The Dark

BEGIN

(It is dark. Nothing is heard for several moments except for heavy breathing.)

Voice 1 (feebly): It's so dark!

(There is a pause.)

Voice 1: Hello?

(Voice 1 waits anxiously for someone to speak.)

Voice 1: Please, I can't hear you. There's nothing there!

(Voice 1 begins to sob. Eventually, he begins to make indistinguishable muttering noises to make up for the silence.)

Voice 2: Are you alright, there?

Voice 1 (hopefully): Hello?

Voice 2: You sounded upset.

Voice 1: Oh! I suppose. (Pause.) Do you know just what we're doing here?

(A silence.)

Voice 1 (smugly, gaining confidence): I thought not! (Pause.) What's your name?

(Silence.)

Voice 1 (cheerfully.): I've only just met you, after all, so I suppose you can just fabricate whatever name you like.

(Pause. Voice 2 is silent.)

Voice 1: I'll answer first, if you like. My name is Ben.

Voice 2 (slowly): That's interesting.

Ben: Well, what's your name?

(Pause.)

Voice 2: I haven't decided yet.

Ben: Well this is rather fun, isn't it? We don't know a thing about each other. We can be whoever we want!

Voice 2: My name is Peter Pan.

(Ben laughs.)

Ben: That can't be your name! You have to make it believable. The first rule of lying is to make it believable.

Voice 2: I didn't know there were rules.

Ben: Of course there are! Everything has rules!

(There is a long, deliberative silence.)

Voice 2: My name is Nathan.

Ben: That's a rather boring choice.

Nathan: That's because it's my actual name.

Ben (mockingly): I've got no reason to believe you, 'Nathan…'

Nathan: You've got no reason to believe anything else.

(They sit in the silence for awhile longer.)

Ben: There are others here; I can hear them, can't you?

Nathan: I hear them.

Ben: Why don't they speak?

Nathan: Perhaps they've got nothing to say.

Ben: There's always something to say. They must be confused, at least!

Nathan: Perhaps they're shy.

Ben (To the silence): Hello? Are you shy?

(There is no answer.)

Ben: They must be shy, then.

Voice 3 (arrogantly): We aren't shy. We're listening.

Ben: Oh! (Ben pauses, surprised.) What's your name?

Voice 3: Why's it important? Is that always the first thing you ask?

Ben: It's just good manners, is all.

Voice 3: I don't think you know the first thing about manners, Ben. It was wonderfully peaceful in here until you disturbed me.

Ben (defensively): I was afraid!

Voice 3: Afraid of what?

Ben: That I was all alone!

Voice 3: And why's that so frightening to you?

(Ben doesn't answer.)

Nathan: He wasn't afraid, really. He just likes company. He didn't want to be lonely.

Ben (approvingly): Yes! That's right! I was lonely. Weren't you?

Voice 3: Weren't I what?

Ben: Lonely, of course!

(Voice 3 laughs, as if sharing a private joke with himself.)

Voice 3: I'm never lonely enough!

Ben (affronted): Well, that's a rather poor attitude to take!

Nathan (diplomatically): That's only your opinion, Ben. He can take whichever attitude he likes. It doesn't do to be rude to people.

Ben: Fine! (Pause.) Well, what is your name then? We have to call you something.

Voice 3 (mockingly): My name is Ben.

Ben (even angrier): No it isn't!

Voice 3: Why not? You said I could be whoever I wanted.

(Ben gets to his feet and begins pacing angrily.)

Ben: I've already chosen that name. We can't both be Ben.

Voice 3: That wasn't part of the rules.

Ben: It is now. You have to choose another name!

Voice 3: You're the one with all the rules. Why don't you choose a name?

Ben (calmer now): I can't choose your name for you.

Voice 3: Why not?

Ben: You have to choose your own name. That's just how it is.

Voice 3: Then I refuse.

Ben (astonished): But why?

Voice 3: Because I don't like rules.

Ben: Why, you— (some rustling is heard as Ben makes an angry movement towards Voice 3.)

Nathan: Wait, Ben, don't be getting upset. May I choose his name?

(There is a long pause as Ben deliberates.)

