The Crumbling Castle, part 11
A capricious drama by Thorin N. Tatge
PHILIP: An enterprising young man under a lot of pressure.
ANABELLE/CIUIN: Anabelle is Philip’s diligent sister; Ciuin is an emotional servant with no self-awareness.
RECORDER: The somewhat pretentious Official Recorder of the Crumbling Castle.
EMMA: A teenaged serving girl with lots to be angry about.
RECORDER stands near a stage door, glancing around and occasionally scribbling notes on a tablet. PHILIP goes to center stage and sits down.
PHILIP (whiny): I’m HUNGRY!!
PHILIP: Sorry, what I meant to say was, I’m Philip. Well, I guess I’m both, actually. I’m pulling double duty. Everyone around the castle is, at this point. We’re strained to our limits.
RECORDER (writing on the tablet): Quarter past ten—Philip begins his narration to nobody, right on schedule. (Looking up): Why, yes, I’m also pulling double duty. In addition to my normal post as Official Recorder of the Crumbling Castle, I’ve been enlisted to guard your room.
PHILIP: You have? What happened to the Guard?
RECORDER: What do you think happened to the Guard? Melvin imprisoned his soul.
PHILIP: What?? Damn it! Things are busting to pieces around here! But if he’s a prisoner now, then who’s counting the bricks that fall off the castle?
RECORDER: For the present, they are counting themselves. The falling of a brick is marked unerringly by the appearance of a brick in the soil below, as sure as the beads of an abacus.
PHILIP: But the castle can’t be trusted! It could start rebuilding itself! That’s why the Guard was always counting its bricks—to make sure it didn’t.
RECORDER: Yes, and alas, that duty will probably fall to me too. But for now, I’m tied up keeping you and your sister safe here until the Scrubs return.
PHILIP: Where have they gone?
RECORDER: They’ve gone to Melvin’s wing of the castle to scout out his defenses. To see what the Builder’s been building for him. That kind of thing. It’s risky work, but they decided they had to do something, or Melvin would destroy us all.
PHILIP: Yes, I understand… but I’m hungry! Is anyone bringing us food?
RECORDER: Not that I know of. The Cook is dead, the dietician has defected… I guess we’ll have to wait for Mrs. Scrub to return.
PHILIP: But I’m hungry now!
RECORDER: Can’t be helped. (Returns to glancing and scribbling.)
ANABELLE: Oh, good, brother, you’re awake. How’s your headache?
PHILIP: Oh, don’t remind me. I’m actually getting used to it. For a few minutes there, I’d forgotten the mind-deadening pain.
ANABELLE: Sorry, brother. At least you can take pride that you’ve made the right choice. To think, even when it hurts.
PHILIP: Yes… pride. Ouch. Anabelle, do you have any food around? I’m starving.
ANABELLE: I truly wish I did. Not only am I out of food, I’m out of insulin. I need to get some more.
PHILIP: I guess there might be some stashed in the kitchen… I suppose we’ll have to risk going down there.
RECORDER (without looking at them): No one shall leave this room.
ANABELLE: Recorder, we need to! I’ll start suffering from ketoacidosis if I don’t get insulin soon!
PHILIP: And I’ll start suffering from—wait, I’m already suffering. But I’ll suffer more without food!
RECORDER: Mr. and Mrs. Scrub were perfectly clear that I was not to let you out of this room.
PHILIP: Why not? I thought the battle was all the way on the other side of the castle! How dangerous would a quick run to the kitchen be?
RECORDER: I understand the problem, but if I let you run down to the kitchen, I’ll have to record it on my tablet. And that will mean the Scrubs will find out about it afterward.
ANABELLE: I’m sure they’d be understanding.
RECORDER: I’m sorry, but I’m not willing to take that risk.
PHILIP: What kind of a guard are you? You’d let us suffer and fall ill because you’re not willing to make a decision on your own?
RECORDER: I trust Mrs. Scrub more than anything. She knows the dangers of this castle in its current state of war. For my part, I don’t assess danger, I only record calamity when it happens. I refuse to record any on this watch. You’ll have to wait.
