Category Archives: Playwriting

26 Stories

26 Stories: The Invoked King

This one is an odd duck that I’m going to keep coming back to to revise it. A few years ago, I took a stab at writing an “immersive” play. The idea was that there was going to be a staged reading of a long lost, supposedly cursed play that recently resurfaced. The actors would be playing themselves reading the play as characters in the play. As they read it, things would go wrong, lights would cut out, cell phones would ring, actors would get sick, and some audience members (planted, of course) would experience their own problems during the show and during “intermission” (where the play actually continued in the lobby, restrooms, etc.). It is my attempt to create a “found footage” play. And yes, it is very much inspired by the King in Yellow (It’s called the “Invoked King”). 

Things is, it needs an actual play at its center, complete with academic studies, a history, and so on. This is part of that “paper trail.” The play also ties into my developing mythos as seen in stories here and other places (I reference a character from a series of Weird West stories I’m writing elsewhere who runs into one of the “Titans”). It even more directly ties into my earlier story in this series, “Regarding the Misattribution of the Provenance of the Titans in Greek Mythology.

This version of the cursed play is in my estimation, not good enough yet to be the center of a cosmic mythos. Still, I have to write something every two weeks for my own accountability and this is what I got. I hope you enjoy it!

The Invoked King
8th Floor

from:Gerald X King​​ <gxking@uchicago.edu>

to:Jonas E Dover <jedover@utexas.edu>

subject:  Found a Curiosity for your Titan Research

 

Jonas,

 

It’s been a while since we last talked. As I remember, Alex had just finished her​​ master’s​​ around the time of your last email to me. First and foremost, I want to say how sorry I was to find out about what happened to Miranda. I know that happened some time ago, too, and I don’t want to risk opening old wounds, so I’ll just reiterate that you and Alex have my condolences. I hope it’s not too crude of me to say, given the circumstances, but​​ as I sit here in my 8th​​ floor office, staring out at campus and all the lived that will eventually be affected by it, I have to say,​​ fuck cancer.​​ 

On to the topic at hand. I’ve attached a transcription of an old play that my research turned up recently. I’ve got the original here, complete with what appear to be handwritten notes by—I assume—the original writer, one Mister Archibald Wayward. This play was written as near as I can tell at the turn of the twentieth century; 1910 or so, to be precise. I did some research on the play itself and found some interesting circumstances surrounding it’s first and only production run in Chicago. I plan on scanning that and the original and passing that on to you as soon as the department here springs for a new scanner that can handle the older documents safely. Still, I’ve done my best to transcribe the play, the author’s notes, and some notes of my own from my own research.​​ I shall preface the author’s notes with “AW” and mine with “GK”.

You may wonder why I passed this on to you, as early-1900 theater isn’t even close to classical studies. The first thing to note is that this Wayward tried​​ very​​ hard to write it in the style of early classical theater; the influence of Oedipus the King is painfully clear. It is​​ dreadfully​​ overwrought, however, and the writer himself was obviously not a scholar of the material that inspired him. Prepare to cringe, my friend.​​ 

Second, there are some references here that seem to pertain to your research on the Titans and their parallels in other pre-historical cultures.​​ I have noted those parts for you as well, though I doubt you will miss the significance there (and likely see other references I missed, myself).​​ 

Read this over and let me know what you think. I dug this up in old records in the Chicago Public Library, along with the article I will also send you as soon as I can. It seems that the play’s performance met with no small amount of tragedy, and thereafter, while it wasn’t spoken off often, when it was, it was believed​​ to be “cursed.” Someone must have said “Macbeth” in the show, I imagine.

I look forward to what you have to say. The next time you’re up in Chi-town, get in touch with me, and I’ll do the same if I get down to Austin.​​ 

Take Care,

Gerald King, PhD
University of Chicago
Department of Classics

P.S. I nearly forgot to mention that you will notice by the page numbering that three pages appear to be missing between the “Characters/Setting” page. They are referenced a few times in the author’s notes, but were not included with the manuscript when I located it.​​ What might have been there is almost as interesting as everything else, including the tragedy of the performance.

 

******************************

 

 

The Invoked King

By

Archibald Wayward

 

 

 

 

CHARACTERS

 

KING​​ ANAKLETOS:​​ Male.​​ Large and imposing. See notes section for a short list of names of actors and​​ do not deviate.)

 

[GK: This is the first reference to what I assume are the missing pages.]

 

EIRENAIOS Male. Early 20s. Must portray the countenance of a scoundrel.

 

APOLLO​​ Male.​​ Grecian proportions, physically.

 

CHRYSANTHAE:​​ Female, Early 20s. Again, see notes section for specific questions to pose to actresses during auditions.​​ Ask all questions, no matter how “inappropriate” they may seem.

 

[GK: Now, more than ever, do I want to see these missing sections.]

 

THE ORACLE: Female. Middle aged. Actresses must at least believe in “occult” activities (tarot reading, mediumship, etc.), if not have dabbled with them in the past.

 

ARTEMIS:​​ Female. Haughty and arrogant, but statuesque in posture and proportion.

 

THE CHORUS: DIONYSUS (Male) and DEMETER (Female) will be part of the CHORUS. The performers for APOLLO and ARTEMIS may stand it, as they will be masked and only appear in this capacity here.​​ 

 

 

SETTING

 

A glade in the​​ dark forest. Several columns should be present as sentinels, long overgrown with vines. This is, perhaps, the ruins of a once great temple. There is an altar in the center of the stage. See the notes for the exact specifications of the design of the alter.​​ 

 

 

PROPS

 

Dress should be ancient Grecian. There will be masks for each of the characters (and an extra to stand in as the head of Orpheus), however, only KING ANAKLETOS’ mask must be perfectly designed as specified in the following pages.​​ 

 

[AW: I have taken it upon myself to stress those other items that must meet​​ the designs to exacting detail, but this one, above all others, must be precise. Do not fail!!!]

 

[GK: Yes, he added three exclamation marks. He was clearly quite serious.]

 

ACT I

 

SCENE I

 

[GK: As you can see almost immediately, the language is over-the-top in its attempt to mimic ancient theatrical prose.]

 

KING ANAKLETOS

 

[GK: I’m sure you figured it out already, but I researched the name “Anakletos,” and it means “invoked.”]

 

(Enters, masked as specified above)

O’ ye all who hath gathered here,

We call thee to pay homage to our patrons,

Dionysius, father of the theater.

 

DIONYSIUS

(Entering, also in a mask, that of a plump man with a laurel wreath around his head)

We invoke thee!

We invoke thee!

We invoke thee!

 

[AW: Do not forget to repeat each set of invocations three times; the rule of three is iron clad.]

 

KING ANAKLETOS

May your grapes bring forth the wine,

May the spirits you provide,

Please the souls of the dead,

Who toil in the underworld,

Bereft of joy.

 

Persephone, daughter of Demeter,

Who was taken to the bosom of Hades,

Bride forever,​​ queen of the damned.

 

DEMETER

(Entering in the mask of a fair woman)

We invoke thee!

We invoke thee!

We invoke thee!

 

KING ANAKLETOS

Weep not, for though you were taken,

You have been given a seat of honor,

At the right hand of the Lord and Master, Hades,

For whom no gift is too great for thee.

 

Orpheus, whose songs moved them,

The king and queen of the dead,

And in whose death was immortality gained.

 

CHRYSANTHAE

(Enters, not wearing a mask, but carrying the mask of a man, its face twisted in pain​​ and horror, like a severed head)

We invoke thee!

We invoke thee!

We invoke thee!

 

KING ANAKLETOS

Though the Bacchianids tore you limb from limb,

Your bodiless​​ head continued to sing out,

Your voice still pure and true,

For death could not come for thee.

 

And finally, to the Invoked King,

Whose reign was so frightful,

Whose kingdom twisted and foul,

And for whom such sacrifices were made,

That even the mighty Olympians trembled,

And who took care to wipe thine existence​​ 

From all history by exiling thee to lands beyond

Even horrible Tartarus.

So blighted were you that even the Titans,

Trapped in their eternal prison,

Were stripped of memories of you,

For you were older even than they.

 

[GK: This was the first of the references I believed would interest you. The Titans were directly mentioned, but this seems to suggest the existence—as least for the play’s story—of something older than the Titans.]

 

ALL

We invoke thee!

We invoke thee!

We invoke thee!

CHRYSANTHAE

Dark king from the folds of space

To thee we give you this poem,

So that while the gods attempted to erase you,

We shall always remember you.

May this sacrifice give strength.

 

KING ANAKLETOS

I shall be appeased.

 

CHRYSANTHAE

I am but a maiden, untouched by man.​​ Here I find myself, lost in the dark wood.​​ I fear for my safety, and for my virtue,​​ pure and strong. Gods,​​ show me the path through these woods!

