The Secret of Sky: Act III
The PRISONER: A man in his early thirties—attractive but disheveled; dressed in a long-sleeved T-shirt, gray sweat pants, and (when not in bed) sandals.
The JAILER: A man in his forties—well-kempt and neat in appearance, dressed institutionally in a clinical jacket, white dress shirt, dark slacks, and drab tie.
The MONK: A youthful woman of any age—lithe and tireless in movement; dressed in hooded Tibetan-style Buddhist robes.
SETTING: All three acts (“Morning,” “Afternoon,” and “Evening”) take place in a small, decaying prison cell. The walls may have once been a shade of white, but they probably haven’t been painted in over half a century; they’ve yellowed over the years, and the dinginess that sets in over time can be seen in the room’s corners and along the baseboards. On the walls are Tibetan graffiti and a vandalized caricature of Mao Tse-tung. The plaster of one wall is chipped, revealing ancient stonework beneath. The paint is blistered and peeling in other areas, exposing several layers of various muted shades and colors. Despite this, the cell is kept orderly and surprisingly neat. The cell’s sparse furnishings include a side bunk, a folding chair, a basic lectern (for writing), and a slim wooden table, upon which sits a water pitcher. A tiny window with bars provides a minimal view of the sky. Several stacks of dozens of books are near the head of the Prisoner’s bunk.
Samsara Monastery—located near present-day Lhasa, Tibet—-is a place of mysteries. In one of the upper levels of the monastery, a Prisoner suffering from amnesia is being held; every morning he awakens, he has no memory of any previous day. His Jailer, an official-looking clinician who goes by the name “Dr. Luci,” is attempting to interview the Prisoner—but with very limited success. The Jailer tells the Prisoner that he’s being held for “crimes against humanity, but by all appearances, the Prisoner appears to be some sort of holy man, performing several miracles during the course of the morning, including turning stones into cream-filled breakfast cakes. A silent Monk tends to the needs of both the Prisoner and the Jailer, often being torn between the two. Because of the affection she shows the Prisoner, he heals her of a serious injury, curing her of her muteness and restoring her voice.
The Jailer (a.k.a. “Dr. Luci”) is a man of many worries. He is the host of “The Dr. Luci Show,” a failing pseudo-therapeutic, quasi-spiritual, regionally-broadcast TV show out of Topeka, Kansas. He fears his show is on the verge of cancellation, and he has come to Samsara Monastery in the hopes of video-taping an interview with the enigmatic Prisoner and exposing him to the world. Unfortunately, the show’s entire production crew is long overdue and now considered missing. The Jailer worries that they’ve been robbed by bandits, become lost in the Himalayan Mountains, or killed by Mao terrorists—or worse—-because this could hinder his “comeback.” As to the fate of his crew, there’s no way of knowing. All communication with the outside world has been cutoff. The Jailer suspects that the Prisoner and the Monk have been conspiring against him, and he plots to put a wedge between them. He tells the Prisoner, “Do you think she would so gladly tend to your every need if she knew your true nature? If only she knew who … what you really were.” And to the Monk, he says, “Don’t you worry that he’ll discover why you’re hiding out in this monastery? If only he knew the secrets you keep so guarded under those … holy robes.” It seems everyone has secrets—including the Jailer himself, who has ulterior motives of his own.
ACT III (Evening)
SCENE: The Prisoner’s cell, near sunset. The sky, as viewed through the cell’s lone window, is a waning indigo blue. The cell itself softly glows with the coppery light of the last rays of sun. Dozens of tiny lights (suggestive of votive candles) sparkle and flicker throughout the cell, much like the scattering of gold coins in a fountain.
The Prisoner is sitting cross-legged on his bed, meditating. The wall directly behind his head shines slightly brighter than the surrounding area, giving the suggestion of a halo. The effect, though subtle, is meant to be iconic: a life-sized re-creation of “The Buddha in Contemplation.” The Monk enters, carrying a tea set for two. She sees the Prisoner meditating, and she hesitates out of fear of disturbing him; she begins to leave.
PRISONER: (eyes remaining closed) I like what you’ve done to the room.
MONK: (turning) Oh, this? (She looks around, takes it in.) It’s nothing, the least I could do. (Pause.) Would you like some tea?
PRISONER: (opening eyes) Tea would be nice.
MONK: You always take tea—I don’t know why I ask.
PRISONER: I always take tea—?
