Excerpt from “Intensifying Hearts & Dreams” – season 17, episode 85

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Int: The Futureshop, surreal chamber

In the depths of The Futureshop, we find ourselves in a dark chamber full of frayed electrical wires that glitter, self-playing pianos that stutter, dark statues of unknown animals that could be confused for horses or squids, shelves with piles of burning reading glasses, and similar obscure memorabilia from another world. We find DUKE sitting on his thone-like chair/chair-like throne (think of the one from Game of Thrones, but with wood and electronica rather than swords). He is speaking to a SLAVE chained to the floor. The SLAVE is facing away from DUKE.

DUKE

See all this, SLAVE. See this town into which we have dug from unknowable tunnels. They know us not but we are here all the same.

 

SLAVE

Yes, DUKE.

 

DUKE

Our quarry is rare and elusive. See our quarry on the big screen in the room to your west. See the multitude notes, diagrams, half-stolen objects… See how we trace his paths through this sea of compromise. Know the presicion of our mission, the clarity.

 

SLAVE

Yes, DUKE.

 

DUKE

Do you think of me as grand? Impressive? As an imposing figure of acute authority and wisdom?

 

The SLAVE shudders.

SLAVE

Why, yes, DUKE! Of course, DUKE!

 

DUKE

You are telling me you are no different from the rest of them, then. For you view me false. It was me, one of the men who created him, the one we’re seeking. I made him out of ink with my own hand, surely I should be allowed to unmake him, but my mistake was in not offering close enough attention to the small skewed corners and glimpses at the edges of things. Turn around and face me, why don’t you. Know my shame.

 

SLAVE

I can’t, DUKE. I am chained to the floor and cannot turn around.

 

All the SLAVES in The Futureshop look down upon DUKE. He is their undisputed leader and he owns them ideologically and philosophically as well as bodily. The slaves roll their eyes and view him as a pathetic child or an aged relative with odd behaviours – someone who must be humoured, tolerated. They scoff at him when he is not looking. He is never looking.

DUKE

How sad that you are not allowed to look at me. How sad that you are not able to display your disdain to my face. I wonder what I look like now, after so long – has it been long, is there a way to know? This Futureshop has been adrift for some period, I am sure. I wonder what I look like now. I wonder if we, my target and I, would be able to recognise each other now. I wonder if I would be able to recognise myself, or he himself.

 

SLAVE

Yes, DUKE.

 

DUKE

Do not look at me with those eyes.

 

SLAVE

I am not looking at you, DUKE. I am looking at the wall.

 

DUKE

Walls, openings, time, imagination. It is all the same to The Futureshop. We are able to pursue him because I am above him, exactly one level above. Do you understand?

 

SLAVE

Not in the slightest, DUKE.

 

DUKE

He has travelled sideways where we have travelled down. We rode many Wormships to get here. And we parked the last noble Wormship next door. They were all left wasted. But they did their duty, didn’t they? What was their duty, SLAVE?

 

SLAVE

They tunneled through the veils and barriers with us in tow.

 

DUKE

With us in tow, indeed! Well said! And lo, it is time for my sustenance. The sustenance arrives right on cue.

 

A bowl of sustenance slides up to DUKE on a telescopic arm. He takes deep mouthful.

DUKE

Refreshing good sustenance. The Futureshop itself takes its sustenance from the very level on which it is parked, of course. That level is then warped. Trees that have died and been given ectoplasmic form. Fragmentary instruments of ebony and ivory. Side effects all. The denizens would not divine their origins, and thus attribute them to some other breach. Ours is hidden from their eyes. Look at me.

 

SLAVE

Once again, DUKE, I cannot turn to look at you.

 

DUKE

Because you are symbolic. You are symbolic of the one we seek. I keep my prescense hidden from his senses by your meditation, just as the other SLAVES in the basement of The Futureshop create mists to disguise The Shop itself. Are you bored? Does it tire you to hear these explications?

 

SLAVE

Yes, DUKE. I am very bored. We have had this conversation many, many times.

