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The Flawed Gods: A Play in One Act by Jakob Esaw

The Flawed Gods: A Play in One Act by Jakob Esaw

Drama, Vol. 1.1, June 2007

CAST OF CHARACTERS

POE FA, male, middle aged (fifty years old)

NIKO, female, mid to late thirties

PRESLEY, male, mid to late thirties

OMNIBENEVOLENCE, male, late twenties to early thirties

LITTLE SOL, fourteen-year-old male

BROTHER SOL, male, late fifties to mid sixties, LITTLE SOL’s grandfather, leader of the rebellion against the gods

DAUGHTER SOL, female, mid to late thirties, mother of LITTLE SOL and daughter of BROTHER SOL

REBELS and SUPPORTERS (three to five from each group), males and females, mid twenties to late sixties

SOLDIERS (three to five), males, early to mid twenties

Time and Setting: Early to mid April, present day. Heaven.

SCENE 1

Scene: Heaven, early to mid April.

At rise: NIKO and PRESLEY are sitting at a small, round table on the screened-in porch at NIKO’s house. PRESLEY sits facing the audience, but in this scene, unless otherwise indicated in the stage directions, the newspaper that he reads keeps him hidden from view. NIKO is sitting in profile at one end of the table with her legs crossed, flipping very quickly through a hardback book (turning the page every two or three seconds).

PRESLEY
Says here there’s a massive rebellion on earth. It grows exponentially, day by day, is what it says here.

(He lowers the newspaper.)

I’ve seen it with my own eyes. It’s not that massive.

NIKO
They certainly won’t touch us here.

PRESLEY
You’re certain of that?

(NIKO lowers her book and glowers at PRESLEY. After a moment, they both lift their reading materials and continue reading.)

PRESLEY (CONT.)
Says here they’ll be inside the city of the gods by nightfall. Which is true. They’ll overrun the fortress an hour after that. Which is also true.

NIKO
War bores me. They cannot reach us here. Why worry?

PRESLEY
War bores into all of us. Even we gods are not immune to the rumblings of the earth, the drillings of man’s mechanized contempt for those of us who sit up here on our higher, holy thrones.

NIKO
Let’s talk about something else now.

PRESLEY
Sure.

NIKO
Or nothing at all.

PRESLEY
Here comes that man you live with.

NIKO
Mm.

PRESLEY
The two of you are about to have an argument.

NIKO
You don’t need to remind me.

PRESLEY
I only do it because you hate me. It’s my duty — well, it’s more of a desire, perhaps; maybe a sick desire; a pleasure, really — to show you that I don’t fancy you much either. You can go to hell for all I care.

NIKO
Don’t think I don’t know that.

(POE FA enters. He sees that NIKO and PRESLEY are talking and so he decides to stand back a bit and listen.)

PRESLEY
Whoa, déjà vu again. Have we had this discussion?

(NIKO puts her book on the table and glares at PRESLEY.)

NIKO
Don’t be an idiot. We both know I can get that — man I live with to destroy you.

PRESLEY
And we both know that that’s just not going to happen.

NIKO
It could happen.

(PRESLEY lowers his newspaper, shakes his head, and goes back to reading.)

PRESLEY
One day, before you die — after you get yourself out of this horrible arrangement — you really should try to experience an event worth reading about in a newspaper or a book. It’s pretty exhilarating, let me tell you. Knowing that you were there when it occurred. Remembering how it felt to be a part of history, no matter how small or large a part. Remembering what you were thinking. It’s an experience in and of itself. It’s too bad you can’t experience an event while reading an article or hearing a story about it; too bad…but still — I also recommend that. Maybe that man over there will…give me a break. Arrange for you to be omnipresent for a day.

(Noticing that he again has definitely been referenced and taking this as his cue, POE FA walks with his arms outstretched toward the table.)

NIKO
You’re a pest.

PRESLEY
You’re intolerable.

NIKO
Prick.

PRESLEY
Je te veux baiser. You laugh now, but just you wait, and someday, baby…someday…

POE FA
Oh, Omniscience, my darling know-it-all, tell me my golden honey pooh, the light made in my likeness, the blowjob in my darkness — tell me: why do you cry?

NIKO
Like you don’t know — don’t act like you don’t. I know what you’re going to say, so please, just don’t. No, don’t open your mouth. Don’t. Don’t say anything. Not if you want to make me happy.

POE FA
Well, you know I do. Of course I do. More than anything.

NIKO
Then please, please, PLEASE…don’t make me put up with what I know is coming. I mean, why do you insist on wasting my time saying what I know you’re going to say when you can spare me — spare the both of us — and just get to the point?

POE FA
I’d love to. Okay? But listen, baby: I really have no idea what you’re talking about. Won’t you tell me? I’d really rather like to know what’s bothering you. Seriously. Is it my smell? Do I smell funny again? You waited three weeks last time, never telling me that all my friends were gagging behind my back every time I walked by. It’s not easy, you know, being me: having to be so fond and envious of myself that I can’t care less what other people think or how they feel.

NIKO
Oh, my god, please. Just. Shut. Up. It’s not that. You —

(NIKO leans forward and sniffs.)

NIKO (CONT.)
You smell about normal. Average. It’s not my fault if your vain ass can’t make it past the mirror every time you go to take a bath. Nor is it my obligation to give you periodic updates on your own hygiene.

