Siren’s Call

Siren’s Call

by Anand Gautam

EXT: SEA

It is dark in the night. The sky is moonless with dark blanket of black thunderous clouds. Down on the sea surface, there is a sea fret. The winds are howling as if a storm would commence.

A boat – slowly coming out from the fog. MALCOLM rowing it, amidst the fog and the wind.

MALCOLM, aged about 35. Tucked in a white linen shirt and a trouser.

 

MALCOLM (to himself, grunting while rowing the boat):

Damn this fog and damn this sea! If only the utterly foolish captain took my suggestion seriously, I would’ve been on the ship. If only my warning had been taken seriously, the ship wouldn’t have been wrecked and I wouldn’t have been a lone castaway on this boat, floating amidst the goddamn fog-filled sea. It could pour down any time. Bilge rats every one of them!

MALCOLM grunts rowing the boat. The sea seems calm now, here in this place. He sees ruins of a huge arch. His eyes become large in awe. His mouth agape.

MALCOLM (to himself):

Good Heavens! What in the midst of the sea is it?

 

The boat enters the ruins. MALCOLM turns his head around to see the gigantic broken arch.

 

INT: LIGHTHOUSE

Two old men, MAGORR and BORACHH, having a conversation over their night watch, facing the sea.

MAGORR:

This is no time to speak of the wilderness of the sea, me-hearty, Borachh. As ye speak, the sea rumbles and rages in no time.

BORACCH:

Ah! Ye think too much, don’t ye, Magorr? The sea seems to be rather calm. It’s just the fog.

MAGORR:

Aye! But it only calms for a while, then it hits stronger and wilder than ye can imagine.

BORACHH stares at MAGORR, puzzled. MAGORR turns his head towards BORACHH.

MAGORR:

Don’t take its silence for granted, me-matey. It implies it only gathers its energy to come back with a hurricane. I have seen what you haven’t. Oh, this is no ordinary sea!

BORACHH:

Perhaps ye imagine too much. Too much of rum, isn’t it?

MAGORR:

Have ye forgotten the last storm this soon? The one that brought with it the carcasses in plenty, afloat on this very surface of the sea?

BORACHH:

Aye! But what the hell we could do if the storm hits? It’s a storm and it hits and goes. And the poor sailors succumb to it. They must watch for the weather before they venture.

MAGORR:

Oh, don’t take the name of hell here. I am here since before ye and I have seen what one wouldn’t see and shouldn’t see. I have never told ye ‘bout it, but this sea encompasses many dark tales at its abyss. Sailors come here with a hope and greed, but no living sailor had ever touched the treasure or seen it.

BORACHH:

I wonder why.

MAGORR:

For dead men tell no tales. And I read their spirits are enchained at the bottom of this sea. There lurks a bigger evil that none could possibly imagine in their wildest dreams, and its desire for spirits is insatiable; I learned from the books. Every knot of this sea is a mystery in itself.

BORACHH:

Blimey! Ye give me goosebumps. Better stop this talk and look to the sea.

MAGORR (nod with intense look):

Aye!

BORACHH (mumbling to himself):

No doubt, too much of rum.

 

Brief silence. BORACHH takes to the telescope. Sound of sea and wind continues.

 

BORACHH:

Magorr, is it a boat that’s coming towards us?

MAGORR:

What?

MAGORR takes the telescope.

MAGORR:

Shiver Me Timbers! Borachh, send signals to the sailor. Signal him to go back.

 

BORACHH runs to the beacon and signals the light to MALCOLM. MALCOLM doesn’t notice the signals.

 

BORACHH (yells at MAGORR):

What’s wrong? Why can’t he see us?

 

BORACHH runs back to MAGORR.

 

BORACHH (gasping):

Why can’t he see us?

MAGORR:

Because he is being called.

BORACHH:

By who?

MAGORR:

Can’t you listen to the song, my-hearty?

BORACHH (wide eyes):

Oh no, not the siren from the castle.

MAGORR:

But it is.

BORACHH:

We must help him.

MAGORR:

We can’t. We are late.

 

EXT: SEA

The song of the siren drags Malcolm towards the SIREN’S castle. Malcolm under the spell of the SIREN.

 

MALCOLM (rowing his boat towards the castle):

Oh, how beautiful! How beautiful the song is! Whoever it is, I want to make her my wife and be drowned in her voice – forever.

 

INT: LIGHTHOUSE

 

BORACHH (waving his hands):

Ahoy there! Ahoy there!

MAGORR:

He can’t see us. It’s a futile attempt. We can’t help him.

BORACHH:

What do ye mean we can’t help him?

MAGORR:

None could help the haunted. He’s in a spell. It’s the siren’s call that he must attend.

 

EXT: SEA

MALCOLM (rowing the boat faster):

I am coming dear. I am coming to make you my wife. I am coming.

 

MALCOLM surpasses the lighthouse without noticing it.

 

INT: LIGHTHOUSE

MAGORR and BORACHH helplessly stare at MALCOLM.

 

MAGORR (crossing his hands):

May God save the poor soul.

BORACHH:

Ye don’t believe in God. Pirates don’t believe in God, do they?

MAGORR:

We are pirates no more, don’t ye see? We’ve come for the treasure chest. We all buccaneers were as greedy as we could be. It’s the nature of us, pirates, but what did we get in the end? All our mates were fed to the fish and perhaps dwelling in the dark dungeons at the very bottom, as the slave-spirits. Jus’ ye and I, hanging here in this lighthouse with a purpose. We are the night-watchers, me-matey. And the night is frightening.

 

Brief silence. MAGORR and BORACHH look at each other.

 

MAGORR:

Now, better keep a watch on the sea. If God listened to my prayer, this poor soul would come back. Which is hardly possible, of course.

 

 

EXT: SEA

MALCOLM anchors the boat at the castle and goes in.

MALCOLM:

I am coming my dear. I am coming to you.

 

INT: CASTLE STAIRS

MALCOLM walks in the dark, following the song.

MALCOLM:

I don’t need any damn light to get to you my darling. Just your song. I just need your nightingale-ish lilting. I am almost there.

MALCOLM climbs the stairs hurriedly, falling and getting up.

 

INT: CASTLE TURRET

MALCOLM enters the turret and sees the SIREN in white, laced sleeveless transparent gown facing her back to him. The lilting stops.

MALCOLM:

My darling! Sing for me again.

The SIREN turns. Elegant and beautiful. Her curvature clearly seen from her gown as it hugs her body.

 

MALCOLM:

Adorable! How beautiful you are! But your voice is much more. I want to hear it. Again, and again, and again. I want to be with you forever. Who are you, my lady?

The SIREN stares intensely into MALCOLM’S eyes.

MALCOLM:

Enough, my darling, enough! I will be here with you unto my death. Don’t titillate me so quick! Give me death, but in bits.

SIREN:

Then I shall –

MALCOLM:

Huh?

SIREN (intense and seducing whisper):

– Give you death in bits. As you like it.

SIREN laughs lightly.

MALCOLM:

Ah! The voice. It’s enticing. The laughter – tempting. Am I in a wonderland?

SIREN (walking towards MALCOLM):

I’ll see you to your quarter, my love. You’ve come a long way. You must rest.

MALCOLM takes the siren’s hand.

MALCOLM (bewildered):

You’re so cold, my darling.

SIREN:

Oh, but it’s the sea.

MALCOLM:

But a cold this bitter?

SIREN:

You’ll get used to it, my love. Come with me.

 

INT: LIGHTHOUSE

BORACHH:

I wonder what would’ve happened to the spellbound sailor?

MAGORR:

Oh, he must be enjoying right now – her beauty and the plush comforts in the castle, and once the spell enslaves him completely… (Pause) Jus’ keep yer eyes open, me-hearty. If ye find anyone or anythin’, yell for me.

BORACHH:

Aye!

 

INT: CASTLE. MALCOLM’S QUARTER

MALCOLM sleeps on the plush white bed. A faint sound of weeping disturbs him and wakes him up.

MALCOLM (to himself):

What is it? Who’s crying?

MALCOLM gets up from the bed and searches his quarter for the source of the sound. It comes from a wall.

MALCOLM (to himself):

Sound from a wall?

MALCOLM knocks on the wall. It sounds like a stucco

MALCOLM (to himself):

Oh, it not a wall.

MALCOLM uses his strength to push the wall. After a few attempts, the wall moves and paves way for a small, dark room. MALCOLM holds a candle and walks in. An acrid smell surrounds him. He walks in with suffocation. He sees dismembered organs, and bodies of men and women. He comes out of the SIREN’S spell.

MALCOLM (whispers to himself, feeling nauseated):

What in the hell is this?

MALCOLM hears a cry. He follows suit and sees a man crying in pain. His limbs mutilated, and he looks weak and terribly bloody.

MALCOLM (astonished and terrified):

Who are you?

The CRYING MAN is in a pathetic state. He shivers, cries, blabbers and doesn’t even look at MALCOLM.

THE CRYING MAN:

Run away or be eaten, run away or be eaten, run away, run away, run away.

 

MALCOLM walks out of the acrid room and enters his quarters, not believing what he saw.

 

MALCOLM (whispers to himself):

Is it a lady that brought me here with her lilting voice, or is she…something else?

 

MALCOLM goes to the SIREN’S quarter, light on his feet. He stands at the door of the SIREN’S quarter and peeps inside. He sees her, facing her back towards him. The SIREN rips flesh with her mouth from what seems like a limb – a human hand perhaps – raw and blooded. MALCOLM in shock, walks to his room and tries for an escape.

 

INT: MALCOLM’S QUARTER

MALCOLM is nervous, walks hither-tither in his quarter.

MALCOLM (to himself):

God! Where have I come? What should I do now? I must escape from the dreaded castle. How? How? I need a rope. Yes, I need a rope and I shall climb down this window.

MALCOLM searches for a rope but there’s none.

MALCOLM (to himself):

In all my luck, I only have this velvety bed linen for my escape. (Crosses his hands) God save me!

MALCOLM ties all the bed linen. He throws it down from the window. It reaches only about half the height of the castle.

MALCOLM (to himself):

Dear God! I rely on my faith in you.

 

MALCOLM climbs down and reaches the end of the rope.

 

MALCOLM (to himself):

That’s it. It’s the jump of my life. One, two, three.

EXT: SEA

Splash! MALCOLM plunges into the sea. His head hits a rock and bleeds, but he’s still conscious.

 

INT: CASTLE TURRET

The SIREN comes walking briskly and menacingly to the turret and sees MALCOLM escaping.

SIREN (enraged, yells):

You cannot escape me.

The SIREN starts her lilting again (harsh voice this time). MALCOLM closes his eyes and ears tight. His head hurts, but he wouldn’t budge.

 

INT: LIGHTHOUSE

BORACHH:

Magorr, do you hear the sound again?

MAGORR:

Aye. Another victim passing by?

BORACHH (excited):

No, someone’s leaving back

MAGORR:

What?

MAGORR jumps from his chair and takes the telescope.

MAGORR:

Ho! It’s that same poor soul. God had listened to us, me-hearty.

 

INT: CASTLE. TURRET WINDOW

The lilting augments and enrages. The sea starts to get rough.

 

INT: LIGHTHOUSE

MAGORR:

Blow me down! She’s enraging the sea.

 

EXT: SEA

Sea goes into depression. A maelstrom is on the rise.

MALCOLM (struggling to control his boat):

Oh, dear God! What on the seven seas is happening?

 

INT: LIGHTHOUSE

MAGORR:

Jus’ get out of these ruins poor soul and ye will be safe.

BORACHH:

Will he be?

MAGORR:

It’s hard, but willpower goes against all odds; and if he gets out alive, he will tell his tales in his old age.

BORACHH:

Or?

MAGORR:

Or he will die in the maelstrom and will join our company in this lighthouse of the dead.

 

THE END

 

Bio:

Anand is an aspiring writer and a poet residing in Hyderabad, Telangana State, India. After studying Life Sciences, he went on to work as a techie to earn his bread – a tiny day-job in a corporate giant. In his free time, Anand wears a different hat and writes poems and stories. His poems were published in GloMag, a monthly online poetry and prose magazine.

 

© Anand Gautam

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Bathroom

(It’s a modern bathroom. The shower is on, though no one is bathing. Hot vapour has rendered the mirror covered with mist. A palm wipes it clear. An intense young face appears, unkempt beard, eyes show lack of sleep.)

Face: [giggling] I don’t, I don’t want to kill you! What would I do without you? Go back to ripping off mob dealers? No, no, NO! No. You… you… complete me. {Joker’s dialogue to Batman)

Reflection: Oh, enough! Something original, please!

Face: What’s original, dear selfie? In the multiverse of stories, there is only one plot, conflict.

Reflection: So, don’t borrow one. Tell me one of your own.

Face: Why should that be interesting? I am an ordinary boy or a man? See? My conflict! Today, (checks a mobile) hmm, I am 20!

Reflection: (scoffs) You were dying to grow up once!

Face: That was only to grow wings, or spin webs, or just disappear. (Disappointed, Face sits down on the toilet. The body appears now, partly wet, sitting in a pose like Rodin’s Thinker) Nothing happened!

Reflection: (floats out of the mirror, a little diffused in the mist that’s there in the room, looks down at him) That was cute!

Face: (startled) Didn’t I leave you there?

Reflection: Can you? Don’t even try.

Face: I want to be alone. That’s why I lock myself up. Pa asks what you do for an hour in the bathroom. I say, I fly out of the window and solve world’s problems.

Reflection: He is a simpleton.

Face: Don’t deride him.

Reflection: And you can punch him down on the ground?

(Face turns silent. Looks down. Gazing at his own crotch)

Reflection: Not much to see there, isn’t it?

Face (looks up angrily): As if you have one!

Reflection: I don’t need one. I am screwing you just as well.

Face (covers in his palms): Go away!

Reflection (suddenly polite and friendly): Who shall you speak with then?

Face: I don’t need anyone. I have my characters.

Reflection: Made any lately?

Face: Yeah, one. Last night.

Reflection (excited): Show me, show me!

Face: Nothing to write home about.

Reflection: Posted already?

Face: Nah! Just sent to her.

Reflection (curious): What did she say?

Face: She has not yet opened my message.

Reflection: Who is it?

Face: Who?

Reflection: The character, I mean. Who is it based on?

Face: Her.

Reflection: Wow! That’s (pauses) pathetic! She spat on your face, and you are still ‘inspired’?

Face (stunned): How do you know?

Reflection: Where do you think I live?

Face: That was a misunderstanding.

Reflection (sarcastic): Yeah, your miss had some understanding!

