SCENE 1: A ROOM ON THE NINTH FLOOR OF AN APARTMENT BUILDING – LATE EVENING
[A lamp sits upon a coffee table in the centre of a small room. A single wooden chair, a two-seat sofa and an ice-box make up the remaining furniture. A door situated stage left leads to a second room, which is unlit for now. Stage right leads to the wings. CAM, an Australian door-to-door salesman, lounges languidly on the sofa, fiddling with an invention of his own. BELL, an all-together indescribable man, sits legs crossed in the wooden chair reading a heavily used copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. A large window situated at the back of the room shows a red sky with a sun setting in the distance.]
CAM: Have you fed the pets yet?
BELL: No, not yet, why? What time is it?
[CAM consults an iPhone gaffer-taped to a car battery; his invention.]
CAM: I’ve got a quarter to midday.
[Both look outside; it is late evening.]
BELL: Guess it’s been a while then.
[BELL dog-ears his book, places it on the table and ambles towards the ice-box; from it he retrieves a large, dripping steak. He throws it into the wings and an audible slap is heard as it hits the ground.]
CAM: That should keep Them happy.
[Both stare at the off-stage steak. Silence.]
CAM: [Tentatively] Do you suppose They would let us have a steak? I mean, I’m pretty persuasive, I’m sure I could talk Them into it!
[CAM flashes a toothy grin. BELL continues staring.]
BELL: Can we even ask Them?
CAM: Hmm. Anyway, how’s our dinner coming along?
[SFX: A microwave ding.]
BELL: I’d say it’s just about ready.
[BELL shuffles into the next room and returns with two cans of baked beans. He throws one to CAM.]
CAM: Cheers mate, thanks for that, ta.
BELL: You only need to say thank you once.
[They eat in silence; CAM taking great spoonfuls of beans in one hand while BELL uses a whittled, wooden knife to eat a bean at a time.]
BELL: [Murmuring] I wish it was that spaghetti with the circles in it…
[They overlap each other.]
CAM: Speak up!
BELL: It’s just that…
CAM: [Standing up] You wish what?
BELL: I said it’s nothing.
CAM: You want some spaghetti do ya? [CAM slams his can on the table. He looms over BELL, who is cowering.] Look mate, I don’t go to work every day to bust a gut to come home to this shit about spaghetti, okay? Just be thankful for what we have for once. Jesus Christ…
[While CAM is yelling, BELL begins singing ‘Space Oddity’ (David Bowie).]
BELL: [Sotto voce] …Ground Control to Major Tom. Take your protein pills…
CAM: And stop with that bloody Bowie shit, you do this every time!
[CAM sits down, still fuming, but managing to keep his rage in check. BELL counts down from ten to one.]
SCENE 2: THE SAME ROOM – LATE EVENING
[BELL sits alone, using his knife to carve a notch into the side of the table.]
BELL: [Muttering] Six, seven, eight, nine. Only nine? That can’t be right…
[CAM walks in from the other room; he is attired in a three-piece suit with a fedora hat and carries his invention as a briefcase.]
CAM: Honey, I’m home!
BELL: That wasn’t funny nine days ago and it still isn’t.
CAM: Nine days? Bullshit.
BELL: Nope, look here; nine notches, nine days.
CAM: Well, it has to be wrong. I’ve been to work more than nine times since we’ve been here. Granted I’ve chucked a sickie here and there, but still. [CAM removes his hat and coat, throws them on the ground, and slumps onto the sofa.] The notches must be lying.
BELL: How can notches lie?
CAM: [Ignoring BELL] Or you are. What about that book? How many times have you read it?
BELL: One-thousand and forty-two.
CAM: Whoa, slow down Rain Man, I didn’t mean literally. Are you right in the head or what?
BELL: I’m just … observant.
CAM: Well clearly you couldn’t have read that book one-thousand and however many times in nine days.
BELL: Maybe it’s stopped.
BELL: What time is it?
[CAM looks at his invention.]
CAM: A quarter to midday.
SCENE 3: THE OTHER ROOM – TIME UNSPECIFIED.
[CAM faces the corner of the room in the foetal position. It is bare. Throughout the speech CAM gets more hysteric, repeating snippets of his pitch before punching the wall.]
