Short Stories

That Good Night

The daily prompt has asked for a piece written in the style of a favourite author. I recently submitted a radio play for a competition around Dylan Thomas. It wasn’t short-listed but I thought I’d share. Please be kind though – radio is not my forte. 

THAT GOOD NIGHT 

CAST

Ben Older, mature student. Well-spoken with an old fashioned English accent.
Jack  Scottish
Nisha Anglo Indian girl with a Welsh valleys accent.
Gareth Welsh

 

  MUFFLED SOUNDS FROM THE UNIVERSITY CAMPUS CAN BE HEARD AS WELL AS MUSIC WITH A LOW STEADY BEAT. A DOOR OPENS AND FOUR SETS OF FEET ARE HEARD WALKING OVER A HARD SURFACE. CHAIRS SCRAPE AND BAGS ARE DUMPED.

 

THERE ARE FOUR PEOPLE IN THE ROOM. NISHA IS AN ANGLO INDIAN FROM SOUTH WALES, BEN IS A MATURE STUDENT FROM OXFORD AND VERY PROPER IN SPEECH AND MANNERISMS. JACK IS THE TYPICAL STUDENT, FROM HEREFORD, AND GARETH IS A GOTH WITH A STRONG WELSH ACCENT.

   
NISHA: I can’t believe it.
GARETH: What?
NISHA: That we get this room.
GARETH: What’s wrong with it?
JACK: Nothing, she’s just being a snob.
NISHA: Am not!
BEN: Hush now, children, we need to work on this.
NISHA: I am not a child.
  SILENCE FOR A SECOND. PAPERS ARE RUSTLED.
  Dylan Thomas.
GARETH: He’s a Welsh Poet.
NISHA: (WITH DISDAIN) I know. I may have an Indian name but I was born in Cardiff.
JACK: She’s a valleys girl.
BEN: Dylan Thomas’ ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’. Has anyone read it?
JACK: Yeah. I did it back in school. Isn’t it a GCSE text?
GARETH: Great. So when we get it wrong we will look really daft.
NISHA: There is no wrong. It is creative writing and totally subjective.
GARETH: No way! We are in a Welsh university looking at the, and I mean THE, Welsh poet. This is about as subjective as it gets.
JACK: I like his work.
GARETH: Do you understand it?
JACK: Well, I wouldn’t say that.
NISHA: Come on, it can’t be that hard.
BEN: It isn’t. It is just how you look at it.
JACK: Huh?
BEN: Well, take this line; Do not go gentle into that good night…
GARETH: We will not vanish without a fight!
NISHA: What?
  RUSTLING OF PAPERS

What line are you on? Are you even looking at the same poem?

JACK: Gareth, where’d you get that from?
GARETH: It isn’t in the poem?
NISHA:
GARETH:
BEN: Dare I ask where that line was butchered?
GARETH: A movie…
NISHA: Might have known.
JACK: Which one?
GAREHT: Will Smith and that alien attack. Independence Day. It’s the end speech.
NISHA: TAPPING OF COMPUTER KEYS

Hold up, let me see. Here it is. And he does sort of use the quote. It’s “We will not go quietly into the night”.

JACK: Probably couldn’t use the proper one because of copyright.
BEN: Have a look at Henry V.
GARETH: The king?
BEN: The Shakespeare play.
NISHA: Got it. There is some reference as it sounds similar but there are no direct lines used.
GARETH: Don’t know it.
JACK: Neither do I.
BEN: I’m sure you do.
NISHA: “We few, we happy few”.
GARETH: I know that one…
BEN: Excellent. Shall we move on?
NISHA: I suppose. Has anyone been to this part of the university before?
JACK: No. It’s the old bit.
GARETH: I heard it was haunted.
BEN: The poem…
NISHA: I find it creepy with the tall windows and arches.
GARETH: I think it’s cool. It suits me and my aura.
NISHA: (LAUGHS)

Aura?

JACK: Just cos you wear black does not mean you have a creepy aura.
NISHA: More little dog lost than attack dog.
GARETH: Why? Do you think I’m cute?
BEN: Heaven help us.
GARETH: Don’t think that’s gonna happen in this wing of the university…
JACK: Scary monsters!
NISHA: I don’t believe in ghosts.
GARETH: (IN A SPOOKY VOICE) Well, they believe in you.
BEN: (LOUDLY) The poem is about death.
NISHA:
GARETH: No it isn’t.
JACK: I thought it was about living strong. Playing hard. That sort of thing.
BEN: “Rage, rage against the dying of the light!”
NISHA: (SMALL SCREAM)

Did the lights just flicker?

