A deep slumber, an old friend, a waking nightmare...
Malevolent follows Arkham Investigator Arthur Lester as he unravels the mysterious circumstances that have befallen him.
This, the 31st Part of our story Arthur finds himself questioning past decisions, confronting his fears and examining what his existence means.
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PART THIRTY-ONE - THE NIGHTMARE
Original transcript by Jack! Reviewed by Teakettle and Tony
CWs: Unreality, murder (throat-slitting, beating to death), earthworms/buried alive, death in childbirth, tentacle attack/attempted drowning, past child death, suicide/suicidal ideality/self-loathing, body horror (worm-like), parental abandonment, assault, disembowelment/torture, captivity.
(Arthur groans and a bed squeaks underneath him, accompanied by a melancholy piano piece.)
ARTHUR(groaning):Oh. Oh, I slept wonderfully. Long, deep. Well.(He yawns.)I haven’t slept like that in… honestly, I can’t remember.(He chuckles.)Mmm, mmm. Lying in this bed, I… I feel almost at peace. Mmm, I don’t want to get up.(He laughs again.)Really. But I suppose we have things to do and things to see, starting with Daniel. Hey, Kellin?
ARTHUR:Morning. How was your night? Other than… the ceiling.
KELLIN:I slept fine.
ARTHUR:So you do sleep!Ha.I knew it.(He grunts and stands, the bed squeaking.)Ah, the sun! I can feel it on my skin.
ARTHUR:How’s the city looking today?
KELLIN:It’s lovely. Bright. Warm. It’s a bustle of movement, like ants when you turn over a log.
ARTHUR:Ha! True. Well, shall we head down the tower?
KELLIN:Down the tower?
(Arthur grunts and opens a door, metal screeching. He exhales in satisfaction.)
ARTHUR:The elevator… was it always right here? In our room, in the attic?
KELLIN:It’s the same one we took up yesterday. Before bed.
ARTHUR:Right, right. Well.(He grunts. Metal screeches softly.)
KELLIN:My sister’s head.
ARTHUR:Right, right.(A whimsical piece begins to play.)Can’t forget.(He steps along wood. An eerie spectral moan as Arthur grunts to pick something up. The swinging of metal.)Morning, Samantha.
ARTHUR(disapproving):We talked about this.
KELLIN:I don’t mind!(Another spectral moan.)She’s talking to both of us, anyway.
ARTHUR:You’re right, you’re right.(A chain swings as Arthur carries the head.)Shall we head right to the basement, or –?
KELLIN:They’re waiting for us at the Magic Mountain.(Whimsical music starts to play.)
ARTHUR:The cafe in the lobby? Well, who’s waiting for us?
KELLIN:Adam Fry, of course.
ARTHUR(in realization):Right! I’m so daft.(The metal chain swings.)Well, let’s move on.(The screech of metal, and Arthur’s grunt as the elevator starts to move. It continually squeaks. He sighs.)Doesn’t this remind you…
KELLIN:Of the city under the hotel?
ARTHUR:Exactly! You’ve been there before, right? Before we went.
KELLIN:I had. I had sought him out. Sought out the –(Garbled audio.)
ARTHUR:The what? Sorry.(A slow piano piece starts to play.)
KELLIN(heavily garbled, almost unintelligible): The King in Yellow.
ARTHUR:No, I-I-I can’t understand you. What’re you –
JOHN(heavily distorted, faraway): Arthur!
KELLIN(indignant):You can’t understand me?
ARTHUR:N-No, say that again.
ARTHUR:N-No, of course. Of course, I…(Kellin sighs.)Look, Kellin. We talked about this. That temper of yours needs to…(Kellin starts to breathe heavily.)
KELLIN:Temper!?(The breathing grows more ragged.)
ARTHUR: Just… sing. Remember? We both know it calms you down.
JOHN(echoing, faraway): Arthur!
KELLIN(singing):Am I blue… am I blue…. Ain’t these tears, in my eyes, telling you.
ARTHUR(soothing): Yes, yes. See? Doesn’t that help?
KELLIN(singing): Am I blue… am I blue… Ain’t that man, with that plan, done fell through. Was a time, I was the only one.
ARTHUR:Much better.(The elevator stops. Arthur opens the metal door.)Is this…?
KELLIN:We’re in the apartment.(A somber tune begins to play.)
KELLIN:The one we booked for the Butcher, Arthur.
ARTHUR:Right! Right, right, right. But the Magic Mountain –
KELLIN (interrupting): Adam can wait! We have to check into the room.(Arthur grunts.)Unless you’ve killed him already.(A brief, chilling sting, accompanied by a softer piano melody.)
ARTHUR(perplexed): Killed him? What do you mean?
KELLIN:You killed him.
KELLIN:Just like you killed me.
ARTHUR:Killed you? No. No, no, no, no, no, we’ve… we’ve been together since, um. Since the book, and-and-and…(Growing suspenseful music.)
KELLIN:On the dock, you watched me bleed out as you rowed away. You killed me, Arthur.
ARTHUR:I-I-I didn’t. This… this-this isn’t…
JOHN(heavily distorted, faraway):Arthur!
KELLIN:You slit my throat and took my sister.
ARTHUR:N-No.(A spectral moan.)S-She wanted to come with me.
