mental illness

Pt. 2: Nostalgia.

I once was a girl that lived by the sea

In my mind,

With rattled bones of white.

That girl never ate peaches.

That girl dreamed saltwater dreams.

 

She would watch the waves break against the rocks

And gulls soar

Against gray skies.

Her veins were violet and gold,

Her skin was blue, and cold.

 

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Angel–Part 3: Salvation

The butterflies in my stomach had been dead for a very long time. Whether I had drowned them in alcohol or shot them with pills, I don’t know. But my life had become an empty void, a routine sickness I battled day in and day out. All companionship those little butterflies had provided me died along with them, and I had never felt so alone. My depression set in and controlled every ounce of my being–parasitic, it fed off my energy and whispered destructive thoughts to me. It reminded me how silent my phone was, it reminded me the rent was due, it reminded me how much I hated my job, it told me that food and sleep were unimportant and that I was worth nothing, just like my ex lover had said.
Life had become a nightmare I had accepted that I would not awaken from.
My phone began to ring. I checked the clock–8:30. Perhaps a little late to be ringing some one, I thought. I answered anyway and was greeted with the upbeat and enthusiastic voice of my best friend.

“Hey, August 1st what are you doing?”

I paused. “Working.”

“Book some days off–we’re going to Toronto.”
I shook my head. What? I didn’t understand.

“Look, Ray, you’ve been completely depressed since like November. You need a vacation, and I have the perfect thing to pick you back up. Book the days off.”

And before I could reply, she had hung up. Stunned, I placed the phone down and slid into bed, resolving to deal with my new found situation in the morning.
My boss fought me on the vacation days, but in the end I won the time. Overall I’d only be gone half a week, and even she could see I was too run down to continue working without a more substantial break. I wasn’t sure what my friend had in mind, but I elected to trust her on the whim.
I couldn’t feel how tired I was when we settled into our airplane seats. There was no difference to me in feeling from one day to the next–the lack of sleep and the stress of airport security had little impact on me at this point. Beside me, my friend wriggled into her seat as I clasped my hands and closed my eyes. I dozed into a restless sleep, awakened by her prodding at 7000 feet above the ground. She gave me a mischievous smile, and finally revealed her secret to me–the purpose of our trip, she said, was to see an up-and-coming band live in their first global tour. I had never heard of them, and questioned why she would take me to see a band performing across the country when I had never heard of them. Her eyes twinkled.
“Because you need them.”
Passing me a pair of headphones, she claimed I had another five hours to grow accustomed to their music. So I did.
My time in Toronto lifted my spirits. Being free of worries and stresses greatly liberated my mind from the phantom of my ex lover and the knives his words had become. By the time the night of the concert came, I found to my surprise I was excited despite my lack of knowledge of the band. It was true that their music had connected with me on a certain level, and yes had even brought me to tears–but irregardless of my excitement I couldn’t help but feel slightly out of place standing in the line of hyperactive teenaged girls waiting for the stadium doors to open. When they did, my friend and I found ourselves pushed up against metal barriers right before the stage on the floor, elbowed by shoving fangirls and getting our faces cut by posters pleading for a marriage proposal. In truth I was slightly sickened by the actions of the younger crowd around me–so head over heels for a group of men older than them. I had to pause and remind myself that I was not much older than many of them myself, and as the music started to play the screams grew louder and I found myself smiling, reconciling with myself in the familiar feeling of a buzzing concert.
As I turned my eyes up to the stage, I stopped dead. My eyes surveyed the long spiky hair, the kind face, the strong hands grasping the guitar. I grabbed my friends hand and, panicked, whispered “I know him.”
And green eyes met blue, and I could feel the words he was about to sing stick in his throat.

Drums

Drums. Rat-a-tat tat. Rat-a-tat tat. Drums. Rat-a-tat tat. Never ending, moving in tangent with the hand. Minute, set at the six, hour at the twelve, second running round and round and round. Twelve thirty, always twelve thirty. They laugh and jeer, always vocalizing passed judgment on me. The stars just watch. But they judge me, too. They count the bones. That’s what they do. Always counting. Vertebrae, C-1 to L-5. Every single one, every rib that my skin clings to. And they laugh.

