Characters                                              Setting : A bare stage
Man: In his late twenties or early thirties.
Woman: Youthful in her twenties.


(The woman pushes the man on the stage. He falls and is in a reclining position.
She is pointing a gun at him.)

Woman: This is my den. There is no exit. Don't cry for help. Your voice cannot reach anybody.

Man: Why have you brought me here?

Woman: You asked for a ride. Didn't you?

Man: Yes, I did. It was a very lonely road.

Woman: What brought you on that lonely road?

Man: I just drifted. Perhaps I was working on something in my head. 

Woman: Scheming something?

Man: No.

Woman: Then what were you working on in your head?

Man: Maybe engrossed in some words.

Woman: Which words? Solving a cross word puzzle?

Man: Oh No. Just searching for some to fit in a song.

Woman: Did you find them?

Man: I was on the verge, but now I have forgotten all about that.

Woman: Good riddance.

Man:  I did not visualize that it would become so chilly and dark out there.

Woman: And you would lose your way. That is the result of working things in your head.

Man: It just happened. It was not my fault. I never expected this.  

Woman: Face the unexpected. You are my captive.

Man: But why? Why are you treating me like this? What do you want from me?

Woman: Guess what?

Man: I can't imagine.  

Woman: It is not your fault. It is unimaginable. Take your jacket off and throw it there. You don't need it here. (Man complies hesitatingly. Woman takes out a wallet from his pocket) Is this your wallet? Or is it stolen one?

Man: It is mine. I never steal.

Woman: What is in it?  Hashish? (She searches his wallet)

Man: No. Only chewing gum.

Woman: I see. You don't steal. You don't do drugs. You seem to do nothing. Do you have any money at all?

Man:  Maybe a few coins. .

Woman: Anything else of some value?

Man: Credit cards.

Woman: I can believe you. I could sense all that when you were cringing for a ride. Anyway, I don't look for money from you. I am not going to ask for ransom either. (Throws away the wallet) That is not my intention. Have you ever shot a bird?

Man: Never. I haven't even touched a gun in my life.

Woman: Coward. Useless person. I cannot even ask you to shoot me. Why are you so innocuous?

Man: I don't know. I am what I am.

Woman: You are not a monk. Are you?

Man: No. I am a simple man, ' of the world.

Woman: Of which world? You don't seem to belong to this world. What do you do for living?

Man: I am a street singer.

Woman: A street singer?  I see. People like you have a way of getting into trouble. You must be composing a song in your head when you drifted on the lonely road. Are you single?

Man: Yes.

Woman: Good for you. Have you anybody? At all?

Man: (Thinking) I am not aware. I think I am all alone.

Woman: I like it. It means nobody would grieve if I kill you.

Man: Kill me?

Woman: Of course.

Man: Some people will miss me.

Woman: Who would those 'some people' be?

Man: Nobody in particular. Perhaps the people who hear me sing in the street corners. I don't know any names.

Woman: You mean anonymity?

Man: You may say so.

Woman: Well, how do they matter? How does anonymity matter at all? (pause)

Man: I don't know. But they always mattered to me. I felt that I was a part of them.

Woman: And they were a part of you?

Man: I think so.

Woman: A false consciousness.  You live in strange illusions! You lack experience. You have not matured. You have not gone through even a fraction of what I have. Otherwise you would know Mr. Street Singer that nobody matters to anybody any more. This is only a fallacy. Better get rid of it. At least when you are on the threshold of death. (pause) Pull your pants off.

Man: Pants?

Woman: Yes, pants. You heard me right. (Man hesitates) I don't care if you have no underclothes. Be quick. (He pulls down his pants hesitatingly.  She snatches the pants.) Now lie down on the floor. Nicely. (He complies. She faces him. She places her one foot on his chest and the other between his spread out legs. Her gun still pointing at his him.) You have a shapely body. I guessed right. I can admire that.  Now, look at me. I mean at my body.  Tell me. How do I look like?

Man: Terrible.

Woman: You said terrible?

Man: I mean '

Woman: I know what you mean. I take it as a compliment. Look at my bare arms again. (Raising her skirt) At my round thighs, and my fleshy breasts. Don't close your eyes. Focus on my figure. Focus on me.

Man: I can't.

Woman: It seems my gun won't let you. Are you scared?

Man: Of course, I am scared.

