The old lady from Africa

This is a true story but pals have told me it is better than most of the ones I make up. Thanks pals.

I was on a busy Number 57 Bus to Kennishead in Glasgow, when I heard a young Glaswegian girl start to give a bit of cheek to the old African lady across from her. The girl was about ten and was showing off to her pal, “Where do you come from? Do you even speak my language?”
The old lady smiled at the girl and said, “Yes I speak your language. I enjoy speaking English. But I love the languages from my home country, Rwanda.” She then started talking to the girl in a language I recognised. The girl said, “What is that? What language is that?”
The old lady smiled and said, “I thought you would know that one. I was speaking in French. I was saying, ‘What a pretty bracelet you are wearing’.” She then spoke in another language, one unknown to me. The girl looked bemused, “That’s not French is it?”
The lady replied, “I was speaking Swahili. A lot of people from my part of the World converse in Swahili as a common language. Do you know any of it?”
The girl answered, “I have never heard of it. How many languages do you speak?”
The old lady answered while slowly counting up on her fingers, “Now let me see. There’s English of course which I am using now. And French and Swahili. And one you have yet to sample. My favourite language, Kinyarwanda So four in all. How many do you speak?”
The girl became embarrassed and said, “Just the one. I didn’t know you… Someone from where you came from could speak so many languages. What is the Kinyarwanda one like?”
The lady spoke in Kinyarwanda with half the Bus listening in. Then added, “Isn’t it lovely. Did you ever hear such a beautiful sing song language?”
The girl said, “It is very nice”
The two of them chatted together to the end of their journey. The girl listening with great concentration to every word the old lady spoke. I think the girl had learned an important lesson in life. And the old lady had taught it in the most clever way possible. It put a smile of my face. And on the faces of half of the Bus. Such a tiny conversation but yet so important. Sometimes the tiny things in life can be as important as the biggest things on the planet.

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Mildred Drummond

My name is Mildred Drummond.When these events started I was 62 years of age and believe it or not I still had all my own teeth. My friends said I don’t look a day over 61. On the night of the winter solstice in 2022, I was one of the few people in the world who really believed in Ghosts. On that evening at around 11PM I was in the grounds of an old deserted Castle somewhere in Central Scotland. I had been there at least thirty times. It was where I had first sensed or seen something. Something not of an ordinary reality. Because of that sensation-of something other than us- I devoted my life to proving the existence of ghosts or spirits-call them what you may.

Although at that time Ghost watching was not as popular as it had once been, my website was full of comments from people who had recently seen “something”. I knew I would soon have the proof I was after. No longer would locals call me, “Dotty old Drummond”. Let me make it clear that I have never suffered from any form of dementia. My mind is as sharp as it was when I was a young adult. In my experience, I have found that newspapers will make up a story if they don’t have one to hand.

I was in the cellar of the castle listening to the rain lashing against the ruined sandstone walls above. As usual, I had my flask of hot vegetable soup to keep me warm. All I wanted was a photograph but I got much more than that.

At first, I sensed a presence in front of me. Just a few feet away. I had not yet finished setting up my camera and tripod but I could not stop looking at the spot where I knew something was. I was not scared. But I don’t recall exactly what emotions I had felt at that moment.

A rip was torn in the darkness and a brilliant white light came out of it. The light took on the form of a human. It looked solid. I remember trying to stutter out a, “Hello”. But I never managed it. I reached out to grab my tripod and camera but my shaky hand never found them.

After about twenty seconds the shape was fully formed and was that of an atrractive middle aged man. It was the spirit I had sensed all those many years before.

It did not speak with its mouth but sounds came together to make words in my brain, “Welcome to my home. I have been here such a long time. It is nice of you to visit again. I like the new tripod. How are you keeping Mildred? Joints ok?”

I eventually managed to say, “Hello. What do I call you? I am so pleased to have met you. At last I have met a real ghost. You have brought meaning into my life. I have been proved right after all these years of searching. Thank you friend. Who are you? Who are you the ghost of?”

He answered in the most pleasing of voices, “What you call ghosts … Well, we are not what you think we are. Over the centuries we have travelled here from another star system. We all, have a job to do. My real name you could never pronounce. But you can call me, Fom. That means, Friend Of Mildred. It will give you power when you have to meet world leaders. It will show that you speak for us. As I am sure you will do. You will, won’t you?”

I answered in a shaky voice, “You are aliens? Yet I will speak for you. You are not spirits? Not really the dead who walk again?”

He answered, “We are life forms that exist in a form beyond the understanding of humans. Please don’t take offense at that. We came here because we knew of a threat to your world. We came to help your planet.

“Your world had its Mongol invaders. Well this part of the universe that we dwell in has the Dreitch. They are a life form that feeds off other life forms. When they have destroyed one world they move onto another. We have fought them from star system to star system over tens of thousands of years. A thousand years ago, we saw that they travelled in your direction. So we travelled far faster than they could and came to Earth to try to save you. If your kind ignores what I am saying to you then your world has less than ten years left to it. I will be the spokesperson for my kind and we ask you to contact your Governments through your web page at first. Then later you can speak directly to world leaders. You will be our sole contact. We can not have this message diluted. And I trust you Mildred. I trust your honesty and I trust your passion. ”

I gasped at him, “What can I say. People will never believe me. How can I tell them that their world is in danger and ghosts want to be our saviours?”

“We will fight alongside your kind Mildred. But most importantly you need to build weapons of a kind that you do not have on Earth. All nations must work together and must start work as soon as possible. To show the world leaders and mathematicians of your world that I speak truly, I will ask you to write down some formulae for them. With your permission I will place these into your brain. These formulae will be evidence of an intelligence far beyond the capacity of humans to understand. We need your leaders to speak to you and me and no other. We need you to do this work immediately. There is no time to waste. I have received confirmation that our enemy is within a few light years of earth.”

I let him place all the formulae he wanted into my brain. He said it wouldn’t hurt and it didn’t. Over the next few months I spent hours and hours in debates and conferences with scientists and mathematicians. And then finally some world leaders. Eventually I spoke at the United Nations. I had been given a speech, put directly into my brain by Fom. I, or rather Fom, received a standing ovation.

All over Earth, factories started to produce the new weapons and we made ready for war. I still spoke with Fom in private but we were watched by spies and Fom told me there were listening devices all over the castle. He was always very polite but had a job to do and we did not have much time for small talk.

When the first of the weapons had been built and were being tested Fom came out into the open and into the daylight. With me at his side he spoke to world leaders and to Generals and Admirals. He explained that the only way we could effectively fight this menace was by his species fighting closely alongside human armies. And both of us using these new weapons. Although we had assumed the presence of a few dozen “Ghosts” around the world, there were in fact thousands. They all took on the form of humans but all of them were – to us humans – very “Ghost” like.

A few people still did not trust Fom and his kind. They said that Fom probably lied and that the Dreitch could be our friends. Fom convinced most people on Earth of his case but not all. His species sometimes trained to fight alongside our soldiers as they knew better than anyone else how to use these new special weapons. However, some Generals refused to work alongside “Ghosts”. Fom was a diplomat and worked hard to avoid any disharmony between his species and ours. There were argumentative beings amongst Fom’s kind but they were hugely outnumbered by the antagonistic humans. At times I felt ashamed to be human. Faced with this threat from space, a dozen different Generals all demanded that they personally lead the defence of Earth.

Eventually there came a day when the Dreitch took orbit around the Earth. There were three huge spacecraft. They took over all communication systems-apart from a few built by Fom and his kind. Humans were told to surrender within one day or the planet Earth would be wiped out. Destroyed completely.

Fom told us of the lies of the Dreitch. Told us that even they would find it hard to totally destroy out a planet. And anyway he said, “They want to capture you humans alive so they can feed on you and use your energy for sustenance. Indeed, they plan to feed on all animal life.”

Fom had told us exactly what they would say and it had long been agreed that the only we could survive was by destroying one of their spacecraft before their time limit was up. We had to take the initiative and keep it.

Fom and I were in one of Earth’s six highly protected strong points. I had wanted to fight in an army group but Fom told me I was too valuable to risk being killed in battle and that I could do a better job by working closely with him. We watched on monitors as a battle group of “Ghosts” smashed their ramming spacecraft into the largest of the enemy’s craft. Its shell was punctured and the Ghosts fought their way to the inside of the enemy spaceship. There they detonated their own spacecraft thus also destroying the spacecraft they had attacked and one that was nearby. They had used one of the new energy weapons that I had been given the details of by Fom not that long before. Fom was near to me when this attack happened and I felt waves of anguish come from his mind. I do not know if he cried but I cried for him. All of our allies in the ramming craft had died in that attack. It made us all united in our fight against the enemy.

There was still one enemy spacecraft left and it immediately fired missiles at the nearest army base. The base was a decoy and only a few humans died in that assault. But the Dreitch are fighters and their troops came down in airplanes that each carried a hundred troops. Dozens of Earth’s best fighter planes attacked in flight after flight. All were brought down by energy blasts before they got to their target. By dawn the next day, thousands of heavily armed soldiers were attacking the nearest city which was London.

They set up huge mortars which bombarded London. Their intention at that point was to destroy as many roads and railways as possible. They also wanted to destroy our morale.

A human army had argued for the right to defend London with human weapons and they were given the chance to do this. It was a disaster. Most of them failed to harm any of the Dreitch. Within less than a day, an army of humans 10,000 strong was almost totally wiped out. The antique weapons of the humans either failed to hit their target or never harmed the Dreitch when they did. Fom had correctly forecast what happened.

The Dreitch fortified position was impossible to assault. Millions died in London and millions more fled from the burning city. Fom knew that the Dreitch tactics meant that they would look for total control of one area before they moved to the next. Fom’s plan was for Birmingham to be evacuated while London was fought over. The evacuation was quick and effective. Most of the World’s cities had practised evacuations and London was attacked just too quickly for the plan to work there.

Fom’s elite troops laid traps just before Birmingham and their advanced weapons stopped the Dreitch from any more movement on the ground. Newly built pulsed energy generators brought any Dreitch airplanes crashing to the ground. While this was going on, every major nation on Earth was sending new energy missiles against the remaining Dreitch spaceship. It could not defend against them all and after taking one hit lost the ability to defend itself against any. It only lasted a few more minutes before it was torn apart.

We knew from Fom that the Dreitch on Earth would never surrender. In less than a day, humans and Fom’s species had turned Birmingham into one huge trap. This scenario had been acted out in mock battles and in game play and in computer programmes.

The troops of the Dreitch nations took three days to battle their way to an empty city centre. A decoy command centre had been placed there. The Dreitch had been allowed to intercept communications that erroneously told them that most of Earth’s leaders were there planning a fight back. The energy blast that was unleashed on the Dreitch killed all but a very few of them. The remaining Dreitch troops had to be hunted from house to house by our joint forces. The battle was fierce.

When the last of the invaders had been defeated there was much rejoicing. Fom told me that when the Dreitch were defeated somewhere that they hardly ever invaded that planet again. They did not like an equal battle. As well as that, Fom said that in only a few decades, humans would be advanced enough to repel the Dreitch on their own. Though the bond our two species had formed would remain for a long time. Fom and I had formed our own very special bond.

Fom told me that even though he was, to my eyes, a shimmering patch of translucent light, yet he was a male of his species. It took him some time to properly explain their concept of male and female. We both giggled at his explanation. He said that he loved my smile and he wanted to marry me. He could perform the rare ceremony of energy changing: I could become, if I wanted, like Fob. To age only a little in every century. Never to have to wear dentures. To be loved by Fob. To marry a “Ghost”. Of course I said, “Yes!”

Kisa Gotami

(A slightly ficionilised account of this ancient tale. Meant to be used as a short play for young people to act in. Ten minutes long. I wrote this for a Buddhist event in Glasgow. If you are using-just a credit to the author please)

Set. Three large painted cardboard boxes act as houses. The Buddha sits facing away from the audience. A point source of light shines his shadow on a wall. In the background the sound of traders dies away as Kisa Gotami, carrying her son, walks onto centre stage. Her son can be a doll. The Buddha cannot be shown on stage as a person (due to tradition)

 

Kisa Gotami. (To the audience). Have you seen the Buddha? Have you seen him? I have travelled in this heat for five miles and still I search in vain. I am looking for someone to heal my lovely boy. My poor son. My only son. A snake bit him and now he lies so still. So still and pale. My eyes were once so pretty. Or so men told me. Now they are stained with tears. My body is burning under this cruel sun and my feet are cut and bleeding. Yet, I would give away all my jewels and my fine dresses if only I could have my child back alive and strong. He needs medicine. Does no one have any? My name is Kisa Gotami. [To the Buddha]You sir! Please Sir! Are you the one they call the Buddha? I need you. If you have any magic powers then heal my child. His tiny body is filled with kindness for others. He does not deserve to die. He has never hurt another. No one will listen to me. I have passed through crowds of people yet none will answer my cries for help. All turn their faces away. My grief is but an embarrassment to them. I have sought other teachers but their words were frail and their magic was weak. I seek one who has power over life and death.

 

Buddha. I am the one you call the Buddha. If you seek for an answer to your pain then you must find me mustard seed. And it must be of a special kind. It must come from a household that has never been tainted with the touch of death.

 

Kisa Gotami. Kind sir, I will find the thing you need for your potion. I will look everywhere. Such an easy task you set me. Wait here. I will not be long. [Searches about the stage then goes up to an old man sitting outside his house]. My son is ill and needs a special kind of mustard. He needs mustard from a household that has never known death. This is the only thing that can save him. If you still have any warmth left in your old heart then you must help me. Quick. Be quick!

 

Old man. I can see that your son lies still. I can see that your lovely face is stained with tears and I can feel that your heart is filled with sorrow. But there is nothing I can do to help, I have mustard seed and yet l must tell you that it is of the wrong kind. My wife died last year and still I mourn her.  I still lie awake at night dreaming of her next to me. You must try elsewhere. I wish you well in your search.

 

Kisa Gotami. [To a young woman outside her house]. Kind lady. I need mustard seed to heal my child. Yet it must be mustard from a household that has never known death. I have been to Oh so many houses today. I am so tired. Please say that you can help me.

 

Young Woman. I have bags of mustard seed yet it will help you nought. My husband lies dead inside, his body barely cold. We only got married a year ago. I cannot feel sorrow for your child, for my own heart is filled with sorrow for my dear husband that has died so young [Crying.]  Ohhhh! What I am to do? You must try somewhere else. But, if you find any, then come back and share it with me.

 

Kisa Gotami. (To a boy outside his house) Young man. Fetch your Mother and ask her for mustard seed. Tell her that the seed must come from a household that has never known death. I need it to make a potion. Then my little boy will be saved from the snake poison.

 

Boy. My mother died three days ago. We buried her today. My stepfather has left me alone. I have nothing. No food. No family. Even if I did have seed, it would not be of the kind that you search for. I have much to do. All that I can do to help you is to join you in your grief. I wish you well in your search.

 

Kisa Gotami. (To the Buddha). Kind Sir. I cannot find the seed anywhere. It seems that the entire world is filled with death and suffering. Nothing stays the same. And now I see that my child is dead. He has been dead for a long time. All that I can do is bury him. You have taught me much. With all its pains and all its wrongs, this life is all I have. I must live it to the full. I cannot change the past.

 

The Buddha. I teach of many things. I teach of the old laws. Laws that have always been. Laws that you and I must live by. I would drain my lifeblood if it would save your child. But I have not that power. Kisa Gotami, the moment before you, you cannot know. The moment that has gone, is not worth the remembering. Live this moment to the full, for we are born anew each breath each moment. If you seek release, then you must love each creature as you loved your son. Love is special, for the more you give it away, the more you have. May all beings be happy. “Sabbe satta bhavantu sukhitatta”.

Kisa Gotami bows before the Buddha and leaves the stage first.

The Funeral

(Part 1 is 40 minutes long, Part 2 is 35 minutes long)

CAST.

Markos. Well spoken man in his forties or fifties. Must have a touch of evil to his voice.

Helene. Woman, who starts the play in her early twenties. Is fifteen years old in the final scene. Should be played by the same actor if possible.

Callidora. Attractive, young woman, working class, can also play 1st member of the Chorus.

Elpida, upper class woman in her early forties, can also play 2nd member of the Chorus. Slim and short.

Chorus. Of two young women dressed in white robes

Aphrodite. Goddess dressed in white robes. Looks 17 years old and is beautiful.

SYNOPSIS. The Funeral is a Play which (in Part 1) goes backwards in time scene by scene. i.e. the first scene details what happens at the close of events. It brings all the disparate threads of story together. The second scene portrays what happened immediately before that. The last scene deals with the earliest events which have taken place in the events chronicled by the play i.e. the meeting of Helene and Aphrodite.

The first scene has been written first by the author who then worked on Scene 2, and then Scene 3. Each of these scenes takes place further back in time. There are no flashbacks-just a gradual progression of scenes backwards in time. This lets the audience find out about why the characters acted in such and such a manner. Strange actions in Scene 1 (for example) will eventually be explained when the play goes back in time. Hopefully, the audience will be as interested as the author is (was) in finding out about the reasons for the characters actions. I believe that working back in time will make an audience look even closer at the reasons for actions and at how flaws and strengths developed in the character’s personalities. I genuinely tried to find out about the play and the characters scene by scene backwards. To start with in my first writings, I had only a very rough draft of the play.

As I wrote backwards, writing each new scene-there were a dozen possibilities i.e. possible conditions or events that could have brought the previous scene about. But when one writes in the normal way going forward in time, there seems to be only one or two possibilities. Fate seems less free. Writing “backwards” is a more liberated way of writing. It might not work for every play, but I think that it will be interesting for audience and author.

Just found out that Harold Pinter did something similar (backwards chronology) with his play, Betrayal. I didn’t know about that play before I wrote this one.

There are two main themes in the play. The first is about the feelings and emotions of Helene as she struggles to keep safe her own views and feelings. The second deals with the Evil that comes from Markos and how do ordinary people cope with it. I used to research and write about Ancient Greek History and Art and I thought that using Greek Gods and Goddesses, as part of the play, could be a good way to talk about the difficult concepts that are dealt with. I have tried very hard not to make the play voyeuristic in any way. I have tried to have respect for the character of Helene.

The play uses some ideas from Ancient Greek plays. For instance, the Goddess Aphrodite is a vital part of the story. Debates are used quite often (they appear in Euripides). A Greek Chorus is also used-to inform the audience. The play is set in modern day Athens.

Markos is married to Elpida who still loves him. However, Markos is more interested in his daughter, Helene. He abuses his position as father. Helene leaves home after breaking Markos’s nose. She is eventually helped by her counsellor Callidora who Helene meets in prison (after Helene severely beat up someone who attacked her). Markos then kills Elpida. The play finishes at its chronological beginning. Here Helene meets, and is willingly seduced by, Aphrodite. Aphrodite promises to eventually protect Helene, if she agrees to certain conditions.

The poem by Sappho is my “translation”. By that I mean that I worked with one literal and lots of poetic translations to work out my own interpretation of a very beautiful poem.

Callidora means, “A gift of beauty”.

The Greek’s don’t pronounce the “h” in Helene. Instead there is a rough breathing in front of the “elene”. It would be nice if this could be replicated in the play. Helene means, “Torch”.

Markos means, “Defense”.

Elpida means, “Hope”.

(In the text in swear words I have used x’s. Obviously in performance the swear words should be spoken as is usual.)

 

Scene 1. Takes place in someone’s lounge in Athens.

 

CHARACTERS:

Markos. Well spoken man in his forties or fifties.

Helene. Woman. Early twenties with hesitant speech. Intermittent bursts of anger.

Chorus. Of two young women dressed in white robes

 

 

Helene.          I’ve drank some of your expensive wine. The kind you hide from the guests. You don’t mind do you?

 

Markos. I thought I glimpsed you pushing your way through the hordes of unwelcome visitors.

 

Helene.          Yes, it’s busy. I didn’t know she had so many friends

 

Markos. Not friends. When someone dies, the maggots get fat. And what has my favourite fat maggot come to feed on? You weren’t invited.

 

Helene. I want my fair share of her money. She was very well insured. I deserve half. I deserve fxxxing half.

