Monthly Archives: August 2018

26 Stories

26 Stories: An Atheist in an Apocalypse

This short play takes a break from being as dark as some of the other stories I’ve written. It’s mostly funny–or supposed to be anyway–taking a few shots at people trying to deal with an ongoing, likely religious apocalypse (but maybe not… I’m not ready to commit to that without further evidence). I even manage to take a swipe at sometimes insufferable atheists like myself.

I’m also including a PDF version with the hope that this will make my stories easier to read on, say, a phone or printed instead of on a computer monitor. While this exercise is primarily for my accountability, it sure would be nice to get some feedback, and making it easier for you to read could facilitate that.

So, without further ado…

An Atheist in an Apocalypse
7th Floor

SCENE

 

(TREVOR and GORDON barge into​​ TREVOR’s​​ darkened apartment.​​ In the distance, there are sounds​​ of SIRENS, the occasional EXPLOSION, and piercing SCREAMS.​​ TREVOR stumbles to the couch, clearly shaken. GORDON slams the door shut, standing there holding it as if something is about to try to force its way though.)

 

TREVOR

(On the verge of losing it.)

Oh Jesus oh Jesus​​ oh Jesus….

 

GORDON

It’s alright, Trevor. We’re safe, for now.

(Still, it takes him a moment to stop leaning on the door.​​ He very clearly locks it​​ before walking away.)

 

TREVOR

It’s​​ most​​ definitely​​ not​​ safe, Gordon.​​ 

 

GORDON

I don’t think we were followed.​​ And we’re, what, seven floors up?​​ Maybe we can just hunker down here until this all blows over.

(As if to contradict him, a loud EXPLOSION thunders in the distance.)

 

TREVOR

This isn’t blowing over, man. And,​​ can I just say,​​ that while I value our friendship​​ and don’t usually like to say things like this to friends, but...​​ I told you so.

 

GORDON

Um…​​ You really didn’t.

 

TREVOR

Oh yes I did. I know we had our differences and all, and I was always glad that​​ we could discuss those differences rationally,​​ but clearly…​​ clearly,​​ you​​ were wrong, and​​ I​​ was right.

 

GORDON

(Annoyed)

We don’t know that yet.

 

TREVOR

(Astounded)

What? Yes we do!

 

GORDON

No, we​​ don’t.

TREVOR

(Gets up and walks up to GORDON.)

Dude.​​ Literal​​ gates to​​ literal​​ Hell have​​ literally​​ opened​​ all over town! All over the God-damned world…

(Pauses)

Oh no.

(Crosses himself and looks to the sky)

Sorry! Sorry, I didn’t mean to take your name in vain!

 

GORDON

You’re not even Catholic, Trev.

 

TREVOR

What?

 

GORDON

The, uh,​​ crossing yourself thing…​​ 

 

TREVOR

I’m covering my bases! Just like you should​​ do, too.

 

GORDON

I’m not ready to jump to that conclusion just yet.​​ Plus, Pascal’s Wager is kind of bullshit to begin with.

 

TREVOR

Pascal’s... Look, a​​ fucking demon with bat wings and everything just flew off with Karen from HR!

 

GORDON

I don’t think we can label that​​ thing​​ as a​​ “demon”​​ just yet.

 

TREVOR

It called itself “the great demon A’zule, ruler of the plane of whips and knives!”

 

GORDON

And I can call myself “Gordon​​ Powel, ruler of the Hooters on 5th​​ and Main,” but I still don’t get to grope the waitresses.​​ 

(Beat)

Nobody liked Karen, anyway. If that was a demon, then you know she deserved to be carried off.​​ She was responsible for cutting our benefits last year​​ and she always microwaved her leftover crab cakes in the breakroom, remember?

 

TREVOR

From the place with the delicious po’ boys, I…

(Beat. Frustrated.)

Don’t change the subject!​​ How are you holding on to this atheist thing, now!?

 

GORDON

Look, I admit that this is really, really​​ unprecedented.​​ 

 

TREVOR

Thank you!

 

GORDON

But,​​ I’m not willing to go whole-hog one way or the other until we’re a lot more certain of what’s happening.

 

TREVOR

(Gobsmacked)

Did… did you miss the part where I said that literal gates to Hell opened…

 

GORDON

“Gates” to somewhere opened, yes.

