a great leap they were certainly tall enough to knock that nest right out of the tree. “No!” cried Black Tom Eagle. “Please! Please don’t hurt my babies! I’ll do anything!” “Then bring us our favorite papaya,” snapped one of the gazelle. Black Tom Eagle had no choice but to fly to the sun and return the papaya to the two gazelle. The end. (bows. Crane and Lion applaud)  Thank you, thank you.

 

Anansi enters. Dodo notices and quickly motions toward him.

 

Dodo: (whispered) Anansi…

 

Anansi: Yes, Dodo?

 

Dodo: I have come upon some misfortune and- and I am in need of some more gold.

 

Anansi: Now you know I cannot break the rules, Dodo. Rules are rules.

 

Dodo: But-

 

Anansi: This is what you wanted, Dodo. This is what you have… (Dodo deflates)

 

Gazelle: (to Anansi) Ah, Anansi, my friend, you just missed my latest rendition of “How the Gazelle Learned to Leap So High”. I really think I mastered Black Tom Eagle’s objective this time.

 

Anansi: Performing going well, I see?

 

Gazelle: Oh yes. I’m starring in my troupe’s next performance. It’s a serious piece. Not something everyone can do, you know. Only the most skilled artists.

 

Crane: Which you are.

 

Gazelle: I have a long ways to go, my dear. Fortunately, I have an absolutely phenomenal mentor. Phenomenal. (to Crane) And my inspiration. (he kisses her cheek)

 

Crane: Gazelle!

 

Gazelle: What? We have nothing to hide! You are my Muse. My sweet, beautiful Muse and I love you, I love you, I love you. There. I said it. And I’ll say it a million times over!

 

Crane: (overcome with emotion) I-I love you too, Gazelle. (they kiss)

 

Anansi: Whelp! Looks like that’s that!

 

Crane: What’s…what?

 

Anansi: Gazelle! Crane! Look at you! In love! Surely this could only be made possible due to your humanity! Certainly the Serengeti would not allow for a love affair between a bird and a mammal! Humanity made this possible! Your minds have been changed!

 

Silence.

 

Crane: No. What must be done, must be done. We understand the cost, but this is not only about us, (looking into Gazelle’s eyes) because if it were the decision would be a simple one.

 

Anansi: I don not follow.

 

Lion: We have a responsibility to our kind, Trickster. Something you will never understand. It has been a season since we were transformed. A season, and in this time I have enjoyed much good fortune as a blacksmith. I caught on quickly to the technique and my natural leadership skills have placed me as one of the old man’s advisors in the guild. I make good money. I have the respect of many. But I have not forgotten my origins. We are human, yes, but we were not always so. Our families are still gazelle, crane, lion…

 

Dodo: (under his breath) I have no family…

 

Lion: Our responsibility, to them.

 

Anansi: I see…

 

Lion: We will not stray from our course.

 

Anansi: You have not yet asked about your kingdom.

 

Lion: I’m sure it’s fine. You gave your word.

 

Anansi: I did indeed.

 

Gazelle: Where is Crocodile?

 

Dodo: (chokes on nothing)

 

Anansi: Dodo. Do you know something we do not?

 

Dodo: N-No! Nothing.

 

Lion: Nothing…

 

Dodo: Nothing at all! I swear! Leave me alone…

 

Crane: I hope he’s alright.

 

Gazelle: Of course he is. He’s Crocodile. Terrible in any skin…

 

Lion: (to Anansi) What if he does not show?

 

Anansi: Let’s not talk about that.

 

Gazelle: He’ll be here. Of course…

 

Dodo: He’s not that terrible.

 

Lion: What did you say…?

 

Dodo: Nothing!

 

Gazelle: He said “He’s not that terrible!” I heard him! That’s what he said. Tell us what you know, Dodo!

 

Lion: Tell us.

 

Dodo: I know nothing! I know nothing! I- (Crocodile enters, rundown, exhausted, angry)

 

Crocodile: (to Dodo) You…

 

Dodo: I-, I-I-, um…

 

Crocodile: You did this to me.

 

Anansi: Did what?

 

Crocodile: He framed me. The humans, they threw me in jail…but I got out…I have friends, you know… (advances on Dodo)

 

Dodo: Why would I do that?

 

Crocodile: How am I supposed to know the inner workings of the bird brain?

 

Dodo: Wh-what are you doing? Stay away from me!

 

Crocodile: I’m going to show you what happens to anyone who crosses me…

 

Dodo: N-no! I don’t know what you’re talking about!

 

Crocodile: Oh, but you do…

 

Dodo: N-no! No…

 

Crocodile: Shut up.

 

Dodo: You killed a man! H-he killed a man! I saw it! I saw it with my own eyes!

 

Crocodile: You lie…

 

Dodo: You killed him and I did…what any good person would do… (Crocodile is leaning over Dodo) Go ahead! Kill me! Kill me! See what happens then! See what happens to all of you if there is one less at the end of the year! (Pause)

 

Anansi: Crocodile. Did you…kill a human?

 

Crocodile: I did not. (Pause) But if I did it would be because it is within my nature to do. You can cast your spells, give me this soft skin and these ridiculous cloths to wear, but I am a crocodile. I am a cunning killer of things. I am an animal. An ANIMAL! Just like the rest of you. You’d be stupid to think otherwise…

 

Silence.

 

Crane: It’s been, what, three months- a little more “since we’ve lived the human life? In that time I have learned and seen many things. Many wonderful things. The existence of the human being is fraught with wonder. (shakes her head) But none of it can compare to flying; to spreading your wings and taking to the sky. The freedom of it. Yes, that’s what it is. The freedom. Nothing compares.

 

Gazelle: Nothing, Crane…?

 

Crane: Gazelle-

 

Gazelle: No. No, you’re right. We love so that we might survive. That’s all this is. For nine more months and then we are both free.

 

Silence.

 

Lion: I should be going. There is much I have to do for the old man before sundown. (starts to leave. The others follow, except for Crocodile and Anansi)

 

Crocodile: (to the animals) Our next meeting is our last. Remember what I told you the before. This is it. Do what must be done…

 

Exit all but Anansi. Lights down. Anansi moves forward into a dim spot.

 

Anansi: (he is quiet for a time. Incurably sad, perhaps a little lost in thought. The energy, playfulness and optimism that had been with him before is now nowhere to be found) The dodo went extinct at the hands of man in 1693. (The other animals enter, soundlessly, taking the spots they had taken at the play’s start) They were discovered by the Dutch in 1581 on the island of Mauritania. They lived in peacefully on an island without predators. Discovered in 1581 by man. In 1693, extinct. That’s a little over a hundred years. Man came in with guns and livestock and that was it. There’s your story. The end. Exit now, single file. Single file. There are refreshments in the lobby and feel free to tip the- (looks up to the sky,listens) (Venomously) Right. Of course, Nyame. Father. Finish what you started. Right. Of course. Rules are rules. Without further ado, the truestory’s end…(sits in a dark corner of the stage)

 

Lights come up over the animals. There is tension in the air, practically fuming off of each of them. Crane and Gazelle have a special tension that only exists between the two. Lion and Crocodile wear expressions that are too serious to be easily read. Dodo sits, defeated, shaking. The final scene begins with a near unbearable stretch of silence.

 

Lion: (yawns)

 

Silence.

 

Gazelle: Where is Anansi?

 

Crocodile: He’ll be here…

 

Gazelle: Well I wish he’d hurry up. I think we’ve waited long enough for this.

 

Crane: Hmph.

 

Dodo: You were right. You were all right. I couldn’t see it at first, but how could I? I was so afraid. So afraid! I am the last of my kind. The last of the Dodos. I wanted to continue my life. I’ve been so alone since my parents and my brothers and sisters died off. I needed to have something; to live. And I would hear about these humans and about their accomplishments, about how every year there were more and more of them. And then this opportunity arose. This impossible opportunity. How could I not want it? So we became human and I, finally, lived a life without this looming doom hovering over me. You should’ve seen me that first night. You all would have laughed. I sat on the docks, looking out to sea while the fishermen were getting their boats ready for the morning. I thought to myself, “Dodo, you can have everything now. You can meet a nice pretty mate and you can raise a family and be a father. You can teach your little ones the things that your father taught you, now, and everything will be wonderful. Sadly, those thoughts did not manifest in the best of ways. When you are faced with not just your own mortality, but the mortality of your entire species, your vision is clouded. I took my money and I used it to buy the things I wanted: Delicious food, beautiful clothing, family and love- How could I know money could not buy the latter? It could do so much else. But all it did was turn me down this path of pain and suffering. Drinking and eating things that made me forget…or helped me escape. I lost all of my money, you see. I asked Anansi for more gold but he refused- something about the unspoken, unbroken rules of…something. (Pause) I remember one night months and months ago… I had just been kicked out of a brothel because I couldn’t pay. I was drunk, of course, and I stumbled into the night and ended up on that dock- the one from my first night. I started crying, uncontrollably, and I swore, right then and there, that I was going to change my ways. I was going to make an honest man out of myself and do it right this time. But no matter how hard I tried everything went wrong. My friends abandoned me. I could not get a job of any kind. People on the street would look away when I would come around, as if I had done something awful. In the wild, everything heals. Seasons change. Dry ones come, but wet ones follow and everything is okay. With humans there is only one long season and the healing never comes. If I must end it will be as I began. Because to die as an animal has meaning. The scavengers will use every piece of me to build the families I will never know. To die a human is…nothing.

 

Pause.

 

Crane: I’m sorry.

 

Dodo: What do you have to be sorry for, Crane?

 

Gazelle: (to Dodo) Nothing. (to Crane) Keep your mouth shut.

 

Crane: Do not speak to me that way. Dodo…

 

Gazelle: You’re being real stupid right now.

 

Crane: …we did this to you…

 

Gazelle: Gods…

 

Dodo: That’s absurd, I was the one who-

 

Crane: Crocodile told us that if we did not convince you to become an animal then Anansi would force us all to remain human forever.

 

Dodo: I-I don’t understand…

 

Crocodile: You were going to ruin everything so we used our newfound influence to make your life miserable. Lion used his connections in the guilds to make sure no one would employ you. Gazelle spread unsavory rumors and so on and so forth…

 

Crane: I’m so sorry.

 

Dodo: (to Lion) Is this true?

 

Lion: It is. (Dodo lowers himself to the ground) It was the only way.

 

Gazelle: (to Crane) Now look what you did…

 

Crane: I told the truth.

 

Gazelle: And now he’s more hurt than he ever was before. He feels betrayed!

 

Crane: That’s because we betrayed him!

 

Gazelle: This wasn’t the right time…

 

Crane: The right time…? So that’s what you’ve been waiting for all these months? The right time. And what is the right time, oh wise one? Is it when you happen to overhear a conversation by two strangers about how that poor Crane had no idea her handsome mate is going to bed with other women?! Is that the right time?!

 

Gazelle: Not here…

 

Crane: Then where?

 

Gazelle: Look! I know what this is all about! I’m not stupid. You got jealous! You got jealous of all the attention, all the fame I was getting and you weren’t!

 

Crane: What?!

 

Gazelle: Oh, don’t play the innocent victim now, Crane! You became unbearable. The more they loved me the more you made me feel like I was worthless.

 

Crane: That’s not true!

 

Gazelle: Do you know why I ran off late at night and let those girls take off my clothes and give me whatever I wanted?

 

Crane: Stop!

 

Gazelle: Do you know why I laid with them until the morning and gave them my passion again and again, whispering “I want you, I need you” into their ears and laughing at how you had no idea…

 

Crane: Stop…

 

Gazelle: It’s because you never loved me!

 

Crane: I-

 

Gazelle: It’s true! You loved the safety of being with me. You loved the way I made you feel and the songs I would sing, the stories I’d tell…then my fame. But you never loved me. (Pause. He is in tears by this point) I did what I did because I knew… that when this day came…when the choice came between this and me…you would choose to fly.

 

Crane: Gazelle…

 

Gazelle: Please. Don’t say anything to me. Let’s just wait for Anansi to come and…and get on with it.

 

Silence.

 

Crocodile: (to Lion) You’ve been uncharacteristically quiet this meeting, Lion. And in the last one, if I recall correctly. What does our mighty king have to say on this momentous day?

 

Lion: When Anansi comes…

 

Anansi leaves the stage, distraught, and enters the animal’s scene, pretending to be upbeat.

 

Anansi: Greetings, greetings, my friends. Today is the day of days. The moment we have all been waiting for. One year ago I struck a deal with you five, one that might result in the removal of the entire human raise. Just. Like. That. Let us talk. Now, in order to gather the magic involved in making a species- disappear “I’m going to need all of you to be in absolute agreement about this. All of you. Starting with Dodo…

 

Dodo: I don’t care. I am done with humanity. (to the others) I am done with animals, I think. I don’t want my children to grow up in any of this. Whatever the group decides. That’s what will happen.

 

Anansi: Interesting. Interesting, indeed. Who’s next? Gazelle? Crocodile? Crane?

 

Lion: How is my kingdom, Trickster-god?

 

Anansi: More perfect than you could ever imagine. All are happy. No one wants for anything at all.

 

Lion: Then I will remain human.

 

Anansi: I-I’m sorry. What did you say?

