Virtual Express

A Play

Virtual Express

Characters:

Phobia

Dinky

Cave

Oracle

ACT ONE

Scene 1

The stage curtain is drawn.

The house lights dim and a thick, palpable darkness creeps over and through the whispering anticipation of the audience. All is silent.

The ghostly, whirling swirl of a blustering gust of wind stirs the closed curtain. A vaccues movement of streaming air suggests an ever impending doom.

The curtain slowly sways and billows against the wind and opens to reveal a blazing sunset painting a shimmering mirage in blood red and flaming vermilion. A magnificent African dusk engulfs the audience in wonder. The setting sun appears gigantic. It shimmers while caressing the horizon, relishing in the comfort of the elements it is surrounded by. Lively, glowing rays pierce through the darkness of the auditorium reaching into every shadowy corner.

Assembling overhead are voluminous cloud formations. Black and deep purple cumulonimbus are outlined in liquid gold and beneath unrelenting gusts of wind lash the thirsty, scorched earth whirling upwards in funnels of burnt sand and ash, conjuring animated dancing devils sparkling like spraying fountains of heat from a molten crucible. Flaring needles of light shoot away from the unforgiving, life giving heart of the sun.

The vast landscape appears derelict with the only signs of life suggested by the kinetics of the amalgamation of all the different elements in preparation of an ever impending gloom.

An almost faint echo of an almost unheard of wail of a child, high pitched and truly terrified, traces it's way through the howl of the wind. Desperate cries for help are only but carried through the moving air and seems to disappear in the perpetual movement of time and space.

The dark silhouette of a woman clad in Victorian attire appears from the back of stage right. She stammers hurriedly towards the center of the stage and desperately tries to navigate her course through the chaos created by her sinister circumstances. She blindly contemplates all possible directions, glancing around frantically. She is on the edge of hysteria. She throws her head back once more and signals who appears to be an accomplice with a flick of her slender wrist. She flees onward and hurries through the auditorium and swiftly exits through the back. She stops and glances once more in the direction of the stage and then she disappears.

Meanwhile, the glimmering shards of neon sun rays are scorching across the distant horizon and they are signalling the twinkling evening star far, far away. The heavens fade into a pale grey, almost, velvet sheen of luster, turning blue black as the southern milky way peeks through the background.

And now, from the same direction, a second silhouette appears against the hostile horizon. A panic stricken girl is in a terrifying rush, clutching on to the hand of a young boy. She is also dressed in Victorian fashion and the boy is likely to be from the Zulu tribe, dressed in nothing but a loin cloth made from animal skin with a beaded little necklace carefully tied around his delicate neck. He is trembling with fear. He suddenly tries to wrench himself away from her grip, but she is determined and forces her way forward.

With one final inhuman attempt the boy tries desperately to wrench himself away from her hardened grip. He almost succeeds and very nearly escapes, but she swings around, peers deeply into his horrified and confused eyes, gathers him into her inescapable, clutching arms, darts down the center of the stage and descends into the auditorium. She runs off and disappears with the boy in her arms. A thunderous rumble vibrates from the clouds above followed by a death defying knell announcing a white hot burning flash of lightning striking down with unforgiving vengeance upon the audience. The wind flares up and carries the wailing voice of the terrified child, scaling the depths of the theatre. The voice fades away into the far distance and an unearthly silence follows.

Overhead the heavy laden clouds suddenly burst and release an eagerly awaited flood of relieve. The comforting sound of the life giving rain blurs the teary, flickering stars reflected in the vast metallic black heavens above.

The stage curtain slowly closes and a warm darkness announces the end of scene 1.

Scene 2

The stage curtain slowly draws open in the darkness, and it is still raining softly over the blurry plains of a forgotten African landscape. Dim light from the full moon far above is reflected off the soft outlines of the rolling plains below.

This comforting silence is broken by the distant beating of a thousand tribal drums in deep and dark ritualistic rhythms. It becomes more urgent as the rhythm increases in speed and volume and unwittingly evolve into a barely audible mechanical manufactured drone. The sound of heavy metal wheels grinding upon molded steel tracks is appreciative of the precision of its engineered machination. In its magnificent proportions systematic pressure is created within the molten crucible which lifts the tons of steel and metal and carries it over the glistening landscape. Explosions of piping hot steam vapour and screeching cogs and wheels diminish all sense of illusion and contemplation as the throng of a racing steam engine pulling a train of carriages approaches the proscenium from the back of the stage and boulders a path through the darkness of the auditorium, rushing through the audience with pugnacity and then disappears into the darkness.

Silence.

Somewhere from within the silent darkness the pure chords of a kalimba can be heard. A magic melody of hope and light fills the auditorium. Soft golden light dances in perfect unison to the wonderful song as the oracle appears as if from nowhere.

