Jan. 27, 2022

Part 19: The Prison

THE PRISON

 

A sound of ocean waves. Footsteps on the boardwalk. The calls of seagulls. The wind picks up ominously - a young voice says, RUN.

The sounds of the shore cut out. Heavy footsteps, and grunting. Something clatters on the ground - Arthur startles awake.

Arthur: Was that…?

John: I think so.

Arthur: [Yawn] I must’ve dozed off last night. Morning.

John: Morning.

Arthur sits up. Main piano theme starts to play.

Arthur: What did they drop for us today?

John: Looks like another leg.

Arthur: Brilliant. [Grunts]

John: At least it looks cooked this time.

Arthur: Small graces.

John: Oh! They’ve refilled the bucket as well.

Arthur: Oh Jesus Christ… oh thank you.

Arthur drinks urgently from the water bucket

Arthur: Oh... That was the longest time yet.

John: They’re trying to starve you.

Arthur: Just enough to keep me alive. [Sigh]

Standing up

Arthur: Where’s the stone?

John: By your left foot.

Arthur: Oh.

Picking a stone off the ground

Arthur: It was four yesterday, so, uh… uh, here, about?

John: A little higher.

Arthur: Here?

John: Yes.

Stone scraping against the wall

Arthur: Well there’s our tally. What are we at now?

A long pause

John: 85 days.

Arthur: 85 days… Nearly three months.

John: Nearly.

Arthur: [Scoffs] Well, celebrations are in order, I suppose.

Footsteps. Arthur sits down, starts to eat  

John: Well, did you…?

Arthur: Not, not yet. I get to eat first.

John: Alright.

Eating. The music fades.

John: I was thinking, if we use the water from the bucket on the dirt we’ve piled from the wall, we could make it into a much more solid step. I think that’s what’s needed to let it support your weight.

Arthur: [While eating] We’ve talked about this… without the water, then I—

John: You’ve just said it — they’re not going to let you die. They’ll refill it.

Arthur: John, I am barely clinging on here. He’s winning. You get that, right? I know it doesn’t matter to you whether—

John: Stop. We agreed.

Arthur: Fine.

Arthur resumes eating

John: I’m not saying it isn’t a gamble. What I’m saying is I think there may be enough clay within the dirt. If it dries, then we have a solid way to get out. You’re practically able to reach the top already with what we’ve made.

Arthur: Mhm, maybe. Look, let me finish, drink some more, and then we can decide. It’s-It’s a fifteen foot height to the edge.

John: So goddamn close we can practically touch it.

Arthur: Yes, but, we need to be ready for when we do get out. Those things, John, they’re not…

Melancholy piano starts

John: I know.

Arthur: Do you really want all our work to go to waste? If we escape and end up back in this hole, or hell, in a hole that we haven’t dug pieces of the wall out and made this...step, or whatever you want to call it…

John: I know, I know.

Arthur: [Sigh] We need to be prepared. We’ve used almost all of Mr. Faust.

John: He still has some use.

Arthur: I know.

Arthur finishes eating

John: Are you done?

Arthur: Ohh, I needed that. It’s almost like they know what they’re doing… starving me just as we’re making headway.

John: Now, did you dream?

Arthur: I said when I’m done. Let me get a drink of water.

Arthur drinks from the bucket.

Arthur: [Sigh] Okay. I did dream last night.I was standing on a pier.  [Gentle piano music plays] The waves washed under me. They made a hollow clunk as they reverberated off the wooden pillars of the boardwalk beneath my feet. I could see the sun as it set. The orange sky, deep and rich, like… I don’t know… egg yolk.

[Attentive] Go on.

Arthur: The birds were loud, but I didn’t find them irritating. I could feel the sea air on my skin. My hair moved with the breeze… and when I turned, I saw… [sigh]

John: And what?

Arthur: Nothing.

John: What else? We agreed that you’d—

Arthur: We agreed that I’d tell you as much as I want to about my dreams.

John: We agreed so long as Faroe wasn’t—

Piano cuts out

Arthur: [Angrily] You agreed to never mention her name again.

A long pause

John: Fine.

Arthur: [Deep breath] Anyway. Then I woke up, and I was here. [Sigh] We need to leave this place. They’re feeding me less and less every day, bringing water infrequently. They want it so I can’t move, so I’mm nothing but brittle bones and a soft mind to manipulate.

John: Our plan is sound, Arthur.

Arthur: But you want to expedite it how?

John: We’ve been carving enough from the wall using the bones we found to shape the dirt into a suitable incline. The only thing working against us is time. If we used the water from the bucket to harden the dirt—

Arthur: Nothing hardens here, John. It’s too damp, too dreary, too fucking dull.

John: What does that have to do with it?

Arthur: I don’t know. I can’t see this place, but I can feel it. More than ever before, I… I can feel the mud walls, the thin, black roots, the stalactites that are hanging from the low ceiling above us. I’ve walked this circular prison a thousand times - sixty steps all the way around, never a corner.

John: So what?

Arthur: So, I never want to come back here. And we’re not done with Mr. Faust’s femur. It needs to be sharper.

John: The bone isn’t going to get any sharper, Arthur. You’re delaying and you know it. The truth is you’re scared that if we leave this place, we’ll end up back here. You don’t know what’s beyond this pit and so you’re finding excuses.

Arthur: I am not.

John: I said it before, yesterday, and last week: you could climb out of here today if you wanted to.