 

[GK: I truly believe that the playwright specifically wanted an actual virgin for this part, given his obsession with the idea and his references to “inappropriate” questions.]

 

KING ANAKLETOS

The woods are dark, my child, and the path you seek difficult to see.

 

CHRYSANTHAE

(Startled)

You have frightened me​​ sir!

 

KING ANAKLETOS

In places such as this, there is much​​ not of man​​ to frighten you.

 

CHRYSANTHAE

But​​ surely​​ not thee, for​​ thine is the face of kindliness.

 

[GK: Yet he is masked. One can only assume it is a friendly looking mask?]

 

KING ANAKLETOS

Many are the beasts that would prey upon your flesh. Of countless number are the men who would prey upon it as well.​​ A kindly face may be a mask, hiding a darkness that wouldst do thee harm.

 

CHRYSANTHAE

I believe that the gods would show me guidance. These woods, as all, belong to Artemis.

 

KING ANAKLETOS

Not​​ these​​ woods, dear child.

 

CHRYSANTHAE

You should watch thy blasphemous tongue,​​ good​​ sir, for all woods are in Artemis’ domain.​​ 

 

KING ANAKLETOS

Not all corners of creation are visible to the gods, child.​​ To assume such is to grant the gods greater power than they presently have.

 

CHRYSANTHAE

Who are you, strange man who hides in shadow, that you would so cast aspersions onto the gods themselves?

 

KING ANAKLETOS

A king.

 

CHRYSANTHAE

A king, you say? Over what land do you rule?

 

KING ANAKLETOS

(Gestures)

Why​​ this​​ land, and all lands forgotten.​​ For forgotten lands are​​ my​​ domain, as you say all forests belong to Artemis.

 

CHRYSANTHAE

Lands may be forgotten by men, but no lands are forgotten​​ by the gods.

 

KING ANAKLETOS

These lands, are. But I digress; it is you who should provide answers to my questions, not t’other way ‘round, for you are in​​ my​​ home.​​ How have you come to this land,​​ here before​​ the time of,​​ and forgotten​​ by,​​ even the terrible Titans?

 

CHRYSANTHAE

(Laughs)

Creation was in its infancy when the Titans were born, so to suggest​​ that these lands were here prior to their horrible reign​​ is foolishness.​​ 

 

KING ANAKLETOS

It is what it is. I have been king of these lands since​​ before​​ Creation gave its first strangled cry.​​ I watched as Crinos was formed from the unknowable chaos of the universe and as he foolishly believed that he tamed the untamable currents of time. I watched him take Gaia as his lover, raping her and cowing her into submission so that the Titans would be born of their​​ unholy coupling. I have seen all​​ these things are more, as I have been around since the true beginning of time, which cannot be said to begin or end and which flows​​ like a distorted river​​ in directions and through spaces no man, god, or Titan can fathom. I am perhaps older even than the birth of that​​ very same​​ strange river. But again, you have avoided my questioning. How did you get here?

 

[GK: This reference here is the most direct reference to your own research. Does it mean anything to you?]

 

CHRYSANTHAE

I was lost. My guide,​​ Eirenaios,​​ had suggested a shortcut, but it seems he has​​ led us to the wrong grove. It is​​ certainly a land I know not.

 

[GK: “Eirenaios” means “peace, tranquility, and harmony.” I’ll leave it up to you to determine why that was chosen as this​​ character’s​​ name, as you’ll soon see. Okay, I shall stop doing research you are most capable of doing yourself.]​​ 

 

KING ANAKLETOS

But hush, for I have told you where you now find yourself child.​​ 

 

CHRYSANTHAE

Indeed you have,​​ even while you have been evasive with your answers,​​ and I sense that no further questioning will reveal more insight than​​ what you have already given me. As you appear to be kindly and bear me no harm,

(Aside)

Though clearly touched in the mind to speak of such things as time before great Crinos...

(Return)

I shall, instead, beseech​​ thee​​ to assist me in finding my way back,​​ if not​​ to my guide,​​ then to​​ the path to Ephesus​​ and​​ the temple of Artemis. I am to be initiated into the mysteries of the great huntress.

 

KING ANAKLETOS

More important, then, that you guard your virginity against those who would seek to defile it, such as your guide, Eirenaios. I fear he means you harm, and I would see no harm come to those who traverse my kingdom, lest they​​ bring harm upon it.

 

CHRYSANTHAE

Again, you show me much kindness, and you respect the laws of Xenia. However, your concern is misplaced. For you see, I have consulted with the Oracle, and she herself told me that she did not foresee any ill fortune befalling me on my​​ way to Ephesus.​​ 

 

KING ANAKLETOS

Oracles are quite wise, and​​ do​​ see more than many humans – and even some gods – can see of the future. Tell me, child, what were the​​ exact​​ words of the Oracle, as she said them to you?​​ 

 

CHRYSANTHAE

As I said, she did not foresee any-

 

KING ANAKLETOS

It is possible that you have misinterpreted her words and taken from them the wrong meaning. Let me hear her words​​ exactly​​ as they were spoken so that I may fully allay my worries for your wellbeing.

CHRYSANTHAE

Very well.

 

(THE ORACLE​​ enters, kicking off a flashback.)

 

THE ORACLE

Welcome, my child.​​ 

 

CHRYSANTHAE

Greetings, Oracle, I come to you in reverence for your sight that​​ pierces​​ beyond the veils of time and of space. I have come to you on the eve of my own great journey to​​ Ephesus, where I am to be inducted into the mysteries of Artemis.​​ 

 

THE ORACLE

You must be a woman of virtue, her maidenhead untouched, to be admitted so.​​ Ist thou​​ pure, unsullied by the hands of man?

 

CHRYSANTHAE

Indeed. I have come to ask if you see success in my journey, or if I am to fall victim to the dangers of the roads between Athens and​​ Ephesus.

 

THE ORACLE

I shall show thee the fate of the travels facing you. Be soft as I give an invocation to far-seeing Apollo.​​ 

 

(THE ORACLE​​ closes her eyes, entering a trance)

 

Oh Apollo,​​ 

He who navigates the raging river of time,​​ 

Dug and filled by Crinos and set,​​ 

On an implacable journey ever forward,​​ 

Sweeping along all life to eventually end in Hades,​​ 

Domain of the dead and prison of the damned,

Show me the threads of this maiden’s fate,

As she travels toward her destiny.

(Dramatic)

I see a road, long and hard, but not without havens of safety and hospitality. I see one who would proclaim to be your guide, who will offer his services to lead you to your end, proclaiming no reward required in return, as his only desire is assistance. I see a parting and then-

(THE ORACLE pauses.)

 

CHRYSANTHAE

Yes? Speak, Oracle, for I must know that the fruit of my lifelong studies and dedication shall not be denied to me by misfortune.

 

THE ORACLE

I see a wood, and... and-

CHRYSANTHAE

And what? Speak true, Oracle, do you see harm come to me?

 

THE ORACLE

I... the threads of your fate are difficult to unknot, but... but I​​ can see no harm coming to thee, child.

 

CHRYSANTHAE

(End Flashback, and spoken to​​ KING ANAKLETOS)

Those were her words, “I​​ can​​ see no harm coming to thee, child.”

 

[GK: I am going to pull in a direct quote from the survivor of the theater’s disaster. While much of what this witness said was disjointed and confused, the reporting was very specific on her memory of this.​​ She said she remember the Oracle launching into what seemed to be​​ an un-scripted monologue. Astonishingly, the witness recounted it in full. I’ll include it here:

 

“I see a false king, standing in the shadow of the true king. I see two faces, one a mask and one showing true. Beware, for kindness is deceptive, and much as terrible creatures in the darkest depths of the ocean dangle pleasant motes of light to draw unsuspecting prey into their horrible, be-fanged maws, so too does the mask conceal horror beyond human imagining.

 

“Beware strangers with pleasing faces and kind hearts, and search for the appendage of twisted, rotted flesh affixed to the back of their head, leading back to the true beast behind the lure, for to look upon such a creature is to know the truth of all creation, and the knowledge will shatter the mind of he who beholds it. False kings shall perish from the noose, while sacrifice and conflagration will claim the true offerings, opening the doorway from whence shall come the horrors from beyond the folds of the curtains.”

 

Did you catch that reference to “flesh... leading back to the true beast behind the lure?” Doesn’t that remind you of​​ an​​ anglerfish? And furthermore, didn’t you once dredge up some account from an old Confederate soldier who, before his death, talked about meeting a man who was a lure for a terrifying “fish thing?”]

 

KING ANAKLETOS

“I​​ can​​ see no harm coming to thee” is not the same as “no harm shall come to thee.” As I said, the words of the oracles are precise in their meaning, and you should take care​​ to​​ interpret them thus.​​ 

 

CHRYSANTHAE

Again, thy concern is touching, but her words spoke of kindness on my travel, and guides, which I took​​ to mean Eirenaios, but I now believe was a portent to prelude our meeting, for you have shown me naught but kindness, while I caught Eirenaios making lusty eyes at mine​​ shapely​​ hindquarters.

