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 V

Act TWO Scene V: The Streets Of Nowhere

Lights come up on an empty stage, all the tables and chairs now removed. The doorway stands stage-right, “No Exit” lit up. Enter PUCK and the PROPRIETOR stage-left and towards the back of the stage.

PUCK: Where are we going anyway?

PROPRIETOR: Oh, this is just about far enough, I think. He’ll have to pass this corner eventually. All roads lead to home, you might say.

PUCK: Who’ll have to pass this way. This “fan”? What -

PROPRIETOR: Oh, did I say “fan”? I meant to say “flame” – as in “old flame”. Fan. Flame. Fanning the flames. You can see how I got mixed up.

PUCK: What old flame?

PROPRIETOR: And “flame” is the right word here as well. Very fiery temperament.

PUCK: Who? I don’t know what you…

PROPRIETOR: Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack go under the limbo stick.

PUCK: No. Jack can’t be – not Jack. He was -

PROPRIETOR: Drunken, despairing and devastated by the tragic and untimely demise of a certain… you?

PUCK: But Jack...

PROPRIETOR: Never recovered from it, dear boy. I’m afraid to say you rather ruined his life. Destroyed him. Like a little worm that burrowed its way right through his heart as if it was an apple, eating and eating until there wasn’t anything left.

PUCK: No, that’s… not fair…

PROPRIETOR: Life isn’t fair, dear boy. And death is downright cruel.

PUCK: No… no…

PROPRIETOR: Jack Flash is wandering around these very streets, right here, right now, a broken, bitter wreck of a human being… and all because of you. I suspect he’s looking for some doorway into utter oblivion even as we speak.

PUCK: I don’t believe you.

PROPRIETOR: He spent most of the night in the Hellhole drinking like there was no tomorrow – or, more to the point, like he desparately wanted there to be no tomorrow. A systematic derangement of the senses, you might call it. Actually it was more like a systematic eradication of all sense. You know, I was hoping that if I could just bring the two of you together… well, love conquers all as they say. Except that it doesn’t, does it? Except perhaps in a brutal, slaughtering, give-the-natives-syphillis-ridden-blankets sort of way. Love kills.

PUCK lunges at the PROPRIETOR.

PUCK: No!

The PROPRIETOR smacks him with a backhand and PUCK collapses to the ground.

PROPRIETOR: Now now, dear boy. Now now. You should be grateful for JACK's pain. It's what's kept you going all these years, my little... dream of a ghost of a shadow of a memory.

PUCK: But this is...

PROPRIETOR: Nowhere, my dear Puck. Heaven? [laughing] There's nowhere to go after you die! No pearly gates, no pie in the sky, just an elaborate charade built on the edge of oblivion, in the dreams of the desparate! You're a parasite, Puck, living on as a hope in his heart. If it wasn't for him you would have faded away into the darkness years ago.

Enter JACK and CHORUS stage-right, unaware of PUCK who is starting to crawl away from the PROPRIETOR.

PROPRIETOR: Now, where are you going, Puck?

CHORUS: Jack, where are you going? You’re just wandering round in circles.

JACK [rounding on CHORUS]: Get the fuck away from me. Who are you?! Why are you doing this to me? What do you want from me?

CHORUS: What do you want, Jack? Why are you doing this to yourself? Where are you going, Jack?

JACK: I don’t know. I just – Why the fuck do I keep ending up back here?

CHORUS: What are you running away from?

JACK: I don’t know.

CHORUS: I think you do, Jack.

JACK leans on the doorway.

JACK: Where is he?

PUCK: Where is he?

PROPRIETOR: Where is he? He’s lost, boy. Doomed, damned, dying in a gutter somewhere. You thought he could lift you out of the shit and instead you dragged him right down into it.

PUCK [getting to his feet]: No. No. Jack wouldn’t – he –

PROPRIETOR: You killed him, dear boy.

PUCK: It wasn’t me.

PROPRIETOR: You loved him, didn’t you? And he loved you as much as he loved life itself. Until you... left and took all of that love with you. You might as well have stuck a knife in his gut.

She mimes stabbing someone in the belly. JACK puts a hand to his stomach, pain on his face.

PROPRIETOR: I love you, Jack.

She stabs again. JACK winces.

PROPRIETOR: You and me, Jack.

And again. JACK doubles over.

PROPRIETOR: Fucking forever.

Again.

PROPRIETOR: I’m dead, Jack.

