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THOMAS GIBBS, associate professor of physics, is a fit man, midthirties, with short unbehaved hair. He talks with his hands while speaking as though continuously giving a logical proof. ELLEN MARIST, assistant professor of physics, is younger than Thomas. She dresses for comfort: no jewelry, no makeup, hair tied back. We do not need any of those enhancements to know that she is attractive. SEBRENTHA OF SYROS is a dark beauty, painted to reinforce that, gowned and jeweled to celebrate it. The JANITOR is a thin black man of indeterminate age who sings hymns as he works. He has a strong island accent. The CHIEF is at the apex of authority. White haired and wise, he speaks and moves as someone who will be heard. Nurses and doctors are interchangeably white, young, energetic, competent. GOD appears. HE needs no introduction.
A large, spare hospital room. Stage-right is dominated by a hospital bed around which are racks of electronic monitoring devices which beep and whir and hiss throughout. Above the head of the bed is suspended a flat rectangular panel, slanted down, about two feet above where the patient’s head will lie. Standing just beyond the foot of the bed is a large video monitor angled so both the audience and the occupant of the bed can see it. Center is a door which opens to a hallway. Stage-left there is a high window, pretty big, which shows the sky and the tops of trees.
ONE The lights come up. In the window is brilliant blue sky. The sun is shining, though it cannot be seen. Text appears on the monitor, deliberately, one letter at a time. MONITOR the quick brown foss The text disappears. MONITOR THE QUICK BROWN FOSS The text disappears MONITOR foxfoxfoxfos The text disappears. MONITOR fuchjkl The Janitor bumps open the door with his cart, a lopwheeled wooden vehicle piled high with columns of toilet paper, blocks of tissues, and various spray bottles. Overstuffed plastic bags hang heavy from the sides like ballast. He empties the trash can, then takes out a rag and begins to wipe the video screen. MONITOR close the dorr The Janitor does not see the words as he polishes them. MONITOR close door The Janitor sings softly.
MONITOR HEY YOU!! JANITOR (to the screen) Me? MONITOR yuo close the door JANITOR (closer to the screen) Who dat? MONITOR bed The Janitor turns to the bed. JANITOR Is that you making the words? MONITOR yes JANITOR Oh. Can’t make the talking no more? MONITOR no JANITOR That’s bad. I wouldn't like to be without my talking parts, no man. MONITOR door? JANITOR The wife wouldn’t like that neither. I think she don’t never want to be right without a good argument about just how right she is. MONITOR hey 5
JANITOR The neighbors would like that, though. I would get to listen to all their troubles, then, you bet. MONITOR HEY!!!!!!! The Janitor looks at the screen again. MONITOR close the door JANITOR No problem, mon. He pulls his cart into the room and lets the door swing shut. JANITOR I don’t blame you at all. Lots of people in this world want to know all about everybody else’s business. That’s not for me, no sir. I don’t bother nobody when I put things in they place. Anything I can do for you, man? MONITOR no thank yu The Janitor nods and picks up the hymn where he had left off. He takes a spray can and begins to clean the window. The door cracks open. Ellen peeks in, looking around the room without seeming to notice the Janitor, then she comes in. She carries a briefcase to the bed and sits in the chair. As she looks down sadly at the patient, her hands go to her mouth, then slowly to her ears, then absentmindedly to her hair, which she pulls hard through her fingers. MONITOR ellen Ellen jumps. ELLEN Sorry, I thought you were asleep. 6
MONITOR never sleep agin wast of tim ELLEN I have the latest cross-section data. MONITOR top quark? ELLEN Not yet. I called Grimm at CERN, but he was underground all day. MONITOR eed quark numbers higs boson ELLEN Higg’s boson? What does Higg’s boson have to do with quark cross-sections? MONITOR n dimensional There is a commotion outside the door, like many eager feet slapping tile. MONITOR shit A phalanx of white-coated doctors burst in. They gather as a body around the bed and then part in reverence for the Chief of Neurology. He strides to the front and nods at one of the crowd. CHIEF Doctor? DOCTOR Yes, sir. The patient is a Thomas Gibbs, age thirty-nine. White Caucasian male. Professor of Physics at the University. Admitted to the ER two weeks ago with head trauma resulting from a traffic accident. Patient was riding a bicycle which was struck by a garbage truck. He was wearing a helmet. Presented with double vision and a slight headache. Ringing in the ears. CAT scan was negative. MRI showed some edema. Patient was 7
prescribed anonsteroidal antiinfammatories and was discharged after twenty-four hours. He was readmitted two days later complaining of weakness in the extremities and loss of coordination. Steadily diminished control of voluntary responses. CAT scan and MRI are normal. Edema was resolved. Blood work all normal. No diagnoses is offered yet. Patient now communicates with a visual response keyboard. CHIEF Thank you. I’ll see anyone with special cases in my office. The doctors break ranks and file meekly out the door. The Chief picks a clipboard hanging over the bed and makes a note on it. ELLEN Doctor? CHIEF Good day, Miss.... ELLEN Dr. Marist. CHIEF Forgive me. How can I help you? ELLEN I needShe stops, then walks slowly as far away from the bed as she can. The Chief follows. ELLEN I need some hope, here, Doctor. Have you seen any improvement? CHIEF Just the opposite, I’m afraid. With every passing hour he has less control over his voluntary muscles. The plain fact is, there’s no reason for it. He should be 8
getting better. He had some bleeding after the accident, but nothing major. We’ve scanned his brain with radiowaves, with Xrays,and positron-emitting radioactive glucose. We’ve checked for viruses, bacteria, and toxins. Frankly, he’s got us scraping at the bottom of the diagnostic barrel. ELLEN He can barely move his eyes today. CHIEF I see that. You want me to try acupuncture? Aroma therapy? Cupping? I’ll do anything at this point. I’ll bite the head off a chicken and smear the blood on my naked butt if he’d just get the hell up out of that bed. ELLEN You’ve got to do something. He’s right in the middle of something very important. CHIEF Doctor Marist, I have a five year old up in critical care with a subdermal haematoma the size of your fist. From a fist, as a matter of fact. Is that not important? ELLEN Yes, of course. I didn’t meanCHIEF Never mind. What was he in the middle of? ELLEN Have you heard of the Grand Unified Theory? CHIEF Sure. The Theory of Everything. ELLEN That’s close. We call it the GUT. The GUT is the theory – well, it is the hypothetical theory - that reunites three of the fundamental forces of Nature. 9
