Notes from New Sodom

... rantings, ravings and ramblings of strange fiction writer, THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Nowhere Town: Act TWO Scene II

Act TWO Scene II: Inside The Hellhole

CHORUS is greeted by the REGULARS of the Hellhole with slaps on the back as an old friend, well-loved. The BARMAN from Act One is wandering around, collecting glasses. The PROPRIETOR comes down from the stage, arms spread to welcome CHORUS. Played by the same actor that plays FAY as a Marlene Dietrich femme fatale in white tux with cigarette holder, very 1930’s Berlin night-club owner.

PROPRIETOR: Ladies and gentlemen. We have a very special guest tonight. We have Mr Chorus in the audience this evening... [takes a hold of one of the REGULARS wrists and twists it to look at their watch] or should I say, this morning. [starts clapping – the REGULARS join in] And a new friend. [extends a hand towards JACK]

JACK [warily]: Hi, I’m –

PROPRIETOR: Jack Flash! The one and only. Oh, I know your work quite well. And I must say I am an avid fan. Such passion. Such energy. Such fire. Such pain. Please, make yourself at home. Drinks! Drinks for my good friend, Chorus! And for my new friend, Jack. [as Jack puts a hand into a pocket] No. No. The first one’s always free. What will you have?

CHORUS: As ever… absinthe.

PROPRIETOR: The drink of poets and lost lovers. [to JACK] And yourself?

JACK: The same.

The PROPRIETOR dispatches the BARMAN to get the drinks with a wave.

PROPRIETOR: Ah, I can see why you, my friends, are here together. A sorrow shared is a sorrow bared.

JACK [trying to work out why that doesn’t sound quite right]: I’m not sure -

PROPRIETOR: Gentlemen, please take a seat [leading them to a table stage-left]. We have a most resplendent show tonight. Forgive me, if that sounds boastful, but I am proud of my performers. Is that wrong? Tell me, is that wrong?

CHORUS: Who’s on the bill, tonight?

PROPRIETOR: Tonight is karaoke night. It’s open mike night in the Hellhole Cabaret. But we have one of our most cherished house acts to kick it off. You'll love him, Jack. And we're just about to start.

JACK: It’s [checks his watch] two in the morning.

PROPRIETOR: It is indeed. What better time is there to hear the music that, in daylight, sounds… [clicking her fingers, looking for the word]… inappropriate.

CHORUS: Our host’s musical tastes run towards… the darker side of things.

PROPRIETOR: Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Kylie Minogue. We’ve had them all through the doors of the Hellhole.

JACK: Kylie Minogue?

PROPRIETOR: "Better The Devil You Know". A dark, dark song.

JACK: Hmmm. Okay.

PROPRIETOR: So will you, my friends, be willing to honour us with a song or two?

JACK: I don’t know. I don’t know if I’ll ever sing again.

PROPRIETOR: That would be a crime. I love your work. Especially the early funny ones. Or what’s that song? How does it go again? “People are strange. You’re thinking, when will things change.”

JACK: “You know that you’re strange.” That’s "Nowhere Town". But –

PROPRIETOR: Wonderful song. Listen to it all the time, dear boy.

JACK: But –

PROPRIETOR [turning away as the BARMAN arrives with two absinthes]: Aha! Your drinks! I’ll leave you to them. The show must go on, after all, and we must go on with the show. Enjoy. [leaves them]

JACK: But we never released "Nowhere Town".

CHORUS [shrugs]: Maybe it’s a bootleg. Our host is quite the collector when it comes to broken-hearted musicians.

JACK: We weren’t even fucking signed when… We dropped it from the set – I dropped it after…[takes a drink of absinthe] I don’t know. God, I’m fucked.

CHORUS: Are you alright?

JACK: No. Shit, why did she have to mention that song? [takes another drink]

CHORUS: I thought you liked that song… “The only one with any meaning in it.”

JACK: It’s bullshit.

CHORUS: Puck didn’t think so.

JACK: Puck’s dead. I walk into his life and tell him, fuck it, it doesn’t matter. It’s just you and me and nothing else and… everything’s going to be okay. And three days later he’s dead. Song’s fucking bullshit.

CHORUS: You think that’s what Puck would say. Sounds to me like -

JACK: Puck’s dead! And I’m… not. [takes another drink]

CHORUS [aside]: Not yet, Jack. Not yet.

The PROPRIETOR steps up onto the platform, motions for silence.

PROPRIETOR: Thank you. Thank you. Oh, my good friends, we have such a show for you tonight. And what makes it so special? Because it’s you – you, my gorgeous decadents and deviants – who make the Hellhole what it is. It is you, my luscious rakes, rapscallions and reprobates, who’ve made me what I am today, and I am proud to say that it is you – you – who are this evening’s entertainment.

