Episode 6: Mind Your Own Business

[SCENE I. SARAH and MELISSA’s house. SARAH is curled up on the couch, staring into the middle distance. The door opens and MELISSA walks through, suitcase in hand.]

MELISSA: Did you miss me? (Sets her suitcase down.)

SARAH: Melissa! (springs to her feet and embraces Melissa.) It’s never the same without you around.

MELISSA: Fear not, small friend. I’ve returned. Did I miss anything good?

(SARAH wordlessly hands over a newspaper. MELISSA skims it.)

MELISSA: A wizard turned some goth into a bushtit? I think I–

(SARAH wordlessly hands her another newspaper. MELISSA frowns.)

MELISSA: Fielding blew himself up?

SARAH: I hadn’t thought of him since high school. (She seems worried about something.) I watched that movie you were telling me about.

MELISSA: Which one?

SARAH: Uh, the silent film by the Criterion Collection.

MELISSA: Oh! Brand Upon the Brain! Did you like it?

SARAH: Yeah. (She sits back down.) But it reminds me of that year I took Fielding’s science class, now he’s in the news again.

MELISSA: (Sitting down next to her.) Well, that’s not so–wait. You weren’t in–

SARAH: I was in the class he gave the mind control chips, yeah. (Shifts uneasily.) You can see the scar on the back of my neck, even.

MELISSA: Really? Let me see! (She looks, and clicks her tongue.) Damn. And you’re worried maybe there’s still a chip in there?

SARAH: I mean, who would know?

MELISSA: I haven’t seen you do anything too weird.

SARAH: I could be a sleeper agent, Melissa! I could activate at any moment, and then I’d murder you while you’re sleeping, clean up, and wake up and get mad that you left without leaving me a note.

MELISSA: I guess we can try to scan your brain to see if there’s anything weird about it that can’t be explained by ‘being an art student.’

SARAH: You won’t be laughing when I’m carving up your delicate flesh with a kitchen knife, Melissa. You will be bleeding profusely.

MELISSA: Do you remember being mind-controlled?

SARAH: A little . . . . (Scene.)

(Wavy flashback lines take us back to Portland High School. High school SARAH, twiglike and awkward, is in a back room of the science lab, getting a chip implanted in the back of her neck. SARAH speaks in voice-over.)

SARAH: I can remember what I did, and maybe some little bits of myself got through, but I don’t really remember what I was thinking.

[As she speaks, she is doing science labs with apparent skill, motions almost perfectly in sync with the rest of her mind-controlled class. Her eyes have a dull, listless look to them.]

SARAH: It was the first time I’d ever gotten better than a C in a science class. My parents were so proud they didn’t notice that I was not acting like an actual human.

[A listless SARAH presents a report card to her parents, eats a meal mechanically, and marches off to her room, where she lies motionless on the bed, staring at the ceiling.]

SARAH: My art teacher noticed, though. I started drawing weird things. Like maps, designs, plans–I think he was using me to build something. It didn’t happen, though. Once my art teacher noticed that I wasn’t my usual self, the whole scheme was discovered. I never finished the projects, or even handed them in.

[Mind-controlled SARAH works at her easel, except instead of art she appears to be designing a doomsday device of some sort. Wavy flashback lines bring us back to the present.]

SARAH: I still have them, actually. I don’t know why I didn’t throw them out, but I’ve just kept them hidden in my room. It’s something that I created, you know?

MELISSA: Yes, I always try to preserve the things a crazy mad scientist made me do with a chip in my brain.

SARAH: I didn’t say it was a good idea.

MELISSA: I kid because I love, Sarah. And because I love I am going to march you somewhere that can deal with those drawings and make sure there are no more chips in your brain.

SARAH: Really? You’d do that for me?

MELISSA: Don’t spread it around, but I’m actually not history’s greatest monster.

SARAH: (Flings her arms around MELISSA.) You’re amazing.

MELISSA: I suppose I am, aren’t I? Come on, I know just the man. (Scene.)

