The Crumbling Castle, part 10

A Capricious Drama by Thorin N. Tatge


PHILIP: A once-curious wonderer, no longer curious.

PRISONER: An excessively cheerful person coping with danger and personal affliction in his or her own characteristic way. Large part.

MR. SCRUB: A responsible and wise man in his forties. Deeply worried.

WATCHER: A servant, recently liberated from the inclination to serve.

Enter PHILIP, rubbing his head as if from a hangover.

PHILIP: Ugggh. Uh, hi. Listen, I’ve got a piercing headache and it hurts to think. So I’ll keep this introduction blunt. My name’s Philip, I’m a farmboy trapped in a magic castle run by a scrubberwoman, we’ve just discovered that the evil Wishmaster’s been plotting to take all the glory for himself, he’s angry, we’re angry, right now I’m hiding out in Mr. Scrub’s place while Mrs. Scrub and my sister work up a plan for what to do. And because Melvin the Wishmaster made me into a Prisoner, it Really Hurts to Think. So that’s the story. Now excuse me while I sit down.

With a groan, PHILIP sits down midstage. Enter MR. SCRUB, PRISONER.

MR. SCRUB: Philip? Is it still bothering you?

PHILIP: Yes. Yes, it is.

MR. SCRUB: That is certainly a pity. It means from now on we’ll have to do all your thinking for you. And you’ve been very valuable until now.

PHILIP: Good to know. Now be quiet, please.

MR. SCRUB: Sorry, Philip. We’ll try not to perk your attention too much.

PHILIP: Fine. What?

MR. SCRUB: I said, we’ll try not to perk your attention.

PHILIP: Oh. Well then, be quiet.

MR. SCRUB: Sorry.

PRISONER: Hey, Mr. Scrub?

MR. SCRUB: Mm-hmm?

PRISONER: Are we going to have to spend a long time here in your room?

MR. SCRUB: You may have to, Piper. You’re not safe from Melvin anywhere else.

PRISONER: Hooray! It’s exciting to be a prisoner in a big castle like this, but it’s so much more splendid to be imprisoned in a little room like this one! I’ve already found most of the exits from the castle itself, but this poses all sorts of new challenges!

MR. SCRUB: Hmm. For once, your odd habit of blocking off your own potential escape routes may prove useful. If you can’t get out, it’s probable that Melvin can’t get in.

PRISONER: You’re right! I never thought of that! Cool, huh?

MR. SCRUB: Indeed. But I’m going to have to leave you alone for a while. I’ve arranged with my wife to have the Watcher brought here. It won’t be an easy rescue, but we’ve got to try.

PRISONER: Wait—you can’t leave us unprotected!

MR. SCRUB: It’s all right. The Guard and the Recorder are standing watch in the hallway. If anything happens we’ll be quick to know.

PRISONER: Well, all right. Hurry back, Mr. Scrub!

MR. SCRUB: Thank you, Piper.

PRISONER: And good luck.

MR. SCRUB: I prefer to use good reasoning, actually. See you soon.


PRISONER: So! Here we are! We’re all bundled up and protected now, Philip, safe and sound. Everyone’s worrying about us.

PHILIP (moaning): What happened to the Cook?

PRISONER: Well, gee, I don’t know. Melvin was just entering the room when we got out… I shudder to think.

PHILIP: I shudder in order not to think. (Huffs.) And what about Ciuin?

PRISONER: Ciuin? Why do you ask about her?

PHILIP: Don’t ask me why. I don’t have answers anymore.

PRISONER: Gotcha, Philip. Well, I have bad news. Ciuin usually goes where the level of energy in the castle is highest…and that probably means she’s with Melvin right now.

PHILIP: Melvin is doing something energetic?

PRISONER: He always is! Oh, sure, he may not always be running his Sweating to the Incantations exercise program, but he keeps busy. In fact I bet right now he’s planning how to take us all on at once.

PHILIP: Oh no…

PRISONER: Hey, don’t worry, Philip! We outnumber him! Sure, maybe he’s got Ciuin and the Physicist and a couple of the servants on his side, but how could they hope to beat all the rest of the castle’s population? He’d be stupid to make this into a war, don’t you think?

PHILIP: Um… I’d prefer not to.

PRISONER: Oh right, sorry. Well, I guess I’ll get to checking out the room, then. Wouldn’t want to bother you, after all. (Wanders around.) Hey, look at these nifty wooden statuettes! What is this supposed to be, Buddha?

PHILIP: Who’s Buddha?

PRISONER: It’s got to be him. Look at that knowing look in his eyes! Those content cheeks! That trademark belly! But he’s so… so darn sexy!

PHILIP: What? Who’s Buddha?

PRISONER: Are you kidding? Buddha was the guy who brought the news of how to transcend suffering! He made life look simple for millions of people!

PHILIP: Oh… that actually sounds kind of nice right now. What did he teach?

PRISONER: Oh, you know… right thinking, right speech, right this and that… basically letting go of everything weighty. Like desires, preconceptions, judgments…

PHILIP: Well, I could go for some of that about now.