But first a very special treat. He’s been a regular here for five years now, and I have watched his… passion go from strength to strength. My dears, my loves, this boy is positively incandescent now, and I want you all to open up your arms to him and give him the welcome he so richly deserves. I want you to make him feel at home because I want to see him on this stage again and again and again. Ladies and gentlemen, all the way from nowhere in particular, for one eternity only… give it up for Puck.

Enter PUCK, dressed in ripped-up white hustler jeans and sleeveless tee, flanked by the FATES, all now dressed in biker leathers. The audience applauds. JACK rises from his seat but CHORUS puts his hand on his shoulder, pulls him back down into his seat.

JACK: What the fuck is this? What is this?

CHORUS: Just listen.

JACK: Puck!

REGULARS [taking up the shout]: Puck! Puck! Puck! Puck!

PUCK looks around, sullen, hostile.

CHORUS: Just listen.

SONG: Incubation

The guitars kick in hard with this furious rap-metal number, during which PUCK stalks the stage like an animal. The FATES join in on the chorus with banshee-howl backing vocals.


On the inside,
There’s a devil of a riptide,
Dragging me down,
Making me drown.
On the outside,
There’s a razor on the soft hide,
Stripping my skin,
To the devil within.

And I’m going to drive myself insane.
I’m going to tear myself apart.
I’m going to drive you from my brain,
Cut you out of my heart.

Have they ever really seen ya,
Hole in the head,
Walking like a dead man?
Does your enemy annoy ya?
Every little prick
Has another kick for ya.

In society, I quietly walk
While others talk, I –
Deeper and deeper, I crawl –
I am a rock.
Under their eyes, disguised in lies,
Deeper and deeper, I fall,
Running amok.

And I’m going to drive myself insane.
I’m going to tear myself apart.
I’m going to drive you from my brain,
Cut you out of my heart.

Like a fucking mental patient,
Freaking them out –
Fear and doubt.
There’s a fucking correlation:
Outside is in;
Inside is out.

In the graveyard,
There’s a cemetary home guard,
Children in black eyeliner
Taking the flak.
In the schoolyard,
There’s a cemetary vanguard,
Children in black trenchcoats
Getting their own back.

And I’m going to drive myself insane.
I’m going to tear myself apart.
I’m going to drive you from my brain,
Cut you out of my heart.

What am I incubating?
What am I incubating?
What am I incubating?
What am I incubating?

And I’m going to drive myself insane.
I’m going to tear myself apart.
I’m going to drive you from my brain,
Cut you out of my heart.

The audience cheers and applauds but PUCK just turns and stalks off the platform and off the stage, the FATES following behind.

JACK: Puck! Puck!

CHORUS [holding JACK’s arm, holding him back]: He’s gone.

JACK: He’s here. He’s here. How can he be here? Where are we? What is this place? Who are these people?

CHORUS: They’re just like you and me, Jack. People who lost a little bt of themselves. People who lost their heart. People who lost their love. People who lost their soul.

JACK [almost screaming]: Where are we?!

CHORUS: You know where we are, Jack.

JACK sits down in the chair, shocked, horrified, shaking. The PROPRIETOR approaches them.

JACK: I'm in Hell. God -

PROPRIETOR: Please, let’s not mention the G-word. And let’s not pretend you haven’t been in Hell for a while now, Jack. What is it now? Three years?

JACK: But this is… Jesus fucking -

PROPRIETOR: Please! I mean, you people. Honestly. God this. Jesus that. Krishna, Buddha, Zeus and bloody Isis. All those prayers and petitions. The only thing the gods ever gave you was a curse, a life that ends. The whole eternity thing? Sustained by human faith, my boy, by your hopes and fears. The gods just write the contracts, set out the... terms and conditions. And we have much better terms and conditions here than all those other… clubs, you know.

CHORUS [aside]: And a lot more lawyers.

JACK [standing up, pushing his chair back]: I don’t believe. I don’t believe in this. I don’t believe in any of this.

JACK backs away from both of them in horror, and turns to face the audience. Suddenly, he looks suspicious, thoughtful.

JACK: OK, then. If you’re the Devil, what’s the fucking deal? What contract are you offering?

CHORUS [a warning tone in his voice]: Jack. [he moves toward JACK]

PROPRIETOR [laughs]: The Devil? Oh, Jack, your naivety is charming. I’m not the Devil, dear boy. Just an… intermediary authorised to act on his behalf. [looking at CHORUS] Just another middle man.

JACK: So what are you authorised to do for me? Come on, what’s the deal? You want my soul? Take it. Take my fucking soul. I’m sick of it.

PROPRIETOR [turning to look offstage, after PUCK]: Oh, but Jack… we already own your soul. So many owners, Jack. Poor Jack. Bought with Love and owned by Death and given away to Drink and the Devil.

JACK: You don’t own me.

