Wednesday, April 22, 2020

No, not me


I believe that Republicans are members of a death cult. Sounds extreme, I know, but what else would you call it? They are trying to take health care away from Americans which has already caused deaths due to inadequate medical care. There’s only one reason they would do that: They believe that the profits of insurance companies are more important than the lives of Americans.

But to actually be considered members of a death cult, Republicans would have to do more than just let a few sick people die. They would need to let a whole shitload of sick people die. And they are doing just that.

During the COVID crisis, Republicans are holding rallies to open the economy immediately, consequences be damned. Some of them even say this explicitly. Dan Patrick, Lt. Governor of Texas, said that he’d be willing to die if the economy could be reopened. And of course Donald Trump has said repeatedly, as is his wont, not to let the remedy be worse than the problem. He didn’t explicitly say he wanted people to die alone in nursing homes, but that is certainly what would happen.

Not content with having American citizens die, the Republicans and Trump also have instituted policies that will lead to Mexicans and Central Americans dying in the desert while they are walking to the border or waiting in camps for their court dates. I have heard that some people are even picking up food and water caches placed in the desert to aid refugees.

Republicans have also worked diligently to deny women the right to safe abortions, instead forcing them to use illegal abortionists who in the past have proven careless about the welfare of their patients.

There are other actions taken by Trump and the Republicans, many of which result in death or disease. Trump removed some protections from the Clean Water Act that will permit companies to dump raw waste into our rivers. He also made changes that will permit auto makers and importers to let their cars pollute our air more by raising the legal limit of CO2 emissions and lowering the legal miles per gallon for each new car.

Republicans justify these things by saying that regulations are harming business profits, thereby explicitly stating that the deaths of our citizens must be exchanged for corporate profits.

If that’s not the description of a death cult, I don’t know what would be, unless it’s putting people into concentration camps and starving them to death. But the net result of these Republican policies, and others that I could name, is the deaths of thousands, perhaps even millions of people who were not given the choice or whether they wanted to sacrifice their lives for corporate profits or not.

I’m going to be among the first to say it, no, Mr. President, I do not agree to die so that corporations can enjoy higher profits.

No, not me.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Marie-Anne Pierrette Paulze-Lavoisier


MARIE-ANNE PIERRETTE PAULZE-LAVOISIER,
COMTESSE DE RUMFORD (1758-1836)
A BEACON EMERGING FROM THE SHADOWS

(translated by Allan Masri)

I know what I was, I know what I am,
I want what I should, I do what I can.

-Bouscal, La Mort de Cleomene
The history of the sciences presents, more than any other discipline, a constellation of portraits of great people whose character, intelligence, works, and influence inspire admiration. Behind these well-known figures, however, other beings, ignored by nearly all the conoscenti, patiently wait to be placed in the spotlight. In the 18th century, many wives performed this modest role, kept themselves in the shadow of their husbands, guided their careers, encouraged almost anonymously the development of the sciences, began the inevitable movement toward women’s emancipation, and without fanfare contributed to the progress of the human spirit and the happiness of the human race. Others, less shy, brightened history with their courage and exceptional strength of character. Although little known to the historians of science, Marie-Anne Pierrette Paulze belongs to this last category of women, glowing in their midst, a beacon emerging from the shadows.

The daughter of Jacques Paulze de Chastenolles (1719-1794) and Claudine Thoynet (d. 1761), Marie-Anne was born at Montbrisson (Loire) on 20 January 1958. She had three brothers. Her father, a well-known parliamentary judge and manager of the French East India Company, was the general manager of the Ferme Generale, a private company entrusted by the king with collecting, for a compensation, indirect taxes: the gabelle (salt tax), taxes on tobacco, licensing rights, and the aides (taxes on alcohol). His function as tax collector brought him very substantial revenues. For her part, her mother, married to Jacques Paulze in 1752, was the niece of Abbé Joseph-Marie Terray (1715-1778), one of the most powerful ministers of the day. Thanks to family connections, Marie-Anne should have enjoyed an easy and happy life. But she lost her mother when she was only three. Her father decided she should be educated in a convent, where she could receive the classical education typical of a young woman of the haute bourgeoisie. It was there that she forged her character, becoming interested especially in the sciences and drawing, maturing more rapidly than children pampered by their parents. At the age of twelve, she was already an accomplished young lady, sure of herself, with a lively intelligence and blossoming and filled with talents. At the receptions that the Paulze family organized regularly, she sparkled through her wit and her charm, and she attracted numerous admirers.

In 1770, the baroness of la Garde decided that her brother, the count of Amerval, should remarry. Penniless, 50 years old, this person had nothing that might attract a young and intelligent girl who happened to be heiress of an enviable fortune. Marie-Anne resisted this marriage as best she could. Taking advantage of the influence of Abbé Terray, the Baroness threatened Jacques Paulze with the loss of his lucrative position at the heart of the Ferme Générale if the union was not accomplished. Outraged by the exxpress intentions of the Baroness, Paulze disapproved of this union and, moreover, did not wish to allow his daughter to suffer such an imposition; he therefore decided to marry her quickly to a brilliant young man who was much more compatible, Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier (1743-1794), who regularly attended his salon, and who had often played music with Marie-Anne and conversed with her about geology, chemistry, and astronomy.

The two young people, who had already liked each other for some time, readily assented to the plan. The betrothal took place in November, 1771, the marriage contract was signed on December 4, 1771, and the marriage took place on the 16th. Resigned to his defeat, Abbe Terray performed the marriage in his private chapel, with himself and his brother acting as witnesses. Two hundred guests from among the most illustrious in France attended the banquet. The couple established their residence in rue Neuve-des-Bons-Enfants, near the Palais-Royal, in a house that the father of the groom had bought when his declining health had necessitated the sale of his office as Solicitor General of Parlement.

Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier was born August 26, 1743, in Paris. He was the son of Emilie Punctis (d. 23 March 1746). He belonged to a rich and influential family. He attended classes at College Mazarin (or College des Quatre-Nations, now Institut de France) where the faculty of the sciences enjoyed an exalted reputation. His professor of mathematics and astronomy was Abbe de La Caille; he also followed the botany course of Bernard de Jussieu, and that of the academician Jean-Etienne Guettard in geology and mineralogie, and of Rouelle in Chemistry. When he was 18, he abandoned his secondary studies. On the advice of his father, he began studying law and earned his licence three years later (1764). He could have started a practice, but continued to study botany, mineralogy, meteorology, and medicine. He was eager to learn everything. He loved mathematics, natural sciences, strictly controlled experiments. He analysed criticized, and compared theories concurrently. He also loved the tangible and experiments having positive results.

At the age of 21, he started research that were submitted to the Academy of Science. At the age of 23, he presented his work on the analysis of gypsum and plaster of Paris, and, in a contest, a paper on “the best way to illuminate the streets of a large city at night,” a work which earned him a gold medal from the Academy of Sciences. At 24, he accompanied Guettard in a trip to the East of France, to prepare an inventory of the mineral resources of the kingdom. In 1768, he was 25 years old; he purchased a half-share in the Ferme Generale and became assistant to the general manager of the ferme, Baudon. At the same time, having received the support of Jussieu, Lelande, and Macquer, he applied for the post of assistant-chemist at the Academy after the death of Theodore Baron; he became a full-fledged member at the age of 29. when he married, a year later, Marie-Anne, he already had impressive successes to his credit and his career was among the most promising.

Antoine had also lost his mother when he was three years old and found himself in his infancy, in the same position as his young wife. He had been raised by his aunt, Constance Punctis. Both Marie-Anne and Antoine belonged to families with many childless relatives.The couple was likewise childless. Perhaps this circumstance explains the exclusive devotion that they mutually shared during the twenty-three years of their happy union. They were never the object of scandalous rumors in the Gazette, however anxious it was for such stories. It was above all their common passion for science that bound them together forever, even after the death of the scientist in 1794.

Marie-Anne quickly became an indispensable assistant for her husband, in a role that far surpassed that of a mere devoted spouse. The pair arose at 5 o’clock and worked in the laboratory from 6 to 9 and from 7 to 9 in the evening. The afternoon was reserved for business of the Ferme Generale and numerous administrative tasks of Antoine, such as preparing powder; twice during the week, Marie-Anne held a salon, entertaining the most illustrious scientists of the epoch from France and other countries: Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), Pierre Samuel Dupont de Nemours (1739-1817), sir Charles Blagden (1748-1820), the English author Arthur Young, Gouverneur Morris, etc.During the course of these dinners, Marie-Anne sparkled by her wit, her grace, and her wisdom. After a visit that he made to Lavoisier in October 1787, Arthur Young wrote: “Madame Lavoisier, a person full of animation, of science and knowledge, had prepared an English breakfast with tea and coffee, but the best part of that breakfast, was, without contradiction, her conversation, either on the essay on phlogiston by Monsieur Kirwan that she was in the process of translating from the English, or on other subjects that an intelligent woman working in the laboratory of her husband knows how to make interesting”.

In the evening, Antoine conducted experiments, often in the company of his guests while Marie-Anne drew or took notes touching the experiments undertaken by her husband. Her writings often appeared in the registers of the laboratory, mixed with those of Antoine and his collaborators. We know by her correspondence that Marie-Anne accompanied Antoine on his numerous journeys. Beginning in 1772, she took notes in notebooks on their travels, describing at each halte the temperature and pressure on the thermometers and barometers carried in their baggage ; she also described remarks on the terrain, the crops, the work of the men and everything of interest to Lavoisier.

In 1775, the scientist was named director of Powder and Salpeter. The couple decamped to the Arsenal and Antoine set up his laboratory in it: it was there that he carried out most of his important experiments.

Lavoisier had no gift for languages. Marie-Anne asked her brother, Balthazar Paulze, for lessons in Latin. She also learned English and Italian and so was able to translate the works of Priestley, Cavendish, Henry, and other European chemists. She also commenced studies in chemistry with Jean-Baptiste Bucquet and Philippe Gingembre, colleagues of her husband. In 1788, her translation of the Essay on Phlogiston of the Irish chemist Richard Kirwan (Essay on Phlogiston, London, 1787), permitted Lavoisier, assisted by Guyton de Morveau, Laplace, Monge, Berthollet and Fourcroy, to refute each of the arguments in the Essay and to publish his Elementary Treatise on Chemistry in 1789. Marie-Anne translated as well, in 1790, Strength of Acids and the Proportion of Ingredients in Neutral Salts, by Kirwan, and published her translation in the Annals of Chemistry. The first French edition of Kirwan gave her no credit, her name not even being mentioned. However, the marginal notes added by Marie-Anne prove that she has all the qualifications of an excellent translator as well as a knowledge of chemistry sufficient to comment intelligently on the work of a specialist such as Kirwan.

A talented illustrator, she drew her self-portrait at the beginning of their marriage. In this drawing, she appears rather slight of build, with very fine blue eyes, a small mouth, a slightly turned up nose, clear skin, and chestnut hair. In the course of the 1780s, she improved her skill under the tutelage of Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825), who presented the couple, in December 1788, with the celebrated portrait of the married pair that today is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. A portrait that she painted of Benjamin Franklin, which the subject mentioned in an unusual thank-you note, dated 23 October 1788: “Those who have viewed this painting have declared that it has great merit and is worthy of consideration; but what makes it particularly precious to me is the hand that held the brush”.

The pictorial output of Marie-Anne demonstrates definitively that the arts and the sciences are inextricably linked and that it is important to understand this fact. The thirteen engravings on copper modestly signed, “Paulze Sculptis” that illustrated the Treatise of Elementary Chemistry, were made by her hand, as were all the sketches that preceded the final proof. Each design exists in at least four different versions, with various details and corrections made.

