Empty Talk

Scene 1

Small living room. MAURICE is asleep at his desk, muttering slightly. A voice is heard offstage growing louder and louder until it booms out the last sentence. The room is dark, but as the voice continues with its speech the room grows progressively lighter)

THE VOICE: He resists because he is there. He resists because he knows nothing else. His resistance is in itself a form of surrender. Because why resist? When the whole world becomes blind and stumbles in the dark, is not seeking the light foolish? Why does he resist? Does he have a reason?

Petulant child. Join us. Or do not, and live alone. Resist, resist. But why? Tell me why you fight this? Is your liberty so dear to you? Resist, resist. Surrender. Resist. You have already surrendered. You have already lost. Do not fight. Resist. Come with us. Resist. Leave this behind. Resist. Resist, resist. Forever.

He resists because he is there.

ANTON: Hey Maurice, wake up.

MAURICE: Resist.

ANTON: I said, wake up. You’re late.

MAURICE: Resist. Huh? Sorry. Dreams.

ANTON: How do you know this isn’t a dream?

MAURICE: Because this makes sense.

ANTON: Nothing makes sense. Now, let’s go. I’m already dressed.

MAURICE: Anton, do you have nightmares?

ANTON: Look, can we please do this first? You promised me.

MAURICE: It’s not my fault the alarm clock malfunctioned.

ANTON: It didn’t. Look around. You fell asleep at your desk. But let’s just go, ok?

(ANTON hurries out of the room, preoccupied with his phone. MAURICE stands up and walks to the bathroom to get changed)

Scene 2

(Same room as before. MAURICE enters with ANTON)

MAURICE: Ok, so, there’s this game. At one level, it features a starry sky. And all the stars move, except the ones on the horizon. And I’ve played this game hundreds of times, but I never noticed the stars move. Because I only ever looked at the horizon. How do they know? That people only ever look there. Or is it just me? Am I so predictable?

ANTON: (preoccupied with checking his phone) Hmm? Oh yeah, no you’re very…um, unpredictable.

MAURICE: Well, my point is…ok, maybe I don’t have a point. But do we ever look? Like really look at things. How can we just blindly accept the stars don’t move without looking? And for what purpose did the makers of this game decide to trick us by making us think the stars don’t move?

ANTON: They only tricked you.

MAURICE: Are you calling me stupid?

ANTON: No, of course not. But this is dangerous talk Maurice. Don’t you think you sound a little…

MAURICE: We just got back from the doctor.

ANTON: Those tests aren’t entirely accurate. People lie, you know.

MAURICE: So you’re calling me a liar?

ANTON: No, of course not. Why are you so touchy today?

MAURICE: Just a little stressed, nothing to worry about. But honestly, only skitzos and teens get it. People like me have nothing to worry about.

(ANTON sits down with a groan on an old armchair)

ANTON: I’m just concerned. You’ve been acting weird lately.

MAURICE: Listen Anton, I’m fine. Believe me. I’ve just been thinking a lot lately.

ANTON: A little thought is a dangerous thing.

MAURICE: You can’t possibly be that resistant to change. Don’t you have any…anyway, about my dream.

(MAURICE sits down across from him)

ANTON: Maybe you should just forget it. They say having dreams…I mean, sometimes I do too, but I don’t talk about it.

MAURICE: What are you so scared of? We’re friends, this can stay between us. No one has to know.

ANTON: But what if…?

MAURICE: When did you become so afraid? Come on Anton. Let’s talk about this. Tell me about one of your dreams.

ANTON: I don’t know…

MAURICE: Please Anton. I won’t tell anybody.

ANTON: Well…

MAURICE: Please.

ANTON: Maurice, you are so pushy. Well, in my dream, I…

MAURICE: Go on.

ANTON: I’m alone. In a huge, sandy desert. Isn’t it strange? I’ve never even been to a desert. And I see a shining light on the horizon. So I start to walk towards it. And I walk and walk and walk but I can never reach it. And then, at some point in the dream, I stop and look around. And that’s when I notice I haven’t moved at all, or I’ve circled around and ended up in the same place I started. When I realize this, I wake up.

MAURICE: Do you…do you have this dream often?

ANTON: No, never. I made that story up. I sleep a peaceful sleep Maurice. As should you.

MAURICE: But don’t you have any dreams? Any at all?

ANTON: Sometimes I dream I’m flying. Sometimes I dream of delivering a speech, or of women. Normal things, the things I should dream of. But I don’t talk about it Maurice. It’s not important.

MAURICE: Should dream. Should, should. What a horrible word. Want, and need. And will. Those are exciting words Anton!

ANTON: Dangerous words. Very dangerous words. Keep it down Maurice.

MAURICE: How do you know you’re not dreaming right now?

ANTON: I don’t. You know my thoughts on such things.

