Episode 10: The Path to Enlightenment

[SCENE I. NICHOLAS’s house. NICHOLAS is in the same position he was in earlier, staring at the wall. He gets up reluctantly to an insistent knocking at the door. KELLY is standing there, looking extremely haggard.]

NICHOLAS: Didn’t I just tell you to go away?

KELLY: I’ve got, I’ve got–(She collapses. He manages to catch her and lays her down on the couch, where he finds a USB key clutched in her hand. Frowning, he takes it and plugs it into his computer, and begins to read.)

 

[SCENE II. JEREMY’s house. He emerges from the lab with a labcoat and a triumphant expression. He finds MELISSA lounging on the couch in a cloud of marijuana smoke. Phish is playing on the record player. She flashes him the peace sign as he enters.]

MELISSA: Yo, Jer.

JEREMY: So, uh, the fries are definitely mind-control drugs.

MELISSA: I fucking knew it.

JEREMY: Are you, uh–

MELISSA: Shit, man, I don’t know. It’s like I’m still me, but I’m not, you know? (Beat.) Also, I’m really fucking stoned.

JEREMY: You look better than you did. I mean, when you got here.

MELISSA: Shit, man, I feel fantastic. (She sits upright.) But I want to kick this burger-fucker’s ass. Mind-control drugs are totally not cool.

JEREMY: Well, I sent a text to Charlotte and Celeste, so–(His cell phone beeps. He checks it.)so they’re being held hostage unless they eat the fries.

MELISSA: Harsh. (Beat. She smiles distantly.) But that’s kind of hilarious, right?

JEREMY: I think they want help.

MELISSA: Well, it’s kind of obvious what you have to do, right?

JEREMY: . . . help them?

MELISSA: Make an antidote, man. Free them from their slavery!

JEREMY: And you?

MELISSA: You’ve got to free their minds, man.

JEREMY: I . . . guess I’ll get to work.

MELISSA: Groovy. I’ll be here.

JEREMY: I’m sure you will.

 

[SCENE III. Zenburger’s back room. CHARLOTTE and CELESTE are still stubbornly refusing to eat, though copious amounts of delicious-looking food is on the table in front of them. The BUDDHA is pacing and ranting to them.]

BUDDHA: I offer people a word without judgment, without unhappiness! A world where peace and understanding is the rule, where none of your crass consumerism dominates the markets. Eventually everyone will eat at Zenburger. There will be no more need, no more want. (He eyes CELESTE.) No more counting calories and watching one’s figure.

CELESTE: Don’t look at me when you say that.

BUDDHA: Surely you would like to–

CELESTE: Shut up!

BUDDHA: I offer only the truth.

CELESTE: I’m not fat!

BUDDHA: But don’t you see? I offer a world where all you need to do is eat one fry and–

CHARLOTTE: What happens if someone stops eating the fries?

BUDDHA: They won’t. As your enlightenment fades, it is replaced with a powerful craving for more–and why would you resist it?

CHARLOTTE: You remember it all?

BUDDHA: With perfect clarity. The human mind is remarkable when its potential is fully unlocked.

CELESTE: (Muttering.) Your mom’s remarkable when her potential is unlocked.

CHARLOTTE: Can people even afford to come back all the time for burgers?

BUDDHA: If you bring in your french fry boat you get free refills, for life. It’s not about the money. We have very little overhead. Nobody asks to be paid. Nobody needs to be paid. They’re doing important work! They’re saving humanity from itself!

CHARLOTTE: But they didn’t ask to–

CELESTE: You know this is all bullshit, right?

BUDDHA: Young lady, I think I–

CELESTE: No, really. I don’t know if you just want everyone to be fat like you or if you get a power trip from it or what, but you’re full of shit if you think you’re trying to help people. You’re trying to make them into junkies. And I bet after a while you don’t really get the high anymore.

BUDDHA: I–

CELESTE: Because you don’t seem very zen to me. You seem like a nervous old fat dude.

BUDDHA: I–I just wanted people to love me!

CELESTE: Maybe you should try it without being creepy, huh?

BUDDHA: It’s too late for that, Miss Jones. If I let you leave here, you’ll ruin everything I’ve fought for. (He pushes a basket of fries at her.) All you need is try one and you’re free to go.

 

[SCENE III. JEREMY’s lab. He is working furiously at an antidote. He pours a flask of something into a flask of something else, which makes a sciency fizzing.]

JEREMY: Eureka! (He glances around and realizes there is nobody here, so runs out into the living room.) Eureka!

MELISSA: (Still smoking on the couch.) You found it?

JEREMY: I found it! (Beat.) That’s actually what eureka means, you know.

MELISSA: No shit?

JEREMY: Uh, no shit. (He realizes he is repeating everything MELISSA says and shakes his head as if to dislodge a thought.) I just need you to try this. (He holds up the vial.)

MELISSA: Sure, man, whatever you say. (She takes the vial and chugs it, then cringes.)

JEREMY: All right, now give it a moment.

(MELISSA lies down and closes her eyes. After a few moments of silence, she speaks.)

MELISSA: I think it’s working, Jer.

JEREMY: Oh yeah?