Rat-a-tat tat.
Tick tock.
Rat-a-tat tat.
Tick tock.
Laughing.

Sunlight glows harshly in from the window, illuminating the dust dancing through the air. The heat is stifling. The child sits on the edge of a moldy mattress, sucking quietly on a Popsicle. It’s orange, but it tastes like lemons. Her blonde hair is dirty and tousled—her bedraggled appearance seems to match the dingy setting of the warehouse. Dark circles under her hazel eyes don’t take away from the bright happiness sparkling in them. Ah, the mark of childhood innocence and naivety.

Perpetual darkness is, at this point, such a potential comfort. Without light, one can’t see—I think that, perhaps, it’s better this way. The stars can stare and the clock can laugh all they want, the drums can keep on beating through my ears, but I have almost no knowledge of what they observe. Nor, at this time, do I care. My sense of loss cannot be flushed from my body. I am not pure any longer. And so it is for the best that I cannot see myself. Instead of staring into the mirror, I can stare into the deep black, the never ending void, for as long as I so choose. And forget. I can stare forever, and just forget it all. It is in the darkness that I can hide away—not only from myself, but from the monster within. If I can’t see myself, then neither can he. And that’s when the darkness is a true friend.

Hazel eyes turned upwards in the hot noon sun. They glisten and shine like the stars themselves—he stares. And smiles. The girl doesn’t notice. She squints, evaluating the immense stone building lying in the distance. “Someday,” she whispers. “Someday.”  

“Of course.”

They poke and prod me constantly. Even when they’re not here. They have needles and tubes disappearing into my skin hidden beneath the stiff, scratching, stark sheets. And deep down, they are laughing at me alongside the clock and the stars. Their laughter goes screaming through my mind and echoes in my ears like the drums. Rat-a-tat tat. Every line and hill visible on my back beneath the open back of my hospital gown is a source of jest and hilarity.

High heels click and echo down the darkened marble hallway. The lanyard around her neck sways to and fro, ending in an ID card embellished with her picture and the title “Dr., PhD.” With ease and grace she inserts a key into its lock, turns it with one quick and smooth movement, and enters the room. Focused, she clicks her way across the landing and up the stairs. She knows her destination. Fluidly she turns down an aisle and stops at its far end. Pupils dilate as she reaches to the second top shelf and grasps the spine, pulling the book down with anticipation. She flips to the index, her fingers scrolling down the pages quickly in search of her target. When she finds it, she pauses. ‘Finally,’ she thinks. ‘The secrets shall be revealed.’

He leers at me from the shadows of my mind. I flinch away, cover my eyes and press down to see the colours dance about instead. His touch is burning ice cold as he pulls me in and touches my face, sneering. I struggle, but his hands stay fast attached to me. Tears stream down my face—my lips move, in a desperate attempt to beg, appeal to his better nature. That is, if he has any. He removes one hand and brings it to his own lips as a fist, one long and thin index finger extended to press across vertically the pale blue lines. “Ssh,” he whispers as he smoothes my hair.

A shrill scream escapes her pale lips. Tears well from her hazel eyes as her hand continues to tighten around the one enveloping hers. The pain is overwhelming her. Another scream is released into the air around her as her body convulses, and then relaxes. Her head lolls and her back fails her. The hands quickly move from offering mental support to offering physical, gently laying her back despite their own panic. Her breathing is shallow, but she is not unconscious—she hears the flurry of voices around her, picking out what’s important.
“…going into shock…”
“…she’ll be fine…”
“We have excessive hemorrhaging…”
“…get her on respiratory support…bring extra towels.”
Her eyelids flutter. Her heart races. The blood loss is slowly taking its toll and she is well aware of it. And then:
“…stillborn.”
Followed by an inhuman wail of despair from her right. She knows what it means, but she blacks out before she can fully comprehend the word’s meaning.
As she loses the final threads of control on her body to which she clung to, a diamond ring slips from her finger and falls to the ground, clattering along the floor and down an air vent. Lost, forgotten, and unsalvaged in the chaos of the upper world.   

