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Rated: ASR · Script/Play · Tragedy · #1502669
A dying man struggles with his conscience and must face his mortality
SCENE I

(The scene is a high, arid valley in the mountains, far from civilization. Here in the far north, it is perpetually dusk. A single tree, scorched and split halfway by lightning occupies the stage up left and casts a sinister shadow. A brief scuffle can be heard offstage. Two armed men carry the limp body of Mikros onstage and drop him under the tree. One of them spits on Mikros in disgust as they exit.

Mikros lays still for several moments. He is a handsome young man in his twenties, dressed in what had at one time been a set of very fine clothes. He is blindfolded and bound with rope.

Mikros stirs and groans. He tries to move, but is too weak to fight his restraints.)

Mikros
So, this is love’s reward. Death, take me quickly. I have suffered long enough.

(He lays still for a while under the tree, but it soon becomes clear that nothing will happen.)

Mikros
So, it will be long, then? Am I to starve? Or be a meal for some wild beast? Ah, it serves me right, I suppose.

A Voice (off stage)
Why? What did you do?

Mikros
Who’s there?!

A Voice
No one. Just you.

Mikros
What do you want?

A Voice
Why should I want anything? I do not exist.

Mikros
I must be mad.

A Voice
What did you do?

Mikros
Be gone! Let me die in peace.

(The source of the Voice steps out from behind the tree. It is a barefoot woman wearing a simple orange dress. She projects a kind, angelic, almost motherly temperament. In the dead, brown landscape, she provides the only color. She circles Mikros, her footsteps totally silent. Her name is Tamuria.)

Tamuria
Why do you want to die?

Mikros
It is preferable to madness.

Tamuria
You are not mad.

Mikros
You don’t even exist, and yet, I am speaking with you as though you do.

Tamuria
Does that make you a madman?

Mikros
I don’t know. I don’t know anything.

Tamuria
Perhaps you are dead and I am a ghost.

Mikros
I hope so. I want to get this dying over with quickly.

Tamuria
Why?

Mikros
I am afraid to die. I don’t know what may await me.

Tamuria
And that frightens you?

Mikros
More than anything in the world.

Tamuria
Death is not so bad. It’s just like crossing a wall between two lands: there is no real difference between the two, only the differences you imagine.

Mikros
How do you know?

Tamuria
I don’t.

(She crosses over to where he is tied up and kneels down beside him. She studies him curiously, in an almost childish way.)

Tamuria
What is your name?

Mikros
You are an illusion; something conjured up from my own mind. Shouldn’t you know?

Tamuria
I would like to know.

(Mikros sighs, seeing that he isn’t going to get anywhere unless he deals with her like a real person.)

Mikros
My name is Mikros. I’m from a city a few days’ travel from here.

Tamuria
Why are you here, Mikros?

Mikros
I was left here for dead by the family of my beloved.

Tamuria
Why would someone do that?

(He shakes his head sadly, but smiles at the memory.)

Mikros
We fell in love. I couldn’t help it. I would go to her house at night, after everyone else was asleep, and we’d sneak out and go walk down the empty moonlit streets or down by the docks where the lanterns on the ships danced on the waves like liquid fire. I went again three nights ago. Fog cloaked the city, so I didn’t see the men waiting for me behind the house. They attacked me, beat me until I could no longer see or stand, bound me, and dragged me out here to die slowly and painfully in the wilderness. If he had any courage, he would’ve killed me then and there. Coward.

Tamuria
Who?

Mikros
Her husband.

Tamuria
Her husband?

Mikros
I know it was wrong, but a man can’t fight the pull of his heart.

Tamuria
They must think that you’re a horrible man.

Mikros
And they are right. I knew all along that we would never get away with it. Still, that couldn’t suppress our love. My fate was out of my hands, and it still is. At least now, I am not alone.

Tamuria
No: You are alone.

Mikros (skeptically)
Right. I keep forgetting.

Tamuria
Why were you not more careful?

Mikros
Careful?

Tamuria
You said yourself you knew it was wrong and that you knew you could not keep your love secret. So, why did you put yourself in such danger?

Mikros
The ocean can’t resist the tide.

(Tamuria looks at him strangely. She still does not understand.)

Tamuria
You have reason, don’t you?

(Mikros chuckles.)

Mikros
If I listened to my reason all the time, I would never take any chances. Where is the fun in that?

Tamuria
Fun?

Mikros
A little danger makes life worth living, my friend.

Tamuria
And it has also gotten you killed.

Mikros
Yes, but it was worth it.

Tamuria
I thought you were afraid to die.

Mikros
Of course I am, but fear does not bind me, these ropes do.

