I’m the Original

A play in one act by

Brian Rotman

April 1979

 

CHARACTERS

Doctor

Nurse

Oldie, an old age pensioner

Image

 PLACE   A sparsely furnished, institutionalized doctor’s office. Stage right, a door which leads to an entrance way and the nurse’s desk. Stage left, a desk and chair. Downstage center a chair in which the doctor’s patients are interviewed. Behind the chair is a large box with a lid with a neatly folded sheet draped on top. Backstage center, a window with a stretcher on wheels. On the desk is a typewriter keyboard which operates a large computer terminal situated behind the desk.

 SCENE ONE: The doctor’s office, day time.

SCENE TWO: The doctor’s office, one month later, late at night.

 

DOCTOR

(hears knock) Come in.

NURSE

(carrying a slip which places on Doctor’s desk) This one is category pre-senile, sir. Type alpha.

DOCTOR

(brightly) Ah yes (consults list) four three triple one oh one

NURSE

(reads) four three one one one oh one

DOCTOR

Check. Any special instructions (does not wait for an answer) no? Very good. Have them come in please.

NURSE

(goes to door and beckons) The clinician will see you now (pauses then more loudly) the doctor is ready to see you now. (Oldie enters and is seated by Nurse centre stage facing Doctor. Nurse takes a slip from Doctor and exits.)

DOCTOR

(looks up at Oldie questioningly) Yes what can we do for you?

OLDIE

I’ve come for the Treatment.

DOCTOR

Number please (Oldie looks blank) What is your number please?

OLDIE

OH. Four three one double one ought one.

DOCTOR

No I’m afraid that cannot be correct. The initial digit of current numbers is never zero. (patiently) You must state your correct number.

OLDIE

I just said it. I know it’s correct, it’s been the same for years. Ever since I’ve had it.

DOCTOR

Please repeat it. Its necessary for you to state it correctly.

OLDIE

What for? Isn’t it long enough as it is (pause) look, we’re wasting time. I’d like to get on with the Treatment. That’s what I’ve come for.

DOCTOR

I’m sorry but it’s the rule. A precaution to avoid errors. (patiently) We don’t want any mistakes now do we. You must first express your number correctly then I can affirm it. Its very simple.

OLDIE

(raises voice) But I just did.

DOCTOR

No the number you gave me was prefaced by a zero.

OLDIE

I don’t follow you. I’ve given you my number. It’s not faced with anything. Why do you want it again?

DOCTOR

(gives in) Alright. Is your number four three triple one oh one?

OLDIE

(with emphasis) Yes of course it is.

DOCTOR

Very well. Now what can we do for you?

OLDIE

I’ve come to have the Treatment.

DOCTOR

(encouragingly) Yes….

OLDIE

The one the government (fishes in pocket and pulls out a pamphlet) says here I’m allowed to have (holds pamphlet up for Doctor to see and then puts it away.)

DOCTOR

Yes yes you are certainly entitled to that facility. Provided that is that you understand fully what is involved.

OLDIE

Well (pause) as I understand it you’ve got some sort of machine here – a sort of computer brain – and it takes an impression of me which it can keep going for ever. An exact copy of my whole body – everything down to the last detail which last for ever. That way you never die. You become (gets out pamphlet and squints at it) mortal (pauses looks at pamphlet again) immortal. That’s more or less it.

DOCTOR

I think perhaps it should be explained to you before you decide….

OLDIE

(interrupts) No that’s O.K. I know all about it. The thing is I definitely want it – made up my mind. I’ve been thinking of having it for some time now. I’ve done all the reckoning and I’m a hundred percent sure about it…. (breaks off) There isn’t some sort of catch in it is there?

DOCTOR

A what?

OLDIE

A catch. There isn’t a lot of pain or anything like that is there?

DOCTOR

Oh no, not at all. There’s absolutely no pain or indeed any discomfort. You’ll not feel a thing. The machine will simply carry out a complete scan….

OLDIE

(interrupts) Oh that’s alright then (gestures to console) is that it there then – the machine? (gazes at it) the master-machine eh.

DOCTOR

The master-machine? No not at all – that’s only a part of it – one of its terminals. The computer is located elsewhere.

OLDIE

(disappointed) I thought we were going to do it here – this afternoon.

DOCTOR

Well we certainly can if everything is in order.

OLDIE

I thought you said it was elsewhere

DOCTOR

AH I see. You’ve no need to worry about where the computer is situated. You can be scanned through one of the terminals here.

OLDIE

How’s that?

DOCTOR

The terminal can handle all the scanning data.

OLDIE

Scanning data?

DOCTOR

(as to a child) The terminal is connected to the scan machine (gestures to box). It will send back to the master-computer all the information about you. So the computer will have a record of your body-type, of the exact state of all your systems, your heart lungs soft tissue blood liver bones, it will know the precise activity of your glands, of all your chemistry and so on.

OLDIE

What about my brain?

DOCTOR

And of course the current activity in your nervous system. It will also chart the embedded pathways and neuronal connections that are in principle available to you (Oldie looks totally blank)….your total memory and all your thoughts (Oldie perks up) in short everything that is physiologically relevant……

OLDIE

(interrupts) So it does do the whole brain – the total – the complete impression of me. Exactly me eh. No mistakes or anything?

DOCTOR

The computer will have an exact replica – a pattern that is an identical copy of your own pattern.

OLDIE

How long does all this take to do – all this scanning?

DOCTOR

About eleven seconds.

OLDIE

(disbelieving) How could it possibly do all that in eleven seconds?

DOCTOR

The master-computer is very complicated.

OLDIE

Well where does it store it then – the pattern – inside the machine? (gestures to terminal) You’re not telling me that’s big enough for it are you?

DOCTOR

The pattern is stored inside the computer not in the terminal.

OLDIE

The master-machine holds it all then does it?

DOCTOR

(soothingly) Oh yes that and much else it stored in the machine.

OLDIE

In some sort of storage is it?

DOCTOR

In its memory.

OLDIE

But what is it that’s inside the machine?

DOCTOR

The stored scanning pattern.

OLDIE

My pattern? The pattern of me?

DOCTOR

Yes it is your image that is stored.

OLDIE

My image? Me.

DOCTOR

Yes. The image of you (points at Oldie) obtained by the scanning.

OLDIE

Me? The image is definitely of me. It’s identical to me myself? My personal self?

DOCTOR

(slight impatience) Yes – if you insist on putting it like that.

OLDIE

Yes but will it (corrects) he (corrects) will me (corrects) but will I (pauses) will I feel things normally – like now?

DOCTOR

(wearily) Whenever it is a activated. Once it is materialized the image will – effectively – be you. An isomorphic copy of you that is palpable and ‘real’ throughout the period of materialization.

OLDIE

Will I feel myself – I mean will I feel myself – throughout the period of this materialized asian? I’ll be me all the time will I?

DOCTOR

(slowly) In what way?

OLDIE

Will I know being there – then – that I’m completely me (points to himself) totally myself?

DOCTOR

(losing patience) I’ve already explained: when materialized the image is a copy of you (points to Oldie). It will physically re-constitute you (prevents Oldie from interrupting) It will have your number. It will be (looks at paper on his desk) four three triple one oh one.

OLDIE

But will it know it’s me? It couldn’t forget who it’s supposed to….

DOCTOR

(loses patience completely) It will know it’s you in just the same way in just the same mode to precisely the same extent – with exactly the same limitations – that you know – have always know – you’re you. It will be you. (shouts) Do you understand that?

