The Crumbling Castle, part 12
A Capricious Drama by Thorin N. Tatge
PHILIP: A youth surprisingly near the end of his journey.
MELVIN: The Wishmaster of the Crumbling Castle. Most be able to read clearly.
PHYSICIST: A scientist with evil motives whom you may wish were mad…but isn’t.
WATCHER/CIUIN: The Watcher is laughable; Ciuin is inwardly determined.
ARRANGER: An alcoholic servant fast growing obsolete.
Enter PHILIP and WATCHER, together. They sit down slowly, together, facing the audience. PHILIP is miserable; WATCHER is matter-of-fact.
PHILIP: Hi. My name is Philip and I want to get the hell out of this castle.
WATCHER: Not gonna happen.
PHILIP: Can’t stop me from wanting.
WATCHER: Not if you’re delusional, no, I guess not.
PHILIP: I’ve been suffering from one long headache ever since Wishmaster Melvin imprisoned my soul. I’m almost used to it by now.
WATCHER: Same thing happened to me, only without the headache.
PHILIP: Well, pfft.
WATCHER: Shows what you know.
PHILIP: You’re so lucky, Watcher. You can think and scheme and… think and… and whatever. The way you always did. Who cares if you’re Prisoner Three?
WATCHER: I care. I don’t feel like myself anymore. I keep having all these rebellious thoughts and I can’t seem to concentrate on my work. So I haven’t been working. I’ve just been sitting around feeling lame.
PHILIP: Yeah, I could go for a little more of that around now.
WATCHER: Me too.
The two sit there, saying nothing, for a while.
PHILIP: Wishmaster Melvin sucks.
WATCHER: Yeah. (Pause.) Want to go kill him?
PHILIP: What? Er… no. I’m not a killer. There must be some other way to get ourselves free.
WATCHER: Yeah. But I bet you can’t think of anything, can you?
WATCHER: And I don’t want to. So let’s go kill Melvin.
PHILIP: Where do you think he is?
WATCHER: I don’t know. Isn’t this his room?
PHILIP: What?? You brought me to his room?
WATCHER (shrug): I guess so. Look, there’s the irrigation channel we dug last month.
PHILIP: Oh yeah! Well, I guess he’ll be coming back this way soon, huh?
WATCHER: I expect so. All his equipment is sitting here. Look, that must be the evil desire-shaping diabolical ray thingie he’s been working on.
PHILIP: Oh yeah, it does kind of look like a diabolic weapon of madness. I mistook it for part of the plumbing at first.
WATCHER (pointing offstage): And I bet that sinister guy standing in the doorway over there is the Physicist, and he’s guarding us to make sure we don’t mess with anything.
PHYSICIST (offstage, pleasantly): That’s right, and I’ll shoot you if you try to leave the room, too.
PHILIP: Well, this is a problem.
WATCHER: We could kill the Physicist, too.
PHILIP: No! No more casual killing! That may have all worked out in the good old days… wow, that’s a weird definition of good old days… but it doesn’t anymore! Emma told me so. She says all the killing in the castle recently is destroying the place, and there’s no balance anymore.
PHYSICIST: You’ve been speaking with my daughter?
PHILIP: Um… um… yes?
PHYSICIST: Well, Philip… what did she say to you?
PHILIP: She… said that she thought you were wrong to be working for Melvin. That you ought to be trying to stop him and bring peace back. She said—
PHYSICIST: Philip, don’t you see that Melvin is the one who’s trying to bring peace? He’s granting everyone’s wishes now, whether they like it or not.
WATCHER: Whether they have any or not.
PHYSICIST: Exactly. And he’s going to be overjoyed to see you two have stumbled into his trap. He’s out now getting the last item for his invention to work, and he’ll return any minute now. When he does, I’m sure you two will be ideal first subjects. Muahahaha!
PHILIP (to WATCHER): This was a really stupid place to hang out.
WATCHER: Sorry, Philip.
PHILIP: What do we do now?
