Episode 10: How Unfortunate

[SCENE I. The offices of the Portland Examiner. SOPHIE and ERIC are brainstorming in her office. The dartboard of Melissa’s face still hangs on the wall.]

ERIC: Oh, here’s something. Remember the goth that got turned into a bushtit?

SOPHIE: I was out of town. But I think I remember the story. By that wizard, right?

ERIC: Yeah. Looks like she’s trying to get . . . I don’t know if it’s revenge, but something. She sent a little press release. ‘Local Coven To Prove Their Magick Is Stronger Than Cheap Wizardry.’

SOPHIE: (Glances at the dartboard and grins wickedly.) I think we can make this work.

ERIC: Oh, good. Petty vengeance is almost like grisly murder.

[SCENE II. The Portland High School Library. The GOTH TRIO are at a back table, reading over some books. ELDER GOTH (VICTORIA) has a book of suspicious eldritch power; YOUNGER GOTH (RAVEN) is reading a less suspicious book about occultists; SILENT GOTH (CELESTE) is reading a book called ‘Support Your Local Wizard.’ It looks like a work of fiction.

SOPHIE approaches them, trying as best she can to look casual as an adult visiting teenagers at a high school.]

SOPHIE: Are you . . . let’s see. Victoria, Raven, and Celeste?

VICTORIA: Yeah. Who’re you?

RAVEN: Oh, Victoria, that’s–

VICTORIA: Oh my god. Sophie Swanson? Who used to write at the high school paper?

SOPHIE: (Flattered.) That’s me! How did you know?

(RAVEN digs around in her bag and pulls out a much-folded photograph of the writing competition that MELISSA won several years ago. MELISSA, an unidentified boy, and SOPHIE are all on the stage; SOPHIE looks pissed, MELISSA looks smug, the boy looks excited.)

VICTORIA: The haiku cycle Melissa Xenakis wrote that year was just so dark. You were friends with her, right? What was it like?

SOPHIE: (Managing to maintain her composure, but only just.) It was, you know, inspiring. But she’s changed since high school.

VICTORIA: Changed, how?

SOPHIE: Well, you know that wizard that was in town? I heard she set him on some girls at the high school, just because she thought it was funny. I’m here to cover that story for the Examiner, actually.

VICTORIA: Oh my God, that was her?

CELESTE: That doesn’t even make sense! You’re the one who–

RAVEN: Quiet, Celeste. Your wizard-loving ways have already been noted.

VICTORIA: I thought I liked her! I thought she understood!

SOPHIE: You know the girls that she attacked?

VICTORIA: That was me! She turned me into–into a raven!

CELESTE: Bushtit.

RAVEN: Shut up, Celeste.

VICTORIA: It was horrible. She didn’t even let me finish drawing my magick circle!

RAVEN: Though . . . it was the wizard who attacked us. Not Melissa.

VICTORIA: Right. Still, if she set him on us–

RAVEN: There will be a reckoning.

(SOPHIE can barely conceal her glee, so instead masks a fit of coughing.)

SOPHIE: I hope you’re not going to try to put a curse on her? She’s a very powerful witch.

VICTORIA: It won’t be a problem. We’ve been studying.

SOPHIE: Just don’t give her a chance to react. Get her while her guard’s down.

VICTORIA: I’ve already got a plan. She won’t know what hit her.

[SCENE III. Outside the Jaded Old Crone. RAVEN is already waiting; VICTORIA is just now arriving.]

RAVEN: Victoria! What’s the plan?

VICTORIA: According to my informants, Melissa will probably be drinking heavily tonight. On her way out, bump into her and steal a lock of her hair. Then tonight we will cast . . . the Hex of Terrible Fortune!

RAVEN: Harsh.

VICTORIA: Think of every spider you had to stop me from eating, Raven. Think of who is responsible for that.

RAVEN: Harsh, but entirely justified.

(They lie in wait for some time. Eventually MELISSA departs, tipsy and in good spirits but not particularly drunk.)

VICTORIA: (In a whisper, handing some scissors to RAVEN.) Now’s your chance! Go!