The PROPRIETOR mimes twisting the imaginary knife and removing it with a flourish. JACK falls to his knees.

PROPRIETOR: You died. And you dragged him right down with you into Hell.

PUCK: No! You're lying. This isn't -

JACK: Hell. God, I'm in Hell.

CHORUS: No, Jack, this is -

PUCK: Hell, God, this is -

PROPRIETOR: Nowhere! You people. You dream up these eternities, each of them serving its own particular brand of poison. [beckoning in different directions with each name] Call it Nirvana, call it Valhalla, call it Elysium, call it [contemptuous] Heaven. It’s still the same old nowhere made of nothing more than hopes and fears. Sustained by human faith, my dear Puck. You, me, everything around us. A city built for the dead from the sorrow of the living.

JACK: Why did you bring me here?

CHORUS: You were here already, Jack. You've been here for three years.

JACK: I don't understand.

CHORUS: Back in the bar when we met. You asked me if I knew the way out of Hell. I told you, you can’t just walk away from Death. But you keep trying to, Jack, and this is where you end up. In the gutter every night. You're just going round in circles.

PROPRIETOR: You destroyed him, Puck. You couldn’t just kill yourself. You couldn’t just end your own miserable little existence. Oh, no. You saw this beautiful shining light in the darkness, this burning fire of a life, Jack Flash. And you snuffed him out as well. He's here, Puck. He's here now.

PUCK: It wasn’t my fault.

PROPRIETOR: You know what I heard him asking, earlier on. He said, what happens if you kill yourself when you’re already dead?

PUCK [backing away in horror]: No.

CHORUS: Why is that, Jack? Why do you always end up at the same place, in the fucking gutter? Think about it, Jack.

JACK: I don’t know.

PROPRIETOR: I think he was serious. I mean… look at this afterlife he's dreamed up for you both. Look at the house that Jack built.

PUCK: No…

PROPRIETOR: Look at the grey and miserable eternity of his grief.

CHORUS: Why, Jack? Why

PUCK: No…

PROPRIETOR: Look at this… nothing… this shitty little nowhere town. Who would choose this? Where on earth do you think he got the idea? Who in their right mind would see this as eternity? You'd have to be a pathetic, pitiful, self-loathing, little fool.

PUCK shakes his head, unable to find the words.

JACK [clambering to his feet]: I don’t know.

PROPRIETOR: You'd have to be you.

CHORUS: Why, Jack?

PROPRIETOR: This is where he left you. This is where he lost you. This is the fate he couldn't save you from, the empty, meaningless banality of it all. A dead-end death for your dead-end life.

CHORUS: Why, Jack?

JACK [shouting]: BECAUSE HE CAN"T JUST BE GONE! [quiet] Because there has to be something... somewhere...

CHORUS: But this, Jack? This?

SONG: The Battle of Jack’s Grief

A march. With the same sort of beat as "Money" from Cabaret, piano played for rhythm rather than melody, this should have a very metric feel. Towards the end it becomes a ensemble number, everyone singing different lines at the same time.

PROPRIETOR [to PUCK]:

This town is a very shit town
It’s a nowhere place, with no escape from hate
Too little, too late.
This town is a very shit town
If you're pure, oh sure, it's great, but are you straight?
Then here's your fate.

This nowhere town
Will bring him down.

CHORUS [to JACK]:

This town is a very shit town
It's a nowhere place, a waste of time and space
A fear to face.
This town is a very shit town
In the end, my friend, we all descend into the ground
You have to face this down

PROPRIETOR:

Drown your sorrows
Till tomorrow

This town is a very shit town
It'll find his weakness, grind his spirit down
Until he's bound
This town is a very shit town
In a world of shit; [PUCK does a double-take, mouths “world of shit”] You say you're sick of it
So prove your grit.

The PROPRIETOR thrusts the knife towards PUCK, offering it to him. PUCK backs away from the PROPRIETOR in horror. The FATES enter behind him, preventing him from backing off-stage.

Feel the hatred

CHORUS:

Feel the grief

PROPRIETOR:

Celebrate it.

CHORUS:

Be released

JACK: No!

CHORUS crosses to PUCK’s side of the stage, stands on the platform. The FATES make way for him but PUCK and the PROPRIETOR remain unaware of him.