JACK: Probably a loose connection.
GARETH: Or a brown out. I heard they were meant to happen.
BEN: Brown outs only dim the lights.
GARETH: You just know everything…
NISHA: Don’t be mean, Gareth. Ben has just lived longer and has more knowledge.
JACK: Wise old owl.
BEN: Thank you. I think.
GARETH: The lights are flickering.
JACK: Maybe there is gonna be a power cut.
NISHA: I hope not. I’ve only got a bit of battery left on the laptop.
BEN: Plug it in.
  THERE IS THE SOUND OF RUSTLING AS IF SOMEONE IS RIFLING THROUGH A BAG.
NISHA: It’s not there.
JACK: Did you leave it in the other… Can anyone remember where we were?
GARETH: Um… Yeah… We’re in the university. Duh!
JACK: I know that. But where were we before?
BEN: We were in class.
JACK: We were?
NISHA: Has anyone else got a charger?
BEN: No. Only a pen and paper. Jack, we were in class. We were discussing something…
JACK: I keep trying to remember but…
BEN: It dances away. I can’t seem to grasp it.
  A DOOR SLAMS AND NISHA SCREAMS.
GARETH: What was that?
NISHA: The door. It just slammed.
JACK: Did someone close it?

 

  FOOTSTEPS CAN BE HEARD MOVINg FROM THE CHARACTERS AND AWAY TO THE DOOR.
GARETH: (OFF) I don’t see anyone. It’s really dark out here.
JACK: Do you think it was a ghost? WooooooOooooo.
NISHA: Stop it, Jack. I don’t like it.
JACK: I’m only joking.
BEN: We really ought to do some work.
GARETH: (OFF) Guys? I really think you need to look at this.
BEN: What is it?
GARETH: (OFF) I can’t explain it, you gotta see it.
JACK: I’ll go.

FOOTSTEPS GOING TOWARD THE DOOR

(OFF) What?

