A short play on the theme "How Did This Happen"
by K. Brian Neel
© 2012, K. Brian Neel, all rights reserved
Performed at Outdoor 14/48, September 7, 2012
Imogen - A First Wife, solid as a rock
Elinore - A Fifth Wife, panicked
Terri - A Fifth Wife, not all-together there in the head
A field in front of a farmhouse in Indiana.
The women wear modest long summer dresses.
Opening music might be a 60's hippy chant that fades-out as if the band is dying a slow, painless death to a happy afterlife. Or an Enya-style angelic type thing sung by a man.
Imogen wanders out, shaken, but solid as a rock. She looks out to the possibilities of the future.
A very loud gunshot goes off!
Shocked, Imogen looks back upstage to the farmhouse.
Elinore rushes out. She has a pistol in her hand. She is startled by the sight of Imogen, whom she didn't expect to see. She looks out to the distance.
ELINORE: Do you see anyone?
IMOGEN: Was that a gunshot?
ELINORE: Do you think anyone heard it?
IMOGEN: (looks out with her) I don't know.
ELINORE: (in shock) I don't want to get caught. What if I get caught?
IMOGEN: What did you do?
ELINORE: It wasn't an accident.
IMOGEN: Did you hurt him?
ELINORE: I'm not afraid. I just don't want to get caught.
IMOGEN: Is he okay?
ELINORE: I should go to the farmhouse over and see if they heard the gunshot.
IMOGEN: If they come, it won't matter what was the gun and what was everything else.
ELINORE: Would you go for me?
ELINORE: But they'll find me.
IMOGEN: And they'll find me.
They stop mid-thought and realize:
IMOGEN: You didn't drink.
ELINORE: You didn't drink.
TERRI: I drank.
Elinore and Imogen scream, startled by Terri who has been lurking upstage for a time now. Her eyes are like in another dimension. She has a grape juice stain running all down the front of her dress.
TERRI: Did we make it to the Comet? Is this salvation? Nothing's really changed, it kind of looks the same. That's the Temple, right?
IMOGEN: It's not a temple anymore. It's just a farmhouse.
ELINORE: I need to do something with the body. (overlapping)
TERRI: I heard a loud noise and I thought my consciousness was zooming off into the cosmos.... (overlapping)
IMOGEN: Is he dead? (overlapping)
TERRI: ... Breaking the sound barrier like a jet airplane... (overlapping)
ELINORE: I should hide him. Wipe up the blood. (overlapping)
TERRI: ... But then I opened my eyes and I saw all the Husbands and Wives laying all around me. They weren't moving. (overlapping)
IMOGEN: Is he dead? (overlapping)
ELINORE: I'm not sorry. (overlapping)
TERRI: Aren't we supposed to be genderless? We still have breasts.
IMOGEN: If he's right, you've ruined everything. For all of them.
TERRI: What's going on?
IMOGEN: We didn't make the journey. We're still on Earth.
TERRI: But I drank. Father said we'd exit our human vessels and strip our need of possession and live in autonomous equality with transcendent, delirious happiness.
ELINORE: Well it ain't gonna happen now, honey. Even if you go back and drink a gallon of juice and slit your wrists and lock yourself in a garage with the car running, you're not getting to the comet now.
TERRI: None of us will reach the escape.
ELINORE: There is no escape.
ELINORE: Father was taking advantage of us. He was making men castrate themselves, Women have sex with him, and letting us give all our money, tax-deductible, so he could build a mansion on a beach in the Cayman Islands.
TERRI: He was a prophet.
Elinore circles Terri. She still carries the gun.
ELINORE: He was a snake.
TERRI: You shot Father?!
ELINORE: In the face!
ELINORE: So that you wouldn't be saved.
ELINORE: It wouldn't be fair.
TERRI: Yes it would.
TERRI: You're saved if you believe.
ELINORE: If I can't go, no one can!
Elinore has pinned Terri on the ground.
IMOGEN: He was my husband.
They look at Imogen, who is looking up at the stars.
ELINORE: He was everyone's husband. Even the men.
IMOGEN: I was the First Wife. We met in the lobby after a movie in Santa Barbara thirteen years ago. The Breakfast Club. He was very charismatic. He was brilliant. He foresaw the rise of technology. He felt sincere pain for the endless cycle of inhumanity in this world. He loved me. He loved all of us. I want a beer. You want a beer?