Woman: OK. Let me put the gun in my pocket. (She puts the gun in her back pocket) Don't ever think of outwitting me. I am more than a commando. Tell me honestly how do I look?

Man: Good.

Woman: Just good?

Man: Maybe more than that.

Woman: In what way? Don't you find me ravishing?

Man: Yes. That you are.

Woman: Then why don't you say that?

Man: Say what?

Woman: That I am a ravishing beauty!

Man: (Timidly) You are a ravishing beauty.

Woman: Do I look sexy?

Man: Sexy? Of course, terribly sexy.

Woman: And desirable?

Man: (silent)

Woman: Don't be coy and reticent. Tell me. Am I desirable or not? Do you feel like sleeping with me?

Man: I don't know. I mean I don't understand you.

Woman: How could you? You are so timid. Just a vegetable. I cannot even rape you. You must die. (She takes out her gun again) Close your eyes. You don't want them pierced. Turn your face downwards to the ground, and lie on your belly. (He complies) Now, put your hands on your back. Let me tie your hands. (She cautiously ties his wrists with his pants, and pulls off the muffler from around his neck.) Don't try to be smart. I will tie your legs too. (She ties his ankles with the muffler) You may sit if you like. Just don't try to wriggle out. (He sits with his hands tied on the back and ankles stretched out. She sits close to his feet. On her knees) You may open your eyes. You are not in a trance. Are you comfortable?

Man: Uunh . . . comfortable.

Woman: Puzzled?

Man: What else? Why do you want to kill me? What will you get by killing me?

Woman: A good question. Listen, I will kill you for sport.  Killing you will give me a unique thrill. It must be a sensational experience. I have been contemplating killing somebody. In fact, anybody. This has been my obsession for quite some time. Obsessions make reasoning irrelevant. Questions become superfluous. I will kill you because I want to kill you. Understand?

Man: Kill a human being?

Woman: Yes, a human being. Seeing the human dreams suddenly extinguish from someone's eyes, watching the countless agonies flashing on the human face, and the fear of death sending shivers to the human bones ' all this must be tremendous to watch.. I have never seen it before. The only drawback is that human beings are less than animals. You can't eat their flesh.

Man: If you kill me, why can't you eat my flesh? Do that too. It will be something rare. Your experience will have a climax. A kind of orgasm. I will be dead. It won't make any difference to me. 

Woman: If you are trying to invoke the image of something eerie or bizarre to distract me from my resolve to kill you, let me tell you that you have miserably failed. You are my first and perhaps the last victim. Precious to me. Like a gift. I could immediately spot you when I first saw you on that lonely road. I felt like a lioness prowling for her prey. I had made up my mind at that very moment. It was wonderful to see you walking into my trap by your own inclination. Like a perfect victim. I would have picked you even if you had not asked for a ride. Are you sorry?

Man: I don't know. I thought you would rescue me from chill and darkness.

Woman: Sure, I will do that.  

Man: By killing me?

Woman: That seems to be the only way. You will be delivered of this useless, uneventful existence. Just tell me how you want me to kill you. By a bullet? By strangulation? By poisoning or by any other means? Choice is yours.

Man: Death is death. I die this way or that way. How does it matter?  

Woman: I don't know. It is your death. It is for you to celebrate it or not. I am not sure of the most appropriate method of killing a person like you. You are a very innocent, god-like person. I don't think you can provoke me to shoot you. Let me kill you with kindness. Tell me, what is your last wish? I will respect it.

Man: Respect?  Sounds strange. Sorry, I can't think of any.

Woman: You seem to have no trust in me. You think I am incapable of fulfilling your last wish.

Man: No. I am just confused. It doesn't occur to me what to wish for.

Woman: I can see that. This is the result of living an inert and sluggish life. Lazybones like you get confused so quickly. I want to give you an opportunity. Make your last moments worthwhile. Let me bring you a drink. Meanwhile, you can talk to yourself. (She leaves)

Man: What can I say to myself? I never pondered on my own death. I wonder how I missed thinking about it. Now when I see into the eyes of death, I don't know what to wish for. I always sang of love and beauty. I glorified these themes. It is a different matter that both love and beauty eluded me. My words were empty. There was nothing beyond the words. Even the words did not belong to me. Those were borrowed. And when I tried to compose my own, I got trapped. This woman is crazy. Absolutely morbid. Like serial killers. Seems to be the member of some weird cult. A curious product of sick society. Suffering from ennui. Must have been frustrated in some way. She wants a thrill. Only killing an innocent person will give her a thrill. If not me, somebody else will become her victim. Better she kills me and has her thrill. Her madness must stop. Let her mute my voice in my throat. For ever. I will never be able to sing again. Let me die singing.