Tamuria
Your fear could have saved your life.

Mikros
Perhaps you’re right, but I don’t want my fear to be the master of my fate. Every man is afraid of death, it’s universal. Yet, we still have wars, even though every man who enlists knows he may be signing his death sentence.

Tamuria
Then, why do they go?

Mikros
For the thrill of spilling another man’s blood!

Tamuria
So, you are content with signing your death sentence?

Mikros
Yes. No, of course not. I –

Tamuria
You are a difficult creature to understand, Mikros.

Mikros
Oh, what’s the point of this conversation? Do we have to talk about me?

Tamuria
Who else is there to talk about?

Mikros
There’s you.

Tamuria
No, there isn’t.

Mikros
Why not?

Tamuria
I do not exist.

Mikros
I don’t believe you. Every time you cross in front of the sun, you cast a shadow.

Tamuria
Your mind is playing tricks on you.

Mikros
All the same, I’d like to see for myself.

Tamuria
Why?

Mikros
Just take off the blindfold.

(Tamuria looks at him, utterly confused, but goes along with his wishes. Kneeling down next to him silently, she gently unties the blindfold. Mikros blinks and squints up at her.)

Mikros
For someone who does not exist, you certainly look real.

Tamuria
It is all an illusion.

Mikros
If only all mirages took the form of beautiful women.

Tamuria
Your eyes are easily fooled. There is nothing here but dust and twilight. I think you are mad.

Mikros
I’ll take madness, if it means company.

Tamuria
Strange. You see, yet still you are blind. How do you endure such an ignorant existence?

Mikros
Are you insulting me?

Tamuria
No, you are but a simple worm. You are content with dirt and darkness, despite all that lies above.

Mikros
And what does that make you?

Tamuria
More than nothing, less than something.

Mikros
You’re starting to repeat yourself.

Tamuria
How can I repeat myself? I have never said anything.

Mikros
Stop saying that! I exist, and I see that you do. You exist.

Tamuria
All I see is you and Death, battling for your next breath. You cannot win.

Mikros
Don’t delve into philosophy. Stay with me in the dirt. Why can’t you speak like everyone else? Why speak in circles?

(Tamuria ignores him and looks around at the desolate landscape.)

Tamuria
You should rest.

Mikros
I don’t want to die in my sleep.

Tamuria
Why not? Wouldn’t it be more frightening to see Death scale the mountain and close in on you for the kill?

Mikros
Yes, but still, I don’t like the idea of it being able to sneak up on me.

Tamuria
Death will not show you any mercy, Mikros, just because you are beaten and bound.

Mikros
It’s what I deserve. I broke the Law, I split a family in two. I had never done anyone any harm until I saw that extraordinary woman. I was a quiet man, raised in a wealthy family, able to shut myself off from the world whenever I pleased. I had never gone wanting for anything, until that day, when someone or something decided that my life needed some danger. I glimpsed her in a crowd in town. Our eyes melted into each other’s souls for a brief moment, and I was doomed. I could never again be satisfied by anything. My possessions, my wealth, they meant nothing. All my treasures could not add up to the worth of the woman I loved, could never equal that glance across the street. Ah, but I see now, it was a cruel joke.

Tamuria
Don’t wallow in the past.

Mikros (with an ironic smile)
What else is there to do? Wallow in self-pity for poor Mikros and his imminent death?

Tamuria
You could look forward to your final rest. Accept what cannot be helped.

Mikros
I’ll fight it with every drop of strength I have.

Tamuria
A moment ago, you welcomed Death. You did not wish to suffer. Now, you’re content with that fate?

Mikros
Before, I was alone. But, now I have you, real or not. You are a distraction from my pain.

(Tamuria looks concerned. She had not considered that he might be in pain. It is a sensation she has never known.)

Tamuria
Are you in pain?

Mikros
It’s nothing.

Tamuria
You are lying to me.

Mikros
Well, there is the pain in my stomach, and the throbbing in my head, and the ominous feeling of my life draining out my feet.

Tamuria
Is there anything I can do?

Mikros
You can untie these ropes for me.

(Tamuria walks over to him and kneels down behind him, where the ropes are tied.)

Tamuria
I dare not touch them. These knots will not loosen their grip.

(Mikros sighs in defeat.)

Tamuria (sincerely)
Is there anything else I can do for you? I don’t want you to suffer.

Mikros
Do you have any water? My last drink was days ago. My throat is dry and I’m feeling lightheaded.

Tamuria
There is no water here.

Mikros
I don’t doubt it. Her family would stop at nothing to ensure that I die slowly and painfully.