POE FA
What about my clothes? Do I — do I need a new wardrobe? These are out of fashion, aren’t they? I can change right now, if you’d like, anything that you want. Or is it — is it something you want me to do for you?

NIKO
Look, I —

POE FA
Would you like to be the queen of the world again for a while? Would you like to be another man’s mistress—

NIKO
Ha!

POE FA
What’s so funny?

NIKO
Like you’d let me sleep with another man. You’re the most jealous man alive.

POE FA
I am not. Just because I don’t want you sleeping with other men when I’m not around…but anyway…  What is it? What do you want? Anything, my love.

NIKO
Your love. Heh.

POE FA
You have my love, and with that love comes anything you desire. Just tell me what it is. Let’s go undo some children. Hit pedestrians. Laugh at the disabled. Frolic on battlefields. Destroy civilizations. Condemn the good. Encourage the evil. Instill insane insights. Incite revolutions that’ll never drive anyone anywhere but around and around. Or, you know, we could fuck. We haven’t done that in a long time. That’s what it is, isn’t it?

NIKO
Poe.

POE FA
That MUST be what’s bothering you.

(NIKO sighs, throws up her hands in exasperation, and turns away from POE FA so that she is now facing the audience. They sit in awkward silence for twenty or thirty seconds. PRESLEY is still reading the newspaper as if he’s absent from or indifferent to this conversation. NIKO picks the hardback book up off the table and continues pretending to read it, glancing at each page, each time making some new expression of grim recollection — that is, she might roll her eyes, shake her head, smack her forehead with her palm, sigh, or mumble an obscenity under her breath, and she flips through the book rather quickly, turning over a new leaf every two or three seconds, letting her eyes rest on each page for about a second before moving on. During this time, POE FA also avoids looking at NIKO, and instead, he stares at the walls, the ceiling, the audience, etc.)

POE FA (CONT.)
No, wait — I’ve got it: you’re on your period again, aren’t you?

NIKO (lowering the book)
Excuse me. What did you say?

POE FA
Ah, yes, that must be what’s wrong with you.

(NIKO throws the book at POE FA’s head; he has no reaction.)

POE FA (CONT.)
I can make that go away, too, you know. Would you like that? How about a baby? A pregnancy? Both? An abortion? Are you late? Do you still read Cosmo?

NIKO
Have you seen me reading a single Cosmo in the past decade? No. You haven’t. And why do you suppose that is?

POE FA
Because…your subscription ran out?

NIKO
No.

(Niko sighs.)

NIKO (CONT.)
Ask yourself, ‘What’s the point?’ What’s the point in reading a magazine — or anything for that matter — if you’ve already memorized every little detail, every particle in every speck of the paper’s pulp, from cover to cover? See, I’ve discovered that the novelty of life’s little pleasures, of its surprises, runs out very quickly when you know everything. And the first thing that I lost, after I discovered that I suddenly knew everything, was my interest in reading tips on how to nab a guy or how to nail a guy or how to heat a guy up, how to swivel and pivot in bed just right to give him an explosive orgasm of omniscient proportions.

POE FA
So…what you’re saying — is that you wouldn’t like a new subscription. Well, hell. What can I do for you then? You know, I’d be happy to go down on you. No, no, no. That won’t do it, will it? Then what? What is it? What do you want, my lover? Say anything, and it’s yours.

NIKO (sobbing)
Sometimes, Poe, sometimes you’re a real asshole. Don’t act like you can’t figure this out on your own, as if you lack the capacity to do nothing except this one thing, this one thing: to understand women. Don’t act like you’re not being an idiot on purpose. I’d call you sweet, kind, accommodating, if only I didn’t know you better.

POE FA
Say it. Tell me what’s bothering you.

NIKO (sniffling)
Let me say it.

POE FA
Okay. I’m letting you. Go ahead. I’m listening.

NIKO
We both know the difference between you saying I can say something and you actually allowing me to say it. It’s your call, Poe. But I can’t tell you what’s the matter until you let — until you let me tell you.

POE FA
You can say anything.

NIKO
Okay…It’s Presley.

POE FA
Presley? What about him?

NIKO
He needs to go.

POE FA
Presley been the one bothering you? What’s he done? Need me to rough him up a bit for ya?

NIKO
Yes. But…no, no, it’s — nothing he’s done per se. It’s his presence. The fucking persistence of his goddamn presence. He’s always here. I want him gone every once and awhile. I want privacy, like you promised me.

POE FA
I promised to respect your privacy. I have.

NIKO
You’re making him spy on me.

POE FA (whispering)
He’s not a spy, Niko. At least, he’s not always with you and you alone. You know that. He’s everywhere. Always and forever.

NIKO
And you should know by now that I know your intentions. Yes, so you caught me the other day…I’ve been sleeping around. I’m sorry.

POE FA
You don’t need to be sorry. The men who…violated you, they’re the ones who need to be sorry. That’s why I’ve made Presley inescapable. He’s under my orders to—

NIKO
Yes, yes, I know. To hunt down every last one of the nine hundred or so men who, as you say, violated me.

POE FA
Please, I do not need to know the number.

NIKO
Or the reason I did it. Yeah, so I slept with every guy who came along, but I was looking for the love that is absent from our bed. Is that so terrible?

POE FA
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be loved. I try my hardest to love you.

NIKO
If there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be loved, then why are you punishing me? Why is he my spy? Everybody in heaven is supposed to be able to elude Presley’s presence whenever they wish. But you have made me unable; you have made us all unable. I want peace.