Arthur: Then what is all this with the bucket and the clay?

John: Cause you’re relying too much on them. The minute we have nothing to keep us here is the minute you’ll finally leave this place. You’re right, Arthur — he is winning, and you’re letting him.

Arthur: Fuck you; I’m surviving.

John: In this pit? In this hole of nothing designed by those who wish to drive us mad? You’re clinging to the hole, like you cling to everything, unable to move on.

Arthur: That is not the same thing.

[A deep breath] No, you’re right. But you’re still letting your fear cripple you. [Main piano theme plays] We need to escape. A day isn’t going to change that.

Arthur: [Sigh] You think we can make it up with what we have, with as much as what we’ve done?

John: Yes.

Arthur: You think Mr. Faust’s femur is as sharp as it’s gonna get?

John: Yes.

Arthur: [Sigh] Those things are up there... I didn’t have much of a say last time they captured us.

John: I know.

Arthur: I’m scared, John. We’ve been in this hole, in this dream for months. I won’t survive another failure.

John: There’s always plan B.

Arthur: [Scoff] Plan b? You’re kidding.

John: We can’t pretend it isn’t an option.

Arthur: Plan B was something I proposed early on, before we dug up Mr. Faust. I-I-I didn’t think…

John: It wasn’t a bad plan, Arthur, it was just…

Arthur: Risky.

John: Yes, But is it any more risky than climbing out?

Arthur: [Arthur pacing] Yes. Those things… I can hear them as they pass on patrols, they’re…

John: Monstrous.

Arthur: Yes. Plus fighting one of those things one on one in this pit… blind, it

John: Fighting one may be an inevitability, Arthur.

Arthur: [Sigh]

John: The long metal hook they use to collect the bucket—

Arthur: I know, I know. That’s presuming whatever is on the other end of it has a sure enough grip when we pull.

John: And assuming that we’re strong enough to even overpower it.

Arthur: It’s not a great plan.

John: But it could yield us a weapon. Regardless, that’s why it’s Plan B, Arthur. At least we’re finally talking about it again.

Arthur: I know.

John: Look, we need to move. We need to leave this place. Your strength is fading fast — you’re mostly skin and bones. Climb out or let’s find a way to bring one of those things down here. Either way, we can’t afford to waste away in this pit.

Arthur: You’re right, you’re right.

Arthur: Okay. Let’s.

Eerie piano music plays

John: Finally. I’m glad you’re thinking clearly.

Arthur: I wouldn’t say that exactly. It’s just… I think there is truth to what you’re saying, and I’m growing weaker every day.

John: Alright. So, when?

Arthur: Now.

John: Yes, Arthur!

Arthur: Look, we have Mr. Faust’s femur… that’s all we have or need.

John: Your clothes are all but tattered.

Arthur: I-I don’t care.

John: Alright, Arthur. This still won’t be easy; the incline is high enough to jump and reach, but it will take effort, and with your strength all but gone…

Arthur: I know... but I want it. I can taste it, John. I’ve been a prisoner for so long, far before arriving here.  I can do this. 

John: Alright.

Footsteps. Piano fades out.

Arthur: Is this?

John: A little more to your left. You’ll need to gain a bit of speed before you jump. Last time—

Arthur: Yes. Last time won’t happen again.

John: But remember you need to pull up with both hands, and if—

Arthur: Yes, yes… I remember.

John: Alright.

Arthur: You just remember to say jump before we hit the apex of the ramp.

John: That was one time at the beginning!

Eerie violins rise

Arthur: Fine.

John: We can do this.

Arthur: Yeah.

Running

John: JUMP! No!

Arthur hits and falls. Violins cut out.

John: Fuck.

Arthur: [Breathing hard] Goddamn it.

John: Fucking hell, Arthur.

Arthur: Me?

John: I did say jump—

Arthur: You said it too late!

John: Enough!  …We both know the reason we’re not in sync.

Arthur: It’s the same reason we haven’t been in sync the first fifteen times we tried this. It’s because you don’t say “jump” on time.

John: Fuck you. I said when you needed to jump.

Main piano theme plays.

Arthur: It’s because you and I are…

John: Yes.

Arthur: We’re not ever going to get back to that John.

John: I know.

Arthur: Too much has been said. Too much pain. Too many lies.

Piano fades

John: I know.

Arthur: So we’ll try again.

Violins return. Arthur runs.

John: JUMP!

Arthur hits and falls again. Violins cut.

Arthur: Fuck!

John: I’m sorry.

Arthur: It’s fine, it’s fine. Just… do me a favor.

John: What?

Arthur: This time, just don’t say anything.

John: Arthur, you—

Arthur: Nothing, please. I’m not saying it bitterly, I…  Just let me try on my own.

John: Okay.

Arthur groans and stands as the violins resume. He takes a breath, starts running - jumps, hits the wall.

Arthur straining

John: Jesus Christ Arthur, you have it! You’re holding on! Don’t let go! Pull yourself up — you can do this! Arthur, you can do this. Leave all this behind, leave the pit behind, the Dreamlands — focus on now. You can do this. Arthur, you have the strength, I know you do!

Arthur, groaning, pulls himself up.

John: You did it! Arthur, you fucking did it!

Arthur: [Breathing hard, through tears] Oh my god. Oh my god. We’re out… We’re fucking out…

Sad piano plays. Arthur, crying, starts to laugh

Arthur: Thank you John, thank you. That felt really good to hear.

