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Less Than Eternity

Less Than Eternity

by Ellen Mcfall

Less Than Eternity

A Play in One Act

Characters:

Skyler: Thirtysomething, an independent woman who is prone to rapid mood changes.

Dakota: Thirtysomething, a social worker who has been in the field too long.

Sandra: Teen, sweet and kind.

Lana: Teen, smart and intuitive.

Chandra: Twentysomething, set adrift in a world she doesn’t understand.

Setting:

An oasis in the desert, with a small lake surrounded by palm trees and four small cabins. A wooden bridge swings across the water. More surreal than realistic.

Time:

Indeterminate. The oasis exists in its own reality.

Dakota, Sandra, Lana and Chandra wander about the oasis in confusion, looking at everything for clues as to why they are there and what they should be doing. Skyler enters.

Skyler:

I’ll be damned. An oasis in the middle of the desert. Talk about creative license!

Dakota (Coming up to Skyler):

Skyler. I should have known you’d be involved in this somehow.

Skyler

Only to the extent that you are, my dear Dakota. (Walks around, pointing out features.) Well, well, look at this –water flows in the desert. Our Creator never lets accuracy get in Her way, does She?

Sandra (Approaching politely with the others in tow):

Hello. I’m Sandra. This is Lana, and I guess you know Dakota.

Skyler

I’m Skyler. And I’m the leader of this motley little group.

Dakota

Like hell you are! Who died and made you boss?

Skyler

That’s not a terribly original line, Dakota, but actually no one died. Someone retired and made me boss.

Dakota:

Retired? I knew She was thinking about it, but She always says She’s going to retire. I never really believed…

Lana:

She retired? Where does that leave us?

Skyler

Here, I presume. Look, there’s nothing to worry about. She’s given up writing, but She wants us to live happily ever after.

Sandra

So, She sent us to the desert to die? What’d we ever do to Her?

Skyler

There’s nothing to be afraid of. She sent us to the desert to live, not to die. Look around you: there’s plenty of water. And those buildings are filled with the only things Her characters have ever needed –junk food and TV. And thanks to creative license and suspension of reality, our food will never run out and our MTV will never be fuzzy. What more do you kids want out of life?

Sandra:

But we tried the doors to the cabins, and they’re locked.

Lana:

Skyler has the keys, don’t you?

Skyler

I do, but how’d you know that?

Lana:

I just knew.

Skyler:

Okay, first things first. Dakota and I know who you kids are, but I suspect you don’t know much about us. Chandra, you’re her oldest character, though I know you’ve been in limbo for a while. Do you understand what’s going on here?

Chandra

I don’t know why I’m here. I’m so confused. I don’t think I belong on this planet…

Skyler:

No, you’re from another time and place, though the details were always pretty vague.

Chandra

But I have a mission. I must fight injustice. I’m not with the lunatic fringe, but I become entangled with politics because of my mission…

Skyler:

Yes. Unfortunately, your mission was never defined very well. But you don’t have to worry now. You can just enjoy yourself.

Chandra nods absently.

Skyler:

Chandra, I evolved from you. I’m the cynic that you would have become at the end of your mission. I owe my very existence to you, so anything you need, just ask. Anything. (Turns to others.) Lana, I know you have a gift for understanding people and seeing into the future. I hope you’ll help me out. I do well seeing what happened in the past.

Lana:

I’ll be glad to, but my gift comes and goes. It’s more of a curse, really. Still, I’ll do what I can. I can’t help noticing, though, that we’re not going to be starting a new Eden here. Unless we’re expecting someone else to arrive.

Skyler:

Yes, well, you know how much trouble She had writing sex scenes. She sent the men to their own place.

Sandra:

Hawaii, probably.

Skyler

More likely Antarctica. If it means anything, She loves the desert. This was meant to be an honor.

Anyway, we can finally test the theory that women can’t work and play well together. Which leads me to Dakota.

Dakota

I can work just fine with you or anyone else, Skyler. But since I’m the one with the psychology degree, I think I would be the logical choice for leader.

Skyler:

You’re a burned-out therapist, Dakota. You can’t help Sandra, much less anyone else. No reflection on you, Sandra. I’ve seen the outline for your future. You turn out great, despite getting screwed up by the social service system.

Dakota:

It’s not necessary to talk to her like that –she’s had a rough time as a foster kid.

Skyler

I have nothing but respect for Sandra, Dakota. It’s you and your leadership abilities that I question.

Dakota:  

Frankly, Skyler, I’d rather have a burned-out therapist in charge than a manic-depressive.

Skyler

Look, Dakota, I can do more on my manic days than you can do in a month.

Dakota

No doubt. But seeing that you were an hour late today, I suspect that you’re fighting to come out of a depression. How long do you think you can carry off this act?