OLDIE

It really is that then. (to himself) Always. For ever. Into the future – no death no burial no cremation. (to Doctor) Just ten seconds of treatment is what you said. Modern science – you can’t grasp it – you got to agree it’s a miracle eh. The miracle of modern science. Everlasting life – who would have thought it was a hundred years ago – it’s like perpetual motion. Life everlasting – it’s the kingdom of heaven – what a thing to happen in my lifetime. It’s like God. (a thought strikes him) Wait a minute though (pauses) will there be others?

DOCTOR

Other what?

OLDIE

Other people that you’d see about who’d had the Treatment. Of course – come to think of it – there’s bound to be (pulls out pamphlet) anybody with any sense – anybody who can read and figure it out anybody who’s got any brains – they’re not likely to pass it up now. Are they? (looks at pamphlet amazed) immortality. What a thing to have.

DOCTOR

Well it’s advisable to consider it as a partial – that is qualified – form of immortality. We do not ourselves use the word. We prefer to call it indefinite prolongation.

OLDIE

What’s that?

DOCTOR

Theoretically there’s no time limit, the image is in principle permanent. But of course in fact there are real constraints. One can say that the image will last as long as there is the machine to store copy and materialize it.

OLDIE

How long will that be?

DOCTOR

That’s not a question that can be answered. One can iterate the operation of copying indefinitely. The process would only come to a halt with the death of the machine. And that is impossible to imagine…

OLDIE

(interrupts) But the brochure…(pulls out pamphlet) it said…

DOCTOR

The brochure?

OLDIE

(waves pamphlet) The leaflet promises it. It tells about the prototype for being immortal.

DOCTOR

Ah – the title of the government contract. It is – I think you’ll find – ‘The protocol of mortality’.

OLDIE

Yes that’s it alright.

DOCTOR

What about it. (patiently) What are you wishing to say about the contract?

OLDIE

It definitely says that after the Treatment your self lives on – that you yourself lives on. It like life after death – except that there’s no death. That must mean what we’ve been talking about – that you go on living for ever. That’s the whole point of why I’m here – to get the Treatment. I told you that at the very beginning.

DOCTOR

Yes I’m perfectly well aware of that. Very well let us proceed. Do you understand fully all the conditions set out in the contract?

OLDIE

Oh yes. I’ve read them all.

DOCTOR

And you understand what they say?

OLDIE

DOCTOR

All the separate clauses?

OLDIE

Yes. Look I thought you said we were getting on with the Treatment. What are all these questions for? I’m entitled to have the Treatment aren’t I? It’s a government paper isn’t it (brandishes pamphlet) the government doesn’t lie – does it?

DOCTOR

No the government does not lie.

OLDIE

Well then. If it says your self lives on after you have the Treatment what is there to understand. What’s the point of all these questions – answer me that.

DOCTOR

It’s essential that you understand the nature of the conditions before the Treatment can be carried out (prevents Oldie from interrupting) and that I – before carrying out the Treatment – am satisfied that you do. The main condition set out in the protocol – without it the Treatment would be a social nonsense (again prevents interruption) – refers to voluntary cessation.

OLDIE

How so?

DOCTOR

It says (quotes from memory) ‘Following successful scanning the number holder – within the time limit appropriate to the category – will voluntarily cease’. Do you understand that?

OLDIE

Oh yes.

DOCTOR

And that your category is within the pre-senile?

OLDIE

I’m sure that’s right.

DOCTOR

And that understanding this you – in full consciousness – with the Treatment to be carried out?

OLDIE

The Treatment. Yes. That’s what I’m here for. I’ve read all the conditions and the clauses and all and I’m taking the bet. I’d like to get on with it.

DOCTOR

(presses bleep for Nurse, punches various buttons on one of the consoles. Nurse enters.) Would you please carry out the pre-scanning procedure (hands her a slip).

NURSE

(reads from slip) Four three one one one oh one pre-scanning.

DOCTOR

(looks at paper on desk) Check.

OLDIE

(excited) We’re going to start the Treatment now – are we?

DOCTOR

That’s right. We are getting ready for the scanning.

(Nurse removes Oldie’s shoes, socks and jacket as part of the preparation for the Treatment, which ends with him seated in the Box. All this takes place during the following conversation with Doctor.)

OLDIE

(Excited and pleased) Is it going to be difficult to do – this scanning?

DOCTOR

(in better spirits now) Oh no. It’s very simple and easy really. You will sit in the scanner (points to Box) and I’ll operate the control panel over here.

OLDIE

You know how to do it all then do you. I wouldn’t want to be electrocuted or anything like that (pause) – of course I’m only joking.

DOCTOR

There’s nothing to fear. The machine has already been given your number, which has prepared it and told it various things. I only have to press the scanning sequence over here (gestures to one of the consoles) and transmit the information received via this other one. Once the machine has it, the process is over. Nothing simplier, really. Is there? Are you ready, now? Good. (soothingly) Place the palms of both hands onto the glass plate in front of you. Have you done that? Good. Now just relax and keep perfectly still. Relax. Relax. Perfectly still. (Doctor presses various buttons and Nurse, having covered Oldie’s head with a sheet, stands away from Box. There is a suitable change in lighting for some ten seconds, then a return to their original state. Nurse uncovers Oldie and releases him from the Box, leads him back to his chair, and then exits.)

OLDIE

Is that it? Is that all that’s going to happen?

DOCTOR

Yes that is it. The scanning is over – completely successful – all the information we need.

OLDIE

Well phew – I don’t mind telling you – I was expecting something a lot worse than that. Braced myself for a bit of an ordeal there.

DOCTOR

Not nowadays. It’s true that in the early days of the Treatment…..

OLDIE

(interrupts) All over then. Well thank you very much doctor for your help.

DOCTOR

That is perfectly alright – I’m glad I could be of service.

OLDIE

(starts putting on socks and so on) I’ll be off then.

DOCTOR

Off?

OLDIE

I’ll be off home now – make my way back home now then.

DOCTOR

No I’m sorry but that is obviously not permitted.

OLDIE

(puzzled) Can’t I go yet – got to be on my way soon I reckon.

DOCTOR

Go? (puzzled) Where on earth can you be wanting to go in such a short time?

OLDIE

(still puzzled) Home. I want to be getting off home – I got things to do – and I’ve got to hurry to get to the Bingo. (pauses) Is there some reason why I can’t go home yet?

DOCTOR

Obviously there is. You haven’t completed the Treatment.

OLDIE

I thought you said that was it (gestures to Box).

DOCTOR

I said that was the scanning. The scanning is complete and was successful not the Treatment.

OLDIE

(slight resentment) There’s something else to do? Will it take long? (pauses) Are you going to be doing anything else?

DOCTOR

No I’ve nothing more to do. The rest is up to you if you remember.

OLDIE

I’m not with you. You keep telling me something different. Is it all over or not?

DOCTOR

I really don’t think I can be telling you something different.

OLDIE

(impatiently) If there is nothing else you’ve got to do then why can’t I just go?

DOCTOR

The conditions. You led me to believe that you understood and agreed to the conditions.

OLDIE

What condition?

DOCTOR

The main condition – the one we talked about (quotes again) ‘immediately following successful scanning the number holder – within the time limit appropriate to the category – will voluntarily cease’.

OLDIE

Oh that. I couldn’t figure that out at all.

DOCTOR

(slight anger) But you assented to it (Oldie stares blankly at Doctor) you said that you understood and agreed to it.

OLDIE

Assented?

DOCTOR

(with angry emphasis) You agreed that you had understood what it meant.

OLDIE

Well I didn’t want to hold things up.

DOCTOR

(brisk and business-like) Well that’s it. It’s too late now. There’s no return. Matters can’t be changed. You must abide by the conditions. (gestures Oldie to be quiet) That’s all there is to it – it’s the law.

OLDIE

(grudgingly) What do I have to do then?