 

DUKE

But why shouldn’t you rebuke my company and explication? I am bored to the point of self-harm, myself. But that ennui is the vital manna that keeps us afloat. This is meditation, do you see??? It’s not meant to be fun, it’s not meant to be fulfilling! Do you ever forgive me? Turn and look at me.

 

SLAVE

I can’t turn around and there is nothing to forgive.

 

DUKE

I’d better rest now. Leave.

 

SLAVE

I can’t leave willingly. You must lower the platform.

 

DUKE pulls a lever at his chair and the platform the SLAVE is chained to is lowered and a hatch shuts above it. The wall to DUKE‘s right opens like a door so that the papers, photos and screens are now in front of him. DUKE‘s eyes roam haphazardly across the surfaces.

DUKE

Right now, I don’t care about this. I don’t care about these details right now. I already know why he found himself forced to do what he did. Mine was the hand composing that which drove him to try to escape. Even though the people outside would have thought the events were the other way around. It would have seemed that our subject was lost to time and to the scattered memories, and the other one would have been left behind. But things are not as they seem. This escape had the physical manifestation of something different on that other plane. These things can happen that way.

 

DUKE lifts his hands above his head. He makes various stiff motions with his fingers as if he is picking among objects. But there is nothing there.

DUKE

That is strange. I wonder where they went. I thought they were always right here. My ink, my sheets, my pointy pen.

 

DUKE puts his hands down by his sides again. He seems like he doesn’t know what to do. He looks straight ahead and his face looks as if he is in suspended animation.

Moments pass. It is difficult to gauge the passage of time in The Futureshop. Contact with the outside world is kept to a minimum and strictly regulated by notes on a blackboard hung by the door. This is because the environment has to be kept philosophically pure to travel through environments where the Shop would otherwise be too implausible to exist. I mean, really – A spooky house loaded with pianos, SLAVES, ghostly electrical wires; travelling through dimensions on the whim of an enigmatic, inscrutable and possibly insane recluse… What is that about, really?

Several more vague moments pass.

Until suddenly, a compartment in the wall to DUKE‘s east slides open. Inside is a small enclosure with another SLAVE just standing around.

SLAVE 2

It is time for DUKE’s entertainment! The screen lowers now!!!

 

The compartment closes again. A screen is lowered out of the ceiling in front of DUKE. It is an old and rather ragged-looking projector screen – frayed edges and holes. DUKE claps his hands excitedly without saying a word, and the entertainment starts with an image of a stern woman in profile.

WOMAN (on screen)

Blessed children, before this entertainment begins, the Department of Godliness and Order in Media would like to say a few words. This entertainment is offensive and disruptive to developing minds, and as such must not be shown to you. However, the Department is aware that denying you the entertainment would only make it more attractive to you and cause you to seek it out in an unsupervised mileau. But on the other hand, presenting it without comment is also not an option. So therefore, we command you to realise that this entertainment is make-believe. It is not possible to do any of this in real life. What you have been told by your priest is still true. If you find your soul troubled by the entertainment, please contact your priest, teacher or father immediately. Thank you.

 

“The Department of Godliness and Order in Media” logotype is shown on screen as the woman’s silhouette vanishes. A few nanoseconds of silence, and then an everyday street corner is shown on screen. A MAN, a DOG and a BOY are waiting for the bus. An informative and serious-sounding voice speaks as gentle xylophone music provides the soundtrack.

NARRATOR (on speaker)

Good evening, learners. Today we show you this simple, everyday street in a simple, everyday town. See the people go about their day.

 

MAN (on screen)

Good day to you, young BOY. Would you like to pet my DOG?

 

BOY (on screen)

Why yes please!

 

The BOY pets the DOG.

DOG

(Happy dog sounds!)

 

NARRATOR (on speaker)

See how normal life is, how predictable. Wouldn’t it be grand if life were full of mystery and surprise? Let’s fast forward to a few days later.

 

The same street corner with the same inhabitants. But now, there is a small amount of glowing, futuristic electrical wiring along the walls and ground – similar to the features of The Futureshop – and there is a small ROBOT pacing back and forth erratically.

