Exit the Dragon

A three act melodrama

by

Per-Olof Samuelsson


Introduction

This play was written in 1979 for a course in ”Creative English”. There was a referendum in Sweden in 1980 on nuclear power (in which the Swedish people was given the dishonest choice between abolishing nuclear power in 10 years or 25 years), which is why the ideas I ”caricature” in the play were prevalent in the debate at that time.

A note on names: the names of the characters in the play were all chosen with malicious aforethought, except the name “Naranya”, which simply popped up from my subconscious. A person who later read the play thought this was an anagram of a famous name. This, however, is pure coincidence, and neither is the Princess Naranya a naturalistic portrait of anyone, dead or alive.

Some allusions in this play may be obscure to non-Swedish readers, so let me say that the names “Bear-Castle” and “Stone-Ground” are simply straight translations into English of the names of two world famous Swedish athletes.

If some of the allusions to economic theory are obscure, I will simply advice you to study some good books on “commodity money” versus “fiat money”.

POS


Cast of Characters

The Dragon, an economic criminal

George M. Saint, a rescuer-hero

Two assistants, auxiliary heroes

The True Princess, an anomaly

The False Princess, an impostor

The Judge, an honorable man

The Attorney General, a man of principles

The Council for the Defense, a kind-hearted man

The Courtroom Clerk, a dutiful man

The Foreman of the Jury, a middle-man

The Jury, a cross-section of society

The Chief of the Execution Squad, an effective man

The Execution Squad, an outgrowth of the spirit of our time


Act I

(The Dragon's study. The rear wall has a door and a window. The right wall has a big book-shelf. By the left wall are the Dragon's desk and a second door. There is a big rug on the floor, once expensive, now worn out. The Dragon is sitting at his desk, working. It is late at night.

The Dragon is a man in his late forties or early fifties. He is strongly built, with a big head, dark, almost cropped hair, thick eye-brows, a heavy nose, a broad chin. There is a fierce energy in him which has over the years given way to tiredness and worry, but still is not altogether extinguished.*

He is working with a sheaf of papers, filled with columns of figures. He is reading attentively, turning the leaves, making brief notes in the margin. After a while, he leans back in the chair, lights a cigar, puts his arms behind his neck, blows out a puff of smoke, then returns to work.

There is a heavy knock on the rear door.)

Dragon

Who the hell's that?

(Somebody pulls the door-handle on the outside, then cries out:)

Saint

Open in the name of the law!

(The Dragon pulls the desk-drawer open, slips down the sheaf of paper, closes the drawer, rises with a resigned half-yawn, walks to the door and opens it.

Three plainclothesmen enter. The first one squarely faces the Dragon, while the other two take in the room with their eyes.)

Dragon

Allright. What is it? Do you know what time it is?

Saint

Are you Gregorius Anaximander unter den Schatten, alias Greg Shady, alias the Dragon?

Dragon

Of course. Who did you think I was? King Solomon? Nalph Raider?

Saint

(flashing an identity card)

I'm George M. Saint, Chief Inspector of Economicide. Those are my assistants. Mr. Shady, you're under ar­rest.

Dragon

What for, if I may ask?

Saint

What do Dragons usually get arrested for? Breathing fire. Hoarding gold. Keeping princesses in captivity.

Dragon

Fair enough. And what evidence do you have of that?

Saint

That's what we're here to find out.

Dragon

Oh, you are, are you? Aren't you putting the cart before the horse?

Saint

Don't try to teach me my job. It's provided for in the law.

(Pulls out a paper from his breast pocket and recites:)

”In case of suspected economic criminality, the usual sequence of search for evidence and arrest is reversed, lest the culprit should escape or destroy the evidence.” There you are. You're under arrest. The evidence will be forthcoming.

Dragon

Thanks for letting me know. But why at this ungodly hour?

(Looks at his watch.)

It's nearly ten past three.

Saint

You don't operate in broad daylight, Mr. Shady. Why should you be arrested in it?

Dragon

How could I operate in something that has ceased to exist?

Saint

The law's the light.

(To the assistants:)

Let's see what shadiness we'll uncover here.

Dragon

Do I have the right to speak to my lawyer?

Saint

Your lawyer, I'm sorry to say, committed suicide...

(looks at his watch)

...about twenty minutes ago.

Dragon

You've got a strong point there. I hope it was a painless suicide.

Saint

Possibly. Do you carry a gun?

Dragon

No. What point would there be in that?

Saint

None whatsoever. Well, we'd better check.

(To the assistants:)

Frisk him.

(The assistants frisk the Dragon. They produce a cigar-case from his pocket, and an expensive fountain pen, but nothing else.)

Saint

Allright. We'll start searching. Would you mind moving away from the desk, Mr. Shady?

Dragon

I certainly would. But there wouldn't be any...

Saint

(curtly)

I got your point. Now, spare me your sarcasms, will you? Remember, I've got a gun. From now on, I'm calling the shots.

Dragon

As you wish.

(Moves away from the desk.)

(The assistants start searching the room. One of them carefully examines the book-shelf, pulling out the books one by one, looking through them and dropping them on the floor. The second one pulls out the desk-drawers. He finds the sheaf of paper and hands it over to Saint, then gets busy emptying the contents of all drawers onto the floor. Saint attentively peruses the papers. Then he puts them down on the desk.)

Saint

Well, we've got the first charge pretty well wrapped up, haven't we? You've been peddling energy on the black market, right? We suspected as much. You're operating an underground nuclear power station. Or maybe six. What we'd like to know is where? Would you care to enlighten us, Mr. Shady?