 

Lion: I will remain human. The old man has died and I am needed. I am to become master of the Smiths’ Guild. And perhaps I will be master of them all one day. There is an uphill journey ahead that I have just begun to climb. At the end of this journey is wealth, influence…

 

Anansi: Power?

 

Lion: There is.

 

Anansi: And what about your kingdom?

 

Lion: You have assured me it is better than it ever was.

 

Anansi: Hm. I guess I did, didn’t I?

 

Lion: Then I have done my job as king. One of my children can take my place…

 

Anansi: What about you, Crocodile?

 

Crocodile: I am and will always be a crocodile. And to be a crocodile is to feed, to hunt, to sneak, to kill…and there is no better place to be a better crocodile than in human skin. I will remain as I am. The city is my water hole and I exist beneath its surface, always waiting, waiting to strike when my prey least suspects it.

 

Anansi: There seems to be no honor in that lifestyle, Crocodile.

 

Crocodile: That is the point, Anansi.

 

Anansi: Gazelle. What about you?

 

Gazelle: I am beloved and treated as a god. Human. Obviously.

 

Anansi: That leaves you, Crane.

 

Dodo: Um…Crane?

 

Crane: Yes, Dodo?

 

Dodo: What part did you have in my misfortunes?

 

Crane: Well, I…I never once tried to stop them. My shame is the shame of inactivity.

 

Dodo: That is not so bad a thing, Crane. And I have always found you beautiful.

 

Crane: What are you saying?

 

Dodo: Your heart was broken and I want to give my own to someone else. Become an animal. We can be mates. We were both birds once, you and I. We can start a family. You are beautiful, Crane. And I will treat you like you deserve to be treated and nothing less for as long as we both live.

 

Crane: (Pause) I’m sorry, Dodo. I can’t. (Pause) I love Gazelle.

 

Dodo: But he hurt you!

 

Crane: (to Gazelle) I choose to stay.

 

Gazelle: You do? (Crane nods) What about flying?

 

Crane: My feet never touch the ground when you are beside me, Gazelle…

 

Gazelle: (to Crane) I’m sorry… (they embrace)

 

Dodo: Explain to me this: Why, if you all were so intent on staying and betraying your kind- why did you have to ruin my life?! Why keep pretending that you hated your lives and wanted humans to disappear?!

 

Crane: Humans are a complex thing, Dodo. They…we double-talk and we are doubtful and proud and shy and hateful and ignorant and…and loving, and our path to discovery leaves none unscathed…but it is within these complexities that our beauty lies.

 

Dodo: That is no answer! I have nothing! Nothing! (to Anansi) I change my mind, Anansi! Make me a dodo again! Please! I can’t be a part of this! They’re all crazy! They make no sense! They do things for no reason, no reason at all! I must die as I was born! They taught me what I could not teach myself! Change me back, Anansi! Change me back!

 

Anansi: I’m sorry, Dodo. But there are rules. Four out of five. Majority. You are a human forever now. Make the best of it.

 

Dodo: That’s not fair! They all got what they wanted! Why not me! Why not me?!

 

Anansi: But you did, Dodo. You wanted this more than any of them.

 

Dodo collapses to the ground. Leaves the scene and returns to the darkness he had found himself in before, with the same abysmal expression on his face. Lion, Crocodile, Gazelle and Crane leave one by one. There is quiet.

 

Dodo: (he sounds different than ever before- more confident) Are you going to say it?

 

Anansi: No.

 

Dodo: Well, you must. The story is over, you must finish it.

 

Anansi: No.

 

Dodo: Do it.

 

Anansi: (as if reciting) And that is how the Dodo lost its will to live.

 

Dodo: Marvelous. (joins Anansi, sitting down beside him) But it perplexes me. Why not create a positive spin on it like you usually do? Why not end it with, ‘And that is why humans come in so many shapes and sizes and dispositions.’ Something like that. I’m no storyteller like you.

 

Anansi: Was it you all along?

 

Dodo: It was.

 

Anansi: You played the part well.

 

Dodo: Your old father still has some tricks left in him, boy.

 

Anansi: I see that. (pause) Why did you make me tell that story, father-Nyame?

 

Dodo: Because you needed to do it. It’s been almost a week and you have not told it once.

 

Anansi: I hate that story…

 

Dodo: I know…and I’m curious as to ‘why’. You are the architect of thousands of adventures, but none have affected you like this one. You are Anansi, the great and fabulous conductor of trickery and tales…which are, more or less, the same thing. It was you who left open that hole in the darkness that the great Demon king climbed through which made the lion mighty. It was you who gave the Crane that magic paintbrush. You who took the form of a Dodo and ruined the crocodile’s reputation. You who turned into Black Tom Eagle and took the Gazelle’s papaya, forcing them to grow tall and leap to the sky. So many lives you’ve tampered with…

 

Anansi: I know.

 

Dodo: But such is the nature of the storyteller. To tell a tale you must make a tale…and to make a tale you must tamper with the truth.

 

Anansi: I know.

 

Dodo: I used to have all the stories. But you thought that they should be spread out into the world for everyone to enjoy…

 

Anansi: I was young.

 

Dodo: You were right to take them. Because without stories there can be nothing. No changes. Nothing to make us any better or worse than we were before. When you brought me Onini the Python, Osebo the Leopard, the dwarf and the rest you invented stories on Earth. You made them, my son. And with those first stories you created life…and for that the gods were glad. It has been ten thousand years to this day since you did so and in that time you have always taught and told but never really learned anything for yourself. So I transformed myself into a Dodo and took audience with Lion and, infuriating him with my talk of the wonders of humanity, orchestrated the meeting that you so excitedly thrust yourself upon. I chose the animals that you would see most of yourself in. The power of the Lion, the trickery of the Crocodile, the longing of the Crane and Gazelle’s spritely love of leaping higher, wanting more. All characters of tales that define the sort of god you are.

 

Anansi: Why, Father?

 

Dodo: Because it was time for you to learn something.

 

Anansi: And what was that?

 

Dodo: You tell me…

 

Anansi : (thinks) I was king in the place of the lion for that whole year.

 

Dodo: Mm hm…

 

Anansi: After one week I hated it. Being bound to the earth. The responsibility. Nothing could have been further from the life I lived.

 

Dodo: Go on…

 

Anansi: After one month I was better acquainted with the position. The idea of being actually needed…not imposing, imposing on other people’s lives…was strange…but different. After a season it was no longer strange. It was special. Magical. I was necessary. Really and truly. I got to know the other animals. Know them. What lives they lead. And after a year the only thing I hated about living on the earth as a creature of the earth was that it would soon end.

 

Dodo: So…

 

Anansi: I realized that I am tired of telling stories. Each time I met with you and Gazelle and the rest, I found myself truly affected by their lives. By the results of my actions in their lives. By the power of their experience. I realized that I want to live.

 

Dodo: Well, there you are.

 

Anansi: Just like that?

 

Dodo: Just like that.

 

Anansi: So who will tell the stories?

 

Dodo: The stories tell themselves. Life is stories. Stories are life.

 

Anansi: And what will become of the animals I turned human?

 

Dodo: The same thing that always happens to every character you touch- any animal you’ve turned human or human you’ve turned animal. They become something more than they were before…or in the very least different.

 

Anansi: And what did you learn, father?

 

Dodo: I learned that I have spent so much time up in the clouds that I have completely forgotten how to live down here on the ground. I made quite the fool of myself, didn’t I?

 

Anansi: Ha. You certainly did. Just think, you could be laying eggs with Crane right now.

 

Dodo: If people ask I will say that that was part of my plan to get her to acknowledge her love for Gazelle.

 

Anansi: Life is not to be taken lightly.

 

Dodo: Certainly not.

 

Anansi: What will I do now? If I am no longer Anansi the storyteller… I am empty.

 

Lion enters.

 

Dodo: I’ll be on my way, I think. (exits)

 

Anansi: Lion. What are you doing here?

 

Lion: I thought I would come back to see my old kingdom. See how they were doing from a safe distance… The plants not as green as I remember. The animals do not seem so alive. My son is not the ruler I was, I suppose, or maybe this is just what humans see through human eyes…and then I remembered something. A year ago you made me a promise…a promise to rule my kingdom for as long as I was away. And, well, look at me…I am very much away.

 

Anansi: Lion, what are you-

 

Lion: Will you rule my kingdom, Anansi? There are none better suited to be king than you, if I remember correctly…

 

Anansi: I- Yes, Lion. Of course.

 

Lion: Good. By the way, you had no choice in the matter. Rules are rules, after all. Enjoy your life. (exits)

 

Anansi: You as well, Lion. Take care of each other! I won’t be around to help you anymore! (thinks to himself) And that is how the storyteller came to be alive… The end? No. Not for some time… (exits)

 

~PLAY END~

The Evils Without…

The Evils Without…

CHARACTERS

Spender Wade/Hotshot

Kathleen Michaels/Seductress

???/Whisper

The Baron/???

Jebediah Cross/Dr. Sane

Dan McCarthy

~PLAY BEGIN~

Lights rise over the impossibly dark stage, revealing the first five characters mentioned above in that order from right to left, their bodies lit like the horror storyteller at a campfire. Spencer, 24, is beautiful from head to toe. Radiant. Kathleen, 33, has a dark allure to her, a mix of intense danger and interminable sadness. Whisper ,(???),  is hunched and draped in a black hooded cloak, leaving no clues as to age, sex, height or weight. The Baron, 56, is a thin but imposing man dressed to old-school perfection and sporting a monocle and permanent frown.  Jebediah, (_), is a tough and disheveled man with the sort of grin that could topple an orphanage. Each one is in a deep state of personal soul-searching, unaware of nothing but the words they say, which are low, suppressed, acting as barriers between what you see and their true selves. Your instincts tell you that there’s something ‘off’ about these people, but you quickly brush that aside as you are eager to hear what intriguing, heartfelt and relatable things they have to say.

Spencer: I was five at the time- or was it-? No. No. It was six. I know it was six because that’s how old I was when my dad disappeared. Fucking douche. Anyway, I was six (takes a breath) at Wilhem Park, trying to fit in…

Kathleen: Teenagers think they know everything. I know I did. I thought it was my right to break curfew every chance I could get. I thought I was smarter than every gray-haired teacher that St. Anne’s Academy for Girls threw my way. I thought I was beautiful, complex, quick-witted, invincible…I thought I was in love…

Whisper: (raises its head as if to speak, then lowers it in sadness or shame)

The Baron: (in a light German accent) I find more often than not that a man’s weakness often lies in his constant dwelling on the past. Reliving repeatedly the savory tales of yesteryear, piling one on top of the other on top of the other until their crushing agony reduces them to a mere shell without substance, existing without living until the inevitable moment some harsh word or stray breeze crushes them beneath their own psychological weight…

Jebediah: I want to marry all the Backstreet Boys…

Spencer: My mom didn’t give two shits about me. I was always the thing that got in the way of her being the alcoholism coke-riddled tramp she so strove to be. Despite all that my stupid ass tried so hard to get her to pay attention to me, to like me. To love me. I’d make her Mother’s Day cards and birthday cards and get good grades, but…So, I was at the park. Billy Stewart started throwing handfuls of sand at me while his lackeys laughed it up from behind him…

Kathleen: His name was Dave and he was everything I ever wanted: tall, handsome, star quarterback of the football team at the public high school. I was sixteen. A sophomore. He was a senior. A senior, can you believe it?! I was sixteen and I was ready to give myself to him, all of myself. So we hopped in his little blue Saab and blazed off into the sunset. I asked where we were going. He said his parent’s house. They were on vacation. We would be alone.

