Tag Archives: alternate reality

Alice Investigates: An Absurdity in Five Acts

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Act One: The Disappearing

Act One, Scene One

Setting: Night time. Wascana Park near the lake. East of the Albert St. bridge.

[A young man stands at the edge of the water, his hair dishevelled as he runs a hand through it, repeatedly. His other hand digs a bent cigarette out of his pocket, brings it to his lips, then puts it back in his pocket. It is dark; he is mostly in shadow]

Tony: That’s all I know, I swear. All they wrote, you know. Everything there is to know, I’m telling you.

[There is no answer. There are the sounds of waves lapping against the shore, as if something is steadily moving in the water near to shore. Tony paces away from the waterfront, turning his back to it for a second before coming back. Again, his hand digs the bent cigarette out of his pocket.]

Tony: Lie, why would I lie? What purpose does lying serve? A man is only as good as his work, you know. That’s what they say, isn’t it?

[Again, there is no response. In the distance there is a goose honk, as if it is disturbed, and the sound of wings beating against water. Over the bridge a car passes, honking its horn, the sounds of joy riding going South to North.]

Tony: You can’t do that, you promised! You said that if I got this for you, you’d let me in. I did what you asked so you have to do what you promised! An eye for an eye, don’t you know!

[Tony crouches down near the edge of the water, puts the bent cigarette between his lips and points at something in the water. He waits for a short pause and seems to visibly relax.]

Tony: Good . . . good. A deal is a deal. We made a bargain and shook on it. I joined the cause and I want what we agreed on.

[There is the sound of movement, water and waves. Tony drags his fingers through his hair again, and nods to himself. Pulling his hands back he sits down on his butt. With some effort he struggles out of his jacket and folds it before setting it down next to himself. He then removes one shoe and sets it aside, followed by the other. Shortly, his socks are removed, balled up, and shoved in the shoes.]

Tony: No, I won’t change my mind. Through thick and thin, we’re in this together now. Thick as thieves, one of the fold, you know.

[Tony scoots himself closer to the edge of the water.]

Tony: An artist must sacrifice himself for his art, right? The cause demands a price. I’m committed, I won’t back down.

[There is a strange surge in the water. Between one second and the next, Tony goes from sitting on the edge of the shore to slipping underneath the water. There is a splash. Slowly the ripples fade to silence, darkness, stillness. In the distance there is the sound of a passing car of joyriders, going North to South across the bridge.]

Act One, Scene Two

Setting: Inside a room. It is well lit. There is a door to the left and a window to the right. Above, a ceiling fan turns lazily, casting a rotating shadow on the figure below. There are three piles of books/magazines/papers on a desk.

[A woman sits in the chair behind the desk, her legs kicked up and crossed at the ankles, precariously resting on the edge of the desk. Her chair is tilted back, her head hanging over the side. Somewhere in the room, there is a radio playing the news.]

Radio Anchor: [Spoken with a slight accent, sentences ended with the sounds of sips being taken from a mug] No one knows where the feet came from, but forensics experts are convinced that more remains to be found. Police are still looking for other pieces to flesh out the body of evidence.

In local news, Regina’s newest mayor, Albert Saint Albert vows to shut down the protests that have been taking place outside of city hall and down at the new wharf. The protests are, of course, the result of the new sweeping city bylaws instituted last month by Albert St. . . . I mean, Saint Albert, which allow for the use of city parks, including Wascana, to be opened up to commercial development by the logging and fishing industries. Those who advocated for the development of the land applaud the decision, as it will greatly increase their ability to create change in the city. Protestors, on the other hand, are concerned over what those commercial developments will mean for the major city park, the largest and last such urban park in the whole of Canada.

[The woman, Alice, raises her hands above her head, splaying her fingers out wide. Carefully she tilts back a bit more, raising her crossed ankles up off the desk, balancing. There is a notebook open on her lap, notably devoid of any writing.]

Radio Anchor: In developing news, police are still seeking information about the recent string of disappearances in the city. All are young, twenty something individuals with devil-may-care attitudes and misplaced notions of their place in the world. Names of the missing, along with photographs and a brief biography, can be found on our website. Any leads you have should be jotted down and brought to your local police station or left in Facebook comments on the official investigations event page. The lead investigator, featured earlier today in a news conference, had this to say about the progress in the case:

[There is a marked change in the audio quality, a hubbub of voices murmuring as a man clears his throat.]