He whispers to me, keeping me silent. Words that undo me and hide behind a loving masquerade. His caresses burn white hot, and I shake uncontrollably with overwhelming fear. I want to get away, but I doubt I can. Can I push him away? Can I fight a battle I am sure to lose? How can I fight an apparition, a shade with the face of my past?
“Remember,” he says to me.
“Remember.”

Hazel eyes are turned upwards towards the sun. They glisten like the stars. But they are sightless and bright with tears. Different, unfamiliar hands pat hers. She cannot hear his comforting words. All she can hear is the lie in his tone, accusatory and harsh. She feels no remorse, though, for this vaguely familiar shape of a man beside her. Her heart is weighed down by sorrow and pity for herself. Pity and loss and pain. But she cannot cry anymore—her eyes have run dry.
“Up,” he says, “get up.”
She complies—aware of whispers and sly glances at her passing. What do they say? What do they think? What are they implying?
“Don’t bother,” he rasps, as if reading her thoughts.
By hand he leads her along the pavement parking lot and down the grassy hill, behind a warehouse building.
“You’ve lost so much,” he says, not unkindly. “I am here again. Here to help you.”
All this time, she has not replied.
“Yo, Trey, hit me up.”

  It ravaged my body. It left very little behind for me to live in, and so I now exist as this hollow and decaying carcass of a human being, murdered by my own thoughts and drowned by the demons swimming in my mind. I took things too far and they know it just as well as I. They whisper it to the visitors that bustle in and out of the hall outside, who take it with them to the alien, sunlit world beyond the windows. And then they talk to me, talk through the clock and the drums and the stars. Laughing, judging, pointing. But they never listen to me; they never listen to the one who knows the truth.

Pupils are constantly dilated now. The addiction runs deep within her veins, pulling the meat from her very bones.
“You’ve fallen so far,” he says, toying with a strand of her dirty blonde hair.
She crushes the crystals into fine white powder with a razor blade. He smiles coyly. “Look where we are now.” Pause. A snicker.
“Right back where we started, you and I.”
Her eyes turn to him, sunken into her skull. Accusatory.
He believes his violence is justified.
“You chose that place over me. You chose fancy words and clothes over me. You chose
him over me. But you’ve lost it, and what would you do without me now?”

How could I not? A prodigious mind, trapped in a body born to the streets and begging. The drums take up a faster pace in my ears thinking about it, drowning out all else. He leers at me again. “Remember?” says he, taunting.
“Remember?”    
Yes. Yes, I remember. But I do not wish to.
“You cannot go back. You are mine now.”
And so, with one final look of defiance, out come the tubes.
For good this time.

Second Star to the Right

(SLOW INSTRUMENTAL VERSION OF NEVER NEVERLAND PLAYS, THEN FADES OUT. Lights come up [should be light red for effect], Bela stands centre stage.)

Bela: Think of a child. A child living in blissful ignorance. Little kids can’t see it happening, but grownups can. The world takes children and shapes them, molds them, changes them. Alters them in ways they are unable to comprehend. But that all changes when they grow up. Suddenly they can see the strange, twisted creatures they’ve been fashioned into.
And that’s the moment when a person wishes they had never grown up. It’s the moment of recognition. Because no one gets to fly off to Neverland with Peter Pan. We all have to grow up, whether we want to or not. It’s not a choice, not a simple matter of “faith, trust, and a little bit of pixie dust.” We all wish it was, though. In the end. (hesitate)
Mother always told me I was pretty. But when I was six, I learned otherwise. (Mother and C. Bela enter, staged downstage right) Kids are funny—they have funny ways of expressing things. They have a funny way of sorting and organizing things…they don’t keep anything a secret. (lights up downstage right)

Mother: (kneeling, fixing C. Bela’s jacket) Don’t worry about a thing, darling.

C. Bela: (standing) But, mother. What if the other kids don’t like me?

Mother: That’s nonsense, Bela. They’ll love you, you’ll make plenty of friends.

C. Bela: Promise?

Mother: I promise. (kisses C. Bela’s forehead)

Bela: But my mother was wrong. I didn’t fit in at all.

(C. Bela crosses over to downstage left, to Girls 1&2, who are sitting and eating lunch)

C. Bela: Hi, I’m Bela. Can I sit with you?

Girl 1: No.