Whisper: (seems even more eager to speak, but collapses under its doubt)

The Baron: My brother was one such weakling. He was three years my elder, but you would never know it, the way he would whimper and whine over life’s inescapable circumstance. Our parents were lost to us, murdered before our eyes for housing a family of Jews in our barn during what you all call the ‘Holocaust’. Dietfried and I were orphaned in a land ravaged by war and depression. War and depression were all I knew…

Jebediah: We’d all have matching tuxedos and *NSync would be soooo jealous of us…

Spencer: I wasn’t what you would call a tough kid. I know, hard to believe, right? Well, I was a skinny little nothing and Billy and his friends scared the shit out of me. I remember shaking, my teeth chattering and shit. Ha. Pathetic. So fight or flight kicks in, and for me it was pretty much flight or flight and I jumped up on my spindly-ass legs and started to run away when- Boom! I ran right into Jacob Dempsey, the only kid nerdier than me, and I knocked him to the ground. I felt bad, I think, at first. Then I heard the familiar laughing. Billy and friends getting hard off my pain. And then I realized. They were laughing at Jacob. Not me. They weren’t laughing at me…

Kathleen: We pulled up to the football field. I don’t think I even thought to ask him why we were stopping there. ‘Come on’, he said, his every word causing my heart to sing, my insides to flutter, my life to be worthwhile. I followed eagerly through the huge empty parking lot, over the fence and to the bleachers where a bunch of his friends I’d recognized from the team were sitting in a circle, in folding chairs, empty beer cans all around them. They were so happy to see me. I was so happy to be there. Dave sat me down on his lap. We drank a few. And then world began to spin…

Whisper:  (shrugs, defeated, shaking its head)

The Baron: We found odd jobs, working under the stinging whip and harsh hands of the starving farmers for a few scraps of food and a bed of hay to sleep on. Eventually we escaped to Dusseldorf where we begged for food until we found a job at a factory where the conditions were brutal, the earnings meager. Deitfried had grown lifeless, defeated from our journey as I became hard as diamond, not letting anyone or anything in that brutal world destroy me. My brother was fortunate to find a woman willing to put up with his weakness one Spring. They married and produced a son. Having shown an aptitude for hard work and commanding obedience I was made manager of the factory. And from the whispers of the city folk came word of a wall being built in Berlin…

Jebediah: We’d have our honeymoon in Atlantic City and we’ll all make sweet, sloppy love and although all of us have done it like a billion times before- except Nick -it’ll be like we’re doing it for the very first time…

Spencer: Maybe they thought I did it on purpose. Maybe- it didn’t matter. They weren’t laughing at me. They were laughing at stupid little Jacob Dempsey. I was free, if only for a moment. No. It would be far more than a moment. So before he could climb to his feet. Before he could reach for those ridiculous glasses that made his eyes look ten times too big for his face, I kicked him as hard as I could in his stomach. Billy and his gang gasped for a second and then the laughter started again. Bigger this time. They were cheering me on. Me! So I kicked him again. And again. And again and again and I was on top of him punching and kicking and punching and punching and the laughter, the cheering was so beautiful, so compelling and it was mine. Mine! I was under its spell. Acceptance. Reverence. Fame. Punching, kicking, punching, kicking so lost in it all that I couldn’t feel the blood on my hands, couldn’t see the horrified expression on Billy’s face…or hear Jacob’s last earthly breaths…

Kathleen:  The first thing I remember was the look in their eyes. Even though everything was swirling so fast around me and my vision was blurring and I felt like I hadn’t slept for days, the look in their eyes was unmistakably…carnivorous. Their laughter echoed in the chambers of my head left untouched by their poison. I could feel the cool breeze on my flesh as they ripped the clothes from my body. Then the blinding pain as they penetrated me, thrusting their powerful hips against my small body, the laughter and the grunting grew more demonic in my head. I couldn’t breathe. They just kept going. Different voices. The cheering. One after the other. Three at a time. I was covered in them. In their excretions. The agony…I remember wanting to die. Begging that I would die. Praying to God that He kill me. But he didn’t. No man ever would again…

Whisper: (sits, as if thinking)

The Baron: There was a general disquiet throughout West Germany as if all the wounds healing from the Second World War had been torn open with a searing knife…but I had my job. My workers. And Deitfried had his Beata and little Manfried. There was peace amongst us for a while. And then, as is the way of the world, tragedy struck. My brother returned from a long day’s work to learn that his wife and son had been casualties of a van-bombing, a demonstration by the German terrorist Baader-Meinhoff Group.  He was inconsolable after that. I tried to make him strong enough to continue living, reminding him of the horrors our parents had witnessed in their lives and managed to remain strong people. But it was no use. I was not four feet away from him when he drew out the gun and planted a bullet in his head, spattering me with blood and chunks of bone and brain matter. Standing there, in a pool of Dietrich’s fluids, I thought of the world. How my parent’s generosity was repaid with death. How true leaps of human progress have are the seeds of chaos, destruction and pain. How feelings and attachment to anything other than yourself can lead to ultimate weakness the day that those things are torn away. From that moment forward I swore that I would not become a victim of the world. No. I would make a victim of it

Jebediah: And then I cut open their hairless little bellies and choked them to death with their frilly little intestines. The end.

Spencer: And that’s when…

Kathleen: And that’s how…

Whisper: (faces the audience with raising of the head)

The Baron: And that’s why…

Jebediah: And that’s one of the many daydreams I’ve had…

Spencer: …I became…

Kathleen: …I became…

Whisper: (stands, suddenly confident, terrifying)

The Baron: …I became…

Jebediah: …because I’ve always been…

Spencer, Kathleen, The Baron and Jebediah: …evil!

The five characters fade back into the darkness of the stage. There is an eerie silence. A single light comes from above, revealing Dan McCarthy, 31, a man with a ‘bring home to mom’ look who happens to be in his pajamas, knocked out and tied securely to a wooden chair with a small metal device around his neck. There is another chair as well and a small table somewhere on stage. From the darkness whence they’d gone, the five characters from the beginning emerge, surrounding Dan and looking absolutely sinister while staying true to their varied personalities. Whisper looks especially ominous and Hotshot (they are now mostly going to be referred to by their Aliases) is too pleased with himself to keep the sinister guise on for too long.

Hotshot: This- THIS- This is too cool!

Seductress: Hm.

Hotshot: AHHH yeah!

Dr. Sane: Can’t we just kill him already? Torture him a little…?

The Baron: No, you idiot! This…this must be done right.

Hotshot: Oh my God, I can’t believe that- this! Us! This is-!

Seductress: Shut up, Hotshot, before I make you.

Hotshot: (startled) Right. Sorry.

Seductress: So, who’s going to do the honors?

The Baron: Obviously, that particular honor should belong to me-

Dr. Sane and Hotshot: What?!

The Baron: I have been his most worthy opponent.

Dr. Sane: Give any ornery old fart a multi-billion dollar empire and an army of minions and of course you’re worthy, but me…I kept him on his toes. Never saw me coming. Filthy little punk always stopped me though (getting himself riled) every time (losing compsure) always tried to STOP ME! (draws a knife and tries to pounce on Dan. Hotshot and The Baron try to stop him…)

Seductress: BACK UP! (…but it is Seductress’ words that makes Dr. Sane rethink his actions and calm himself) I was closer to him than any of you sociopathic neanderthals. I’ll look into his helpless eyes and revel in his tears has he slits his own throat.

The Baron: Infantile.

Hotshot: I’ll rev up the ol’ power gloves and fricassee him!

The Baron: Pedestrian.

Dr. Sane: Why don’t we just force razors down his esophagus and wash it down with battery acid. Worked wonders on my ex-wife.

The Baron: Grotesque. I vote we seek the suggestion of the one who made this night possible. (all face Whisper, who says nothing)

Seductress: Silent as a grave. As always.

The Baron: Hm. (suffering from a sudden change of thought) Perhaps we should think on this dilemma and reconvene in a few hours, having had time to truly bask in the finality of-

Hotshot: Fuck you, man! (putting on a fiery-colored glove while shoving The Baron to the side) I’m getting this over with! I’ve got-

The Baron: (drawing a futuristic-looking weapon to Hotshot’s face) You DARE push me aside, BOY?!

Dr. Sane: (pulls out a pair of knives) Finally!

Seductress: (she raises her arms, aiming one at The Baron and the other at Dr. Sane) Enough! All of you!

The Baron: No one orders me around…

Seductress: Whatever, Baron. Pull the stick out of your ass so you can see I agree with you. (Baron lowers his weapon from Hotshot’s face) We’ll think about this. He’s been a big part of all of our lives and he deserves to die properly. We will keep watch, one at a time, that way we can have some time to say what we want to say to him individually before we come together and figure out a way to kill him that pleases EVERYONE…Jeb.

Dr. Sane: The name’s Dr. Sane. Doctor. Sane.

Hotshot: Hehe

Dr. Sane: Something funny, Twinkie?

Hotshot: Nope. (laughs under his breath)

The Baron: It’s settled then. Hotshot, you will take the first watch. If he attempts escape call and we will be here to stop him instantly. Now let us part ways so that we can create our own personal masterpieces…

Lights down. Lights come up and Hotshot is sitting in the extra chair at the table, looking at some magazine filled to the brim with sexy women, reacting to each titillating page while drinking from a wine cup. Then boredom begins to set in. He looks from his magazine to Dan and back again. Finally fed up with the lack of action he marches over to Dan and smacks him in the face.

Hotshot: Hey! Hey man, wake up! (smacks him again) Come on! I’m bored off my ass here, man! (pushes him) Ugh! (he stomps to the table, grabs his wine glass and launches its contents into Dan’s face)

Dan: (comes to, coughing)

Hotshot: Thaaat’s better.

Dan: (disoriented) Wha? W-where am I? (notices the other) Hot…Hotshot, is that you?

Hotshot: (overcome with pride in himself) Yup. It’s me.

Dan: What’re you-? I’m- I’m tied up. What did you do to me?

Hotshot: Caught you, duh. (Dan struggles to break free) Oh, and don’t even think you can break free. (gestures at the device around Dan’s neck) Champ Mechanical whipped up this cool power dampener thing so you’re not gonna be super heroing your way out of this jam, man. The Champ sends his regards, by the way.

Dan: This…this isn’t…how did you…?

Hotshot: Never underestimate the power of Hotshot. He’s not just dangerously good-looking ladies, he is also brilliant enough to single-handedly capture Nexus City’s premiere superhero!

Dan: Ha. Single-handedly…with the help of Champ Mechanical. (sniffs the air) And is that…it is…Seductress’ perfume. Who else is in on this?

Hotshot: Dude! Fine! Whatever! Who cares if every villain in the tri-state area is hiding in that closet over there?! The fact is, you’re going to die…and I’m going to be one of the people responsible. Heck, the only person responsible once I threaten the media. Ha! Picture it. Super-Villain Extraordinaire Hotshot Sends Dan- Exemplar -McCarthy Up In Flames! Haha! Woo!

Dan: You won’t get away with this!

Hotshot: (mockingly) Okay…

Dan: Let me out of here!

Hotshot: (slight pause) Seriously?!

Dan: (searches for the right words to say, but instead blurts out:) Dammit, Hotshot, murder?! That’s not your style. You’re a bully, a thief, an idiot kid…

Hotshot: Not helping your case there, skippy.

Dan: What I’m saying is that you’re not like the Seductress or any of these other guys-

Hotshot: Like Dr. Sane?

Dan: (stops in his tracks) Sane’s here?

Hotshot: Yup. And he’s as crazy as ever. Look, Dan, I don’t have anything against you really. I’m sure you’re a great guy and I appreciate your concern for my moral fiber but this is what’s going to put me on the map. Killing Exemplar. The television interviews. The magazine covers. The ladies. Evil is in, my friend. Evil. Is in.

Dan: No. It’s not-

Hotshot: Besides I’m not as clean-cut as you think, guy. I had quite the violent streak when I was a kid so…don’t pretend to know me, ‘kay?

Dan: Hotshot…

Hotshot: You know that I wanted to be just like you when I was younger. I mean, after all the psychiatry and junk I was a pretty functional guy, you know? Class-clown, always out for a laugh or attention, attract the girlies, see. So I was feeling kind of empty, like ‘Hey, maybe there’s more to life than being the center of attention and partying and fucking and stuff’- all the popular kids go through this sort of shit and hide it by being an utter asshole to ugly people- Anyway, I was kinda down and I see you on the news. “Exemplar, Nexus City’s first super hero, debuts in a big way,” the foxy cougar news lady said. Jake the Quake was shaking things up in the financial district and the old bank was collapsing. The firemen were clearing out, but you just ran right in there and saved one-hundred and forty-eight people. It was a miracle. Only one casualty. Only one.

Dan: Only one…

Hotshot: Jesus, man, they loved you! You were a real hero. The first any of us had ever seen. An instant success. Fame beyond belief. All that attention. It was just what I needed. More! So I had my P.A. Champ rig me up a pair of gloves and Hotshot was born. I was going to be a hero just like you! And I tried, I really did, stopping robbers and helping old ladies across the street…but it was hard. And they never appreciated it. I’d save some old bitch from being mugged and she slaps me for setting her purse on fire! They didn’t care that we had to maintain real jobs and real lives while giving our all for them with every spare second. And no matter what you did and how much you did it there were always more problems, more evils unleashed into the world! It was…it was too much. It was infuriating. I…this is so much easier.

Dan: Of course it is. But I bet you, despite all that stolen money and all those one night stands, you still look in the mirror and feel empty because you took your problem and tried to solve it by swelling it up so large in your head that their wasn’t enough room for anything else! You wanted to be a hero for all the wrong reasons. Let me out of here and you have my word that I will help you fill the void in you life. It’s never too late and you have so much potential, Hotshot. Spencer.

Hotshot: (lost in his thoughts) When they cheered your name it felt great, didn’t it? You were never unwanted. Never shunned. Always loved. And you deserved it. (to Dan) Thanks for the chat, dude, but this is the closest thing to love I’ll ever have. You understand, right?

Lights out. Lights go up. Hotshot is no longer there. Seductress enters, amused and intrigued by the situation. She seems far sexier than she did before, as if putting on a show for Dan. He sees her upon arrival.

Dan: Seductress…

Seductress: Aw, you know I hate it when you call me that, Daniel.

Dan: (coldly) Well, it’s who you chose to be. Take the name and everything that comes with it.

Seductress: We’re going to kill you.

Dan: So I’ve heard.

Seductress: Really, darling, this is serious. Not the usual ‘break out at the last minute’ thing you’re used to. There’s no escaping this time. Hotshot, Dr. Sane, The Baron (Dan’s eyes open wide at the mentioning of ‘The Baron’), Whisper and myself.

Dan: Whisper?

Seductress: Yes, yes, you’ll meet that enigmatic thing soon enough I suppose. But until then…is there anything you’d like to say to me before you are whisked away from this world?

Dan: Nothing.

Seductress: An apology…?

