For whom the sirens Scream

A Play in One Act

 

Copyright 12 December 2002 David Ethan Kennerly

 

Cast of Characters

Mike
Ex-Marine and closet revolutionary, Patrick Henry reincarnated, age 35.

Aura
Psychic, age 18.

George
Criminal psychologist, age 46.

 

 

Scene 1: ďJung and InnocentĒ

Scene 2: ďIn Darkness Bind HimĒ

Scene 3: ďSirenĒ

Scene 4: ďWitnessĒ

 


Scene 1: ďJung and InnocentĒ

[Trailer park country, Raleigh, North Carolina, Christmas, 2001, Sunset. Brown unkempt basement with one wall and window above ground.Cheap paneled walls.Peach touch-tone phone with cradle on cabinet and long phone cord visible.Steps at backstage leading up and away to stage right.Steps are unsteady and make noise when walked on.Window at stage left angled outward.Window is large and has safe area to leap through.Cream folding table beneath and in front of stairs.Couple of cheap coffee mugs on table.Rifle leans against stage right side of stairs.Two dark brown folding chairs tilt toward each other at stage left of table.Lighting casts harsh shadow under stairs.A WD 40 can is on the table.A couple of pistol round shells are on the table.Cabinet at rear stage left.An empty bottle of Jack Daniels and a full bottle of Mezcal sits on it.Several books are on the cabinet, Modern Times by Paul Johnson, The Portable Carl Jung Reader, Hitler, Anthem by Ayn Rand, and various classics.By contrast, a couple copies of Soldier of Fortune litter the table.]

[Mike wears military pants, combat boots, and a tank top and flannel and has a military K-bar knife (which is a thick, single-bladed dagger with a blade over half a foot long) in a sheath, attached to his belt.He has a pistol in his belt, which cannot be seen while wearing his flannel shirt.He folds up Christmas wrapping from the DVD of Memento that Aura had just given him.]

Mike
Youíre a smart girl.How can you believe in God?

Aura
I can feel.Sheís there.

Mike
You mean to tell me, you believe in something.You canít see it, canít touch it, canít smell it.And itís there?Like why not a Magic Mushroom?Thereís this Mushroom--

Aura
Thatís not fair.

Mike
Itís on your shoulder all the time, watching over you.Itís guiding the world you live in.Itís invisible, intangible, imperceptible, yet the priests maintain heís there and requires his obedience.All hail the Magic Mushroom.

Aura
Thatís not fair at all.

Mike
Itís not there at all.

Aura
But I can feel-- And besides, even if not, whatís the harm?If I feel better believing--

Mike
The harm-- Itís not there.Itís irrational.

Aura
Maybe rationality isnít all itís cracked up to be.

Mike
Then youíre a Subjectivist.Would you excommunicate those that donít believe in God?Would you burn the heretics?

Aura (kills the conversation)
Of course not. To each her own.

[She turns away and looks out the window. Awkward silence for a beat.]

Mike (warmly)
It must be haunting to see the old stomping ground again.

Aura
Yeah, I can still see them.

Mike (looks out window)
Lots of memories in these woods.I had an intense mindfuck here.

Aura
Oh?

Mike
It was some kind of astral projection.

Aura
Really?

Mike (motions to the rifle by the table)
My rifle.It was there.Everything went dark, but I could see my rifle.(Dim all lights and turn on green spotlight on rifle) It went green.I mean it glowed.And I knew it was evil.I pushed it away. (He mimes)It was evil; itís only purpose is to throw metal fast enough to gut somebody.

[Lights back to normal just as Aura begins.]

Aura (empathically)
And then?

Mike
I don't know the words for it, or whether it was mystical or magical or-- But it was real.I've begun to see that this fucked up politics can't be solved with weapons.It can't be solved with politics.It starts in the spirit.The woods of this nation are sick.Thereís this spiritual energy wound up.That's the source of this evil.

Aura (approaches MIke)
Like a cancer.

[Mike is rigid then changes the subject.Mike crosses to the cabinet, takes The Portable Carl Jung Reader and gives it to Aura.]

Mike (deadpan)
Merry Christmas.When I saw you reading Jung, I knew you had more going on upstairs than most people give you credit for.

