L’Appel du Vide
ACT ONE – SCENE ONE
ANTHONY, 18, has been mysteriously deaf for a year.
ANTHONY is seated amid a crowd of standing church-goers. They all face the same direction. His father, the pastor, stands in front of them. The mob finishes singing the last verse of a hymn and the music reaches a meaningful crescendo, but ANTHONY is unphased.
The crowd sits and listens emptily to a sermon. ANTHONY, seemingly engrossed, leans forward and observes the crowd rather than his father. The crowd stands for communion. ANTHONY ceases to observe and collects himself.
ACT ONE – SCENE TWO
ANTHONY, seated in a nearby ambiguous forest, writes in his journal.
ANT: Simple thoughts have been claimed by anyone and everyone, for thoughts are present in all who seek to gain anything. He pauses. Uncanny knowledge resides in all, caged, waiting, squirming until finally set free from the bounds that is man’s imagination; the bounds that are man’s thoughts. All the lurid colors that man displays are determined by our emotions. These emotions, these deepest thoughts, can never be unworthy. Anyone is able to believe in something, but only a select few can articulate why. He picks up speed and enthusiasm. The implanted desire to become something, an important figure––someone “special,” someone who differs from the rest; attracts attention; undoubtedly noticed, will never cease. Pause. Yet all that remains of the quiet individuals are clones; those who failed to obtain their individuality. A lonely spirit wandering is nothing but a multiple-choice question. The majority of the spirits do not desire to accomplish anything but to deceive. If faith is so deceiving, why do so many people conform to it?
ANTHONY stops writing and cries as he has difficulty coping with his own thoughts. His head is lowered, as this crying embarrasses him. He stands and jogs slowly, drawing nearer to the church. He enters the now empty church and walks to a nearby pew. He flips through the bible until he reaches Psalms 23.
ANT: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” He stares at the passage for a while. (With sarcasm) What does that even mean? He flips to Matthew 5.4. ”Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted,” yet I feel no comfort from this passage. He sighs. Another dead passage. Another promise designed to die. The words are dead to me. Just black lettering on a page of all those faltered promises.
Lights dim, curtain falls.
ACT ONE – SCENE THREE
ANTHONY sits alone in his dimly lit room. He watches a television in the corner that plays a video of a moth being cocooned by a spider’s silk. He rises from his chair and ambles over to the full-body mirror that is attached to the opposite side of his door.
He stares at himself in the mirror and examines his physical features, tracing the lines on his face.
The lights go out. He does not move.
He waits in the darkness for a couple seconds.
The power resumes.
The TV flickers on and the moth is now mummified in the spider’s webbing, dead.
He turns and stares at the moth.
ANT: A beautiful death. That’s the way I want to go. To be caught in such a delicate web, bound in such glossy thread as soft as silk. One can only wonder how such a wonderful thing can be a cause of death. He looks towards the audience. What is life but a series of contradictions. He states, not in the form of a question.
He takes out his journal and writes.
ANT: Never will we be able to solve the enigma of life and reveal power of our existence. The solution is most likely be death. I wish to live as if everything is a final goodbye. Those who do not accomplish anything in this life do not exist. However, I believe that accomplishments are definitely possible. But it seems senseless to pursue faith in order to be remembered. We all die trying. A success is not a diversion, however nothing can be done to faintly brisk the edge of a true success. Everything requires effort, effort we are sometimes unable to produce.
ACT ONE – SCENE FOUR
The next day ANTHONY finds himself beneath the single birch tree of the same ambiguous forest. He opens his eyes slowly, as the light is a bit harsh.
ANT: Why is the world so blurry… will my sight be taken from me too? Pause. This dulled world is refreshing –– why must it dissolve with blinking?
UNNAMED: Hey, you all right?
He looks around wildly as if he didn’t know where he was or why he was there.
ANT: (To himself) Am I going mad or am I hearing someone talking to me? Why can I hear this person?
He was still very much surprised as a figure stepped toward him.
It was a girl around his age. She smiles warmly.
UNNAMED: I thought you would have heard me coming. The trees wouldn’t let me get here stealthily.
Her smile continued as she offers him her hand. He takes it and she yanks him up with surprising force, startling him. His mouth is now somewhat ajar as he is presented with this new individual.
ANT: Jesus Christ, who are you?
She shoots him a puzzled look, but then resumes a contented countenance.
UNN: What’s your name?
ANT: (To himself) Why can I hear her? Pauses. (To UNNAMED) My name is Anthony.
UNN: Anthony? She pauses, laughing a little. Well, if that’s what your parents told you…
ANT: Well, aren’t you going to tell me yours?