KELLIN:You dragged her away and slit my fucking throat.(He shakily breathes. Another spectral moan.)
ARTHUR:Y-You and me…
JOHN(heavily distorted, faraway):Arthur!
KELLIN:Get into the hotel room!
KELLIN:The Butcher is waiting for you.(Arthur steps.)Kill him. Kill him like you killed me.(He pants.)
ARTHUR:(Quietly.)This isn’t…(Louder.)No, no. This isn’t… w-where am I?(More agitated.)I have to, I have to get out of here. I-I have to getoutof here, I-I…(He gasps and starts to run.)
KELLIN:You can’t run away from me.(Arthur cries out, as if suddenly stopped.)The train is still moving forward.
ARTHUR:This is – (He pants and lurches a door open. On the other side is the quiet mumble of a crowd and the noises of a train along a track.)Excuse me.(Whispering.)Ex-cuseme.
PERCIVAL(with a stuffed nose):Oh! Arthur.
PERCIVAL(sneezes):Did I hear correctly that you, um…(Suspenseful string music.)Killed your wife?
ARTHUR(shocked):What?(Nearly without voice.)No.(Louder.)No.
PERCIVAL:Oh! Jolly good.
ARTHUR:No, no. This isn’t – this isn’t…
JOHN(heavily distorted, faraway):Arthur!
KELLIN:John? Who’s John?
KELLIN:Who is John?
ARTHUR:I… I don’t remember. Y-You were John. This isn’t right, this feels… so… normal, but it’s-it’s not, I… am I dreaming?
ARTHUR:Y-Yes. Yes, I-I just need to get off this train, I-I need to… where’s the door, where’s the door? H-Here.(A brief audio distortion. With a grunt, he lurches it open and pants for breath. The train noises stop as Arthur steps forward.)
KELLIN:A mausoleum. Why here, Arthur?
ARTHUR:Why-Why here? This… this isn’t… you’re-you’re dead. This is… this is a dream. John is…
ARTHUR:But you’re not. What are you?
KELLIN(singing): Am I blue… am I blue…
ARTHUR:What is this?
KELLIN:Don’t you recognize this place?
ARTHUR:I can’tseeanything –
KELLIN(interrupting): Even in dreams! You know this place.
ARTHUR(voice shuddering):No, I –
KELLIN(interrupting):Yes, you do. Touch the stone.(Arthur breathes shakily.)Touch the stone, Arthur.(Arthur does so.)Feel the cold bronze of her plaque.(A few slow piano notes.)The one you picked out for her. Though… Daniel paid for it.(Arthur starts to breathe faster.)He paid for his little girl, didn’t he?
ARTHUR(upset): Shut up!(He starts to hyperventilate.)
KELLIN:There’s that fire that burned her.
ARTHUR:Shut up!(Arthur starts to repeat ‘this isn’t real’, very softly.)
KELLIN:That burned so bright it brought your house down around you! That drowned your girl!
ARTHUR(louder): This isn’t real. This isn’t real. This isn’t real. This isn’t… This isn’t... what is this? This isn’t the Dreamlands, this is… this is a dream. This is a real dream.
JOHN(heavily distorted, faraway):Arthur!
ARTHUR:I need to wake up!(Arthur lightly slaps himself.)
KELLIN:Wake up to what? (ARTHUR(to himself):Come on!) Another nightmare?
ARTHUR:Quiet! Need to find the exit.
KELLIN:It’s whatever you want.(Arthur steps and grunts, the sound of stone grinding against stone. Outside, some animal shrieks in the distance and insects buzz.)The graveyard. How… grave.
ARTHUR:This is a dream, Kellin. Which also means I’m-I’m-I’mmakingyou fight me.
ARTHUR:Yes, now, shut up! Why can’t I wake up?
KELLIN:Have you tried hard enough?
(Arthur strains himself. A brief audio distortion.)
JOHN(heavily distorted, faraway):Arthur!
(Arthur stops straining, breathing heavily.)
ARTHUR:That’s all I have for now.
(A long pause.)
ARTHUR:(Pointedly.)So.(Normally.)So. This isn’t normal, is it? I’m not doing this, am I? So who is?(Footsteps, in the distance.)Who’s there?
(Footsteps through the brush.)
STRANGER(eerie, whispered voice): Are you having… sweet dreams?(A brief audio distortion.)
ARTHUR:Who are you?
STRANGER:Who’s to say? I’m not a piece ofyou.
KELLIN:He has a point.
ARTHUR:No. You’re something else.
STRANGER:How can you be so sure?
ARTHUR:Because I don’t know what you’re going to say next.
KELLIN:How kind of him.
ARTHUR:Who are you?
STRANGER:Just call me… Mr. Scratch.
ARTHUR:What do you want?
ARTHUR:Then let me wake up.
KELLIN:We’re in a grave, Arthur. The worms are hungrily wiggling around us. The headstone says… ‘Arthur Lester’.
ARTHUR:I know I’m in a grave.(He grunts and breathes heavily.)
KELLIN:Yes, Arthur! Don’t take any of this lying down. Yes!
ARTHUR(breathing hard):Quiet! We’re getting out of this.(Arthur continues to pull himself up.)
JOHN(distant):Arthur! Arthur, what are youdoing?
