Never thought train stations would make great places for tea parties, until now.
|A man in a plain, gray suit walks finds himself standing in an empty train station. The place is bleak, and the vibrations from the rails make a persistent humming noise. A ticket booth is on the other side of the track, and the only comfort on his side is a lonely bench.
The man looks around expectantly, and then walks over to the bench. He takes a seat, as if he were obliged to do so. Once again he looks around the station expecting to see something, a clue for his reason for being there, but he finds nothing.
Jeremiah: (His words echoing) Where am I? Anyone here?
He looks down at his watch, but it seems to be broken, and in his frustration he shakes his wrist viciously, but it doesn’t make a difference.
Jeremiah: Whens the train coming? I’m a very busy man. I don’t got time to sit around and wait all day. I can’t believe this!
He closes his mouth. The sound of a train whistle comes blasting from beyond sight, and in seconds a train, as bleak as the station surrounding it, arrives. As the train doors open, an instantaneous mob of people pop into existence. People of all shapes and sizes, they line the ticket booth, talk on cell phones and wait for the train doors to open. With them comes the sound of laughter, footsteps and unrecognizable chatter. People everywhere, all with non-descriptive faces.
Looking around astonished, Jeremiah springs from the bench and tries to grab the attention of passers.
Jeremiah: (Tugging at a man’s arm) Excuse me sir- (The man continues walking)
Jeremiah: Ma’am, could you...? (She laughs and passes)
Jeremiah: (He runs toward a man about to board the train) Sir! Could you tell me where this train goes? (The man looks at him, sluggishly smiles and jumps off the platform onto the tracks just as the train starts to move forward) SIR!
Mr. Wednesday: (With a deep calm voice) I wouldn’t worry too much about him. People come, and they go, and it doesn’t mean a whole lot to anyone or anything.
Jeremiah: (Turns around to see to an old man speaking to him, but the old man is the only one in the station and the crowds have vanished) (Stuttering) Whe-re did everyone go?
Mr. Wednesday: Off with their lives I suppose.
Jeremiah: Where are we? Where do these trains go?
Mr. Wednesday: Well we’re in a train station of course. One of the better places to end up if you ask me, beats the anxiety of waiting in an airport or the dentist’s office. Either way though, it serves it’s purpose. A fixed place where everyone, at one point or another, in his or her own time, has to come and wait before they can continue on with their own designs. (Chuckling to himself) Nothing better to kick that metaphor off than a train station if you ask me.
Jeremiah: (Getting frustrated) I don’t have time for your riddles old man! I’m a very busy man with places to be, people to see. I don’t have time to sit around and wait!
Mr. Wednesday: Everyone has to go through some form of limbo my friend. Might as well enjoy it while it lasts. There’s no need to rush. (sighs) I rushed, and look at me now back up in here. Not everything is as clear on the other side.
Jeremiah: What do you mean?
Mr. Wednesday: (chuckling at his own joke again) Now you want to talk. No one ever wants to talk anymore unless they’re getting something out of it. I’ll tell you what. Most things are worth waiting for, but sometimes they’re not. Don’t expect the answers to be as apparent as they are here when you do decide to leave.
The two men can hear the train whistle, but this time a blinding light hits Jeremiah, and he can feel his heart pounding. He looks down at his watch, and he sees his hand fading. He turns to the old man, but the man seems to be fairly solid, and the man watches him and smiles. As Jeremiah begins to fade he can hear the old man’s words over the roar of an oncoming train.
Mr. Wednesday: We’ll meet again before my time is up, but always keep an open mind and a closed nose. And remember this! Be ready for the madness.
The train station fades away. (End scene.)
Jeremiah regains consciousness. He is in the same train station, and pulls himself off the pavement rubbing his head.
Jeremiah: (In pain) Ow! My head.
Jeremiah: (Looks around) Oh... back here again. Where did that old man go?