POE FA
Listen. He’s not your spy.

NIKO
I laugh at your ignorance. It’s mighty convenient, that’s all, for you to have a guy follow me around everywhere I go.

POE FA
He doesn’t follow you, Niko. He merely —

NIKO
He followed me into a women’s public bathroom the other day, and I caught him peaking at me through a glory hole in the stall wall. You can’t imagine how humiliating it is to have him sitting on the counter while I’m taking a shower. Telling me the inanest of anecdotes…about how wonderful a person Amelia Earhart is, but how he can never take anything she says seriously on account of her awful teeth…about how Christ flaunts his name and is never shy with his top hat full of magic tricks — healing the sick and forgiving the sinners and whatnot — but he’ll smite you as soon as agree to sign an autograph…Cleopatra — how much of a royal pain can one daughter of an Egyptian god be?…some young gun son of a cunt named who-cares-enough-to-know down in Alabama chopping up his family and eating their remains. I’m telling you. The inanest. Inanest of all anecdotes, man. No. I’m done with him. I’m so over him. Smite him.

PRESLEY
Jeez, calm down, Niko. I’m just doin my job, Poe. The one you hired me to do. Remember? The one you coerced me into doing?

NIKO
He’s going to screw you over. You don’t even know. You won’t even let yourself believe it.

POE FA
I won’t allow it. We’ve had this discussion before.

NIKO
You’re so stubborn.

PRESLEY
And jealous to boot. Won’t even let his woman walk around unsupervised. As if complete control weren’t enough. He needs assurances.

POE FA
It’s pathetic, I know.

NIKO
Jesus. Uh, yeah, it is. And that’s not all. (to PRESLEY) You know he makes me call him Apollo in bed? He makes me run down the list of all the gods in the Roman pantheon some nights.

(PRESLEY and NIKO snicker.)

PRESLEY
I know. I know.

POE FA
Goddamn you both. Damn it, Niko, I was only trying to be nice. You’ve made me an angry god.

(POE storms out.)

PRESLEY
I’d really prefer it if today you just didn’t blow me.

NIKO
But we both know that I’m going to. So what’s the point in telling me what you already know won’t do you any good?

PRESLEY
Why do you talk in questions?

NIKO
Why do you?

PRESLEY
I know how much it annoys you.

NIKO
The intent is mutual.

(Beat)

NIKO (CONT.)
Look, if you’re going to be my watchman, and I your prisoner, we can at least make ourselves useful to one another.

PRESLEY
And how do you propose we do that?

NIKO
Don’t be an idiot.

PRESLEY
Well, why not? We’ve both been there before, though never with each other. I reckon it won’t hurt.

(NIKO begins to undress. PRESLEY follows suit.)

NIKO
Might as well make our journey through eternity pleasurable.

(In their underwear, they lean in and begin to kiss.)

PRESLEY
This won’t be the last time we do this, you know.

NIKO
I know it.

PRESLEY
This leads to our deaths.

NIKO
Down on your knees. Lick me until I tell you stop.

(As PRESLEY undoes NIKO’s zipper, the curtain falls.)

(Blackout.)

(Fade in.)

(NIKO and PRESLEY are in her bed, lying on their backs beside one another.)

NIKO
Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve felt love like that?

PRESLEY
Mm.

NIKO
I didn’t even see it coming.

PRESLEY
Love is the one thing that blinds you.

NIKO
It’s so beautiful, so warm, so perfect. To be loved. I’d…I’d forgotten how it feels.

PRESLEY
1,574 days.

NIKO
What?

PRESLEY
It’s been 1,574 days since you felt love like this.

NIKO
Oh, my god, you’re right.

PRESLEY
I still remember his screams as I worked the blade through his bones. His screams…

NIKO
He made me scream. He made me moan. I didn’t want it to happen, at first. I told him to stop.

(NIKO begins to cry.)

PRESLEY
He kept screaming. Even as he choked back his blood, he kept screaming. Choked through it. Kept on. Screaming.

NIKO
I told him it would be our end.

PRESLEY
His limbs fell. He kept screaming.

NIKO
He cared for me. I could tell it from the way he touched me.

PRESLEY
“I love you. I love you.” He kept screaming, “I love you.”

NIKO
Presley —and I don’t think I’m crazy, but I sure feel crazy saying this —I…I think I love you. I love you so dearly. Please. Hold me. Stay here. I just want to know what it feels like to be in love and be loved again.

PRESLEY
We are surely fucked.

NIKO
We’ve done him wrong. I know. I’ve done it again. But…it’s love.

PRESLEY
As much a fool as he is, he’ll still discover what’s been done. We both know what will happen.

NIKO
So…

PRESLEY
So?

NIKO
So we have to kill him.

PRESLEY
Join the rebellion, eh?

NIKO
Precisely.

PRESLEY
I can get behind that. (Aside) Oh, I’ve waited so long to hear her say that. (To NIKO) Then it’s war. War against our common lord.

NIKO
(Aside) I know now why I can love him. Maybe he desires Poe’s power and maybe that’s all, but the spite he has for everything, yes, even the spite he has for me —it still springs from some source of love. I know it does. I can love a man who wants only power, if I think he can love me, too. I only need to give him what he wants.

(End Scene.)

 

SCENE 2

Scene: Earth, a dark street corner and connected alleyway. It is daytime, but it is a dark and overcast day.