KELLIN:Leave him out of this!
ARTHUR:Why?(He pulls himself up on something solid.)Come on…(He sighs, brushes his hands against the floor. A slow piano piece begins.)Wood. Wood. The floor is wood. Why is it…
KELLIN:Whoa. It’s this place again.
ARTHUR:What place again?
ARTHUR:Island? The widow’s house.
ARTHUR:I’m not playing your game, Scratch. We’re getting out of here. We need to… to wake me up, somehow.
ARTHUR:I’m notscared,I’m pissed off, is what I am!
(The tumbling and creaking of wood. A suspenseful sting of music. Rodent squeaks, scurrying off.)
ARTHUR:Kellin, we need to get out of here. The door.
KELLIN:Why are you scared, Arthur? I can feel your heart racing.
KELLIN:The door’s through the kitchen to our left.(Arthur walks, clattering across something.)In front of you!(Arthur makes heavy noises of exertion, trying the doorknob.)
ARTHUR(straining):Open, damn it!(He growls and continues to try the door.)
KELLIN:It won’t budge. It’s sealed shut, Arthur.
ARTHUR:Damn it!(He stops and breathes hard.)Why are you doing this? Okay.(Quieter, to himself.)Okay, okay. Other ways out. Other ways out.
KELLIN:We can try heading back down the ladder.
ARTHUR:Back into the graveyard?
KELLIN:I don’t think it leads to the graveyard anymore.
ARTHUR:The caves.(Quieter.)The caves.
(A suspenseful sting. The sound of muffled impacts, dim and faraway.)
ARTHUR:No. No, there’s another way out.(He huffs.)Where’s the kitchen?(More desperate.)There must be a window, or-or…
KELLIN:In front of you.(Arthur walks forward.)
KELLIN:There’s a window above the sink, but it’s boarded up.
ARTHUR:Fine!(He grunts in exertion, amidst something clattering.)Here?
KELLIN:Yeah.(Arthur impacts the window, over and over.)Arthur, it’s too strong. You need something.
ARTHUR:Well, then fucking look around!
KELLIN:Don’t you yell at me!(He starts breathing angrily.)
ARTHUR:Shut up! You’re justme,yelling at me! Hell. I’d be a more useful companion to myself.
(A brief audio distortion.)
OTHER ARTHUR:Would you?
OTHER ARTHUR:What?(Whispers rise in the background.)
ARTHUR:No, this doesn’t help! Jesus.
ADAM FRY:What about this? Is this easy?
EDDIE:Or this, you motherfucker?
MARIE:Or this, Arthur?
ARTHUR:Stop. Stop, please.(Arthur repeats ‘stop’ and ‘please’ to himself, over and over. Whispers rise in the background again.)
MARIE:Or should I say… Parker.
ARTHUR:Stop!(He grunts. Wood creaks. More pleading.)Please. Please.
(A long pause, punctuated only by the creaking of wood.)
KELLIN:Why not bring back John, then?(A melancholy piano begins to play.)
ARTHUR:Why? What do you mean, ‘why’?
COLLINS:You’re in control of this, lad.
ARTHUR:No, I’m not.
KELLIN:Yes, you are. Why not have John back?
KELLIN:Because what? Because you feel something is off about him.
KELLIN(pointedly):Yes, you do.
ARTHUR:What? No. Not at all.
KELLIN:In the back of your mind… is he not telling you something?
KELLIN:Stop what?(A slower piano piece begins to play.)This is you. This is your mind, Arthur. Do you not trust him?
ARTHUR(despairing):I don’t, I don’t know.
KELLIN:He’s lying about something. Is it Kayne? What isn’t he telling you?
ARTHUR:I don’t know!
KELLIN:Or maybe… just maybe… he’s slipping away.
KELLIN:How many times can you fracture a soul until it’s only a shell of its former?
ARTHUR:Nothing indicates that, n – there’s-there’s no way that’s possible.
KELLIN:What is possible in this world, Arthur?
ARTHUR:I don’t know, but that’s not… no, I-I don’t think that!
KELLIN:Then how am I saying it? Clearly you think that. He drifted off last night. Is that the first time that’s happened?
KELLIN:How can you be so sure?
KELLIN:Yellow. The King. John. Three separate entities.
KELLIN:Is he? If he was trapped inside of you, he’s clearly no longer a whole! And look at what you did to that.
ARTHUR:What I did?
KELLIN:What youruined. (Whispers start to rise again.)You can hate me for saying this…
(A brief audio distortion. Kellin’s voice starts to mix with Other Arthur’s, shifting wholly to Other Arthur towards the end.)
KELLIN/OTHER ARTHUR:But I’m only saying what you’re saying to yourself, Arthur. Something is off about John. You know it. BecauseIknow it.
(A brief audio distortion. A pause.)
KELLIN:The letter is still here.
ARTHUR:To Anna?(He grunts, bends down, and picks it up. The letter flutters.)
KELLIN:(reading)‘Dear A.’(A quick-paced piano tune begins to play. Kellin continues to read, gradually getting angrier.)