Piano fades.

John: You deserved it. But we’re far from out of the woods.

Arthur: Right, right. Okay, okay. Oh my god… Where are we? Wh-what am I looking at?

John: This massive cavern has a low roof, maybe ten feet above us.

Arthur: Yes, yes, but what’s around us?

Mysterious piano music plays

John: It is a massive field of stalagmites: large, jutting up from the ground almost like a forest made of stone. They are maybe twenty feet wide at the base in some places. Surrounding all of them are large holes - prison pits like ours. The nearest one is a couple hundred feet away.

Arthur: Okay, okay, is—is there a way out?

John: I’m not sure… [Urgently] I think there is! The far side of the forest.

Arthur: Alright, alright...  Are there any… [Whispering]of them…?

John: Not that I can see.

Arthur: All the same I think we’ll keep a low profile.

John: Yes; there seems to be a thin mist that claws across the ground here — obscures only some of the pits, so we’ll need to be careful.

Arthur: Which way?

John: Right.

Footsteps

Arthur: What is that stench?

John: I don’t know. Some of these pits…

Arthur: Can you see into any?

John: No, but… I think I can hear movement in some of them. [Creatures snarling] We’re passing one to our right. The mist shrouds whatever is within.

Arthur: I loathe to think of what prisoners are kept here besides us.

John: Stop.

Arthur: What?

John: I see a guard.

Shuffling footsteps

Arthur: Oh fuck… oh Christ…

John: No, it doesn’t see us. It seems to be on patrol. I think… Get down!

Arthur: What?

John: Get down, beneath the mist!

Arthur groans and lies down

John: Lay flat. Don’t move!

Sounds of squirming and scuttling

Arthur: What? What are we lying in? What’s moving?

John: The ground is covered in small insects.

Arthur: Oh my god.

John: Quiet!

Heavy footsteps and monstrous grunting

John: I think it’s passed.

Arthur: [Patting down] Fuck! Oh god! I can feel them beneath my clothes.

John: You’ll live. We’re almost at the entryway.

Footsteps. Eerie violins rise

John: More!

Arthur: More?

John: Guards!

Arthur: Do they seem alerted?

John: I’m not sure, but there are many, coming towards us… from around a stalagmite.

Arthur: Fuck…

John: We can cut across a pit!

Arthur: What?

John: To our left, there’s a pit directly to the exit. There’s a wooden plank laying across it — a shortcut.

Arthur: Is it—

John: There’s no time, Arthur — move!

Footsteps. Violins fade.

Arthur: Oh Jesus.

John: Fuck, Arthur. You’re going to need to lay down on the plank.

Arthur: Oh god.

John: The mist will hide us. NOW!

Arthur lies down, breathing fast. Sounds of footsteps and shuffling.

Arthur: [Whispered]  Is this pit empty?

John: I can’t tell.

A deep voice: No.

Arthur breathing fast. Eerie violins.

John: Fuck!

Prisoner: You are escaping.

John: Arthur, I can’t see anything — just a white mist that fills the pit. It could be anything.

Arthur: Yes.

Prisoner: Please, bring me water. 

Arthur: Why? Who are you? What are you?

Prisoner: Please, just one small drink of water.

Arthur: Maybe I…

John: Arthur we need to leave. Go!

Arthur: I’m sorry!

John: Move!

Hurried footsteps, Arthur breathing hard.

John: It’s right ahead of us.

Footsteps

Arthur: Is it clear?

John: Yes.

John: There’s a room just ahead past this doorway.

Arthur: Okay.

John: It looks to be empty.

A clang of metal

Arthur: Wh… What is this?

John: A drum, and bucket.

Arthur: Is there water in it?

John: Arthur—

Arthur: Just tell me.

John: Yes, Arthur, but don’t be a fucking idiot. Whatever that thing was—

Arthur: It didn’t seem dangerous.

John: Those things are behind us. For all we know they could be finding out that we are missing any second, and you want to head back, and give some prisoner water? Leave.

Arthur: I… I don’t want to be a monster.

John: You’re not being a monster, Arthur. You are surviving. Leave this place, and don’t look back.

Arthur: I can’t. I know what it feels like to be trapped in a pit without anything.

Main iano theme plays

John: Arthur, we both do.

Arthur: Yes… and it’s for exactly that reason I need to help.

John: Arthur, for fuck’s sake, listen to me!

Arthur: I’m not ready to let this world trample over me. I’ve said it before, to your better half — I won’t let it win. Corruption of the heart is the same as corruption of the mind. Both are trying to change me. I can’t lose who I am. Then they win. [Muttering] Th-That’s how they win. That’s how he wants to win. I am the captain of my soul.

John: This isn’t a fight for your soul!

Arthur: It is, though. All of this is - don’t you get that?

John: The King is trying to weaken you, make your mind malleable, easy to coerce.

Arthur: The King is trying to win me, in whatever way he can; trick my mind, berate my soul…

John: And if those things should catch us and throw us back into the pit?

Arthur: …From pole to pole…

John: What?

Arthur: Nothing, that’s … that’s not for you.

John: What’s not for me?

Arthur: My thoughts. Look, we’re getting water for that creature and that’s that. You can help me or hinder me.

Water splashing

John: There’s a cup to your left.

The cup enters the water. Footsteps.