 

Markos. She died cursing you. I had to explain to her the intimate details of your betrayal. You are not even mentioned in the will.

 

Helene. You are scum. I still hate you. Hate every festering, stinking bit of you.

 

Markos. I had to confess to your poor dying Mother the real reason you never had a boyfriend – that you are a lesbian. She didn’t last much longer after hearing that. She was so ashamed.

 

Helene. When I return to Athens again now, I no longer see the broken Temples as just grandeur hiding ugliness. I now see a third layer. A deeper layer. Often, you spoke to me about sacrifice but it is the sacrifice that is freely given that is the greatest. You say you don’t believe in the Gods, yet you think you have the omnipotence of a Zeus.

 

Markos. You are no more than a thieve. You still speak to me about the Gods and yet you live the life of a criminal. Where are your Gods and Goddesses now? In the past, I used to hear you whispering her name. The beautiful one. Did she ever come to help you? In your pain and anguish, did she ever come?

 

Helene. I wanted to give my Mother her ring back. But I was in jail and have just got out. Now it’s too late.

 

Markos. She never forgave you for stealing her wedding ring. I don’t know why you took it. It didn’t even fit you.

 

Helene.          You couldn’t stop me taking it. That night, you had to be rescued by the police. For once you couldn’t control me. Were you scared of me? Scared of a child?

 

Markos. I tried to control you. But you broke my nose. From that night to this you have lived a life of crime. You rob and you attack with the ferocity of a wild beast. I have read the reports in the papers. You’re such a failure to your parents.

There were only two things in your life that you could do well. The first of these was your ability to keep a secret. That was praiseworthy. Your other gift was the ability to…

 

Helene. [Interrupting] Just shut up if you can’t say anything nice.

 

Markos. You want nice? You do look different. No longer ugly and stupid and…

 

Helene. And stammering, and wetting the bed, and… No. I don’t do that anymore. No! You fxxxing baxxxrd [shouts].

 

Markos. Quiet! People have come to this house to pay their respects to the memory of your Mother. She might have been a drunk, but you should have stayed here long enough to help her. She so missed her little girl being around. [Sighs]

 

Helene. I stayed as long as I could. Yes, I know I betrayed her by leaving. Leaving her in your hands. I don’t know most of the people here. Strangers. You have made everyone a stranger to me.

 

Markos. People are scared of you. You are famous for your senseless violence. They avoid you. They don’t want to be robbed.

 

Helene. I still have her ring. Look, it fits me now. [Triumphantly shows Markos the ring on her wedding finger]

 

Markos. Shush, now. Let me look at you. It has been years since I have spoken to you properly. Now you are mine. Mine alone. My pretty girl.

 

Helene. I am not a pretty girl. I am a beautiful grown woman. And I never was stupid. And I never was yours…

 

Markos. Your Mother liked it that we were friends and more than friends. She wanted anything that would please her darling Markos. Stay tonight! All your clothes are still in your room. I have kept every one. Your father is the only person in your life who has ever truly loved you. I was your only real friend.

Do you remember the fun we used to have together when I tickled you so hard that you laughed out loud? You laughed till you cried.

 

Helene. There was no laughter in this house.

 

Markos. Through all your years at School, I was the one who cared for you. In return for all my hard work, all that I ever took from you were some tears. Tears picked from your reddened cheeks. That was a fair deal wasn’t it? For all I did?

Even though you were fat, I still loved you. Remember, when I promised you a pet dog if you would only stay young for me. Your promises were not as pure as mine. You promised to stay young. But even though I gave you all the help and encouragement I could, each month your body revealed to me what a liar you really are.

 

Helene. On my sixteenth Birthday, you took me to see Iphigenia at Aulis. That was the only thing my father did that I approved of. Again and again, I think about that Play of Euripides, and of the brave sacrifice of Iphigenia. But it was only a genuine sacrifice if she actively willed it.

 

Markos. Clothes. You were the best dressed girl at that School. I kept you away from that group of poor kids who tried to borrow money off you all the time. I taught you discipline. And, as you said, I instilled in you a love of Theatre. I also cured you of your vegetarianism. I tried to make you into an interesting child, stupid but interesting.

 

Helene. Did you still beat her? Is that how she died?

 

Markos. She drank so I beat her. [Spoken in an off hand manner]

 

Helene. No. She drank because you beat her.

 

Markos. Does it really matter which came first? She did what it was in her nature to do. She enjoyed drinking. I enjoy beating people. What is hidden deep in your nature, Helene? Besides the robbing and the violence? [Laughs]

 

Helene. Did you kill her?

 

Markos. My Dear wife was a drunk and needed some discipline. Some times she fell downstairs and sometimes I helped her fall. It was a miracle that she lasted so long. Covered in bruises she was. I have always tried to make provision for every eventuality in life and so made sure that she was well insured. And yes, her death has made me a little bit richer. So, I welcome her death. But I have no one to beat anymore. I am lonely. I need a purpose. I need you.

Helene dear, I welcome you back to my house. I need you and you need me. Stay tonight. I insist. Do as I say!

[Reaches out to stroke her hair]

 

Helene. [Pulls away from him. Then bends over with a panic attack. Starts to stammer out words] One-One, two, three, four … One, two, three, four, five …

 

Chorus of two young women dressed in robes [speaking alternate lines to the audience]. Helene has knelt in prayer many times, and her prayers have been heard.

Our Goddess Aphrodite has granted Helene beauty and protection.

Many years had passed since the last human spoke to the immortal golden crowned Goddess.

In the heavens, far above, she sits on her sparkling throne waiting to be asked to help you.

She is a most kind Goddess and we are her handmaidens.

All you have to do is believe, and ask.

You will perhaps remember the words of Sappho when she asked for her help,

The moon has left the sky,

Gone too the Pleiades

Midnight comes and goes,

Moment follows moment

And I, on my bed,

Alone

[Helene is still getting her breath back]

 

Markos. What is up with you? Stop embarrassing me.

 

Helene. Last time, in jail… Counselling… I got taught how to control my anger. Control my hate for … How to relax.

One, two, three, four…

 

Markos. Please understand, we have to forgive each other our minor misdeeds. Your Mother would have wanted that. You owe her that, surely. Stay! This is an order, not a request. [Spoken with a voice of command]

 

Helene. I’m still s-s-scared of you. But not as scared as back then. Not senseless scared. There are two policemen waiting outside the door. They want to know more about your minor misdeeds. I can’t even keep secrets anymore. What a naughty, naughty child I am.

 

Markos. Listen, Helene. You are my darling girl. I love you. Don’t do anything you’ll have cause to regret later. Remember how you often came to me to beg me for forgiveness. Don’t make me angry. Don’t do this thing! [Raises his hand to threaten to strike at her]

 

Helene. Fxxck off, father. When you are stuck inside, I hope you suffer as I suffered

The time has finally come for me to find out who I really am. Find out what I like and what I love. You are in my past. Go away. Goodbye, forever.

[Moves away to open door for policemen]

 

ENDS SCENE 1

 

 

 

 

 

Scene 2. In an Athens flat.

In an Athens flat, Helene sits with Callidora, her counsellor from the jail.

 

Helene.                      Thanks for inviting me into your home. It means a lot, you continuing to help me even though I’m finally out of that Hell Hole. Sorry, [Nervously laughs.] Prison. What lovely clothes you have. Although, the skirts are a bit short.  [Laughs.] Very short. Aren’t you scared I’m going to steal some of your lovely, lovely clothes?

 

Callidora.       Last week, you were someone I was paid to help. You were work, challenging but worthwhile work. Very poorly paid work, I should add. Today, you are my friend. Just to let you know, I am not doing a kind of follow up treatment. Please be aware of that. I like you and I want to be your friend. And friends trust each other. If you want to borrow some of my long skirts, please just say. It would be nice to see you in something bright and feminine. Just ask.

 

Helene.                      I have never really had a close friend before. If I do or say anything wrong, please tell me. I am not used to social niceties.

 

Callidora.       Helene, you will make mistakes and I will make mistakes. We are humans and humans make mistakes. What you have been through means that you have always had to fight to survive. You need and deserve support, and I will support you. But mostly, I want to enjoy the company of an extremely intelligent and charming person. You know more about the Theatre than I ever will. Hopefully, we will have fun going to the Theatre together. You can explain the difficult bits to me.  And though you have done awful things-in the past-you are the most innocent person I know. Some times I think you are joking with me. The naivety you show towards other people. Unfortunately, you never had a proper childhood to let you learn about life. That’s not your fault though.

 

Helene.                      Yet, you, more than anyone else, know what I have done to people who hurt me or angered me.

 

Callidora.       Dear Helene, your mind and your body were close to breaking point. I don’t agree with everything you did. Though I understand why you acted in the way you did. However, I know that you will never hurt another innocent person ever again.

 

Helene.                      Then you know me better than I know myself. I have told you, I am going to his house after the funeral. And I know that you cannot be there with me. It is something I have to do on my own. My counselling comes from within. I have my own voice to listen to now. And I have my trust and faith in the Goddess.

 

Callidora.       I am glad that you no longer need me as a counsellor. I have done my job well. That leaves me free to just be a friend. I think we will be good friends.

 

Helene.                      He will not expect to see me. I will not go to the funeral itself. That would be too much for me to cope with. I have the relaxation exercises you taught me. Taught me again and again. They come instinctively to me now. You have trained me for this moment. I have to face my past before I can move on.

 

Callidora.       As a friend, and as an ex-counsellor, I advise caution. He is devious and manipulative. He will harm you if he can. Do not let him take control of your little chat. If he does, I will never see you again.

 

Helene.                      Thank you, my friend. Now that my Mother is dead, you are the only person on this unsteady earth that I can trust in.

 

Callidora.       Is it not too soon to challenge his authority?

 

Helene.                      If I do not challenge him now, I never will.

 

Callidora.       You are so brave, standing up to him. But if it goes wrong… I know I shouldn’t say this… But if he threatens to hurt you, then you hurt him. I showed you what to do. Don’t let him hurt you again.

 

Helene.                      If things go wrong, then neither of us will be leaving that house. I just need to stay calm. [Breathes deeply between numbers.] One, two, three, four, five. One, two, three, four, five.

 

Callidora.       Phone me as soon as you are safe. Don’t forget.

 

Helene.                      You are my ex-counsellor, meditation teacher, my substitute Mother, and my best friend. Yes, I’ll phone.

You have never told me. Do you have a boyfriend? I know you seem to dislike men as much as I do.

 

Callidora.       Perhaps it is too early in our friendship for me to talk about my strongly held beliefs. You have been hurt by men. But not all men are monsters like your father and that man that attacked you. Things have happened to me in my life that have influenced the way I feel about who to love and who I want to be with. However, you see me as a person you can trust. If I tell you my likes and dislikes, I am scared that you will be influenced unduly. Scared you will see me as a good example and try to copy my emotions, my desires.

 

Helene.                      I do understand your fears. My mind and my emotions are whirling all over the place. I agree that now is not the time to talk about those strong emotions.  Indeed I would never try and pressure you into talking about things in your past that have hurt you. At least I have that ability well trained in me.

I know you think I am a bit strange in my beliefs. But she – my Goddess – gives me strength.

 

Callidora.       Remember that Gods and Goddesses have a habit of not being around when you really need them. Have faith in your own body and mind.

 

Helene.                      I have some confidence in myself. But she will be there for me. [Shuts her eyes and prays] Beautiful Aphrodite, protect me. I need you so much now.

 

Callidora.       [Lightly holding Helene’s hands] Friends!

 

Helene                       [Scared, but trying hard to smile} Friends!

 

 

ENDS SCENE 2

 

 

 

Scene 3. In Elpida and Markos’s house in Athens.

Elpida. A woman in her forties. A glass in her unsteady hand as she sits on the couch.

 

Markos.                      Have another drink, Elpida. A big one. You need one. Go on. People find you such a bore when you haven’t had a drink. And, I suppose, it helps you forget your failings. Your many, many failings. You have failed me and you have failed your daughter. Failed my dear sweet Helene.

You were never much of a thinker, but once your body served its purpose well enough. Drink doesn’t flatter you my Dear. The reason Helene left was because she was so ashamed of your drinking. Having a Mother that’s an alcoholic must have placed an awful burden on such a young vulnerable person. It turned her into an unstable criminal. I so fear for her future.

 

Elpida.            We both know why she left the house. Because of the way you pestered her. If I ever thought that you had touched my girl, I would kill you with my own hands. [Tries and fails to get up.]

 

Markos.                      Elpida, you have difficulty getting up to pour yourself another drink. You have an adequate store of hate within you, but haven’t the strength or passion required to kill me. You are a weak and a silly waste of a life. All you have ever managed to do is to pass on your inheritance to me. Making love to you became more and more of a chore. And yet I did my duty as often as I had to. But when I had you in my arms, it wasn’t you that I was thinking about. Many times you told me that I was the greatest lover you ever had. Probably an accurate assessment.  Anything I do, I do well. Perfection is my motto. Now, you fail to arouse any passion in me. Apart from disgust.

You surely can’t blame a man for seeking pleasure where he can get it. Helene always had this strong crush on her father. It’s quite natural. Lots of girls find their Dad attractive. Do you still find me attractive? My face – filled with loathing for you – will be the last thing you ever see.

 

Elpida.            [Trying to get up while Markos pushes her back down into the seat] You are a horrible creature. Once I loved you. Once I found you handsome and charming. I must have been mad. I …

 

Markos                       But my Dear, you are going mad. Drink has affected your brain. You seem to imagine that I have thrown you down the stairs. Again and again you accuse me of that. I used to think you were just a drunk, but now I think you are going mad. You are no longer fit to be my wife. Your face and body have aged terribly. Your breath stinks of alcohol. When I first met you, you were almost attractive.

 

Elpida.            Get an Ambulance. I am in pain. And you did throw me down the stairs. I am not that drunk that I have forgotten what you have just done to me. You tried to kill me.

 

Markos.                      [Looking at her for some ten seconds.]Your face is a funny colour. The breathing is laboured. Nearly there! [Feeling her pulse.] I can feel your life force draining away. Let me at least be honest with you. Nothing you can do to upset my plans now. It is better for Helene and me if you depart this world. She said to me once that things would be better between us if only her Mother wasn’t always bullying her. She hated you. We can get to know each other properly without your interfering. I will have your money and your daughter. You jealous witch. Do both of us a big favour, and die.

 

Elpida.            [Sobbing.] Get Helene here. I need to talk to her. I need to tell her that I have not been a good Mother. Not protected her from you. You are an evil monster. A psychopath! No, better she doesn’t come back here ever again.

 

Markos. [Talking to himself.] Her slim neck once brought me pleasure. Now, I want to squeeze it and finish this thing off quickly. [She chokes as he strokes her neck then squeezes her throat. Her glass falls from her hand.] But no, I don’t want to mess things up now. Never let disgust get in the way of planning. Have some patience, Markos. Soon enough. [He releases his hold on her throat.]

 

Elpida.            Why are you doing this? Why are you hurting me like this?

[Puts handkerchief to her nose.] Look, I am bleeding. My nose is bleeding.

 

Markos.                      Let me sit down beside you and wait for death to come. I will be good company for you. Like the old days. We can have a nice chat. Sometimes it takes quite a while for someone to die. And I don’t want to put anymore bruises on your body. No need to quicken the inevitable process. Don’t want any questions asked… You’re not much of a talker are you? Hmmm… I will browse through our photo album. Anything to pass the time. [Examining pictures.] Here’s one of you looking quite stylish. Obviously taken before the urge for alcohol took over your life. And a nice one of Helene. She looks less fat than in most of her pictures. It must have been taken by an extremely gifted photographer. You loved stuffing food into her greedy little mouth. You did all you could to ruin her for me. But your corrupting influence on her finishes tonight, my Dear Elpida.

 

Elpida.            I don’t want to die. Just get the Doctor. You used to be a nice man. I used to love you. People said we were made for each other. Please, I beg you. Get the…      [Slumps along the couch. Semi-conscious.]

 

Markos.                      Die, my darling. Please die quickly and don’t be such a bore. You always took your time didn’t you? [Talking as if to himself] Time for all my fantasies to be fulfilled. The waiting and the planning has been worth it. Helene will, I am sure, be guided by my superior judgement. She needs the strong single minded direction that only I can provide. At last, to be rid of you, Elpida. At last.

 

Elpida [Panting] ..the Doctor. Please …Oh, Markos.

 

Markos.                      The funeral will be such a lavish affair. But I don’t want to waste your, sorry my, money on expensive food for our uncultured neighbours.  I will ask all the town’s dignitaries. And I shall cry at the Funeral. Cry as I remember how lovely you once were. And I shall support Helene. Be a good father to her. Yes, a good father. [Laughs}

 

Elpida.            Doctor… Please…  Aaaargh. Help… me…

 

Markos                       You are mumbling your words a bit. Please try and speak more clearly. Surely you want me to be a good father? {Feeling her pulse for ten seconds.] At last, dead. In a few moments I will phone for the ambulance. Somehow, I fear they will be too late. [Holds his face in his hands and fakes crying.] Ohhh. My dear, dear wife. My dear beloved Elpida.

 

 

 

ENDS SCENE 3

 

 

Scene 4. A prison room. Two chairs facing each other. Helene has her first meeting with her Counsellor, Callidora. Helene leans forward, staring at Callidora. Callidora is relaxed.

 

Helene.                      [Aggressively.] Are we finished yet? I don’t want to be here. You are forcing me to be here.

 

Callidora.       We are here for an hour. We have twelve one hour sessions together. Someone in psychological services thinks that you have some decency left in you and are more than just an aggressive “show off”.

 

Helene.                      If you insult me one more time, I will punch your ugly face. Apologise for what you said.

 

Callidora.       There is a guard outside the door. But I won’t need them. I am a Blue Belt in Aikido and can take care of myself.

 

Helene.                      Are you threatening me?

 

Callidora.       I learnt Aikido because I got hurt a lot when I was young. It’s not that easy to intimidate me now. It’s my opinion that every woman should learn some Aikido. Sometimes you need more than just the Law to protect you. You are here for an hour. You might as well enjoy the company. Surely I am an improvement on your cellmates?

 

Helene.                      You are just some stupid bxxxxrd paid to talk to me. You don’t want to talk to me and I don’t want to talk to you, bxxxxrd.

 

Callidora.       You might not believe this, but working with prisoners is a vocation. It’s not something you do for fun. And, I’m not really a bxxxxrd you know. My friends say nice things about me. Do you have any friends in here? [Helene stares into space.] I see from your File that you have never taken drugs. A lot of people in here are totally dependent on drink or drugs, or both.

 

Helene.          I have enough problems to cope with without dulling my senses and giving me another curse to deal with.

 

Callidora.       That’s good. You seem to be a very intelligent person. But you need friends in here. You can survive without drugs and alcohol, but you can’t survive without at least one friend. Could you see me as a friend? I am volunteering something here that isn’t really in my job description.

I interview lots of prisoners who have been hurt so many times that they just want to reach out and hurt someone else. As if that would cure them of their own hurts. Life doesn’t work like that. Not only do they cause pain to other people, but they hurt themselves in the process. I can see that you understand what I am saying. Usually I get blank stares from prisoners when I say that.

 

Helene.                      You think I’m mad don’t you? Because I stabbed that filth that attacked me. Do you think I’m insane? I stabbed him with his own knife. Made a bit of a mess of his face. It was him or me. Yes, he nearly died. And no, I don’t regret it. Any other questions? Are we done?

 

Callidora.       I am a counsellor, not a psychiatrist. But no one has ever said you are insane. Everyone I meet in here is full of hurt and anger and believes that life is out to destroy them. And that’s just the guards. A little joke there. Anyway, I have read your file and it doesn’t tell me anything. Let’s play a game. Let’s pretend I’m not an idiot who is here for a laugh, but someone who genuinely cares for you as another suffering human being. Talk to me about yourself. Tell me anything. Please, Helene.

 

Helene.                      The Theatre.

 

Callidora.       You like the Theatre? Yes?

 

Helene.                      I love the Theatre. Love it like you don’t know. Like you couldn’t understand.

 

Callidora.       Well, that’s quite easy to do because I’ve only been once to the Theatre.

 

Helene.          You are a Greek. You come from the nation that produced Euripides and you have been once to the Theatre.