 

TREVOR

To Hell.

 

GORDON

So you​​ say.

 

TREVOR

There was fire and screaming and…

(Frustrated)

Bat-winged demon…

(Stammering)

Plane of whips and knives!

 

GORDON

(Sighs)

Look. I’m not unreasonable. Assuming we survive this…

 

TREVOR

Assuming? We’re going to die and be judged for our sins!

 

GORDON

Maybe. But maybe not. So, assuming we survive this, I am most definitely going to be making a major reassessment.

 

TREVOR

Oh, well,​​ he​​ finally​​ sees reason.

 

GORDON

It doesn’t mean I’ll be seeing​​ your​​ reason.

 

TREVOR

How can you not?

 

GORDON

There are and have been hundreds,​​ if not​​ thousands,​​ of different religious views​​ on this planet since mankind started wondering just what in hell—pardon the pun—made the thunder​​ rumble. You can’t tell me that you know for 100% certain that all that out there…

(Waves vaguely at the window)

... is the Judeo-Christian version of the end of the world.​​ 

 

TREVOR

It seems pretty fucking close!

 

GORDON

Correct me if I’m wrong, but “pretty fucking close” doesn’t cut it with your god, right?

 

TREVOR

Well…

 

GORDON

So why are you so sure that you’re right?

 

TREVOR

Uh… demons?

 

GORDON

Do you know how many religions have something that is​​ basically the same thing as “demons?”

 

TREVOR

Uh… two or three?

 

GORDON

Probably hundreds. If not thousands. Christianity. The Djin in Islam.​​ Acheri. Empusa.​​ Those college students that do the while live-action role-playing thing...

 

TREVOR

Okay! Okay! I get it. Oher people have demons.​​ 

 

GORDON

Which​​ raises the question… how do you know that​​ these​​ demons​​ out there​​ are​​ your​​ demons?

 

TREVOR

(Aghast)

Does it fucking matter?!

 

GORDON

Maybe.

 

TREVOR

How so?

 

GORDON

If you’re wrong about one thing, then maybe​​ you’re wrong about other things.

 

TREVOR

Is this really the time to be having this philosophical disagreement?

 

GORDON

If not now, then when?

 

TREVOR

Maybe when the​​ goddamn end of the world isn’t happening?

 

GORDON

That might well be the perfect time.​​ I mean, if the world​​ is ending, then this is pretty much the​​ only​​ time to have this​​ discussion.​​ 

 

TREVOR

Is that really…

 

GORDON

Look, it’s all the same to me.​​ 

 

TREVOR

Oh really.

 

GORDON

Yeah. Something terrible is happening out there, and whatever it is...

 

TREVOR

Revelations.

 

GORDON

Whatever​​ it is, we’ve got to consider how we’re going to get through this.​​ 

 

TREVOR

By confessing our sins.

 

GORDON

If it’ll make you feel better.

 

TREVOR

I fucked your girlfriend.

 

GORDON

(Pausing)

Julia? Julia cheated on me with you?

(Shocked)

Oh man... I can’t deal with this right now.

(Sits down)

 

TREVOR

Oh,​​ that​​ you can’t deal with?

 

GORDON

(Upset)

No! Man, I thought we were friends! That’s not, quite frankly, very Christian of you!

 

TREVOR

(Aghast)

I thought it was “all the same to you?” Why do you suddenly care about how Christian I am?

 

GORDON

I just feel very betrayed. Why’d you tell me that?

 

TREVOR

I’m confessing my sins! You know, one of those things that makes me “Christian?”

 

GORDON

Well, maybe you should have picked a different sin. Traitor.

 

TREVOR

I have to do​​ all​​ the sins, man!​​ 

 

GORDON

So you​​ th-

 

TREVOR

So I think, yes!​​ And I have to forgive people.

 

GORDON

Well, I for one don’t think​​ I​​ can forgive​​ you.

 

TREVOR

I don’t need​​ your​​ forgiveness.

 

GORDON

Well, that’s just rude. You’re the one who fucked my girlfriend.

 

TREVOR

Argh. Then I forgive you for having such bad taste in women.

 

GORDON

Woah, hey now! You know, as pissed as I am at Julie right now, it’s not like I own her, or anything. She’s responsible for her actions. She has agency. You’d do well to remember that when talking about women.