GARETH: (OFF) Just look.
JACK: (OFF) Oh! No… It can’t.
GARETH: (OFF) I know.
NISHA: What? You two are scaring me.
JACK: (OFF)Honest, Nisha, you’ve got to see this… This… What would you call it?
GARETH: (OFF) (FLAT VOICE) Nothing.
JACK: (OFF) Yeah, that’s about it.
BEN: We will both come over.
NISHA: I don’t know if I want to see.
JACK: (OFF) You have to it is… indescribable.
  TWO SETS OF FOOTSTEPS
BEN: (OFF) Well, what is all the fuss? I don’t see…
NISHA: (SCREAMS)
  FOOTSTEPS AND A CHAIR BEING MOVED
  There… Did you see?
  THREE SETS OF FOOTSTEPS
BEN: I saw.
GARETH: What do you think it means?
JACK: I don’t know.
NISHA: But what was it?
BEN: It’s like the posters you get in the optician. You know the ones that show you the different loss of sight that can happen? Well, they paint the patches in black, but if you lose any sight it doesn’t appear as black.
GARETH: No? What then? Pink?
BEN: It just isn’t there. Your brain doesn’t see it so it doesn’t exsist.
NISHA: Exactly! That’s it. It’s as if there is nothing there.
JACK: No. It is like our mind refuses to let us see.
GARETH: Can you guys hear yourselves?
JACK: Well, what do you think? You saw it as well as us.
GARETH: I don’t know. But it has to make sense.
BEN: I don’t think it can.
GARETH: What if it is one of our classmates playing a trick?
NISHA: How are they meant to do that? Bend time?
GARETH: No, it has to make sense.
BEN: You said that.
JACK: Can anyone remember who was in the class?
NISHA: There’s you, Ben, me and Gareth. And…
JACK: Exactly! I can’t think of a single person.
NISHA: Give me a moment. There has to be someone…
GARETH: Guys, this is freaking me out.
BEN: We just have to look at it logically. Start at the beginning and work forward.
NISHA: It has something to do with the poem.
GARETH: Why?
JACK: Because we all have a copy.
BEN: Do we? Put them on the table. Let’s see what we have all been looking at.
  PAPERS RUSTLE AND THERE ARE A FEW CLUNKS.
NISHA: They aren’t the same.
GARETH: No. Ben is that a handwritten copy?
BEN:
JACK: That is copperplate.
GARETH: Did you write it?
BEN: Yes…
GARETH: So your handwriting is copperplate!
BEN: Yes…
JACK: Where did you learn it?
BEN: Well…
GARETH: What did you write it with?
NISHA: Guys! Stop! You are interrogating him. Ben, answer in your own time.
BEN: Thank you, Nisha. I did write it, I learnt it at school and I wrote with a pen. Why?
JACK: What did the pen look like?
BEN: (ANGRY) A pen!
NISHA: Wait! I think I know what you’re asking. How did you refill the pen, Ben?
BEN: I dipped it into the ink…
GARETH: You’re joking?
BEN: No…
JACK: (EXCITED) I knew it!
BEN: What? I am confused.
NISHA: Ben, what do you see on the table?
BEN: My copy of the poem. Two boxes, one smaller than the other and a piece of paper with blocky writing, not unlike that of the newspaper. Why?
GARETH: Boxes?
NISHA: He means these.
JACK: One’s a laptop, but the other.
GARETH: A tablet. Looks like a first generation apple.
BEN: That is nothing like an apple.
NISHA: (GIGGLE) No the fruit. It is a piece of technology that allows you to read.
BEN: Like a piece of paper.
GARETH: Yes and no. It works like a piece of paper in the fact you can read from it but it can contain hundreds of books and hook to the internets and… Wait! Earlier you hooked up to the internet, Nisha.
NISHA: I did.
GARETH: Can you still do it?
NISHA: Hold on… Yes. There is a wifi signal.
BEN: Wifi?
JACK: It’s a web of free information.
GARETH: Sort of.
JACK: What do you mean, sort of?
GARETH: Well, that was the idea back in the beginning but now everyone is after what they can get.
JACK: You know all this but that is just a printed piece of paper.
GARETH: It’s what the lecturer gave me and no I don’t remember them. I do have this though.
BEN: Another box.
NISHA: A mobile phone.
JACK: It’s a smart phone.
NISHA: A what?
GARETH: A small computer with a touch screen.
JACK: I got one but it wasn’t one when…
BEN: When…?
JACK: I don’t know. I can’t think what I was gonna say.
GARETH: Okay, so what if we look at this illogically.
NISHA: What do you mean?
GARETH: Well, do you know about smart phones?
NISHA: No never heard of them.
BEN: I do not know any of the boxes.
JACK: I know them all, but I don’t know that make of smart phone.
GARETH: It’s new, only came out this year.
BEN: I think I know what you are talking about. What year did it ‘come out’?
GARETH: 2014
  GASPS FROM ALL.
NISHA: 2005
JACK: 2012
BEN: 1910
GARETH: 1910! Man that was over a hundred years ago!
BEN: It seems so.

 

NISHA: So what? Are we all part of some sort of experiment? Are we even in the university and how did we get here?
JACK: All good questions.
  A DOOR SLAMS.
NISHA: (GIVES A SUPPRESSED SCREAM) What was that?
BEN: The door closed.
GARETH: Hold up.

FOOTSTEPS

(OFF) The door is closed and I can’t get it open.

JACK: There go the lights again.
BEN: I am having difficulty with this. How is it possible?
  FOOTSTEPS
GARETH: Well, in my time we are able to do all sorts of things that will probably seem like magic to you.
JACK: Like the motor car.
BEN: There are motor cars! The combustion engine is a great invention.
NISHA: Yeah, fantastic!
BEN: Why do you say this so sarcastically?
NISHA: It destroyed the planet.
BEN: (PANICKING) The planet is gone!
NISHA: No, it’s okay. We have hurt the environment. Poluted the air and water and stuff.
BEN: That is almost worse.
  FOOTSTEPS
JACK: Where is he going?
GARETH: I think he feels out of it.
JACK: Why?
GARETH: Well, he is from, what? The early 1900s? I mean he is too old to be still alive.
JACK: What are we all doing here?
NISHA: I think we can rule out time travel.
GARETH: Why?
NISHA: I would have remembered.
JACK: I don’t know. I just don’t remember anything.
NISHA: But we all know we are at university and studying this damn poem.
BEN: (OFF) It is a beautiful poem.
GARETH: About death.
NISHA: About life.
JACK: Ow!
GARETH: What?
JACK: I pinched myself. Just in case this was a dream.
NISHA: Still here.
JACK: I can see that.
  DOOR SLAMS
NISHA: The door is open again.
BEN: FOOTSTEPS

Listen!