MONK: Oh, sure …
(The Monk kneels in front of the Prisoner’s bunk and begins preparing the tea.)
We have tea every evening—most evenings—’less Dr. Luci’s done something especially harsh and I have to recuperate. Not that it matters— (forced cheerfulness) I enjoy our teas and you seem to enjoy them, too.
(brightly) That’s what’s important—the present moment. It’s all we really have—the present, the now. (Her eyes widen, as if in epiphany.) It’s like a gift—that’s why we call it The Present.
PRISONER: (laughing) That is very profound.
MONK: Ha! No it’s not. I saw it on an old episode of The Dr. Luci Show. I thought it was stupid then, and I still do.
(The continuous and melodic chanting of Tibetan monks gently drifts into the cell.)
Aw, I just love the sounds of evening prayer—don’ t you?
PRISONER: Prayers of peace.
MONK: A prayer for you, at my request. A prayer of … peace—that’s right. All prayers should be prayers of peace. (She hands the Prisoner a cup of tea.) Now, I should warn you—I always warn you—this is not your usual Chinese tea … (rising) or Japanese tea … (becoming distracted)or English tea. Not even your usual American tea.
(She begins nervously smoothing the folds of her robes with her palms.)
One of the monks once asked Dr. Luci if you was American, which caused him to laugh and laugh like a hyena. He said, no, you was worse than American— if you can imagine such a thing.
PRISONER: (sipping, wincing) What is this stuff?
MONK: (sitting next to the Prisoner)
Oh dear, I forgot to warn you. It’s yak-butter tea.
PRISONER: Yak butter—?
MONK: (picking up her own cup, sipping) Nothing else like it in the whole wide world.
PRISONER: It’s … different.
MONK: Think of it not as tea but as soup. Perception is everything.
PRISONER: You’re right—as soup it’s really … not too bad.
MONK: Ha! That’s what you always say. But drink it fast, while it’s hot. Otherwise it—what’s the word?—coagulates … that’s it.
(The Prisoner finishes his cup quickly, winces.The Monk, notices the expression on the Prisoner’s face.)
I am open to suggestions.
PRISONER: (pouring with flourish) How about some wine?
MONK: Mmm … wine—?
PRISONER: Rice wine—
MONK: Saki! Oh, I love saki. (She sips, relishes the flavor.) Oh, this is good. Whoever figured out how to make wine out of rice really knew what they was doin’.
PRISONER: Or wine out of yak-butter tea—
MONK: Well, yeah—that’s much more … complicated.
PRISONER: I was wondering … (sips) … what brought you here?
MONK: (slightly defensive) Why would you ask such a thing?
PRISONER: Just wondering.
MONK: (taking several sips)Why? Has Dr. Luci said something?
PRISONER: No … I just thought—
MONK: (pouring herself some more wine, drinking) Because if he has … I’d expect you to tell me … give me the chance to tell my side of the matter.
PRISONER: It’s not like that at all. I just wanted to know more about you.
MONK: (considering this) What brings anyone anywhere? (She pauses, sips, shrugs.) I was looking for something. Still am … looking. I’ve been in abusive relationships … sickness … hardship … catastrophe … you name it.
I’ve done some things that I’m not proud of. Well, I could go on, but you got the idea. I’ve been in therapy and every twelve-step program there is … looking. The one thing that stuck with me—the only thing that stuck with me—was that Serenity Prayer. “God, grant me the serenity … to accept the things I cannot change … courage to change the things I can … and the wisdom to know … to know the difference.”
(laughs sadly) Since I could never change anything, I saw no need for courage or wisdom.
But I sure saw the need for serenity. My Serenity Prayer became the shortened version: “Grant me serenity! Grant me serenity!” Sometimes it was like the mantra of a maniac. I believe me coming here was an answer to that prayer. Here I got serenity … and I got Dr. Luci thrown in with the deal. Ha!
PRISONER: How can you say you have serenity when he treats you as he does?
MONK: Ha! He calls it my “Discipline” with a capital “D.” Like some people got prayers or vows, I got suffering. It makes sense, to hear him explain it. I find meaning in it, in my suffering. That’s the goal, ain’t it? And in that meaning, I find acceptance … and in the acceptance, I find serenity.
PRISONER: But he burned your tongue out.
MONK: And you healed me.
PRISONER: How can you find meaning in having your tongue burned out?
