The Crumbling Castle, part 15
A Capricious Drama by Thorin N. Tatge
PHILIP: A slighter older young man exploring his environs.
PIPER: The former First Prisoner of the Crumbling Castle. Emotional role.
WATCHER: A servant in the Crumbling Castle.
ANABELLE: Philip’s sister. Skeptical, but compassionate.
NOTE: ANABELLE and PHILIP should note the sex of the actor playing PIPER so they know how to refer to him or her.
PHILIP: Boredom. You know, one thing the Hypocrite told me a couple years ago was that no one ever has to be bored. We get bored, he said, because our minds are in one place and our deeds are in another, something like that. We just have to identify where our minds are at, and then adjust our deeds to match. And if our conditions are such that our deeds can’t be matched to our minds, we must move our minds onto a new track. If necessary, we must train ourselves to open a new track by observing and taking interest in our conditions. And then he went on and on for another fifteen minutes about tracks and states of mind and things until eventually he got so bored he nodded off. That’s when I slipped out of the room. But just the same, I think there might have been something to what the poor man was saying. It’s a magical castle we’re confined to, not just an old ruin, and even if it were just an old ruin we could still view it in so many different ways. I understand that in the old days, long before my sister and I arrived here, some servant—I think it was the Builder—decided that every east wall in the castle was more interesting than the floor. So for a while, they moved all the furniture onto the east walls, and made the west walls into the ceilings. I don’t know how they got around the problem of gravity—maybe they just used a lot of bolts and put handles everywhere. But apparently it gave them all a fresh perspective and cured a lot of ennui.
WATCHER (offstage): It was like moving into a brand new building! The best part was that the new building had about fifty-eight stories! Have you ever been in a building with fifty-eight stories? And we could walk on the walls, Philip!! We could walk on the walls!
PHILIP: Oh, hey, Watcher! What’cha been watching?
PHILIP: Hello? Watcher?
Enter ANABELLE as PHILIP looks out the door.
PHILIP: Well, that’s weird.
ANABELLE: What’s weird, Philip?
PHILIP: Someone answered me, and I thought it was the Watcher. But now no one’s there.
ANABELLE: Well, then whoever it was just took off again. Nothing to worry over. Listen, Philip. I’m really worried about Piper.
PHILIP: Again? Is (he/she) depressed again?
ANABELLE: It seems to have moved beyond that. You should come to (his/her) room and see for yourself.
PHILIP: All right, I’ll come. I can always explore this dungeon later.
ANABELLE: Sometimes I worry you have too much time on your hands. This way.
PHILIP and ANABELLE circle the stage. Enter PIPER, who sits huddled in a bunch.
PHILIP: Piper? What’s wrong?
PIPER: I don’t feel like talking right now, Philip. Please, leave me alone.
ANABELLE: You haven’t felt like talking for days. You have to come and eat something.
PIPER: Can’t you just bring me some food?
ANABELLE: You haven’t given us a reason you can’t come and get it yourself.
PIPER (looking at ANABELLE): Well haven’t I!? Didn’t I tell Philip not to free me three years ago? Didn’t I warn him I liked being a Prisoner?? I’m depressed, that’s what’s the matter! It’s been three years and I just get more depressed.
ANABELLE: I’ve seen depression and this isn’t it. There’s something worse happening to you.
PIPER (angry): What, do you think I’m sick?!
ANABELLE: I have no idea, Piper. It seems like you’re about to lash out, or something like that.
PIPER: I will if you don’t leave me alone!
PHILIP: Let’s leave (him/her), Anabelle.
ANABELLE: I don’t think it’s safe to just leave (him/her).
PHILIP: Come on. Outside.
PHILIP and ANABELLE retreat to the other side of the stage.
PHILIP: What’s (he/she) afraid of? Hurting us?
ANABELLE: I don’t know…but I think you’re right. (He’s/she’s) afraid of something.
PHILIP: It definitely looks like more than just needing time to think. There’s been time, after all. Three years.
ANABELLE: Maybe… maybe (he’s/she’s) just frustrated. I mean, for fifteen years Piper’s sole hobby was patching up the castle, to make it more escape-proof! And now you’ve given (him/her) the will to escape again, and (he’s/she’s) spent the last three years coming up against what (he/she) set in place (himself/herself)! I can imagine how meaningless it must feel.
PHILIP: And maybe (he/she) expected to be free by now….
