Build

PROLOGUE

(Lights dim. With the curtain still down, a lone figure walks onto the stage.)

FIGURE: Good evening (or afternoon, depending on the time of day), ladies and gentlemen. Today I give to you a simple play, written by some playwright, performed by some actors, directed by some director. Maybe it’s a metaphor for something or other, and maybe it isn’t. Maybe it’s the ramblings of a half-insane lunatic. Maybe it’s the carefully crafted labor of love that marks a prize-winning playwright’s magnum opus. This is of no concern. However, the content of the play is another thing entirely.

It takes place somewhere at sometime. Whether it is the past, the present, the future matters as little as the planet it takes place on, the continent or the geography. Wherever and whenever it may be, it is populated by people like ourselves. These people are construction workers on a massive structure of unknown intent called simply the Structure, overseen by Leader, an entity of unknown strength, reach, or numbers. They live on the structure, in a honeycomb-like maze of passageways and apartments. This is the only existence they have ever known. Men have been born, lived, and died on this massive building.

And so we take you there tonight, to observe a construction team as they go about their jobs on the Structure. Please, sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.

(He exits. The curtain rises.)

ACT 1

SCENE 1

The stage is completely void of set pieces except for a low wooden bench and perhaps a few lockers. Enter 1, a worker on the structure. He wears the uniform of a worker and carries a messenger bag. He walks to the bench, sits, opens his bag and removes a small pamphlet sized book, which he begins to read.

Throughout the play, all the characters speak in a stilted, unusual manner. They emote, but very little. They are formal in the awkward manner of someone who has rehearsed being formal, but has never used these skills before, and as a bad actor reading from a script, fails miserably at appearing human. However, when they read from a script such as the Readings, they are far more comfortable- when given certainty in direction and purpose in speech, they can be quite fluent. Conversation, with none of that certainty, has none of that fluency.

1, reading from book: One is all and all is one. This is the founding principle of the Leader system, a system that has been in place forever, since the beginning of time. There is no self; the concept of the self is borne of narcissism and sin. It is vile and void. There is no we; there is only I, and all are contained within the I. Similar to the human body, which functions as a harmonious whole by giving jobs to individual cells, the I is made of many different objects working for it that perform various duties for it. Reader, you are one of these objects.

(At some point 2 enters, another worker on Project. He does the same as 1, but stands in the back of the stage. After taking out his book, he waits for 1 to reach the end of a sentence before joining in. This process repeats with a new character in order of 3-10 throughout the line-reading section of the scene. By the end of the line-reading, all 10 are present. However, 10, who enters last, does not join in the reading, and merely stands far in the back, waiting for them to finish. He is their supervisor.)

1: You must work as a cell does in unity with your brother cells and sister cells. You must use your sister cells to produce more cells for Leader to make use of; you must work with your brother cells for Leader; and you must obey Leader’s every command without a second thought. As the cell of the body follows the brain’s every command without knowledge of its intent, so you must follow Leader’s every command as a loyal cell of Leader.

As in a body, disease exists within Leader. As you read these lines, cancerous cells attempt to rot away Leader from within. These are rebel cells who, having turned against their Leader, attempt to destroy it. These cells are your enemy. They are the enemy of any cell who follows Leader and obeys its every word. As a follower of Leader, you must watch for cancer. You must help Leader’s soldiers to quash cancer in its early stages, before it can create a tumor, before it can kill all of us.

It may seem that the laws of Leader are harsh, but it is not so. Leader is watchful, and Leader protects each of you from danger and death. A cell alone cannot do much, but a cell that takes commands from a nerve that follows a brain is a very powerful thing indeed. Leader depends on you as much as you depend on Leader. Alone, you are powerless. With Leader at your command, you wield the power of a god.

(All ten of them pause for a moment as they are. Then:)

3: I think…these lines are my favorite.

6: “One is all and all is one.” True poetry.

1: Yes.