(Face is silent. Gets up and steps into the shower area. Through the shower partition, his silhouette is seen. Standing straight with arms raised, as if seeking redemption.)

Reflection (moving to the shower partition, etched in condensing mist): Praying?

Face: I don’t pray. Praying has not helped me ever.

Reflection: What was that when she slammed you out of her room, and you were waiting outside her door?

Face: That was a weakness; craziness perhaps. There is no alien superpower listening to us.

Reflection: Not even during exams you knew so little about?

Face: That was fear. Hopelessness. That’s not praying!

Reflection (shifts to the frosted window pane, hangs from there like a cobweb): What happened in Tirupati, remains in Tirupati.

(Face tries to slap Reflection, it shifts to the ceiling; vaguely visible now in the mist)

Reflection: Sorry, that was quite below the belt. Couldn’t see any, so…

Face: Enough of your smart ass quips! (Pleads) Can I just not be with myself for a while?

Reflection (eyes rolling sideways) I don’t see anyone. Expecting?

(He doesn’t respond. Reflection swings around; messes with his hairs, pinches his bottom. He seems undisturbed. He increases the shower speed and water temperature. More mist is formed. Both the Face and its Reflection get overwhelmed in the new cloud. A humming sound is heard)

Face (humming): … The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind

Reflection (mocking, only voice is heard): … gone with the wind…

(Face turns the tap off. He emerges from the vapour cloud. Keeps humming and ignoring Reflection, who tries all tricks to distract him. It wants to engage him in conversation. It doesn’t like the silence. It can’t bear being ignored.)

(Face dries himself. Then he picks up his mobile. There is a text message on the screen – ‘I don’t look like that anymore! Grow up.’ Face deletes the message, gives a muffled cry, tears roll down his cheek)

Reflection (now firmly in the mirror opposite the Face): Crying over the split milk? No use! She is a stupid upstart. What has she common with you?

Face (sobbing): Spiderman is our most favourite character.

Reflection: So is he for the millions of others.

Face: She told she loves me the most.

Reflection: Her limits are not very impressive then. Good riddance!

Face: You don’t know what it’s like living alone. You always have me.

Reflection: You don’t have me?

Face: I need real friends. In flesh and blood, ready to laugh, ready to shout, ready to feel bad, to be trusted, to be betrayed.

Reflection: Aha! That’s original. A broken heart does wonders for an artist, what say?

Face (turns himself away from the mirror): I am not an artist!

Reflection: Okay, so what are you, scientist?

Face: Why do you have to bottle identities up? (Smashes a glass kept on the washbasin to the ground) Pepsi, Coke, Sprite, Miranda… are we bloody brands waiting to be marketed? I hate labelling; we are not slaves to any… we have no masters that we shall bear their stamps on our forearms.

Reflection (laughing): Bravo! Keep it coming!

(Someone knocks on the door: “Betu, what happened? We heard the sound of some glass shattered. Are you okay? You need any help?)

Face: I am alright. Don’t bother.

Voice: Come out now, it has been forty minutes. We are waiting for lunch.

Face (angrily): Don’t wait then. I won’t have the spicy Jhol Ma has brewed. Go, serve yourselves. Leave me alone.

Voice (worried): Take care, betu! Such anger isn’t good for your health, won’t take you anywhere.

Face (mutters under his breath): As if I am dying to reach somewhere. Stupid people! Everyone has to think like them. Everyone has to have the same routine, same drill, same life!

(looks up, rattles off in monotone) Copulation, birth, admission test, school, (Reflection starts echoing him) entrance, college, interview, job, dating, marriage, sex, children, serving, promotion, loans, insurance, medical bills, savings, expenses, growing old, loneliness, death.

Same shit, different assholes!

Reflection (chuckles): That was funny!

Face (picks up a shard of the broken glass): It will no longer be.

Reflection (rolls its eyes mockingly) And you have what it takes to turn it serious?

Face: Are you daring me?

Reflection: I am real. Like you. Like your desire to get bitten by a spider and crawl on the walls. Like your fear that someone may find you incapable of making love. Like…

(Face splashes water on the mirror, tries to make the Reflection disappear. Water trickles down, Reflection melting with that.)

Reflection: You really think you can get rid of me?

Face (the shard in his right hand, targets the arteries on his left wrist): I can. I can. I can get rid of myself to get rid of you. (Looks at the mirror, blood in his eyes) Can’t I?

Reflection (scared, worried): You won’t do that.

Face: How are you so sure?

Reflection: You have no courage. Yet, you are not overwhelmed with fear. People who don’t take a side get forever pulled.

Face: Yes, it needs terminal fear. All doors closed. Spirit drained out.

Reflection: Why do you think that’s your case? Romantic tragedy? Fade up with the System? With polity, society, economy… sodomy. (Face snaps again at Reflection. Throws more water on the mirror)

Face (manic, in a trance): Shoo, shoo, go away… you are evil, very evil. You can’t be me.

Reflection (latching on precariously to the dripping waterfall on the mirror): Think you can make those waiting outside your bathroom door bleed? Believe that you can let go of your dreams to be behind the desks in the Marvel studio? Trust that you can… (Pauses, looks at the mobile on the washbasin, already wet) pass the lust to type another message to her, just in case…

(Face drops the shard to ground, slowly, careful not to make any extra bit of sound. He stares at the mirror. Water has mostly trickled down. The mirror is shining. So is the Reflection)

Reflection: Get out! The movie starts at 2:30. It’s already 1:30 and cabs take the time to come.

Face (Looks up) Thanks!

Reflection: For what?

Face: You know!

Reflection: That was self-defence. If you go, I go as well. I love living here. This mirror is just so cool and shiny. Come back again. (Mock formal tone) It’s such a pleasure to meet you here every day.

(Face wraps a towel around himself and opens the bathroom latch with care. He steps out. He is heard from inside the washroom.)

Face (off stage): Shaving stand fell down. No spectacles, what to do! Why do you have to put a fragile ceramic thing in my toilet? And what’s this? Who asked you to get me a birthday gift without asking…(Voice fades out. So does the Reflection, a half smile perilously hanging down the left corner of his lips.)

Bio:

Tapan Mozumdar has been a practising engineer. Now, he is practising quite hard to be a writer. At 51, the opening of a new vista of writing short stories has been quite fulfilling for him. He was shortlisted in 2016 for the Star TV Writer’s program and Bangalore LitMart for pitching like a new writer. He has been published in the February & April Editions of The Spark and several other online magazines.

He writes short stories, poems, and non-fiction and trying short plays of late.

© Tapan Mozumdar

Salvage

SALVAGE

A short play about the modern-world

by

Chris van Dijk

This is a modest hotel-suite somewhere in London. There’s a giant TV mounted on the wall facing the audience. The center stage has two leather chairs facing each other, in between them sits a round table. On the middle of the table stands a back teapot, next to it a hardcover book and there are two tea cups, one facing the left chair, the other the right chair. There’s a door on the right side of the room, its door slightly ajar revealing a polished fridge indicating that it’s a small kitchen room.  The closed door beside it is the entry to the bathroom. The front door is on the left side of the room, behind it we can see a dark hallway. We can’t see it. It’s too dark. A place of shadows.

A man sits on the left chair of the room, facing the television. We can only see the back of his head. He’s gulping from a vodka bottle, watching the news.

It’s the BBC. We can hear a typical English voice speaking as we see footage of the inauguration of Dmitry Medvedev. This is an indication of the time period; 2008.

BBC REPORTER: …with the inauguration of Dmitry Medvedev, many people are wondering whose really leading Russia? Some are speculating that Vladimir Putin, former president of Russia and now appointed prime-minster by Medvedev himself, is still secretly running the country. Others are more hopeful, saying that Medvedev will make the necessary changes to make Russia a functioning democracy…

Hearing this, the man starts bawling in laughter.

BBC REPORTER:…after the collapse of the soviet-union, there had been high-hopes that Russia would follow the example of America and Europe and become a democratic state with a market-based economy. Though communism never made a comeback, the power void that came with the collapse of the Soviet Empire, was filled by oligarchs who abused the system to their advantage, sparking massive corruption during the Yeltsin administration. When Putin took over there was hope that he would tackle corruption but many are now claiming that Putin has simply redistributed the wealth to his advantage, turning Russia into a full-fledged autocracy in the process…

The sudden sound of a teapot whistling in the kitchen. The man grabs the remote from his lap and mutes the sound of the TV, puts the vodka on the floor next to the chair. He gets up; we see a portly man, possibly in his sixties. He’s wearing a stained white tank-top with suspenders to keep his pants up high enough. His name is Dmitri.

He walks inside the kitchen and comes out holding a white teapot. Walking to the table, he opens the lid of the black teapot with one hand and pours hot water of the white teapot into the opening of the black teapot.

  There’s a sudden knock on the door. He quickly walks back in the kitchen, comes out without the white teapot and stands in front of the door. He takes a deep breath. Then he realizes he forgot something and runs to the vodka bottle next to the chair and grabs it and disappears with it inside the kitchen. When he comes out, he slowly walks to the front door. Standing in front, he takes a deep breath again, letting his nerves dissipate. Finally he opens the door.

We hear a voice in the shadows:

SASHA: It’s good to see you comrade.

DIMITRI: It’s good to see you too.

He steps back as Sasha walks in from the pitch-black hallway. He’s a man of similar age but with a sense of sophistication that Dmitri doesn’t have. It’s obvious that Sasha took better care of himself then Dimitri did. In one hand he’s holding a plastic with a brand logo unfamiliar to us all. He’s wearing a black leather jacket, the type that has little personality but indicates a certain street quality. They hug like old friends and give each other a hard slap on the back after.

DMITRI: Did you have trouble finding the place?

Sasha quickly walks past him, disappearing into the kitchen. He talks while he’s there. The TV keeps showing documentary footage of old Russia; the revolution, Lenin, Stalin, the communist era. It keeps doing this as the conversation unfolds between the two main characters. Sometimes the TV will show something that seems to perfectly resonate with the psyche of these two main characters.

SASHA: No, when you called last night, I drove around to see where it was.

He walks out and glances around the room, as if he’s checking something. A certain anxiety in his demeanor. He walks to the bathroom door and disappears inside it. Dimitri doesn’t seem fazed by his behavior at all. Sasha keeps talking as he does his search.

SASHA…Went inside, looked around the hotel a bit…. Told the lady by the desk I was the superintendent…. Case joint so to speak.

DMITRI: Checking the exits. Knowing your way out. Old habits die hard.

Sasha appears from the bathroom.

SASHA: It’s as your president says; once a KGB-agent, always a KGB agent.

DMITRI: What he’s not your president anymore?

SASHA: A president needs to be fairly elected.

DMITRI: He is.

SASHA: I’m talking about the real president.

Dmitri shrugs.

DIMITRI: You’re done searching the room? You want to check the furniture padding for some hidden weapon?

SASHA: No need for that. I’m safe here, aren’t I?

DIMITRI: You’re afraid I’m setting you up.

SASHA: Maybe I’m trying to find that out.

DIMITRI: You can ask me.

SASHA: Where’s the fun in that?

Sasha sits down on the right side leather chair, putting the plastic bag next to the chair.  Dmitri sits on the left. The two old friends face each other.

DMITRI: So what you’re not Russian anymore? You’ve renounced your Russian nationality?Now you get all teary eyed when you hear ‘God Save the Queen’?

SASHA: Fuck the queen. I’ve renounced the religion of nationality in every form possible.

DMITRI: According to your book, you did what you did for the love of your country.

SASHA: You actually read it?

DMITRI: I’ve become a ferocious reader in my old age.

SASHA: I just never thought any of you would actually read it.

DMITRI: We all did. Even the president.

SASHA: Which one?

DMITRI: The one that’s actually in charge.

SASHA: And who is that?

Dmitri winks. Sasha notices the book on the table.

SASHA: Is that my book?

DMITRI: Of course. You wouldn’t think I would meet a bestselling author without asking for his autograph.

SASHA: I’d hardly call myself a bestselling author. Besides you know I didn’t write it for the money. If I cared about the money I would have stayed in Russia.

Still sitting on his table, he reaches out to the book, opens it, digs inside his coat to retrieve a black pen and writes something on the first page. As he’s writing, he keeps talking.

DMITRI: You had more noble reasons for writing that book.

SASHA: The purpose of the book was never achieved.

DMITRI: What was your purpose?

SASHA: Stir things up. Make a change somehow.

DMITRI: A change of management in the Motherland.

SASHA: Inspire the will for change. Become one of the many intellectual forces that will accumulate into one great force called ‘revolution.’

Dmitri laughs.

DMITRI: Writers don’t change things. That’s not the point of writing. Being a writer is giving things meaning.

SASHA: To enforce any change one must create enough meaning. There’s no revolution without meaning. The proletariat is nothing without his manifesto. They wouldn’t get the courage to topple the Tsar.

DIMITRI: The Tsar is still in charge. He just has a different name.

SASHA: That’s the kind of truth that has no temperature.

DIMITRI: That’s the only truth worth telling. Besides that was a different time. That was when thinkers still had original thoughts. Now we’ve heard everything. Now we’ve reached the limits of our imagination. Those who can change history don’t, because they know how the story.

SASHA: How does the story end?

DIMITRI: I Everybody who says they know how the story ends,  are often surprised when it ends the way it does. The point is that people think they know how the story ends, that’s why nothing really changes.

SASHA: The point is that people stop caring about how the story ends, just as long as their story has the conventional three-act-structure. As long as they have their own individual happy ending, why the fuck would they care about the world around them? About the unfortunate people who don’t live in their circle of happy endings? About the future when they are long gone?

DIMITRI: You can’t change human nature. You can’t change history. Who says you can change the future?

SASHA: The future is not set.

DMITRI: Too many people are afraid about the future. They are afraid because who dreamed about the future ruined the present. The fear of the future has already created the future.

SASHA: That’s just an excuse to not fight for anything.

DMITRI: People never really needed an excuse.

Sasha chuckles.

DIMITRI: Did you give them everything?

SASHA: Whatever I could.

DIMITRI: All of them?

SASHA: All of them. The brits, Americans, European-Union.

DIMITRI: You haven’t told them everything. I’m sure of that. You haven’t even told yourself everything.

On the screen we see footage again of the 1999 Russian September bombings. 

SASHA: They turn a blind eye when you’re useful.

A glint of shame in Sasha’s eyes.

DIMITRI: Have you been useful? Well has your information changed much?

SASHA: Data is ammunition. It will make them understand the enemy.

DIMITRI: Russia is not their enemy. Especially not in London. I’ve seen more oligarchs here than in Moscow.