‘Why did you kill me? You led him straight to me. I was safe in Harper’s Hill and yet you told him. You told him about me. For years, I had run and hid and in a moment, all that was gone. All that was shattered because of you, because of what you did. How could you do this, A? Why are you risking everything? Leave Anna alone, stop trying to pursue her. You’re only going to get her killed, just like you killed Faroe.’(Furious.)‘Just like you killedBella.’
ARTHUR(anguished):I didn’tkillBella!(A discordant noise.)She died giving birth, I –
(Another discordant noise.)
ARTHUR:Of course she fucking did!
(A sudden horror sting.)
KELLIN:And where were you?
KELLIN:And where were you?
(Something metal clangs. Wooden furniture scrapes across the floor.)
ARTHUR:We’re getting out of here.
KELLIN:The caves, Arthur.
ARTHUR:No! Not the caves. Upstairs.(He starts to walk.)
KELLIN:Why not the caves?
KELLIN:Because you know what’s down there.
KELLIN:Yes. You know what you did to her.
KELLIN:Yes. You can’t stand to be there. To smell the blood in the air.
KELLIN:The widow whose skull you crushed with a rock!(A slow, sad piano melody begins to play. A continual audio distortion starts.)Beaten over and over again. Until her skull, now just fragments of bone, were indistinguishable from the pebbles by your feet!
(Arthur smashes something, metal clangs to the floor.)
ARTHUR:We’re going upstairs!
KELLIN:We never went upstairs.
ARTHUR:Well, it’s time we did!(He grunts as he starts to climb the stairs. Rain grows louder while Arthur ascends.)
KELLIN:The stairs are all but destroyed. The carpet up here is wet with rain.
KELLIN:The wheelchair, Arthur. It’s right where we found it.
ARTHUR:Wheelchair?(A baby starts to cry, making Arthur gasp. A feminine voice starts to hum Faroe’s Song, soothing.)
KELLIN:God bless this baby Stanczyk. God bless this baby Stanczyk.(A door slowly creaks open as Arthur walks in. A gentle piano melody begins to play. The baby starts to quiet, occasionally fussing.)
ARTHUR(intently):I didn’t kill this one.
ARTHUR:You. Uncle. The widow, Sarah. But not this one. This one I saved.
ARTHUR:You’re torturing me… with my own past, my ownguilt. (Disgusted.)You’re trying towhat?T-To get me… weak?
ARTHUR:No. No. I don’t dream. Not like this.
ARTHUR(furious):Cut the bullshit! Tell me why you’re here.
ARTHUR:I doubt that.(The humming, again. The creaking of the door.)
KELLIN:The door at the end of the hall is opening. A red mist is beginning to lick out of its open corners.
ARTHUR:You want me afraid.
KELLIN:We can head back down the stairs. Find our own way out of this nightmare.
ARTHUR:No. I’m not afraid of you.
KELLIN:The mist is billowing out from under the door, Arthur.(Suspenseful music begins to play.)It’s… it’s licking the air hungrily, as if tasting it.
ARTHUR:I’m not moving. I want answers. Tell me why you’re here!
KELLIN:The door’s open all the way, now.(Whispers faintly start in the background.)The red light that comes from within is pulsating beyond. Growing along with the fog that now claws its way across the floor towards us.
ARTHUR:This is still my dream, Scratch!
KELLIN:It moves as if it were alive, Arthur! Gliding along the walls like some unseen servant, doing its master’s bidding. Aching to engulf all that lay between it and its target.
ARTHUR(determinedly):And I control… what… I do!
KELLIN:The mist is around us now, Arthur. Surrounding us. Covering us. Engulfing us in nothingness… there is nothing, Arthur. There is nothing here. Only the mist. Only the fog. Only the tentacles within that wrap around our limbs.(Water roars in the background. Rising suspenseful sting of music.)The water is rising, Arthur.
ARTHUR:Water?(Water continually starts to splash and drip.)
KELLIN:Like pearls and now a silver blade. It pulls at our feet. The cursed feelers of some unseen horror dance along your inner thigh, feeling for soft flesh to latch onto.
KELLIN:They come from within the mist, dragging us down. Dragging us down into the waters below!
ARTHUR:No! No.(He breathes heavily in panic.)No!
KELLIN:They’re wrapping around your limbs, pulling you down into the nothingness of the silent waters. (ARTHUR:No!) Their nameless host drawing you into the placid lake, to devour and consume you! (ARTHUR:No!) Once and for all, Arthur! (ARTHUR:No!)
(A splash as Arthur is pulled under, and the sound of bubbles. The whispers continue, slightly louder. The sounds of a sea creature, like a whale, in the distance. Another voice speaks in a lower register, too distorted to make out. Eventually, Arthur rises out of the water with a gasp. Water splashes. Arthur pulls himself onto wood and collapses, breathing heavily. Thunder rumbles.)
KELLIN:I remember this scene.(Faroe’s Lullaby starts to play.)I remember watching you paddle away, as I lay somewhere over there. In the darkness. On the dock. Bleeding out. After you had taken the only thing that ever loved me.
ARTHUR:This boat, it… this is…
KELLIN:You watched me die.
ARTHUR:You… you would’ve killed me, first. You tried to kill me.
KELLIN:I suppose so. But does that mean my death was justified?
ARTHUR:No.(Uncertain.)I don’t know. Maybe. Are you… there, now? On the dock?
ARTHUR:As I left you?
