The Crumbling Castle, part 14
A Capricious Drama by Thorin N. Tatge
PHILIP: An inquiring young man trying to acclimate himself to his surroundings.
MRS. SCRUB: A kind and tranquilly potent woman at the end of her childbearing years.
EMMA/HOPE: One’s high on hash, the other’s high on life. Must be funky. Either sex.
HYPOCRITE: Not just a hypocrite, but the proverbial King of All Hypocrites!
Enter PHILIP, proud and comfortable.
PHILIP: My worth, it’s happening at last! After all this timeless time…half a year after I learned how much a myth the glory of this place is. When I think about the way I used to walk around, imagining something great and valuable I couldn’t even conceive of just lying around in the pantries and hanging on the walls… You know, I still sometimes fiddle with painting frames and peek under bathmats, just in case there’s something hidden there. But now, Mrs. Scrub is about to have her baby! This old place just seems to emphasize what I should’ve known anyway—that the biggest troves of glory are inside people! I don’t know why it worked out that way, but there’s just nothing more interesting than a person to be locked away with in a castle for six months. And especially here, they have a funny way of never running out of surprises…
Enter EMMA, high on hashish.
EMMA: Hey Phillip, god, there’s this whole… like, the Hypocrite made a big pan of brownies the size of a whole tub. You should try some. It’s so deep you can stick your arm right in and forget it’s there.
PHILIP: Uh… Emma? You’re talking strangely. What’s wrong with you?
EMMA: Oh, not so much, Philly! I’m just living up to my name!
PHILIP: Which means “universal,” right?
EMMA: Ho, yeah! And right now I can see pretty much everything. Except that spot right there. (points) I can’t quite get my eyes around it…
PHILIP: Are you sure you’re feeling healthy?
EMMA: I don’t know how you define health… fact, I don’t know how you define anything. I define things with a fire poker! I poke them until they mean what I want them to mean. What do you mean, Philip?
PHILIP: Emma, does your father know you’re doing this?
EMMA: My father? He’s been locked up for five months! I tell you, Philip, it’s a real whole real new relationship. I tell him everything. I go visit him, when the Guard says I can, and I give him a big hug, and I tell him everything. I lie about everything. I tell him everything that I’m not doing, and here’s the trick, and I tell him, I don’t him anything about what I’m doing. And he tells me what he thinks, and usually he thinks I’m lying to him, just because I’m telling him lies. And so then he gives me advice, and I remember it all very closely, and then I go and do the opposite of whatever he told me to do. Because I figure a double negative always cancels out. It’s the perfect father daughter father relationship.
PHILIP: I hope you’re just saying that. Come on, Emma! Why bother visiting him at all if you’re just going to lie to him and ignore him?
EMMA: Oh give me a break, Philip. It’s called rebellion. It’s called revenge. It’s called because he raised me when I was a kid, and I was minding my own business. As if he and my mother could tell me what to do just because they made me. Like he had a right. The Hypocrite made those brownies, but he doesn’t tell them what to do. They just do their own thing, if you hear what I mean. Of course, no one ever does what the Hypocrite says. Except me. He told me to have some, so I did. Oh, I did!
PHILIP: What did he put in those brownies? I’m going to have a talk with him.
EMMA: Don’t do that, you’re busy. You’re talking to the air because it loves you.
PHILIP (calling off-stage): Hypocrite!!
HYPOCRITE (off-stage): Is there a problem!? I say, so much shouting plays havoc with the eardrums!!
PHILIP: Get over here, man!
Enter HYPOCRITE, carrying a big tray of brownies.
HYPOCRITE: Is there something I can do for you? A brownie, perhaps?
PHILIP: What on earth did you bake into those?
HYPOCRITE: Why, nutmeg… baking powder… perhaps a bit of cocoa, I confess… all fine aliments for body and soul, you know!
PHILIP: So why is Emma out of her mind?
EMMA: I’m actually tucked right inside my mind. Snug as a plug in a rug.