 

TREVOR

Geez, sorry.

GORDON

See? I’ll forgive you for that.

 

TREVOR

It’s… ugh!​​ 

 

(The door opens, and JULIA walks in, shaken.)

(GORDON and TREVOR both YELL.)

(JULIA YELLS.)

 

GORDON

Julia?

 

JULIA

(Awkward.)

Uh… hey, Gordon. What’re you doing here?

 

GORDON

What are you doing here? And how’d you get in?​​ I​​ locked the door.

 

JULIA

Uuuuuhhh…

 

TREVOR

She has a key.

 

JULIA

Trevor! Ix-nay on the e-kay.

 

TREVOR

He knows.

 

JULIA

What?

 

TREVOR

I had to confess my sins.

 

JULIA

Why?

 

GORDON

Trevor seems to think that this is the Christian end of the world.

 

JULIA

Oh. I guess I can see that. But it’s not.

 

TREVOR

I already had to explain about the plane of whips and knives.

 

JULIA

It’s not because we don’t have an apocalypse.​​ 

 

TREVOR

“We”?

 

JULIA

You know I’m Jewish, right? Anyway, there’s no apocalypse in Judaism. At least, not the mainstream versions of it.​​ 

 

GORDON

See? There’s another option.

 

TREVOR

Then what’s all that out there?

 

JULIA

Beats me. But, I mean, don’t take my advice; I’m a shitty Jew. I loves me a good bacon cheeseburger.​​ Not shellfish, though… gross.

 

GORDON

Yeah, I never ate any of those. Sea bugs. Ugh.

 

TREVOR

I can’t believe this.

 

GORDON

That’s the spirit!

 

TREVOR

No!​​ I can’t believe you two!

 

JULIA

Yeah… I mean, we probably were a pretty lousy couple, huh?

 

GORDON

I thought it was okay. Most of the time, anyway.

 

JULIA

Still, shit… I feel bad about the whole thing with me and Trevor.​​ 

 

GORDON

Well, it hurts, you know?

 

JULIA

I know. He wasn’t worth ruining “us,” for what it’s worth.

 

TREVOR

I’m right here!

 

JULIA

Oh… uh, sorry.

 

TREVOR

You’re forgiven.

(Excited)

Yes! One down!

 

GORDON

Well… um… I’m not perfect either.

 

JULIA

What do you mean?

 

GORDON

You remember Sally? From the office party last year?

 

JULIA

(Shocked)

No!

 

(There’s and EXPLOSION outside, someone SCREAMS in the distance, and something else GROWLS and ROARS.)

 

TREVOR

(Exasperated)

You know what? Fine. You both have this thing out, but…

(Beat)

Wait, Sally from the call center?

 

GORDON

Yeah.

 

TREVOR

Nice.​​ 

(They fist bump)

 

JULIA

Pigs. ​​ 

 

GORDON

It was just the one time, I promise. And, I mean, we were having that argument over moving in together.

 

JULIA

I really wasn’t ready for that.​​ 

 

GORDON

And I was, but​​ I wasn’t listening to your​​ concerns. I got angry and made a mistake.

 

JULIA

I think we’ve both fucked up, huh?

 

TREVOR

What the hell is going on here?

 

(The POWER teeters on the edge of going out as more EXPLOSIONS rumble. The orange and yellow of not-too-distant fire flicker in the window.)

 

GORDON

Yeah. Can you forgive me?

 

JULIA

(Beat)

Yes. Can​​ you​​ forgive​​ me?

 

GORDON

I already have.

 

TREVOR

(SLOW CLAPS)

Wonderful. You two made up. All is well. Can we​​ please​​ get back to the issue at hand? The-

(He is cut off as an intense light hits JULIA)

What… what is that?

 

JULIA

Wow, that feels warm. And… peaceful.

 

(Another hits GORDON.)

 

GORDON

Oh wow, that does​​ feel nice.​​ 

 

TREVOR

No…

 

JULIA

I think…

 

TREVOR

No, no, no…​​ 

 

GORDON

Well, guess I​​ was​​ wrong. Hey Trev? I was-

 

(The lights all go off for a moment, and when they come back, GORDON and JULIA are gone.)

(TREVOR, incredulous, is momentarily speechless.)

 

TREVOR

Where’s my light?