John: They’re still patrolling, but they’re deep within the stalagmite forest… on the other side of the pit.

Shuffling

It’s coming up. The mist still bellows from within.

Footsteps on the board

Arthur: Here, my friend. Whatever creature you may be, no one deserves this fate.

Violin stinger

The Prisoner: Thank you, Arthur.

Arthur: How do you know my name?

John: Arthur, we should leave…

The Prisoner: It is a gift.

Arthur: A gift?

The Prisoner: I am a cana. I know many things.

Violins fade for piano

John: A cana…

Arthur: A cana? Wait, you… the trader told me of you… you’re… you can help me.

The Prisoner: I can help you, Arthur Lester, as you have helped me.

Arthur: Wait wait, why are you here? Has the King trapped you here?

The Prisoner: He does not know I am here. I am a prisoner of this place for reasons I have brought upon myself.

John: Arthu, the patrol…

Arthur: Right… right, right... Look, can you help me? I-I’m lost and I... I just want to find a way to get home… get aw… get away from this hell… I… I can barely remember the sun...

The Prisoner: Arthur Lester, your world awaits your return. Beyond this place you’ll find a red lake. Beside it, the Ten Thousand Steps. At the top, a great city, but at the gates of the city, to their right, lay a path to the plateau. There the worlds are thin and you can barter passage home.

Arthur: I... I… I can go home…?

The Prisoner: Yes.

John: Back to Arkham...?

Arthur: PP-lease… let me help you out… let me find a way to…

John: The board. If you pull back the wooden board, it will fall in.

Arthur: Right, right…

Arthur strains. The board falls with a clatter.

John: That was loud, Arthur.

Arthur: I know, I know… Quickly, can you climb up?

John: Arthur, there’s movement in the mist below. The board is bending with the weight of something climbing up.

Arthur: Here, take my hand...

A hand claps Arthur’s.

John: Arthur, its hand is…webbed and wet.

Arthur: Yes, I can feel it.

John: Oh, he’s small! Almost resembling a frog. Its large green eyes are narrow. Its hands and arms are long enough to reach forward but its feet are nearly at the bottom of its body.  I wonder if he drank the water or needed it for his skin.

The Prisoner: Thank you, Arthur Lester.

Arthur: Thank you.

The Prisoner: Lorick.

Arthur: Lorick.

John: Arthur we need to leave!

Arthur: Come this way -  I think we’ve found a way out. I think—

Lorick: That is not the way out.

Arthur: What?

Lorick: Come this way.

John: It’s leading us to the left, closer to the guards.

Arthur: If there’s anyone to trust…

Footsteps

John: We’re heading through the stalagmites, on the edge of the pits… it’s… wait!

Arthur: What?

John: Get down!

Crouching. Shuffting footsteps

John: Okay… It’s moving to the wall of the cavern, do our right.

Lorick: Through here!

John: There’s a passageway, nearly hidden!

Arthur: How…?

Lorick: I know many things.

Arthur: After you.

John: It’s tight.

Arthur: I’ll manage.

They squirm through, grunting

John: Oh! We’re out the other side. Arthur we’re...

Arthur: Free…

Melancholy piano plays

John: Yes. We’re standing on the outskirts of a barren field of stone. High above is the cavern ceiling. We’re still deep underground, but… the large wall behind us holds the prison. We’re free…

Arthur: Thank you… Th-Thank you, Lorick…

Lorick: Thank you, again, Arthur Lester.

Arthur: I… I have for the first time in my heart… hope. Thanks to you.

Lorick: Keep that hope close. It is attractive to those who dwell in the darkness.

Arthur: Will you come with us?

Lorick: I cannot

John: He’s departing, Arthur.

Arthur: Wait! Which way to the red lake?

Lorick: Toward the glistening pillars of ice.

Arthur: Lorick! You said… you said you were in there for reasons you brought upon yourself? What did you do? 

Lorick: [Further away] I helped another from your world escape this place.

Arthur: Another?

Lorick: Yes.

Arthur: Who!? Lorick!

John: Arthur, quiet!

Arthur: Fuck, yes. Sorry.

John: I appreciate your excitement but we’re not out of this yet. We have none of our things.

Arthur: Right... Damn.

John: Start moving.

Arthur: Yes, I… [Angrily] No, fuck off with that. That’s not how we do things anymore, remember?

John: Arthur I’m not—

Arthur: No, listen: I don’t take orders from you. That was the deal.

John: I don’t care about that anymore!

Arthur: I do!

John: Listen to me. I want to get home. No matter what. Ego aside, past aside, Arthur… We have a way to get home.

Arthur: To my home.

John: If you need me just to be your eyes, so be it, but you know I can offer more. We have a monumental task ahead of us.

Arthur: [Calmer] Then we eat it like an elephant.

John: Huh… Yeah, I suppose so.

Arthur: And we start by getting to that lake.

John: Alright. Your left.

Footsteps

John: The ground is loose stone, difficult, pathless… like the surface of a barren planet.

Arthur sniffles

John: Are you… what’s wrong?

Arthur: Nothing.

John: You’re crying.

Soft piano music plays

Arthur: [Through tears] Yes. I-I… I can’t remember the last time I felt… anything this good. This hopeful.

John: Yes. Well...

Arthur: Well what?

John: Nothing. Let’s find a way to get to that Lake.

Sound of movement

Arthur: What was that?

