The Crumbling Castle—Part 3
A capricious drama by Thorin N. Tatge


PHILIP: A purposeful yet imaginative young man with plenty of self-control.
PRISONER: Far too cheerful, and with unusual hobbies.  Either male or female.
ANABELLE: Philip’s sister—insightful, but temporarily weak.
HYPOCRITE: Not just a hypocrite, but the King of All Hypocrites!

ANABELLE and HYPOCRITE, offstage, make sound effects like the wind until noted.
PHILIP: Hi.  My name is Philip… and I’ve been watching my own words lately.  It’s so frequent that they get caught up on the wind and end up sounding more weighty than I meant them to be… and when that happens, I hardly have any choice but to follow them.  We’re right in the middle of a strange season that comes between spring and summer, and it’s dangerous to get caught not doing what you say.  The guards both think I’d be safer not talking to myself… but then, I’d never get the chance to let any of it out.  I believe that would be the greater danger.
Enter PRISONER, joyful.
PRISONER: Hiya, Philip!  What’s up?
PHILIP: Hm?  Oh, I was just reflecting.  Here, where it’s nice and safe to reflect.
PRISONER: You think so?  Well, I won’t spoil your innocence.  Is that the wind I hear?
PHILIP: It certainly sounds like it.  (To audience): The prisoner’s turning out to be my best friend, here in the crumbling castle.  I’ve been trapped here for five days, and no one’s been more cheerful to me than Piper, here…although (he/she) prefers to go by the number 000001.
PRISONER: I wish you wouldn’t talk about me like I’m not here.
PHILIP: Sorry.  Sorry, but you know how it is.  Why do you ask about the wind?
PRISONER: Well, I figure it must be coming in from somewhere.  It’s just this side of possible a chap could find the draft, pry open the hole, and slip away!  We could escape from the castle!
PHILIP: Ah.  And you wouldn’t want that, would you?
PRISONER: Absolutely not.  So if you’ll just help me in locating that opening…
PRISONER and PHILIP feel around stage, looking for the opening.
PHILIP: You know, Piper…
PRISONER: Ah ah ah!  Not a name, but a number, my friend!
PHILIP: Indeed.  You know, 000001, I’m beginning to wonder whether you’re really the healthiest choice of friend for me.  We get along splendidly and all—
PRISONER: We certainly do!  Hummingly, even!
PHILIP: And you do tend to cheer me up when I’m down…
PRISONER: I’d be lying if I didn’t say the same for you.
PHILIP: Yes.  But the thing is, you do seem to always be acting against my interests.  I mean, I want to escape from this castle!
PRISONER: And I want to keep us from escaping.  I’m sorry if you don’t enjoy my hobby.
PHILIP: Well, yes…
PRISONER: Well… dear me.  That is a problem.  But can’t we compromise, Philip?  That’s what friends do, isn’t it?  We could spend a few hours doing what you like to do, and a few hours doing what I like to do!
PHILIP: It sounds good when you say it, but…
PRISONER: So we’ll spend the morning digging open a hole, and the afternoon sealing it again!  That sounds fair to me, and we’ll have a jolly good time, won’t we, Philip?
PHILIP: Maybe you will, Piper, but I’m not happy spending my days doing nothing.  I have to get out of here!  I have to get home!
PRISONER: What about your sister?  You can’t leave without her, in any case, can you?
PHILIP: You did have to bring that up, didn’t you?  Oh, wait… I think I’ve found the hole.  Yes, here it is.
PRISONER: Oh, excellent!  Block it for a moment, won’t you?  So we can talk without the sounds of the wind?
PHILIP motions to block the hole.  Sound effects cease.
PHILIP: I’m awfully worried about Anabelle.  She’s suffering from the early stages of ketoacidosis.
PRISONER: What’s that?  What’s wrong with Anabelle, again?
PHILIP: She’s diabetic.  Type II, but still, it’s been five days… and she didn’t bring much with her.
PRISONER: I don’t understand.  Is that a disease?  Is there a cure, Philip?
PHILIP: There’s no cure… but it usually doesn’t affect us much.  Usually, she’s able to maintain a balanced diet on the farm… and only needs an insulin injection now and then.  But here…
PRISONER: What’s insulin?
PHILIP: It’s… a hormone.  She needs more of it in her body to help her make use of the sugars she eats.  If she doesn’t get an injection soon, it’ll mean trouble.  She’s already suffering.  that why we have to escape soon!
PRISONER: Are you sure there isn’t any insulin lying around the castle?
PHILIP: That would be an unexpected blessing.  I doubt it.  What do you think?
PRISONER: I think you ought to see the dietician and ask him.
PHILIP: The dietican?  Who is that?