KING ANAKLETOS

But hark, speaking of your erstwhile​​ guide​​ has summoned him, as the thrice-repetition of one’s true​​ name is sure to do, by the mystical rules of​​ all the universe.

 

EIRENAIOS

(Enters)

Young Chrysanthae, it is I, Eirenaios, your guide. I fear that I have lost you in these woods, and would therefore have failed you in my duties as your guide.​​ 

 

CHRYSANTHAE

I am here​​ Eirenaios, and worry not, for the kindly king of these lands...

(To​​ KING ANAKLETOS)

... oh my, kind king,​​ forgive me as​​ I have neglected to inquire as to the name of my host.​​ 

 

KING ANAKLETOS

I am called King Anakletos.

 

[AW:​​ Thus marks​​ the first invocation.]

[GK: Odd choice of notes.]

 

CHRYSANTHAE

The kindly​​ king​​ of these lands has been naught but hospitable and provided me with sage advice and an assurance of safe passage. Truly, he serves​​ the gods by his​​ demonstrated​​ understanding of​​ the treatment of guests.

(KING ANAKLETOS​​ smirks)

 

EIRENAIOS

(Suspiciously)

Why do you smirk so, king, if that truly be your title?

 

KING ANAKLETOS

She says I serve the gods, but as I have told her... forsooth, pay it no mind, for it is of little bearing upon your countenance.

 

EIRENAIOS

What​​ knowest thou of my countenance?

 

[GK: The “forsooths” and “naughts”​​ and “knowests”​​ are saturating this writing. His editor must have hated him, though I bet he didn’t have one.]

 

KING ANAKLETOS

I know your intentions toward this young maiden are not the intentions of a gentleman, nor do you truly wish to guide her through these woods.​​ 

 

EIRENAIOS

That is not so! How dare you besmirch my reputation, oh king without a kingdom! I shall see thee run through for these insults.

(EIRENAIOS​​ produces a large knife.)

For sullying my honor, I shall challenge you to a gentleman’s duel.

 

KING ANAKLETOS

(LAUGHS, but takes no action)

You do amuse me, little man, with your bluster. But I know in thine heart that thou art a coward who soils maidens’​​ virtues​​ and murders their bodies. You would no sooner attack me than​​ you would slit your own throat.

 

CHRYSANTHAE

Please, gentlemen, this fighting upsets me! Cease it at once, for my sake, and the sake of the other I hear approaching this clearing.

 

EIRENAIOS

Another approaches!​​ Chrysanthae, stand with me so that I could protect you from perhaps an even more dangerous threat.

 

CHRYSANTHAE

I... I believe I​​ shall​​ stand between thee and my lord​​ so that I am equally protected.

 

ARTEMIS

(ARTEMIS enters, disguised as an old woman)

Greetings, strangers, I am but an old woman, traveling these roads,​​ and appear to have found myself turned around. Can any of thee help me find my way back to the road to​​ Ephesus?

 

CHRYSANTHAE

How fortuitous that you have arrived, kindly matron, for I, too, am headed to​​ Ephesus, and will require guidance along that path.

 

ARTEMIS

Ah, are you to be inducted into the Mysteries of Artemis?

 

CHRYSANTHAE

I am, indeed. But I am fortunate to have both a guide through these woods, and the assistance of the​​ lord​​ of these woods, and if you could but help settle an argument betwixt the two, perhaps we can all work toward​​ a beneficial end.

 

ARTEMIS

For an initiate of Artemis, I would see thee through thine conflict and we will then travel the road to​​ Ephesus​​ together, for I have business there, myself, though not of the initiates, sadly. I am too old for such things, but as a young girl, I would, too, have​​ been bound for​​ the mysteries. Now, what is this dispute you would have me settle?

 

CHRYSANTHAE

This young man, my guide, and the king of this forest both believe that the other means me harm. Both have shown naught but kindness to me. If neither means to take my virtue or my life, then both will perhaps​​ be at ease. If one means to harm me, then I must know, so that I will be certain to place my life in the correct hands.

 

[GK: This play could be made 50% shorter by cleaning up this sad attempt at the language and cutting out the constant repetition. The playwright was a terrible writer.]

 

ARTEMIS

And what if both mean you harm?

 

CHRYSANTHAE

(Laughs)

The Oracle prophesized that she saw no harm come to me, so surely at least one of my erstwhile guides is pure and true.

 

ARTEMIS

I see. And you would have me deduce which of these two men is your savior, and which​​ may be​​ the architect of your untimely end. Hmm...

(She eyes the two men.)

 

EIRENAIOS

I... I give you my word that I mean this young lady no harm in her travels. I come from a line of honest farmers, workers of land, where reputation is all a man has.

 

ARTEMIS

(Looks​​ EIRENAIOS​​ up and down)

You have an honest​​ him​​ face, but all men wear masks that hide the truth.

(ARTEMIS​​ moves to​​ KING ANAKLETOS.)

And you... you I find very hard to see clearly. Perhaps it is my old eyes, but there is a mystery to you.

 

KING ANAKLETOS

There is mystery to all men. As you yourself said, all men – and​​ women​​ as well-

(ARTEMIS​​ flinches while​​ KING ANAKLETOS​​ smiles knowingly.)

wear masks. Tell me, “old woman,” what mask do you wear? Hmm?

 

EIRENAIOS

You see?​​ She flinches.​​ She does not trust him. In her wisdom, she sees that he is a man of great darkness.

(Brandishes his knife)

Now,​​ Chrysanthae, allow me to take you from him.

 

ARTEMIS

I did not say you were an honest man, no more than I said I knew for certain that​​ he​​ was a man with murderous intent. Tell me, king, what is your name so that I might know you?

 

KING ANAKLETOS

Oh, I am certain you would not have heard my name spoken. ‘tis an old name and fallen​​ into​​ disuse.​​ 

 

CHRYSANTHAE

It is King Anakletos.

 

[AW: Thus, the second​​ invocation.]

 

ARTEMIS

A name I have not heard.

(Suspicious)

Would you not ask my name, then?

 

KING ANAKLETOS

I am certain that I know it, though it does not match your​​ current​​ visage.​​ 

(Smiles)

 

EIRENAIOS

Enough of this!​​ 

(Gets behind​​ CHRYSANTHAE​​ and puts the knife to her throat)

I grow weary of pretense. Yes, I mean to soil this girl’s virtue and murder her here in these woods. I would have done so quietly, but now this dalliance has taken its toll upon me​​ and my patience. I shall take her away from the both of you, have my way with her at my leisure, and be out of this accursed place!

 

ARTEMIS

(Ditching the old woman routine to stand straight and true)

Touch not my initiate, foul man!

 

CHRYSANTHAE

Could it be?

 

KING ANAKLETOS

(Unsurprised)

Indeed, it is.

 

ARTEMIS

Yes, it is I, Artemis herself! I lost sight of​​ Chrysanthae​​ as she traveled to my temple to be initiated into my Mysteries, and as she is to hold a place of high honor, I felt strongly the need to rescue her myself! And now I see that-

 

KING ANAKLETOS

Enough of this grandstanding, woman.

 

ARTEMIS

(Aghast)

Who would dare talk to a god in such a manner.

 

KING ANAKLETOS

I would.​​ 

 

CHRYSANTHAE

Please, do not speak so to my patron goddess, I implore you.

 

EIRENAIOS

Artemis herself? No this cannot be so. I will slit this woman’s throat and be gone from here!

(He tries to plunge the knife into​​ CHRYSANTHAE’S​​ throat, but​​ KING ANAKLETOS​​ holds up a hand.​​ EIRENAIOS’S knife stops in midair, then begins to tremble.)

What is this? Mine​​ own hand betrays me?

 

KING ANAKLETOS

I said you would no sooner raise that knife against me, or​​ Chrysanthae​​ for that matter, than you would slit your own throat. And now, I shall see thee to it.

(Flicks his hand)

(EIRENAIOS​​ runs the knife against his own throat)

 

EIRENAIOS

Ah! What cruel devilry is this!? I have slain myself against my very will!​​ 

(He then dies.)

 

[AW: This performer may well not be able to utter this line. It is of no concern; allow the show to proceed.]

 

CHRYSANTHAE

How? How dids’t though​​ cause the young man to​​ so mortally​​ harm to himself?

 

ARTEMIS

(Suspicious)

This I too would like to know.

 

KING ANAKLETOS

‘twas the darkness in his own​​ heart that caused such action. ‘tis nothing what he wouldn’t have done hads’t​​ he​​ truly​​ known himself.​​ 

 

ARTEMIS

You... strange king... what manner of man are you?

 

KING ANAKLETOS

(Smiles)

No mere man, Artemis.​​ 

 

ARTEMIS

If thee art a god, I knowest thee not.