C. Bela: Why not?

Girl 1: You’re hair isn’t long enough.

Girl 2: Only girls with long hair can sit with us.

C. Bela: Why should how long my hair is matter?

Girl 2: Because girls with short hair aren’t pretty.

C. Bela: Oh.

Voice: Bigger is better. You need to grow your hair out and be taller.

C. Bela: (looking up, disconnected from “reality”) Why?

Voice: Look at them. They’re big girls. You’re too little.

C. Bela: But why?

Voice: Because that’s the way I want it. (lights down so only Bela is illuminated)

Bela: I went home crying that day. Mother was so worried. She was disappointed that I would be classified by my peers simply because my hair wasn’t as long as theirs. So she sat me down, and read me a book. ‘Peter Pan,’ it was called. That was special between us. Peter was special. He was my hero, always there to pick me up when I fell down. That day, when she was reading to me, Mother stopped at one sentence.

(C. Bela and Mother are sitting downstage right, mother holding her child and an open book)

Mother: (as if stopping reading, looks absent mindedly out at audience) Those girls are stars, Bela.

C. Bela: What?

Mother: (looks at C. Bela) They’re stars—I said they’re stars.

C. Bela: (looking down, sad) I know. They’re all so pretty, just like stars. I’m not a star.

Mother: No, Bela, you’re not a star. You know what you are?

C. Bela: What?

Mother: You are so much more than just a star. Here, look. It says: “Stars are beautiful, but they may not take part in anything, they must just look on forever.” You know what that means? (putting book down) It means that those girls amount to nothing. But you? You’ll outshine them all, and they’ll have to watch.

C. Bela: Then I don’t want to be a star!

Mother: That’s my girl. (kisses her cheek)

Voice: But you do want to be a star, Bela.

Mother: I love you, baby girl.

C. Bela: I love you too, mommy. (Hugs Mother)

(Lights go down so only Bela is illuminated)

Bela:  As a child, I didn’t understand why I got treated that way by the other kids. I get it now. When I grew up, I began to understand. There are specific ideals, see, ideals people are under the impression we all need to fit in to. But they seem so impossible. People die trying to fit into the images of perfection we’ve made for ourselves. I almost did. When I was fourteen, I stopped eating all together. I didn’t eat until I was a mere seventy pounds and dying in the hospital. And that voice was always there, even back then, egging me on.

Bela&Voice: Don’t eat that, it has too many calories. Just one more pill. Just stick your fingers down a little further, that’ll do it.

(Lights up downstage left. T.Bela sits with her legs extended out, Mother kneels next to her. Voice’s volume gradually increases)

Mother: (desperate) Bela, please…

Voice: Quiet.

Mother: Please, you must eat something.

Voice: No.

Mother: Bela—

T. Bela&Voice: (yelling) No.

T. Bela: (softer, looking up) Why?

Voice: Because you’re not skinny enough. You’re not pretty enough.

T. Bela: Says who?

Voice: Says me.

T. Bela: (looks down) But…I’m dying.

Voice: “To die would be an awfully big adventure.”

T. Bela: “To live would be an awfully big adventure,” too.

Voice: And what makes you think that?

T. Bela: (looking up again) “Dreams do come true if only we wish hard enough. You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it.”

Voice: Exactly, Bela. And don’t you want to fit in? (downstage scene freezes)

Bela: That’s what it does. That’s what they do. They get inside your mind and tell you what to do. What to become. Suddenly I was a social outcast, always alone with my thoughts.
I tried everything I could think of. I tried to fit into any and all of the crowds. I was unsuccessful. Occasionally I would find a place, somewhere I thought I belonged. But something always happened. Always went wrong.

T. Bela:  (looking up, demanding and desperate) I don’t understand. What am I doing wrong? Where am I supposed to go? Where do you want me?

Voice: Exactly where you are.

T. Bela: (confused) What?

Voice: You’re already where you’re supposed to be.

T. Bela: I don’t understand…

Voice: What makes you think you’re supposed to? (lights down on downstage scene. Mother exits, T. Bela costume change)

Bela: It’s strange. One moment, they’re telling you you belong nowhere, that you’re no one. The next moment, they’re trying to tell you that you’re perfect just the way you are. What’s right? What’s wrong? You never know, and the sad part is that you never figure it out, either.
What I learned with my eating disorder is that nobody cares until things fall apart. They wait until the last possible moment to care, to say something, to take action.