ANABELLE: Could be. I suppose the best thing we can do is to help (him/her) along. We have to go back to finding a way out, Philip.
PHILIP: I guess… I guess you’re right. It’s been a long time since I actually wanted to escape from the Crumbling Castle. It shouldn’t be too hard to find a way out, now that nobody’s trying to keep us inside.
ANABELLE: But what if we do find a way out? Would you take it? Would you go home, Philip?
PHILIP: I don’t know. I think I’d resist… I think I’d stay. The Castle is home now. I feel that way.
ANABELLE: All right, brother. We might as well start right away, then. Where do we look?
PHILIP: I guess we might as well go back to the dungeon I was just exploring. We might find a hole in the castle’s foundation.
ANABELLE: Okay, sounds like a plan.
Exit PIPER. PHILIP and ANABELLE wander about while saying their next lines.
PHILIP: Left, right, right, second from left, left. This is where I was before.
ANABELLE: It feels pretty deep. How far down are we?
PHILIP: No clue. For all I know, we may be outside the lower boundary of the castle. But that hardly helps us reach the outside world.
ANABELLE: I wonder what the soil feels like, down here.
ANABELLE stoops and feels the ground. PHILIP looks around.
ANABELLE: This is soft, Philip. I think it’s water-fed from below! A person could tunnel through this dirt, with the right tools and enough time.
WATCHER (offstage): Maybe a person already has. Ever think of that?
PHILIP: Watcher! Where are you?
ANABELLE: Did you hear something?
PHILIP: I heard the Watcher yelling again.
ANABELLE: Are you sure? What direction?
PHILIP (pointing): Over there. Watcher!
ANABELLE: Oh, for goodness sake. Let’s go catch up with the joker.
PHILIP and ANABELLE circle the stage again.
PHILIP: Watcher, why are you just running away after you say something?
ANABELLE: No one’s here, Philip.
PHILIP: Well, there are footprints! At least, they look kind of like footprints. I guess they could be just natural patterns in the dirt.
Enter WATCHER, sleepy.
WATCHER: What’s all the shouting about? Don’t you know you could collapse this whole tunnel?
PHILIP: Watcher! Why didn’t you answer us before?
WATCHER: I didn’t hear you before, Philip. I didn’t even know you were down here.
PHILIP: But you answered me from around the corner. Twice!
WATCHER: I did? I don’t remember that.
ANABELLE: This is bizarre. Philip, are you completely sure you didn’t hear someone else?
PHILIP: Well, no… but it sounded a lot like you. And now, here you are. I mean, am I supposed to believe it’s just a coincidence that I heard a voice that sounded just like you and you also just happen to be down here, even though your normal post is five floors above us?
WATCHER: I’m just taking a stroll, Philip. I saw the door to the dungeon was open, so I thought I’d take a look.
PHILIP: And you swear you didn’t say anything about someone having dug a tunnel out of here?
WATCHER: No, of course not! There’s no tunnel out—none that I know of anyway.
PHILIP: Then who said it?
ANABELLE: I hope you won’t be offended if I decide you’re totally joshing us.
WATCHER: I’m not, I promise you. I didn’t say a single—Wait. I think I know what’s going on. It’s Mr. Postulate!
ANABELLE: What? Oh, that story Mr. Scrub likes to tell?
PHILIP: You mean Mr. Postulate is real?
WATCHER: Nobody knows! That’s why we call him Mr. Postulate. We can’t be sure if he’s real. But over the years, a lot of pretty good evidence has built up.
ANABELLE: Such as?
WATCHER: Oh, let’s see… clothes that nobody can remember owning… messes nobody can remember making… couch cushions moved from one place to another… food running out more quickly than expected. And there was even one time when for some obscure reason only the Owner knew, we all had to provide a blood sample. We got a few of them mixed up, and there turned out to be one extra, or at least there might have been. This guy seems to thrive on confusion, if he exists at all. We’ve never seen him—in fact, if he spoke to you just now, you’ve perceived him more directly than anyone ever has before. And you say his voice is similar to mine?
ANABELLE: Oh, I’m not buying this, Watcher.
PHILIP: Well, I think we’ve encountered weirder stuff, sis. So this postulated man… for that matter, how do you know he’s a man?
WATCHER: Well, he leaves the toilet seat up.
WATCHER: But now that you’ve heard him… well, he must be real!