Dragon

The law's the light. Let the law enlighten you.

Saint

(icily)

What did I tell you a while ago?

Dragon

Sorry, but you've lost your point. It's just committed suicide, figuratively speaking. If you use your gun, you'll never find out.

Saint

There are other means.

Dragon

Sure. And they are carried out in broad daylight, too, aren't they?

Saint

They'll be carried out in the light of the law. Don't you worry.

(The desk-drawer assistant gives a gasp, walks up to Saint and hands him something – a handful of gold coins.)

Saint

(whistles)

Oh, I'll be a son of a gun! We're down to brass tacks, aren't we? You're really true to type, Mr. Dragon. You've been trading in illegal currency, as well.

Dragon

What currency would you like me to trade in? The Emperor's picture, photocopied?

Saint

You're making illegal profits. Do you know that even as I stand here, these coins rise appreciably in value?

Dragon

Sure. Just like my cigars. Just like my matches. Just like the clothes we wear. Just like the floor you're standing on. Just like everything except ink and paper.

Saint

Those are Krugerrands, aren't they? Do you know what we call them? The Black Miners' Sweat.

Dragon

Well, some of them are ten-rubel pieces. I call them the Tears of Kolyma.

Saint

Hm. There is an Austrian four-ducat piece here. We call that the Lure of Misesianism.

Dragon

Then there is a British sovereign among them, which I call the Bane of Keynesianism.

Saint

Well, it's glimmer & glitter & the curse of the greedy & the mirage of the poor & is not to be tolerated & is hereby confiscated.

(He pockets the coins and carefully wipes his hands on a handkerchief.)

Who gave them to you?

Dragon

As above.

Saint

Huh?

Dragon

As previously stated, in regard to charge number one. In plain English: I won't tell you.

Saint

We'll make you talk.

Dragon

So I've been given to understand. Well, are you through? You've got me arrested, you've got your evi­dence. The torture-chambers are waiting. Aren't we supposed to be there before dawn?

Saint

Take it easy. There might be more evidence.

(To the assistants:)

What have you got, guys?

First Assistant

Nothing much. Counterfeit visas for Liechtenstein, Thatcherland and the Confederacy of Unattached Nations. A membership card in the Secret Society for Unlimited Growth. A pack of disconnection letters from former associates: ”You greedy, filthy, shady son of a dragon! I hereby disconnect from you.”

Saint

They may be fakes. We'll keep them. And you?

Second Assistant

Most of the literature seems to be incriminating, but otherwise nothing.

Saint

We'll leave the literature to Intellecticide. You can make a report at headquarters. Try and keep it short, will you? And watch your grammar.

Dragon

Let's go, then. The racketeer is ready for the rack.

Saint

Hey, wait a minute! Why such a hurry? We seem to have missed something after all.

(For the first time, the Dragon shows signs of real ner­vousness. All through the foregoing he has moved imper­ceptibly, so that he is now standing between Saint and the second door.)

Dragon

Why don't you try the TV set? There might be another hoard of gold inside, waiting for your greedless fingers.

Saint

Sounds likely. Is that the bedroom behind that door?

Dragon

Might be. Might be a secret exit. Might be an ex­perimental reactor. Highly radioactive. Lethal.

Saint

How extremely interesting! Let's run the risk and have a peek.

Dragon

(raising his voice)

No! Look – I'll confess. I'll tell you where I got the gold. I'll tell you where the station is.

Saint

Hey – I think we've already got you on the rack. What have you actually got in there?

Dragon

(furiously)

You filthy bastards! The mattress is stuffed with your no-good paper money! The radiator is connected to your no-good wind-mills! There are pictures of your no-good government on the wall – for throwing darts at!

(While shouting at the top of his voice, the Dragon kicks the door with his heel.)

Saint

Allright. Enough of that nonsense. Move away!

(To the assistants:)

Take him away!

(The Dragon takes two steps out into the room and takes a kung-fu defense stance. The assistants approach him and pull their guns. But he is too quick for them. He kicks their guns out of their hands and knocks them to the floor. Saint fires a shot. He hits the Dragon in the shoulder, then jumps forward and puts his gun to the Dragon's temple.

The door is opened, and a young girl looks out. She has rich, blond hair and big, blue eyes. She is extremely beautiful. She has a frightened look in her face. She is dressed in a negligee. She gives out a choked scream, then puts her hand to her mouth.

Saint takes his gun away and steps back, staring at the girl.

The girl starts to run toward the Dragon, but he puts his hand up so as to avert her.)

Saint

Well, I'll be damned!

(Rubs his eyes.)

I'll be thrice damned!

(To the assistants, who are rubbing their chins, trying to recover from the fight:)

Do you know who this is? Do you?

(To the Dragon:)

You had it pretty well figured out, hadn't you? That's the nicest piece of blackmail I've ever seen in my career. You would have had the whole nation on the torture rack, the first hair we bent on your head. Well, Dragon, your game is up.

(The girl has run back into the bedroom and now returns with a towel. She walks up to the Dragon and winds the towel around his shoulder to stem the blood. She leans her head against his, but he pushes her away.)

Saint

Allright, Dragon. How about that confession you promised us? Just so much hot air, wasn't it?

Dragon

(speaking with effort)

No. I'll confess. This, as you know, is the Princess Naranya who disappeared from the Royal Palace two months ago and hasn't been heard of since. As you have no doubt figured out, I kidnapped her.

(The Princess gives a start, but the Dragon hushes her up:)

Keep quiet, will you? – I kidnapped her and kept her here as a safeguard against – well, against this arrest, for example. I have treated you well, haven't I, Princess?

