Episode 1: Retail Hell

[SCENE I. A strip mall in Portland, featuring a large chain grocery store of some description, a large chain bookstore of some description, and several smaller shops. MELISSA is walking out of one of the little retail stores–a store bearing the legend “PORTLAND’S BEST VIDEO’S”–with SARAH. MELISSA looks unhappy. Even SARAH seems less cheerful than usual.]

MELISSA: God, I hate it here.

SARAH: You mean “here” like, in Portland, or on the planet Earth, or–

MELISSA: I mean this strip mall. It’s soul-crushing.

SARAH: (Beat.) Like, more soul-crushing than all of the Amazon.com orders you make?

MELISSA: Yes! I don’t even know what it is! Like, of all the retail hells in this world, this is the worst. Just being here makes me want to stab something.

SARAH: (Beat.) Like, more than you usually want to stab something?

MELISSA: Yes! Also, pretty sure I don’t pay you to sass me.

SARAH: I didn’t know ‘best friend’ was a paid position. When do you plan on giving me those years of back pay?

MELISSA: I pay you every day with the pleasure of my company.

SARAH: And that is truly the greatest gift.

 

[SCENE II. SARAH and MELISSA’s house. MELISSA is lying on the couch staring at the ceiling.. SARAH is in the kitchen playing with a new ice machine listlessly.]

SARAH: This feels wrong.

MELISSA: Is it not making ice or something?

SARAH: No, it’s . . . (Sighs.) I’m going out. See you later.

MELISSA: I think I’m getting a migraine. Could you pick something up for me?

SARAH: Sure, okay.

(SARAH walks out the door, looking troubled. MELISSA remains staring at the ceiling.)

 

[SCENE III. The mayor’s office. There are still boxes around that suggest that settling in is still happening, but it is definitely the office of Mayor NAOMI HALL now. Some interns and low-level staffers scurry about aimlessly. NICHOLAS is at his desk in an office whose door bears the legend ‘Nick Hayes, Chief of Staff.’ SARAH walks in and makes her way that way, though she is accosted by one of the interns.]

INTERN: Do you have an appointment?

SARAH: Do I need one?

INTERN: You do if you plan on seeing anyone here. This is a busy time for Mayor Hall, and

SARAH: Well, I could start crying if you want. Your choice.

INTERN: There’s no need to cause a scene.

SARAH: (Gesturing imaginary headlines in the air.) ‘Small, adorable art student made to cry by Mayor’s staff.’ ‘Mayor Hall Portland’s greatest monster.’

INTERN: I, I’m just–

(NICHOLAS looks up.)

NICHOLAS: It’s all right, she’s a friend.

(The INTERN sags with relief, and SARAH walks into his office with an innocent smile.)

NICHOLAS: Something I can help you with?

SARAH: Maybe I am just paying my good friend Nick a friendly visit!

NICHOLAS: Don’t try that. You’ve never expressed interest in me without an ulterior motive.

SARAH: That’s . . . yeah, okay, that’s fair. (She leans on his desk.) I need a favor.

NICHOLAS: Does this favor involve Melissa and awkward sexual tension in any way?

SARAH: No! Well . . . (Thinks for a moment.) No! I just need to look at some building plans and permits. Things like that.

NICHOLAS: Oh?

SARAH: For that strip mall with the “Portland’s Best Video’s” in it.

NICHOLAS: The video store with the unnecessary apostrophe?

SARAH: Yeah.

NICHOLAS: I’ll see what I can dig up. Did you consider asking someone at the Examiner? I–

SARAH: (Sharply.) I will not work for a company that employs ghost killers.

NICHOLAS: Okay, yeah, good point. (Beat.) This would go a lot faster if you helped.

SARAH: Oh, good. I was worried I’d just be hanging around watching you dig through the archives and that sounded really boring.

NICHOLAS: Uh, right. Glad we’re on the same page here.

 

[SCENE IV. The archives at the mayor’s office. NICHOLAS is digging through some filing cabinets and handing the occasional paper to SARAH, who is reading through them.]