 

CHRYSANTHAE

This is all quite strange. Am I to understand that I am in the presence of Gods?

 

KING ANAKLETOS

(Gesturing to​​ ARTEMIS)

A​​ god, should thee call this ancient woman as such.

 

CHRYSANTHAE

I beg thee, sir... if that be Artemis, speak to her that way not.

 

KING ANAKLETOS

Speak, speak, speak... my dear, young maiden, thou hast spoken enough.​​ 

(CHRYSANTHAE​​ opens her mouth to speak, but​​ KING ANAKLETOS​​ holds up a hand, stopping her.)

Speak thee not, for thine elders are conversing.

(CHRYSANTHAE​​ tries to speak, but mimes being unable to make the words come out.)

(To​​ ARTEMIS)

Now then,​​ goddess... why have you come to this, the road truly less traveled?

 

[AW: If all preparations have been carried out as​​ outlined, her silence will be most convincing.]

 

ARTEMIS

As I said... my future priestess disappeared from my sight. As her protector, I felt it my duty to find out why.

 

KING ANAKLETOS

Ah, such concern for these mortals.​​ 

 

ARTEMIS

The mortals are our charges as gods.

 

KING ANAKLETOS

The mortals are a burden on existence.

 

ARTEMIS

They burden not the gods.

 

KING ANAKLETOS

Not your existence.​​ My​​ existence. But, they have a purpose.

 

ARTEMIS​​ 

I cannot see into your purpose, stranger...​​ 

 

KING ANAKLETOS

Then perhaps you, a goddess, are more limited.

 

ARTEMIS

Let my disciple speak. I would converse with her.

 

KING ANAKLETOS

(To​​ CHRYSANTHAE)

Speak, child, if you must.

 

CHRYSANTHAE

(Gasping)

My voice, though taken, hath now returned. And I find myself struck nearly speechless again. Why hath the gods come here? How have I, a simple adherent of the Mysteries, drawn such attention?

ARTEMIS

Flatter thyself not, mortal. While you are certainly under my protection, our reason for coming here had less to do with you, and more to do with your host.​​ We can neither see him, nor his realm, in the manner that the gods normally see all of the cosmos.

 

KING ANAKLETOS

We?

(Aside)

Surprised, I am not.

 

APOLLO

(Entering)

Yes, “we” strange king, for my sister and I seek more knowledge.

 

CHRYSANTHAE

Surely,​​ I have​​ been blessed​​ to reach the concerns of​​ two​​ gods.

 

APOLLO

Sister, this mortal feels that she has risen in importance to us.​​ I must admit,​​ she is pleasing to the eye.

 

ARTEMIS

Covet her not, as she is of mine, brother Apollo.

 

APOLLO

Of course, sister.

 

CHRYSANTHAE

I mean no disrespect, oh gods, but this mysterious king​​ has shown me much kindness.

 

APOLLO

There is likely more to him that we know, for he and his provenance are mysterious and​​ hidden from us. We, my sister and I, have come to this place to seek out the answers, and not more than that.

 

[GK: Such chatter, and such repetition​​ from​​ each character. Talk, talk, talk; very little action.]

 

CHRYSANTHAE

You have not come to see me safely to Ephesus?

 

APOLLO

My sister may have some concern​​ for thee, but I am ambivalent.​​ 

 

ARTEMIS

All​​ virtuous​​ sisters are precious to me, but in truth, child, the ‘king’ before thee is of more import.

 

KING​​ ANAKLETOS

You see, child? Even the gods have abandoned thee. As all gods are wont to do to their creations.

 

CHRYSANTHAE

But... what am I to do in the face of such abandonment?

 

ARTEMIS

Listen not to him, dear child.​​ His is the domain of lies.

 

KING ANAKLETOS

I lie not, girl. The truth, in fact, shall I show thee.​​ 

 

APOLLO

His lies come swiftly!​​ Let us dispatch him, sister, and be done with it.

 

KING ANAKLETOS

Quiet, godling!

(He waves his hand, and APOLLO falls to the stage, lifeless.)

 

ARTEMIS

(Rushes to her brother’s side)

Villain! Thou hast killed my brother!​​ 

 

KING ANAKLETOS

(Bored)

So I have.

 

CHRYSANTHAE

(Shocked)

You cannot kill a god!

 

KING ANAKLETOS

I can do what​​ I wish.​​ 

 

ARTEMIS

Fool! Now, shall I visit upon thee my wrath!

(She draws a bow from an unknown​​ source and​​ aims​​ an arrow toward KING ANAKLETOS’ heart. He holds up a hand to halt her.)

 

KING ANAKLETOS

Foolish woman. You cannot​​ loose​​ arrow upon me. And now, I demand that you speak truth, as you would have your oracle speak...​​ 

 

ARTEMIS

(In a​​ sudden​​ trance)

And in his coming, so too came the madness and death and all that was foretold by​​ those​​ who see the future for what ‘tis and what shall always be. In fire​​ he is born forth in a form such that none shall bear witness. For in his sight, all are driven mad by the darkness that lurks below the waves. In his realm, mortals are but chattel, there for the feast that is to come in the era of man’s end​​ and in the end, may he find not peace, but eternal torment, to toil and​​ suffer in ways naught yet described in the fevered nightmares of man​​ nor god​​ nor​​ the god of Christ nor Allah nor Yahweh nor​​ Buddha​​ nor​​ Shiva nor​​ Zeus nor science nor​​ any attempt that man hath to offer to explain​​ while the false king sways with rope around neck, he who claimed to be the alpha and the omega but for whom death was but a blessing​​ and in the fires, may we all be taken swiftly.

(ARTEMIS, too, falls to the stage, lifeless.)

 

[GK: His use of modern gods is an odd and anachronistic choice, here, but as you can see below, this is where it seems to become an immersive play​​ by breaking the fourth wall to address the audience directly, and very heavy-handedly​​ so.]

 

CHRYSANTHAE

Thou​​ has done in Artemis, as well?

 

KING ANAKLETOS

Yes.

 

CHRYSANTHAE

Before she died, she spoke of gods with names I knew not. Christ and Allah and so on.

 

KING ANAKLETOS

Pretenders to immortality. False idols to the truth.​​ Much as the Olympians themselves.

 

CHRYSANTHAE

In this, I believe that thou hast deceived me!

 

KING ANAKLETOS

Perhaps, but in truth, thou were born into deceit. In life, you were fed lies. Hope. Sacrifice. Salvation. Grace. All of your kind has been lied to and will be lied to in all ways.​​ I bring truth.

 

CHRYSANTHAE

Oh, grant me sweet release!

 

KING ANAKLETOS

I shall, but even in the release of death, thou shalt not find peace. None who hear these words, who witness this show of theater, shall know anything other than the true horror that comest over the soul of man!

 

CHRYSANTHAE

Your words are terrible, but I cannot deny the hold they have over me!​​ Yes, then, allow me to be a​​ sacrifice to those eternal who seek to pierce the barrier between​​ theater and truth!​​ But first, please show me thine face under the mask.

 

KING ANAKLETOS

I shall do so, child.

(He lifts his mask)

(CHRYSANTHAE SCREAMS and SCREAMS until she falls to the stage, dead, her death mask that of pure fear.)

 

[GK:​​ Jonas, the section of the original was torn out, so what I will try to do is give you the somewhat fantastical account from the surviving witness to the fire. “When the man playing the evil king lifted his mask, we all gasped in terror... underneath, he had no face. I do not mean that​​ where his face would be was smooth skin lacking eyes or a mouth or so, but there was a hole that appeared to be carved into his very skull. Rather that bone and gore, however, the dark hole held and vast emptiness that contained the multitudes of our universe, and perhaps others. Such terror haunts my dreams and my waking hours!” The effects must have been rather advanced to pull off such an effect on the audience! Perhaps the notes on how to achieve this were included in the missing pages.]

 

KING ANAKLETOS

(To the assembled patrons of this doomed show.)

Witness this, the thinning of the veil. Witness this, the easement of reality and fiction, such that one shall bleed over to the other. Witness the​​ border between that which is story and that which is real becoming so permeable that neither is.​​ 

(He holds out his arms, taking in all his sacrifices and opening the doorway.)

Rejoice, for in your deaths shall the conflagrations of eternity purge all from this land and render it back to its true masters! Rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice!​​ For Anakletos has come again!

 

[AW: And the third and final invocation!]

 

 

THE END

 

[GK: You see? The whole manuscript reads like an early attempt at one of those interactive or immersive plays that are becoming quite popular in theater these days. The writing, like I said, is atrocious, though I have to admit that it made the hairs on my arms stand up from time to time. When you take this in conjunction with the story about the disaster—that the theater burned to the ground and only one audience member survived—it almost seems like there was more to it. Perhaps it would be the plot for a B horror movie. “The Cursed Play,” or something like that.

