by Edward Crosby Wells
AT RISE Ė NEXT, 12, 13 and 14 are in a waiting room. There are chairs and there is a door. After a long SILENCE.
12: Seems like weíve been here forever.
14: How long has it been since anyoneís been called?
NEXT: I fell asleep and lost track of the time.
14: Did everybody take a number?
12: I did. (Examines ticket. To NEXT.) Twelve. Iím number twelve. You must be eleven.
NEXT: Must I?
12: Well, yes. You were the only one here when I came in and Iím number twelve. So, you must be eleven.
NEXT: If you say so.
12: Look at your ticket.
NEXT: Iíll take your word for it.
12: Excuse me?
14: My ticket says fourteen.
12: Then we all know who unlucky thirteen is.
13: Why? Why unlucky?
12: Itís just a saying.
13: Twelve could be unlucky too, you know?
12: I suppose. Itís just a saying.
13: Some things are better left unsaid.
12: All right. I got your point.
NEXT: I could be ten. Maybe, nine. Seven. I bet Iím seven.
12: Youíre eleven.
NEXT: How do you know that?
12: I told you. You were the only one here when I came in.
NEXT: That doesnít mean anything. I could be seven as well as next. I could have let eight, nine, ten and eleven go ahead of me.
12: Why would you do a thing like that?
NEXT: For altruistic reasons.
NEXT: I fell asleep. I could have been taken advantage of in my sleep. Strange things happen to people while theyíre sleeping. Itís an opportune time for negative forces.
14: Like what?
NEXT: Like dreams and nightmares and spirits from the other side.
13: What other side?
NEXT: Of the door. Slipping in while you are least aware. Making yourself their home. Living in your body. Dictating your every move. Your life is no longer your own. Stranger things have happened. These and ideas, yet, more horrifying are the foundations for countless systems followed by millions.
14: Jesus Christ!
14: Stop pointing fingers.
12: Give us a break! Look at your ticket.
NEXT: I donít want to look at my ticket. Iím next and thatís all anybody needs to know.
12: Suit yourself. We all do.
14: We all do what?
12: We all suit ourselves. In the end, we always suit ourselves, donít we?
13: Sounds selfish, if your asking me.
12: After all, itís all about self-love, isnít it?
14: Thatís the trouble with people nowadays Ė no room at the inn for others.
13: What about the rest of humanity?
12: The best kind of self-love embraces all of humanity.
NEXT: Still, everything starts and ends with me, doesnít it? Iím next and thereís no question about that.
14: Did anyone knock on the door?
13: From this side or from the other side?
14: From either side.
12: One of us would have answered had it come from the other side. Did anyone on this side think to knock on the door?
NEXT: Other than yourself?
13: Who would be there to answer?
14: They could have forgotten that weíre here.
12: Or, never really knew.
13: You only just got here. Whatís your hurry?
14: What are we all waiting for anyway?
NEXT: Me. Iím next. So relax. Donít try to get ahead. Everybody here knows Iím next.
12: No they donít.
13: The two of you were here when I came in. Either one of you could be next for all I know.
14: You were all here when I got here. Any one of you could be next. Besides, sooner or later, we all get to be.
NEXT: To be?
14: Next. Eventually, we all get to be.
13: That makes you last, doesnít it?
14: For the moment.
NEXT: Donít try any funny stuff! Iím next and thatís all there is to it!
12: All right. Youíre next. I was just pointing out that everybody doesnít know unless you show us your ticket.
NEXT: I know. I know Iím next and thatís all that matters.
13: What you know is all that matters, is it?
NEXT: There is nothing else. Itís everything. There is you and there is me and Iím next and thatís all there is to it.
14: I havenít got all day.
12: Why? Better things to do?
12: Umm. Have you cancer to cure? The world to save?
12: Then why havenít you got all day?
14: Donít be a smart-ass.
12: Itís my nature Ė spots and all that.
14: Then change them.
NEXT: Canít change spots. I donít know who said that, but somebody did and itís true enough for me.
12: Just curious to know whatís so pressing.
14: Itís my time and I donít care to waste it.
13: Our time is shared by all of us. Maybe we donít have time so much as it has us. What do you think?
14: I donít have time to think about those things.
13: Thatís a point well taken.
NEXT: What about me? Iíve been here forever! You donít hear me complaining, do you?