GARETH: I don’t hear anything?
NISHA: Shush…
  THERE IS A QUIET SOUND OF MANY FOOTSTEPS. IT BUILDS AND RUSHES THROUGH THE ROOM (ONE SPEAKER TO ANOTHER).
  (SCREAMS) What was that?
BEN: I don’t know.
GARETH: A load of people. All running this way.
JACK: And then it just stopped? Why? And why are the lights flickering again?
BEN: This is more than a brown out.
NISHA: The table…
JACK: What?
NISHA: It’s gone.
GARETH: So is all our stuff.
BEN: Except the two pieces of paper.
GARETH: That poem again.
NISHA: It is really starting to scare me.
BEN: It is only words.
GARETH: No it isn’t. If it were just words it would have disappeared with the table.
JACK: And chairs.
NISHA: Oh no… What next?
BEN: When I walked over there I noticed something.
GARETH: What?
BEN: On the wall. I was a heart, one drawn on the wall.
JACK: And?
BEN: No, you don’t understand. It happened whist I watched. It was drawn by someone I couldn’t see.
NISHA: A ghost?
GARETH: Are we talking sheets with holes in?
BEN: Spectral apparitions are a known fact.
GARETH: Really?
BEN: Yes. I myself saw a medium once. A very nice house in a leafy suburb of London.
NISHA: It isn’t found often in our time, mediums and ghosts. Normally they are just in stories and TV shows.
BEN: TV?
JACK: It doesn’t matter. Where is the heart?
  FOOTSTEPS – FOUR SETS
BEN: (OFF) Here.
GARETH: (OFF) I see it.
  FOOTSTEPS – THREE SETS
NISHA: (OFF) Wait! Look!
  FOOTSTEPS – THREE SETS

(OFF) Do you see?

JACK: (OFF) The letters under the heart… They are disappearing.
GARETH: (OFF) Like someone has rubbed them out.
  DOOR SLAMS
NISHA: (OFF) The door…
BEN: (OFF) Again.
  FOOTSTEPS – FOUR SETS
NISHA: (CRYING) What are we going to do?
GARETH:
BEN: Excellent idea.
JACK: I’ll get the door.
  FOOTSTEPS AND THE HANDLE GIGGLES. A COUPLE OF GRUNTS.
  It’s stuck.
GARETH: Let me help.
  FOOTSTEPS AND MORE GRUNTS. THEM A BANG AS THE DOOR IS STRUCK WITH A FIST.
  It isn’t going to budge.
BEN: When it opens again we could just make a run for it.
NISHA: When will that be?
BEN: I don’t know…
JACK: There go the lights again.
GARETH: Get ready; when it opens we make a run for it.
  DOOR SLAMS
  Go!
  SCREAM
NISHA: There is someone there!
BEN: Hello? Who are you?
JACK: Why are they just standing there?
GARETH: Is this some kind of joke?
NISHA: No! Gareth, don’t get so close.
GARETH: I won’t. I can’t…
JACK: What?
GARETH: He is cold. Freezing. I don’t think I could get any closer.
NISHA: What?
BEN: Very cold.
NISHA: He’s coming in…
GARETH: That’s Mr Hutson, my lecturer.
BEN: Is he dead?
GARETH: No, not the last time I saw him.
JACK: Do you remember the last time you saw him?
GARETH: Yeah, just before the holidays. I handed in my assignment just before I split for home.
BEN: Coldness usually means the apparition is dead.
GARETH: We can’t be sure.
 
NISHA: What are you doing?
GARETH: Only one way to find out…
NISHA: No!
JACK: Oh my God… Gareth’s arm just passed through him!
NISHA: Mr Hutson is a ghost.
BEN: No! He is solid. Gareth is the apparition…
NISHA: But…
JACK: That explains the time thing.
GARETH: (OFF) Guys if I touch him I can see… The room is filled with students. Oh no! One has seen me. They are screaming!
  VERY QUIET SCREAMING, AS IF IT WERE COMING FROM INSIDE A BOX.
BEN: We hear it.
NISHA: But really quietly. What do we do now?
BEN: Do? Well, I suppose we do not go gently into that good night.
   

MUSIC COMES UP, GETTING LOUDER. OVER THE TOP CAN BE HEARD THE SOUNDS OF SCREAMS AND A CLASSROOM BEING EMPTIED.

 

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