10, the only one who speaks with ease in conversation; with arrogance and superiority: Indeed, the power of Leader is much to behold. And we, gentlemen, are building a testament to it, a powerful structure that shall last into eternity. We shall let the glory of Leader live forever. (with a sense of purpose; to business) Today we shall work on the scaffold.

1: It was my understanding that we had completed that task and were to work on The Structure today.

10: New orders arrived this morning. They say that we are to continue with the scaffold until it has extended another sum of 100 meters.

1, hesitantly: Then that is what we shall do.

2: For the I.

3: For the cells.

10: For the Leader!

They suit up for the day. All but 1 and 2 exit.

1: Does it not seem strange to any that none know what this structure is?

2: You speak as if you did not perform your lines this morning, yet I stood here and watched you read. We are but cells that are guided by their brain.

1, suggestively, coyly: But what is that brain?

(2 walks back towards 1 and brutally slaps him with the back of his hand. 1 tumbles, but 2 remains stoic.)

2: Do not be a cancer upon us, brother. Do not question Leader.

(2 finishes dressing, but pauses.)

2, tentatively: I am sorry for injuring you, brother. But…I am merely ensuring the greater good. I hope that you understand.

1: Yes. Yes…I do.

(2 helps him up off the ground. They rapidly exit.)


SCENE 2

(It is the end of the day. 8 of them reenter, minus 2 and 10, sweaty and exhausted from work. They are all packing up in silence for a while, until:)

1: Did anyone see?

(Long pause.)

7: …No.

8: He was not wearing his harness. It was his folly.

1: Where was he?

6: Higher up.

5: High above us.

4: He would have been above the structure then.

(Long pause.)

1: He reached the top of the world. And he died for it.

3: Yes.

(Enter 10. He is the only one of them who remains clean and polished.)

10: What is this about?

4: Our brother.

5: He fell.

10: He was not wearing his harness?

7: No.

10: Oh.

(Pause.)

10: I shall apply for a replacement.

1, semi-sarcastically: Good.

10: It is not the first time this has happened, and it will not be the last. Remember your lines: there is no self. Our brother was not unique, and neither are we. He died-

1: He is not dead yet.

10: But how? He fell. We are miles in the air.

1: Yes, but has would not yet have hit the ground. He would still be falling.

4: That is a point.

(The discussion picks up speed.)

6: Still falling.

7: He must be wondering what we are doing.

3: He must be wondering why one of us did not catch him.

8: Perhaps he is now recalling how to tie a harness.

5:

10, at peak of crescendo: ENOUGH!

(Pause.)

No human died today, nor will any human die today. Our brother was not a human, just as you are not humans. You are organisms. You are creatures that are born, age, and die. You are nothing more and nothing less. Our brother who fell today could not “wonder”! He had no capacity to “wonder”! Nor do you. And you would all do well to remember that.

(Long pause as they resume packing.)

I will apply for another member to be added to our team tomorrow. Do not forget to find a sister to lie with tonight, it is as much your duty as your work as builders is.

(He exits. Long pause. Silence continues until all have left, one by one, in any order leaving 1 and 7.)

7: I heard you speaking to 2 this morning.

1, quickly, making an excuse: That was foolish of me. They were reparable thoughts that should have never crossed my mind.

(Long pause.)

For a moment there…between 2’s raised hand and the slap…I was cancerous. I was the cancer.

7: I thought on what you were saying about Structure.

1: Do not do so.

7, cutting him off: You spoke truly.

(Pause.)

7: Not, that is, that you spoke the truth, but that you spoke in all honesty. That is…rare.

1: Of course not. It is the farthest from the truth.

7: Indeed.

(They pause. In silence, both finish their packing and leave.)

ACT 2

SCENE 1

(It is morning again, and all the workers (including 2‘s replacement) are reading lines again. 1 enters first again, and the process repeats itself of each one entering individually and joining in the reading.)

1: Some of the less trusting of us may decide to rebel against Leader. Some may think that they can gain something from a revolt, and that they shall be better off without Leader. This is not so, for many reasons.