Dan: An- You ruined my marriage!

Seductress: You ruined your marriage. You broke my heart!

Dan: You broke mine!

(silence)

Dan: I lost everything for you.

Seductress: You were the only man who ever loved me…by choice. I was the only woman who really understood you. Why you did the things you did. Your wife pretended to understand, but-

Dan: Don’t bring her into this.

(silence)

Seductress: Daniel…

Dan: Seductress…

Seductress: That’s not my name!

Dan: Yes it is.

Seductress: Say my name!

Dan: No.

Seductress: (raises her hands as if to enchant him) Say it!

Dan: Your spells don’t work on me…

Seductress: That may have been true when you were at full power, but not so much the case today. So…SAY IT! (she reaches her arms to him as if casting a spell, concentrating intensely on him) Sayitsayitsayitsayit…

Dan: (becoming increasingly enchanted by her power) K-K-K-K-K-KATHLEEN! (he chokes on the words)

Seductress: That’s better. (pause) Do you remember our first date, Daniel? I certainly do. That Italian restaurant by the river. The starry sky. Oh, it was perfect. Just. Perfect. You were the only man who I ever really felt safe with. I mean, a date? Me?! Really? Ah, I almost couldn’t believe it myself. But it happened. I remember it perfectly. It went something like this… (she pulls the table center stage, pushes Dan up to it and sits herself down across from him and smiles longingly) You were so nervous. After a few seconds passed I asked, “What are you thinking?” and you said… (she forces her spell on him)

Dan: (trying to fight it, but failing ultimately) You look beautiful.

Seductress: “Thank you,” I replied with a shy smile. (forces her powers on him again)

Dan: (almost in pain) So…

Seductress: You began, lost in my eyes as I was yours. (enchants)

Dan: (struggles) How was your day?

Seductress: “Oh…” I batted my lashes seductively. “It was nothing special…until now.” And you blushed. Isn’t this fun?

Dan: You twisted b- (she waves a hand at him and he goes silent)

Seductress: We ordered our food. You got the lobster, me a half-portion of veal with light marinara. I can almost smell it. “This is so nice. I haven’t felt like this for another human being in a long time…” I got myself all worked up then and then…and then…I can’t seem to remember what happens next…

Dan: That’s because it was the moment I suddenly lost my appetite because I got sick- sick over the fact that I was a married man…and a father…on a date.

Seductress: You loved me!

Dan: I was confused! But…but that was no excuse. I loved Carol. I love Carol. I just up and threw it all away for…for…

Seductress: You. Loved. Me.

Dan: I was an idiot!

Seductress: She never could have made you happy!

Dan: You don’t know that.

Seductress: Of course I do. She wasn’t like us…

Dan: I’m nothing like you.

Seductress: Special!

Dan: Just go.

Seductress: No. No. You may be willing to give up on us, but I will not! We had our differences…

Dan: You were a murderer! You forced men to fall in love with you and you took all their things and you killed them!

Seductress: And they deserved it! They were scum. Filthy perverse animals propagating evil and lust and sex upon the earth. It was justice. I am a hero, like you!

Dan: You’re sick! Told told me about…when you were a kid, remember? I wanted to help you and I still do.

Seductress: (stops, centers herself) And I want to help you, Daniel. To escape. To get out of here. I used my gifts to set up these little one-on-one sessions for that purpose. So we could be alone and talk about our future together.

Dan: Sed-

Seductress: I will free you if you promise to give yourself to me and only me for the rest of our lives. This nightmare will end if you just tell me you love me. (Dan stares hard into her eyes, silent) Tell me you love me. (more silence is his response) TELL ME! (she puts her all into enchanting him this time. Her strain causes Dan immense levels of agony as he fights it with all his will)

Dan: I…

Seductress: Yes? Yes?

Dan: …would rather die than spend another second with you. (she stops trying, and he collapses, breathing heavy as if having been choked)

Seductress: (unexpectedly composed) Fair enough. Just know, that in a few hours, when we kill you, it will be your fault. Like your wife leaving you. Like the fact that you only see your beloved child for a few hours every other weekend. Like any chance at a pleasant future, with a loving family that you traded for a pair of tights and that ridiculous cape. I guess the only thing a true hero lacks the strength and sense to save is himself.

Lights go down as Seductress leaves. Lights come up. Dan is struggling to break free as The Baron enters, nose raised at the other.

The Baron: It seems as though the tables have turned, Exemplar.

Dan: Baron…

Baron: Right you are. It is I, your most worthy opponent. We both knew this day would come, the day that one of us would emerge the victor. Ah, the battles we had. Masterful plans, years in the making, foiled by you in a matter of hours. I’ve come up against countless factors of competition over the years, political, religious, militaristic, other so-called heroes, but none like you. Ever since you arrived on the city’s stage, having saved all those people in the collapse.

Dan: All but one.

The Baron: (brushing his comment aside) Yes, yes. Ever-vigilant you were. Ever-willing to place yourself between my lust for power and the blind sheep that make up the majority of the human race, occasionally with that irksome sidekick of yours. I disagreed with your code, but had nothing but respect for the vigor with which you executed it. An era is truly ending tonight.

Dan: But why, Baron? Why like this? You are the greatest villain of them all and you’re okay with sharing credit with these other guys, with Hotshot, for killing me? That’s hardly your style.

The Baron: (laughs in spite of himself) That feeble attempt at deterring me from the task at hand will yield no fruit for you. Over the years I would go as far to say that we understand quite a bit of each other. How could we not? But whereas your goal is to protect the world from myself and people like me who would wish it harm, mine was always to rule it. Never for a moment was it to kill you. You, dear Exemplar, were merely a hindrance and this opportunity was a quick fix to the one factor keeping me from my destiny. It is a common misconception amongst the heroing community that villains would be lost without their counterparts, but that could not be more wrong. It is you heroes who need us, to validate your desire to leap around in bright colors and tight clothing, to always be in the spotlight. We villains know what we want and we know what needs to be eliminated in order to achieve it. Would I rather have killed you on my own? Yes. But this world is not in the habit of giving us what we want. It is a matter of taking what it gives you and bending it to your will. For example, I now find myself in a secret lair with my greatest opposer and four people who simply do not fit into my plans for a better world. What I have prepared for this upcoming event will be nothing short of magnificence, I assure you. (He’s lost in thought for a moment) When you are gone I will at last be free. Ta. (exits)

Lights go down. When they come back up Dr. Sane is sitting in the extra chair, playing with some random object, sitting behind Dan so that the other cannot see him until he leans forward and sings into his ear…

Dr. Sane: (singingYou are my fire. My one desire. Believe when I say. I want it that way…

Dan: Sane…

Dr. Sane: I beg to differ. Heeheehee…

Dan: (his bravado weaker than before) I heard you were here. Strange. You’re even less of a team player than The Baron.

Dr. Sane: What can I say? I’m a sucker for a party and full to the brim with surprises.

Dan: So…

Dr. Sane: So…what?

Dan: So what do you have to say to me? Everyone else marched in here with their standard monologues. What do you have for me?

Dr. Sane: Oh, Danny-boy, you know me better than that. I am a psycho of few words. I prefer my fine cutlery to do my talking for me. (draws out a gun) And sometimes old Betsy here.

Dan: Great.

Dr. Sane: But since you asked…(becomes very theatrical) I’m gonna miss ya, buddy. I really am, honest and true. You’re pretty much the only nemesis I haven’t slowly killed in my Den of Infinite Mutilations. And, for, well, surviving our relationship, I thought I’d give you a parting gift of sorts. Just so you know how much I care. Stay right there I’ll be right back. (he exits then quickly returns from behind Dan, carrying a balled up piece of yellow fabric. He throws it over Dan’s head so that it unfolds in the air, landing on the floor in front of the other, a blood-stained cape) Ta daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa…

Dan: (in disbelief, then horror) No…

Dr. Sane: Yes.

Dan: You didn’t…

Dr. Sane: I did!

Dan: B-B-Bil-

Dr. Sane: Billy Ramirez, aka Kid Maximus! (faking ignorance) Oh… Oh! Oh my! He was- He was your sidekick a few years ago, wasn’t he? You and him were pretty close…right? You, like, fought crime and stuff? Best friends, if I recall. Then he went solo or something… I forget. I forget.

Dan: You…you monster.

Dr. Sane: Tell me something I don’t know. Come on. I dare you. I know a lot.

Dan: He was just a kid…

Dr. Sane: They grow up so fast…

Dan: You…monster.

Dr. Sane: You already said that. And settle down, Spanky, he’s not dead. Idiot. He’s hanging by a pair of meat hooks in my basement. (a side thought) I wonder if the dogs got to him yet. Hm. (returns his attention to Dan with wild intensity) But that’s neither here nor there. Just a means to the ends, really. You see, Seductress was the one who gave up your secret identity…you two musta been close, huh? Hotshot (makes the universal blow-job gesture) convinced his pal Champ Mechanical to come out of hiding and make that power-sucking thingamajig. The Baron was nice enough to lend us one of his lairs. Whisper brought us all together…I was beginning to feel a little left out. Useless. So I decided to take matters into my own hands. Maximus wasn’t all that hard to track down. Once a sidekick… It also wasn’t all that hard to coax a few tidbits of information out of him…

Dan: What are you talking-?

Dr. Sane: Ah, ah, ah, daddy’s talking. (signals for Dan to wait a minute as he reaches into his pocket) Wait for it… (pulls out a ring) Surprise! (Examines it for a while, then is blindsided by the realization of its significance) That’s right, sport.

Dan: Carol…that’s her wedding ring…

Dr. Sane: Yeah, she still wore it, isn’t that crazy?

Dan: What did you-

Dr. Sane: (truly outwardly cold, evil, for the first time) I killed her. I snuck into her room while she was sleeping, that peaceful, beautiful thing, and my passion made her scream, louder and louder and louder until your little boy walked in the room, too young to understand. Too innocent. So I finished under the backdrop of his whiny little ‘Stop! Stop! You’re hurting mommy!” adding to the overall ambiance of it all. Ha, pain. He had never experienced real pain in his life. Until I took his mommy and I broke her bones in front of him. I took her by that long blond hair and I cut and I cut and I cut her to little itty bitty pieces and he watched the whole thing and now there’s no way he’s going to be like you because he’ll be too FUCKED up. He’ll be me. Now not only will you be dead, but so will your legacy. And now I’m satisfied. Because I finally contributed. (his eyes are quietly fixed on Dan) It’s funny, because when the gang gets back together and finally do you in, they’ll think themselves champions, victors. But they won’t understand that you’re already dead…on the inside. Courtesy of Dr. Sane. HAHAHAA…(exits, cackling)

Dan: (falling gradually into a frantic mindless fit) You’re lying, Sane! You’re…you’re fucking lying! Maximus is too smart for you! He…he would n-never- NEVER -tell you where Carol and…DJ…YOU’RE LYING! You’re…you’re… (sits in silence until the tears begin to swell. A gentle sob erupts into an agonizing, nearly inhuman wail that echoes within our insides, as he thrashes in his chair, eventually causing it to fall on its side. He barely notices) No…NO! NOOOO! NO! Carol… No. Fuck. Fuck…fuck…DJ…No…NO! NO! NOOO! NO! FUCK! NO, GOD! God…no. (He eventually collaspes under his own grief and when he is entirely quiet, Whisper enters like a wraith, outside of Dan’s field of vision. It creeps nearer and nearer to Dan, leaning toward him, its cloak almost touching his face. Dan feels Whisper’s presence, but it is out of sight when he lifts his head to see) Wha? (After some more curious observation, Whisper makes itself noticeable, crouching down beside Dan) (still an emotional wreck) What…? Who…? You’re Whisper, aren’t you? You did all of this, didn’t you? You brought all these fucked up people together? (Silence) But…why? (Silence) Why? (Silence) All I ever wanted was to be a hero. I slipped up sometimes, I’m human, I…Carol…Oh God…DJ. Did you know he killed my wife? Did you know what he did?! (pause) Kill me. Please just kill me… No. DJ…I have to… (Whisper reaches into its cloak and pulls out a torn rectangle of newspaper. It holds the paper in front of Dan’s face) What are you doing?! I don’t care about- (pause) Is that…? Keith Nielson. What does this have to do with-? (she points to something on the paper) “…fell victim to a super villain attack…” I know this! I know how he died! I tried to save them all! I was so close, I thought I had everyone… (Whisper points again, this time more aggressively) What does this have to do with anything?! (Whisper shoves the paper in Dan’s face) “He was a widower! Survived only by his beloved daughter…” (As he reads the name, Whisper removes its hood, revealing a girl who couldn’t be much more than fifteen years old) “…Veronica, aged eight…” You… (Whisper nods) This is why you put me through all of this? Because I couldn’t save your dad?! This is what I deserve?! A dead wife and a son who- (can’t drive himself to speak further) Oh God… (Whisper exits)

Lights down. Lights up as Hotshot and Dr. Sane sit Dan upright. Dan is passed out, a direct factor of his grief. Seductress, The Baron and Whisper (her identity concealed) are there as well.

Hotshot: Geez, he’s heavy!

Dr. Sane: You’re just not used to any real labor, Snowflake.

The Baron: Well, here we are. I suppose you’ve been given ample time to say your goodbyes and formulate the most effective manner in which to end Exemplar’s life.