PRISONER: Well, yeah, but this one is hot and nasty! It must be a sex Buddha. I guess Mr. Scrub’s insecure enough he thinks needs a silly good luck token in the bedroom.

PHILIP: Way to transcend judgments, Prisoner.

PRISONER: Hey, I never I said I believed in Buddhist simplicity! I don’t want my life to be simple. Gosh, that’d be like buying a harvest oatmeal variety pack just to eat the plain flavor!

PHILIP: Please, Piper, less colorful metaphors. My head hurts.

PRISONER: Sorry, sorry… ooh, look, it’s a bottle of slick Buddhist love oil! No wonder Mrs. Scrub is pregnant!

PHILIP: That’s disgusting. You know what? I’m going to try some of that letting go stuff you were talking about. I’ll try letting go of my judgments now. And my hopes for the future. And hopefully my headache, too.

PRISONER: Whoa now, Philip—don’t throw the idealistic and forward-looking young baby of unlimited potential out with the tidally lead-polluted scalp-eating ocean of circumstantial bathwater!!

PHILIP (in pain): My stars, did you have to say that? I said no colorful metaphors! You’ve made it ten times worse!

PRISONER: Was that colorful? Sorry.

PHILIP: Oh no, I think my head’s going to burst. My insides are bursting out. I’m getting too big for this little mental cell! I’m about to explode! Help me! Stop me, help me!

PRISONER: Philip! Calm down, it’s okay! Maybe if you explode you won’t be a prisoner any more! Maybe this is just the natural way it ends!

PHILIP (rocking with pain): No, this is worse! This is bad! This’ll hurt if it doesn’t stop! I can’t see anything, want to see anything, hear anything! Stop talking! Now! Make me stop talking, too! I keep screaming and it bugs me, Piper! Make me stop all this damned screaming!

PRISONER (glancing around): All right, Philip… all right! Stop screaming! Just listen to your breathing… nothing else has to matter, after all! Lie down and take it slow. I’ll douse the torches so it’ll be dark.

PHILIP (lying down): Okay. You do that.

PRISONER goes to an upper wall and douses a torch.

PRISONER: There, is that better?

PHILIP: Not much. There’s light coming in through the windows.

PRISONER (looking over): No drapes on the windows, either. And nothing I can see to cover them.

PHILIP: Either stop talking or find some way to block the light, for sanity’s sake! The fewer senses I have pestering me, the better!

PRISONER: So cover your eyes!

PHILIP (trying it): Now I see visions in the darkness! It’s horrible!

PRISONER: Um… uh… I know! If we can’t block out the light, let’s block out the darkness! I’ll turn on all the lights… Mr. Scrub’s got a ton of them!

PHILIP: Aaugh!

PRISONER (rushing about the room, turning on lights): Well, come on, Philip! If you want to let go of something, you have to be cunning about it! I mean, if we make this room bright enough you won’t be able to make anything out!

PHILIP: Wow, the room’s blinding white! Normally, I would wonder why Mr. Scrub has so many lights, but at the moment I don’t care.

PRISONER: There, that’s the last of them. Amazing… I can’t see a single thing.

PHILIP: I’m lying down.

PRISONER: Good idea.

PRISONER and PHILIP lie down some distance apart.

PHILIP: Okay… I’m getting used to the light. It’s not much different from total darkness, really… I wonder how it is I can tell the difference.

PRISONER: Can’t see anything either way.

PHILIP (sleepy): Light’s no good without darkness.

PRISONER: Dark’s no good without lightness.

PHILIP: And yet, I can tell which this is with my eyes closed. I just know.

PRISONER: I wonder why.

PHILIP: I don’t. (Goes to sleep.)

Enter MR. SCRUB and WATCHER. They stumble about with hands shielding their faces.

MR. SCRUB: Heavens! What have you two been doing in my room?

PRISONER: Sshhh! Philip’s trying to relax!

MR. SCRUB: This is how he relaxes? You must have every light in my collection on full blast! I can’t even see where you are, Piper!

PRISONER: I’m lying over here! Did you get the Watcher?

WATCHER: Yep, right here! I tell you, after staring at a big boring formless blob on the wall all day, watching it for the slightest change, this is kind of a relief!

PRISONER: That’s the idea!

MR. SCRUB: I suppose if it helps Philip, it’s worthwhile.

PRISONER: I think he’s asleep. Say, Mr. Scrub—why do you have a wooden sex Buddha by your bed?

WATCHER: He has a what??

MR. SCRUB: Can you think of a better place for it?

PRISONER: Well, I guess not…

WATCHER: Are you a Buddhist, Mr. Scrub?

MR. SCRUB: Only rudimentarily. I believe in the Four Noble Truths, and use Siddhartha as my role model for obtaining enlightenment.

WATCHER: I’m not sure having a personal lamp collection is what he had in mind.

PRISONER: I don’t know… I think Philip’s a little more enlightened on account of these things. He was acting like he could use it.

MR. SCRUB: (Chuckles and sits down.) Yes, my light collection is only a symbolic pursuit. The same is true for my collection of wooden Buddhas. But the true path puts little weight on possessions.