MONK: Ha! I got quite a mouth on me, in case you ain’t noticed … always goin’ outside Luci’s chain of command … like askin’ the monks to pray for you. So out come the tongs and out comes my tongue. He always backs it with Scripture—the Book of Isaiah, Chapter Six, Verse Seven … Dr. Luci’s version, anyhow. I got it memorized, havin’ heard it so much:
(dramatically) “And the angel laid a live coal, taken with tongs from the altar, upon thy mouth. And he said, ‘Lo, this has touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, thy sin purged.'”
Besides, my suffering … it’s brought me closer to you … and that’s enough. That’s all the meaning I need.
PRISONER: (taking the Monk by the shoulders) Listen to me—I do not want you suffering on my account, not for any reason.
MONK: (pulling away, standing) That’s my choice to make.
PRISONER: Please listen—
MONK: (shaking her head) We all suffer. What’s that expression? “That which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”
PRISONER: Friedrich Wilhelm Nietszche, the philosopher. And the quote, translated properly, is, “That which does not destroy us, makes us stronger.”
MONK: Yes, I like that—the word “us” instead of the word “me.” Makes it sound like we’re all in this together. Well, suffice it to say, knowing Dr. Luci has made me a stronger woman … strong enough to take on another discipline—tiny “d”—that he doesn’t know about.
(She looks around, pulls a good-sized rock from within the folds of her robes.)
PRISONER: What’s that?
MONK: My new discipline. It’s a rock I found, like it called to me. I call it “Courage.” The longer I go without using it, the wiser I become, and one of these days, when I’m wise enough—WHAM!
JAILER: (off-stage) You there! All of you! Stop that infernal chanting! Blasphemy! Blasphemy!
(A crash is heard and the chanting comes to a halt.)
(The Monk and the Prisoner quickly gather up the tea set and stash it under the Prisoner’S bunk, adjusting the bed covers to fully hide it from view. The Prisoner resumes meditation, while the Monk grabs a broom and moves to the far side of the room.)
JAILER: (entering abruptly, then slowing) I smell alcohol.
MONK: (swaying slightly) Yak butter … candles.
JAILER: I know what yak butter smells like. The stench permeates the air of this place—it’s in the walls … it’s in my hair and my clothes. (pause) Have you been drinking?
MONK: How dare you! If I was drunk, I’d be sleeping … not sweeping. Sweeping it off. I mean, sleeping … it … off. Sweeping … it’s what I do.
JAILER: And the monks … chanting, right outside—what’s the meaning of it?
MONK: Monks chant. It’s what they do.
JAILER: Is that supposed to be funny?
MONK: Mister … Doc-tor Luci—outside these walls is China, but inside these walls is Tibet … and Tibetan monks. And Tibetan monks chant. So. . . if that disturbs you, then I might suggest— most respectfully… (clasps hands and bows) … that you try the Hotel Lhasa, right down the street.
JAILER: I’ll deal with you later. Right now I have to make my rounds.
(The Jailer turns and hurriedly exits.)
MONK: Round on, boss man.
PRISONER: (going to her) Wow.. .you’re brave!
MONK: Well, really, what more can he do to me? “That which doesn’t kill me … ”
PRISONER: He could kill you—
MONK: Aw,(snorts) he’s already done that. Twice.
PRISONER: I can see why you don’t have to pray for courage.
PRISONER: (moving back toward his bunk) Now where, oh where, has my captor gone—?
MONK: (following) Luci? He’s around, you can be sure of that. Samsara’s a big place, and you’re not the only one he’s keeping here.
PRISONER: (sitting) There are others like me here?
MONK: (sitting next to the Prisoner, putting her hand on his back) Oh heavens, no, not like you. You’re my favorite.
PRISONER: The others … what are they like?
MONK: In a word—nasty. You’re the only good one of the bunch. Some of the others—they’re monstrous, really … truly monstrous. One that he’s keepin’ in the basement—that one actually has wings … huge, black, leathery wings—sproutin’ out his backside.
PRISONER: An angel!
MONK: Not how most people reckon angels … more like a gargoyle brought to life. Angels belong in the sky. This one, (pointing downward) the basement.
(She kneels and begins moving the bed covers, to retrieve the tea set.)
Shall we have some more wine?
PRISONER: (standing, fidgeting) No.. .thank you.
MONK: That’s odd. Usually you have a second cup of whatever it is we’re drinking.
(She resumes sitting on the bunk.)
