Episode 25: The Crossroads

[SCENE I. NICHOLAS’s house. KELLY is eating some sort of microwaveable snack food downstairs when there is a knock at the door. She puts her food down, having just taken a bite, and opens the door. It appears to be THE DEVIL.]

THE DEVIL: Ah, hello! Is there a Nick Hayes at home?

KELLY: (Not evidently recognizing that THE DEVIL is, in fact, the Great Deceiver, Father of Lies, etc.) No, he’s out.

THE DEVIL: A pity. Do you know when he’ll return?

KELLY: Sorry, no. He said he’d be working late tonight.

THE DEVIL: Are you his daughter?

KELLY: (Smirks.) I’m his sister.

THE DEVIL: Ah, my apologies. Unfortunately, I have pressing business and this needs to be delivered to him alone. Can I trust you to do that for me?

KELLY: Oh yes.

THE DEVIL: Capital. Now, I really must be going. It was nice to meet you, ah . . .

KELLY: Kelly.

THE DEVIL: A lovely name. Remember, this missive is for your brother only.

KELLY: Of course. Have a good night!

THE DEVIL: You as well, Miss Kelly. (Tips his cap and departs. KELLY closes the door and counts to ten, then opens the envelope and looks inside.)

KELLY: Well, that’s weird. (She pockets the envelope and goes back to her evening snack.)

[SCENE II. The cafeteria at Portland High School. CELESTE is eating lunch alone when KELLY sits down opposite her and pushes her copy of the envelope’s contents in front of her.]

CELESTE: Hello to you, too. What’s this?

KELLY: Just read it.

CELESTE: (Doing so. The message appears to be announcing some secretive retreat that is in need of a musician.) Well, that sounds spooky and generally ominous.

KELLY: (Disappointed.) Oh. I thought maybe–

CELESTE: Hey now. That doesn’t mean I won’t do it.

KELLY: Oh.

CELESTE: Spooky and ominous happen to be my specialties. I’m in.

KELLY: Great! (Beat.) Can you drive, though? This was supposed to be for Nick, and I don’t want him to suspect anything.

CELESTE: Yeah, sure. So long as you know where to go.

KELLY: Well, yeah.

[SCENE III. Country roads outside Portland at night. KELLY and CELESTE are driving along in CELESTE’s beat-up old black Volvo.]

CELESTE: I swear we’ve been to this crossroads a dozen times now. Are you sure we’re not just driving in circles?

KELLY: No, but I don’t know how we went wrong. I know we took all the right turns. (She taps at a smartphone a few times.) This isn’t even on the map.

CELESTE: (Pulling over.) Well, maybe we’re getting bad reception. I’m not wasting anymore gas until we have a vague idea where we’re going.

KELLY: You’re probably right.

(They both get out of the car. CELESTE sits on the hood resignedly. KELLY looks around.)

CELESTE: I thought you were a girl scout? Shouldn’t you be good at directions?

KELLY: I swear I took all the right exits, Celeste.

CELESTE: Okay, fine, I believe you, but this doesn’t mean we aren’t completely lost.

KELLY: You were right about bad reception though. Look at this. (She shows KELLY her cell phone.)

CELESTE: That’s . . . unusual.

(The screen shows a map that is only labeled ‘Down at the Crossroads.’ Four streets intersect here, each of them labeled ‘no exit.’ At the bottom is the legend ‘P.S.: Hell is other people.’ The streets on the map change places erratically.)

CELESTE: And you’re not just fucking with me?

KELLY: I wish. (She digs around in her bag and produces a compass.) And it looks like north is changing direction every few seconds.

CELESTE: (Taking the compass and looking at it for herself.) Stay here. I’m going to check something. (She starts off at a run towards one of the roads.)

KELLY: Wait!

(She starts after her, then stops, and begins pacing. After a few moments, CELESTE reappears along another road, now walking, looking exhausted.)

CELESTE: Oh, thank God you’re still here.

KELLY: It’s only been a few minutes.