WATCHER: I don’t know. Knock out the Physicist and use the evil ray against him? We’ll just have to figure out its basic operating mechanism and improvise a more efficient solution with materials on hand.
PHILIP: That sounds horribly complicated. Can’t we just attack the Physicist and leave?
WATCHER: I guess that could work.
PHYSICIST: You two are really very funny. Don’t move. (Holds up a gun and points it at PHILIP and WATCHER.)
WATCHER: He’s got a weapon! That’s rotten luck! Why can’t it be us who have one!?
PHILIP: Wait! You’ll be sorry if you do this! Melvin will betray you, too!
PHYSICIST: He won’t be able to. I have wishes of my own he can’t overwrite.
PHYSICIST swings his gun twice and knocks out PHILIP and WATCHER.
ARRANGER: I heard you needed my help for—oh, ah ah ah! Who have we here? Young Philip and the Watcher himself, so! What luck!
PHYSICIST: Hello, Mr. Arranger. They came wandering by and I took advantage.
ARRANGER: Lovely. We should celebrate. Have you got any plum wine?
PHYSICIST: Melvin doesn’t allow the consumption of alcohol in his room. Not by people, that is. Machines can drink it if they run on it.
ARRANGER: A fat lot of good that does me. I need to drown my hopes and dreams a little. Shall we go drink somewhere else?
PHYSICIST: I think you’re hooked, Mr. Arranger. You drink too much.
ARRANGER: Too much for what?
PHYSICIST: For your own good.
ARRANGER: What do you know about my own good? Even I don’t know anything about it, and that’s how I like it. How should I be able to say whether drinking my head into a whirl isn’t the best thing in the long run? Come, Physicist, join me in finding out.
PHYSICIST: I can’t desert my post. Melvin will be back any moment, and I can’t leave these two unattended.
ARRANGER: You disappoint me. Goodbye, Mr. Physicist.
PHYSICIST: Melvin should never have enlisted that lug. Now all he does is drink away his sanity, hoping to be imprisoned. Melvin knows better than to do that, I hope.
MELVIN: Much better, you can be certain. What is this that I find, Physicist? Two new sleeping forms and my man muttering about my poor decisions? Where is the efficiency? Where is the vitality I have come to expect from my workroom?
PHYSICIST: I was just waiting for you, Wishmaster. Have you got the blood?
MELVIN: Yes… at long lengths and great efforts, I managed to find a suitable source.
PHYSICIST: May I ask?
MELVIN: Mr. Postulate.
PHYSICIST: I beg your pardon?
MELVIN: I obtained the blood from Mr. Postulate! I left a vial and syringe and all the other supplies for him, and provided incentive for him to make a donation.
PHYSICIST: But… but does that mean Mr. Postulate has been confirmed? Is he a postulate no longer?
MELVIN: His status is strengthened. But the blood might have been supplied in other ways. No matter, so long as we have it.
PHYSICIST: Does the ray care what blood is used to power it?
MELVIN: Not a whit. It is an impartial vampire in its mechanical way.
MELVIN pours the vial of blood he is holding into the desire ray.
PHYSICIST: Is it finished, then? Can we use it to destroy our enemies?
MELVIN: The blood must circulate, my friend. It must have its way with the machinery. Now then—who are these ill-destined soon-to-be cadavers?
PHYSICIST: None other than Philip the Meddler and the Washer-turned Watcher, sir!
MELVIN: Oh-ho! In truth? Yes, I see that it is true! We have Philip! Well done, Physicist, my first crony! Well done! Once he is dealt with, we will have few worries indeed! But do take the other one away for now. It’s Philip I want as my first subject.
PHYSICIST drags WATCHER offstage while speaking his next three lines.
PHYSICIST: How long before the blood permeates the system?
MELVIN: Not more than an hour.
PHYSICIST: What will we do to pass the time?
MELVIN: Well, as no further measures are necessary… I have a poem I should like to read. This seems like a good time, now that I am on the verge of realizing my highest duties as Wishmaster. Will you be my audience, Physicist?