Woman: (She comes with a glass of wine. Puts the glass on his lips) Well drink some wine. It will warm you up. It will elevate your mood. I can give you company, if you want. I won't mind sipping from your glass. Live some moments mirthfully.

Man: Take this wine away. It can give me no solace. Its mirth is superficial, uncertain, fragile. It has no depth. No divinity. I need a different kind of wine. You cannot offer it.

Woman: How can you say that? You are not in touch with reality. You live in abstraction. You are trying to be Lord Buddha. Or some sort of Lord Shiva. Aloof like a stone. Go, attain your nirvana or your illusory trance. I have no quarrel with it. Don't forget that I have offered you a choice. And don't think I am not capable of fulfilling my promise. You have not explored me. How do you know I can't offer you the kind of wine you need? What kind of wine are you talking about after all?  Why can't I offer it?

Man: You have nothing to offer. You are a very frail and weak person. An impoverished soul. You say that I am timid. Yes, I am. But you are more scared of death than I am.

Woman: You are mistaken. I am ready to kill you and get hanged. I will not hide what I do. I will call the police just before the act. You will see that.

Man: This is only your ego. You want to justify your act to yourself. You say I have not explored you. What is there to explore in you? You asked me if I liked to sleep with you. It was whimsical. It could be your lust. I could not be a partner in that. I cannot imagine loveless sex. I cannot live double standards. And I don't think you are capable of loving. Death dealers cannot be lovers. Killers are only preoccupied with themselves. They are not what they pretend to be. Your brutal notion of having a thrill by killing a human being is just a fad. You know nothing of what a thrill is.

Woman: Big words. Very big words indeed. I wish you would have shown me some nerve earlier. You could not provoke me. You could not even make me angry. You just could not set aside your fear. You dared not to experiment. Even if you had consented, you would have taken the mortal fear to bed. I could sense that. I studied you. Studied you carefully. What could I do with three and a half inch piece of shriveled, cold meat?

Man: It is not my fault. You wanted something at the gunpoint. What does that behavior mean? How does playing with guns make any sense at all? Intimidating people into anything by terror can never work. It is a very simple truth. And yet, hard to realize.

Woman: And what about offering no resistance at all? Does that work? You showed absolutely no guts. You don't seem to have any. You could not even think of snatching the gun from me.

Man: I don't believe that guns give anybody any advantage whatsoever. You carry it as a burden, a liability.

Woman: So you are an absolute pacifist. Like Gandhi or some such freak of history?

Man: I don't know about that. I am not a crusader.

Woman: You are neither here nor there. You are just na've. You don't have any confidence in yourself.

Man: Maybe I am naive. But I have not seen any self-confidence in you either. You tied my hands and ankles because you are afraid of me. (Raising his ankles) See this. And look at my back. You want me to sip wine, but make it sure that I cannot use my hands. What options do you really give me?

Woman: If you want to drink by your own hands I can free you.

Man: I don't want any concession from you. I am not that fond of drinking wine. Leave me on my own, and finish with your sublime undertaking of killing me. Have your precious thrill.

Woman: So you won't tell me how you want me to kill you.

Man: Use your brain or go by your impulse. It doesn't affect me.

Woman: Your indifference is not heroic. It is foolish. Look, I want to make the event as perfect as possible. Cooperation of the victim is an essential element. Realize the beauty of dying from the hands of a damsel after having your last wish fulfilled. Say something. Say anything.

Man: Now, you seem to be cringing. I don't want to disappoint you

Woman: Come on. That is the spirit. I like it. Speak up.

Man: I want to die singing.

Woman: A brilliant idea.  I can put up with it. Rather I will enjoy it. Wait, I have a musical instrument lying by. I have no idea what it is. I won it in a raffle. I have never played it. I didn't imagine that I could ever use it. It seems that it was not lying with me for nothing. It was waiting for the most befitting opportunity. Let me bring it for your swan song. But first, I will free you. (She frees him and leaves to bring the instrument.)