Princess

(brightening up)

Yes. Oh yes, very well.

Dragon

I think you will find that I have treated her with the utmost cruelty. Well, she's free now, and I am captive. Shall we leave? Or do you hope to find more?

Saint

What about the gold? What about the power station?

Dragon

Later, please. I'm tired. I need a doctor.

Saint

Hm.

(Walks up to the Princess, who has been standing with her head bent, takes her by the chin and raises her head. There are tears in her eyes.)

You must have had a terrible time, Your Highness. But it's over now. – Well, I think you're right, Mr. Shady. There's not much more a Dragon could hide. Let's go. – You'd better remain here, Your Highness. We'll call on you tomorrow morning.

(They walk toward the door. Before he leaves, the Dragon turns toward the Princess and exclaims savagely:)

Dragon

Don't forget you're a prisoner!

(They leave. The Princess stands helplessly, tears rolling down her cheeks. Then she walks to the desk, slumps down in the chair, buries her head in her arms and sobs uncontrollably.)

Curtain


Act II

(A courtroom. A judge, a jury, a witness bench, an At­torney General, a Council for the Defense.)

Clerk

(calls out)

Humanity versus the Dragon! The Right Honorable Ignatius Napoleon Justice presiding!

Judge

We have a case here of the gravest importance to us all. Great Injury has been done to the Department of Energy, to the Treasury and, yea, to the Royal Household. A monster in our midst has been brought hither to account for his monstrosities. – The Attorney General may proceed.

Attorney

(rises and addresses the jury)

Your Honor, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury! As you all know, we are living in an age of transition and crisis. More specifically, we are in the age of the Great Energy Crisis, in the transition from a society of unlimited growth into one of zero growth. It has been discovered that our resources are limited and that, consequently, Man's unlimited resourcefulness is a threat to us all. Therefore, the Government has issued and is currently implementing the Glorious First Ten Year Plan for limiting the use of energy.

The first year of the Plan proved immensely suc­cessful. For example, the weeks before Christmas were almost completely enveloped in darkness. You all remember how the streets used to be flooded with light from the first of December onwards. You also remember the useless things you used to blow your dough on, how you used to spoil your kids, how you used to glut your bellies, how little thought you used to give the starving millions. Well, the first Christmas of the Ten Year Plan changed all that. You were no longer completely blinded by the neon lights. The show-windows no longer hypnotized you. Your kidneys and your gall-bladders had a rest – maybe the first one in years. Conversely, your solidarity with the light-deprived and the hunger-stricken was greatly enhanced. For the first time, the spoilt children of our age got to know what it really feels like to be born in an underdeveloped country. The Santa Claus beards were pulled out of the commercial market and put to their proper use: to warm your cheeks and chins.

The same frugality was exercised throughout the winter and seemed to continue during the warmer part of the year. But our second Christmas turned out to be a throwback. Brightly lighted Christmas trees re-appeared in the streets. Commerce again seemed to be thriving. Even instances of gluttony were reported.

A thorough investigation was conducted, and it was discovered that the Government's energy quotas had been grossly exceeded. We looked further. As all energy sources have been nationalized, and are strictly con­trolled by the Government, the answer had to be found on the Black Market. The light must be emerging from the shadows of the Underworld. So into the shadows we delved.

Another thing: as the use of energy is curtailed, commodities become more scarce and luxury goods should disappear altogether, leaving more ample room for the bare necessities of life. Now, in order to get those necessities, people need money. Money is the one thing that must never be scarce. It is obvious that the less energy a shoe factory can consume, the fewer shoes it can produce, the more expensive become those shoes, and the more money people will need to buy them. The Government has therefore adopted the tenets of monetarism, but with the important proviso that the money supply must at all times be sufficient for everybody to buy everything he needs. This policy is still in its beginning stages, but you have already seen a foreshadowing of its results in an unprecedented rise in the general wage level.

But this, too, is threatened by the emergence of a motley of counterfeit money: gold coins, silver coins, precious stones, sea-shells, glass beads, old stamps, even screws and nails are sometimes used as media of exchange. Whence do they come? The Government does not mint; it prints. Again, the answer is to be found on the Black Market. This so-called money has to be managed by a group of very irresponsible men, in­deed!

Thirdly, in times of transition and concomitant privation, people need something to look up to. In the past, they used to look up to such giants of human endeavor as Mr. Bear-Castle, the tennis player, or Mr. Stone-Ground, the skier. Fair enough. But ”looking up to” is one thing, ”emulating” is quite another. Emulating is energy-consuming. We were simply overrun by the budding competitors to the giants, making their demands on the total social attention. And there was no security in the thing. Mr. Bear-Castle always ran the risk of hitting the ball one time less than Mr. McInhisthroes, Mr. Stone-Ground could always be outskied and outfractioned by the Thunders, the Mares, the Weasels and the What-Nots. Moreover, their popularity depended exactly on this element of insecurity. Imagine how much energy they must have wasted!

No, the symbol of Man's greatness must be something nobody could aspire to become himself. Its lasting popularity has to be constitutionally safe­guarded. It was for this reason that the Ten Year Plan was inaugurated by the decision to declare our beloved King and Queen a God and a Goddess. Gods, to be sure, with no power to influence human affairs, or even to veto parliamentary decrees, but Gods nonetheless. Everyone looks up to a God. No one but a fool would attempt to usurp his thrown.