(VICTORIA pushes RAVEN out of hiding. RAVEN stumbles, only partly intentionally, and runs into MELISSA, who just manages to catch her.)

MELISSA: Easy now. You all right?

RAVEN: (mumbled, leaning on MELISSA for support, and snipping a bit of hair in the meanwhile.) Yeah fine thanks.

MELISSA: Long night already, huh? You want me to call a cab?

RAVEN: I’m fine.

MELISSA: All right, if you’re sure. Take it easy. (She and SARAH depart.)

VICTORIA: Well? Did you get it?

RAVEN: (Holds up the hair.) That was weird, but I don’t think she noticed. She thought I was drunk.

VICTORIA: Oh, that’s beautiful. Come on. The spell takes an hour to cast and I’m supposed to be home before midnight.

[SCENE IV. MELISSA and SARAH’s house. MELISSA is typing something on the computer. SARAH is drawing on a sketchpad. After a moment, there is a spark from the computer, which goes black.]

MELISSA: Fuck!

(MELISSA appears to have received a mild shock; her hair is frizzled, and probably more importantly, she looks shocked, if you’ll pardon the pun.)

MELISSA: Don’t we have a surge protector or something?

SARAH: Yeah. My brother bought it for me. He said it was really good. (She puts her sketchpad down and walks over.) What did you do?

MELISSA: I was writing an email. I don’t think that’s an explosion risk.

SARAH: Are you sure you didn’t dump your beer on the computer or something?

MELISSA: You banned me from drinking at the computer, remember?

SARAH: Oh yeah! That was a fun night.

(There is a frantic knock on the door. SARAH answers it; CELESTE is there.)

CELESTE: Is this Melissa’s house?

SARAH: Who’s asking?

CELESTE: My name’s Celeste. I–look, is she here or not? This is important.

(MELISSA gets up, but trips over the chair on her way to the door. She rises to her feet with a string of curses.)

CELESTE: Oh, no, I think I’m too late.

MELISSA: Cut to the chase, Gotharella.

CELESTE: I think my sisters–that is, my coven–uh, the other goths I hang out with put a hex on you.

MELISSA: On me?

CELESTE: That reporter, Sophie Swanson, said you’d set the wizard on them. And Victoria was really mad about that.

MELISSA: Christ. She never forgave me after I wrote that winning haiku cycle.

CELESTE: I–wait, really? That’s why she hates you?

MELISSA: I also missed a typo proofreading her entry in the competition.

CELESTE: That seems . . . misguided. (Shakes her head.) Anyway. I think you’re cursed. Here, write something on this notepad.

(CELESTE hands MELISSA a pen and a small pocket-sized notepad. After some hesitation, MELISSA begins writing. The pen explodes, and leaks all over her hand. MELISSA gets another pen from the desk, which similarly leaks after she starts writing.)

MELISSA: I think I see your point.

CELESTE: The effects are worst when the curse first takes effect. Eventually it tapers off. You’ll just have moderately annoying bad luck for the rest of your life.

SARAH: Oh no. If Melissa had moderately annoying bad luck she’d probably be dead by now. Or possessed or kidnapped by space aliens.

CELESTE: (Unhappily.) There is a way to lift the curse, but it involves finding a priest.

MELISSA: This is America, my gothy friend. There’s more churches than gas stations.

CELESTE: I mean a real priest. There’s only one in Portland and he might think I have a pact with the Devil.

MELISSA: Great.

CELESTE: I didn’t sell my soul or anything! I just gave up my ability to enjoy pop music and American comedies so I could play guitar. And it wasn’t the Devil, just a minor demon.

MELISSA: When you say American comedies–

CELESTE: Think Adam Sandler films.

MELISSA: I don’t think I ever had the ability to enjoy those!

CELESTE: So you can see why I was willing to take that offer.

MELISSA: I think I like you, Gotharella. Can we keep her, Sarah?

SARAH: Do you think you’re responsible enough to look after a goth, Melissa?

MELISSA: I’ll be good! I’ll feed her bats and crows and spiders and take her on walks on rainy days and–

CELESTE: Guys.

MELISSA: (Clears her throat.) Yes. Leave your contact information. We’re going priest-hunting tomorrow.

CELESTE: Okay, but I have an eleven o’clock curfew on weekends unless my father knows who I’m–

SARAH: Less arguing, more adventure!

CELESTE: Right. (She scribbles something and hands it to SARAH.) Er, see you tomorrow. (She departs.)

SARAH: Sorry about your curse, Melissa. I’d give you a hug, but, you know–

MELISSA: Yes, I’m cursed. I know.

[SCENE V. The offices of the Portland Examiner. SOPHIE is at her desk, working on a story, when VICTORIA calls.]

SOPHIE: Sophie Swanson, Portland Examiner.

VICTORIA: Sophie? It’s Victoria. It’s done.

SOPHIE: What? Oh, the curse, right! So is she, like, a toad or something?

VICTORIA: No, she’ll just have horrible bad luck for the rest of her life.

SOPHIE: Hm. Does that satisfy you?

VICTORIA: I consider her debt repaid.

SOPHIE: All right. I’m sure she deserves a lot worse if you–

VICTORIA: No, no, it’s fine.

SOPHIE: Let me know if you need anything else. And thanks for your help on this story.

VICTORIA: No, thank you. (Click.)

SOPHIE: The tables have turned, Xenakis.

[SCENE VI. Outside of town, a creepy-looking old church. SARAH is driving, with CELESTE in the front seat. MELISSA is in the back, looking miserable. The car pulls up. SARAH and CELESTE get out, and SARAH helps MELISSA out of the car and guides her as if she is in danger of falling. Regardless, she trips on the single step up to the church.]

MELISSA: I hate everything.

CELESTE: Well, the curse probably won’t work while you’re in the church. So you’ll be safe there.

MELISSA: Great.

(They enter the church. SARAH enters cheerfully, MELISSA begrudgingly, and CELESTE tentatively. The church is empty, save for the REVEREND, kneeling at the altar.)

CELESTE: Reverend?

(The REVEREND turns. He is a tall, thin man with a shaven head and a salt-and-pepper beard. He wears a dark suit, and overall looks more like a Bond villain than a pastor.)

REVEREND: I see you there. Can’t you see this is a sacred place?

CELESTE: I, uh. I’d like to parley?

MELISSA (whispering): Can demons parley with God?

CELESTE (whispering): I have no idea.

REVEREND: Fine. What do you want?

CELESTE: This, uh, young woman has been cursed.

REVEREND (looks MELISSA over): Yes, I can see that. Beginning to regret your dealings with the Devil, are we?

CELESTE: (exasperated) Look, it was just a minor demon. But no, this wasn’t me. It was my–some girls I know.

REVEREND: I see. (to MELISSA.) Come here. (MELISSA approaches hesitantly. He looks into her eyes as if hoping to find a demon there. When he doesn’t, he sighs.) As it happens, I can’t help you. I can give you sanctuary here, of course, but the relic I need is in the forest, guarded by dark forces.

MELISSA: I suppose I can live with bruised shins for the rest of my days, and only going out when the sky is clear and there’s no satellites scheduled to fall to earth.

REVEREND: Now hold on a minute. If your friends here are willing to retrieve the relic from the forest, you’d be doing me a great favor and I’d be able to lift your curse. (He looks at CELESTE.) And it might prove to me that this one isn’t entirely a thrall to the Dark One’s desires.

SARAH: I’ll do it!

MELISSA: I can’t ask you to battle hell demons for me, small friend.

SARAH: You aren’t asking, I’m volunteering!

CELESTE: I’ll help. It was my friends that got you into this mess.

REVEREND: You must go as soon as you’ve had some hot cocoa.

(The REVEREND leads them into a bland-looking office and serves each of them a mug of hot cocoa, and points to an ominous-looking map of a forest. Their discussions are inaudible from here, but it is clear he is telling them the peril that lies ahead.)

(TO BE CONTINUED.)

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