Skyler:

This is pointless. Let’s see what’s in the cabins. (Skyler distributes keys.) Sandra and Lana, you girls can share a cabin. That way, you can giggle all night and no one will kill you. Chandra, you can choose whichever cabin you like.

Sandra:

 If it’s okay with you, Chandra, I’d like to share your cabin. I won’t get in your way.

Lana:

I’ll scope out the area. Make sure we don’t have any surprises in store.

Skyler

Thanks. (Others go to explore cabins.) That just leaves us.

Dakota:

Don’t tell me we’re roommates. I’d rather be staked out in a scorpion’s nest.

Skyler:  

They don’t make nests.

Dakota:

You know damn well what I mean.

Skyler

Yes, I do, and you don’t have to worry. We have our own cabins. She knew we’d kill each other if She put us together. We’re opposite sides of the same coin, you know.

Dakota:   

I beg your pardon?

Skyler:

The cynic and the idealist. We both destroy ourselves by thinking too much. You think you’re going to change the world, and I know I’m not going to. But at least you and I think. We’re not like the sheep who go through their boring little lives taking orders.

Dakota:

I suppose you have a point in an odd, conceited sort of way.

Skyler:

You’re going to become like me, you know. A cynic, I mean. (Pause.) You’re not denying it? Then you must have started down that path already. I’m sorry.

Dakota

A certain amount of cynicism is necessary to do social work. By the way, do you even have a profession?

Skyler:

I’m a charming ne’er-do-well. Alright, I’m a moody ne’er-do-well. Sue me.

Dakota:

Great. I get to spend the rest of eternity with a cynical, manic-depressive ne’er-do-well. Charming.

Skyler:

It won’t be eternity, exactly. A great deal less than that, really. I didn’t see any reason to tell the kids.

Dakota

What do you mean? We’re characters. If we die, She can bring us back to life.

Skyler: 

If She chooses to.

Dakota:

Then …. She really has retired.

Skyler:

Yes, and She sent us here to live happily until She forgets about us.

Dakota:

And what happens when She forgets us?

Skyler:

Then we dissolve and become one with the Universe. Look at Chandra —it’s already starting. She never had much of a character to begin with, and she’s becoming less defined with every passing day. Someday –poof –she’ll be gone.

Dakota:

And the rest of us….

Skyler:

Sandra is just a teenage fantasy; Lana is a stereotypical gimmick. They’ll go next. In the end, it’ll just be you and me. We’ve always been her best female characters. Considering how boring She thought females were to write about, that’s probably not much of a compliment. Still, we’ll have a little longer than the kids, I think.

Dakota:

I wish my friends were here. No offense, but —

Skyler:

 I’d rather be with my friends too. They understand me, don’t expect anything from me. But She didn’t save any supporting characters.

Dakota:

What about Sandra?

Skyler

She’s a supporting character in your storyline, but after she leaves you, she becomes one of the main characters in a book with so many subplots you’d go crazy reading it. It was meant to tell the meaning of life, but it was finally shelved.

Dakota:

Just like us. Well, I guess that’s why you were put in charge, Skyler. You’re a cynic. You can deal with nothingness and…. death…easier than I can.

Skyler:

True, but I have no intention of fading away. She made one mistake when She sent me here.

Dakota

What?

Skyler: 

She forgot She made me an existentialist. Dakota, consider Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

Dakota:

You’ve lost me.

Skyler:

Obscure reference. Never mind. The question is, do you have to die just because someone writes you out of the script? Rosencrantz and Guildenstern couldn’t rewrite the script, but I intend to survive. I may be Her character, but I’m not Her pawn. I can create my own reality, weave the tapestry of my own life. I’m no one’s plaything. When She forgets about me, I will continue. But I need your help.

Dakota:

Mine? What can I do? I’m not even sure I know what you’re talking about.

Skyler:

You’re an idealist, Dakota. You have the drive to go on even when it makes no sense to keep trying. You know damn well that I’ll lose my determination one day and consider oblivion a welcome change. I need you to keep the world turning.

Dakota (Considering):

Alright. I’ll help you create a new reality, but for everyone –not just you and me.

Skyler

The others aren’t very well defined. We’d have to practically start from scratch.

Dakota:

Then we’ll start from scratch. I’ve never been an elitist, and I don’t intend to start now. Besides, it’d be awful boring around here with just the two of us. And potentially dangerous.

Skyler:

Alright. We all create our own paths, and then we follow them right out of here. And someday we’ll forget about Her and see if She can survive without us.

Dakota (Nods, holds up an invisible glass.)

To eternity.

Skyler (Toasting with invisible glass.)

And beyond.

End.  

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