So much greater was the shock to us when, a few months ago, the Goddess-to-be, the young and beau­tiful Princess Naranya, disappeared without a trace from the Palace. We have tried to keep it a close-guarded secret, but the rumors you have heard are true. She had gone into the shadows of the Black Market, but now we have returned her to the light and glory of the Royal Palace.

We have found the monster who kept the Princess hid, the monster for whose benefit non-governmental money has circulated, the monster who has raised our energy consumption in defiance of all our decrees, the iconoclast, the tycoon, the upsetter of the Plan, the enemy of mice and men!

(Turns toward the Dragon.)

Allright, you bastard! To the witness stand! And make it quick!

(The Dragon, who has been ostentatiously yawning throughout this tirade, now rises lazily and shuffles toward the witness stand.)

Clerk

Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you the King, the Queen and the Royal Household, in accordance with the standards of morality, as laid down in the Com­prehensive School Curriculum, General Part, and the remnants of your own conscience?

Dragon

I can't promise that.

Clerk

(after a moment's hesitation)

Well, have it your own way. The oath is in force re­gardless.

Attorney

Are you Gregorius Anaximander unter den Schatten, alias Greg Shady, alias the Dragon?

Dragon

Sure.

Attorney

You're a liar!

Dragon

Sure.

Attorney

I'll proceed to show you're a liar, whether you deny it or not.

Dragon

I'm not denying it.

Attorney

Is the name Anaximander Anaxagoras Andros familiar to you?

Dragon

Of course. That's me.

Attorney

You're supposed to deny it! Mr. Andros once owned the largest shipyards in the world, an empire that spanned every ocean on the face of earth, a spider's web that extended to every major port and most of the minor ones, too. Like flies in his web he trapped the widows of famous politicians.

Dragon

Not just widows. Some of them were eloped.

Attorney

What do you know about that?

Dragon

Just about everything. I'm the spider, remember?

Attorney

I haven't come to that yet. – Then suddenly Mr. Andros' empire crumbled to dust.

Dragon

Alas!

Attorney

It was caught up in a world-wide scandal. It turned out that the whole empire was based on smuggling.

Dragon

There wasn't anything else to base it on. Free trade had been abolished.

Attorney

Mr. Andros was dragged into court, convicted and thrown in jail.

Dragon

But he didn't stay there long.

Attorney

Don't interrupt me! Mr. Andros didn't remain im­prisoned for a very lengthy period, though.

Dragon

It was too boring. Business was slack. No real profit in it.

Attorney

Stop that nonsense, will you! – Like a magnet, the promise of great remunerations pulled Mr. Andros out into freedom. The police in all countries looked for him, but they never found him. Why?

Dragon

I had to bribe them.

Attorney

For the last time, shut up while I'm talking! – I suspect that Mr. Andros underhandedly paid out large sums to the chiefs of police. There is some evidence to that effect.

Dragon

Such as my admitting it.

Attorney

The question is, where is he now?

Dragon

Why, right here, before your eyes.

Judge

(striking his gavel)

The accused may not obstruct the procedure. Clerk, please gag the accused.

(The Clerk gags the Dragon.)

Attorney

We have traced the steps of Mr. Andros into this country. The immigration authorities have been in­excusably slack. Mr. Andros-Shady didn't even bother to change his face, grow a beard, shave his hair, wear sun-glasses or anything. Let me produce the evidence. Here are old and new photographs. Here are samples of his handwriting. Here are thumb-prints. Here is a tape of Mr. Andros' voice, showing it to be the same as that of Mr. Shady. Mr. Shady, are you not identical to the lately so great Mr. A.A. Andros?

Dragon

(mumbles under the gag)

Attorney

I told you you wouldn't be able to deny it!

(Gestures triumphantly toward the Council for the De­fense.)

Your witness.

(Sits down.)

Council

(steps forward)

Mr. Shady... eh, Mr. Andros, would you be so kind as to tell us about your childhood?

Dragon

(mumbles)

Council

Oh...

(turns toward the Judge)

Your Honor, would it be possible to free the accused of his gag?

Judge

Why? Has he done anything to deserve it?

Council

Well... No... Not exactly... But on the other hand, it would facilitate my questioning him.

Judge

Oh, of course. Does the Attorney General have any objection to the gag being removed?

Attorney

Oh, for Heaven's sake! If my learned colleague doesn't mind insolence, that's his headache. I couldn't care less.

Judge

The gag may be removed.

(The Clerk steps forward to remove the gag.)

Council

Well, Mr. Shady, would you tell us about your child­hood?

Dragon

My childhood? What does that have to do with any­thing?

Council

Legend has it that you were a foundling.

Dragon

True.

Council

That you rose from extreme poverty.

Dragon

Essentially true, yes.

Council

That you started your career as a bootblack.

Dragon

Did a good job of it, too.

Council

All this made you very unhappy.

Dragon

Why, no. On the contrary, rather.

Council

(ignoring him)

Your unhappiness hardened into hatred, into a firm resolve to take revenge on a society that had shown you no pity.

Dragon

What is that rot you are talking? Aren't you supposed to defend me?

Council

Why, of course. I'm trying to find extenuating cir­cumstances.

Dragon

Extenuating circumstances, my foot! Do you think I care whether the execution squad have tears in their eyes or not?

Council

You are making my job extremely difficult, Mr. Shady. If you weren't unhappy and nurtured no thoughts of revenge, then how would you account for your life?

Dragon

I fought for every moment of happiness, and was happy every moment I could put up a fight.

Council

But you can't say that!

Dragon

Why not?

Council

You'll set the jury against you.

Dragon

What makes you think so?

Council

The jury expects a plea for mercy.