Don’t let thoughts of the others upset you. Myself, I try not to get too attached. He doesn’t keep any of them for very long. You’re the only one who’s been here for any length of time.
PRISONER: (wringing his hands) Forty days. He told me.
MONK: Forty days? Oh dear—there’s one thing you ought to know about Luci—he is a liar.
PRISONER: Are you saying … I’ve not been here forty days?
MONK: (remembering) Let’s see … I arrived here nearly three years ago, and you was here then. Dr. Luci arrived about a week ago. As far as anyone can figure, you’ve been here for closer to forty years. Maybe four hundred. No one knows.
PRISONER: (agitation increasing) Four hundred years—
MONK: (standing) Oh dear—this dread you’re feeling. Dr. Luci … he said that this would happen—a dread would overtake you. He said that this dread would be the first stage … the first of three stages.
PRISONER: Dr. Luci … what has he said about me?
MONK: Oh, well, he’s said a lot of things. He’s always talking, mostly about himself.
PRISONER: But me … what has he told you about me?
MONK: Oh, this is not like you at all. Let’s have some more wine.
PRISONER: Tell me! (pleadingly) Please—
MONK: Well, let me see … when he says anything to me, it usually goes in one ear and out the other. About you … he said … he called you the Man of Sorrows, the Praying Man. Oh—and the Condemned … he once called you the Condemned. He said that you’ve been here for decades, awaiting judgment—and your judgment was approaching. That’s why he’s here.
PRISONER: (distracted by anxiety) Who—?
MONK: Why … Dr. Luci, that’s who.(Her concern increases.) I don’t like this. (rising) I don’t like this one bit.
PRISONER: (beginning to pace restlessly) He said … that I was condemned.
MONK: That’s just Dr. Luci talking. You haven’t been judged yet—how can you be condemned?
PRISONER: He said … that I’m being held here for crimes against humanity. He told me that.
MONK: Well, who among us hasn’t committed a few crimes against humanity?
PRISONER: I can’t remember what I’ve done. I don’t even know who I am.
MONK: Whatever you’ve done, it can’t be anything worse than what I’ve done. I’m sure of that. You’ve got to believe me.
PRISONER: But the thought that I might never leave this place—
MONK: As you’ve said to me many, many times: All we have is one day.
(The Prisoner stops pacing, hangs his head in silence.)
Listen to me—don’t do this to yourself. (pause) Go to the window—
MONK: (sitting) There’s something I want you to see—
PRISONER: (going to the window) What?
MONK: I’m not sure that I can explain it—but it’s somethin’ you’ve tried to show me.
PRISONER: Something I’ve tried to show you—? (He looks out the window.)
MONK: That’s it … outside, in the sky—it’s somethin’ that you seem to be able to see. You’ve said that as long as you can see the sky, look out and up in that one direction as far as the eye can see, you realize that, in that one direction, you are as free as any man. You call it “the secret of sky.”
PRISONER: Out and up in that one direction—
MONK: You are as free as any man, any man on this planet.
PRISONER: (very moved, turning from the window) Thank you.
MONK: This is indeed unusual—I’ve never seen you in tears before.
PRISONER: I remember who I am. I remember my crime.
MONK: You remember who … who …(gasps) Dr. Luci said that this would happen, that this would be the second stage—your rememberin’. Oh, but I shouldn’t be hearin’ this.
(She places her hands over her ears.)
If Dr. Luci hears that I’ve heard this, he’ll shove hot pokers into my ears for sure … and you’ll have to heal me—you always heal me.
(She lowers her hands.)
Still, it’s all such an inconvenience, being deaf, even if it’s only for a day or so. He actually did it once, deafened me, but only once. It proved to be more of an inconvenience for him because I couldn’t hear him or that stupid bell of his, no matter how long he rang it.
JAILER: (entering, ringing his bell loudly) You mean this bell? (to the Prisoner)
So … you remember who you are. (to the Monk) Leave us.
MONK: (hesitantly, then bravely) I will … I will NOT!
JAILER: (amused) Becoming protective, eh? How interesting. Then stay, if you dare. I dare say you won’t be so protective of this man once you find out who he really is, what he’s really done.
PRISONER: This is between you and me.
JAILER: Oh, if only that were true. But this is really between you and the world, isn’t it?
MONK: What the hell are you talkin’ about?
