Every year the Orlando Fringe Festival comes and goes, and I think to myself, “You should write something this year.” After many years of not doing that, I’ve done that.
Now I realize that I should have been writing this months ago because I can’t get it in for this year, but the important thing is it made me happy to finish it. That usually doesn’t happen when I write, so maybe I’ll start on something for next year’s Fringe sooner than later.
Setting: General type standing behind podium addressing audience and 6-10 space marines sitting in front of audience, facing general.
General: (Looking over audience and marines) Ladies, gentlemen. As loyal members of the seventy-third infantry cannon fodder battalion, you make up the bravest bunch of sacrificial lambs in the fleet. (Pacing, looking up at audience & marines) The mission you’re going to be going on is not going to be an easy one. No, some of you won’t even make it through the suspended animation. You’ll die a horrible, bitter, freezing death.
And those will be the lucky ones. After getting to your destination sixty years from now, and given you aren’t killed in the defrosting process, you’ll have quite a fight on your hands. We lost contact with a colony of ours almost two weeks ago, and we think aliens of the worst kind are to blame. They’re probably the flesh eating variety, but, for those of you who get captured, you probably won’t be eaten right away. They will likely keep you alive in order to gestate they’re young in your body for months, maybe years. The baby aliens will slowly eat their way from your insides out.
And those will be the lucky ones. The rest of you, the quote survivors, will face the daunting task of being frozen once again, and returning to an earth you’ve never seen. One hundred and twenty years will have passed since you last saw your home world. Everyone you cared for will be dead. Every television show you love will be canceled. And there’s no guarantee you will still have a job or even get paid for this one. But you’re not in it for the pay. You’re in it for the glory. For the camaraderie. For the free food. (Two large guards packing major weapons enter)
Now, I can’t order you to go on this mission, I have to ask for volunteers. So, anyone who wishes to remain behind, who doesn’t want to go on this journey which guarantees an almost certain, brutally painful death, please raise your hand. (One of the marines raises his/her hand. The two guards escort the marine backstage)
Ah yes, you see, we believe in free will here in the space marines. We fight for freedom after all, and wouldn’t we be complete hypocrites if we didn’t allow freedom in our own ranks. This reminds me of an old saying…. (Over the next line, the general’s voice is drowned out by gunshots from backstage, a scream, guards reenter). Anyone else want to back out? No? Good luck, and remember, for the grace of god, go you.
(General exits, guards stay, three technicians enter, two fool with equipment, one addresses audience and marines)
Tech 1: Okay, we’re going to freeze you now, but there’s nothing to worry about. We’ve tested this device a number of times, and I just got my degree from the Sally Struthers Mail Order Refrigeration school. Also we an almost fifty percent survival rate with the cockroaches we tested this thing on. Okay, now hold very still (Techs and guards put on sunglasses). Everyone signed the wavers, right?
(Bright lights, smoke effect if available, noise, darkness, techs throws some ice at the audience)
Tech 3: It’s always so anticlimactic.
Tech 2: Did it work this time?
Tech 1: I don’t know, turn on the lights (Lights come up).
Tech 3: (Poking at the marines, using some kind of instrument for readings) I think some of them are still alive. (Turns to another) Oh, this one isn’t.
Tech 2: (Walking among audience with device, taking readings) We’re looking good. Oh wait, except for this one. Good god, did he look this way before?
Tech 3: (Coming over to look) I don’t know, absolute zero can do funny things to a man. Let’s check his genitals.
Tech 1: There’s no time for that now. We have to get off this ship before it launches. Unless you’d like to spend the next sixty years with these popsicles.
(Techs and guards leave, blackout)
Setting: Sergeant Coltrane, striking a pose not unlike the general’s, addresses the troops.
Coltrane: All right, here’s the deal. We’re here primarily to save the colonists. So try not to shoot too many of them. They’re the ones that look like us. Shoot the aliens. They’re the ones that don’t look like us. And try not to eat anything that’s moving, (noticing the audience for the first time) remember what happened on…….Oh for the love of God! Look at all of them. (Walking around the audience) Frozen solid. Well, this is just great! And look at this one. I wonder if her hair was like that before. (Walking back to address troops) Okay, it’s just us, you know what to do, get with it.
Troops: Yes Sergeant! (Troops begin filing out through automatic door, stage left, Coltrane makes to follow and then lingers, doesn’t notice Private Bley hanging back behind him)
Coltrane: (Turning to stay on stage) And I’ll just stay right here where it’s relatively safe….(Sees Bley) Private! What’re you doing lollygagging around?
Bley: I…..I’m a little scared, sarge.
Coltrane: Let me tell you something young lady, we all are. You’d be completely insane if you weren’t scared. Why, I’ve already wet my pants three times. Perfectly natural (Coltrane starts eating rations).
Bley: You’re scared too, sarge? But you’re the greatest soldier to have ever lived. You’re a legend.
Coltrane: You bet I am, but even legends get scared. If it wasn’t for the fact I’m currently hopped up on drugs, I’d be paralyzed with fear right now. The smartest thing the space marines ever did was start lacing our rations with Prozac and methadone.
Bley: Geez, you get scared. I mean YOU get SCARED. You’re the bravest man in the fleet, and no one has gone on more missions than you.
Coltrane: Yep, I’m the oldest living noncom in the entire corps. I’ve been frozen more times than Walt Disney. And I was scared witless on every single mission.
Bley: Wow. So how did you make it through? You’re infamous cunning? Or just brute force? Do you think it’s better to be an expert shot or a master of hand to hand combat?
Coltrane: (Starting to get really affected by the drugs) Look kid, all of that stuff is great, but I’ve found a much better way to survive fighting species that could kill you just by looking at you.
Bley: Really? HOW?
Coltrane: Well, first I eat all my rations, you know, for the drugs. Then I hide and I try not to weep like a small child.
Bley: You eat all your rations.
Bley: Then you hide.
Coltrane: And try not to start bawling, that’s the challenging part.
Bley: I’m speechless.
Coltrane: It really is ingenious, isn’t it?
Bley: (As Bley is speaking, the theme from Jaws begins playing over the theaters loudspeakers) The bravest man in the space marines, a coward. No wonder you’re nearly 27. Hey, what’s that? (She breaks out her guns)
Coltrane: That is really bad.
Bley: How bad?
Coltrane: On a scale from one to bad, we’re screwed.
Bley: Oh, great.
(Automatic door stage left opens, darkness can be seen beyond. Lights go out in theater. Screams and gunfire ensue. Then lights come up to an empty room. Privates Mingus and Davis enter from door stage right.)
Mingus: (Looking at audience) Hey, we’re back where we started. I wonder where everyone is.
Davis: Who cares, I mean, we’re all just going to die anyway. The colonists were probably all eaten anyway. And now we’re going to die, just like them (points at audience).
Mingus: (Looking amongst audience for aliens) Oh my god, there’s one!
Davis: (Ready to shoot entire audience) Where!? Where!?
Mingus: (Looking closely at audience member’s feet) Oh, wait, sorry, it’s just his genitals.
Davis: Thank you mister can’t tell the difference between an alien and frozen genitals. I could’ve had a heart attack!
Mingus: You’re the one that keeps saying we’re going to die.
Davis: Yeah, but I’d hate to deprive the aliens of the opportunity. It might make them mad if they come along to kill me and I’m already dead.
Mingus: Why’d you ever join the space marines if you’re so afraid of dying?
Davis: You know, see new worlds, pack big guns, scare small children. And you?
Mingus: Well, at first it was to protect the earth, our way of life and all that crap. But really, if there’s one reason I volunteered, it was because of the women’s underwear.
Davis: Yeah, I guess that’s the real reason I joined, too.
Mingus: Did you know until they made lingerie part of the uniform, they actually had to DRAFT people?
Davis: Wow, it’s hard to imagine the brass ever denied the troops a nice matching bra and panty set.
Mingus: I don’t even feel like a real soldier unless I‘m wearing my garter belt and corset.
Davis: The feel of silk against your body, the thrill of crotchless panties……
(JS Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in G minor BWV 565 begins playing. You know, the scary organ song? Okay, find something else ominous.)
Mingus: Oh, sneak up on us while we’re discussing underwear, will they?
Davis: (Preoccupied with thoughts of undergarments)….and what about a nice teddy? There’s nothing like a nice teddy to really motivate you.
(Automatic door stage left opens, darkness can be seen beyond. Lights go out in theater. Screams and gunfire ensue. Same as before except some warm water is dashed on the audience to help their imaginations. Then lights come up to an empty room. Private Harris enters, looking nervous, pointing gun all around. He’s edgy.)
Harris: Okay, all right, okay. I’m a little edgy here, none of you move. Okay. No one’s here. Good. Like being alone. I’m a loner. Don’t like people all that much. Never had many friends. (Walking amongst audience) Ewww, bet he didn’t have many friends either.
(Ripey enters, carrying two coffees, looks around, shrugs)
Ripey: Hey, you want a coffee?
Harris: (After jumping about five feet in the air) WHAT!?!? Ohmigodohmigodohmigod. (Sits down)
Ripey: (Handing coffee to Harris) Here, it’s decaf. So what are you killing machines doing here? Trying to get rid of our little alien problem?
Harris: (Still a bit shaken) Aliens, yeah, have to kill the aliens. (Takes a sip) This is decaf?
Ripey: So how’s it going so far? The alien killing I mean.
Harris: Not so good, everyone else is dead, and I haven’t seen one alien yet.
Ripey: (Becoming serious) No, you wouldn’t have, these are tricky aliens, I’ve been living with them for years now. You can’t hide from them, you can’t run from them, you can’t even kill them. There’s only one way to stop them from slowly disemboweling you and feasting on your intestines while you watch.
Ripey: (As the music comes up, which is, of course, The Good Ship Lollipop, or something equally silly) You change their theme music.
Harris: Wow, and this works?
Ripey: (Cheering up) Yup, every time. Of course…..
Ripey: Well, there’s always a chance they may like the song, but what’re the odds?
(Lights go out, screaming, flesh rending sounds, music still in background, blood spattering. When things quiet down but the music is still on, Ben and Jerry, the aliens, have a brief conversation in the darkness)
Ben: (Singing along)
Jerry: I love this song. This has to be the best intestine eating song ever. (Slurps something up)
Ben: Hey, check it out, there’s some still frozen.
Jerry: It’s almost haunting with them there, staring at you. At times I think both our species can someday learn to communicate with each other, to learn from our differences. Maybe someday we could even call humans our friends.
Jerry: Yeah….But then I remember how good they taste. Race you to the frozen genitals.
Ben: You’re on.
(Should Ben and Jerry molest the audience at this point? That’s a judgement call.)