Marie-Anne first drew the instruments freehand, then filled in the outlines with watercolors. She recopied this mixture on graph paper to match the dimensions of the copper negatives. It is probable that she herself had drawn the fine grid of her tracing paper. This design was copied onto wax paper, then, with a stylus, onto the copper plate. The letters were added by hand to the negative. The final proof of the negative included the word “good”, followed by her signature. In some of these illustrations, she engraved at least two scenes taken from life in the laboratory of the Arsenal, showing the experiments that Lavoisier performed on respiration in company with Pierre Simon de Laplace and Armand Seguin. In these two scenes, “The man at work” and “The man at rest”-- “astonishing foretelling the actual experiments of measuring work in the real situation of the workroom” --, Marie-Anne depicted herself, in the background, as a secretary recording notes in the laboratory registers.

The frequent receptions that the couple organized attracted numerous admirers to Marie-Anne. One of them, P. S. Dupont de Nemours, sent her, beginning in 1781. numerous letters where he declared tender feeling to her. It was still probables that Marie-Anne had no relationship with him, neither before nor after Antoine’s execution.

Antoine and his father-in-law, Jacques Paulze, were arrested November 28, 1793, with twenty-six other members of the Ferme General. They were judged and executed on 8 May 1794. The third head to fall was that of Paulze. Antoine followed him immediately under the guillotine ; he was 51 years old.

The condamnation and execution of her father and her husband on the same day was for Marie-Anne an extraordinary shock that changed her forever. Stunned, she protested vociferously against their arrest ; then, in a virulent pamphlet, signed by many widows and children of the condemned, she denounced Antoine Dupin (1758-1820), the member of the Convention responsible for executions.

Unjustly arrested on 24 June 1794, she was imprisoned. She revealed herself thus “full of courage, audacious, sometimes daring and not afraid to hold her head with composure”. After letters of protest that she sent in August to the Bureau of Piques, to the Committee of Public Safety and to the Committee of General Security, she was released on 17 August, after 65 days of detention. Her arrest was probably due to the correspondence found when her papers were seized along with her family effects. Rendered helpless by the seizure of all her belongings, she could do nothing but plead to her most faithful servant for assistance.

At the end of September, Marie-Anne left secretly to take refuge near Lons-le-Saunier, in the Jura Mountains, where the modest community of Moutonne hastily made its report: “35 years old; 5 feet, 1 inch tall; hair and eyebrows black; eyes blue; nose well made; mouth small and chin round.” She was not so much fleeing her situation as the urgent, almost obsessive, advances of P. S. Dupont de Nemours, who bitterly resented her repeated rejections. Meanwhile, the inventory of Lavoisier’s property dragged on until the end of November.

In August 1795, she was finally able to reclaim the estate of Freschines. Her goods, the instruments, and the scientific notes of her husband, but not the money, were returned to her in April 1796. The years that followed this tragedy were not easy. She had to confront another ticklish problem: P. S. Dupont, who had proposed in 1791 to create a printing shop, had gotten a loan from Lavoisier, backed by a mortgage of 71,000 francs on the estate of the Duponts at Bois-des-Fosses. As he himself had been ruined by the Revolution, P. S. Dupont was unable to reimburse Marie-Anne. It wasn’t until 1805 that the problem was resolved, primarily thanks to his son, Eleuthere Irenee Dupont de Nemours (1771-1834) who had emigrated to the United States and opened a very successful gunpowder factory there in 1802. At that time, Marie-Anne asked P. S. Dupont to finance the publication of the first two volumes of Memoirs of Chemistry by lavoisier. In the vitriolic preface that she wrote for this edition, she denounced all those who should have been able to help her husband and did not have the courage to do so: Fourcroy, Guyton de Morveau, Monge, etc.

Ten years after her husband’s execution, she dedicated to the inventor a veritable cult where she revealed his masonic ideals: “A soul so just,” she wrote in the preface ”with a talent so pure, with a genius so elevated. It was in his conversations that the beauty of his character could be assessed and the depth of his morale principles. If some of the people those who attend these reunions would ever read these memoirs, their memory could not be recalled without emotion...If the laws which he was compelled to execute [in his function as a magistrate] had been occasionally too harsh, his efforts always tended to ameliorate them. One had to see him in the midst of his renters, acting as justice of the peace to repair the friendship of two neighbors, to reconcile a son with his father, giving an example of all the patriarchal virtues, caring for the sick, not only using of his own funds but also with visits, his own attentions, and his urging them to have patience and hope”.

Between 1796 and 1800, Marie-Anne led a relatively withdrawn life. She had fewer receptions, traveled widely in Italy, in Germany, and England. Every return became the occasion for joyous reunions. She continued to hold a salon in the image of former times, where people met together and exchanged ideas freely. The character of Marie-Anne changed also, insensibly. She became brusque, authoritarian, ill-tempered. After 1801, she could be seen surrounded by many suitors, when her social life regained some of its former exuberance. Among these were, of course, P. S. Dupont de Nemours, but also sir Charles Blagden, who made discreet inquiries. Among the regular visitors to her salon could be noticed Benjamin Thompson, Count of Rumford (1763-1814), a famous physicist.

Born in Woburn (Massachusetts), Thompson was self-taught. At the age of 18, he was appointed as schoolmaster in Rumford (Massachusetts). He married a wealthy 31-year old widow. He spied for the British during the American Revolution. Exposed as a spy, he left America immediately in 1776, abandoning his wife and his young daughter, Sarah, and found refuge in England, where he was ennobled. Received into society, he met often with Maximilien, Elector of Bavaria, who appointed him to a ministerial post at the court in Munich. His life then took another orientation. In Bavaria, he cleverly used his technical knowledge to propose very avant-garde social reforms. He organized the public works, military and social reforms (notably a system of social security) and the construction of lodgings for the poor ; he equipped houses with modern kitchens and effective systems of heating and light ; he invented new artillery pieces and new boats. He also established public gardens at Munich, the Park of the People, which still exists, and the English Garden.

As recompense for his work, the Duke of Bavaria named him a Count of the Holy Roman Empire, but Thomson chose for himself the name of the town whence he had fled: Rumford (today Concord, capital of New Hampshire). The Count of Rumford also won some renown by a discovery that overthrew the Physics of the epoch : while working on a firing range, he noticed that when a cannon that had just been bored was plunged into a basin it made the water therein boil and even kept hot for awhile. Proposing thus the foundation of the first law of thermodynamics, he refuted the Aristotelian theory holding that heat, like the other essences (earth, water, air, fire) could neither be created nor destroyed. [The caloric theory was born].

In Scientific circles, he was recognized as a talented physicist. He founded the Royal Institute of Great Britain and also endowed a professorship at Harvard University. The Royal Society and American Academy of Arts and Sciences both named medals after him. Many institutions owe their survival to his generosity.

In 1801, while he was basking in his glory, he proposed marriage to Madame Lavoisier. Legal complications prolonged their engagement. In 1804, Marie-Anne left the apartment that she had occupied in the Boulevard de la Madeleine since 1792, when she was required, with Antoine, to leave the Arsenal. The marriage was performed at the Hotel de Ville in Paris on 24 October 1805. The Rumford couple lived at 39, rue d’Anjou-Saint-Honoré, property of Anne-Marie. During this time, she received annually 6,000 livres (US$ 2 million in 2010 dollars) in rents from her properties. She also deposited 125,000 livres (US$ 40 million ) at 5% to an account in the name of Rumford. This money was supposed to be paid to the last survivor of the Rumford family -- Marie-Anne, the Count of Rumford, or his daughter, Sarah. Maximilien of Bavaria approved the marriage and added 4,000 florins (US$ 885,800) per year to the pension of the Count. The marriage of Marie-Anne and Rumford was a good deal for Rumford…

The new husband had a difficult personality, rather different from that of Lavoisier. Arrogant, irascible, unpredictable, egoistic, and condescending toward women, he could also be very generous, altruistic, and charming. For her part, Marie-Anne ws torn between her devotion to the memory of Antoine (hadn’t she insisted on declaring her new married name, written on the marriage contract, as “Marie-Anne Lavoisier de Rumford”, a demand that strongly offended the Count?) and her unspoken desire to “turn the page”. On the one hand, she endeavored to publish “Memoirs of Chemistry”, but on the other she left the estate of Freschines and her apartment in Rue de la Madeleine--places that held memories of Antoine for her.

After January 1806, The marriage showed signs of weakness. Marie-Anne realized that the Count had married her primarily for her money. Alarmed by the extravagance of Marie-Anne, Rumford forbade the admittance of guests who came each week to her salon to talk about science and recall the memory of the deceased Antoine--which did not fail to arouse the jealousy of the Count. Marie-Anne responded by pouring boiling water on the flowers which her husband cultivated with loving care in their garden. Their frequent arguments now aroused public notoriety. The couple separated in 1806 ; the divorce was finalized on 30 June 1809. Rumford died in Paris on 21 August 1814 of a “nervous fever.” He was 51 years old, just as Lavoisier was when he was executed.

After this unfortunate experience, nothing further troubled the life of Marie-Anne. She continued to entertain her friends. But nothing was ever the same again. Later in life, her interests turned more toward charity than science. Nevertheless, she had participated in one of the greatest scientific accomplishments in history. Her husband’s work succeeded in overturning the theory of chemistry that had been accepted since it was propounded by Aristotle, 2500 years earlier. The edifice of ignorance was certainly ready to fall, but Lavoisier was there when it did. Marie-Anne Paulze was there as well.