KELLIN:As you left me.
ARTHUR:I can’t explain it, but… I know exactly how you looked.
KELLIN:Did you enjoy it?
ARTHUR:No. No. Not at all.
KELLIN:Are you lying to me?
KELLIN:Are you lying to yourself?
ARTHUR(quieter):Let’s get out of here.(He grunts and stands.)
KELLIN:Can we… head back?
(Arthur grunts as he rows the boat. It occasionally breaks.)
KELLIN:The fire dances on the water in the dark. Looks almost like the reflection of the sun. It’s beautiful, Arthur.
ARTHUR(out of breath):I can imagine.
KELLIN:Of course you can. You’re the one imagining it.(The sound of wood thudding against wood, and the crunch of sand.)The fire’s all but died, now. In fact, it’s gone.(A brief audio distortion.)The dock is to your right.
KELLIN:Yeah.(Arthur walks.)There I am.
ARTHUR:There you are.
KELLIN:Arthur. Can you do me a favor?
ARTHUR:I can. Yes.
KELLIN:Can you bury me?
ARTHUR:Of course.(He starts to walk, grunting as he drags the body. A slow, sad piano piece begins to play.)
KELLIN:The woods, to your left. Here.(Arthur puts the body down.)
KELLIN:You’re already holding one.(A brief audio distortion. Arthur sighs and starts to dig.)Who do you imagine I was? Before all this? Before we met?
ARTHUR(pausing):I don’t know, Kellin. I had hoped you were… a good person. Maybe someone who fell on tough times.(He continues to dig.)
KELLIN(thoughtful):Do you think I’m evil?
ARTHUR(weary, amidst digging):What is evil? Is it an opposition of god, the way Christians feel? Is it… disorder and violence, the way ancient Egyptians… felt? Or is it ambiguous? Is it just suffering? Is it the range of human immorality? And moreover, is it absolute? Is it a switch or a cut? A choice or an inherited gene that lay deep within few, perhaps all… waiting for the moment to break free? Evil is…(A high, nostalgic piano piece begins to play.)When Faroe died, my life ended.
I wanted to kill myself.(Through tears.)Like my parents did. Many years before.(A sharp inhale, voice shaking and weak.)But I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t imagine anyone experiencing that which I did. Even to those I hardly knew. It was…(Stronger voice.)Yet, yet! There were moments, years later, that I enjoyed the freedom of a life in Arkham. Untethered. The ability to have a drink with a friend, to spend the evening out without anyone worrying about me, without anyone wanting me!
(A long pause.)
Did that mean I was happy Faroe was gone?(Barely able to speak.)Did that mean, in some small way, I appreciated the death of my child? Is that evil, Kellin?
(A long, shaky inhale. Arthur clears his throat.)They say all it takes for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. But what’s a good man to do about that? Where does he fit in, within that tableau? What is there to triumph over? And you. D – Did I kill an evil man? Or in killing you, was an evil man created?
KELLIN:If I had an answer, it would only come from yourself.
KELLIN:I’d like to sleep now.
ARTHUR:Okay.(Arthur grunts and moves the body. He starts to shovel dirt.)Goodbye, Kellin. I’m sorry.
KELLIN(distantly):Goodbye, Arthur.(A pause.)I hope you find your little girl.
(Arthur takes a few steps. A longer audio distortion starts.)
ARTHUR:I think you and I are cards, drawn from the same deck, I fear. So perhaps you should guide.
LARSON(slightly echoing):My pleasure, Arthur. I wondered why I hadn’t spoken yet.
ARTHUR:Because I was afraid of what you would say.
LARSON:Sticks and stones, Arthur.
ARTHUR:There’s a town, through the woods. Leerie.
LARSON:Oh, I remember it well.
ARTHUR:I’d like to head there.
LARSON:Well, then.(Birds chirp.)Onward, stalwart traveler. These woods are lovely, dark and deep.(The distant sounds of woods and woodland creatures.)
ARTHUR:You’re mocking me.
LARSON:Far from it. Poetry is a gift of the gods.
ARTHUR:You count yourself amongst them.
LARSON:You speak as though you haven’t already met one. You’re practically housemates with a piece of one.
ARTHUR:John is no god.
LARSON:No. Not anymore, I suppose. Yellow was. Or saw himself as one.
ARTHUR:You brought that upon him! And you didn’t even know it. You made him ravenous with power, he… he heard everything you said at that dining table!
LARSON:I know. And I appreciated how quickly he turned on you. Not like your… golden boy.
LARSON:Your undefeated. John is not Yellow. He’s gold, Arthur. A gift. You see that. You see that in how he treats you. How he cares about you.
ARTHUR:I care about him because that’s how we survive. He’s my friend.
LARSON:Everything you’ve loved was taken away. Remember? You think John is any different?
ARTHUR:I don’t know.
LARSON:Nothing gold can stay, Arthur.
ARTHUR:Nothing gold can stay.
‘Nature’s first green is gold, her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower, but only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf, so Eden sank to grief.
So dawn goes down today, nothing gold can stay.’
ARTHUR(somber):Nothing gold can stay.
LARSON:There! The treeline breaks. We’re at the city. Leerie.
ARTHUR:Okay.(He walks through foliage. Wind whistles.)