(Looks up to the ceiling)

Where’s my light!?

 

A’ZULE

(OFFSTAGE, booming, evil demon voice)

There is no light for you,​​ sinner!

 

TREVOR

What? No! I was a good Christian! I went to church! What sins did I commit that I can’t be​​ forgiven for?​​ 

 

A’ZULE

(OFFSTAGE)

Your love of shrimp​​ po’​​ boys!​​ Eating shellfish is the only unforgivable sin!​​ 

(LAUGHS evilly)

 

TREVOR

What?

 

A’ZULE

Enjoy​​ the plane of whips and​​ knives!

(More evil LAUGHTER)

 

(A TRAP DOOR​​ opening to red lights​​ opens below him,​​ and he falls.)

 

TREVOR

Noooooooooo!

 

THE END

26 Stories

26 Stories: Bare Hill

I may be on vacation, but here I am, still meeting my own self-imposed deadlines to post every other Thursday. This one is actually inspired by the view from my parent’s house in Upstate New York of one Bare Hill. I happened to look into it, searching for inspiration, and found a legend about a giant snake and a pair of siblings that defeated it. Naturally, I decided to put my own spin on it. 

The Real Bare Hill, Which Isn’t Bare Anymore

So enjoy.

Pythia of Bare Hill

6th Floor

“Practitioner,” the great serpent’s voice thundered from the lake below, though no actual sound was transmitted. The water rippled and vibrated with power. Dominic took another pull from his beer.

“Titan,” he replied.

“And old name, but not the oldest we’ve heard. Speak your peace,” the snake commanded, “before we feast upon you.”

“There’s no need for that,” Dom said. “I brought you a gift.” The undulating shadow below the water twisted and coiled around itself as the vague shape of a great, triangular head turned toward him. “It seems that some idiot has left a trailer with eight very large cows parked close to the water at the south end of the lake. And no one is watching over them.” With little hesitation, the head turned left, southward, the serpentine body uncoiled, and the monster shot off in that direction. Dominic watched as a large wake made its way toward the lake’s head. It vanished from sight, causing a few boats on the water to rock (and no doubt confusing the occupants as their unenhanced senses wouldn’t see the source of a wake, if they bothered to look). He finished his current beer and reached into his cooler for another. It would be a while before the serpent reached the offering and gorged itself. 

Dominic finished off one beer, then another. Keeping his mind relaxed—keeping the “buzz” going, as it were—was not only necessary to prolong his Sight, but to make sure that the giant beast that now saw him and knew where he was couldn’t sneak up on him. Ritual magic was still very much dependent on altering the mind chemically, be it through alcohol, drugs, blood loss, sleep deprivation, or the mental disconnect that came with orgasm (which made for a very popular ritual magic, but one that was difficult to sustain). For Dom, beer worked best. Drugs affected him differently depending on any number of circumstances; blood loss was too dangerous, and while sex was certainly fun, he tended to fall asleep. Still, it was a nice excuse to practice sex magic with a willing partner.

While he waited, Dom closed his eyes, opting for a little light meditation. The hill itself was a place of natural power, and it was simple to stick his hand out into its ebb and flow like holding his hand out of a car window. He felt the power of the minor ritual he’d performed prior to his journey here. The magic of making himself as close to invisible as possible without actually invoking an invisibility incantation was one of the simpler ones. He’d purchased last year’s clothing styles off the clearance rack from a discount retailer. He’d eschewed his usual vegan diet for one that was more middle-American; burgers from chain restaurants, breakfast at McDonalds in exceedingly beige suburban neighborhoods, and microwaved meals. The beer he’d been drinking throughout the week was as bland and uninteresting as you could get. He’d even traded in his Tesla (being a practitioner of magic had significant monetary benefits) for a used Honda accord, mid-range model. Chopping off his dreads in favor of a more conservative cut had been the hardest part; even harder than giving himself a complete blood transfusion to swap out his own B-positive blood with O-positive. How that one worked without killing him wasn’t a question he dared to ask. Magic sometimes lost its properties when though about too much. There wasn’t anything he could do about the fact that he was a black man in a very white part of the country, but with a little magic behind his efforts, he doubted that some soccer mom would call the police on him simply for being black in public. Hanging out in a tree with a cooler of beer would have raised eyebrows, but for the few other visitors to the park at the top of the hill, their eyes—if they happened to look his way—just rolled off him without registering anything of interest.