Sunday, September 1, 2019

Escape II

Escape From the System (Part II)
Scene One: Banquet Hall of the Archons.
(Dyanolo is discovered, prostrate, in the foreground. A raised dais extends across the back of
the stage. The scene resembles the stage at the beginning of the play, except that this is a
dimly lit interior. The Gate, as throughout the play, looms in the background.
(CLOWN enters cavorting and laughing. Perhaps he is rehearsing a new act. He is a happy
clown.)
Clown: Picking up rocks with his toes,
Tossing them into the air
Singing wherever he goes
Fools have never a care
Mortals he meets give him food
He dines on Propian’s meat
Jumpers in merciful mood
Give him the soles of their feet,
(laughs at his own joke)
Though they may treat him like dirt
Exor’s fool never will frown
But when he feels very hurt
His smile’s a frown upside down
(he laughs again)
Dyan: (groans)
Clown:What have we here? A corpse that’s still alive?
Or else a body that’s not yet quite dead.
How strange! And lying here, inside the hall
Where Exor and the immortals feast each time
They’re tired out by torture or by sex.
Although, the way they go about the two,
It makes no sense to give them different names.
(nudges Dyanolo with his foot)
Wake up, human, and tell me who you are,
Or what you are and what you’re doing here.
Dyan (looking around in a daze): What is this place? Who, or what, are you?
Clown: A fancy question, that. A fool can see
What I am. That’s just what I am, a fool.
As for this place, it’s just as obviously
A slop-hall, and one of the best at that.
But when it comes to you, one might well ask:
What is it? Above all, what does it do? [Wed 38]
Dyan: If I remember rightly, there were folks
Scurrying back and forth and all around
Within a great, cavernous hall of brass
Where music floated from behind the walls
In melodies that made me want to move.
Clown: It’s clear now what you are, you’re raving mad.
But don’t let anybody know the truth,
For once they do, they’ll put you in a cage
And pump all sorts of poisons in your head,
To cure you, so they say. I have my doubts,
Unless they mean to cure you of your life.
But have no fear, your secret’s safe with me.
I’m mad as well, you see, I’m one of you--
Or should I say, instead, you’re one of me?
Dyan (still somewhat dazed): There was a purple fountain in the room
Whose waters tasted sweet and made me faint.
I wanted to stay there and drink my fill
But I was pulled along by crowds of folk
Into another, more beautiful, room,
A silver room, where silver music played.
Cascading down the walls were watery sheets,
Reflecting light and sound from everywhere.
There seemed a million people in the room,
Who pushed and pulled me through it as before.
Another room enthralled me, all in gold,
And still the people swept me on again,
Though this time I was pulled around and back
Toward the place through which I’d come inside.
Once more I drank the purple fountain’s brew
And heard the music from within the walls.
Once more I faced the jumpers at the Gate…
Then, my memory fails. [wed 70]
Clown: Let me fill in
What you cannot: you faced the jumper’s gate,
Pushed by the crowd, you could not stop yourself
When the direction of the gate was changed
From out to in. The jumper barred the way
Against you with his stick. He struck, you fell.
As for the rest, the people dragged you off.
The jumpers would have left you there to die.
They brought you here because they were confused:
You bear no burden, hence you have no place,
Except perhaps to entertain the gods,
And so they left you in the banquet hall.
Dyan: Will I see Exor here?
Clown: Most probably.
But if you have no skill that you can use
To entertain him, Exor’s face may be
The last your hapless eyes will look upon. [wed 87]
Clown: That's dangerous. it always frightens them
Dyan: What sort of skill might come to my defense?
Clown:Well, that depends. If you can tell a joke--
(scrutinizes Dyanolo’s face)
Forgive me, humor’s plainly not your style.
Perhaps you tumble, roll, and leap about--
No, I can tell that you fall down a lot.
Which might suffice, if you could make them laugh.
They love to laugh. Immortals always have.
Your looks are kind of funny, real bizarre.
If there was only something you could do...
Dyan: There is one thing that I’ve been working on:
I’ve had some success at reading people’s minds.
Clown: That’s dangerous. It always frightens them
To learn that one of us can think at all.
Their lives are threatened by intelligence.
They hate to fear, just as they love to laugh.
An entertainer is expendable.
If you fail to amuse, you fail to live.
If you’re too good, the same fate awaits you.
Oh well, as long as there's no hope, relax.
You can't be much worse off and be alive!
Besides, if they appreciate your art,
You might get to the Garden of Delights.
Dyan: I've heard that name before— is Exor there?
Clown: Sometimes he is we; can't be very sure.
He comes and goes as he alone sees fit.
For all I know he might even be you.
You could be testing my fidelity--
By giving you these facts and helping you,
I could be sending myself to the labs
Or giving up my blood for Exor’s games. [Fri 32]
Dyan: Then you hate the archons?
Clown: I love them all!
Dyan: You'd like to see them overthrown?
Clown: But that never be, so long as Exor lives,
And Exor is immortal.
Dyan: So he says…
Clown: Enough of these treasonable speeches!
I’m simply Exor’s nimble-witted clown
and neither judge nor executioner.
You'd be wise to follow in my footsteps--
Be silent now! Immortals are arriving.
[As the two have been speaking, the guests have been arriving and seating themselves at low
tables. A Herald enters with a large staff and knocks against the floor with it. There’s a hollow
thump as he does so.]]
Herald: Attention and respect from all of you!
Your Lords and Masters enter in your midst.
Be thankful that they honor you this way,
Be mindful that you honor them as well.
[ Exor, Amar, and others enter and seat themselves on the dais ]
All: All hail Exor King of the Gods!
Let us see him now and forever!
Exor gives us lightning and life!
Without Exor, nothing is safe!
[ Amar rises and takes the staff from the Herald ]
Amar: The archons have good news to tell you all! [Fri 54]
Exor has announced to us his findings
Which he himself is taken with great care
Using instruments of his invention.
But who am I? I would not dare profane
With my base words Exor’s wonderful news.
first voice: Praised be the Gods !
Second voice: Praise Almighty Exor !
[ Exor rises slowly and is helped forward. Amar hands him the staff and Exor makes his speech
leaning on it ]
Exor: My children, I have news great news for you!
Our journey to the stars is almost past.
Not yours but each succeeding generation
Shall see the Stars high in the firmament.
Their hearts shall feel the glory of the gods,
Whose love has given them this miracle.
First voice: Praised be the Gods!
Second voice: Praise Almighty Exor!
Exor: Thank you, my children, yours is generous praise.
I will repay Faith you’ve had in me;
I won't betray the hopes of all mankind!
[ Exor is led back to his seat. Applause ]
Amar: You've heard the archon Exor's wondrous words,
He promised never to betray your trust.
What need was there for him to pledge himself?
Exor has never failed the faithful ones.
[ Applause ]
But there are those who would betray our Lord,
Whose treason knows no moral boundary,
Whose madness feeds on other, impure gods
Whose ultimate objective is the death,
Not only of our leader, but the death
Of Earth itself! Beware the treacherous ones!
Report their actions to our brave jumpers,
Remove the evil cancer of revolt. [Sat.34]
[More ecstatic applause. Shouts of “Kill them all!,” etc. ]
But now, be happy, join the Archons’ feast,
Bring on the entertainment, serve the food!
[ There is a commotion, with tables and chairs scraping the floor and platters being set down,
as the orders are carried out ]
[ Dyanolo tries to remain inconspicuous as the clown entertains. He is soon accosted by a
young lady who has assumed him to be a prostitute. He rejects the lady's advances, but this
only makes her more insistent. The Clown, on seeing his friend’s plight comes between the two
and attempts to make the whole matter into a joke without notable success. Dyanolo finally
breaks loose. ]
Lady: Seize that slave! He's a worthless malcontent,
a traitor.
Amar: What's he done?
Lady: Assaulted me—
That's right, that idiot assaulted me.
Amar: Your charge is grave but unbelievable.
Had he rejected you, you'd have a case
Against him; not a strong one, but a case
(The Lady turns away from Amar, dejected.).
Dyan: My Lord Archon, I beg an audience...
Amar: You have my ear.
Dyan: I need to speak with Exor. [Sat. 54]
Amar: Our Leader wouldn't waste his time on you.
Dyan: He seems to waste it on nothing at all.
Amar: I forget myself sometimes when I believe
Simply because your kind possesses eyes,
You have a mind behind them and can think.
But since you have no mind and cannot think
You aren't aware that others can and do.
So what may seem loafing to your crude mind
Lets me deduce that Exor’s lost in thought.
Speak to me now or never speak again.
Dyan: your words are harsh, what's worse they make no sense.
They might apply to others in the room
But not to me. Your mental faculties,
Perhaps those of the great Exor himself,
Must take second place behind my own,
For I can read the thoughts of both your minds.
[crowd murmurs indignantly]
First voice: He's talking treason.
Second voice: It's a blatant lie.
Amar: We waste no love or time on charlatans.
[ Speaking to guards ]
Remove this babbling imbecile at once!
Dyan: You're wondering where I've come from, who I am.
I read your thoughts as plainly as my own.
Amar: You're right, I do, but what unusual power
Is needed to reveal the common thought
That runs through every mind within this room.
And yet, your arrogance amuses me.
Exert your mental prowess on my thoughts
And tell me what I'm thinking about now.
Dyan: Your thoughts are fixed upon the golden door
That separates this Palace from the world
Of ordinary folk with simple lives.
Amar: Again, true, although your feat falls short
Of making me believe your heady claims
Why should I not be thinking of the door
That symbolizes Exor’s love for us
And tells us of the wonders of his quest.
Repeat your efforts once again and say
What shape you find my thoughts are taking now.
Dyan: Examine them yourself. I won’t reveal
The total content of your conscious mind.
But if you wish me to reveal that thing
Which dominates your dreams and waking thoughts,
Why then, it is the Sun, the source of life,
Whose place the Archon Exor now usurps.
Amar: Exor represents but not usurps,
For Gods are made by men, but light made man.
Unless we find another source of light,
Our doom is written on these cavern walls.
Our tunnels are dug deeper than before
As inner warmth recedes beneath our picks,
And every shovel full of gravel leads
Us closer to the center of the earth.
[ Addresses the audience ]
Propian Exor is our only hope—
Our world is fashioned by his wondrous plan ,
His skill and knowledge shape our destiny! [Tues 57]
All: All hail Exor, King of the Gods!
Let us see him, Now and forever!
Exor gives us lightning and life
Without our guide, no one is safe!
[ Exor awakes with a start and stands up to begin a speech. ]
Exor: My children, I have news, great news for you!
Our journey to the stars is almost past--
Amar: His thoughts are always for his children’s health.
(To Slave) Tell him to relax, his speech is over.
(to Dyanolo) You've guessed my mind three times and that's enough.
I can't tell whether by trickery or by chance
Or if you do possess the powers you claim.
Nevertheless you have been entertaining,
And so have earned the highest of rewards
The Archons can bestow upon their slaves:
Some time within the garden of delights.
And if your fortune there remains as good
As you have found it here within this hall,
You may receive a closer glimpse of Exor
when he arrives to keep his nightly tryst.
For now, begone! Your presence has become
Inimical. You weigh our Spirits down,
We wish them to be lifted up again.
Bring on the dancers, food and wine,
Help us forget the whining of this fool. [Tues 82]
Scene Two: a darkened passageway with alcoves facing the audience.
(Dyanolo enters tentatively. As he walks along the passageway, the lights in an alcove go on,
revealing its occupant, an attractive female. He takes another couple of steps and the lights go
out.)
Dyan: I've reached the end and still not quite the end.
I've found the garden of delights, it's true,
But not a single glimpse of Exor’s robe.
[ The lights goes on in one of the alcoves. A figure within beckons to Dyanolo. ]
Another one, I fear I've come too far.
If my intentions were just innocent,
I would have halted long before this room
And probably been better served as well.
[ light goes off ]
This place’s usefulness escapes my ken
But then again, I have no flesh to yield
Even if my emotions were inclined.
[ light goes on in another alcove. Dyanolo stops suddenly. ]
What's this? It has Semalia’s face and form…