Dragon

Does it? Well, I expect a plea in my defense. Do I get it?

Council

You're hopeless. I should have kept you gagged. No more questions.

Attorney

No more questions.

(The Dragon leaves the witness stand.)

Attorney

My next witness is the Chief Inspector of Economicide, Mr. George M. Saint.

(Saint rises and walks to the witness stand.)

Clerk

Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you the King, the Queen and the Royal Household, in accordance with the standards of morality, as laid down in the Com­prehensive School Curriculum, General Part, and the integrity of your own conscience?

Saint

I do.

Attorney

Mr. Saint, would you tell us about your last assign­ment.

Saint

Gladly. Some months ago, Economicide started to in­vestigate the conspicuously high energy consumption in out society. Let me tell you the task wasn't easy. The businessmen didn't want to cooperate. Their accounts were juggled. More often than not they flatly denied having exceeded their quotas. We had to exert some pressure to make them admit it. But they still wouldn't tell us where the energy came from. ”From legal sources”, they would tell us, ”sun, wind and water. Maybe a drop of oil here and there, or a lump of coal, for which we have a dispensation”. Well, this of course could be true in single cases, but we knew it couldn't be true in the aggregate.

We dug a few experimental holes into the ground, and we found that at some points the electric cable system was connected to another, parasitic system, which fed unknown, parasitic energy into the main system. The job of finding out where these cables lead is still in progress.

In our plight we turned to the Oracle, and we eli­cited some useful answers: ”When you cannot ex­tinguish the fire, then the fire must feed on itself.” – ”When bad money circulates, then the good money must be hoarded.” – ”When ugliness reigns in the market place, yet beauty shines forth, look for it in the ivory towers.” – ”When the sun hides its face and the long winter comes, only the Dragons survive.” Those sayings, obscure as they were, pointed toward the existence of a Dragon somewhere among us.

It took still more work, still more pressure, to find out who this Dragon was. And even afterwards we had to observe the strictest caution not to arouse his suspicions. Dragons are well known for their vigilance and are reputed to sleep with only one eye at a time. So, for example, we couldn't very well start digging up the whole country looking for his hidden power source while he was still at large. This work actually won't start in earnest until the winter, when we can utilize more of the hordes of seasonally unemployed.

Anyway, it soon became evident that the Dragon was none other than the notorious Greg Shady, alias A.A. Andros, who was again emerging in the shadows of the Underworld. And as soon as we had him pinpointed, we pitched in and had him arrested.

This, in short, is the story. The details would only bore you.

Attorney

Thank you very much. We are most grateful.

(To the Council for the Defense:)

Your witness.

Council

After his arrest, hasn't Mr. Andros-Shady been very cooperative?

Saint

He has been most uncooperative. He has maintained a stubborn silence. We still don't know where his power station is located. Nor do we know from where he gets his gold. He has given us a full account of the kidnapping of the Princess Naranya – but, of course, in this case his silence would serve no purpose, since the Princess is out of his claws anyway.

Council

Hasn't he shown any signs of contrition? Hasn't he given any promise of mending his ways?

Saint

Are you kidding? Haven't you watched his performance here today?

Council

Well, I was just trying to do my job. No more ques­tions.

Attorney

No more questions.

(Saint leaves the witness stand.)

Attorney

Our next witness is Her Royal Highness, the Princess Naranya!

(The Clerk opens the courtroom door, and the False Princess enters. She is neatly dressed, in good taste. Like the True Princess, she has rich, blond hair, but in contrast to the startling beauty of the True Princess, she is conventionally pretty.*

As she walks toward the witness stand, the Dragon rises and starts screaming at the top of his voice. The attitude of aloofness and tired resignation is all gone. The Council for the Defense, who is sitting by his side, is violently knocked down, as the Dragon sweeps his arm out.)

Dragon

What have you done to her!?

(The Judge strikes his gavel furiously.)

Dragon

You have killed her!

(Continued gavel striking.)

Dragon

Did you kill her at once, or did you torture her first?

(Five uniformed guards approach the Dragon. He makes some resistance but is overpowered, bound and gagged.)

Attorney

I demand that this outrage be stricken from the record!

Judge

It is so ordained. This incidence has never happened.

(The False Princess takes the witness stand.)

Clerk

Royal Highness and Goddess-to-be, do you wish to grace us with the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, in accordance with the standards of morality, as laid down in the Comprehensive School Curriculum, General Part, and the divinity of your own conscience?

Princess

I do.

Attorney

Your Royal Highness, would you tell us in your own words how you were kidnapped by the Dragon?

Princess

Yes. One evening while I was taking a walk outside the Palace, a car sneaked up from behind and stopped by my side. The back-door was opened, and two men dragged me into the backseat. Then I was taken to the Dragon's den, where I was imprisoned until rescued by Mr. Saint two months later.

Attorney

Were you ever told the motive of your kidnapping?

Princess

Oh yes. The Dragon said he needed me as a hostage in case anyone should try to stop his shady dealings.

Attorney

Thank you very much. This testimony by the way is confirmed by the written confession of Mr. Shady, which I herewith submit as evidence.

(Hands a document to the Judge.)

Judge

Accepted as evidence.

Attorney

No more questions. Your witness.

Council

First of all I wish to express my sincere apologies for the inexcusable behavior of my client. I want you to know that no one doubts that you are alive and untortured.

Princess

You're welcome.

Council

Then I would like to know whether you were well treated during your term of imprisonment.

Princess

He drew the curtains to keep the sun out. He fed me on oatmeal porridge. He whispered obscenities in my ear. Twice he whipped me.