 

Callidora.       You fake it a bit, but your accent is very upper class. I bet you didn’t get to talk to girls like me when you were growing up? I do know that you can’t talk fancy in here. You couldn’t survive in here talking upper class. As you can tell from my accent, I come from a working class family. We didn’t have the money to go and treat ourselves to expensive plays. Growing up, I always thought Theatre was just for the rich.

 

Helene.                      Ugly, stupid, and uncultured.

 

Callidora.       Just poor, Helene.

 

Helene.                      Sorry. Look, if I talk to you, does everything I say get written down and passed about between all the counsellors and prison staff?

 

Callidora.       I am not out to trip you up. Or, to get you to confess to anything. My notes are private, but I will make recommendations which will be based upon our talks and on how open you are to me. I am not looking for anything special. Just talk to me.

 

Helene.                      [After a few seconds of deliberation. Spoken quietly.] My father took me to the Theatre. He loved the Theatre.

 

Callidora.       Did he love you?

 

Helene.                      [Distressed.] Are we finished yet? Has an hour gone past yet? It’s too hot in here. Let’s break for a while.

 

Callidora.       Remember that I am trying to help you. Did your father ignore you, neglect you? He couldn’t have done. He took you to the Theatre. What was the first play that you saw together?

 

Helene.                      [Sobbing.] Iphigenia at Aulis by Euripides.

 

Callidora.       [Almost sobbing.] Did you enjoy the play? I know the name   but… Helene, tell me what it is about, please.

 

Helene.                      For the Greek fleet to sail to attack Troy, Iphigenia needs to be sacrificed. Eventually, Iphigenia ends up arguing that she should be sacrificed-for such a worthwhile cause. She says that she wants to be sacrificed.

 

Callidora.       Does her father allow her to be sacrificed? Does he love her?

 

Helene                       The greatest sacrifice is the one that is done willingly? But does she die willingly? Does she have a choice?

 

Callidora.       I don’t know. Does she?

 

Helene.                      Fathers sometimes ask for sacrifices that are far too great for their child to give willingly. [Sobs.]

 

[Callidora goes over and hugs Helene and both cry together.]

 

 

ENDS SCENE 4

 

 

 

 

Scene 5. In a Celestial realm, up “there” somewhere. Lots of white and gold trimming. The only furniture is one insignificant throne (on which Aphrodite is sitting). The Chorus of two speak alternate lines. They all look through “a mist” to see how events unfold on earth.

 

Aphrodite. She doesn’t need me. You can’t trust any of them. She said she loved me. Yet, it seems that she has a boyfriend. A hairy, smelly man? Look. The man has his arms around her. Forcing her to kiss him. But, she is fighting him off. Hitting him. He is punching her. Knocking her down to the ground. She is finished.

 

Chorus.

Ohhh,

No!

We beg you to

Save her

That man has a knife

He will cut her

And force her to…

Then kill her

Please,

Help her

 

Aphrodite.      You know the new rules. Celestial beings are no longer supposed to take any direct part in the life’s of humans. The days of our sending aid to diverse opposing Greek Armies has gone. Anyway, I’m not omnipotent. Not even that compassionate. And she isn’t particularly pretty. I do have feelings for her but humans are most ungrateful. Why help her? What’s in it for me?

 

Chorus.

Listen, she prays to you,

She calls on you.

You cannot ignore her call

What would the others say?

In her pain she whispers your name

She is your only follower on earth

And she will die

And worse,

If you don’t get off that throne and do something extremely quickly

 

Aphrodite. [Standing up and waving her arms about in front of her.]

Listen to me, Helene,

It is me, Aphrodite.

It is! Honest.

Don’t you recognise my voice?

I will smash away the knife from his hand,

There

Now grab it

Grab it.

Use it!

[Doing the actions.] Stick the blade into him,

Push it in, further

Good. Good.

[Shouting.] Go for the face. Into his spotty face. Yes!

Serves him right

Men are all the same

Now, run and hide

Yes, it’s me. Indeed, I have answered your prayers.

I said I would, didn’t I?

Don’t you trust me?

  1. Time for you to find a safe hiding place

Just one last kick, all right. That’s enough.

 

Chorus [Cheering as Aphrodite intervenes.]

She is safe

Well done

We thank you, Goddess

We thank you, Goddess

 

Aphrodite.      It hurts.

 

Chorus.

Immortal Goddess,

What hurts?

 

Aphrodite.

To care again for a mortal

Another Helene

Not as pretty as the last one though,

But much more intelligent, scarily intelligent

And cultured

And that innocent smile…

 

Chorus.

You can make her

Beautiful. Ohhhh, yes.

Like the other Helene

And sexy too

Helene was so…

Desirable

Aphrodite.

No human should be as beautiful as that

I shook nearly as much as she did when I went to visit her

The nights were…

You can’t guess and don’t try.

But, oh the trouble she caused.

This one needs a huge dose of beauty,

Immense amounts of looking after

And some new clothes

Something stylish

And look at her hair

Lots of work to be done

She will keep me busy

 

Chorus.

It will be nice for you both

To look at clothes together

It is such a long, long time

Since you had a tunic made for you

Yours is

A bit out of style

Sorry

Sorry!

 

Aphrodite.      I will get something new. More fashionable.

 

Chorus.

Will you love her?

Touch her?

Stroke her Hair?

Kiss her?

We could do those things for you,

If you were too busy

Or, will you find an attractive human for her,

To love,

Down below,

On earth?

 

Aphrodite.      I will let her choose her lover.

 

Chorus.

Shall her lover be mortal,

Or immortal?

 

ENDS SCENE 5

 

 

 

 

Scene 6. In the living room. Markos sits on the couch fascinated by Helene. Helene lies on the floor reading.

 

Markos.                      Come here and sit beside me my darling. Over here. I have a nice surprise for you. Honest.

 

Helene.                      I am reading one of Euripides plays. I need to know it for homework.

 

Markos.                      I’m not asking. Come and sit here! [Markos points to where Helene is to sit on the couch beside him. Slowly she gets up and sits where he asks her to.] You like jewellery don’t you? All girls like jewellery. For a girl like you with less than perfect features, jewellery can take a man’s attention away from your face. Your face isn’t your best feature. Don’t be angry with me. Only a loving father will tell you these things. [Pulls at her face.]

 

Helene.                      Leave me alone. Let me go. I have homework to do. I need to go.

 

Markos.                      I would never go outside the family and cheat on Elpida, with another woman. The family must never be broken up. Although you are not particularly attractive to me, I must find satisfaction for my natural desires with you. With your body and with your mind. This use of a daughter sometimes happens in ancient cultures. The family comes before everything else. It is not unusual. It is a practise most associated with royalty. If you just understood a little of what you read.  For once in your life, you should put your family before your own petty selfish interests. You go to a good School. You live in a fantastic house. Many poor people in Athens would be envious of your life. You owe your Mother and me a huge debt.

You are not as young as you once were and time does not improve your looks. Your body gets fatter day by day. Your skin ages. You should be glad of my attention.

 

Helene.                      Everything that you say is twisted and deceitful. I am not as stupid as you think me.

 

Markos.                      Listen to me, your poor Mother is a drunk. She is upstairs drunk in bed at the moment. However, she loves me and wants what is best for me. She knows that she can’t cook or clean the house anymore. She can’t even fulfil her other duties as a wife. Do you understand what I am talking about? [Helene nods.] She accepts that she has let me down by not being a proper wife to me. So, she has given me her wedding ring to use. Look, isn’t it beautiful? It cost a fortune. She insisted that you wear it instead of her. And that, just until she feels a bit better, you be like a wife to me. You will also get lots of nice treats like fancy meals out and trips to the Theatre. So, perfect for me and perfect for you. A new wonderful life full of opportunity will reveal itself to you. Trust me.  It’s what she wants you to do. She said, “Tell Helene it would make me happy if she pleased my dear Markos.” Here, put the ring on this finger, it’s the wedding ring finger. It will be just as if we were married. [Markos tries to push the ring onto Helene’s finger, but the ring falls off.] Stupid girl. Your finger’s too small for the ring. You should have told me.

 

Helene.                      [Moving away from Markos.] Please don’t make me do this. Don’t hit me. The ring is far too big. It fell under the couch. I will find it. [Helene looks under the couch.]

Markos.                      That ring cost your Mother a fortune. You better find it. And then you can try to apologise properly to me. A kiss will do for now. [Grabs Helene up from the floor and forcefully kisses her on the lips.] Don’t tell me you don’t know what to do.

 

Helene                       [Pulling herself away.] Please, I beg you. Leave me alone. I don’t want you as a lover or as a father. I hate you.

 

Markos.                      I am glad that I have earned your hatred. Love from you was never something that I expected. I would rather have hatred than have apathy. Let me put this simply to you. You can be nice to me. Or I can, again, beat you into submission.  You’re a grown up girl. You always wanted to be allowed to make your own decisions. You choose.

 

Helene                       [After a few seconds.] Close your eyes. One thing only I ask, close your eyes.

 

Markos                       [Smiling.] All right, my dear sweet wife. My eyes are closed. You are such a shy innocent young thing. That’s why I love you so much. [Closes eyes and opens his arms.]

 

[Helene moves up close to him then punches upwards hard against his nose.]

 

Markos.                      Aaargh. Aaaargh. You’ve broken my nose. Get away. I’m getting the police to arrest you. Get out. Leave my house, now. My nose! [Holds a handkerchief to his nose.]

 

Helene.                      [Picks up the wedding ring from under the couch.] Goodbye, and I hope you rot in hell.

 

Markos.                      Get out! I will tell your Mother what you did, you nasty conniving bitch.

 

Helene                       [Helene leaves waving her fist at him.] Don’t you dare hit my Mother again. Or, I’ll come back here and take revenge on you for all the hurts you caused to her and caused to me. I need revenge on you and all your kind.

 

 

ENDS SCENE 6

 

 

 

Scene 7. Helene and Elpida together on the couch.

 

Helene.                      It’s so nice to spend some time, just the two of us. And I’m glad that you’re not drinking. You look happier. I hope it lasts.

 

Elpida Sometimes I get sad and your father thinks that a drink will relax me. It doesn’t. It makes me sadder.

 

Helene.                      And it makes you so drunk that you can’t be part of my life. I want you here sober. Happy and sober

 

Elpida.            You made a lovely meal for me. Something vegetarian. Your Father would not have approved. Though, you really are a good cook. I told you that you would be. You just had to try.

 

Helene.                      Mother, what would you have been if you hadn’t got married to…

 

Elpida.            Perhaps I could have been an artist. I would have liked that. A big part of my life was art and artists.

 

Helene.                      I have never seen you paint. You should take me to an Art Gallery. If it is allowed.

 

Elpida.            Your father is the real artist. He is very talented. I just don’t like him bullying you into posing for him. You are our daughter, not an artist’s model. I still haven’t seen any of these paintings. Does he paint your face?

 

Helene.                      He tells me stories.

 

Elpida.            Tell me darling, what stories?

 

Helene.                      He says that I shouldn’t tell. I shouldn’t tell secrets. If I betray his trust in me, you might die.

 

Elpida.            That’s a horrible thing to say to you. I am not going to die anytime soon. Trust me and tell me what these things he wants kept secret are. You have to trust someone.  Your father can be a bit of a bully sometimes and is occasionally a bit selfish. But this is awful. Are you sure you didn’t misunderstand him? He is, underneath it all, a kind man.

 

Helene.                      All my life there have been secrets. But you have seen him hit me. He has even beat you up. He doesn’t hide the beatings. You know about them but do nothing. He knows we are both too scared to do anything. To tell anyone.

 

Elpida.            Men like to dominate women. Some women like it. I liked your father when he took all the decisions. Even when, at times, he was a bit rough with me. Very rough. Well, at first it was not that bad.

Things are now out of control. I don’t have a relationship with him. I am his toy. Please, get me a drink. I’m getting tense.

 

Helene.                      He wants you drunk and under his control. He thinks he can deal with us one at a time. He wants you drunk and me silent.

 

Elpida.            Perhaps we should leave him. I guessed, but didn’t really know, that he treated you badly.

 

Helene.                      What world have you been living in? A different one from me. You seem to be saying you don’t really know anything about him. Yet, how many times have you went off to bed. Leaving him alone with me. You could hear my cries. The bedroom isn’t that far away. Didn’t my tears disturb your sleep? You are meant to be my Mother.

 

Elpida.            Once he cared for us both. Perhaps he will become nice again. People change. He couldn’t have faked being a nice person. Could he? He spends all his time hunting for Galleries to display his paintings in. But people just can’t accept what a good artist he is. That is what makes him angry. He feels it’s wrong, us living off my parents money.

 

Helene.                      Father gets angry if the night happens to be dark. He doesn’t need an excuse to beat you or me. Stay sober. And then we can plan our escape from here. It’s not a home, just a well decorated prison with a sadistic guard at the door. We both need to be free. Be my Mother once more and promise me you will stay sober.

 

Elpida.            Hold me darling. [They hug each other.] I will stand up to him. I will try to have more respect for myself. Cut down on my drinking. You and I will plan how to leave. When to leave. Most of my family stay far away. Yet together, Mother and daughter, we will think of something.

 

Helene.                      I love you. Love you more than anything. Just, don’t die.

 

Elpida.            Wipe your eyes. I can hear his car in the distance. We must not let him guess for a moment what we are planning.

 

Helene.                      No need to wipe our eyes. He will think something is wrong if at least one of us is not in tears. I need you and you need me. Stay sober. I love you. [They hold each other’s hands tight as they wait for the door to open.]

 

 

ENDS SCENE 7

 

 

 

 

Scene 8. All three sit on the couch.

 

Elpida.            Athens was so busy tonight. Nice. I liked the buzz. It was almost impossible to walk along the crowded streets. The evening is everyone’s favourite time. Glad we had an hour in which we could all get caught up in the huge crowd movements that epitomises Athens at night. Helene, did you enjoy the play?

 

Helene.                      I enjoyed it, yes. I still say it’s one of Euripides finest plays, and yet it is uneven and contradictory. And before I forget, thanks for taking me to see it. It was a lovely Birthday treat.

 

Markos.                      Sixteen years old today. Such an important point in your life. If I may, however, you are wrong about the play. It’s meant to be contradictory. It’s all about opposites.  The only constant in the play is the concept that a daughter must sacrifice herself – sacrifice everything – to save her father. If, of course, he asks for that sacrifice. The play convincingly argues that daughters have a debt to repay to their fathers.

Can I have my Birthday kiss now, Helene? [Markos leans forward to kiss Helene who turns away.]

 

Elpida.            Lucky that the play is set in a time thousands of years ago and is of interest mainly as a glimpse into Greece’s barbaric past. Glad we don’t sacrifice daughters today. Isn’t that so, Helene?

 

Markos.                      An interesting question. What would you say in answer, my daughter?

[Helene puts her hands over her face.]

 

Elpida.            We’re only joking, Helene. Don’t get upset. Here, have a glass of wine. She is sixteen, Markos.

 

Helene.                      I don’t really know what the play is about. It is very deep. And it asks questions that are hard to answer. I like that about it.

 

Markos                       Answer the question we asked.

 

Helene.                      If a father has shown his daughter true love all her life, then he can ask for a sacrifice from her. Just ask. He can’t take. The sacrifice is the daughters to give, not the fathers to take.

 

Markos.                      [Spoken in an off hand manner.] An interesting opinion.

 

Elpida.            Very warm at the theatre tonight. I think we are in for a hot spell. I’ll have that wine, if you don’t want it?

 

Markos.                      Drink up, Elpida. It’s good to relax. But Helene, if you were Iphigenia, would you sacrifice yourself for your father?

 

 

Helene.                      She doesn’t have much choice. She either fights against crowds of people and then gets sacrificed. Or, does a strange kind of a victory speech and then get sacrificed. As happened in the play. The lady doesn’t have many options. She doesn’t have a free choice.

 

Elpida.            Why don’t we go outside into the garden?

 

Markos.                      Excuse me for asking one last question on the subject. If you could escape but knew that your father would be punished instead of you…

 

Helene.                      [Interrupting.] I would escape as quickly as I could. I would run and run until I collapsed from exhaustion. Mother, time to go out into the garden. It is meant to be a full moon tonight. It will be lovely to see. No more questions!

 

Elpida.            I’m lost. It didn’t happen. It’s a play. There was no Iphigenia. No sacrifice.

 

Helene.                      As usual, it depends upon your point of view. Emotions can be just as real as the full moon that shines on Athens in a summer’s night. No more wine, Mother. I need to get some fresh air outside.

[They leave with Helene taking the wine off Elpida.]

 

 

ENDS SCENE 8

 

 

 

Scene 9. Empty stage in darkness. No furniture. Helene wears a mask. Also wears a wreath (a ring) of flowers on her head.

 

Helene.

 

In the black of deepest night, I wake again,

It is that same dream, or perhaps a remembering

Sounds of anger and hate, rising,

Sounds of sword on shield, clattering

Excited soldiers cover every inch of this hill,

Even the sea, in its shame, hides from my gaze under a thousand ships.

 

My father asks too much of me,

His dead eyes look through me.

I fear this death, and more,

I fear the long dying

Let me go back to the palace,

My toys and my friends are waiting

 

The Goddess Artemis whispers in my ear,

Curses and the like.

Should I run, and be called a coward,

And yet still die?

Or, cry out against the Trojans?

I do not hate the Trojans

But I can curse them in eloquent phrases,

Words borrowed from my storyteller

 

And what prize shall mighty Greece gain from this?

Another war, another ruined city, some slaves.

My beautiful young head in covered in tiny flowers,

My noble throat is made ready for the knife.

As my body begins to shake, uncontrollably,

A strong wind comes out of nowhere

Please, do not join in the cheers of the mob,

Just, call me Iphigenia, and pity me

 

 

ENDS SCENE 9

 

 

 

 

Scene 10. Markos and Helene in the living room. Markos is on the couch. Helene on the floor in front of him, a book in her hands. Markos has a sketching pad and pencil in his hands.

 

Markos.          It would be nice if you would relax and let me paint you as if you were just one out of a hundred other Greek women whose bodies were destined to be forever remembered on canvas. If we go up to your room you can take off these ugly clothes and reveal the beauties that you do have. No need for shyness. Don’t you want to be immortalised like the models who posed for the world famous portraits of Aphrodite? Don’t you want to honour your Goddess, the Beautiful One? You are not perfect in form, but an artist can see the many good qualities that you do have and can see in his imagination the qualities that you don’t have.

 

Helene.          I would prefer that you stay out of my room. Even though you don’t usually allow me the privacy that I need. Mother never goes into my room.

 

Markos.          In my ten years of painting, I must have painted about twenty naked women. I have painted your Mother.

 

Helene.          You have never painted Mother naked.

 

Markos.          She didn’t want anyone to know, so I don’t talk about it much. But there is a painting that I sold, for quite a bit of money, where the naked model is your own dear Mother. Honest!

 

Helene.          Perhaps you aren’t lying. Though you have told untruths to me many times before.

 

Markos.          True, I lie. I have these bad habits. The one true and pure thing in me is my art. At the moment, I see you just as a model. You have some qualities that are very fine. As an artist I recognise that. I don’t often praise your looks, though perhaps I should. I want to work. I want to paint a masterpiece and you could help me. If I say or do anything that is not in keeping with my professionalism as an artist, then I have failed the gifts that I have been born with. As well as that, to hire an artist’s model costs me more than I make from the painting. I can’t afford one from my own money, and I am not asking your Mother for money. I need my own money.  Look, just let me sketch you with pencil and pad. If you don’t like what you see, then I will never ask you to pose for me again. Your Mother won’t be back for a couple of hours, so I will compromise and initially draw you here in this room. All I ask of you is that you be undressed and that you don’t move for twenty minutes. Twenty minutes is all it will take to sketch you.

 

Helene.          I don’t trust you. I am scared.

 

Markos.          You are right. I don’t give you much reason to trust me, do I? I am many things. Most people are made up of many different things. Things that sometimes are not connected, or that even work against each other. I am your father. And, I have other very strong feelings towards you that, that you know about. However, I am also an artist. Speaking to you as an artist, please just stand before me and pose as if you are stepping out of the sea. As you are. No need to undress. For this sketch my imagination will work overtime. I want a look of innocence on your face. Not a look of fear.