MAURICE: Exactly. They can’t hear us in a dream. Tell me Anton, why are you so unconventional in this one respect?

ANTON: Dream or not, better not to risk it.

MAURICE: But Anton, you are so very proper, and you don’t even have dreams. So why think…?

ANTON: A woman, Maurice. It is always a woman.

MAURICE: Was she…?

ANTON: No, by no means was she…you know. Ill. Her mother was, though. And you know the effects of these things. Even if they are trifling, she was still a little…

MAURICE: An epidemic. An epidemic is what it is. How easily it spreads. Even to you Anton.

ANTON: Don’t suggest such things. I’m not…she changed my view on this one insignificant detail. That is all.

MAURICE: Tell me how. How did she do it? What did she say to make you evade convention?

ANTON: Just by…she was by no means heretical, Maurice. She wasn’t conventional, but she wasn’t so far gone as to be heretical. Nobody could call her that.

MAURICE: Yes, yes. Nobody’s claiming you loved a dissident.

ANTON: I didn’t even love her. I thought I did. But that may have just been her passion. It takes a hold of you, you know.

MAURICE: A little passion is a dangerous thing too, Anton.

ANTON: Don’t I know it? But I was young. And it seemed like a good way to rebel.

MAURICE: You? A rebel? Well Anton, I never thought you the type.

ANTON: I was young Maurice! You know how these things grab a hold of you when you’re young.

MAURICE: But now…

ANTON: I’m immune to these things now. I saw the light and now…

MAURICE: Fully conventional.

ANTON: Just a tad eccentric. Nothing to fear.

MAURICE: You never answered my question?

ANTON: Which one?

MAURICE: How did she do it? A mind is such a difficult thing to change. Some even say it’s impossible.

ANTON: You know those people to be wrong. Naysayers, marginalized.

MAURICE: So come on. Tell me how she did it. I want to understand.

ANTON: The words…they just get in your head. You want to believe them. It appeals to the baser part of you. Eventually, you cling to it, solely because it fills the world with such wonder and amazement. The words excite you.

MAURICE: Is that such a bad thing?

ANTON: Not always. It depends how you channel it. But having such a strong belief, it can fill you with hatred. I…I don’t want to talk about it any longer. It’s far too…

MAURICE: But I want to understand.

ANTON: Why?

MAURICE: (confused) Why?

ANTON: Yes. Tell me why. What is this sudden urge for knowledge? I say, you are acting strangely…

MAURICE: Can’t I have moods? So today, I want to know about your life. Yesterday, don’t you remember, I wanted to know everything about that awful disease. Quite frankly, tomorrow it’ll be on to cooking or something trivial like that. Humour me, Anton.

ANTON: It’s not my duty to humour you.

MAURICE: Why does it have to be a duty? Why not a favour, or what’s more, a pleasure? I am your friend.

ANTON: Yes, but…

MAURICE: Are my humours not amusing to you?

ANTON: Well, sometimes. But…

MAURICE: This is for you just as much as it is for me.

ANTON: You silver tongued rascal! When did you become so convincing?

MAURICE: So will you continue on?

ANTON: My dear Maurice. You make good points, but you are still green when it comes to the fine art of persuasion. I am older than you Maurice.

MAURICE: By fewer than four years. Why always hold that over my head? Please Anton. Continue on. We are friends after all.

ANTON: Perhaps later.

MAURICE: Why not now?

ANTON: You mustn’t pry. Don’t you know it’s very rude to push a person for information?

MAURICE: Not if you’re a cop.

ANTON: And are you?

MAURICE: Tell me about your dreams Anton.

ANTON: I’m becoming convinced this is one. We can talk more tomorrow.

(ANTON stands up to leave, but MAURICE stands up and puts a hand on his shoulder)

MAURICE: You promise we can continue talking like this tomorrow?

ANTON: Are you afraid I’ll forget what we spoke about today?

MAURICE: I’m afraid you’ll become afraid.

ANTON: Of what Maurice? This is a dream after all.

(ANTON smiles and leaves, MAURICE is left alone in the room. He walks over to his computer and opens up a file. An image of a starry sky appears on the screen. MAURICE stares at it for a few moments before beginning to speak)

MAURICE: Why didn’t I look up? I could have seen the stars move so long ago. Why didn’t I look up? What kept my eyes glued to the horizon? And what ultimately cast them upwards? What made me see?

(Pause)

MAURICE: And for what purpose are the stars on the horizon fixed? I must know. I must know. I must…

THE VOICE: Resist. For just a moment, resist. Resist sleep, and food, and friendship. You must know. What? Everything. You must know everything. In order to survive. In order to see the truth.

MAURICE: I must know…

(MAURICE puts his head down on the table and, still muttering, falls asleep)

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