PHYSICIST sits down and MELVIN stands front and center. He paces and gestures as he reads, addressing both PHYSICIST and the audience.
MELVIN: When I was a young lad of twenty or ten,
I found that my brethren were most ill-contented.
They longed for the future, but didn't know when,
And along the drear seasons their longings fermented.
Cemented, Segmented, Demented, Fragmented,
'Til all that remained were the labels and seams.
And so, meaning well, with my first chance presented,
I showed them how little was left of their dreams.
PHYSICIST: You showed them how little was left of their dreams!
"Look here, all my brothers," I ventured to say.
"Count your blessings, my brothers, if dust can be counted,
And mind that your wishes don't blow these away;
For a pitiful wish can be deadly," I shouted.
They Doubted, I Spouted; we Bouted, I Routed;
A brief demonstration was all they required
Of the power and wisdom and insight I touted--
It drained me to fend off the crap they desired.
Enter ARRANGER, holding a bottle of wine.
ARRANGER and PHYSICIST: It drained him to fend off the crap he desired!
During Melvi’s next line, ARRANGER pours PHYSICIST a glass, and PHYSICIST drinks deeply. ARRANGER then passes a drink to MELVIN.
MELVIN: If wishes were hanggliders, beggars would glide,
And if wishes were loud enough, beggars would mumble.
If wishes were frightening, beggars would hide,
And if wishes were rudderless, beggars would tumble.
And Grumble, and Fumble, and Bumble, and Crumble,
And lie there, upstaged by the wishes they'd made,
That soared through the air while the beggars lay humble,
Lamenting the visions that left them afraid.
PHYSICIST: Oh, those poor ruined people!
ARRANGER: They’d have been better off with no wishes at all!
MELVIN (taking a deep drink): I do think you’re right, Arranger!
My brothers were changed, though it meant extra time,
For if I hadn't changed them, they would have been stunted.
My wishes were cheap--I'd grant twelve for a dime,
But if I had to change someone, I'd be affronted!
My magic was blunted by fools I confronted
Who had to be shaped before I could begin it!
"The first rule of wishes:" I scornfully grunted--
"When you make a wish, you make sure that you're in it!"
ALL THREE: When you make a wish, you make sure that you’re in it! (All laugh.)
Enter CIUIN, secretly. Played by the same actor as WATCHER.
MELVIN: The years left me tired, in body and mind
And I wrought this advice for my clients: "In case you
Want more of the good, you may be be left behind;
Wish for more of the bad and it may well erase you!
Replace you, deface you, disgrace you, displace you,
And I'm not accountable if you should die.
For it's not my fault if your wishes outpace you,
And outpace they all of you shall, by and by!
All three laugh heartily, especially MELVIN himself. They drink more and pat each other on the back and shake hands. Meanwhile, CIUIN, unnoticed, creeps to Philip and tries to wake him.
ARRANGER: I never knew you for such a sublime poet, Melvin!
MELVIN: Well, the hours were long and empty in my office when no one’s wishes were worthy… but one who is wise under the weather can usually wend the weeks by writing whimsical words fairly well.
PHYSICIST (raising his glass in a toast): To Melvin and his second occupation!
ARRANGER and MELVIN: Hear hear!
The three drink and don’t notice Ciuin.
CIUIN: Now is when it is most vital for Philip to awaken! His time of centrality is here!
PHILIP: Ohhh… oooh…
CIUIN: Philip! Wake up!!
PHILIP (sitting up, rubbing his head): My heads hurting both inside and out. I feel ruined. Ciuin?
CIUIN: Yes, Ciuin is your savior in… in some odd way. It was clear that something had to be done. And so something does. The machine which draws so much attention… must draw its own doom!
PHILIP: Erm… don’t talk so loud, or they’ll notice you!
CIUIN: That is sickly talk, Philip. There is no one here to be noticed. This is just the seat of your ridiculousness.