MELISSA: Well, I’m not one hundred percent certain, and I’m afraid to check. But am I wearing a hideous tie-dye shirt and some horrible hippy bell-bottoms?

JEREMY: . . . yes?

MELISSA: I’ve become acutely aware of how mortified I really ought to be right now.

JEREMY: That’s probably a good sign. No actual mortification though?

MELISSA: Do you have any idea how much I just smoked? (Beat.) Incidentally, I think I owe you a lot of money. (Beat.) So, how long to mass-produce this shit?

JEREMY: I, uh. It’ll take all night, probably.

MELISSA: Can I help? Will that make it take less time?

JEREMY: I–some, I guess. It couldn’t hurt.

MELISSA: Dangerous words, my friend. (She stands up.) Just give me a mindless task and I am all over that shit.

JEREMY: Let’s just do this.

 

[SCENE IV. Zenburger. CHARLOTTE and CELESTE are still at the table full of food. BUDDHA is sitting down opposite them now, enjoying a meal.]

CHARLOTTE: So, I have a question. Why didn’t it work on Melissa?

BUDDHA: Who?

CHARLOTTE: Tall, curly dark hair, tan?

BUDDHA: Oh! I’d forgotten. (Memory dawns.) Oh. Oh dear. (He takes a large bite of burger and talks with his mouth full.) It didn’t take, then?

CELESTE: It just sort of turned her into a hippy.

BUDDHA: Perhaps she had already achieved enlightenment. I don’t know. I–I only once encountered someone who resisted, and she–

(From outside, there is a commotion–voices shouting things like ‘Freeze!’ and ‘Police! Hands in the air!’)

CHARLOTTE: What on Earth?

(The BUDDHA rises, wipes his mouth with the back of his hand, and heads out to see what’s going on. Outside, in the main restaurant, a SWAT team has raided the place. Despite this, everyone looks very calm about the whole situation.)

SWAT LEADER: You there! Hands up!

(BUDDHA complies.)

SWAT LEADER: Miss Corday, Miss Jones, are you hurt?

CHARLOTTE: No, I think we’re fine.

SWAT LEADER: Good. You’re safe now. Get out of here!

(CHARLOTTE and CELESTE depart. A DETECTIVE waits for them outside, along with NICHOLAS, who runs up to them when he sees them.)

NICHOLAS: Charlotte! Thank God you’re all right.

CHARLOTTE: (Embracing him.) What are you doing here?

NICHOLAS: Kelly sent me. It’s a long story. She’s in a pretty bad way.

CHARLOTTE: How did you even–

NICHOLAS: I’m technically the only person at the Mayor’s office who still has any power. I just figured–anyway, you’re here now, is what matters.

CELESTE: So, wait, you’re the mayor now?

NICHOLAS: I–for the moment?

CELESTE: And do you know that you have the worst timing? He was about to tell us something important!

NICHOLAS: Remind me never to rescue anyone again.

(CHARLOTTE kisses him on the cheek.) 

DETECTIVE: I do have some questions, if you don’t mind.

CHARLOTTE: Of course. I will do my best to answer them.

CELESTE: I don’t talk to cops.

DETECTIVE: Please?

CELESTE: Well, since you asked nicely, okay.

DETECTIVE: Great. Now, if you could start from the top, Miss Corday . . . .

 

[SCENE V. Zenburger, the next day. JEREMY is giving the antidote to the masses of people gathered here; MELISSA looks like she was doing the same thing originally, but has fallen asleep. She has not changed from her hippy attire. A number of people are looting, tearing down the large Buddha statue, etc. KELLY and NICHOLAS are looking on.]

KELLY: So, you can just order SWAT teams to go save the day?

NICHOLAS: Apparently.

KELLY: That’s kind of badass. (She gives him a hug.) Thanks for saving me from the mind-controlling french fries.

NICHOLAS: Can you try to make it sound more sinister? The evil drug cartel or something?

KELLY: No. You should have saved me before you saved your girlfriend.

NICHOLAS: Hmm. (They approach MELISSA’s table and shake her awake. She stares at him.)

MELISSA: The fuck are you doing in my room? (Beat.) This isn’t my room. Shit, sorry. Hi, Nicholas. I hear you saved the day.

NICHOLAS: Don’t spread it around. I hear you’re immune to mind-control drugs.

MELISSA: Immune is hardly the word I would choose.

KELLY: Still. What’s your secret?

MELISSA: I wish I knew, mini-Hayes.

KELLY: You can’t be telling me you don’t know.

MELISSA: Nope. Jeremy wanted to study it on me and Lina and I told him to fuck off.

KELLY: Aren’t you a little bit curious, though?

MELISSA: Sure, but I’m never going to get the smell of patchouli out of my car. And look at what I’m wearing! Fuck that noise.

KELLY: (Quietly.) I don’t know, it’s kind of hot.

MELISSA: (Looking KELLY over carefully.) You art students are a funny lot. (She gets up.) So, I’m fucking starving. You kids want to go to the Jaded Old Crone and eat something that isn’t a burger and fries?

NICHOLAS: That sounds fantastic. I’ll even pay.

MELISSA: Excellent.

(They depart Zenburger, stepping over pieces of fallen statue, and get into NICHOLAS’s car and drive off.)

(Fin.)

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