The oracle takes shape in the form of an ancient African sangoma. Her head is dressed with beautiful intertwined dreadlocks, knotted and braided in ancient tradition. A magnificent crown formed of rare and colourful feathers woven together by intricate and fantastical beadwork and embroidery completes her stance. Her stunning features reflects wavelengths of rainbow prisms and shines brightly upon the silken fur of sacred leopards and powerful lions, robing her seemingly levitating presence.

The oracle moves and sways gracefully in a peaceful and magical demeanor. Her dance concludes in the summoning of two equally fantastical mystical accomplices and what follows is a powerful ritualistic performance which ends in a vocalisation of their intentions in strange and disturbing tongues.

The trio separates in three different directions with the oracle sweeping down the centre of the stage and then through the audience and disappears into the dark night.

The stage curtain closes and a faint rumble of thunder ends the scene and the act in darkness.

ACT TWO

Scene 1

The laborious rolling and huffing and puffing of the slow motion of a steam engine pulling its weight across the hills and dales and valleys of a faraway land reverberates from behind the closed stage curtain.

The curtain sways open to reveal a train carriage rocking from side to side to the motion of a climb over the silvery moonlit expanse. The carriage is sliced in half, lengthwise, to give the audience a glimpse of the action inside. The carriage is divided into three compartments.

The first compartment is shared by the touring siblings, Phobia and Dinky. The compartment is dark inside, but for the reflection of flickering moonbeams penetrating the half closed blinds in front of the window.

Phobia is snoring peacefully in her sleep. She is encased in a fluffy dream world filled with sugary treats and sweet smelling fantasies.

Dinky is nervously mumbling in her sleep, haunted by disturbing visions of dread.

The inside of the compartment is quite luxurious. The walls are covered with mahogany and the floor stands out in black and white tiles, designed to classical perfection. On either sides of the compartment are two beds, rocking along to the comforting sway. The beds are clothed in raw silk and satin sheets fringed with silken lace and satin frills. Adorable cushions and little cute down filled pillows of all shapes and sizes are willy-nilly strewn all over the beds and the floor. Timeless stained glass reflects in old gold, purple and green shades reflected by the flickering of an oil wick. Beside each bed is a side table from which the soft light is emanating. The side tables are littered with handcrafted crystal perfume vessels sealed with silver tops and smelling like fruit orchards in spring time. Shiny little square tins and hollowed out crystal bowls are overflowing with sparkling jewels and sweet treats. All and all, all and everything rocks peacefully from side to side to the comforting sway of the pull of the steam engine.

The next compartment, the second compartment from the left, seems cold in the darkness. The space is filled with trunks and cases, fit for the ladies. Among the luggage are muslin covered relics, souvenirs and other found treasures. Great big bundles of woven cloth and spraying fountains of bleached ostrich feathers cannot camoflage the magnificent elephant tusk, hidden away in the corner. The general conclusion is that the ladies indulged and must have been very busy on their rather fascinating trek. Let us just leave it there for now anyway.

The third compartment from the left is dark and empty and at first glance appears devoid of any life. Looking closer one can see the black reflection of the blue moonlight from a modest little bed frame with a thin mattress, pillow and a woven blanket. A barely visible candle flame emits an incandescent globe of light illuminating the little boy from the Zulu tribe. He is hunched over the candle and his tiny hands are cupped around the flame. He is cold and frightened and he stares into the flame with wide eyes. He is shivering.

The flicker of the candle flame suddenly sparks a glimmering light which illuminates the compartment. A sprinkling of gold dust drifts through the light as the oracle appears as if from nowhere. The boy shirks away in total shock, but soon recognizes the presence of the wonderful oracle. He smiles brightly and embraces the light with delight.

The oracle gestures to the boy to stand up straight and to listen carefully.

ORACLE: My boy, please listen to me very carefully. Never fear the

wisdom of the ages. The brain is a strange instrument. The

things it chooses to remember are equally fantastic as the

things it chooses to forget. You are being forced down, below

the dripping labyrinth, underneath the sunlit thoughts others

remember. When you lie down at midnight, waiting for

sleep, you find yourself retracing in your memory each twist

and turn of the grim labyrinth underneath the bright, sunlit

thoughts of others. You begin to realize that sound amplifies

in darkness and becomes terrible. Try to remember that you

are only afraid of noise.

Lie down now and wait for sleep. You shall find that sound

amplifies in the dark, but now becomes something

wonderful.

The boy slowly stands up and lies down on the bed. He covers himself with the blanket and closes his eyes. The oracle fades away with the light and disappears into darkness. The scene ends in total darkness.