 

[Hesitantly, Helene takes the required position in front of the couch and looks towards Markos.]

 

Helene.          Is this OK? I am not that pretty. I do genuinely want to use any gifts I have in order to please her.

 

Markos.          With a bit of work. Only a little bit of work, I will make your drawing appear so beautiful that you will honour your Goddess. When I have finished, it will be up to you if you want to be painted. And in what manner you want to be painted. I swear on my dear wife’s life, I will never pester you ever again. Helene, thank you a lot for this.

Just lift your left arm a little to place it on your hip. That’s it. Now try and get comfortable. I will be about twenty minutes. You are coming out of the warm blue sea. The waves lap around your knees. And let me see you smile. I know it’s usually me that stops you smiling. Your smile is beautiful.

[For half a minute Markos quietly sketches Helene. He then starts fidgeting and staring at Helene. His looks become furtive and he wipes sweat from his head. After another minute he puts down the pencil and pad and continually stares at Helene. She comes out of her pose and she looks to the ground. Both are frozen like this for ten seconds. Then the scene ends.]

 

ENDS SCENE 10

 

 

 

Scene 11. Helene and Aphrodite on Helene’s living room couch. Aphrodite looks seventeen and is beautiful.

 

Helene.          I don’t normally ask back strangers to my house. When I saw you in the museum, my shyness disappeared. All I had left was an overwhelming urge to speak to you. To find out more about you. Your accent is so strange. Strange and lovely. Do you come from Athens?

 

Aphrodite.      Many times I have walked through the streets of Athens. But I was not born here. I do like that little Museum where we met. It’s so nice. Full of unique, beautiful things. And the coffee’s drinkable too.

 

Helene.          Whenever I have some free time, I go there to look at the painting of Aphrodite that is there. It is my favourite painting. I try to go when the museum is quiet, so I can look at it for as long as I like. Which is quite long. She is beauty without limit. Without explanation.

 

Aphrodite.      I too have a fascination with art that tries, however, unsuccessfully, to depict one of the many forms that Aphrodite uses.

 

Helene.          The same wonderful mystery that is in the painting is in you. I have never asked anyone back here like this before. You can’t understand what a pleasure it is, just having someone cultured, like you, to talk to. Luckily, today my father is shopping for art materials. Hopefully his return will be much delayed. I want time to speak to you. To get to know you.

 

Aphrodite.      And I want time to speak to you, Helene. We both love beauty. Indeed, I also have a love for many things from Greece’s ancient, but troubled, past. To you, I seem like any other girl. Perhaps slightly older than you. As you said, I have a strange quality to my voice. Also, there is a power and a beauty in me that can more than fulfil all the fantasies that are beginning to surge through your lovely body. I have no time for chit-chat or for false modesty, for I leave Athens today. I will be gone for a long time.

 

Helene.          Excuse me, but I do not even know your name.

 

Aphrodite.      For the moment, you may call me Aphrodite. That would be appropriate. A few times today, you have mentioned your father. I can see the fear that is in your eyes when you speak of him. If you willingly sacrifice your time and energy and love to the worship of Aphrodite, then I can promise you that in time she will protect you. You must prove your love for her first though. As a reward, she will make you more beautiful than you can imagine. Your father will be here soon. I need your promise to do these things, and I need a kiss to seal the bargain. The kiss should be easy for you. Your body burns with strange and exciting desires. Remembrance of the sight of my body, and the smell of my skin, and the touch of my hair, and the taste of my tongue, and the sound of my voice, sensual and seductive, will all be reasons for you to survive. Reasons not to let that baxxxrd of a father destroy you.

 

Helene.          I fear the love that I am discovering within me.

Aphrodite.      Do not confuse the deviant fantasies of your evil father with the deep love that we are discovering. Do not feel ashamed of the love that we create, that we share between us. Rejoice in it. Perhaps, in time, you will truly understand who I am. In the meantime, read the poetry of Sappho and, with faith, sing songs of worship to the Goddess Aphrodite

 

Helene.          I promise to do all that you ask. I will miss you. I will be here waiting for you.

Yes, my body and my mind are on fire. My body is not used to these desires. Fires of desire are flickering over my skin, my tongue, my… I am overcome with passion for you. Although we have just met today, yes, I do love you. Let me hold you and kiss you.

[Helene passionately embraces Aphrodite, strokes her hair, and looks into her eyes. Then kisses her, deeply, on the lips. After a few seconds Markos enters the room.]

 

Markos.          [To Aphrodite.] Get out of here. Trying to seduce my daughter are you? You, lesbian! You are not welcome here. Never come back. Helene, I forbid you from seeing her ever again.

 

Helene           [Looking at Aphrodite as she leaves.] I love you.

 

Aphrodite [To Helene.] I have friends in high places if you ever need them. Remember that I am looking out for you, Helene. I love you, Helene.

 

[Markos is bemused and scratches his head as Helene and Aphrodite exchange big smiles, Aphrodite is by then at the door. Aphrodite then leaves. End of Scene 11.]

 

 

ENDS PART 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 2 is called: After…

(After the Funeral) Part 2 Length, 35 minutes long, plus 3 min 21 sec for the song.

 

Synopsis: This is the continuation of the play (This is Part 2) – written in backwards chronology – called, The Funeral. This play starts at the chronological end of the previous play. However, this play resorts to forward chronology (to make the audience work a bit).

Characters names: Callidora means, “A gift of beauty”.

The Greek’s don’t pronounce the “h” in Helene. Instead there is a rough breathing in front of the “elene”. It would be nice if this could be replicated in the play. Helene means, “Torch”.

Markos means, “Defence”.

(In the text in swear words I have used x’s. As I can’t send emails to people if there are swear words in the text-the server blocks these. Obviously in performance the swear words should be spoken as is usual.)

Music. Would be nice if before the start of the play, Ipne Pou Pernis Ta Pedia by Savina Yannatou was played (a lovely Greek song). It is track 20 on Rough Guide to Music of Greece. It is also on her CD, Nanourismata (ML3396)

 

CHARACTERS:

Aphrodite.    Looks 17, beautiful, wears white tunic.

Helene. Attractive, early twenties, with upper class speech. Modestly dressed.

Callidora. Very attractive. Working class accent. Short skirts. Late twenties. Moves very well.

 

Scene 1.  Takes place on the couch in Helene’s lounge (in what was her parent’s house in Athens).

 

 

Callidora. I think this must be the first time that we have been able to have a proper conversation since that night that you stood up for yourself.

 

Helene.          What do you mean? There wasn’t a time that I didn’t try to stand up for myself. I was a frightened child and he was a big strong maniac. Still is. Not many people could have…

 

Callidora.       [Interupting.] Sorry. I didn’t mean that you … Sorry. Why don’t we go away for a few days? I am as stressed… Well, nearly as stressed as you. I have some holidays owing from work, and the weather is fantastic. Let’s visit Lesbos.

 

Helene. Now you’re making fun of me.

 

Callidora. I just mean that it’s lovely there. But yes, I know its reputation. I know its history. Is it that you don’t want to go with me? Do you want to go there and have a short romance with no ties? Leave me behind here. You know I don’t ever want to put any pressure on you. I just would, one day, eventually, like to know how you feel about me.

 

Helene.          Feel about you? In what way?

 

Callidora.       Whatever you feel for me, I will always be your friend. Whatever kind of friend you want. Your only really strong friend just now is floating about up there in the heavens.

 

Helene.          Whether you believe me or not, I was helped by the Goddess Aphrodite. One day in my house I met her. At least I think it was her. She was beyond description. She took all the love and desire that was in me and asked for more, and then more. She broke my heart and turned all my emotions round and around and…

 

Callidora.       Who did? Aphrodite or this girl you met?

 

Helene.          Aphrodite. I mean, the girl. Both. The girl was Aphrodite. I think she was Aphrodite. When I need to, I pray to her.

 

Callidora.       To the girl who is Aphrodite?

 

Helene.          No. To Aphrodite who is the girl. I mean, to them both. They are the same person. The same Goddess, I think. If I understand right. Perhaps she would come to meet me now. Now that my father is in jail and awaiting trial for what he did to me and what he did to my Mother. You would like her. Well, maybe not.

 

Callidora.       Why not? Is she not very nice then this Goddess?

 

Helene.          She would break your sweet adorable heart into tiny little pieces. You might not act so superior around her. You tell me nothing. I don’t know if you prefer men or women. I know nothing about your past: who you loved, and who loved you. Who was kind to you and who hurt you. For I know that you have been hurt at some point in the past, and hurt deeply. I tell you everything about me and… And you make little jokes. Just because you are prettier than me doesn’t make you the decision maker. Does it!

And why do you have to wear skirts like that? Have you managed to get some part-time work as a prostitute, or are you just trying to show me that your legs are nicer than mine? Why is it always a competition between us?

 

Callidora.       Calm down, Helene. Let me give you a hug. [Tries to hug Helene but is shrugged off.]

 

Helene.          He denies everything. I will have to go to Court. How can I enjoy myself when I have that hanging over my head? I’m not good company. I want to strike out at someone. Perhaps you should leave.

 

Callidora.       Better that you direct all your anger towards me, rather than hit someone, a stranger. I know you don’t really dislike me. Forget all your dreams about your Goddess, and settle for someone mortal and real. Let’s watch some television, please. The news should be on soon.

 

Helene.          Greek Television should be the best in the world. Yet, it is aimed at an audience of working class morons.

 

Callidora.       Like me, you mean? You don’t have to know the finer points of Choral Song in order to be intelligent or kind. As a friend, I have to ask you again, not to be such a snob. [Helene sulks.] If it will cheer you up, we can go to that new play you were telling me about. We can both be snobs together for one night.

 

Helene.          Really! You would do that for me? If we rush, we can get to the Theatre in time. Thanks, Callidora. Next time, you can take me to the Karaoke. Just joking. Joking. [They both laugh and then get ready to leave.]

 

 

ENDS SCENE 1

 

 

 

Scene 2. In a Heavenly Realm. Everything is white.

 

Aphrodite.      You have been asking to see me. And I want to speak to you too, about a couple of pressing matters.

 

Helene.          Mainly, I just wanted to see you again, to hear your voice. Your really are as beautiful as I remember. And the girl I met, you… you are Aphrodite.

 

Aphrodite.      You knew that from the first time I said, “Hello”. I have protected you and I will continue to protect you, as you will find out in a moment. However, you must make offerings to me in the appropriate manner. You must first create a pleasant sanctuary in your house.

 

Helene.          I have been trying to do the right things. But, tell me what I need to do, need to have.

 

Aphrodite.      You must make offerings to me on an alter. Just a small flat square of white marble will do.

 

Helene.          I am a vegetarian. Please, is there any way I can worship you without having to harm sheep and goats?

 

Aphrodite.      To speak to me, to ask for my favours, you need to make offerings to me. You don’t need to do anything that you think is wrong. Yet, in my Temple at Paphos, the alter was never polluted by blood. I most readily ask for offerings of incense. I am a Goddess who delights in myrtle, flowers, jewels, and perfumes. Incense is a purifier. All around the precincts of my Temples people tried to tell the future by examining the entrails of animals they had slaughtered. It was like an abattoir. Not something I asked for.

 

Helene.          Should I have a statue of you?

 

Aphrodite.      I don’t expect a proper statue, like the one there used to be in Athens, but a nice replica would do. Wash it in rainwater to purify it. Also, a reproduction of one of the paintings of me could be nicely put on show. I know that your father was an artist and used you as a model for the famous scene of me being born from the sea foam. But, I do understand, that, even if it were a good picture, it is something you would not want to see.

 

Helene.          No, never. Is this heaven? Why are there no rivers or clouds? No beauties, apart from you?

 

Aphrodite.      I am not really supposed to bring mortals here. So, I have had to hide my handmaidens and all the wonders of this vast realm. They are not for your eyes. At least, not for now. I know that you worship me and your mind is filled with fantasies about me. You desire to touch me, every bit of me. That is quite right. I expect that and am pleased by that. I have feelings for you. You are attractive and I could make you beautiful. If I spend too much time with you, you will love me and no other. Yet, Callidora loves you. She is a poorly paid working class uncultured atheist who thinks she is the most beautiful woman on earth.

Why do you think so much of her, when all you do together is quarrel?

 

Helene.          I don’t understand.

 

Aphrodite.      I have never done this before, but you have a choice. Choose the mortal or choose me. She will be faithful to you. I could never be faithful to a mortal. And yet, I am the most beautiful creature that has ever existed. Also, I can make love better than your most amazing bedtime fantasies can imagine.

 

Helene.          I love you both

 

Aphrodite.      Take your time. Go to Lesbos with her and enjoy yourself. I don’t know if I should tell you this, but she keeps a secret from you.

 

Helene.          I know. It annoys me but there is nothing I can…

 

Aphrodite.      [Interrupting.] She is frigid towards you. Could you have a frigid lover? Is such a thing possible?

 

Helene.          That is cruel.

 

Aphrodite.      Cruel? It is true. I don’t know why she is frigid, perhaps another secret, but she can never hold you and kiss you and make love to you. Love you like I can. You have a big decision to make. If you choose her, I shan’t be angry. Not very angry. And you can still worship me. Your body becomes more attractive to me each time I see you near to me. Making love to you would be nice. I haven’t needed to make you more attractive, that has evolved naturally from your increasing sense of freedom. It comes from your confidence in your own body.

 

Helene.          {Sobbing.] Happy tears. Happy tears. To be loved by a Goddess and by Callidora. Such happiness.

 

Aphrodite.      Before I forget, one last thing to do before you go back to Athens. I have been, once in a while, listening to your father in his cell. He has been trying to get names from his cellmate.

 

Helene.          Names? Whose names?

 

Aphrodite.      Markos has money stored away at a secret location in Athens. He wants to use it to hire someone to kill you.

 

Helene. Kill me. Why? I had thought the worst of it was over.

 

Aphrodite.      If you die, he believes that there will not be any evidence to convict him. Assuredly, if you don’t attend court, he will walk free. And of course, more and more he hates you. He believes you have betrayed him.

 

Helene.          Please help me. I don’t know what to do. You are my Goddess, again I pray to you on bended knee, please help me. [Bends down before her]

 

Aphrodite.      Over there, put your hand down and feel for something. [Points downstage.]

 

Helene.          [Groping about for a few seconds.] There is nothing I can see, but I can feel a face. An invisible face.

 

Aphrodite.      Markos hurt you, night after night. He murdered your mother. If he can, he will have you murdered. Your hands now move through space into his prison cell. Feel down and place them about his throat.

 

Helene. My father. I can feel his throat

 

Aphrodite.      Many times you have told me of the hate you feel for him. Many times you have wished him dead. Now, another choice. You strangle him to death, or he has you murdered. I have him paralysed so he cannot turn away or fight you. However, he has a strong neck and throat and you are weak. You must decide to do this thing and work hard at it. Think of your mother!

 

Helene.          [Squeezing hard at an invisible throat for two minutes in total.] This is such a terrible thing to do. This is for you, my mother.

 

Aphrodite.      And for you, Helene. Keep squeezing harder. When you are done, things will be better for you. Harder! His cell mate will get the blame. Remember he was conspiring with Markos to have you murdered. Nearly there. You must squeeze even tighter now. Do this thing properly. Don’t give up. Think of what he did to you, what he would still be doing if he could get away with it. Twenty more seconds, that’s all. I think you and Callidora should go to Lesbos for a lovely break. Be nice for both of you. Get something short and sexy and make her eyes swivel in their sockets. It’s fantastic there.

 

Helene.          {Sobbing.] For years you bullied me, assaulted me, rxxxd me.

[Panting.] Am I nearly done? Am I? Die Baxxxrd!

 

Aphrodite.      Three more seconds. Keep it up. Three, two, one. Well done. I am proud of you. You finally did get vengeance on that baxxxrd after all.

 

Helene.          [Falling forward.] Where is he?

 

Aphrodite.      He has no life force left. Nothing left to squeeze. His body in the cell is already decaying. Serves him right. No need to cry. When you get back home, phone a few people from your home phone. This will prove where you have been. The police will be visiting you late morning tomorrow. Try and look shocked. Don’t be too jubilant

 

Helene.          It was hard work. I am exhausted. Exhausted and so very pleased. [Sobs.]

 

Aphrodite       Enjoy Lesbos.

 

 

ENDS SCENE 2

 

 

SCENE 3. On a balcony in a hotel in Lesbos. Both Helene and Callidora sit on deckchairs.

 

Helene.          Well, after today I no longer need to worry about my looks. The stares of the men were a nuisance, yet one I could cope with. The women looking at me, in that particular way, that was nice. Glad I brought this lovely two piece swimsuit. Isn’t my bottom amazing? [Shows Callidora her bottom.] You look very sexy yourself, Callidora.

 

Callidora.       Thanks. You are very pretty. Very nice.

 

Helene.          You never say anything too complementary about my looks. I know you don’t like men too much. Though you do wear the sexiest of outfits and love all the attention you get from the other sexy women. I never seem to get any looks from you. No meaningful glances. Your hand never touches my knee a second too long. You never smell my hair when it’s just washed. I don’t believe that you are frigid, but you have a secret in your life. Please trust me enough to tell me. I need to know why you behave towards me as if I am a distant relative or a work mate. Don’t you find me attractive? I trusted you.

 

Callidora.       My mother was a drug addict. We lived in a dreadful part of Athens. One you have never visited. When she had money, she bought drugs. Rarely, she bought food for either of us. I learned to steal. She was too high on drugs to steal properly. She was attractive and made some money by prostituting her body and by nude modelling for artists. My father was someone that I never met. When she had clients or was modelling, she chased me out of the house. Eventually after weeks of asking her who he was, she told me his first name. She said that she would have to speak to him first, before she told me any more about him. She was scared of him. A few days later he was to come over to the flat to speak to her. She asked me to give them some time alone together. I presume he turned up. Three hours later I returned to see the flat in flames. She burned to death before I could hear any more about him. The police knew what kind of a person she was and wasted no time on looking for a possible killer. Me, I think she was murdered by my father who didn’t want his secret to pass out of his control.

 

Helene.          His name?

 

Callidora.       She just told me his first name. Look, there are hundreds of people called Markos in Athens.

 

Helene.          And that is why you are too scared to hold me or touch me? You think we are sisters?

 

Callidora.       I think the odds are very much against us being sisters. And we look nothing like each other. Do I look like him? Your father?

 

Helene.          No. I don’t believe for a second that he would have betrayed my mother by sleeping with someone outside the family. At least, that is what he said. In truth though, we never knew much about his life before he met my mother. You were born three years before he met my mother.

Callidora.       I love you, and I do think you are beautiful and sexy.

 

Helene. You are the most sensual woman I have ever met. I get excited just watching your body move. And your legs are… At this moment, I am filled with desire for you. You know that I love you. There is a double bed inside. I promise you that by the morning, we will both be exhausted and we will both be lovers. Never mention this “sister” thing again.

 

Callidora        [Reaches over and pulls Helene’s face nearer for a long kiss.] May your Aphrodite grant us enough passion and strength to last this long happy night together.

 

Helene. [Speaking to the night.] Aphrodite, we crave your blessing on our lovemaking. [Whispering.] Be happy for us, please. [Callidora leads Helene inside.]

 

 

ENDS SCENE 3

 

 

 

 

 

SCENE 4. The Heavenly Realm of Aphrodite. All is white.

 

Aphrodite.      Welcome again to my heavenly realm. Well, those bits I am allowed to show you. I am glad you managed to escape to Lesbos, away from the journalists and from your father’s funeral. Wasn’t well attended.

I was only a bit jealous, a bit angry.

 

Helene.          Angry at me?

 

Aphrodite.      It’s difficult, having a mortal that I care about, reject me for another. And for a human at that. Not your fault, but I went out Clubbing in Athens. I decided to put on my shortest designer skirt and to break a few hearts. Only fair. Had to find out if my features were absolutely perfect. They were.

 

Helene. Don’t be angry. I still love you. Still worship you.