Ms. Red: (From behind) And what sort of time do you call this? We’ve all been waiting forever for you to come around. (She begins to laugh)
Jeremiah turns around to see a woman in red sitting at a table where the bench use to be. The table is set up properly. Stuffed animals are tied up to chairs that surrond the table. The table is set with tea pots and cups, napkins and spoons and desserts for the afternoon. Anonymous laughter seems to fill the room as Ms. Red laughs, and it seems the stuffed animals are laughing with her.
Ms. Red: (Giggling) Come. Have a seat, you’ve held up the party long enough already.
Jeremiah: (Hesitant) What happened to the old man that was here earlier?
Ms. Red: So many questions, so little time. Please. Won’t you have a seat? (She gestures to the empty seat at the other end of the table, and laughs)
Jeremiah: (Smiles, and chuckles. As he does so the whole station seems to fall into laughter. He finds himself moving towards to the table where he takes a seat) Who... (can’t stop laughing) who are you?
Ms. Red: So rude. A guest at my tea party not even knowing who I am. I should be asking you the same question, but I already know who you are. (sighs) But. If you must know, I’m Miss. Red. You can call me Red or Miss or Miss Red for short. (Giggles)
Jeremiah: (Trying to make a serious face) How do you know who I am if we’ve never met?
Ms. Red: I know all my guests. It’s part of being a good hostess. Oh, please. Won’t you have some tea? …Oh wait we’re all out. (She takes a tea cup and holds it upside down. The room bursts out laughing) If you hadn’t of arrived so late Mr. Teddy might of saved you some tea. (All the stuff animals turn to the tied up teddy bear) He’s quite greedy when it comes to honey and tea. Now. Now. Mr. Teddy what did I say about drinking all the tea before the guest arrived?
The teddy bear vanishes, leaving an empty chair. Jeremiah turns around, horrified to see Mr. Teddy falling into an oncoming train. He turns back to Ms. Red fast enough to miss the bear’s epilogue.
Ms. Red: Tea?
Jeremiah: But didn’t you say there was no more tea?
Ms. Red: Don’t be silly there’s always tea. We’re at a tea party. (She picks up the teapot and pours Jeremiah some tea)
Jeremiah: This is complete madness! What happened to the old man?
Ms. Red: (Frowning) What about him? He doesn’t know anything. I’ve seen how this all ends. He has no clue what he’s talking about. Aren’t I fun? Aren’t you enjoying my tea party? I made it special just for you.
Jeremiah: (pauses, realising he insulted Ms. Red) I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to... I’m just- I’m very confused! Why are we the only ones here?
Ms. Red: Isn’t it obvious? We aren’t the only ones here. Look around you.
Jeremiah: (back flashing to the man’s sluggish smile and his jumping off the platform just as the train started moving forward) If we aren’t the only ones here why can’t I see anyone until the train arrives?
Ms. Red: (Frowns) What train?
The table begins to shake, and the sound of the train whistle can be heard. Jeremiah’s heart is pounding.
Jeremiah: (Stands up. Shouts) That train! (His tea cup falls off the table and smashes, there is no tea in it)
Ms. Red: Looks like our time has ended. (She laughs) It was nice chatting with you.
Ms. Red and her tea party vanish. Jeremiah finds himself sitting on the bench next to Mr. Wednesday. The train comes in, and people once again fill the station.
Mr. Wednesday: So it seems your back.
Jeremiah: (Smiling) I met the strangest woman. She was in all red, and she was holding the maddest tea party.
Mr. Wednesday: (Thinking for a second) Ah yes. How did that go?
Mr. Wednesday: I’m not surprised.
Jeremiah: Have you met her before? Who is she?
Mr. Wednesday: (Frowning) No. I can’t say I have, but I’ve met someone like her. She is who she is, and she might be a little mad, but it’s all sport to her.
Jeremiah: (Horrified) Sport?
Mr. Wednesday: Yes. The laughter, the intensity of her games. It just might make some one want to jump in front of a train. But don’t pay any attention to her, she’s just a cat hunting lost mice, and your definitely not a lost mouse.
Jeremiah: (The train leaves and the crowds vanish again) How do you know? I have no clue where I am, or where I’m suppose to be going, and these trains keep coming and going and none of them are for me.