Scene 2

The train is slowly slowing down. An eerie whistle from the steam engine urges the brakes on and the train almost screeches to a halt. The carriage slightly jolts forward and a second jolt from below causes the carriage to catapult slightly before it comes to a complete standstill. The engine releases pressure and wild bombs of steam are shot out from beneath the locomotive. The bright beams of the full moon shines into the compartments and through the hot steam.

Phobia wakes with a start. She fumbles around her bed and side table looking for a box with matchsticks. She finds it and strikes a match and lights the wick of the little oil lamp beside her on the side table. The lamp provides some light and she stretches over and reaches for a silver cigarette case. She opens it and puts a cigarette in her mouth, lights another flaring match and lights the tip of her cigarette. Smoke curls around her mouth and nose before she inhales deeply, staring at the burning coal and then she blows the smoke into the air. She props herself up with the puffy, silky cushions around her and lies back taking another deep draw from the cigarette. She notices Dinky sleeping soundly and blows the smoke into her face.

Dinky abruptly exits her haunted dreams with an almighty cough as she tries in vain to wave the smoke away from her face. With a scowl directed towards Phobia she reaches for a small leather bound journal which she unlocks with a tiny silver key hanging from a silver locket around her neck. She takes a quill from a bottle of black ink on her side table and carefully documents her dreams while glancing apprehensively at Phobia. Phobia reaches below her bed and finds a tin with cakes in it. She places the tin in front of her and plonks the lid off.

PHOBIA: One last little lamington, so deliciously sweet, almost

perfect in every way. But, as you know, to be perfectly gay

requires perfection in every way. Honey sweet curling rings

of smoke, infinitely sweeter than any cake with sugary

sweetness.

Sun ripened to glistening gold, shining green dancing

through the moorish rays beneath a moonlit maze... gaze...

Dinky! I need a quill and paper! And perfumed oil...

DINKY: (Sighs and looks over at Phobia with slight irritation. She

looks down at her quill and hands Phobia the quill, after

dipping it in her little bottle of ink.)

Quill, paper and perfume and ink!

PHOBIA: I sense the unassuming aroma of this, your, fresh ink.

I also sense the weight of your beautiful and rare quill.

Words to make us think, my dear, words that wink...sink...

Another forward jolt from beneath the carriage flips the cake tin on Phobia's bed over and it lands on the tiled floor with a loud bang. The sound travels to the third compartment and the boy wakes with a start. He sits up straight on his bed with wide eyes and then glances around frantically as his ominous surroundings dawn upon him.

He carefully leaves his bed and crawls on all fours out of the compartment and heads toward the first compartment. He nervously and curiously reaches the first compartment, stands up and peeks through the door. Dinky sees him and is startled and frightened by his sudden appearance. She immediately, almost desperately, gestures him to keep quiet.

BOY: What noise?

DINKY: Be quiet...ssshhhuut...

BOY: Ssshhhuut!

DINKY: No! Yes! Quiet. Be still. No noise. My sister...Phobia is

infusing our thoughts and dreams, I mean, her thoughts

with perfume and...and words...literature...things. Oh,

just be quiet now! Please!

BOY: Quiet? Noise...what noise...quiet ...

Phobia concludes her verse and lights another cigarette.

PHOBIA: Dinky, look, our sweet and dearly treasured little

foundling.

The boy takes a deep bow towards Phobia.

PHOBIA: Our precious little innocent boy child. Welcome my

little angel thing. First of all, please find it in your

heart to forgive us our diminutive little indulgences.

Listen...two thoughts, two concepts...

BOY: Your highness, if I may interrupt? May I please say

something? If it so pleases you, your grace...

PHOBIA: My dear little lost...

BOY: Your greatness, I have an important announcement to make...

PHOBIA: Tea?

BOY: I am inclined to announce a statement of the highest order,

your magnificence. I am differentiating and I am

metaphysically establishing a fair ground, where the physical

and the psychological consequences of my intended

announcement should play itself out within a controlled

ritualistic arena.

PHOBIA: My boy, would you care to join us for a nice cup of tea?

BOY: ( Pause )

Our future is fated beyond human change.

PHOBIA: Black, white, or Jasmine, perhaps.

BOY: ( Pause )

Just as the demons in all great warriors, by prophecy create

a transformation of character...

DINKY: Jasmine...

BOY: ...a transformation which then leads...

DINKY: Jasmine, it shall be then.

BOY: ...a transformation of character which then leads to

inevitable tragedy.

PHOBIA: ( Pause )

Dinky my dear, do make haste! We are dying for a

nice cup tea.