Electromagnetism, the weak force and the strong force. CHIEF They’re not united already? ELLEN They interact, sure, and we have models that explain each one by itself pretty well. But they should be able to be fit into one big long equation. In the Big Bang, there was initially just one tiny point of pure energy, and all the forces were crammed together, indistinguishable. As it expanded, matter formed. All the forces layered out. Like salad dressing. You shake it and it’s homogeneous. Let it sit and you see the oil and the water. CHIEF And the Grand Unified Theory does what about that? ELLEN It doesn’t do anything. It would just be an equation, maybe a really simple equation. Like e equaling mc squared. That little mathematical relationship lets us predict how much energy is contained in matter. It guided the physicists who produced fission. But the Grand Unifying Theory is only threequarters of the whole. There is a Theory of Everything, the last truth, the link between all forces everywhere, including gravity. Think what we could do if we had gravity, for example, under control the same way we have uranium rods in nuclear plants. CHIEF I don’t know about this stuff. I only do brain surgery. ELLEN Thomas - Dr. Gibbs - called me just before the accident. He said that he’d had a brainstorm. He had seen a way to build a 10
workable framework. And not just the GUT, but the Theory of Everything. He was dreaming, a dream involving some regressive dimensional topology, and the answer shaped itself in the walls of his dream. He was yelling at me on the phone. Something about origami tigers and flaming circus hoops. He hopped on his bike and rode off to his office, but he never... CHIEF Dr. Marist, you seem to be the nearest thing to family he has, so I’m going to be blunt. We don’t know the mechanism of this type of degeneration. We don’t have an equation for it. Hell, we don’t even have a clue. And it appears to be accelerating. So whatever you need to do together, make it soon. ELLEN You have no hope to give me, then? CHIEF Does he have faith? Prayer may be all we have left. ELLEN Thomas? He doesn’t believe in the existence of a God. CHIEF (Glancing at his watch.) Damn me. I’m very late. You’ll have to excuse me, Doctor Marist. Don’t you worry. Things are going to change - I can feel it. He hurries out. Ellen approaches the bed. ELLEN Did you catch any of that? MONITOR all ELLEN Want to stop? 11
MONITOR no ELLEN Want to tell me? MONITOR befoer I fade away? ELLEN I didn’t mean it like that. MONITOR i do ELLEN You mean it? MONITOR ask ELLEN Okay. Okay. Uh...why is the muon cross section so damn important? MONITOR n space ELLEN Oh Jesus oh shit. The cross section goes into more than the two dimensions? Is it time variant? Three dimensions? But you said there are thirteen dimensional choices. Oh yes. MONITOR thats adfg asffffff sleep ok ELLEN Yes. Of course. Get some sleep. I have to go reread Bartle’s paper in J Phys. Bubble theory in multidimensional universe models... She leaves, deep in thought. 12
MONITOR mmmmmmmmmmmmm,,,,,,,, Ellen comes back in and picks up her briefcase. She notices the monitor. ELLEN Thomas? She touches his arm. ELLEN Thomas? She shakes him, gently at first, then roughly. ELLEN Thomas! Don’t go! Not yet! Ellen runs from the room. After a moment, the nurse walks briskly in and begins to check the patient’s vitals. Two doctors rush in. One shines a light into Thomas’ eyes; the other taps at the monitors. Ellen returns. She shrinks away from the activity at the bed, into the far corner where the Janitor, unnoticed, is cleaning away. The Chief comes in and looks down at the patient. CHIEF Ladies and gentlemen, it appears that we have lost voluntary response. Professor Gibbs can no longer make his desires known to us. Doctor? Path forward? DOCTOR Continue intravenous feeding. Monitor vitals. Chart respiration for possible prophylactic respirator therapy. CHIEF Good. What else? The doctors ponder in silence. CHIEF Bedside manner? 13
The doctors are stumped. CHIEF Professor Gibbs is incommunicado, but do not let that deceive you. He may very likely still be able to hear what is going on in the room. Let us not indulge in that morbid patter I hear from you in the OR. You will accord him every respect. The Chief leads them out. Ellen lingers after, gripping the rail of the bed with all her might, then she runs from the room. The Janitor pauses in his sweeping to move over to the monitor and unplug it. Blackout.
TWO The lights come up. The bed is in partial shadow. Out the window, it is still a beautiful day. Just to the left of center stage is a tall metal cage made of thin bars which run vertically. The structure is rounded at the top like an old fashioned birdcage. Inside stands Thomas Gibbs, his back to the audience. He is wearing a flimsy hospital gown which shows flashes of his butt as it parts. He spreads his arms and turns slowly around. THOMAS I can move! I can talk! Hey! The Janitor looks up from mopping. JANITOR You feeling better now then? THOMAS (He flexes his muscles.) Great! (He slaps the inside of the cage.) Whatever this thing is, it worked! 14
JANITOR Praise the Lord. THOMAS What is this - where’s the nurse? Nurse! Hey pal, will you push the call button for me? JANITOR She be on the way now. The nurse comes in with an armful of linen. She goes directly to the bed without looking around. THOMAS Get my doctor! Hey! I’m cured! It’s gone! NURSE (To the bed, too chipper.) It’s that time again, honey. Fresh sheets in the morning time. She begins to change the linen. There is still a body in the bed. NURSE Let’s straighten out this mat. We don’t want any bedsores, dearie. THOMAS What the hell is this? You put somebody in my room before I can even get dressed? NURSE Shall I tie up that gown a bit? I think so. One big old bow. There we go. THOMAS And where are my clothes? And where’s the door on this thing? Let me out of here. I have work to do. The nurse finishes and gathers up the laundry. NURSE Sponge bath at four. Don’t go away - the 15
