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Who’s There?

Who’s There?

by Joseph Mills

CAST:             GUARDS, at least six, but as many as possible or desired. GUARD 1 and GUARD 2 wear similar uniforms. The other guards wear uniforms from different countries, eras, and wars. Each time a guard enters and says, “Who’s There?” it startles those on stage.

GUARD 1 on stage. GUARD 2 enters.

GUARD 2

Who’s there?

GUARD 1

What?

GUARD 2

Who’s there?

GUARD 1

No.

GUARD 2

No?

GUARD 1

No. You don’t approach the guard on duty and say, “Who’s there?” The guard on duty says, “Who’s there?” Otherwise, it doesn’t make any sense, and–I’m the guard on duty.

GUARD 2

Oh, okay. Sorry.

GUARD 2 exits, then re-enters.

GUARD 1

Well?

GUARD 2

You told me I wasn’t supposed to say anything.

GUARD 1

Not “Who’s there?” but you could say something.

GUARD 2

Shouldn’t you go first?

GUARD 1

Don’t be petty.

GUARD 2

No, really, I think it should be up to you.

GUARD 1

Fine. Who’s there?

GUARD 2

It’s too late for that. You’ve seen me. You know who’s there.

GUARD 2 exits and re-enters.

GUARD 1

Who’s there?

GUARD 2

Me.

GUARD 1

Okay, then.

They relax

GUARD 2

Anything to report?

GUARD 1

I might be getting a cold.

GUARD 2

Has anything happened?

GUARD 1

Like what?

GUARD 2

Any ghosts?

GUARD 1

What?

GUARD 2

Ghosts.

GUARD 1

Of course not. Is that a joke?

GUARD 2

I heard sometimes you see a ghost.

GUARD 1

Who said that? Nick? Because he is always slagging me off.

GUARD 2

I didn’t mean “you” specifically. I just meant people like us.

GUARD 1

Like us?

GUARD 2

It doesn’t matter.

GUARD 1

No, no ghosts. No goblins. No witches. It’s been boring. Because that’s the job. It’s boring, boring, boring, then maybe Aiiieee! Alert! Then boring, boring, boring.

GUARD 2

Alert? Because of a ghost?

GUARD 1

No. It’s someone having a heart attack or, more likely, just thinking they’re having a heart attack. Or someone pulling the fire alarm. Or people coming up unexpectedly and not knowing the password. Drunks usually. It’s never ghosts.

GUARD 2

Password?

GUARD 1

Did you say the password?

GUARD 2

I don’t think so.

GUARD 1

Do you know it?

GUARD 2

Of course.

GUARD 1

Good.

GUARD 2

What are you going to do now?

GUARD 1

The usual. Have a drink. Watch something.

GUARD 2

What are you watching lately?

GUARD 1

The woman across the street is having an affair. Her husband’s brother, I think.

GUARD 2

I heard Hamlet is back.

GUARD 1

So?

GUARD 2

I don’t know. People are interested.

GUARD 1

People are idiots. They sit around gossiping about people who are famous just for being famous. Who cares? It doesn’t mean anything. Hamlet’s back because he was bored wherever he was …

GUARD 2

College.

GUARD 1

… and pretty soon he’ll get bored here, and then he’ll go somewhere else. It’s what rich people do. And everyone talks about it as if it’s news. “Hamlet’s here. Hamlet’s there.” Who gives a shit?

GUARD 2

You don’t like Hamlet?

GUARD 1

I don’t like everyone talking about him like he’s important. What’s he ever done? Won a battle? Built something? Written a play? He’s useless. All that royalty is useless. They should be taken out back and – Bam! –  in the head.

GUARD 2

Then you’d be out of a job.

GUARD 1

There’s always people and things to guard. You like Hamlet?

GUARD 2

I was just making conversation. I’m just kind of hoping you’ll hang out for a bit.

GUARD 1

Why?