14: Why should you? Youíre next.
NEXT: I could sell it to you.
14: What? Next?
NEXT: Thatís right. I could sell it to you.
14: How much?
NEXT: I need time to think about it.
13: Youíd be last. Youíd go from next to last.
12: (Ibid.) Thatís right. Youíre not going ahead of me.
14: Well? Whatís the price? Everybodyís got a price.
NEXT: I said, I need time to think about it.
13: Everybody doesnít have a price.
12: I think they do.
14: There must be something better.
NEXT: Better than what?
13: Better than this? This time? This awareness? Itís the best of all possible worlds, isnít it?
14: Waiting. There must be something better than waiting.
12: Donít you threaten us!
14: Iím not threatening anybody. All I said was that there must be something better.
NEXT: Well, there isnít. Thereís nothing! Thereís nothing better. If you came in here looking for trouble youíre sure as hell going to find it!
14: I came in here because this is where Iím supposed to be. This is where I found myself. And, now, I see that I am last and yet, there must be something better.
NEXT: Then wait. Wait like the rest of us. And you can forget about me selling you my place. Iíve made up my mind and my mind is made up! You canít have it and thatís final!
12: Careful, heís a malcontent.
NEXT: Then heíd better start a riot Ďcause the dealís off!
14: I might. I just might be forced to riot.
12: One alone cannot riot.
14: Why not?
12: Itís just not done. Itís unseemly. And itís certainly not a riot.
13: Itíll look like St. Vitas Dance. I knew a man who blew himself up once.
14: He said ďonce.Ē You only get to blow yourself up once.
13: Explosives. He had explosives strapped around his waist and he blew himself up without so much as a wink to warn anybody. Pre-meditated spontaneous combustion. Took at least a dozen people with him. Blood and shit all over the place.
13: Because thatís what happens when people blow themselves up. Itís something they can do all by themselves Ė when theyíre completely alone.
NEXT: No. Why did he blow himself up?
13: He was trying to make a point.
12: I donít understand people like that.
14: I know why.
NEXT: You would.
14: What is that supposed to mean?
NEXT: Youíre a malcontent. You deal in chaos. You undermine the status quo. Thatís your stock and thatís your trade.
14: When youíve nothing left to lose only your death has meaning.
12: Ah, the platitude of the malcontent.
13: Umm. My life would never become so meaningless that Iíd blow myself up!
NEXT: My son died in the service of his country.
14: And what country was that?
NEXT: This country. What country did you think?
14: I wasnít sure. You do look a bit foreign to me.
NEXT: He died at the hands of the enemy.
12: What enemy?
NEXT: Does it matter?
13: It should, shouldnít it?
NEXT: The enemy Ė the enemy du jour.
12: Of course, theyíre always in a state of flux; friends and enemies are funny that way.
NEXT: Iím George, or Mary. Or, maybe Iím God.
NEXT: You heard me.
14: Donít you get personal! Donít you dare get personal! Youíre next and thatís all anybody needs to know!
12: Thatís right, youíre next. Everything else is irrelevant.
NEXT: That I am God is irrelevant?
12: As irrelevant as excuses for yourself.
NEXT: I can be anything I damn well please! None of you have any history of me. I am whoever I say I am.
13: People canít just be who they say they are, can they? Especially not God! People canít be God!
NEXT: They can, if it doesnít change who it is they really are.
14: Certainly not. Heís next and thatís all there is to it.
NEXT: Says who?
14: You. You told us you were next.
NEXT: Thatís right. And, now I am telling you that I am something altogether different. Canít I be both?
13: You canít be two things at once. It isnít polite.
12: You canít be something else because you say so. Nobody can be anybody just because they say so. It doesnít work that way!
NEXT: Of course it does.
13: It isnít done.
14: Show us your ticket.
NEXT: I ate it.
13: What kind of person eats their ticket?
NEXT: Altogether something else. We do whatever we damn well please.
13: Thatís not acceptable!
14: People canít do whatever they damn well please.
NEXT: Why not?
14: I donít know why not. But, there must be a reason.
12: There is no reason, is there?
NEXT: Isnít there?
NEXT crosses to door and knocks. As the LIGHTING FADES we hear the voice from the other side of the door:
VOICE: NEXT . . .
Silence and FADE to BLACK OUT.