LARSON:It’s a ghost town, Arthur. Vacant buildings and empty streets. Are you sure this is the place?
ARTHUR:I never came into this town. Only the hotel, which was closed.
LARSON:So why did you come here?
ARTHUR:Because I want answers.(He sighs. Every word emphatic.) Why are you here?
ARTHUR:So much what?
ARTHUR:Why won’t you let me just wake up?
ARTHUR(intense):I do! I…
LARSON:Is that true, Arthur?
ARTHUR(of course not):No, no!
(A baby starts to coo and cry. Arthur gasps.)
(A single suspenseful sting.)
LARSON:Arthur. This building beside us. It looks familiar. Warren Tavern.
LARSON:I can’t imagine why we’d leave town, Arthur.
ARTHUR:Perhaps we should.
LARSON:Arthur, you brought us here, and now you want to just turn tail and run?
ARTHUR:I… I can’t.
ARTHUR:I don’t –
LARSON:Go inside.Now. (The sound of whispers. The door pushes open, yielding the sound of muted conversation, squeaking chairs, and pouring glasses.)Well, this is quite the establishment, Arthur. Quite sophisticated. It has an old air about it. But where are we?
ARTHUR(sullen):You know where we are.
LARSON(brightly):Boston! You don’t say. Well, when?
ARTHUR:You know when.
LARSON:That many years ago? Well, you would’ve been a young buck! A husband already? A father… yet?
ARTHUR:Why are you doing this to me?
LARSON(intense):You’re doing this to you, Arthur!(A mild audio distortion.)You’re turning over stones in your mind and watching the earthworms writhe. Watching all the insects scuttle and run from the afternoon light.(Insects scuttling, growing louder.)They turn your stomach, Arthur. Their features alien, too many legs. Too many eyes. Creatures that exist in a world so utterly different from yours. Stomachs that vomit acid, mandibles that cut! Tiny, greasy hairs that stick out from the skin, which sloughs off, leaving a soulless husk behind. They disgust you, Arthur. And yet you watch them.
Sometimes even letting them get close to your feet. You can’t help but watch the horror.
(A brief audio distortion. The insect sounds disappear, replaced instead with the previous bar sounds.)
ARTHUR(solemn):This isn’t horror.
LARSON:To whom? Why, look, Arthur. It’s you. Over there, at the same table you sat at.
(A chair squeaks back.)
JAMES:Okay, hold on. Wh-What exactly are you saying? You can’t – You can’t be serious.
PAST ARTHUR:Maybe I… I can’t do this. Maybe I don’t want to do this.
JAMES:I think it’s a little too late for that, Arthur. Bella is –
PAST ARTHUR:Bella is…(At a loss.) I-I-I…
PAST ARTHUR(agitated):Why?(Fumbling his words.)Because her… her father found out, b-because… because heaven forbid a child enter this world that isn’t part of a-a married –
JAMES:Look. You said yes.
PAST ARTHUR:I saidyes,because…(Uncertain.)I…
JAMES:Because? You don’t have an answer.
PAST ARTHUR(overlapping):I don’t love her.
JAMES(putting glass down):Well, it seemed like it to me.
PAST ARTHUR(displeased):Well, what do you know? Her mother died, James. She was alone.(A pause. A gentle piano melody starts.)No. No, she wasn’t alone. She deserved love. Bella’s… Bella is a fine woman, she’s… kind. To me.
JAMES(fed up):This wasn’t an accident! Y-You make it seem like this just happened to you! Y-You did this! You planned this! Th-This was the lifeyouwanted. Wha-What are you, scared, or –
PAST ARTHUR:No, James.
JAMES:Then-Then what are you saying, you can’t do it?
PAST ARTHUR:I can’t live for someone else!(Quieter.)I can’t live for someone else. I can feel myself looking back, a-and wishing I had done something different. Wishing I’d made a change. Wishing I had walked away.
JAMES:From your kid?
JAMES:From Bella. Why?
PAST ARTHUR(urgent):Because it’s wrong! It – It’swrong.I know it is. I-I… I know that it’s right for her. Her father, their family,you!
JAMES:Hey, look, I’m-I’m just –
PAST ARTHUR:I get it. I get what it looks like. But… what do I do when Iknowit’s wrong?
JAMES:You make it right. You work at it.
PAST ARTHUR(hostile):You talk about it like it’s afuckingmathematics problem, James! I’m not saying it’s broken. I’m saying it’swrong!
JAMES:So you’re what? You’re going to leave your wife as she’s giving birth?
PAST ARTHUR:No.(Softer.)I-I don’t know.
JAMES:Then you get it together, man.(A flustered noise.)If you think you’re going to get me to understand your point of view, then —
PAST ARTHUR:I’m not. I don’t think anyone would, I’m just telling you… what it is.
JAMES(disgusted):What it is. Like it’s a fucking fact.
PAST ARTHUR(shouting):As opposed towhat,James?
JAMES:Fear, Arthur! It’s fear. Okay? You think you’re the first person to get cold feet? Look at yourself! L-Look at the timing!
PAST ARTHUR(scathing):It must be so easy to wash an idea away with one word answers.
JAMES:You’re a liar.
PAST ARTHUR:You’re a bad friend.