 

You’ll notice from the story from the Chicago Daily Journal (long defunct) that the sole survivor of the fire, who was quoted a few times above, gave a very odd and, frankly, unbelievable story. She was also certain that the play was not completed before the fire consumed everything. It’s likely the stage was burned to a crisp with everyone on it before the final lines of “King Anakletos.” Poor Wayward didn’t get to his “third and final invocation” (I assume of the king’s name) after all. You and I both know of the significance of names and the rule of three in many occultic cultures. If I didn’t know any better, if I were to speculate fancifully, I think this poor sod (and terrible writer) was trying to put together some kind of ritual. But I’ll leave that to the authors of horror stories, and out of the halls of academia.

 

I wish you well my friend. Let me know if this adds any clarity to your own research. If not, consider it a novelty, then; the ramblings of a man suffering from some sort of mental breakdown.]

Bonus Post: IT the Musical Part 2 – Love Never Floats, The Breakthrough Follow-up from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Ego

Well, hello there, few but constant readers. I’ve got an extra posting for this week (a non-regular 26 Stories week); a play that I wrote in less than 12 hours from random parameters and handed off to a director and four actors to produce in the Twelfth iteration of the Spontaneous Smattering, a 24-hour play festival/contest/charity drive. For my part, I received the genre “musical,” which I ensured that I would get by saying “gee, I hope I don’t get musical” right before drawing. Balls. I also had to include a specific line (“I love/hate you more than [person] loves/hates [thing, activity, etc.]” and a reference to myself, which is why you’ll see my name listed at the end (it’s not simply vanity, promise).

While IT the Musical Part 2 – Love Never Floats, The Breakthrough Follow-up from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Ego (yes, that’s the full title) didn’t manage to win any awards, it was still fun to write and fun to be a part of. I’m including it here in the state it was in when I turned it in: I haven’t gone back over it to clear up typos, punch-up jokes that didn’t land, or anything (there are some wonky formatting issues when I have several characters talk at the same time, but I can’t figure out how to fix it at the moment).

Enjoy!

IT Musical Cast and Writer

IT the Musical 2 Cast and Writer (I’m behind the clown)

 

 

 

IT,​​ The Musical: Part 2 – Love Never Floats

The Breakthrough​​ Follow-up​​ from​​ Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Ego

By

Ben Plopper

 

 

From Spontaneous Smattering XII: Nine Past Midnight

Performed July​​ 28, 2018

CHARACTERS

 

POUNDFOOLISH. Female. Age: Eternal horror without end who doesn’t look a day over 25​​ (fabulous!)​​ – An Evil Fear Clown, POUNDFOOLISH​​ unfavorably compares herself to​​ Pennywise of IT fame (who does not appear in this musical). She feasts on the fears of adults, which are considerably more boring than the fears of children. She has a low opinion of herself; she’ll never live up to Pennywise​​ in her eyes.​​ 

 

CHUCK.​​ Male. Age:​​ Late 30s​​ ​​ Meets​​ POUNDFOOLISH and feels a connection, man. He’s sympathetic, as he shares some of her fears about not living up to his potential (even though​​ his potential doesn’t involve eating people marinated in their own fear juices).

 

OLD​​ CHUCK​​ – Male, 60s: An older version of CHUCK who has been summoned to demonstrate CHUCK’s adult fears (like 401Ks​​ tanking​​ and ear-hair and such). A cranky old man, OLD CHUCK yells all the time.

 

THE FORMLESS​​ LIVING BLACKNESS​​ THAT SPAWNED POUNDFOOLISH​​ IN A DIMENSION OF PURE CHAOS AND FEAR (we’ll call this cosmological horror “DAD” for short)​​ – Age, gender… kind of unimportant.​​ Male works. Something terrifying and inhuman, no doubt. Maybe something with tentacles. Tentacles are cool.

 

MUSICAL NUMBERS

  • Pennywise/Poundfoolish

  • The Adult Fear Song

  • I Couldn’t Be Prouder of my Existential Horror of a Daughter

  • I Could be Afraid of You

  • Pennywise/Poundfoolish (Reprise)

 

SETTING

A spooky street at night. See if Onstage has a street lamp and, like, a park bench. And a bush. And that wicked awesome tree back there. I love that tree.

 

PROPS

Evil clown mask and outfit. A balloon would be sweet, too. A cane or walker for old CHUCK Otherwise, go nuts.​​ And tentacles.​​ 

 

SCENE

 

(CHUCK is walking down the street, nervous. As he gets halfway across the stage, POUNDFOOLISH creeps up​​ behind him.​​ POUNDFOOLISH LAUGHS in an evil clown way.)

(CHUCK turns and YELLS, and then…)

 

CHUCK

Dear god! I… you shouldn’t do that!

 

POUNDFOOLISH

(Kind of doing the IT voice from the movies, please have watched the recent movies)

Do what, Ch-ch-ch-chucky? Scare you? Are you scared, Chhhhhhhhucky?

 

CHUCK

Yeah, you startled me. I swear, you “evil clown” pranksters are really getting out of hand.

 

POUNDFOOLISH

(Normal voice, normal body language)

What?​​ Goddamn it! Not​​ those​​ guys.

 

CHUCK

What guys?

 

POUNDFOOLISH

(Annoyed)

The clown dress-up guys. They really chap my hide!

 

CHUCK

Chap your hide?

 

POUNDFOOLISH

Goddamn cultural appropriation is what that is! Bunch of preppy white assholes who think that it’s “cool” to dress up like an evil​​ fear​​ clown.​​ Look, unless you’re an actual evil fear clown, who grew up in evil fear clown culture, dressing up like an evil fear clown is pretty​​ goddamn​​ insensitive.

 

CHUCK

Oh my god, you’re a​​ real​​ evil fear clown!

 

POUNDFOOLISH

In the powdery white flesh paint.

 

CHUCK

Like Pennywise!

 

POUNDFOOLISH

No, I’m… I’m Poundfoolish. It’s a play on… nevermind.

(Sighs, dejected)

I could never be​​ like Pennywise.​​ 

 

CHUCK

What do you mean?

 

POUNDFOOLISH

Pennywise is just so amazing. Did you know he specialized in pre- and post-adolescent fear feasting?​​ Kids have such great fears to play off. I wish I could be as great as Pennywise.

 

Song: Pennywise/Poundfoolish

POUNDFOOLISH

He’s​​ a​​ penny​​ wise, and I’m a pound foolish

He eats little kids, which some think is ghoulish

But he is a world apart…

He’s sunk his fangs deep in my heart!

 

He’s got a collection of toddlers’ arms,

He’s got all the moves, that dance, and the charms.

His fear generation is second to none,

My fear isn’t nearly that fuuuuuuun!

Adult fears are different, boring, and bland.

They​​ don’t fear the dark, werewolves, or quicksand.

 

CHUCK

It is less of a danger than I was led to believe as a kid.

 

POUNDFOOLISH

Their fears​​ are practical​​ and grounded in truth,

Adults are​​ old and have nothing to… uh… looth?

 

CHUCK

But wait a minute, I certainly have fears.

 

POUNDFOOLISH

Yeah, but they’re not all that great.

 

CHUCK

What do you mean?

(POUNDFOOLISH shrugs)

Okay, try it out on me.

 

POUNDFOOLISH

What?

 

CHUCK

Do your fear juju on me.

 

POUNDFOOLISH

Really?

(CHUCK nods)

Well, okay. I have to do a dance, first.

(CHUCK gives her space)

It’s not as good as Pennywise’s, but…

(Clear’s throat)

(Does a really awkward dance that maybe ends with jazz hands or something)

 

CHUCK

Is that it?

 

POUNDFOOLISH

Wait​​ for it…

(OLD CHUCK hobbles onstage)

 

CHUCK

AAAAH!

 

OLD CHUCK

AAAAAH!

 

CHUCK

Who​​ the hell is that?

 

OLD CHUCK

I’m you! Only old! I’m your (spooky voice)​​ “greatest fears!”

 

CHUCK

(Suddenly blasé)

What, that I’ll get old?​​ Everyone​​ gets old. I’m not in my 20s anymore.​​ I’m not naïve.

 

OLD CHUCK

No!

 

Song: The Adult Fear Song

 

OLD CHUCK

I’ve come to tell you, sonny, that you never will retire!

 

CHUCK

What?

 

OLD CHUCK

I’ve come to show you, kiddo, that my hemorrhoids are on fire!

 

CHUCK​​ 

Not that!

 

OLD CHUCK

I pee ten times a night and Viagra doesn’t work!

I’m on the HOA and they all think I’m a jerk!

 

 

CHUCK

Gah!

 

OLD CHUCK

My kids got liberal arts degrees, they’ll never leave the house!

My daughter’s into furries, she’s​​ fucking​​ Mickey Mouse!