She must have beckoned someone else like that
When she resided in this awful place.
Voice: Dyanolo! I've been waiting here so long.
Dyan: This shadow has the same familiar voice—
It's not so strange or worth wondering at…
They make their shades to order, 10 or more,
Although they lose individuality
By making ten humans in the same mold.
Voice: Your time is past, my son, return to me!
Dyan: It is my mother! They've brought her here
And shackled her to that couch again!
My obligation clearly lies with her.
Wait —it's not possible, she can't be real—
[The light goes out and Semalia’s image vanishes in darkness]
Dyan: She's gone. But was it my imagination
Or is this part of some fantastic game
And I a catspaw for a lunatic?
I hear a noise. I'd better hide somewhere.
I've come too far to let my plans be spoiled
By some sadistic jumper’s deadly blow.
(Dyanolo hides in the shadows.)
[ Exor comes onstage accompanied by slaves who carry lamps and support him. He appears
drunk or drugged. An alcove lights up. The slaves deposit Exor on the floor and depart. Dyanolo
steps into the light. ]
Dyan: They locked us in. My only chance is lost.
Right now I'll sleep, confined with a drunkard.
When I wake up, I'll be discovered here
And all my good intentions count for none.
Exor: My friends and fellow citizens of Earth—
Dyan: I spoke too soon. This groggy bag of guts
Is Exor himself, drunken and helpless.
Could it be worth my while to kill this man?
Would his murder be an assassination?
Exor: They've brought me back again— but who are you?
And why are you looking at me that way?
Dyan: Can't you recognize your oldest friend?
Exor: I'm sure I've never seen your face before.
Dyan: Mine is the face of your death, mighty Exor.
Exor: You've come to torment me. You are not the first
Whom my friend Amar has sent to mock me.
You might as well go back and say you've failed,
Although your failure may cost you your life.
I can't help that. All I want is to sleep.
Dyan: And sleep I'll give you willingly—with this!
(He draws a knife and brandishes it menacingly)
Exor: Oho, he means to back his words with deeds.
If I were you I'd leave while I still could.
Dyan: You'll find that I'm more difficult to bluff
Than those fools who believe your promise
Of new beginnings and a different Sun.
Don't move--I'll kill you if you call for help.
I'd like to see you begging for your life,
Although I will not leave before you're dead.
Exor: Your life is in more danger here than mine.
You can only make them feel more secure,
Since they've deceived their enemies as well
As they deceived their admiring slaves.
So kill me if you can—my heart is here.
I've no excuse for living any more.
Dyan: You can't escape your rightful punishment.
You showed the way that mankind follows now,
Your crimes are numerous as the grains of dust
That lie upon the staircase leaving hell.
Your IOU is grasped inside my fist;
I'm the collector of overdue bills.
Exor: You're right, I am to blame most of it,
The suffering, broken promises, lost hopes.
But my power is gone now, and others rule.
They keep me in this room against my will,
They give me drugs to wake me, drugs for sleep,
Another drug to make me give a speech.
Among my subjects, I alone am sleeping,
I see the faces crowding around me
As if they were but images in dreams.
The faces fade, their features become blurred,
They separate, expand, then reunite,
Then reassemble to a single face,
A face that stares at me with hollow eyes
That laughs insanely hat my impotence,
Until they send me back to my prison,
Where I seek sleep again but dare not dream.
What guilt was mine has long since washed away
Eternities of suffering still await me
Unless you kill me right now—which is why
I know your mission here cannot succeed.
Someone has killed your victim already--
It's impossible to murder a ghost.
Dyan: This gives me more grief than it brings to you.
There's not a fragment of resistance left
Inside your mind. Your willingness to die
Substantiates the unbelievable.
You want to die—it's more than you deserve.
Your punishment should long outlast the crime.
The sentence they've imposed upon you here
Is a most fitting one. Your servitude
Is both eternal and extremely harsh.
How difficult for one so powerful
To endure slavery and impotence!
But your tormentors, too, are criminals.
You educated and nurtured your successors
The strength they exercise was forged by you,
The evil deeds they perpetrate are yours.
You share their guilt and therefore you must die.
This is the sentence I decree, Exor,
Your time of execution is at hand.
Exor: Yes, yes but do it quickly!
( Two jumpers emerge from the darkness. One touches Dyanolo with a stick and he collapses.
They drag him off as Amar enters with a bodyguard.)
Exor: He spoke well
But hesitated when he should have struck.
Amar: Imprisonment has not improved your wits,
Old fool, if you consider me so weak
That he could find you without my knowing.
This little scene was played out as a farce
For my amusement. Did you find it droll,
The way he stumbled onto your prison
Without suspecting I had helped him there?
And wasn't that a charming speech he made?
I hope you found it pleasant—I was pleased.
I'm only sorry it couldn't last longer,
It's difficult to entertain myself,
I've seen it all and done it all before.
But it's impossible to make you laugh.
You mangy drunkard. Why do I even try?
You've lost your humor along with your wits!
Exor: Amar, my friend and colleague, bear with me.
My senses are all gone it's true, save one:
The sense I have of my degradation.
You're winning now but soon will come a change.
I, perhaps, would help you avert your fate
If you would just restore my youth and strength
And give me back my dignity.
Not my rank--you may keep what you've earned
I don't want much—
Amar: And you will get even less
You simpering imbecile. You take me for a mark
That you can con like all those other fools
Who bow and scrape before your god-like feet,
Who eat the dust of Aeons through your crimes?
Exor: My crimes are old, about to die, like me.
Your sins are fresh, increasing all the time.
You need not hold me here to keep your throne.
The great are known by their merciful acts...
Amar: ...Or by their cruelty. you taught me well,
Exor, you only made a single slip
By trusting me oh, and I will not forget
and give someone a chance to betray me.
[ Amar gives a sign and Exor is tranquilized by a slave. Another slave helps him to his bed and
lays him down upon it. ]
I would continue but my pleasure calls
I wish you could assist me when I go.
There seems to be a singular affair,
A creature who's all mind and nothing else
Awaits my skillful touch and sharp scalpel.
Goodbye and pleasant dreams, Divine Exor.
I will need your help again before too long.
[Amar leaves. Fade out]
Scene three: an empty place,
( Argus Wohl enters, accompanied by others. )
Wohl: Here we approach outer boundary
Of Exor's Palace. Take care not to speak,
Trust no one we may meet along the way.
The Archon's spies are lurking everywhere.
They may be paid or unwittingly used,
But what we do not know as certainty
Is best supposed as hostile to our cause.
Voice: What is this cause you speak of?
Wohl: The rescue
Of Dyanolo from the Archon's hands.
Voice: But might we not encounter men,
the jumpers, who will seek to repel us?
Wohl: Of course, there is that chance, but I have prepared
This weapon, far superior to their sticks—
If I had had more time, there would be more,
But one should be enough to reach our goal.
Voice: I do not fear we might lose to them
But rather that we might succeed too well.
If Exor should be killed who would rule us?
Wohl: You'd rule yourselves.
Voice: But we don't have the skill—
Some folk believe that we are not humans
But mutants on some lower plane than them.
Wohl: And if you were, should he usurp your rights
To make decisions for yourselves alone?
Voice: We are ill-prepared for that. If we make
The wrong decisions out of ignorance,
We could destroy Earth as well as ourselves.
Voice: you go beyond our knowledge Wohl,
We asked for nothing save your leadership.
If you are satisfied our cause is just,
We will stand beside you though it means our death.
Wohl: I do not ask obedience like this,
Only a fool would turn his back on it.
Come with me then, be quiet, stay alert.
With luck we'll rescue Dyanolo soon
And not alert the powers that captured him.
[ Scene 4: the brightly lit hall of the Archons ]
All: All praise be given to Propian Exor,
Archon of Earth, Ruler Sublime
May this sentence be given to all traitors:
Exile from light till the end of time.
Amar: Assemble, Immortals, our Archon arrives.
Listen intently to all he will say;
His message is vital to each of our lives,
He is guiding us through to a wonderful day!
Voices: What information has Exor received?
All that he tells us will be believed!
Have his experiments shown us the way?
Can he announce the appointed day?
Amar: Your questions won't stay unanswered for long,
Your leader's about to appear!
So raise up your voices in worshipful song
To please His Majesty's ear!
All: Has ever a ruler been granted to folk
who so far exceeded their desires?
Propian Exor has saved us again
Our thanks are all he requires.
Amar: Numberless megaseconds ago
We lost our way in space.
Our sun exists no more.
We had but a moment's Grace;
We called on science to save the lives
Of generations Unborn
Earth's nations erupted in civil strife.
Though they treated their Leaders with scorn
To one man alone Humanity turned
To him we entrusted our cause
For his achievements that man earned
Everlasting Applause
All: Enter, Exor speak, dispense, and prosper!
Exor: I come before you, my beloved folk
On special worldwide video-vision band
To tell you, all the remnants of mankind
the state of our Interstellar Crusade--
[ tumult without ]
[ aside ] Make them stop that noise! we're broadcasting live!
My friends and fellow imbeciles—silence!
What's going on outside the palace gate?
Voices: down with Exor! Down with the tyrant!
Exor: Amar, what's this? you told me I'd be safe
You have betrayed me. She is your traitor, there!
Amar: You're a fat, silly, senile man
And not a god as you proclaim yourself.
Tell that to those poor fools who worship you!
Exor: I am not a god— immortal, yes, perhaps—
I'm not so certain now how long I'll live
Now that you have no further use for me.
It was that boy's fault, that I'm sure about.
He made you change your plans for me,
He wanted me to die, you needed me—
I am Promian Exor, archon of the Earth.
Guards, arrest the traitor Rozlit Amar!
( Wohl enters, accompanied by others. He brandishes a handgun )
Wohl: Ignore that order! Listen carefully:
This new weapon I hold makes me your God
As all those who tried to stop us found out.
You, Exor, keep your place, don't try to leave.
There is nowhere left in this world to hide,
No one to lie to, no one to protect.
You stand alone, unaided, unallied.
Now answer, if you wish to breathe again,
Before I end your worthless existence,
Where is the mutant called Dyanolo? 510
If he no longer lives, neither will you!
Amar: You only make the old man suffer more;
He doesn't know and no one knows but me:
I am that Dyanolo whom you seek.
Wohl: What do you mean? Can no one speak the truth?
Can someone tell me the answer right now?
Harbor no doubt: This weapon I have made
Will work as well on women as on men!
Amar: A point well taken and one often missed:
The line between the two is rather vague 520
And is sometimes just as hard to describe
As the line that separates truth from lies.
I did not always occupy the shape
And spirit that you see before you now.
I once appeared in the form of a man
Though even then my appearance was false.
Before then, I was a genderless mass
Who you, dear doctor, did not think alive
Until I learned how to communicate
With creatures like yourself and Patra Slev. 530
Wohl: But then you are Dyanolo himself?
Amar: I’m also Rozlit Amar. I took her form
Almost by accident, when she began
To separate my body from my mind.
In fear, I fled before the knife and found
Myself observing her, observing me.
For in my haste I left behind the shell
My soul had looked on as its only home,
I hovered over them, to watch my fate.
But even as I watched, I felt an urge
To stop the perpetration of that deed
Which Amar hoped to practice my corpse.
My thoughts outran my will and stopped the hand
As she was raising it to make the cut.
I stopped the hand, but also somehow I
Entered Amar’s mind and controlled her thoughts,
In fact, my will became Amar’s master,
And remains master of her body and mind.
( Amar stops speaking and looks around the room. )
I do not see Semalia she safe?
Wohl: Within two times of when we found your corpse,
The body I had made to house your mind,
She decided she could not bear standing by
When you might need her help so she went out..
She hoped to save you, but I fear she's lost.
Amar: And on the brink of our deliverance.
Let me inform you, Wohl, of what I've learned
Imprisoned in this fleshly residence,
Whose office I retain, whose thoughts I know.
