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View from the "stage." Photo by Cody Smith
We Are Floating In Space
Produced at the 14/48 Outdoors festival, 8/26/16. The randomly drawn theme for that night: "Wait For It." My random actor draw: write a play for two men and three women. A space station. ELLIE is our tour guide, leading KELLIN, JAYCE, CARISSA, and JOHNNY onto the observation deck. ELLIE: All right, everyone, here we are on the observation deck, where weíll be spending the next hour. Please grab a seat - is everyone comfortable? Now how many of you are visiting the station for the first time? Everyone raises their hands. ELLIE: And how many of you are actually in space for the first time? Everyone keeps their hands in the air. ELLIE: Oh wow, well youíre definitely in for a treat, yeah. JAYCE: Weíve all put in a lot of time on simulators. CARISSA: Some of us even simulated coming to the station. KELLIN: Whatís that supposed to mean? CARISSA: You know exactly what that means. ELLIE: Okay, yeah! Well in just a moment here, Iím going to activate the external cameras. At that point, the walls and the floor and the ceiling will all seem transparent, and youíll be seeing directly into outer space. This can be a little disorienting, so if you need to use those little waste disposal bags we handed out at the start of the tour, donít be shy, yeah. KELLIN: How many people usually need to use them? ELLIE: Usually one hundred percent of people, yeah. Okay are we ready? Ellie gestures. The tourists are amazed - from their perspective, all the walls and the ceiling are transparent, enabling them to see directly into outer space. After a few beats, all four tourists abruptly vomit into tidy little bags. Then they quickly recover. ELLIE: There it is, folks, outer space. Letís just take a few moments of silence to appreciate that view, shall we? JOHNNY: Whereís the comet? ELLIE: Pretty sure weíre still having a few moments of silence, yeah. JAYCE: Itís right there, jackass. JOHNNY: Isnít that the moon? JAYCE: No, itís the comet. You can tell because itís moving. JOHNNY: Pretty sure the moon is not a stationary object. KELLIN: The moon doesnít have a corona. CARISSA: Neither does the comet. KELLIN: What do you call that, then? CARISSA: Itís just a vapor tail. KELLIN: Itís outgas, isnít it? CARISSA: Sure, but itís not plasma. KELLIN: Oh, itís not plasma, well excuse me. ELLIE: Iíll just wait here patiently until we squeeze in those moments of silence, yeah. Several beats of awkward silence. Then: ELLIE: Okay! Now the Wells Comet was discovered almost two hundred years ago by Dr. Linda Wells, a pioneer in quantum astronomy. She discovered the Wells Comet from her own backyard, using a prototype quantum telescope that sheíd designed herself. Now who knows what makes a quantum telescope different from a standard telescope? KELLIN: Something something quantum entanglement, right? JAYCE: Jesus, Kellin, did you even go to school? KELLIN: I must have missed that day. CARISSA: You were probably screwing around in a simulation. KELLIN: For all I know Iím screwing around in a simulation right now. ELLIE: Believe me, youíre not. JOHNNY: Hey Iíve got a question. Is the comet supposed to be heading toward us? ELLIE: Itís not heading directly toward us, no, but itíll get close enough within the next hour that youíll get quite a show from here on the observation deck. JOHNNY: Because it looks like itís heading directly toward us. JAYCE: Donít be ridiculous. They would move the station if it were heading directly toward us. Suddenly everyone is jolted, Star Trek style, all in the same direction. After a beat: ELLIE: Okay, well, it appears that the station commander has decided to move the station. An awkward silence. JOHNNY: Itís still heading directly toward us, isnít it? CARISSA: It moved. KELLIN: Itís been moving this whole time. CARISSA: No, I mean, it changed course just now. ELLIE: Oh Iím sure thatís quite impossible. The station couldnít possibly produce a gravitational effect significant enough to change the orbit of the comet from this distance. JAYCE: Sheís right, though. Look at it. Itís getting brighter, and itís heading straight at us. KELLIN: This must beÖ some kind of mistake, right? I mean, they wouldnít sell tour packages to the station just to blow people up, would they? JOHNNY: I donít think you could get insurance for that. KELLIN: Exactly. A much bigger Star Trek jolt this time, lasting longer, causing them to hold onto each other; Ellie might even be jolted to one knee. ELLIE: Okay, well, it appears that the station commander has decided to move the station again. An awkward pause. JOHNNY: I donít want to be a downer here, but I mean, I was watching and that thing absolutely changed course. JAYCE: That cometís ten times the size of this station. If anything, the comet should be pulling us its direction, not the other way around. KELLIN: That comet is chasing us! CARISSA: The crew must have data that confirms what weíre seeing or they wouldnít be moving the station! ELLIE: The stationís equipped with a full battery of sensor equipment. JAYCE: Wait, the crew is just monitoring the comet via sensors? ELLIE: Do you see any of the crew here on the observation deck? JAYCE: Everyone shut your eyes. JOHNNY: What? KELLIN: I think if Iím going to be pulverized into atoms, Iíd prefer to see it coming. JAYCE: Do it. Right now. Shut your eyes. Everyone closes their eyes. JAYCE: Little known fact, Linda Wells was my grandmother. JOHNNY: So? JAYCE: SoÖ something something quantum entanglement. KELLIN: What? CARISSA: Itís chasing you? JAYCE: Only when Iím observing it. ELLIE: Youíre totally making this shit up. JAYCE: Itís spooky action at a distance! CARISSA: Thatís not what that means! KELLIN: Maybe if we start believing thatís what it means, we wonít get pulverized into atoms! JOHNNY: Maybe if weíre good, Santa will leave quantum telescopes in our stockings. JAYCE: As long as none of us are actively observing the comet, it exists in a quantum superpositionÖ flying past the stationÖ. flying through the stationÖ flying back where it came fromÖ CARISSA: But the moment we observe itÖ JAYCE: The superposition is lost. Schrodingerís cat is dead or alive - not both. CARISSA: The comet blows us up or it doesnít. JOHNNY: So what do we do, just sit here with our eyes closed while you exhibit spooky nonlocal effects for the rest of eternity? JAYCE: Just until we shut off the external cameras. ELLIE: Okay, yeah, well Iíll justÖ stagger around the observation deck until I find the switch for the external cameras. KELLIN: Man, now would be a hilarious time to learn we actually are stuck in a simulation. JAYCE: Some people think reality itself is a simulation running inside a vast quantum computer. CARISSA: Some people go to the Bahamas for a vacation instead of outer space. JOHNNY: Booooooring.
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