HYPOCRITE: She’s just enjoying the relaxant I put in. A special serum of my own.
PHILIP: It’s making her crazy! This isn’t the time for it!
HYPOCRITE: Why, she’s merely relaxed, my boy! As we all should be, for such a joyful occasion! How often is a new person born into the castle these days? Truthfully?
PHILIP: But this isn’t the time to…to relax, if that’s what she’s doing. We’ll need her to help with the delivery!
HYPOCRITE: My boy, Mrs. Scrub needs no one’s help. You ought to know that by now, surely?
PHILIP: Well, she can’t deliver a babe into the world unaided, can she?
HYPOCRITE: She will have her husband’s help.
EMMA: She can do anything! But she’s not gonna let us see the baby.
PHILIP: She won’t? Whyever not? Is that true?
HYPOCRITE: Quite true. The child of the Castle’s Owner is always a very special thing. It must not be influenced in any way by forces other than its parent’s will. Otherwise it risks being less than sturdy as it grows. Less than obedient. We mustn’t risk Mrs. Scrub’s child becoming as audacious as Emma here. And no one knows what makes a child go wrong. No one can be sure what little impression could steer its mind a-wrong. And so we will stay out of Mrs. Scrub’s way.
PHILIP: What, for how long? Until her child is grown??
HYPOCRITE: If she deems it needed, yes!
PHILIP: That’s ridiculous! I know Mrs. Scrub… we’ve gotten to know each other better and better over the months. She’s not anti-social. She’d never want her child to grow up without company!
HYPOCRITE: Not a child with any ordinary future, perhaps not… but with this child, we can take no risks. No motive can be given for anything less than perfect love for its mother. The slightest disobedient streak must be quashed, and quickly, without regard for the child’s future character. Whether this is accomplished by bribery or by cruelty I leave it up to Mrs. Scrub to decide.
PHILIP: Then what’s so special about this child’s future? Why is it you know all this and I don’t?
EMMA: You weren’t born here, Philip. You only know how to come, not how to leave. There’s only enough room for one in a person’s brain!
HYPOCRITE: Indeed. Philip, I’m afraid we must go. I hear Mrs. Scrub now, approaching.
PHILIP: I’ll just stay and talk to her myself, thank you.
HYPOCRITE: If you must. But your humiliation is your own.
HYPOCRITE: Ah, Mrs. Scrub! Any assistance I may offer you would be gladly tendered.
PHILIP: You said she didn’t need any help.
SCRUB: Indeed I don’t, but thank you, Hypocrite. You never fail to valiantly contradict yourself in times of need.
HYPOCRITE: Thank you, my lady.
EMMA: Let’s go set up the IV, Hyppo! I wanna chug these brownies straight into my veins, man!
HYPOCRITE: As you say, Emma.
Exit HYPOCRITE and EMMA.
PHILIP: I don’t understand. He said you’re not going to let anyone see your child. Is it true? That the youngest Scrub will be brought up with no one but its mother for company?
SCRUB: His mother, dear. It’s a boy. And he’ll have his father for company as well.
PHILIP: Oh…well, I guess that’s better. But still—where is your husband, anyway?
SCRUB (slowly sitting down): Philip, you amaze me. You mean to say you still don’t understand my relationship with my husband, after all these months? Oh, what has the time been spent on?
PHILIP: I… I don’t know. It seems to me like it’s been spent well. I feel at home here now… I never thought it could happen, but it has. This is my home. I no longer feel utterly surprised when some new development arises or some completely unexpected piece of knowledge surfaces I’ve never heard of…it’s become commonplace. So what is this thing you have to tell me?
SCRUB: Philip, hasn’t it struck you as odd that in all this time you’ve never seen me and my husband together?
PHILIP: Oh god. Don’t tell me.
SCRUB: But you did ask, Philip.
PHILIP: No… that’s ridiculous. You can’t be the same person. That doesn’t make any sense.