DOCTOR

You have to abide by the condition.

OLDIE

How am I supposed to be doing that – what is it?

DOCTOR

You must voluntarily cease.

OLDIE

Cease?

DOCTOR

You must voluntarily terminate yourself.

OLDIE

I must what?

DOCTOR

(takes Oldie’s pamphlet and points to the place) Here. (Oldie peers at it) Voluntary self-termination. You must take the pill.

OLDIE

(shouts) What pill?

DOCTOR

(as if to a child) The Nurse will come in. She will give you a pill. You will take it. It will make you feel very happy. After that, it is all over and the Treatment is complete.

OLDIE

What’s this pill for?

DOCTOR

Self-termination

OLDIE

Yes but what does it do?

DOCTOR

(slowly barely under control) You take it and as a result you cease to be.

OLDIE

(silent for some time) Cease to be?

DOCTOR

That’s right.

OLDIE

Cease to be (pause) living – now?

DOCTOR

Very soon.

OLDIE

Die?

DOCTOR

(with great relief) Precisely.

OLDIE

Now?

DOCTOR

Within the specified period.

OLDIE

Period? What do you mean period? When’s that?

DOCTOR

It depends on the category. From a few seconds for a small child, a minute or so for a twenty-five year old up to some twenty minutes for a pre-senile.

OLDIE

I’m a pre-senile.

DOCTOR

That is correct. You must therefore take the pill within twenty-one minutes after the completion of successful scanning.

OLDIE

Today?

DOCTOR

Well of course today. When else?

OLDIE

Let me get this straight. Are you telling me that I’ve got to take some pill that is going to finish me off – today?

DOCTOR

(tight-lipped) Within twenty-one minutes of scanning.

OLDIE

Is that what we just did (gestures to Box)?

DOCTOR

OLDIE

I’m not taking any pill like that in twenty-one minutes or twenty-one days or …

DOCTOR

(interrupts) Less than that now.

OLDIE

What do you mean?

DOCTOR

The specified period elapses in less than twenty-one minutes from now. At that moment you must cease to be and give way to your image. That was the stated condition in the protocol.

OLDIE

(disbelievingly) You’re saying I’ve got to take a pill in less than half an hour from now?

DOCTOR

Within (consults video) just over fifteen minutes.

OLDIE

(folds arms and sits stiff in chair) Bloody ridiculous. Laughable. I’m going home. This is diabolical – nobody going to believe it.

DOCTOR

We’ve been over this already haven’t we. (Oldie refuses to answer, there is a long silence, and the Doctor makes an attempt at a bedside approach) Look at it this way (smoothingly) your image is safely stored now. Indestructible and permanent. Virtually immortal (Oldie looks up at this) it will go on being you into the far future over the centuries. Whilst you – late in the pre-senile range – (Oldie’s attention grows) would soon start to lose your faculties. You will forget things – where you are where you’ve been – have dizzy spells fall unconscious…

OLDIE

(interrupts) Yes blackouts

DOCTOR

Absolutely – when you least expect them – crossing the pavement or even the road. Your bones will start to hurt you when you move too fast, your large bowel will give you problems, your eyesight….

OLDIE

(interrupts) My eyes are not so good lately – haven’t been for some time now.

DOCTOR

There you are you see. Probably your bowels don’t move as well as they used to – do you have problems there?

OLDIE

I have to grunt a lot – and sometimes even then – just a few hard lumps. Like pebbles. You right about the bones I’ll say that. Especially this hip…..

DOCTOR

(interrupts) You see. What did I tell you. Now isn’t it reasonable to want to avoid all that – all that degeneration the gradual slide into dementia the pain and discomfort.

OLDIE

(very grudgingly) I suppose so.

DOCTOR

Well then why don’t we call in the Nurse. We can take the pill and everything will be just as it should be.

OLDIE

(cornered and silent then bursts out) I could refuse to take it. That’s what I could do. I refuse. You can’t make me. You can’t force me to take it (pause) that would be like killing me – it would be murder. The government doesn’t do that – doctors don’t murder people. Are you a murderer – are you?

DOCTOR

(through clenched teeth) I am not a murderer – the government does not murder people.

OLDIE

Well then. That’s it – final. I refuse. Just like that.

DOCTOR

(angry) That is your right but…

OLDIE

(interrupts) I’m bloody sure it’s my right.

DOCTOR

Then you must face the consequences.

OLDIE

(hostile) That’s my affair.

DOCTOR

Nevertheless it is my duty to point out them out to you.

OLDIE

You can point out what you like. That’s your business. I’m not taking that pill, that’s final. And what’s more, I’ve got to go. It’s already late.

DOCTOR

(ignores this) There are two main consequences. You will find them explained at the end of the protocol (gestures to back of pamphlet) – there.

OLDIE

That proto-business again.

DOCTOR

The first is that your image will be destroyed and not further scanning facilities will be available to you.

OLDIE

Don’t want it (throws pamphlet away from him) the whole thing is a bloody farce in any case from beginning to end.

DOCTOR

The second is that concerning all your pre-senile privileges.

OLDIE

What have they got to do with it?

DOCTOR

You have broken your contract with the government and the penalty clause is automatically invoked. (looks at the video) Time is pressing so I shall merely summarize the provisions for you. ONE only the basic grade of pension necessary for subsistence will be paid to you.

OLDIE

How much is that a week?

DOCTOR

(punches console and reads from video) Approximately one quarter of the standard pre-senile pension.

OLDIE

That can’t be right. That’s ridiculous. I’m already skinned at the end of every week. I can just about live on what they pay me now. Do you know what the price of butter is? No, of course you don’t. How would you? If you lived off my pension you soon would. A doctor’s pay, huh. You probably have meat several times a week. I can hardly afford to get to Bingo as it is. You must have the calculation all wrong.

DOCTOR

(ignores this) TWO you will be relocated and give a dwelling in a specially designated urban area.

OLDIE

Where is that supposed to be?

DOCTOR

This would consist of the basic three-room unit – bath – lavatory, cooking – stove and sink, bed space with chair table and video.

OLDIE

You’re making this up. It’s too diabolical. They wouldn’t do it. That what they do to criminals and misfits from society. I fit in. I’ve not done any crime. (shouts) What crime have I committed, eh?

DOCTOR

(SILENCES Oldie with a gesture) THREE the medical services available to you will be low-priority category. That is essential surgery for relief of organically caused pain and similar for all medicaments.

OLDIE

(almost beaten) I don’t want any surgery – you get more pains from it than when you started. Look let’s forget the whole thing. Eh? You can say you never did the whole whatsername (gestures to Box) business.

DOCTOR

FOUR at the onset of senility you will be finally re-located into a government senility institute where you will remain for the final period.

OLDIE

(crushed) What is it I’ve done?

DOCTOR

All this is very unpleasant and almost inhuman. And it does not have to happen you know (Oldie looks up) It could be avoided completely. All you need to do is take the pill. If you take it we will not destroy your image – you will live on immortal. Isn’t that more humane? It is surely better to take it. Shall I call in the nurse? (takes Oldie’s silence for a lack of disagreement and bleeps for Nurse.)

(Nurse enters carrying tray with glass of water. Doctor gestures to her warningly that Oldie is being difficult. She touches Oldie on shoulder and leads him to a stretcher. He in a daze allows her to help him onto it.)

OLDIE

(confidentially to Nurse) I reckon there’s been some terrible mistake going on here. He (nods back to Doctor) is trying to (whispers) murder me. He’s mad – no doubt about it – stark staring mad. Should be put away if you ask me – not going around as a doctor.

NURSE

Let’s take the pill now shall we.

OLDIE

(ignores this) Come here – I’ll tell you how I know (he looks in a paranoid way at Doctor makes Nurse bend and listen. After hesitating she bends over him and he gabbles with rising hysteria in her ear. She listens in a token way then straightens up and tries to give him the pill.)

NURSE

(tray in one hand glass in the other) Here’s your pill.

OLDIE

(looks at Doctor, then at Nurse and snarls at her) Get away. (Nurse moves nearer to him) I said, Get Away. (shrieks) NO PILL. I’m not taking any scabby pill. (they struggle as Nurse determinedly tries to give him the pill.) I’m not going to take it. No NO. (he lifts up the skirt of her uniform and bites her slowly in the buttock. She gasps, drops glass and tray, shrieks and breaks free. Moving away from him, she examines the circular bite mark he has made.

DOCTOR

(very agitated shouts) This must not happen.

NURSE

Must not? What are you saying. Look at this (displays mark to Doctor) This has never happened before. What’s going on here?

DOCTOR

I don’t know.

NURSE

Well someone should – it’s out of hand. I think there’s been a mistake here.

(during the following Oldie starts to creep off holding socks and shoes. He stubs his toe painfully and returns to his chair and slowly starts putting on his socks)

DOCTOR

A mistake?

NURSE

Yes. What else? A mistake in the diagnosis I suppose.

DOCTOR

(slightly shifty) I don’t see how that can be possible. The decision (looks at papers on his desk) was unanimous – it has to be in these cases.

NURSE

But he’s violent and won’t take the pill.

DOCTOR

Yes I can see that. Neither does he seem to….

NURSE

(interrupts) And as far as I can make out there are clear signs of dementia.

DOCTOR

But that can’t be.

NURSE

Definite signs (rubs her buttock)

DOCTOR

(anxiously) Initial dementia? (looks at video) There isn’t much time left.

NURSE

He’s not pre-senile.

DOCTOR

But that’s impossible. It would mean that he was mis-categorised. (he punches buttons and studies result) His location is at the extreme end of the range – but nevertheless quite definitely pre-senile.

NURSE

Well either something major has changed with his….

DOCTOR

(interrupts) Or (finally say it) he was not pre-senile to start with. What on earth is to be done? This is completely outside my experience. (looks at video) The time – its running out.

NURSE

If he doesn’t take the pill isn’t there some sort of penalty clause that automatically applies to him?

DOCTOR

He refuses to understand or co-operate.

NURSE

Then there will be an enquiry won’t there?

DOCTOR

(alarmed) An enquiry?

NURSE

Oh yes. I think so. They will need to know why the Treatment was offered to a number holder who was outside the range of voluntary consent.

DOCTOR

But the evidence….

NURSE

(interrupts) That will all have to be examined again I suppose.

DOCTOR

But that means re-calling all the members of the board. They will all have to testify. There will be days – weeks – of examination and analysis. There’s bound to be blame. Oh no. Someone is certain to be suspended. An official enquiry. What can we do?

NURSE

You’ll just have to persuade him.

DOCTOR

How? I’ve tried I don’t know what else to do. He refuses to respond – he’s suspicious hostile and paranoid.

NURSE

I don’t know what to say.

DOCTOR

(looks at video) There’s only four minutes to go. (thinks hard looks at Oldie then at Nurse) Perhaps I could take a pill – I could pretend to take one – then he would follow.

NURSE

You wouldn’t have to pretend. I could give you a placebo?

DOCTOR

Yes of course – an aspirin.

NURSE

O.K. I’ll get one immediately. (she leaves and returns at once with two glasses on a tray. Doctor gestures her over to Oldie.)

DOCTOR

(to Oldie) How are you feeling? (Oldie refuses to respond. Nurse glances at Oldie and urges Doctor on.) I shall take my pill now – you see – in front of you.

OLDIE

(suspicious but drawn in) Your pill?

DOCTOR

I just want to show you that the whole thing is absolutely harmless. You have been upsetting yourself quite needlessly. There really is nothing to fear. Let’s both take our pills (gestures to Nurse to approach), shall we? (Nurse gives them each a glass of water and a pill, which in Oldie’s case she has to force into his hand.) Are you ready?

OLDIE

(peers at Doctor) You first.

DOCTOR

Why don’t we take them at the same time?

OLDIE

Oh no. You take it first.

DOCTOR

(glances at Nurse, who shrugs, “why not?”) Alright. (takes pill for Oldie to see) There, you see. That’s all there is to it.

OLDIE

(watching Doctor very carefully) What does it feel like?

DOCTOR

Fine. Just fine. Are you going to take yours now?

OLDIE

(still suspicious) I thought you said before about the pill that it makes you feel very happy.

DOCTOR

(remembering) Oh, it does. It does. It certainly does make you feel happy. It’s just starting to really have an effect and making me feel very good indeed. Ha ha, I feel alive and well. Vigorous (gestures vigour). Positively euphoric.

NURSE

(to Doctor) Don’t overdo it or he’ll suspect something.

OLDIE

You could be acting all this.

DOCTOR

No, no it’s (pauses and is slightly puzzled) all very real….

NURSE

(aside to Doctor) You are putting on a very good performance. I’m almost convinced myself.

DOCTOR

Yes, I feel completely relaxed at ease full of energy.

NURSE

(to Doctor) Yes, very good, indeed. Keep it up. He’s reacting.

DOCTOR

My mind is so clear…all its connections are rich and present. My thoughts are…my ideas are so vivid…so rapid…the memories…they’re flooding in…Ah…Ah…AHhhhhhhhh…

NURSE

(becoming slightly annoyed) You’re overdoing it a bit now….

DOCTOR

Ahhhhhhhhh…scenes from my childhood….forgotten memories…..(falls into a blissful coma.)

OLDIE

(looking closely in Doctor’s direction) Well, that sounded real enough. Sounded not at all bad either. I could have sworn earlier on that you were just making it up. Just acting happy and all that as part of some trick. Alright then (makes to take his pill). Are you still feeling good?

NURSE

(goes over to Doctor on floor and starts to examine him) Are you alright? Wake up. Do you hear? Wake up. (shakes him) Doctor? Doctor? You must wake up. (slaps his face) You must wake up. Do you hear me? You must make an effort. (She gets up and distractedly stares at Oldie.)

OLDIE

What is it now?

NURSE

(stares through him) If I could remember, if I could only think what the…wait…perhaps…(gets a wet towel and goes to Doctor and slaps him with it) You’re in danger. (shouts in his ear) Danger.

OLDIE

He’s not answering, is he? What’s supposed to be the effect on him? Some sort of deep relaxation. I reckon that pill was a bit strong for him, don’t you think?

NURSE

It’s all over. It’s too late. Oh no. Yes, it might be too late. (she examines his eye reflexes and tries to startle him) All the early signs…(looks around her) yes…no…oh…the signs of a coma.

OLDIE

Something’s up? Something’s gone wrong, has it?

NURSE

(rising hysteria) He must have taken the wrong one (runs over to Oldie, examines his pill, then searches her pockets). It should have been the placebo aspirin one. (Doctor moans) Oh what, what now? (runs out and returns with a funnel and tries to give Doctor an emetic) It’s no good. It won’t work. (empties some pills in her hand and stares transfixed at them.) I gave him the wrong one. What’s going to happen? He took it. He took the wrong one. Oh yes, they are very much alike, but he took it. He should’ve known the difference. (turns to Oldie) It’s all your fault. You…you…you nuisance person…you stupid obstinate old man.

OLDIE

(Not hearing most of this) Did get us the wrong pills? Is that what’s up?

NURSE

What are you saying?

OLDIE

(slowly, as if he thinks she is stupid) Have you given us the wrong pills? (holds his pill out to her.)

NURSE

Yes, yes, can’t you see what’s happened? He’s got yours.

OLDIE

(looks at his pill) I don’t follow you…

NURSE

That’s because you…(Doctor moans some more. She examines him.) Oh no. Jesus Christ. He’s going into a deep coma. I’ve got to do something. It’s going too far. It’ll be terminal.

OLDIE

I don’t know what you are talking about. (gets up and goes over to Doctor) Hello. (bends over him and peers at his face) Hello? (louder) Hello? (Doctor moans) Ughhh. (straightens up) He’s foaming at the mouth and his face is all twisted up. That was the pill that did that. I’m not taking mine you can be sure of that. (Nurse ignores him.) I said…(shouting and holding out his pill) I’m not going to take this. Do you understand? You’re up to no good. It’s some sort of trick.

NURSE

What are you jabbering about? You stupid old idiot. If it wasn’t for you we wouldn’t be in this mess. (shouts) It’s all your fault.

OLDIE

I’m not taking it. That’s what I’m saying. Are you deaf or blind or what? Here. (throws pill down in her direction.)

NURSE

(slowly) You are very stupid. Do you hear? Stu (pause) pid. (stressing each word) It doesn’t matter whether you take it or not, it’s aspirin. He (gestures) has taken your pill. (hysteria again) And now he’s almost dead. Oh…oh…what’s going to happen? Suppose he dies.

OLDIE

Dead? (understands at last) Dies? You mean that pill was meant for me? (treads on his own and grinds it into the floor and shouts) That’s what you can with your scabby pill. I’m leaving right this moment.

NURSE

But you can’t leave. What’ll happen? I’ve got to fetch somebody. You are the cause of this. You’ve got to stay here. (looks distractedly at Doctor) The rest of the business…the penalty clause…the …the evidence and an enquiry. Stay here with him. Watch him. I’ll call for help. Help. Help. Help.

OLDIE

I’m off. They are all lunatics here. (Doctor moans. Nurse is caught between trying to stop Oldie from leaving and going to Doctor. She tries to stop Oldie. They struggle.) Leave me be. You’re insane. Mad. You’re all mad. Trying to murder me. In the middle of the afternoon. (more struggle, Nurse, much stronger, grips Oldie around the waist. He then sinks his teeth into her breast. She shrieks and lets him go. Doctor means in a terminal way. Oldie growls and runs off. Nurse goes over to Doctor.)

NURSE

(examines him) He’s dead.

 

BLACK OUT

 

END OF SCENE ONE

 

 

SCENE TWO

(One month later. Office is completely dark. A flashlight beam becomes visible through window at rear. It moves about erratically. The sound of tapping on a window gradually becomes louder, followed by the tinkling of broken glass. The flashlight beam shines more directly into the room.)

OLDIE

(fumbling and scraping) Where’s the catch on this thing? It’s got to be here somewhere. (flashlight beam is stationary; sound of a shaking window frame; then a splintering crash.) Bleeding Jesus. What the hell was that? (more scraping noises as the beam of light moves about the dark office.) Ughhhh. Ahhhhh. Got it. (a sliding sound) That’s it. (flashlight beam illuminates a leg coming in through the window. The leg weaves about searching for a resting place. It finds the edge of the stretcher. The stretcher tips over as weight is put on it. There is an enormous crash as Oldie falls into the room.) Just like them to leave a booby trap. A bloody see-saw under the window. Well, I made it. (he locates light switch with flashlight, goes and turns it on.) Made it. In one piece…more or less. (looks at screwdriver in his hand.) Breaking and entering is what they call it. Huh, it wasn’t difficult. As long as you got it all reckoned out beforehand. One storey building is easy. I don’t know why they make those windows so high. (crosses to stretcher and re-assembles it.) So that’s what it was. Could be dangerous that. A menace. (surveys the room critically.) One room…ground floors…they’re not safe at all. You’re much better off higher up. (crosses to desk, turns on desk lamp, then sits down in centre chair.) Might have got caught though getting in. Spotted on the ledge outside…or stopped for loitering…or for carrying a breaking and entering tool. Offensive weapon. (brandishes screwdriver by the blade.) Tell’em I was carrying it out of self-protection, against getting mugged. There is a lot of that around. They’d see the truth to it. Could still get caught though…in here. (looks at door and listens carefully.) No, they wouldn’t have a night watchman in here. A place like this there’s nothing to pinch. All the same, better get on with it. No sense in hanging about. You just don’t know. (starts to move quickly out of chair, freezes half way, then slowly sinks back.) Easy now. The last thing you want in here is a blackout. (rises again, slowly.) Better check it. (crosses to Box, which is covered with a white sheet, examines Box, looks from Box to desk, then looks about room in a purposeful way.) Yes, it’s all just the same. Exactly like it was. Except for that mad bugger. Called himself a doctor. Lying down there foaming at the mouth with his face all twisted. Nearly dead, she said. It was terminal something or other. (glances at computer terminal) No, no, that can’t be right. Nearly dead, that’s definitely what she said. (pauses) Hysterical bitch. She was part of it all. No better than him when it came to it. (mimics a mincing tone.) Got the pills mixed up. Huh. What if she hadn’t? What then, eh, what then? I’d be down there nearly dead. Dead more than likely. I certainly wouldn’t be here now, that’s for sure. (crosses to desk, sits in Doctor’s chair, swivels about in it, generally take possession of it. Starts to open drawers.) Nothing in there. What about this one? (take out a booklet and reads title) “Prototype for mortality.” (throws it back in drawer) Not that bloody thing again. Had enough of that for a lifetime. What else in here. (takes out large folder and reads) “Report of the enquiry into the circumstances leading upto…….” Load of rubbish. (throws it back in drawer) Not much interest here. (tries last drawer) Oh, so that’s it. Locked, eh? Soon fix that. (crosses to center stage to get screwdriver. Sees Doctor’s white coat hanging behind desk.) Might as well do the job properly. (puts on coat) Now, let’s see. (forces open the drawer, takes out a large manual.) What’s this. Oh, yes. This looks important. (weighs manual in his hand and then peers at title.) “Operating instructions for global scanning and materialization of…..” So that’s his book of words, is it? The complete manual for the machine, I reckon. (opens manual and peers at in in evident incomprehension) Wait a minute. There has to be a way of switching it on first. These buttons are in it somehow. (presses various buttons, nothing happens, look about the desk, finds a switch and tries it. Nothing, again. Tries another one and the console lights up.) Now what? (peers at manual again, then shuts it abruptly) That’s no bloody good. It’s too small. Just have to figure it out somehow. He said the whole thing was easy. What did he do? Something over here to do with a sequence of something or other. I remember that…(punches several buttons, immediately the scanning sequence is put into operation with the same lighting effects as before.) Ahhhhh. Maybe that was it. (crosses to Box and looks inside it) No. Absolutely nothing. Felt more like a fuse blowing. (returns to console and very gingerly pushes another button; nothing happens.) Must be this other lot. (turns to second console, presses one button and a message appears on video screen.) Yes, that’s more like it. He was always reading something off on this thing. (Peers at screen and reads) “Input category and number.” Input category and number? Well, if that’s what it wants….four three one one one ought one. (pause) No, you must have to use the buttons. (finds numbers on the console and pushes the appropriate ones very slowly) There you are. (reads out new video message) “Question category pre-senile.” Pre-senile, eh? How did it know that, I wonder. Yes, pre-senile. I’m forgetting again. Where’s the “yes” button? (searches the console, then pounces on it) Yes. (the video message again changes; he reads) “Male 72, pre-senile coefficient 0.95, estimated senility onset 0.5 years, life expectancy nom less 1.25 years.” What the bloody hell is all that supposed to mean? Norm? Norm? What’s norm? That’s not English. Normal is all I can think of. If that’s it why don’t they say so. Anyway all that doesn’t get me anywhere. Something else I’ve got to do. (searches about and finds other buttons, presses them, nothing happens, presses others and video message changes again; he reads) “Input number.” What again? It’s no good arguing, I suppose. (punches out his number again, video message changes; he reads) “Ready to activate.” That sounds more like it. Maybe this is going to be it. (becomes excited, crosses to Box, circles around it, takes a deep breath, returns to desk seat) O.K. Now what? There are only a few of these left that I haven’t done yet. There’s one here. (presses button, there is a flood of light followed by darkness, then flickering, during this a bulge appears under the sheet which is covering the Box.) Jesus bloody Christ. Was that it? I bet that was it. What else could it be? (slowly rises, crosses to Box almost with reverence) It was it. There’s definitely something in it. Under that sheet….(carefully circles round the Box, then stretches out his arm, pulls the sheet off and jumps back as the Image of himself is revealed sitting in the Box, perfectly still.) It’s amazing. A miracle. A modern wonder. They really did do it then. I was beginning to wonder if the whole thing wasn’t just a dream. They copied me. (moves nearer to Box) It looks exactly like me. You couldn’t tell. They got everything perfect. Marvelous. Even that mark on my ear. It’s perfect. Hold on. (pause) Don’t be a fool. It could be a dummy. A mock-up. (moves to touch Image) Or a corpse…(draws back)…No, wait. Why would they make a corpse? They wouldn’t have a stiff (pause) of me. Doesn’t make any sense for them to do that. Unless…unless they want to use it for their experiments…use its organs and things. But if that’s the case, why…(freezes as Image’s arm starts to rise up.) It’s moving. (softer) It’s coming to life. (Image stands up and looks at Oldie.) This is it then. After all this time….(draws in breath, rushes back to desk and sits at it with relief.)

IMAGE

What a strange feeling that was. I could have sworn I was just in this box, stepped out, then came back again.

OLDIE

(aside) Jesus…it’s real.

IMAGE

What’s that?

OLDIE

Er you? Brought to life. When?

IMAGE

Just now.

OLDIE

(squints into the area behind the Box) There’s no way anybody could have stepped into the Box without me seeing them.

IMAGE

I never said you didn’t see me. Anyway the nurse was here with you.

OLDIE

When?

IMAGE

Just now when she put me in.

OLDIE

I don’t think that’s right.

IMAGE

Perhaps I blacked out – get these dizzy spells sometimes.

OLDIE

When?

IMAGE

Odd times. Didn’t I tell you before – about the blackouts?

OLDIE

(goes and squints at Image) What’s it feel like then?

IMAGE

Was that it?

OLDIE

Was that what?

IMAGE

The Treatment. It didn’t hurt. I didn’t feel a thing. I don’t mind telling you, I thought it was going to be a lot worse. Some sort of ordeal.

OLDIE

(slight contempt) Worse than what?

IMAGE

Oh, I don’t know. Like an operation or something. On my brain.

OLDIE

(ignores this) What do you feel (Image looks blank) now – what does it feel like – now you’ve had it?

IMAGE

(gets up tests himself) feels O.K. feels fine. I’m a bit cold though (sees that he has no shoes or socks on) That’s the explanation isn’t it – she made me take them off. (looks about) Where are they – my shoes? I’ll get’em on and be off. You’ve been very helpful doctor. (waits) My shoes”

OLDIE

Now wait a minute – you can’t go yet.

IMAGE

No? Well I’ve got to be off soon – got things to do.

OLDIE

Things? What have you got to do?

IMAGE

I’m going to Bingo tonight – its Thursday evening.

OLDIE

(to himself) That’s right it was always Bingo on Thursdays – its uncanny…. (to Image) I’m afraid you’ve got to stay here.

IMAGE

Stay here? How long for?

OLDIE

There are things – I’ve got to ask you – I got to know.

IMAGE

Is there more of the Treatment to come then?

OLDIE

Questions. (thinks hard) Tests – there’s tests have got to be done.

IMAGE

Well I just hope they don’t take too long. (shivers and slaps his arms round himself)

OLDIE

What’s wrong?

IMAGE

It’s cold in here. My feet are freezing – I can hardly feel them.

OLDIE

(looks around for something to cover Image’s feet, finds scarf and tries it but no good, takes it off) There’s nothing here.

IMAGE

Well you can’t expect me to sit around here with freezing cold feet – can you?

OLDIE

Alright then. You can wear my shoes (takes off his shoes and places them near Image).

IMAGE

I can’t wear your shoes – it wouldn’t be right. Anyway they probably wouldn’t fit – and you’d start getting cold.

OLDIE

(impatiently) Maybe they will fit. Look wear them – I’ve got socks on.

IMAGE

O.K. If you say so – you’re the boss here.

OLDIE

(gets authority from this) Yes that’s right – now then – let’s see….

IMAGE

(to himself) What a beater up pair of shoes – not fit for a tramp. It’s not as if doctors don’t get paid a lot.

OLDIE

What was that?

IMAGE

They fit. I’m ready to do all the tests now.

OLDIE

The tests?

IMAGE

You said there were these tests you were going to ask me.

OLDIE

(remembers) The tests. Yes. Well number one (doesn’t know where to start) let me see…. How do you feel?

IMAGE

You asked me that just before – and I told you.

OLDIE

Yes. Tell me again.

IMAGE

Look I feel fine. O.K.?

OLDIE

Do you remember everything (pause) like before?

IMAGE

Remember everything about what?

OLDIE

About (hesitates) everything.

IMAGE

How can I remember about everything? I’m not with you.

OLDIE

About yourself. Do you remember everything about yourself?

IMAGE

When?

OLDIE

Can you remember your past life?

IMAGE

I don’t follow you. What else could I remember?

OLDIE

Do you remember everything before you got the (hesitates and looks at spine of manual on desk) – scanning (gestures to Box)?

IMAGE

Look – has something gone wrong with that (gestures to Box)?

OLDIE

(covering up) Oh no no. Just testing the memory.

IMAGE

Well what is it I’ve got to remember?

OLDIE

Personal things – about yourself.

IMAGE

What sort of things?

OLDIE

There’s any number of them.

IMAGE

Any number of them?

OLDIE

To do with you. (gets an idea) For instance – what’s your number?

IMAGE

Not that again. We went through all that business before. A funny sort of test this is – isn’t it?

OLDIE

(fighting to keep it going) It’s a sort of (pauses) mental test.

IMAGE

Here – there’s nothing wrong with my brain.

OLDIE

What’s your number in that case?

IMAGE

Alright. If it’ll stop you nagging on about it I’ll tell it to you one more time – O.K.? This is the last time (rapidly) four three one one one ought one.

OLDIE

(slight surprise) Yes that’s right.

IMAGE

Of course it’s right – what did you expect?

OLDIE

(to himself) Yes it’s definitely very convincing (shakes head).

IMAGE

I don’t see what all this has got to do with the Treatment. What are these tests supposed to be for?

OLDIE

(gets an idea) What about your eyesight?

IMAGE

My eyesight?

OLDIE

Yes. Can you see (thinks) the number of a bus when it’s coming?

IMAGE

(interested) Not as well as I used to. Only when it’s up close. These glasses I’ve got now are worse than before – at least I could….

OLDIE

(interrupts and nods to himself) Can you see me properly?

IMAGE

I can see you moving about. I (squints) can’t really make out your face in any detail – not properly.

OLDIE

(squints at Image) Yes – that’s exactly right (gets up and edges up to Image to get a closer look, shakes his head not quite believing). What about (pounces) aches and pains?

IMAGE

I reckon the eyes are part of the other problem.

OLDIE

I know just what you mean – the bowel-problem?

IMAGE

Yes that’s right. Now You’ve mentioned it – sometimes I don’t go for nearly a week.

OLDIE

(very interested) A week?

IMAGE

Well not quite a week – but five whole days.

OLDIE

But then you can go?

IMAGE

Well yes – more or less.

OLDIE

So you don’t not go for a whole week?

IMAGE

I should say that’s very rare.

OLDIE

(aside) I knew it. It was certain it’d got worse. He’s right – five days used to be the limit. I’d more or less got used to that.

IMAGE

And that medicine they gave me – it doesn’t work. You drink it and nothing happens.

OLDIE

You’re telling me. (aside) That stuff no bloody good. I told them that right at the beginning.

IMAGE

Maybe you could give me some better medicine for it – stronger stuff. Perhaps I could try something else for a change – eh doctor?

OLDIE

Do you think I didn’t ask them for some better stuff – but they don’t listen. They don’t do anything – call themselves doctors huh.

IMAGE

What do you mean?

OLDIE

(covers up) Nothing. Er nothing.

IMAGE

Look doctor the time’s getting on. If there’s no more tests?

OLDIE

(agitated) I’ve still got to ask these questions. About yourself. About how you feel – how you are.

IMAGE

(exasperated) I keep telling you.

OLDIE

You haven’t told me what I want to know exactly.

IMAGE

Told you what?

OLDIE

About what you feel.

IMAGE

(shouts) What is it you want to know?

OLDIE

How you yourself feel.

IMAGE

(screams) Feel what?

OLDIE

IMAGE

(slowly) How I feel myself?

OLDIE

What you feel – inside yourself.

IMAGE

Feel in myself?

OLDIE

Yes – in yourself.

IMAGE

Why didn’t you say that at the start. In myself I don’t feel too bad – on the whole.

OLDIE

(encouragingly) Yes, yes. Go on with it. You don’t feel anything (pause) bad do you?

IMAGE

Oh well – I wouldn’t say bad exactly. Sometimes I feel – a bit odd. Do you know what I mean? Only sometimes mind you – I don’t feel quite myself.

OLDIE

(avid interest) Like what? What do you feel like?

IMAGE

Not like my old self.

OLDIE

(knowingly) Ah so you do feel different. Like somebody else?

IMAGE

Somebody else?

OLDIE

(excited) Different before the business (gestures) in the Box.

IMAGE

How do you mean?

OLDIE

You don’t feel like yourself before the Box?

IMAGE

Before the Box?

OLDIE

(frustrated) Before you had the (points to Box) the…(Image looks blank) the…..(looks at spine of manual again) the scanning. Before you had the scanning? (Image still blank) Before you came for the Treatment.

IMAGE

Of course before I came for the Treatment. I thought that’s what you’ve been on about – how I felt in myself.

OLDIE

That’s right – that’s what I did ask you.

IMAGE

Well what’s all this got to do with the Treatment?

OLDIE

Well, now, that’s the question, isn’t it? That’s why I’m asking you all these questions.

IMAGE

(suspiciously) So – you’re checking up on something are you?

OLDIE

Checking up? Why do you say checking up?

IMAGE

Yes. All these questions. Are you saying the Treatment is supposed to make….

OLDIE

(interrupts) No not at all that’s not it. I was just checking – I came here to check specially whether…

IMAGE

(interrupts) Look, I’ve got a right to know – I’m the one who’s had the Treatment not you – is the Treatment supposed to have some sort of bad effects? (pause) Or has something gone wrong with it? Have you done the Treatment wrong is that it? (aside) I bet that’s it. Just my luck for him to have buggered it up. Wouldn’t be surprised if he’d electrocuted someone. (to Oldie) Well I’ve had enough of this bloody checking. That’s it – I’m going (starts to leave)

OLDIE

No you can’t go.

IMAGE

What do you mean can’t go. If I want to go you can’t stop me. We’re not in a prison hospital you know.

OLDIE

No you can’t leave. Not after all this. Wait. You don’t know who you are. (confronts Image) Do you know who you are?

IMAGE

Leave me be. You’re not in your right mind going around asking people if they know who they are. Anybody is bound to think you’re off the twist. I know who I am.

OLDIE

Yes but I just want to know whether you absolutely feel….. whether you really know you’re you.

IMAGE

Either you’re mad or I am. One of us is – and I’m certainly not. So what are you talking about?

OLDIE

Mad? Why do you say that?

IMAGE

I’m me alright – always have been – and I’m not insane. Of course I know I’m me (points to himself) myself. Maybe you don’t know who you are.

OLDIE

(makes last attempt) Where do you live then?

IMAGE

This is getting stupid. If you’re not mad what are you trying to prove? Anyway (dismissively) you already know my address – it’s down there in the records. So why are you wasting my time like this. I’ve got other things to do.

OLDIE

I have to hear you say it – out loud – (thinks fast) it’s a safety precaution. Then you can go.

IMAGE

You just want me to say where I live. That’s all?

OLDIE

Yes. Just to make sure.

IMAGE

Alright then. Dwelling 8613, Pre-senile zone E1, area 114.

OLDIE

Aahh (aside) the old address – my home that I lived in for years.

IMAGE

Does that satisfy you?

OLDIE

(half to himself) Dwelling 8613 – my dear dear old home.

IMAGE

What’s that??

OLDIE

(lovingly) Pre-senile zone E1 – Area 114… where I lived for years. Home. The old home neighborhood – my old home.

IMAGE

Your old home?

OLDIE

Yes my familiar old home. That’s where I lived.

IMAGE

You must be making a mistake.

OLDIE

No no mistake. That’s where it was. Yes (bitterly) was. It isn’t any longer (to himself) Living like an outlaw – like a tramp – can’t go near my own home.

IMAGE

You’re making some sort of lunatic mistake. I’ve lived there for years. Ever since it was built. Nobody else has ever lived there. Or are you trying to tell me I wouldn’t have known if somebody had been in my home? It’s my home alright (Oldie winces) and I’m going right there now.

OLDIE

(blocking Image’s exit) You can’t go – you don’t know about the Treatment properly.

IMAGE

(suspicions realized) Ohh we’ve got to that at last. Well what about it? (truculently) You’d better tell me what’s up.

OLDIE

Since the Treatment there has been two of us.

IMAGE

Two of us what?

OLDIE

Two of us here. We’ve both existed. You and me. And since then I’ve been homeless.

IMAGE

Now let me get this dead right. You’ve been homeless since I had the Treatment?

OLDIE

Yes, ever since I had the Treatment. Because of what happened afterwards. All the business. Diabolical…with the pill…

IMAGE

I knew you were screwy. You are – you’re mad – a mad raving doctor (mimics Oldie) since-I-had-the-Treatment. Since you had it – I’m the one who had it. You’re supposed to be in charge here.

OLDIE

(ignores this) So that’s why I reckon the only thing to do is for me to come home with you. We’ll both go home – It’s really our home anyway. Isn’t it?

IMAGE

Look, I don’t care what you reckon about the Treatment going wrong. I don’t mind where you’ve been living. That’s all you’re business. I just want to get out of here. And I don’t want any doctor with me. What for? (Oldie tries to prevent him leaving.)

OLDIE

(desperate) I could look after you.

IMAGE

Look after me? Why? I’m not ill – not yet – you know.

OLDIE

Yes I could take care of you (thinks) you know-help you mend things – make the tea sometimes – things like that.

IMAGE

No thanks. I can make my own tea – the way I like it.

OLDIE

I know exactly how you like it.

IMAGE

No you don’t – everybody’s different with tea. Especially how much milk.

OLDIE

We could also have a little chat – a talk – now and again.

IMAGE

You’re too nutty to have a good talk with. I can’t make any sense of half of what you say. You’d drive me mad like yourself. In no time I’d be as screwy as you – not likely.

OLDIE

Also we could play cards.

IMAGE

(slight interest) Play cards?

OLDIE

Yes have a few games at a time.

IMAGE

When?

OLDIE

Oh, during the afternoons. At night. Any time you like, really.

IMAGE

(interested) Any time, eh? At night? For money?

OLDIE

Yes, certainly. Why not?

IMAGE

First bit of sense you’ve made. (thinks) Now that’s not a bad idea. (pause) But what can you play?

OLDIE

Clubyosh….that’s the most skilled two handed card game in the world.

IMAGE

The finest.

OLDIE

I’ve had some hands in my time. I once had menel, ten, fifty, ace, bells…in the first six cards. And I picked up two aces.

IMAGE

(excited) And a ten. Two aces and a ten. What a score. 150 points to start with. But I’ve seen bates too.

OLDIE

Some real bates. I’ve see a bate of 180 points.

IMAGE

Yes…180…it was a good take on, too.

OLDIE

It’s an interesting game…

OLDIE & IMAGE (together)

…no two hands are alike.

IMAGE

(looks at Oldie in a strange, suspicious way) But what’s all this about anyway?

OLDIE

(ignores this) Well, we should be getting off now, shouldn’t we? Off home. I’m ready.

IMAGE

Ready for what?

OLDIE

Ready to go home now. I’ll come back with you. Home…ahhhh. There’s plenty of room for both of us. We’ll mend things…make tea…play cards. It’ll be fine.

IMAGE

Now look – you got me going about the cards, that’s true. But this is ridiculous. I’ve got used to myself at home. I’m not planning on living with anybody. It wouldn’t work. I couldn’t live with anybody else…anybody I didn’t know. I mean, living with somebody else….

OLDIE

But I’m not somebody else.

IMAGE

In any case why should I want to live with you? What did you just say?

OLDIE

I said, I’m not somebody else.

IMAGE

Not somebody else? You’re completely dippy. That’s what you are.

OLDIE

You don’t understand. It’s the Treatment. When I had it, it made you. That’s the idea of it. That’s what the whole thing is for.

IMAGE

(turns away) Totally screwy.

OLDIE

(confronts him) You are my image.

IMAGE

(belligerently) What did you say? I’m your what?

OLDIE

(slowly) You – are – my – image.

IMAGE

(mimics Oldie) You – are – my – image. I’ll tell you something. (same tone) You – are – stark – raving – totally – bleeding – gibbering – crazy.

OLDIE

(mounting hysteria) You fool. You’re nothing…empty…you’re nowhere. Without me you wouldn’t be here at all. You don’t see it do you? You come here, with my number. You think you’re me. You live in my house as if it’s yours. Everything. You couldn’t be living without me. Not at all, see?

IMAGE

(shouts) I wouldn’t be in this bloody clinic arguing with a lunatic doctor.

OLDIE

You wouldn’t be in this world. You wouldn’t be alive. They made you from me, just like they said. They copied me. I’m responsible for you being here. (shouts) I brought you into this world. If it wasn’t for me you wouldn’t be here.

IMAGE

(shouts) You sound just like some bloody little Hitler. You know what your trouble is mate? You been bossing people around too long. It’s turned you into a maniac. Look you didn’t make me. I don’t even know you – I’ve never even seen you before.

OLDIE

(almost screams) I did make you. You’re a copy. I’m the original (grips Image staring into his face).

IMAGE

Original? Original my bum. (shouts) Original my arse. Original? You’re the original medical lunatic. (Oldie grips him again) Get off. Leave me alone (they struggle and part) You’re in my way. You better watch it or I’ll do you one. Get out of my way.

OLDIE

(shrieks) No. I tell you I am the original. You you you’re just….(they struggle again. There is some fight business which includes the following: Oldie lunges for Image but misses as Image moves to desk and picks up screwdriver which he holds as a sword and circles toward exit. Oldie grabs manual to use as a shield. They joust with Oldie eventually throwing manual and knocking Image out.) Ha that did you. (goes over to Image and stands over him panting for breath). He deserved that – trying to stab me with my own screwdriver. (looks down at Image) Call me a madman – eh- don’t think I didn’t hear you shouting away like that. A lunatic was it? You don’t even know enough to be a lunatic. You’re just a fool. You didn’t have a clue what was going on. (contempt) Thought I was the doctor – how brainless can you get? Didn’t recognize me one bit – not one bit. Trying to pass yourself off as me. Living in my home. Its mine – you’ve been squatting in it. That’s what it is – squatting. (it starts to get lighter through the window) Well no more. That’s all over. Too mean to let me live in the place as well (mimics) couldn’t live with somebody else. Couldn’t live with yourself more likely. Anyway all that’s finished with now you’re out of the way. I can go back to my old place – have it to myself like before – get all my old pre-senile privileges – get them back again. Yes enjoy life again ahh (stretches upwards in rapture which freezes when he sees that it is light outside) Jesus. Daylight. Its turned morning. The bloody sun’s up (looks around and then at Image) Now what? What am I going to do with him? I don’t even know if the bugger is still…. (freezes at the sound of a door and female voice getting closer) It’s the nurse – it’s that poxey nurse from before. Have to get rid of him – leave him behind somehow (looks about and fixes on Box, goes to it then to Image who he laboriously starts to manhandle into the Box, just before he finishes there is a knock on the door, he lets lid go with a thump on Image’s head and freezes hunched over Box) what was that?

NURSE

(enters immediately after thump, walks toward desk, sees manual on floor, looks round, and sees Oldie) Ah there you are. Good morning doctor. You are in early this morning.

OLDIE

(remains frozen) Umm umum umm.

NURSE

Do you have a cold? You sound rather tired.

OLDIE

Mmm no mm.

NURSE

Been working late again have you.

OLDIE

Aahh mmmmm.

NURSE

Shall I bring the list of number-holders into you now?

OLDIE

Uuuhhmmmmm umm.

(Nurse exits. Oldie turns around, looks at exit then at his feet, spots manual on floor, picks it up and rushes over to desk to put it in drawer. Sees screwdriver on floor, puts it in pocket of white coat, realizes it is not his own coat and goes to put his own on, interrupted by Nurse returning with a sheaf of papers. He turns his face away from Nurse then his back and walks crab-like with back to audience off stage. Nurse watches this then continues to desk, puts down her papers and starts to exit. When nearly there phone on desk bleeps, she stops, it bleeps again, she returns to desk to answer it).

NURSE

Scanning room here – chief Nurse speaking (pauses to listen) He just left the room (pauses) No I’m sorry I don’t – I think he was looking for something (pauses) well – he had no shoes on. He was in his socks (pauses) No (distinctly) socks (pauses) I couldn’t say – I just don’t know – shall I bleep him for you (pauses) certainly if that would be easier (reaches over for pen and paper and writes down some message) Check: Number-holder four three one one one oh one, image to be erased at first programming opportunity (pauses) check. (puts phone down and exits)

(Lid on Box slowly rises and Image climbs out rubbing his head.)

IMAGE

(looks around) That insane bugger of a doctor. He’s gone then. Thank Christ for that. Where’s my coat. (sees Oldie’s coat hanging up. He puts it on and makes to go.) Get out of this madhouse. Leave it for good. Wait a minute…I don’t want his shoes. I don’t want anything to do with him. (takes shoes off) They’re old and scabby anyway. I can get home without them. (exits. Light lingers on shoes, then blackout.)

Curtain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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