Dinky lifts herself up from under the bed clothes and manages herself onto her feet. She realizes that she is in her sleeping clothes and fiddles around with her hair pinned under a nightcap. She is also wearing her bed-jacket, as these compartments can get a little cold before sunrise. Her bed-jacket is made of very soft material and embroidered and trimmed with pink ribbons and white lace. She grabs and throws a satin silk ruffle shawl around her shoulders and navigates her way on tippy toes past the boy and through the door. She follows a narrow passage towards the second compartment.

Dinky reaches the door to the second compartment and opens it. She enters the second compartment and lights the wick of a little oil lamp with a flare from one of Phobia's match sticks. She finds a little tea cabinet and unfolds it gently, revealing a little oil stove, and three tins filled with loose tea leaves. From this cabinet also appears three lovely little tea cups and saucers, hand painted and decorated with beautiful, lifelike flowers and blooms in blood red, lilac and gold. While Dinky starts preparing the tea, Phobia approaches the boy and takes his hand in hers.

PHOBIA: My child, take my hand in yours.

The boy doesn't hesitate and almost grabs her hand.

PHOBIA: There now. I also have an announcement to make, child.

BOY: ...which then leads to inevitable tragedy.

PHOBIA: Each time a human being is born something

genetically unique enters our universe. Great ethical

leaders like Jesus Christ, Buddha, Confucius, Moses and,

last but by no means the least, the mysterious Muhammad,

and others, enlighten their followers, imparting knowledge,

information and, above all, the wisdom of the ages.

And yet, even on this day, we are made to believe the ape is

still in our hearts.

Your power lies in the symbolic alienation between a

warrior's ancient world and the realities of modern science.

The first brilliant rays of the morning sun paints the dewy sky with broad brush strokes into hues of lilac, orange, and signal red. Shades of purple, gold, and pink turn the heavens above into a beautiful new day welcoming back the vast plains and savannahs where the action is taking place.

PHOBIA: Child you must embrace the unknown with fearless curiosity.

But, unfortunately, my curiosity has now evaporated like a

drop of dew pierced by a sharp ray of sunlight. I viualise

green fields and fertile valleys and trickling streams of

water bubbling over polished pebbles and stringing along

blossoming buds fallen from blooming trees ...

Dinky coordinates her way back to the first compartment in perfect balance, holding a tray with three tea cups, three saucers, three teaspoons and a steaming pot of tea. As she enters the narrow doorway of the first compartment a sudden jolt from below, caused by the forward motion of the locomotive, slightly throws her off balance. But she ends up sitting pretty, tray intact.

The trains pulls away in all its glory, set off by a very sharp, eerie, long-winded whistle. And they are on their way back home.

DINKY: Jasmine.

PHOBIA: Aah...fresh Jasmine. Pale, sweet petals of blossoms

floating freely...

DINKY: Tiny rose blossoms dive and spin and roll and float through

sparkling, steaming...

PHOBIA: Let us moisten our tongue, from the finest of porcelain...

DINKY: ... and alas it will find its way back, through the land towards

the glowing core of Mother Earth, just to be relished again

through the intricate cell system of a fragile but stubborn,

little tea bush ... somewhere.

Dinky offers Phobia a cup of tea. Phobia accepts the tea, extends her spine and pertly postures. She sips the steaming liquid from the exquisite cup.

Next in line is the boy. Dinky hands him a cup of tea. He humbly accepts the gesture and with both his hands cup the cup and brings it closer to his nose.

Phobia and Dinky and the boy enjoy their tea in silence, while the carriage is rocking from side to side to the magnificent sway of the locomotive, steaming forward.

PHOBIA: I have had enough of this nonsense for one day.

DINKY: The sun has only risen. Let us enjoy our tea.

PHOBIA: My cup is empty and so is my patience. Boy, back to

your place. You do realize that you have a mountain to

climb.

The boy turns to Dinky and hands her his cup. He bows very low in front of Phobia and silently finds his way to the door without turning his back to Phobia. He returns to the third compartment, but instead of shivering like a little lost mouse in the corner, he proudly settles into a meditative position and closes his eyes in deep thought, breathing slowly in and out.

Back in the first compartment Dinky reaches for a novel and sits back comfortably on her bed. She clearly has something troubling on her mind and looks apprehensively at Phobia. Phobia lights a cigarette and occupies her own train of thought, not taking notice of Dinky at all. Dinky glares at Phobia with disdain, closes her book and gathers her thoughts and courage. She is about to let Phobia know what's on her mind when she spots the tea tray. She quickly picks up the tray and leaves the compartment in a huff.

She hurriedly enters the second compartment and places the tray next to the little tea cabinet. She leaves silently and softly shuffles towards the third compartment with fearful anticipation. She doesn't know what to expect and she knows that Phobia will disapprove greatly of her actions. She was told in no uncertain terms to stay away from the third compartment, at any cost. Her curiosity forces her to silently and very carefully enter the compartment.