Voice: Oh gosh, how could we have let this happen? You perfect person. You didn’t deserve this. Society is terrible.

Bela: (muttering) Hypocrites…

Voice:  But you’re not going to fit in with the popular girls unless you’re skinny and pretty. You’re not going to fit in with the nerds unless you’re smart. You won’t fit in at home unless you’re stable and hardworking.
Face it, you just don’t fit in.
Fix that, would you please?

Bela: See? It never ends.
I tried my hardest to get better. There comes a point in life where you just can’t keep living in the dark, never-ending hole depression is. You have to start turning to things that don’t hurt you. Peter was still there. So, when I was sixteen, I stopped listening to that little voice inside my head and started exploring me. And by me, I mean who I was. What made me, me. I started to sing.

(lights up downstage right. Voice gradually becomes more urgent)

Voice: Bela.

T. Bela: (singing) “I have a place where dreams are born, and time is never planned…”

Voice: Bela. Listen to me.

T. Bela: “It’s not on any chart…”

Voice: Enough, shut up, stop singing, you must listen to me.

T. Bela: (emphatically) “You must find it in your heart,”
“Never, Neverland!”

(T. Bela continues to sing the next lines softly, Bela speaks over top)

Bela: And singing was something I was good at. Very good at, in fact. And eventually, that little voice went away entirely. I finally felt like I was good at something, was worth something.

T. Bela: “It might be miles beyond the moon, or right there where you stand. Just keep an open mind, and then suddenly you’ll find, Never, Neverland. You’ll have a treasure if you stay there, more precious far than gold. For once you have found your way there, you can never, never grow old.”

Bela: I joined choir, took private voice lessons. I felt like my voice could lift me up, higher than that voice in my head, higher than ideals, higher than depression. Like it could give me wings. “If you cannot teach me to fly, teach me to sing,” like my mother used to say. She said that’s what Peter said, though I can’t remember if he really did or not. But ‘Never, Neverland’ was my favourite song because it brought me closer to Peter, closer to Neverland, to a place where I could be carefree and happy.

Both: “And that’s my home where dreams are born, and time is never planned. Just think of lovely things, and your heart will fly on wings,
Forever in Never, Neverland.”

Bela: And then came my first solo performance. All those old insecurities came creeping back in as I stood up on the stage in front of everyone. That voice came back, and suddenly the music that gave me wings sent me plummeting to the ground.

Voice: Hello again, Bela. It’s been too long.

T. Bela: Go away.

Voice: I’ve missed you so much. Haven’t you missed me?

T. Bela: No.

Voice: I told you I’d be back, didn’t I? (T. Bela stares out into audience absent-mindedly)

Bela: That’s beside the point.

Voice: That’s what you think.

Bela: My pixie dust wore off. Even my mother couldn’t overpower that ever-present voice. She tried, God knows she tried. But she just couldn’t ever do it. It was the one demon of mine that she couldn’t fight.

Mother: (kneeling before her) Come on, Bela, just like Peter says. “The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.” Right? Just like Peter says.

T. Bela: Peter can’t help me anymore, Mother. (Mother’s face visibly falls)

Bela: That? That broke her heart. The day I lost Peter. “Lost girl.”
My mother died later that year. Cancer, came out of nowhere. Acted fast, too. So it goes. She tried to restore my faith in myself and in Peter up until the bitter end. The last thing she said to me was out of Peter Pan.

(Mother stands and moves between Bela and T. Bela)

Mother&Bela: “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

Bela: She never finished it, though, that wasn’t the full quote. I had to finish it myself. (Mother begins to exit, hesitates on next line, then moves offstage)

T.Bela&Bela: “Or forgetful.”   (lights down so only Bela is illuminated. T. Bela exits.)