SASHA: Yeah I’ve seen too many familiar faces here. I’ve been trying to appeal to the government to take a closer look at the flow of money coming from Moscow. I’m sure they know where it comes from but I don’t they care enough.

DIMITRI: You ever think your sacrifice was pointless?

SASHA: I don’t think it was pointless at all. And I don’t think you do either.

DIMITRI: Maybe not in a spiritual sense. But what does that really mean anyway? In order to get things done, in order to influence the forces of the world, one must set aside conventional morality. It doesn’t matter if you feel that this morality is universally prescribed by God itself. When an agent does something unforgivable under orders of the state, the individual itself is not guilty but the state is. The state is a collective of people that becomes one whole entity, with a singular soul. When you work for the state, you become the state and you seize to be yourself.

SASHA: Befehl ist befehl.

DIMITRI: Indeed. I’m not the things I’ve done under orders of the government. That’s another me from another life.

SASHA: You don’t really believe that.

Dimitri chuckles.

DIMITRI: Of course not, I’m just fucking with you. Lighten up. You’ve become too serious in your old age.

SASHA: You really think my sacrifice was pointless?

DIMITRI: It was a nice gesture, but yeah, in the end I think you only managed to make things for yourself.

SASHA: You’ve become even more cynical than last time we spoke.

DMITRI: I don’t consider myself cynical. Cynicism has a certain melancholy attached to it, a certain resignation to the sad state of things. I admit to have been through that stage at several low-points of my life. But I’ve transcended it to a point that I haven’t only accepted the state of things but even enjoyment in the debauchery of the human species. The depraved clichés over and again, it stopped being tragic long ago. It’s just part of nature. Nature in its infinite wisdom has more moral ground. Morality is for the human animal. Nature just is.   

SASHA: That was never part of the dream.

DMITRI: We aren’t children anymore. We should stop dreaming.

Sasha is finished writing something on the first page. He slides the book towards Dmitri’s end of the table. 

SASHA: Read this when you leave, on the plane back. Then tell me what you thought.

DMITRI: Yes sir.

They say nothing for a while. It seems both have a lot to say but need time to find the words. Finally Sasha breaks the silence:

SASHA: It’s been a long time.

DMITRI: How long has it been?

SASHA: Funny you should ask. I thought about that after you had called. Or better yet, it came to me, as if the memory had always been waiting. You ever have that? You suddenly remember something so vividly? Something you hadn’t been thinking about for a long time?

DMITRI: Sometimes. Things just come at me. My brain making sense of the past. The person I was, the person I thought I was. I see old infrastructure. Old bakeries. Old smells. Schools I’ve been too. Buildings that have long been demolished. Sometimes I find myself in these old places. Looking around, wondering where to go from here. This usually happens before I fall asleep.

SASHA: Faces. Phantoms from one’s youth. Some you know are long gone, some you are not so sure. Of course these days, you don’t have to wonder anymore. You can just look them up now by typing up their name. Nobody needs to be missing. Nobody needs to live in the void anymore. We can all be connected.

DMITRI: You applaud this advent of technology?

SASHA: I applaud its possibilities; the eradicating of strangers on the streets, the loss of alienation. Whether it will work is another question. If you know the human animal as well as I do, with all its sordid ups and downs, you know this technology could easily be exploited to divide people even further. Even worse; people will use this technology to willingly alienate themselves from others.

DMITRI: You’ve become more philosophical than last we spoke. I’ve tried to abstain from philosophy but you’re pushing me back into dialectics.

SASHA: My strange place in this strange country, has made me philosophical. It has given me no choice but to think about my place and the meaning of this place.

DMITRI: You worry not so much about your future but about the future of the world?

SASHA: All this data with no control, among people who haven’t hit the proper level of maturity yet. One only wonders about the societal consequences. Will the people lose their way? Will our leaders lose their way among the people? Is this the beginning of special kind of anarchy? Or will our leaders by this advent of technology, enhance their power?

SASHA: What do you think?

DMITRI: You didn’t answer my question.

SASHA: Hm?

DMITRI: I asked how long has it been. You were on the verge of telling me but your mind got distracted along the way. You even distracted me. I almost forgot about what I was asking.

SASHA: Jesus are we that old?

DMITRI: We should be happy that we made it this far. We might bore the young by repeating the same old stories, but we should be so lucky to be able to bore them.

SASHA: We repeat these stories because they need to know, because we want them to make a better world for their children.

DMITRI: But they never fucking listen.

SASHA: They never fucking do.

Dmitri and Sasha shrug together.

SASHA: The last time we saw each other was exactly seven years and five months ago, 7th of December 1999.

DIMITRI: You know the exact date?

SASHA: I remember everything about my penultimate week in Russia. It was the most difficult decision I’ve ever made in my life.

DIMITRI: You ever thought we’d see each other again?

SASHA: Well considering how we ended things last time, it didn’t seem likely. You would become just another ghost of the past, just another of many alienated friends. But I’ve lived long enough not to be surprised by anything anymore. It takes a while but eventually we all wise up to the fact that the word ‘never’, should be used in moderation.

DMITRI: You lived in Russia your entire life and you almost know me as long. We’ve met when we were children, before we ventured into adulthood. We became men together.

SASHA: Don’t make me count the years please. Once you start counting them, you know it’s business.

DIMITRI: Especially when you lose count.

SASHA: Maybe somehow, I knew a reunion would be there somewhere. Maybe not in this life perhaps, maybe in the one’s that’s waiting for us.

DIMITRI: You fear the next life?

SASHA: I fear the next life more than being nonexistent.

DIMITRI: You fear judgment.

SASHA: I fear my true painting, deep within my consciousness. I think I have an idea of how ugly it is, but I always have a feeling I’m too scared to take a closer look.

DMITRI: Just remember the way your loved ones look at you. That’s all that matters.

SASHA: I’d like to think so, but I know it doesn’t.

DMITRI: I hope  you don’t feel guilty about it anymore. We don’t need to dwell on it. There’s no need, it would be petty. We aren’t children anymore.

SASHA: You aren’t angry then?

DMITRI: I was for very a long time. I had many exciting revenge fantasies. But I wouldn’t have come here all this way to see you if I still held a grudge. We must forgive our friends. Grievances is not good for the soul.

SASHA: You believe in the soul?

DMITRI: I believe in the idea of the soul. I think pretending that it exists is better than acknowledging it doesn’t exist.

SASHA: You think the same of God? You think it’s better to pretend that he exists than acknowledging that he does exist?

DIMITRI: If it makes you sleep better.

SASHA: Well before I forget a little something that will help you sleep. Something I know you will appreciate more than I can. You could perceive it as an apology for how I acted the last time I saw you.

Sasha gets up and gives Dmitri the plastic bag. Dmitri gets up and retrieves from the plastic bag a wrapped bottle. Unwrapping it reveals an expensive Vodka bottle- its brand nonexistent, no product placement allowed.

DMITRI: You shouldn’t have!

He hugs Sasha as a thank you.

DMITRI: I’m not going to accept your apology. Time has canceled that out. Instead I will accept this as a gift to a long lost friend.

SASHA: A superior sentiment.

DMITRI: Fuck me. How can you afford this? Don’t tell me MI6 is paying you more than what they us corrupt agents of the Kremlin.

Sasha walks back to this chair and sits back down.

SASHA: I didn’t buy it. It was a gift from MI6. I did a job for them and they got some success and they all chipped in and bought me this. I guess since I was a Russian, they thought they’d given me a gift from the Gods. But when you called, it seemed like the perfect gift. I would advise you to drink it on special occasions.

DMITRI: You should sell this. This could buy an exotic holiday for you and Marina.

SASHA: You mean to a less-affluent country than England? A country that doesn’t mind political assassinations from foreign leaders as much? You know as well as I do it’s better that I don’t go on vacation.

DMITRI: I see that your little literary fame has granted you a surge of vanity. Who says he hasn’t forgotten about you already?

SASHA: He doesn’t forget. I’m sure that if he knew you were going here, he would ask you for a favor.

DMITRI: And if he did, I would tell him to go fuck himself.

SASHA: He would kill you if you did.

DMITRI: Who says I’m not dead already?

Sasha is taken aback by Dmitri’s comment.

DMITRI: Well I can’t think of no better occasion than this! I know you don’t drink vodka, but I laid out some tea for you. You still drink tea do you?

SASHA: Yeah I do, but it’s okay.

DMITRI: Oh come on, it’s Russian Tea. All the way from the Motherland. None of that faggy English Tea.

Sasha is hesitant.

DMITRI: Come on now, I have the right to slap the shit out of you for not drinking vodka with me. It’s a cardinal sin in Russia, the least you could do is ‘drink’ with me.

SASHA: So be it. You can’t meet old friends without having a drink with them.

Sasha grabs teapot and pours enough of its content into his teacup. Dmitri watches him carefully as he does this.

DMITRI: Indeed. That would be a mortal sin.

They raise their glasses.

DMITRI: To boys with hopeless dreams and to old men with broken hearts…

SASHA: To not saying goodbye. To making things right. To the soldiers we were. To the country we thought we were fighting for. To dying among friends.

Dmitri smiles passively.

DMITRI: Vashe zrodovye!

They drink. Dmitri watches Sasha closely as he gulps down the tea. When they are done,  Dmitri starts talking.

DMITRI: How are you Alex? How is Russia’s most famous dissident?

SASHA: I would feel honored if I was, but I don’t think I’m Russia’s most famous dissident.

DMITRI: Who else could it be?

SASHA: How about Anna?

Sasha gives Dmitri a stern look. Dmitri is shocked hearing her name, but keeps her cool. On the TV we see footage of Anna Politkovskaya

DMITRI: Yeah that was unfortunate. I don’t know who did it but… She deserved better.

SASHA: Yes she did.

DMITRI: I had nothing to do with it.

SASHA: But you do. You work for her murderer.

DMITRI: Listen… We don’t know for sure….

SASHA: Oh come on. She was killed on his birthday! Don’t lie to yourself. We are too old to lie to ourselves.

DMITRI: I don’t think there’s an age-limit to self-deception.

SASHA: You know she came to visit a few months before it happened. She told me she was scared. She knew that she could get killed every moment she left her apartment. I told her to quit. Told her I could get a job for her, here in London, but she loved her country too much. Despite all the warnings and threats, she went on and continued doing her job.

DMITRI: She knew the dangers.

SASHA: Doesn’t make it right. Doesn’t make any of it right.

DMITRI: You’re right.

A silence. A moment of guilt on Dmitri’s part. Sasha breaks the silence then.

SASHA: Let’s leave it. Let’s talk about how I am doing.

DIMITRI: Good idea. How are you doing?

SASHA: I guess I’m good…. But I don’t know, it feels like I’m getting older and I’m not comprehending it right. Like there’s some cancer metastasizing inside me and once I become aware of it it will be too late. I went to the doctor but he says I’m fine. I don’t know. I can’t explain it.

DMITRI: At our age it’s better to not think about age unless you absolutely have to. Once you ponder your age and the little time you have left, things can get really fucking depressing.

SASHA: The days are really getting shorter you know? It’s almost like I’m fast-forwarding through my life until I get to the part that matters.

DMITRI: What part is that?

SASHA: The part where I meet my maker.

DMITRI: What are you going to do when you see him?

SASHA: I hope I can kill him before he can kill me.

Dmitri smiles. Sasha gets up and stares at the television screen. Pictures of the past appear on the screen, from its quality one could deduce that they date back from the sixties and seventies. A child playing on the grass with a big dog. A young man smiling, toasting his first vodka. A young man graduating. Two men posing in USSR uniforms. Sasha on the wedding chapel with his beloved Marina. Phantoms of the past.

SASHA: Do you sometimes think back about the boy you were? Can you still recognize him?

DMITRI: I can still recognize him. I’m not sure if I still understand him though. I don’t think the boy wanted to become the man I am now. Then again, that boy lived in a fantasy world. This is reality, where boys become bitter old men.

SASHA: You miss it?

On the screen we see black and white footage of Soviet soldiers marching.

DMITRI: Miss what?

SASHA: Believing in it. Believing in the things we fought for.

Dmitri laughs.

DMITRI: My god, you’re really asking me this?

SASHA: I’ve come at an age where I constantly ask the big questions.

DMITRI: I miss believing in it, yes. I miss having that special purpose. Being Mother’s special warrior. I miss being naive.

We see footage of the Soviet military parade of 1984.

SASHA: We all need to wake up.

DMITRI: You woke up long before I did.

SASHA: No I didn’t. You were able to accept the lie. I couldn’t.

We see footage of the September 1999 bombings in Russia. The rubble, the victims. Sasha stills keep staring at the TV screen.

DMITRI: You miss believing in the lie?

SASHA: I miss having a clean conscience.

DMITRI: I believe anyone with a clean conscience has wasted his life. Anything worth pursuing is bound to taint one’s conscience. To get the full measure of the human experience one must feel regret. The only life worth living is the one with all the hard lessons. As long as you don’t have to ponder your regrets within the confines of four walls, as long as you have the freedom to feel guilt in the wide open world, you can consider yourself a success.

Sasha turns around. Dmitri turns to him.

SASHA: You consider yourself a success?

DMITRI: Depends on your qualifications. From a societal standpoint I moved up in the world. I made more money than my father ever did. But that’s not what you care about.

SASHA: Is that what you care about?

DMITRI: What am I supposed to care about? My conscience? What difference is it going to make?

Sasha sits back down.

SASHA: You tell me.

DMITRI: There’s nothing we can do Alex. There’s nothing we can do.

SASHA: There is always something.

Dmitri pours more vodka in his teacup. Gulps it down. Looks Sasha over and changes the subject:

DMITRI: You know what I can’t fucking stand?

SASHA: I’m all ears.

DMITRI: How good you look! You’re older than I am but you look ten years younger than me.

Sasha laughs. 

SASHA: It’s Marina. Even after everything I’ve put her through she still wants me to be around her for a few more decades.

DMITRI: That poor woman loves you.

SASHA: I don’t understand it either.

DMITRI: How is she doing?

SASHA: She’s fine. But she misses Russia, she misses her parents and friends. She keeps in touch with the usual safe precautions, but I know that she wishes she could just go back. She didn’t want to leave and neither did Svetlana but as you well know, I left them no choice.

DMITRI: She could. They both could. The Kremlin won’t harm them. I can make sure of that.

SASHA: It’s best not to take the chance. She could be leverage. He knows I wouldn’t easily exchange my life for hers. We know what he’s capable off, how far he is willing to go.

Dmitri doesn’t say anything. He pours himself another shot.

