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The Scottish Play


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“…So fair and foul a day….”

“…what I say I saw….”

“…till Birnam Wood shall come to….”

“…our future in an instant….”

“…from my mother’s womb….”

The whispers flutter in the still air, winding around railings, tripping down stairs, skimming along walls, rustling the curtains, unearthing eddies of dust from the floor. Figures move along the edges of the dimness, outlined only by the light filtering in from the back door, talking into the air, wistful, angry, joyous, pausing occasionally to throw a murmured comment to another figure; perhaps stabbing themselves absently in the shoulder, or gesturing mightily to nothing.

By now you know: it’s either a madhouse or a theatre.

The keepers of the madhouse stand just behind the curtain, waiting expectantly. At the smallest noise they whip around with a curse on their lips, and the guilty madman falls silent.

And then the lights suddenly flare on, courtesy of some little devil sitting in the deep darkness with his fingers roving about all the little switches. And the lights, they seep under the curtain, they catch in the dust eddies, they shine from the cracks in the doorway, and the madhouse keepers throw the curtain far and wide, and the light grows blinding, and then they are gone and the curtains rustle shut behind them and the madmen are thrust back into the whispery darkness.

You’re mad too, oh, very mad, but not mad enough; in fact, you’ve only been mad for the better part of six months. To your credit, you’ve been getting steadily madder and madder every passing moment, dancing with brooms and buckets in a practiced little routine, pretending to be a light-footed waitress one moment and a crooked old witch the next. Outside, the hopelessly sane watch and wait and begin to feel stirrings of madness within themselves, buried deep, poking out for the first time like worms seeing the sun.

The madhouse keepers return, and you turn into a bent old crone and you open the door and the light hits you and you are the crone, and you crawl up onstage in all your hobbling mad cronely glory….

….And the you return, and you shed the crone and become the waitress with your apron all clean and your shirt all tucked in to your neat little skirt, and you walk back into the darkness, but the little devil in the back puts the lights on just for you, and because you’re mad, you start humming, “Wait Till the Sun Shines Nellie” as you dance with your handsome partner, the broom….

….and you become crone again, and then maiden again, and then crone once more, as you inform all the sane people what Harpier’s crying (‘tis time, ‘tis time)….

….and then soon, too soon, you’re back in your mad old self, grinning and bobbing your knees as the sound of hands kissing palm to palm washes over you, and then the lights go off and you’re ushered dazedly into the warm embrace of everyone who wishes you well, and suddenly your mind is clear and you look back at the stage, wondering what transpired there, knowing only this: it is so very glorious being mad.




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Surrealist14 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Dec. 18, 2009 at 12:26 pm:
This was amazing! I loved the illusion of a madhouse, its perfect for a theatre. Perfect.
 
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