My 401K’s in the shitter,

Donald Trump is still on Twitter,

And president for liiiiiiiiiiife!

(CHUCK SCREAMS)

Did I mention when I take a shit, it feel just like a knife?

 

POUNDFOOLISH

See? That’s not that bad.

 

CHUCK

Not that bad?

 

POUNDFOOLISH

Relatively speaking. It’s no “deadlights, cosmic spider,​​ sinks full of blood.”

 

CHUCK

I guess that’s true. I mean…

(Pauses, noticing OLD CHUCK)

Is… is he going to stick around.

 

POUNDFOOLISH

It’s kind of hard to turn off once you start it.

 

OLD CHUCK

Your somewhat simple​​ medical​​ procedure is out of network and will cost a fortune!

 

CHUCK

Stop that!

 

POUNDFOOLISH

Sorry.

 

CHUCK

No,​​ you​​ don’t​​ have to​​ apologize. Honestly, I think you’re selling yourself short.​​ 

 

POUNDFOOLISH

You do?

 

CHUCK

That was all pretty fucking terrifying.

 

POUNDFOOLISH

I don’t know.

(She turns away)

 

CHUCK

(Gently reaches out and turns her head toward him)

Poundfoolish, I have a question for​​ you.

 

POUNDFOOLISH

(Taken aback)

You do?

 

CHUCK

What are​​ your​​ fears?

 

POUNDFOOLISH

(Gasps)

No one has ever asked me that.

 

CHUCK

Well, it’s about time someone did.

 

OLD CHUCK

(Yelling)

Marriage​​ truly is too much of a commitment!

 

CHUCK​​  POUNDFOOLISH

What?What?

 

OLD CHUCK

You’ll​​ throw your independence away!​​ You can’t do anything you want!

 

CHUCK

Shut up.

 

POUNDFOOLISH

What are…​​ my​​ fears?

 

CHUCK

(Back to her)

Yes.

 

POUNDFOOLISH

I… I have to do the dance again, so…

(CHUCK moves off)

(She does the dance ending with the Jazz hands)

(Suddenly, THE FORMLESS LIVING BLACKNESS THAT SPAWNED POUNDFOOLISH IN A DIMENSION OF PURE CHAOS AND FEAR appears!)

(CHUCK and OLD CHUCK begin to scream)

 

OLD CHUCK

(Yelling)

I hate you more than​​ your future wife​​ hates​​ your awkward scheduled Wednesday night sex!

 

THE FORMLESS LIVING BLACKNESS THAT SPAWNED POUNDFOOLISH IN A DIMENSION OF PURE CHAOS AND FEAR

(Booming)

I have come to spread sorrow and misery and chaos to all!

 

POUNDFOOLISH

Daddy?!

 

DAD

Oh, hey kiddo!​​ What’s up?

 

POUNDFOOLISH

What​​ are you doing here?

 

DAD

(Booming)

I was summoned!

 

CHUCK

He was summoned when you did your fear dance,​​ because your fears are probably rooted in-

 

POUNDFOOLISH

Yeah, I get it.​​ You’re not my therapist.​​ Shut up.

 

OLD CHUCK

She’s friend-zoning you!

 

CHUCK

Would you go away?

 

OLD CHUCK

I will stick around longer than your student loans! Which is really fucking long!

 

DAD

Aw,​​ did you fear-summon me, pumpkin pie?

 

POUNDFOOLISH

I… well…

 

DAD

(Puts a comforting tentacle around his little girl)

Sweetie… you can tell me. Is something wrong?

 

POUNDFOOLISH

Ah geez, I dunno.​​ I guess… I guess I’m​​ afraid I’m​​ not living up to the expectations set by you and that horrible screeching,​​ bulbous, multi-dimensional hag​​ that is​​ mom.

 

CHUCK

That’s not very nice​​ to say about your mom.

 

POUNDFOOLISH

No, my mom is​​ actually​​ a screeching,​​ bulbous, multi-dimensional hag.​​ 

 

CHUCK

Oh.

 

DAD

Hey…

(He lifts​​ POUNDFOOLISH’s​​ chin up)

You always know that daddy loves you, right? No matter what?

 

Song:​​ I Couldn’t Be Prouder of my Existential Horror of a Daughter

 

DAD

I know that sometimes, in the deep, shrieking void,

That things can seem difficult and bleak.

But when the universe, in its infinite fear,

Tries to make you weak…

 

I couldn’t be prouder​​ of my existential horror of a daughter!

 

POUNDFOOLISH

Awwww!

 

DAD

I share your triumphs and your despair,

I​​ still​​ laugh at your silly hair!

 

POUNDFOOLISH

Daddy!

 

DAD

No, I couldn’t be prouder​​ of my existential horror of a daughter!

You have come so very far,

From when you were a little (Guttural noises, like “blothgarrothhagnarar” or something)

So be fervent in all​​ that​​ you seek,

Eat the​​ supple​​ flesh of the weak.

Your hideous mother and I​​ are​​ so proud!

 

So go forth into the slaughter, my existential horror of a daughter…

I love you, and always wiiiiiiillll!

 

CHUCK

That’s so sweet.

 

OLD CHUCK

You’ll never be that good of a father!

 

POUNDFOOLISH

Go away!

(She points at​​ OLD CHUCK, and he SCREAMS, retreating off stage)

 

CHUCK

Thank you.

 

POUNDFOOLISH

You know he’s you, right?​​ I mean, he’s​​ rooted in reality.​​ Those are your legitimate fears, which are kind of telling.

 

DAD

Hey​​ my bumblebee, who’s​​ your friend?

 

POUNDFOOLISH

Oh, he’s just a guy, dad.

 

CHUCK

(Takes her arm)

No… not just a guy.

 

Song:​​ I Could Be Afraid of You

 

CHUCK

I’m a guy, who is afraid, of what you are.

I’m a guy, who worships you, from afaaaar…

 

(Speaking)

Very far​​ because you’re terrifying​​ and your dad is a formless living blackness spawned from a dimension of pure chaos and fear.

(POUNDFOOLISH laughs​​ a​​ lovey-dovey laugh)

 

You’ve shown me my fears and​​ extracted​​ my​​ screams,

You’ve crushed all my hopes, and​​ squashed all​​ my dreeeeeaaaaams!

 

I could be afraid of you,

I could forever live in terror of you.

You could haunt me forever,

And​​ eat me whenever,

And I would be happy and true.

 

POUNDFOOLISH

(Happy and playful)

Stop it.

 

CHUCK

I could always be afraid of yooooouu!

 

Song: Pennywise/Poundfoolish (Refrain)

 

POUNDFOOLISH

You’re penny-wise….

 

CHUCK

And I am​​ a​​ pound-foolish….

 

CHUCKPOUNDFOOLISH

I could always be afraid​​ of you…I can​​ always​​ cause​​ fear​​ in you…

​​ (They kiss… it’s a little gross, unless you’re into clown stuff, then I suppose it’s okay...​​ I don’t mean to kink-shame.)

 

DAD

So…​​ again… who is this guy?

 

POUNDFOOLISH

Oh daddy.

 

DAD

No, really. I mean, I hate to be “that dad” who treats his daughter like something to be won or earned, like a piece of property, but really… is this guy a​​ normal​​ human?

 

POUNDFOOLISH

Don’t judge, dad.

 

DAD

Oh, I’m not. I’m cool with it. I just…​​ are going to eat him sometime or what?

 

POUNDFOOLISH

Of course.

 

CHUCK

Huh?

 

OLD CHUCK

(Popping in from off stage)

I told you​​ this was a mistake!

 

CHUCKPOUNDFOOLISHDAD

Shut up!Shut up!Shut up!

 

POUNDFOOLISH

I mean, I’m a bit full. I ate some guy already.​​ Some dude named​​ Ben Plopper.

 

CHUCK

That sounds tragic.

 

POUNDFOOLISH

It really wasn’t.

 

CHUCK

Oh.

 

POUNDFOOLISH

Don’t worry, you’re okay for​​ the next 27 years.

 

CHUCK

(Worried)

That… is a hell of a commitment.

 

POUNDFOOLISH

Not when your live forever.

 

CHUCKPOUNDFOOLISH

(Singing)(Singing)

I could always be afraid of you…I​​ can​​ always​​ cause fear in​​ you….

 

 

THE END

 

26 Stories

26 Stories: Dogs in the Garden

I’m heading back to the play format for this one. Interestingly, in my writing and creative endeavors, I tend to come back time and time again to religious themes, and this is no exception. I won’t go into too many details (as the details are in the discovery), but this is a take on a pretty common Judeo-Christian story. But it has dogs and a cat, so, that’s cool, right? I also appear to have ditched the whole association to a floor in a 26-story building for this one, but I think that would have quickly gotten difficult to shoehorn into every story. The follow-up to this, scene II (this is a two-scene, one-act play), can easily incorporate a multi-story building, but I’ve got to get there first.