He’d put the final touches on the ritual just that morning in the cabin he’d rented across the lake, roughly sixty-feet above the water on a shale-rich bluff. Those last steps were more esoteric; circles of power drawn on the ground in chalk, chanting ancient words in the most neutral accent he could imitate, and four hours reading over celebrity Instagram updates. If the goal was invoking mind-numbing apathy, any number of the Kardashian’s constant, duck-lipped selfies would alter his visible aura just fine.

Feeling perfectly uninteresting, he’d driven around the lake (he wasn’t about to cross it by boat, knowing what he knew about its prisoner), up to the “Unique Area” of Bare Hill (which was hardly bare, given the heavy tree cover that would obstruct his view of the water). He parked his boring Honda and trekked up to the top with his cooler of watered-down light beer. Once there, passing unnoticed by a handful of visitors to the park, he climbed the highest oak tree he could find. He parked himself on a large branch, wedged his cooler into a fork of another, and opened his mind to the spiritual realm. Whereas wannabe pagans and overly “spiritual” middle aged women would engage in meditation, or even sneak an edible or pop a tablet of Molly, Dom opened his mind through the beer, and lots of it. By the time the pleasant warmness started to spread throughout his body, he noticed the change in the quality of the water.

The mid-afternoon breeze and abundance of boats initially defaced the surface of the water to the point where seeing anything dwelling within was impossible. As his mind cleared and as he felt the energies of this place, for him, it settled and allowed sight to penetrate. It didn’t reach with perfect opacity, but it was enough to see the large shape of the python, easily as long as the lake was wide (and likely more so had it stretched out its winding coils), rippling beneath. That was when the snake had noticed him, and their palaver had begun in earnest.

Now, as he was sitting in the tree waiting for the beast to feed on his offering, he noticed the other loci of magic around him. The hill itself was a wellspring of energy, tied very closely to the serpent in the lake below. He felt presences here; presences that were fettered to the land by terror and pain. As he closed his eyes and opened his mind to those voices, the sky seemed to darken. He could hear the wailing and moaning of ancient ghosts. He wasn’t surprised or frightened; these ghosts were harmless, and he knew about them before he came to this spot. Going into this kind of place without doing one’s homework was a surefire way to end up in the kinds of places between worlds that would shatter one’s sanity. Dom had no interest in ending up like so many others before him who thought they were untouchable due to the power they wielded. As he felt the space around him with his spirit, he heard the sound of giant snake scales pressing through the trees, encircling the hill and the village that once stood here. He heard the cries of fear from long-dead villagers. Herd the whoops of warriors followed immediately by their agonizing screams. The weeping. The moaning. The frantic attempts to escape past the giant snake that had surrounded them and made a sport of feasting on the entirety of the population. The people who had been born of the earth in an ancient gully barely a stone’s throw south of this hill were at the mercy of a merciless beast.

Until there were only two left.

Dom opened his eyes to see the young native warrior and his sister standing at the base of his tree. They stared up at him, unblinking. The brother held a bow tightly in his left hand with a single arrow in the right. Dom knew how the story ended, at least as far as the modern world and it’s spiritual-seeking ex-hippies and new Pagans had been told. The brother was visited in his sleep by an oracle who told him how to slay the beast; where, precisely to put his arrow to kill the serpent that had devoured all of his people aside from himself and his sister. The arrow had slain the beast, causing it to thrash and roll down the hill into the lake, wiping the hillside bare of trees and vegetation before it came to rest in the water of Canandaigua Lake. It had disgorged the heads of the villagers as it tumbled to its end. Heads that, as local legend had it, turned into the round stones that were prevalent in the area. That, Dom knew, was untrue. The round stones were crystallizations of minerals around a single nexus in a slow, geologic process that took thousands of years. The legend was three-parts spirituality, one-part old-fashioned science.

I see you, ghosts, Dom thought to the spirits. They did not blink. You don’t need to stare at me that way; I know how dumb this is. Now, go rest. He lobbed a gentle banishment their way, more like how his grandmother would shoo him out of the house and away from the X-Box to play outside on spring days. The two ghosts turned from him, walked a few steps into the tree line, and vanished.