Aura (light-hearted)
ĒMerry Christmas.ĒThatís no way to celebrate, even if you are an athiest.Make it really merry! (Crosses to the cabinet, picks up and opens the Mezcal near Mike.Raises her eyebrows.Approaches the coffee mugs and begins to pour.)Hmm?

 

[Black out.]


Scene 2: ďIn Darkness Bind HimĒ

[Same basement.Christmas night. An hour after sunset.A few soft lights from old lamps.The bottle of Mezcal sits on the table, now half-empty.Coffee mugs of the cactus liquor sit on the table. A chair marks his seated position and another for Aura. Both are a little drunk. Mike has his right arm sleeve rolled up, revealing a large knife wound scar on the arm.Aura stares at his arm.]

Mike
Nevermind.

Aura
No.I really do.

Mike
You wanna know 'bout that night?You're drunk.

Aura
Iím waiting.

Mike
Alright, you really want to know about that night?

Aura (drunkenly suggestive)
Tell me everything.

Mike
I was walking down by Central Expressway. Just got off from my shift.Still dark out.(He starts walking and reliving.) I hear from behind me, "Hey you.Put your hands where I can see them."I look over (He looks over.) and it's Raleigh's finest.Fuck.I've got my K-bar on me. (He pulls out his K-bar knife.)Last thing I need is legal bullshit from a donut cowboy.Fuck that.I tear (He tears it from him for emphasis.) it off, chuck it a good 30 meters toward the woods (He throws it hard.), but it still landed in the parking lot.And I book it.

[He darts to other side of the basement, knocking over the table.He jumps up and stomps both combat boots to make a thunderclap.Aura shrieks and slips from her chair.]

Mike
BAM!(He slowly speaks.)Holy shit.(He looks down at the ground as if a bullet had hit it.) Captain Krispy Kreme shot at me. (His head drops in resignation. He's broken.)Fuck.I can't outrun that.The cop comes huffing his out of shape ass.He charged me with assaulting a police officer.Assault!Hell, I wanted nothing to do with that fudge packer.But some law says I can't have a knife (He holds up the knife sheath that was on his waste).Some law says I can't protect myself (He chucks the knife sheath in Auraís general area.She flinches.)I work six nights a week, try to protect myself from the neighborhoods they created, and I get this?(He pauses, and changes stance, becoming more sinister.)That spineless cop lied--with a straight face--to the judge.

[Other lights go out except those on the two.]

[Mike creeps down to Aura who's still on the ground and kneels beside her like a curious cannibal.]

Mike
I could see it in the cop's eyes.After he caught up to me, his eyes were full of fear, then full of revenge.

[Light dims.]

[Mike reaches his hand toward Aura. Absolutely evil, ambiguous if he's quoting the police officer or signaling that he is about to do something vile.]

[Slow fade out as Mike speaks.]

Mike
No one else around.Who's word are they going to believe?(Slight sound like "heh" or an exhalation.) Your word over mine?

 

[Black out.]

 


Scene 3: ďSirenĒ

[Same basement.Christmas night. Two hours after sunset.Coffee mugs missing.]

[Aura talks on the phone, by the cabinet.]

Aura (nervous)
No he didn't threaten me.But he has so many of them.I'm just worried for his sake.I thought you should know.Look, there's about a dozen here, and he's talking about more.I don't know.(Brings phone to table. Picks up and looks at Soldier of Fortune magazine cover's address label)Sixteen-o-three New Hope Road.Yeah, but--

[Mike enters by stairs.Aura quickly puts phone down on table.It's bell rings a little from the sudden movement. Mike mechanically enters with the two coffee mugs, now filled with piping hot green tea.He wears small glasses, in the same style as John Lennon.He places these on the table. He almost trips over the cord.]

Mike
Why is my hobby criminalized? (He looks at the phone's new position.)Here (He hands her tea in a coffee mug. Her hand lingers with his. She sets it down on the table.)

Aura
It's warm.

Mike
It's good for fighting the cold.And for the mind.Zen monks drank this stuff to clear their heads.

Aura
I-- I should be going soon.

Mike
The conversation threw you?Normally, I don't talk at length but you were reading Jung, so I knew you weren't typical for your age.Thanks for the Christmas present anyway.