Our Earth is not adrift in trackless space
As we had feared. Exor plotted its path
Before the lure of power corrupted him
And once his mind was warped he couldn't change
What once he had done without hope of reward.
Rozlit Amar did try to change the course
When she had wrested power from her Lord,
But this one deed remained beyond her scope.
She could, however, keep secret the news
That we have arrived at our destination.
Wohl: You do not take me by surprise my friend.
I’ve long suspected that we've reached our goal.
When Patra and I had tried to grow plants
By gravity lantern light, we always failed:
The light they cast was too feeble for that.
But when Samilia planted seeds, they grew
And bloomed as well, fruited and cast their seeds.
I reasoned then that something must have changed
Since the last time we had tried to sow seeds,
And if the force of gravity had grown
It must have been because we reached a star
Whose gravity had augmented our own.
One further fact I know that you don't:
Before we entered into this Palace
Because not know we would succeed,
Or rather, that success was ours already,
Although it may turn out to be a mistake,
We found the engines that propelled the Earth
On her pilgrimage through the universe.
We shattered the mechanisms there
So the trek could no longer continue.
We thought we weighed every alternative
Then made the proper choice, but we were wrong.
We may yet have to pay for our mistake.
Amar: You never had a choice, you acted well,
Your shrewdness in keeping with your goal,
To save the people of Earth from slavery,
The people needed you to wake them up.
They had let their mental faculties decay
And sold their bodies into servitude.
Their idle intellects had atrophied;
They sold their bodies into servitude.
But now, you've forced the people to rebel,
No longer can they huddle together
Behind the walls of false security.
They must break out. The surface awaits them.
Wohl: Then let us go ahead and lead them there.
Exor: But what of me--have I a role to play?
I led them once before and can again.
You tell me I'm not that much to blame,
A victim of the time and circumstance—
I need another opportunity
To make some restitution for my crimes.
Amar: You may follow. You can still play that role.
Exor: No, no, I can't! My subjects need me here,
My Throne is here, my Palace, and my place.
I'll stay behind, I'll be the ruler here.
You fools, you think you're going to lead the way,
But leaders are cut down, they move too fast.
Rulers are the ones who remain behind.
Call out the guards, remove these mendicants,
Who intend to beg themselves a kingdom!
Amar: You need not order us to leave this place;
This soon will be your final Monument.
You plundered all the treasures of the Earth,
To fill the catacombs of your tomb!
Hail, mighty Exor, your long rule is done,
You can take your well-earned retirement,
Your diligence earned you eternal rest.
Wohl: On to the surface rise to greet the Sun! [ they all leave together.]
[ scene 5: Before the Gate ].
(the lights, which have been increasing in intensity throughout the entire action of Part II, have
almost reached their level of the first scene. The Gate becomes the focal point of attention once
again, although this time the opposite side of the gate is exposed to view. Rocks and gravity
lanterns reveal the locale as the Earth's interior.)
[ Slev enters ]
Slev: There's no one here but me—am I the one
To find the surface of the Earth again?
How was it lost, why did we go below?
Were we so certain that the sun was dead?
There must have been some other way to live,
We chose the easy path too hurriedly,
Before our minds recovered from the shock.
We should not live from second to second
Without a chance to use our gift for thought.
There will be time for thought again up there,
The time from which we all had hoped to flee,
In endless flight that lead us from the truth,
That we meant to die like all things living,
Our Dreams cannot become reality.
Reality mocks them, plays with our hopes,
Toys with our feelings, and turns them to dust,
Along with ourselves.
Amar: Hola, Slev, you came back!
Slev: Only you two? where are all the others?
Wohl: Gone, they're all gone. They left some things behind,
In all their dreams they never planned on this,
To return to the surface, to see the sun.
What are we waiting for? Let's go on up...
Slev: I'm going up before you and alone!
Wohl: You have no right!
Slev: ( brandishing a jumper’s prod ) This stick gives me the right.
Amar: She earned the right to go.
Wohl: The honor is great,
She may have that but she runs a risk too.
Amar: Our friend earned the risk, but not the honor.
Long ago I talked to her with Exor.
Exor was still innocent at that time
Though weak, he’d saved the Earth from oblivion.
You had a mind that probed life's secret store,
And used the lamp of science like a torch.
But you were also weak; you wanted life,
An everlasting life. I wanted more,
I wanted power forever; I used Slev
To reach my goal. I feared that you would change,
Grow stronger, turn your genius against me.
I used Slev to keep you from succeeding.
She kept me informed of your intentions
And kept you occupied with your work.
When at last, despite her efforts, she failed,
And Your creation, Dyanolo, came
To put an end to my corrupt regime,
She even told me that, to save herself--
Wohl: Can this be true? Please tell me she's lying!
Slev: It's true. You would have known it long ago
If you yourself were not so arrogant
When you had made me immortal as well.
You were so sure. You went before the Gods
And bargained for your own life, making them
Able to live beyond the reach of time.
A powerful bribe! What did I have to match
That might persuade them to keep me alive?
Only our friendship, which I willingly
Betrayed. It would have died anyway
For the friendships of a corpse are worthless.
Wohl: What do you hope to gain by treachery
Now that your days of servitude are past?
Give me your weapon, let us end this war.
Slev: But, don't you see, I have the chance at last
To atone for my former cowardice?
It may be dangerous beyond the gate,
Better were for one to go on ahead.
That way if death should await us outside
The rest of us might live to find a way
To rescue Earth folk from fate another time.
Wohl: Then go, bring back news of our salvation
As you have brought our friendship back to life.
[Slev leaves through the back portal]
So leaves the first out of this labyrinth
In which mankind has languished for so long.
Let's hope she's not the last to walk that path.
Amar: You're mistaken. Patra is not the first
Semalia must have gone outside before.
She left after looking for me in vain
Or else she heard that I had been captured
And when she lost all hope of saving me,
She had to turn to helping someone else.
My mother often dreamed of seeing the sun
Spreading its light throughout her songs and dreams:
[Semalia's song of the Sun]
I wander through the dusty corridors
Through tunnels leading ever steeply up
I fear what may be waiting t the top
Beyond the last of all the unlocked doors
My feet grow wearier with every step
And every step inclines more upwardly
The gravel, fine and round, opposes me
I trip, I fall, I creep, I stand, even though I slip
The blood pounds through my temples to my brain
The thudding robs my ears of other sound
The darkness seems to thicken all around
At last I find a passage leading down
The downward path relieves my growing fear
Restores my breath, if not my sight
But soon the swelling ground dims my delight
And with the rising path discomforts reappear
My insufficient strength is nearly gone
I stop and stare into the solid black
And then as if a curtain is pulled back
I see a hole and through that hole the sun!
Wohl: This was Semalia's song? She never saw the day
And yet she dreamed what it was like so well
She must have had some hint of what would come.
But if you're right, and she's been at this place,
Why has she not returned to guide us here?
Amar: Perhaps she could not find the gate again,
Or if she could, she could not bring herself
To leave the wonders of the Earth behind,
To tread once more the dark descending stair.
Wohl: A scientist can hardly realize
With what great difficulty others strive
To leave behind their pleasures and their joys
For Slev and me it's a simple matter:
We're trained to sacrifice our selfish goals
In pursuit of truth and increased knowledge
Amar: So we've sent the right person ahead,
[Slev enters]
Look, here comes Patra Slev back to report
Although from her looks the news must be bad.
What news do you bring us of Earth above?
Is there a sun, an atmosphere to breathe,
Are the skies as blue as they were before?
Slev: The skies are black, the sun is black also.
Our hopes have been destroyed, the play is done.
When we destroyed the engines down below,
We ended life on Earth. We had a chance,
We might have fled the star that draws us,
Pulling us closer even as we speak.
Wohl: What evidence did you find of that star?
It may be in eclipse, it may be night,
Another star may be about to rise.
Slev: Night it undoubtedly is and shall remain.
I saw another companion object
But what few shreds of light it still emits
Are sucked into the black hole beside it
As surely as gravity sucks water
Swirling down a drain. We are all lost,
In the end the black hole will doom us in.
Amar: I've read about these objects that give off light
Only to reabsorb their own emissions.
Our time in space is surely ended now.
Wohl: No, never yield until the battle's fought.
Who could have dreamt that man would vanquish death
And yet I did that very thing myself?
Amar: Your optimism is a bit premature--
What seemed to be accomplished yesterday
Is far from certain now.
Wohl: That I can't accept.
A scientist knows no limitations.
The simple thought of failure does us harm.
We shall survive!
Amar: There may be other worlds
That you've already robbed of colonists.
Light can't escape a singularity;
How will we escape once we've come this close?
Slev: She's right. We've finally encountered a force
Beyond our power to temper or to flee.
Wouldn't it be better if we faced our end
With true courage rather than with false hopes?
Formerly, people called on deities
To lend them strength when theirs had been exhausted;
Oh, would that some such power remained to us!
Wohl: Our God was always Science, yours and mine,
But now She seems to have abandoned us.
Of what further use is our knowledge now?
Amar: There may be a different kind of knowledge
A knowledge of ourselves. For if it's true
That gravity will accelerate our speed
Until we reach the speed of energy,
Then time itself will slow down to the same degree
Until it finally stops altogether.
That point will be the instant of our death.
Dictation 42
The thought we hold in mind at that instant
Is frozen into all eternity.
So concentrate on happiness and peace
So death itself will bring you peace and joy.
Wohl: But I just said we should not give up hope
And you disagreed. Now you seem to say
Along with me that we should keep our faith.
Amar: Your so-called faith may lift your spirits up
Just so long as your will is still awake
But death is not so easily deceived.
False hopes are like a shifting foundation
Above which happiness will never rise.
Slev: When the end arrives, the light will increase
A thousand-fold and shine ever after.
Amar: For those who set their minds on truth and bliss
But for the others, the light will fade away,
Darkness will snatch the vision from their eyes.
The light will disperse and the world will end
In the midst of a breath…
[Semalia enters, carrying a large bouquet of flowers]
Sem: What’s taking so long?
Come on outside. There’s a soft Spring breeze
Fresh and clean, just before the dawn breaks through
The dark of night. There’s a golden lining
Along the horizon. I’ve never felt
Something so astonishing in my life!
You’re all wasting time. Where’s Dyanolo?
Amar: He’s here! I borrowed Rozlit Amar’s form
After she sought to extinguish my life force;
Now she may never recover her mind.
Slev: But it’s dark outside! And a deadly black hole
Is consuming the new sun in its maw.
Sem: Breathtakingly beautiful but dreadful.
Slev: There’s no hope left; the Earth will soon be dust.
Sem: Soon? But Patra, we can’t tell how long a time
It will take for the Earth’s end to arrive.
We don’t know how far away the black hole lurks.
Eighty million miles and a few years left?
Or three times that and a billion years left?
Slev: The sky is black, there’s a frost in the air.
The cause of humankind is lost on Earth...
Sem: Yes, the sky is dark and the air is cold.
It’s the hour before dawn when stars blink out.
There is a singularity above
But another star is about to rise,
A friendly sun that has nurtured plant life
Like the flowers I brought with me as proof.
There’s a wonderful opportunity here
To study plants grown under a new sun
And learn all the secrets of a black hole.
What are we waiting for here? Let’s go up
And greet the new sunrise for the first time!
(They all leave through the great gate in the back of the stage. It closes behind them
with a resounding clang.)
Blackout