 

Aphrodite.      Are you listening? Anyway, this woman kept staring at me whenever I danced near her boyfriend. Hadn’t noticed him till then. I was in a bit of a mood, so I did a detour past her hulky man and while pushing past him, stroked his thigh. Oh, and I gave him one of my, “This is going to be my first time” looks. I didn’t need to try too hard but was in a bit of a hurry. We spent about an hour together. He spent most of the time whispering obscenities in my ear and trying to force me to do things I didn’t want to do. Normally, I would have walked away a long time before, but I was desperate for it. Eventually, I had taken enough and said, “Leave it. I was just in for the dancing. My boy friend is waiting for me outside. I don’t want any more of your horrible behaviour.”

I left the Club followed by the hateful stares of his girlfriend and by the big guy and two of his friends. I headed for a nearby dark avenue that I know about. It is secluded and has a dead end to it. I could hear one of the guys arguing with the others and saying, “Leave her alone.” Eventually I turned and said, “I don’t want any of you near me. You don’t have my permission to do what you are wanting to do. If you come near me you are breaking the law. If you attack me I will resist. I started Karate Classes last week and am nearly an Orange belt. You have been warned.”

The big guy pushed the nice one out of the way and grabbed me by the wrist saying, “You’ve been asking for it all night. Now you’re going to get some.”

He was rough with me and I was very angry, so I grabbed his arm and snapped it in a couple of places. What a noise it made. He fell to the ground in agony.

 

Helene.          You should have run. It wasn’t safe.

 

Aphrodite       The other angry friend ran straight at me. I sidestepped and tripped him as he went past. There was another satisfying crack as I kicked into his right thigh and broke the bone. Quite a messy fracture I would say.

 

Helene.          And the decent guy?

 

Aphrodite.      He said he would phone the police for me. However, with the sound of the Gods laughing in my ears I said, “I need to sit down and have a rest. I don’t often do this, but you can come back to my hotel room and we can have a coffee or whatever. You are so very kind.”

 

Helene. [Laughing.] And did you have a coffee?

 

Aphrodite.      Yes, we did. And we had a very enjoyable “whatever” too. Worth waiting for.

 

Helene.          Don’t ever let me go out Clubbing in Athens with you.

 

Aphrodite       We’ll see. Have you heard anything about your father’s will?

 

Helene.          He never had time to change it. Everything goes to me. Apart from one painting which goes to Callidora.

 

Aphrodite.      Is it a painting of her mother?

 

Helene.          It’s a nude paining of her mother. It also means that Callidora and I are half-sisters. It’s not a big worry. We weren’t brought up together. We had a different mother. We aren’t going to have babies together, so no mixed up genetics to worry about.

 

Aphrodite.      I hope you can cope with it. I would like to meet this famous Callidora. You speak so highly of her. I have seen her through the mists of distance but would like to see her up close. Can we all be at your house for a chat next week?

 

Helene.          That will be lovely. Having a Goddess over for tea ensures that the house will get a really good tidying. You are the two most important people, sorry, person and Goddess in my life. I hope you become friends.

 

 

 

ENDS SCENE 4

 

 

 

 

 

Scene 5. All three on Helene’s couch.

 

Aphrodite.      My Dear Callidora, what a lovely name. It means, “Gift of beauty” doesn’t it? It is certainly a most accurate description. One small point though, I understand that you think me a liar, and by extension, Helene a liar, or a fool, or mad. [Holds out her hand to stop Callidora speaking.] Please, allow me one minute to speak. You are a strong effective debater and I will let you speak in a moment. [Waits a few seconds.] Helene is telling you something totally outside your understanding when she tells you I am Aphrodite. But, if you truly love her, you must try to accept what she says. At the very least, don’t make fun of her belief in me, a belief in something beyond your limited understanding.

 

Callidora.       You are just an ordinary woman, a girl, sitting there. I love Helene and would do anything for her. I just can’t allow her to be so deceived. I do believe that she loves you. You are beautiful and quite lovely in your speech. Maybe 2,500 years ago your little talk would have been more convincing. Back then, people were either slaves or poor, or they were rich and powerful. There was no room for honest questioning.

 

Aphrodite.      I assure you, there was lots of “honest questioning”. You will have seen Iphigenia at Aulis by Euripides by now.  I know it is Helene’s favourite play. What did you think of it? Was there “honest questioning?”

 

Callidora.       Euripides was very brave. He wrote a play which made the audience question their own ideas about war. Brave when the audience of Athenians were fighting a savage war that they would lose. The language was that of 2,500 years ago. As well as that, it was of a particular type used only in Drama. I didn’t understand that much of it.

 

Aphrodite.      Yes, I notice that you give a synopsis to the play. You do not deal in subtleties of text or argument. Many people from poor backgrounds lack in certain gifts, like proper speech or a knowledge of the theatre.

 

Callidora.       Are you a fascist Goddess then?

 

Aphrodite.      I would not have people killed because they are inferior, lacking in essential qualities. Nevertheless, I have to make note of the differences that exist between rich and poor. Between cultured and uncultured. I would gladly make love to someone as pretty as you but I wouldn’t want to discuss theatre or the arts with you. I would be wasting my time. I hope I don’t offend you by speaking my mind.

 

Helene.          [Interrupting.] You offend her and you offend me. You made me choose between you and Callidora. And I chose Callidora. In this tough world, we both fight to survive and to have a little fun when we can. I love her because she is the most compassionate person I know. Compassion wasn’t even mentioned in your little talk about poverty. Yet, I am not a fool… I do, now, know why you are speaking to us like this. You want us both to dislike you. Why?

 

 

Aphrodite.      You are scarily clever. There can be no physical love between mortal and immortal. I wanted to chase you away from me and further into the arms of Callidora. Her very well sculpted arms. However, I am not a very clever persuader, am I?

 

Helene.          You are kind and I will always worship you. I would ask you to, from now on, talk openly to us both. When Callidora has calmed down from her quite understandable rage, I am sure we can have a lovely talk about our trip to Molyvos in Lesbos. It was nice. The beach was lovely though a bit pebbly. The village was sweet. Come to think of it, we spent most of our time in bed. That first night there, our first night together, was the first time that I made love to anyone. Callidora has the most amazing tongue. [Callidora puts her hands over her face in embarrassment.]

 

Aphrodite.      [Talking to Callidora.] You have magnificent legs and a skilled tongue. I am quite jealous of my friend, Helene. Let me kiss you once on the lips to say sorry. [Turning to Helene.] It’s OK. Just a kiss. No tongues, honest. [Kisses her for two seconds while Helene looks on a bit worried.]

 

 

ENDS SCENE 5

 

 

 

Scene 6. Callidora and Helene on the couch.

 

Helene.          I want you to move in with me. Live as my partner. We trust each other. The sex is fantastic. Let’s be quite open about things.

 

Callidora.       I need my space. This is your house. You would go mad if I played my Savina Yannatou CD’s too loud.

 

Helene. Just think about it then. There is something else though. When I got the money from the estate, I got lots of begging letters. I burned them all. All bar one.

 

Callidora.       Burn it too. Let’s get on with our lifes. What kind of letter is it?

 

Helene.          It’s almost a blackmail letter. It asks for money to be given to this woman so she can give her child a good start in life.

 

Callidora.       And how does that concern you?

 

Helene.          The woman is an alcoholic. She has only a few months left to live. Her liver is finished. Her child is a lovely one year old girl. Healthy, but most of the time staying with distant relatives or with Social Work. She wants the child adopted but also wants her to have some money in a Bank Account for her for when she gets older.

 

Callidora.       It is blackmail. Get the Police involved.

 

Helene.          The woman doesn’t want anything for herself. She knows things about me. Things you don’t even know. Things I was too ashamed to tell you. No one else knows about them. She worked as a prostitute and as an Artist’s model. She wrote saying my Father got her pregnant two years ago. Apparently, he used to confess to her about the things he did to me. He felt some kind of guilt. She wrote that she wanted to tell the Police but was too scared of him. And yet, she still loved him.

 

Callidora.       This is awful. Perhaps there are other children out there that are born to your father.

 

Helene.          My father’s picture was in the News so often that anyone with a grudge against him or a child born to him would have contacted me by now. Do I give this woman money? She might ask for more.

 

Callidora.       Or she might go to the Press with her story about what Markos did to you. Did she threaten to do that? There have been some horrible stories in the Newspapers already. All lies and misinformation. Disgusting journalists.

 

Helene.          Surprisingly, no. She has no proof of anything. If I reject her claim then she might go to the Newspapers to get some money, possibly. I could sue them and sue her.

 

Callidora.       Yet, the child, it seems, is another half-sister. If we were a couple then we could adopt the child and say nothing of her past. At least, not until she was grown up. Our lifes would have to be devoted to the care of this child. This would be a very different life from the one we were planning together.

 

Hellene.         My father still seems to be trying to affect my life. Yet, if the child is our half-sister, maybe it deserves good parents.

 

Callidora.       Us, good parents? I don’t even know if we would be allowed to adopt the child. Unlikely. Impossible.

 

Helene.          Then we either let two good people adopt the child, or I take in the child as my half-sister.

 

Callidora.       So, you would admit to everyone your kinship to this child, but not your kinship to me?

 

Helene.          Yes, for you are my lover. It can’t be known that you are my half-sister as well. We are not lying, just trying to find the best way out of an incredibly complicated situation that my father has left us in.

 

Callidora.       If you take the child in, can you trust the authorities and the mother not to pass on this highly secret information?

 

Helene.          I have money and my Mother’s family has a good lawyer. Can I talk to the woman and to the lawyer?

 

Callidora.       Yes. Talk to the lawyer and then the mother. Tell me, what’s the name of the child?

 

Helene.          The mother likes the same music as you do. The child is called Savina.

 

Callidora.       Nice name. I suppose that this child can pull us apart, or hold us together. We will see how fate treats us.

 

ENDS SCENE 6

 

 

 

 

Scene 7. All three on Helene’s couch.

 

Aphrodite.      Thanks for asking me back. Sorry I was so rude last time.

 

Callidora.       I am trying to accept that you are who Helene says you are. And yes, you were rude. Apology accepted though. I am puzzled at these paintings. Why did Markos paint all these pictures of you being born from the sea foam? How many did he paint, I wonder?

 

Aphrodite.      I am drawn to art or literature that speaks to me or of me. I see and I listen. There are only two such paintings. One is of Helene and the other is of your own mother, Callidora. He painted many models but they usually did not give him enough inspiration. Although he had little money of his own, he destroyed any paintings he thought imperfect. To him, you were just another Artist’s model, Helene.

 

Callidora.       I believe from what I have heard about the immortal ones, that Markos must have been trying to please you, Aphrodite. Is that so? Did he try to speak to you? Did he worship you?

 

Aphrodite.      After burning incense to contact me, he then approached me with a deal. His part of the deal was that he would worship me and that he would trick you Helene into also worshiping me.

 

Helene.          I don’t understand. He was the one that banned me from reading about you. Forbid me from even mentioning your name.

 

Aphrodite.      He knew you were a rebel and would try to oppose his will in whatever way you could. He tried to stop you worshiping me. Yet, he didn’t try very hard.

 

Helene.          And what did he want of you?

 

Aphrodite.      Things asked of a Goddess are not to be mentioned to anyone else. You ask too much of our friendship.

 

Helene.          You must tell me. You have to tell me.

 

Aphrodite.      Be quiet. You have never seen me angry. I am also the Goddess of broken hearts and of revenge. I am not allowed to speak of things told in confidence. I cannot speak to you about this.

 

Callidora. [Hugging Aphrodite’s knees.] As a supplicant, I beg you to help Helene. I have just begun to open my heart to you. I will worship you as well. Please, you did not accept his request or speak back to him. So, nothing of confidence was promised.

 

Aphrodite.      It is not that easy. I should not speak of this. I will accept the terms you offer me though, Callidora. Markos thought that Helene here was almost perfect in body. When she was ten, he fell in love with her. As she grew into a woman, he hated her for growing fat and ugly. He thought the breasts and hips of a woman were fat and ugly.

He asked for a lot from me.

 

Helene.          Did he want sex with me? But he already had that. Did he want sex with you? Excuse me, but I have to know.

 

Aphrodite.      Markos had the greatest technique of any artist of this present time. He felt though that mortal females were not good enough to be models for Aphrodite. He wanted me to be a model for myself.

 

Helene.          Why didn’t you let him? You said he was a skilled artist. And I know you would have liked another painting of you for mortals to be enraptured with.

 

Aphrodite.      I never answered his requests. However, I would not have been the perfect model for his idea of feminine beauty. I have the body of a beautiful woman. Markos wanted to paint a ten year old child’s body. I would have been too fat for him

 

Callidora.       What a monster he was.

 

Aphrodite. [Matter of factly.] Callidora, rose incense will be nice when you worship me. My friend here Helene, deliciously fat Helene, will show you how to prostrate yourself properly.

 

[Aphrodite laughs then they all laugh.]

 

 

ENDS SCENE 7

 

 

 

 

 

Scene 8 Aphrodite and Callidora on the couch

 

Callidora.       I do promise to worship you and make the appropriate offerings. I have read bits about you in Mythology books. Can you tell me which of these things are true?

 

Aphrodite.      It is nice to speak just to you. I need to get to know you better too. Sit closer. That’s nice. You do not offend me by being next to me.  I love Helene but I do have these somewhat prejudiced views about people from impoverished backgrounds. I do see that you are intelligent, trying to learn about culture, and you are full of compassion. I see that. Thank you for the rose scented perfume. It is just as exquisite as are your feet.

 

Callidora.       It is my favourite perfume too. But about you?

 

Aphrodite.      Yes, me. You want to know about me. I, you now know, like to chat to mortals that I trust. Usually I have one who manages my worldly affairs. I have bank accounts, jewellery, and land. Someone has to, on my behalf, sign the signatures down here. You or Helene could do that. I like Coffee. And that’s about that.

 

Callidora.       I know you can’t tell me everything but can you tell me about your power? Where does it come from?

 

Aphrodite.      I am fundamentally different to you and Helene. I am an energy, of a kind strange to you. It is hard for me to say whether we, the immortal ones, could survive without humans. Although I love Helene, I unfortunately could never make love to her. I mean even before she was totally enamoured of you. When I make love to someone, as a Goddess, they can never again make love without seeing my eyes and smelling my perfume. Mostly, on earth, I make love to humans in the guise of a mortal. It is safer for them. Only one human could burn herself in the fire of my immortal lust and scorch me too. That was Helene of Troy. She was a special woman.

 

Callidora.       Did you have to give her some of your powers to enable her to love you as you loved her?

 

Aphrodite.      A Goddess is not allowed to do that. I have learnt that you are moving in with Helene and that you are going to take the child into your home. A wise choice. She will learn how to be loved. She will be as happy as fate allows.

 

Callidora.       Can you foretell whether she will be happy or not?

 

Aphrodite.      Yes, I can. However, I will not talk of these things. I can be a kindly Aunt who will visit the child once in a while. What do you think?

 

Callidora.       That would be nice. One last question, if I may be allowed it? Are you really the “immortal” Aphrodite?

 

 

 

Aphrodite.      I have lived for many thousands of years. Who can say what “immortal” means? And so, a question in turn for you. Helene told me you learnt Aikido because you were bullied at School. Did you get bullied because of your sexuality?

 

Callidora.       I just knew that I didn’t like boys. At least, at first it was that. Then I felt things towards one of my best friends. I didn’t know what was going on inside my body or in my mind. As a big secret I told her all this. She called me names and told everyone in my Class. I got bullied by all of my friends after that. It took years to get over it. I met one of them three years ago in a bar. She tried to start a fight. Such a nice feeling, when I had her hopping up and down in a particularly nasty Aikido hold. Helene will probably take all her life to recover from what happened to her

 

Aphrodite.      One life time isn’t enough time to recover from what happened to her. She will never be as she could have been. She will never be cured of her hurts. She will never stop having an occasional night were she cries herself to sleep or stammers uncontrollably. And yet, she gets a little better day by day. You and I will both help her. I think that she will have a happy and fulfilled life. She is a beautiful person. And she is a survivor.

 

Callidora.       The two paintings: the one of Helene and the one of my mother, are they good paintings?

 

Aphrodite.      The technique used was superb. Certain aspects of composition are marvellous. Yet, one has the terrified face and the immature body of a child. The other, your mother’s picture, shows that she had suffered greatly too. She was another one of his many victims.

 

 

ENDS SCENE 8

 

 

 

 

Scene 9 All three on Helene’s couch

 

Helene. Immortal one, can you tell me how you came to meet the more famous Helene, Helene of Troy?

 

Aphrodite.      The stories are wrong. I remember every day that I spent with her, and every night. To begin, one afternoon, I heard tales about a village girl claiming to be as beautiful as me. I found her and was ready to teach her not to make such outrageous claims when she turned and apologised. She said that saying such things was the only sure way she knew of getting to meet me. I was angry and annoyed and curious.  She shook her hair loose and it fell over her lovely shoulders. She said that as she was the most beautiful creature on earth and I was the most beautiful creature in the sky, we should be lovers.

Don’t be jealous, my friends. When she smiled at me, I was overcome with desire. There was no one else about and she slowly undressed in front of me .When she was naked, she said, “I have heard that to make love to an immortal, you need a little of that immortal’s power.” I felt that she already had some sacred power from somewhere but I gave her more. A lot more. It was very wrong of me to do that. Especially for someone like her. Her body tingled with energy and her golden skin glowed without any help from the imminent setting of the sun.

I shook like a nervous virgin as she seduced me. Took my fingers and kissed them. She undressed me and covered me in kisses. Eventually the fires of lust ignited within me, burning fiercer than ever before. I made love to every part of her beautiful body. One moment, she was on top of me then I was on top of her. The scent of her rose perfume intoxicated me and excited me.

Our strange cries and sobs must have frightened the tiny creatures of the wood. After some hours, we lay down to rest beside a waterfall. The silver light from the moon was our only covering. Sweat ran down our bodies as we lay exhausted.

We were a couple, Goddess and mortal. I stayed that night in her arms, holding her tenderly, like a child holds its mother.

She was as perfect in features as a human could be. Though she had not the kind nature that you have, Helene. Each time I stayed the night with her, I would shake with desire. It was her that would want us to part in the morning. She wanted to be a Princess or a Queen. She wanted armies to fight for her, Gods to love her. Helene was poor and uncultured but was ambitious beyond even my understanding. She had no empathy for other beings. No love for anyone apart from herself, and for a time, me.

Her face, legs, body, all were perfect. And she had this intense sexy look that pierced right through you and broke your heart. When I discovered I was acting like a fool with her, begging to see her again, I made a promise to myself never to ask to see her again. I kept my promise. I do not love either of you in the way I loved Helene. Yet, I do love both of you deeply and my love has strong roots. I feel it will grow as I get to know both of you better. After only a few thousand years, I think I am nearly over my first love, Helene of Troy.

 

Helene.          And what did she look like? Her features.

 

Aphrodite.      She had your name, Helene. But Callidora, you are Helene of Troy reborn. I have to catch my breath each time I look at you. As close as a human can get to perfection, just so are your features.

 

Helene.          [Smiling.] You think my Callidora that beautiful?

 

Aphrodite.      Callidora, a poet should be here, to write verses about the fullness of your moist slightly open lips. An artist, to depict the sparkling lights that move within and about your hair. A sculptor, to admire the noble high cheekbones that you possess. And a lover, to kiss your eyelids and to hold your body close when it trembles in ecstasy. If you lay upon my alter, what gifts could I refuse you?

 

Helene.          Lovely words. You are a poet, Aphrodite.

 

Aphrodite.      I am a lover who is so perfect in her craft that she is called, Goddess.

 

Callidora.       Then, you don’t mind me coming from the poor part of Athens?

 

Aphrodite.      You have three qualities that are golden: your hair, your voice, and your warm skin.

 

Callidora.       I dreamt of you last night and in my dream your eyes were hazel. They were hazel the last time we met. Now…

 

Aphrodite.      I choose them to be green for tonight. Does that colour displease you?

 

Callidora.       No, my Goddess.

 

Aphrodite.      If the fancy takes me, then I can change my features easily. There are many dresses in my wardrobe. Many faces. Figures that are slim or curvaceous. A hundred colours and shades of hair.

 

Helene.          Do you prefer men or women, for lovers?