Seductress: His name is Daniel.

The Baron: Not to me.

Hotshot: I don’t care how he dies. Let’s just get this over with. I gotta take a few pics and text ’em to the all the papers before the morning.

Seductress: I agree with the boy. Let’s just get this over with. I’m over it.

The Baron: Dr. Sane?

Dr. Sane: Shot to the head. I’m sick of you jerks…besides, I’ve got a nice new heir to play with back at the lair. His son. Teehee. I’m such a rascal.

(pause. Whisper is subtely effected by Sane’s statement)

The Baron: Hm. Well, after much thought on my own part, and in part due to the conversation I shared with Exemplar here, I have put aside my thoughts of a magnificent spectacle of a death as it is but a means to a far greater end for all of us. A ticket to possibility. A weight lifted indefinitely. (to The Baron) Fire away.

Dr. Sane: With pleasure. (shoots the gun. Dan’s body jolts a little, but otherwise there is no effect aside from the face that he groans as if reaching an obnoxious roadblock in an otherwise wonderful dream) Did I load this thing this morning? (Shoots him again, to the same effect) Hm. (Shoots him over and over and over, until…)

Seductress: Stop that, you moron!

Hotshot: Oh shit…

The Baron: His powers…

Hotshot: Ohhh shit…

The Baron: They have returned to him.

Seductress: The device must have broken when he fell over.

Dr. Sane: And here I thought this was gonna be booooring…

Hotshot: Shit! Fuck! (thinks) I know! I know! I’ll call Champ! He’ll know what to do! (pulls out his cell phone and exits)

Dan: (waking up…) Wha…

Seductress: Jesus…

Dr. Sane: Whoa boy.

Seductress: I’ll try to keep him sleeping…

The Baron: His skin is near-invulnerable. Aim for his brain, through the eye, the second he opens it.

Dr. Sane: (pulls out his gun and starts for Dan) Heh. Heh. Heh. (Whisper draws a knife from Dr. Sane’s belt and holds it up to his neck, standing between him and Dan. She then quickly lifts her hood) What in the-?

Whisper: You weren’t supposed to hurt his family…

Dr. Sane: You ain’t my boss, girly…

The Baron: Seductress, stop her…

Seductress: (strained) I-I…can’t…taking everything I have…to keep him…down…

Dan: Carol…Carol…

The Baron: (Draws out his weapon, aiming it at Whisper) Move.

Whisper: No. No! This was supposed to be fast! It was supposed to be easy! He was supposed to pay for what he, for what he failed to do. All the- all the newspapers and the- and everyone, he was such a hero. They loved him and everywhere I looked there he was, always, always so perfect. So perfect, but he wasn’t perfect. He let my dad die. He saved everyone else…why’d he have to let my dad die…

Dr. Sane: Oh, boo hoo.

Whisper: Shut up! But this- I gave you all a chance to be free…for me to get my vengeance…

Seductress: Guys…

Whisper: …but you just let all your childish, personal shit get in the way and now look at us! His family was innocent! Now look where we- (Dr. Sane shoots her, Whisper drops to the ground. The unexpectedness of the event causes Seductress to break concentration and Dan’s eyes snap open)

Dr. Sane: Oh shit.

Dan moves slowly, as if allowing his dormant power to return to him fully. There is a darkness to him that cannot be denied. Seductress continues to use her failing powers on him. Dan  looks to Whisper, at his feet. She is just barely clinging on to life.

Whisper: I’m sorry…I’m so sorry… (dies)

Dan stands, breaking easily out of the ropes that bound him. In a lightning-quick move, he grabs Seductress by the neck.

Seductress: Daniel…please…I-I tried to set you free…r-remember…?

Dan: Stop. Talking.

Seductress: P-please, Daniel, no one…will ever…love you like… (notices Dr. Sane starting to sneak out) Dr. Sane…escaping…

Dan looks to Dr. Sane, who freezes in place with a weak smile flickering on his face. Seductress breaks free of Dan’s grip and exits, eyes never leaving her love as she does. Dr. Sane exits quickly. Dan is right behind him, but stops just short of exiting at the sound of The Baron’s voice.

The Baron: Your son’s safe.

Dan: What?

The Baron: He’s safe.

Dan: How…how would you-

The Baron: Because fancies your DJ some sort of heir to his throne, nestled in his lair. That, and the fact that Dr. Sane will be dead before he leaves these grounds. Upon suggesting this lair be your deathplace, I had my minions construct a number of high-powered weapons about its perimeter, trained to seek and destroy anything that does not exhibit my exact DNA the moment they step outside. I activated the system when the others were speaking with you. As we speak the doctor is breathing his last breaths on the yard as all manner of bullets and lasers and whatnot make a fine puree of his body. The same rings true for the Seductress and, judging by his extended absence, Hotshot before them. I do despise competition.

Dan: Hm.

The Baron: It seems as though our little dance continues, Exemplar.

Dan: No. It’s over. It’s all over.

Lights go down and come up as they were in the beginning, to Spencer, Kathleen, Veronica, The Baron and Jebediah standing on stage, staring blankly into the distance.

Spencer: My name is Spencer Wade. Hotshot.

Kathleen: My name is Kathleen Michaels. Seductress.

Veronica: My name is Veronica Nielson. Whisper.

The Baron: My name is…Deitfried Strauss. The Baron.

Jebediah: My name is Jebediah Cross. Dr. Sane.

Spencer: And these are…

Kathleen: And these are…

Veronica: And these are…

The Baron: And these are…

Jebediah: And these are…

Spencer: …my last thoughts…

Kathleen: …my last thoughts…

Veronica: …my last thoughts…

The Baron: …my last thoughts…

Jebediah: …my last thoughts…

All: …before I died.

Spencer: I’m sorry, Jacob. God dammit, look at my life…You died for nothing. (Backs away into the darkness upstage and exits)

Kathleen: Pain? This isn’t pain. Pain is everything that lead up to this. Don’t forget me, my love. (Backs away into the darkness upstage and exits)

Veronica: We’re going to be together again, daddy. I’m coming. I’m coming. (Backs away into the darkness upstage and exits)

The Baron: I have failed. It seems the world will never be tamed. (Backs away into the darkness upstage and exits)

Jebediah: Th-th-th-th-th-th-that’s all, folks. (Backs away into the darkness upstage and exits)

Dan enters from the darkness, stepping forward into the light, hands in his pockets to start. He is wearing dark street clothing, a pair of sunglasses resting on his head. There is pain in his eyes that seeps into the depths of everything he does, but a contentment beyond explanation. There is something wrong about this that the audience senses clearly, but can’t quite put their finger on. When he speaks it is directly to the audience.

Dan: There’s a kind of darkness in me now that- I -It feels like it’s been there forever, but I know that’s not the case. I know that, once upon a time, life was…good? No, that’s not fair. It’s good now. It really is. And I know I could spend the rest of my life wondering ‘what if’ this, ‘what if’ that, but where’s the solace there? Where’s the progress in that? I maintain tiny fragments of the memory of my family. The three of us, our relationship inflated to some impossible fantasy, but I don’t dwell…I don’t. Forward, always forward. The years that followed the incident were hard- hell, they’re still hard some times, a lot of temptation to deal with, a lot of evil out there and I’m screwed up enough for some of it to seem like a real good idea, but when I’m really down, when I start to feel that raging, howling beast tearing and pulling at the insides of my psyche…I think about my father. He was a real hero. Superhuman strength and flight and everything. You know he once saved one hundred and forty-eight people from a collapsing building all by himself? Everybody loved him. Even if mom pretended she didn’t…she loved him. He was just that kind of guy I guess. (pauses) No one really knows what happened that night. Just that five super-villains were found dead, four of them shot to death and the fifth, he was called The Baron, was inside, his head was twisted the whole way around, a look of agony plastered on his face. A couple hundred miles north was where they found my dad, his body lying beside the mess of blood and skin that was my mother, his wife. He had taken one of the bed posts, the police say, and just kind of- rammed it through his chest. (he goes quiet for a time) The past. (Another pause, this one ends with a light smile) I’m getting married soon. Four months, three days and (checks his watch) five hours. Her name is Melanie and she is absolutely wonderful. She puts up with my screwedupedness and I love her more than words and breath and life. One day we’ll have a little boy, or girl, and it’ll be perfect. Life is good. It’s all good.

See the Elephant

“See the Elephant”

Characters
Jack Wynce
Belinda
Stan
Anish
Rich Wynce
Emily
Man (unseen)

~PLAY BEGIN~

ACT ONE

Scene 1.

The play begins in absolute darkness. Slowly creeps in the sounds of a circus, bustling with people and all manner of activity; the ringmaster’s booming voice above it all. The sounds grow louder as a few camera flashes go off, giving the first glimpse of the set and characters there. The final flash brings absolute silence and lights gently rise up on the scene: Death Valley, 1926. The four characters exist, amidst sand, rocks and pieces of luggage, silent and hot.  A broken down model-T may or may not be visible on stage. There’s JACK (31, a handsome well-dressed man), standing center, gazing outward with a look teetering between hopefulness and disbelief. The remaining three characters are seated, frozen. BELINDA (35, a pretty woman, aged slightly by stress), ANISH (17, small, curious-looking Indian boy), attempting to hide his nervousness with indifference, his torso wrapped in dried blood-stained bandages, and STAN (55, a hobo clown in fading make-up), tired and deep in thought. RICH (34, an average looking man with a god-like air of confidence) enters, approaching Jack as a playful predator would its unsuspecting prey. The lighting is mainly blue, signifying a dream.

Rich:  Well, will ya look at this? I mean, jeez, man! Wow. Heh. Jack. Jackie boy! It’s me! It’s… Ah, I get it. Giving me the cold shoulder. I understand. Well…heh…that is to say, I understand you enough to know why you would choose to ignore me. Not that I would ever do such a thing. I’ve never been hardwired that way. Towards childishness, I mean. Towards… (takes a moment to fully be affected by Jack’s silence) I should be upset with you- I really should. But, ha, look at this mess you’ve made for yourself! (gestures toward the frozen characters) For them! I was mad at first- I mean, who wouldn’t be!- but, Jesus, Jack! This is an all new low for you…and that’s saying something. Remember…remember when we was kids and you was caught in the barn with that girl Lily…Sally…Farmer Acker’s daughter? I had to save your ass that night. Took a shovel right to the face. I still have a scar if you look hard enough. And this tooth…never quite felt the same again, ya know? Out of the two of us, you got the lion’s share on positive attributes. You’re more talented, the better performer, charming and damn sure the more handsome out of the two of us…but you never did have an ounce of common sense. And without that, well…look at you. Sad thing is, it’s not just you that’s gonna pay for this. (shifts focus to the others and a twinge of sadness enters his words) These are good people, you know that? Some of the best people I ever worked with. I fed them and gave them a roof over their heads, protected them just like mom and pop taught us to, but…how could I protect them from you? Huh? I don’t have the tools to fight your kind of manipulation, dragging these poor souls off to their-!

Jack: I didn’t manipulate- !

Rich: No. No. No. No. No, little brother. I’m not in the right mind, all of a sudden, to hear your voice. I can’t. You hurt me substantially. After all I’ve done for you without asking a thing  except that you do your job and pull your weight and you- you’re smug fucking self just prances in here, taking the most important things in my life and…you probably don’t feel a damn thing.

Jack: Rich…

Rich: Nope. Too late. You’re all alone now, Jack. They’re not going to be under your spell forever and, I…well, even if I could help you out… God forgive me, but I highly doubt I would. (exits)

Jack sits down with the rest and lights change to something like realistic. The characters unfreeze, but their movements are subtle. Anish coughs and clutches his chest.

Stan: You okay, kid?

Anish: I am fine. I just-

Stan: I know. I know. You’ll be fine, buddy.

Belinda: Jack. Jackie…

Jack: (as if released from a trance) Huh? What is it, Bella?

Belinda: It’s Anish…

Jack: Anish, how’re ya doing?

Anish: Fine, Mr. Wynce.

Jack: Right. He’s fine. You’re fine. (pulls out his cigarette case, and from it a cigarette, and lights up) And I’m not going to tell you again: don’t call me ‘Mr. Wynce’. That’s my brother. (he and Belinda share an odd look)

Anish: I am sorry, Mr…Jack.

Jack: That’s better and no need to apologize, kid. It’s how you were raised. Just don’t do it again and we’re square.

Anish: I understand.

Jack: We’ll be out of here in no time, mark my words, gang. Some car full of kindly people, people like us trying to make a new life out west, will come down this road any minute now. Mark my words.

Belinda: I trust you, Jackie.

Jack: Thanks, Bella. Stan, you sure there’s nothing we can do to start that ol’ jalopy over there?

Stan: Well, seein’ as I’m a circus clown and not a mechanic…and I ain’t got no tools…it don’t look too good.

Jack: Alright, alright. There’s gotta be some kind of instruction manual in the damned thing.

Belinda: We’ve already looked.

Jack: Then look again! Anish!

Anish starts, with obvious pain, to stand up, but Stan gently pushes him down.

Stan: Sit down, kid. (to Jack) He’s in no condition-

Jack: Well, nobody told him to- (gestures towards Anish’s wound) Fine, I’ll check!

Belinda: Jackie, it’s not there!