“You speak to old ghosts, practitioner.” Dom’s heart skipped momentarily. He’d allowed the serpent to sneak up on him after all. It must have eaten well of his offering to not reach out of the water, snatch him from his perch, and drag him to a frigid, watery underworld. Dom composed himself.

“You’re not much more than an old ghost yourself.”

“I am so much more than a ghost, and you’d be wise to remember that. As for your offering, it was very thoughtful, though there were only seven head, not eight.”

“My mistake,” Dom said.

“Nevertheless, we have reached an accord, but your time is limited. You are clearly not here to attempt to vanquish or enslave me—both foolish moves—so I ask you; what is it you wish, practitioner?” 

“Knowledge,” Dom replied.

“Ah,” the snake said. “Not many remember my role as keeper of knowledge. They see only sinister intent.”

“Well, the Oracle at Delphi came from your corpse. And you did offer knowledge to Adam and Eve.”

“Foolish human interpretations of the truth, but truth no less.” The serpent lazily twisted around itself in the water in a figure eight. “As a reward, I shall grant you one truth of your choosing, practitioner, within reason.”

“I want to know the full story of how the brother and sister beat you on this hill.”

“The boy was given a dream in which he knew where to strike with a simple arrow. The sister was a last feast before my end. That is the whole story. Honestly, practitioner, that is knowledge that has been recorded. You have wasted your boon. With that, I shall make you the eighth meal you promised me.” Dom saw the giant serpent draw its body up into a tight coil beneath the water. Even from here, he could see the scales ripple as it prepared to lash out at him.

“Yeah, about that.”

The snake did not move, did not reach out to pull him from his perch. “What have you done, practitioner?” Waves of hatred and anger washed over Dom.

“You’re familiar with the numerical significance of seven, correct? The whole ‘seventh son of a seventh son’ being mystically powerful? Those seven cows were each mother to seven bulls. And the sire of those seventh bulls was a seventh bull itself. Turns out that it has meaning even in livestock. With the right rituals, rituals that have been lost for a long time and that you seemed to have forgotten about in your hunger, when presented as an offering that is willingly taken, it gives the gift-giver a bit more oomph when it comes to granted boons.”

“You tricked me, practitioner!”

“I know, and I’m pretty surprised. A being that prides itself on knowledge made a mistake while hangry. Guess we’re all just about the same anyway.”

“This will not last! I will devour you when I am free!”

“I’ll be long gone by then, and this lake will still be your prison. So,” Dominic crossed his arms, “about my request. Show me everything, and I mean everything.”

The serpent obliged.

*             *             *             *

Dominic saw a village on fire. He witnessed as the brother and sister stood in the middle of the great serpent’s ever-tightening coil. The brother with his bow and the sister with no weapon to speak of. She turned to him and they embraced for the last time. As the brother readied his bow, the giant serpent’s head pushed out from the trees, past the flame and black smoke. It opened its giant mouth, jaw dislocated to consume the last two of these sacred people. In its teeth, the siblings could see parts of their brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors. Despite the terrifying sight, the survivors steeled their nerves for the final battle. Without hesitation, the sister flung herself at the serpent, drawing its head to the side, exposing the weakness that the oracle had shown to the boy.

With a flash of movement, the head lashed out and grabbed the sister whole. She didn’t scream as it swallowed her, not bothering to sink its fangs into her flesh. It was an easy kill, and the monster didn’t want to waste its time while that last of the sacred people awaited his own fate.

The sting of the arrow was surprising when it hit, lodging halfway in the exposed flesh where, a long time ago, a scale had been pried off in some misadventure or another. The snake reeled back, as no other warrior had managed to penetrate its defenses. Ultimately, however, it was no more than the sting of a wasp to a human; irritating, but not fatal. The snake whipped back to the boy, covering its only weakness for further attack. It watched as the boy dropped his bow and fell to his knees, surrendering to his fate. Perhaps he muttered a silent prayer to his ancestors. Perhaps the shock of his failure had rendered him pliable. It was no matter, as with one final attack, the slaughter would be complete. The giant snaked reared above the boy.

And then, suddenly, jerked again. Another sting from where the arrow had lodged. A quick check showed that the arrow had sunk further into the flesh. As the snake watched, and as the young warrior smiled, the arrow sank completely into the snake’s flesh, its feathers vanishing.

