One Thousand Lives
A dramatic play by Thorin Tatge
BRIANA: An eight-year old girl with an ominous calling.
COREY: A normal brother.
CORY enters, clasps his hands awkwardly in front of him, and faces the audience.
COREY: Hi. My name’s Corey. I’m nine years old. I live in a state called Michigan, in a house made of bricks. I live with my mother, who has black hair and who does…(unsure of the word) paralegal…work, my father, who has brown hair and works for a publishing company, and my dog, Charlie. I’ve got an older brother, but he left when he was eighteen, to go to college…and he never came back. That’s all right, though, since he’s got a job somewhere. I’ve got a younger sister, too, but she left home when she was only eight. (Pause) I remember when she moved out… I was scared. I didn’t understand why she wanted to go.
Flashback. Enter MOTHER, FATHER, BRIANA. COREY sits on the floor and plays with blocks.
MOTHER: Oh, Briana! How’re you, sweetiepuff? (Goes and gives her a nice hug.) It’s lonely when you’re not here.
BRIANA (giggling): No it’s not.
MOTHER: Oh, sure it is. (Looks to FATHER) Isn’t it, dear?
FATHER: Oh, absolutely. We were just thinking about how much we’d love it if you walked right through that door… (Boips BRIANA playfully on the nose.) How was school today, Briana?
BRIANA (smiling): Okay.
FATHER: It was okay, huh?
MOTHER: Is that all?
BRIANA (quieter): Well, it was kind of weird, actually.
MOTHER: Oh? I’m sorry to hear that. What made you feel weird, hon?
BRIANA: Well, it wasn’t anything the teacher said. It was during the reading period. I found a book about a country called Japan. Have you heard of it?
COREY: I’ve heard of it! That’s where they make Tamagotchis!
MOTHER: That’s right, Corey…but they make quite a few other things as well.
FATHER: It’s a famous country with a very distinctive history. What did the book say about it, Briana?
BRIANA (shyly): It had pictures of people called samurai, who were dressed funny…and told about how they protected the land of their rulers, or fought each other to try and give the country to the right people… it said they were very honorable, Daddy. I think that means they would never break a promise, if they made it.
FATHER: Well, as I recall, the samurai broke quite a few promises. I think their honor was more along the lines of serving their masters or their families faithfully…to the death, if necessary.
MOTHER: Fred, don’t say that to her!
FATHER: Well, she wants to know what samurai honor was, doesn’t she? The way of the warrior?
BRIANA (nodding): I do. Well, it’s just I have this feeling I made a promise…and I forgot to do what I promised I would.
MOTHER: Hm? Do you know who you made it to? Was it to one of your friends at school?
BRIANA: I don’t know…I guess.
FATHER: Well, there are other ways of being honorable than the way the samurai did it. Maybe you should ask your friends if they remember if you promised them something. Maybe whoever you made the promise to will remember.
BRIANA: No—I don’t think you understand. Just never mind.
MOTHER: I hope nothing’s wrong, Briana?
BRIANA: I don’t know, Mommy. I feel a little weird. I mean, it’s May now, right?
MOTHER: Yes, that’s right.
BRIANA: Well, school ends in June. I’ll be all done with second grade. I don’t know what I’m going to do then.
FATHER: We could put you in that park recreation group again, like you enjoyed so much last summer.
MOTHER: Or you can just play with your brother and your friends. And we’ll read you books, and take you to shows, like last summer. And then in September, you’ll go back to school for third grade.
BRIANA: But—no, it’s not the same.
MOTHER: I don’t understand, sweetie. What’s not the same about this year?
BRIANA: I’m going to be done with school, Mom. I think second grade is my last year in school.
FATHER: I hope not! You’ve got to get a good education…so you can be a success when you grow up.
COREY: If Briana gets to stop going to school, I get to stop too!
MOTHER: Neither of you is dropping school. You have to keep going. It’s the way things work in our society, and it’s for the best. But I think I understand how you feel, Briana. You’re worried about change at the end of the year, aren’t you?
BRIANA looks uncomfortable. Then she shakes her head repeatedly and leaves stage.
FATHER: I think she’ll be all right. There’s probably just something she’s not telling us.
MOTHER: I hope so. I’m going to go talk with her after she’s cooled down, though.
Exit MOTHER and FATHER. COREY stands up.
COREY: Briana talked to some of her friends from school, and she heard about something called a séance. That’s when you get around a table, and turn out the lights, and you hold hands, and you think about dead people, and if you’re really good at it the wind starts blowing, and a light appears, and you get to talk with someone who’s dead. So Briana wanted to do one of those with her friends. She had a party planned and everything. But then, someone told her that they don’t really work…at least not without a grown-up who knows how to do it. So she called off the party. I guess she really did want to talk to dead spirits though, because…
Enter BRIANA, MOTHER.
BRIANA: Hey, Mom!