CAM: Good evening madam! Are you happy with your life? No? Well then, have I got a deal for you! This week only I’m practically giving away a limited edition life-machine! You’ve heard of people being buried in coffins, right? Well, this is just like that! You just take a protein pill, plug yourself in and sleep! It’s that simple! Soon you’ll be taking it easy with everyone! You may have heard about the “myth” of the soul! No, it’s not bullshit! This is it! We may as well off ourselves now! This one time offer can be yours; all I need from you is three easy payments of $99.99; your signature on the dotted line, and a willingness to die! It’s win-win!
[Suddenly his invention starts ringing. His ringtone is ‘Take Me Out’ (Franz Ferdinand).]
PHONE: ‘I know I won’t be leaving here, with y—‘
[CAM looks at the phone; the ringing has abruptly stopped. He wipes his eyes and runs into the adjacent room.]
SCENE 4: THE ADJACENT ROOM – LATE EVENING
[BELL sits reading his book as CAM rushes in from the other room.]
CAM: [Uncontrolled] Someone just rang me, it was Them, it had to be Them. Who else would it be? But They hung up and now I don’t know what the bloody hell is going on…
[BELL continues reading his book. He finishes the last page and places it on the table.]
CAM: And? That’s all you can say? It was Them! They’re trying to contact us! Maybe They forgave me! Maybe They even want you too, although I wouldn’t know why. But They hung up…
[As CAM trails off, BELL picks up his book, adjusts the gaffer-tape holding the spine together, and begins reading it again.]
BELL: [Disinterested] Okay, They hung up, so what? They didn’t want us in the first place and I’m perfectly happy with where we are. What’s not to like about late evening? [They both look outside. CAM walks over to the window.] Are They still out there?
CAM: They’re always out there. They’ve been there ever since we somehow got here and I don’t think They’re going away.
BELL: [Still reading] What are They?
CAM: Look mate, I can’t string a fucking sentence together right now, I’ll tell you tomorrow. Have we got anything to eat?
[SFX: A microwave ding]
BELL: [Rising] Seems that we do…
[BELL walks into the next room and returns with two cans of baked beans. He throws one to CAM.]
CAM: Cheers mate—
BELL: [Mimicking] —Thanks for that, ta.
CAM: How’re the beans?
BELL: They’re beans.
CAM: I used to sell them y’know, wholesale, right from the warehouse. Didn’t mind the pay-check, but fuck it was hard to sell something like that. Still haven’t forgiven myself.
BELL: I know, you sold me mine.
CAM: Fair dinkum! Small world I guess.
BELL: [Mumbling] It is now…
CAM: Why didn’t you use it? I mean, if you don’t mind me prying or anything.
BELL: Didn’t want to
CAM: Yeah, I get that, but why?
BELL: Nothing to be done.
BELL: Didn’t want to.
[Silence. They finish their meals and prepare to sleep, and both men start to lose focus as they drift off.]
CAM: Then maybe this is it.
CAM: Name’s Cam. And you?
BELL: Bell. [Beat.] But why here? This place, this sun, it doesn’t hold any significance.
CAM: Or at least…
BELL: Maybe it’s the same for all of us then.
CAM: Or maybe we’re just being delusional. I didn’t use the machine. Didn’t want to…
BELL: Nothing to be done…
[Both men fall asleep. Lights go down for a brief second, before coming up on BELL waking from a nightmare. CAM’Sinvention is placed on the table.]
BELL: No … not again … didn’t want to… [He wakes up, rubs his eyes, and begins reading his book. CAM continues sleeping on the couch.] Cam, did you want any breakfast? [Beat.] Cam? [Beat.] I’m waiting…
[BELL turns around to find CAM drooling; mouth wide open. He walks over and tries to wake him up; starting with gentle shakes which soon evolve into violent slaps, punches and kicks. CAM does not respond, BELL grunts throughout but otherwise does not make any noise.]
BELL: Cam… [Finally BELL notices CAM’S invention on the table. He holds it to his ear. SFX: Dial tone] Looks like they rang again…
[With sudden fury, BELL throws the contraption into the wings. He stares for half a minute before collecting himself and sitting cross-legged on his chair. The sun in the background sets and stars cover the sky like a blanket; the dial tone morphs into MUSIC: “Space Oddity”. BELL smiles and sings along.]
C.J. Lawrence hails from Geelong and is studying creative writing at Deakin University. He enjoys cats, earl grey tea and apocalyptic speculation.