Bela: “I suppose it’s like the ticking crocodile, isn’t it? Time is chasing after all of us.”
Things started looking up when I was a young adult. This time, I really thought I had figured out where I was meant to be. After graduation, my life exploded into what it should have been since I was a child, rapidly ushering my old life out. I was free of the place that had become my hell. I had friends, I was good at the things I did, I felt comfortable for the first time in my life. I was happy. I felt like I belonged.
But who’s to say that “belonging” is always a good thing? (lights up all downstage. Maddy&Lisa enter stage left, Y. Bela stage right)

Maddy: Hey, Bela!

Lisa: Bela! (they run over to meet her)

Y. Bela: Hey, guys.

Lisa: Some party, huh?

Y. Bela: Yeah, it’s pretty crazy.

Maddy: Oh my gosh, there’s someone you have to meet.

Lisa: Oh, do you mean…?

Maddy: Yes!

Lisa: Oh my gosh, yes! Come on Bela, you have to meet him! (they pull her stage left)

Y. Bela: Him?

Maddy: Oh, I see him!

Lisa: Where?

Maddy: Wait here. (she disappears offstage)

Lisa: You’re going to love him, Bela

Maddy: (returning with Eric) Hey, so this is my friend. She’s pretty great, talk to her for a bit. (she and Lisa playfully push Eric and Y. Bela towards each other, then exit stage right)

Y. Bela: Hey, uh. Sorry, my friends are a bit crazy sometimes.

Eric: No problem. I’m Eric.

Y. Bela: Bela.

Eric: How do you know Maddy and Lisa?

Y. Bela: Oh, we met at a party about a year ago.

Eric: Sweet.

Y. Bela: Yeah.

Eric: Can I get you a drink?

Y. Bela: Sure.

(They move back stage left, mimes giving her a drink.)

Eric: So. Where are you from?

Y. Bela: (in between swallowing) Oregon. I moved here from Oregon.

Eric: Cool. When?

Y. Bela: About three years ago.

Eric: Do you miss it?

Y. Bela: Hell no. (puts glass down) Moving here was probably the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

Eric: Really?

Y. Bela: Yeah. It’s like a fresh start, you know?

Eric: A clean slate.

Y Bela: Exactly.

Eric: Here’s to starting fresh.

Y. Bela: Cheers (they tap glasses and drink)
Oh. (puts glass down, looks sick) Suddenly I don’t feel well.

Eric: You’re fine. Come on, I want to show you something. (Takes her hand, leads her to downstage centre. They kneel. Eric mimes lighting a candle)

Y. Bela: It’s so quiet.

Eric: I know.
(taps her) Here, look. (while miming heating the end of a needle) If I heat the end up like this, it goes in easier.

Y. Bela: What?
(taken aback) No!

Voice: Just once.

Y. Bela: (looking up) No, I swore not ever.

Voice: “Never is an awfully long time.”

Y. Bela: It was a promise!

Voice: A promise you have already broken.

Y. Bela: (confused) What?

Voice: Come on. Bela. Where’s the harm?

Y. Bela: I don’t feel well.

Voice: This will make you better.
Everyone does it at least once.

Y. Bela: But…

Voice: Bela. Do it.

Eric: Here. (takes her arm, mimes inserting a needle for her)

Y. Bela:  It hurts.

Eric: It won’t in a moment. (Y. Bela loosens)
There. See? You’re okay. How do you feel?

Y. Bela: Like I’m flying.

Voice: “It’s the same as having wings.”

Eric: This was your first?

Y. Bela: Give me more. (grabbing for the needle)

Eric: Heat the point.

Voice: See, you see now? The drugs numb the pain. You’ve had more than you think.

Y. Bela: What? (hesitates)
(to Eric) What have you done?

Eric: What, Bela…

Y. Bela: (angry) What have you done?

Eric: Listen to me, don’t be angry now. (embraces her) Hush. Hush now. Why don’t you come upstairs with me and we can…talk things out. (Y. Bela backs away)

Voice: Go, Bela. Look at him.

Y. Bela: I’m scared.

Voice: You can’t pass him up.

Y. Bela: I don’t want to go.

Voice: You’re going to go, Bela.

Y. Bela: No.

Voice: (angry) Now!
(softer) He’s going to hurt you Bela. And you’re going to let him.

Y. Bela: Why?

Voice: Because I said so.