PRISONER: He lives in one of the lesser towers.  You should be able to find him by listening.  Preachy fellow, him.  If you go to the stairwell, you’ll probably hear him talking sooner or later if you listen hard enough.
PHILIP: I see.  I suppose I’d better get to it right away, then.
PRISONER: Right away?  Cripes, Philip, we haven’t even started digging the hole yet, let alone plugging the sucker up again!  If you go off now we won’t get finished by the end of the day!
PHILIP: I’ll take that risk.  See you, Piper.  Exit PHILIP.
PRISONER: Right, then!  Well, I hope you don’t expect me to do this all on my own!  I have important things to do!
PRISONER gets to plugging up the hole.  After a few moments, enter ANABELLE.
ANABELLE: Prisoner!  Keeping out of trouble, I hope?
PRISONER: Oh, hey, Anabelle!  We were just talking about you.  How’re you feeling?
ANABELLE: Oh, my blood sugar’s too high.  I’m feeling a little disoriented.  But I’ll get by…
PRISONER: Anabelle, tell me something.  You like it here, don’t you?
ANABELLE: Well, of course I do, Prisoner.  I like it here, in a way… but I could never want to stay here forever!
PRISONER: No?  Why’s that?
ANABELLE: Can you see?  Philip and I learn lessons from this place, as you know, but—
PRISONER: Yes, I know that’s what you get a kick out of, I know.  Puzzles me why you like learning so much, just seems like extra work to me…but I can respect the tastes of other people.  What’s it to you?
ANABELLE: Well, it’s like this, Prisoner.  If we never get out, we’ll never have anyplace to use the lessons that we learn.
PRISONER: Oh, it’s like that, is it?  I think I’m beginning to see.  You’ve got strange needs, Anabelle, but I’m seeing the light.
ANABELLE: I’m glad.
PRISONER: That’s all I need to hear, ‘belle.  Do you know what your brother’s up to?
ANABELLE: No, do you?
PRISONER: I sent him up to the dietitian’s tower.  He’s after a spot of insulin for you.  Says it’ll make you brighten up.
ANABELLE: Really?  There’s really insulin in this castle?
PRISONER: I don’t really know for certain, myself, but the dietitian keeps all sorts of things on hand.  You never know.
ANABELLE: Maybe I should go follow him, then.
PRISONER: Well, only if you feel up to a long climb on the stairs.  It’s at the top of a tower.
ANABELLE: I’ll see what I can do.  Thanks, Prisoner.
PRISONER: Anytime, Anabelle.
Exit PRISONER, waving.
ANABELLE: I guess (he/she) must have meant the tall stairs, in the center of the castle.  This way, then.
ANABELLE wanders in a spiral.  PRISONER hums or otherwise produces spooky music… if the actor feels up to it.
ANABELLE: Here’s that staircase.  I guess I should be daunted… but it doesn’t look too scary.  One step at a time, after all…
ANABELLE starts to climb the stairs, walking in a circle.
ANABELLE: One, two, one, two, one, two, one, two, one, two, one, two, one, two, one, two, one, two, one… (Stops walking.)  This chant would be more interesting if I had more than two feet.  I guess I’ll just have to improvise.  (Starts walking again.)  Here’s a chant for marching up, on and up, up and on.  On and up, up and on, ‘til the end, ‘til the dawn.  Up and over, up and forward, up and over, up and back.  Up and over, up and forward, up and over, up and back.  Up and over…  (Stops in puzzlement.)  What is… how did that happen?  I’m going downward now!  I must have turned myself around, somehow… I was paying so much attention to the chant I didn’t notice.  I guess I’ll just have to… keep myself focused this time.  I’m tired.
ANABELLE walks to a corner of the stage and paces in a small circle, possibly chanting quietly, resting every now and then, until noted.
Enter HYPOCRITE, who sits down.
HYPOCRITE: A strong body, certainly!  That’s what they say they need.  A strong body will give them coordination, confidence, it will give them agility, control, and maybe even grace.  All sorts of things they get with a strong body besides strength.  Fishsticks!  I don’t believe the lot of them!  Strength is what they want, power to move what they don’t like when they see it sitting before them.  A strong mind, that’s what they really need!  A mind powerful enough to guide their life, a mind with the ability to keep several things in the attention at the same time.  They need a mind that can… one strong enough to lift… I mean, a mind sharp enough to make everything… what was I saying?  Oh, bother.
PHILIP: Hello?  I heard you speaking.
HYPOCRITE: Ah, come in, come in!  I don’t believe we’ve met.
PHILIP: No, we haven’t.  I’m Philip, from the upper village.
HYPOCRITE: Ah, pleased to meet you, Philip.  I’m the Hypocrite.