 

Aphrodite.      Occasionally I like men for their single minded directness. Mostly, I prefer the subtleties involved in knowing a woman. Sometimes I will spend an hour having perfumed oils rubbed all over my body. Before we have even kissed. There is more to lovemaking than exists in the fantasies of men. My favourite combination is to spend the night with two beautiful women. Coincidently, we are all going Clubbing together at the weekend. Let us see what happens.

 

ENDS SCENE 9

 

 

 

 

Scene 10. All three in Helene’s lounge. All in short party skirts.

 

Aphrodite.      That was a fantastic night we had, Clubbing in Athens. I had some champagne from… From…

 

Callidora.       From Champagne.

 

Aphrodite.      Yes, champagne from Champagne. Greek wine from, well Greece. I am drunk. So drunk. And scotch whisky from … From Scotch land.

 

Callidora.       Nearly right. You had some Rum as well.

 

Aphrodite.      Presumably from Rumland?

 

Callidora.       Correct.

 

Aphrodite.      What a good night it was. When I am sober, I will tell you both all about that lovely Princess Iphigenia. It is such a sad story and best kept for another time.

 

Helene.          Here, I meant to give you this earlier. It’s a present

 

Aphrodite.      Wow. Was it very expensive? Is it sapphires?  I love sapphires. They match my eyes. Well, the eyes I wear tonight.

 

Helene.          It’s a toothbrush. Callidora and I would like you to stay with us at the weekends. We thought you might not have one. Can you stay? We both love you so much. We think and hope that our relationship can blossom with yet another beauty in the house.

 

Aphrodite.      I have been thinking what to say if you asked. To be quite honest, I’m a bit bored with “Up There”. I would like both your permissions to share the house with you as a mortal. Well, a mortal for most of the time. My handmaidens can look after things “Up There”.

 

Helene.          For me that’s perfect.

 

Callidora.       Perfect for me too. I can get you a job working beside me in the prison. [Laughing.]

 

Aphrodite.      I am going to be a rich pampered mortal, not a very hard working one. And yet, I can help with babysitting when the tiny beautiful one arrives. We won’t get much privacy when Savina arrives.

 

Helene.          We need a triple bed rather than a double bed.

 

Callidora.       We would never get any sleep with a triple bed.

 

Aphrodite.      I hear that the two of you give each other a lot of sleepless nights. Luckily, I won’t be up early for work the next day.

 

Callidora.       What about having a rota to decide who sleeps in the double bed?

 

Aphrodite.      The Goddess of Love does not take her turn in a rota. No matter how democratic it is.

 

Callidora.       Aphrodite, if we are all going to stay together, than can we have a tiny part of your powers? We don’t want to be scorched. We do understand it’s not something you’re meant to do. We both want to show you how much we love you.

 

Aphrodite.      Before I do this, Helene are you happy yet?

 

Helene.          You two are teaching me how to be happy.

 

Aphrodite.      Right, both kneel in front of me and quack like a duck. [Helene and Callidora look at each other quizzically.] Just joking. Hold my hands and feel the most beautiful tingling sensation. [Both do as she asks.]

 

Helene.          Wow! Ooohhhhhh.

 

Callidora.       Yes…   Ahhhhhh…

 

 

ENDS SCENE 10

END OF PLAY

Where are you really from?

[These pieces were written for a multi-cultural event in Glasgow. I could not find Polish actors so the script was not used.]

Three very short scenes. Synopsis.

Scene 1. At the Bus Stop. Arguing leads to comedy and complete misunderstanding.

Scene 2. Two people reading lines of prose by a Polish author, and poems by English authors – from out of copyright or non-copyright works

Scene 3. In the Pub, one drinker tries to find out where the other is from.

Cast. Three actors all of whom can do a Polish accent. One of them needs to do a Glasgow accent in Scene 1. Two of the actors need to be male and one female (the female actor also has to act as a male in Scene 1)

 

SCENE 1. AT THE BUS STOP

Two Polish men are talking to each other while a Glaswegian bystander gets more and more agitated at their words-words he cannot guess the meaning of. He spits on the ground. Their conversation last about thirty seconds.

Glasgow Guy.  Jimmy! Jimmy! Don’t mind me buttin’ in, but are you two by any chance talkin’ aboot me?

Both look at each other and one answers him.

Character 1.  Excuse me but we are having a private conversation. Do you mind!

Glasgow Guy.  Jimmy! Just to tell you that it’s no very social tae ignore someone at a Bus Stop. Not sure of our local customs are you?

Character 2.  Neither of us is called Jimmy.

Glasgow Guy.  Wit are you called then?

Character 1. [Gives two long names in Polish-strange to Glasgow ears.]

Glasgow Guy. Why dae you have to have names lik’ that? You’re no’ in your own country now, you know. You might have picked up a well-paid job here and goat a lovely new house aff the Council, but you two don’t have any manners. You are a guest – though not a welcome one – ‘n someone else’s country. Speak in the language of Scotland. Not the foul language of Russia.

Character 2.  You want me to speak in Gaelic then?

Glasgow Guy. [Spluttering] Yes… Well… There may be two languages in Scotland but most of us speak Scots. I mean English. And so should both of you. I bet you both spoke English when you went for your interview. Two minutes in the country and you steal a Scotsman’s job. Did you speak Russian at the interview then? Ha. Ha.

Character 1. [Says rude words and jokes about Glasgow Guy in Polish-intended for Poles in the audience to get. Both Poles laugh. Then continues in English.] My Boss is Polish-like the two of us. He has lived hear most of his life. His family fled the Germans during the Second World War. He likes employing people who work hard. He employs hard working Poles and hardworking Scots.

Character 2. [Getting angry] I have lots of Scottish friends. Not every Scot is a “Bamstick” like you [Both Poles laugh]

Glasgow Guy.  Are yae looking for a fight then Comrade?

Character 1. Look, I haven’t fought since I was junior Boxing champion in Warsaw, and I put that guy into Hospital during the final fight. I just want a number 61 Bus! [Shouting. Glasgow Guy backs off]

Glasgow guy.  No need to be aggressive. I wis just trying to make conversation.  I like the Vodka myself. Yae don’t have a wee drop of good Polish vodka on yae just now do you?

Character 2. No we don’t. However, we are going back to my place for a drink and a long talk. Then tomorrow my friend goes back to Poland. I don’t know when we will meet up again. I didn’t mean to offend you. I just – believe it or not – love the sound of my own language. I like the sound of it. And it brings back memories to me. Memories of home. I do have Scottish friends but my best friend in all the world is this fine fellow here. Let me say his name and my name again. [Says names in Polish]. Your hills and rivers are very beautiful.  And I have often camped near the beautiful Loch Lomond. And yet, I do love your country but – I have to confess, -I love mine more.

Glasgow Guy. Look sorry. Sorry I just talked such rubbish. Listen pal. I’m late hame ‘n’ the wife will kill me. F’in 61 Bus.  It’s always late. I hope the Buses run a lot better in Poland. Ehhh? Let me shake both yir hands. [Shakes both sets of hands warmly and says their names: Two names said correctly]

Character 2. And what – my new pal – is your fine Scottish name?

Glasgow Guy. Jimmy. It’s Jimmy. Honest. Every second person in Glasgow is called Jimmy. Wit a name. Even the womun are called Jimmy

[Looking into the distance, All shout together-the Poles in Polish. ] At last, the Number 61 Bus.

Scene 2. In a Library. Two people-a young Polish woman and a young Scottish man read passages from two different books. All the passages are safe to use as out of copyright or copyright free.

Scottish man. I know that Poland has always produced good musicians but it’s a shame that no writers ever came from Poland. This is one of my favourite pieces of verse. It’s from Love’s Philosophy and it’s by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Isn’t it a shame that no Pole ever wrote anything like this [Coughs and starts reading from the book before him.]

The fountains mingle with the river

And the rivers with the oceans,

The winds of heaven mix forever

With a sweet emotion;

Nothing in the world is single;

All things by a law divine

In one spirit meet and mingle.

Why not I with thine?

See the mountains kiss high heaven

And the waves clasp one another;

No sister-flower would be forgiven

If it disdained its brother,

And the sunlight clasps the earth

And the moonbeams kiss the sea:

What is all this sweet work worth

If thou kiss not me?

Polish woman. [Laughing.] Are you sure that isn’t just a bad chat up line? If thou kiss not me! I think my own country can do something better than that.  My favourite writer was a Pole but-like many other famous Poles-he was not really Polish. Let me explain as, you may know little of the troubled history of the Polish peoples. We have been beset by war on every side; betrayed by friends; invaded by enemies; and had our borders shrunk at the whim of foreigners. Joseph Conrad –or Jozef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski as he was christened-was a Pole who was born in a land mostly populated by Ukrainians.  The land had been part of Poland until the Second Partition of Poland. Conrad became for me the greatest writer in English that I know of. Yet, he never stopped being a Polish patriot. I will read you a passage from his strangest story, Heart of Darkness. This is from The Project Gutenberg edition.

Please listen carefully to the opening lines from this masterpiece:

[Reads from the book before her.]

The Nellie, a cruising yawl, swung to her anchor without a flutter of the sails, and was at rest. The flood had made, the wind was nearly calm, and being bound down the river, the only thing for it was to come to and wait for the turn of the tide.

The sea-reach of the Thames stretched before us like the beginning of an interminable waterway. In the offing the sea and the sky were welded together without a joint, and in the luminous space the tanned sails of the barges drifting up with the tide seemed to stand still in red clusters of canvas sharply peaked, with gleams of varnished sprits. A haze rested on the low shores that ran out to sea in vanishing flatness.

The air was dark above Gravesend, and farther back still seemed condensed into a mournful gloom, brooding motionless over the biggest, and the greatest, town on earth.

Scottish man. That’s not that bad. However, I don’t think it can compete with this piece from someone you might have heard of: William Shakespeare. [reads at first from the page but then looks into her eyes.]

But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?

It is the East and Juliet is the sun!

Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,

Who is already sick and pale with grief

That thou her maid art more fair than she.

Be not her maid, since she is envious.

Her vestal livery is but sick and green,

And none but fools do wear it. Cast it Off.

It is my lady; O it is my love!

O that she knew she were!

Polish woman. Believe it or not Polish men and women sometimes fall in love too. However, I am going to stick with the master and give another piece of prose from the same work.

The sky, without a speck, was a benign immensity of unstained light; the very mist on the Essex marshes was like

a gauzy and radiant fabric, hung from the wooded rises inland, and draping the low shores in diaphanous folds. Only the gloom to the west, brooding over the upper reaches, became more somber every minute, as if angered by the approach of the sun.

And at last, in its curved and imperceptible fall, the sun sank low, and from glowing white changed to a dull red without rays and without heat, as if about to go out suddenly, stricken to death by the touch of that gloom brooding over a crowd of men.

Scottish Man. I  liked that a lot. I have one last poem though that you, I think, will not find anything to compare with. This is a very cultured chat up line. It’s called, Meeting at Night by Robert Browning.

The grey sea and the long black land,

And the yellow half-moon large and low;

And the startled little waves that leap

In fiery ringlets from their sleep,

As I gain the cover with pushing prow,

And quench its speed i’ the slushy sand.

Then a mile of warm sea-scented beach;

Three fields to cross till a farm appears;

A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch

And blue spurt of a lighted match,

And a voice less loud, thro’ its joys and fears,

Than the two hearts beating each to each!

Polish woman. I don’t know if I can beat that. It is lovely. But here is the best that I can offer. Perhaps we have a draw?

My final piece from Conrad:

Forthwith a change came over the waters, and the serenity became less brilliant but more profound. The old river in its broad reach rested unruffled at the decline of day, after ages of good service done to the race that peopled its banks, spread out in the tranquil dignity of a waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth. We looked at the venerable stream not in the vivid flush of a short day that comes and departs for ever, but in the august light of abiding memories. And indeed nothing is easier for a man who has, as the phrase goes, “followed the sea” with reverence and affection, than to evoke the great spirit of the past upon the lower reaches of the Thames.

Scottish Man. I think we do have a draw. I need to read some Conrad. And I need to ask for your Telephone number. Just so you can keep me up to date on Polish writers.

Polish woman. And I thought you were reading me love poetry as a chat up line. I thought you wanted to take me out on a date. My book collection or my lips, choose.

Scottish man. Firstly, your lips.

[She smiles then… They kiss discretely.]

Scene 3 Corner of a Bar.

Scots Man. Where are from then?

Polish Sounding Person. What do you mean?

S.M. [Shouting.]Where are you from THEN!

PSP. Can’t you guess from my accent?

  1. M. You have a weird accent. Are from Eastern Europe? All those accents sound the same.

PSP  Why do you need to know where I was born?

S.M. You sound Polish. Your accent definitely sounds Polish.

PSP.      Tell me where you are really from. You sound Scottish but surprisingly you have no kilt on.

S.M. You sure have funny ideas about other people. Where are you from!

PSP  I am from over the seas and far away. Does it matter?

S.M.      Where are you really from?

PSP You think I am from  Poland? I understand why you think my strange accent is Polish. I have visited Poland. But I would not describe myself as Polish. I can dance and I can drink and I can play the violin but the description “Polish” would not describe me sufficiently.

S.M.      Do you not like to talk about where you come from? Talk about your heritage? Do you face discrimination because you are different?

PSP.      What a lot of questions. I just came in for a beer. I do not fear anyone on this fast spinning broken planet. Perhaps others should fear me. Do you really think I fit in with all the posers in this trendy Bar?

S.M.      I think you may be drunk. Perhaps ill? Are you trying to intimidate me? That won’t work. I come from Castlemilk. If you sound Polish, look Polish, and drink Polish Beer, then are you not a Pole? You even have Polish ears.

PSP. I come from further away. My accent may have the rich tones of a Polish accent but there are other nuances in my voice that you should be able to detect. Try and guess somewhere much further away.

S.M. I thought you might be from Estonia. One of my pals is from Estonia. Estonia then? Am I correct?

PSP.      [Sounding menacing.]One more guess. If you guess right, I will buy you a beer-a Polish beer. Where I came from originally, well they don’t like beer there. If you guess wrong then you pay a forfeit.

Do you agree to our little deal?

S.M. [Sounding scared.]Do you come from Hell? Are you the Devil?

PSP. Say we have a deal and I will answer truthfully. Do you not fancy your chances of winning a nice cool Polish Beer? You seem like a very clever guy. Someone with good instincts. A naturally good guesser.

S.M.      Tell me the forfeit first.

PSP. No.

S.M. OK. One more clue and we have a deal. You have my word.

PSP. I agree to the deal too. I will give you a very good clue. You seem like a nice person. Such an innocent guy.  Someone thoroughly decent. And very nutritious

S.M. The clue! Please…

PSP. The land where I was born has no water running anywhere.

S.M.      I know that. It’s so easy. You were born in the frozen wastes of Siberia during the harsh winter when no running water exists. When everything is frozen solid. When there is only ice.

PSP.      Clever guess. Wrong guess.

S.M.      Where are from then?

PSP.      Telling you where I was born wasn’t part of the deal… But I will tell you. Because I like your face. So honest and without any preconceptions. You couldn’t have guessed right in a thousand years. My accent – to those in the know -places my birthplace as, Seliun 5x. It is a nasty little place not far from the centre of the Andromeda Galaxy. It is a little bit like Hell. Or what I imagine Hell to be like. On all my travels I have never been there. Yet, they tell me the food is good.

There, now can I have my forfeit?

S.M. You are mad! Polish and mad!

PSP.      Aren’t all Poles mad then? I quite like Poland. I quite hate my home world. You planet is reasonably nice. I do hope it lasts. No scary comets arriving. And your sunsets are glorious.

My forfeit… I will make it something appropriate. Not a life or a soul or even a limb. Not even a night of passion in your strong arms [strokes S.M.’s shoulders], you good looking hunk! I know! Since I look Polish and you would like me to adopt a Polish attitude-whatever that is-I will have you buy me a nice bottle of Polish beer. There, no need to lose your invisible kilt or anything important like that. It will cost you almost £4 though. Do you have £4 on you? You cannot borrow it from me. I am being far too generous as it is.

S.M.      Barman, a nice bottle of Polish beer for the nice Polish gentleman. The best Polish beer you have, please.

Cheers!

PSP. [Puts his finger in his ear and sticks his tongue out and wiggles it. Then says Cheers – in the language of Seliun 5x] Kuitridiritzid  Doobshhttttrrrr!

ACTING, A play by Ashby McGowan

                                                                    ACTING

(Acting has had a rehearsed reading of a single scene at both Glad Café and Stage to Page in Glasgow.)

 

There are two areas of stage. Each are lit differently with different scenery. Played by two young women who are very similar in appearance. On the main stage they wear red dresses and old fashioned bangles. When Dawn and 2nd Character finish their part on the main stage they freeze, then cross to the appropriate new area of the stage to act out the mini-scene. There doesn’t have to be two stages, just one stage divided up into a bigger bit and a smaller bit.]

MINI-SCENE 1

 

[Dawn and 2nd Character wear black. If costumes used-they change into it in front of the audience. First few lines are meant to be black humour]

 

Dawn.           Good Evening. I am Dr. Smith. As a high flying Dentist I know all there is to know about the Tooth. The Tooth is white, and hard, and… Oh, the Truth!  Sorry. Bit of a misunderstanding. I thought I was to speak about the Tooth. I studied the Tooth for seven years. I am a bit of an expert. Never attended any lectures on the Truth. However, in my opinion, the truth is, that you must always eat lots of fruit and visit your Dentist regularly. Or you will have a decayed truth, Oops. I mean Tooth!

2nd Character. Hi. I’m Fast Eddy. I’m a cynical, tough journalist. The Truth is something that I have to interpret for the readership of the Newspaper that I work for. I have a rough idea of what my editor expects me to write, so I may need to nudge the Truth in a certain direction. And I try to tell stories that invigorate the news and make it easy to see who are the bad guys and who are the victims. People reading the news don’t have the time or the background knowledge necessary to digest all the material that I sift through. But things are easy if I am dealing with an African war of course. It’s always the same scenario. It’s always just a case of, “two tribes who are untouched by civilisation carrying on with an ages old ethnic war”. [Yawns.] There, that’s easy to understand.

Dawn.           Hello. I am Denise. The only truth I know is that I love George. He’s my man. What a guy. What shoulders. Love him truly, for ever and ever. Till the seas dry up and stars fall from the sky. Or, until he meets another woman who is prettier than me. But that would never happen. Never!

2nd Character.  My name is Arthur Schopenhauer. I am a bad tempered European philosopher who sees pain and misery suffused throughout all existence. For me, Truth has to pass through the stages of ridicule, and then violent opposition, before it is finally accepted as being self-evident.

Dawn.           As a Svetambara Jain Nun, I perceive reality as being multi-faceted. This knowledge is a tool for me in my attempt to live a life without violence: if no one can claim to know the ultimate Truth, why then should we quarrel about differences of opinion? Words cannot express ultimate Truth.

2nd Character.  Hi folks. I am Alfred Adler. I am, or rather was, [Coughs] an Austrian Psychologist who believes that, we are not blessed with the possession of absolute truth; on that account we are compelled to form theories for ourselves about our future, about the results of our actions, etc.

Dawn.           I am a Buddhist and I believe that our understanding of the Truth is dependent upon the state of our Mind. If my Mind is tainted by Ignorance and under the control of Desire, then I cannot see things as they really are. Logic is not enough; I have to first free my Mind before I can attempt to understand reality. The Truth can even be used inappropriately. For instance, if I tell someone who has a big nose that they have a big nose, and I tell them this once a day: then it’s not useful, it’s an insult. The truth has to be used skilfully.

2nd Character. I am Mohandas K. Gandhi. I believe that, truth resides in every human heart, and one has to search for it there, and to be guided by truth as one sees it. But no one has a right to coerce others to act according to his own view of truth.

Main Stage Scene 1

Characters: played by two young women who are very similar in appearance. Both have on old fashioned bangles and wear red dresses.

[Dawn lies as if asleep, stretched out. 2nd Character watches her, and prods her once or twice. Then, after looking around to make sure no one is watching, she bends over Dawn and whispers in her ear.]

Dawn.          [Yawning and getting up.] I thought that I was dead. Just for a moment, I thought I had died. Oh no, I am still dead. [Cries.]