Escape I

Part One: Before the Gate
The stage is set as a speaker's dais. There are nine seats on the dais and a rostrum. The stage
is decked out in red. white, blue, and gold bunting with green garlands. As the stage lights come
on PROPIAN EXOR rises to speak. Applause is heard. Exor acknowledges the applause,
smiling, his hands are raised above his head. He wears a long white robe with an academic
cowl of gold. Exor is a portly venerable man. Affixed to the front of the rostrum is a circular disk
with the emblem of the committee for mankind's salvation emblazoned upon it, a golden
Phoenix rising from Red Flames against the star-flecked canopy of night. Directly behind the
rostrum is a large round steel door like the entrance to a bank vault. Applause dies down.
Sporadic shouts of “Hail Exor” and similar cries punctuate the following speech.
EXOR: My friends and fellow dwellers of the Earth,
I come before you today, last of all
The days which will be measured by the sun.
I look upon your faces, thousands strong,
And read the future history of humankind.
I grieve because we leave behind our homes,
Our cities, countries, and continents
To face ages of trouble, labor, and gloom
Before we see our cherished homes again.
I humble myself before your eyes today
Because I am not worthy of the charge
That implacable fate has handed me.
You, the people, have chosen me to lead
Through the fearful night that looms ahead.
Despite my age in body and in mind,
If chance permits, I won't deceive your trust.
[ Applause ]
Apart from slight humility and regret
I feel an unadulterated joy
Welling up from deep within my heart,
And ravishing my poor intelligence:
For humankind has today outwitted fate!
[ Applause ]
There were a few who despaired of our success,
Who feared that science would not deliver them
They said Technology was a mere sham,
Those neo-luddites called scientists frauds.
Preaching wildly that our demise was near,
Heathens, doubters, they scoffed at our knowledge.
When we predicted Earth’s death in deep space
They gladly welcomed science to the fold
And then preached repent your sins and be saved!:
We said, Trust in science, we will succeed!
They said All Is Lost! We said All is won!
Tthey reveled on the hillsides and passed away.
They feasted on the bounties of planet Earth;
They frolicked, capered, copulated, drank.
Their decadence became an abomination.
They hindered our work, seduced our workers
I look around and ask, “Where are they now?”
Voices: Dead! Gone! Buried and forgotten!!
[ A Chorus of shouts prevails and subsides ]
Exor: One hundred twenty years ago today
When we verified our worst suspicions
And knew for certain the sun would die,
We formed the Committee to Save Humankind,
We called together greatest Minds of Science,
Together we deliberated at length
Eleven years elapsed before we found
The solution to our predicament.
We turned the earth into a moving ship,
And plotted a course through the galaxy.
To replenish life forms when we arrived,
We froze the chromosomes of each species
Known to science and stored them underground.
We implemented strict control over
Population to reduce the numbers
Of children being born until today
Only we few are left of all humans
So look around you...We are humankind,
Those who still remain alive, but fear not!
Every single human trait is preserved,
Frozen in time and stored inside this gate
Ready to spring to life like Dragon's Teeth,
Sown once in the soil by our ancestors,
When at last we reach our ultimate goal,
Our new solar system, Our second Sun!
[ tumultuous applause ]
The great committee to save mankind
Provided space beneath the Earth for us,
A subterranean world where we can
Live and work until the time arrives
That our sons and daughters could rise again
Like the Great Phoenix from its ashes
The symbol of our hopes and journey’s end.
[ Exor indicates disc ]
The golden bird that represents our flight.
Finally everything has been prepared
Our new spaceship Earth lies in readiness
We must accept the challenge, lift the load,
The time has come to leave our former home
[Exor turns toward the gate, raising his arms above his head]
Open the gates Let The Retreat begin
Our slogan expresses our noble goal:
“Labor, Friendship, and the New Planet Earth!”
[Applause. As the gate opens slowly, people begin moving toward it]
[Song of the Pilgrims]
All: Gone is the sun from the skies
Banished the breeze from our face
Nature has failed to embrace
Humankind’s fatal demise.
Propian Exor remains
Infinite trust he retains
Intergalactic expanse
Countless milennia’s space
Hinder our hopes to replace
Homelands bereft us by chance
Propian Exor will lead
Us through the darkness ahead
Ancestral homelands are gone
So is ancestral belief
Centuries crowded with grief
We turn around and move on
Now the Committee will rule
With science as reliable tool
United under the sign
Earth and the Phoenix will rise
born-again under new skies
find a new Sun Let It Shine!
Let all our critics be amazed
Propian Exor be praised!
EXOR: Henceforth the sun is gone, the starry skies
Are memories now preserved in textbooks.
Although the path ahead leads through darkness,
We will guard celestial light in our hearts.
The Phoenix from this graveyard Earth will rise.
[ The crowd walks slowly through the central door ]
[Argus Wohl and Patra Slev are discovered in the rear of the audience. They are carrying
burdens and wearing humble clothing.]
Wohl: Hola, Slev! Thank goodness I found you again!
I thought I'd never find you in the crowd…
Slev: Perhaps it would be best to go on alone.
If they discover either you or me,
The other would be free to carry out
The great experiments begun by both,
Whereby, though one might die, our work would live.
Wohl: Your words are laudable, yet meaningless,
For what am I without my Patra Slev?
My life would lose its savor, my work its worth,
Since your friendship is the only joy I know
And my plans would fail without your assistance.
In our harsh Times these attributes, once rare,
Now seem, sadly, altogether extinct.
So let us two continue bravely on,
Knowing that anything we find together
Cannot be worse finding ourselves apart.
Slev: You flatter me much too highly, my friend,
And overestimate my worth by half.
You alone have made me all that I am
By teaching me scientific process
And letting me assist in your great work.
Rather than see you die...
Wohl: Enough of death!
These Mutual eulogies infect my mind.
Besides, there may be spies about this place
Look around you; there's not an honest face
Among the group.
Slev: I can’t see a person
In the crowd I’d trust to draw the numbers
In a lottery.
Wohl: If one were drawn by lot,
You'd find it hard to tell one from the next.
Exor: Guards! Detain those two immediately!
[guard stops Wohl and Slev and brings them before Exor]
I want to interview this fraud alone.
Take that one with you and see we’re undisturbed.
I don't know who you are or what you sheme
But if you plan to live beyond today
You'd better tell me all there is to tell
Wohl: My name is Argus Wohl...
Exor: What good are names?
Your visa claims that you are someone else.
Your friend may add still another as well.
I assure you your grave will be unmarked.
Wohl: I am a Scientist. My name is Wohl.
Exor: It could be true and would explain your ruse.
But tell me how you could earn a degree?
What university gave you your degree?
Our records show no missing physicist
Wohl: My degree’s in Microbiology.
Exor: Your clothes exposed you as a renegade.
Make no mistake, I've been watching you two
For a long time I thought you were married
Defying the law against having sex.
This is another, more heinous crime:
You're not a man of mere depravity
But a monster who pursued selfish goals
While all the world was struggling to survive.
Now the battle’s won, you want to enjoy
What others earned by their harsh sacrifice;
What were you concerned with while others strove
To discover a course through trackless space,
Avoiding neutron stars and poison gas,
And barren wastes that surround dying suns?
Their planets, asteroids, gravity holes?
Whatever it may have been you valued
Above the survival of human life,
You will pay for your research with your life.
Wohl: It was my life itself which I researched.
Exor: I have no time for riddles, Mr. Wohl...
Wohl: Doctor Wohl.
Exor: As you wish.
Wohl: As I insist.
Exor: The subject of your work…?
Wohl: Was life itself.
Exor: The result of your work...:?
Wohl: Unparalleled success.
I found what others only dreamed about
While you and thousands like you endeavored
To save the Earth from one catastrophe,
I found the secret of eternal life.
Don’t make a rash decision you’ll regret.
Though you can take one life away from me,
Yet I can give you thousands in return.
Exor: An everlasting life? You must be mad
Or think that I have lost my sanity.
If such a thing we're true...?
Wohl: It is.
Exor: If you could really make me live…?
Wohl: I can.
Exor: What proof could you provide me here and now?
Wohl: None. But my life will still be in your hands
Below the surface as it is above.
Exor: If you are neither a fool nor insane,
Then I may find a way to help us both.
But you must keep our compact to yourself
For such discoveries can be hazardous
When evil-minded men pervert their use.
Wohl: You’re right, of course, but my assistant knows
And she must also be set free to work
As I have further plans that require her.
Exor: As far as freedom goes, there will be none
For her or any under the surface.
The stakes are far too high to take a chance
And let one person wreck our precious plan
By permitting them to keep their free will--
Now go! I waste my time with idle talk.
For the moment you may follow the rest;
Your friend will follow later, if I wish.
[ Wohl appears ready to protest, but gives in with a shrug. He has made his best argument.]
[ Rozlit Amar, who has been listening unseen, steps out from behind a screen.]
Amar: No doubt you plan to kill him later on?
Exor: When he has given us his formula.
His arrogance amuses me, Amar.
A man like that may have some usefulness.
Amar: His kind could undo all our strategies
And undermine the power of the state.
Exor: You overestimate the man, Amar--
He’s clever, true, but only in his field.
He has no interest in other things.
The discipline of science makes him look
Nor left, nor right, but always straight ahead.
Amar: He’s sleeping now, but time may wake him up.
Experience may cure stupidity.
Exor: He won’t have time to change, for I intend
To distract him with toys and amuse him.
I’ll make a tiny kingdom for his home,
I’ll give him subjects for experiments
And let him play the subject for my own.
I’ll let him think he’s free and unobserved,
Although I’ll watch his moves and thwart his plans
By setting down a traitor by his side.
Whom he, the brilliant fool, will not suspect.
For now, we must attend to our affairs.
The world depends on me, and I on you.
[Exor leaves]
Amar: I think you rate your own intelligence
Too highly, Exor: Power you may have,
But not so great it might not slip away.
He may be stupid, he whom you despise,
But both of you possess a common flaw:
On distant elements you set your gaze--
On those you exercise your judgment well.
But close to home you cannot see at all
Thus bosom friends may become your downfall.
[Amar leaves]
Scene two: Deep within the Earth
Immeasurable time has passed. Here are rocky caverns, dimly lit, in contrast to the brilliant light
of the previous scene. Patra Slev opens a door and appears silhouetted against a slightly lighter
interior. She listens to something.
Voices (softly, as if far off): Over fields of stone
Heaps of dust appear
Dimly through the light
Gravity lanterns cast.
Forward, earthly thralls
Over fields of stone
Weary pilgrims leave
Footprints in the dust.
Slev (to Wohl, within): Another mob of people has arrived.
They appear just as useless as the last.
Voices (closer than before): Gravity lanterns cast
Shadows on the ground
Reaching up to touch
Others bending down.
Woman’s voice: Raise your eyes again.
Look there, up ahead
There’s a village near
Where we’re sure to find
Water, food, and rest.
Voices: Forward earthly thralls
Gravity lanterns cast
Visions in the air.
Shards of broken stone
Mirror shattered hopes
Dust piled in deep drifts
Clings to pilgrims’ feet.
Slev: Come quickly, Doctor Wohl, I hear a voice,
A woman’s voice, I think, a young one, too.
She may prove fit for your experiment.
Wohl: I’ve not yet finished with my work inside.
I can’t go running after every girl
That Exor tosses to his favorite fool.
[A small band of people now enter stage right. They break into a more martial air at the sight of
Slev, whom they take to be some sort of official.]
People: All hail, Propian Exor!
Long live the Mighty Ruler!
Deity incarnate
Visible divinity
Everlasting light
All hail, the Son of the Sun!
[All show obeisance to Slev] [74 on Tuesday]
Slev: Arise, good people, no one worships here.
We owe the Archons no allegiance.
Voice 1: She means to trap us with treasonous words.
The Archon Exor is everywhere supreme!
Slev: Not here, my friend, as you will soon agree,
What freedom’s to be had in this dark world
Is still had here: Our leader’s name is Wohl.
We have provided shelter, food, and drink;
You’ll find someone to help you up ahead.
We ask a single favor in return
For giving you our hospitality;
Your group must leave a person as a pledge
That you will not engage in violent acts
Nor will attempt to hinder our designs.
Go now, you must depart without the woman
Whose voice I heard approaching in the dark.
Voice 1: That single thing you ask we cannot do.
For when the men among us would have stopped
Our journey, overcome by fear and pain,
That girl alone could lift us from despair.
Thanks to her, we stand alive before you now
And will not yield her though it means our death.
Slev: There is no other choice or place to go.
We have the means to take the girl by force
If you decide you cannot give her up.
Voice 1: What sort of freedom do you offer us
That takes from us our only source of joy?
Semalia: You must not speak this way in my behalf.
You do not need my guidance any more
And we are better off among these rocks
Than any slave who chose to stay behind
Amidst the luxury of Exor’s house.
You have your freedom now. Protect it well.
Voice 1: You add another reason for the debt
That we must keep within our memory.
[They all leave. As they go, Argus Wohl appears in the doorway, unnoticed by Semalia, who