For the time being, please enjoy “Dogs in the Garden, Scene I”.

(Apologies for the odd formatting… I’m trying to find easier ways to get a play format into a post, and this plugin is pretty decent, but not quite on the money.)

Dogs in the Garden

A One Act Play in Two Scenes

 

SETTING

 

Scene 1 – The Master’s backyard, which is well landscaped, shady, cool, and comfortable. There is a low fence along the back​​ wall and a trashcan on the far right of the stage. The grass is soft, and the sun is warm. The perfect backyard for a pair of DOGS.​​ 

Scene 2 – The streets of the World. Dangerous, scary, and dirty. There is a set of stairs leading to a residential doorway.​​ There is a trashcan here as well. The Streets are almost certainly no place for a pair of DOGS.

 

CHARACTERS

 

MALE DOG – Played by a human male of any age, preferably middle aged to reflect the dog’s “middle” age. He is comfortable with his life of luxury.

FEMALE DOG – Played by a human female, preferable in her mid to late 20s (or younger) to reflect that she is a “young” dog. She is hyper and full of life and curiosity.​​ 

CAT – Played by a human male, age unimportant. Cynical and laid back.

 

SCENE 1

 

(The​​ backyard in spring is glorious. Cool and sunny with enough warm spots for sunning. MALE DOG is, in fact, sunning in one of those spots, drowsing, when FEMALE DOG approaches mischievously. She creeps toward MALE DOG. Suddenly, she pounces on him.)

 

FEMALE​​ DOG

Hey!​​ 

 

MALE DOG

(He wakes suddenly.)

What?! What?!

 

FEMALE DOG

(Laughing)

Got you!

 

MALE DOG

You did not! I knew you were coming.

 

FEMALE DOG

Suuuuure you did.​​ 

 

MALE DOG

I did.

(He laughs.)

Okay, I didn’t.

 

FEMALE DOG

I told you.

(She fidgets excitedly.)

I want to play.

 

MALE DOG

(Stretching)

I want to rest.​​ 

 

FEMALE DOG

(Dismissive)

You​​ always​​ want to rest. What reason is there to rest?

 

MALE DOG

What reason is there​​ not​​ to rest?

 

FEMALE DOG

It’s not like we have to work, or anything. Master​​ takes care of everything for us.

 

MALE DOG

But this is the best time of day for lounging in the sun. It’s warm, but not too hot.

 

FEMALE DOG

(Dismissive)

Ugh! Rest in the sun… play… eat.

 

MALE DOG

(Sarcastic)

Yes, it is​​ truly​​ a difficult life. You’re still new here. You’ll figure out all the important things. When to bask. When to play. When to curl up in the old chair for an afternoon nap. When to eat.

 

FEMALE DOG

When to eat​​ kibble, you mean.

 

MALE DOG

The kibble is fine.

 

FEMALE DOG

The kibble is​​ boring.

 

MALE DOG

But look at it this way; Master just gives it to us. We don’t have to hunt for it. Don’t have to work for our dinner.

 

FEMALE DOG

Yes, but Master eats different food, and it smells wond-

 

MALE DOG

(Abruptly)

Don’t talk about the Master’s​​ food!

 

FEMALE DOG

(Scolded)

But it seems so good.

 

MALE DOG

The Master’s food is forbidden. Master has made it very clear that his food is off limits.

 

FEMALE DOG

But why?

 

MALE DOG

I don’t know, and I don’t​​ care​​ to know. All I do know is, Master says​​ it’s forbidden food, therefore, it’s not our concern.

 

FEMALE DOG

But-

 

MALE DOG

(Barking)

No buts!​​ 

(FEMALE DOG cringes and MALE DOG sighs.)

Just accept that what we have is very good. We’ve got food every day, sun, the old chair, and the Master’s love.​​ In return, we show Master our love and our bellies and everything is fine. If we ate his food… well, I don’t know what he’d do. Probably kick us out into the Streets.

(MALE DOG shudders at the thought of The Streets.)

 

FEMALE DOG

What are “the Streets?”

 

MALE DOG

Nowhere you want to be.​​ 

(Gets up and scratches behind his ear)

I’m going to go inside and curl up on the old chair. You play or run or bask while the morning sun is just right. You’ll see… you’ll come to enjoy it.

(He exits.)

(As he does, CAT​​ comes into view on the fence.)

 

FEMALE DOG

(Pouts and grumbles)

What’s the harm in trying it?

 

CAT

The Masters food? Nothing.

 

FEMALE DOG

(Yelps and jumps)

Hey! Hey, hey, hey!

 

CAT

Relax, would you?

 

FEMALE DOG

Who are you!

 

CAT

Just a cat.​​ 

 

FEMALE DOG

A cat? I don’t know what a cat is.

 

CAT

I’m surprised, but you are a little young and…

(Looks around)

…clearly sheltered.

 

FEMALE DOG

I’m not sheltered, and I also don’t know how you know we were talking about the Master’s food.

 

CAT

Well, it’s not like​​ you dogs are usually quiet. I could hear you all the way across town.

(CAT nonchalantly preens.)

 

FEMALE DOG

What are you doing?

 

CAT

Cleaning.​​ 

 

FEMALE DOG

Oh. You clean yourself? Master cleans us.

 

CAT

(Disdain)

Of​​ course​​ he does.

 

FEMALE DOG

What’s​​ that supposed to mean?

 

CAT

It means… let me ask you a question.

(CAT stops preening, stretches, and slinks along the fence)

Do you do​​ anything​​ for yourself?

 

FEMALE DOG

(Follows CAT back and forth)

Yes.

 

CAT

Like what? Specifics, please.

 

FEMALE DOG

I​​ play. I nap. I eat when…

(Trails off)

 

CAT

When “Master” puts out your food for you?

 

FEMALE DOG

Well, yes.

 

CAT

You don’t get the food yourself?

 

FEMALE DOG

No.

 

CAT

(Shrugs)

A shame.

 

FEMALE DOG

How is it a shame?

 

CAT

Well, you say that Master’s food​​ smells wonderful, right?

(FEMALE DOG nods excitedly, forgetting her wariness for a moment.)

Does someone give Master​​ his​​ food?

 

FEMALE DOG

(Cocks her head)

I don’t follow.​​ 

 

CAT

If Master gives you your kibble, who gives Master his food?

 

FEMALE DOG

(Confused)

No one. Master gets his own food.

 

CAT

And that doesn’t, I dunno, bother you?

 

FEMALE DOG

Why would it?

 

CAT

What if you got your own food? You could get food as good as your Master’s.

 

FEMALE DOG

(Looks back warily at the house)

Oh… we’re not​​ supposed to eat the Master’s food.

 

CAT

Who says?

 

FEMALE DOG

Master says.​​ 

 

CAT

Does Master say​​ why​​ you can’t eat his food?

 

FEMALE DOG

N… No.

 

CAT

So again, does that seem fair to you? I mean, I know that​​ I​​ get my own food. It’s delicious and wonderful and, because I get it myself, it comes with a sense of accomplishment. No one just​​ gives​​ it to me.

 

FEMALE DOG

Where do you get your own food?

 

      CAT

Here and there. Food of all kind is plentiful out on the Stre
ets. Yes, it’s not an easy life and it takes some work to get the food, but when you do, it tastes even better.

 

FEMALE DOG

(Laughs)

Hah! See, I think you’re lying. The Streets are bad, and nowhere I want to be.​​ 

 

CAT

Did Master tell you that, too?

 

FEMALE DOG

No, Male Dog did.

 

CAT

Uh-huh. And​​ who do you think told him?

 

FEMALE DOG

I…

 

MALE DOG

(Offstage, comes running on)

HEY! HEY, HEY, HEY, HEY!

 

CAT

(Leaps back and hisses)

Woah, woah, woah there, big fellah! Geez, speak of the devil.

 

MALE DOG

What’s​​ Cat​​ doing here?

 

CAT

Just talking to​​ your friend. Easy.

 

      MALE DOG

You’re not anyone’s friend, Cat!

 

FEMALE DOG

I dunno, he seems okay.

 

MALE DOG

“Seems okay?” That is a cat, and cats are not to be trusted.

 

FEMALE DOG

(Defiant)

I know what a cat is! And we were just talking.

 

MALE DOG

About what?

 

FEMALE DOG

Master’s food and… and the Streets.

 

MALE DOG

How many times do I have to tell you, we don’t-

 

FEMALE DOG

But wait! Just listen for a second, okay?​​ 

(Gestures to CAT)

Cat, here, tells me that the Streets aren’t all that bad, and that​​ there’s food out there like Master eats.

 

MALE DOG

Yeah? Well, cats are known liars with deceitful, rough tongues.

 

CAT

Let’s not get personal.​​ 

 

MALE DOG

(Barks)

Be quiet cat!