PHILIP: What if you looked away for a moment and we got out? You wouldn’t be able to record it and you wouldn’t get in trouble!
RECORDER: True, and you have my sympathy. But I have no excuse for looking away.
ANABELLE: What if we gave you one? I could toss a stone across the corridor, distracting you.
RECORDER: Ah, but if I saw you throw the stone, I would know it not to bear investigating.
ANABELLE: Just what would bear investigating?
RECORDER: I don’t readily know. An act of war, perhaps? A cave-in? A salesman?
PHILIP: This is pointless. My head’s flaring up again.
ANABELLE: You know what? I’m getting Mr. Scrub’s flashbox out from his collection.
PHILIP: Huh? What for?
ANABELLE picks up a box from the floor and takes it over to the RECORDER.
ANABELLE: Watch this!
ANABELLE holds the box to the RECORDER’s face and strikes the box. The RECORDER is temporarily blinded and clumsily tries to regain orientation.
ANABELLE: (He’s/she’s) blinded! Quick, Philip!
PHILIP: Huh? Oh!
ANABELLE: I’ll stay here. You get the food and see if you can find any insulin. Hurry!
PHILIP: Right, okay!
PHILIP Runs past the RECORDER and onto the upper stage. EMMA starts making clinking sound effects offstage and continues until her entrance.
RECORDER: That was a low trick. I suppose your brother ran past while I was staggering about, eh?
ANABELLE: Maybe. But maybe he’s hiding in the bedroom. You’ll never know unless you come in and look.
RECORDER: And if I do that, you’ll sneak out yourself!
ANABELLE: Maybe. I think you’d do best to stay at your post, Recorder.
RECORDER: Fine. I know you and your brother know what’s best.
Exit RECORDER and ANABELLE. PHILIP wanders about the upper stage.
PHILIP: It’s the kitchen, but all the lights are out. It’s dark and I can’t see where anything is. What is that odd clinking noise? It’s scaring me.
EMMA: What—who’s that? Who are you?
PHILIP: Philip! Who are you?
EMMA: Oh! I’m Emma. The Physicist’s daughter. At last we meet, huh?
PHILIP: I’m surprised we haven’t met before. I’ve been here five weeks.
EMMA: Oh. Yes, well… I’m kept very busy.
PHILIP: You look like you’re younger than I am.
EMMA: I’m sure I am. I’m only a child, really.
PHILIP: Then why do they keep you so busy?
EMMA: Shouldn’t children be busy?
PHILIP: Um… I don’t know. Maybe, but only if they want to be.
EMMA: That’s one I should save for my father. Who would want to be busy?
PHILIP: Again, I don’t know. A curious child, I guess, eager to solve some mystery. I used to keep myself pretty busy on the farm, even when I didn’t have any chores.
EMMA: I have to do everything! I’m the future of the Crumbling Castle, you know! So they pile everything on me, as if I’ll never manage to keep it all together unless I start now! It’s not supposed to be this bad, Philip! I swear, it’s only because people are dying! And hardly any are coming in! It’s crazy. No one here cares at all about balance. No on here seems to care that eight people have died here in the last year or that only three showed up from the outside during this decade’s period of glory. One of them was a saleswoman who didn’t even get in the door! No one cares because no one used to have to care! This would take care of itself, back in the old days. Just like magic, a few people die and they all get more or less replaced when the castle opens its doors at the end of the decade. Everyone’s gotten numb! Everyone but my father and me. They’ve been pampered by a perfect castle. It’s amazing how some people don’t notice things are going wrong just because they’ve always gone right so far.
PHILIP: But you do?
EMMA: Because I’m a child. I can see for myself.
PHILIP: And your father?
EMMA: He’s the castle Physicist. He’s working for Melvin now. Which I hate.
PHILIP: You wish he weren’t working for Melvin?
EMMA: Don’t say “wish!” It’s dangerous. I’d be a lot happier if he weren’t, though, yes. Dad doesn’t realize that Melvin’s trouble. Melvin must have promised him something really super to keep working for him even in the middle of a war.