NARRATOR (on speaker)

Now see this. Today, the benevolent government has seen fit to change life. Robots have been deployed all over this everyday town. But they are not there to steal your jobs or subjugate humanity, don’t worry!

 

MAN (on screen)

It seems like this little town has begun to change.

 

ROBOT (on screen)

TOYS-BACKLOG-MOJITOS-AT-NOON-

 

MAN (on screen)

The robots have arrived.

 

BOY (on screen)

Sir, sir, please, why have the robots come?

 

The ROBOT bumps into the lamp post and wobbles slightly. The DOG inches away from it. The ROBOT then picks up a discarded magazine from the ground, opens it and scans a page.

ROBOT (on screen)

BOOK-LOOK-SEE-UNDERSTAND-CAT-

 

The ROBOT throws the magazine in the air. It lands face-up… On the page the ROBOT was inspecting is a photo of a tree.

MAN (on screen)

The robots are here to make life interesting, it seems.

 

NARRATOR (on speaker)

Yes indeed, learners! The robots have been deployed to surrealise and unpredictabilitise society.

 

The ROBOT picks up the BOY in its stubby arms, runs around in circles, runs to the other end of the visible area, puts the boy down.

BOY (on screen)

Whoa!

 

ROBOT (on screen)

VAMPIRE-BATS-

 

BOY

Haha! Will you be my friend Mr. ROBOT?

 

ROBOT (on screen)

CHEESE-IN-THE-RAIN-

 

The ROBOT uninstalls one of its arms and lays it at the feet of the BOY. The ROBOT then shuts down. An automated crane comes from above and picks it up, carrying it off screen.

NARRATOR

Do you understand now, learners? Life as an adult is a boring, uninteresting routine, day after day. In order to bring about change, the government has asked the scientific community to deploy harmless, surrealist robots all over this little town. The robots do not have a purpose. They do what they like. They follow unknown algorithms that start simple but update themselves and change in inscrutable ways over time. The algorithms are never examined from the outside and so remain inscrutable. Thus the robots heed their internal instructions and act randomly. This will bring excitement and drama back into the lives of the simple townsfolk in the wide cabins! Over time, the experiment might even embetter society’s-

 

The screen suddenly goes dark as a grating, harsh speaker starts talking.

VOICE (on speaker)

Attention, DUKE! We have now landed at our projected destination. The entertainment has been interrupted.

 

DUKE

What?! Already landed? So I have once again missed my chance to stand in the wind on the roof as we approach, striking an impressive manly pose with my charisma?

 

VOICE (on speaker)

Yes, you have missed your chance to stand on the roof once again. The radiation has settled around The Futureshop and it is not safe to get out of your chair now.

 

DUKE

Blast it! Am I fated to miss every chance???

 

VOICE (on speaker)

You need to make plans for our next endeavour now. We have aquired intel for you.

 

DUKE

Go on, send the intel on up.

 

The platform with the first SLAVE emerges again. The SLAVE hands a folder of papers to DUKE behind his back, by using a telescopic arm.

VOICE (on speaker)

This official document about our quarry was acquired at his supposedly final celebration. You can see by the scribbles on page 7 that the co-inhabitants on this level have bought his ruse hook, lie and stinker.

 

DUKE

This is a fascinating couple of paper pages. I shall have to ask the SLAVE to read it out loud, however, as the fluid has clogged up my eyes again.

 

VOICE (on speaker)

Tiresome. Yes, yes, we SLAVES will all read it out loud en masse. But it is now time for it to go dark.

 

DUKE

Oh, it goes dark already. Of course. See you another time then. Good night. God bless. Mazel tov. Fare thee well. For now. For a while. In the meantime. In the interim. In the epicentre. And towards the edges. See you again. In the next issue of. In the next month. In a while. For an old friend. For a treasured family member. For a solid citizen. In its proper place. In a trance. On industrial-strength painkillers. As you were, then.

 

It goes dark.

(CONT)

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One thought on “Excerpt from “Intensifying Hearts & Dreams” – season 17, episode 85

  1. Pingback: Excerpt from ”Intensifying Hearts & Dreams” – season 17, episode 70 | a truth called nothing

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