Consider: Leader is an entity that loves all of us, and so we love it. We will fight for Leader, under any circumstance.. One, two, three of us- even a few hundred, or thousand- is nothing compared to the might that is Leader. Leader has unparalleled power, and any fraction of it that rises up shall be instantly quelled.

Perhaps this seems harsh to some. Perhaps this only encourages some to rise up even more. However, there is another side. If we are all Leader, and Leader is all of us, then the Structure we build shall be a testament not only to Leader’s power, but also to ourselves. As we give unto Leader, so Leader gives unto us. As we work to give glory and power to Leader, so we receive, being a part of Leader ourselves.

All of us must put all of our faith into Leader. Without this, we are nothing. Without this, we die. If we all obey Leader unconditionally, so shall Leader return unto us- with gifts, accolades, food, we shall be rewarded. But as long as even one of us does not follow Leader, we have fallen apart. Like a plate of glass that shatters on the ground, so shall we shatter into a million pieces, each fighting each other for survival. If this happens, we all lose, and our unity as a race, as a species, as Leader, dissolves. If this happens, we become our own Executioner.

(They all stand up and begin to set up for the day.)

10: We work on the scaffold today, boys.

1, murmuring to 3: It seems that there is more scaffold than structure anymore.

3: What?

(They hang back after the rest have left.)

3: What was it you said to me?

1: Nothing. Just a passing thought.

3: No it was not. You know it was not a passing thought.

1: Well. It was just…we seem to work on the scaffold a lot.

3: Yes, and?

1: It seems…the scaffold has overshadowed the structure.

3, surprised, angered: Heresy!

1: Perhaps. Yet even in heresy the truth will sometimes avail.

3: No. Heresy is wrong and Leader is right. You know that. If Leader says that…that the sky is green and not blue, then Leader will take its paintbrush and paint the sky a different color!

1, chuckling: Yes. That is so. (Pause. In all seriousness.) Then why do you hesitate?

(Long pause.)

3: I do not know. I should be happy. I’m a worker on the Structure. My legacy will live on, past any children I leave behind, past any other comparable achievement I could reach alone. And yet…that does not fulfill…(with importance; he is referring to himself in the first person) me. I am not completed by this task. I do not derive pleasure from working alongside my brothers and sisters. My feet have never touched the soil of the earth, and my only work has been on the Structure. Though it may live on forever, my life has been null. My life has been…empty.

10, shouting from offstage: Brothers, the lift to the top of the Structure is leaving!

1: We have to leave. (Finishes packing, then:) I…I know. I know.

(Exits. In a few moments, so does 3.)

SCENE 2:

(It is midday. 1 has lured 7 down to the lockers during lunch.)

7: Why did you want me down here? It is expressly against Leader’s wishes to leave work at midday-

1: It is difficult to find a time to speak with anyone alone.

7: What did you want to speak to me about?

1: I thought on what you said. About what I said to our brother.

7: Yes, and? (Pause. He realizes what he means.) Brother, I am not cancerous. I do not question Leader, that is evil! I would never do that!

(Pause. 1 just looks at him.)

7: I do not question Leader. I don’t. It is not right.

1: Fine.

(Begins to exit.)

7: Wait!

1: Yes?

(Pause.)

7: What do you…think…Leader is?

1: Leader?… I think…it is a difficult question.

7: It exists, certainly, we have evidence.

1: Of course.

7: The readings.

(Long pause.)

7: Just the readings.

1: What do you mean?

7: Is that evidence of Leader? We were handed the readings by our fathers.

1: Who got them from Leader.

7: Yes, but…what if Leader never wrote them at all?

1: Then who would have?

7: Perhaps, a long time ago, someone…perpetuated the myth of a Leader…with these readings.

1: Then they would be Leader.

7: No, no, Leader is in the present…if Leader existed, it would still exist, it would have always existed. But there is no evidence for that.