PHILIP: Does your father realize Melvin wants to kill us all with kindness?
EMMA: No. He’s dumb that way. He thinks that’s a mistake. Wasn’t it you who looked into the Closet and told everyone Melvin was out to get us?
PHILIP: Yes, that was me. Why—do you think I was wrong?
EMMA: No! I think you were stupid! Melvin killed the Owner and took over the castle! Of course he’s out to get us! Of course he’s a murderer! Why didn’t anyone do something at the time?
PHILIP: I don’t know. I haven’t questioned it. I figured it was just part of the natural give and take of this castle.
EMMA: So does everybody. They trust the castle. They trust the give and take. They’re idiots. The castle’s going wrong! It’s letting us die off and fight a war against each other, and we’ll never get to Heaven at this rate! Everyone needs to stop trusting that things are going right!
PHILIP: I think we have, by now.
EMMA: Well, it’s too late. We’re at war. And innocent people have died. We let it get too far. I would have done something but I’m just a child.
CIUIN, played by the same actor as ANABELLE, enters quietly and slowly.
PHILIP: Why don’t you come back with me? Leave your father and join our side.
EMMA: I can’t. I’m not giving up on him.
PHILIP: You think you can get your father to come to his senses?
EMMA: I don’t know, but I love him! I’m not forgetting that! I’m not so insensitive as some of you freaks! I can’t just leave my Dad!
PHILIP: Sorry! I was too forward. I’m sorry. You have to realize, Emma, I’m pretty new here and I’m still trying to get used to how it works.
EMMA: It doesn’t.
PHILIP: It doesn’t work?
EMMA: No, it doesn’t. Look at me. I’m supposed to do only the chores no one else does, just a leftover task here and there. But since the Duster died, I have to do all the dusting. Since the Stainer died, I have to do all the staining. Since the Washer took a new job, I have to do all the washing. Since the Cook died, I’ll have to do all the cooking from now on! What kind of a childhood is this?
PHILIP: I agree, it sounds awful. Like keeping company with ghosts.
EMMA: My name means “universal.” Supposedly I’m fully capable of doing anything and everything. They say that like it’s a gift. It’s an onus. (To CIUIN): I need more soap!
CIUIN: Mistress Emma shall have more soap! (Goes looking for soap.)
PHILIP: Hey, Ciuin’s here! I didn’t even notice her.
EMMA: What did you call her?
PHILIP: Uh… Ciuin. It’s the name I gave her. I guess it’s silly of me… no one thinks she ought to have a name. But I do.
EMMA: I think that’s awesome! Does she recognize it?
PHILIP: I’m not even sure. Ciuin!
CIUIN: In his quaint way, Philip has come to use the word Ciuin to refer to the central focus of the castle’s helpful energies.
PHILIP: Uh… right. Ciuin, what are you doing here? I thought Melvin was controlling you!
CIUIN: Melvin is asleep and exercising little control at present. Mistress Emma’s frustration and rage are the most important emotions in the castle right now.
EMMA: Well, that’s flattering. Can you actually talk to her, Philip?
PHILIP: I’ve been trying to learn. I taught her to play a card game.
EMMA: You what? That’s amazing! I had no idea she was that smart. Did she win?
PHILIP: She did pretty well.
EMMA: Wow, and here I thought she was completely stupid.
CIUIN: The only stupid ones are those who speak of people that don’t exist.
EMMA: Huh? Well back-at-you, steward!
CIUIN goes to find soap.
PHILIP: Go easy on her, Emma. She’s sensitive. I think she’s finally beginning to learn that she exists.
EMMA: Whoa. Are you sure that’s a good idea? You can’t just make her normal, Philip… she’d be all unhealthy and unbalanced.
PHILIP: Better than being nothing at all, to herself.
EMMA: I don’t know about that. Maybe you should be careful is all I’m saying. But I think it’s great that you’re teaching her.