water is just fine today. She heads for the door. THOMAS Sponge bath my ass! Get me the fuckBut she has gone. THOMAS God damn her! What is her problem? JANITOR Feel like you’re talking to yourself sometimes. THOMAS Yeah. Help me get out of this contraption, will you? Looks like I’ll have to check myself out of this place. I hope I had some money in my wallet. Have to catch the bus back to the University. Do you see a door on this thing? Some kind of handle maybe? JANITOR No, man. I don’t mess with nothing like that. THOMAS Oh, come on. Go get my doctor, then. And don’t bring back that crazy nurse. JANITOR But I’m not done with my cleaning here. THOMAS I can’t waste all day in this...whatever it is. Just pass that phone over here. See if it’ll reach. I’ll page the guy. Ellen comes in. She has been crying but has steeled herself for her entrance. She goes to the bed. ELLEN Thomas? The doctor said I could talk to you. That it would help if I kept talking. 16
THOMAS Ellen! Thank God. Over here! Look, I can move! ELLEN Can you still hear me? Please, Thomas, still hear me. I will bring you the data. I won’t leave you alone. THOMAS I can hear you fine. Ellen? Drying her eyes, she opens a manila envelope. ELLEN Anyway, Peng and Xiang faxed you the numbers from their resonant ionization calculations. THOMAS What’s going on? Ellen walks across the stage, past Thomas, past the Janitor without acknowledging them. She looks out the window. ELLEN What a glorious shade of blue. Thank God for Rayleigh scattering. She returns to the bed and makes a minute adjustment to the covers. ELLEN Take care, Thomas. I’ll be back tonight. She leaves. Thomas’ legs seem to lose their resolve, and he sinks to the floor. THOMAS I feel like I’m going to puke. JANITOR This just the place for that. THOMAS Why won’t they talk to me? Is that some 17
looney therapy? JANITOR I’m no doctor, mon. Maybe you dreaming it all? THOMAS This is no dream. This too tactile. And the resolution is too good. JANITOR Maybe you crazy in the brain, then? Thomas leaps to his feet. THOMAS That could be it. My brain swelled up. I’ve never been delusional before. This must be what it’s like. JANITOR Then there’s no problem. THOMAS I’ve got brain damage, and I’m psychotic. Of course there’s a problem. What if I’m dying? (He bangs his head against the bars and flinches in pain.) This is very real. JANITOR Maybe it’s all real, then. Seems pretty real to me. THOMAS And who is that in my bed? They have some mighty nerve to bring in somebody with me still right here. The Janitor moves slowly toward the bed. THOMAS You tell him that this is my room. My private room. He can have it when I leave. Which will be just as soon as I can get somebody besides you to respond. And bring 18
me my damn pants. The Janitor is looking down at the body in the bed. THOMAS And call the nurse again. Maybe she’s sobered up by now. The Janitor is speaking quietly to the body in the bed. THOMAS Who is it? The Janitor reaches out to the bed, not touching anything. JANITOR You know who it is. THOMAS Let me see him! The Janitor lifts the cover just so the face is visible. Thomas sees that it is his face, and he slumps against the bars. The Janitor comes over to the cage. JANITOR Don’t be getting down. Still no problem. THOMAS Ellen couldn’t see me because I’m dead. I’m a ghost. God damn it! JANITOR No, mon. You not a spook yet. I hear the life still beeping in you. They pause to listen to the soft electronic pulses from the bedside equipment. THOMAS Wait a minute. You see me. JANITOR I see you loud and clear, boss. Better tie that robe up tighter, everybody else be seeing you too. 19
THOMAS How come you can see me? Who are you? JANITOR I’m just the one who cleans up around this place. Like I told you. Keep things in order. THOMAS You’re a ghost, too! JANITOR Now do I look like a ghost, mon? I the one who bring things in when they need to come in. I polish anything that gets all grimy. I sweep up anything that gets spilled. (He moves to the bed and examines an instrument.) And when it’s time for something to go out, I come around and take it out. He reaches out to the bed. Thomas slams his hands against the bars. THOMAS Get away from him! The Janitor steps back, startled. THOMAS I know who you are! You’re a demon. You’re trying to kill me. Help! help! Somebody! JANITOR Mon, you like some people never throw anything out. My wife, she got a box full of old lipsticks all worn down to the nubs. But will she let me take them out? No, sir. Can’t get this color no more. Or this one reminds her of that special night. Or this one has such a pretty case. Got a reason to keep every one.
THOMAS Stop it! You don’t have a wife! I’m not going anywhere with you! JANITOR Sorry, mon. I don’t make the schedule. THOMAS Yeah? Come on in here and try to take me. You think because I’m a physicist that I’m some nerd you can push around? Come in here, pal. I’ll make your schedule for you. JANITOR Don’t be in an uproar, mon. I’m not like that. See that gum on the floor over there? Most people see that old dry gum plastered on the tile and they get out their tool and they hack and they gouge off that gum. Maybe they break the tile. Then you got big trouble. But me, I have a secret. You want to hear it? (Pause.) The secret to getting up that old gum without making a fuss about it is right here in this little packet. (He takes something from his pocket.) Mayonnaise from the cafeteria. I squeeze it out onto the gum when I start cleaning, cover it over with a rag wrung out in hot water. By the time I’m near the end, that old gum is nice and soft. Come right up in the rag. THOMAS You keep away from me with that. JANITOR That not going to persuade you, is it? Say, you a smart man. How about you meet somebody real smart? THOMAS What do you mean? 21
JANITOR How’d you like to meet the smartest person in the whole world? Smartest person there ever was, I think. THOMAS More ghosts? JANITOR Maybe. THOMAS Who? Who’s the smartest? Einstein? JANITOR No. THOMAS Newton? JANITOR No. THOMAS Feynmann? JANITOR Ha ha. That funny man? No, not him. THOMAS I give up. Freud? Plato? Da Vinci? JANITOR No way. THOMAS Okay, I give up. What’s the point? I’m dead. Or if I’m not, I’m having a near-death experience. Shouldn’t there be a tunnel of darkness with light at the end? Aren’t I supposed to see all my dead family calling me into the light? Or is it stay away from the light? Let me see. Was it stay away from the light, Carol Anne, or go into the light, Carol Anne? Oh my God! I can’t remember! 22
JANITOR I got no tunnel for you, mon. And no light for you to mess around with. Blackout.