Cave is in deep thought and doesn't notice Dinky's terrified face staring directly at him. She tiptoes to the bed and sits down whilst staring at him quietly. A million terrible thoughts rush through her mind and her head drops into her hands in agony.

Phobia realizes that Dinky has left her bed and panics slightly.

PHOBIA: Dinky! Dinky where the hell are you?! Dinky!

Dinky flies up with a start and swiftly returns to the first compartment, quite out of breath and frightened beyond words. She jumps on her bed, covers herself with a sheet and turns away from Phobia's glare. She covers her head with the sheet and suddenly starts sobbing uncontrollably.

Phobia stares irritatingly at Dinky's tirade. She makes a disapproving tut-tut noise with her tongue, turns the other way and makes herself comfortable in her bed. She covers her eyes with a silken sleeping mask, pulls the bedclothes up to under her chin and lies back.

PHOBIA: Dinky dear, this has just begun. There is still a very long

journey ahead of us all. Dry your tears and try to sleep and

do not loose sight of our responsibilities. And stay away from

our boy! He has a lot to consider in the next few hours and

days ... and weeks ... years ...

The train moves effortlessly into the bright sunlight and a sharp whistle from the locomotive greets the warm African air filled with the wonderful sound of the wild landscape drowning out the hypnotic drone of the wheels carrying the precious cargo away towards a faraway land.

The exuberant sound of life creates the perfect atmosphere for the voice of the oracle to reach the boy's senses in his compartment. He reaches out with both hands and embraces the familiar echo from far away.

ORACLE: Listen to me, and feel rest assured, little one. You are

about to embrace this world you now inhabit. This is the

world you now live in. In this world you shall scrounge your

own, miserably at first. You shall be forced to drag your fuel

through an abysmal abyss. This world will seem vast in it's

extent and ultimately infinite. You shall raid other bands, just

to disappear through an infinite network of the unknown,

underneath the sunlit thoughts others remember.

The last words of the oracle echo strangely through the air and the boy stands up with a renewed courage and determination. An urgent drumbeat fades in over the echo and increases in volume and speeds up rapidly to give the illusion of a million drums beating fast and furious.

Darkness incurs almost immediately and the stage curtain closes.

Scene 3

Midnight. All is quiet but for the cries of night creatures, big and small, mighty and not so mighty, filling the humid air with infinite purpose. The curtains opens slowly, exposing a wide, moonlit African landscape. The dark skies are cloudless so the sparkling Milky Way is displayed in its own universal splendor. The gigantic full moon shines brightly above the carriage of the steam train, standing motionless next to a desolate little station.

All the bright light from the moon rays from the heavens above lights up the interior of the first compartment in eerie tones and shadows.

Dinky wakes up in a terrible sweat and struggles to breathe properly. The air inside the compartment has turned hot and it feels as sticky as melting toffee. She suddenly sits up straight and chokes in the thick air, almost causing her to have a panic attack at the same time. She crawls out from under the covers in horror and tries to open one of the windows. The window is covered by a blind which she eventually manages to open by rolling it up in a terrible haste. Moonlight rushes in and she slides open the window. She fills her lungs with the sweetness of the night air and hangs her head out of the window.

Phobia twitches ever so slightly in her sleep and her eyeballs can be seen rolling under her eyelids. She mumbles while encountering vivid visions of an ominous nature. Her dream causes her to turn around onto her back when she suddenly chokes furiously before sitting up straight like a jack-in-the-box, breathing rapidly, eyes wide open in fright.

Dinky grabs Phobia's shoulders and forces her head towards the open window into the sweet breeze of the thick, humid air of the tropics. Phobia complies and hangs out of the window. She has a shuddering coughing fit and spits out a throat full of phlegm.

Dinky turns around and reaches for her little dream journal. She unlocks it and finds the page where she left off. She lays her head back and closes her eyes in deep thought.

Phobia returns to her bed and makes herself comfortable on top of the covers. She lights a cigarette and blows the smoke towards the open window.

Dinky sighs and opens her eyes. She seems very sad and worried.

DINKY: Phobia, I think I'm being subjected to an affliction. Yes, I

am certain I am developing an affliction.

PHOBIA: My dear sister. And what do you imagine is causing this...

affliction?

DINKY: I think my central nervous system is afflicted and this will

cause me persistent pain and suffering. It's troubling me

greatly.

PHOBIA: Do you have any idea what might be the cause of this

affliction?

DINKY: I would have thought you would know and I am not

going to say it out loud. I just can't bring myself to say

it out loud.