PHILIP: You’re the Hypocrite?  I was hoping you were the dietitian.
HYPOCRITE: Ah, well, I’m that as well, son, that as well.  It’s dietary advice you want, then?
PHILIP: Not exactly, sir.  I’m looking for a particular kind of medication for my sister.
HYPOCRITE: Well, you’ve steered yourself aright!  There’s no kind of medication I haven’t got.  Always keep a well-stocked set of shelves, that’s what I say.
PHILIP: I see.
HYPOCRITE: What is it you need, Philip?
PHILIP: Insulin.  In injectable form.
HYPOCRITE: Insulin… insulin… ah, yes.  (Stands up and walks to front stage.)  I’ve got some of that right here.  I suppose your poor sister’s diabetic, then?
PHILIP: Yes… and she’s been feeling kidney pains and disorientation.  Do you really have some?
HYPOCRITE: I wouldn’t be a worthy dietitian if I didn’t!  Here you go!  (Hands PHILIP something.)
PHILIP: Thank you!  This will—wait.  This is corn syrup.
HYPOCRITE: Corn syrup?  You insult me, sir?
PHILIP: I don’t mean any insult… but this is unmistakably corn syrup, not insulin at all.
HYPOCRITE: You should never stir up troubles with a man whose help you need, my boy.  A mellow disposition—that’s what gets you wheat you need!  That’s how to make acquaintances into friendships, young Philip!  A mellow disposition!!
PHILIP: Yes…pardon me.  I’m trying to be mellow.
HYPOCRITE: Well, I appreciate that.  But here are are, saying my best stock of insulin is nothing but corn syrup, and I’ve got a reputation to maintain!
PHILIP: A reputation?  Didn’t you say you were known as the Hypocrite?
HYPOCRITE: True, that I am.  I was hired for this position because of my uncanny ability to be hypocritical.
PHILIP: But why?  Why would a dietitian be hypocritical?
HYPOCRITE: Why, who else would you get for the part?  A dietitian must tell you how to handle your intake of food in a sublime fashion!  The perfect dietitian must recommend the perfect dietary practices… above all human ability to carry out, do’t you know.  You ought to carry them out, don’t get me wrong, all that you ought to do!  But you can’t!  So they needed to find someone comfortable with being unable to practice what he preached.  That someone, my boy, is me.
PHILIP: That would explain your obesity… and your slovenly behavior… not that I intend any offense.
HYPOCRITE: None taken, my dear Philip.  So why don’t you run along and administer that insulin to your sister?
PHILIP: But… but it really isn’t insulin!  It’s syrup!  This would hurt her seriously if I gave it to her.
HYPOCRITE: Nonsense.  Don’t you know medicine when you see it?  Everyone ought to know the difference between corn syrup and insulin.
PHILIP: Evidently you don’t.
HYPOCRITE: Ah, but can I help it?  I tried, Philip.  I tried my best, and believe me, if I know nothing else, I know how to try.
PHILIP: Trying isn’t good enough!  Trying and failing isn’t going to save my sister!
HYPOCRITE: Look here, lad—if your sister has any kind of a backbone to her, she’ll manage to get by.  Stay healthy, exercise steadily and in moderation, make sure you get those B vitamins, and above all, remain honest and truthful!  If your sister can’t manage all that, no wonder if she’s feeling a bit ill!  No wonder at all, I should say!
PHILIP: What kind of a dietitian are you?  You’re completely out of touch with the possible!  So what if you know what’s best?  You might as well say Anabelle should grow a hundred feet tall so she can step over the gates and make it to freedom!  Then everything would be fine and all right, wouldn’t it?  Wouldn’t it?!?
HYPOCRITE (slowly, scared): I, sir, am a hypocrite.  Do not expect too much from me, or I will meet your expectations.
PHILIP: You won’t!
HYPOCRITE (scared): I most certainly will.  Have I ever let you down, Philip?  Have I ever disappointed you?
PHILIP: Yes!  Yes, you have… and I’ve only just met you.  You’re nothing but a disappointment.  I don’t know what…what I’m to do with you.
HYPOCRITE: I daresay if I were in your situation, lad, I’d have the courage to find the best path.  But I suppose not all of us are gifted with the same stalwart character… that’s just the natural way of things.
PHILIP: Anabelle?  Anabelle!
ANABELLE runs to Philip, and they embrace briefly.
ANABELLE: I followed you here.  I don’t know how much longer I can… stay on my feet.
PHILIP: You shouldn’t have… you’re swooning.  Sit down, Anabelle!  You’ll be all right, but don’t exert yourself any more!
ANABELLE (sitting down): I wanted to make sure… you got what you wanted from this man.  Just to make sure… and to do my part…
HYPOCRITE: And this, I suppose, is your sister?