CELESTE: What? I’ve been walking for like an hour. (Beat.) Do they teach you about spatiotemporal anomalies in the girl scouts?

KELLY: If they do, I was sick that week. (Long pause.) I don’t suppose you have any useful survival gear in your car?

CELESTE: I think there’s a flashlight in the glove compartment. (She checks, and emerges with a maglite.) That has to count for something, yeah?

KELLY: Sure, yeah.

(They both sit on the hood of the car and stare into the distance.)

[SCENE IV. Some time later. They are both inside the car once again, with KELLY trying to sleep in the back seat and CELESTE sitting in the driver’s seat, gently banging her head against the steering wheel. She is startled awake by a knock at the window. THE DEVIL is outside, waving. CELESTE opens the window a crack.]

THE DEVIL: You seem to be lost! It just so happens I know a way out.

CELESTE: Oh yeah? And let me guess, you’ll let me know for a price? The price that involves being dragged screaming into hell?

THE DEVIL: Please, I’m not some crude salesman. (He glances in back.) Good, she brought her guitar. Here’s the deal: I challenge you to a guitar duel. If I win, I get both your souls. If you win, I’ll give you the way out.

CELESTE: Ha! Is that it? Don’t you know who I am?

THE DEVIL: Can’t say that I do, no.

CELESTE: So I didn’t meet some minor demon friend of yours when I was 16?

THE DEVIL: No, I don’t think so. I keep track of those transactions.

CELESTE: (To herself.) I knew it. (To THE DEVIL.) Let me ask my friend. (She shakes KELLY, who murmurs something unintelligible.) Kelly, the Devil wants to challenge me to a guitar battle. He wants both our souls if we lose, but if we win we can get out of here.

KELLY: (Sleepily; she clearly didn’t hear a word of that.) Sure, okay.

CELESTE: Good enough for me.

THE DEVIL: If you’d just sign here. (A contract appears in KELLY and CELESTE’s hands. KELLY signs reflexively. CELESTE reads it over and signs, then gets out of the guitar.)

CELESTE: One thing, though.

THE DEVIL: Yes?

CELESTE: The guitar isn’t hers. It’s mine.

THE DEVIL: I don’t see how that’s relevant.

CELESTE: Oh, you will.

(She sets up her guitar and amp. THE DEVIL conjures his.)

THE DEVIL: Traditionally, I get to go first. It’s a narrative structure thing. It’s just not as interesting if it all hinges on how well the mortals perform.

(He launches into a cover of “Free Bird.” It’s neither particularly innovative nor particularly remarkable. THE DEVIL looks pretty smug as he finishes, however. KELLY, meanwhile, has woken up, and is watching from within the car with some confusion and some concern.)

THE DEVIL: Your turn, my dear.

CELESTE: All right, if you insist.

(She begins to play some bleak, apocalyptic post-rock. She builds the tension slowly and masterfully, from a soft, simple opening to an explosive finale, and then gently lets it back down again. It is clear that her performance is simply better. She finishes with a self-satisfied smile and leans against the car.)

THE DEVIL: All right, fine. I know when I’m beaten. (He waves his hands, and the crossroads becomes a single road with a clear road sign indicating that Portland is six miles away.) If this were a fiddle competition, you’d be my eternal slave. Just remember that. (He vanishes.)

KELLY: (Getting out of the car.) Did you just–

CELESTE: Yes.

KELLY: And you won?

CELESTE: When I was 16 I sold my ability to enjoy pop music and American comedies for unrivaled skill at the guitar. I guess I sold it to some fairy pretending to be a demon and not to the actual Devil.

KELLY: That was so cool.

CELESTE: Yes. Yes it was. (She packs her guitar back up and puts it in the trunk.) Anyway, want to go home?

KELLY: Yeah. I think this whole secret meeting thing was just some trick by the Devil, anyway. I guess Nick’s lucky I went instead of him, huh?

CELESTE: Yeah.

KELLY: (Long pause.) So, can I buy you a milkshake for saving me from the Devil?

CELESTE: I think I can live with that.

(Fin.)

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