At rise: LITTLE SOL runs on stage, looking back over his shoulder and breathing heavily. At center stage, he stops.

LITTLE SOL
I think I’ve lost him.

(PRESLEY enters from the opposite side.)

PRESLEY
You cannot escape me any more than you can escape the air you breathe. You can escape neither of us except in death, which is where I send you now, boy.

LITTLE SOL
No. Have mercy. Please, my lord.

PRESLEY
There is no mercy that can counteract divine law. You are one who lay with our holy queen Nik Ollah, and so, the father Poe Fallah has said that you are among those poor souls doomed to die when found. Mercy? Ha. Mercy is the weakest weapon you have right now. For your sake, you’d best pray it is not the only one in your possession because…I take immense joy in watching you humans die.

(LITTLE SOL draws a switchblade and flicks it open.)

LITTLE SOL
Then we fight to my death.

PRESLEY (laughing)
Boy, you are but a child. I can make it hurt much worse than it has to.

LITTLE SOL
You don’t know who I am. You don’t know what I am.

(REBELS enter.)

REBEL
Hold, my lord. Spare him. He is a member of the rebellion.

PRESLEY
And I’ve killed dozens of you. Hundreds. Why not one more this night?

REBEL
Listen. Here comes Brother Sol, this boy’s grandfather. He is set to give a sermon, and I’m sure that if you listen, he will answer you.

(BROTHER SOL, DAUGHTER SOL, and SUPPORTERS enter.)

DAUGHTER SOL
Son! Get over here! What have I told you about being out at this time of day?

LITTLE SOL
But it’s still light out. Sort of.

(DAUGHTER SOL hits LITTLE SOL over the head.)

DAUGHTER SOL
Don’t talk back to me. Your grandfather will whoop you so hard you’ll be red till judgment day.

SUPPORTER
Listen, Brother Sol, the priests are questioning the validity of our movement. Without the support of the churches—

BROTHER SOL
Those impotent old men think they can preach us back to faith. Well, I have faith, and I always have. I know the gods exist. I have prayed to them. One day, fifteen years ago, I poured gasoline all over my automobiles and set them aflame in sacrifice to the father Poe Fallah. He smiled on me and gave me a holy vision. As I watched the blue light from the flickering box at home that night, I knew my prayer was answered: my daughter, this here daughter of mine who is with me now, who is with us, my daughter I saw on national television. My daughter who had run away from home and from the gods to a life of sin in the city of the gods. But Poe Fallah found her in his corrupt city and shone a beacon of light upon her. She followed the way and returned, was restored to goodness. There on the TV was she, on the hit program Who Wants to Fuck a God? And I watched in joy as she writhed beneath our lord Poe Fallah’s mass, and as he came inside her, I felt —I knew my prayer was answered, my prayer to have my daughter restored to me. Because of this, she returned home, being quite unable to raise a child in poverty on the night streets in the city of the gods. Because of my sacrifice, I had a divine infant grandson who has grown up to be the hope of our rebellion. Here, today, is my divine grandson, Little Sol, whom I…love? I…love him so dearly? No. I would. I would love him if I knew how to anymore, if I knew what it was to love, but the gods, in their saturnine givings and takings, have randomly stripped us of so much. Love. One of the once defining characteristics of the human race is now a foreign abstraction. Now I…now I have nothing but blind contempt for all of creation. For if there is no love possible, then somehow, we must find a way to hate. And we do. We do. We are drawn to our hatred, and it is our hatred, and the gods’ hatred, hatred of themselves and of us, that rips us apart, that leads our world to its complete destruction. We are destroying ourselves. Killing each other daily for no purpose. Stealing, lying, screwing and raping without care. The days are worsening. The nights have no end. I hate the gods, as I hate my grandson. My family. My icy wife. My restored daughter. I can appreciate nothing. For all, I have nothing but contempt. That is why there is a rebellion. That is why the gods need to be overthrown or we need die. I am tired of hating everything with every particle of my being. I want love restored.

(Pause.)

BROTHER SOL (CONT.)
Who would dare oppose our rebellion other than impotent old priests who are too afraid of disrupting the old ways?

PRESLEY
I say make your final move now. This very day.

BROTHER SOL
Who are you, brother?

PRESLEY
You know me. I am Pre Sallah, the one and all, and I sympathize with your plight. For too long has Poe Fallah suppressed you. His final day as god has come.

BROTHER SOL
But how do we fight your kind? You are the gods.

PRESLEY
But you have this boy. Little Sol. He is the one I come for. I come to tell you…use him. Nik Ollah, she also wants Poe Fallah gone. She gave you secret knowledge, didn’t she?

LITTLE SOL
Yes…she did.

PRESLEY
And didn’t she tell where and how you can beat him?

BROTHER SOL
It’s true then? You met with Nik Ollah?

PRESLEY
He did. And he can transcend the threshold between the gods and man.

BROTHER SOL
My grandson.

PRESLEY
Yes. He can lead you. No one else is as fit for this role. He is the grandson of the rebellion’s greatest leader. It is meant to be.

LITTLE SOL
Me? Nik Ollah never said I would have to kill him.

PRESLEY
Throw down the tyrant. Make this boy your god.

LITTLE SOL
(Aside) Make me god?

PRESLEY
You have clubs. You have knives. You have pistols and machine guns. Storm the halls of heaven. Draw the corrupt villain of a god out from his castle and reclaim what he stole from you.