SASHA: I guess it’s guilt that enforces me to watch my health. I’m trying to live as long as I can so I can do as much good as possible. I’m doing a few odd jobs now and then, save as much as possible. The book-sales admittedly aren’t great and I’ve trying to write a second book but it’s not going well. I guess I told my story.

DMITRI: Most people don’t have a story to tell.

SASHA: Well I wish I had a different story to tell.

DMITRI: The stories we are destined to tell are not up to us. If they were, the stories wouldn’t be as interesting. Everyone would be hero. It would be full of winners. And winners are boring.

SASHA: The greatest stories are the ones about losers.

Dimitri pours himself another shot. Sasha seems despondent suddenly.

DIMITR: The greatest stories end with the loser becoming a winner. The loserdom of the winner is what keeps them from being boring.

SASHA: I’m sorry, I barely asked anything about your life. How is Rada?

Dmitri laughs and gulps down a shot.

DMITRI: Oh that was over a few years after you left. Tell you the truth I saw it happening long before that. She’s a great woman, don’t get me wrong, probably the best out of all of them. It wasn’t that weren’t compatible, it was simply because I was more destined for solitude. Something I’ve come to terms with only recently since I started my retirement. I always considered myself a family man, but the attachments are too great for me. I work better being alone. Before I realized this however, I had to go through my third wife Veronika. I really thought she was the one, but after a year, less even, I realized that it wasn’t going to work. She was the shortest out of the three. As you can expect all three hate me, since I’m like most Russian male divorces; meaning that I barely pay alimony. They’ve tried to sue but it’s hard suing a man with the connections I have. No lawyer wants to cross an FSB agent, even a retired one. Russia is a patriarchal country anyway, the courts will inevitably side with its rightful owners. Ha, they whine about the corruption in Russia but if you’re part of that corruption, things are a helluva lot easier.

SASHA: So what now? You’ve abstained from women?

DMITRI: What are you crazy? No I’ve devoted myself to the best kind of women there is; the whore. And I’m talking about the good kind of whores. They call themselves escorts. As you well know, Russia has plenty of desperation or job opportunities for women to consider prostitution. They love me because I treat them good and once they realize I’m not some masochistic freak, but that you’re the genuine article with plenty of money to spend, with if they do their job right, a good chance for being a returning customer, they’ll treat you like a white knight. I’ve felt loved by women for, but never as much as when I did with all the whores of the past few years.

SASHA: You don’t find it an artificial kind of love compared to what I with Marina?

DMITRI: Don’t take this the wrong way, but for me, there’s not much difference. I guess you’re the romantic type that believes that marriage is a special bond and I was like that too. When we met in the academy, I was the the believer. The Idealist. The Marxist. The family man. But over the years, I’ve realized that there’s no better bond to have the bond you with yourself. If you spend your life trying to get close to someone else, you’re bound to be alienated with yourself. Which is what happened to me with the previous women in my life. With whores, it’s all about you. And it’s reciprocal, cos they are happy that you are treating them well and paying them plenty. Tell you the truth I’ve never been happier, or as they say; I’m the best version I could possibly be.

SASHA: As long as you pay them.

DMITRI: I’ve got enough.

SASHA: As long as you don’t fall in love with any of them?

DMITRI: Yeah one has to remember this. It’s easy to fall in love with whores. Especially old men like me who  still miss their mothers. I’ll be honest I have caught myself swooning about a few of them. But as long as I have the financial means, I can allow myself to fall for them. I have enough savings to allow myself to fall in love until I die.

Dimitri pours one and quickly gulps it down.

SASHA: You really like that vodka.

        Dimitri ignores the comment and continues the previous subject.

DMITRI: There is one though. She really drives me crazy. Her name is Malkina. I don’t know what it is. Every move she makes. The wave of her hand or hair. Her voice calms me down. I had the best sleep in my life whenever she embraces me in bed. She’s really something.

SASHA: You should ask her to marry you.

DMITRI: Even I can’t afford that.

SASHA: You should save up.

DMITRI: I’ve got something going on.

Dmitri winks at him.

SASHA: So your retired life is filled with solitude and the occasional whore.

DMITRI: And books. I’ve regained my love-affair with literature. I’ve delved into all the old classics.

SASHA: Russian literature?

DMITRI: Not so much Russian. They tend to depress me for some reason. I’m particularly prone to American Southern literature. There’s something about the coldness of the west, the viciousness of the the South that really draws me in. You ever read Cormac McCarthy?

SASHA: I did.

DMITRI: You want to know about the nature of humanity? The true nature without all the bourgeoisie nonsense? Humanity without censorship? Read the Blood Meridian. It tells you everything you need to know about the savage animal known as the Human.

SASHA: I’ll keep that in mind.

DMITRI: You should my friend. You should. There are passages of carnage that will haunt you dreams.

SASHA: I think we both seen enough of that personally.

DMITRI: I guess that’s why I feel at home reading about it. Tell you the truth I’ve felt closer to these literary characters than I do with most of the people around me.

SASHA: Sounds lonely.

DMITRI: To most people it probably does. But that’s why I’m it’s a place only reserved for me.

SASHA: Nobody’s invited?

DMITRI: Everybody is invited. Just nobody wants to stay.

Sasha drinks the tea that is lept in his cup. He makes quick expression of disgust as if there’s something wrong with the tea.

DMITRI: I’ve heard you’ve been busy.

SASHA: The fact that you’ve heard that I’m busy makes your retirement sound rather illegitimate.

DMITRI: Oh you know. I ask around now and then. I like to be in the loop. Maybe it was better to be in the loop than be part of the loop.

SASHA: Maybe you should have been a writer instead.

DIMITRI: I thought about that too. The youngsters come around now and then, wanting to hear some bad-ass story from the Soviet-Union. Even though there’s more lawlessness now then there was then. Back then the state was still maintaining the illusion that they working on a grand design. Now  it’s just a bunch of pirates playing dress-up, the dress-up being democracy.

Dimitri smiles, as if he thought of something.

DIMITRI: The young ones have this idea that was I some bad-ass assassin back in the day. They wanna hear about the blood and guts.

SASHA: Well weren’t you?

Dimitri doesn’t answer, just pours his the teacup full of vodka again.

SASHA: Do you tell them about the stuff in my book?

Dimitri seems annoyed for a bit. Suddenly transfixed with something, he gets up.

DMITRI: They don’t want to hear stuff like that. Nobody does. There’s no point.

He walks to the TV screen, holding the teacup, occasionally sipping from it. We now see new footage from the Beslan School siege on the TV screen.

DMITRI: You ever entertain the notion of forgiveness?

SASHA: I believe that once we do the unforgivable we must spend our lives trying to do the right thing. We must own up to the fact that we will never find forgiveness, that we will never earn it. Don’t even try to find absolution in church.

DMITRI: There goes my way out.

SASHA: Maybe if you try hard enough, spend your days being a good person, only then, might you find rest. Maybe then, the ghosts of your creation will one day pity you enough to leave you alone.

DMITRI: I see that you read up on your Dostoyevsky.

SASHA: No I haven’t. I just never forgotten about it.

DMITRI: You know what your problem is Alex? You live too much in the outside world. I live in the world of books and whores. You see see you constantly agonize about the outside world. Make your place in this outside world define you, like most of us do…

On the screen we see footage of the current modern world of 2008.

DMITRI: …And people think that’s where we should be living but it’s not. We should live in the world of books because that’s where every single human life and all his greatest tragedies have meaning even if they are meaningless in the outside world. Some men, living  in your average sanitized Western world, can afford to live there without losing their mind- though even there, it’s easier than you think to lose your mind. But people like you and me, people living in the East, we don’t belong there. It’s contaminated. People wither and die there. Only villains can find meaning there. And if you seek meaning there you will either die at the hands of a villain or become a villain yourself. Therefore I’ve abstained from human intimacy except from the predictable, anything affordable and detached, and the rest of my private time I devote to literature where I occasionally in my solitude, find true happiness.

Dmitri turns around.

SASHA: Maybe your form of escapism is suicidal. It’s you trying to find the courage to kill yourself because you know forgiveness is unattainable.

DMITRI: I’m not looking forgiveness Alex. I have long stopped looking for it. In the book you say it’s your sense of duty, but you hardly talk about the guilt. Maybe your act of treason was a secret wish to die. You couldn’t do it yourself, so you stir enough shit to let an assassin do the job.

Dimitri turns around facing Sasha. Gripped by the sudden paranoia, Sasha looks worried, puts his hand inside his coat…

DIMITRI: It took eight years but now he’s finally here. You finally did it.

  Suddenly Sasha pulls out a Russian revolver; the out of date Nagrant M1895 from his jacket.

SASHA: Remember what I told you about I’d do if I find my maker. I’d kill him before he’d kill me.

Sasha walks up to Dimitri, holding the revolver by his side. He gets real close to him. Dmitri  is not fazed at all.

DMITRI: Maybe it’s already late. Maybe you’re already in his spell. You can’t cheat the reaper. The reaper always has an ace up its sleeve. That’s the point of death; it’s supposed to be the end, you’re not allowed to beat it. Even those who escape death will die inside.

SASHA: Did he send you to kill me?

Dimitri doesn’t say anything for a while, just stares at him coldly.

DIMITRI: You know you can’t scare me.

SASHA: You know I can still hurt you.

DIMITRI: I knew you had a gun. I could feel it when I was embracing you.

SASHA: I wanted you to feel it. Don’t make me point it to your head.

DIMITRI: I’m not making you do anything and you know it.

SASHA: What else am I supposed to do?

DIMITRI: Sit down and accept what’s coming.

SASHA: Where you send by him?

DIMITRI: You know what you are?

SASHA: What am I?

DIMITRI: You’re a troubled old man. Your impulses have led you to your fate.

SASHA: What are you?

DIMITRI: I’m a troubled old man who makes calculated decisions. They’ve led me to this moment.

SASHA: Wouldn’t you rather be me right now?

DIMITRI: There’s no right or wrong in the business of fate and you know it. It’s all just random. But I like meeting my fate with a sense of dignity.

SASHA: Violence is about taking a man’s dignity.

DIMITRI: A man of violence has no dignity.

This comment takes Sasha aback. Dmitri winks at him and walks passed him and sits down.

DMITRI: We haven’t changed much have we?

  Sasha pauses for a bit. He looks Dimitri in the face, as if he’s reading his thoughts. Then we see his lose all intensity. Sasha puts the revolver back inside the holster under his jacket. He sits back on his chair.

SASHA: We came close. Too close.

DMITRI: We did.

Silence. Sasha seems troubled.

SASHA: I’m sorry. We’ve been getting calls. An officer from MI6 said my name up a few times. Told me to be careful.

DIMITRI: You can never be too careful.

SASHA: You can’t be a Russian without being a little paranoid.

DIMITRI: It’s no way to live but it’s only way to survive.

SASHA: I shouldn’t done what I did the last time either. It wasn’t right.

DIMITRI: I disappointed you. You disappointed me.

SASHA: Sometimes I’m not sure who was more patriotic at the time. You or me.

DIMITRI: Do you still love Russia? According to your book you still do.

SASHA: Well maybe I did love when I was writing it, but I feel like I’ve outgrown patriotism. I guess the doubt had already been there, festering, waiting to be proven false. Any meager student of history has it; reading about all the enslavements and carnage makes it easy to be skeptical about merits of serving one’s country, as each empire was always beneficial, mostly excessively so, to the ruling party instead of the laboring force.

DIMITRI: I can still see there’s still a little Marxism inside you.

SASHA: Well despite the grotesque ideology that is communism, Marx was right about the ways exploitation of laborers, but like so many other ideologues he became prone to Utopian illusion, the perfect society modeled on the perfect human specimen that can never work because the human animal is too diverse and you can’t plan everything perfectly, certainly not an economy, because it goes against the diversity of human nature. But going back to love of one’s country, the false merits of patriotism, it’s easy, despite one’s vast education to still put faith in it for the same reason people still believe in God; it gives meaning to their lives. Every logical mind knows there is no God, yet many great minds still have faith because it gives something special to their existence. And I reject both my country and God; there’s nothing out there. There’s just the enjoyment of being with the ones you love, the satisfaction of doing the right thing, seeing all the beautiful things our species is capable off.

DIMITRI: I see that your exile in merry old England has made you philosophical. I’ve long stopped dabbling in philosophical theoretics about the nature of ideology, state or even reality. I’ve culled my own reality, I’ve fortified and made it strong. No outside force can penetrate it, destroy it’s lush mental foundations.

SASHA: You’ve created your own dogma.

DIMITRI: Yes indeed. I did this to save myself from harm. Having one’s belief being constantly destroyed can destroy one’s spirit. I had to salvage what’s left to ensure some semblance of mental stability in the twilight of my years.

SASHA: Does reason factor in your reality?

DIMITRI: Only my reason. The only reason that matters.

SASHA: You’re happy then?

DIMITRI: I think I am. But asking if one’s happy is laughable at our age. We’ve had too many experiences to be ‘fully’ happy. There’s too much damage, too many regrets, too many memories to ever find nirvana. You could say that I’m the best possible version of myself.

SASHA: That’s good to hear. You always seem to have had a self-destructive streak. People like that have one bad thing happen to them and they go off the rails. The perfect excuse to destroy themselves.

DIMITRI: You thought I was that weak?

SASHA: I thought you were that human.

DIMITRI: I’m not human. I’m KGB. Or as we call ourselves now: FSB.

SASHA: I’m not KGB anymore.

DIMITRI: Once KGB always KGB.

They both smile. Then:

SASHA: You remember the woman we shared?

DIMITRI: I do. I forgot her name. But I surely remember her. It’s kinda hard to. It was my first time. My first time with you.

SASHA: Is that what makes me special to you?

DIMITRI: It makes you a big part of the story of my life.

SASHA: She’s married now. Lives in Poland of all places. I looked her up a few months ago. One of those memories that came like it never went.

DIMITRI: She was the first woman I loved. I wish she never left.

SASHA: Me neither.

Dimitri rubs his face with both hands.

SASHA: You look tired.

DIMITRI: I didn’t sleep much. I had to fly over from Hamburg. I’m just not used to flying to be honest. Didn’t sleep the whole night.

SASHA: You ever have nightmares?

DIMITRI: The place I’ve created in my head, the inside world, eradicated all nightmares. Took care of my conscience too.

SASHA: You think that’s right?

DIMITRI: Right, wrong, doesn’t matter. In modern Russia there is no such thing anymore.

SASHA: What do you mean?

DIMITRI: Something is happening in Russia. It’s been going on for some time. A new ideology. Something more powerful than Communism or capitalism, but something even far more dangerous. Something to tempting for our rulers not to abuse. We are on the verge of creating a new political ideology in which you can believe whatever you want. A descendant of Soviet propaganda. No definitive truth. Where nothing is true and everything is possible.

