A play where we are the only character will have no
It had been two weeks since the
incident at the factory and Thomas’ foot had been healing nicely. Jocum came by
several times and rubbed some ointment on the wound that did wonders. But if Thomas
stepped down just the wrong way bolts of pain shot up his leg. It was worse
than walking on eggshells; it was like walking on grenades.
Since he naturally walked with a
slight hobble Russell was the most sympathetic and helpful. It had been a week
since his encounter in the woods and although he still lost sleep over it and
at times needed to go some place alone and cry, his
meetings with the pastor helped quite a bit. Russell did not tell the pastor
the actual details since the pastor would not think Devil but rather drugs. So
he told him that a snake in the woods attacked him. But this was enough to
elicit words of encouragement.
While the others were able to go
out to the park and the chocolate shop Thomas was oftentimes stuck in the house
with his foot on a pillow on the coffee table. They offered to hang with him
but inevitably the inviting weather would call them outside and with insincere
enthusiasm he would scamper them along with his hands to go enjoy the beautiful
This particular morning he woke up
feeling drained. Because of all of the hammer blows that Thomas had absorbed
this summer he was feeling particularly beaten down this day. Noticing that
everyone had gone out on errands he chose to go off and sulk.
He snuck out the back of the house
and made his way through the less populated parts of town. After about an hour
of grumbling and wretchedness he found himself at the edge of the woods. He had
come to the place where he had seen Russell disappear into a number of times.
He always wondered where it had led. Maybe there was a little shelter or cave
that he could hide himself in and curl up and deepen his misery.
He followed the vague path of
trampled leaves. After about a half an hour it dawned on him that this might
have been the area where Russell had the encounter with the Devil. He tried to
coyly glance around as though if anyone were watching him they would be less
apt to attack if he did not appear panicked and vulnerable. He did not even
want to wipe away the trickles of sweat lest he give himself away. He was so
focused on any slight sound or movement around him that he failed to notice the
root protruding from the ground. He stepped down on it exactly where his
stitches were. He let out with a howl and hopped around on his good foot. The
other foot throbbed like someone was hitting it steadily with a hammer. He
leaned against a tree with his foot suspended in the air. He would have
displayed a good pout if his face was not so twisted in anguish.
After several minutes the pain
became more manageable. He spied a four-foot long stick near the tree and
hobbled over to it. It was sturdy and would make a good temporary cane.
Realizing that he was not in topnotch hiking condition he figured that it would
be more prudent to head back home. He leaned on the stick and looked around to
get his bearings. Something caught his eye. He leaned forward and squinted. He
could see lots of pieces of different colors poking through the
leaves. This was quite perplexing. After everything else that had gone on the
last thing that he wanted was another weird occurrence. He leaned against the
tree again and listened for any unusual sounds. Hearing nothing he crept closer
with the caution of one traversing a minefield. Finally, he could see that they
were multitudes of birdhouses. His heart was momentarily uplifted.
“So this is what Russell does out
here. It’s quite marvelous.”
He limped around in amazement.
Numerous birds were perched in the openings and many flew hastily between the
trees. Fat squirrels stared at him from high branches and busily waved their
tails and chattered. He spotted a nice rock near a pond and sat down. But
seeing no deeper than the initial novelty of the birdhouses he once again fell
into a morose.
“My summer has been ruined. I’m
really stressed all of the time. I’ve lost a lot of sleep because of those
creepy things.” He paused. “I don’t hate life; I just hate my life. In fact,
the way things have gone even God must hate me.” “I’s”
were flying everywhere with a healthy number of “me’s”
making their presence known. The air was thicker with pities and
disappointments than with birds.
“Why do I even bother?” he moped.
Suddenly, everything around him was
rapidly sucked away in all directions. It was as though he was repelling all of
creation: the trees, the sky, even the rock, the pond, and the ground. They all
faded into a black distance like trains that had silently rushed away from the
central hub of a station in all directions. He jumped to his feet. All around
him for 360°
was utter darkness. He could not feel the ground beneath him but he was not
floating. He could see nothing but himself. There were no stars or shadows; he
could hear no rustle of leaves or flapping of birds’ wings. He was engulfed in
what seemed to be a black hole.
He yelled out but his cry was
swallowed and nothing returned. He spun around but there was not a thing
He panicked, “Am I in a coma? Was I
in some accident that I can’t remember? Did a branch fall on my head? Maybe
there are people standing over me right now and I don’t even know it.”