Man: Listen. You mentioned poison.

Woman: Yes, I did.

Man: Do you really have some?

Woman: Sure. You are lucky. I have some quality poison. It works well in cases like yours. I can mix it in your wine. (She takes his wine glass.) You will not lose consciousness all of a sudden. You will have no pain either. For about ten minutes or so, you will be able to sing. It will just make you feel drowsy. And slowly you will embrace your eternal slumber. You will not even know when the final moment comes. I am excited.

Man: Can I rest my head in your lap when the end comes.

Woman: Of course. I would love it. I would have myself taken your head in my lap even if you had not asked for it. What a perfect end for you and a satisfying experience for me.

Man: Yes, I agree. It is a wonderful confluence. Do me another favor. Bring a piece of paper and a pen. Let me write a note for the police that it is my own doing.

Woman: Sorry, I can't do that. I can't even think about it.

Man: Well, thinking must be a hard work. But pour some drink for yourself. You will enjoy my song better.

Woman: I will do that. In fact, I have already been craving for a drink. You have reminded me of the police too. I need to make a quick phone call to police.  Just a moment. (She leaves)   

Man: What will I sing? My own composition has betrayed me like my life. How do I say goodbye to this beautiful earth? There will be no heaven waiting for me anywhere. I never believed in it. What can I celebrate in my song? (The woman comes with a musical instrument)

Woman: Here is my gift to you. I hope it works.

Man: And my potion?

Woman: Sure. It is ready. I have mixed the stuff in it. I will bring it in a moment.

Man: Thank you. Don't forget to bring your own glass.

Woman: How can I forget it? First let me light a candle. It will change the whole atmosphere.   (She lights a candle white he tinkles the instrument and plays a sad tune. Electric lights have faded. The woman has gone She reenters with two glass of  wine, red for him and white for herself.  She sits. The candle stand is  between him and her.) All is set now. This is your glass, and that is mine. (Raising the glass) Let's cheer. To your romance with death and eternal slumber.

Man: And to your great adventure and rare thrill. (They sip. Man plays with the instrument.)

Woman: You may go slow if you like. I always want a kick. (She gulps her wine)

Man: Beware. You may not fall in love with me.

Woman: (laughing)  No chance. Go on with your song.

Man: There must be something in the kick that I miss. Let me have the kick too.

(He also drinks and starts singing. The song is a poem by Jude Nutter. Its title is ' The Soul Exploring the Recesses of the Grave'  which was written in response to the William Blake etching of the same name. It is being used with the generous permission of the poetess

And so the soul, with a single candle, slips
timidly in where it does not belong, dressed
in a thin shift, without shoes. And why
should it not be curious about the fate
belonging to the body alone. We are not told
that the soul is timid: we are taught that it rises
at the slightest chance,
letting its pedestrian companion go, happily
and with purpose. But how could it not be timid,
faced with its own existence forever.

I think the soul would gladly relinquish
the burden of its immortality
and sit down, here in the one home the body
can afford, pull that thin shift over its knees and wait
in the light of that single candle, diminutive lamp
of the mortal world. We are not told
that the soul is faithful, but why else
would it be found here, trespassing in the ruins.

(Copyright ' 2003 Jude Nutter All rights reserved
Pictures of the Afterlife Salmon Poetry / Dufour Editions)

(The Woman admires the song with her gestures. She is getting drowsy and slowly nudges herself close to the Man and quietly places her head in his lap. The song is almost ending The Man becomes aware of the woman's sleeping in his lap.)

Man:  What is this? Did you listen to my song? It became rather long. Did you like it? Why don't you respond? Are you sleeping? I am still wide awake. I feel no drowsiness. I was never so lucid. What kind of potion did you give me? And what did you take yourself? You seem to have played some game with me. Have you consumed the poison yourself? Yes, you have. This is unfair. You cannot betray me like this. (He checks her pulse and breath) Your pulse is weak, but you are still breathing. Your limbs have not gone absolutely cold.  Life is still pulsating in you. You must not die. Wake up'. What do I call you? I don't even know your name. Let me carry you to your bed and look for help.  (He carries her as a lover carries a woman to bed. There is a violent knock at the door) It must be life knocking at the door. It cannot be the season of death.

He walks slowly out.  The candle light is on. 


More by :  Dr. Vishnu Sharma

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