2nd Character.         The wrong words pronounced wrongly. Dawn, say it again and say it with feeling this time. Give me honesty. Pour out your heart to me. Make me believe every word you say.

Dawn.          Call me, “Page 4”. It’s just the words that I have been given to read out. Don’t blame me. Maybe you want me drunk? When I’m drunk, I babble and my silly lips don’t differentiate between lies and truth. They don’t care for honestly or accuracy.

2nd Character.         [Interrupting.] Imagine, if you can, that you are an actor in a play.

Dawn.          [Turning angrily to 2nd Character.] Stop twisting things. You make my head spin.

2nd Character. If I were an actor, and not a writer, I would never forget my lines. Never. I would be my lines.

Be possessed by the character. Be the character. [Angrily.]

Destroy utterly whatever traces remains of your stinking, polluted ego.

Dawn.          Can’t I just act?

2nd Character.         All right, just act.

Dawn.          [To the audience.] If a criminal does not accept their punishment, then they die but are reborn again and again.

Just believe me. Believe every word that I say. The truth is my business. Believe me, and I will believe you and all your wild stories. Before me I see the faces of judges. And I ask for forgiveness.

[2nd Character and Dawn read their lines below at the same time and talk over each other resulting in a chaotic sound, they finish at the same time.]

Dawn.          If a writer takes away your personality, takes away your life, then you are entitled to destroy them. Too many misunderstandings and too many worlds full of alien creatures.

2nd Character.         If an actor fails to read your lines correctly then she must be placed in a play and made to recite them for ever and ever. Dawn is a liar and she knows it.

[Both characters go back to their original starting positions]

 

 

Main Stage Scene 2

[Dawn lies as if asleep, stretched out. 2nd Character watches her, and prods her once or twice. Then, after looking around to make sure no one is watching, she bends over Dawn and whispers in her ear.]

Dawn.          [Yawning and getting up.] I thought that I was dead. Just for a moment, I thought I had died. Oh no, I am still dead. [Cries.]

2nd Character.         The wrong words pronounced wrongly. Dawn, say it again and say it with feeling this time. Give me honesty. Pour out your heart to me. Make me believe every word you say.

Dawn.          I thought that I was dead. That my body was dead. And that my mind had wasted away through neglect.

2nd Character.         Good. Good. You make me so proud. Sometimes I feel as if we are sub-atomic sisters. And yet, you are a wave who cannot be closely looked at: for observation means cessation of activity.

Dawn.          [For over a minute, walks very carefully and very slowly: only manages about five steps.]

2nd Character. What are you doing?

Dawn. [She stops to answer.] Meditating.

2nd Character. But you’re not sitting. You can’t be meditating if you’re not in a lotus position.

Dawn.          I am being mindful as I walk. I note each step.  [For another minute or so, walks some more: slowly and carefully taking note of each step.]

2nd Character. Sorry, but this isn’t the time or the place for this. You need to practise your lines. Perfection comes through repetition.

Dawn.          Once, it seemed to me that my life was full of opportunity. However, I gave up my career in order to care for someone. And at the end of things, I did what I had to do.

2nd Character. Was this person – you claim to have cared for – happy?

Dawn.          I shan’t answer that. I could work hard at an answer and perhaps say, “No”. At another time I could be asked the same question and look deeply into the same arguments and say instead, “Yes”.  There would be no great change in approach or in philosophical outlook. You would say I was a liar because of these different answers. You would be wrong.

2nd Character. Was this person happy? It is important that I know.

Dawn.          Also, if I say “No” then some legal person might think that I had inferred something from this answer. They might believe that I had to do something about that alleged lack of happiness. If someone I know is not happy, I might do nothing about it. I might instead give that person a hug to cheer them up. Yet only a legal mind would imagine that I had to take action to end someone’s life because I thought them unhappy. So I will not answer you as the truth might condemn me in someone’s mind.

2nd Character. I think you are just too ashamed to give me an answer.

Dawn.          Some questions cannot be answered properly. You might ask me if some killer ever did good things at some point in their life. Then if I say “Yes, they did”, you would tell others that Dawn says kind things about someone who is clearly a monster. You would ask me how I can speak up for such an evil person. Yet which monster has never been a child? Has never at some point loved a parent or a friend?

2nd Character. Let us just explore the joy of words then. Let’s not get tied up by dogma or punished by convention. Let your words be free.

Dawn.          You carry out your duties with great exactness. With precision. I like your words. They are physical and full of meaning. You use scientific words. No myth-tainted religious doctrine for me or mine. Your words are more real than any crude vocalisations that my brain could ever create. They make me feel alive. [Bounces up and down as on a trampoline] When I read out what you wrote, the words make me feel that I am almost as real as they are. Yet, this Dawn character seems to exist merely in order to say your words. Your very important words, I should add.

I love you! Yes, I feel as if I really do love you. We are so close that it feels narcissistic to love you. To love your rose scented skin. My stomach churns with what, I presume, are the beginnings of a kind of desire. It has been such a long time since I had that feeling. What a lovely dress. It flows when you walk. You suit that colour. I look ugly in red. Red signifies so many things…

2nd Character. Take your medicine. You have a counselling session in twenty minutes – don’t miss it. You have your white pills to take. And…

Dawn.          Let me out into the gardens. Please. I won’t hurt anyone. I’ve been good. Haven’t I?

2nd Character. Good?

Dawn.          I did what I was told to do. I don’t ask questions anymore.

I missed my tea. So, can I have some tea and toast? Please.  I won’t spoil them!

2nd Character.  You do like your tea and toast at eleven.

Dawn.          Do I?

2nd Character. Remember when you went from coast to coast hiking your way across India.

Dawn. I travelled from state to state.

2nd Character. On that last fateful day, you sat on the cold sands at 5 a.m. And watched the early morning sun shining through the mist from the breaking waves.

Dawn.          A rainbow emerged from my body.

2nd Character. You always were a morning person. Your name is most appropriate.

Dawn. Will I get a new name?

2nd Character. I hope you get one that is equally appropriate.

Dawn.          I don’t want a new name. I already have had enough changes to last me a lifetime. Well, to tell you the truth, a hundred lifetimes.

2nd Character.         That’s not what I wrote. Don’t deviate from the text. Don’t improvise. You moron. You don’t have the ability to improvise. Use the correct words in the correct sequence. The whole truth and nothing but the truth! Remember.

I know how shy you are, hideously shy, so just imagine that there is a nice friendly audience spread out in front of you. Many of them are decent and kind. They await your every word. They are eager with anticipation. You can fill a great emptiness in their hearts. Try speaking to them.

Dawn.          [Addressing the actual audience.] Glad there’s really no one here, or I would be so scared I couldn’t speak. I would most certainly piss myself. Truly I would. Warm golden droplets splashing on the shiny, shiny floor. Splash! They become a mirror that allows me to see a face. [Looks down.] Perhaps the face I had before I was born?

[Holds herself between her legs as if to stop the drops escaping.]Splash, splash, splash. Oops. [Giggles loudly.] They join together to become a stream. One that is constantly moving and yet is always the same.

2nd Character.         Dawn, you can’t say three words without making an error or without lying. Do you want to make my head explode? You insult the author.

Dawn.          [To the audience.] I was completely dead. Completely and utterly. Dead. Yet I don’t seem to smell that badly. [Smells different bits of her body.]Mmmm! A bit sickly sweet. I was dead, honestly. I mean, I am still dead now. Get a good look at this decaying flesh. Yeeeughhh! It takes all of my many joyous, lustful sins to hold it together. Without my past I would not have a future. But, I suppose, even you are like that. Work hard at getting to know me, for I am myriad.

2nd Character.         Is that a lie or an inaccuracy? Which is it?

Dawn.          Call me, “Page 4”. It’s just the words that I have been given to read out. Don’t blame me. Maybe you want me drunk? When I’m drunk, I babble and my silly lips don’t differentiate between lies and truth. They don’t care for honestly or accuracy. For saying or doing the correct thing. You know what I’m like when I’m drunk… [Wait of a few seconds.]  Do you prefer me to be drunk? I don’t mind, but don’t expect me to remember lines. I have spent bloody hours working on these lines. Learning them again and again. [Swears quietly for a few seconds.]

2nd Character.         [Interrupting.] Imagine, if you can, that you are an actor in a play. A play about how a mind – one that is not saturated by chemicals ­- understands reality. Very philosophical. Imagine – for a moment – that you are once more alive and that you have the power of speech. Feel your lips and your tongue moving together in a unity of purpose. Imagine you have control over your own thoughts.  Please act out the instructions that have been so carefully prepared for you.

You are a meal, made by following a simple recipe.

You are a well-dressed rabbit, hiding down a hole in the ground.

Ask yourself, “What is my motivation? Why do I do these awful things?”

Dawn.          [Turning angrily to 2nd Character.] Stop twisting things. You make my head spin. I prefer using telepathy for communication. Less effort, and less chance of deceit or misunderstanding.

2nd Character.         And less rhythm, and fewer nuances of meaning. If I were an actor, and not a writer, I would never forget my lines. Never. I would be my lines. You have been given a purpose by the words. It’s easy for you.

The creator – the writer of course – has to bring into being a whole new world. The actor just has to inhabit it. [Said with joy.]A world full of exciting opportunities. Can you walk around in my new world?

Dawn.          She has to believe in it though. And that’s the hardest bit, believing. When you do believe totally, then who is to know what is fiction and what is real? I wish I were in a play. No worries, no bills. Only lines of verse to recite.

2nd Character.         In the present day, no playwright of any repute dumps verse into their plays.

Dawn. That’s a pity.

[Speaking in a complete change of style.] You read the lines I created for you with just the right level of intensity. You make it seem worthwhile, me being a writer.

2nd Character You are mistaken. I am the writer of words. I am the creator of scenes. The creator.

Dawn.          All that exists is my mind. Therefore, if no one else exists it is quite obvious that no one else can be the writer. I am the actor but I am also the writer.

2nd Character. That means you are a solipsist then. Such an immature view of nature. If all you have is your own mind, why don’t you create other beings that can keep you company?

Dawn.          I created you, didn’t I? Anyway, if there is only one game in town then that’s the game I have to play.

Act the part you have been given. Be my writer. Say the words I wrote.

2nd Character.         [Sighs.] Be possessed by the character. Be the character. [Angrily.] Destroy utterly whatever traces remains of your stinking, polluted ego!

Dawn.          Can’t I just act?

2nd Character.         All right, just act.

Dawn.          Guilt penetrates through the minute tears in my flesh and it infects the little good that still remains. I am so alone. Totally alone. I would do anything just to have a friend to confide in. But no-one is here who can believe in the words that I say.

[Spoken louder.] Pull yourself together, not long till the trial. Let it come to be that I am saved. Please! I pray for this every damned moment of my…. [Puts her hands in a praying position.]

2nd Character. What did you say? I switched off for a bit there. You were babbling again.

Dawn.          When Spring comes, will the warmth give me new life?

2nd Character. Will my new form be washed ashore in the morning? At Paphos, on a High Tide?

Dawn.          [Looking for the source of a sound.] I hear the sound of angels using rivets to fit steel plate to steel plate. They will be finished soon. I think that some member of Royalty should name you and launch you. I hope you will be watertight.

2nd Character.         Dawn, you must take off one mask before wearing another. [Dawn tries to remove an imaginary mask from her face.] You must wear an invisible mask.

Dawn.          If it’s invisible, why then should I wear it?

2nd Character.         I am invisible. Always invisible. Do you think that if I was an earthly being, that you could have feelings for me? Feelings of tenderness? Remember, that we once read in a court transcript about a woman who loved another woman. Imagine! Could you have done that? Could you have loved me in that unique way? In those early days, turned your back on the Law and loved me with all of your strength? Love is such an incomplete word.

So many confusing emotions. So many secrets. Evidence undiscovered. So much hurt still to be measured out…

Dawn.          [Sits down and screams and pulls at her hair for ten seconds.]

2nd Character. [Goes over to check she is ok.] What was that about?

Dawn.          I thought it appropriate. It gets people’s attention. It’s what I call a temper tantrum.

[Laughs loudly.] It makes me feel young again.

2nd Character. You cannot break out of the script. We are both fixed by a nail to our past misdeeds. Nothing you do is ever without a cause. Although you do not have free will it is still you that must be punished for any wrongdoings. It might be unfair but that is the way it is.

[Shouts insults at Dawn.] Sophist, perjurer, deceiver, perfidious, unreliable…

Dawn.          [To the audience.] Ohhh, I thought I heard the whisperings of a voice within my head. The voice was that of my confessor, but death has passed a veil between us. The sounds I heard were exactly like her voice. Be still my heart. There is no love left. Other passions reign in my heart now. Once I was intelligent. I tried to be a lawyer. [Frantic.] I remember when she used to give me pills and pills until my tiny little mind went haywire. Visions…Yet, who really was the mad one then? She made up the part of my personality that was missing. Missing and never found. [Mimes searching about the stage.]

I am glad I broke free. Eliminated all that once caused me harm. Or caused me to doubt myself.

I am dead. Completely and utterly dead. Yet, with my dead mind I can visualise faces. Lots of angry faces shimmering in a haze before my open eyes. Lots of sadistic faces looking for revenge.

You will be dissatisfied, for only a God can judge the guilty. [Looking at individual faces in the audience.] I don’t see any Gods. Look at your own crimes first and don’t seek to punish me. Just like you, I am almost innocent.

2nd Character.         Dawn, listen to me. I am sorry. I will write new lines. You can help me, if you like. Lines that you can believe in. With honest words. You will most certainly enjoy reading out honest words. Just trust in me. Accept that I exist as surely as you do. Acknowledge my presence. Give my presence space to move around in. Once I thought we were twins. It was being so close that pushed us apart. North Pole to North Pole we spun away from each other.

Dawn.          [To the audience.] If a criminal does not accept their punishment, then they die but are reborn again and again. So, I am truly sorry for the life I took. Her death was, not beautiful. Death never is. There was no poetry in it. No time for brave last words: just a distended tongue and two shit stained legs. [Motions putting a rope round something and pulling it tight.] The mind yearns for peace yet the body says, “Live”. [For a minute falls to the floor and mimics dying by strangulation: kicking and jerking her limbs around. Then, stands upright once more.]

MINI-SCENE 2

[Sitting on the ground, Dawn quickly draws a large circle with brush and black ink on a large piece of white paper. She has put on a white shirt over her red dress. 2nd Character has a seat which she sits in whenever she is not active. The 3 additional mini-scenes have separate lighting and scenery from the main part of the play. Each character freezes then crosses to the appropriate new area of the stage to act out the scene.]

Dawn.   This is an Enso. It is empty. I am empty.

2nd Character. [2nd Character walks over to Dawn-she rubs at the base of her own spine.] You did that very quickly. Too quickly perhaps?

Dawn.   It was created in the time it takes to have one breath. No past or future. No time to deliberate or have idle thoughts.

2nd Character. And what does it mean? It’s quite nice but does it have a purpose?

Dawn.   It is empty. That which is empty is something without limits. It has the immensity of blue sky. Like me. [Smiling.] I am blue sky.

2nd Character. That’s nice. I think that if anyone I knew were blue sky it would definitely have to be you. [Laughing.] I am glad you are not clouds. Being a heavy black snow cloud would make you gloomy, I suppose. Perhaps I am a black cloud? Sometimes I just seem to moan at you-on and on. I don’t mean to be so ill tempered.

Dawn.   If I was a cloud, I would be a cloud made of blue sky.

2nd Character. Is that allowed? Can you do that?

Dawn.   Yes. It’s not against the rules.

2nd Character. You smell nice. You look nice. You feel nice. [2nd character strokes Dawn’s face.] What perfume is that?

Dawn.   I think you can smell my incense off my shirt. It smells nice but I use it only to help me concentrate.

2nd Character.  Does – all this – help you cope? I mean, cope with life.

Dawn.   It helps me live. Helps me learn about my mind. When I meditate, I feel free. I can draw. I can write poetry.

2nd Character. Poetry is nice, like you. Yes. Make up a poem for me. One about change.

Dawn.   The wind blows the shadows so hard,

That the leaves fall,

From the trees.

2nd Character. Beautiful. Yet, it makes me sad. It reminds me of my mortality. Of my illness. [Winces and rubs her back.] Dawn, will you save me from pain? Promise one thing only. Save me from pain.

Dawn.   I cannot hurt another. All beings deserve life. Deserve a happy life. If I hurt you I would destroy everything I have worked for. Believed in. Trained  for.

2nd Character. I do not believe in your Bardos. In your great opportunity to have a better rebirth. I will want alcohol. And if that doesn’t help, I will ask for anything that will stop the pain. I don’t want to end my existence, the way my Mother did. That was horrible. For someone with such a passion for life to have it end it like that. A crumpled up decaying doll. I should have ended it for her. She asked me to. But I couldn’t do it.

There was no dignity. What is the point in being alive if you don’t have any dignity? Cannot even sleep at night for the agonies. Don’t even have one unrestricted breath. Be my friend.

Dawn.   She was my Mother too. She never asked me to do that for her. At the moment of death, if your mind of clear light can be recognised for what it is then death can be transformed.

2nd Character. I don’t believe you. Sorry, but I just want you to end it for me if you have to. Promise me now, in case we never get a chance to talk about it again. If I change my mind, I will tell you. Promise me.

Dawn.   [Silently deliberates for a few seconds.] When the time comes, if you ask me and you know what you are asking, I will do what is required.

2ndCharacter. Even though it is a sin? Even though you will suffer another rebirth?

Dawn.   I gave up the Law to be with you. Didn’t I? Gave up my studies and my career.  I look after you because it is what I have to do. My love for you, makes me want to help you.  My reward is that you love me as much as I love you.

2nd Character. You prayed for me. You tried to heal me. You taught me various obscure and immensely complicated rituals.

Dawn.   [On her knees, hands in a position of prayer, reciting a powerful healing prayer used in Tibetan Buddhism: the phonetic version of which is given. Read through three times.]

Tayata

Om Bekandze Bekandze

Maha Bekandze

Radza Samudgate Soha

2nd Character. Nothing worked. The Doctor’s pills don’t work. Apart from the part of me that is ruled by fear, every bit of me loves you. Loves your mind; loves your body, loves your wonderful and weird poetry. Ohh Dawn, dance for me.

Dawn.   We have no music in this place. It is meant to be quiet. [Puts her finger to her lips and motions for silence.] And I am not a good dancer.

2nd Character.    You have a good sense of rhythm and I know that you are crazy enough to try anything. Please dance for me.

[Dawn rises and for a minute dances a strange hippy dance for 2nd Character: who is totally entranced.]

Dawn.   Now you see why I never liked dancing in public: leering men and my total lack of skill in dancing.

2nd Character. You dance divinely, my Darling. Honestly, you do.

[Both laugh and hug each other tightly. Dawn tries to get 2nd character to dance but she limps as she dances. Dawn cries on 2nd character’s shoulder.  After a minute, 2nd character collapses back into the chair. She is exhausted.]

Dawn.   I didn’t want to make you so tired.

2nd Character. [Panting.] I am ok. If we are ever to dance, then it must be over the next few weeks. After that, it will be too late. And if I moan at you then-it’s just the pain. We know how we both feel about each other: now, at this moment. Now, when I am not in under the control of my pain.

Dawn.   I have never loved anyone, apart from you. [Bends over and kisses 2nd character on the lips. 2nd character kisses her back.]

2nd Character. [Laughing.] You are a good kisser. You could have had anyone you wanted for a boyfriend.

Dawn.   That was never going to happen. Was it? I already have my, “once in a lifetime true love”.

2nd Character. After I am gone, what will you do with your life? You have cared for me for such a long time. Will you study Law once more?

Dawn.   Let us not talk of such a time. I cannot imagine such a time and will not talk about it.

2nd Character. If I can come back to you I will. I will visit you in your dreams. Tell you I’m ok. That’s if I can come back and if I am ok. [Giggles nervously.]

Dawn.   When we were young, you wanted to be a writer and I wanted to be a famous actor. It may be that I shall try out acting as a career. I would like to be famous and have loads of money. [Smiling.]

