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Connor Toms as Nick, Mik Kuhlman as Chelsea. Photo by Auston James

Sending A Message

produced at the 14/48 festival, 1/16/10. The randomly drawn theme for that night: "Somewhere Over The Rainbow." My random actor draw: write a play for one man and one woman. Later produced as part of Star Crossed, and other tales from a devious universe. Produced at Pleasance Theatre Islington’s Science Fiction Theatre Festival (Islington, UK), May 2019.

Lights up on NICK, who is sitting at a work bench, building a Rube Goldberg contraption that starts small but will grow throughout the play. The contraption does not need to make any logical sense; whimsical components are in fact ideal. CHELSEA enters with shopping bags from the grocery store.

CHELSEA: Hey baby, sorry I'm late, I stopped by the store to get some stuff for dinner. She takes her coat off, hangs it up. What are you working on?

NICK deadly serious: I'm building a time machine so that I can go back in time and kill Judy Garland.

CHELSEA after a beat: Do you have to build it in the living room?

NICK: It's cold in the garage.

She shrugs, exits. Lights out.

Lights up. Nick is still working. Chelsea sits nearby on a couch, reading a magazine.

CHELSEA: Oh, I forgot to ask – why do you want to kill Judy Garland?

NICK: I can't fucking stand that song she sings. They're always playing it. There's like 50,000 versions of it and it's like they're just chasing me around and playing it wherever I go. If I kill her, she won't get to sing it. If she doesn't sing it, it will never become popular and no one else will ever sing it. I'll never have to hear it again.

CHELSEA: I kind of like that song.

NICK: Then you should listen to it a bunch of times before I erase it from history.

CHELSEA: What do you mean? They'll just get someone else to sing it.

NICK: Not after I leave my message. Painted on the walls in Judy Garland's blood. “Bury that song when you bury her body.”

She shrugs. Lights out.

Lights up. Nick is still working; the machine has sprawled all over the table. Chelsea enters with a sandwich on a plate.

CHELSEA: I made you some lunch. Can you take a break?

NICK: I'm not hungry.

CHELSEA: Nick, if you keep skipping your meals, you are never going to have the strength to kill Judy Garland.

Nick sighs, concedes the point, joins her on the couch and picks at his sandwich.

CHELSEA: You realize that in order to kill her before she sings that song, you are going to have to kill her when she is sixteen years old.


CHELSEA: If you hate that song so much, why don't you kill the guy who wrote it instead?

NICK pause: He might fight back.

CHELSEA: I was reading on the Internet that when they first screened the movie, they decided to take that song out completely because it slowed the story down. They actually had a version of the movie where that song never happens. But then they put it back in obviously.


CHELSEA: So maybe you should go back in time and convince them to leave it out. Then no one will ever hear it. Then you won't have to kill a defenseless sixteen year old girl.

NICK pause: That just sounds... complicated. Look, I appreciate your concern, Chelsea, but I don't need help with my plan. Sometimes the innocent must be sacrificed to protect the greater good.

Chelsea falls silent, clearly disgruntled. Finally:

CHELSEA: It's not that bad a song.

NICK: It's a fucking terrible song!

She does not respond. Lights out.

Lights up. Nick is admiring the machine; it is complete.

NICK: Chelsea! Come in here!

CHELSEA entering: Is it done?

NICK: It's done.

CHELSEA: How does it work?

NICK: This knob sets the time and date. This knob sets the place. You stand right where I'm standing, and you push that button there.

CHELSEA: I see. Pause. I was thinking – why don't you go back in time and kill Hitler instead? Do something useful with the world's first time machine. Help people. Make a difference.

NICK ponders that for a beat, then: You know, Chelsea, that's not a half bad idea. Pause. First Judy Garland. Then Hitler.

CHELSEA resigned: When are you leaving?

NICK: I'm going to get some sleep. I'll leave first thing in the morning. He starts to leave. You coming to bed?

CHELSEA: Not yet. I was going to stay up and listen to that song a few more times while I still can.

NICK: Wear earphones. He exits.

Chelsea stares at the machine. Lights out.

Lights up. Nick is at the machine, which is humming now. Chelsea stands nearby.

NICK: Goodbye, sweetheart. I should be back in literally no time.

He activates the machine. A loud cacophonous rumble rises up as the lights go black and perhaps begin to flicker. Then the lights return to normal and the rumble stops. Nick is standing where he was before – only now he is completely covered in blood, holding his own stomach.

CHELSEA: I can still sing that song in my head. That means... you didn't kill her?

Slowly Nick staggers towards the couch and Chelsea gets a good look at him.

CHELSEA: Is that your blood? What happened?

NICK: She fought back. He lands heavily on the couch, and Chelsea joins him. She stabbed me. I need you to... call an ambulance.

CHELSEA: I can't do that, Nick.

NICK: I'm dying.

CHELSEA: I know. Nick, last night while you were sleeping, I used your time machine to go back in time and warn Judy Garland that you were coming to kill her. Consequently she was prepared for your attack.

NICK: But... why?

CHELSEA: After your attempt to murder her failed, she knew that she would somehow need to arrange for me to warn her younger self. As she built her fortune, she secretly began a breeding program to raise a line of children whose sole duty was to someday sire a woman who could marry you, and be present when you created the time machine.

NICK: You... you're a Garland?

CHELSEA: I need to let you die, Nick, so that you don't repeat the attempt. It's a little sad, because I did sort of like you a bit.

Nick knows that he is beaten. He begins to fade.

CHELSEA: I've been instructed to give you a message, Nick. A message from Judy. She caresses his forehead as she sings: “Somewhere... over the rainbow... way up high... there's a land that I heard of... once in a lullaby...”

Lights fade out. End of play.

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