The lights come up. Out the window is a bright sun shining on arid dunes. On the monitor, fronds like palms are waving. Thomas is dressed in a tunic bound about the waist by a wide leather belt. His feet are in sandals; thin straps wind up his calf. Peering at him through the bars is Sebrentha, a beautiful blackhaired woman of roughly his own age. She is draped in a long gown decorated with the device of an eye and inlaid with tiny mirrors. Her hair is gathered into a bun held by golden combs. Around her neck is a chain which holds a metallic oval engraved with a few simple symbols. SEBRENTHA This is the one? JANITOR That’s him. Look out for yourself. He’s in a bad mood. SEBRENTHA I shall be tender. Greetings, Thomas Gibbs. I am Sebrentha, Oracle of the Temple of Asmara. THOMAS Yeah. Whatever. SEBRENTHA You are in foul humor. 23
THOMAS Look, ma’am. I got hit by a fucking garbage truck a couple of weeks ago and it fucked up my brain, all right? Now I am hallucinating this evil bastard over here and I’m trapped in this tweety bird cage and I got you in my face. SEBRENTHA (To the Janitor.) Foul humor. JANITOR I knew it. THOMAS Stop that! What is she here for? You going to gang up on me? And what the hell is this dress? JANITOR You the one been yelling at me, you know. Do that. Don’t do that. How am I supposed to get my work done like that? SEBRENTHA Unacceptable. JANITOR You tell him. THOMAS Oh yeah. I Dream Of Jeannie? SEBRENTHA You are a stubborn man. THOMAS Back into your bottle. JANITOR (Picking up a rag, he walks to the window and begins to clean it.) Call me when you’re done. 24
SEBRENTHA I did not come to provide you entertainment, Thomas Gibbs. THOMAS Okay. I’ll be the straight man, then. Why did you come? SEBRENTHA To bring you with me. THOMAS Ah ha! The ghost of Christmas past? This is the airborne part of the dream, where you sprinkle me with pixie dust and we fly out the window? SEBRENTHA I am not that ghost. Nor am I a demon. THOMAS This is my dream. You’ll be what I want you to be. SEBRENTHA I shall not. I am Sebrentha, Oracle of THOMAS You have a pedigree! Not necessary! The court will stipulate as to your expert credentials. Get on with it or I’ll hold you in contempt! One more outburst like that and I’ll clear this courtroom. SEBRENTHA If you persist in making sport, my task will be most difficult. THOMAS Here’s a simple solution: You’re supernatural, make with the special effects. Morph your face into snake heads and rotted flesh. Scare the living shit out of me. SEBRENTHA The grander the demonstration, the more you 25
would resist it. You would reason away any trickery. THOMAS You’re not a very good Jeannie. SEBRENTHA I am no sorceress. I am Sebrentha, Oracle ofTHOMAS When you go to the store do you have to write Oracle on your check? SEBRENTHA Nonsense! I am Sebrentha, She whoTHOMAS Do you even have a last name? Or is it a Cher slash Madonna thing? SEBRENTHA Be still! I am Sebrentha, Bringer ofJANITOR She’s the smartest person in the world, mon. That’s all you need to know about that. THOMAS I agree completely. The smartest person in the world shouldn’t even need a title after her name. SEBRENTHA As you please. THOMAS Wait. You’re not that woman in the Sunday paper, are you? SEBRENTHA One of your Sundays? I think not. I have lain in my grave for five thousand years. THOMAS So how can you be so smart? Five thousand 26
years ago there weren’t any - anything. No phones, no lights, no motorcars. Not a single luxury. Dadadada, primitive as can be. SEBRENTHA We had none of your toys, true. Yet my mother could weave her own garments. My father could forge his own sword. I cannot imagine you to have these skills. THOMAS That makes you smart? Hammering out knives? JANITOR Tell him about the chops. SEBRENTHA It does not spark or spin. He would mock it. THOMAS Chops? JANITOR He’ll listen to that. Then he’ll know you. SEBRENTHA One chance he shall have, then. Shall I tell you a tale, Thomas Gibbs? THOMAS Knock yourself out. I’m just waiting here in this nightmare until the neighbor’s dog wakes me up around six-thirty. SEBRENTHA I am Sebrentha, daughter of Cuutenay, a citizen of Syros. At my marrying year I was betrothed to Cuthver, who kept the treasury of King Uskudar. In that same year I was unbound of Cuthver and pledged to the goddess Asmara. Good Asmara, who sees tomorrow. THOMAS Unbound? Left at the altar? Jilted? 27
SEBRENTHA Cuthver died of plague in my marrying year. In our marrying year. As a promised virgin in my year of service to Asmara, I was therefore forever hers. THOMAS I’m lost already…. You get engaged; the guy croaks; you get - what? - sacrificed to some goat god? SEBRENTHA You understand nothing. Betrothed virgins served Asmara from one harvest to the next, then they might marry. Asmara saw in her wisdom to take Cuthver during my time of service. Thus she must have wanted me to stay with her. I joined the others who lived in the temple. THOMAS Like a prehistoric nunnery. SEBRENTHA Asmara’s temple was the heart of the kingdom. All sought her wisdom. All came to ask of tomorrow, to lie with Asmara, to receive her vision. THOMAS Lie with her? People had sex with a goddess? SEBRENTHA Not with Asmara herself. With her servants. THOMAS So you were a hooker. A hooker in a church. SEBRENTHA So much inanity has become history and yet the memory of good Asmara has been lost. I was only betrothed to Asmara and not privileged to serve in her bed. Those were women who had taken husbands. Each married woman of the kingdom would become Asmara for 28
five days each cycle of seasons. We who were but betrothed to the goddess collected the offerings and kept the Temple. THOMAS I got news for you, lady. That was a whorehouse, not a temple. SEBRENTHA The men of Syros would take pity on you. THOMAS Me? Their wives are fucking strangers in the church basement. SEBRENTHA Becoming Asmara was the greatest honor. THOMAS And what if you didn’t want to spread ‘em for your goddess? SEBRENTHA There were those who could not serve. These were allowed to send another in their stead. There were no lack of volunteers. Many would stay more than their time. THOMAS Why? Was the pay that good? SEBRENTHA Donning the mask of Asmara was not for reward. THOMAS You’re freaking me out. They wore a freaking mask while getting banged? SEBRENTHA It was thus: The supplicant would enter the Temple of Asmara and place his offering upon her altar. There he would abide and pray until the Oracle appeared to hear his request. He would be hooded and led to Asmara’s chamber where he was bathed and 29
anointed with scented oils by the betrothed of Asmara. Asmara would enter through the blue smoke of incense wearing her robe of gold and ruby red. She would open her robe, and he would join her inside. There he would have a vision. After, he would describe his vision to the Oracle, who would show him tomorrow. THOMAS Okay, that’s a high class whorehouse. SEBRENTHA By and by, I was chosen by Asmara to be her Oracle. I kept the tally of offerings. From moon to moon, their number must appear in groups of five fives. No offering shall not appear in a group which is not five fives, for five is the holy number. THOMAS Why five? SEBRENTHA Why not five? (She produces a flat, rectangular clay tablet.) Each offering is taken for the good of Asmara. Food feeds her servants, beasts are taken to her herds, gold and silver and jewels are hidden in her secret place. Each worthy offering is marked by a chop upon a tablet. Thus the fives are kept. The kingdom of Syros prospered upon the wisdom of Asmara. Offerings came in abundance and filled the fields and the secret place. The chops filled tablets, tablets littered the floor and pressed against the doors so one could barely enter. Yet we dare not misplace a group of five fives, for that would offend Asmara. One evening as I prayed to Asmara, I held my hands out to the fire on her sacred altar. She spoke to me through my spread of 30
fingers. I cried for a fresh tablet as the servants of Asmara and the betrothed of Asmara gathered around. I said that Asmara had shown me a new way to keep the tally. On the monitor is a close-up of a glistening, soft tablet. Hands are wielding a short stick to make short lines upon it. SEBRENTHA The tablet would be divided thus. In this part the chops are as before, one chop for one offering. In the next part, each chop is now made for each group of five and five. In the next part, each chop is made for a group measuring five and five on a side. Upon such a tablet, three chops each in its own home would mark a tally of one plus five and five plus a square of five and fiveTHOMAS A hundred and eleven. SEBRENTHA You take it for granted. THOMAS You think you invented counting in base ten? SEBRENTHA Asmara showed me in the vision. THOMAS Oh, come on. History is full of advances made in parallel by civilizations that didn’t even know about each other. Okay, so it was a big deal in your little cathouse slash church. Smartest person ever? What about a guy named Einstein. Huh? General relativity ring a bell? That was a leap forward. Newton’s calculus? Kepler’s orbital mechanics? Better than marking up a hunk of wet clay? 31