Detective Nickles: [He speaks as if he is still chewing on a sandwich, as though his lunch/breakfast was interrupted by this planned conference] People. People! Calm yourselves down. Hold your horses. There’s nothing to worry about. I’ve looked into things. These kids . . . adults really. These adults are probably just fine. Given their background, and the interests listed on their profile pages, they’re probably all at a music festival in a field somewhere, comparing the size of their hands and wondering where the next snack is. All this fuss, all this worry is too much. The search parties, the fliers, the helicopter and night time patrols. All too much and unneeded. You watch. Give it another week, and they’ll all comes wandering back home, dazed and confused, a little sleepy and hungover, but fine. Then you’ll see that this was all a waste of time and effort. Time that you could have spent at the new sport-fishing tours on the lake or experiencing what it’s like to be a lumberjack at the “Lumberjack Experience Camp”, now in scenic Wascana Park. Now, enough of this. All you paper people go back to your paper presses and print something interesting, like the golf scores, or photos of the new stadium sitting there, majestic and wide open, waiting for a big show to book in.

[The hubbub dies down and the radio returns to the previous quality, the feed is obviously now back in the newsroom.]

Radio Anchor: This has been your local news for the hour, stay tuned for international news at the top of the hour. Coming up after the weather, the thrilling finale of “So You Think You’re a Survivalist”, the hit radio drama that has been sweeping the nation. I for one hope that we get to find out what happened when they ran out of firewood.

[Somewhere, over the din of the radio, there is the sound of breaking glass, an obvious tumble, and a recovery. Alice tries to get up as the sounds of rapid footsteps begin to sound, but given that her legs are crossed, she kind of rolls out of the chair, tangled in her own legs. As the footsteps becomes louder, more rapid, she dive-rolls behind her desk, reaching up to grab at something with which to defend herself. First, she grabs a stapler and wields it like a gun, but abandons it and grabs a pen instead, holding it like a dagger.]

Alice: I’m warning you, whoever you are out there, I have a mighty weapon, and I am not afraid to use it!

[The footsteps stop just short of the door, there is a brief pause, and then a series of three precise, loud knocks, followed by a pause. Alice sits up a bit, elbows on the desk, and watches the door. Half a minute later, the three knocks repeat themselves.]

Alice: Come in.

[The door swings open in dramatic fashion, and a man steps in, dressed in jeans and an open flannel shirt, a beanie on his head. Turning, open to the ‘audience’, he closes the door, before making the same turn in reverse to face Alice.]

Jones: [Crosses from the right of the room to the desk.] I hope I’m not catching you at a bad time, but this is absolutely urgent. [Jones stops and looks down at the ground, he takes half a step back and turns himself to be open to the ‘audience’, so that he is not shut off to the desk] It was imperative that we speak immediately, due to urgency. [He speaks as if reading a script his is unfamiliar with.]

Alice: Jones? [She lowers the pen, seeming to relax a little] You should get that checked out. How did you get in here? Was that you breaking in?

Jones: [Takes a breath, looks meaningfully back at the door for a moment, and then slowly turns back to audience] Oh no, I surprised your secretary, he dropped his martini glass. He told me I could find you in your office, said you were in and free to help. That you’d be willing to hear my plea. [He crosses to the desk, pulls out a chair and sits down. After a second, he gets back up, turns the chair to be ‘open’ to the desk, and sits down again, crossing his upstage leg over the other.]

Alice: My Secretary? This . . . this is my house. My private house. And my Office. My private office in my private house! [In a huff, Alice crosses over to the door and throws it open] MAX! Not funny! No more late-night drinking games to black and white movies for you, anymore! And get off of that table! [She throws the door closed again and crosses back over to her desk.]

Jones: [Leans onto the desk, waiting for Alice to look at him] Help me Alice, you’re my only hope! I don’t know who else I have left to go to for help at this point!

[Alice sighs and rights her chair, before sitting in it opposite the desk from Jones, she is closed off to the desk compared to his open. Jones tries to relay through hand signals for her to open herself up from the desk, but she either ignores the gestures or does not understand them.]

Alice: Well, if you really need some help, some advice if you will, I just might be able to help you. Is it writer’s block? It’s always writer’s block, isn’t it, it gets us all. Why, I’ve been battling with a case myself recently, but I’ve put it well behind me. I have some very useful exercises we could work through.

[A voice rings out, echo-y, old-timey, like an old noir film a little smoky, and a little bit slurred.]

Max: It was true, I thought to myself. I had been through a dry spell. Drier than the driest gin you could find in a dive in this part of town. But here it was, the case that could set me right back on track. Jones looks at me, pleading in his doe-like eyes, a look that would spell danger for anyone without their head fastened on tight.

[Jones doesn’t hear the voice, doesn’t acknowledge it, but Alice looks up and around, a bit confused.]

Jones: You need to help me find Tony! He vanished. Poof! Like smoke. He’s been taken, I know it, just like all the others. I need you to find him and bring him home, Alice! [Jones throws himself over the desk, grasping Alice’s hands in his, but makes sure he is still in an open position.]