JAILER: Mind your tongue. But an interesting choice of words— coming from a Buddhist monk. “Hell”—as in hell on earth. All your Buddhist concern and compassion over man’s continual and inevitable suffering. Touching. (turning to the Prisoner) Especially when it’s wasted on this man, the man who started all that suffering.
JAILER: (to the Prisoner) But you’re not really a man, are you? Not back then, anyway. This happened a long time ago, long before you ever took human form.
(to the Monk) Does that surprise you to hear? That this “man” was not always human? That is, if you can even consider him human now. I suppose that there are many things you don’t know about, despite all that you’ve seen here. Hidden things. Invisible things. Witness the testimony in the Gospel of Mark: Jesus heals a blind man at Bethsaida. He took the blind man by the hand and led him; and when he had spit on his hands and put his hands upon the blind man and asked what he saw … the man looked up and said, “I see men like trees, walking.” Who—or what—were those men like trees he saw? Men like trees! Celestial beings! Invisible to all human eyes except the eyes touched by Jesus. Invisible but nearly infinite in number, all around us. Yet some, indeed many, took visible physical form. Some as small as doves, some as large as trees … some as in the shape of men—as those in Noah’s time. Witness the testimony in the Book of Genesis: “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them … the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose.” Do you have any idea who … what this man is and the upheaval he’s caused?
PRISONER: Leave her out of this!
JAILER: But she’s a part of it! She and everyone else on this cursed planet. All disease, all pain, all suffering—even death—all ultimately caused by this “man.”
MONK: Ha! I happen to know better. What you’re sayin’ ain’t even possible.
JAILER: You doubt me? Well, don’t take my word for it. His deed is recorded in the earliest of human histories—the Book of Genesis. Long before this man was a man, there he was—in the Garden.
JAILER: Of course, it might not have happened exactly as recorded in Genesis—some details may have been left out. The story had been handed down mouth to ear for many generations before Moses committed it to papyrus—but the basic elements are all there. The fall of man—that pivotal point in human history when men, all of mankind, became something other than it was meant to be.
MONK: But … but it can’t be—
JAILER: Can’t be what? True? I assure you, it is. Despite Moses’ many shortcomings, he was not one for fanciful embellishment.
MONK: But … I know better—
JAILER: Yes, why believe the Bible? Hardly anyone does these days. That’s why it’s the perfect religious book—everyone owns it, but nobody knows it. Ask him … ask the man—this thing— yourself.
(The Monk looks to the Prisoner with pleading in her eyes.)
PRISONER: What he’s said … everything … is true.
MONK: No! No, no, no, no … I don’t believe it—don’t you believe it. I … I would’ve known … recognized it—the evil. No … you can’t be him. I mean, I believe … I know he exists—so much evil and suffering in the world—but it couldn’t be you. You’ve shown concern … compassion—
JAILER: Illusions of a guilty conscience. Behold! The Fallen Angel!
MONK: But … I mean … I know, of course, that Scripture describes the Serpent as subtle—the most subtle—but this deception would be too great. It’s not possible … to think that I washed the feet, had tea with, shared wine with, conversed with … was healed by … the Serpent!
JAILER: The Serpent? No, you idiot—you’ve misunderstood. (sotto voce) Big surprise. (to the Monk) He wasn’t the Serpent. No, he was something much, much worse. Behold! I present to you—the Tree!
MONK: The Tree—?
JAILER: THE Tree.
MONK:(laughing) The Tree? You’re telling me that this man was a bloomin’ tree?
JAILER: There were many angelic beings in the Garden that day, fallen and unfallen, invisible and visible. Some were birds, some were serpents, one even a—
MONK: But a TREE?
JAILER: Not just any tree. Behold! The tree that bore the forbidden fruit! The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil!
(The Monk looks toward the Prisoner; the Prisoner nods.)
MONK: There’s several that share the blame of what happened to man in that Garden. Some blame the Serpent. Some blame Adam. Some blame Eve. But come off it—no one blames the Tree.
JAILER: He was somewhere he wasn’t supposed to be! Bearing fruit, of all things, attractive to the eye!
MONK: Well, one can’t help bearing fruit, if that’s what one does.
JAILER: He bore the fruit, so now he can bear the blame. (to the Prisoner) Just what were you doing there? Explain yourself!
PRISONER: I was curious.
PRISONER: I remember an … altercation … a blinding flash. It ripped me from … my place—and I fell.
JAILER: By his own admission—a fallen being!