CIUIN: Philip is a kind man. Here is soap for Mistress Emma.
EMMA takes cake of soap from CIUIN.
EMMA: Thank you. Well, if it’s true that you’re a kind man, Philip… will you help me with the dishes?
PHILIP: I wish I could. But I have to find food and insulin and get back to my room. My sister’s waiting and the Recorder will be angry if I’m gone long.
EMMA: Oh. Insulin? Is your sister diabetic?
PHILIP: Alas, yes. Do you know where we can find some insulin, Ciuin?
CIUIN: Philip shall have his insulin and be well fed. (Walks offstage.)
EMMA: That’s good. Listen, Philip. I like you and I’d like to see you again. But as you know, I’m kept very busy. And Melvin is going to be looking for you. When my dad finishes his desire-ray machine Melvin is going to make you his first target.
PHILIP: So where would we be safe?
EMMA: Philip, there’s only one place in this world that’s safe, and that’s through the Closet. And we can’t go that way yet.
PHILIP: So where can we meet?
EMMA: I’ll have to visit you, wherever Mrs. Scrub hides you. Just tell her to let me know where that is. All right?
PHILIP: I promise.
CIUIN returns with her arms full. She gives her possessions to PHILIP.
CIUIN: Here is Philip’s food and insulin.
PHILIP: Thanks, Ciuin. Now I’ve got to be going. Nice meeting you, Emma.
EMMA: Same. Keep in touch.
PHILIP: I will. (Heads for the exit.)
CIUIN: Is… is Philip leaving the center of attention? So soon? Even while Melvin sleeps?
EMMA: She asked a question!
PHILIP: Yes, she did! I don’t think I’ve heard her do that before.
EMMA: Well, answer it!
PHILIP: Yes, Ciuin, I’m leaving. My sister will be missing me. I wish I could stay.
CIUIN: How sad.
PHILIP: Good-bye, Emma. Good-bye, Ciuin.
Exit EMMA one way and PHILIP the other. CIUIN stands, lost. Then she starts walking.
CIUIN: It isn’t right for a source of energy as strong as Philip to be cooped up like this. It’s impossible for him to be served properly. All these needy people in such different places! And unable to come together! It’s unthinkable. Something needs to be done.
Enter RECORDER. CIUIN walks up to RECORDER.
CIUIN: SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE!!!
RECORDER: I beg your pardon?
CIUIN: The castle cannot survive if it will not let itself be helped! The Recorder should not stand by and record but should try to end the war. Philip and Anabelle should be free to do as they please. Melvin should be stopped in any way possible.
RECORDER: My dear steward—I don’t know what could possibly have stirred you, all of people, into a frenzy, but the fact is Mrs. and Mr. Scrub are doing all they can to keep this castle safe! There simply isn’t any easy way to defeat Melvin.
CIUIN: Melvin should be serving the people. He is not gentry! He is the absolute servant! The Wishmaster of the castle! His job is to give people what they wish for! His position is all give and no take! He cannot be the ruler!
RECORDER: How can we deny what we see plainly before us?? Melvin has seized power; hence, so it goes written in the history books.
CIUIN: There is always a flaw. When what cannot happen happens, there is always a flaw! A Wish-giver cannot withhold all wishes! There is always a flaw!!
RECORDER: Nonsense, steward. Our forebears disproved that long ago. Sometimes the way of things simply makes no sense, no matter how hard you look at it. Sometimes we are just not strong or wise enough to see where the flaw must be, and as a result there is none. I hope this isn’t the case with Melvin, but we must be careful. We can assume nothing. Only proceed with caution and record what happens.
CIUIN: The Recorder is a fool! The Recorder is a coward! It will be seen where the flaw lies. The unnatural power of Melvin will be fought! Even if nobody does it, something will be done! It is promised!!
RECORDER (scribbling on tablet): Twelve past midnight… the castle steward goes insane. (Pause.) Philip’s whereabouts are unknown… (Pause.) There is still no sign of the Scrubs.
RECORDER faces the audience.
RECORDER: I fear trouble is coming.