Aura
What a sweet thing to say.

Mike (backing away)
But what you said is more than naÔve.What if the State criminalized your hobby?(Aura looks hurt.)I mean, suppose someone has a gun.

Aura
Can we talk about something else?

Mike
This is important.Suppose someone has a gun.

Aura
He doesn't need it.

Mike
Suppose he wants to keep it anyway.

Aura
Why?

Mike
The reason is not important.He likes it.

Aura
It's dangerous.

Mike
In the hands of the untrained it's dangerous.In the hands of an educated marksman it's a tool.

Aura
That's sick.

Mike
It can be used to hunt with.

Aura
Thereís no need to hunt.These days anything is available in a supermarket.

Mike
Suppose he doesnít want to.Suppose he just wants to keep his rifle.

Aura
He needs help.

Mike
Heís done nothing wrong.He just wants to keep whatís his.

Aura
No one should be allowed to hurt someone.

Mike
He hasnít hurt anybody.

Aura
Then why does he have it?

Mike
Suppose he doesnít say.

Aura
Why do you want it?

Mike
Weíre not talking about me.

Aura
Weíre not?

Mike
This is just a hypothetical example.If this person isnít going to give up his gun, are you going to take it from him by force?Are you going to initiate force against him?

Aura
No.

Mike
Are you going to have police do it for you?

Aura (startled)
What was that?

Mike
Are you going to let police take the gun from him?

Aura
If he wonít hand it over.

Mike
By force?

Aura
They can ask.

Mike
He refuses.

Aura (nearer to him)
Nicely.

Mike (stepping away)
He refuses.Are you going to kill him?

Aura
No.I--the police will just have to take it.

Mike
He defends his property against the jackboot thugs.Are you going to kill him?Kill a man who has done nothing wrong?

Aura
No, but... there's no goodness.

Mike (triumphantly)
Then you can't support a state policy to disarm the public.

Aura (sighs)
I--don't feel like talking about it.

Mike
It's important.Each person has a moral responsibility to recognize what is right and wrong.

Aura
Guns are wrong.

Mike
Guns are just tools.

Aura
For killing.

Mike
For killing.

Aura
Why do you want to kill?

Mike
I'm not a psycho or a criminal.I'm an honest, hard-working man.I work six nights a week at a mind-numbing steel factory.What little I make I spend on clothes, which aren't much, a room here, books, and my toys (He vaguely gestures toward rifle).Just so happens my toys are illegal.I've never done anyone any wrong.

Aura (coming closer)
It's evil. It spits out hot iron.And whoever that hot iron hits is dead.It's made, everything about it, is made to destroy and mutilate. (Closer still, almost touching, and soothing.)Is there some memory you want to destroy?

Mike (like a rock)
No.

Aura
You're so defensive and wound up.Your muscles are like they have pebbles knotted inside them.(She approaches).

Mike
I--

Aura
Don't speak. (She slips his flannel shirt off one shoulder.Underneath a pistol can be seen in the front of his belt, centered above his crotch.She sees it and gasps.)

Mike
What? Oh.

Aura
What do you need that for?

Mike
Protection.

Aura (touches his shoulder)
From who?(Before he can answer)Who hurt you?(He shakes a little, and stifles a little sadness.He places the gun on the table, barrel towards the audience.She touches his shoulder again.)

Aura
In New York?In the Marines?

Mike
It was tough.No one showed emotions.Man, in New York, kids are tough.None of this pussy shit of the South.

Aura
Tough on you?How?

Mike
A smart kid?I dreaded the back of the bus.High-schoolers there and then beat the shit out of me.I'd want to dive out of the back window of the bus it was so bad.Broken teeth, nose. And me, I was smarter than they were.They knew it.Bastards knew it. Bastards stupider--without anything--kicking me in the ribs.

Aura (empathizing all the time and warming to him)
With no one to turn to?

Mike
Un-uh. Pussies who talked didn't last.Besides, I was tougher than they were.I took their shit and grinned.They fucking hated that (He chuckles). And my parents.They gave me beatings almost as bad for what I said against the "Lord in Heaven."

Aura
They hurt you deeply, at school and at home.