SASHA: To hear about this way scares the shit out of me.

DIMITRI: As it should. I think Russia will be a country that will truly grasp the power of the Internet and will use to it his advantage. There’s too much data available for the public these days. The governments don’t seem to have a handle on it. You can find any old movie on the computers. Perfect quality. No need to rent porn anymore. Any sickening desire is only a few clicks away. Soon people will be like me; they create their own dogma and build up this world with a thick wall that nobody, no fact, no reality can penetrate.

SASHA: Confirmation bias. The secret of propaganda: it’s not just that we confuse people with false data, it’s that people willingly want to be believe in a false reality.

DIMITRI: Yes. It’s already happening. People are already programmed to live in bubbles. This machine will only make it more impenetrable.

SASHA: It could go the other way.

DIMITRI: You think it will?

SASHA: I like to think so.

DIMITRI: That’s not answering the question.

SASHA: …Things could change. People could rise up.

DIMITRI: What like Medvedev?

SASHA: No, but maybe people like Nemtsov.

On the screen we see footage of future news where they talk about Boris Nemtsov’ assassination. Dimitri laughs him off.

DIMITRI: Grow up Sasha.

SASHA: Maybe political forces from the East are out. But the West is still the most dominant geopolitical force out there. They know that if they don’t stand up to him, he will become more arrogant in time. If he senses a loss of faith, he will embolden the people with nationalistic rhetoric. He might even start to invade other countries, if he feels he could…

On the screen we see future footage of the invasion of Georgia and Ukraine.

SASHA: The right people in the free world could make a difference…

DIMTRI: You think the West cares? Do you really think the West cares about democracy or human rights? Look how they talk about Medvedev! We all know who pulls the strings. And so does Europe and America. The fact that they are playing along tells you enough about how much they care. Are you really stupid enough to think the West gives a fuck? The only way they’ll start giving a shit is if we stop paying them. As long as they can buy our gas for cheap they don’t care about what we do to our country or our people. Oh sure occasionally they will be pressured to say something. After some protest or some horrific incident. They”ll want to look tough in the next election and they will say ”that they are very concerned” and that they expect ”restraint”. But in the end they’ll forget about it. They’ll forget about all the little people. They will just wait until their people forget about our people and go about their way. This is the world we live in. We have too many goodies for sale.

Sasha gets up, walks to the TV. We see old fifties American propaganda clips about the greatness of capitalism.

SASHA: It could have been a better world. There was a chance after the wall fell.

DIMITRI: Yes there was and we squandered it. We fucked it up. We let the oligarchs steal from us. It’s gone and we’ve already won. Democracy will die. Everywhere. We’ve already begun making European and American politicians hooked into our system. You’d be amazed how quickly people give away their morals for excessive comfort. We are too rich to piss off. Nothing means anything anymore. Russia will envelop the rest of the world. It will eat away its true reality and make it objectionable. They want to change Russia into the modern world, but they don’t understand that Russia today is the modern world.

Dimitri then gets up and pats Sasha on the shoulder. Now they face each other.

DIMITRI: Did you really think we doing patriotic work? Were you really that stupid? I don’t mean in the academy I mean that September day. We both knew what was going on.

SASHA: Sometimes we need to fool ourselves to survive. That’s what we’ve been trained to do.

DIMITRI: Yes we do. But why the sudden concience?

SASHA: Have you ever heard the cries of mothers seeking justice for their murdered children?

DIMITRI: Countless times.

SASHA: Have you seen the people passing them by, not even giving her a glance. It’s not that they don’t care, it’s that they’ve heard it all before.

DIMITRI: Oh please.

SASHA: Why couldn’t you come with me? We could have been stronger together.

DIMITRI: Cos it wouldn’t changed a goddamn thing and you know it.

SASHA: It was about doing the right thing.

DIMITRI: You know I think you are full of shit.

Sasha looks at him furiously.

DIMITRI: Here’s some fucking truth. Every one of our comrades hates you. Nobody out there considers you a fucking hero. They don’t hate you for betraying the country, they hate you because you’re a fucking joke. You act like you never knew you were one of the bad guys before. You act as if you uncovered some sort of conspiracy and that you were tricked into doing the dirty work. Give me a fucking break! You knew it from the moment you went into the academy. You knew exactly what you were in for. The reason why you went into the academy was not because you wanted to protect ”mother” it’s because you wanted to make money. You wanted to advance in the world and have enough clout and money so that the state would leave you alone. The same reason any of us joined the academy. I understand that maybe in the beginnings of Gorbachov that you had some semblance of faith in the system but a year of Yeltsin got in charge, it became all so clear where we were heading. Anyone who didn’t see it was just lying to themselves. The propaganda long stopped working. We weren’t children anymore. The new constitution wouldn’t last. I think deep down we all knew this, but nonetheless we had to try to believe it. We don’t hate you for writing that book, we don’t hate you for revealing state secrets, we hate you because you’re a fucking hypocrite.

  Sasha lurches at Dimitri and punches him in the face. Before Dimitri can make a counter movie, Sasha already pulled his revolver on him, pushing it against his nose, out of which come a pool of blood. Dimitri suddenly bursts into laughing.

DIMITRI: Now we are doing this again!

Sasha lifts the revolver up Dimitri’s temple.

SASHA: Maybe if I pull the trigger, the nightmares will go away this time.

DIMITRI: Good luck. We knew who we were long before you gained a conscience. And you know it. You think I am a worse person than you? You destroyed the lives of your wife and child just because you wanted to salvage some of your conscience. And for what? What difference did any of it make? You endangered their lives and made sure they could never come back to their home country again. Good fucking job. Is that what a responsible husband and father does huh? I never was a father for the exact reason because I knew I couldn’t be, cos I faced up to what I was. Something you couldn’t do…

Sasha hits him with the butt of the revolver.

SASHA: Shut the fuck up!

Dimitri spits out a tooth and laughs again.

DIMITRI: …You might say you did it all for your sense of patriotism. Well I was honest of what my country really was. You lived an illusion. Our country never had a golden age. It was always filled with the blood of the proletariat. It’s just one shitty legacy after another. One damaged generation after another. At least the president knows this and doesn’t hide it, just to the gullible west and the people stupid enough to believe his propaganda. But we know better even if you act like you don’t.

SASHA: It used to be about something! There was a time where it seemed like were getting close. Close to something special, a better world.

DIMITRI: We were dreaming. That’s all we were doing. That’s all we could do. We couldn’t allow ourselves to wake up. You broke the cardinal sin: you woke up!

SASHA: Maybe I’ll put you to sleep. Maybe you’ll dream again.

DIMITRI: I’ve escaped death countless times. The more you escape death, the smaller it gets. The more you see death, the funnier he becomes. Death by now has become a joke. And we, all of us, have become the punchline. Here comes the punchline: I’m dead and so are you.

SASHA: What?

DIMITRI: This is the part that matters.

Sasha suddenly realizes something and turns his back on the table, to the black teapot.  In the background we see the last picture of real life ex-FSB agent Alexander Litvenenko, bald and dying in the hospital of polonium. He looks back to Dimitri.

DIMITRI: We always notice it when it’s too late. Same old story.

SASHA: Why?

DIMITRI: We got wind you were doing some inquiries into some of our friends in Spain. You were going to testify. We couldn’t let that happen. You were already on our shitlist. This just made it very urgent.

SASHA: No, why did you do it?

DIMITRI: He knew you would still trust me enough so I could do this.

SASHA: No, I’m asking you; why did you do this?

DIMITRI: I’m already dying. A tumor is turning my being into mush. This was my last job. The one job before I say goodbye to it all. I choose to have it be my best friend.

SASHA: This is your way of not dying on your own.

DIMITRI: It has a certain poetic justice to it. I don’t know. Maybe it seemed more fitting at the time. I just hated you for leaving. You were only real friend I had. You fucked things up for me. Things were never quite the same.

SASHA: I thought the possibility was there when you called me. But I didn’t want to believe it.

DIMITRI: That’s what always been the difference the difference between you and me. I see things for what they are. You see how things should be. It’s your type that usually gets fucked in the end.

Sasha sits down on his chair and Dimitri sits opposite him.

SASHA: It’s polonium-210 isn’t it?

DIMITRI: Yes.

SASHA: It’s going to be painful.

DIMITRI: I’m sorry.

SASHA: Maybe I’ll shoot you in the balls and watch you bleed to death. Be a riot.

DIMITRI: You could do that.

SASHA: Then I’ll shoot myself.

DIMITRI: That’s an idea.

Sasha thinks it over.

SASHA: No. I’ll go through it. I’d like to spend some more time with Marina and Svetlana.

DIMITRI: They will like that.

SASHA: But I think I’ll still shoot you in the balls.

He points the revolver at Dimitri.

DIMITRI: Fuck it. I didn’t expect to get out of here. I have everything already lined up. My sweetheart is set for. He promised to take care of her when I died.

SASHA: Malkina?

DIMITRI: The last love of my life.

SASHA: Who says he’ll keep his promise?

DIMITRI: He kept his word with Yeltsin. Took care of him and his cronies. I think he will keep his word here.

Sasha looks at him for a while as he points his revolver. Finally he drops his hand.

SASHA: There’s no point. Your resignation is spoiling all the fun of this killing.

DIMITRI: I can try to weep if you make me.

SASHA: Here is the part that matters: I’ll let you spend your time with her before you die.

DIMITRI: Thank you.

SASHA: How long do you have?

DIMITRI: I don’t know. Maybe about as long as you. Three months maybe. Depends.

SASHA: Is it going to be a painful?

DIMITRI: Very. They expect me to hallucinate soon enough. I’m not even supposed to be flying. I might not even make it back home. I don’t think I’ll have the courage to kill myself before it gets bad.

SASHA: That honestly comforts me.

`Sasha ponders something. He sighs.

SASHA: You know what. I’m still not satisfied.

He suddenly points the revolver at Dimitri and pulls the trigger. Dimitri’s kneecap explodes in blood. Dimitri screams like a little girl and falls on the floor, writhing with pain.

DIMITRI: What the fuck!

SASHA: Getting there.

DIMITRI: Why the fuck did you do…

He points the revolver at him again and this time blows a few of right toes off. Sasha smiles as Dimitri whimpers and an excessive amount of blood sprays on the floor.

DIMITRI: You blew my toes off you fucking cunt!

SASHA: It’s the least I could do. I wish I could do more.

Dimitri pants in agony, one hand holding his kneecap. He can’t reach his mangled feet.

DIMITRI: I can’t reach my feet.

  In his despair a sudden vulnerability appears.

DIMITRI: I’m afraid…. I’m afraid of the ghosts I’ll see…. The people who aren’t really there but are there in my head somewhere. They’ve been waiting for an excuse to come out. This might just be the one they’ve been waiting for.

SASHA: You deserve their company. We both do.

DIMITRI: I know. But I’m afraid.

A silence. Both of them look on the screen. We see black and white footage George R. Romero’s classic Night of the Living dead- of zombies slowly walking passed gravestones. Dimitri slowly manages to sit back on the chair.

SASHA: I wish I hated you more. I don’t hate people as much as I used to. Tell you the truth I used to enjoy it. Seeing them go. To hate people so much and unleash all of that fury. I miss it. Maybe that’s why I left.

DIMITRI: Once a KGB… Always…

Dimitri has trouble finishing his words because of the pain.

SASHA: Shut the fuck up.

DIMITRI: Your mother’s pizda….

A pause.

SASHA: You should see what I wrote on your book.

Dimitri looks towards the book. It seems so far away.

SASHA: Could you give it to me please?

Sasha gets up and picks the book from the table and gives it Dimitri, who uses one hand to open the first page. He reads Sasha’s inscription. He smiles warmly, like a child who discovered a new toy. Chuckles like a child too…

DIMITRI: Her name…. I forgot her name… Now it’s all coming back to me… She was just waiting for me…

SASHA: I’d thought you’d appreciate it.

DIMITRI: I do. She was wonderful? It was wonderful isn’t it?

Sasha doesn’t say anything, he just smiles. There is a pause.

DIMITRI: I’ll think I’ll have some tea….

Dimitri manges to reach out to the table, the book falling to the floor. He grabs the black teapot.

DIMITRI: Little help?

Sasha gets up, grabs the teapot, pours its contents in Dimitri’s teacup and places it back. He grabs Dimitri’s teacup and hands it over to Dimitri.

DIMITRI: Thanks comrade.

He raises the teacup.

DIMITRI: To the motherland!

Sasha lifts up the teapot.

SASHA: To the fucking motherland!

Dimitri gulps down his teacup, Sasha the black teapot. it down. There’s is a pause. For a moment they don’t know what to do.

DIMITRI: I think I’ll shut my eyes a bit… I think I’m finally getting sleepy…

SASHA: I should go.

DIMITRI: You don’t need to.

Sasha yawns.

SASHA: I’m a little tired tell you the truth.

DIMITRI: Maybe… When I sleep…. I’ll dream about the motherland…. When it was still beautiful…

On the TV we see footage of the Berlin Wall breaking down.

DIMITRI: Yeah… Growing up in a better world… Becoming a young man and working for the good guys…

SASHA: Never having to need to leave the country I love. That’s all I ever wanted.

DIMITRI: Patriots never want to leave their country.

Dimitri smiles thinking about the motherland. He closes his eyes. Sasha sees it happening, he smiles a bittersweet smile.

SASHA: Yeah, I think I’ll do that too.

Sasha closes his eyes. The stage goes black except for the TV. Suddenly on the TV we see Vladimir Putin; in a gay-clown outfit (the one that’s been banned), looking straight at us. The old national anthem of the USSR starts playing in the background, as this effeminate clown and the ruler of Russia, begins to wink at us.

***

Bio:

Chris van Dijk is a human animal who likes to write. He’s mostly interested in politics, history, the rights of humans and other animals and has a particularly unhealthy but rather fun obsession with cinema. His favorite writers are prof. John Gray, James Salter and Kurt Vonnegut. There are still a great many things he wants to write: a novella, a historical novel, a screenplay which he wants to adapt on the screen himself, a play which he wants to adapt on stage himself, several books of political science and countless books dedicated to his beautiful polish woman.

© Chris van Dijk

A play: The Poem

Lights come on. Two characters appear examining something between them. They stand one meter apart from each other, staring carefully at what seems to be a patch of invisible air between them.

 

Albert: It’s a poem alright.

Ruben: Never doubted it for a moment.

Albert (pensive): Is it one of the modern ones? (stating the word ‘modern’ slowly, too self-consciously, as it were a complicated word like Otolaryngology.)