PHOBIA: Dinky, as you know, the main function of the brain is

to adapt to any surrounding circumstances. Now, our boy is

midway between rejecting and accepting this fate which we

are bestowing upon him. Our brain is a complicated chemical

crucible. It constantly accepts, rejects, and adjusts. Intricate

shapes and organic patterns act as filters, conditioning the

flow of change emanating from intense patterns of thought.

DINKY: And the greatest cliche of all time, my dear Phobia, which you

are about to divulge...on a constant basis ...

PHOBIA: The only constant is change.

DINKY: I think you are way in above your head. You are a cruel human

being. You have no idea of the consequences of these actions. I

can only but hope that our poor, little boy's dreams are not as

fanged and clawed as he sees about him in his agonizing

waking hours. Our innocent little boy is becoming a prisoner,

tortured by your self absorbed imagination.

PHOBIA: What on earth are you talking about? You are not listening to

a word I am saying to you. Are you?

Let me use an illustration, a rather weighty and peculiar piece

of rock. This rock which you see before you, when split across,

clearly embeds, carbon black in the shale, the perfect outline

of a creature. Let us say a fish. Now, the chemicals

representing the outline of the fish once constituted a living,

breathing ... swimming creature ...

DINKY: Like your fossil, the boy is all alone in this world, but with the

exception, that he still lives and breathes and, if you like,

swims. He fought me ferociously with all his might to return

to his own. I had to wrench my hand around his and clench

him to my body. We have him in our clutches now and we are

extinguishing that bright flame of life he left behind.

Sparkling eyes. I can tell you now that he is slowly withering

away. His beautiful, inquisitive eyes are hollow and his forehead protruding. I know that cave feels hopelessly alone and lost,

with your dreams feasting away at him like feverish demons.

PHOBIA: Dinky, please just leave this fantastical evolution up to me.

This process of evolution has been foreseen for...

DINKY: There is no life in the fossils you surround yourself with.

There is no life in the carbon in my body . I work my way

down the list of elements. I see lifeless phosphorous, dead

cold magnesium, certainly no life in there. Nitrogen, lifeless.

Iron?

What am I then? I pinch myself in a sudden kind of

desperation. My heart beats and reverberates through my

chest, my fingers close around each other and I actually do

sense a semblance of life in there, somewhere...

PHOBIA: Yes, Dinky, somewhere along a damp section of earth I once

encountered several large toads making a night journey. The

slimy amphibians did not make any attempt to scuttle away,

but instead hopped clumsily in my footsteps. Do you know,

I was delighted to even have had such lowly company.

Blackout.

The stage curtain closes and the oracle appears center proscenium, surrounded by soft amber light and sprinkling, lively, fine gold dust particles. She moves beautifully in a dramatic and magical fashion conjuring her two equally mystical apprentices. The fantastical figures move in unison, vocalizing their intention in harsh and disturbing tones which echo eerily through the auditorium. The ritual ends with a measured call to the heavens above and what follows is a thunderous rumble from the dark sky and a blinding flash of white-hot lightning striking down upon the earth.

The three figures descend into the auditorium like an apparition and disappear through the back of the audience into the darkness.

Dead silence follows and the house lights come on, announcing the end of ACT ONE.

ACT TWO

Scene 1

As the house lights dim and fades to darkness, Tchaikovsky's Concerto for piano and orchestra no.1 in B Minor Opus 23 softly plays from behind the closed stage curtain.

When the second movement, Andante semplice-prestissimo with a 17:17 tempo starts playing, the stage curtain slowly opens to reveal the interior of the drawing room of an old house. The house is an old English Gothic mansion and the drawing room looks almost withered in hues of amber, old gold, and blood red. The room is sparsely furnished and has been neglected. It has seen better days. Layers of dust cover the snarling gargoyles glaring down from the cornices of the high ceiling and the stone rosettes adorning the once working hearth. Soot and mold obscure the archaic matriarchs' deadly expressions locked behind the seemingly ornate frames that once made them look proud and intimidating. Around these entombed specters of the past, the wallpaper is being forced away from the old stone structures keeping the roof in place. The once impressive mirror reflecting all the room from above the hearth has turned into a dark and sinister plaque, reflecting all the dank corners of this shrine of a glorious past.

Phobia is reclining on an old chez lounge sofa in a tuffet pattern. It is made from blood red velvet and the frame is carved from wood and gold leaved. She is smoking a cigarette and chewing on a lamington cake. She places the half-eaten cake on a silver cake stand on a little side table next to her and reaches for a little glass of sherry. She extends her pointy chin upwards and sips the sweet liqueur with pouted lips from the dainty glass.