1: True. But what of our orders every day, from the supervisor?

7: Them? Made up. Contrived to continue the story of Leader.

1: But…then what is the Structure?

(Long pause. Enter 3.)

3: Hello? Hello, brothers. I saw you leave and decided to follow. (To 1): Is he?

1: Yes.

3: Good.

Pause.

3: What…were you speaking of down here? Alone?

7: Mere speculation. Speculation about…well…have you ever…considered…Leader?

3: Considered?

7: Yes…thought on it.

3: I suppose not.

7: Brother, why do you build?

3: I…I do not know. I never have.

7: Neither have I.

1: Or I. (Pause.) We should get back. They would be missing us.

7: Yes.

(All exit, while in deep thought.)

SCENE 3:

(It is evening, and all 9 workers are in the locker again. Once again, the supervisor is still bright and shiny clean, and all the workers are drenched in sweat and dirt.

They are all silent as they enter and wander around in a haze of exhaustion.)

10, to 1. He does not notice that 3 is listening in: I noticed you went down the lift at midday. For what purpose?

1, even more stilted than usual: In my forgetfulness I shamed Leader in leaving some tools behind after leaving in the morning. I shall remember better next time.

10: You had better. I had noticed you left late last night, and this morning you were very nearly late for the lift. You had best not lose yourself and forget Leader.

1, rehearsed: The very suggestion makes me quail in fear of Leader’s wrath.

10: Good. To all: Good night to all of you. I again recommend you to find a sister tonight, birth rates are down slightly. Do not let this hinder you in your sleep, for tomorrow we shall work another hour longer than today-

3: No.

(All react with surprise and shock.)

3: I will not be…in attendance.

10, flustered–it has lowered his guard: What? What? That is not your choice to make, brother.

3: Yes, yes I believe it is. I, you’ll note, here in reference to me, to myself. We are not cells, Supervisor, we are not cells. We can think, we can read, we can watch as our lives crumble past repair, we can watch as we burn through countless years working on some great building. Why can we do so, Supervisor? Why can I think? The bricks on Structure are each crafted to slip into their spots, like square pegs in square holes, each perfect…but we are not. We are not each crafted as the other, we are not all uniform, as hard as you may try we are not, quite simply, we are not. We are organic, we are made of places and times we have never seen, we are the same as the ground, the ground that we have never seen, we are free. We are inherently free animals, that naturally strive towards a beautiful chaos, a majestic entropy of a empty, empty void. Any fight against it is madness, true and simple, and we cannot continue on this Structure. (angrier- as others start to agree) We are not fools, brothers. We know this is madness, we do! Somewhere beneath the layers of desensitized propaganda, somewhere in there we know it!

7: I stand with my brother! I stand with my brother for freedom! I want to, I need to know what Structure is! We live and work on it every day, but we cannot learn what it is? If Leader does exist, it must be a madman!

(Arbitrary shouts of agreement erupt, and general consensus has been reached.)

8: We are not the cancer, we are the cure!

9: We are the cure! We will not stand down and wait for Leader’s glory to be given unto us! We will make for ourselves a new beginning! We will be free again, as it is meant to be, as Nature ordered it! We will fight for this! We will be free! We will-

(Two men dressed in suits enter with machine guns and open fire on them. They scream and try to escape, but all are shot and killed. 10 has fled the scene, and 1 has faded into the background.)

Suit 1, to 1: Good work, brother.

Suit 2: Yes, truly you have revealed the cancer within Leader. You shall be rewarded with a promotion to Supervisor.

1, again, stilted, rehearsed: Thank you, brothers. May Leader’s glory be infinite and eternal.

Suits: For Leader’s glory.

(They exit. 1 wanders through the wreckage for a few minutes, then sits on a bench. He picks up 3’s arm, and lets it fall back down again.)

1, with weight- concerned understanding: Hm.

CURTAIN

Michael Landes
Age 14, Grade 9
The Dalton School
Gold Key

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