Episode 21: To Catch A Cultist

[SCENE I. The Jaded Old Crone. MELISSA is trying to sell JEREMY on her plan to root out chaos cultists.]

MELISSA: He tried to steal our microwave!

JEREMY: That’s . . . weird, but it’s not necessarily–

MELISSA: He offered to buy it for two hundred dollars. ‘For my sister’s art project,’ which, bullshit.

JEREMY: Okay, that is a little strange.

MELISSA: And then Gavin wouldn’t even help. Now he’s off doing unspeakable things with some high school goth princess.

JEREMY: Look, I know it’s bad. I just don’t know what you want me to do.

MELISSA: Just . . . say you’ll do what you can.

JEREMY: All right. Just remember, I’m a peaceful man. A man of science.

MELISSA: I will remember that when the cultists are sacrificing me on an altar. ‘I could have picked better allies,’ I’ll tell them as they spill my precious blood with their ugly stone daggers.

JEREMY: (Sighs.) Just tell me what needs to be done, woman.

(MELISSA hands him a sheet of paper with some drawings on it, and grins devilishly.)

[SCENE II. Outside SARAH and MELISSA’s house. SARAH, MELISSA, and JEREMY have gathered. MELISSA is holding a flier. It has a picture of a chaos beast on it and bears the text ‘Want to see the future?’ and some information on time and location in smaller print.]

MELISSA: The cult meeting is meant to happen tonight. Sarah and I have volunteered to infiltrate. Jeremy will be waiting for my signal should things get, uh, awful. And my signal includes ‘our mysteriously not reappearing at the appointed time” or ‘acting like mind-controlled cultists when we do return.’

JEREMY: So basically whenever I feel like it.

MELISSA: Exactly.

(NICHOLAS arrives.)

SARAH: Cultist!

NICHOLAS: Listen. You don’t want to do this.

MELISSA: Why? Because I’m going to kick your cultist friends’ collective ass?

NICHOLAS: I’m not a cultist! Look, the Devil wants you to do this. He tricked me into–

SARAH: A likely story! Seize him!

(JEREMY grabs NICHOLAS by the arms.)

JEREMY: I’ll deal with this. You guys go. Time’s wasting.

(SARAH and MELISSA rush off, with NICHOLAS struggling and ineffectually shouting things like “Let go of me!” as JEREMY manhandles him inside.)

[SCENE III. A room somewhere on the campus of Portland University. It is a pretty generic looking meeting room–collegiate furniture, etc. There are several college students gathered around. Some of them have traditional cultist hoods and robes, others are dressed normally. MELISSA and SARAH enter, looking nervous.]

CULT LEADER: Ah, new members! Welcome!

FIRST CULTIST: (Looking at MELISSA.) Hang on, I’ve seen her before. (Recognition dawns.) You! You saved those kids this summer!

MELISSA: Yes, well. All in a day’s work.

FIRST CULTIST: She’s a real hero, Bobby.

CULT LEADER: (Beaming.) Always happy to have some heroic material! Would you care to introduce yourselves?

SARAH: (Aside to MELISSA.) The cult leader’s name is Bobby?

MELISSA: Shh.

SARAH: (Clears throat.) I’m Sarah, and I, uh, just love chaos.

MELISSA: Melissa. I always thought, well. What’s the point of living in a townlike thisĀ  if you can’t rip apart the fabric of spacetime in the meanwhile?

CULT LEADER: Well said! Do sit down, we were just about to begin.

(MELISSA and SARAH sit down, exchanging slightly puzzled glances. The CULT LEADER turns out the lights. They perk up briefly before they realize he is just about to turn on a powerpoint presentation. A map covered in little marks appears.)

CULT LEADER: As you can see, there have been a lot more chaos beast sightings in the past weeks. We don’t have an explanation for this yet, but we have determined that they all center around one place.

(MELISSA cringes. The CULT LEADER hits a button, and the map changes. The map pin is directly over MELISSA and SARAH’s house.)

CULT LEADER: The best that we can figure, this house is on a serious chaos anomaly in spacetime–or perhaps someone truly powerful lives there.

SARAH: (Aside to MELISSA.) That’s our house!

MELISSA: (Aside to SARAH.) Trying not to think about it, Sarah.

CULT LEADER: Which is why this meeting is special. Tomorrow night, we’re going to attempt a ritual at the house and see if we can finally rip open spacetime and unleash chaos on earth!

(The CULTISTS applaud appreciatively. FIRST CULTIST takes his cue to begin handing out pamphlets.)

FIRST CULTIST: All the information you need is here. We’d like everyone to volunteer to bring a snack item or drink. I’m handing out a sign-up sheet here. We want this to be fun for everyone, especially our newcomers! (He leers at MELISSA and SARAH, who make a weak attempt to smile and wave.)

CULT LEADER: And this is going to be a robes-and-hoods event, so try to dress up. Melanie and Susan, we have some spares, if you’d care to see me after the meeting.

(MELISSA’s eye twitches.)

SARAH: Oh, great! Melanie and I love hoods and robes, don’t we Melanie?

MELISSA: (Forced.) Yes.