JAMES:And you’re a fucking piece of shit, you know that.(A chair scrapes across the floor.)
PAST ARTHUR:And you’re not sur –(The sound of a punch, and a grunt of pain. Arthur falls to the floor, clattering furniture and shattering glass. The ambient conversations quiet, excepting a few gasps and quiet whispers.)
JAMES:Leave your fucking wife or don’t!(Clothing rustles. Arthur breathes heavily.)All I know is that she is down the road right now waiting for you. Bella may not be right for you… but she may be very well the only person that will ever love you. Make your choice, but be prepared to live with the fallout.
PAST ARTHUR(moving around):Oh, I’ll deal with the fallout!(Outraged.)The way I’ve dealt witheveryfucking thing in my life!(Calling out.)Fuck you, James! Fuck you!
(Brief audio distortion, accompanied by a lingering echo.)
ARTHUR(sighing):By the time I got to the hospital, Bella was dead. And Faroe had been born an hour earlier. She was alone in the hospital for an entire hour. Alone. Without a single person in the world that knew she existed. Who loved her.
(Faroe’s Song starts. He steps and takes a seat.)
LARSON:You were going to leave your wife as she gave birth?(Arthur takes a drink and sets down his glass.)Or just after, I suppose. You really make it easy to hate you.
ARTHUR:The irony of how much that’s true. And how much I hate myself.
LARSON:I’d say you lucked out there. With Bella dying.
ARTHUR:You could say that.
LARSON:You could think it.
(A long pause.)
ARTHUR:Does this… satisfy you, Scratch?
(Arthur takes another drink and sets his glass down.)
ARTHUR:That’s not why I didn’t want to come in here.
ARTHUR:No. It was the hour, Scratch. The hour I hadn’t known about Faroe.(Disgusted.)That I sat here, getting drunk. It was the hour I wasted. The hour my daughter sat alone in her crib. That’s the shame I feel, reliving this moment.
ARTHUR:I’m not trying to defend my selfishness. I’m not… saying anyone, James, yourself… my own inner voice, need to feel that I handled this well.(He chuckles bitterly.)What I’m saying is that being with Bella waswrong.There’s no other way to view it. Is there, Wally?
LARSON:Leaving her on the day she died.
ARTHUR:But did being with her feel wrong?
ARTHUR(self-evidently):Even my own self-loathing knows it, Scratch! This isn’t about me being innocent. I’ve made my mistakes. I have been, and can be, and continue to be selfish, arrogant, a failure… butthismoment…(He sighs.)Those traits aside, I saw in my heart what was wrong. I just picked a terrible time to see it.
LARSON:Still.(Creeping, suspenseful music starts.)You and I are quite the pair. Two peas, one would say. Both sacrificed our daughters for our passions.
ARTHUR:You’d like to think that.
LARSON:You for your art. You playing piano. You were composing the day that –
(A brief audio distortion.)
ARTHUR(cutting him off, abrupt):Yeah. I’m done with this. I’m done with all this.(Glass smashing, the chair squeaking. Faroe’s Song starts to play.)I’ve been led around enough by you, Scratch. I’m leaving.
(A brief audio distortion. The door opens, and thunder rumbles.)
LARSON:My hallway! In the Larson estate. Uncle lay dead in one of these rooms. Within the –
ARTHUR:Yeah, I’m over this, Larson. Myself… whatever fucking voice makes sense. I’ve beat myself up enough in this dream.(Thunder rumbles.)Relived enough bad memories for the night. I’m going to leave.
ARTHUR(fed up):You say that, but I’m telling you I do!
ARTHUR:Alright! You want me asleep. You want me… scared. You’re feeding on me. What are you, a spirit?
(Mr. Scratch hisses.)
ARTHUR:Okay. A demon, of some sort. In Marie’s house. Why?
LARSON: Perhaps it’s trapped.
LARSON:If it’s feeding on our fears… our negative thoughts… how do we combat this?(Thunder rumbles.)
ARTHUR:Well, we stop trying to wake up.
ARTHUR(deep breath in and out):And.
(A more prolonged audio distortion, followed by the sound of bubbling water and grasses shifting in the wind. Slow steps.)
LARSON:Where is this, Arthur? I don’t remember this place.
ARTHUR(sighing, solemn):Faroe was two years old.(A high, nostalgic piano tune begins to play.)A little bumping bundle of energy. And there was this park by our house in Boston. A park with a little… pond that had ducks in it. Tess had taken a few weeks off in the summer, and we went to that small duck pond every day for hours.(Lovingly.)Bringing bread, watching the ducks play.(Voice thick.)She would point at them. Making the sound they made, trying her very best to say, ‘Duck!’ Or… whatever…(He chuckles.)Word.
She was so little. I would carry her all the way there and back.(Whispering fondly.)Then we would explore the park for hours. I remember there was this… small bridge, just a little wooden bridge that went over the stream and, ah. Well, I would… tell her stories as we walked through the woods. Little fairy tales. Sometimes made up, sometimes popular. And, uh.
She really liked ‘The Three Billy Goats Gruff’.(He chuckles through tears.)Found that one particularly amusing. So whenever we would cross the bridge, I would walk up in front and I’d say, ‘Wait here, Faroe!’(Voice wavering.)And I’d knock on the bridge, and I’d say, ‘Are you there, troll?’ And when no troll came out, we would cross.