CHORUS:

This town is a very shit town
I am but a fool, a clown, a harlequin
In rags of skin
[FATES: This nowhere town]
But this clown is a very sad clown
Like a Pierrot with tears that flow like wine
For Columbine

PUCK:

Alienated

CHORUS:

Full of blame

PUCK:

Fear and hatred

CHORUS:

Full of shame

PUCK:

Isolated

PROPRIETOR:

Make a stand

Incubated

PROPRIETOR:

Take my hand

The PROPRIETOR offers her hand but when PUCK reaches out to take it the PROPRIETOR puts the knife into his grip.

JACK [getting to his feet, moving to front of stage]:

This town, this town, this town, this town
This town, this town, this town, this town

PROPRIETOR [spoken over JACK's line]:

You can end it all now, Puck.

JACK:

This town, this town, this town, this town
This town, this town, this town, this town

PROPRIETOR:

Without you he's free. [aside] Free for me.

PUCK [moving forward as JACK continues his refrain]:

Is a very shit town, is a very shit town
Is a very shit town, is a very shit town

JACK and PUCK continue, their voices joined by…

PROPRIETOR [joining in with her own repeated refrain]:

This town, this town is a very shit town
This town, this town is a very shit town

PUCK holds the knife out, looking at it, and, slowly, turning to face the audience, he places the edge of the blade against a wrist.

CHORUS:

This town, this town, this town is a very
shit town, this town is a very shit town.

Joined by…

FATES:

This nowhere town
This nowhere town

The characters continue singing, the voices overlapped and building until:

CHORUS [suddenly changes his refrain, singing off-beat with the FATES]:

This nowhere town
This nowhere town

CHORUS, standing behind JACK, grabs him by the shoulders, sings until:

JACK [also changes his refrain, singing with CHORUS]:

This nowhere town
This nowhere town

CHORUS turns on the PROPRIETOR, advances on her. The PROPRIETOR backs away into the FATES. CHORUS and the PROPRIETOR sing at each other as if this is mortal combat. Then:

PROPRIETOR [in time with the FATES]:

This nowhere town
This nowhere town

All eyes turn on PUCK who lets the hand with the knife fall to his side as he changes his refrain:

PUCK [singing the full line]:

This nowhere town, this nowhere town

CHORUS and PROPRIETOR move front of stage, the FATES between them, until everyone is in a line facing the audience.

ALL [together for last line]:

This nowhere town, this nowhere town

PUCK suddenly steps forward, turning, as if drawn to CHORUS, as if he has had a sudden realisation.

PUCK:

This town is a very shit town
It's a nowhere place, a waste of time and space
A fear to face.
This town is a very shit town

The music cuts suddenly, the others silenced, and PUCK sings the next line softly, with total serenity, direct to the PROPRIETOR, pointing the knife at him.

But I have a choice, a voice, and if I call…

He lets the knife drop from his hand.

The walls will fall.

PUCK looks at the PROPRIETOR, shakes his head. CHORUS walks round behind the defeated PROPRIETOR, taps her on the shoulder and beckons her with a finger. The two exit stage-right, leaving PUCK and JACK on-stage alone, but for the FATES who move up onto the platform.

A trumpet plays the "Nowhere Town" refrain, slowly, three times.

SONG: Love Lost And Found

The big tearjerker finale. Medley of "Nowhere Town", "Junky For The Sound" and "Tango For The Dead".

JACK:

Caught in this underworld,
Angels, your wings unfurl.
Show me the way from this place
[PUCK: this nowhere town]
Listen and hear my song
Just want to say so long
Just one last look at his face
[PUCK: this nowhere town]
If Hell has a heart at all
Answer my cry, my call
Give me a sight or a sound.
[PUCK: this nowhere town]
We all are dust
But if I must
I'm gonna turn this nowhere town upside-down

PUCK:

Another life, another death
[JACK: this nowhere town]
Another pointless loss, another stolen breath
So I got caught here in this dive
[JACK: in this endless dive]
But I'm a junky for the sound and the music's still alive

Enter the rest of the REGULARS, all walking onto the platform in darkness, to join the FATES in harmonising with the chorus.

JACK:

Nowhere town
When you’ve lost your heart
And there are demons all around
Nowhere town
Without a map or chart,
But when the fires start
They're gonna burn, burn, burn until I’ve found-

PUCK:

Cause I'm a junky for the sound and the music's still alive
[JACK: my junky for the sound]

Caught in the Hell I made
Lost in the masquerade
Seems I can still hear his voice
[JACK: this nowhere town]
Echoing my refrain

JACK:

Echoing all my pain

PUCK:

Echoes that weep and rejoice
[JACK: this nowhere town]
But I walk these streets alone
Singing to silent stone

JACK:

Orpheus without his lyre

PUCK:

The road is long
But with this song
We’re gonna set this nowhere town on fire

As JACK sings PUCK begins to move around, coaxing the REGULARS to join in with the harmony, until he stands just at the corner of the platform. As each one joins in, they are lit up by a spotlight.