Mr. Wednesday: Precisely. You will know when the time comes. Everyone always knows when the time comes.
Jeremiah: What time?! There’s no time in this station. My watch is clearly broken, and it seems that time doesn’t even move here. Everyone keeps talking about time, but i haven’t seen one ounce of time anywhere in this station.
Mr. Wednesday: Time can’t always be strapped down to a wrist and measured, my friend. Sometimes you just need to let time do the work and not question when it will be done. Trust me, you have instincts, and instincts exist for time to let you know when it is ready for you to move on. There is nothing set in stone it. (Pauses.) Speaking of time. It seems that it’s time for us to take a break from each other again. (Mr. Wednesday gets up, and starts walking away)
Jeremiah: Wait! Will I see you again?
Mr. Wednesday: Probably. But it’s time for your second test. (Starts to fade)
Jeremiah: Test? (Echos) TEST?!
Jeremiah sees a man in a lab coat on the other side of the track by the ticket booth. Noticing the man, and fearing the thought of being all alone again, he starts running for the edge of the platform, and finds himself already on the other side. His momentum catches himself off guard and he trips and falls. As he pulls himself up he can see the man who is humming to himself, while he stands over a table. The man takes no notice of Jeremiah as he approaches him.
Dr. Nemo: KING ME! No... no! That’s absurd, you can’t move your rook to E5! It was over there on F6. Of course rooks don’t move diagonally. Want to take it outside? Doctor Nemo will never let you get away with that cheat! Oldest cheat in the book!
Jeremiah approaches the table, and to his confusion sees it filled with board games, Scrabble and Chess, both types of Checkers, Operation and Battleship, but what he doesn’t see is another player.
Dr. Nemo: (Turning around) Oh good you’re here! Quick this man needs surgery! I’m not sure whether to take out his brain or his appendix, they’re both equally useless!
Jeremiah: Um... Have you tried finding the organ that is bothering him?
Dr. Nemo: With what time? Nobody has the time. TIME! T-I-M-E TIME! Quick, play that word on the triple word score, so we can tie the game!
Jeremiah: Tie the game? With who? There’s no one else here.
Dr. Nemo: (Snatches a knight a moves it up the board) CHECK! (He looks back at Jeremiah) What are you standing around for? Appendix or brain?! Want to take this outside?
Jeremiah: (Quite confused at this point) Take it outside?
Dr. Nemo: (Frantically moving around the table, playing games without an opponent) KING ME! Yes, yes. Take it outside. You know to settle this dispute once and for all, but who has the time? No one has the time! D-I-S-P-U-T-E! DISPUTE! ARRR, Matey he sunk me submarine!
Jeremiah: Wouldn’t it be easier to win if you just focused on one game?
Dr. Nemo: Aye. What a brain you’ve got there lad, mind if we borrow it to save this poor man’s life? (The operation game buzzes as he tries to pull out the brain piece) You try. (The doctor grabs Jeremiah and pulls him to the side of the table with the operation game and hands him a pair of tweezers.) Go ahead.
Jeremiah: (He prods at the appendix, and pulls it out without the game making a buzz) See.
Dr. Nemo: Hurrah! You got it! (Dashing frantically, he turns to the chess board) Quick. Quick! Over here.
Jeremiah: (looks down at the board, and moves the white queen in front of the black king and across from the white rook) Checkmate!
Dr. Nemo: No time to celebrate now lad, we have to sink his battleship!
Jeremiah: (Looks at the board, he sees 4 red marks in a row) A5.
Dr. Nemo: It’s a hit! We sunk their battleship! Your my lucky charm boy-o! Now quickly, quickly over here. (The doctor points to the scrabble game)
Jeremiah: (Looking at the letters he has, it neatly spells S-C-R-A-M-B-L-E. Looking up he sees a set up for the word and plays it) There we go.
Dr Nemo: Scramble... Scramble? Yes! SCRAMBLE. Thank you, my mind has been so scrambled lately, and now you’ve managed to unscramble this mess. Games are a great way to pass the time, but if you get too caught up in the game you might forget something that’s truly important.