She is somewhat startled, blinking a couple times.
ANT: (To himself) This is senseless. I must know. (To UNNAMED, with more force) Who are you and why can I hear you? I can’t hear anyone –– anything! And you waltz in here and I can hear your voice! Everything else is silent and suddenly your voice comes out of nowhere. Why are you so special? (To himself) What if she doesn’t exist? Is she… tangible?
He reaches out slowly and touches her arm. She steps back, startled. The moment was truly unpleasantly awkward. She regards him with a blank expression, then slowly twists a lock of her hair around a finger. Her eyebrows indicate she is somewhat upset.
UNNAMED strays toward the audience –– the edge of the stage is made to seem like a cliff –– looking off to the side, still twisting her hair.
ANT: (Ignoring the previously awkward moment) Why are you here?
UNN: Well, I’ve seen you around and you always disappear in the forest for hours on end. I was curious.
ANT: How have I never seen you before?
She squints, in thought, then suddenly perks up and grabs him by the shoulders.
UNN: I have to show you something! He nods innocently, still in complete shock and subtle anger. She literally drags him to the edge of the cliff (toward the audience). He pushes her back.
ANT: Hey I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s a cliff right there. He pauses. (To himself) What is happening?
She looks at him again, head tilted slightly.
UNN: But I have to show you something.
He hesitates, then nods.
ANT: (To himself) What do I have to lose?
She grabs him by the wrist and drags him again towards the edge of the stage.
She points into the audience.
UNN: You see the lighthouse there? Could we go to it?
He turns towards her, then back at the audience.
ANT: Can’t you see the jagged rocks surrounding it? It’s too dangerous.
UNN: What’s life without a little danger?
ANT: (Sarcastically) There are other dangerous things that don’t involve life-threatening situations.
She seems unamused, but is quick to revert back to her vibrant self. He stares at her a while, seemingly observing her features.
ANT: (To himself) She seems like the complete opposite of me. Everything is different.
She notices his staring.
UNN: You know, you have really interesting eyes. She reaches toward his face. The iris is a maze of blue arabesque designs, but the pupil is surrounded by almost a halo of yellow. She smiles. It’s a bit intimidating at first, but after a while it’s comforting. She regards him solemnly. Why do you always stare like that?
ANT: It’s just so odd to see another person here.
ACT ONE – SCENE FIVE
The church bells toll. Small gatherings of individuals converge in the worship room. The service begins. The pastor raises his arms and chants on a single note.
ALL: Our Father who art in Heaven,
ANT: (ANTHONY is not present, but his voice is heard) The chorus of voices are never in tune.
ALL: Hallowed be thy name,
ANT: Their eyes closed. Some hands lifted to the sky.
ALL: Thy kingdom come, thy will be done,
ANT: Mouths moving unanimously.
ALL: On earth as it is in Heaven,
ANT: All facing the cross.
ALL: Give us this day our daily bread,
ANT: Some reaching out to it, expecting it to reach back.
ALL: Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us,
ANT: A tiny pair of eyes looking shyly around.
ALL: Save us from this time of trial,
ANT: What are they doing?
ALL: Deliver us from evil,
ALL: For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours,
ANT: Tiny hands gripping the fabric of her mother’s skirt.
ALL: Now and forever. Amen.
ANT: The child begins to cry. Her mother comforts her.
The congregation is silent, except for the child.
ACT ONE – SCENE SIX
ANTHONY is seated in the ambiguous forest and writes.
ANT: She visits this forest frequently. Her visits vary from short to extensive, but they are always enjoyable. Mostly we make conversation. Real conversations. They range from anything to everything. I finally have a chance to vocalize my thoughts with another individual and hear a response.
He doses off.
Lights dim slightly, then become very bright.
UNNAMED is sitting beside him as he awakens. She wears a worried expression on her face.
UNN: Are you all right?
ANT: (Silent, to himself) But there is something different about this question. Something different about everything. It is strange. It’s like I haven’t experienced this since I was a child. What is it? (To UNNAMED) I— He stops, noticing a vibration in his voice. I— His confusion ceases. He knows what is different. I can hear.
ANT: I can hear more than just your voice. I can hear everything. I’m looking around like a blind man who suddenly gained the ability to see. I see everything differently. I had forgotten what it was like to hear. Forgotten how the birds sang in the mornings, how the wind made wonderful whisping sounds as it flowed. I had forgotten what it was like to hear a human voice. The different tones. The different textures. The different styles. It was all so amazing. I’m astounded. Awestruck. I’m like a small child in a candy store where everything is free of charge. No penalties, no repercussions. It’s not even a guilty pleasure. Everything makes a sound. Even silence. Sound is ubiquitous. It is everywhere at the same time, a reassuring presence, another emotion. Sound is like a completely new emotion that no one has ever experienced before. He looks at UNNAMED with a completely unreadable expression on his face. It was a look that could never be replicated. He smiles.