SEBRENTHA The system of accounting the offerings to Asmara was used to keep measure of the grain in our storehouses and the beasts in our far pastures. We traded these as we needed and passed the tablets on to merchants as record of the deed. The method pleased them, and they began to use it. The kingdom honored Asmara as never before. The goddess in her wisdom then gave another gift to her people. As the temple prospered and the kingdom grew, it became harder to mark who had served Asmara and who was yet to serve. This time Asmara came to me unbidden, in a dream. Coiled about her arm was a great hissing serpent. The goddess spoke to me, and she said: Sebrentha, this snake begins to speak your name. Then I awoke. Again I called the temple about me and told them of my vision: That Asmara had bid me choose a creature to speak each sound in our tongue. And she commanded, as the serpent speaks its hiss, then its picture shall be so marked to mind us of the sound that begins my name. The monitor shows a crude S marked in the clay. SEBRENTHA And then the great oxen, which we call emoo. A horned cow head is marked next to the S. SEBRENTHA Then the scarlet delta ibis, which makes the cry of Bra! Bra! to greet the rising sun. A long-legged bird is rendered. SEBRENTHA We did these for all the sounds in our tongue until our words, which before that 32
time had been heard only, might be seen as well. And scribed onto a tablet which could be sent away to summon a servant to Asmara. We fashioned a medallion for each woman who had served, as proof of her devotion to Asmara. It bore her beast name. THOMAS Wait a minute. Your story has a continuity problem. You have a necklace. I thought you never did time on your back. SEBRENTHA This is the beast name of Cuthver. My one love, my last love. King Uskudar, seeing how any citizen’s name might be marked, called the servants of Asmara to count his kingdom by their names. Merchants came to the Temple to be taught the beast naming so they could keep accounts. Children learned it so they might tease each other by marking upon walls with half-burnt sticks. On the monitor is a rough fence on which is drawn in black a heart. Inside the heart there is are two strings of symbols, one above the other and separated by a plus sign. THOMAS All right, all right, all right. You win. You were the brightest bulb in the fixture. Or torch, or candle, or whatever you had. You invented base ten and the written language and gunpowder and toilet paper. Fine. You can do whatever you want. But I’m still not letting that son of a bitch over there anywhere near me. SEBRENTHA If indeed you grant me all that, then you shall listen to me and hear me. He is a friend.
THOMAS Not of mine. Dream or no dream, he’s trying to take my soul. Even if I don’t believe in him, it’s still my goddamn dream. SEBRENTHA So your world is only as it seems to your eye? You talk of particles being waves, of a cat in a box being dead and alive at the same time. How can you have faith in those? You cannot see those things, yet you know them to be true? THOMAS Those are subatomic phenomena. This isn’t. Those are able to be substantiated by experiment. This is just my mind racing. Sebrentha moves to the bed. SEBRENTHA Fact only moves you. I understand. (She puts her hands on the body.) The palsy has reached that part which mutes raw sensations. This is what the body now feels. Thomas screams in pain, doubles over, and collapses. Sebrentha removes her hands and comes back to the cage. SEBRENTHA Have you not yet recognized your prison? Thomas struggles to his feet and reexamines his cage. THOMAS Something about itA silver globe descends from above until it is inches away from the top of the cage. There is a humming, then arcs of white brilliance begin to spark between them with loud reports. THOMAS It’s a Faraday cage!
SEBRENTHA Not a prison? THOMAS Static electricity – it’s all the same charge. It tries to get as far away from itself as possible. It coats the outside of the metal. There could be a million volts on the outside, but you can touch the inside and not feel a thing. That’s why you’re safe in a car during a lightning storm. Just as long as you don’t touch the outside of the cage…. SEBRENTHA Once you felt trapped, now the cage is your haven. Might this gentle one not be the enemy you feared? THOMAS I don’t know. SEBRENTHA You do know. It was proven to you when I let you taste the torment of that flesh. THOMAS No! This is fantasy! SEBRENTHA He wishes only to release you from that pain. He can remove these bars. THOMAS I can’t leave. You don’t understand. I can’t leave! SEBRENTHA Do not presume to know what I can understand. (She hold up her tablet.) I understand why the kingdom of Syros flourished. THOMAS I’m not talking about little stuff. I’m 35
working on the unification. The whole damn ball game. Not addition or the abc’s. The unification of all explanations; each and every thing in the whole universe explained, lady. I can’t go with you now. I’m not done. SEBRENTHA The wealthy of Syros lived in larger homes each year. The lowest laborer returned each night to a fine hearth, a happy wife, fat, healthy children. King Uskadar built two wings onto the palace and had the Temple of Asmara decorated with such riches that the night sky envied it. The kingdom flowered like a pomegranate tree in a warm wet spring. THOMAS What makes you think I care? SEBRENTHA I saw tomorrow through Asmara, yet I did not see that we were that tree, beautiful. Heavy with fruit, and inviting to the hungry. The end came so quickly that calls for Asmara’s wisdom went unanswered. From the south and from the east they came, a horde of barbarians raising dust trails which dimmed the sun. They swept over the kingdom of Syros as locusts over the grain. They slew the merchants and the laborers and the wives of each. They quartered good King Uskudar and hoisted the pieces upon poles at the city gates. They melted down the golden statues into crude bars to be carried away. They cared nothing of counting or chops or beast names or tomorrow. When they came to the Temple of Asmara, they entered without gifts. They raped Asmara’s servants, and they seized the Oracle whose prophecies had fame even in their barbarian land. She they feared more than any of Uskadar’s warriors.
THOMAS You? SEBRENTHA They dragged me behind a chariot for a time. And when they stopped, they cut out my tongue. Because they feared my words. They sliced off my breasts because they hated my sex. Then they burned me upon a pyre of brush. I do not know why they did that. Perhaps they were cold. It was thin brush, and dry, and the flames did not kill me. On the monitor: Sebrentha bloody and blackened, writhing on the side of the road. The Janitor appears on the road leading a donkey and dressed in a ragged robe. He stops and kneels beside her. SEBRENTHA Strange. There was no pain. I thought that I could reach the house of my father. His servants would bind my wounds and salve my burns. I did not know that my father lay in his own blood, his house in ashes. Then this one appeared. He did not speak. I could not speak. I knew that he was come for me, that he was merciful Asmara in the flesh there to carry me in her chariot to the east, where the sun waits, where it is already tomorrow. Yet I did not want to go. I was the Oracle of the Temple of Asmara. I was wise for her. I was beautiful for her. My life, lived for the Goddess, pleased me each hour of each day. Somehow I lifted my head. I turned my eyes down into the city and saw the inferno where the Temple of Asmara had once stood, in the middle of the ruins where once the great city had surrounded it. Then this one held a glass so that I might see myself. On the monitor: Sebrentha’s face in a round mirror is burnt beyond recognition. Two white terrified eyes stare from a black mask. 37
JANITOR Such a waste. I knew this choice, for lovely face bleeding in SEBRENTHA one cared for me by his own I had no words to sway him, no to entice him. I was an ember, the dust and ashes of Syros.
JANITOR And she didn’t give me any trouble then, just let me do my job. THOMAS But I’m so close. Just let me stay for a little longer. JANITOR I told you. I don’t make the schedule. SEBRENTHA Perhaps you would rather return. (She points to the bed.) THOMAS If that’s what it takes. SEBRENTHA What whips you so? It cannot be love, nor money. Not power. Fame and glory? Would your theory be so grand that your name might live forever? THOMAS Are you joking? The guy who gets Theory of It All? It’s the Triple Crown, the Super Bowl, the heavyweight championship of the world. SEBRENTHA At least you have a simple motive. THOMAS It’s not like that. Nobody ever became a physicist to get famous. That stuff is just 38
byproduct: the cover of Time and all that crap. A thousand nightly news Ken and Barbies asking the same question over and over, none of them having a clue. Ninetynine and nine tenths of the population knows angular momentum from the skidmarks in their shorts, but they still want to buy your book to toss on the top of the pile on the coffee table. And what the fuck is wrong with that, anyway? You can hit two fifty in the National League and make a million dollars, but be the best theoretical quantum physicist in the world and have to tutor algebra one to make the payments on a one bedroom condo. SEBRENTHA Then it is riches you desire. THOMAS No! I just want to know. You take all the rest, you and the custodian here. Take it all. Put me in a white room with black curtains, a chair and a table. I just want to know the damn connection between gravity and electromagnetism and the nuclear forces. Is that so much to ask? Just to know? I don’t see the problem with that. SEBRENTHA I have no quarrel with you, Thomas Gibbs. For those of us who wish nothing more, knowing is pure. It is invisible, yet it can give you much strength and joy. The trouble begins only when your knowing is made manifest. THOMAS You think you’re responsible for what those bastards did to your town? SEBRENTHA Syros without chops, without beast names, would have been as happy a place. Barbarians 39
do not travel far to fill their sacks with happiness. THOMAS Bullshit. People are always killing each other over something. Reading, writing, arithmetic, gold, water, land, women. Sommetimes you’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Syros would have gone under for one reason or another anyway. SEBRENTHA But I was that one reason, and I cannot console myself with eventualities. I saw the reality of my home and friends butchered. I knew that it was not the bloodthirsty hordes to blame, but my greed. My vanity. I was a fool; I wanted to create a new way. To know that I had knowledge inside myself and to cast it out among the people and watch them embrace it. THOMAS Well, believe me, the people are not going to embrace the Grand Unifying Theory anytime soon. SEBRENTHA It is so trivial? Is it of no use? THOMAS No use? Once we know the connection between everything, we can get down to figuring out how to do anything. The Theory will be like The Joy of Cooking. Up to now, all we know was that butter and flour and milk are discrete entities. SEBRENTHA So there is no danger, just some baking. THOMAS Nothing’s one hundred percent safe. What do you mean by safe, anyway? The Theory is a symbolic representation of an abstract. Could it be used for evil? Sure. So can 40
sticks, so do we chop down the trees? I got got a little scar right here from getting hit in the forehead by a rock when I was in fifth grade. Can’t we go around and glue all the rocks to the ground? You see tomorrow. You tell me. Tell me that the Theory itself is evil and I’ll give it up. I’ll go peacefully down that tunnel. SEBRENTHA In truth, I cannot. THOMAS Then get out of my face. I think you’re the one who needs help. SEBRENTHA I did not come here to help myself. Ellen enters, several papers and a FEDEX envelope in her hand. THOMAS Ellen! SEBRENTHA And what of her? THOMAS Leave her out of it. ELLEN Delaney sent these by email... SEBRENTHA Is she betrothed to another? THOMAS Quiet! ELLEN Here’s some interesting data from CERN, the ... detector.... SEBRENTHA Is she your Oracle? 41
THOMAS Stop it. What was that last value? ELLEN Goldenstein’s team finally got powered up. He sent some raw numbers from the muon cross section scattering experiment. They haven’t even crunched them yet, but I knew you’d want to see the trends... SEBRENTHA I came here to help you, Thomas Gibbs. THOMAS (He listens only to the numbers read by Ellen.) That value makes no sense... SEBRENTHA I may grant you some favor. THOMAS Okay, okay. Squared is... SEBRENTHA (She produces a thin clay tablet.) Take this tablet to your breast. THOMAS Detector glitch there... SEBRENTHA It carries the beast name which allows one indulgence. THOMAS Fifth root... SEBRENTHA It will carry you back into your broken body. THOMAS There’s a pattern...
SEBRENTHA It will mend you. THOMAS Seven? SEBRENTHA You would know nothing of this Theory. THOMAS That’s got to be dimensionless... SEBRENTHA You would be husband to this woman. THOMAS That’s the matrix divisor... SEBRENTHA Happiness, Thomas Gibbs. Here is the tablet. THOMAS Exchange values... SEBRENTHA Choose carefully. THOMAS Stack... SEBRENTHA Choose well. THOMAS Muon mass is... SEBRENTHA Take the tablet! THOMAS It’s linear! SEBRENTHA No one has ever been given such a gift!
THOMAS Integrate over n space... SEBRENTHA Theory cannot love you! THOMAS Slope isSEBRENTHA She loves you! THOMAS Intercept isSEBRENTHA Time to choose! THOMAS I’ve got it! Sebrentha turns away, defeated. She drops the tablet; it shatters to bits. SEBRENTHA I can do no more. Black out.