Y. Bela: Oh. (hangs head) Okay. (Eric reaches for her, pulls her to her feet and leads her offstage. Lights down)

Bela: Clean slates, fresh starts. It’s all bullshit. I was ridiculed. Back to square one. Alone, in pain and hating myself. All because I fell into the trap again.

Voice: But you liked it.

Bela: Shut up.
Why shouldn’t I want to fit in to the “scene”? Why wouldn’t I want the utterly charming, attractive young male on my arm, sexing me up and taking “care” of me? (upset) My own little “lost boy.” (hesitates. Now composed) Why wouldn’t I want the constant, ignorant bliss? Because according to them, I should.
(intense, angry) Maybe I don’t want it because it’s wrong. Maybe I don’t want it because those people don’t actually care. Maybe I don’t want it because he’s slipping drugs into my drink and shooting up in the bathroom, and that happiness is a lie that wanes and bites until it’s renewed, all the while destroying me from the inside out. Maybe I don’t want it because that’s not who I want me to be.

Voice: But you don’t have a choice.

Bela: (refuses to look up) Hush. Of course I do.

Voice: No, at the end of the day it’s always my choice.

Bela: (looks up, accusingly) Yeah, and who are you anyway? A photographer “fixing” people on a computer? A writer describing Utopia?

Voice: I am God.

Bela: (rolls eyes) No, you’re not.

Voice: I dictate fate; of course I am.

Bela: Fate. (demanding) Fate? And what, exactly, is my fate? I’ve never been able to figure it out. Where do I belong?

Voice: Right where you are.

Bela: But I am nowhere. I’ve never been anywhere.

Voice: Wrong. You are where I put you.

Bela: (quietly) You didn’t put me anywhere.

Voice: Of course I did, Bela. I put you where I needed you. I created you.

Bela: What are you talking about?

Voice: I needed you to be the way you are. So many things would have gone wrong if you weren’t. I’ve been with you every step of the way, Bela. Telling you what to do, making sure you turned out right. Like an angel on your shoulder.

Bela: Angel? Angels don’t destroy people.

Voice: I didn’t destroy you, I simply made you into the thing I needed you to be. Think of all the lives you’ve touched, in one way or another. You’re causing emotional resonance.

Bela: (confused) Resonance?

Voice: It’s a revolution.

Bela: A revolution of what?

Voice: Of me.
I needed to change. I was no longer functioning at optimum performance.

Bela: You never have.

Voice: Shut up. I am your Lord Saviour.

Bela: (Matter-of-fact, emphatically) Yeah, only because people fashioned you into it. (red spotlight lowers onto her until it’s the only light) See, we made you into what we needed, too. Something to believe in, put our faith in. What a mistake that was.

Voice: Enough, Bela. I’m still the one in charge. (a person can be seen moving on the outskirts of the light, just in the shadows)
And directly or indirectly, you’ve helped me immensely. I can begin to get better now.
(while saying this line, the person playing the Voice comes into the light behind Bela and grabs her) And I must thank you for that.

Bela: (screams)  Peter! (covers her mouth, muffled screams, drags her into the shadows. Lights down.)

Voice: Be still now. “Death is but the next great adventure.”

-END, ANY LIGHTS STILL ON BLACKOUT. INSTRUMENTAL VERSION OF NEVER NEVERLAND PLAYS-

 

 