PROPRIETOR: I told you, Jack. I’m not the Devil. No more than our friend here [gesturing at CHORUS] is the Grim Reaper. Death? Damnation? These are ideas, Jack. Not people. It’s just that sometimes the ideas serve the people and sometimes [snaps her fingers and the waiter produces a glass of absinthe] the people serve [holds the glass up to examine it, then gives it to JACK] ideas.

JACK knocks the drink back. CHORUS shakes his head and does the same with his drink He walks to the bar.

JACK: What do you want from me?

PROPRIETOR: What do you want from me, Jack? [snapping her fingers again] Another drink?

She takes another glass from the waiter and hands it to JACK, who downs it. CHORUS takes a drink out of the hand of one of the REGULARS and slugs it back angrily. The PROPRIETOR walks over to the doorway, pauses.

PROPRIETOR: You know, once upon a time all this was grass. Then human beings come along and you know what we do? We fence off the land and turn it into fields, farm it, water it with the sweat from our own brows. We build civilisation… one empty little nowhere town after another; and if you’re lucky, if you’re very lucky…maybe there’s at least one club you can go to, somewhere that you fit in, with people just like you… somewhere you can go to forget the fact you’re going nowhere. Another drink, Jack?

JACK takes the offered drink and sips it. CHORUS gets another drink from the BARMAN and knocks it back in one.

JACK: You haven't answered my question. What do you want from me?

PROPRIETOR: You haven't answered mine. What do you want from me?

JACK: Puck.

PROPRIETOR [laughing]: Oh, the old ones are the best. That’s… well, that’s just classic. What are you going to do? Sing us all a song to melt our hearts… And maybe the Lord of the Dead will be so moved, so touched, he’ll let you walk out of here with the love of your life? Isn’t that how it’s supposed to work? Chorus?

CHORUS: From him alone of all the daimones Persuasion stands aloof. [He takes a drink and JACK follows suit.] Don’t kid yourself, Jack. When Death has you, he has you forever.

PROPRIETOR: But Jack, you know you’re welcome here. You belong here. With Puck. And you can stay just as long as you want; we never close.

CHORUS [bitter]: And it’s always Happy Hour in the Hellhole.

JACK: Puck… where is he? What have you done to him

PROPRIETOR: All we’ve done is given him somewhere to belong. He’ll be back. Just be patient.

JACK: Just tell me where he is?

PROPRIETOR: Relax, Jack. All in good time.

JACK: Don’t fucking play games with me. Where is he?

CHORUS [rounding on JACK with real anger]: This isn’t a fucking game, Jack. You really think this – this – can be your happy-ever-afterlife. Is this what you want?

JACK: You got a better offer? You got anything to offer me that even comes close?

CHORUS [through gritted teeth]: Nothing.

CHORUS and JACK both down their drinks, as if it’s become a contest between them. JACK leans on the table, unsteady on his feet.

JACK [pointing at CHORUS, glass in hand]: You’re full of shit. You’re both full of shit. I don’t trust either of you. Where’s Puck?

CHORUS: You know where he is! You know where you are!

JACK: He’s here. [to the PROPRIETOR] Let me see him, you bitch.

PROPRIETOR [coming toward JACK slowly, as if drawn]: Such passion, Jack. Such rage.

CHORUS [walking towards JACK]: Forget this bullshit, Jack. You don’t believe in this. You don’t believe in any of this. You know this isn't possible, Jack. You asked me where you are; ask yourself that question, Jack. And listen for the answer...

The sounds of the Hellhole mute. In the distance, we hear an ambulance siren. It grows louder and louder until -

JOEY [off-stage]: Jack? Can you hear me, Jack? Come on, mate.

JACK [hand to his stomach, looking pained]: No! Leave me alone.

The siren cuts off. The sounds of the Hellhole return.

PROPRIETOR: Such fury. Such frustration.

CHORUS: You know where you are, Jack. You know where Puck is. Don’t lie to yourself, Jack. You know this isn’t –

JACK: Get away from me! [He shrugs himself away from both of them and stalks off towards the doorway] I know he’s here. He’s here somewhere. He can’t be gone. [He leans on the doorway for support, voice weakening] He was here just a moment ago. He was here. He was –

CHORUS: None of this is –

JACK: Shut up!

JACK staggers and the PROPRIETOR takes him by the arm, leads him to a seat.

JACK: Where is he?

PROPRIETOR: All in good time, dear boy. Have another drink while you wait. I’m sure he’ll be back soon.

JACK: I just want to see him.

PROPRIETOR: All in good time.

Lights go down to two spots, one on JACK and the PROPRIETOR, another on CHORUS, who walks forward to address the audience.

CHORUS [spoken]:

Time heals all wounds, I hear they say.
But if the wound is poisoned, every happy hour
The rot spreads more; and as it eats, as it devours,
I tell you this: It feels like only yesterday.


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