John: I don’t know... It came from behind us.

Arthur: The prison?

John: No, more to our right.

Arthur: Do you think… they have patrols on the outside or… or something…?

John: Very possible.

Arthur: You don’t see anything?

John: No. Although…

Arthur: Yes?

John: I feel like we’re being watched.

Arthur: Watched but not approached?

John: Yes.

Arthur: Something hunting? I wonder what creatures lurk here, dwelling in the darkness as the Cana said…

John: We should wait and see if anything is following us.

Arthur: No, no, no — we should keep moving, right?

John: We can hide here. There are a few large boulders; if something is following us we can use Mr. Faust if we need to. Otherwise we may be bringing something unintentionally with us.

Arthur: I think we should move.

John: It’s your call.

Arthur: Fine, fine, we’ll wait. If we are truly done with this place I want to make sure we’re not being tracked.

John: To the left of us — there’s a large fallen stalactite. It’s on its side.

Arthur: Okay.

Crouches down

John: When you say you can’t remember the last time you felt anything, you mean…?

Arthur: I dunno. I dunno, I just, I felt… overcome.

John: Overcome?

Arthur: With emotion, John. I just felt like I couldn’t contain it. Is there anything following us?

John: No, not yet.

Arthur: [Sigh]

John: I’ve heard you lash out before, but I—

Arthur: And I, you.

John: But—

Arthur: Don’t tell me you don’t understand why I felt overcome John, come on – you’re far from an idiot at this point.

John: I’m saying… I’m trying to understand.

Arthur: What?

John: What that… feels like.

Arthur: What what feels like? Being overcome?

John: Yes.

Arthur: With?

John: Joy?

Arthur: [Angrily] Oh fuck off!

John: What?

Arthur: Don’t you do this to me!

John: Do what?

Arthur: You don’t get it. [Piano theme plays] It took everything for me to open up to you, and you threw it in my face. Don’t… Don’t make me pity you.

John: Arthur, it’s been so long, I’m—

Arthur: It’s been nothing compared to how long I carried that with me, how deep I buried that, how… how difficult it was for me to dredge up. You asked, and asked, and asked, and the minute I shared it… you threw it in my face.

John: I’m sorry, alright? I’ve said it already and I’ll say it again.

Arthur: And what about Emily? You killed her for no reason — why? Why on earth did you—

John: [Angrily] Because I’m the fucking King in Yellow, Arthur! [Piano fades] You wanted me to own it, and so I do. I didn’t remember what I was, but I knew she was beneath me. She was nothing but a tool, and one I couldn’t use. She was strong; I needed to be free. I needed to be in someone whom I could manipulate, to find out what I was and to find a way to escape!

Arthur: So you’ve been using me from the start.

John: You always knew that.

Arthur: So you killed her cause she was useless to you, and because you could.

John: Yes.

Arthur: And you’re okay with that?

John: [Quieter] No. No, I’m not.

Arthur: [Surprised] You’re not?

John: [Thoughtful piano theme plays] You view me without conflict, as if I am whole. As if I’m the person that I always intended to be.

Arthur: What is that supposed to mean?

John: I am trying to become the thing I should've been a long time ago. It doesn’t come without blood, it doesn’t come without cracked ribs and broken bones. I am clawing my way, stumbling in the dark just as you are, toward a better version of myself. I am fucking up as I move there, but that doesn’t make me a monster. That makes me… human.

Arthur: You... Don’t—

John: I don’t need you to care for me, and I don’t need your pity. But I need you to know I’m sorry.

Piano fades.

Arthur: I accept your apology.

John: Look, I don’t see anything. It’s possible that it was just shifting stones, or…

Arthur: Yeah, fair enough. Let’s move, towards the, uh…?

John: Glistening pillars of ice. They’re to our left.

Footsteps

Arthur: Yeah. I can’t imagine what that would look like. Sounds quite… interesting down here.

John: This area is alien for sure. The pillars in question are massively tall, icy beams that connect the vast ceiling of this cavern with what I imagine will reveal itself to be the lake. They are frozen, like droplets from a giant fountain.

Arthur: These caverns must be entire worlds wide.

John: This plane is completely its own creation. I don’t know where the dream ends and natural formations begin.

Arthur: I know that feeling first hand.

John: The lake isn’t far from us, thankfully.

Arthur: And then it’s the steps?

John: I wouldn’t be surprised if those are… well… I think I can already make them out. It’s difficult to see much, though the cavern does seem to have a soft violet light emanating from various corners. 

Rocks clacking. Arthur gasps.

John: Movement.

Arthur: I hear it.

John: Stay down. Get ready.

Heavy shuffling, and oinking

John: What the hell is that?

Arthur: What?

John: I don’t know. It looks like… a large… cow.

Gentle piano music

Arthur: What?

John: It’s alone.

Arthur: Jesus.

John: It seems timid. Safe to approach.

Heavy footsteps

John: It’s maybe five feet tall from the ground and walks on all fours.

Snuffling and oinking

John: It has plate-like bones jutting up from it’s back where patches of green moss-like fuzz cover it. Its face… looks part elephant, part ant-eater. Its beady eyes seem dwarfed by massive ears, though… they look… intelligent. It has a mouth on the end of its long, trunk-like snout.

Arthur: [To the creature, laughing] What are you doing here?

John: It seems to pay us no mind.

Arthur: Hello!