A short delay.
UNN: Hello, Anthony, hello.
They regard each other.
UNN: Let’s go on a walk.
They walk along the shoreline. He looks up.
ANT: The sky… does the sky make a sound? Of course it does. He pauses. Mostly I enjoyed hearing your voice. I like being connected with another. The silent world is so detached. I recall being frustrated because I could never hear the bluebirds sing. I could never hear a child play, the waves on the shore or the howling of the wind. But now I can close my eyes and embark on a journey into this newly discovered musical realm. Everything is a symphony, and I am the conductor. This miracle makes me want to believe that life has meaning
UNN: God works in mysterious ways.
ANT: I didn’t even consider that God had a part in this.
ANT: I don’t see any benefits of God existing.
UNN: Your father is a pastor. He gives you reasons every day.
ANT: (Ignoring her previous statement) Where are we going?
She points to something in the distance.
ANT: The lighthouse?
UNN: Yes. The lighthouse.
ACT TWO – SCENE ONE
UNNAMED appears to be in a room made entirely of windows, or the top of the lighthouse.
ANTHONY appears out of a hatch in the stage floor.
UNN: Hey, help me open this.
ANT: Alright? He is visibly confused, but abstains from asking why.
They persistently push on one of the windows until it pops. There is a short crescendo of a sound and they eventually open all the windows until the wind was able to fly freely through the upper part of the lighthouse. UNNAMED flings her arms before her and hangs out of the enclosure, holding the window frame for support.
UNN: This is so great, Anthony! So great! She laughs.
ANT: (Timidly) Isn’t that a little dangerous?
UNN: What’s life without a little danger?
She turns to look at him, her eyes are large with delight. She is so jubilant. He can’t deny her this moment, even if it is dangerous. She turns back towards the water, taking in everything before her. The wind blows faster now, shaking her slightly.
ANT: You should come in now –– come back in, please.
She doesn’t even look at him.
ANT: Come on.
UNN: No. Her body faces forward and she lets go of the window frame, carefully balancing on the edge.
ANT: Hey, what are you doing?
A short pause.
UNN: I’m going to jump.
A shot of fear visibly rampages through his body.
ANT: You don’t have to jump. Don’t jump. Please.
UNN: It’s not that I’m unhappy or anything.
ANT: Then why?
UNN: There is no point to living forever; we all die trying anyway.
ANTHONY looks shocked; he has heard those words before.
UNN: I feel like my life’s complete.
ANT: It’s not.
UNN: It is. God can accept me now. He is always ready to accept his children.
ANT: Suicide is a sin.
She is silent. There is an intense pause.
UNN: You know, Anthony, sometimes it’s better not to question. My life has never had any meaning other than to serve God. Why should I abstain from joining him early? Whatever you say will not change my decision.
ANT: (To himself) Then I’ll resist arguing. If she wants to leave, I have to let her go. (To UNNAMED) Alright. What now?
ANT: Yes. Now.
UNN: Now, enjoy the show.
She rotates until her back faces the water below. Her face is joyful. She outstretches her arms.
UNN: Goodbye, Anthony.
His eyes begin to fill with tears. He doesn’t know what to say.
UNN: Thank-you, for everything.
Her heels gracefully elevate and she falls backwards. He can do nothing to save her.
A congregation of church members is heard from off-stage.
CONGREGATION: (only their voices, speaking in a prayer-like tone) More shrieking.
CON: He screams louder and louder, but his words grow softer and softer.
ANT: Come back!
CON: Until there is nothing left but the ghost of a sound.
CON: The ghost of a whisper.
ANT: Oh God. Please come back.
ACT TWO – SCENE TWO
The stage is completely dark. ANTHONY enters, visibly dripping with water –– sopping wet.
A searchlight follows him to a chair. The rest of the stage bathes in darkness.
ANT: Of the seas, the planes, the dirt of this wretched planet, we are forced to behold our futures in an undecipherable code. The silence ceases to stop, for silence is the loudest noise. The loudest anyone can face, the softest anyone can experience. The slightest regret of any actions wilts. I am free, I am free. This place belongs to me. I have never considered myself deaf. I am no longer deaf.
The lights flicker off and ANTHONY disappears. Silence. The stage only shows a projection of a television screen with a video of waves playing. Two words appear vividly on the screen: