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Mad World

Lights Out

Mad World

May 19 1937





CAST OF CHARACTERS:


THE LEADER...the dictator of the World State of the future; he has an indeterminate accent; he is a sick, irritable man in his late sixties or early seventies.


DOCTOR...THE LEADER's personal physician; as are most men, he is afraid and diffident in the great one's presence; indeterminate accent


BREYNA...aged, dry-as-dust scientist; he alone is not afraid of the Leader.


PAVALOFF...Russian scientist.


THE AGED COCKNEY ENGLISHWOMAN


Bits: an orator; an orderly; guests at banquet (these can be handled by two actors)








VOICE: Lights Out, everybody!


TWELVE CHIMES - WIND EFFECT UP ON NINTH - ALL OUT WITH


GONG:


VOICE: The time is...(IN CLOSE) twenty years after the next World War......


ORATOR: (ECHO CHAMBER - VERNIER FADEIN) A leader - a strong leader - a leader who has given us new ideals - great ideals - his ideals!


CROWD ROARS - PITCH HIGH TO GIVE IMPRESSION OF MANY YOUNG VOICES


ORATOR: You who are assembled here today are the duty-bound children of destiny who in our great tomorrow will carry out the plans of our heaven-sent leader! You the great society of the Youth Leaders of the State - you in whose veins flows the fresh young blood of a glorious future - (FADE BACK) it is to you that our leader has so often turned his eyes for a rebirth of that zealful enthusiasm which has carried our nation so far and so quickly....(CONTINUING AD LIB IN THIS VEIN BEHIND:)


THE LEADER: (HE IS A SICK, IRRITABLE OLD MAN) (CALLING AT "IT IS YOU THAT OUR LEADER" IN ABOVE SPEECH) Orderly! Orderly!


ORDERLY: (IN FAST - VERY DIFFIDENTLY) Yes, your Excellency?


THE LEADER: Blast you! The window! Shut the window!


ORDERLY: (FADE) Yes, your Excellency!....


ORATOR IS HEARD BACK CONTINUING HIS CROWD HARANGUE


THE LEADER: Close it! Close it! Blast you, close it!


SOUND OF WINDOW CLOSING, BACK.


ORATOR: (OUT WITH ABOVE EFFECT)


THE LEADER: The noise - the crowds - who is it talking - what is he talking about?


ORDERLY: (FADEIN FAST) Five thousand of the youth leaders, your Excellency - they are massed in the square just beyond the balcony listening to the weekly address by one of [the] members of --


THE LEADER: (INTERRUPTING IRRITABLY) All right, all right, hold your tongue! The doctor? Is he here yet? Why doesn't he come?


ORDERLY: He has been waiting, your Excellency, while you have been sleeping..


THE LEADER: (SHARPLY) I have not been sleeping! I never sleep in the daytime! You hear me? Never!


ORDERLY: (FRIGHTENEDLY) Yes, your Excellency.


THE LEADER: Send him!


ORDERLY: (FADE) Yes, your Excellency....


THE LEADER: (GRUMBLING) Asleep!...Old men sleep in the day!


DOOR, BACK


ORDERLY: (BACK) His Excellency will see you, doctor.


THE LEADER: (UP) Come in, doctor, come in! Why must you keep me waiting?


DOCTOR: (IN FAST - DIFFIDENTLY) I am indeed regretful, your Excellency, but --


THE LEADER: (IMPATIENTLY) Do not waste time!. Tell me - the fool was wrong, eh? - wrong!


DOCTOR: (DEFINITE FRIGHT AND REGRET IN VOICE) Your Excellency...


THE LEADER: (UP, ANGRILY) Answer me! The fool was wrong! Answer me! 


DOCTOR: (SLOWLY) Not...wrong, Your Excellency!....


THE LEADER: (SHARP INTAKE OF BREATH)


DOCTOR: Hamholtz of the Vienna Polyclinic - Dr. Ambazzio of the International Institute - believe me, your Excellency, there were eleven of the greatest medical minds...


THE LEADER: (INTENSELY) And they said...


DOCTOR: No, no, you must not sit up!


THE LEADER: (RASPINGLY) And they said? (UP - SHARPLY) Answer me! They said --


DOCTOR: (HE IS GATHERING COURAGE) That - that - (QUICKLY) that there is no hope! No hope!


THE LEADER: (GASPS ONCE - PAUSE - THEN SLOWLY, RASPINGLY) You...tell me...how long?..


DOCTOR: (BROKENLY) Oh, your Excellency! I --


THE LEADER: Sentimentality be damned! (INTENSELY) How long? Tell me how long they say I can live! (UP, MADLY) How long?


DOCTOR: (BROKENLY) Three --


THE LEADER: (HOPEFULLY) Three years?


DOCTOR: Three....months...


THE LEADER: (GASPS) Ahh.... (HOARSELY TO SELF) C'est morte en troix mois!.....


DOCTOR: (SOFTLY) The will of God...


THE LEADER: (UP, FURIOUSLY) But it is not my will! To die in three months - no, no! It cannot be! It is a plot against me - they lie - tell me they lie! They lie!


DOCTOR: No-o-o....


THE LEADER: (BUILDING UP) How can it be? The world in my hand - all these years of my struggle - scheming, planning, fighting - victory at last - a world that is a world in my image - my world! And now - to lose it in three months - (DOWN HOARSELY) Oh, no! That cannot be! (SLOWLY, SPACING WORDS) That - cannot - be!.....(PAUSE) Well! Stop staring at me with your calf-eyes! Have you no words..no hope for me, your leader? (GASPS IN PAIN SUDDENLY) Ahh!


DOCTOR: That pain that twisted your heart...that is the answer, your Excellency...


THE LEADER: (THERE IS STILL A NOTE OF PAIN IN HIS VOICE) Pain...Is that the ultimate of my destiny - three months of pain....(UP ANGRILY) Air! Give me air! Must I suffocate in here? Throw open the windows!


DOCTOR: (FADE) Yes, your Excellency!


SOUND OF WINDOW OPENING, BACK - BRING IN THE RUMBLE OF CROWD MASSED OUTSIDE IN THE SQUARE.


ORATOR: (FAR BACK - FADEIN WITH ABOVE EFFECTS) For I say it to you again - it is we the youth who will carry on the great destiny in the world of our exalted leader! He is the symbol of everlasting youth - in his veins the blood runs fresh and clean and strong! The strength of our leader is our strength - his vigor is our vigor - his everlasting youth is our youth! I say to you, comrades, as he goes on to ever-greater heights, we go on - as he lives in exalted greatness, strong and vigorous with everlasting youth, we live on blessed by the glory that is his...(CONTINUE AD LIB BEHIND FOLLOWING SPEECHES)


THE LEADER: (UP MADLY AT "AS HE GOES ON TO EVERLASTING HEIGHTS") No, no! Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!


DOCTOR: (IN FAST) No, no, your Excellency! You must not arise! It's dangerous! The exertion - please --


THE LEADER: (BREATHING HEAVILY) Stand aside! This blasted bed - I will not die in it - not I!


DOCTOR: Your Excellency, where are you going? What --


THE LEADER: That blasted fool out there - I must shut his mouth - his infernal mouth!


ORATOR: (BEGIN TO FADEIN CLOSER AT "I MUST SHUT HIS MOUTH" IN ABOVE SPEECH)....Ah, yes, the youth of our leader - his glorious strength - eternal youth - his immortal vigor and health -


DOCTOR: (AT "ETERNAL YOUTH" IN ABOVE) No, no, your Excellency! Do not lean out of the window!


THE LEADER: (UP - CALLING MADLY) You, down there! Listen to me! Listen!


ORATOR: (BREAKS OFF HIS SPEECH)


A VOICE: (FAR BACK) It is the Leader!...


OTHER VOICES, FAR BACK, TAKE UP THE CRY EXULTANTLY "THE LEADER"! - "IT'S THE LEADER!" - "VIVA! THE LEADER!" BRING IN ROAR OF CROWD BEHIND THESE CRIES TO GIVE IMPRESSION OF GREAT ASSEMBLAGE TURNING TOWARD WINDOW, WHERE THE LEADER STANDS, AND ROARING ITS IDOLIZATION.


THE LEADER: (UP ABOVE CROWD NOISE) Quiet, you fools! You young fools! Go home! I tell you, go to your homes! I hate the sight of you! Go home! (IN GREAT DISGUST) Ahh! Shut the windows, somebody! Quickly!


WINDOWS CLOSING - CROWD NOISES OUT ALMOST COMPLETELY BUT A FAINT, DISTANT INTERMITTENT ROAR GIVES THE IMPRESSION THAT THE CROWD OF YOUTHFUL IDOLIZERS STILL STANDS FAR BELOW IN THE OPEN SQUARE WAITING FOR THE REAPPEARANCE OF THE LEADER.


THE LEADER: (INTENSELY) Look at them! Look at them! Young - lusty - all that was mine is theirs! Worms - and they have life ahead - years of it, and I have none! But no, I say no it shall not be! No life for me, no life for them!..


DOCTOR: Your Excellency - what --


THE LEADER: Out! Get out! Worms - the world crawls with worms - I alone was the man! If I die, the worms of the world die with me! I made myself master in life, and in death all shall come with me! I was the superman that was to inherit the earth so if I am to lose my inheritance, there shall be none for them out there! (UP, IN RINGING MADNESS) If it is death for me the Leader - it is death for them!


GONG:


BREYNA: (INDETERMINATE ACCENT - HE IS A SMALL, AGED, DRY-AS-DUST SCIENTIST - THERE IS NONE OF THE DIFFIDENCE AND FEAR THE OTHERS DISPLAYED WHEN TALKING TO THE LEADER) You sent for me, leader?


THE LEADER: Yes. You are Breyna?


BREYNA: I am Breyna.


THE LEADER: I remember you very well...the formula for the Paralysis Gas bombs was yours...


BREYNA: (MILDLY) It won you the world...


THE LEADER: The world...


BREYNA: No declaration of war - sudden attack - the bombs - and there was your victory -......


THE LEADER: I offered you medals!


BREYNA: Medals to a man of science mean less than...kindness to a man of war...


THE LEADER: You said that when I offered you the honor - I could have had you shot!


BREYNA: Instead you - uh - confined me.


THE LEADER: As an enemy of the Will of the State you had to be confined!


BREYNA: I do not protest! Twenty years of prison - twenty years of concentration on my work!


THE LEADER: Your work - that is why you are here!


BREYNA: So?


THE LEADER: I have had reports that you have made another remarkable discovery!


BREYNA: It will not interest you...


THE LEADER: (SURPRISEDLY) Eh?


BREYNA: My discovery has no more practical purpose...the victory is already yours...


THE LEADER: (IN CLOSE - GREAT INTEREST) You mean..what you have discovered...it means death?


BREYNA: Yes....yet quite a different death than the paralysis gas which you used so successfully twenty years ago.


THE LEADER: Speak on!


BREYNA: There is nothing to speak of - what I have discovered will mean nothing - you have no more worlds to conquer...


THE LEADER: (TENSELY) Will you speak?


BREYNA: Why not? The time to have remained silent was twenty years ago...what I tell you now can not add or detract from the harm I have done..


THE LEADER: I will have you shot!


BREYNA: It does not matter - I am an old man puttering uselessly in a world which my brain and your ambition, exalted leader, have already destroyed...


THE LEADER: (HARSHLY) Destroyed! You fool - I gave the world order!


BREYNA: And took away....much more...


THE LEADER: (ANGRILY) Will you tell me what it is you have concocted, you blabbering old fool? Speak, or I'll shoot you dead!


BREYNA: Yes...I will speak. What I gave you twenty years before was gas that, released thru the explosion of aerial bombs, paralyzed your enemies - men, and women, and children, and made you master - (SARDONICALLY) I should say leader of them all! But this, my new discovery, is far more miraculous! It is what might be called the "Elixir of Madness!"


THE LEADER: You are mad!


BREYNA: On the contrary I am surprisingly sane after my twenty years in the - uh - protective custody of your jailers! Elixir of Madness I have called my discovery - we are both getting quite antiquated, noble leader - how unfortunate that I did not discover an elixir of youth!


THE LEADER: (INTENSELY) What is this elixir? Of what purpose? Speak!


BREYNA: I have brought some with me. Here!


THE LEADER: A bottle - but it is nothing but water!


BREYNA: (CHUCKLES) Liquid, but not water...When I was a young man my great ambition was to do wonderful things medically for mankind. Now I am an old man, and the result of my life's work - a gas which paralyzes mankind, and now a liquid which brings him madness! (BITTERLY) Wonderful, no?


THE LEADER: (SHARPLY) Madness? What do you mean?


BREYNA: In that bottle is enough liquid to bring to madness every man, woman, and child in the world today that your graciousness has permitted to live!


THE LEADER: (TENSELY) Say that again!


BREYNA: There is in this liquid the power to bring madness to every man, woman - ah, but why must I repeat it? Surely you do not doubt me, great one?


THE LEADER: I thought it could not be twenty years ago, when they told me of the gas you had developed...


BREYNA: And so you think it cannot be now - this liquid of madness! But I assure you the ability for the conception of implements of destruction the devil gave me is still mine! Look at [it], I tell you - a world of insanity in this bottle!


THE LEADER: (SLOWLY) Can it be that again you bring me the answer to what I want?


BREYNA: (CHUCKLES) Surely you do not want madness?


THE LEADER: (SHARPLY) How does it work?


BREYNA: Eh?


THE LEADER: This liquid - you say it could bring madness - to the world! - but how? How can that be? Such a small bottle!


BREYNA: Dilution does not appear to affect its potency - one part in a million of water is enough! Oh, I know that sounds impossible, and yet I tell you it is true! One part in a million in water - ah, I see the man of war understands! A few drops in the water supply of a city and (SNAP OF FINGERS) a city of madmen!


THE LEADER: (SLOWLY) How can that be?.....


BREYNA: My evil genius - to discover this substance which attacks the very control centers of the mind, and makes a man like a mad thing, running in wide circles like a mad dog chasing his tail, without direction, without understand[ing] - drooling, squaling - all rationality gone - less than a man - a thing without reason to dance madly until strength is gone, and then to drop and die!


THE LEADER: It cannot be!


BREYNA: I have proved it!


THE LEADER: With men?


BREYNA: No, no, where could I get men for experimentation, in your concentration camp! With dogs! They run, round and round, until at last they die of exhaustion! I have seen it, again and again!


THE LEADER: (GROWING EXCITEMENT IN VOICE) And in this bottle there is enough for --


BREYNA: For [more] madness than even you have brought the earth!


THE LEADER: Then drink!


BREYNA: Eh?


THE LEADER: I have uncorked the bottle for you - drink!


BREYNA: But - but I told you - a drop, even diluted, means horrible madness! Do you not believe?


THE LEADER: (INEXORABLY) Drink!


BREYNA: No! I will not!


THE LEADER: (IN CLOSE) Drink!


BREYNA: I tell you I know it does just as I said! I will not drink it! NO!


THE LEADER: (SHARPLY) Then I will make you drink!


BREYNA: (STRUGGLING AGAINST OTHER MAN) No, no, let me go! It is madness - I have so few years left - let me go! (ETC. AD LIB)


THE LEADER: (THRU OTHER'S CRIES) Drink, I tell you! If it gives madness, it will be your madness first! Drink! - I must know! I must know!


BREYNA: (CHOKINGLY) No, no, you're choking me! Ahh!...


THE LEADER: So! You said one drop was enough and a hundred drops just spilled down your throat, old fool! Well, where is this horrible madness that it brings? If you lied, I'll have that thing you call a life with my own hands!


BREYNA: (MUMBLES SOMETHING UNINTELLIGIBLY)


THE LEADER: Old wretch!


SOUND OF BLOW IN FACE.


THE LEADER: You lied to me! There is no madness in it! You have failed me! Now how can I carry out what I must do? How can I --


BREYNA: (CRIES OUT WITH A PECULIAR MAD SINGING CRY)


THE LEADER: Breyna! What is it?


BREYNA: (CRIES OUT AGAIN IN THAT PECULIAR SINGING CRY OF MADNESS - IT IS A WEIRD HIGH-PITCHED VOCALIZATION, A CRY DEFINITELY OF INSANITY, CONTINUOUS, PAUSING ONLY FOR A GASP OF AIR - NOW IT IS IN CLOSE, THEN IT FADES BACK TO GIVE THE IMPRESSION THAT THE MAN IS RUNNING AROUND AND AROUND)


THE LEADER: (THRU THE ABOVE DESCRIBED WAILING) Breyna! What is it? Why are you running around and around like a - (AS REALIZATION COMES TO HIM) Ah! It is just as he said! Around and around in a circle - (WITH INCREASING HAPPINESS) like a dog chasing his own tail! (UP) Breyna! You were right! You were right!


BREYNA'S MAD WAIL COMES IN CLOSE FOR A MOMENT THEN FADES BACK AGAIN


THE LEADER: (LAUGHINGLY) But no, he cannot hear! He is too busy running in his circle of insanity, his circle of death! (UP) Breyna, again you have helped me! You have given me power again - THE ELIXIR OF MADNESS!


GONG:


THE LEADER: It was very kind of you to make this long trip to see me, Pavaloff.


PAVALOFF: (RUSSIAN ACCENT) It was your command...


THE LEADER: There was a time when your countrymen did not obey so well, eh, Pavaloff?


PAVALOFF: Twenty years is too short a time to forget the vigorous lesson you taught them... 


THE LEADER: (GRUFFLY) Yes!..But that is of no interest to me at the moment. There is something else. You, Pavaloff, are a great man of science, eh - an astronomer with your eyes looking into the spaces of infinity!


PAVALOFF: It has been my life's work....


THE LEADER: And they tell me you have written a book - an accepted authoritative book - in which you have carefully detailed the future of the world and mankind.


PAVALOFF: Yes, I have written such a book...


THE LEADER: And in this book you state that the future of mankind upon the earth appears very hopeful - is that not true?


PAVALOFF: Your Excellency understands that I was speaking from an evolutionary standpoint alone. We men of science understand that your Excellency does not wish us to prophesize in the field of political economy.


THE LEADER: (SARDONICALLY) And how long, M'sieu Scientist, do you, in your profound knowledge, prophesize mankind will exist upon this earth?


PAVALOFF: Mankind has a record of, perhaps, five hundred thousand years upon this planet - there is every reason to believe that, barring a cosmic catastrophe, the race of man will continue to inhabit the earth for untold centuries - hundreds of thousands perhaps - in the future.


THE LEADER: (REPEATS SLOWLY WITH RELISH) "Barring a cosmic catastrophe"...And what do you mean by that, my friend?


PAVALOFF: In so great a universe who can predict with accuracy - a collision with a great rushing meteor, the sudden appearance of a great blasting comet, an engulfing stream of flame as the result of a tremendous explosion in the mass of the sun - any of these might result in the complete extinction of mankind!


THE LEADER: (CHUCKLES MACABRELY)


PAVALOFF: Might I ask why Your Excellency is amused?


THE LEADER: So you think that the only possibility for the extinction of mankind can come from up there in the heavens?


PAVALOFF: Most assuredly, Your Excellency. War, pestilence, disease - the race of man has always surmounted them - the end of mankind must come with the end of the earth as we know it now.


THE LEADER: (HE IS VERY AMUSED) And the end of mankind could never come as the result of the will of one man?


PAVALOFF: (AMUSED) Oh, no! That is an absurdity!


THE LEADER: Now you are amused....


PAVALOFF: (CHUCKLING) Indeed! (REPEATS WITH AMUSEMENT) "The end of mankind as the result of the will of one man"! It is amusing!


THE LEADER: Yes...


SOUND: OF GURGLING WATER


THE LEADER: We will drink to your amusement...


PAVALOFF: Oh, no, I --


THE LEADER: But I insist! Take it!


PAVALOFF: If it is your wish....


THE LEADER: Now, then, I give you a toast - to the will of that one man!


PAVALOFF: (CHUCKLING) Indeed!


THE LEADER: Drink!


PAVALOFF: Yes....


SOUND OF DRINKING:


THE LEADER: So! And how did you like the drink, man-who-looks-into-the-future?


PAVALOFF: (DAZEDLY) I - I ---


SOUND OF GLASS SPLINTERING ON FLOOR.


THE LEADER: (WITH MACABRE AMUSEMENT) What is it, my friend? You dropped the glass - are you ill? What --


PAVALOFF: (BEGINS TO CRY OUT IN THE SAME PECULIAR SINGING CRY OF MADNESS AS DID BREYNA IN THE PREVIOUS SCENE - FADING IN AND OUT AS PREVIOUSLY DESCRIBED AS THE MAN BEGINS TO RUN IN THE CIRCLE OF MADNESS - CONTINUING BEHIND THE LEADER'S FOLLOWING SPEECHES)


THE LEADER: (EXULTANTLY) - (AS PAVALOFF BEGINS HIS WAIL OF MADNESS) It begins! (PAVALOFF'S WEIRD WAILING IS HEARD FOR A FEW SECONDS, THEN THE LEADER GOES ON EXULTANTLY) The great man of science - a mad dog running around and around! (PAVALOFF'S WAILING INCREASES IN INTENSITY) Yes, yes, sing out, man of wisdom! It amuses me! Around and around in your dizzy circle until you drop in death! The destiny of mankind - there is your answer, but you will never know it! In five minutes your mad dance will be over and you will be dead, dead as the result of the will of one man - my will! The Elixir of Death - I hold the bottle high - can your streaming eyes see it, mad one? One more test I will give it, and then, as it is with you, Pavaloff - (UP MADLY) it will be with all mankind!


GONG:


SOUND: OF MEN SITTING AROUND TABLE AT GREAT BANQUET - AD LIB UNINTELLIGIBLE CONVERSATION - TINKLE OF PLATES AND SILVERWARE - FADE DOWN AND CONTINUE BEHIND:


1st MAN: (FADE-IN FAST WITH ABOVE FADE-BACK) The meat is good, eh, 'Rico?


2nd MAN: (HAVING A GREAT TIME) And the wine! Ah, we are lucky men to have such a leader, - when he gives to his friends, he gives with a full hand!


1st MAN: Such a feast - such a distinguished company!


2nd MAN: Yes, we are the most fortunate of men to be here! See who is here - only the greatest, the most elite, the right-hand men of the Leader himself!


1st MAN: He has honored us, indeed, by this invitation! But one thing puzzles me, 'Rico?


2nd MAN: And that?


1st MAN: What is the occasion for this feast - I tell you in truth I remember no anniversary, no State holiday, nothing to explain the festivity!


2nd MAN: Ah, you are a fool!


1st MAN: Eh?


2nd MAN: The Leader wills it and there is festivity! The Leader wills it and we eat!


1st MAN: Yes, but --


2nd MAN: All in good time I am sure he will explain why we are here!


RISING MURMUR OF CROWD.


2nd MAN: You see, I was prophetic! The Leader himself has entered the room! Come - to your feet!


SOUND: OF MANY CHAIRS BEING PUSHED BACK AND SHUFFLING OF MANY FEET AS GUESTS RISE TO FEET.


THE LEADER: (FADEIN FAST) My friends, you honor me by your presence! There have been rumors circulating in certain quarters that I, your leader, am a sick man. It is for the purpose of disproving such libels that I have gathered you here this evening, you the great men of many countries who make up our glorious State. And so we will drink a toast - a very special toast - to my continued good health - no, to our continued good health. The waiters are now passing among you a limited number of sealed bottles containing a special liqueur which I have been saving for this occasion! There is, as you see, one drink for each in each bottle - you will uncork the bottle and when you are all ready, we will drink the toast together!


CROWD MURMUR


THE LEADER: To your health and to your destiny! Drink!


SHUFFLING OF FEET - CROWD MURMUR - SUDDENLY, FAR BACK, ONE OF THE DRINKERS CRIES OUT IN THAT SINGING CRY OF MADNESS, CONTINUING -


THE LEADER: (IN CLOSE) IT WORKS!


WITHIN A SPLIT SECOND ANOTHER OF THE GUESTS, BACK, BEGINS TO WAIL IN THE SAME MAD WAY - ONE BY ONE, AT VARYING LEVELS, OTHERS TAKE UP THE INSANE VOCALIZATION


THE LEADER: (THRU THE ABOVE) - (EXULTANTLY) Mad - one by one!


THE MAD CHORUS OF WAILS GROWS IN INTENSITY, INDIVIDUAL CRIES WEAVING IN AND OUT TO GIVE IMPRESSION THAT THE INSANE ARE RUNNING ABOUT MADLY


THE LEADER: (LAUGHING EXULTANTLY) Mad dogs - around and around - listen to them!


THE MAD CHORUS RISES HORRIBLY - TABLES CRASH - THE SCENE PAINTED IS ONE OF HORRIBLE CONFUSION WITH THE PREDOMINANT SOUND THE UNCEASING WAILING OF THE INSANE, AN EFFECT WHICH CAN BEST BE GOTTEN, I IMAGINE, BY ACTUALLY HAVING THE ACTORS RUNNING AROUND AS IF UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF THE ELIXIR OF MADNESS - THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE PLAY DEPENDS ON THE HORROR IN THIS MAD BACCHANAL OF MADMEN


THE LEADER: (HIS EXULTANT LAUGHTER RISES AGAIN OVER THE BACKGROUND) Mad - all of them - all these great men! Around and around - slobbering - drooling - (LAUGHS) Oh, Breyna, you were right! One drop of it was all I gave them - one drop in all the water that they drank! One drop - and I have thousands of drops left! Thousands of drops to give the rest of the crawling worms of mankind (BROKENLY - FULL OF HATE) that when I, their Leader dies, they all die! Eighty days of life left for me - the man above man - the Superman! Eighty days of life - to give millions of these worms - death!


GONG:


TWITTER OF BIRDS AND INSECTS TO SET SCENE OF OPEN COUNTRYSIDE IN ENGLAND - CONTINUOUS BEHIND:


OLD WOMAN: (ENGLISH - COCKNEY) - (GRUMBLING TO SELF AS SHE WORKS IN FIELD) Filthy little 'aterpillars! Eatin' everythin' a body plants - it aint fair, I sez!


THE LEADER: (BACK SLIGHTLY) Old woman!


OLD WOMAN: (GASPS IN SURPRISE) Ah!


THE LEADER: (IN FULL) I would like some directions.....


OLD WOMAN: Creepin' up on a body like that! Scared the life half out of me, you did!


THE LEADER: I repeat - I would like directions.....


OLD WOMAN: Die-rection - die-rection - 'oo cares about your blinkin' directions? Creepin' up on me - scarin' half me life out, an' me a sick ole woman!


THE LEADER: (QUIETLY AMUSED) You are well enough to work in the fields!


OLD WOMAN: (SCORNFULLY) Well enough! And if I wasn't, wouldn't I be workin' anyway? We workin' for the Styte now, an' the styte of our 'ealth don't make no diff'rence! Not callin' the breath o' air our own - blast the black o' him!


THE LEADER: Him?


OLD WOMAN: (WHISPERING CAUTIOUSLY) 'im they calls the Leader!


THE LEADER: Oh!


OLD WOMAN: Leader o' the Devil, says I! Twenty years ago 'e came - I ain't forgot the blood an' killin'!


THE LEADER: No?


OLD WOMAN: Indeed I ain't! (IN CLOSE) But 'is time is comin', ye mark the words of an ole lady for that!


THE LEADER: (SLOWLY) What do you mean?


OLD WOMAN: Old 'e's gettin' - old - an' when he dies - as 'e is certain to - the world o' men'll breathe free air again!


THE LEADER: (TENSELY) Ah, will they?


OLD WOMAN: Aye, they will, an' let me tell you -


THE LEADER: (SHARPLY) Enough of your witch's tongue, old woman! The reservoir - I have lost my way - where is it?


OLD WOMAN: 'ere now, an' who are you, foreign-like, to be comin' 'ere an' tellin' me what --


THE LEADER: (SHARPLY) Quiet!


OLD WOMAN: (DAZEDLY) A gun! 'ere now - pointin' a gun at me!


THE LEADER: (INTENSELY) Answer me what I ask you or I press the trigger!


OLD WOMAN: (DAZEDLY) But what - I mean to say - you must o' come in that airyplane I 'eard a-flyin' --


THE LEADER: (INTERRUPTING) The reservoir! Where is it? I give you one more minute!


OLD WOMAN: But - but reservoir - the word - beggin' your pardon, sir - reservoir - would you be tellin' an old woman what that means?


THE LEADER: (HARSHLY) Old idiot! Reservoir - the place where the water is collected and stored for the city!


OLD WOMAN: Oh, the water, ye mean? The water they pipes off that the town folks drinks!


THE LEADER: Yes, yes, the water - the clouds are so low - my pilot and I, we could see nothing! Where is the place?


OLD WOMAN: Jest over the 'ills there - wire fence all around it to keep folks from swimmin' in the water, seein' as 'ow they wants it sanitary when it comes out o' the tap for them that drinks it! Over the 'ills there - does that answer ye satisfactory-like, mister?


THE LEADER: (SOFTLY) Over the hills...Yes, most satisfactory.....


OLD WOMAN: Then the gun - ye'll be so kind an' put it away an' I'll be gettin' back to me diggin'....


THE LEADER: Yes....(CHUCKLES) and dig yourself a grave, old woman....


OLD WOMAN: (STARTLED - GASPS) Grave?


THE LEADER: (TENSELY) No....you have no time for grave-digging....


OLD WOMAN: (IN GROWING ALARM) No! Ye - ye wouldn't shoot me, strynger! Stay back! A harmless ole woman - ye wouldn't --


GUN SHOT, IN CLOSE


OLD WOMAN: (CRIES OUT CHOKINGLY)


THUD OF BODY ON GROUND


THE LEADER: (SLOWLY) So!....I am getting old, am I? And when I die the world of men will breathe - how did you say it, old woman? - will breathe free air again, will they? (CHUCKLES) I doubt it, old woman, but if they do, you will never know.....Your blood soaks quickly into the hungry ground......


BIRD TWITTERS BACK


THE LEADER: (CHUCKLES) Such a peaceful scene...and over the hills, as you told me, old woman, is the water, the water they drink so thirstily off in the city...But soon they will stop drinking - how many millions are there? - four million - five million - (CHUCKLING MACABRELY) they will be too occupied to drink - occupied with their last dance of death!....


GURGLE OF LIQUID AS HE SHAKES BOTTLE


THE LEADER: You hear, old woman? Breyna's Elixir of Madness - I have used so little of it - none on you! Too precious for you! I will pour one little drop of it in the water there over the hills. One drop - and that drop will spread and spread thru every atom of the water like the hand of death reaching out - my hand! Yes, my hand, reaching thru the miles of pipe into the city where the water flows! Reaching into every home - waiting for that moment when they will turn the faucet! The water will flow!


HISS OF WATER RUSHING OUT OF FAUCET


THE LEADER: And out will rush madness - death! Listen, old woman! Listen! Can you not hear? The rush of water in the city!


BRING IN MORE INDIVIDUAL HISSES OF FLOWING WATER TO PAINT A PICTURE OF HUNDREDS OF FAUCETS SPATTERING THE MADNESS-INFECTED WATER


THE LEADER: (ABOVE THE RUSH OF WATER) They drink! One after another - men and their women and their children! Listen, old woman - the first shriek of madness!


VOICE: (FAR BACK THRU THE RUSH OF WATER - HIGH-PITCHED WAIL OF MADNESS, CONTINUING)


THE LEADER: Another drinks!


FEMALE VOICE: (HER WAILING SHRIEK JOINS IN THE BACKGROUND - CONTINUING)


THE LEADER: (BUILDING UP) And another! And another! And another! 


AT EACH "AND ANOTHER" ANOTHER VOICE APPEARS TO JOIN THE MAD CHORUS


THE LEADER: (WILDLY, MADLY ABOVE THE HORRIBLE BACKGROUND OF RUSHING WATER AND THE WAILS OF THE CITY OF DANCING MADMEN) Soon the city - the whole city - madmen - millions of them - racing around and around and around in their dance of death! The city squares black with the squirming mass of them! Dancing, leaping, shrieking - mad because I, their Leader, willed them to be mad! Falling, squirming, retching their lives out in the gutters - dying because I, their Leader, willed them to die! In a day, a City of Dead!


WITH THE WORD "DEAD" ALL THE BACKGROUND NOISE CUTS OUT KNIFE-CLEAN - THEN IS HEARD THE QUIET TWITTERING OF BIRDS OF THE COUNTRY-SIDE


THE LEADER: (BREATHING HEAVILY AFTER THE MADNESS OF HIS OUTBURST-WHEN HE SPEAKS, HE SPEAKS SLOWLY, DAZEDLY) But - but why do I waste my precious moments telling you all this, old woman? You heard none of it - your face wax - your lips white - the little blood in you gone out of the hole I blasted in that fool head of yours...Yes, I must go...to the reservoir beyond the hills....(IN CLOSE) I have so little time...and there are so many millions to kill.....


GONG:


SOUND OF AIRPLANE IN FULL FLIGHT - EFFECT DOWN AFTER A FEW SECONDS AND CONTINUING FAR BEHIND:


THE LEADER: We have plenty of petrol, pilot?


PILOT: (BACK SLIGHTLY) Yes, your excellency.


THE LEADER: (HE IS OBVIOUSLY IN VERY GOOD HUMOR) You are a very fine pilot!


PILOT: Your Excellency is very kind.


THE LEADER: Kind...(CHUCKLES COLDLY)-(FOR A FEW SECONDS ALL THAT IS HEARD IS THE DRONE OF THE PLANE, THEN:) One of the reasons I like you, pilot, is that you are, apparently, a man without curiosity. We have stopped so many places for only a very short time - have you any idea what I have been doing?


PILOT: Your orders to me, Your Excellency, were to pilot you wherever you wanted to go.