2nd Character. I don’t think all actors get to be famous. Yet if there is any fairness in this world, you will. I am sure of it. Positive results from all that good Karma. When you are on stage giving your performance, it is then that I will come back to see you. Hopefully you will not forget your lines.

Dawn. I have a memory like a sieve. It would be nice though, if you were a presence there on stage with me. Whispering my lines to me.

2nd Character. Yes, I do have a good memory. If I were an actor, I would never forget my lines. When I am dead, will you forget me?

Dawn.   I will never forget you. I swear to you. I will never forget that lovely smiling face. Never forget that name of yours: so strange and Gothic. I give you my word.

 

 

Main Stage Scene 3

 

Dawn.          I suppose that even a failed actor deserves some respect. Let me tell you a barely concealed secret, lawyers twist the truth more than any actor. Though the “Court” had more respect for me than you have. More understanding. Don’t look so bewildered. Just believe me. Believe every word that I say. The truth is my business. Believe me, and I will believe you and all your wild stories. All your questioning looks. Your incomplete fantasies.

Before me I see the faces of judges. And I ask for forgiveness. [Bows her head very low.] Please let me forget all the wrongs that I have done. I am dead. Completely dead, yet I can still see the living. They move, they breathe. You move, you breathe.

[2nd Character and Dawn read their lines below at the same time and talk over each other resulting in a chaotic sound, they finish at the same time.]

Dawn.          If a writer takes away your personality, takes away your life, then you are entitled to destroy them. Too many misunderstandings and too many worlds full of alien creatures.

2nd Character.         If an actor fails to read your lines correctly then she must be placed in a play and made to recite them for ever and ever. Dawn is a liar – and she knows it.

MINI-SCENE 3

[Dawn in a chair. 2nd character – acting as woman Police detective – stands above her looking menacingly at her. Wears black jacket.]

2nd Character.  Now Miss MacDonald, do you admit to killing her? Please answer my question. I don’t have all night.

Dawn.   [Sighs.] It was what she wanted. She was in agony. We had discussed the options.

2nd Character. Did you have to do it in such a gruesome and painful way? Do you have a bit of the sadist in you?

Dawn.   She said to me, “Please! Do it now. I can’t take one second more. I beg you.”

2nd Character. And you took this to mean, “Darling sister, Murder me with anything that comes to hand”?

Dawn.   It was not murder. It was an arranged mercy killing. She had taken sleeping pills but they weren’t having any effect. So, I did as she asked.

2ndCharacter. You must have hated her a lot, to tie a rope around her throat. Then, battle with her until she was dead. People summon up enormous strength when their life is threatened. You must have used all the strength you had to kill her. Miss MacDonald, I have seen the body. Seen the bruises around the throat and the neck and the shoulders.

Dawn.   [Whispering.] It took some time for her struggles to cease.

2nd Character. You keep talking about your sister’s illness and that you had to save her from pain but she had no physical illness. The post mortem showed that she was taking no pills for any physical illness. Only some anti-depressants. Do you still want to argue that you saved her from pain? Your stories seem to be contradicting themselves, and you.

Dawn    Although she didn’t have a serious physical illness, she suffered from depression and something called, Pain Disorder. Every day of her life, she was in agony. She was in just as much pain as anyone suffering from a physical illness. I promise you, she wanted to die more than anything else. To be free of her pain.

2ndCharacter. You are trying to tell me she wanted that? That she wanted to die without any kind of dignity: strangled with a rope? Basically, you are telling me that your sister was insane and that everything, and I mean everything, was her fault. Maybe, you needed to punish her? Or could it be that it is you that are the one that is insane? Or perhaps trying to choose the easy option of a short stay in a Mental Hospital. I can assure you that a stay in a Hospital for the criminally insane is not a holiday. Every day is just the same. On and on, and, on and on…

Dawn.   She left a written will, and included some words about what to do if…

2nd Character. [Interrupting.] I have seen it. It was written two weeks before you murdered her. Did you not think to get her to write a new one? People change their minds. You will go on trial. The only question is, what will be the charges.

Dawn.   It’s not fair!

2nd Character. Miss MacDonald, you once were in training to be a lawyer. However, I don’t think you need any legal training to tell you that it was not fair to do what you did to your sister. I am told that the two of you had violent arguments before she died.

Dawn.   Who told you that?

2nd Character. I am asking the questions Miss MacDonald. Why did you often have fights with her?

Dawn.   Once. She was in pain. One night we were in a pub and she lost her temper at me. Told me I was going back on my promise. Told me that I was a liar and that she would kill me. And yes, we fought. We both lost control and hit out at each other. My sister was overcome by pills and drink and pain and…

2nd Character. [Interrupting.] And what was the thing you had decided not to do that so angered her?

Dawn.   I had decided to go against my word and her request and not to kill her when the time came.

2nd Character. You can make up any story you like now she is dead. She is not coming back to contradict you is she? I think you would have made an awful lawyer.  It seems that you are a liar.

Dawn.   I am not a liar.

2nd Character. Well, that is what I am trying to find out. At the very least, you are a killer. I read in my notes that you claimed to have once been a Buddhist. Aren’t Buddhists against violence? Or was that something in the religion that you forgot about?

Dawn.   I am a Buddhist. I had long debates within myself about what to do. I am not happy about what happened.

2nd Character. I don’t suppose your sister was happy about what you did.

Dawn.   I disagree! You never knew my sister. Never loved my sister. Never promised to end her pain. She felt enormous guilt over her feelings for someone. That guilt manifested itself as pain. She was ashamed of her feelings. Of the love she felt…

2nd Character. [Interrupting.]Well, as I have said, she is not going to come back and disagree with you. Is she?

Dawn.   I pray that if I have betrayed her that she does come back and haunts me. For although I did what she asked, I am tormented by incomplete memories of her. I am. I am…

2nd Character. Perhaps the Jury will sympathise with you. I most certainly have no sympathy with you. Your sister had such a lovely name. What was it again?

Dawn.   [Embarrassed.] I cannot remember. You know that. Since what happened, I have not been able to say her name. Not even able to remember her name. When I look at something with her name on it, my mind goes blank.

2nd Character. Guilt works on people in many different ways.

Dawn. It is not guilt. [Putting her hands to her head.] I have a memory like a sieve.

[Shouting.] I forget everything!

2nd Character. Miss MacDonald, I am a Police Officer. Please desist from this show of temper. You do have a lot of hate bottled up inside you. Don’t you?

Dawn.   Sorry. I…

2nd Character. Unlike you, I have a perfect memory and I recall that you have a conviction for buying opiates.

Dawn.   They were for my sister. Honestly, they were…

2nd Character. [Interrupting.] Your poor sister gets the blame for everything doesn’t she? I have heard that a lot of sisters have fights. Just hate each other. Jealousy I suppose. It seems to be quite common. Was she jealous of your looks? Of your popularity?

Dawn.   We hardly ever…

2nd Character. Did your sister tell anyone else?

Dawn.   [Confused.] What? About, about what?

2nd Character. About this supposed plot. All we have is an out of date letter which might – or might not – be in her handwriting. The well-paid experts can’t tell.

Dawn.   She didn’t want anyone else knowing. She trusted me. Only me.

2nd Character. Well, isn’t that a shame? No witnesses to this supposed plot. Only the word of a murderer.

Dawn.   Well I know what happened!

2nd Character, Unfortunately for you, that is not good enough. You have no other family I believe.

Dawn.   None. My Mother died very painfully some time ago. Just my sister and me.

2nd Character. And now there’s just you. You inherit everything I believe? Quite a sum of money. If what you say is true about the depression, all you had to do was wait a few weeks and let her end things by herself-a bigger dose of sleeping pills.  Then, your sister would have been dead and you would not have had to face a Court of Law. You won’t get a penny now.

Dawn.   I did as my sister asked. I did…   I did what she wanted done.

2nd Character. And you? You never mention yourself, Dawn. What did you want? Did you want your sister dead as soon as possible? Were you scared she would change her will and leave her money to someone else?

Dawn.   I never thought about money. Not once. I promise.

2nd Character. So, I am to believe that you are some kind of a Saint? Saint Dawn? You don’t worry about money. And yet there is a blemish on your possible Sainthood. The little matter of what you did to your beloved sister. I presume she was beloved? Even after all the fights?

Dawn.   I loved her with all my heart. I still love her more than anything or anyone else.

2nd Character. And the rope?

[Waits for a full ten seconds.] Why did you have a rope in your house? You told me that you had given her sleeping pills.

Dawn.   I never gave her the… She took the sleeping pills by herself. The rope was… I used it. I had a lover and I used it with them.

2nd Character. Yes, the word “Sadist” does seem very appropriate for you Miss MacDonald.

Dawn.   The word Masochist is more appropriate.

2ndCharacter. You love pain?

Dawn.   Yes, I love pain. The right kind of pain. It is the only way I can have sensual feelings. What happens in my own bedroom with someone I love is my own business.

2nd Character. Your sister hated pain and you loved it?

Dawn.   The right kind of pain with the right kind of person.

Dawn.   And who would that person be, Miss MacDonald?

Dawn.   I will never say.

2nd Character. You stayed most nights at your sister’s house. You never had a boyfriend. Are you trying to tell me…?

Dawn.   [Interrupting.] I am not trying to tell you anything.

2ndCharacter. Miss MacDonald, you disgust me! You deserve all that is coming to you. Don’t you Buddhists believe in Karma or something like that? Come on. Time to visit the Police Station and get charged. Have you got a bag with things for a stay inside?

Dawn.   [Lifts up a backpack.] I have packed exactly what I need. Some clothes; a picture of my sister, and a copy of a book called, The Tibetan Book of the Dead.

2nd Character. [Grabbing her arm.] Let’s go. [Shouting.]Come on! When you are sentenced and locked up you will be in just the right place for someone with your deviant tendencies. I am just a bit worried though that you will try to get out of things by taking your own life. A lot of cowards can’t face the consequences of their own actions. I will have you put in a cell with a special watch put on it. Just in case. I wouldn’t miss this trial for anything.

Main stage Scene 4

 

[Both characters go back to their original starting positions.

Dawn lies as if asleep, stretched out. 2nd Character intently watches her, prods her once or twice. Then after looking around to make sure no one is watching, she bends over Dawn and whispers in her ear.]

Dawn.          [Yawning and getting up.] I thought that I was dead. Just for a moment, I thought I had died. Oh no, I am still dead. [Cries.]

SELCHIE (Printed in Cutting Teeth 1996)

The spluttering coal fire almost took away the chill of the night. Red fires fed on the black coals, and warmth spread outwards from the iron hearth. Outside, the sea and wind were fight­ing. But, in this cottage, the home of my friend, Donald MacLean, all was quiet. His youngest daughter, Julie, stood up to sing. Julie clasped her hands in front of her and lowered her eyes. The strange and powerful rhythms of the “Haisgeir Seal Song” came from the girl’s trembling body. When she had finished, and before I had time to applaud, old Donald began to speak. He knew that I was a lover of Seals, and that I would never forget the happenings that he spoke of.

Sixteen long years had passed since Angus MacOdrum had come to live in the Island of Westray in the Orkneys. He had taken a young innocent girl as his wife. For all that time she had been a most dutiful and loving wife. An­gus was not a man troubled by diverse passions, this way and that. But those thoughts and feelings he did have were fixed, and not open to discussion or persuasion: by God or Man. Mary had forsaken the Church to be with Angus. And now her par­ents would not even talk to their only child.

Yet all that Angus had given her in return were his dreams of making a fortune in Glas­gow. He had not yet quite worked out how. Forty years he had struggled in this world, yet fortune ever evaded him. It was she, he said, who held him back.

Overcome with yearnings for a child, Mary bought a cot at a charity sale. No cries would ever come from that cot. Mary would stare at it for hours, as if hoping that a child would somehow appear brought into being by the sheer power of her desire.

In all those years he never hit her once. But love was shown only on those occasions when Angus was so overcome by the utter desolation of their croft that he found refuge in drink. Those times were not as rare as they had once been. He would not give voice to his loneliness, but Mary under­stood him and was grateful for whatever warmth she could get from him. Mary would shut her eyes tight and dream of Motherhood. She felt discom­fort more than pain but he was soon finished. Angus would fall asleep with one arm lying across her face and the stench of alcohol on his breath.

He was not an ugly man. Women often smiled on seeing his face. Then turn away as they realised it was Angus. Somewhat shorter than average height, he made up for it in bulk. His chest was like a huge barrel. Sparse, black hairs sprouted out from the tough skin of his forearms. Three days growth of beard seemed always to be on his face. Heavily patched were the trou­sers and jacket that loosely hung about his frame. A new, waterproof cap was his one concession to fashion. Mary had been his first and only love, as he had been with her.

When the season came, he would work the lobster creels with the two brothers who lived in the next croft, a half hour walk away. There were some sheep, and he could turn his hand to anything. He was good at whatever he did, but his surly man­ner lost him many customers. Over the last few weeks, he had made some extra money by killing some seal pups on a small Island to the South. The skin went to make purses and toys, though the market was not what it had once been.

For the last two months, Mary had felt the presence of a child within her. In the first hour of night she knew that something was wrong. Minutes later, she felt the blood. She had told An­gus nothing of the child. He pushed open the door of the toilet. Mary lay on the floor. She held tight the corpse of her stillborn child.

Angus prised the tiny body from her hands and ran from the house. Her screams drowned out the roaring of the waves. Taking a spade, he walked to the nearest consecrated ground and there buried the deformed corpse.

It was morning before he returned. He drank continuously on into the night.

Two minutes from his front door was the sea. A cold No­vember wind howled at the dark green sea. And a heavy rain fell into the sea spray, making grey curtains that joined sea and sky. The yellow light from his open door was all that he had for a beacon.

Angus was drunk and he paced along the rocky shore with a mind as troubled as the Sea. Letting out a groan, he slipped and fell down some rocks. Dark blood dripped from a burst knuckle. At that moment the storm seemed to hush. A full moon escaped the clouds for a second. It was then that he saw her. A young, grey seal sought refuge in the sea. Angus was too quick for her. Her head turned to look at him. The moon twinkled in her large eyes of deep hazel, almost black, as they pleaded for her life. The old, rusty pen knife, that he used to cas­trate the sheep, stabbed into the face of the seal. In a frenzy, he punched and kicked at the poor creature. As the waves lapped about her blind eyes, Angus jumped on the seal. Its love of freedom was stronger than the hate borne by Angus and it pulled him out to sea.

On a sudden, the madness of what he had done came to him and he waded back to­wards the distant land. When safe from the waves, he turned his eyes seaward. There was no sign of the seal. He looked at his hands; at the waves, as if expecting them to be stained red.

He rose early the next day and searched the rocks for a body. None was found. He told no-one about what had happened. He knew well enough the stories about Selchies, but Angus did not be­lieve in the ancient powers of the “moon-cursed”.

Two weeks later, he returned from a visit to his cousin in Glasgow: this was his closest blood relative. A note from Mary lay on their tiny, box­bed. She had left him forever. She would not return. Gone back to her parents and her religion.

The few friends he had visited him and tried to comfort him. He found their gestures of concern demeaning and insulting. Some men, when beset by dire circumstances, find empathy with other beings as they cry and moan in suffering. Angus could find only disgust. He would laugh at his friends and bid them leave.

Angus spent the next couple of weeks in a daze; stunned by the loss of his wife and child, and by the overuse of strong alcohol. One Evening, Angus went into the main town, Pierowall, for a drink with some of his friends. He knew that she was staying nearby with her parents, resting and recovering after all that she had been through. But he was too proud to talk to her in front of others, to beg for a reunion. Once more, he set off for home, too drunk to worry.

The full moon was once again in the sky. Clouds were few and ragged. The sea splashed gently and seemed much kinder than it had before. A Fulmer skimmed the waves. It headed South, towards the warm lands.

A grey, watery light was all that remained to show the power of the sun. The silence was complete. No bird sang. There was not even a breeze to blow about the dead leaves on the few stunted trees thereabouts.

Angus stood before the croft, gazing at the ridge of hills behind it. The hills seemed to advance to­wards him as the sun fell into darkness. It was the night of the Winter Solstice and feelings were evoked of times long for­gotten, centuries before the birth of the Christ child. It was a night of fear and sacrifice.

The land was rich in memories. Many peoples had lived on this Island. From the New Stone Age through to the builders of the now ruined Brochs; people had fought, and worshipped, and died there. And always the Seals. Making love in the waves, being born on the hard rocks. They had been here before man. Perhaps they would still be there when man had gone.

He felt the need of his wife. She, alone, could comfort him when feelings of doom beset him. He remembered the jealous looks of the young men who had wanted Mary. He had walked away from Mary’s house, her father still shouting after them. They had married in Kirkwall. Two strangers had consented to be their witnesses. A strong voice stopped his dreaming.

“Hey! Are you Angus MacOdrum?” The man walked quickly towards him. He wore a black cloak and a hood shielded his face from scrutiny.

“Hello. My name’s Erik. I was working in Glasgow and bumped into your cousin. I’m wanting to move to Westray. I’ll pay you a tidy sum for this croft and the land.”

Angus did not want to sell. Yet, he let the stranger lead him on and on in the moon­light. Eventually Angus stopped, as they had come to the red sandstone cliffs that started about two miles from his home.

For a minute or two they watched the silver peaks of the waves diving and rising. Join­ing together, then breaking apart.

Angus laughed as he spoke, “Look, I’ve got to go back. Come with me. I’ll pour you a fine drop of whisky”.

Angus tried to take the dark figure by the arm. Suddenly, strong hands pinned Angus’s arms to his side. Angus was strong, but the hands that held him were stronger than any mortal man’s. The stranger leaned towards him and blew a hot breath into his open mouth. The grip grew tighter. Pain and fear mingled in his blood. They fell backwards. Down, down, circling around. Together they crashed into the ice-cold sea: hard!

A white froth bubbled about Angus as he fought to breathe.

He did not drown. Cold water filled his lungs, but he did not drown. It was so dark, he could not see the figure that swam beside him; pull­ing him through the water. He felt the sea move swiftly past his face.

For long hours, his mind raced in terror. Then rising from the water, a face moved before his own and a cold breath entered his lungs. An­gus collapsed onto the slimy rocks. Salt water ran from his nose and mouth; stinging his flesh, burning his eyes.

When his eyes finally opened, a beautiful woman stood before him. She, at first, seemed not to notice his recovery. She sang in Old Norse and in English. She sang in Gaelic, the “Haisgeir Seal Song”. She sang of the seas and of seal hunts from times long past. Last of all, she sang the Dan-nan Ron: the Song of the Seals. Angus had, as a child, heard his Grand­father play a similar tune on his fiddle.

Stories he had heard, stories about his an­cestry. A “Child of the Seals” he was once called. “No! It was only lies, or imaginings.”

Tears ran down the woman’s face and Angus noticed that two scarred holes were set in place of her eyes.

From the sea came voices, answering her song. Great seals lifted themselves from the water; singing with the same sad­ness that was in the woman’s voice. Angus had a coughing fit, and she turned towards him.

He could hear the seals splashing into and under the waves.

The young woman was naked. Only some seaweed trailed over her shoulders and waist. Long black hair mingled with the seaweed. She stood taller than most men. A seal pup was at her breast and an iron crown lay upon her head.

Her voice was still sweet, but the words that she spoke were harsh, “You that took the eyes of a Selchie, listen close. My lover has brought you here. I am the Queen of the Selchies. I am called Moon-Gift by others of my kind. You are condemned by your actions. The blood of the Selchies runs through you too, but you have only ever shown hatred towards others of your own kind. All that is left, is for me to choose your punish­ment. Can you bend your knee and ask for forgiveness, proud man?”

“I hurt no woman. I did try to kill a seal. It could not have been you. I curse you as the moon has cursed you,” Angus screamed the words as he rushed towards the Selchie.

As he jumped over the rocks that still remained above the waves, a hand rose from the waters and Angus was pulled down into the deeps. And there it was that he found death.

Four days later, the body of Angus MacOdrum was found by a Fisherman on the rocks of Seal Skerry. The lobsters had been at it. The Inquest de­cided that Angus had killed himself by swimming into the sea. But some of the old men said that the tides would not have brought a body to those rocks. They spoke in whispers. No-one would give voice to the thought that was in each man’s head, “The Selchies have punished one of their own.”