Tamuria
Would you like to die?

Mikros (sarcastically)
No, but thank you for the offer. I think I would rather live with the pain.

Tamuria
I am sorry. I don’t exactly know what pain feels like, but I see that it causes you discomfort.

Mikros
I keep forgetting: you aren’t real. Believe me, you don’t want to know. I’m fairly certain that pain is a torture technique invented by women to punish men.

Tamuria
You should rest, Mikros.

Mikros
How can any man sleep with Death reaching for his throat?

Tamuria
Go to sleep. The world will look brighter after you have rested.

(Mikros yawns.)

Tamuria
Rest.

Mikros (nodding)
I think that’s a good idea. You’re not going to leave me, are you?

Tamuria
Where can I go? I do not exist.

Mikros
Please stay.

(Tamuria kneels down behind him and lays her head on his shoulder.)

Tamuria
I won’t leave you. I’ll be here in the morning.

Mikros
Can you even tell the difference between morning and night here?

Tamuria
A slight sweetness in the air, and the warmth of the light. You’ll see. Now rest.

Mikros
I am tired, but I don’t think I want to sleep. What if I never wake up again?

Tamuria
Sleep.

(Mikros starts to nod off, his eyelids becoming heavy. Tamuria gently lays his head against the gnarled trunk of the tree. Then, she stands slowly and wanders downstage.)

Tamuria
Cold winds of the sea below, and the glowing embers above..and mortal man, caught in a spider’s web between.

(Mikros falls asleep.)

CURTAIN.



SCENE II

(The next morning. The valley is still dimly lit. The rim of the sun is just barely reaching over the high mountains. It is darker, even, as dry storm clouds in the distance settle over the mountains. Mikros, still bound tightly, is asleep, leaning against the tree trunk. Tamuria is nowhere in sight. Mikros wakes suddenly, as if from a nightmare.)

Mikros
No, no. Still in these wastes. These mountains…Mountains of Death. I had hoped that it was all an awful dream.

(He looks around for Tamuria.)

Mikros
Where are you? You said you would stay! You said you would be here when I awoke! Don’t leave me alone!

(Tamuria emerges from just off stage, playing innocently with the blindfold, tossing up in the air and catching it repeatedly. She looks at him quizzically.)

Tamuria
Is something wrong, Mikros?

Mikros
I thought you had gone.

Tamuria
I can’t go. I am a slave to your mind.

Mikros
Don’t wander off. I don’t want to be alone. Tell me - why do I feel so…light? Like having a piece of the wind caged inside my chest.

Tamuria
You are dying.

(Mikros is at first shocked, then seems reassured.)

Mikros
This is dying? It doesn’t feel so bad.

Tamuria
No more pain.

Mikros
I don’t think I’ve ever been at peace before now.

Tamuria
Most mortals aren’t. They are raging tempests of petty quarrels, anger and hatred, suffering and misery, small victories and crushing defeats. Of course, I don’t really know.

Mikros
It would seem that you know a lot, for someone who does not exist.

Tamuria
I have told you - I am but a fiction created by a lonely, delusional mind. I only know what you know.

Mikros
I don’t know any of this.

Tamuria
Some part of you does.

(Tamuria turns away for a moment. She looks at her feet, then back at Mikros.)

Mikros
All my pain is gone.

Tamuria
It’s not over yet.

Mikros
This is the end of life. This is where the path has been leading all this time. It is over for me.

Tamuria
You are not dead, yet. You are still dying. There is more.

Mikros
If this isn’t Death, then what is it?

Tamuria
I don’t know.

Mikros
My mother used to say that Death is living inside the best day of your life for all eternity. My father used to say that Death is a banquet that never ends, with course after course of all your favorite dishes. Do you think either of them were right?

Tamuria
We shall see.

Mikros
Yes. I suppose I’ll see soon enough…I wonder what my love is doing now. She must be sitting down for breakfast by now. Or is it supper time? I can’t tell.

Tamuria
She has been thrown into the gutter to rot in the mud like any other unfaithful woman.

Mikros
No. Don’t say that.

Tamuria
You know it is true.

(Suddenly, Mikros writhes in his ropes. His eyes widen in horror as the pain descends on him again. Tamuria is strangely indifferent to his condition. She doesn’t even look at him; she just plays with the blindfold, twisting it, wrapping it around her wrists.)

Mikros
Why?!

Tamuria
Because of you, she is going to die in the streets.

Mikros
No! It was me! It wasn’t her fault! She loved her husband!

Tamuria
She did not resist, did she?

Mikros
I thought–

Tamuria
–That they were taking you instead of her?