CULT LEADER: All right. Now that the administrative bullshit is out of the way, it’s time for what you really came here for. (He adopts an ominous tone here. At that moment SECOND CULTIST comes through the door with a stack of pizzas.)

SECOND CULTIST: Who’s ready for pizza??

(The CULTISTS gather around and pick out pizza. MELISSA and SARAH exchange glances once again and each take a slice.)

[SCENE IV. Outside on the campus of Portland University. SARAH and MELISSA are departing, each carrying a cultist’s robe-and-hood. As soon as they step outside, MELISSA punches SARAH in the arm.]

SARAH: Ouch!

MELISSA: I think I could have just about taken it until they started calling me Melly. That’s when I knew, destroying them is the right thing.

SARAH: (Massaging her arm.) Yes, that was perhaps a bit much.

MELISSA: It’s funny how I remember someone who looked just like you saying ‘Well, Melanie, or Melly as her friends call her, writes some really killer poetry.’

SARAH: My word.

MELISSA: I know that my best friend would never say that, because she loves me very much and also knows which one of us would win in a fight. So it’s very strange.

SARAH: Very strange. (Beat. When MELISSA’s glare does not lessen.) I’m sorry! It was just so funny watching you twitch and seethe with rage. (Puppy dog eyes.) Hug?

MELISSA: Oh, all right. (SARAH gives MELISSA an enthusiastic hug.) If you were anyone else you would be unconscious in a ditch right now.

SARAH: That’s my Melissa!

(They come upon a copse of trees on campus, behind which JEREMY has hidden a large machine.)

JEREMY: Glad you ladies are all right.

SARAH: I did sustain an arm injury in our escape.

(MELISSA grins.)

JEREMY: Nothing bad?

SARAH: No. They’re, uh. Meeting at our house tomorrow night. To summon a chaos demon or something.

JEREMY: I think that counts as something bad.

MELISSA: But we’ve got a plan! (SARAH gives her a ‘we do?’ expression.) Well, I’ve got a plan.

JEREMY: Why is it that every time you say that I have the urge to find the nearest fallout shelter and hide for twenty years?

MELISSA: Do you want to save the universe or not?

JEREMY: (Sighs. Reluctantly.) Fine, let’s . . . let’s hear your plan.

[SCENE V. Outside MELISSA and SARAH’s house. The CULTISTS have gathered, all wearing their hoods and robes. MELISSA and SARAH are among them, standing to one side.]

SARAH: Cultist garb really suits you, you know.

MELISSA: I’m not sure if I’m meant to take that as a compliment.

SARAH: Yes!

(The CULT LEADER steps forward.)

CULT LEADER: All right, I think everyone’s here. It’s time to begin the ritual!

FIRST CULTIST: And after, we’ll have snacks.

SECOND CULTIST: Bobby brought some of his mom’s famous brownies. They’re really the best–

CULT LEADER: Janie, we’re trying to summon a chaos demon. Snacks can come later.

(Awkward silence.)

CULT LEADER: (Clears throat.) Form a circle!

(The CULTISTS form a circle. The CULT LEADER begins drawing occult sigils on the ground, and then begins chanting. Some of the other CULTISTS join in, some more enthusiastically than others–like a church singalong.

At about this moment, a HIDEOUS FIGURE emerges from the house, accompanied by an unearthly purple glow and fog.)

HIDEOUS FIGURE: Fools! The time is not yet right!

CULT LEADER: Oh, fuck.

HIDEOUS FIGURE: Not for fivescore generations will the time be ripe for our emergence! (It begins breathing a purple flame.) WHY HAVE YOU DISTURBED OUR SLUMBER?

(The CULTISTS flee in horror. MELISSA and SARAH make a show of fleeing, though they ultimately just end up hiding behind their house. Eventually, the HIDEOUS FIGURE deflates and JEREMY emerges. MELISSA and SARAH approach tentatively. SARAH has lost the cultist robes; MELISSA has removed the hood but kept the robes.)

JEREMY: I didn’t expect that to work.

MELISSA: Because you have no faith in the fundamental nature of how awesome I am!

JEREMY: Because I think you’re crazy.

MELISSA: Ouch. Words hurt, Jeremy. Words hurt.

JEREMY: Sorry.

MELISSA: Make it up to me by keeping an eye out for more chaos cultist activity. This group didn’t seem bright enough to try for our microwave.

SARAH: Also, keep that monster machine around! I like it.

MELISSA: And don’t tell anyone that the chaos cultists decided that our house was the epicenter of the chaos rift.

JEREMY: I think I can do that.

SARAH: Oh, and maybe you could try to figure out how to stop our house from being the epicenter of a chaos rift?

JEREMY: Uh, maybe I can–

MELISSA: It’s the only way to know we’ll be safe.

JEREMY: All right, I’ll . . . see what I can do.

SARAH: (Hugs him.) Thanks, Jer, you’re the best!

JEREMY: (Awkwardly trying to extricate himself from SARAH.) Yes, thank you. I’ll just go get to work on that, shall I? See you.

(He departs. MELISSA looks around outside.)

MELISSA: Oh look. They left their snacks.

SARAH: Oh man! Didn’t they say there were brownies?

MELISSA: They did. Best not let it go to waste.

(Fin.)

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