Ruben (unsure, quickly scanning the poem up and down again): I would say so.

Albert: It has a certain sadness to it, wouldn’t you say?

Ruben: I’m afraid so.
Albert: You don’t like emotional pieces?

Ruben: Normally yes, but this one is a bit disturbing.

Albert: Is it because it makes fun of the human condition?

Ruben: I don’t like the second part, the bit about how ‘bodies betray the raw aura and war sinks the glass of meaning crushed’.

Albert: I don’t understand how you dislike that; I thought it was a profound image.

Ruben: My father died in the war.

Albert: Oh, sorry to hear that.

Ruben: Not your fault, he was one reckless fighter.

Albert: Did he die early in the war?

Ruben: They never told us, until the war was over; and he was brought to us in a can.

Albert: Just like that.
Ruben: Yes.

 

(Silence)

 

Ruben: What is this poem doing here?

Albert: Must have been left here by someone.

Ruben: A poet?
Albert: Probably.

Ruben: Should we leave it standing here or maybe cover it with a blanket.

Albert: Can it bear any weight, what if the stanzas collapse to the pavement?

Ruben: Don’t you think the poet secured it in some way, (pointing quickly to several points within the poem) by arranging the consonants like this and so many vowels like ripening figs hanging from a strong tree?

Albert: How would I know? Let’s just drop the idea.

Ruben: Should we move it in any case, leave it under the awning of that shop over there? (pointing to what seems a distant shop)

Albert: What if the poet comes looking for her poem here and can’t find it.

Ruben: Her poem?

Albert: A wild guess.

Ruben: Ok, let’s leave it here.

Albert: Yeah.
(Silence)

 

Ruben: Should I read it again?

Albert: Yeah, but this time we each read it silently. I can’t follow the flow of the poem when you read it.

Ruben: Ok

(they both screen left to right with their eyes, slowly lowering their sight until it reaches the sidewalk, half way down Albert chuckles, Ruben sighs).

Albert: I think this is one damn fine poem.
Ruben: It… is.
Albert: You still find it too, what do they call it… pathetic?

Ruben: The bit about how ‘the clouds floated like cloves of garlic in the blue almost green sky of her childhood’. (he pauses as if reminiscing) Reminds me of lying in the fields of my home country, back in Romania.

Albert: Yes, the imagery is striking. I was impressed on this second reading by how she portrays thought as a natural element of the earth, with fissures and cracks, slowly eroding under the weight of time.

Ruben: That was too artificial for me, I was more impressed by how she began to study the hands of her grandmother and close to twilight the wrinkles became words, almost speeches about a time long ago when every minute was warm and slow like a curl of smoke rising effortlessly from the hearth.

Albert: Indeed, a touching metaphor.

Ruben: Look, it’s turning yellow!

(both gaze with eyes wide open)

Albert: Gosh, you’re right!

Ruben: Why yellow?

Albert: Maybe it’s supposed to turn yellow. Like a leaf that’s had too much sun.

Ruben: What are you implying?

Albert: We’ve been staring at it too long.

Ruben: Ok. Let’s turn our backs to it and wait a while.

Albert: My very thought.

(They turn and wait 20 seconds with their backs to the poem – )

Ruben: Is it enough?

Albert: No, let’s give it another minute.

(30 seconds pass as they attempt to hum or scratch their beards.)

Ruben: Now?

Albert: I’m afraid it’s too soon.

(30 seconds more, Albert scratches the back of his neck and Ruben shamelessly his inner thigh just beside his crotch).

Albert: OK, let’s have a look.
Ruben: Agreed.

Albert: Look, it’s almost blue now!!

Ruben: Holy molly!

Albert: And the words have changed too!

(Ruben agape in utter disbelief.)

Ruben: Are you serious?!

Albert: Yes, read this part- (pointing to the middle section of the poem) – it wasn’t there before.

Ruben: The part about the storm?

Albert: Yes! It now says the sky could hold a storm in its mouth like a dose of mouthwash.

Ruben: Oh my legs (genuinely trembling)- it’s true!

Albert: It was something about the sun before.

Ruben: Yes, I remember. About how ‘the sun has deleted the world with its light and the air is blind with currents of glow’.

Albert: It has turned comical!

Ruben: Sadly so! I preferred its previous sorrowful mood.

Albert: I thought you weren’t so fond of it because of… ehem (clears throat) what happened to your father.

Ruben: I’m not sure what I think nowadays. But I prefer it as it was before.

Albert: Should we read it out loud, maybe it has changed in other areas as well.

Ruben: Great idea.

 

(Ruben and Albert are about to begin reading the poem when an old lady enters the scene)

 

Old Lady: Gentlemen, can you tell me the name of this street?

Ruben: We’re not from this part of town. Where are you heading to?

Old Lady: The marketplace, they said to keep going this way until I reach Dolores street.

Albert: I know it, just walk down this way for another 3 blocks until you hit Agonia street, there turn right and you’ll see Dolores street.  The marketplace will be at the end of Dolores street.

Old Lady: Thank you kind sir, have a nice day! (walks away)

Ruben: So, you are familiar with this area?

Albert: Not at all, I was just getting rid of that nutcase.

Ruben: What?!

Albert: She’s probably another lunatic mumbling words without any precise meaning.

Ruben: But she was only looking for the marketplace! Maybe she needs eggs and tomatoes for breakfast tomorrow!

Albert: Don’t be so naive Ruben, crazy people don’t have motives. They just act, without rhyme or reason.

Ruben: But how can you know she’s craz…

(Albert interrupts him violently with a wave of his hand)

Albert: The poem has changed again!

(Ruben scanning quickly up and down the poem).
Ruben: Where exactly?

Albert: The final part.

Ruben: Oh yes and what an ending!

Albert: Sublime!

Ruben: Sharp!

 

(reading the last part out loud together:)

 

for all the things

that can be grasped,

I leave behind

words so transparent

they can reflect

the luminosity of the void

anywhere in the world.

 

Albert: But who could have… rewritten it?

Ruben: An ever bigger enigma.

 

(Actors remain silent. Traffic noise is heard in the background, honking, changing of gears, a bus door opening and then closing.)

 

Ruben: Albert, why didn’t you bring your sister today? I thought we had an arrangement?

(Albert staring into the void either mimicking despair or genuinely troubled)

Albert: I guess, Ruben, that I have no sister.

Ruben: I thought you were too young to have a sister.

Albert: There’s a bench over there.

Ruben: My legs are killing me.

Albert: I have an apple in my pocket we could share.

Ruben: Sweet or sour?

Albert: I’m not sure, I didn’t put it there. Let’s sit and find out.

 

They walk slowly, awkwardly toward the bench. The shadow of a bird crosses the pavement in front of them. They sit and stare into the audience. Albert puts his hand in his pocket and takes out the inner lining of his pocket. There was no apple there after all.

Lights out.

 

– THE END –

 

Bio:

Pablo Saborío is a Costa-Rican born artist and writer living and working in Copenhagen, Denmark. His art and poetry can be found in the following sites: pablosaborio.com and beyondlanguagepoetry.com

© Pablo Saborío

Only A Few Have It

Only A Few Have It

by

Donovan Wilkins

 

EXT. Blue Comet Bar & Grille – Night

The bar has only a few people sitting at it. A small tv hung on the wall above all the liquor and beer. On the screen played It’s A Wonderful Life, without the sound and in black and white. In the back of the bar was a small stage for live music and entertainment.

Tonight’s entertainment was replaced with Christmas decorations for the season. Christmas music played over the speakers but only low enough to not upset the mood of the bar. In the last booth towards the stage was a young couple who was using so much PDA it could have been a porno. A bartender approached one of her customers at the beginning of the bar.

KADEN WORTHY, African American, 22, sipped on a Jack and Coke with a lemon. Kaden was the kind of guy who was liked by everyone but hated everyone. His hair was way too wild almost like he didn’t give a shit. His shoes were falling apart at the soles but couldn’t really afford more than 3 pairs of shoes at a time.

BARTENDER: Hey, do you want another one?

Kaden looked up from his phone to see the beautiful bartender looking at him. He thought about what his life would be like if he married her. Yes, Kaden likes to fantasize about his life with beautiful women. He’s weird like that.

KADEN: Yes please.

This would be Kaden’s 5th Jack and Coke but it wouldn’t be his last. Kaden went back to his phone while the bartender went to make his drink. Kaden happened to be searching for ways to commit suicide without feeling pain. Kaden should know that when you die, you HAVE to feel pain.

He knew that he would not get better results than the last time he tried, 3 days ago. He made his way down the Google search page, clicking every web page hoping for some good news. Reddit, Facebook community pages, health websites and Yahoo Ask all offered the same thing, bullshit and pain.

BARTENDER (sitting a fresh drink in front of Kaden): Here you go sir.

The bartender looked at Kaden and then at his phone screen. Kaden felt the judgement radiating from her eyes when he looked up.

BARTENDER (smiling): Are you ok? I couldn’t help but see you what you are researching on your phone.

KADEN (sounding happy but wasn’t): Yes I’m fine. I’m just looking up some stuff for my Psych class.

BARTENDER: Oh cool, where do you go?

KADEN: Arcadia.

BARTENDER: I assume you’re studying Psychology?

KADEN: No. I’m studying Photography.

BARTENDER: Wow artistic! That’s deep.

Kaden didn’t think it was that deep. Females.

KADEN: Yeah I guess. If you don’t mind I would like to get back to work.

The bartender was confused, she thought there could have been something there. Instead she left to tend to her other guests. Such a dick move Kaden. The bartender took that personal and left to attend to her other guests. Kaden watched the water from the side of his drink slide down onto the napkin under it. There was something about watching this play out that made him crack a smile.

EXT. Blue Comet (Bar) – Night

The night moved on as people came and went. Even though it was a Friday night, the bar never seemed to fill up. Kaden couldn’t care less, he hated crowds. By his 7th Jack and Coke he was drifting in and out of reality. He could barely make out the two girls in the far corner swapping tongues. The bartender approached him.

KADEN (waved her off): I’ll take the check.

Kaden looked over at the girls again only to see them having sexual intercourse on the top of the bar. Nobody else seemed to notice them or even cared.

The bartender came back with the check 3 minutes later.

EXT. Blue Comet – Night

Kaden stumbled out of the bar into the cold night air face up. Looking up to the dark cloudy sky while rain fell made him feel even shiter than the alcohol was making him feel. His phone buzzed in his back pocket. Kaden had 5 unread texts from numbers he couldn’t make out but knew they were not important.

A pool of blood formed under his hands, a piece of glass was lodged in his left palm. Weird he didn’t feel any pain. He closed his eyes and laid there. PAIGE HARTMAN, European American, 24 stood over Kaden as he laid there.

PAIGE: Hey, are you ok? I see blood.

Kaden opened his eyes. Paige was holding an a blue umbrella over both of them, little drops of water clinging to the sides. She held out her hand to help Kaden up.

KADEN: What are you doing here?

PAIGE: I’m trying to help you.

KADEN: No I’m fine. Just wanted to lay down for a minute.

PAIGE: There’s a bench right across the street.

A park bench stood across the street at a poorly lit bus stop. Anybody could have missed that.

KADEN: Huh imagine that. I must be drunker than I thought.

A huge gash has opened on Kaden’s hand. Blood kept flowing out hitting the already wet pavement. He needed medical attention.

PAIGE (pointing at his hand): You need medical attention. It looks pretty deep.

KADEN (muttered under his breath): Not deep enough.

PAIGE: What?

KADEN: Nothing, I’m not going to the hospital. Thanks for the concern.

Kaden started walking away. Paige followed with her umbrella.

PAIGE: Why won’t you go to the ER!?

KADEN: Because nobody talks about what happens after they check you out.

PAIGE (confused): What?

KADEN: You have to pay all the medical expenses. They care you for getting help, which I never understood.

PAIGE: You don’t have insurance?

KADEN: I can barely afford rent and you think I have money to cover if I get hurt.

PAIGE: Let me take care of you.

KADEN: I’m fine. Don’t you have somewhere to be?

PAIGE: Nope, I have all the time in the world now.

KADEN: Can’t you bother someone else, like your mother?

PAIGE: I’ve talked to my mother earlier. I’ll see her again very soon.

EXT. Wine & Spirits – Night

The Wine & Spirits store lights shined bright through the window as Kaden walked through the doors. Special messages hung in the window advertising beer.

INT. Wine & Spirits – Night

The store was really empty. Kaden went straight to the Jack Daniels whiskey. He popped off the top and took it 3 long sips before walking to the front counter throwing money as he walked out.

The cashier was stunned but took the money without a word.

EXT. Wine & Spirits – Night

Paige was waiting outside of the store leaning against the stone wall. She had put the umbrella down and was now smoking a cigarette. Kaden continued to walk down the street.

Once again Paige followed.

KADEN (once Paige caught up to him): You know those will kill you.

PAIGE: You should do stand up. That’s fucking gold.

KADEN: God you are so annoying.

PAIGE (teasing): You didn’t always used to think so.

Walking past an alley, Kaden could see a male shooting heroin while 2 other males took turns fucking what seem like a hooker. The girl looked up from the ground to see Kaden staring. While on all fours, the hooker gave Kaden a wink.

Kaden continued to walk down the street under the pouring rain. He looked around and Paige was gone.

Nothing was said, only the sound of rain hitting the street could be heard.

EXT. Glenside Train Station – Night

The train station had only a few lit lights. Cars flew past under the tracks on the bridge. Kaden sits on the bench and waits.

The rain comes to a slow drizzle.

EXT. Ticket Office – Night

The waiting room was empty. Train schedules hung on a gigantic black board in the middle of the room. The white walls offered no comfort only conformity.

Kaden walked to the ticket window. A lady sat behind the window watching tv.

KADEN: Can I get one ticket to Philadelphia?

Lady: You can’t outrun it you know. Some things are meant to be. You can’t live your life in the stars.

KADEN: Umm I’ll keep that in the back of my mind. Thanks.

LADY: You know they are all right.

KADEN: Ma’am, it’s late.

LADY: What do you do for a living?

KADEN: I work in the food service.

LADY: How many jobs?

KADEN: Two.

LADY: Why?

KADEN: Why what?

LADY: Why do you work 2 jobs?

KADEN: I don’t get paid enough for one job. I have camera equipment to pay for.

LADY: So quit. It’s not like you are going to make it.

KADEN: I will. I don’t know how to do anything else.

LADY: What do you hope to gain in life? What is your purpose in life?

Kaden didn’t know why he was talking to this lady. Just take the ticket and go.

KADEN: Right now to get on this train.