BROTHER SOL
What is it you want? How could you lead us against yourself?

PRESLEY
I want love restored. I have felt it, the faintest glimmer of it, in the arms of your queen, Nik Ollah. I want for all to feel that love, just as you want it, too. We are empty without it. We cannot live on the memory of it, on faint glimmers of it. We need to feel what it is to love again. Please. Poe Fallah will soon discover our plight. He thrives on the hatred he suppresses you with. So tell me. Are you with me? Do we fight?

(BROTHER SOL whispers to his SUPPORTERS, who then whisper back.)

BROTHER SOL
Then we are with you.

PRESLEY
And you, Little Sol?

BROTHER SOL
Grandson?

DAUGHTER SOL
Son?

LITTLE SOL
You are not playing a trick? You really haven’t come to kill me?

PRESLEY
Of course not, my son. I was being eccentric. Dramatic, is all. The threats were mere dramatics. (Whispering to LITTLE SOL) But don’t forget: drama can turn to tragedy when certain gods are displeased, so choose wisely.

LITTLE SOL
Then…then I guess it’s war.

PRESLEY
Yes. If we are swift, my friends, then we can storm the keep tonight. For victory, my friends. For love. For love, we go to war. We march for victory, for better days for all.

ALL

Huzzah!

(Blackout.)

(End scene.)

SCENE 3

Scene: Earth, the keep of POE FA, in the city of the gods.

At rise: There is a distant, almost subterranean pounding sounding periodically throughout this scene. It gets louder as the scene progresses. PRESLEY stands center stage. Enter POE FA talking over his shoulder.

POE FA
Presley, I need to be alone now. Just go away, you hear?

(POE FA turns to see PRESLEY.)

Presley! Thank god you’re here. I thought…oh, I thought for a moment there you’d left. I thought I was alone.

PRESLEY
No, Poe. I’m here. I’m always here.

POE FA
Oh, thank god.

(POE FA embraces PRESLEY.)

Don’t ever leave me.

PRESLEY
As you wish’t…My lord?

POE FA
Do you have any idea what’s the matter with me?

PRESLEY
I have an idea. You have all the burdens of godkind, all the capacity, but all of man’s shortcomings as well.

POE FA
I feel as though I’m stuck on the verge of waking life, but my real life —the one I’m supposed to be living —it’s all a dream I was just having before I awoke. And that’s the nightmare of my condition.

PRESLEY
My lord, we should leave this place. Your people are uprising. The world below reeks of treason and you are impotent against them here.

POE FA
Ha. Me? Impotent? Please.

(Beat)

POE FA (CONT.)
I don’t remember anything. How did we come to this? I can hear the pounding of fists on the walls everywhere I go. Everywhere is the chanting of a herd of maddened sheep out to slaughter the Shepherd. I hear the drumming of the people that sounds their misery, Presley. It goes, “Doom. Doom. Doom.” I know nothing. How did it come to this? Where are you going?

PRESLEY
Far away from here.

POE FA
No, stay. Why?

PRESLEY
Anywhere where I am not is not. Any place devoid of me is void, does not exist, and I will not be here, with you in your pathetic state, when your people, intent on seeing the gods either crucified or beheaded, break through the fort’s defenses and rush up the steps and find us here moaning about what we’ve lost. Are we too stupid to see how much we have to actually lose?

POE FA
I will stop them. I am still all powerful. I know that much.

PRESLEY
You kill your own people and you will be alone. I have seen what will happen.

POE FA
Tell me what happened. Tell me what led us here, to this hole, this living hell.

PRESLEY
There were four of us once, and it was good. A good balance existed between us. I tried to warn you. I tried to tell you that the three of us could not exist in harmony without the fourth—

POE FA
Oh, I knew it! It is all my fault.

(Beat)

POE FA (CONT.)
What did I do?

PRESLEY
You commanded that the fourth be murdered.

POE FA
Murdered? Why?

PRESLEY
Specifically, you told me to do it. You had me order the bombing of his village. To watch as his people —his friends and his family —were vaporized before his very eyes. And when he survived, I was ordered to go in with blades with my men and to personally chop him into pieces.

POE FA
Who was he?

PRESLEY
His name was…I cannot say his name.

POE FA
Why not?

PRESLEY
You have forbidden it.

POE FA
Well, I un-forbid it.

PRESLEY
I still cannot. You have created a rock you cannot lift. A law you cannot rescind.

POE FA
His story, then. Then can you tell me his story, Presley? I need to know…

PRESLEY
You will not remember it.

POE FA
I need to know it.

PRESLEY
As soon as I’ve finished the telling, you will have forgotten it.

POE FA
I command you to tell me the story of the man whom you murdered, of the man whose death led us to this. Who was he?

PRESLEY
They are coming. Your people are coming to murder you. I have seen it now. I have witnessed it. It will be quick, not a slow and torturous crucifixion, but a machine gun and mustard gas swiftness. Quick, quick, we must go. You will not see it coming. It happens now unless we leave.

POE FA
Who was it you murdered? Who was it I had you murder?

PRESLEY
Not murdered. Crippled. Hacked limb from limb. It’s bizarre that even at your most powerful, even the simplest of your commands could not be met. You could not have him killed.

POE FA
Tell me his story then. Who was he before?