Inside the great snake, the sister had grasped the arrow head where it had penetrated from her brother’s shot. She pulled it fully to her, inside the flesh tube of the snake’s gullet, and—with a strength and agility that belied her small stature—began to crawl deeper into the snake. The beast began to panic as the boy watched, attempting to vomit up the girl. Parts of its previous meals were expelled violently, most notably, a slew of severed heads that bound to the ground and rolled down the hill toward the water below.

Inside, the powerful muscles of its esophagus tried to push the girl back and, failing that, crush and grind her into nothing. She felt bones being broken. The air was being forced from her lungs as the constrictions narrowed the tunnel she was in. She used the arrow to anchor herself with each convulsion and had to shift as best she could as the remains of her family raced past her on the way out of the beast. Still onward, against the crushing pain and the increasing burning of the monster’s digestive fluids, she finally pushed into a large chamber. She hadn’t the time to understand how this massive space could exist inside the snake. It was as if an infinity stretched out around her. Clambering out of holes in the fleshy walls, giant parasitic worms snaked toward her. They pulsed and throbbed, promising to feast on her with maws of needle-sharp teeth. She pressed on, half submerged in bubbling, burning stomach acid, toward the center of the chamber. Even as her feet and legs burned away, she refused to scream until she pulled her ruined body onto a dais of flesh. There, in the center, was the soul of the monster, encased in a crystal sphere. Now she allowed herself to yell as she raised the arrow above her head. Just as the alien worms closed in on her, she brought it down. The crystal shattered, exploding around her, bathing her in fire and light.

In that last moment, as the beast’s death throes sent it tumbling down the hill, scraping the trees and vegetation with it, she witnessed a great truth of the universe. She saw the beginning of time, an explosion of matter and energy. Fragments of that energy that would eventually become stars raced from the nexus into infinity. Some pieces of the afterbirth of the universe, like the piece at the center of the crystal, solidified in the cold vacuum instead of becoming stars and planets. Those pieces, of which there were thousands, seeded the souls of strange, alien intelligences. She watched them trundle to an awkward and horrific life, taking familiar yet twisted shapes such as the giant serpent and prehistoric fish, as well as other things that she could not comprehend. The spark of her life was snuffed out, and in the end, she died in both wonder and terror.

The serpent’s corpse, such as it could be killed, sank to the bottom of the cold, glacial lake. The brother watched and mourned his sister. He mourned his village. But he had survived; the last of the sacred people, and he would carry on their legacy. Eventually, the Seneca people would flourish again, and the legend of Bare Hill would survive, even if the details were lost to time.

*             *             *             *

“You cannot use that against me, practitioner, for I have already been defeated.”

“It’s not you I’m worried about, snake,” Dominic said, shaken from the visceral details of the vision. “Some of your brethren have been getting antsy over the past few centuries. When they start paying attention, ‘practitioners’ are usually the first on their radars. So, I’m arming myself against them, just in case.”

“It is a foolish decision, practitioner. For this insult, I will do worse than merely devour you.”

“Nah,” Dom relied, “I’ll be long gone before the binding wears off. And you…” he gestured to the lake, “Well, you’re not going anywhere. Not for a while, anyway.”

“My reach is longer than you think.”

“No doubt.” Dom downed the last of his beer, his cooler now empty. He climbed down out of the tree, careful not to let his light intoxication cause him to tumble out of the tree. It wouldn’t do to fall into the lake, now, giving himself to his new enemy and making all of this a pointless exercise. He reached solid ground and walked away from the lake, back toward his car.

“Practitioner,” the snake said, its voice already fading, “be warned. What you know will make you even more interesting to my ‘brethren.’” Dom stopped, listening without turning. “Even now, they know what you know. Tread lightly, or you will wish I had eaten you here.”

Dom merely nodded, let slip his mystical hold on the area, and within minutes, was already pulling away, heading back to the south. He would pass the gully where the Seneca supposedly were created and offer thanks to them for their insight. It wasn’t necessary, magically speaking, and it might not even be heard, but it seemed like the right thing to do. Grandma always said to thank those who help you. After that, back home to Atlanta. He had more work to do. Quite a bit, in fact, based on the serpent’s warning.

Things were getting ugly out there, and he intended to have every advantage—every weapon possible—at his disposal.

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