LADY: Then after the train?

Kaden knew nothing of what she was talking about. He just wanted to go.

KADEN: I have no idea what you are talking about lady, I just want a ticket.

LADY: If I give you this ticket, will you leave or will you run?

It made no sense…

Yet.

KADEN: I’ll have to get back to you on that.

The Lady gave Kaden his ticket.

KADEN: Thanks.

LADY: You look lost son, but you won’t be for long.

KADEN: What do you mean?

LADY: You will see…

Kaden just took the ticket and went back out on the platform. Something he should have did before.

EXT. Glenside Station – Night

The rain had stopped but fog now occupied the skies. The only person standing on the platform was a old homeless guy in shabby clothes. The train pulled into the station. The homeless guy waved at the lady in the ticket office who gave him a smirk before getting on the train.

INT. Train – Night

The train was quiet with only a few people on it. Kaden took a seat in the far back of the cart. The homeless guy came into the cart and sat right beside Kaden.

He smelled of shitty whiskey and cheap cigarettes.

HOMELESS GUY: So, how’s life treating son?

Kaden looked over at the Homeless Guy. Besides his appearance, there was something about the guy that made him seem inviting. At this point, it wasn’t the worst thing he did tonight.

KADEN: It sucks. You know how life is.

HOMELESS GUY: No I don’t. I’ve never met her. Your life can’t be that bad.

KADEN: You don’t know the half of it. I mean, what is the purpose of it all if we lose it all in the end?

HOMELESS GUY: Do you believe in God?

KADEN: No.

HOMELESS GUY: Why not? No faith?

KADEN: I don’t live my life the way some guy in the sky told me to.

The Homeless Guy flashed a small smile at Kaden. He had the whitest teeth ever, which didn’t make sense for a homeless person.

HOMELESS GUY: So you have no faith?

KADEN: That shit was beaten out of me a long time ago.

HOMELESS GUY: What makes you get out of bed every morning?

KADEN: I don’t really know. I guess after a while it’s automatic. A cycle I’m trying so bad to break. Everytime I take a step forward, I take 12 steps back.

HOMELESS GUY: Stranger things have happened my son. Are you happy with your life?

KADEN: No. I just really need a second chance.

The Homeless Guy looked at Kaden for a while. He was trying to find something that couldn’t be seen right now.

HOMELESS GUY: You know there are no second chances. The only thing you can do is try to make a living following what you love. Have a little faith.

KADEN: It’s not easy.

HOMELESS GUY(smiles): I never meant it to be…

The Homeless Man places his hand on Kaden’s forehead. Kaden’s eyes shut and he drifts off.

INT. Blue Comet – Night

It’s a Wonderful Life plays on a small black and white Tv. No sound came from the Tv. Christmas music lightly played throughout the bar. Around the bar a few people sat talking about the latest Snapchat update. Typical college kids with nothing else to do but waste away. All following the trend of the world until something new comes along.

Kaden opened his eyes to find himself staring at the bar counter. His drink half empty next to him. No one around seemed to care about him falling asleep at the bar. In his pocket, his phone buzzed rapidly. There’s a text from Paige saying, “Don’t forget to pick up some flowers for my mother”. Shit he forgot.

A bartender comes over to Kaden.

BARTENDER: Could I get you one more?

She points to the half empty glass of Jack and Coke.

KADEN: Umm…No…I’ll just take the check.

The Bartender starts to walk away. Kaden stops her.

KADEN: Did I come in here earlier?

BARTENDER: No you were in here the whole time. Are you ok?

Is he?

Something is really wrong here.

KADEN: Yeah…

Kaden goes to grab the glass on the counter and it slips out of reach. The glass shatters into a million pieces like the galaxy. The music stops and everyone looks at Kaden. They all wear the same motionless expression as Kaden scans the room.

There is a large scar on Kaden’s left hand.

Very deep and very fresh.

THE END

Bio:

Donovan Wilkins is a writer and photographer from Philadelphia. After dropping out of Community College, he decided to focus his time on his passion for writing. His love of independent movies played a huge influence in his writings. His first full length screenplay, The Road Less Traveled, is being considered for numerous small film festivals across the United States. He also works as a philly scene reporter for a small music website. When he is not writing, Donovan is working on building his photography business, Donnie Vintage Photography. His website is http://www.donnievintage.com

© Donovan Wilkins

Confronting Fog

Confronting Fog

by

Chris Bryz-Gornia

(An empty stage that portrays three areas, each segregated by curtains, LS is the captain’s cabin, RS is the crew’s quarters and CS is the deck of the ship)

 

Characters: Captain, First Mate, Sailor, Entity and Narrator.

 

First Mate

This night, where we to go in such dangerous conditions? There presents a distant fog ahead, if we venture any further we will forfeit the idea of where we are at this position?

 

Captain

Hold your tongue for I am at hindrance of thought (Pause). Do you feel that, this balance beneath our feet? How does this cradle’s sway begin to cease, when we’ve been constantly sailing at sea?

 

First Mate

May it be a dream sir? Upon deck a mere minute ago, I was staring out into the midnight horizon. I witnessed waves after waves crashing into the haul while drinking from this Rum of Morgan. Out there is only the speech of the oceans howl, the frantic winds that shake us about, and that mysterious fog approaching inbound.

Captain

Yes, but that isn’t the case right now, it’s as if the ship has tightened up somehow from the stern to the bow. Hand me that Morgan from your grip and wake the men, something rather strange is abound this ship and I am not going to give her in.

First Mate

It is strange how this ship has separated itself from the ocean, it feels as if it’s stubborn with anger and absent from emotion. What is to happen among us out here in the open?

 

Captain

I do not know, now please would you….!

 

                                                                                                            First Mate

Aye Captain, I will wake the crew, and notify them immediately of this peculiar phenomenon.

 

Captain

Very well, I will be on deck promptly to gaze upon, this report of this unknown obstacle that has set us off course.

 

Narrator

The first mate rushed through the cabin doors that exposed him to the blanket of dense fog. This entity smothered his body whole infiltrating his lungs, conflicting into his brain activity as well as manipulating his tongue. He soon found himself amongst the slumbering crew harkening obscure things that are wrong.

 

First Mate

Wake up lads and place yourselves above awareness, our captain has violated our trust and has turned against us!

 

 

Sailor

What has happened, the captain conspires against his company? How did you come across such treachery?

                                                                                                            First Mate

He ordered me to retrieve explosives, and rig them to blow. There is an approaching fog that holds a threat to us both. We must vanquish ourselves from this foreboding exposure for it may bring sadness with torture.

                                                                                                            Sailor

Whoa!!(Stands up) What is this awkward lore? Has our captain gone mad with scurvy?

 

First Mate

No, but quick, we must hurry!

 

Sailor

Wait (Feels that the ship is motionless)? Have we breached the shoreline or am I still drunk from the night before this time? I could have sworn that we are miles away from the nearest harbor. This makes no sense nor conjures any notion for certain death? What beguiled encounter has struck our captain to provoke such squander? This is not like him; he is a good natured fellow with a strong will and virtues that follow. This voyage means a great deal to his heart, why do you bear news that would shatter all that we have achieved thus far?

 

Narrator

Meanwhile, as the first mate arouses the slumbering crew below deck, the captain collects his instruments of valor: his sheath and sword, his scope as he throws on his coat, and the hat of warn honor that dignifies his suit. Before his departure through those oak cabin doors to the bridge, he grabs a letter written in his own words, a proclamation to the purpose of this voyage. He holsters the parchment in the breast pocket beside his chest, and then embarks a stupendous step into the darkened abyss. As he confronts the desolate air, he is bewildered and fazed upon this dreary sight of cynical shades, the captain collapses crashing his knees hard to the splintery floor boards.

 

Captain

My dear god what have I come towards, some sort of entity dispersed among this fog? How dreadful I feel for this may yield an end to my ship and cause! I have ventured long and far to claim victim to an infringed heart, but now I am enthralled to throw myself off into the angry waves of this oceans mouth!

 

Entity

Have no fear my loved one, I am yours among this fog. Take that piece of parchment and read it to send your last breath off.

Captain

(Reaches for the scripted letter in his broach and reads it) My dear wonderful counterpart, I write to appease my conflicted heart, to explore these open waters in hopes to come across the desired truth of what became of you, but so far no albatross. It has been months since your disappearance, an event that I can’t resolve, I won’t submit to failure until you are safely in my arms. . . . .

 

Narrator

As the captain professes his strife through a letter and psalm, the first mate encourages the sailor to hastily move along.

 

First Mate

The captain is anxious and awaits my return to him with the explosives.

 

Sailor

Hold it right there my lad, we are not sending this ship to sleep with the fishes! I’ll see if the captain is feeling well upon this eerie motionless vessel.

 

First Mate

I can’t allow you to do that, He is infused with fear captivated by an enemy full of deceit; we must carry out his command to avoid such a pitiful defeat!

 

Sailor

Silence! You have pinned no sense against my free thought to such an occurrence. We must seek the safety of our captain, he deserves it!

 

Narrator

As the sailor makes his way upon deck, his blood flow thickens at the sight of his captain with this ghostly apparition! He is entranced, stricken with fear and confusion, an emotional wreck misguided by a fabrication.

Captain

………Oh wondrous mistress where shall I end my search, in this monstrous rush of water that will purge this grief into a peaceful submerge. Or shall I surrender my worth to you and release this burden for an afterlife that I have been forever yearning.

Narrator

All that is between the captain and this entity is a white knuckled grip on the rails that prevent his fall towards the angry sea. In his delirium he accepts this false fate into thinking that she was her and begins to move straight, while bleakness bleeds from his face.

 

Sailor

NOOO! My Captain, my friend, where is your mind if your heart has collapsed from within?! Break free from its captive grasp and look forward with faith, she is out there I promise. Don’t give in to its deceptive ways!

Captain

(Looks toward sailor) My devoted sailor, you are mistaken of this plea, are you blind and cannot see? Here is what I have been searching for, my maiden who was lost at sea, she has finally returned to me!

 

Sailor

No captain, that is a manipulative force, scorned with the plight to deceive. It captures lost souls filled with despair only to feed it to the sea! I have read of this in ancient lore, this is nothing more than a vile corrupted engagement that saturates itself in meaningless accords. Break free I say, break free from its lure!

Narrator

The First mate makes his way from the belly of the ship with dynamite in hand. He is conflicted with sorrow and confusion while igniting the fuse in hopes for all of it to end. But before he makes it top side there is an explosion, causing the ship to sway and splinter but the integrity seemed not to falter.

 

 

 

Entity

I am losing you oh captain, I am losing you again……come with me to extinguish your anguish, bury that loathing existence by letting go of everything from within.

 

 

Captain

My dear, I am strung from a height that I wish to fall from. I want to be with you as you are with me now, I have finally found you, and I won’t let our flame die out!

 

Sailor

(Rushing toward the captain) Sir! Take my hand before you plummet toward that watery grave, you are delirious and know not what you are doing! This is a mistake!

 

Captain

Goodbye my good mate, you have served me well. She is here now to save me from hell.

 

Sailor

Please captain! This is not my story but yours to tell, you want to live with her, not see her at the bottom after falling over those rails!

 

Narrator

The captain looks down at the fury of the sea, retaining a blissful impression as he releases his grip to the ships frame. While grasping the letter tightly, he is motionless falling to face the crashing waves that soon bury him toward the deep.

 

Sailor

Captain!!

 

Entity

He has submitted himself to the failure of the damned, (Turns toward sailor) and where do you fit in this tourniquet? Have you stricken immunity to my enticing nature?

 

Sailor

I am aware of your stories and murderous tenure, what you do to those you captivate and where you hither! I heed no warning to your docile ways you shouldn’t have killed him, and now you will pay.

 

Entity

See that you survive this desolate plain of a watery grave, for there lurks far more disastrous instances than your little heart could muster enough courage to be saved.

 

Narrator

With that utterance of character, the entity vanished releasing the ship from its captive stasis. Submitting the end to this insidious encounter, she left the sailor to pick up the pieces.

END

Bio:

My name is Chris Bryz-Gornia and I am a Rutgers Graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in English. I consider myself a writer and a musician. Currently, I write short stories and fiction, but I have experience in field reporting; I am a published journalist and music-performance reviewer. Apart from writing, I enjoy a dog’s company, playing in my band as the guitarist, and reading. 

© Chris Bryz-Gornia

Cloud Mirror

CLOUD MIRROR

By

Olena Jennings and Wanda Phipps

Scene 1

 

An apartment.  Bedroom. Night. 

 

(SARAH and DAVID are lying in bed sleeping.  SARAH suddenly sits up and her eyes open wide.)

 

Sarah: What was that?

 

David: An earthquake?

 

Sarah: No, I don’t believe it.

 

David: Here comes another one.  Can you feel it coming?

 

(Sarah shakes her head.)

 

Sarah: I can’t remember the dream I was having…

David: You’re sweating.

 

Sarah: It was so dark.  I think I was dreaming about being in a chapel.  There were these ornate decorations and…and this amazing stillness.  For some reason I had an orange tulip in my hand…What do you think it means?

 

DAVID: I don’t know. Go back to sleep.

 

SARAH: How can you sleep through an earthquake? Shouldn’t we do something?

 

DAVID: What? Like duck and cover?

 

SARAH: Huh?

 

DAVID: Hide under a table?

 

SARAH: Or in a bathtub? Or call somebody?

 

DAVID: I think it’s over now. (They both sit very still as if listening for another tremor.) Nothing’s happening. Let’s just go back to sleep.

 

 

Scene 2

 

Same apartment. Living room. Afternoon.

 

(Sarah poses on the couch as David sketches her but she can’t seem to stay still.)

 

David: What’s the matter?

 

Sarah: I was just thinking of an old friend. We knew each other when we were kids.

 

David: What made you think of her?

 

Sarah: I think that weird dream was about her. Once when I was depressed she gave me an orange tulip she’d picked from her mother’s garden just like the one in the dream.

 

DAVID: So now you’re a dream interpreter?

 

SARAH: I tried to search for her online and found out she just passed away a few days ago.

 

David: Oh, no, I’m sorry.  Were you close?

 

Sarah: She was my best friend in high school.  I’m thinking of going to the funeral.

 

David: That’s a long way to go.  Does she still live in the Midwest?

(Sarah nods.)

 

David: Maybe you should give it some more thought?

 

Sarah: Hey, why don’t you want me to go?

 

David: I didn’t say I didn’t want you to go.

 

Sarah: Are you jealous?

 

David: That’s ridiculous!

 

Sarah: You sound jealous.

 

David: Well, I’m sorry. I just thought since you’ve lost touch with her and moved on then…

 

Sarah: That’s kinda cold of you.