SCRUB: Well, of course not. We aren’t the same person, Philip, or we wouldn’t have been married in the first place.
PHILIP: I—I guess I misunderstood you. Whew. That would have been bizarre.
SCRUB: It certainly would. No, we simply share the same body.
SCRUB (slowly lying down): We take turns, Philip. Randolph was ill when he came to the Castle twenty years ago. He knew he had little to lose, so he sought great things here. A cure. An elixir to keep him alive. Or simply some great treasure to crown his life with a final purpose. He could even have found them, in theory—the Hypocrite does keep such things in his stores, diluted and scrambled well though they may be. But instead, he fell in love with the scrubbery maid, as a desperate person sometimes will…
PHILIP (shaken): He told me he met you when you came in to clean his room… and he sensed some kind of hidden power. Like as you cleaned the walls and floor, he felt like you were clearing his mind… and he realized he loved you.
SCRUB: All true, yes. The young dear treated the castle as if it were a hospital. And we went along with it in order to keep him. And in time, we came to love each other so much that we couldn’t bear to be parted when he died. So sharing my body was the only sensible thing to do.
PHILIP: But… but how?
SCRUB: Well, it wasn’t an easy task. He had to be born into it, which was a lot harder than this birth is likely to be, believe me, even at my age. But there was something that made it easier. The old Hypocrite’s wife was having a child at the same time, you see, so I borrowed a few strands of her baby’s consciousness and used them to patch up the spots where Randolph was falling apart. Going through death does that to one, you see. We had a lovely idea, though, to save work, and so we went ahead and made the whole affair into our wedding! Decorated and invited everyone to see… it was a lot of work, but we only had to do it once, after all. Birth, death and marriage, the three major life events, all packaged into one! Now that was a day to remember.
PHILIP: The child… the old Hypocrite’s child… you stole from her?
SCRUB (sitting up): Now I didn’t steal, Philip. I only borrowed. I was operating on the assumption that the babe would outlive me, after all, and when I die she gets it all back. It seemed reasonable enough, to save a man’s life.
PHILIP: It was Ciuin, wasn’t it?
SCRUB: Yes, that’s what you’ve been calling her.
PHILIP: You made her like she is. You took herself away from her!
SCRUB: Relax, Philip! She never knew it! She never knew any loss, and in all honesty that’s the thing that really matters.
PHILIP: But she could have been a whole person… she could be whole. And think how happy we’d be then! Think how smart she is, even without… without knowing who…
SCRUB: Philip, get a hold of yourself, please! Ciuin has lived a life as full as anyone’s in many regards. And one day I’ll pass away, and she’ll learn what she’s been missing, and she’ll be so very happy… so pleased and fresh. Doesn’t that make you feel good?
PHILIP: I can’t believe it. It’s so… I hope that day comes soon!
PHILIP storms off angrily. Enter HYPOCRITE.
HYPOCRITE: The lad was pestering you, wasn’t he? So eager to help… so brimming with good intentions, no doubt, but unable to recognize the bounds separating courtesy from intrusion. It must so gall an expecting mother who wishes to be alone to receive constant interruptions, never to be left alone. I fully understand the feeling, and I don’t blame you in the least for sending the boy away. But all the same, I hope you weren’t too hard on him?
SCRUB: You will go fetch me some hot towels now, won’t you, Hypocrite?
HYPOCRITE: Hm? Ah, an excellent idea. Hot towels and water for maximum cleanliness. A clean birth is a pure birth. Yes, I’ll go do that.
Exit HYPOCRITE. Enter HOPE, played by the same actor as EMMA. HOPE stands on the upper stage, some distance away from SCRUB, and addresses the audience.
SCRUB (lying down again): Now, little one, try and forget the shouting you heard, not a minute ago… try and relax…
HOPE (grooving around as if to gentle music): Relax. Yeah, man. I’ll just settle in and relax. That’s what I always do, and it works like magic, hey?