Ben: Well, I suppose that's alright.

(Pause.)

Nathan (with judicial clairvoyance): His name is Seth.

Ben (smugly): There! Now you have a name.

(Seth doesn't answer. Ben's footsteps are heard as he paces around in the darkness.)

Ben: There's at least one other in here. Seth? He's next to you, isn't he?

Seth: Sure, sitting right here.

Ben: Why doesn't he say something?

Seth: It's because he doesn't like you.

Ben: Hey!

Nathan: He's only messing around, Ben. I'm sure that's not the reason.

Ben: Well, what is the reason? (Ben takes a few steps forward, groping around in the dark.) Oh! I just touched someone. Is that you, Seth?

Seth: If it were, I'd have bitten your hand off.

Ben: Hey!

Nathan: He's only joking, Ben only kidding with—

Ben: You couldn't bite my hand off if you tried!

Seth: Sure could.

Ben: No, you couldn—

Nathan: Shh! I think he's trying to say something!

Ben: What? How can you tell?

Nathan: Quiet!

(There is a long, drawn out pause. Finally, Ben grows impatient.)

Ben: Well, say something, already!

Voice 4 (softly, practically indistinguishable): It's…it's too bright.

Ben: What?

Seth: What'd he say?

Nathan: Shh!

Voice 4: The moon…it's too bright for me. Someone turn it down…

Ben (impatiently): There's no moon in here!

Voice 4: No…you don't understand. The moon is too bright!

Ben (to the others): Do you hear this? (To Voice 4): There's no moon in here, kid!

Voice 4: Please! I can't see! Give me my eyes back!

(Seth laughs.)

Seth (gleefully): He's a lunatic!

Nathan: Hey, cut it out! (To Voice 4) Listen, now, no one's taken your eyes. It's actually very dark in here.

Voice 4: They've taken them! They've taken them! The moon! I can see it!

(Seth laughs again.)

Seth: I ate his eyes.

(Voice 4 lets out a wail of disapproval.)

Ben (snappishly): You did not!

Nathan: Stop being cruel to him, Seth!

Seth: I'm not being cruel. Moony and I are friends.

Ben: What?

Seth: His name's Moony.

Ben: How do you know?

Seth: Cause I just decided.

Ben (with intense frustration): You can't! You can't just decide! It's against the rules!

Moony: Oh, no! Give them back! My poor eyes!

Seth (ignoring Moony): Nathan decided for me.

Nathan: That's true, Ben.

Ben: Well…it's because Nathan is allowed to. He's good at it. He's been given permission, I mean.

Seth: By who?

Ben: By me!

Seth: Fine, then. What's his name, Nathan?

(Nathan deliberates.)

Nathan: His name is Moony.

Seth: There you go.

Ben (defeated): Well…I suppose that's alright…

Moony: Give them back! My eyes! It burns!

Seth: Shut up, Moony.

Nathan: There's no need to be cruel to him!

Seth: There's no particular reason to be nice, either.

Ben (to Nathan, very sarcastically): There's a lovely person for you.

Moony (addressing no one in particular): Excuse me! Could you give me my eyes back? It's the seventh of the month.

Seth (irritated): Will someone turn him off?

Moony: It's the seventh of the month. The seventh!

Seth: Let's just kick him, or something.

Nathan (kindly): Listen, here, Moony—

Moony: Oh! Now I see! Hello? (Pause. Moony's voice is panicked.) We have to get out!

(There is a ringing silence.)

Ben (thoughtfully): I suppose he has a point there.

Nathan: What do you mean?

Ben: We ought to get out of here.

Nathan: Do you know where we are?

Ben: No, but-

Nathan: Do you know what we're in?

Ben: Well, no…

Nathan: Then how are we supposed to get out?

Ben: Well, I don't know…

(There is a long pause. For awhile, nothing is heard except for Moony mumbling to himself incoherently.)

Ben: I'm bored.

Seth: You're boring.

Nathan: There's no need to start fights, now, is there?

Ben: Shut up, Nathan. At least if we were fighting, it'd be interesting.

Seth: Shut up.

Ben (offended): Now just who were you talking to?

Seth: Moony.