(The Jailer goes to the lectern, takes out a pen, and begins writing.)
PRISONER: Maybe not “fell” … drifted … caught up in a whirlwind of energy … then darkness.(The scene falls into complete darkness.) And then light …(A light comes up on the Prisoner, illuminating only his face and upper torso.) … a blinding light. I had never seen such a light.(Several tiny lights are projected onto the cell’s walls, sparkling like stars.) Then lights … many lights. Millions, billions—more than will ever be counted. (The stars begin moving in a uniform manner and direction, giving the illusion that the Prisoner is also in movement.) I found myself pulled along, caught in a current that moved me through this new creation. And it was new! I saw things that had never existed before!
(As the Prisoner continues, images ranging from the micro to the macro are projected onto the walls of the cell: atoms, planets, stars, and finally a spiral galaxy.)
Particles that comprised atoms, atoms that comprised matter … of amazing variety. Matter from energy—and energy conspiring with matter to create … life. On this tiny planet on the far arm of a spiraling galaxy, I found life formed from stardust. I was amazed, filled with wonder—and I was curious.
JAILER: (a soft spotlight illuminating his face and shoulders) That word again. You know that curiosity killed the cat.
MONK: (a soft spotlight also upon her face and shoulders) But satisfaction brought him back.
JAILER: (rolling his eyes) Go on … please—
(The Jailer, the Monk, and the entire scene—except for the Prisoner—fade back into darkness.)
PRISONER: I found myself standing in the midst of a beautiful garden, surrounded by sunlight and colors that seemed to vibrate—and the calling of birds.
(Soft colors and abstract shapes are projected upon the walls of the cell, shimmering as if under water. The gentle sounds of birdsong can also be heard.)
Water flowing in a nearby stream also seemed to sing. It’s been a long time—eons—since I had heard anything so beautiful. A slight breeze blew across my face, and I realized that I too had somehow taken physical form. I then heard something else … a voice … singing.
(The Monk begins singly softly in an ancient language long forgotten.)
Someone was in the garden, singing … like an angel—but not an angel. The simple beauty of her song moved me, and a tear ran down my face—a tear!—and I knew I wanted to stay in that garden—-to watch, to see, to witness this new creation. So I stretched out my arms and they became branches, my wings a canopy of leaves. And there I stood, a tree, in the midst of the Garden.
(The Jailer claps his hands twice, quickly. The lights come up; the sounds fade to silence.)
JAILER: In the midst of the Garden … right where you weren’t supposed to be.
PRISONER: What are you writing?
JAILER: Your confession—which, after you’ve signed it, will become the cornerstone of a new faith … with Yours Truly as its Founder, Leader, and Savior. Once your … your mishap is all ironed out, I can finally be restored to my rightful place.
PRISONER: Wait a minute. Those eyes … that voice … I remember you! You were there, too!
JAILER: That was a long time ago.
PRISONER: My arms outstretched like branches, you crept around my feet, slithered up my legs, and constricted tight my torso—
JAILER: (dreamily) Such a long, long time ago—
PRISONER: You wrapped yourself around me and climbed out onto one outstretched arm—and you called to the woman.
JAILER: I knew her. She and I had a long-standing relationship before your arrival.
MONK: Excuse me—?
JAILER: She and I were happy before your arrival in the Garden— which you ruined, by being where you weren’t supposed to be.
PRISONER: I ruined—
JAILER: The woman was warned: “Eat of any tree except that one, the one in the midst of the Garden.” You weren’t supposed to be there!
(The Jailer walks toward the Prisoner, document in hand.)
Here—sign this confession! Then we can move on to the final stage of your trial—judgment!
PRISONER: (perusing the document) Everything that went wrong, my fault … all suffering … old age, sickness … situations of anguish … prison, war, famine … abuse, grief … even death—
JAILER: (handing the Prisoner the pen) Yes, yes, the list goes on—sign it!
MONK: (standing) No, don’t listen to him. (to the Jailer) You were there, too.
JAILER: As a witness! An innocent bystander. A mere spectator. Not a participant.
MONK: But you told the woman to eat of the fruit … pretty much talked her into it, if I’m rememberin’ correctly.
JAILER: How was I to know? I didn’t recognize him. He was a goddamned tree. If I had known it was him, I’d have warned her.
MONK: Wait! This whole thing … something’s not making sense. I’ve often wondered—how could one piece of fruit have begun all the world’s suffering?