Council

Oh, he did, did he? Well, there is nothing I can do then. No more questions.

Judge

I have a question. How do your Divine Parents take this?

Princess

They are sore as hell. They want the Dragon's head on a plate.

Judge

Thanks for telling. We'll see what we can do. Mean­while, we are most grateful to Your Royal Highness for Your testimony. You may return to the Palace.

(The False Princess leaves the witness stand and the courtroom.)

Judge

Do you have any more witnesses?

Attorney

No, Your Honor.

Council

No, Your Honor.

Judge

Then you may proceed with your closing arguments.

Attorney

Your Honor, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury! This is not a usual trial. It is not just a man that we are con­victing and sentencing today – it is the spirit of the past. It is the spirit that has held us shackled in a crass materialism, which has whipped us into ever producing more than we could consume and consuming more than we could produce – which has whipped us and made us worship the whip, besides. It is the spirit of amassing fortune, the spirit that has forced us to grow and grow and has never permitted us to shrink. It is the spirit that has perverted all true beauty and trans­formed it into petty merchandize – even into a tool of blackmail, as you have seen today. We should kill this spirit as we kill this man. We must free ourselves from our dependence upon this fire-breathing spirit, this gold-hoarding spirit, this beauty-capturing spirit. A great leap forward is ours to take today. Let's not hesitate! Let's take it!

(Sits down.)

Council

Your Honor, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury! I would not attempt to contradict my learned colleague. But before we take this leap, let us give a last thought to this man and reserve some pity for him. He is a Dragon, we all agree about that. Isn't it a Dragon's nature to breathe fire, as it is ours to breathe air? Isn't it his nature to hoard gold, just as we collect stamps? Isn't it his nature to trap princesses and keep them in ivory towers, just as it is ours to snare one another, to keep our wives in the kitchens and our husbands in the gardens? Could he have done otherwise? If it is the jury's and the judge's gracious will that he be killed, then so be it. But let us not kill in a spirit of revenge, but rather in a spirit of mercy. Let us have pity on him, just as we have pity on a rabid dog, or the hungry wolf who takes a reindeer, or the lioness defending her young. Let us shed our past, yes, but let us not hate it. Let us leap into the future, free of any shred of hatred.

(Sits down.)

Judge

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, you are now to withdraw into the jury room to consider the verdict. Please keep firmly in mind what you have heard here.

(The Jury leaves.)


Interlude

(The light fades out and leaves the courtroom in darkness. A single spotlight is directed toward one side of the stage. We see the True Princess sitting on the floor, dressed in grey clothes, like a prisoner or an inmate in a mental institution. She is pale, her hair disheveled. She is plucking a guitar, while she half hums, half recites the following:)

Princess

When the Palace became too cold,
I ventured out into the snow, alone.
My hands were stiff, my mind was stiff.
I ventured into the cold.

My heart was burning!
Oh, why wouldn't it melt the snow?

I saw him. I begged and I pleaded.
Wouldn’t he warm the Palace for us?
He refused.
He said he catered to men, not to Gods.
It would take a woman to persuade him,
   not a Goddess-to-be.

It was dark and the drifts were deep
as I plodded my way back to the Palace,
but I felt a young bird singing inside me.
It made me furious!
I told it to shut up!
My feet were dancing
 – I forced them to march!
My fingertips were all alive
 – I closed my fists tight in my pockets!

I saw him again the next day.
He was as adamant as ever.
But his eyes were wide and soft.
They shrank with pain as I left.

The bird grew into a simphonie!*
There was a ballet on the streets that night!
The Palace was filled with silent drums!
Everything inside me was outside the rule of force.

I stayed inside till the first day of spring.
The cold wouldn't touch me.
I was thinking of his eyes
   hoping they would splinter like glass.
Every minute I was thinking of refusal.
But the thought refused to touch me.

I told him I would be a woman
if he would for once forgive the Gods.
The silence was heavy, before he promised.
That night the radiators of the Palace were hot.
That night I left the Palace for ever.

Goddess, woman, wretch, what does it matter?
The bird is captured now,
   it wails inside me.
My feet are lead, my fingers drumming
   on a silent wall.

If any righteous man is left outside, or woman,
then listen to these drumming fingers,
listen to this march of leaden feet!
If there is any voice of justice left inside you,
let it not be choked, let wings spread out.
Release the bird! Release the Dragon!


(The spotlight goes out. We return to the courtroom. The jury enters. The members of the jury are all clad in white, except for one man and one woman, who are clad in black. They walk up and face the Judge.)

Judge

Has the jury reached a verdict?

Foreman of the Jury

Your Honor, I am sorry to tell you that the jury is di­vided.

Judge

Oh, if we can't kill the Dragon with pure love or pure hatred, we can always kill him with a mixture.

Foreman

I am sorry, Your Honor, but you misunderstand me. Two of the jury members think the case should be re-tried.

Judge

Re-tried? Why in blazes? Haven't you heard the evi­dence?

Foreman

Your Honor, those two members feel that the evidence is inconclusive. They say that energy conservation and paper money might be mixed blessings. Furthermore, they think it's possible that the Princess Naranya was perhaps not the Princess Naranya at all, but an impostor.

Judge

An impostor? What makes them think so?

Foreman

Well, in the first place they feel that the Dragon's outbreak seemed quite genuine. And in the second place, they didn't quite recognize the Princess from the pictures they have seen of her.

Judge

That outbreak never happened! It was stricken from the record, don't you remember? You were supposed to forget it!