ANABELLE: Assuming you’re not lying to us.
PHILIP: Let’s not worry about that chance, all right? Did you ever try…communicating with Mr. Postulate?
WATCHER: Yes, we did. We left a note for him once in the main foyer. When we looked again it looked like someone had scribbled something… but on closer inspection, it turned out to be just ink that bled from the page of a book it was sitting on. Or at least, it looked like it… it was faded and there was some question about it… there’s always some question about it. I don’t know if it’s just chance, and this man just always happens to take different paths from the ones we do, or if he’s deliberately avoiding us. It would be a lonely life, wouldn’t it, to just have very bad luck in meeting people. Oh, some people say they never meet anyone because they’re shy or don’t get along well with others, but to really be unlucky and just never happen to meet anyone… that would be downright tragic, wouldn’t it?
PHILIP: It really would.
ANABELLE: Incredible. That’s a ridiculous story, Watcher. What could possibly account for such bad luck?
WATCHER: The will of the castle, perhaps. It’s conceivable that something has changed recently so that now the castle is allowing Mr. Postulate to be heard.
PHILIP: Or maybe… I was just speculating that we might be down so far underground right now that in some sense we’re outside the castle! In that case, maybe Mr. Postulate can be found here!
WATCHER: That’s a thought! Let’s split up and look for him!
ANABELLE: I’m not going to be part of this, Philip. I may be bored, but I’m not as bored as you.
PHILIP: But I’m not bored!
ANABELLE (leaving): Yes you are, brother. I can tell.
PHILIP: Don’t you think I’m better qualified to say whether… oh forget it. Mr. Postulate!
PHILIP and WATCHER wander in different directions and circle about, calling:
PHILIP: Mr. Postulate!
WATCHER: Mr. Postulate!
PHILIP: Hello? Mr. Postulate?
WATCHER: Mr. Postulate!
ANABELLE (offstage): Oh, give it up.
PHILIP: What? Anabelle?
WATCHER: I didn’t hear anything.
PHILIP: Mr. Postulate, are you there?
PIPER (offstage): These caves, these echoes, they play havoc on your voice!
WATCHER: There, I heard it that time!
PHILIP: Do you think it’s him all the time? He sounds like other people.
WATCHER: That’s just to leave room for doubt. For all I know, he’s right, and the caves really are playing tricks with his voice.
PHILIP: Mr. Postulate! What was that you said about a way out? Did you say someone had already dug a tunnel out of the castle?
WATCHER (pointing): I thought I heard something over this way.
PHILIP: All right. Wait. Before we split up, let’s do something to find Mr. Postulate, if he does exist. We can’t let him keep going on suffering like this.
WATCHER: That’s a very compassionate point of view. Are you capable of having compassion for things that might not be real?
PHILIP: I always have been. I can’t explain it.
WATCHER: Well then, what do we do?
PHILIP: Draw arrows in the soil. Make them point this way, toward this cavern. If we cover the whole dungeon, eventually he’ll have to follow the arrows and end up here!
WATCHER: What’s forcing him to follow the arrows?
PHILIP: Nothing. But if he’s smart, that’s what he’ll do.
Exit WATCHER. PHILIP wanders around the stage, marking an arrow now and then.
PHILIP: Do you know the way out, Mr. Postulate? Do you have some secret tunnel we’ve never found?
ANABELLE (offstage): Less of a tunnel, more of a method. Make a tunnel anywhere you like.
PHILIP: What? Can you really do that?
Pause. PHILIP marks an arrow.
PHILIP: This is so frustrating! Come on, Mr. Postulate. I know you’re not my sister. She went upstairs. You’re not fooling anyone. Just follow the arrows and we can finally meet!
PIPER (offstage): Not possible. Not in my nature. I’ll try, but it’ll fail, I’m sure of it! You’ll see!
PHILIP: Why will it fail? Just follow the arrows and we’ll be sure to meet! We’re not in the castle proper anymore, so there’s nothing keeping us from finding each other! You want that, don’t you?
Pause. PHILIP marks an arrow.
WATCHER (offstage): I’m here! End of the arrows, all the arrows. I’m cramped. I’m scared. I don’t know if I believe in other people.
PHILIP: That’s ridiculous! You’re listening to me now!
ANABELLE (offstage): Could be another bit of me. A chip, a flake. Aspect. Facet. Facet of the one. I forget what I do. I do things without knowing sometimes. I’m yelling at myself now. Right now! Yelling!