Ben (relieved): Ah! I thought you were talking to me. (Thoughtful pause.) He is getting rather annoying, isn't he?

Seth: I think you're all annoying.

Ben (cheerfully): Well, there's no need for unproductive comments like that! (Pause) Moony! Hello? Can't you hear me? You're bugging the hell out of everyone here. We're really bothered by you, you know. If you have something to say, say something sensible! (He pauses, waiting for the others to voice their support. They do not.) I'm telling you—there are some people that ought to keep their mouths shut. There are some people that just don't have anything pro-duc-tive to say. (Each syllable of the word is enunciated.) You got anything pro-duc-tive to say, huh, Moony?

(Silence.)

Ben: Some people! Some people just don't have any sense. Thank goodness, though, for the sensible and pro-duc-tive people that exist in this world! Can you imagine, if they didn't, what would happen to the poor suckers like Moony here—if the whole world was like him!

(There is a ringing silence. Moony has gone quiet.)

Ben (nervously): Well, I suppose he listened, after all…

(Seth starts to laugh.)

Ben: Hey, now…cut it out.

(Seth laughs even harder.)

Ben: Stop it, now! Just what the hell is so funny?

Seth (a grin evident in his voice): If I told you, it wouldn't be funny anymore.

(For once, Ben has nothing to say. Seth is done laughing, and Moony begins to mutter again. This time, it's louder.)

Moony: It's so close. It's so close. The moon. I can see it.

Ben: God help us, there he goes again.

(Seth emits another loud cackle.)

Moony: The devils! They've stolen my eyes…

Ben: Just quiet the hell up, Moony…

Moony (in an explosion of anger): NO!

(Ben and Seth sit silently in astonished silence.)

Moony: You can't see! None of you! You can't see that your eyes are stolen! The devils! They've taken them, and all that's left it the moon! (Pause. No one speaks.) You can't see it, but I can! You think I'm loony; how are you any different? The sun has gone for all of us, but you can't even see the moon!

(A loud sigh is heard. Moony sits back down.)

Seth (contemplative): He's right, of course.

Ben: What? Right about what? That didn't make any sense!

Seth (slightly awed): You know where we are, don't you?

Ben (terrified): No! We aren't! You've both gone all screwy…we can't be there! Well, you could be, but what about me? Not me! (Pause) And not Nathan, either!

Seth (smugly): I think Nathan's left. Don't you?

(Pause. Everyone listens.)

Ben: Left? What do you mean, left? He can't have. Where did he go?

Seth: I don't know.

Moony (gleefully): He's on the moon!

Ben: Nathan? Nathan! Where are you? Nathan, please…oh please, Nathan, don't leave me…come back…(Ben begins to sob again.) He's left me, left me…I'm all alone.

Seth: You hate that, don't you?

Ben (sniffling): Hate what?

Seth: Being alone.

Ben: I…I suppose so.

Seth: You can't stand yourself, so you need other people to distract you.

Ben (enraged): That's not true at all!

Seth: Well, just think for a moment, Ben. If you were good company, you'd never be lonely alone. Would you?

Ben: Your logic's all botched. Shut up!

Moony: Shut up! Shut up!

Ben: Yeah…that's right! See, he agrees with me!

Seth (grinning): He's talking to you, you idiot.

Ben: You can't know that!

Seth: Oh, I know.

Moony: It's the seventh of the month! The seventh!

Ben: Ugh! Can't you all just be quiet?

(There is a silence. Ben clears his throat.)

Ben: Th…there. That's better. We can finally get some peace in here.

(There is another silence.)

Ben: I might even just take a nap.

(Some shuffling is heard as Ben repositions himself.)

Ben: Well, this is nice.

(There is a pause of about thirty seconds.)

Ben: Of course, I wouldn't want you to be upset, Moony. I wasn't meaning to be rude. (Pause.) You say it's the seventh of the month, hmm? Does that have some special significance for you?

(Pause.)

Ben: Moony?

(Pause.)

Ben: We can always change your name, if you don't like it. You don't have to be called that anymore.

(Pause.)

Ben: It's rather rude to ignore people.

Seth: He's gone, you moron.