Dinky is sitting on a side chair in the same style as the old chez lounge sofa. The blood-red velvet has faded and the gold leaf on the frame has withered away in places. She is draped over the chair and her eyes are closed. She is listening to Tchaikovsky's concert, playing on a Emile Berliner gramophone that is on a table next to her. The music ends and she opens her eyes. She lifts herself from the chair and lifts the arm of the gramophone to place it on its rest.

She walks over to the other side of the chez lounge sofa towards an easel placed next to a standing mirror. There is a canvas on the easel and next to it is a table with different oils and colored powders and brushes. She stands in a fixed position in front of the mirror and is clearly painting an image of herself.

Both Phobia and Dinky have aged slightly. Their countenances appear pale and lifeless, even though they use pastes, paints, and powders to try to enhance their dwindling beauty. Phobia uses powders in light blues and lavender with just a hint of black around her eyes and, of course, beeswax on her eyelashes, sprinkled with crushed precious stones. She also loves a hint of pearl powder to finish off her pale look. There is no sign of any bright colors on Phobia's complexion. Dinky, on the other hand, loves to cover her flaws with bright, garish colors. Red cheeks, derived from rubbing beetroot juice onto her skin and her lips are always bright red. This she achieves this by mixing beeswax with crushed flowers and carmine from the female conchineal insect. She uses a mixture of white wax, spermaceti, sweet almond oil and rosewater which she mixes into a paste and applies underneath all the bright colors to smooth her blemishes and make her look strangely animated. Her eyelids are painted with black soot which is also applied under her eyes.

The room is silent but for the whispers of the howling wind circling menacingly around the old, crumbling walls of the house. The only light emanates from a huge chandelier dangling ominously from the middle of the ceiling. Most of the light bulbs have blown. The few that are left mainly lights the center of the room.

Phobia lights another cigarette and the smoke curls upwards into the soft light. Dinky puts her brush down and looks at the painting, She is deep in thought as she moves towards the front of the stage where she stares out of a window into the darkness.

PHOBIA: You are still thinking about that boy.

DINKY: Of course I am. I think of him every single day. I think of him

and I remember it as if it happened yesterday. It leaves me

cold now ... as it did way back then.

PHOBIA: Think back to the very first clue of our very first riddle,

Dinky.

DINKY: I can think of nothing else, Phobia.

PHOBIA: The boy needed it. He needed to be shown. I know he is still

trying very hard to overcome his obstacles.

DINKY: I need to distance myself from it all now. I feel so guilty,

Phobia. I know we have lost the boy forever. And, perhaps, he

has...

PHOBIA: There is a shadow on the wall in front of me...

DINKY: ...hours pass...

PHOBIA: I am scribbling on the wall in a darkened room at midnight.

DINKY: Tomorrow the shadow on the wall will be that of another...

Dinky slowly backs away from the bay window and reverses herself onto center stage. She makes an about turn and profiles the audience. Phobia slowly sways around and faces Dinky. They stare intensely into each others' eyes, as if they are too afraid to lose eye contact.

An ecclesiastical hymn of traffic noise obediently vibrates through miles and miles of steel-enforced concrete, not so much brick and mortar anymore, and swirls of smokey smog encounter the empty and cold chorous as the dark melody transports the particles through the damp air, in endless spirographs, dissolving into the dark of the night.

The noise is consistent and high pitched. When the audience hears the noise for the first time it is very low in volume. It almost sounds like white noise, with a very high pitched electronic hum, and the sound of heavy city traffic.

A faint melody softly embraces the noise. Robert Miles' Landscape from the album, Dreamland, begins to play softly in the background. The stage darkens and the stage curtain is drawn.

Scene 2

The noise can still be heard through the darkness. The stage curtain opens suddenly. Thick, billowing clouds of smoke roll across the stage into the audience to reveal the silhouette of an ancient city, etched against a blackened sky. Spires and domes float above the million roofs and the black road above the tunnels and passages connecting the underworld has become infinitely timeless.

The first light from a new day brightens the sky and the incessant noise fades away. Silence follows.

A tall figure appears from the back, center stage. It is the boy. He has grown into a person of great exuberance. The person has evolved into a sub-genre of science fiction, adapting advanced scientific and technological achievements, such as artificial intelligence and cybernetics, juxtaposed with a degree of breakdown or radical change in social order. This person has become a marginalized, alienated loner on the edge of society. The future is dystopic and daily life has been impacted by radical and rapid technological change. An ubiquitous data sphere of computerized information had become invasive and modifies the body.

As the person moves forward in slow strides, the oracle appears with two apprentices. A macabre and beautiful dance ensues. The four figures move in perfect unison, in silence. When the dance is complete, Tyler Michaud's Life in the breakdown lane, from Trans Nation, starts playing and they start the dance again. When the dance ends the person takes position centre stage, with the three apparitions around him in a perfect triangle. The person sits down in a lotus position and looks up to the sky with expectation. The oracle rises. She lifts her arms and now her voice can be heard from everywhere in the auditorium.