He flapped his arms. Everything
seemed to be working OK. He yelled again and kicked his legs.
“Is this an illusion? Maybe people
in comas think that they can still do things when, in reality, they cannot.
Maybe it’s like they’re in their own small world and nothing else exists. Maybe
someone is even holding my hand and I can’t feel it.”
He stared into the emptiness trying
hard to discern even the slightest speck of light. “What if this is it? What if
I never recover?”
He began to cry. He thought about
how this was just the perfect ending to a miserable summer. He took a couple of
steps forward and stopped. He realized that even his cane was gone. He stood
there sobbing with his head buried in his hands. Somehow the darkness seemed
even thicker. What do you do when the rest of your life consists of nothing
other than yourself?
He staggered another couple of
steps and then his one foot stopped moving and he fell forward. He put out his
hands and felt a terrible sharp pain. Yet still, he could see nothing that
stopped him from falling forever. He slowly stood up. His hands were throbbing.
He looked at them and saw that they were both scrapped and bleeding, but from
He was afraid to move; he did not
know what traps laid in this darkness. “Maybe I cut my hand on a needle stuck
in my arm from a feeding tube. Or maybe I’m being operated on at this very
moment and I cut my hand on the scalpel. Oh, this is terrible. This is so
He tentatively crouched and then
just sat. But he had no idea what he was sitting on. This world had but one
voice, one object, only one of anything and it was all and only him. He became
aware of every cell in his body. He could feel his blood as it flowed into the
smallest extremities of his fingers and toes. He could hear the acids in his
stomach break down the pancakes that he had for breakfast. If he wanted to, he
could count the hairs on his head without even moving.
He remembered it said once that
when someone is in a coma their hearing is the last sense to go and how that
was merciful because it allowed them to hear the words of their loved ones and
also gave them one last chance to hear the “Good News of the Gospel.” But
seeing how he could not hear anything he must be even beyond that stage.
Then every hair on his body
tightened. “Perhaps,” he thought in horror, “I’m not in a coma. Maybe I’ve
fallen into a trap of the Devil.” His body slumped even more.
“What to do?” he wondered. “Will I
ever wake up? Is all that I have left only what I can remember?”
He started to bury his face into
his hands but with his hands bloodied he could not even do that.
After an indeterminable length of
time he thought, “So this is how my life ends, fade to black—literally.”
He wondered if his family was
standing there, maybe Toni and her mother. “They are probably crying over me
and wondering how this could happen to such a good person. But perhaps years
have gone by. Perhaps no one bothers to come around anymore. Perhaps I’ve been
cast into a nursing home remembered only on my birthday by a staff that barely
knows my name. Maybe even right now there is a sagging balloon tied to the foot
of my bed. How many birthdays have I had like this?” He tried to picture his
room. He figured that it was a large room with three other beds. Probably there
were torn-out magazine pictures taped to the walls. Most would be of animals.
The rest would be gardens and such. The bulletin board over his bed might have
his feeding schedule and, because of the place’s mechanical imprudence, an
activities calendar. Most likely there were several birthday cards crudely
tacked on top of each other. He probably got flipped from one side to the other
like a fried egg at least a couple of times a day to prevent bed sores.
“Ah, the good life,” he thought
sarcastically, “no worries about food or school or getting a job. I don’t have
to think about others; it’s just me and nothing else.”
He thought about church last Sunday
or at least the last Sunday that he was conscious of. The pastor strode up to the
podium wearing a cowboy hat, vest, and fake gun belt with two six-shooters.
Then with excessive deliberation he removed each item and laid them on a seat
next to him. Then he said, “I am no longer going to be the sheriff of this
church. You’ve got yer own reckoning to do.” The
sermon was on personal accountability and how everyone was responsible for
their own choices, thoughts, and actions. Everyone remembered the point.
He got to thinking about how
terrifying the summer had been but then also how exciting it was when the four
of them got together and talked about what was going on. He wished that he were
back there at that time. He thought about his parents and how they would not
believe any of it but then that was going to be part of the fun. Would they
think that he had lost his mind or was he becoming quite the liar or… or maybe
it was simply true. Only he would really know that it was true. Now all that he has to show for the summer was drool on his
He missed his friends. He wondered
if Toni got married and if she had any children by now. “Probably twins,” he
surmised. “I bet that she has two wonderful little daughters.”