looks wistfully after the men departing.][111 on Tuesday]
Wohl: Hello, what’s this? A woman. What’s your name?
Sem(frightened): Semalia is the only name I know.
Wohl: How beautiful! You’re young enough, that’s clear.
Unless you’re one of the immortal class…
Sem: Immortals never age…
Wohl: That’s true enough,
Unless they’re really not what they appear.
But never mind about my ignorance.
Have you known men?
Sem (pauses before answering) There is a place I lived.
It’s called, I think, the Garden of Delights.
Though what a garden is, I do not know,
And if there were delights, they were not mine.
But if you know the place I speak about,
And what it is, you need not ask me more.
Wohl (distractedly): A strange one this, a mutant, too, I see.
A product of genetic selection--
I cannot even guess what you may mean
As I have never lived in Exor’s realm.
I’ve heard some strange accounts about the place
But not about a Garden of Delights.
Sem: If you knew it, I might be spared the pain
Of having to relate my shameful tale:
In this delightful place, immortals played
And took their pleasure from their mortal slaves.
I was one of those compelled to serve.
Therefore, of carnal lusts I had my share;
Of carnal pleasures, others had their fill.
Wohl: If this is so, you may have had a child.
I know immortal women can’t conceive.
You may have lain with a fertile partner.
Sem: I don’t understand what you’re implying…
Wohl: You’ve heard of children?
Sem: Yes. I was one, once.
But since the time I left the laboratory,
Where scientists create and synthesize
The offspring of mankind, I haven’t seen
A child or even heard the word spoken.
Wohl: The life they made you live was difficult.
They heartlessly deprived you of love
Or even the chance to love anything,
You had no education, no success,
You found no scientific road to take,
But became a live refuge from despair
For those whose only pleasure caused your pain.
Sem: If only I had brought some small pleasure
To those empty husks of humans who were
Compelled to live forever without life,
My sorrow would not be one-tenth so deep.
I had no love, no one to give love to,
And that one fact makes me regret my life.
Wohl: You should take heart. If our experiments
Meet with success, you’ll find what you have missed.
Sem: Surely some magic charm protects this place
And makes a refuge for the sick at heart.
Slev: We harbor secret sickness here as well
As you shall find ere you leave us behind.
Wohl: Enough of this, there’s still more work to do,
If time and science don’t upset our plans.
[They all leave. The lights go down.] [60 lines Wed.]
Scene three: Wohl’s Laboratory
[The laboratory fills half the stage while half remains in darkness. A doorway leads into the
darkness through the center partition just far enough from the backdrop to give the impression
of an intervening wall. Wohl’s bed can be seen in an alcove in the rear of the room. The walls
are covered by a maze of test tubes and cabinets. A library can be glimpsed through another
doorway at the rear. Everything is clinical and metallic like a doctor’s examination room.]
[Slev and Semalia are discovered as the lights come up]
Slev: By all our measurements, your health is good.
Your belly soon will swell and you will feel
A life begin to stir within your womb.
A short while after that you’ll bear a child.
Sem: You seem to know for sure, Professor Slev,
Events in times that have not come to pass.
You tell me I will have a child, and when,
But I do not know what a child is.
You speak of other things that I don’t know
As if they were mere commonplace to me.
Do you possess a secret magic sight
Whereby the past and future are revealed?
Slev: It must indeed seem magical to you,
The scientific knowledge I possess.
If there is something that confuses you,
Don’t hesitate to ask me to explain.
Sem: Your explanations are the worst of all.
I asked you how the child could be inside.
You said a seed was planted and it grew.
Then when I asked you what a seed might be,
You pointed to a carton filled with dust
And said, those seeds will grow a crop of wheat
If they are ever planted in sunlight. [Begin Thurs.]
Although I questioned you about a child,
You answered me with plants and suns and seeds,
You should have told me it was sorcery
Instead of confusing me with strange words.
Slev: You seem to doubt the truth of my replies.
Perhaps I should explain myself like this:
When I was young, we lived in another place.
We called it Earth. There were no rocky walls
To block the view of all that was nearby.
I recall the ceiling was high above,
So high that no one had to bow their head.
We called it sky. Beneath the sky were fields
Extending like green carpets out of sight.
But more than all that, I remember the sun,
A brilliant disc that sped across the sky
Shining more brightly than a thousand lamps.
Until it set, and darkness spread around,
Yet even then the darkness wasn’t like ours,
For there were other, weaker lights, called stars,
That formed fantastic patterns in the sky.
Before too long, the darkness would abate
And then the flowers and the growing things
Would life their heads to greet the rising sun.
Sem: I think I’ve seen these plants you speak about.
They’re small and grey and huddle in the dark
Along the tunnel’s flank and out of sight
Where nobody can crush them underfoot.
Slev: I too have seen the parasitic plants
That you describe. They thrive on rank decay.
From such detritus are such flowers grown
Though they are hardly worthy of that name.
Without the sunlight, no real flowers can grow.
Sem: Could not a thousand lamps together shine
As brightly as this sun you’ve told me of?
Slev: Not at all. The gravity lanterns glow
By drawing on the force of gravity,
But all the lamps together in one place
Would only shine as bright as a single lamp.
I tried to grow them once myself and failed.
Professor Wohl, I’m sure, could find a way
If he cared at all about growing things.
Sem: Nevertheless, I’d love to see you try.
I’ve nothing much to do until the birth.
I’d love to see some flowers blooming here.
[While Slev speaks, the lights go up on the other half of the stage, gradually revealing a
greenhouse filled with flowering plants.]
Slev: And so would I. There is a place near here
That seems to me well-suited to our purpose.
Nobody ever goes there, so it’s free
From this accursed, poisonous black dust.
Scene Four: Semalia’s Garden
[Wohl enters, alone, as light goes out in the laboratory.]
Wohl: So this is where she’s made the flowers grow.
She has a strange obsession with these plants.
It almost seems as though she’s made the lamps
Burn brighter than before, when Patra Slev
And I were planting all those useless seeds.
But that’s impossible: For that, she’d have
To change the laws of nature to her whim.
How oddly reminiscent are these plants
Of bygone time, before the sun’s demise
When Nature exercised her tyranny
Over mankind, before we realized
The might of Science in our own defense.
Above the surface, we were easy prey
To Nature’s forces: Hurricanes would blow
Whole cities from the map into the sea.
Tornadoes left destruction in their wake.
The sun supplied us with our light and food,
And death, the final trump in Nature’s hand,
Respected no one’s rank or right to live
But struck down all with equal savagery.
How different Science has made our lives today!
The forces of once-mighty Nature bow their heads
And grovel in the black dust at our feet.
The atom’s energy provides our food,
The force of gravity, our light and warmth.
While magnetism propels our flight through space.
An understanding of the triple theorum
Proved the means to conquer death itself.
It’s true, the secret of eternal life
Is not of benefit to everyone,
But when was there a time a time that many men
Were not required to suffer for a few?
There’s only one more link in Nature’s chain
That still eludes me: Birth alone requires
The intercession of the laws of chance.
Although we have no need of woman’s womb
And can regenerate an embryo
From chemicals, the choice of qualities
Is still not ours alone: The plants possess
The property of self-replication
And with this girl, I hope--
Slev: Doctor Wohl,
Come quickly! Her pains have started, the birth is near.
Wohl: About time, too. A tiresome process, this,
Like all the ways of nature, long and hard.
But soon I’ll put an end to all that waste.
[Wohl crosses to the laboratory. Semalia is invisible on the bed, concealed behind a curtain,
through which Slev glances from time to time.]
Sem: My God, the pain’s too great to bear!
Slev: Be quiet.
The pain will pass.
Wohl: And how to bear the pain
Of waiting? Can’t you speed the process up?
Sem: I feel it coming out--It does not move
Or squirm, though. Is it dead?
Slev: I cannot tell…
I see something inside.
Wohl: A thing, you say?
And not a child? What treachery is this?
The girl’s to blame the child’s premature.
She’s hurt herself somehow to thwart my plans.
Sem: It’s coming out! The pain is constant now…
Wohl: Infernal noise. Tell her to quiet down.
Slev: There’s no need now. It’s born.
Sem: Let me see it.
Wohl: Give it to me!
Sem: Why won’t you let me hold it?
Wohl: What the Hell is that?
Slev (to Semalia): It needs our help.
Rest now. We’ll give it to you later on.
Wohl: A glob of ectoplasm? I’ve wasted my time
Pursuing phantoms. What a foolish notion,
Using the hazards of Nature to do my work.
I’ll have to find a workaround for that.
Sem: I want to hold my baby!
Slev: You may look.
I fear the pain of birth will be but small
Compared to what this single look may cause.
Sem: (gasps)
[blackout]
Scene five: Semalia’s Garden
[Song of the Garden]
[Light comes up in the garden. Semalia is here.]
Sem: I planted a seed
A seed that grew
A wonderful plant
Appeared
They wanted to take
Away the plant
They misunderstood
Its worth [Fri 92]
The plant had a small
And tasteless fruit
The flower was small
And plain
They cast it away
To fade and rot
It clung to its life
And grew
The fruit dropped away
And in its stead
Five golden seeds
Had formed
The powder prepared
From stem and stalk
Restored both the spirit
And heart
I planted the seeds
The new seeds grew
And wonderful plants
Appeared [Mon 20]
Scene five: Laboratory
[Wohl is seated at a desk. He searches through the papers on it.]
Wohl: Where is that thermodynamic formula?
I programmed it last month and now it’s gone.
[Calls to Slev, who is standing near some apparatus.]
Slev, see if you can find it in those files
And while you’re scanning, correlate results
Of our nucleic acid synthesis
Experiments with tests we’ve just run.
[Semalia enters meekly]
Sem: If I could have a moment of your time…
Wohl: My girl, a moment’s more than I can spare.
You’ve played your part in our experiments,
Now leave us. Go and play with your new toy.
I think says you’ve named it Dyanolo.
Sem: But he’s the reason for my coming here.
He told me something that he wants to have,
Or rather borrow, from your laboratory.
Wohl [becoming angry]: Enough’s enough. Imaginary friends
Are charming and I’ve tried to humor you
Because you’ve had a hard experience
For which I’m at least partially to blame,
But now you must return to sanity.
Your child is dead, or never really lived.
My patience with your games is at an end.
Slev [sympathetically]: What was it Dyanolo wished to have?
Sem: What he described was empty, small, and round.
I could not tell exactly what he meant
Except he said I would find it right there,
Against the wall that stands beside the bed.
Wohl: Another game, a guessing game this time:
What’s small and round and lies beside the bed?
There’s nothing there, you see? Now go and play
And leave the grown-ups to their own affairs.[Mon 54]
Slev: There was something a few minutes ago,
The box that holds computer memory sticks.
I think you’ll find the box is almost empty
And contains small, round, interesting objects.
Wohl: Am I supposed to let her play with disks?
Perhaps erase them, and destroy my life’s work?
By all the powers of darkness, I shall not!
Sem: My son does not desire to hold the thing,
Only to have it moved against this wall
To let him examine it more closely.
He thinks he could decipher its meaning
If only he were close enough to it.
Wohl: Absurd!
Slev: And yet, it is conceivable.
Consider for a moment your intent:
You set out to create both plant and man,
United in the self-same organism.
You sought to make an ambulatory plant.
You made instead a stationary man.[Mon 73]
Wohl: Impossible. But even if I had
And, as you claim, this plant has human traits,
What use would that provide to anyone?
You’ve seen the thing as closely as myself.
It’s green and covered with some sort of spots.
It weighs about a kilogram, or less--
Sem: He’s grown, he weighs more, now.
Wohl: Then more,
But still he has no organs of perception,
No locomotive apparatuses,
He still has nothing to communicate
And nothing to communicate it with.
Sem: He’s talked with me, and told me what he wants.
Wohl: Oh, very well, I’ll give you what you ask,
If only to make you stop bothering me.
We’ll put him over there, beside the disks,
And now, permit me to pursue my work.[mon 90]
Scene 6: Wohl’s laboratory. Later.
[The lights have dimmed and a box containing Dyanolo in a saltwater bath has been placed
near the center of the stage. Wohl is discovered at work. He rises, flips a switch absently, then
lies on his bed, all the while absorbed in calculations with his hand-held device. A section of the
back wall slowly becomes bathed in flickering light. It is a television. A man’s head and torso
appear on the screen. He is the ANNOUNCER.]
Announcer: The subject for tonight’s Argus-talk is the humble gravity lantern. This device
was one of the first creations of the Supreme Archon, Propian Exor, may he live forever!
He created it just after he devised a system for telling time without using references to
the sun or moon, now vanished just as the skies have vanished. There were no more
hours, months, or years, only seconds, maxims, and megaseconds. The humble gravity
lantern is small, portable, easy to make, and nearly indestructible. The source of its
power is the earth’s gravitational field. While other forms of light--combustion, coal, and
atomic energy--are limited or emit too much pollution for use below the surface, gravity
lanterns may enjoy continuous, unlimited use. In former times, they glowed more
brightly, due to the gravitational of other celestial bodies, like the legendary moon and