FOUR In the window is a pastel rendering of a city skylight at night, too stylized to be mistaken for real. Music begins: a jumping electronic theme. A light shines on the Janitor - in black tie and tails and holding a microphone. He delivers now in a stentorian bass like a ringmaster, with no trace of accent. JANITOR Ladies and gentlemen! Please welcome to your reality the lovely and talented Sebrentha of 44
Syros! Sebrentha enters through the door, waving acknowledgment. She is in a skintight white gown; her hair hangs down her back. JANITOR And now: the one who makes it all happen; the reason we are here today; the designer; the builder; the owner/operator of all those dimensions; the one you call many names and we call Boss; the one, the only: Supreme Being! An APPLAUSE sign flashes above the stage. Colored lights run and flash. On the monitor are electronic fireworks. God trots onstage. He is the Chief in a white suit: white shoes, white tie, white shirt. He waves to the audience, bows, blows some kisses. GOD Hello everyone. Glad you could make it today. Sebrentha, you look marvelous. And announcer guy, I see you’re still moonlighting at the piano bar. JANITOR Just something off the rack. GOD Tell us about our winner. A light illuminates Thomas, who is now wearing a brown suit. JANITOR Well, Your Omnipotence, his name is Thomas Gibbs. He is a Professor of Physics, thirtyfive years old and single. A Taurus, his hobbies include tennis, origami, and unfortunately, bicycling. GOD Hello, Thomas Gibbs. Congratulations. THOMAS What the hell is this? What kind of fucking 45
left turn.... GOD Oh my. You don’t believe it. (To the others.) He does not believe it. JANITOR He fell on his head. GOD Ah. God raises his hand and a brilliant shaft of white light shines on Thomas. There is a brief chord which is part heavenly chorus, part demonic shrieks, part childrens’ laughter. The light snaps off; Thomas staggers. The APPLAUSE sign flashes. THOMAS What? What did I do to you? GOD To me? You misunderstand, Thomas. You won. This whole reality can be proud of itself for producing you. THOMAS This is some kind of a game to you? GOD Questions, yes, ask away! All the unanswered and unanswerable questions this space-time line has accumulated. Is there free will? How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? What happened to Amelia Earhart? Can I create a rock so heavy that I can’t move it? Who shot Nixon? JANITOR Kennedy. GOD Right. Who shot Kennedy. Answers to all these. Just one of the many glorious prizes 46
you have won for your reality. THOMAS What is this thing about my reality? There are other realities? GOD You couldn’t have thought this was it? One linear time line? Not since the beginning. But by now, oh so many. THOMAS (Mostly to himself.) Every time a particle chooses between two quantum states, the universe, the time line is split. GOD Exactly! Strings, too, as you call them. THOMAS Then there are twenty-six dimensions. GOD Yes, well, more or less. Here, anyway. THOMAS And every particle and every string since the beginning of the universe generated two parallel realities every time it chose between two quantum states? GOD Didn’t I just say that? THOMAS That’s an unimaginable number of parallel universes. GOD Don’t I know it. What a logistical nightmare. THOMAS So much for the sparrow. 47
GOD Oh, the alleged sparrow etcetera. Sure, I keep track of all, small birds included. Universes pretty much run on their own, though. At least they do since I introduced momentum. I don’t actually reach in and adjust things much. THOMAS Then you haven’t been here all along. GOD Yes and no. But now I am here: large in the flesh and occupying every dimension in this reality, including the ones that are all rolled up. And all because of you. You made the connection. You found the hidden blueprint. THOMAS The unifying theory? I sprang your trap with a wild hypothesis based on flimsy, unrefined data and - this? GOD Bingo. THOMAS What now? GOD You go forth into the world and cry it to the multitudes. The hypothesis will be confirmed; the theory proven. It shall be fact. It will be faith spread to everyone everywhere. Not your whims of belief, but irrefutable demonstrable faith the likes of which your reality has not seen. All will know that the prize has been won, and the race has reached its end. THOMAS The prize? The race? You son of a bitch, you know the suffering that’s been going on here. Wars and starvation and sickness and you could have put a stop to it anytime, but 48
you waited like a kid watching an ant farm GOD That’s another question to add to the list. Do I have a mother and/or father, i.e., where did I come from? THOMAS What about my question? GOD Oh, the pain thing. Pain is proof that you are aware. THOMAS Oh! That is so lame! I expected a lot more depth from God. GOD Don’t you think this floor here would like to be able to feel pain? This chair? I promise you that the grandest mountain would gladly trade places with the most wretched human you could ever find. THOMAS And now all pain ends? By this freak? By a dream and a garbage truck? You should have a more coherent plan, because I am not some kind of prophet. I don’t see tomorrow like some people. I don’t sit alone in the dark waiting for it to hit me. I got two dozen experimental groups sharing data. There are hundreds of highly trained theoreticians backed up by thousands of technicians, tradespeople, support staff, millions of dollars. Pounds, francs, marks, rubles even. This is cream, this kind of research. Above survival, above comfort, above luxury. Pure speculation funded by a civilization flush for the first time. Suppose we took an asteroid, or some disease cut us apart. We’re not so strong that we couldn’t go Dark Ages in a hurry. We’re not so strong that we couldn’t be hanging witches again in ten years. You left us to chance? One little 49
stumble and we might never find our way back to this level. GOD You got it easy. Ten thousand years of warm weather just right for crops. Stable brain capacity. Opposable thumbs and stereoscopic vision. You should see how many realities there are out there where organic matter hasn’t begun to replicate. Some universes are still amorphous. Matter hasn’t clumped up. You should complain? Your friends will not quibble over such minutia when they see the grandeur which awaits. THOMAS Then this is Judgement Day. GOD Only in the good way. It shall be paradise on Earth, the Heavenly Gardens incarnate, that whole scenario. SEBRENTHA Boss. She points to the bed. GOD Oh. Damn. You can’t spread the word. THOMAS Sure I can. Heal me. Put me back. I’ll tell everybody. GOD It would be a miracle. THOMAS Yes. GOD I hate miracles. You people think one comes along every three minutes. Really, I haven’t made one here since that pass from Flutie to Phelan. Coming out of a little coma isn’t 50
going to beat that. THOMAS But I can’t tell. GOD Sorry. I’m afraid our judges have ruled. It doesn’t count. The music swells. The applause sign flashes. God waves to the audience and bounds across the stage. THOMAS Wait! You can’t just leave me here! GOD Don’t worry. These things have a way of working themselves out. Goodnight, everybody. He exits. The music grinds to a halt. The flashing lights die off. Sebrentha comes to Thomas. SEBRENTHA I’m sorry. THOMAS I never even believed in the guy. I quit asking him for anything when I was eleven and he wouldn’t get me on the Little League team I wanted. If this is life, I’m probably the only living person ever to get to talk to him. And he won’t give me one little favor? Walks out on me? I am the unluckiest bastard there ever was. Ellen comes in and sits by the bed. She takes the patient’s hand and presses it to her lips. SEBRENTHA Perhaps. Sebrentha walks close behind Ellen. SEBRENTHA This one grieves for you. 51