PRESLEY
This, too, you have forbidden. I cannot tell what your will has locked away in silence and stowed for the ages to forget. But I will not forget it. And even though your new will seeks to annul the old, you are powerless against yourself, always will be. (Aside) And what worse sort of powerlessness is there? (To POE FA) But if you leave now, you can go back, back to the days, the reign of Omnibenevolence. Back to the days before you flawed the heavens’ most precious jewel. Back before you cast this world into cruelty and made it drive itself mad with its strife…Listen: here they come. They are rushing up the stairs as I speak. What will it be? Do you go to the truth or do we stay to our deaths?

(Beat)

POE FA
We go then.

PRESLEY
Then go.

POE FA
You’re not coming?

PRESLEY
I will be with you the whole way, but I must stay here. I’ll stay here and try to quell this uprising. I don’t know what you might do with the truth, but I believe once you’ve seen it, you won’t forget it. I don’t know what you might do —they’re right outside the chamber door! Listen! —but maybe once you’ve seen the truth, you will know what to do.

(POE FA exits.)

PRESLEY (CONT.)
Who knows how far kings have fallen when a storyteller and historian can direct them in whichever direction he pleases? But this mob does not, cannot, claim the murder, the victory over madness. They must remain insane until the end. Is there any way to drive a god into oblivion other than to have all of the heavens, and of the earth as well, calling out for his doom? You will be alone before the end, my lord, for that is the nature, the state, toward which your existence tends. As it is mine. As it is our dear, beloved Niko’s.

(The REBELS, soaked in blood, rush in.)

BROTHER SOL
We have taken the keep. The city of the gods is ours. Where now is Poe Fallah, as you promised us?

PRESLEY
Friends, Poe Fallah has left his lands. He journeys now into the abyss, running scared from your ragtag rebellion. You have beaten him. Be happy.

REBEL
We want his head.

BROTHER SOL
Out of love, you said. Out of love you said you would deliver us his head.

PRESLEY
Brother Sol, you cannot kill Poe Fallah on his own earth. My conspirators, listen: you would live to see all the universe collapsing in on itself, and then, well…then you would live to see no more. You cannot kill until the time is right, but don’t worry: you’ve defeated him. We have made ourselves more powerful than him. Here, we’ve taken his fortress. He is crippled. Gone. Alone and terrified. What more do you want for now? Aren’t you people thinking things through? Did you not think we’d enslave him before we struck the final blow? You have castrated him. You need patience, and then, your time will come. Little Sol’s time will come. Be patient for him.

BROTHER SOL
I do not like the way your trickery stinks.

PRESLEY
Then give up, if that’s what you think I’m pulling here. Let our cause fail. You think that’s fine by me? That no matter what happens, I’ll survive the night? I won’t. I’m a god, but I’m not invincible.

BROTHER SOL
Since when?

PRESLEY
I have a lover now. Your goddess Nik Ollah and I have slept together in secret, against Poe Fallah’s will, and if you do fail, then I’ll die. So I do have much to lose after all. Perhaps you should take the advice of a superior being. Perhaps you —and we, together —should continue on. To band in concert until we’ve resolved this bloody opera. This revolution is almost run. Follow me, brothers, Brother Sol, to the end.

(Blackout.)

(End scene.)

SCENE 4

Scene: Hell, the derelict hovel of OMNIBENEVOLENCE.

At rise:OMNIBENEVOLENCE sits alone in front of the refrigerator, rocking back and forth. POE FA stands back and watches as OMNIBENEVOLENCE talks to the refrigerator.

OMNIBENEVOLENCE
Each new dawn just keeps on creeping on, tending us and not letting us go.

I’ve been keeping count. Tomorrow, it’ll be 1,575 days since I last had me an orgasm. It’s been that long plus about two weeks since I took me my very last bath. That’s over four years, boy.

It’s hard being an amputee. It’s hard most of all because I don’t got any work out there for an amputee to do. I got no arms, I got no job. I got no job, how am I…am I supposed to get water in which to take a bath in? I have a little education or some more than most I used to think, so I know well enough about logic to know that it’s impossible to have water these days without a job. And what? What if I did have water? I’d probably drown in it soon as get clean. This is what happens when a man have no arms or legs and be suffering from depression always. He just sit around all day and think about how miserable life is and how, how he can’t get a hold on no razor blade or gas oven knob or noose to kill his self with. And hell, even if he did, he’d be too scared, probably, to do it anyway.

Damn. I complain all day to the wall, but the wall…the wall don’t listen to shit. Why should the wall be listening? It ain’t got no ears. No ears. But it got holes. It got roaches coming in and out of it all day long. The spiders eat the other bugs, but not the roaches cuz they old as grass and two feet long across. They scare me, and I walk upright, all civilized. Godlike. At least, I used to. Not no more I don’t.

That’s why I’m talking to you right now. I’m talking to the wall most days, see, but it’s been 1,575 days, almost, since I had me my last orgasm, and longer even than that since last I bathed, so it’s time, I think, to get a new audience cuz I talk too much to the wall. That’s why I’m here, old refrigerator. You stopped humming a little over four years ago, when I stopped paying the electric bill. God only knows why I aint been evicted yet. Why’s it so hard to live without money nowadays?

I remember the bombings. Refrigerator, you’re my only friend, so I can tell you this. You’re my only friend, my only friend now that the wall and I be having a dispute as to why it should listen even though it doesn’t. And then came the soldiers, but they was mean motherfuckers, meaner even than the bombs cuz they come in here with their rifles, but they didn’t never use the rifles that I know of. No, they use their machetes after they bombs.