John: This is still a creature of the Dreamlands, Arthur. Be careful—

Arthur: Hey, hey, hey.

John: It’s close now.

Arthur: Hey, hey!

John: Its intelligent eyes are lazily studying us.

Arthur: Hey, c’mon.

John: It’s reaching towards us with its snout.

Arthur: It’s okay — c’mon.

Crunch

John: Apparently, it likes the insects that were crawling around on us. Ugh. Don’t pet it, Arthur.

Arthur: Oh come off it. Here, big guy, c’mere.

John: It seems to like it.

Patting

Arthur: Why are you out here, fellow?

John: Oh, it looks like there’s a harness on him, as if it were a mule to pull a cart.

Arthur: Ah, a work… thing.

John: I think it likes you, Arthur.

Arthur: [Laughing] I like him. [Pats it] Well I suppose it’s time we leave. I’m not following you – not after last time. Take care, big guy.

Footsteps — Arthur’s and the creature’s

John: Hmmm.

Arthur: It’s following us, isn’t it?

John: Yes.

Arthur: No, no no no, no no no no… you need to stay, big guy. Stay. Stay! Stay.

John: I don’t think it understands English let alone your accent, Arthur.

Arthur: Shut up. Stay, big guy, we don’t have time to play.

John: It’s snuffling around the ground excitedly.

Arthur: Lovely, lovely. There must be a lot of grubs on the...

Digging

John: It’s unearthing something.

Arthur: What is that?

John: I don’t know: a white, waxy root of some sort. I can’t tell in the darkness of the cavern but… but it may have leaves on it. Some sort of… vegetation, I suppose.

Arthur: Lovely.

John: I think it’s offering it to you Arthur.

Arthur: I-I…

John: It’s waiting expectantly.

Arthur: Well, thank you. Err… big.. guy… or girl, or... I don’t have a name for you, uhhhh... I-I like you…

John: Lilly.

Arthur: Li—Lilly? Where did that come from?

Gentle piano music resumes

John: Lilly.

Arthur: Okay, [Chuckles] Lilly, you need to stay here. We can’t have you pacing around after us to, to…

John: Its harness looks tight.

Arthur: Well these things usually are…

John: Cutting into her skin.

Arthur: Cutting in, eh?

John: Yes.

Arthur: Back on earth people use cows, horses, any number of animals, really, to do work.

John: Of course.

Arthur: I find this place, though… the creatures here, they’re… they’re not like back on earth. If there’s anything I’ve learned it’s that most things here deserve to be left to their own devices. Lilly, do you want to go free?

John: It could put a target on our back.

Arthur: Any bigger than a prison break?

John: True.

Arthur: Although, maybe you’re right. Maybe it’s just the ex-captive in me wanting to share the feeling of liberation with another.

John: It’s your call. I support you. 

Arthur: No one deserves to be a prisoner, least of all something that didn’t do anything wrong.

The sound of the harness being removed. Gentle piano music.

John: Thank you, Arthur.

Arthur: Go on. Goodbye, Lilly.

Heavy footsteps

John: Perhaps that was what she was hoping for. What are you going to do with that?

Arthur: With what?

John: The waxy root in your hand.

Arthur: Oh, right! Umm… I don’t suppose we should eat it?

John: It would be very unwise.

Arthur: Right, well… let’s just hold onto it for now. It is, after all, our only possession.

John: The lake isn’t far now.

Footsteps

Arthur: Right. I hope she’s…?

John: She’s moving on, back to where we found her.

Arthur: [Sigh] Okay.

Footsteps

Arthur: So.

John: So?

Arthur: Lilly?

John: Yes… Lilly.

Arthur: Why? That’s the first I’ve heard you utter the name, let alone have it so readily on your tongue. Surely it means something, but we haven’t come across a Lilly to my memory, and we’ve been together for months now without a moment apart.

John: That’s not entirely true.

Arthur: What do you mean?

John: Lilly was… the name of a nurse, back in Harper’s Hill.

Gentle piano music

Arthur: A nurse?

John: Yes. You recall, I… You were in a coma… and I wasn’t.

Arthur: You… She's the one who called you John Doe?

John: Yes.

Arthur: You had a connection with her.

John: Perhaps. It was a long time alone with my thoughts; she was the only other person I saw.

Arthur: I… I never asked, did I?

John: You didn’t need to.

Arthur: No, but… obviously that was a time that… changed you. You’ve mentioned a few times how that time affected you. Lilly?

John: Lilly.

Arthur: Why offer it up now?

John: The name?

Arthur: Yes. You’ve obviously kept it close.

John: It felt fitting. No use carrying a name around.

Arthur: No?

John: Is there?

Arthur: I don’t know, John. I suppose… sometimes carrying a name around with you is important. To remember who you are, or… what you want to be.

John: I suppose.

Arthur: You don’t have to lose the name just because you gave it away. Or more importantly, you don’t need to forget that time, or, or what it----

John: We’re here.

Arthur: Oh… at the lake?

John: Yes; it’s still as glass, almost frozen looking. The shore is gravel, small stones that seem to fade into the blackness of the lake. The caverns above are a ceiling of broken bones, stalactites that jut down beside the icy pillars that support the roof. It is a sight.

Arthur: Thank you, but I-I want… I want you to know that if Lilly is special to you, well...

John: Well, what? We can see her again?

Arthur: No. Maybe? I-I don’t know.