THOMAS She’s a good friend. SEBRENTHA She loses more than a friend. THOMAS I know what you’re getting at. It’s not a good idea to date your coworkers. I know people do it anyway, but it usually ends up badly, and then you’ve got to go in in the morning and avoid the person all day. SEBRENTHA She is not betrothed. Not to be here like this. THOMAS I like Ellen. I like her a lot, actually. SEBRENTHA You never spoke to her of your heart. THOMAS You can’t just say whatever the hell you want. Maybe they did in your time, but not now. SEBRENTHA How timid man has grown. THOMAS What am I supposed to do? Toss her on the ground? SEBRENTHA Would you? THOMAS Touch her? I couldn’t - even - . We were in Chang’s lab the Friday before my little bump on the noggin. Looking at a detector frozen down in liquid nitrogen. She had on this thin blouse and no bra, and when we were leaning over the cooling bath, her nipples 52
popped out like iron rivets. I was staring at them. And she saw me staring at them. I saw her see me staring at them. She smiled.... SEBRENTHA And? THOMAS We were alone in the lab. SEBRENTHA You spoke? THOMAS I said I was freezing. And I walked out. SEBRENTHA Would you like to know what she wanted you to say? THOMAS I thought you did futures. SEBRENTHA I need no vision for this. THOMAS What, I should have gotten on my knees? I should have told her I loved her madly because seeing her erect nipples made my blood flow around differently? SEBRENTHA Did you love her? THOMAS I think I did. Do. I fucked it up royally, didn’t I? SEBRENTHA All you must say in that moment is some token of kindness. Your gown is most pleasing, or your hair is shining, or your eyes are so beautifully brown or blue or green or hazel, or will you do me the honor 53
of breaking bread with me. THOMAS I was freezing. SEBRENTHA You are not the only man to ever make the least of an opportunity. THOMAS Yeah, believe me, if I ever get another chanceSEBRENTHA You shall not. Listen. The breath is labored. The heart makes an uneven rhythm. The end is near. JANITOR Don’t look at me. I told you I don’t make the schedule, but that don’t mean you don’t have to keep to it. THOMAS Ellen! Ellen! SEBRENTHA You chose. THOMAS Over here! SEBRENTHA There is nothing to be done. THOMAS I’ll show you nothing to be done, God damn you all. He beats the inside of his cage, kicking it with a fury, pounding his head against it. THOMAS Wisdom and power of the Goddamn ages omnipotent and can’t give me one little Goddamn thing54
Sparks are flying from the silver globe to the cage, crackling, growing more intense. Thomas continues to attack the inside of the bars. SEBRENTHA You rage to know tomorrow? Men crushed the temple. Men murdered the Oracle. THOMAS I had nothing to do with that! SEBRENTHA You could have rebuilt it. You could have sought a new Oracle. THOMAS That was thousands of years ago! SEBRENTHA You have a theory, words and chops. Can it take you into its robe and show you a vision? THOMAS Ellen! He grabs for the outside of the cage. Sparks fly. There is a thunderclap and a flash of light. Black out.
FIVE The lights come up. The cage is empty. Sebrentha and the Janitor have not moved. Ellen lifts her head, then leans in close to the bed. ELLEN What? She listens again, then grabs the call button. 55
ELLEN He’s awake! Alarms ring and shriek. The nurse runs in as all the monitors flatline. She moves Ellen roughly out of the way and rips the leads off of the patient’s chest. ELLEN He was hereTwo doctors bolt in with a cart and set to work: ventilator, paddles, hypos. The Chief comes in waving his hands. CHIEF He’s a DNR, people. The crash team stops in midaction and quickly goes through the same motions in reverse, packing up their gear. CHIEF I’m sorry, Doctor Marist. Ellen reaches out and closes Thomas’ eyes. ELLEN Can I stay with him? CHIEF Yes. Of course. I’m terribly sorry. He leaves. Ellen sits back down and takes Thomas’ hand again. Blackout.
SIX Lights up. The cage is gone. Thomas gasps for breath on the floor where the cage once stood. Sebrentha rushes to help him sit up. SEBRENTHA You are free. 56
THOMAS I couldn’t breathe! SEBRENTHA The body will trouble you no longer. THOMAS But I didn’t care. He was right about pain. I didn’t care, as long as I was alive.... Where did they take me? SEBRENTHA You are here. The rest is shed skin. THOMAS But I miss it! Don’t you miss the skin? SEBRENTHA Not so much that I would have the boldness to do what you have done. I let a tiny piece of the agony touch you so that you knew its face and yet you flew wholly back to it. I have never seen such bravery. But the source of it escapes me. Was the need to pass your secret so great? Does she now have the seed of your knowledge, that she might possess this great theory which means all to you? THOMAS No. SEBRENTHA Then what? What is more to you than that? THOMAS For all that it’s worth now. I told her I loved her. Like I should have before.... Oh, hell. I’ve pissed it all away - love, life, the Theory - the whole fucking world. SEBRENTHA Yes, I agree that many of your choices were made unwisely. THOMAS What now? Heaven or hell? 57
SEBRENTHA Your mythology is all pleasure or pain. THOMAS My mythology? You’re the ghost. Or is it demon now? SEBRENTHA Neither. I am an Oracle. THOMAS Okay, do you oracle in heaven or hell? SEBRENTHA Wherever I am needed. As here. THOMAS Well, you’re all done here. SEBRENTHA No. I am not. She points to the monitor. It turns on. The picture is a sunny field: green turf, blue sky. Into the frame walks Ellen. She is wearing a long summer dress, and her hair is down. A child, a girl of six or so, runs up to her. CHILD Where’s Daddy? ELLEN I don’t know. Let’s call him. CHILD Daddy! ELLEN Tom! THOMAS What is this? What are you doing this for? SEBRENTHA Your family is calling. 58
THOMAS I don’t have a- I don’t have this family. SEBRENTHA No. Not here. THOMAS Oh. You.... SEBRENTHA The Oracle has many privileges. I offer you one last choice. You may stay here, a shade, and discover all the things a shade may be. Or you may put off that day and assume flesh once more, with this family, and live as you may. Until we meet again. THOMAS Oh yeah? What’s the catch? I have to give up the Theory? I remember nothing? I have to be a carpenter and never again tinker with the fabric of cosmology? SEBRENTHA This gift is freely given. Be what you will and do what you will. Take from this life what you wish. In either place you will live with your choices. CHILD Daddy? Come out, come out, wherever you are! THOMAS If you are a true Oracle, then you know. SEBRENTHA Yes. I do know. Blackout.
SEVEN The lights come up. 59
Thomas stands in the monitor now, back to the camera. He turns slowly around. THOMAS Thank you. The child runs up to him and takes his hand. She swings on it like a vine. CHILD Daddy, who are you talking to? THOMAS An old friend, Punkin. CHILD Up! Thomas swings her up onto his shoulders. Ellen comes up and hugs them both. ELLEN We thought you were lost. THOMAS I was. I was lost and gone forever. CHILD But I found him! They walk together down hill, out of the picture. Sebrentha makes a sweeping motion and the monitor goes black. The janitor pushes his cart over to the door. SEBRENTHA What? You do not approve? JANITOR Oh, no. You know me. I love a happy ending. I knew you’d make everything all right. SEBRENTHA Yes, I know you. You were about to say?
JANITOR I’m all done. This place is all clean now. Everybody happy. What’s that? You crying? SEBRENTHA I? You are mistaken. Tears are for those who can be caught unawares. Do not forget: I am Sebrentha, Oracle of Asmara, and I see tomorrow. Blackout. THE END
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