NICHOLAS: Oh, hang on, I think I found something. (He pulls out a building plan, which unfolds to take up the space of a table in the archive room.) I, uh. Take a look at this.

SARAH: Oh, you found the plans?

(She puts her paper down and looks it over. There is something about the plans that have a distinctly ‘eldritch horror’ look about them.)

NICHOLAS: Would it be crazy to assume this is what you were looking for?

SARAH: Well, there’s also the minutes from the town hall meeting which authorized its construction. (She picks up her paper.) A lot of concerned citizens seemed to think it was an abomination that should never be constructed.

NICHOLAS: Well, that’s true of most new constructions, isn’t it?

SARAH: This one included a priest, a rabbi, a scientist, and a crazy old woman who lives in the woods.

NICHOLAS: All right, but–

SARAH: They all signed a statement claiming that constructing this strip mall would damage the fabric of reality.

NICHOLAS: Okay, fair enough.

SARAH: Anyway! You can get the mayor to use emergency eminent domain powers, right? We need to destroy the mall immediately.

NICHOLAS: (Sighs.) I’ll . . . see what I can do. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

SARAH: Happy to help! (She hugs NICHOLAS. He looks uncomfortable.) I should get back home.

NICHOLAS: Yeah, see you.

 

[SCENE V. MELISSA and SARAH’s house. It is much later, but MELISSA doesn’t look like she has moved. SARAH returns and tosses a bottle of pills at her, which lands on her stomach.]

MELISSA: You’re very slow.

SARAH: I’m sorry! I had to save the city!

MELISSA: Just get me a glass of water, and all is forgiven. Or at least most.

(SARAH fetches some water and sets it on the floor by MELISSA, who sits up and takes a few pills. A moment of silence.)

MELISSA: What’s this about saving the city?

SARAH: It turns out you were right about that strip mall. It’s actually a horrible temple to some elder gods. Nick is going to use his mayor’s office magic to destroy it.

MELISSA: Oh. Um, good.

 

[SCENE VI. Outside the strip mall, later that week. Destruction crews are being blocked by protesters, all of whom are very obviously wealthy businessmen. Most will simply have business suits, but at least one or two look like caricatures of the Monopoly Man. They are chanting things like ‘Hell no, we won’t go!’ etc. MAYOR HALL is just arriving to the scene, where NICHOLAS is trying to handle things.]

MAYOR HALL: What’s the matter?

NICHOLAS: It’s the business owners. They’re protesting our decision to destroy their temple of unspeakable horrors for the good of the city. (He hands her a sheet of paper.) A list of their demands. “Destroy our workers’ homes first” is the first item.

MAYOR HALL: Here, give me the megaphone. (She takes the megaphone and steps onto a piece of destruction equipment. Into the megaphone.) Listen, if you disperse I’ll give you all some more tax breaks!

(A murmur of approval from the businessmen. One of them speaks up.)

BUSINESSMAN: Is that a promise?

MAYOR HALL: Of course. And I’d like to take this opportunity to announce a new Portland Loves Fat Cats event, to be held in February. All our richest businessmen are invited to discuss the future of our fair city.

(The businessmen cheer, and disperse. The MAYOR gets down from the equipment, and rejoins NICHOLAS. The demolition crew begins work.)

NICHOLAS: Portland Loves Fat Cats?

MAYOR HALL: It’s my best idea yet. Featuring dinners at thousands of dollars per head, raffles with thousand-dollar tickets. ‘Show off how much money you can blow through without breaking a sweat.’ Then we use their money to fund vital city programs.

NICHOLAS: That’s beautiful.

MAYOR HALL: Thank you. The thing about rich people is they’re basically like spoiled children. Fundamentally greedy but easy to trick.

NICHOLAS: Are you worried about the cultists who built this place?

MAYOR HALL: I think they just hired an evil architect. I was looking at some issues of the Examiner from around then, and there was a frankly insane-looking architect offering to design buildings for practically free. So naturally . . . .

NICHOLAS: Fundamentally greedy but easy to trick. Yeah, I can see that.

(One of the buildings collapses under the weight of a wrecking ball.)

MAYOR HALL: You know, I think I’ll put up a library here.

(Fin.)

 

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