(Slow, pained.)And on the way back, Faroe would… stop me, and walk up, knock on the bridge, and say in her… tiny voice, ‘Are you there, troll?’ And when no troll came out, we’d head back.(Shaky inhale.)Those were… without a doubt, the happiest days of my life.(He sniffs.)
(Eerie music starts.)
ARTHUR(determined):I told you I’m through playing.
ARTHUR:It’s over then, Scratch.
LARSON:Arthur, the sky is dark. The park is gone.
(Whispers in the background and the sound of something wet. Arthur starts to struggle.)
LARSON:Looks like tendrils from the sky have dropped down and attached around your arms and legs, pulling you taut! There’s a figure from the treeline.(Arthur makes a noise of fear and continues to struggle. The sound of something stretching.)Bathed in black. Silver eyes, large and sinister. Arthur! I think we can loosen the rope on your hand. You can reach it if you justfocus!
(Something shooting out and attaching to Arthur. Arthur grunts in pain.)
ARTHUR(struggling):I told you! I’m… done with you!
LARSON:Arthur. The figure is moving from the treeline. Its skin is a deep violet, its silver eyes float, almost apart from its body.
ARTHUR:You don’t know that! You don’t know any of that!
LARSON:Arthur, he is approaching.(Slow, soft footsteps.)Untie yourself!
ARTHUR:I’m trying! These tendrils are…(Grunting, fighting back.)Fighting me!
ARTHUR:I’m not playing it! You can’t hurt me.
(A brief audio distortion. Metal being unsheathed.)
LARSON:Arthur. The figure has pulled out a large knife.
(A swing of metal into flesh, and Arthur’s strangled, prolonged cries of pain. Chilling string chords play.)
LARSON:He’s driven it into your stomach.(More metal slicing into flesh. Another scream of pain from Arthur. Continued ripping of skin and squishing in flesh.)He’s pulling the knife upwards towards your ribcage.
LARSON:He’s opened your stomach, Arthur.(Arthur groans in agony.)He’s peeling back the bloodsoaked skin.
LARSON:Arthur, he’s reached inside your stomach.(Arthur struggles.)Feeling his way around with his long, dark claws.
(Arthur grunts in pain.)
LARSON:He’s pulling out your intestines, Arthur, drawing them out slowly.
ARTHUR(through gritted teeth):This is a dream. This is a dream.(Whispering.)This… this isn’t real. This isn’t real.(More determined.)This… isn’t… real.
LARSON:He’s bringing them to his lips.
ARTHUR(agonized, panting):I know why you’re doing this! You’re doing this to torture me. To feed on my pain.
(Rising suspenseful strings.)
LARSON:Arthur, the rope! You’ve almost untied it.(Arthur makes a grunt of effort.)Arthur! There! Yes! Your hand is free. The knife, Arthur!(Arthur grunts.)Stab him.
ARTHUR:I’ll never let you out.
(Arthur slashes at Mr. Scratch. Flesh squishes onto the floor. Mr. Scratch’s voice distorts and the echo stops. The sound of blowing wind plays softly, then silence.)
LARSON(echoing):He’s gone, Arthur.(Arthur makes a noise.)She is free now, Arthur.(Arthur hums.)Arthur.
ARTHUR:Wha –? Mhm.(He sniffs.)
(Larson’s echoing voice mixes in with a distant John’s.)
ARTHUR:What is… what?
JOHN(coming into focus, alarmed):Arthur, what the fuck are you doing?
(A brief audio distortion. Rain falls outside.)
ARTHUR:John? Oh, wh-what is happening? W-Where are we?
JOHN:The room beneath us! You’ve been sleepwalking.
ARTHUR:N-No, I-I… I was… I was.(Someone wheezes continually.)What is… who is that?
JOHN(emphatically):The woman you just untied.(Arthur gasps in shock.)
(Horrific string music plays briefly. Something bending and cracking, and then the pad of footsteps.)
(A single low beat.)
JOHN(what is going on):Arthur, what thefuckis happening?
ARTHUR(gradually more horrified):I can’t… I can’t… I can’t move. I-I can’t, I can’t…
ARTHUR:I can’t… I can’t… I can’t m-move.(He pants in fear.)
ARTHUR:I can’t… I…
(Mr. Scratch starts to walk around Arthur at a slow, steady pace.)
JOHN:The woman, Arthur! She’s speaking as if —
ARTHUR(whimpering):S-Scratch, I… I… I…
ARTHUR:I don’t, I don’t understand, I… I don’t understand, I… I…
(The footsteps stop.)
(A horror sting.)
JOHN:Arthur, she’s studying your face! Why can’t you move?
ARTHUR:What are you going to do with me?
(The footsteps continue.)
(Thunder crackles outside.)
ARTHUR:I-I didn’t. I-Iwouldn’t!
(A brief audio distortion. Arthur gasps. Thunder rolls. A clicking noise, followed by music: ‘I’ll See You In My Dreams’ by Isham Jones, 1924.
‘Hold you in my dreams
Someone took you out of my arms
Still I feel the thrill of your charms
Lips that once were mine
Tender eyes that shine
They will light my way tonight
I’ll see you in my dreams.’
Static. A click.)