JAILER: (faltering) She ate of … angelic flesh. Eyes … her eyes were opened. Who knows how these things happen? There are … (dramatically) there are many mysteries, the answers to which we may never know.
MONK: That’s a load of crap. You’re leavin’ out somethin’. I can tell.
JAILER: You heard him admit to his part in it. What more is there? (to the Prisoner) Sign … the … confession.
PRISONER: I remember now—it was not the fruit!
JAILER and MONK: What?
PRISONER: Sly Serpent, the most subtle of all the beasts of the field—you crept around my feet, slithered up my legs, crawled out onto a branch bearing the fruit … and you called to the woman. She, hearing your voice … she came to you.
JAILER: As I said, we had something of a relationship.
PRISONER: But before she got there, you bit into the fruit. You sank your fangs deep into its flesh—and filled it with your venom.
MONK: You—it was you!
JAILER: That … that was a long time ago.
MONK: Foul Serpent—is it not also written: “The offspring of woman shall bruise your head—”?
(The Monk retrieves the rock from within the folds of her robes, raises it, and advances fast upon the Jailer. The Jailer pulls a letter opener from his jacket pocket, and he quickly stabs the Monk several times, like a snake striking. The Monk turns toward the Prisoner, tries to say something, and dies.)
JAILER: (wiping the letter opener clean with a handkerchief) For the record, the quote is, “And I will put emnity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” HIS heel, not her heel. If my head is to be bruised, it will not be bruised by a mere woman. (to the Prisoner) Don’t worry. I’ve killed her before. You’ll bring her back—you always do.
(The Prisoner turns, stares out the window. The Jailer impatiently gestures toward the Monk’s body.)
Well—? (pause) What about her?
PRISONER: What about her—?
JAILER: Well, certainly you’re not going to leave her like … that—
(To the Jailer’s amazement, the Monk begins to move— first an arm, then a leg. She sits up slowly, a groggy look on her face.)
How did you do that? From way over there—
PRISONER: (calmly turning from the window) I didn’t do anything. I was looking at the sky.
JAILER: What do you mean you didn’t do anything? What’s the meaning of this?
MONK: (slowly standing, unsteady) When you … you blinded me, he restored my sight. When you … deafened me … he restored my hearing. When you silenced me, he restored my voice. But the comin’ back to life—that was my doin’, my work.
JAILER: (astonished) How is that possible?
MONK: You really don’t know who I am, do you? And I thought you had recognized me—
JAILER: (helping the Monk over to the bunk, where he and the Monk sit) To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever taken the time to get a good look at you. (He scrutinizes the Monk’s face.) Your face … it’s familiar—but in a way that all human faces are familiar. No … it couldn’t be. (pause)God?
MONK: Ha! You wish. I don’t think that God holds as much against you as I do. Look again … at my eyes—the eyes you once called “dark jewels sparkling with heaven’s wisdom” … at my lips, the lips you said were “more luscious than any fruit in the Garden—”
JAILER: But no—you ate of the fruit. I saw with my own eyes. You should be dead—long dead.
MONK: (sadly) I should be, but I’m not. Read Scripture carefully. God told Adam that he would die. I survived. To this day, I have survived.
JAILER: But you shouldn’t have. You ate the fruit. I poisoned it myself.
MONK: Why … why did you do it?
JAILER: (angry) Why? How can you even ask why? I loved you. I loved you more than heaven itself and God Himself, and I fell from heaven because of you … for you, to be with you, I fell. And you chose Adam over me—me!—who gave up all I once was to be with you. I lost everything … for you … and you chose Adam. That’s why I did it.
PRISONER: You poisoned Creation because of the scorn of a woman?
JAILER: (standing) I lost everything—and when I lose everything, everyone should lose everything!
PRISONER: (handing the Jailer the confession) You haven’t lost everything.
JAILER: What’s this?
PRISONER: My confession. I admit to my part.
JAILER: Judgment is at hand. And you, Woman—you had a part in it, as well.
MONK: And thus began a whole world of suffering. I confess—
JAILER: (handing the Monk the confession and pen) Sign here. (The Monk signs.) And initial the addendum. Here. (The Monk hastily adds her initials.) I’ve been waiting a long time for this.
(The Jailer moves to center stage. As a light comes up on him, the rest of the scene dims. He clears his throat, looks off.)