other stars which we have passed on our journey. While they are now dimmer than they
used to be, still they are yet another reason to be grateful to our beloved Exor. That
concludes our broadcasting period. Have a good rest, and may Exor make you an
Immortal!
[During the speech, an aura grows with increasing intensity above Dyanolo’s tank. When the
Announcer concludes, Wohl notices the light and crosses to the tank. Faint music is also playing
at this point. Wohl examines the tank with interest.]
[Fade out]
Scene 7: Semalia’s Garden
[ Semalia is working when Dyanolo enters from behind the rear partition.]
Dyan: Hello.
Sem: I do not think we’ve met before,
But you are welcome here, in Wohl’s domain.
Dyan: You’re wrong, though you’ve not seen me in this form,
We’ve known each other for since I was born.
It’s difficult for me to say how long
Precisely, since there’s been no ebb and flow
To measure the time.
Sem: Your look is strange.
We could not know each other very well.
Dyan: No one may know another thoroughly
But if two people can be said to know
Each other well, that could be said of us.
Sem: You speak in riddles, taking that for odd
Which other people take for commonplace.
You look around yourself as if your eyes
Could pierce the rock itself. If, as you say,
I know you, could it be that I know your name?
Dyan: You gave it to me.
Sem: Dyanolo?
Dyan: Yes.
Sem: How did you come to take this shape and form?
Dyan: The same man, Wohl, whose name slipped from your lips
When first you spoke, gave me these arms and legs
Which bring me here before you, as you see me.
He gave me eyes to see and ears to hear,
But when he gave me legs, I came to you.
Sem: And are you pleased with your perceptions now?
Dyan: Before, when I was blind, I saw much more
than many do who have the gift of sight.
I saw the earth, an endless green expanse,
And in the sky, I saw a coin of fire. [Thu 57]
I vowed somehow to make that vision real
If ever I had the means to do so.
Those means were supplied me by Doctor Wohl.
My problem now is what to do with them.
I came to you to ask for your advice.
Sem: Then you must be patient. I don’t know what you
Or anyone else must do to change things
Or topple Propian Exor from his throne.
We trusted him to guide our destiny
Once, long ago, and now we cannot take
A breath of air without his permission.
Perhaps the man had good intentions once.
But greed has turned his head and stopped his ears.
To individual grief he pays no heed.
Dyan: Shall I awaken his morality
And open up his heavy-lidded eyes?
Or shall I close his eyes, once and for all?
Sem: You need a better guide than I can be
To respond to such difficult questions.
Let Argus Wohl provide you with replies.
But don’t inquire, straight out, what you wish
Him to tell you. He is a canny man,
Unlikely to divulge the truth to you
When he can weave a fantasy instead,
As he once did to me: You must inquire
Of him discreetly, feigning not to care,
As if your interest were casual
And only for the sake of argument.
He is accustomed to such inquiries.
His discipline has taught him to concern
Himself with questions and with processes
And not to ask the reasons behind them.[32]
Dyan: Then I will follow him, just as you say,
Until the proper moment comes around
When I may ask of him our best recourse.
I shall not fail to follow his advice.
Sem: I wish you well. I hope your plans succeed.
[Dyanolo leaves. Lights come up in the laboratory, where Wohl has been drinking, alone.
Scene 8: Wohl’s Laboratory
Wohl (sings drunkenly):A pretty little glass
Will make my sorrows pass
And when the glass is done
I’ll pour another one!
So drink to the bottom
There’s nothing to say
Troubles, who’s got ‘em?
They’re all washed away.
[Dyanolo enters and listens, unnoticed.]
Wohl: A little alcohol
Won’t let your spirits fall
You won’t want to cry
Till your glass is dry!
So drink to the bottom
There’s nothing to say
Troubles, who’s got ‘em?
They’re all washed away.
Dyan: This world is filled with wondrous things to see
No sooner do I think I’ve seen them all
Then there’s another to surpass the rest.
Wohl: You see in front of you a happy man!
Come, Dyanolo, have some happiness![61]
What’s this? He doesn’t want to drink with me?
What impudence! So you’ve forgotten me?
I’m Wohl. I made you everything you are.
[Wohl laughs drunkenly]
Dyan: Your aspect is the same as Argus Wohl’s,
But in your manners and your speech, you’ve changed.
Wohl: You’re right. But it’s the same with everyone.
Now takethe Archon, Exor, there’s a man--
Excuse me, god--who has another side,
An evil one.
Dyan: You’re obviously confused.
The Archon’s life has been a noble one,
Devoted to the welfare of Earthlings.
Wohl: Then tell me, oh all-knowing one, what good
His life, or lives, have done for us on Earth?
Dyan: He saved us from disaster once, and now
He’s guiding us toward another star.
Wohl: Another star from that which we set out
To reach, so many megaseconds past.
Dyan: I can’t believe he’s leading us astray.
Wohl: Believe it if you like or don’t believe,
It doesn’t really matter what you think.
(sings)
It’s easy to synthesize
Right before your eyes
And once you’ve had a drink
You won’t know how to think.
(laughs)
So drink to the bottom
There’s nothing to say
Troubles, who’s got ‘em?
They’re all washed away.
(speaking)
There’s only one thing Propian Exor could do
To provide some benefit to humans:
If he’d consent to have his head removed,
Then there’d be hope that we could reach our goal.
Dyan: A new sun?
Wohl: Is there something you don’t know?
You have a lot of knowledge but no sense.
You worship power, just like all the rest.
Dyan: You must be joking with me, Doctor Wohl.
Why, you yourself revere the Archon’s life
Or else you would have killed him long ago.
Wohl: I would have, yes, if I were not so weak.
I had my chance. I met him face to face.
I didn’t have to raise a violent hand
To slay him, then, for he was old and feeble.
I merely had to let him age and die.
But I was weak. He could have killed me, too,
In that last desperate struggle for our lives.
Instead, I let him live and he let me.
He got the better of the bargain, then,
One single death against a thousand lives,
And with them, absolute dictatorship.
But I was weak and so I drown my sins
By drinking the forgetfulness of fools
From beakers that prepare the Archon’s life.
Dyan: You mean to say that you yourself prepare
The Archon’s daily dose of medicine
And thus renew your vile complicity
As you rejuvenate the hateful beast
That feeds upon the sorrows of mankind?
Wohl: Oho! What’s this? A few seconds ago
You thought me wrong because I was untrue
To Exor, though my treachery was mild
And purely hypothetical, but now
You call me vile because I helped him once
Along the path you just had stopped applauding.[30]
It’s you, not I, whose brain is clogged with wine,
And yet you haven’t had a drop to drink.
Let’s stop this silly conversation now.
You’re just as much a fool as I, and more,
Since I have had the pleasure from my drink,
And all you’ve gotten is the sad result.
There’s still a chance to rectify your fault,
Just have a couple drinks along with me
And add enjoyment to your lack of wit.
(sings): Dyanolo’s rather slow
He’s got a ways to go
He’ll probably arrive
But not before I’ve!
(Wohl slumps to the ground in a drunken stupor just as Slev enters.)
Slev: I heard a noise, is everything all right?
Dyan: I wanted him to tell me something else
Before he’d gotten to his present state.
Slev: Let me assist you, If I know the way.
Dyan: You do know, if you know the way to take
To get to Exor’s palace.
Slev: Why should you
Be interested in that place? Or has
Argus been telling you tales of awful deeds
And instigating Exor’s death, again?[54]
Dyan: Again? He’s never talked of it before.
Slev: He has, to me at least, and more than once.
He told you, doubtlessly, about the pact
He made with Exor long ago?
Dyan: He did.
Slev: He lied. There was no secret pact with Exor.
The process was not his to trade or sell
But common knowledge to all scientists.
No doubt he told you of iniquities
Supposedly performed at Exor’s will?
Dyan: He mentioned one or two.
Slev: Hallucinations!
Wohl was a renegade, he placed himself,
His lonely life, and his discoveries
Above the common welfare of all Earth.
He’s always been a victim of this flaw.
Although his mind is brilliant past compare,
And works with ease where others strive and fail,
His passions sometimes overrule his head
And nullify his impulse towards the good.
When he made his discovery, in his youth,
It made of him an outcast from his folk.[75]
Because the Archon Exor symbolized
Perfection of those virtues which Wohl lacked,
Namely humility and self-sacrifice,
He hated Exor, and furthermore this:
He envied Exor’s power and renown.
So Argus Wohl began to design plots
To justify his own, lamentable
Shortcomings. This is what you’ve heard just now,
The drunken, conscience-stricken fantasies
That he concocted from the merest wind,[85]
Though even babbling breezes make more sense.
Dyan: Your words are fair, and drunks are famous liars,
But what he claims, Semalia, too, affirms.
What reason can there be that she should lie?
Slev: He’s made her an accomplice in his guilt.
See here, you think your birth came by design?
The aim of some experimental scheme?
You’re really but another mental lapse,
The product of his monumental pride.
He calls himself your father, not because
The mind of Argus Wohl engendered you.
You are truly his son. He forced himself
On Semalia, when she came to stay here.
He then continued the experiment.
Your mother helped him to conceal the act
And still persists, by suborning his tale,
His accusations, and his perjury.
If you desire to know the truth of this,
Do not rely on these confederates,
Don’t make their testimony your belief,
The basis for your actions or demise.
Dyan: You tell me first, just who my parents are,
And then you ask me to believe they lie
In order to conceal their sins from me.
The very madness of your hateful words
Confirms the truth that must reside within:
Only a lunatic could hope that a son
Would not believe his parents spoke the truth [28]
Unless their speeches could be proven false.
But I cannot put all my faith in you--
Therefore, tell me the way I must start off
To reach the gates of Exor’s rich domain,
The only place that now can hold the key
To whether Exor’s motives are as pure
As he would lead his subjects to believe
Or whether truth has made its residence
Within the words I’ve heard denouncing him.
I wish to hear the truth from his own lips.
Slev: It’s difficult to make a fool reflect
Until he sees the folly of his ways.
And yet I will not help you reach your goal.
Furthermore, I will make a prophecy.
If you should reach the place you hope to find,
And even if you find the man you seek
To satisfy your curiosity,
Your quest will lead you ever roundabout.
Go find another’s help, you won’t get mine.
Scene Nine: Semalia’s Garden
[Semalia is discovered, working in the garden. Semalia’s Song]
Sem: Strength through adversity growing
Seeds of enlightenment sowing
Impotence breeds on despairing
Hope holds the tools for repairing
Victory’s strength lies untested
Beauty leaves defects suggested
Mutual love is suspected
Friendship in peace is protected
[ Dyanolo enters, unseen]
Power’s the same, though defeated
Plainness is beauty repeated
Love without hope is undying
Friendship in war is relying
Never suspect, never rely
Never has lived, never will die
Dyan: It seems to me a song of desperation.
You criticize your hopes as well as fears.
Sem: Have you decided?
Dyan: Set your mind at rest,
I will find Propian Exor--
Sem: Then I fear
Perhaps far more than if you stayed with me.[43]
Dyan: I’ve come to say goodbye to all I’ve loved
To everything on Earth that’s worthy of love.
Whatever may remain outside this place,
Cannot be worth a single seed or bud.
I do not need your knowledge of the way.
The others, Slev and Wohl, refuse to tell.
Sem: For once I have a reason to be glad
I ever laid my eyes upon that place;
For now my knowledge can be of some use,
If it can help you closer to your goal.
The path that runs before the cavern’s mouth
Leads to a tunnel cut through solid rock.
The tunnel shrinks enough to make you crouch,
The shuffling of your feet will fill the air
With choking clouds of dust that will obscure
The tenuous light cast by the gravity lamps.
You must take with you food and drink enough
For six or seven intervals of sleep.
Numerous cavities will beckon you
To right and left; but keep on going straight
Until the tunnel opens up again.
Not long after that point, you’ll reach some tracks,
A little-used spur off the Archon’s line.
The train arrives very infrequently,
So you most probably will wait awhile,
But once the train comes, your journey’s over.
The silver train will bear the Archon’s crest,
A phoenix rising from a golden flame
Upon a dark-blue field with silver stars.
The train will take you where you wish to go.
Dyan: And what will I discover at that place?
How will I know the stop where I get off? [75]
Sem: Where you alight, the cars will all be filled,
Though at that place, the people will all leave.
A swarm of folk will push you to the gate
Where Exor’s life is cast in solid gold.
Beside the gate there are two smaller doors;
Each door lets people in, then out by turns.
Beware the guards that stand to either side,
For at their whim, the traffic is reversed
Quite suddenly, as when a rock or stick
Stops up the entrance to a hive of ants
And then the ants, while struggling to get in,
Run into one another, sometimes kill
Each other in their mad, frantic retreat.
Just so people, trying to reach the gate,
Prevent people in front from turning back.
The guards enforce their orders with their sticks
That sting their victims, making them jump back.
So people came to call them jumpers.
Sometimes they stun their prey, sometimes they kill.
If you survive the jumpers, you will be
Inside the Palace of the Archons’ walls.
Once there, you must go forward on your own--
No one can help you closer to your goal.
Dyan: Nevertheless, I know I shall succeed
To rid the Earth of its dreadful curse.
Sem: There never was a being better fit
Than you are, Dyanolo, for the task.
But certain things are not within human
Power to change. One of these is the love
I have for you.
Dyan: And I for you.
Sem: Farwell…
Dyan: Good-bye…
End of ACT ONE