MELVIN: I tell you, chaps… I don’t suppose Heaven will let us import such sweet imbibations as these… so we might as well take our fill now!
ARRANGER: By the Door, you have a point! (Drinks.)
PHILIP: No, Ciuin… they really will notice you. Believe me! Hurry to the machine and destroy it… before they see you!
CIUIN (determined) : The machine shall be destroyed.
CIUIN sneaks to the desire ray and fiddles with it, tearing a piece loose.
CIUIN: What is this? Blood? Blood! Oh, how it flows! The pale blood of Mr. Postulate is soiling the ground! Zounds!
MELVIN (seeing CIUIN): What’s this? Who’s this? The wretched castle’s steward! What have you done to my machine??
CIUIN: It—it is true. The…the…I am noticed.
PHILIP: Yes, you! I warned you!
CIUIN: Just as well. Then you will notice this!
CIUIN madly kicks over the desire ray.
CIUIN: And in a world so mad the castle’s energies will call themselves, “I”, let the blood flow freely!
MELVIN: No!!! You rogue! You meaningless miscreant! I hereby make a Prisoner of you!! Prisoner 000009!
PHILIP: Oh, Ciuin! Number nine??
CIUIN sits down slowly, saying nothing.
PHYSICIST (looking at the machine): Rats! She’s wrecked the ray’s focusing ring! I’ll have to spend at least four hours fixing this! Maybe more.
ARRANGER: She’s slowed down our plan.
MELVIN: No matter… you can fix the machine, Physicist?
PHILIP: Oh, this is no good. Oh, my aching temples!
PHYSICIST: I can fix it, yes.
MELVIN: Then there is no real setback here. You shall fix the machine, and then our plan will proceed. But I, for one, have taken a lesson from this. (Looks at ARRANGER.) Alcohol is a trap! A poisonous trap to be avoided, lest plans be wrecked! And you are a useless alcoholic who will lead us into this trap again and again!
ARRANGER: I admit it freely. Does this mean you’re going to imprison me, too?
MELVIN: Nay, why should I do such a thing if it’s just what you want?
ARRANGER: Because… it’s in your job description to give people what they want?
MELVIN: What they wish, my onetime friend. And you wish to be a prisoner?
ARRANGER: Yes, because I feel like—wait, no! I don’t wish for anything, Melvin. You can’t trick me like that.
MELVIN: Too late! You gave your assent! And why shouldn’t I trick you? Wasn’t it you who arranged for this damned irrigation channel to be run through my room?
ARRANGER: It seemed like a good idea at the—
MELVIN: You act like you have no mind!
ARRANGER: Indeed! Indeed that’s how I feel now! Have mercy on the mindless!
MELVIN: And you wish to be a prisoner in your own mind.
ARRANGER: I don’t! That is, I did, but no longer!
MELVIN: No matter when. You see, Arranger, if you are a prisoner within nothing, that leaves you yourself as nothing. You make this all too easy.
PHYSICIST: Elegantly easy, really.
ARRANGER: No! You can’t! I demand to be made a pitiful—
MELVIN swings his arm and the ARRANGER dies.
MELVIN: There. Now that’s all the more wine for the rest of us. But not until this Philip is taken care of.
PHILIP: Oh no… Ciuin, wake up!
MELVIN: She won’t. She won’t be the robust prisoner the rest of you are. You’re doomed, Philip. All your allies are gone. Do you think the Scrubs were a menace? They were a joke. I saw them coming an aisle away… they are now poor pitiful prisoners Five, Six and Seven! Yes, the unborn child as well! Ha ha haaa ha haah!
PHILIP: No… then I guess there’s only one choice. Do the unthinkable… make a wish.
CIUIN: No, Philip!
MELVIN: A wish, Philip? Ho! By all means, make it! There’s no wish I can’t twist round into death! Not with my practice! Not with my insight!
PHILIP: Well, be that as it may, Wishmaster Melvin… (Pause.) I wish to be the Owner of the Crumbling Castle.
To be continued…