Mikros
No! No! It’s a lie! It can’t be!

Tamuria
It is the Law.

Mikros
It isn’t right!

Tamuria
What you did was not right. One injustice for another.

Mikros
Leave me alone!

Tamuria
Who are you talking to? There’s no one here. Just you, Mikros.

(Mikros tries to break free of his restraints, but the ropes hold. Finally, with a cry of agony, he collapses on the ground in front of the tree. He starts to weep.)

Mikros
What have I done? What devil spurred me on to such depths?

Tamuria
You did it. You said yourself that you were a horrible man.

Mikros
I am. I do not deny it.

Tamuria
Then, this is love’s reward.

Mikros
Why has Death waited so long? Please, untie the ropes. They are burning me.

Tamuria
Who are you talking to?

Mikros
You! Who else is there?

Tamuria (as if explaining to a child)
There’s no one here. There never was.

Mikros
Liar! You’re here! I am a sane man!

Tamuria
Prove it.

Mikros
I can’t. I can’t, but I see you standing there.

Tamuria
Your mind is slipping.

Mikros
My body is slipping, my mind is here, and so are you.

(Tamuria shakes her head and smiles, as if she knows something that he doesn’t.)

Mikros
Is this a final torture before I die? Or is this only a taste of the pain to come?

Tamuria
Are you still in pain?

Mikros
Yes. Please, help me.

Tamuria
You have caused much pain. This is your judgment.

Mikros
My bite was not poisonous. I gave her what her husband denied her! I gave her love! I caused no pain!

Tamuria
That is not for you to say.

Mikros
I listened to my heart. I would never hurt her.

Tamuria (sadly)
Your heart is untrustworthy. It veils your mind, corrupts your actions, drives you into madness.

Mikros
I thought…I tried to make her happy.

Tamuria
And yet, you have brought her only pain.

Mikros
Is this but half the pain? Let me suffer her share of it. Please.

Tamuria
I thought you wanted to be rid of the pain.

Mikros
Yes, I did.

Tamuria
What do you want, Mikros?

Mikros
I don’t know.

Tamuria
What do you want?

Mikros (frustrated)
I don’t know.

Tamuria
What do you want?

Mikros
I want to die! I want to shake off the exhaustion, the guilt, the pain! I want to die! Why must I wait?!

Tamuria
Death takes her time. She must choose her weapon, stalk her prey, and wait for the perfect time to strike the fatal blow. She is a hunter. You are just another defenseless beast, alone in the wild.

Mikros
When will she be here? I am ready.

Tamuria
You are not ready.

Mikros
What more is there for me in this world?

Tamuria
Aren’t you afraid?

Mikros
Yes, but I want to see what’s beyond.

(Tamuria wanders over to stand over him.)

Tamuria
You don’t know what you want. You never did. The world beyond is not what you imagine it to be.

Mikros
I want to see for myself. I want to meet Death on my terms, and look her in the eye.

(Tamuria knees down behind him and cowers, looking around.)

Tamuria
Death sets her own terms. Her own place, her own time.

(Mikros looks around, as if seeing his surroundings clearly for the first time.)

Mikros
She has decided the place…and I can feel the time fast approaching. My heart is cold. It had a fire in life. Now, it is over.

Tamuria
Yes, now it is over.

Mikros
Where is she? Where is Death to claim me?

Tamuria
She is close. Beneath the ridge. Arrow drawn for the kill.

Mikros
No. Wait! I’m not ready. I’ve changed my mind. I don’t want to go.

Tamuria
It’s too late. From the moment you saw her across the street, locked eyes through the crowd, your fate has been sealed.

Mikros
Is there no mercy for a man who made a terrible mistake?

Tamuria (sadly)
It’s too late for mercy. It’s too late for love. Nothing can save you now. This is the end of the hunt. She’s ready.

Mikros
I’ve changed my mind.

Tamuria
You can never really see her coming. She always strikes from behind.

(Tamuria wraps the blindfold around Mikros’ neck and starts to pull. He thrashes and tries to call out, but he hasn’t the strength to resist. She is weeping. He looks at her with terrified eyes, begging her to spare him, but she looks away and keeps pulling. Mikros stops moving and collapses onto Tamuria’s lap. His expression of terror fades to one of calm. Tamuria releases the blindfold and gently strokes Mikros’ hair, still crying.)

Tamuria
Rest, Mikros. Rest.

(The sun fades from sight. As the lights dim, Tamuria seemingly melts into the floor. All that is left is Mikros’ still body and the split tree as a silent witness. The stage is engulfed in darkness and there is silence.)


CURTAIN.
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