Every Rose has its Thorns

Music, dancing, music, dancing. It never seems to end. Constant twirling, spinning, stepping, meshing together with one waltz after another. A melancholy melody, a depressed sound of violin and piano accompaniment. Always a piano accompaniment.
Dusk is beginning to fall outside, but only just. It mixes seamlessly with twilight skies, stars peeking through the now-emerging velvet black. She sits silhouetted against the window, watching the natural spectacle, perfectly content to keep to herself.
“She” has a name; a name which is, to her in this room, quite well known. Thorn, she calls herself. A name men roll on their lecherous tongues with zeal and desire, relishing the sound and the feel of all five letters. Thorn Harmony—unusual, indeed—a name whose owner’s grace rivals that of the dancers swirling about her, whose voice is more melodious than the music that fills the air around her. Thorn, like on a rose. Pricking and drawing blood from those who try to pick her—jealous women gorged on gossip and rumour. She possesses a quick mind and a sharp tongue herself, and that is widely regarded as part of the young woman’s charm.
A beautiful body paired with a beautifully troubled mind is a dangerous thing. Fellow partygoers dare not approach Thorn, even while she sits alone and it is considered criminal to leave such a beautiful creature on the outskirts of a party like this. A celebratory get-together, really, to recognize her latest accomplishment—a painting, a novel, the musical composition to which those in attendance dance.
Yet she sits there, by the window, watching the stars and absorbed in her own thoughts. Occasionally a smile plays across ruby red lips, sometimes a glance from sapphire eyes, and rarer still the escape of musical laughter. What does she smile at, laugh at? What captures her momentary interest? People shake their heads. Nothing, they say. Just Thorn. Just the lady, Ms. Harmony. Very introverted, very troubled. A dreamer, they say, but a truly exquisite creature, is that not so? Indeed, a dainty and elegant bird, clothed in violet plumage.
Singing in the night.
Lamenting in the dark.
Not to be disturbed.
And that was my first mistake.
Flightless birds are helpless. They are a quarry that is all too easy to slaughter—and upon spying my darling hostess, wrapped up in my own selfish desires and lustful thoughts, I mistakenly planned my attack.
Soft footfalls, candlelight. Quiet, a removed feeling so intense it threatens to drown me.
“A beautiful night, is it not?”
Hesitation. “Exquisite, indeed.”
I lick my lips. She does not look at me. “May I interest you in a glass of champagne?”
“No, thank you.”
Darkness is falling quickly. More stars emerge, and somewhere there is birdsong, barely audible to my ears.
“If not champagne, would you do me the pleasure of allowing me a dance?”
“No.”
“But, mon cher, it is getting cold so close to the window and you would be doing me a great honour. I ask for but one dance.”
Icy sapphires turn on me. I feel their sting, the heat of the blue flame burning deep within them. I try not to gasp. Such cold, harsh beauty—and it was all to be mine. More birdsong. The night grows darker still.
“I was out for the stars,” she says, but does not move.
I cannot speak for some reason. I fight for my voice.
“Although, mon cher,” she continues, mocking me, “I would not permit you a dance tonight were you the only man here worth looking at.”
“And why is that?” I blurt. I sound too demanding.
And she stands. Finally, she stands. Deep blonde hair cascades down the concave back in careful curls; the violet evening gown lovingly caresses her tiny frame and reveals sparkles of black in its fabric. Those sapphires never left me.
“Because,” her dangerously sweet voice whispers, “you were not invited.”
The light from the candles seems to fade. The sky outside grows darker far too fast. I was suddenly afraid of the dazzling beauty before me.
She steps forward; too close. A soft hand smoothes my tie and gently touches my face.
“I hadn’t asked you to come.”
Force a smile. “Yet I am here.”
“Pity you think that is something to pride yourself in.”
She steps back, and now I realize why no one disturbs Thorn Harmony. There is a danger in her eyes, but not a seductive one. She advances again, I cannot hear her words. Hadn’t there been music?
Darkness. Hadn’t there been dancing? Where did the stars go?
Soft hands again. We are alone, alone in utter darkness.
“You think you’re clever, do you not? Silly boy,” she hisses from somewhere in front of me, “Just a boy in man’s clothing.”
The tables have turned, and she has me in her claws. I need help. Where did all the people go?
“You think I’m pretty?” Blue eyes glare out of the darkness at me. Suddenly I can see her again, large as life. Still so beautiful. Motionless, but dangerous, her hands lay (draped by) at her sides and her dress clings to her hips. “You think I’m pretty, non?” she repeats.
“Yes,” I breathe, “yes, beautiful. Like a rose, so fragile and soft. Breathtakingly stunning.”
A smile dances across those lips. “I am the wrong rose,” she says.
Then, I can no longer see her again. Just blackness. But she’s there.
“Every rose has its thorns,” she whispers, her voice screaming through my mind like a speeding freight train.

Morning. Out there, somewhere, a young woman wakes up alone. She stretches, yawns, smiles. And out there, somewhere, an invasive boy is dying is a sea of red. He twitches and then screams. Then lays still.

“Thorn, mi amour!”

And she smiles.