Jack: (furious) How the hell do you know?!

Belinda: Jackie…?

Stan: Throwin’ a tantrum ain’t gonna get us moving any faster, Jack.

Jack: (settles) You’re right. You’re right. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I can saw a full grown man into five pieces, rearrange him and put him back together, but I can’t get a fucking car to start.

Belinda: Language.

Jack: Sorry. How long’ve we been stuck here?

Stan: (checks his watch) ‘Bout six hours.

Jack: Shit!

Belinda: Jack!

Jack: What kinda road doesn’t have cars on it?!

Stan: The kind that cuts straight on through the hottest place on earth.

Jack: Yeah. (pause) Anybody wanna see a magic trick to pass the time? A little hypnosis or something to keep our minds off the heat until we get rescued…

Belinda: …or until Richie finds us.

Jack: He’s not coming after us.

Belinda: We took his money!

Jack: We took his car!

Stan: (to Jack) You took his wife.

Jack: Rich is not coming after us. That’s all there is to it. (pause. Jack puts out his cigarette) I’m doing a card trick. It’ll get our minds off of…things. (to Anish) You’d like that wouldn’t ya, bud?

Anish: Oh yes. Yes, Mr…Jack.

Jack: Attaboy. Look at you. You look great. You really do. Okay. (pulls a deck of cards out of his pocket. To Anish) Pick a card, kid. (Anish takes a card) Alright. Okay. You know the drill. Commit that card to memory. Show it to your friends. Return it to the deck. (Anish shows Belinda and Stan the card. Jack turns away for the sheer theatricality of it and Anish returns to the card to the deck) Bee-ootiful! Okay. Okay. I will now have the lovely Belinda shuffle this deck to her heart’s content. (Belinda shuffles and returns the cards to Jack. As he speaks, he first sits down his cigarette case and then circles the other three, only to stop before Anish upon the revealing of the card) You’ve all seen the card pulled by our dear Anish here. I have not. I cannot possibly know what the card is nor where the card is in this deck. It’s impossible! And yet, I happen to deal exclusively in the impossible. Anish, boy, is your card the… (draws a card) …ace of spades?

Anish: Hm. It is not, Jack.

Jack: Ah, well, friends, magic, like politics and religion, is an imperfect art. (clears throat) How about… (draws another card) …the jack of hearts?

Stan: Nope.

Jack: (quickly draws another) The…two of clubs?

Belinda: Oh Jack…

Jack: Shit!

Belinda: It’s okay, baby. We’re all a little flustered. The heat…

Jack: Anish! Hand me a cigarette, will ya?

Anish reaches for Jack’s cigarette case and opens it. His face lights up as he raises a card from within.

Jack: What’s that you got there, kid?

Anish: (astonished) It…it is the card… (he shows the others)

Belinda: Oh Jackie!

Stan: (mildly impressed) Hm.

Jack: I am Jack Alder Wynce, Mysterios the Great, the most capable master of the metaphysical arts in all forty-eight states and most awe-inspiring act at the Wynce Bros. Circus. If something seems off; a miscalculation, a wrong turn, a broken-down car in the middle of the fucking desert…

Belinda: Jack…

Jack:…trust, my friends, that it is all a part of the grand illusion and, in the end, Jack Wynce will always deliver. We’ll be looking out over that California coast before you know it. Mark my words. (looks up and down the road, disappointed) Dammit.

Scene 2.

Night has fallen. Anish and Stan are asleep, Anish resting on the other’s lap. Jack and Belinda sit close together, staring up at the night sky. Anish is shaking violently and moaning. The word “Emily” can be heard nestled within his pained sounds.

Belinda: Jack, he needs a hospital.

Jack: Stupid kid. Jesus.

Belinda: Look at him, poor thing.

Jack: We never should have brought him along.

Belinda: What choice did we have?

Jack: We could’ve left him behind like we left everything else. He had a great life back at the circus. He was even dating that cute little bird, the trapeze one…

Belinda: Emily.

Jack: Yeah! Emily. Kid would never get a girl like that out in the actual world, with or without his…you know.

Belinda: I know. But could you imagine what it must have been like for him? Never able to live a normal life. On the stage or off the stage, always a sideshow act.

Jack: That’s why the good Lord gave us the circus. To supply all the freaks of the world with a home!

Belinda: But you’ve got it all, Jack. You’ve always had it. Good looks, talent, charisma…

Jack: All the reasons you fell hopelessly in love with me…

Belinda: Oh, Jack. Well, yes, but my point is that you didn’t have to stay with the circus. You could do anything.

Jack: Maybe. Maybe not. The boys from the speakeasy were talking about some kind of something or other with the banks. They say that things’re gonna get pretty rocky pretty soon for the common man.

Belinda: You’re not anywhere near common, baby.

Jack: Thing is, these boys might not be on the right side of the law but they’re definitely on the inside of it, Bella. They knew about the ol’ Nobel Experiment months before it got passed. Remember that?

Belinda: I do.

Jack: Okay. I’m just sayin’. We got my brother’s money to keep us going for a while, and… I’ve got more faith in myself than any man should, but I’m still gonna play it safe once we make it west. Pack light. Act smart.

Anish: …Emily…

Jack: Jesus Christ. Speaking of light packing, we also gotta figure out what to do with these to tagalongs. A smelly old man and the Indian. I’ve got half a mind to drop one at the hospital, the other at the old folks’ home and be done with it. You n’ me, we got a life to start.

Anish: …Emily…

Jack: We should’ve never brought him! I heard people that are raised up in India live in little holes in the ground. Whole families living in little holes in the ground! Half of ‘em starve to death and the rest of ‘em run around, diseased, skinny as skeletons, with no clothes or toilets or anything worth having. (points to Anish) This boy here is born into all that…but he’s different…he comes along with this… (gestures towards his chest) …this extra arm popping out of his chest.

Stan: (there’s no telling how long he had been awake before this point) Vestigial.

Jack: What?

Stan: It’s called a ‘vestigial arm’.

Jack: (ignoring the other) Anyway, this, that or the other thing happens and, whoosh, he gets snatched into a circus, shipped to America, bounces around a bit and ends up on our doorstep. Luckiest kid in the world and what does he do? He gets the idea of cutting it off with a damned ax so that he can live a normal life! He’s a fool, is what he is! Plain and simple.

Stan: You got no idea what it’s like to live life thinkin’ you’re a freak.

Belinda: That’s exactly what I was saying!

Jack: You’re right! I don’t! You both happy?! Doesn’t change the fact that he’s a damned stupid fool. I’m tired. Somebody keep watch for a car. I’m going to sleep.

Stan: (irritated) Gonna throw me into the old folks’ home then?

Jack: (thinks) No one asked you to come along, Stan. And the way you were high-tailing into our car I’d say we did you a favor no matter where we decide to dump you. What’d ya do, Stan, that got you so shook up last night? (no answer) Good night, Stan. (lies down)

The scene goes blue, as it was at the play’s beginning, signifying a dream. Stan, Belinda and Jack all freeze. Anish is lying so still that he seems frozen as well. EMILY (14, a thin girl with fair hair and fair skin, with a look at once adorable and odd) enters, takes a seat and stares, wide-eyed, at the night sky. There is a sweetness to her that is unparalleled. Anish wakes up, displaying no signs of being uncomfortable. He yawns then notices Emily with a start.

Emily: (her eyes remain fixed on the sky) Aren’t the stars just darling here?

Anish: (in utter disbelief) Emily?

Emily: Oh, Anish, look at them. There’s so many! I feel like it would take a person a hundred, no! A thousand lifetimes to count them all, don’t you?

Anish: (approaches her) How are you here? How did you find me?

Emily: (she laughs; the purity of the sound is disarming and it is soon followed by a sadness that is equally so) Silly guy, of course I’m not here. I’m at home, sleeping in my family’s trailer. I’m not even convinced you’re gone yet. Heehee. Your friend, the dwarf, he says he saw you hop in a car and drive off with Jack and Belinda, but I swore I knew you better than that. I knew you wouldn’t just run off without saying goodbye. (almost in tears) I thought you loved me…

Anish: Emily, I do! I do love you! I love you more than anything on heaven or earth!

Emily: Then why would you… (she notices his wound) Oh, Anish! What happened to you?! Your arm!

Anish: I cut it off.

Emily: (she looks at him as though he were a stranger) You…

Anish: I was tired of being treated like some sort of aberration!

Emily: You were always beautiful to me…

Anish: And only you! No one else! Not the crowds of people, pointing and laughing, pointing and laughing. Not even most of the others in the sideshow! Not your father…

Emily: Anish.

Anish: I had to do it! I had to do it and I had to leave! Trust, though, that my plan was always to return so that I might bring you back with me. I promise this to you. You are my breath and my heart. You are my one true love. Wait for me. I will give us a good life.

Emily: I…we had a good life, I thought.

Anish: How could we possibly know this if I do not at least try at something different out here? I will make it to California and I will build us something more wonderful than we have dreamed. I love you.

Emily: I love you, too. And I trust you. Now get some rest, okay?

Anish: Okay.

Emily walks him back to his resting place. He lies down with her help.

Emily: Sleep well, my love. I have a feeling that tomorrow will be hard for the both of us. I miss you already, ‘Nish.

Anish: Me too, you. With all of my being. (falls alseep)

Emily gently rubs her hand against his face, smiling warmly. Then, with sudden fury and a contrasting darkness that is nothing less than terrifying, she takes Stan by the collar, waking him with a jolt.

Emily:  (practically growling) YOU!

Stan: (startled, shaking) Y-y-you! W-what are you doing here…?

Emily: Reminding you that you cannot run from what you’ve done!

She releases him as quickly and violently as she grabbed him, lovingly touches Anish one more time and exits.

Scene 3.

Morning. Belinda hands an empty sack to Jack who, dressed down to accommodate for the heat, munches on an apple. Stan and Anish are just waking.

Belinda: Are you sure you have everything you need, baby?

Jack: I’m fine. I’m fine. (notices Stan and Anish) Look who’s decided to wake up.

Stan: Mornin’.

Jack: How’d you sleep?

Anish: Well, thank you. / Stan: I’ve had better…

Jack: Okay. I’m off. Don’t get rescued without me.

Anish: Where are you going?

Jack: Just over that ridge. I figure it’s worth a shot. Could be we’re sitting here while all this time there’s a family camping or a…a ranger station or something right over there. Wouldn’t that be swell? (exits)

Belinda: Be careful! (to Stan) I hope he’ll be alright…

Stan: He’ll be fine. He’s the great Jack Wynce.

Belinda: Hm.

Stan: Jeez, feels like it’s hotter n’ yesterday and the day ain’t even started yet…

Belinda: Yes. I hope Jack finds help.

Anish: Or help finds us.

Stan: I think we might literally be the only folks in the world stupid enough to try this road dead in the middle o’ summer.

Belinda: But what other choice did we have?

Anish: We could have never left.

Stan: Or gone East instead.

Belinda: Jack says that the whole country’s going west. That that’s where the opportunities are. A fresh start. “Anyone can make it if they have a little bit of brains and a whole lot of ambition.”

Stan: I’m starving. (to Anish) What about you, kid?

Anish: I could eat something, yes.

Belinda: (reaches for a bag and pulls out some circus peanuts and an apple) Jack said that we should ration. You know, just in case.

Stan: Sure, great, just hand over the goods. (gesturing toward Anish) Give him the apple. He needs the health.

Belinda gives Anish the apple and hands Stan a couple peanuts from the bag.

Stan: That’s it?

Belinda: Jack’s orders.

Stan: Jesus…

Belinda takes a few peanuts for herself and then sits, eating.

Stan: I can’t take all this quiet. Let’s do something.

Belinda: Like what?

Stan: You ever heard of Mahjong?

Belinda: Oh yes. It’s quite the fad in the cities these days.

Stan: Good, ‘cuz I got a set in the car.

Belinda: Wonderful, but…don’t you need four people to play?

Stan: (goes to the car to retrieve the set) Traditionally, yeah, but I met a guy a while back came from Malaysia. He was a contortionist. Damn good one. Did some clowning, too. Taught me how to play it, Malaysian-style, with three people. Poor guy died a little while later n’ I took his set. (game in hand, he returns and begins to set up) The rules’re about the same. I’ll explain as we go. (to Anish) You remember, don’t you?

Anish: I believe so, yes.

Stan: I’ll go ahead and deal. Main difference, three people instead of four. No north wind. No characters or bamboo tiles neither. You got four each of animal and face tiles that act just like flowers. And (picks up a joker) the joker tile. Jokers are wild. Ready?

Belinda: I…

Stan: You’ll pick it up.

Anish: It is no difficult thing, Mrs. Wynce.

Belinda: That’s…Ms. Wynce, Anish.

Anish: Oh yes. Of course. I am sorry.

Belinda: It’s fine.

They begin playing.

Stan: (to Belinda) Your turn.

Belinda: Right.

Stan: So…

Belinda: Yes?

Stan: I didn’t realize you and the boss were havin’ troubles.

Belinda: Excuse me?

Stan: The boss? Your husband?

Belinda: I know who you are referring to, but this is hardly appropriate conversation.

Stan: Lady, I’m an old run-down clown. Appropriate ain’t part of the job description.

