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The scene opens onto a boy and girl alone in a forest, ages 16 and 15. They are huddled close together. The boy is wearing a black shirt with a white circle in the middle and black pants. The girl is wearing the opposite, a white shirt with a black circle and white pants. The boy has his right arm around the girl protectively; his eyes dart about, as if searching for something, a hidden danger. The girl’s face is buried inside the boy’s chest. Her hair shakes as she quietly sobs; the tears run heavily down her face. The boy squeezed her once, as if to reassure her, and then shudders himself.
BOY1: Amber, tell me what happened this time. (He gently shakes her but she remains sobbing into his chest.)
BOY1: Amber please, I need to know. What happened? (She slowly shakes her head, as if trying to escape the thoughts in her mind.)
BOY1: Amber, if you love me, tell me what happened. (He pauses. Her sobbing and shaking slowly subside. She lifts her head up; her face is streaked with tears.)
AMBER: Will, they took him away! They took Johnny!
WILL: (looking confused) Johnny?
AMBER: Johnny, the kid who always gets in trouble for playing instead of working. You met him a few weeks ago, when I introduced you. He said that he liked your hair. He lives in Section 5!
WILL: No… (A flash of realization hits him and his face becomes horrified. He takes a step back, as if unable to bear the thought)
AMBER: I saw them! I saw them do it! (Amber starts breathing heavily, as if the effort to talk is too great. Johnny places his hands on Amber’s shoulders and looks into her eyes.)
WILL: Relax. Tell me what happened. It’s going to be okay.
AMBER: (closes her eyes briefly, then looks into Will’s eyes. Reassured, she relaxes.) I was walking to the docks to go to my post, and I took a shortcut to get there faster. Johnny was playing in his backyard, tying a string around a tree. I was about to wave to him, say hello, when I saw them, those men in suits. There were four of them, and they all came at him. They didn’t see me because I was in the street and they had come from his house. I stayed behind the tree to watch, to see what would happen. Johnny looked at them and smiled, but when they didn’t return the smile he started getting scared. I could see the scared look in his eyes, the way he recognized who they were. They entered his backyard and crowded around him. I heard some murmured words and then saw them put something on his back, and he got this glazed look and scratched his head, as if nothing was important anymore. They took him back into the house, and I couldn’t stand it, I ran here! Will, why? What’s happening? (Amber begins to breath heavily again as tears well up in her eyes.) This was supposed to be the perfect place, that’s what they said! Why are they doing this?
WILL: No… (Will puts his head down) We won’t wait for the same thing to happen to us!
AMBER: What can we do? We can’t run away, we’ve never been outside the walls. No one ever comes back after they’ve left. We never hear from them.
WILL: It’s our only choice.
AMBER: We can’t! What about our caretakers? We spent all those years with them, and now we’re going to leave them? What will they say to the elders when we’re gone?
WILL: We have to leave them behind.
AMBER: Will… I don’t know if it’s worth it.
WILL: You know just as well as I do what’s happening here. No one else besides us seems to realize this. You know how every few days everything seems to start over, as if everyone has forgotten everything that has happened before. Everyone around us is living the same life again and again, in an endless cycle. Remember Mary? Just yesterday We’re the only ones who realize this. I don’t know how we can tell, but it’s only us. We’ve heard about people who have tried to escape. They never make it. We’re the only ones that realize that some people go missing, how those men appear and take someone away. Every time that happens everyone forgets. But not us.
AMBER: How will we escape though? No one’s done it before us.
WILL: We’ll just have to take our chances. Even if we don’t know what’s outside these walls, we’ll be able to survive. We’ll leave this place.
AMBER: (looking slightly deranged) There could be animals, carnivorous plants, barbarians… (Amber pulls her hair and timidly looks up at Will.)
WILL: Amber, listen, we have a future together. We’ve planned this out, remember?
AMBER: Yes, we’re going to be free from our posts, we don’t have to blindly follow our orders anymore, and we can make our own decisions.
WILL: That’s the most important thing. Living in this place isn’t living, everyone’s the same, we have no say or freedom in what goes on in our daily lives. They said that this place was perfect, free from pain, discrimination, hunger, and suffering. Yet they didn’t mention what we would have to give up. We’ve given up our identities. If we leave we’ll have the ability to make choices for ourselves, create our own future, just like we are right now, without the fear of consequences.
AMBER: (In a dreamy voice) Yeah, then we’ll settle somewhere, hopefully near an ocean.
WILL: An ocean? What’s that?
AMBER: I read about it. It’s a lot of water in one place, and it’s supposed to be beautiful. But only four of them exist in this world, at least that’s what I read about in the archives. Anyways, we’ll live by an ocean, do whatever we want, have beautiful children…
WILL: Children? Is this something else you’ve read about? (Will teasingly grins at her, but Amber doesn’t notice and still looks wistful.)