Alice: Jones! Hold your horses just a minute there!

Jones: I don’t have any horses.

Max: [Still disembodied] Ah, prettier than a blue jay, but about as sharp as a pillow.

Alice: Not what I meant, Jones. Turn of phrase . . . figure of speech? But you got to slow down, explain it to me.

Jones: [Lets go of Alice’s hands] Oh . . . oh! Right . . . right, sorry. But Tony, my roommate, you remember? He’s gone missing.

Alice: [gets up from the desk, walks around it, passed Jones] I really don’t think I can help you with that. This is probably something more for the police to deal with, or social media. You know, people with real power.

Jones: [Stands up and crosses to Alice. He stops. Looks down at his feet, takes half a step back and turns to open] The police refuse to help! They say that the people, like Tony, that they’re not missing, just gone. They won’t even file the report, just shuffled the papers around before filing them in the shredder! Help me Alice, I come to you in my hour of need.

Alice: I write young adult fiction, Jones, not detective stories. I don’t know the first thing about finding a missing person, Jones! How am I supposed to help?

Jones: [Walks up to Alice, takes her by the shoulders, gives her a quick shake] Of course you do, Alice! With nothing but your great mind, you found Olivia Flaversham’s missing toymaker father, and uncovered Rattigan’s dastardly plot to replace the Queen of England with a wind-up toy robot! Without you, a real rat would be ruling the entire Commonwealth right now!

Max: With my brain and his looks, we could go places . . . not fancy places, but you know, places. Maybe this was what I needed to kick myself out of the shadows, to pick myself up and show off my metal.

Alice: That was just a play, Jones. A play based off a classic children’s movie. I only played Basil of Baker Street. There was a script, I didn’t solve a thing! No one even came to the show!

Jones: I believe in you; the script was just your clue to solving the whole case. You’re the only one who can find Tony. Without you, all our hopes will be lost.

Alice: Well . . . when you put it that way . . .

Max: I never could say no, even when I was in over my head.

Jones: [Shakes Alice again, and lets go of her shoulders, grinning and whooping] I knew I could count on you! The last text message I got from Tony said, “Leave me alone, I’m heading out to the lake.” So, I guess he went to Wascana. He never came home after that, and his phone was off. No answer to my 27 calls since this morning. That would be the best place to start, to put your nose on the trail. Call me when you sort this all out! [He turns to go, moving to the door, but as his hands touches the knob, he stops, has a lightbulb moment and turns around] Almost forgot, silly me. Always exit to the right. [He passes Alice, moving to the window on the other side of the desk and opens it, slipping halfway out.]

Alice: Wait! Just one more thing, Jones. Why is it so important to find Tony? I mean, he didn’t even come to the play, and you got him a ticket every night. Is it love?

Jones: [He is halfway out the window but ducks his head back in] He still has my Nickelback CD, and the mailbox key. [Jones goes to complete his exit but stops himself. There are the sounds of tumbling, then of a fall onto ground. A moment of silence, before there are some groans and shuffling off.]

Max: [Voice still disembodied, echoing, more slurred] This was my moment, I thought to myself. The case that could put an end to my dry spell.

Alice: Max! Stop narrating!!

Max: If I could solve the caper of Missing Tony, I would be back in the game. No more late-night bar rooms and smoky dives, no more empty pages taunting me from across the room with promises of great nights.

Alice: Are you in the ventilation, Max?!?!?

Max: I grabbed my trench coat and fedora and closed the shades on my glass front door. Private Eye Alice is going to walk the beat and turn up the leads.

Alice: [climbs up on her desk, pulling the grate off the vent system] How many times have I told you not to go into the ventilation?! No more martinis before noon for you, anymore!

[END ACT I]

 

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Protocol

Protocol

Three blinked at the reflection in the mirror, focusing on the grey eyes staring back from the other side. Nothing was different, nothing was out of place. When Three has woken up that morning, to get ready for school as usual, it had been with a strange feeling that something had shifted, but no matter how Three looked at it, everything seemed just the same as it had the day before, the week before, the month before, and the year before. Nothing has changed.

Turning off the light, Three went to the kitchen, once again, the same routine as every other morning. There was a protein shake sitting on the counter, next to a lunch bag and a copy of the daily paper. As always, the front page flashed in warning; bold, red letters warned the readers of the graphic content, alerting them that what lay beyond the front page was not suited for most. The articles would likely offend many, or turn the stomach. Instead, the front page suggested that all the reader really needed to know was that the weather was going to be pleasant, and that the two district teams that had met in their races the previous night had tied, and decided to be friends and compete again the next night. With that, it brought the collective all-time records for both teams to 0 Wins- 0 Losses- 2,950 Ties, a respectable performance history for both teams.