John: Arthur. Do you still intend to find a way to separate us?

Arthur: Yes.

John: Then there’s no need for empty platitudes, is there?

Arthur: Okay.

John: The stairs start to our left.

Arthur: The Ten Thousand Steps… Mm-hmm. I suppose this is going to take a while.

Climbing the steps. Main piano theme plays.

Arthur: It’s not impossible you may end up with your own body, John.

John: [Doubtful] Yeah?

Arthur: I don’t know. I cannot fathom the nature of our separation yet, so who knows what that even looks like, but… perhaps you will.

John: Perhaps I will what?

Arthur: I don’t know — enter a cadaver or something?

John: Lovely.

Arthur: Look, look, I’m just saying that… if we can get out of here… somewhat unscathed, then, then I suppose we have some time to figure out what the next step is, and that includes finding a way to separate us.

John: How?

Arthur: Well, before the Dreamlands, before all of this, we followed Amanda Cummings to Harper’s Hill. She was Roland’s daughter.

John: The detective who we think my book was originally meant to be sent to. From the rare bookstore.  

Arthur: Yes; JD Ackerman, the bookseller. We think he meant to send your book to Roland.

John: Right.

Arthur: Anyway, we followed that lead to the island off the coast of Harper’s Hill, where we found a letter written by Amanda to Anna, and, after asking the tooth – uh the, the seer — we found it was Anna Stanczyk. Both of them knew much about this world, it’s teaching… I think they also were in the house back in Arkham.

John: But Amanda’s dead.

Arthur: Yes, but she wrote those letters to Anna as if she was expecting her to follow. It revealed all about the King in Yellow, and — and more!

John: So we need to find Anna Stancyzk. You think she’s the next piece of this puzzle?

Arthur: Yes.

John: And where do you suppose we start? After we leave the Dreamlands, I mean.

Arthur: Anna Stancyzk and her family; we were in that mansion back in the woods near Arkham — just north of it, remember? Where we brought the baby. We were there and we didn’t even realize it.

John: Well, she’s no longer there.

Arthur: No, no, of course not. The mansion was long abandoned, but… but we didn’t think to look around for a sign of where she went. She was nobody to us at that time. We were only looking to get the baby back and leave that godforsaken place.

John: So, if we get back…?

Arthur: If we get back, we return to the mansion, scope out clues, and try to find the place she could’ve gone to.

John: Alright.

Arthur: [Sigh] How many steps is that?

Piano fades

John: You think I’m counting?

Arthur: [Laughs] Well how close are we to…?

John: Whoa… the city.

Arthur: City?

Mysterious piano plays

John: Yes… I hadn’t noticed but the tall gates of the city are at the top of this stairway. They’re not far actually.

Arthur: Brilliant.

John: I don’t think this is anywhere near ten thousand steps. Something seems odd about these steps… some supernatural force seems to propel us. The cavern floor is far below us.

Arthur: Well, how many steps lay behind?

John: I don’t know. I can—

Jumpscare!

The Trader: Why are you following me?

John: Jesus christ!

Arthur: God!

John: You again!

The Trader: Why are you following me?

John laughs

Arthur: We’re not bloody following you — you’re behind us!

The Trader: Hrmph.

Arthur: Jesus Christ.

John: It’s the trader, Arthur.

Arthur: I figured. What the hell brings you down here?

The Trader: Down here?

Arthur: Yes, underground.

The Trader: I go where I please.

John: He looks the same as he did: a series of twigs and branches, a large sack on his back. I still can’t see his face, it’s covered by a hood.

Arthur: Where are you heading, anyway?

The Trader: Nowhere you need follow.

John: He’s moving forward.

Arthur: Alright. Still trading?

The Trader: If the interest is there.

John: He’s moving past us, climbing the stairs toward the city.

Arthur: Hey, wait!

John: There are thousands of steps behind us Arthur.

Arthur: Wait!

John: These stairs aren’t as they seem...

The Trader: What?

Arthur: We found a cana!

The Trader: Good for you. Hrmph.

Arthur: [Chuckles] Hey!

The Trader: What?

Arthur: Trade with us. Isn’t that what you do?

The Trader: Hrmph. What have you to offer?

Arthur: Uh... This? Would you like a waxy vegetable?

John: He’s eyeing it as he would—

The Trader: How did you find this?

John: He seems surprised.

Arthur: Wha — I… uh, a friend helped us find it.

The Trader: A friend?

Arthur: Yes, someone you have a bond of mutual affection for.

John: He’s looking at you.

Arthur: [Chuckles] A cow-like creature,  I don’t know. Lilly.

The Trader: A lilly?

Arthur: No, Lilly was her… look, do you want to trade or what?

The Trader: Of course! A tofflebol is a valuable item.

Arthur: Val—valuable?

John: Interesting.

The Trader: Very much so. People often request; they are rarely found, and only by Buopoths.

Arthur: Buopoth?

Footsteps

John: He’s walking to the side of the staircase. There’s a small outlet of paved stones, like a stopping place, enough space for him to roll out his mat of wares. It’s bizarre; there doesn’t seem to be anything holding this staircase in place... and no railing.

Arthur: We’ll watch our step.

Footsteps. The mat being unrolled, and items rattling

John: He’s unrolling his mat again. I recognize some of this stuff. There’s a small, ornate metal box of some kind which is new… and the stone we traded is here, too — the Crystallizer of Dreams, I believe he said it was.