TERRI: No thank you.
ELINORE: I didn't know there was beer.
TERRI: Me either.
TERRI: I was a Fifth Wife. I was hoping make my way up to Third, but in some ways I'm glad that salvation came early for me. Or was supposed to anyway. Why don't you believe?
ELINORE: He touched his mouth. (beat.) Before all this I was married to this businessman. He owned clothing stores. He was rich. And I was empty, you know. Just like everyone else here. So one night I saw this news story on TV about this cult called "The Sirus Temple" -- about how crazy they all were. And this needle nested in my head. So I drove out here to see for myself. And it all just made sense. I believed, I believed so hard. And then three days ago at the temple meeting, he was telling us about the White Night, when he would sacrifice himself by staying behind -- He was so charismatic -- and then he ran his finger over his mouth. And I flashed on something I read once: Never trust a politician who touches his ears or eyes or mouth. So I didn't drink.
Imogen has entered in the above monologue with a beer.
IMOGEN: I was afraid. (beat.) I couldn't do it. I believed, and I put the cup to my lips, and couldn't drink.
TERRI: I drank.
ELINORE: No, you spilled it on your dress.
TERRI: No. A Husband spilled this on me. So I helped him drink from my cup and I got another cup. I drank it all. The husband fell asleep on my lap. He looked so relaxed. His mouth was hanging open and his eyes were slightly open, but there wasn't a twinkle. Not very peaceful, but it was really sweet. Everyone fell asleep like this. That was kind of eerie. Father looked right at me and left the room. I closed my eyes tight. Then I heard the noise and I came out. It was really loud.
ELINORE: Okay. We have to do something. Hide the body... bodies.
IMOGEN: Hide seventy four bodies?
ELINORE: We could burn down the farmhouse.
TERRI: That's the Temple.
IMOGEN: They'd see that for miles.
ELINORE: We could just leave. No one would even notice.
IMOGEN: It's a beautiful White Night.
ELINORE: What is wrong with you?
IMOGEN: This beer is cleansing.
ELINORE: Good for you. Why don't you help me deal with this?
IMOGEN: It's your problem.
ELINORE: It's all our problem.
IMOGEN: (to Elinore) What is your name?
TERRI: We don't have names. There are no names on the comet.
IMOGEN: My name is Imogen.
ELINORE: I'm Elinore.
They look at Terri.
IMOGEN: Our leader had a name. It was Charles Tteggel.
They continue to look at Terri.
TERRI: I'm Terri. Terri Frances.
There's a potent release as her name is said, it's as if air was suddenly let out.
In the distance we hear a siren.
Imogen takes one last swig of the beer.
IMOGEN: Goodbye Terri Frances.
She turns and walks to the temple, her steps begin to haver and sway and get slower.
Elinore panics. She runs back and forth debating her options.
Imogen walks back toward the farmhouse. She doesn't get far -- she staggers, stumbles and falls.
Elinore points the gun at Imogen. Imogen manages to get herself up on her hands and knees. She continues the struggle to get back to the farmhouse, but doesn't make it far. She dies.
The sirens get louder.
Elinore points the gun at Terri and fires.
The bullet does not effect her -- she remains standing, looking at Elinore.
She fires again. Still no effect.
Elinore bolts back and forth in full panic mode. She runs out into the field, making for escape.
Mars lights flash and the siren reaches full intensity. Music compliments beneath and eventually takes over.
Terri slowly raises her arms out, like angel wings.
Copyright © K. Brian Neel. All rights reserved. Except for brief passages quoted in newspaper, magazine, radio or television reviews, no part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying or recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the author.Professional and amateurs are hereby warned that this material, being fully protected under the Copyright Laws of the United States of America and of all other countries of the Berne and Universal Copyright Conventions, is subject to a royalty. All rights including, but not limited to, professional, amateur, recording, motion picture, recitation, lecturing, public reading, radio and television broadcasting, and the rights of translation into foreign languages are expressly reserved. Particular emphasis is placed on the question of readings and all uses of this play by educational institutions, permission for which must be secured from the authorá║s representatives. For all rights, including amateur and stock performances, contact K. Brian Neel.