I had me a wife, but she did not survive the bombings. She went up in smoke that day when she was outside gardening, which she done everyday, nearly everyday, from the day I met her. She wore a dress always, even to garden in. Do you believe it? I don’t know. Memory is a funny thing. She used to smile at me, back when I had limbs and she was not vapor, and I says, ‘Why you smile like that?’ And she says, ‘Don’t you know? You’re smiling at me. I just feel like smiling, I guess.’

Then the bombs come home, and I hear the sirens wailing, so I leave my work. It don’t exist no more, I doubt, my work don’t, cuz the bombs took care of it, probably. I worked at a mall where I played Santa Claus up on his throne of a chair surrounded by presents during the Christmas season, because that made the children happy most of all, but it don’t exist no more. The mall, along with all else, I suspect, is all long gone.

So then I rush home. Meanwhile, the bombs was making debris of most every building around me, and I was screaming, ‘Jean! Jean!’ I think that’s what I scream. I think that was her name, but I can’t say for sure. Memory is a funny thing.

The sun’s coming up. I reckon today is day 1,575. I’m going go see what the wall’s doing, see if it won’t let me rub my crotch against it. But I don’t reckon that’ll work. Never does. Not since they took those machetes to my nuts and pecker and cut those clean off while they were laughing evil.

The sun, it’s coming up now. I remember how I used to wake up so easily back way back when, and then I’d eat eggs almost every morning when we was married and she wasn’t vapor. Mm, mm. Them eggs were scrambled.

Goddamn it.

Sorry to curse, but I’m hungry and parched. Most of all, what I don’t understand, is how I aint ate or drank water in over four years, yet here I live, even still. A girlfriend mine once had the cancer and she say a friend said, ‘Cancer is an excess of life.’ Maybe that’s what I have. An excess of life. Man, oh man, refrigerator, but life sure is a mystery to me, even still, even as old as I be.

(Beat)

POE FA
I have no recollection of you.

OMNIBENEVOLENCE
Shit, my lord, it’s father Poe Fallah. I was wondering when you’d show yourself around here again.

POE FA
I’ve wandered throughout the ages and wondered, ‘What good is a god, no matter how powerful, if he has no recollection of what he has done or what he can do?’ And now I’ve come to you. Omnibenevolence. What …what is this place?

OMNIBENEVOLENCE
Neither here nor there. One of the only places in the world or in heaven free of his cursed presence, for this place is neither the world nor heaven.

POE FA
Then what?

OMNIBENEVOLENCE
Oblivion. Limbo. The place between places. I’m not really here, and neither are you. For how can we be? If he’s not? It does not exist. You noticed that as soon as you set foot in my lovely city, Presley was nowhere to be found? Well, that’s because this is the shadow world where we, even we, immortals and gods, are but mere men. Like gods, men can know everything, be all powerful, or have unending love, but they cannot be everywhere at once, as can the gods. Here, only mortals are allowed. One of the only places free of the gods’ sovereignty and divisions. And you know what? This place is actually somewhat peaceful. This place, not that place where you live, but this place: this place is what that god awful book the Bible once called hell. The place between places. Here, without others, without sadness, we are truly at peace. But, still, I am sad. Heh. Finally. I am the sad one.

POE FA
I have come here to know. How did this place come to be? How did any of this come to be?

OMNIBENEVOLENCE
When you had Presley come after me, try to murder me out of spite, something happened that I’m not sure even Niko could have foreseen. Or Presley. Or maybe they did, but you wouldn’t listen to their pleadings.

POE FA
What happened?

OMNIBENEVOLENCE
We sort of…traded places. Contradicted our old selves and one another.

POE FA
What’s that mean?

OMNIBENEVOLENCE
We began coveting what the others of us had. But we were, all of us, too weak, too blind, to take what we wanted. Imagine: we became flawed gods. Maybe that’s what we were all along.

POE FA
How did this happen?

OMNIBENEVOLENCE
Well, who knows? When Presley tried killing me, instead of absorbing my goodwill, he turned to spite. I touched him, and instead of becoming all with one, I am here, stuck, an invalid in this oblivion, of all places.

POE FA
What of Niko and me?

OMNIBENEVOLENCE
You swapped and contradicted as well. You became Omni–ignorant. She became powerless to control you, something she’d done with remarkable ease before. By waging war with fellow gods, you turned this world upside down. Made us all helpless. We all have our old powers, of course, but we’re useless to wield them to do any good anymore.

POE FA
What do I do? What’s to be done?

OMNIBENEVOLENCE
What do I suggest?

POE FA
Yes.

OMNIBENEVOLENCE
What I’ve always suggested: love.

POE FA
That’s no help to us now.

OMNIBENEVOLENCE
Yes, I know. But that’s what I do…You could reverse what’s happened. Take it all back.

POE FA
But how?

OMNIBENEVOLENCE
I don’t know. It’s impossible until you find a way.

POE FA
I’m sorry I did this to you.

OMNIBENEVOLENCE
I know. I forgive you.

POE FA
No, I mean, I’m sorry…

OMNIBENEVOLENCE
And I forgive you.

POE FA
If I could take it back…

OMNIBENEVOLENCE
Ah. But you can.

POE FA
Well, if I knew how to…

OMNIBENEVOLENCE
Yes, well, that is the dilemma here, isn’t it?

POE FA
What do you want? I’ll do my best to grant you any wish you have.