GUARD 2

It makes it easier, having someone else here.

GUARD 1

It’s not supposed to be easy.

GUARD 2

Less boring.

GUARD 1

That’s the job: being bored. You should be glad you’re bored. It means you have a job. You get paid to be bored.

GUARD 2

Unemployed people are bored. But I get your point. I should be glad that I’m bored because it means no one is attacking.

GUARD 1

Attackers? Ghosts? Where do you get these things?

GUARD 3 enters.

GUARD 3

Who’s there?

GUARD 1

What are you doing?

GUARD 3

I was bored. What are you guys doing?

GUARD 2

Just hanging out.

GUARD 1

Working.

GUARD 3

Cool. Hey, did you hear…?

GUARD 1

You don’t need me, then.

GUARD 2

Don’t go.

Enter GUARD 4 and GUARD 5.

GUARD 4

Who’s there?

GUARD 1

What the hell? Is that the password today?

GUARD 5

We heard noises. We thought something was going on.

GUARD 1

You didn’t bring any weapons.

GUARD 4

They’re heavy.

GUARD 5

And kind of awkward. We thought we’d check out what’s happening, and we could go back and get them if we needed them.

GUARD 4

You having a party?

GUARD 1

We’re working.

GUARD 2

But you’re welcome to stay.

GUARD 5

Anything to drink?

GUARD 2

Not yet.

GUARD 1

Not yet? Go back to bed.

GUARD 5

Alone?

GUARD 6 and more guards, perhaps many more guards, enter.

GUARD 6

Who’s there?

GUARD 1

Oh, for God’s sake. Go home, everybody. Go get something to eat. Go to (name of local bar). Go back to doing whatever you were doing.

GUARD 3

That was boring.

GUARD 1

This is boring.

GUARD 4

Not as boring.

GUARD 5

Something might happen.

GUARD 1

Nothing is going to happen.

GUARD 3

It might.

House lights come up

GUARD 5

See. That’s something.

GUARD 1 looks at audience

GUARD 1

Oh, God’s blood, not more of you. Let me guess. You were bored. Go home. Go back to bed. Go back to someone else’s bed. There’s nothing here for you. Nothing’s going to happen. Anything that would have happened would have happened by now.

GUARD 3

Then why are you guarding?

GUARD 1

It’s a paycheck.

GUARD 2

And just in case.

GUARD 3

There you go.

GUARD 1

Well, nothing can happen while you’re all here. Get out of here and maybe it will.

GUARD 5

I think that’s exactly wrong. Look at all of us. We wouldn’t all be here if there wasn’t a reason. There are too many of us here for nothing to happen. Maybe . . . maybe . . . we are the something. Maybe we are what’s happening.

GUARD 1

That is nicely narcissistic. Seriously, everyone get out of here.

GUARD 1 gestures for the houselights to come down.

GUARD 4

You’ll tell us if something starts to happen?

GUARD 1

Yes.

GUARD 4

Promise?

GUARD 1

If something happens, I’ll call.

GUARD 3

Wait, you’re not even the guard on duty now.

GUARD 2

I’ll call.

GUARD 3

Promise?

GUARD 2

Yes.

GUARD 3

Can I just leave my stuff so I don’t have to bring it back later?

GUARD 1

No. Everyone take your stuff. All of it.

Everyone leaves but GUARD 1 and GUARD 2.

GUARD 2

I don’t think any of them knew the password.

GUARD 1

Probably not.

GUARD 2

Do you?

GUARD 1

Of course. Don’t you?

GUARD 2

Yeah.

GUARD 1 seems about to go.

You said you were going to hang out for a bit.

GUARD 1 hesitates.

It’s supposed to be cold tomorrow. See any good bear-baiting lately?

            Pause.

I heard Hamlet got Ophelia knocked up.

GUARD 1

It happens. What are they going to do?

GUARD 2

I don’t know, but here’s what I heard …

(dark)

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