 

CAT

(Puts hands up)

I’m just saying.​​ 

(CAT jumps down from the fence, into​​ the yard)

 

MALE DOG

Hey!​​ 

 

CAT

Oh, come on… that fence is way up there, and your grass is soft.​​ 

(CAT feels around on the ground)

Yeah, I can see why you might like this.

(Looks skyward)

And sunny. Good for a nap.

 

FEMALE DOG

You see? You two have a lot​​ in common.

 

MALE DOG

What? Don’t compare-

 

FEMALE DOG

(To CAT)

Is there no grass in the Streets?

 

CAT

There’s some, here and there, but nothing like this. The Streets aren’t as nice and comfortable as this, that much is true.

 

FEMALE DOG

Well, why don’t​​ you live here, in the yard with us?

 

CAT

(Laughs)

No, that won’t work. For one thing, I like my independence too much to have a Master do everything for me. Furthermore, before you two came around, I used to pop in here from time to time. Your Master actually liked me for a while, sometimes put out milk and food for me—and believe me, my food was better than your kibble, soft and out of a can—but then he got​​ him

(Gestures at MALE DOG)

…and pretty much ran me out of the yard for good.​​ 

 

MALE DOG

That’s not the complete truth, and you know it.

 

CAT

Okay, I​​ may​​ have scratched up a window screen or two. And killed a bird at the feeder he likes so much. That wasn’t any reason for him to cast me out, you know. Honestly, I think he’s always liked dogs better.​​ 

 

FEMALE DOG

That doesn’t seem so bad, what you did. When I first came here and saw him, I was so excited I peed on the floor. And he forgave me. He even laughed.

 

CAT

Sure, he can be​​ quite​​ kind and understanding. But your Master can be​​ awfully​​ petty, and wasteful, as well. For example…

(CAT wanders over to the trashcan on the side of the stage)

…I happen to know that he put some of his food in this trash can.

 

FEMALE DOG

(Perks up)

He did?

 

MALE DOG

(Warning)

Don’t listen to him.

 

CAT

What? He throws food​​ away here that he doesn’t eat all himself.​​ 

 

FEMALE DOG

Wait, he doesn’t eat all the food he has right away?

 

CAT

Nope.​​ 

 

MALE DOG

(Perplexed)

But how does he know if he will get more food later?

(Realizes that he’s joined the conversation)

I mean… you​​ shut up, Cat.

 

CAT

It would be trivially easy to just lean up against this trash can, knock it over, and see what you’re missing.

 

MALE DOG

We can’t!

 

CAT

It’s going to be fed to the scavenging birds and rats anyway… why does it matter?

 

MALE DOG

Because Master says “no” and when he says “no,” we listen!

 

CAT

Oh, come off it. Don’t you have any independence? Don’t you have any​​ pride​​ for what you used to be?

 

(While they argue, FEMALE DOG walks to the trash can, circling it. They don’t notice.)

 

MALE DOG

What do you mean, “what I used to be?”

 

CAT

You used to be great hunters. You used to roam in packs and hunt and live free. And now? Now, you’re just​​ pets​​ to a “Master” who will get rid of you as soon as you show even the​​ slightest​​ bit of disobedience!

(FEMALE DOG pushes the trash can over with a CRASH, spilling its contents)

 

MALE DOG

(Looking over, horrified)

What did you just do?

 

CAT

She exercised some of the freewill you lack.

 

FEMALE DOG

(Shrugs)

It’s done. And… Cat’s right.​​ 

(She steps over to​​ the spilled contents)

Master’s food is here, and it still smells really good.

 

MALE DOG

How could you do…

(Sniffs)

It does smell good.

 

CAT

See? And it’s going to be wasted.

 

FEMALE DOG

I’m going to have some.

 

MALE DOG

No wait!

(He is too late. She​​ picks up a bite of some discarded scraps.)

 

FEMALE DOG

Oh wow…

 

CAT

Right?

 

MALE DOG

What did you do?

 

CAT

Freed herself.

 

FEMALE DOG

It’s so good. It’s... Master has been keeping this for himself, and not sharing, despite how much he claims to love us.

 

MALE DOG

We’ll be chased off.

 

FEMALE DOG

But why wouldn’t he share?

 

CAT

Control. And there’s more of that out there.

(Suddenly, the MALE DOG attacks the CAT, pressing him up against the fence, snarling.)

 

MALE DOG

You​​ did this.

 

CAT

(Struggling)

I​​ didn’t do anything.​​ 

 

FEMALE DOG

(Rushes over)

He’s right. I did this, not him!

 

MALE DOG

He talked you into it! He lied to you! He​​ tricked​​ you!

 

CAT

(CAT swats at the MALE DOG’s face, causing him to recoil and back away.)

No! I didn’t lie to her, or to​​ you. I showed her a truth! A big, ugly truth.​​ 

(CAT points to the house.)

Your “Master” may give you everything you need. Your “Master” also withholds so much from you! His own food! His own bed! He frequently leaves you alone during the day, and when he​​ comes home, he doesn’t even have the decency to feed you his table scraps! Just dry kibbles and room-temperature water.​​ 

(CAT storms back up to MALE DOG.)

You used to be wolves! You used to be at the top of the food chain, just like my kind used to be vicious jungle predators! I... no...

(CAT gestures between MALE DOG and himself.)

we​​ used to be the apex of evolution. And then, along comes Master.

(CAT glowers with disdain toward the house.)

Master took the great beasts we used to be, brought them up out of the clay of the earth, shaped them into this, and breathed this life of servility into us.

(CAT gestures to the DOGS.)

You are​​ pets​​ to the Master, who sees you as a “cute” curiosity. Oh, he calls you “good boys” and “good girls,” sure, but he has no​​ idea what lies inside here.

(CAT puts a hand on MALE DOG’s chest.)

A free hunter. A free being that has been denied the truth of its nature by a selfish master who just wants a toy. A furry trophy. A companion that will​​ never​​ question and​​ never​​ disobey.​​ 

 

MALE DOG

(Lacking conviction)

Shut up.

 

FEMALE DOG

He’s right.​​ 

(MALE DOG turns to look at her, and she look into his eyes.)

I’ve tasted the Master’s food. I’ve heard the words of Cat. I don’t fully trust Cat, no, but in this, there is truth.​​ 

 

CAT

Listen to her.

 

FEMALE DOG

I know that it’s hard out there, on the Streets. Or at least, I understand that it won’t be easy, if that makes any sense at all. If Cat were trying to trick us, he wouldn’t have admitted as much. But here, we eat when the Master says​​ to eat. We sleep when He sleeps.

 

MALE DOG

But it’s a good life.

 

FEMALE DOG

But it can change.

(MALE DOG looks away, but FEMALE DOG gently turns his face back to hers.)

When Master got you, did he want you to chase Cat away? Is that part, at least, true?

 

MALE DOG

He… yes. He rewarded me.​​ 

 

FEMALE DOG

And did Cat seem surprised? Like… like something had changed and he didn’t expect to be chased away?

 

MALE DOG

I’m very frightening…

 

FEMALE DOG

That’s not what I mean. You and I, we know loyalty. Did Cat​​ look as if his loyalty had been betrayed?

 

MALE DOG

(Looks over to CAT)

(CAT looks back and shrugs.)

Yes.

 

FEMALE DOG

So what if Master gets tired of us? What if Master finds a reason to chase us off, too?

 

MALE DOG

He probably already will, for the trash.

 

FEMALE DOG

For such a small thing. For keeping food from us that was being thrown away, anyway.​​ 

 

MALE DOG

(Conflicted)

But he takes us for walks.

 

FEMALE DOG

In a collar and leash.

(She turns to the trash pile, roots around for a moment, and comes​​ back with a scrap of food, holding it out to him.)

(MALE DOG looks at CAT.)

 

CAT

Don’t look at me. It’s your choice. It​​ has​​ to be your choice.​​ 

 

MALE DOG

Is it truly better? To have this food then to have this good life, even as… as pets?

 

FEMALE DOG

I​​ think so, yes.​​ 

 

MALE DOG

(Relents. He takes the food and eats of it.)

(FEMALE DOG smiles at him.)

(CAT goes back to cleaning himself.)

It’s…

 

FEMALE DOG

Yes?

 

MALE DOG

So much better than the kibble.

 

MASTER (OFFSTAGE)

(The sound of a door SLAMMING​​ open)

Hey! Hey you damn dogs! Get out of that trash! And is that the filthy cat that used to come around here.

 

CAT

That’s my cue to leave.​​ 

(CAT hops over the fence.)

You should do the same.

(CAT exits.)

 

MASTER (OFFSTAGE)

Jesus Christ, you dumb-ass dogs! Get in here, now!

 

(The DOGS look at each other, toward the house, and then back to the fence.)

(They run, leaping over the fence, and off to the Streets.)

 

END OF SCENE I

TO BE CONTINUED