JACK:

Another spark, another light,
[PUCK / REGULAR: This nowhere town]
Another flame snuffed out and lost in endless night
[PUCK / REGULAR: This nowhere town]
But there is something shining bright and gold
[JACK / REGULAR: This nowhere town]

PUCK:

Cause I'm a junky for the sound and the’s music in my soul

JACK / PUCK:

Nowhere town
When you've lost your heart
And there is darkness all around
Nowhere town… [They carry on the chorus, but on "town":]

Spotlight comes up on CHORUS entering at the back and stage-left, behind JACK

CHORUS:

Death, alone of all the gods
Requires no persuasion
No gifts, no invitations
But Death, alone of all the gods,
Comes into all our lives;
No matter how you strive
You'll never beat the odds

CHORUS moves up onto the platform.

JACK / PUCK:

Nowhere town
When you've lost your heart
All you can follow is the sound
Nowhere town…

As CHORUS sings the REGULARS start to file one-by-one down from the platform, walking to the front of the stage to sing the “nowhere town” harmony before turning to return to the back of the line. They form a barrier between JACK and PUCK. CHORUS stands on the corner of the platform.

CHORUS:

Death, who levels every thing,
His love for us is endless
But always He is friendless
And Death, who levels every thing
Can understand your pain
This echoing refrain
The sorrow that you sing

PUCK:

Another cry, another sound
[JACK / REGULARS: this nowhere town]
Another step in hope that what was lost might yet be found
I don't know what is you and what is me
[JACK: what is me and what is you]
But I know in this nowhere town that sound can set us free
[JACK: But I know in this nowhere town that sound is all that’s real and true]

CHORUS [arm out stage-left, where the PROPRIETOR is entering]:

And Death, the loneliest of all,
Is Love’s forgotten lover;
In Death is Love discovered.
And Death, the loneliest of all,

PROPRIETOR:

Together with his Love

CHORUS:

The raven and the dove

CHORUS / PROPRIETOR:

Will shatter every wall.

The REGULARS scatter to the edges of the stage.

Love conquers all!

PUCK / JACK [turning the corner to be reunited]:

Cause I’m a junky for the sound and the music carries on
Nowhere town
I’m a junky for the sound and I’ve found what once was gone

CHORUS [to the PROPRIETOR who starts to backs away]:

Death, the happy ever after
The bitter laughter

PUCK / JACK:

Nowhere town
In a nowhere place
Don’t let the fuckers grind you down
Nowhere town

CHORUS:

If you can face
That dark embrace
You can return. Turn! Go!

The PROPRIETOR disappears into the darkness.

Exit all the REGULARS except for the FATES, who move right to the back of the platform.

JACK and PUCK move hand in hand, stage-left, JACK walking backwards, leading PUCK. Just as they reach the edge, PUCK goes to turn to look back. JACK stops him with a hand on his cheek.


PUCK / JACK:

Cause I’m a junky for the sound
[FATES: So long]
In a nowhere town
[FATES: So long]
Where love was lost and found
[FATES: So long, nowhere town]

Lights go off on the FATES. JACK turns to leave. This time it is PUCK that stops JACK. He shakes his head.

PUCK: I’ve gotta go.

JACK: Where? Stay with me.

PUCK [shakes his head, smiling]: I wish. I've gotta go.

JACK [wry, with something between a sigh and a laugh]: “I’ve gotta go.” [smiles sadly, kisses PUCK]: So long.

PUCK: So long.

CHORUS [putting his arm around PUCK to lead him into the darkness]:

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here
Or leave this place, abandoning your fear

JACK notices the knife lying on the empty stage. The sign on the door flicks between "No Exit" and "Exit", stops on "Exit". A siren begins, off in the distance but getting louder.

JOEY [off-stage]: Jack! Jack, stay with us, man. Don't you fucking die on us, Jack.

JACK picks up the knife. Looks at it, confused.

JOEY: Don't you fucking die on us, Jack.

JACK: Fuck me.

The lights cut as he walks through the door.

***

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