Ben: Excuse me?

Seth: He's left.

Ben: How…how can you tell?

Seth: He used to be here next to me. Now he isn't.

Ben (whining): But where did he go?

Seth: The moon, of course.

Ben: Ah! (Pause.) I want to go there, as well!

Seth (smugly): Of course you do.

Ben: How'd he get there?

Seth: Beats me. I wonder if—ah! What're you doing! Let go of me!

Ben (panting): N…no! I have to…to make sure that you don't disappear, as well!

Seth: Get off!

(A commotion is heard as Seth attempts to force Ben off of his arm.)

Ben: Ow! Ouch! You're hurting!

Seth: Then let go!

Ben: No! I won't! I won't be left here alone, I won't let you—OUCH!

(A silence is heard.)

Ben: S…Seth? Are you still there?

(A long sigh is heard.)

Seth: Unfortunately.

Ben (angrily): You bitme!

Seth: I told you I would.

Ben (disbelievingly): You…bit…me.

(There is a silence.)

Ben (sheepishly): Well I…I'm sorry about that. I suppose I overreacted a bit.

(Seth is silent.)

Ben: Aren't…aren't you going to apologize?

Seth: For what?

Ben: For biting me, of course!

Seth: No. I warned you beforehand.

Ben: But, I mean—

Seth: If someone says they're going to bite you, don't go grabbing onto them.

Ben (bitterly): Right. Well…

(He trails off into silence.)

Ben: Let's keep talking.

Seth: About what?

Ben: I don't know. About anything you want. We can keep bickering, if you'd like to. I don't mind it.

Seth: You know I'm going to disappear eventually.

Ben (panicking): No…no! You can't!

Seth: You see, I'm meant for somewhere else. Just like Nathan and Moony. I can see you're meant for here, because you're the most frightened.

Ben: Please! I'm begging! I'll never touch you again, I promise! We don't even have to say anything! Just stay! That's all! Please!

Seth: You're talking as if I've got a say in it.

Ben (on the verge of tears): You have to stay, Seth. Please.

Seth: I can't. Even if I could, I wouldn't.

(Ben begins to cry. Seth sits in disinterested silence.)

Ben: Please…keep talking to me. I've always been afraid, that's all. I didn't mean to do any harm. I didn't mean to ever deserve this…

Seth: But don't you see, Ben? Just the fact that my voice makes you happy is the most pitiable thing about you. That's what got you here. You hate me; yet you want me to keep speaking. You loathe me; yet you couldn't bear it if I left. Why? Because you'd rather listen to me—me, whom you hate—than be left to listen to yourself.

Ben: Yes, that's good…say whatever you like, just keep talking…

Seth: It's all so interesting to me. It's the most curious thing ever. Isn't it interesting, Ben? I wonder where I'm going. Don't you?

(There is a brief pause.)

Ben (frantically): Don't stop talking…

Seth: Hmm…I wish I could see the moon.

Ben: Yes. Me too…

(Ben laughs weakly. Seth joins in moments later. His laughter continues long after Ben's has died out; eventually, there is silence.)

Ben: Seth…remember how I asked you to keep talking?

(There is no answer.)

Ben: Seth?

(There is no answer.)

Ben: SETH! Oh no, oh please, Seth, no, this isn't funny, this isn't funny at all…

(There is no answer.)

Ben: Seth? Are you laughing? Keep laughing, Seth! It can be funny if you want it to, just keep laughing!

(There is no answer. It has gone deathly silent.)

Ben (quietly): I can't…can't quite hear you, Seth, you…you're going to have to laugh a little bit louder…

(Ben begins to laugh. The laughter is soft, at first but then gets louder.)

Ben: You were right, Seth! It is funny! It's interesting! It's curious! It's hilarious, really!

(Ben's laughter gets louder and louder. Eventually, it is difficult to distinguish between laughter and sobs.)

Ben: Oh, I can hear you now, Seth! This is very funny, isn't it? Very, very funny…

(Ben's laughter continues for some time until he grows tired. It dies down and he descends once again to indistinguishable muttering. Eventually, nothing is heard but heavy breathing.)

(It is still dark.)

END