SCRUB: Be calm… things will start to get difficult shortly. I’m a little older than most women who go through with this, you have to understand. It’s about time for a contraction, I believe.
HOPE: What, you mean you want me to go like this? (Shoves stylishly with both arms to one side.)
SCRUB (bunching in pain): OOOooohhh!
HOPE: Or like this? (Repeats the motion in another direction.)
HOPE: Or is it more like this? (Squats and thrusts hands downwards.)
HOPE: You’re killing me, here. You’re shaking, you’re quaking. I feel sloshy. I’m drowning here.
SCRUB (in disconmfort): You won’t drown, as long as all goes well. This is all perfectly natural.
HOPE (grooving): Hey, really? Natural, you say. Well, I figure I should be all right so long as you don’t cut my cord too soon, you know what I mean? Wait ‘til I’m out first, all right?
SCRUB: I promise I will.
Enter PHILIP and HYPOCRITE quietly while they talk. They remain by the door.
HOPE: You promise! Excellent! You’re a pretty cool woman, you know that?
SCRUB: I’m very glad to hear you say that. I’m your mother. You’ll be seeing a lot of me.
HOPE: I will, huh? I guess we’d better get to know each other, then. My name’s Me, but my friends call me The One, The Only.
SCRUB: No, precious. Your name isn’t Me. It’s Hope.
HOPE: Hope! Well, I’ve got me a new handle now. This really is turning out to be some day, you know that?
SCRUB: You haven’t seen anything yet, Hope. Just you wait.
HOPE: I can’t wait.
SCRUB: Oh, you can, and will.
HOPE (grooving): I’m ready, Mama!
SCRUB: Are you ready, Hope?
HOPE (grooving): I’m a-ready, Mama!
SCRUB: Are you really set?
HOPE (grooving): I’m ready to roll.
SCRUB: Do you want to see the world?
HOPE (grooving): I live for the world!
SCRUB: Do you promise not to laugh?
HOPE (laughing): I promise not to laugh!
SCRUB: Do you promise not to cry?
HOPE: Only when I mean it, Mama.
SCRUB: Will you try to do what’s right?
HOPE: Don’t know any other way.
SCRUB: Then hold your breath…put your arms at your sides…and PUSH!
HOPE: I’m coming!
HOPE runs around on the upper stage for a few seconds, then jumps onto the lower stage, falls into a crouch, and says:
SCRUB gets up, looks at HOPE, and takes HOPE in her arms.
SCRUB (loving): My darling. My baby. Welcome into my life, and yours.
SCRUB: Come along, my sweet.
SCRUB leads HOPE over to HYPOCRITE, who hands her a towel.
SCRUB: Thank you. Come along now, my child, I’ll carry you to where you need to be.
Exit SCRUB and HOPE.
HYPOCRITE: Well, I guess she didn’t mind a witness or two after all.
HYPOCRITE: It really is a fabulous sight, isn’t it? The miracle of birth.
HYPOCRITE: Glorious, really. People come here to the Crumbling Castle, every ten years they come, looking for glory. This is where they find it.
PHILIP: At last.
HYPOCRITE: I suppose I’ll head back to my ward, then. Got to get to work on a new baby formula.
PHILIP: I’d stay away from the special serums if I were you
HYPOCRITE: Ah yes, yes. Take care.
Exit HYPOCRITE. PHILIP walks to center stage.
PHILIP: So this child has some sort of special future, does he? He’s special in some way, too delicate to be taken care of by the likes of me. What harm could I do to him? Wouldn’t he benefit from my perspective? What kind of obedience is so important that it’s worth the risk of spoiling him with too much kindness, or wrecking him with too much cruelty? Is this a child, or an investment? Does every child have a cost? Did she take a piece of someone’s consciousness to win him over? What kind of mother is she…? Mrs. Scrub.
PHILIP goes to exit, but pauses to say:
PHILIP: I can’t believe she still has so many secrets. I thought I knew her. Who could ever know her? I wish the poor little kid luck.