PHILIP (walking): I’m not you, Mr. Postulate! I’m your friend! Just stay where you are! I’ll follow the arrows back to you.
PIPER (offstage): Someone’s coming. The Watcher. Coming here. Can’t stay. Can’t see this thing that I don’t know what or who it is. Can’t stay and look at every part of me. Got to go! I’ve got to go! I’m scared!
PHILIP: Just hang on, and I promise I won’t hurt you! Nothing will hurt you!
PHILIP: Mr. Postulate?
Enter WATCHER. PHILIP and WATCHER both walk to the center of stage and face the audience in awe.
WATCHER: What… Philip, what did you say to him?
PHILIP: I just told him not to worry… that we were real and we were friends. I told him to… stay here.
WATCHER: Well, look at that. (Points toward audience.) I swear on everything I know that tunnel wasn’t there before.
PHILIP: He said… he said he had a way of making them. He was a good digger, I guess. And this was… soft earth… oh Watcher, did we do the right thing? We’ve frightened him away!
WATCHER: If I’m not mistaken, Philip, this tunnel leads right out of the Crumbling Castle! I can hardly believe it. There’s a way out! And all we had to do was provoke the man who might not have been real.
PHILIP: He’s real… and he’s gone now. I hope he gets to meet a few people on the outside.
PHILIP: Oh! Piper! A way out! Piper!
PHILIP runs toward the door.
WATCHER: Huh? What about Piper?
Exit WATCHER. Enter ANABELLE, guiding PIPER.
ANABELLE: I’m just taking Piper to get some food. (He’s/she’s) starving. What’s all the excitement about?
PHILIP: Piper, I found a way out! We made a way out! Mr. Postulate dug a tunnel!
ANABELLE: Really? You’re kidding! Where?
PHILIP: Through the wall of the west cavern, in the dungeon! It smells of fresh air!
PIPER: No… oh no, why? Why did you do that? Why did you tell me?
PHILIP: What? Why are you upset? You can go now! You’ve been trying to get out of this castle for years, and now you can go! You don’t need to be depressed anymore.
PIPER (angry): Philip, you idiot! I wasn’t depressed! Couldn’t you tell I wasn’t depressed? I was fighting it! I was so close to getting out, but I resisted! I wanted to go, but I kept myself back! I put chains around my ankles and tied myself back! But you… your sister untied me, and now you’ve given me a way… a way out. Philip, how could you. There’s no keeping me now.
ANABELLE (grabbing PIPER): What are you talking about? Why not leave, Piper? What’s so bad about going that you have to restrain yourself?
PIPER: Well, duh! Aren’t we all waiting for Mrs. Scrub to open the way into the Closet? Isn’t this castle, this horrible, wonderful place, isn’t it a dream? Aren’t we all waiting to get into Heaven??
PIPER (sadly): Well? Had you forgotten? Heaven?
PHILIP: I… I thought you didn’t want that, or… or didn’t believe in it. I thought you wanted to go.
PIPER: I did, Philip, and I still do! And it’s so hard to live with conflicting desires. After so long seeking a way out… I couldn’t very well just forget, could I? So I did the only thing I could do for a chance at that perfect, heavenly life beyond the Closet—I tied myself back. I’d be bound to forget… to make a run for it… and once I’m gone, I can never come back to the Crumbling Castle.
ANABELLE: We’ll keep you here, then. We eon’t let you go.
PIPER (dreamy): Go home… go outside… back to the lands of freedom… the sky… the air…
PHILIP: Piper, get yourself together! Stop and let’s talk about this.
PIPER: I can’t take it any more here. There’s so much drama. So much fighting. I need to get out of this castle.
ANABELLE: No! You’re staying!
PIPER: I won’t! It’s too late! I have to go. (Breaks free from ANABELLE and runs out the door while PHILIP says his line…)
PHILIP: You can’t! You can’t go, Piper! If Heaven is what you want… heaven is what you’ll…
ANABELLE: Goodbye, Piper. I’ll miss you.
PHILIP: Well, that wasn’t what I thought would happen. Honestly. That isn’t what usually happens when you get bored. I can’t believe it, a random day wandering around and I find a way out of the whole damn castle. Poor Piper… I guess you’re gone now. You hung on so long… you deserved to get into Heaven if anyone did. It’s a shame.