THE LEADER: And so you have....(CHUCKLES) And we have many places to visit yet, before my work is done. Did you know, pilot, I have made a very strange discovery - the elixir not only infects the immediate body of water in which it is placed, but it also spreads into whatever waters enter or leave the original water! (EXULTANTLY) You realize what that means? It will spread - across the oceans - in time up every stream that flows into every sea - a network of death waiting for the lips of mankind! (CHUCKLES) And he said no man could do it! (PAUSE) Well, what do you say to that, you idiot sitting there jiggling the controls! (ANGRILY) What do you say to that?


PILOT: I - I am sorry, your Excellency?


THE LEADER: (IMPATIENTLY) Sorry? Sorry for what?


PILOT: I mean, your Excellency, I do not understand of what you speak!


THE LEADER: (CHUCKLES) Indeed you don't! In fact you do not even know why you are taking me to the Valley of the Nile, do you, pilot?


PILOT: No, your Excellency. I do not.


THE LEADER: (AVIDLY) The Nile - mother of water - water that feeds so many eager mouths - millions of them! The Nile, Mother of Civilization - (CHUCKLE) and soon to be Mother of Death....


PILOT: But - but, your Excellency --


AIRPLANE MOTOR CUTS OUT - CUTS IN AGAIN - THEN OUT DEFINITELY - WHINE OF PLANE GOING INTO DIVE -


THE LEADER: (UP) What is it?


PILOT: I don't know - the engine --


THE LEADER: Get it out of the spin!


PILOT: I can't! The controls don't --


WHINE OF FALLING PLANE RISING BEHIND:


THE LEADER: (IN PANIC) We'll crash! Get it out of the spin!


PILOT: Let go of the controls! Let go!


THE LEADER: We'll die! I can't die! Only two months left! They're mine! I must have them! I - (SCREAMS AS:)


TREMENDOUS REVERBERATING CRASH AS AIRPLANE CRACKS UP, REVERBERATIONS SLOWLY FADING OUT


SHORT TRANSITIONAL PAUSE


THE LEADER: (GROANS - PAUSE - WEAKLY) Pilot!...Pilot, where are - (IN DISGUST) Agh! Blood - on my hand!...(GASPS) His!.. Dead!.. (JOY BEGINS TO BUBBLE WITHIN HIM) But I - I am alive! Alive! Alive to fulfill my destiny! (LAUGHS TRIUMPHANTLY - LAUGHTER SLOWLY DIES OUT) Yes...alive (CRIES OUT IN PAIN) Ah! My leg!...(GASPING IN PAIN) It must be broken!...I cannot move! (IN DISGUST) Must I lie here in his blood - in his - (CRIES OUT IN PAIN AS HE TRIES TO MOVE) Ah! I cannot move!...Where - where am I? The sand so warm beneath me...sand all around......The Egyptian desert!...The Nile!....I was going there! I must go there! The Nile - Mother of Death - I must make her that! (GROANING) Oh, the sun so hot!....


TEARING CLOTH


THE LEADER: Ah, I cannot breathe!...So hot......His blood dried already..Ah, the flies! He brings them....So hot...(FADE SLOWLY) burning sun...so hot...so hot...


TRANSITIONAL PAUSE (SHORT)


THE LEADER: (FADEBACK IN SLOWLY)......(HOURS HAVE PASSED - HIS VOICE IS RASPING NOW AS THAT OF A MAN WHO HAS BEEN BLASTED BY THE HOT SUN FOR HOURS WITHOUT WATER)....(GROANING - GROANING) ....Ah...Ah...sun...hours......help me...help me....water..water.....I am the Leader....water....the Leader....a little water....water...(SUDDEN HOPE IN VOICE) W-what...my hands.....something in the sand! .. I cannot see....my eyes...I can hardly reach - (WEAKLY TRIUMPHANT) I have it! A bottle!


GURGLE OF WATER AS HE SHAKES IT


THE LEADER: A bottle of water! I will live! Live for my destiny! (EAGERLY) I - I must open it! (BREATHING HEAVILY IN GREAT EAGERNESS) Open it! Water! Precious water! Good water!


(SOUND AS HE GULPS DOWN LIQUID MADLY)


THE LEADER: (A LITTLE LESS RASPINGLY NOW THAT HE HAS DRUNK) Ah! Good water! So good! Yes, I will live! New strength in me! (VOICE GROWING STRONGER AND STRONGER) I feel it coursing thru me! Ah! So strangely! I want to get up! My legs! I feel - I want to run - around and around - (UP IN HORROR AS REALIZATION COMES TO HIM) oh, no! Not that! I didn't! (IN GREAT HORROR) Yes! I did! I drank it! (WITH INCREASING EFFORT) I - drank - Elixir of- (CRIES OUT PIERCINGLY IN HORRIBLE OPENING WAIL OF ELIXIR MADNESS * MAD CRIES MOUNT HIGHER AND HIGHER, HORRIBLY, INEXORABLY, FINALLY BLOTTED OUT BY:


GONG


ANNOUNCER: Lights Out, written especially for radio by Arch Oboler, comes to you each Wednesday from our Chicago Studios. This is the red network of the National Broadcasting Co.


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