Oracle: With the gloom and night terrors of these vast cemeteries you

have long been familiar with. A precisely similar gloom

enwraped each individual life for an instant. Now, at

midnight, eyeballs roll under shivering eyelids and we come

across our ghostly selves with appalling force. We lie tense and

wait and listen, as if far removed, to the footfalls of our hearts.

Your head is upon the stone and your eyes are round like a

gigantic owl, turning restlessly.

The oracle and her companions swirl around the person and disappear in the smoke which is filling the stage again from all sides. The scene changes into the belly of an ancient sewer. The walls are alive and the floor grows. Human skulls of all shapes and sizes are strewn across the floor among the bones and remains of other creatures.

The person rises and a dead silence follows. The same white noise can be heard from somewhere in the distance and the light has turned cold.

THE PERSON: A match flares and in an instant, a rat the size of a house

cat appears on its haunches, staring into the flame with

pink demonic eyes. The creature arrives like a messenger

from space at an appropriate point in a significant

conversation. The creature introduces itself for the simple

reason that I am the only one in a position to see it. Now

there is an even more frightening intellectual quality

present.

I am in a side tunnel, a quarter filled with water. I feel an

uneasy creep from below. I never enter places without a

final glance at the heavens first. I see the rat a few feet

ahead of me. I am laboring on my hands and knees when

the rat suddenly raises its head and says: Trust the divine

animal which guides us through the world.

The entrance below appears normal at first sight. It also

seems slightly deeper than some. Stairs spiral into the deep

and the air seems even more damp. There is a faint

sulphuric odour and the stairs, I notice, are carved from

living rock. There is a mark on them. The mark is a scar

left behind from that which struggled to find its way back

up. I feel the uneasy stirring of the forces from within the

living rock down below. And I go down.

The stage curtain closes in a flash and a total blackout follows.

Scene 3

The stage curtain slowly opens on the old drawing room in the old Gothic Mansion, hidden in the thickets. The room is devoid of any furniture, of all sense of life, except for the presence of Phobia and Dinky.

Dinky is painting a portrait of Phobia. Dinky is sitting on the floor holding the canvas up while studying Phobia very carefully. Phobia is in an upright position with her hands crossed in front of her in a praying gesture. It is freezing outside and the northern wind is blowing in.

Both Phobia and Dinky have changed in appearance. They are now suited in cybergoth. They have adopted their own fashion subculture. They have adopted a whole spectrum of functional clothing, resulting in tactical uniformity combined with post-apocalyptic high tech, tech wear.

DINKY: Phobia freeze.

PHOBIA: Dinky darling, let's go for a walk in the woods.

DINKY: Keep your lips together. Your mouth is complicated enough

as it is.

PHOBIA: No, no, no, no, no. You've had ample time to do my lips. We

are going for a walk in the woods. Come along, the fresh air

might just stimulate you.

DINKY: Fine. But no hunting this time. Try to control your blood lust.

PHOBIA: What on earth are you talking about?

DINKY: No killing today, Phobia.

PHOBIA: Well, hopefully, nothing or no one will cross our path.

DINKY: We have enough buried carcasses to fill a pit of despair.

PHOBIA: Dinky darling, just for a moment, why don't you just forget

for one moment, all those maniacal and mythical bravado

you surround yourself with...

Come, let's move.

DINKY: Fine, let's just get this over with.

Dinky leaves her painting and prepares to leave. Phobia is in deep thought.

DINKY: Phobia! Snap out of it. Let's get the hell out of here.

Phobia returns to the present and she follows Dinky and they both exit stage left.

All is silent in the now empty room.

A faint scratching from a branch on the roof is followed by a gust of wind and a rumble of thunder. The clouds burst and a torrent of rain washes down upon the roof. Streaming water splashes down from everywhere outside and the wind blows the droplets of rain in every direction.

A terrible lightning storm follows. Loud electrostatic discharges flash from within electrically charged regions of the clouds. Black body radiation in the form of hot plasma causes an electron flow which discharges blinding flashes of white light.

The drawing room is quiet. A distant rumbling of thunder suggests the departure of the storm. A barely audible knocking sound from somewhere in the walls becomes louder and louder. After a brief silence, a small window is shattered somewhere in the house and the sound of a huge creaking door being opened can be heard. The door shuts with a thud and The Person appears in the drawing room, as if from nowhere.

literature
Read next: Best Netflix Sci-Fi
Johann Weidemann

Playwright

Producer

Cook

See all posts by Johann Weidemann