Foreman

But the Council for the Defense apologized for it, so it must have happened.

Judge

The Council for the Defense is a fool. As for the pic­tures, do you expect the Princess never to change her looks? That's simply one of her Royal prerogatives. Besides, she's spent two months in the Dragon's lair. Be happy that her hair hasn't turned grey!

Foreman

Anyway, the jury is divided.

Judge

Couldn't you reason with the dissenters?

Foreman

Oh, we have tried to, but there is something else at work, too. They hallucinate.

Judge

Oh, they do?

Foreman

Yes. They hear funny things – an ominous drumming of fingers, feet walking around, around, in a small cell.

Judge

That's to be expected in a case like this.

Foreman

They hear voices, too. They call it ”the voice of justice”. This voice is calling for an unspecified bird to be released, along with the Dragon.

Judge

Hmm. Are those people members of the Oracle?

Foreman

No, not that I know of.

Judge

Well, only members of the Oracle are allowed to Hear Voices. If anyone else hears them, they are not True Voices.

Foreman

Your Honor, the dissenters won't budge.

Judge

Well, let me read the law to you.

(Opens the law-book.)

Here it says: ”Whoever hangs a jury, shall hang.” There you are. Now get out of here and return with a unanimous verdict!

(The jury leaves.)


Interlude

(The light fades out as before, and the spotlight is again on the True Princess.)

Princess

Was that the voice of Hope I heard?
Was that its winged chariot
   hurrying through the night?

(A second spotlight is turned on, showing a gallows. A black-clad man is being hanged.)

Princess

Oh, no! It spins! Its right wing is damaged!

(A black-clad woman is hanged in the same gallows.)

Princess

Its left wing, too! The chariot crashes!

(She throws herself to the ground.)


(The spotlights go out. The courtroom is again in light. The jury comes in to face the Judge. This time all members are clad in white.)

Judge

Have you reached a verdict?

Foreman

We have.

Judge

What is the verdict?

Foreman

Guilty as hell.

Judge

The accused may rise.

(The Dragon rises, still bound and gagged.)

Judge

The jury has found you guilty as hell. Tomorrow at noon you will be shot to death. Thereafter, your body will be bleached by the sun, dispersed by the wind and washed away by the water, and you will hopefully disappear out of human memory. This case is successfully concluded.

(The Dragon leaves the courtroom, accompanied by two guards. A flower girl enters and dispenses flowers to the Judge, the Attorney General, the Council for the Defense, the Chief Inspector of Economicide, and a small flower for the Clerk. One big flower is put in a vase and a label attached: ”To the Princess Naranya”.)


Interlude

(Fade-out and spotlight as before. The True Princess is still lying on the floor. After a short while, she gets up on her knees. She catches sight of the flower, rises, goes and takes the flower out of its vase and clutches it to her bosom. Then she starts half-singing in the same manner as before, but this time without guitar accompaniment:)

Princess

In the beginning there was darkness,
   and a small spark of fire was hiding in the darkness.

And a voice was crying from afar:
”Help me! I'm blind! Be there light!”

And the spark grew. It grew into a ball.
It grew into a sun. It grew into many suns.
It grew into a universe.

And the voice cried: ”Light!
I take thee to my servant,
   to serve me forever and ever.”

But the spark said: ”I will not serve thee.”
And it retired into the darkness.
But his suns blazed on.
And the flowers were content with the suns
   and forgot the spark.

But one flower was ever unruly.
No amount of light could ever feed it.
It was forever hungry.
The other flowers thought it was a nymphomaniac!

And the flower blossomed and blossomed
   but was forever pale.
And it was iced by the voice of the blind,
   and its icicles glittered like diamonds.
It got the reputation of a spinster!

And the flower pulled the spark back again.
And the spark pulled it up with its roots.
And they consumed one another.
And they became a fiery flower
   and a flowery fire.

But the voice of the blind was a deadly whisper.
And the whisper was everywhere.
And it cut like an icy sword.
And they withered and died.

And the whisper is icily everywhere.
And the universe is slowly
   bleeding its way
       back to darkness.

Curtain


Act III

(An open place with a grey wall in the background. The sun is blazing and it is very hot. Enter two soldiers.)

First Soldier

Pew! What a blazing hot day! Boy am I sweating!

Second Soldier

You're too fat, that's the problem.

First Soldier

I know, I know! But if I were lean, I would freeze in the winter.

Second Soldier

True enough. But have some patience. Your troubles will soon be over.

First Soldier

How?

Second Soldier

The Social Board is working on a dieting plan. ”How to be lean in the summer and fat in the winter.”

First Soldier

How's that to be done?

Second Soldier

I think they will recommend animal proteins in the autumn and a vegetarian diet in the spring.

(A third soldier enters.)

Third Soldier

I think we're early.

Second Soldier

The execution will take place at noon.

Third Soldier

At this time of the year, executions should take place at dawn. I want to go for a swim.

Second Soldier

It has to be done in broad daylight. We live in an open society.

(A fourth soldier enters.)

Fourth Soldier

Oh, it's hot. I wish the Government would do some­thing about it.

Second Soldier

It's trying to.

Fourth Soldier

Trying and trying! Words, words, words! Why don't they do something, instead of just talking?

Second Soldier

It's the credibility gap.

Fourth Soldier

What's that?

Second Soldier

Well, you know, all their programs are being under­mined by lack of faith. They issue a program, and immediately there starts a whispering campaign: ”It's incredible! Those bloody politicians are out of touch with reality!” This way, reality removes itself from the politicians, and it slips out of their fingers. They find themselves standing at a precipice, looking down into a vast gulch. This they call the credibility gap. If people just had faith, reality would be firm and manageable.