PHILIP: Yes, this is her.
HYPOCRITE: Well, she seems perfectly healthy to me.  I don’t see what her problem is.
ANABELLE: What is he saying?  Does he understand my situation?
PHILIP: He understands, Anabelle.  He understands, but he hasn’t a clue how to deal with it.  He’s a hypocrite.
HYPOCRITE: The king of all hypocrites!
ANABELLE: Oh, really?
HYPOCRITE: My dear, I do not jest!
ANABELLE: I believe you.  Well, I think I do.  But look—if you really were the king of all hypocrites… wouldn’t you pretend to be someone else?
HYPOCRITES: Never!  I have too much integrity to pretend.  And no need, either.
PHILIP: So you say… but what are we to hear?
ANABELLE: You must understand why we can’t take you at face value.
HYPOCRITE: Such distrust!  When I was a youth, I respected the words of my seniors!  There were none of these accusations floating about in the open air—if we distrusted someone, we kept it to ourselves!  What’s becomes of the world?
ANABELLE: Do you have insulin?
PHILIP: He said he did, but all he gave me was this bottle of corn syrup.
HYPOCRITE: It is the genuine article!  Why do you doubt my abilities so?
ANABELLE (standing up): Look, mister!  I just walked up the tallest staircase I ever climbed… and that despite being dizzier than a hungry vulture!  First I tried to ignore the climb, and fall into a slumber as I walked, chanting over and over… but I found myself going the wrong way!  Down instead of up!  So I tried focusing my mind on the climb, and nothing but… but guess what?  It made me tired.  Dead tired.
PHILIP: Anabelle, you should rest.
ANABELLE: Don’t tell me what I should do, Philip.  Not now.  Because I had to tell myself what I should do…and then I had to do it.  And that meant paying enough attention to make sure I wasn’t a hypocrite.  But it also meant taking the walk to heart… not so much I took myself for granted, but… to heart.  I had to trust myself… and I had to be worth trusting.  I had to strike a balance.
HYPOCRITE: A balance!  In your state!
ANABELLE: Yes, a balance.  And guess what?  I succeeded.  I found how to be someone I could trust to keep headed up… and that saved me the energy I needed.  It really helps, mister Hypocrite, if you can trust yourself… you never leaned that, I guess.  Did you?
HYPOCRITE: I’ve been trusting myself since I was a child!
ANABELLE: Then why are you still a hypocrite?  Why?
ANABELLE: Tell me one thing.  Are you capable of finding the containers of insulin in this huge mess? Do you have that simple ability within you?
HYPOCRITE (quietly): No.
PHILIP: You don’t?
ANABELLE: Well… well, then, thank you for being honest, at the least.  (Slumps down to the floor, exhausted.)
HYPOCRITE: You’re… you’re welcome, miss.
HYPOCRITE slowly goes to a far wall, rummages, and picks out an item.  He carries it back to PHILIP, looking ashamed.
HYPOCRITE (slowly, ashamed): This here is the finest corn syrup you can find in these parts.  Sweetens up anything, just you try it.  If you can’t help your sister… at least you can make something nice and tasty for yourself, young Philip.  You just try it.
PHILIP: I… thank you.
HYPOCRITE: You’re welcome.
PHILIP: Thank you!
HYPOCRITE (angry): You’re welcome!
Pause.  HYPOCRITE sits down again, looking away.
PHILIP: We should go now.
ANABELLE: All right.  Will you help me down the stairs?
PHILIP: Sure thing.
PHILIP takes ANABELLE’s arm and helps her down the circular stairs.  Exit HYPOCRITE.  PHILIP and ANABELLE reach the bottom.
ANABELLE: It is insulin, isn’t it?
PHILIP: I expect it is.  It’s not labeled, but it’s certainly not corn syrup.  That man told us a proud lie.
ANABELLE: He has something to be proud of then, for once.
PHILIP: Come on.  There are syringes and rubber tourniquets in the pantry.  Let’s try and get you feeling better.  If you’re willing to take the risk, that is.
ANABELLE: I’m willing.  Let’s go.
PRISONER (calling off stage after them) Say, Philip!  When are you finally coming back to help me dig?  I thought we were going to enjoy each other’s company today, Philip!  What’s wrong?  Didn’t you bloody mean what you said?  You lousy hypocrite!  I don’t know why I put up with you!
PRISONER sighs and goes in the opposite direction, pausing on the edge of the stage to quietly say:
PRISONER: But don’t get me wrong, Phil.  You’re still my friend.  I wouldn’t be much of a person myself if you weren’t still my friend.  I’ll be seeing you, I guess.
The End.