Mike
It was cruel. It was like God had said, "Fuck you, Mike.Your life is going to be shit.You can count on it."So. I said, "Then fuck you, too."

Aura
You wish you could hurt them back?

Mike
Those shits didn't have the intelligence of shoe polish that they left on my ribs.I--my teachers gave me hell, but I read.I knew.I didn't fall into that cesspool.In some kind of other place, I would have been recognized, let live, let my potential-- (Police siren begins) What was that?

Aura
Huh?

Mike
Shh (Holds hand up, grabs his pistol).

Aura (approaching)
Calm down...

Mike (shakes head)
Shh! (Siren is becoming louder. Mike looks at the phone, looks at the cabinet.He touches the phone's handle, then looks at Aura in mixture of disbelief and resignation. He utters a single syllable like a muffled shot.) Damn. (Mike runs and dives through the window.He runs up the audience aisle.)

Aura
No, wait.

[Siren intensifies behind audience. Police bullhorn says something unintelligible behind audience. More sirens come together making a cacophony. Aura goes to the window and looks out in horror.She screams, and it mixes with the cacophony. Single gun shot from behind audience.Aura stares, frozen in horror. Sirens fade away.Lights slowly fade a few seconds afterward.]

 

[Black out.]


Scene 4: ďWitnessĒ

[Christmas night. Three hours after sunset. Basement, with chairs and table rearranged as a personality-stricken police interrogation room.A large tape recorder and microphone are on the table.]

[Aura screams and shakes in a hysterical fit. George, wearing a cheap suit with a loosened tie and collar, stands up from an aisle seat in the second row of the audience.He enters the stage from the audience.He notes the broken window.Aura finally slouches.George offers Aura a comforting touch.]

George (nicely)
Tell them what you saw. You must.Why do you hide it?You have nothing to fear.(No reaction. Coldly) Who killed Michael Null?

Aura
I canít.

George (coldly)
You cannot hide it.Save yourself.Confess.You saw.(No reaction. So, nicely): Please tell us what you saw?

Aura
No.No, I saw Hell break loose.The Devil was walking and-- His face--

George
Now. It's OK.You're here now.The Devil, that man, that man is dead.

Aura
Dead?Ha, ha.Weíre dead.He is the only one alive.(George jots notes as she speaks.)Michael didnít die.Heís the only one that lived.The echo (She slaps her hands together and the same gunshot is simultaneously heard from behind the audience.) never dies.And the Devil?Canít you see him?When he walks?When he drinks his coffee?When he jots down notes?When she makes an anonymous phone call?Canít ó-

George
Did you see who pulled the trigger?Did you see who shot Michael Null in the head?

Aura
Yes, I saw.Fifty police officers surrounded him, but Iím the one who saw.

George
Please, it's OK.

Aura
Is it?

George
Don't suffer the weight alone.

Aura
Share it? You canít understand it.

George (pleading)
Try me.

Aura (shakes her head)
No. No one can.I saw it and I don't understand.I killed Michael.

George
You did?

Aura
And so did you.

George
Be reasonable.

Aura (points to the audience)
And you.We all did.Michael was an innocent man.He'd done no wrong.He died.

George
End this madness.You know ...

Aura
I am!You want me to say the simple thing.He shot himself?He didn't.His finger on his trigger wasnít his.Each of us drove him to it.We gave him the ultimatum: Die free, or live in Hell.

George
You're suffering so much.

Aura
Don't you see the bars?Weíre inside the cage.Our trap (shows with her hands) shut.We crawled in.

George
Please, don't say this.(To the audience) She doesn't mean it.

Aura
My whole life was a lie, a meaningless lie.This is the only thing that I do mean.(To the audience)You go on asking if we're safe from terrorists.Are we safe from ourselves?Who is this war on?(George crosses his arms.To George)What do the flags in the street mean?What is the largest terrorist group on the planet?(Sirens begin low and rise with her intensity.) Who terrorizes entire other nations?And has killed its own?Its own baby.Michael.Its own baby.The arms of the nation are crossed hard, and the babes of the nation are falling to their deaths.I saw a baby die.(Sirens crescendo and fade out.)I heard the sirens ... I heard the sirens scream.And I know ... I know what they mean.

 

[Curtain falls.]