AMBER: Yes. Children refer to the way people were made, instead of created in the Institute. Remember all the time we spent in the Institute, looking at the new people? Well, when they’re small they’re supposedly called children. (Amber holds her hands two feet apart to demonstrate.)
WILL: I don’t really remember… But the important thing is the future.
AMBER: You’re right.
BOY2: (In a high-pitched voice) Hi guys! I’m not interrupting anything am I?
(Will and Amber startle. They look at the boy with a shocked expression.)
WILL: Aren’t you…
AMBER: Johnny? Didn’t I see you before? What happened? What did they do to you?
JOHNNY: Before? I don’t know, nothing? Oh yeah, dose big men? They was pretty cool I guess.
AMBER: Yes… I saw them do something to you, and then you slumped over and they carried you in…
JOHNNY: No, I think they just wanted to play with me. They didn’t do nothin.
(Will looks at Amber. Amber looks at Will. They both look at Johnny.)
WILL: (in a deep, serious voice) Johnny, are you sure about that?
JOHNNY: Yeah why?
AMBER: It’s just that…
WILL: Certain thing are going on. We’re trying to find out something. Tell us exactly what happened, okay?
JOHNNY: (skeptically looks at Will) Well, dose guys in suits came into my yard right? Is that what you’re asking about? (He looks at Will and Amber for approval. They nod for him to continue.) Well, I think I was just playing in my backyard as usual. I guess I was supposed to be working at the Institute but I no feel like going. It’s so boring all the time, looking at dose things growing in their containers, it’s actually kinda gross and scary. I don’t wanna work there anymore. Well, dose men asked what I was doing and I told dem dat I was trying to make a booby trap. They seemed really interested in what I was doing, and so they got closer to look. I felt them crowd around me, and one guy even patted me on de back, telling me I was doing a great job. That was all.
WILL: Can you stay there for a little bit Johnny? We have to talk about something.
(Will and Amber move away)
WILL: (In a hushed tone) I think those men may have already altered his memory.
AMBER: Yeah, I was sure about what I saw. They did something to him! Will, this is terrible. What should we do?
WILL: There’s not much we can do. His memory’s been changed; he doesn’t know what happened to him. I feel really bad for him, but I’m curious as to why he’s still here. Don’t people usually disappear after the men come? Why is Johnny still here? What is he doing with us?
AMBER: It is interesting how he came here. I thought this was supposed to be our secret spot? Have you told anyone about this spot? (Crosses arms and pouts.)
WILL: No of course not! I haven’t told anyone. You’re right, this is our secret spot and I never told anyone. What’s interesting is that out of all times to find us, he came as we were talking about leaving. I mean, we had just figured out something important about this place, something that no one else before has known. It seems really weird, and maybe it’s just a coincidence, but…
AMBER: That’s it Will! It’s not just a coincidence! We’re supposed to take him with us! Maybe that’s why he’s here! It’s fate that brings us together. He was meant to come with us!
(Amber rushes over to Johnny.)
AMBER: Johnny, go home and get anything that’s important to you and come here. Will and I are planning on escaping from here and you’re coming with us.
JOHNNY: What! Escaping? Why would you leave? And I really like it here, I get to play most of the day, so I don’t wanna leave!
AMBER: Just trust me Johnny. Go home and come back. Do it quickly, okay? (She ruffles his hair.) Anyways, where we’ll going you can play all day! You never have to do work, no matter what! Does that sound good?
JOHNNY: Okay! (Johnny gives Amber a hug. He backs away, then cautiously pats Will on the back. Then he runs off stage.)
WILL: I’m not sure about this…
AMBER: This has to be the reason. It’s the reason I saw what happened in the first place, and the reason why he came here. He can come with us!
WILL: I don’t really believe in fate. Not with everything wrong that has already happened. We still don’t know what really happened to him. I think it’s dangerous Amber.
AMBER: Will, trust me on this one. Please? (She looks pleadingly into his eyes. He sighs, and then nods.)
WILL: Okay. We’ll bring him along.
(Will and Amber nod their heads at each other. They look around for three seconds.)
AMBER: My head itches really badly. (Amber violently scratches her head)
WILL: Yeah mine too. (Will violently scratches his head) Wait, you don’t think that…
(They both look horrified at each other. Suddenly they blink rapidly, and look around. Amber begins crying. Will hugs her too his chest.)
WILL: Amber what’s wrong? (He gently shakes her but she remains sobbing into his chest.)
WILL: Amber please, I need to know. What happened?
(Amber remains sobbing into his chest.)
WILL: Amber, if you love me, tell me what happened. (He pauses. Her sobbing and shaking slowly subside. She lifts her head up; her face is streaked with tears.)
AMBER: Will, they took him away! They took Johnny!