“I wonder how Russell is doing? And Sarah, she was such a sweetheart. She is probably
the head of some company by now. I hope that they are doing well. I may not be
able to do much of anything else, but I guess that for the rest of my nothing
life I can pray for them.”
Just then he felt something on his
shoulder. It startled him. This was the first thing that he had experienced
outside of himself since he got hit by the branch or whatever it was that put
him in this state. Maybe he was coming out of the coma.
“What?” he cried out. He stood up
quickly and turned in a semi-circle. His breathing was rapid. At first
everything was still totally dark. But then, as though played in reverse the
entire world came rushing back towards him in all directions. With bewilderment
he spun all around. The rock came up from underneath and stopped a few feet
away from him as did the pond. Trees flew towards him at rocket speed but then
stopped on a dime. The ground and sky did the same. He turned wildly and shielded
his face with his arms. He thought that he was going to be crushed.
When it all stopped he was still by
the birdhouses. Everything looked the same as it did before any of this
happened. The only difference was that Russell was standing next to him looking
confused and concerned.
“What’s going on here? Are you OK?”
Russell asked. “Did you get lost?” Then looking him over he continued, “And
what happened to your hands? It wasn’t snakes again, was it?”
Thomas just stared at him with
“You look dazed,” continued
Russell. “Maybe you should come over here and sit down and collect yourself.
What happened? Did you fall down and knock yourself out or something? I saw you
heading into the woods but I was quite a ways away and you know how slow I can
be at times. I thought that maybe I’d catch up and show you my birdhouses. I
didn’t think that you’d ever seen them before. Then I heard some yells. I
thought that maybe there was a fight going on or that…um…you-know-who was back
and got you. But it takes me a while to get anywhere especially when the ground
is uneven. And I must admit, after what happened to me out here last week, I
was a little hesitant to, um, get involved again. By the time I got here you
were just staring off into space. I waited for a bit just to make sure that I
wasn’t going to spook you and then I put my hand on your shoulder. It was like
I shocked you with a cattle prod. So what went on here and why are your hands
Thomas was listening but he was
still too rattled to talk. He was looking around trying to determine if this
was real or if he was imagining it. Then he heard Russell’s voice again.
“Was it the snakes again?”
Thomas looked up and replied
slowly, almost mechanically, “no, no, not this time.”
If you don’t want to talk right now we can go back. Then you can gather
yourself and tell me what happened.”
“OK, let’s do that,” Thomas replied
in almost a whisper.
Russell gingerly helped Thomas up
and turned him back towards town. Then they limped back. For Russell it was
like he was helping his grandmother get from one room to the next. It was a
long, silent trip. Finally they reached the Donnelee’s
house. Toni and her mother were busy putting away groceries. At the sight of
Thomas they rushed over and helped him to the table.
“We wondered where you vanished off
to. What happened? You shouldn’t be out on your foot like that. You need to let
it heal more.” Mrs. Donnelee said with a high-pitched
“I found him out in the woods by my
birdhouses. He was pretty weirded out,” explained
“Your birdhouses?” asked Toni
“Don’t worry about it right now,”
answered Russell. “I’ll show you them sometime.”
Thomas finally spoke but in a low,
cautious tone. He spoke into the table. “I was feeling sorry for myself so I
went out into the woods to mope. I was sitting on a rock when all of a sudden
everything went black. I thought that a branch hit me in the head and put me
into a coma. I thought that years had gone by and that I was in a nursing home
with balloons tied to my feet. I guess that in reality it was really only a few
At this the other three looked at
each other. Thomas gingerly felt all around his head.
I don’t have any bumps on my head from the branch.” He paused in confusion. “I
was yelling and crying and one point I fell down and cut my hands, but I
couldn’t see on what. In fact, I couldn’t see anything. I couldn’t hear
anything either. Then I felt something touch me and everything came back again.
I, I don’t know what happened. Maybe I passed out but I seemed to be conscious
the whole time. I don’t know.”
put her hand on Thomas’ shoulder. “We know what happened.”
Thomas looked up for the first
time. The three of them were staring at him.