Jeremiah: What would that be?
Dr. Nemo: Maybe you should ask yourself that. It might answer a few of those questions that you’ve been asking ever since you’ve got here. (The doctor walks away from the table, the board games and Jeremiah. He hums the rhythm “One Night in Bangkok” as he vanishes.)
Jeremiah: (Thinking) What did he mean? (He looks toward the ticket booth and sees the old man waiting in line)
Jeremiah walks toward the booth, there are no faces on the other side of the booth, and the light that comes out of the booth is blinding to the eyes. Jeremiah stands behind the old man, and they both wait in line behind nobody until Mr. Wednesday notices him and turns around.
Mr. Wednesday: Enjoy the games? A most formidable opponent I assume.
Jeremiah: Opponent? There was no one else there.
Mr. Wednesday: Ah, but you always miss the most apparent opponent of them all. The one that we all must face, and that we all are continually in conflict with.
Ticket Booth: NEXT! (Both Mr. Wednesday and Jeremiah take a step forward)
Jeremiah: (Shaking his head) I’m still confused.
Mr. Wednesday: Yes, I suppose you would be. Don’t worry, you will have your answers soon enough-
Ticket Booth: NEXT!
Mr. Wednesday: Well, I don’t have much time left. It’s time for me to move on, and maybe you should think about moving on too.
Mr. Wednesday: We are in a train station after all, and we have been waiting in line for tickets to get on a train.
Jeremiah: But where do the trains go?
Mr. Wednesday: Nowhere and anywhere. Though, my favorite saying has always been All Roads Lead to Rome. I don’t know, that might not answer your question though, and to be honest I have no clue where these trains go or where they come from.
Ticket Booth: NEXT!
Mr. Wednesday: (Looks up) Looks like I’m next. (He steps forward into the blinding light, and disappears out of view for a couple of minutes, and then returns) Well... there we go. This is my cue.
A train comes into the station, and once again the station is filled with anonymous people. Mr. Wednesday heads for the train, Jeremiah following him. The doors open.
Mr. Wednesday: This is good bye.
Jeremiah: Will we ever meet again?
Mr. Wednesday: (Slowly) Yes. Yes I believe so.
Jeremiah: Thank you.
Mr. Wednesday: For what?
Jeremiah: For all the help.
Mr. Wednesday: (Turning towards the train) Yes. I hoped I could help. (He looks back at Jeremiah) Be careful around the man in white. He has quite the god-complex about him. Purity, Certainty, Intelligence are all just convenient ways to say organized chaos. (Turns back around and walks toward train) Answers are dangerous things.
Mr. Wednesday steps onto the train, and the doors close. The train takes off, and Jeremiah is once again left alone. Behind him is the ticket booth, and across the track his the lonely bench.
Jeremiah: Well here I am again. All alone. With more questions than answers. (In frustration he shouts) Isn’t there anyone here that has answers, and doesn’t talk in riddles!
Mr. White: (In his white suit, strolls confidently toward Jeremiah, tapping his cane against the floor) I always have answers, and answers are what you’re looking for Jeremiah. Lucky for you, answers are my speciality. But people are afraid of answers. Answers are absolute. What most people want and find are questions disguised as answers. Questions are temporary, answers are forever. That’s why people are afraid of answers, people are afraid of forever.
Jeremiah: Well I want answers. I’m a very busy man, and I don’t have the time for this. Wherever this is...
Mr. White: (his lips curl into a smile) You aren’t a busy man. You’re a man with all the time you need. But humour me, ask all the questions you want.
Jeremiah: Where are we?
Mr. White: In limbo, of course. Or a better translation would be a train station.
Jeremiah: Where do the trains go?
Mr. White: They go forward. Some people find that the trains take them to the pearly white gates, others find that the trains deliver them to a new life, and others find themselves back in their daily lives after a good night’s sleep.
Jeremiah: But why are we here? What’s the purpose of being in limbo?
Mr. White: All good stories have their intermissions. Life just can’t simply keep going without a break. The spirit gets tired; it needs a rest. In your case your spirit couldn’t have handled two physical attachments. One of the attachments had to snap before the other could proceed to exist in the physical world, as is the flow of life.