 

David: Cold?

 

Sarah: Yeah, we were close back then….I remember when my mom used to make us casseroles and shrimp curry in our little kitchen—the walls were cotton candy blue and the windows decorated with lace curtains.  Me and my friend–

 

DAVID:   What was her name?

 

SARAH: Margaret. Her name was Margaret. Margaret and I wanted to make fancy dinners for each other so we hung a curtain between the dining and cooking areas so that we could be as messy as we wanted.   Once, we went to a fancy restaurant together. I wore a plaid pants suit but she wore the cutest thrift store dress with shoes trimmed in gold.  I ordered oeufs a la neige for dessert and then I was so impressed by what looked like clouds on my plate.

 

 

Scene 3

 

Flashback. Light grows brighter.

 

Coffee shop. Late Afternoon.

 

(SARAH and DAVID are at adjacent tables.)

 

DAVID: What are you studying?

 

SARAH: A book by Bachelard. He’s a phenomenologist.

 

DAVID: Phenome-what?

 

SARAH: He’s a philosopher. He writes a lot about space. I’m studying philosophy. (SARAH looks back down at her books.)

 

DAVID: Oh, yeah? I’m an artist.

 

SARAH: What kind?

 

DAVID: I do a lot of portraits. I’m haunted by the images of faces.

 

SARAH: Really? Bachelard writes a lot about images. Maybe he was obsessed with them too.

 

DAVID: Oh yeah? What does he say?

 

(SARAH looks at her notebook.)

 

SARAH: “The Image has touched the depths before it stirs the surface.”

 

DAVID: Very eloquent.

 

SARAH: It’s Bachelard, not me.

 

DAVID: A visual image can hold a lot of emotion.

 

SARAH: Well, he’s talking about a poetic image.

 

DAVID: An image in a painting can still be full of emotion. Maybe I can paint you one day?

 


Scene 4

 

Present. SARAH and DAVID’S apartment.  Night. 

 

(Sarah wanders through the rooms as if sleepwalking.  David hears her and shakes her to consciousness.)

 

David: Sarah.  Are you okay?

 

Sarah: I couldn’t sleep.

 

David: Let’s go back to bed.  Do you want some water?

 

(They go to the kitchen.  The sink is filled with dirty dishes.  Sarah drinks so quickly that water tumbles down her chest.) 

 

Sarah: I think I was looking for Margaret.

 

David: Looking for Margaret? Maybe you really want to go to the funeral?

 

Sarah: I keep thinking about her.

 

David: I guess it’s natural.

 

Sarah: We did so much together.  We even went to prom at The Public Museum together.  I remember wandering around the Rain Forest section.  I remember the fossils.  They looked like they were longing to be touched. We loved each other so much. Then we drifted apart. Maybe it was just impossible to keep things going that way. It was too intense in a way.

 

David: Like us?

 

Sarah: I never felt that way with anyone again.

 

David: Hmm. Really, not even with me?

 

SARAH: I’m not sure.

 

 

Scene 5

 

Flashback. Light grows brighter. DAVID’S apartment.

 

DAVID: Thank you for letting me paint you.

 

SARAH: (a little giddy from alcohol) It’ll be fun!

 

DAVID: I’m glad someone thinks so. I think it will be hard work.

 

SARAH: How do you know I won’t get comfortable on your couch and you’ll

never be able to get rid of me!

 

DAVID: Maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing?

 

(SARAH laughs.)

 

SARAH: That was an interesting bar.

 

DAVID:   It depends on what you mean by interesting.

 

SARAH: Is it your neighborhood hangout?

 

DAVID: I heard from a friend it was good. I don’t go out much myself.

 

SARAH: I loved those Chihuly-like sculptures.

 

DAVID: Oh, you like him? I love Dale Chihuly’s work too!

 

SARAH: Yeah, they’re like these floating glass clouds.

 

DAVID: There’s an image for you.

 

 

Scene 6

 

(DAVID is working on a painting as SARAH comes into the apartment.)

 

SARAH: Hey, I got this handout from this lady on the street.

 

DAVID: What?

 

SARAH: It’s a deal on that gym down the street–a week for free just to check it out and a tour and everything. I thought you’d like it.

 

DAVID: No, thanks—I hate gyms.

 

SARAH: Why?

 

DAVID: They’re always too crowded–too expensive anyway.

 

SARAH: Well, I know how you like to stay in shape. Why not join the Y around the corner? I heard they have a great pool.

 

DAVID: Not my style. I like working out at home.

 

SARAH: I just thought you might like to get out of the house every once in a while.

 

DAVID: Why? Afraid I might be turning into the new post-modern hermit?

 

SARAH: Very funny.

 

DAVID: I just like being comfortable and…

 

SARAH: In total control?

 

DAVID: (DAVID goes to the window and stares out.) You know, the other day I looked out this window and I saw this woman. She was very well-dressed and in a really big hurry. She walked to the end of the block and then she turned around and walked back to the corner she’d just left. At first I thought she was lost and couldn’t find an address or something. She seemed like she was late for some important meeting. But then she must have repeated the same steps a hundred times, again and again, up and down the block. She could have been a hooker but her clothes were too expensive. Then I realized she was lost — lost in her mind. I wondered why she chose this block? Why did she always stop at that corner? What kept her from walking across the street and moving on?

 

When I go out sometimes I get caught up with the energy out there. And someplace deep down I think I’m afraid I might end up like her: just running a groove into the sidewalk day after day.

 

SARAH: That will never be you. Your painting keeps you going forward…changing. Aristotle said something about that. He said you can make a sculpture out of a block of marble because it can be transformed. Maybe people are like that too?

 

DAVID: What, like a block of marble?

 

SARAH: (SARAH laughs) No-o-o!

 

 

Scene 7

 

SARAH and DAVID’S apartment. Living Room.

 

(DAVID is alone at the easel)

 

DAVID: Sometimes when I’m painting I feel so…alive. When I’m painting Sarah and she suddenly touches her face I can feel a light touch against my skin and when the brush reaches her hands it’s as if a feather brushes or tickles my hand. And when I get to that light in her eyes, for a second, I see what she sees: a cobweb on the ceiling or the curve of my back.

 

 

Scene 8

 

SARAH and DAVID’S apartment. Kitchen.

 

(They are washing and drying dishes)

 

SARAH: I’ve never had anyone close to me die before. Have you?

 

DAVID: Yes.

 

SARAH: Who?

 

DAVID: My mother.

 

SARAH: Oh. I didn’t know that. Why didn’t you tell me before?
DAVID: I didn’t think you’d be interested. The past is the past.

 

SARAH: And your father?

 

DAVID: You know I talk to him every weekend.

 

SARAH: Do you miss her? When did it happen?

 

DAVID: When I was a kid. I was so young that I don’t remember much of anything about her.

 

SARAH: What do you remember about her?

 

DAVID (sits down): I remember crying after she tried to feed me lobster.

 

SARAH: You didn’t like lobster? Everyone likes lobster.

 

DAVID: It just looked so red and angry.

 

SARAH: What else do you remember?

 

DAVID: The baths she used to make me take.

 

SARAH: Did you have a rubber ducky?

 

DAVID: No, I had a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

 

SARAH: Oh you would!

 

DAVID: She had elegant hands with long fingers.

 

SARAH: How did she die?

 

DAVID: She was in a car accident.

 

SARAH: Oh.

 

DAVID: She was on her way home from rehearsal one night and she got sideswiped on the highway and swerved into a ditch.

 

SARAH: I’m sorry…I had no idea.

 

DAVID: I was only 8 years old and that’s the story my father told me when I got older.

 

SARAH: I wonder how Margaret died.

 

DAVID: I’ve been thinking maybe you should go to the funeral after all…just to answer all your questions.

 

SARAH: Maybe. I can look into the plane fares.

 

DAVID: Why did you lose touch with her?

 

SARAH: I don’t know…I think it was after the first time she slept with a boy. His name was Dallas.  It happened in the locker room of the swimming pool in her grandmother’s building.  I remember swimming in that pool decorated with white Christmas lights.  The lights reflected in the water.  Then I could already feel her breaking away from me.

 

DAVID: So, she was more into her boyfriend than she was into you?

 

SARAH: Yeah, maybe he was the one who pulled us apart. I’m not really sure what happened.

 

DAVID: Well, maybe you do need to go to the funeral?

 

 

Scene 9

 

SARAH and DAVID’S apartment. Living Room.

 

DAVID: There you are…my ballerina.

 

SARAH: What are you talking about?

 

DAVID: Why are you always tiptoeing around?

 

SARAH: I’m worried about the neighbors. I don’t want them to hear.

 

DAVID: Hear what? What are you afraid they might hear?

 

SARAH: I don’t know. I want to be quiet.

 

DAVID:   You should be comfortable in your own body…in your own home and make as much noise as you want.

 

SARAH: I don’t have to be loud to be comfortable. Sometimes you stand perfectly still in front of your canvas for ages.

 

DAVID: Yeah, when I’m staring at a canvas like that I feel calm like part of me has floated away.

 

Scene 10

 

SARAH and DAVID’S bedroom.

 

(SARAH packing her suitcase.)

 

SARAH: I’ll miss you, David.

 

DAVID: We decided it’s important that you go.

 

SARAH: Maybe you need to get in touch with your past too.

 

DAVID: What do you mean?

 

SARAH: What if you go visit your father?

 

DAVID: I talk to him on the phone. It’s enough.

 

SARAH: Maybe he’ll tell you more about your mother. You don’t want to lose those memories.

 

DAVID: I have those memories. I remember once when my mother came home tired from work she still played catch with me.

 

SARAH: And your dad?

 

DAVID: My dad was more into solitude.

 

SARAH: More like you?

 

DAVID: Yes.  I remember at night he used to pace the hallways of our house, back and forth.

 

SARAH: Why?

 

DAVID: Just trying to develop a rhythm.  I think he’s kinda like that woman I saw on the street…

 

 

Scene 11

 

SARAH and DAVID’S Living Room.

 

SARAH: My mother always said that before you leave on a trip you need to sit down and consider whether you’ve forgotten anything.

DAVID: Let’s sit then.

(They sit down on the couch in silence for a moment.)

SARAH: I think I have everything.

DAVID: I think you’re just trying to put off leaving.  I’ll miss you.

SARAH: I’ll miss you too, but I’ll be back soon.

 

(SARAH steps out the door. DAVID watches her disappear before shutting the door. He goes to the phone and picks it up.)

 

DAVID: Hi Dad…Yeah, Sarah just left to go to a funeral and I already feel lonely…something is just not right…I’ll work on my painting while she is gone…Yes, I’m painting her, painting Sarah.

 

(DAVID goes to his easel pick up his palette and starts mixing paints but puts them down. He starts to pace back and forth in front of the window.)

 

 

Scene 12

 

SARAH and DAVID’S bedroom.

 

(DAVID lies on the bed daydreaming. He suddenly sits up.)

 

DAVID: I keep seeing these flowers on a casket. The casket is being lowered into the ground. I keep seeing bright spots of orange against the black, orange tulips. There’s no sun, just clouds. The tulips seem especially bright. Everything else is dark, black casket and everyone in their black mourning clothes like the black suit I wore to my mother’s funeral and my father’s black suit when he held my hand.

 

 

Scene 13

 

(SARAH returns from the funeral. She turns the key and opens the door. DAVID is sitting on the couch reading a magazine when she comes in. He gets up and hugs her.)

 

DAVID: Oh, Sarah. I missed you so much. How did it go?

 

SARAH: It was really sad, but the funeral was beautiful. I saw so many old friends. There were lots of flowers.

 

DAVID: Tulips?

 

SARAH: How did you know?

 

DAVID: I just had a feeling.

 

SARAH: They were Margaret’s favorite flower. How could you know that?

 

DAVID: I had some kind of visions about what the funeral was like.

 

SARAH: Visions? That’s impossible.

 

DAVID: Maybe it’s impossible, but it did happen. Remember the dream you had earlier?

 

SARAH: Oh, I almost forgot.

 

(She starts to carry her bags into bedroom.)

 

SARAH: What have you been doing?

 

DAVID: I’ll help you with those.

 

(He takes the bags into the bedroom and comes back out.)

 

DAVID: I’ve just been painting, but I did call my father. I told him I felt like something was missing while you were gone.

 

SARAH: Oh that’s sweet. I’m going to go unpack now.

 

 

Scene 14

 

(SARAH finishes unpacking and goes into the bathroom. She stares into the mirror.)

 

Sarah: I felt a little faint so I went to the bathroom, splashed some cold water on my face thinking that would bring me back to normal. But when I looked in the mirror my face looked so odd. The more I stared at it, the stranger it seemed. At first I could identify the edges of my face, the general shape and where my hairline started—the varying shades of my skin. Then the edges started to blur and I had a sense of expansion, something about me expanding out beyond the edges, my edges. In the mirror I saw these fragments, geometrics pieces of my face moving apart, breaking apart and spreading out towards the edges of the silver mirror frame. Only my eyes seemed to stay stable, though hazy, floating in the center as the rest of my face moved away, eventually disappearing, leaving only these dark brown eyes floating in a kind of cloud.

 

 

Scene 15

 

(SARAH feels a little faint and staggers into the living room where DAVID is painting. DAVID doesn’t notice that she’s a little wobbly.)

 

DAVID: I finally finished the portrait of you!

 

SARAH: How is it?

 

DAVID: It’s not the way I thought it was at all. Do you want to see it? Sarah? Sarah?….

 

(SARAH disappears through the audience, wobbly. DAVID turns the painting around. The painting is a portrait of DAVID.) 

End.

 

About the Playwrights:

Olena Jennings’s poetry collection Songs from an Apartment is scheduled for release by Underground Books in January 2017.  Her translations from Ukrainian have been published in Chelsea, Wolf, and Poetry International as well as by Underground Books.  She has published fiction in Joyland, Pioneertown, and Projecttile. She completed her MFA in writing at Columbia and her MA in Ukrainian Literature at the University of Alberta.  Her website is olenajennings.com.  

Wanda Phipps is a writer/performer living in NYC. Her books include Field of Wanting: Poems of Desire and Wake-Up Calls: 66 Morning Poems. Her poetry has been translated into Ukrainian, Hungarian, Arabic, Galician and Bangla. She has received awards from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the National Theater Translation Fund, and others. As a founding member of Yara Arts Group she has collaborated on numerous theatrical productions presented in Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Siberia, and at La MaMa, E.T.C. in NYC. She’s curated reading series at the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church. Her website is mindhoney.com.

© Olena Jennings and Wanda Phipps