“It was a Narciss,”
repeated Thomas. “Oh, of course. Now I feel much
She gave him a minor scolding look
and then continued. “A Narciss is an invisible entity
that, we believe, roams everywhere. It seems to be impervious to walls or trees
or anything for that matter. It just passes through things like it is half in
our dimension and half in another. It appears to have but one purpose, to seek
out those who are firmly and completely focused on themselves usually due to
self-pity. Then it engulfs them and sucks them inside, rather amoebae-like.
“Once inside, the person, in a
sense, gets his wish; the only world that exists is his own. There is no
interference from other people’s needs or opinions,
there are no confrontations or annoying conversations. He is always right and
whenever he wants an agreeable opinion, he can just give it to himself. It is
as though he has climbed into a coffin and pulled the lid on top. He is now
safe and perfectly entrenched on the one planet that he craves for the most—the
planet of himself. He can think whatever he wants and no one will contradict
him. He can do whatever he wants (to a degree) and no one will scold him. It is
all rather tidy.”
“But it was horrible,” proclaimed
Thomas. “Who would ever want that?”
answered, “Ah, and that’s the rub. You don’t have to put up with those things
that you find disagreeable but neither do you have the good. You will never
grow, you will never learn, you will never change. A world with just yourself in it is not only lonely and sterile but also quite
colorless and barren. Your world may be just the way that you want it but it is
also quite shallow.
“There is a proverb that says,
‘Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, but much increase comes by the
strength of the ox.’ If you want your life to be predictable and easy that can
be achieved by getting rid of as much as you can including
friends and family. But if you want strength then you need to bond and work
with others. That may mean a lot of fixing and removing the garbage but in the
end it is always worth it. A manager with oxen in it may stink sometimes but
the harvest is tenfold richer.”
Thomas said, “But obviously it
isn’t too hard to get out. I did.”
“It may be harder than you think.
The key is that you must stop thinking only about yourself and start thinking
about others, wishing good for them, missing them, wanting to be with them.
Some never want to leave. That doesn’t happen often, in fact, it is quite rare,
but it does sometimes.”
Thomas again, “What
“They lose all contact with reality
and so are unable to function at all. They usually get locked up. But those are
the extreme cases.”
Thomas, “But what seemed really
weird is that Russell could see and hear me but I couldn’t see or hear
“Except yourself,” remarked
“Yes, except myself,” he replied
Toni joined in the conversation.
“That is because you were still actually in reality even though from your
perspective you were on your own lonely, little planet. So everyone who is also
in reality, which would be pretty much everyone else, could see you but you
could only see yourself.”
“If you remember,” chimed in Russell, “the Narciss is
invisible so no one can see it; however, everyone can still see you. But once
inside, you are now in its world or, more precisely, your world. It may be
invisible from the outside, but from the inside it is a thick darkness.”
Toni added, “That is why you fell.
You were still walking in the woods even though you didn’t know it. You must
have tripped over a branch or a rock. It’s like walking around in a big paper
bag, everything is dark and clumsy but you are still on Earth. And everyone
else can see you stumbling about. They may try to warn you about things, but,
of course, you don’t listen to any of them even if you could hear them because
you are always right. Remember, in the world of the Narciss
you are the only one who counts.”
Thomas asked, “So how did I get
“We don’t know,” said Mrs. Donnelee. “What were you thinking about just before Russell
tapped you on the shoulder?”
“Um, I was thinking about how
everyone was doing and what had happened to each one of you after all these
years, or supposed years.”
“Well, there you go,” Toni
remarked. “Now you know how you got out. You were already right on the edge.
Russell’s tap just made it easier. But if you stayed focused on yourself then
he could have slugged you in the head and you would still be in there.”
Thomas thought for a bit. Then he
straightened up. “Does everyone around here know about all of these creatures
except for me? What else am I going to run into?”
Though a weak, unconvincing grin
Toni said, “You really don’t want to know.”
That did not exactly comfort
Thomas. Actually he slumped back down.
Russell smiled at Thomas and
slapped him on the shoulder. “Well, we’re all in this together. We’ve all
survived quite a lot in these last few weeks and yet we’re still together. That
has to mean something.”
Thomas looked up at Toni. “You had
twins. Two little girls.”
Toni took a startled step back.
That night in a particularly deep
sleep, Thomas did not notice the cold tongue slowly skimming the skin of his
arm or the unblinking black eyes staring gravely at his every twitch with all
of them greedily suckling his fears and anxieties.