PRISONER: Doesn’t it put little weight on anything? Isn’t the whole aim of Buddhism to reach some kind of nothingness in the end?

MR. SCRUB: The final blowing out of the candle, yes. After many lifetimes of contemplation and many very difficult acts of relenquishment, every Buddhist seeks to transcend the very self. It’s called nirvana.

PRISONER: Well, you’d better be careful around Melvin, then! That’s the sort of philosophy he feeds on! He killed the Duster just because the poor man was tired of being hungry and tired. He could end up killing you.

MR. SCRUB: Don’t worry. I follow the path in a pattern slow and circuituous enough that Wishmaster Melvin isn’t likely to notice. I’m still quite concerned with the events of the world, you see. And speaking of such events, I have some bad news to pass along, Piper.

PRISONER: It can’t all be bad news! You got the Watcher back from Melvin!

MR. SCRUB: Yes, but at the cost of much of my wife’s strength. She’s recuperating in the meditation room, with Anabelle looking after her. There’s now no question that Melvin is the most powerful force in this castle.

WATCHER: Except, perhaps, the castle itself.

MR. SCRUB: Thankfully, yes. But there’s more bad news. The Cook is dead.

PRISONER: No! How horrible!

MR. SCRUB: It was Melvin’s touch that did it, of course. He’s quite dangerous.

PRISONER: We won’t let him get away with this! Who’ll cook our food now?

MR. SCRUB: I’m afraid we may not even have to worry about that, Piper. Yet another bad thing has happened. (stern) I think you should tell this part, Watcher.

WATCHER: Um… oh, all right. We ran into the Hypocrite on our way back. He was just about to bring us some food from the Closet. I remarked that it was genuinely virtuous and brave of him to bring us food even though he had to risk his health and safety to get it out of Melvin’s office. A truly good thing to do, in all. And you know what he did? He thanked me and agreed, and then made some feeble excuse to run off and bring the food to Cuiun, in hopes of winning her back to our side. You could tell he didn’t mean it.

MR. SCRUB: You should have known better, Watcher. One does not compliment a Hypocrite! It turns his genuine actions into necessary frauds, even when he didn’t mean them to be! Now he’s probably defected to Melvin’s side, all because of your careless remarks.

PRISONER: But that means… no food!

MR. SCRUB: Indeed, save for the fruit from the trees that overhang the courtyard walls, and what we have stocked up. Our situation is dire.

PRISONER: Do you know what Melvin’s up to?

MR. SCRUB: Apparently he has the Physicist working on some kind of mental disruption device. I think he hopes to twist our desires, through depraved external means, into something simple enough he can grant our remaining wishes without breaking a sweat. And then he has Heaven to himself.

PRISONER: Hey, that’s a thought. If you’re seeking nirvana, Mr. Scrub, then how can you believe in Heaven? Buddhism doesn’t have a Heaven.

MR. SCRUB: You forget, Piper—that mythic place beyond the Closet door is only something we call Heaven. For most of us, that’s just what it is, practically speaking. But for me, I am confident it will be a release from all forms of suffering and thus from existence itself—nothing more.

WATCHER: What does that matter now? What are we going to do about the Physicist’s device? It could be an airborne sickness, invisible to the eye! The Physicist’s daughter gets all around the castle; she could plant it anywhere!

PRISONER: I guess we’ll just have to seal ourselves up tight until we know what to do! But now I wonder about another thing. How come you’re so fired up and everything, Watcher? Melvin made you a Prisoner, like me! Didn’t it affect you?

WATCHER: This is how it affected me! Before, I was just a servant: nothing made me happier than serving the gentry and staying in my place! But when Melvin made me a Prisoner, he took away all that satisfaction. Now I don’t care a bean about service! I just want to see Melvin defeated! I’m with you ‘til the end!

MR. SCRUB: So that part of his plan backfired. What happened to our friend here is a part of why Melvin doesn’t make us all Prisoners and be done with it. The result is too unpredictable. Unfortunately, he seems to be succeeding all too well with his current course of action.

PRISONER: I’m afraid, Mr. Scrub.

MR. SCRUB: So am I. There is no greater thing to fear than having one’s deepest wishes taken away. Yet our Wishmaster will do just that, if we can’t find a way to fight back.

WATCHER: We’ve got to fight back! Somehow, we will.

PRISONER: But how? All we can do is lock ourselves away! We’re trapped!

MR. SCRUB: I don’t know a solution, Piper. I wish I did.

PRISONER: Yeah. Well… Could you lock the door, Mr. Scrub, and put out the lights? All this light is giving me a headache. Philip’s asleep, so he won’t mind.

MR. SCRUB: Of course, Piper.

While MR. SCRUB locks the door and puts out the lights, WATCHER stretches and lies down near the others.

MR. SCRUB: Let’s all get some rest, if we can. It may be the last time we get any of our own free will.

WATCHER: And voluntary rest is the best kind.

MR. SCRUB (lying down): That it is, Watcher. Good night, my friends.

PRISONER and WATCHER: Good night.

The End.