MOTHER: Yes, honey?
BRIANA: Do we have a Ouija board?
MOTHER: One of those old things? Well, I think your father has one stowed in the attic somewhere…but why do you want it? Are you trying to make up for not having a séance?
BRIANA: I guess. I just really need it. Can you find it for me? Please, Mom?
MOTHER: I’ll ask your father to see if he can find it after lunch, dear. Would you like a sandwich?
BRIANA: I—I guess. Could I have two? I’m pretty hungry.
MOTHER: If you finish one, you can have another.
BRIANA: Okay, Mom.
COREY: One thing my sister Briana did that I couldn’t figure out was to take more sandwiches than she needed. She used to wrap the extra ones in plastic wrap and hide them in her closet. So sometimes I’d sneak in at night and eat them. And she’d get mad at me, but she never told on me. So at last, I just stopped. Who cares if she had all those sandwiches? She could get fat if she wanted to.
FATHER: I found that Ouija board you wanted, Briana. It looks like it’s still in working order.
BRIANA: Great! Thanks, Daddy. (Takes it from him and starts to examine it.)
FATHER (to MOTHER): I remember buying that board for Kyle. He and his friends were so cute with it…trying to contact Benjamin Franklin, or ask it about which girls liked them…I remember he told me a joke once when he was in high school. He said he asked the board the liar’s paradox, and it kept switching between Yes and No, over and over…he said he was going to hook it up to an electromagnetic generator and call it a science project. (Both chuckle) Oh hey, I also found some old pictures I never got around to putting in photo albums. There’s some stuff in there from Mexico… and some of your cousins…
MOTHER: Really? Let me take a look! It’s not too late to file them…
FATHER and MOTHER leave.
BRIANA: Hey, Corey?
BRIANA: Would you help me with this? You need at least two people to use a Ouija board.
COREY: Okay. What’re you going to do.
BRIANA: I’m going to try and talk to a samurai. ‘Cause Corey?
BRIANA (whispering): I think that’s who I made a promise to. And I forgot all about it.
COREY comes over and they both sit down.
COREY: How could you make a promise to a samurai? You don’t know any samurai.
BRIANA: I know, but…I don’t know. I feel bad about it, so I must have made a promise. Sit still, now. Put your fingers on the magic indicator.
COREY (doing it): Like this?
BRIANA (doing it): Yes, like that. Now concentrate, and don’t think about anything. I’ll be thinking of the samurai… it’ll take a while.
COREY: What’s going to happen?
BRIANA: The indicator’ll start to move. We see what it says.
BRIANA and COREY sit still for a long time. Then the indicator slowly moves…and BRIANA spells out the letters as they arrive.
BRIANA: Y…O…U…you…H…A…V…E…you have…4…5…3…M…O…R…E…you have 453 more…L…I…V…E…S… (Pause)
COREY (quiet): I’m scared.
BRIANA (quiet): Quiet, Corey. Keep still. T…O…G…I…V…E. You have 453 more lives to give.
BRIANA and COREY stare at the board, and then pull away. They sit in silence for a few moments.
COREY: What did it mean?
BRIANA: I don’t know, Corey…I don’t know…
Exit BRIANA. COREY stands and faces audience.
COREY: Briana had a dream that night, and another the next night. I know because she told me…but she never told Mom and Dad. She said it wasn’t like a real dream…she said she’d found the samurai she wanted to talk to. And he was dead…he’d lived in the 1300s. She wouldn’t tell me any more than that. But one day…Briana was gone. She’d written a note…her handwriting wasn’t as good as mine was, but Mom and Dad could read it.
Enter MOTHER and FATHER. puzzled and grievous.
FATHER (reading from note, crying): …he told me that a long time ago, there was a man named Ashikaga Takauji…who had stolen the throne of the Emperor of Japan…and given it to his own family without the divine sanction…and it was me…me! who had been serving another man, a samurai who ranked above me, and to whom I was loyal…(Looking up) I can’t believe she could write this well… (Back to note) And in order to gain power for his family again, I promised I would serve him fully and well…that if it was in my power, I would give a thousand…lives…in his service. Well, I realize now that I made that promise to him, and so that’s why I’m going to Japan. I’ve taken all the sandwiches I kept hidden to eat…and I’ll get there any way I can. You see, this man is alive now…in a different body, but alive. And he runs an electronics company now, but he’s still trying to get his power back. And so, I have to serve him. I’ve only given 547 lives to him… I have 453 left to give.
Exit FATHER and MOTHER.
COREY: Bushido is the word for the way of the warrior. Someone once wrote that the way of the warrior is to find a way to die. They said, if a choice is given between life and death, the samurai must choose death. There is no more meaning beyond this. Make up your mind and follow the predetermined course.
COREY looks down and remains silent for a while. Then he looks up again.
COREY: I miss my sister.
Exit COREY. The