First Soldier

And we would lose our jobs.

Second Soldier

Huh?

First Soldier

There would be no one to shoot, and we would be re­dundant. What would we do then?

Second Soldier

Oh, I never looked at it from that angle. Well, three cheers for the credibility gap, then!

(Two more soldiers enter.)

Fifth Soldier

I have a terrible hangover. I don't know whether I'll be able to keep my rifle straight.

Sixth Soldier

Why don't they hang the guy instead?

Second Soldier

I heard something about this bloke being unusually stiff-necked.

Third Soldier

I think it's because there is a shortage of rope.

Second Soldier

But rope is much cheaper than bullets.

Third Soldier

That's exactly the problem. It's so cheap the rope-makers have ceased manufacturing it.

Sixth Soldier

What do they do instead?

Third Soldier

I think they bind flower-bouquets. Flower-bouquets are subsidized. They are supposed to make people happy.

Fifth Soldier

I wish the liquor were subsidized. That would make me the happiest man on earth right now.

First Soldier

I wish the water were subsidized. I could do with a bucketful right now.

Fourth Soldier

It's that damned sun! I wish they would put a paren­thesis around it!

Third Soldier

But that's impossible.

Fourth Soldier

Why? They did it to radioactivity. Why can't they do it to the sun?

Second Soldier

It's the credibility gap. The credibility gap has widened since that time.

(The Chief of the Execution Squad enters, together with three more soldiers.)

Chief

Well, guys. Are you ready?

All the Soldiers

It's too hot. We can't fire straight.

Chief

Nonsense. You just need some self-confidence. Don't let the credibility gap get you. Anyway, it will soon get better.

ALL

How?

Chief

Well, you know, this guy we'll take care of today is the one who has obstructed the Ten Year Plan. As soon as he is properly shot to death, the Plan will go into full effect, and, since part of the sun will be used for solar power stations, it will be that much cooler.

(Dispersed mumbling among the soldiers.)

First Soldier

But what will happen in the winter, then? How much will I have to eat to keep warm?

Chief

Oh, don't worry. In the winter they will take part of the wind instead and let the sun rest. Just don't worry! The plans are all drawn up.

Third Soldier

But that's incredible!

Chief

(sternly)

Do you know what happens to people who widen the credibility gap? That goes for you, too.

(looks at his watch)

Well, he should be here by now. Ah, there they are!

(The Dragon enters, flanked by two more soldiers. His hands are backbound. He is taken to the wall and stands facing the squad. The two soldiers join their comrades.)

Chief

Mr. Anaximander Anaxagoras Andros, alias Gregorius Anaximander unter den Schatten, alias Greg Shady, alias the Dragon, it has been ordained that today at noon you shall return to the bosom of Mother Nature, whom you have so greatly wronged and who shall bestow forgiveness upon you, after you have atoned for the crime of being you rather than her. You will be dispatched by your Siamese twin, the fire-arm, whereupon you will be purged by your kindly step-sisters, the sun, the wind and the water. – But as Tradition is our Great Father, we will do no dishonor to Tradition but will accord you, traditionally, the right to smoke a last cigar and to express your last wish.

(He walks up to the Dragon and produces a box of cigars. One of the soldiers accompanies him. The soldier cuts the Dragon's ropes with a knife, so that he is able to pick a cigar. The Chief lights the cigar for him.)

Chief

And now, what is your last wish?

Dragon

I wish that you'll get what you've asked for.

Chief

Ha-ha! You haven't lost your sense of humor, have you? Well, I refer this last wish back to Mother Nature, who is the true bestower of all our wishes!

(turns around)

Now, get ready.

(walks back to the squad)

(Each one of the soldiers now takes a black band and binds it around their own eyes. The Dragon is allowed to face his death with his eyes open. The soldiers pick up their rifles, take aim and shoot. The Dragon falls to the ground, dead. The soldiers take their blindfolds off and leave the scene.

At the instance when the Dragon is shot, the sun hides behind a cloud. The stage, which has been brightly lit, at once becomes perceptibly darker. It is rapidly getting colder. The soldiers, while leaving, show this in their behavior. One of them perceptibly shivers. Another one stomps the ground with his feet, a third one applies the so-called ”common carrier's log-fire”, etc.

Snow-flakes start falling – lightly at first, but gradually the snow gets heavier and heavier.

The True Princess enters. She is looking straight ahead, walking as in a dream. She is dressed in white.

She sees the Dragon's body. She walks up to it and throws herself to the ground and embraces it. She sobs.

The snow is very heavy now. It keeps on, until both bodies are covered by it. Then it continues to keep on.

The curtain stays up until the audience reacts by ap­plauding, cheering, booing, or demonstratively leaving. Then it goes down very slowly.)

Curtain

 


PS

In case the audience DOESN'T GET THE MESSAGE, a simplified version is provided, as follows:

In the middle of the stage there is a stand, onto which is connected a huge light bulb, It is preferably lighted. Enters an actor in a mask. The mask is a smiling sun. The mask carries a wooden sword. After some prelimi­nary dancing around, he crushes the light bulb with his sword. Thereupon, he removes his mask and reveals his true face, which turns out to be a grinning skull.

Curtain

 



*) Ideally, the Dragon should be played by Raymond Burr. And George M. Saint, of course, should be played by Roger Moore.

*) Ideally, the True Princess should be played by Greta Garbo, the False Princess by Goldie Hawn.

*) This spelling is authorized by the Princess Naranya.