Jeremiah: Wait- two selves? What do you mean?
Mr. White: Yes. It means that you were here twice at the same time. The man you spoke to earlier, a Mr. Wednesday I presume, was you. A past life who had reached its end. He parted leaving you with what wisdom he could before moving forward.
Jeremiah: (Laughs madly) The old man? Next your going to say that the lady in red is my mother and Doctor Nemo is my father to be.
Mr. White: ( Flashes back to the tea party of Ms. Red, the game table of Dr. Nemo and to the man jumping off the platform, while Mr. White talks ) No. They were distractions. Madness and Confusion. Being in Limbo isn’t just an illusion, it’s a plane of existence you can as easily get as lost here as you can in the physical world.
Jeremiah: (Frowns) But, the old man has already taken a train out of this station. If he’s me, then why am I still here?
Mr. White: Because you persist on being here! The choice was always yours, but instead you decided to stay here attending parties and playing games and asking questions. You never even took a second glance at the ticket booth, the ticket out, and even now you spend time seeking answers to questions that have no value to you in the future.
Mr. White: In fact you’re afraid of moving on. You’ve dwelled in your present state for too long, and now you hesitate to move forward. Like a lost mouse you chase the shadow of your own tail blatantly ignoring the fact that you’ve left yourself open to the shadow that descends behind you. (A shadow from behind descends on the two men who stand in front of the empty tracks)
Jeremiah: (Cowers) No. No! This isn’t happening. He told me I wouldn’t be lost...
Mr. White: Well you can’t be right all the time. Even past lives have their doubts. But I! I am absolute. (Chuckles) There is nothing you can do now, time waits for no man.
Mr. White steps out of the shadow, as it eclipses Jeremiah’s shadow. The train station starts to dim, and the bleakness descends into darkness.
Mr. White: (Exits in the same manner that he entered) Good bye Jeremiah. Now you truly understand the price for doubt.
Jeremiah is left alone as the scene is engulfed by the growing darkness.
Mr. White: Checkmate.
A light shines off in the distance and is slowly moving through the darkness towards Jeremiah. A faint humming can be heard to the rhythm of “You Found Me,” (The Fray) the music grows louder as the light gets closer. Once the light is close enough to Jeremiah’s position the features of Dr. Nemo can be made out.
Dr. Nemo: (Stops humming) Boy? Is that you? (He runs over to Jeremiah, the light shining on Jeremiah reveals him lying on the floor staring upwards, dazed) What are you still doing here?
Dr. Nemo pulls Jeremiah to his feet, and holds him steady long enough for Jeremiah to regain the strength to support himself.
Jeremiah: Wha- What happened?
Dr. Nemo: It looks like you got lost. Lucky that I found you or you might’ve lost your way forever.
Jeremiah: How- How did you find me? It went dark all of the sudden.
Dr. Nemo: It’s easy to find something when you know what you’re looking for. And I owed you one for helping me in my darkest hour. I decided it was only fitting to do the same.
Jeremiah: Thank you.
Dr. Nemo: Don’t mention it boy.
Jeremiah: Hey! When we first met and you were playing all those games without an opponent. I mean I couldn’t see any opponents. Was Mr. White your opponent?
Jeremiah’s words are drowned out by a sudden train whistle and a train follows rolling into the station, and once again the unfamiliar crowds appear as if they were an afterthought.
Dr. Nemo: It looks like our ride has arrived.
Jeremiah: How do you know?
Dr. Nemo: Check your pockets.
Jeremiah: (Reaches into his pockets and pulls out a ticket) When did this get in here?
Dr. Nemo: You’ve always had it in your pocket. Did you forget?
Jeremiah: (frowns) I must’ve.
The train blows its whistle again, and both Dr. Nemo and Jeremiah board the train. The train whistles once more, and the train moves forward leaving the station behind. The crowds vanish. Mr. White is left in the station with his hands in his pockets. He chuckles and walks off scene. The scene fades.