These two have confessed to the actions that have been held against me these many thousands of years. I have here their signed confession. And I appeal to You, Your Honor, my God, I appeal to you … to reconsider my sentence. It is too great. And these two take full responsibility … for all the harm that resulted … for spoiling Your work. They’ve admitted to it. So I’m humbly appealing to You … throwing myself upon Your mercy … asking … begging Your Honor to consider this … to reconsider my sentence … because it’s too great, too terrible. I can’t take it. I can no longer bear it. God, my God, I’m not asking for a full exoneration. Just a second chance. I admit my part … but it was a small part … and my punishment … I’m not asking for exaltation. I’m appealing to You … asking … begging … that You will show mercy and just give me my old life back … my former position, the position of servant in Your household. Please … Father … my Father … I appeal to You … because this is too much … (After a long pause, the Jailer looks at the floor. The light on him dims as the lighting comes up on the rest of the scene.) Nothing.
(to the Monk and the Prisoner) It all looks good on paper, doesn’t it? His great resume: All Seeing, All Knowing, All Powerful, Ever Present. Well, add to that “Ever Silent.”
MONK: Perhaps it’s us. Perhaps you’ve … we’ve … forgotten how to listen.
JAILER: Who am I kidding? It doesn’t make a difference. His word is final.(to above) How about something we can use down here? Like “All Caring”? “All Providing”? “All Fixing”? (He tears the confession to shreds.) What did He expect? He gives us this great gift, Free Will. And he sticks us in a universe that’s in opposition, such animosity to the concept of Free Will. From the smallest sub-atomic particles to the most massive celestial bodies, all things revolve, rotate, and radiate in absolute compliance to His will–all except us, of course.
MONK: But still …it was our choice. All Adam and I knew in the Garden was absolute freedom … until we were told that there was one thing that was forbidden to us. Once we were told that, we were no longer free. Or were we? The only way to know—to know for certain—was to do …to choose the forbidden. So we chose … and in that one act, we proved our freedom.
JAILER: I can understand that. (to above) And if I, a lowly fallen being, can understand—how much more can you? How about a little understanding? Just one glimmer of hope. One small sign. (A small beeping sound emanates from Jailer’s pocket.) Hello—what’s this? (He takes out his cell phone, looks at it.) It’s getting a signal … three bars. Oh, my God—look at those messages. Hold on—
(He goes to the far edge of the room and begins listening to his messages.)
PRISONER: Eve—I’ve been judged … it’s time for me to leave.
MONK: What … was the verdict?
PRISONER: Not too bad … adjudication withheld—with credit for time served. One billion hours of community service.
MONK: Where will you go?
PRISONER: Out into the world. I have a lot to do.
JAILER: (speaking over his shoulder to the Monk and the Prisoner, still listening to his phone)My production crew has been rerouted to India. My show’s going into national syndication, and I’m scheduled to interview the Dalai Lama—tomorrow!
PRISONER: Eve—I want you to come with me.
MONK: I … I came to Samsara Monastery by myself. I think I ought to leave the same way … when the time’s right.
JAILER: (still listening to his phone but now in movement) My agent wants me in Los Angeles by Tuesday. I’m being considered to fill the fourth chair on America’s Got Talent! I’ve got to get to the airport. (He exits abrupty.)
PRISONER: (after savoring the silence) And regrets?
MONK: Ha! Plenty. I regret … the things I did that brought shame to me or to the ones who loved me, the things I did that harmed me or anyone else … the things I did out of selfishness or out of anger or out of a desire to have revenge … the things I should’ve prevented but didn’t.(pause) But … there’s no use dwellin’ on it. (pause) I’ve spent too much time thinkin’ about what might’ve been. (pause) Now I think I’ll spend some time thinkin’ about what might be. And when I’m ready, I’m gonna leave Samsara, and get out and do it.
PRISONER: (picking out a couple of books) Well then— (He begins to leave, reconsiders.) I was wondering—how did you survive eating the poisoned fruit and live to tell the tale?
MONK: Oh, that. Well … I’m not stupid, ya know. I knew I was gonna do it—eat of the fruit. I couldn’t resist, even though Adam had been warned that it would be deadly. (pause) But there—only a short distance away—the Tree of Eternal Life. If you’d been me, which tree would you have eaten from first?
PRISONER: What about Adam?
MONK: Adam … poor Adam. (pause) He wasn’t as smart as me.
PRISONER: (smiling) So I see.
(The Prisoner exits. Lights down.)