Belinda: Well, I refuse to take part in it. (to Anish) Your turn.

Stan: It’s just…you two always seemed like a match made in heaven. Then you off and run away with his little brother. S’odd, is all.

Anish: (softly) Mr. Wynce…Rich…was always very nice to me.

Stan: (to Anish) He had his angry side, too, I know. I seen it a few times. (to Belinda) I’m just trying to be friendly, is all. Sayin’ I seen his not-so-good side.

Anish: Your turn, Stan.

Stan: I know, I know…

There is quiet for a while.

Belinda: He couldn’t satisfy me.

Stan: Say no more. Heh.

Belinda: What?

Stan: Nothing…

Belinda: Hm.

Lights go blue. All freeze except Belinda. Rich enters with a bouquet of flowers. She notices him immediately.

Belinda: Richy?

Rich: (looking around, faux-impressed) Wow. Wow, wow, wow. Will ya look at this place? And here I was up all night, knockin’ back the hooch, drowning my woes with the knowledge that my runaway wife was gonna get hers as  soon as she found out my little brother was nothing but a hoodlum with a pretty face. Then I come out here. And I see this. Boy did I have Jackie wrong. He’s the Real McCoy, that one. You guys’ve found the promised land.

Belinda: Rich…

Rich: I’m jealous. And here I was thinking that the warm bed and nice things I offered you were pretty nifty but oh my!…

Belinda: Stop it…

Rich: (sad as he is furious) I WILL NOT STOP IT! You were nothing but a goddamned washed-up flapper whore when I found you. You were nothing. Nothing! And this is how you repay me?!

Belinda: Rich…

Rich: I bought you these flowers. They’ll be waiting for you on that vanity I got you for our second anniversary. Right beside your wedding ring and that fucking note you left me. You know the one. (exits)

The lights return to normal.

Stan: Belinda! Hey!

Belinda: (as if returning from a trance) Huh?

Stan: It’s your turn. Look, if you don’t want to play…

Belinda: No. I do… (makes a move) See? There. (to Anish) Go ahead, Anish.

They play silently for a while longer.

Anish: I wonder what they are doing at the circus. I hope they can get on along without us.

Belinda: (distant) I’m sure they’ll have no problem getting on without me. I’m nothing.

Anish: (not knowing quite how to process her words, he turns to Stan) And you, Stan?

Stan: They’ll get along fine without me.

Anish: But you were one of the star acts. Under the big top!

Stan: Yeah, but I’m gettin’ old, too. Guy like me, wasn’t long ‘til I was gettin’ replaced anyway.

Anish: And…what was his name? The one that got attacked in the menagerie?

Stan: Yeah. S’clown name was Mr. Bingles. S’real name was…Spencer or…or Stephen or something like that. Poor kid. Talented, that one. You see them trainers interactin’ with those animals like they’re the most harmless things in the world so much, you forget. Poor thing got torn apart. Talented, too.

Anish: Which one did it?

Stan: Vishala.

Anish: The tiger?

Stan: Yup. Beautiful as she is deadly, that one.

Belinda: He had no business being in there by himself.

Stan: I know it. But, you know kids.

Belinda: Someone should have locked the entryway.

Stan: I couldn’t agree more.

Pause.

Belinda: I hope Jack is alright.

Anish: I am sure he is fine.

Stan: Yeah, long as I knew that kid there wasn’t no kinda trouble he couldn’t get himself into or out of.

Belinda: Hm. I only hope his talent extends to the people in his care, as well…

Scene 4.

Nighttime. Stan and Anish are sleeping, Anish as restlessly as before. Belinda is sitting, awake, gazing worriedly into the distance. After a while, Jack enters, out of her direct line of sight dehydrated and exhausted. She hears him  and leaps to her feet.

Belinda: Jack! Jack Wynce, you’re alive!

Jack: Hey there, Bella…

Belinda: Oh my, are you alright?

Jack: Water…

Belinda: Yes, of course! Just…sit down, baby! (she brings him water) Here you go, baby. Drink…

Jack: (after downing all of the water) Thank…thank you…

Belinda: What happened? Where did you go? Are you okay?

Jack: I’m fine. Fine. I walked…and walked. It was…so hot. I made it to the ridge. Nothing. There’s just more desert. Endless desert. I was tired. Fell asleep. I woke up and…got lost. So fucking hot. I came back. Here I am.

Belinda: You poor thing.

Jack: I’m fine. How are you?

Belinda: Better. I’ve…been better. I’m glad that you’re back, but-

Jack: (with obvious distaste) And them?

Belinda: Good enough. Anish needs help.

Jack: I…I had a lot of time to think…while I was out there and… (gestures towards Stan and Anish) I don’t know how long we’ll be out here, you know? We only have so much food…n’ drinks left, you know? And they were never part of the plan…

Belinda: Jack, what are you saying?

Jack: If you were drivin’ a car drivin’ by and you saw some old man dressed up like a clown and a wog in bandages, would you pull over?

Belinda: Jack…

Jack: Would you?!

Belinda: Well, I…

Jack: No. You wouldn’t. I wouldn’t. You wouldn’t. No one would.

Belinda: What are you saying, Jack?

Jack: (shrugs) I don’t know. I had a long day.

Belinda: You should get some rest.

Jack: Yeah. Rest. (pulls out his pocket watch, which is attached to a chain) Hey, remember when we used to sneak off into the stables and I’d pretend to hypnotize you to fall in love with me?

Belinda: Ha, I do…

Jack: (raises the watch and swings it, slowly, in front of her. His voice becomes more melodic and slow as well) Those were great times, weren’t they.

Belinda: They were.

Jack: Yeah. They were.

Belinda: Jack, what are you…?

Jack: Ah, ah, ah… Just relax, alright?

Belinda: We shouldn’t be-

Jack: Relax… (Belinda drifts into a trance) That’s my girl. Can you hear me?

Belinda: Yes.

Jack: Good. Good. Now tell me, what’s your favorite color?

Belinda: Violet.

Jack: Violet. Good. Good. But, I seem to remember that your favorite color was always blue. Actually, I’m almost sure of it. Your favorite color is blue, Belinda. Do you understand me?

Belinda: Yes.

Jack: Belinda.

Belinda: Yes?

Jack: What is your favorite color?

Belinda: (pause) Blue.

Jack: That’s right. Okay. Next question: Who do you love more than anyone in the world?

Belinda: Rich. My husband.

Jack: (pause) Hm. How about that? What if I told you that it was me, Jack Wynce, that you loved more than anything you have ever loved before? (pause) Belinda.

Belinda: Yes?

Jack: You love me more than anything you have loved or ever will love in your entire life. Is that clear?

Belinda: It is.

Jack: Good. So tell me, Belinda, who do you love more than anyone in the world?

Belinda pauses for a long while, much to Jack’s frustration.

Belinda: You. I love you.

Jack: That’s better. I need you. I love you. It’s just the two of us from here on out and we will make it to the coast and we will do whatever it takes to get there. Nothing will stand in our way (looks to Stan and Anish) But for now, sleep. When I snap my fingers you will wake and you will be mine.

Belinda lies down to sleep.

Scene 5.

Morning. Jack is hovering over sleeping Belinda. Stan is wandering around. Anish is lying very still.

Jack: (snapping his fingers) Bella, baby, wake up! (she wakes) Good morning, my dear.

Belinda: Mm. Good morning.

Jack: How’d you sleep?

Belinda: Well, thanks.

Jack: Excellent.

Stan: Mornin’, Belinda.

Belinda: Good morning, Stan.

Stan: Clouds’re out. Means we’re one step farther from burnin’ to death.

Jack: That’s the spirit. Glass half full.

Stan: (regarding Anish) This guy’s sleepin’ in today. (examines him and becomes concerned) Anish? Hey, kid. (touches him) Wake up. Anish. Anish!

Belinda: (worried) Oh no…

Stan: Anish! Ani-

Anish: (wakes up in a strange burst of energy, though he is dazed) Huh?

Stan: Oh, thank God…

Belinda: Whew!

Stan: Get the kid some food!

Belinda grabs the bag of food and takes it to Anish.

Stan: (to Anish) You feelin’ okay?

Anish: I am good. I dreamed that we were rescued…by Richard. He took us back home…

Stan: Scared the mess outta us.

Belinda: (offers the food bag to Anish) Here you are.

Stan: Eat up. (takes an apple out of the bag and hands it to him) Here. (Anish takes the apple and eats voraciously) We need water!

Jack: (notices Anish reaching into the bag for more) Hey, slow down on the food!

Stan: He’s hungry!

Jack: We’re all hungry! We need to ration-

Stan: He’s sick! I think his wound’s infected…

Jack: And we’re supposed to starve because some fucking wog chops his own arm off?!

Belinda: Jack!

Stan: Watch your mouth…

Anish begins to look visibly unwell, swaying in and out of consciousness.

Jack: Or what, you fucking washed up old clown?!

Belinda:  Jack!

Jack: (to Belinda) Shut up!

Stan: Where’s the water?

Jack: I drank it all!

Stan: You fuckin’ hypocrite…

Jack: I was dehydrated after I spent the whole goddamn day burning to death so that I could find us some help!

Stan: All the good that did!

Anish: (softly) Stan…?

Jack: Look, no one forced you to chase down the car as we were drivin’ off that night! No one wanted in that car when we were drivin’ off that night.

Anish: Jack…?

Jack: I know people, Stan. I know how they tick and I know that us slowing down to let you into that car was the biggest favor you coulda got that night. I could see it in your beady fuckin’ eyes. The fear. You did somethin’. You were runnin’ from somethin’ and I bet it was somethin’ terrible…

Stan: You don’t know from nothin-

Anish collapses. Belinda reacts immediately.

Belinda: Jack!

Jack: Not now!

Belinda: It’s Anish!

Stan: Kid…

The lights go blue and everyone freezes. The stillness lingers for a beat and then Emily enters, distraught. Anish slowly rises, first taking in his motionless comrades and then noticing Emily.

Anish: (playfully) Hello, you.

Emily: (unable to hold back the tears) Oh, Anish!

Anish: What is wrong? Has someone done something to you?

Emily: Yes. And no.

Anish: I do not understand. Tell me and-

Emily: You’re dying.

Anish: I am?

Emily: Yes. You are. You never should have run off without saying goodbye. We never know when it will be forever.

Anish: N-no. No! I will not allow it! I will be stronger than death! My love for you will give me strength and I will-

Emily: (smiling, she puts her finger to his mouth) This isn’t a fairytale. There’s no such thing as magic and happy endings are lies told to children so that they might feel some form of joy before reality takes hold. You’re dying.

Anish: I am sorry.

Emily: Apologies are meaningless. They can’t undo the past. Or the present…

Anish: (pause) What do I do?

Emily: You accept it as inevitable, I suppose. You look at your life not as a collection of wrong and right turns but as a set of experiences that simply are. And whether you are pleased with them or not you must accept that this is what you chose to do…and, in that, find your peace…my love.

Anish: If I had not run I would have never known that I should not have run at all.

Emily: In dying, we learn the lessons that entire lives could not dream to teach us. Now rest.

Anish moves to his previous position.

Anish: We will meet again in the next world. (collapses)

Emily: Fairy tales, my love. (exits)

Lights returns to normal. All unfreeze. Anish has died.

Stan: (at Anish’s side) He’s gone.

Belinda: (in tears) Oh no. Oh no.

Jack: (to Belinda) What’s your favorite color?

Belinda: Jack, this is not the-

Jack: WHAT THE FUCK IS YOUR FAVORITE COLOR?!

Belinda: (shaken) It’s blue. It’s blue.

Jack: Very good.

ACT TWO

Scene 1.

Midday. Jack and Belinda stand in an open area, looking down at Anish’s makeshift grave. Both are frozen. Stan sits off to the side, wallowing in sorrow. He is unaware that Emily is standing behind him. The blue lighting is in effect from the start.

Emily: Hello, Stanley. (Stan nearly leaps from his resting spot from the start) Settle down, Stan. No need for all of the theatrics. You wouldn’t want your travel companions to start questioning your stability, would you?

Stan: Wh-what do you want?

Emily: Just to talk. That’s all. Hey, what did they call you under the big top? What was your name painted on all of those posters?

Stan: McDoodle…

Emily: (playful) Haha, yes, that’s the one. So funny. So cute. The last name I’d ever give a murderer.

Stan: What do you want?

Emily: The only thing I want is to grieve the loss of my little sheik. Hehe. Our Anish. He loved you oh so very much, you know, the naive little dreamer. Oh, he would talk about you, on and on and on. You were kind of like a father to him. He said that to me once.

Stan: Kid was like the son I never got to havin’….

Emily: I never would’ve told him what I saw. Honest. I never would’ve told anyone because if my little ‘Nish found out it would destroy him.

Stan: How was I supposed to know that?

Emily: I don’t have all the answers, McDoodle. I don’t even have a fraction of them.

Stan: Will you ever leave me be?

Emily: Oh sure. The past can only hold on to a person for so long, right? Hehehe. I mean, I don’t see the ghost of that poor little clown from Malaysia whose food you poisoned because he was getting the bigger applause lingering about. You got off scott-free and you got a spiffy mahjong set to boot! Haha! Having said that, if, by chance, you’d like to quicken the process of ridding yourself of me…I might have something you could do.