[SCENE II. JEREMY’s house. It is messy not with the detritus of living, but with the trappings of science. The laboratory area in the back is actually quite clean, however. SARAH and MELISSA are sitting down, and JEREMY is fiddling with something on the mantle.]

JEREMY: What can I do for you lovely ladies this evening?

(SARAH looks at MELISSA imploringly. MELISSA sighs.)

MELISSA: You remember Mr. Fielding, don’t you?

JEREMY: Yes, I ran into him at the science fair. He blew himself up, didn’t he? (It is obvious he’s uncomfortable with something–most likely, the fact that he is directly responsible for blowing up FIELDING.)

MELISSA: So they tell me. You remember that class he gave mind-control chips so they’d do better at their science homework?

JEREMY: Yes, that was kind of the beginning of the end for him, wasn’t it? (He settles into a wooden chair and looks at SARAH.) You don’t mean–

MELISSA: I’m afraid so. She wants to get her head checked.

JEREMY: By a jumbo jet? (Chuckles.) Sorry. I’ve got just the apparatus in the back.

MELISSA: And I think she was making some sort of doomsday device under Fielding’s control. We thought you’d know best how to deal with the plans.

JEREMY: A doomsday device? Little Sarah?

MELISSA: I always thought the worst thing she’d do is paint an unflattering picture of you. Though I’ve seen her with murder in her eyes, so maybe–

SARAH: I’m right here.

(MELISSA coughs, and offers a portfolio containing the plans. JEREMY takes them and sets them aside.)

JEREMY: (To SARAH.) Step this way, my dear. This may feel a little strange.

(She steps tentatively towards him, and he guides her into an ominous looking chair. He fits her with a colander on her head and straps her in, then throws a switch. SARAH begins giggling uncontrollably, as if being tickled. JEREMY throws the switch once again and scans a readout. The giggling subsides.)

JEREMY: Completely normal. No chips or chemicals. Your brain, Sarah, is completely natural.

SARAH: (Vacant.) Oh. That’s good, isn’t it?

JEREMY: (To MELISSA.) She may be a little confused for an hour or so. Perfectly normal, nothing to worry about. Look after her and try not to make any complex arguments.

MELISSA: Is it dangerous? (She guides SARAH back to a chair and helps her to a seat.)

JEREMY: No, but she might get a terrible headache. (Chuckles.) Sorry. Let’s look at these plans, shall we? (He opens the portfolio and flips through them. His cheerful expression fades.) Oh my. These can’t fall into the wrong hands.

MELISSA: What is it?

JEREMY: A doomsday device. It seems Mr. Fielding has been planning to take over the world since before Sophie brought him down.

MELISSA: (Suspicious) Planning to take over the world, was he?

JEREMY: Well, he’s had his students making a doomsday device. Interesting.

MELISSA: So you’ll deal with the plans for us?

JEREMY: Oh, certainly. (Glances at his watch.) But I have work to be doing, ladies. Sorry for being a poor host.

MELISSA: It’s fine. I owe you one. Or rather, Sarah owes you one. I’m doing her a favor by doing this. But thanks regardless.

JEREMY: Think nothing of it. Good night, my dears.

(MELISSA and SARAH leave. Scene.)

[SCENE III. The Jaded Old Crone. MELISSA and SARAH are enjoying a meal.]

SARAH: Can we maybe just go to a doctor next time I’m worried there is a chip in my brain? They have scanning technology that doesn’t make you feel like there’s a thousand fairies dancing in your brain.

MELISSA: They also make you pay them money and wear an embarrassing little hospital gown. Jeremy is a man well-versed in the ways of science and poorly-versed in the ways of monetary gain. A useful friend in times of crisis.

SARAH: So, I’m glad we got rid of the plans. I just can’t help feeling like we’re missing something important.

MELISSA: Like what?

SARAH: Well, everyone else in my class, for starters.

(MELISSA stares at her.)

SARAH: You don’t suppose they were making doomsday devices, too? That would be bad.

MELISSA: (Unconvincing and unconvinced.) I’m sure it will be fine.

(We see a sequence, possibly imagined, of doomsday plans, variously hidden in closets, behind dressers , etc., both in Portland and beyond.)

(FIN.)

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