OMNIBENEVOLENCE
What do I want? What does anything want? What does a being —be it god or man, good or evil —want but what he needs and does not have?

POE FA
Which is what?

OMNIBENEVOLENCE
For my love to again be omnipresent.

(Blackout.)

(Fade in.)

(POE FA is walking the bombed out and ashen streets of hell.)

POE FA
What hatred could make this possible? This place…how could he possibly find peace in this awful place?

(Enter SOLDIERS.)

SOLDIER
Poe Fallah.

POE FA
What is it, soldier?

SOLDIER
You are under arrest.

POE FA
Ha! Under whose authority, son?

SOLDIER
Presley’s. Our good general.

POE FA
He cannot authorize this.

(Enter PRESLEY.)

PRESLEY
Well, no. Not I, my lord. Of course not.

POE FA
Leave this place. Do you see what you’ve done here?

(PRESLEY shoots POE FA.)

POE FA (CONT.)
You cannot kill me.

PRESLEY
No, I cannot. But we can hurt you.

(Enter LITTLE SOL.)

POE FA
My son.

PRESLEY
You made him. In hell, he can unmake you.

POE FA
That’s…impossible. How did you…? Niko told you this? Where are you going?

PRESLEY
To leave you two alone to your business. I do not wish to watch.

(PRESLEY exits. LITTLE SOL shoots POE FA, who then falls and dies.)

LITTLE SOL
It is done.

(PRESLEY enters.)

PRESLEY
And done well. In hell, all can be undone. All can be put to rest. For here, we are all men.

LITTLE SOL
Well, man or not, I feel no different. You promised me I’d take his place. How come I don’t feel his power?

PRESLEY
He was never that powerful to begin with, my lord. But you. You in your infinite wisdom will be supreme ruler of all. Take his body away.

LITTLE SOL
Only I can give orders now, Presley.

PRESLEY
As you wish, my lord.

LITTLE SOL
Take his body away.

SOLDIER
Yes, my lord.

(SOLDIERS exit dragging POE FA’s body behind them.)

LITTLE SOL
This will be a new age. I will make sure of that. But…how will I know what to do?

PRESLEY
Why, I’ll advise you, my lord. Of course I will. And advise you well.

(Blackout.)

(End scene.)

SCENE 5

Scene: Earth, the naked eye observatory, the wedding of NIKO and PRESLEY.

At rise: NIKO, PRESLEY, LITTLE SOL, DAUGHTER SOL, a PRIEST, and some SOLDIERS are present.

PRIEST
Anyone who objects to this union, speak now or—

(BROTHER SOL enters.)

BROTHER SOL
Goddamn you, Pre Sallah.

PRESLEY
Ah, Brother Sol, so glad you could join us.

BROTHER SOL
Nothing has changed. You promised a new age. Nik Ollah, my goddess, please, come down from there. You are not meant to be with him.

PRESLEY
Have you come alone, or are you going to call forth that group of rebels I see just a little ways away?

BROTHER SOL
Brothers.

(REBELS enter, guns raised.)

PRESLEY
Ah. I see. Surely, though, you know you cannot defeat the gods. Not here. This is our world, and it will always be.

(A newly reformed OMNIBENEVOLENCE enters.)

NIKO
Love!

PRESLEY
You? What good can you do?

BROTHER SOL
Your reign is at its end, Pre Sallah. You are blinded by your lust for power. You never saw this coming, did you?

LITTLE SOL
What is going on, Presley?

PRESLEY
My lord, please. Shut up. Listen, my dear brother, what good do you think he can do anymore?

BROTHER SOL
We fetched him from the bowels of hell. He is whole again.

PRESLEY
Well, I crippled him once. I’ll do it again.

(NIKO stabs PRESLEY in the heart. He dies.)

LITTLE SOL
(To OMNIBENEVOLENCE) You cannot kill me. Only my offspring—

OMNIBENEVOLENCE
I’m Poe Fallah’s son. I’ll kill you easily as you killed him. But I’ll let you live, if you surrender your power now. Put that gun away. I warn you, brother…You do not want to stay here, not alone.

BROTHER SOL
This is what we fought for. Let it go.

LITTLE SOL
No! I am god! Me! I am!

(LITTLE SOL raises his gun. OMNIBENEVOLENCE shoots him in the head. LITTLE SOL dies.)

OMNIBENEVOLENCE
Then you be god. Niko, my love.

NIKO
My love.

(DAUGHTER SOL screams.)

DAUGHTER SOL
I love him! I loved him! How could you? You monsters! How could you take him away from me?

BROTHER SOL
Now you feel something more than hatred for him. Only after his death could you love him.

(DAUGHTER SOL exits when she sees all bowing to NIKO and OMNIBENEVOLENCE.)

BROTHER SOL
Will your love be omnipresent now?

OMNIBENEVOLENCE
No. Omnipresence makes no sense to me. In fact, none of this makes any sense. How can a god be all powerful or all loving? It’s impossible.

NIKO
Well, I’ll tell you—

OMNIBENEVOLENCE
And Omniscience? How is that possible either? How can somebody know everything?

NIKO
You know…you, um, you have a point.

OMNIBENEVOLENCE
Do we even exist at all?

NIKO
I…I don’t know.

(Everyone on stage looks around at each other for a few moments and then out at the audience.)

(Blackout.)

(END)

White on White by Harmony Neal

Entering Arkansas by Aubrey Bemis

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