Stan: Name it.

Emily: Return to the circus. Come back and tell me that Anish is gone. Give me closure so I can move on with my life, instead of hoping, hoping, hoping for a reunion, an embrace…a kiss that will never come.

Stan: I…I can’t.

Emily: (sinks her nails into his chest) Then I will haunt you until your dying day. I suffer. You suffer. It’s really as simple as that. Come back. Tell me he’s gone. Be on your way. It’s easy.

Stan: After what I’ve done…

Emily: I’ll give you some time to think about it. You’re grieving. I get that. Just be sure not to take too long. See you later! (exits)

Lighting returns to normal. Jack and Belinda unfreeze.

Belinda: (to Stan, as if she had been calling him for a while now) Stan!

Stan: Yeah…?

Belinda: Would you like to say something? I know the two of you were close.

Stan: (thinks) Yeah. (stands and slowly takes his place near the grave) Everybody here deserved what he got more n’ he did. Boy was good. Boy was an innocent. Seems like, these days, those’re the only folks that God wants anymore.

Stan saunters back to his previous position and takes a seat. The moment he sits, the lights go blue and Emily emerges.

Emily: What a disappointing eulogy that was. Had the tables been turned as, if there was a God, they would have been, my ‘Nishy would have sent you away on verbal wings of pure poetic perfection.

Stan: Beat it.

Emily: Hm. Nope. Okay. What’s your decision?

Stan: Huh?

Emily: I gave you time to think. I lived up to my side of the bargain. So, what’s it gonna be, Mc Doodle?

Stan: (firm but nervous) I ain’t goin’ back.

Emily: (sweetly) Aww… McDoodle scared?

Stan: They might know what I did…

Emily: Oh, come on! How could they know you were the one that led Mr. Bingles into the menagerie and forced him into the tiger pen?

Stan: I ain’t talkin’ ‘bout that-

Emily: (silences him, suddenly harsh) I know exactly what you are talking about because I was there to see it. Remember? Remember?! You are a fucking soulless murderer circus freak who has never done a worthwhile thing in his whole sad fucking life and I am here, offering you the chance to not only add a dash of decency to your sorry sinful existence but also perform a duty that I think Anish, sweet, innocent Anish, would have wanted more than anything. Come back to the circus and tell me he’s gone!

Stan: No!

Emily: (smacks him) Yes!

Stan: Even if I wanted to, I’m trapped on the side of the road with a guy dead set on goin’ in the other direction!

Emily: You’ll figure something out…

Stan: I ain’t doin’ it….

Emily stops. She then smiles something dark before all of her feelings seem to evaporate to a cold distant gaze, intently directed at Stan. She smacks him once. And then again. The repeated slaps increase in frequency and intensity, as they slip into a crazed flurry of slashes and punches. Eventually she kicks him to the ground and continues to beat him until she reaches a stoic calm, her foot pressing against his chest. All the while he shouts for her to stop.

Stan: Okay! Alright! Alright!

Emily: Alright what?

Stan: I’ll do it.

Emily: What will you do?

Stan: I’ll find a way to go back. I’ll…tell you about Anish! Just leave me alone!

Emily: (cheerful) Hehe. That’s my McDoodle! (exits)

Scene 2.

Nighttime. Jack, Belinda and Stan sleep. There is a peaceful serenity for a period of time until the distant sound of a car is heard, faint at first but growing more and more by the second. Eventually the sound is accompanied by a dim light that grows steadily as well. Jack wakes up, eventually realizing with a start what it was that woke him. He is drunk with exhaustion.

Jack: (to Belinda, nudging her) Hey. Hey, Bella. Wake up. Wake up…

Belinda: (waking) Huh?

Jack: We’re rescued, baby. We’re getting out of here! (to the oncoming vehicle, waving his arms) Hey! Hey, we’re here! Hey pull over! Over here! We’re over here! Slow down! Slow dow- What’re you doing?!

The car passes by. Stan squirms a bit, but does not awaken.

Jack: No, wait! Hey! (exits after the car) Hold on! We’re back here! We’re back here, motherfucker! Wait… (returns, defeated)

Rich’s maniacal laughter can be heard. Jack reacts to it as if reacting to a headache.

Jack: S-stop it! Shut up! Shut up!

Belinda: (attempting to comfort him) Jack…

Rich’s laughter dies out.

Jack: (brushes Belinda aside, stares at Stan) It’s him. It’s his fault. No one’s gonna pull over for a fucking clown. (begins pacing, trembling as if mad) We’re gonna kill ‘im. That’s the only answer. God took care of one of ‘em for us and he’s all that’s left…

Belinda: Jack. You’re talking crazy…

Jack: (unaware of her words) We’re gonna kill him. We’re gonna kill him and bury him and the next car that comes by will pick us up and we can start our new lives together just like we always wanted!

Belinda: You should lie down; get some rest…

Jack: I will NOT-

Stan: (awake) What’s all this commotion about?

Jack: Nothing! Nothing at all, Stan!

Belinda: We were just going to sleep, right baby? (Jack is obviously furious, but says nothing) We’ve all had quite the tiresome, emotional day. Sorry to wake you. (to Jack) Come on, Jackie… (takes Jack’s hand and guides him to lie down beside her) Goodnight, Stan.

Stan: There’s something I gotta talk to you two about in the morning. It’s important. It’s about our…situation.

Belinda: Okay. We’ll talk about it in the morning then. Goodnight.

Stan: Goodnight. (lies down)

Belinda: (whispers) Jack.

Jack: (whispers) What.

Belinda: Today was a long, sad day. Blaming yourself isn’t going to make you feel any better. Close your eyes and sleep. Things will be better in the morning. You’ll see.

Jack fumbles a bit and pulls out his stopwatch.

Belinda: No, Jack…

Jack: Please…

Belinda: Sleep, Jack…

Jack: Just a quick one…

Belinda: No…

Jack: (sits up, struck with a burst of energy. He dangles the stopwatch from its chain, swaying it before her) Belinda, my dearest, I’m sorry, but I really need us to be on the same page with this.

Scene 3.

Daytime. Belinda sleeps, but Stan and Jack are awake. Jack is smoking, facing away from Stan, and Stan is eating an apple, cutting slices with the hunting knife.

Stan: So’re you two alright?

Jack: Huh?

Stan: When I woke up last night, I heard you to goin’ at it. Just wonderin’ if everything’s alright between the two of ya.

Jack: It was nothing.

Stan: Oh. (pause) There was somethin’ I been meanin’ to talk to you about.

Jack: Oh yeah?

Stan: About when we get rescued.

Jack: Uh huh.

Stan: I think we should go back to the circus.

Jack: Uh huh. Well, we’re not going to be doing that.

Stan: I see.

Jack: I’d also appreciate it if you’d stop eating all of my food.

Silence.

Stan: Ain’t you gonna at least hear me out?

Jack: (feigns thinking) No.

Stan: Okay then. (pause) I killed your brother. (Jack is obviously shocked by this, but remains still and quiet) That’s why I needed to get away that night. I obviously wasn’t thinkin’ too straight ‘cuz I hopped in the car with his own flesh and blood, but…I was desperate. (pause as Jack’s eyes begin to water) Y’see it was him that called for me bein’ replaced by that new kid. I heard it from a reliable resource that that was his intention. I took care o’ the immediate problem but knew that if I didn’t nip it at the source there’d be another…and another come to take my livelihood away. So I walked right into his trailer and I took out a knife and I… I checked and double checked to make sure nobody was there to see me but, after I finished the deed I look outta the window and see that Emily girl starin’ right at me. Right into my soul, ya know. She musta been headin’ back from sneakin’ a visit with Anish at the sideshow. Her eyes move to the bloody knife I got raised in my hand and she runs off. I do the same thing…right to you. (pause) So, what I’m sayin’ is, you ain’t got no reason to run no more. You go back and you’re Mr. Big Stuff. You’re the boss man. And you won’t look like no criminal for runnin’ away. S’perfect, ain’t it? (pause) Jack?

Jack: I’m not going back.

Stan: (rises, dropping the apple and raising the knife) Then it looks like I got no other choice…

Jack turns to Stan for the first time this scene, tears streaming down his eyes, but fearless. Stan takes a small step toward him. Then another. Jack only watches him. It isn’t until Sam has covered half the distance between him that Jack snaps his fingers and Belinda wakes up instantly.

Belinda: W-what’s going on?

Jack: (plainly) Stan killed Richard and now he’s going to kill us.

Belinda: What?

Jack: Richard’s dead. Stan killed him.

Belinda: (cries) No…

Stan: I don’t wanna do this.

Jack: Uh huh…

Stan: (to Belinda) We gotta go back to the circus. You’d be runnin’ the show. The both o’ ya.

Belinda: (in tears) Oh Rich, oh my dear, sweet Rich…

Jack: Go to Hell.

Stan: So be it.

Stan moves to stab Jack. Jack snaps his fingers and Belinda immediately places herself between the two of them and Stan’s knife pierces her instead. Belinda drops to her knees. Stan steps back, shocked.

Belinda: (to Jack) I…I never should have come with you. You doomed us all, Jack. You selfish…selfish bastard. Why…why did I ever love you? (dies)

Jack: (looks to Stan with dead eyes) You killed her.

Stan: Why…did she…?

Jack: Because she loved me.

Jack rises and faces Stan.

Stan: We gotta go back.

Jack: No.

Stan: What are you running from?! The stardom? The attention? The respect?! You had everything!

Jack: (pause) It was all an illusion…

Stan: And what’s waitin’ for you out west?

Jack: (looks westward and then back at Stan) Anything else.

Stan: (raises the blade once again) Can’t be said I didn’t try to stop all this.

Jack draws out a gun in the blink of an eye and points it at Stan. The lights go blue and both characters do not quite freeze, but stay exceptionally still. Emily and Rich enter, taking the sides of Stan and Jack respectively. Stan cannot see Rich nor is Jack aware of Emily.

Rich: Come on, Jackie-boy! I’m not around to save your ass for once, but we sure as Hell ain’t gonna let this sap get away with what he’s done. You’re a Wynce, boy. A winner! Bump this clown…

Emily: McDoodle, McDoodle…it is very important that you keep your promise. Look at him. He just found out that his brother is dead…and now Belinda. He’s off and he’s hot and exhausted and not all that good of a shot to begin with. Kill him, McDoodle or I will follow you into the depths of Hell…

Rich: I forgive you, I do. I know how it must’ve felt having all the talents in the world n’ nothing to show for it but a couple a’ shows n’ a half-filled house at a fifth-rate circus. Never being able to become more or less than you always been. Then you look at your ugly big brother with his pretty lady and all that power and of course it made you a little batty. I get that…

Emily: Focus, you stupid clown. Maintain your focus and this is simple. I’ll thank you for what you’ve told me and I won’t tell a soul about the things I’ve seen, I swear it. It’ll be our little secret…

Rich: I love you. Despite everything, I love you, Jackie-boy. Never forget that.

Emily: Don’t fuck this up!

Lights return to normal. Rich and Emily exit in a flash.

Jack: (smiles) Abracadabra.

Stan drops his knife and Jack shoots himself in the head. Lights go black at the sound of the gunshot.

Scene 4.

Blue lights rise and Jack appears on stage, alone, standing tall on a cliff face. Sounds of the circus play softly as they did at the play’s beginning. Rich and Belinda enter lovingly, hand in hand. They look at Jack, feeling sorry for him, and continue on their way, exiting. Anish enters. He approaches Jack. The circus sounds fade to nothing.

Anish: Hello, Jack.

Jack: Hey there, Anish. How’s it going?

Anish: I am fine.

Jack: Good, good. You wanna see a magic trick?

Anish: No, thank you.

Jack: Okay. Then what do you want?

Anish: I just wanted you to know that it isn’t your fault, what happens to me. It’s inevitable.

Jack: Thank you.

Anish: Oh, and one more thing.

Jack: Yeah?

Anish: (thinks for a bit) I want you to wake up.

Jack: Huh?

Anish touches his head and he collapses into a deep trance.

Anish: (touching Jack’s forehead) (whispers) Wake up.

As Anish exits the lights return to normal. It’s dusk. Jack wakes up, rubbing his eyes.

Man: (offstage) (calling as if he’d been trying to get his attention for a while) Hey! Hello? Are you alive up there?!

Jack: (noticing the Man, offstage, who is standing below Jack. He is dehydrated and exhausted) Yes… Yes I am.

Man: You can thank God for that. How on earth’d you get all the way out here?

Jack: I…I was…trying to go to California. Coming from…from the circus. Near Las Vegas. Car broke down yesterday. I…I walked to this ridge to see if there was anything on the other side…help, maybe…

Man: Well, today’s your lucky day then. Not much ‘round these parts but rocks and vultures usually, but my wife and I like to come out and do a little hiking when the sun’s not so high. We live about thirty miles west. We don’t got much space in the car, but we can probably squeeze you in and drop you off some nicer part o’ California if you’d like. We got some water, too. Looks like you sure could use it.

Jack: Th-thank you! Thank you so much!

Man: Not a problem. Was anybody else in that car with you?

Jack: (looks out into the distance, in the direction of the car) Nope. Just me.

Man: Fair enough. Now come on down and let’s get you out of here.

Jack looks back once more then exits hurriedly.

~PLAY END~

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