Three disregarded the paper, as always, and made to grab the protein shake. Three’s hand hesitated a moment, and instead of grabbing the drink, took the lunch bag instead. Three was not really feeling exceptionally hungry, so it would not do to waste valuable time on the drink. Ready for the day, Three approached the front door. As the door opened, an option warning popped up: “YOU HAVE FORGOTTEN BREAKFAST. PLEASE RETURN.” The warning, while optical, blocked Three’s entire field of vision, and the entire doorway. Three hit the exit button, but the warning merely re-appeared, effectively keeping Three from leaving the house to begin the journey to school. With a sigh, Three returned to the counter and picked up the shake, and the warning window disappeared. With the way no longer blocked, Three could leave without further issue, though the time for travel had been cut considerable closer than was comfortable.

Leaving the house, Three walked for at least a dozen yards before stopping, setting the still full protein shake down on the barrier that separated the walking routes. These barriers kept students of Three’s age and younger separated from the adults walking to work, the transports carrying goods and supplied, and the older students on their way to the secondary school building.

Other students feel into line on the path to the school. All walking the same way at the same pace. They said good morning, exchanged their happiness over the outcome of the game the night before, and contemplated their lessons and exercises for the day, which would be both pleasant and informative. No one spoke about the news beyond the front page of the paper.

It was the exact same as the day before. The same as always, unchanged in pattern. Still, Three continued to experience that same nagging sense of weight and shift, as if something was fundamentally different from  what it had been before.

Once all the students were inside and seated at their desks, the bell rang. As it happened each morning, their daily exam popped up on their desktops. Each student was faced with a series of four questions. They were the same as always, there was no variation, no change.

  1. How are you feeling? Well (correct)
  2. Who won last night? Both teams (Correct)
  3. Who holds the highest office in the government? The Chancellor Supreme (correct)
  4. Did you eat your breakfast?

At the last question, Three paused. Three had never paused before. Here it was. This was the difference, the shift that had been brushing up against the back on Three’s consciousness since waking. It had been felt before it had even occurred; the effect before the action that would generate it. It was as if Three had made this decision before it had even been a decision to make.

With a quick eye dart, Three glanced around the room at the others; all of their screens flashed a pleasant green, indicated that they had finished their daily exam. Indicating that every answer was uniform, correct. Tentatively, with a fluttering of unknown emotions, Three purposefully wrote his answer.

4.         Did you eat your breakfast? No.

It took a moment, but Three’s screen winked closed, and a new window popped up. First it opened in front of Three, and then in a cascade of pings across the room to the others, all looking straight ahead. The new window advised the students that everything was fine. And additional subset window opened in front of Three’s eyes, containing a set of three very clear instructions: Three was to remain quiet; to remain seated with hands placed flat on the desk; and that Three was to await the arrival of a task force which was being dispatched to remedy the detected compliance violation.

It became obvious that Three was the only one to receive these instruction, as the rest of the students remained calmly seated, looking straight ahead as if nothing as out of the ordinary. Three drew a deep breath, as for the second time that day, a wave of emotions that had never previously been felt took hold. Three had somehow knows, right from waking, that the world was shifting. As it turned out, it was only Three’s world that was shifting, and Three had been the one to set into free fall. Looking from the other students to the window, Three’s feet shifted a fraction of an inch. It only took a breath for Three to make another decision that had never been made before, another change to the sameness and repetition of the routine. With a quick breath, Three made a break for the open door.

Change was within Three’s reach, the door felt as if it were just there, waiting. Suddenly, Three was sprawling forward, reached by sensations that had previously been unknown, to which Three could ascribe no known words or past experience. The sensations forced legs  and arms to contract and lock awkwardly, no longer responding to the brains impulses to move. They sensations caused Three’s teeth to clamps down hard, pinching cheek tightly between strong molars. A second later, and that uncomfortable sensation was paired with the explosion of stars, as Three’s head met the ground with a thud, ears ringing. With vision swimming in and out of focus, Three felt hands grab that collar of their shirt, hefting them up from the ground, holding them suspended.

As three’s hearing returned, head pounding, there was the sound of a voice, speaking in controlled, clipped tones. As the voice spoke, they began to move, Three in tow above the ground. “Unit Three is contained. We will bring them in for evaluation. All other units in this zone appear to be functioning as normal, all coding pinging green. We believe this is an isolated incident. Please be advised to re-initialize protocol in 90 seconds. Extraction complete. Alpha Team signing off.”

Not a single student in the classroom seemed to notice what was going o, focused on the screens in front of their eyes, as if the words “All is well” were enough to keep them from curiously investigating the ruckus taking place behind them.

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