Arthur: That may be useful.

John: Wait a minute...

Arthur: What?

Eerie piano music plays

John: He also has our things! The Two books, the pallid mask, the tooth, your lighter, even our coin! 

Arthur: Where did you get these?

The Trader: I obtained them fairly.

John: He even has the bag we were using. I think the other stuff is in there too - the hooks, the shaving kit. 

Arthur: These were our items, and you stole them!

The Trader: Prisoners have no items.

Arthur: Give them back!

The Trader: I will trade you for this.

John: He’s gesturing to the waxy root.

Arthur: This is valuable to you?

The Trader: Yes.

Arthur: Well, you just made the first mistake of trading, friend.

The Trader: We are not friends.

Arthur: Oh, we will be. I want the lot.

The Trader: The lot?

Eerie violins play

Arthur: All of it: all the things you took from us, and what you carry.

The Trader: You offer, I trade.

Arthur: No no no no no, my friend. You want? I take.

The Trader: Hrmph!

John: I don’t think he’s used to haggling, but he seems to be considering your offer.

Items rustling

The Trader: Things you had, for the Tofflebol.

Arthur: No. The lot of it.

The Trader: Hrmph!

John: He’s getting angry, Arthur.

Ominous music plays

Arthur: So am I! You could’ve helped us when we landed here. Instead you took advantage. You will give us what we want, or we walk.

John: Arthur, careful.

The Trader: Your things.

John: He’s putting our items in front of us, including the bag we had, Arthur.

Arthur: And the rest.

John: Arthur…

The Trader: And what you traded.

John: He’s put the Crystallizer of Dreams in front of us, too. Arthur, that’s plenty, let’s—

Arthur: [Unrelentingly] I said, the lot of it.

The Trader growls

John: Arthur, just take it!

The Trader: One item more.

Music ends.

Arthur: Deal.

The Trader: Hrmph.

Arthur: [Chuckles] Cheer up, John. This is how it works back home.

John: Put all the things in the bag.

Arthur: Mask, glass, lighter… ahh, I’ve missed you all.

John: The coin.

Arthur: In my pocket it goes.

The Trader: The tofflebol!

Arthur: Yes yes, let me choose my final item... Hmmmmm…

Eerie piano music.

John: There’s a glass jar of violet liquid. It looks thick.

Arthur: Unknown liquid? Pass.

John: An oil lamp?

Arthur: Last one served us well — let’s call that maybe.

John: A map?

Arthur: Also a maybe, but less useful now.

John: There’s a small, ornate metal box — looks like a jewelry box.

Arthur: Strange.

John: Yes, it has a picture on the top: a painting of a girl

Arthur: A… a girl? How?

John: How do you mean?

Arthur: How?

John: She’s holding a red flower, maybe a rose. She has a—

Arthur: Bonet?

John: Yes.

Arthur: Open it.

John: What?

Arthur: Open it!

Music from a music box - a familiar, melancholy melody. As it ends, Arthur is breathing hard.

John: Arthur. Arthur?

Arthur: [Furious] Where did you find this?

The Trader: The Tofflebol!

Arthur: Where did you find this!

The Trader: The city.

John: He’s pointing to the gates at the top of the stairs. Arthur, what’s gotten into you?

Arthur: This. We’re taking this.

The Trader: The tofflebol.

Arthur: Take it!

Arthur gathers up their things and hurries on

The Trader: The trade is done. Good luck.

John: Arthur, what the hell has gotten into you? Slow down!

Arthur: You said it.

John: What?

Arthur: You said it!

John: What did I say?

Arthur: You said she wouldn’t be here!

John: Said who?

Arthur: Faroe!

John: Arthur, stop! Stop!

Footsteps stop. Melancholy piano plays

Arthur: This was her music box, John. That was our song. I gave this to her, and only her.

John: Arthur, remember the cana said not to go into the city. He said to turn at the gates, to head to the—

Arthur: Yes, I know!

John: Have you considered that the King might—

Arthur: The King didn’t know this! He didn’t know this! No one but she and I knew this.

John: He could’ve dug it out of your subconscious.

The same melancholy music plays.

Arthur: No, he couldn’t. The same way he didn’t know how Faroe died until I told you. I… [Crying] She was buried with this, John. It shouldn’t be here. If this is here… then couldn’t she…?

John: I don’t know.

Music fades.

Arthur: So what does that mean? We found Frank’s apartment in the middle of the desert, John, with his things, his books, his food… He was here. Wh-when I’m sure what is left behind of him is either dead or gone, back in the real world. So what does that mean?

John: I don’t know.

Arthur: Me neither! But… But if there is any part of this path that we walk that has been preordained the way those masked cultists seemed to think it was, then… I can’t afford to not know.

Footsteps

John: The gates are directly in front of us: large heavy doors, with… his symbol carved in. I can see the path curve around the city walls. It leads up… It leads to a way home. 

Footsteps stop.

Arthur: I have to try. I will never be able to live with myself if I leave this place without knowing for certain… that she wasn’t here, needing her father. [Emotional] Hoping and praying that I will show up and rescue her. You may not understand that, but I need to do this. 

John: I understand, Arthur.

Arthur groans, pushing the heavy doors open. He steps through.

 

 __________________________________________________

Transcribed by the amazing Croik! My absolute appreciation to them for their effort and patience in making this.