Today I’m trying something different. This is a play I wrote waaaay back in high school for a creative writing class. (You can tell I wrote it in high school because one of the characters shares a name with a character from another story I was writing at the time, Forthcoming— which is updated every other week here on Word-Maleerie!) Anyways, this was basically a spin on Night at the Museum–except with characters from books! It was a lot of fun to write (and even more fun to film for the class!). I hope you have fun reading it, too.
List of Characters
Reb Louis– bookworm extraordinaire
Alexis Jones– snobby, popular adolescent
Huckleberry Finn– famous literary character
Annie Wilkes– scary Stephen King character
Dumbledore– wise literary character
Stuart Little— children’s literary character
Headless Horseman– scary literary character
(The scene opens on a dark stage. The spotlight is set upon Reb Louis, a lanky teenager dressed all in black. He is neither goth nor punk–he is simply Reb. He exists to do two things: read and write. He loves literature and believes that the best stories are the ones with strong messages that impact real life. He is embracing his casualty in this moment, relaxing at the foot of the stage, his feet swinging off the ledge. He looks up when the spotlight hits him as though realizing that there are others in the room, and he begins to tell his tale. His voice is even and slightly annoyed at the events that have occurred, but he maintains an air of mystery, for he is not willing to tell his whole story in this moment–the audience will have to watch to understand, and he intends to make them do so.)
Reb: There are many way that I could begin this story. It could have started when Miss Carling assigned Alexis Jones and myself to a project. And–of all the projects to be doing with Miss Alexis-“Everything-Is-Perfect”-Jones–it had to be a book report. Which meant the two of us agreeing on a book. Which meant I was going to jab my eyes out with a pen if she chose something so simple that a two year old would scoff at it. I dunno, (shrugs) this story could have started when we’d had that fight–in the library, nonetheless. Or this story could have commenced when the librarian locked the door, trapping us inside this tome-encased prison, which–normally–would have been a dream come true for myself, had it not been for Alexis. Who knows, this story could have even started rolling fourteen years ago when I was born. But no. (shakes head) I think where this story really started was fifty years before even that–on October 31, 1953. But now’s not the time for me to explain that–you’ll understand soon enough what that Halloween has to do with me. Because my story began last week: in the library, at midnight.
(The lights dim. When the lights return, Reb can be seen once more, seated at the table. The table is on the left, while a shelf of books can be seen to the right. Beside the self of books, caddy-cornered so that it is parallel to the table, is a chair–perfect for settling into with a good book. There is a second shelf behind the first. This creates an aisle that the actors can use when the audience does not need to see them. Beside this second shelf is a tall desk, displaying new books. To the far left of the stage can be seen a door, which is painted upon the backdrop. Another door–which can be opened and closed–is located behind the second shelf of books, between the table and shelves. This door is labeled NONFICTION. Reb–with his dark clothes–seems to fit in with the darkened library and books whereas the girl sitting across from him, Alexis, seems incredibly out of place. Alexis is the popular girl at school, and she is proud of it. This can be easily seen by her straight blonde hair, pink clothing, and general sense of snobbery. She is the high school pinnacle of perfect, and she knows it. She looks incredibly bored and frustrated as does Reb. A pile of books separates the two of them. Reb is flipping through them silently, and Alexis is staring angrily at her cell phone, which is set on the table in front of her. Her arms and legs are crossed..)
Reb: How about Of Mice and Men?
Alexis: (In a very monotonous tone) Does anybody die?
Reb: (slams book down on the table) You do realize that death is a part of life?
Alexis: Yeah, but I don’t want to read about it!
Reb: (crosses arms) If we’re stuck in here, we might as well put our time to good use. Pick a book.
Alexis: Cat in the Hat.
Reb: A decent one!
Alexis: Miss Carling didn’t say what kind of book we had to read. We just have to apply those stupid literary terms or whatever. Like, Doug and Hannah are doing The Lorax.
Reb: Yeah, ‘cuz they want an easy A and don’t really give a darn about what they’re actually learning!
Alexis: (sits straighter and stares derisively at Reb) Urgh! This is so stupid! (flips open cell phone) Live, you stupid thing!
Reb: If there’s no battery, then there’s no–
Alexis: Shut-up, vermin!
Reb: This is a library, not a church–no miracles shall happen here.
Alexis: (closes cell phone and sets it on the table more harshly than she should) Urgh! (pouts) Try the phones again.
Reb: I told you the lines are down.
Alexis: Why are the lines down?
Reb: Do I look like I’m psychic you?
Alexis: You’re enough of a freak to be!
Reb: (tone thick with sarcasm) That hurts.
Reb: (grabs another book) I’ve always wanted to read this one.
Alexis: (raises eyebrows)
Reb: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
Alexis: Sounds right up your alley.
Reb: (sets the book down, biting his lip. It is evident that he is trying to “keep to his cool.”) Listen, Alexis, we’re going to be in here for a while. Let’s just cut it with the insults, okay?
Alexis: (sits up, holding a hand across her heart. Her eyebrows are knitted, and she speaks with an air of would-be-sincerity) You mean I should stop calling you a backwards freak who wouldn’t recognize a social situation if it bit him in the–
Reb: Yeah, and I shouldn’t call you a superficial fashion zombie with the IQ of a chair.
Alexis: (sits straighter and gasps) How dare you, you little insect!
Reb: (leans forward with a snap to his voice) At least we’re not insulting each other any more.
Alexis: You take that back!
Reb: All’s fair in love and war, darling.
Alexis: Ew! Are you hitting on me?
Reb: Please, I’d hate to be sick all over these classic works of literature!
Alexis: I am not reading all of these. I have a life, you know.
Reb: Maybe you–
Alexis: Maybe you should go get some other stories! (pushes pile of books toward him) I don’t have enough time for these.
Reb: Fine, but I’m not getting them from the kids’ section. (stands and walks toward the back of the library, leaving Alexis alone.)
(Only half of the stage is lit. Where Alexis is still seated it is darkened. All that can be seen is Reb. He appears very haughty and is muttering to himself. What he is saying is unintelligible, but it can be assumed that he is complaining over Alexis. He is shifting through books on the first shelf, though none seem to satisfy his fancy because he doesn’t take any from the shelf.)
Reb: (saying in a very high-pitched, sarcastic tone.) We can’t have death in a story, because death is too much life real life. No, we have to pretend that everything in the world is perfect, just like our perfect teeth, and perfect friends, and perfect cheerleading, and–
(noise–much like that of a horse’s hooves–sounds from stage right)
Reb:(stops, mid-rant, looking toward the right. It is evident that he is startled, though he is trying to remain collected.) Hello?
(The sound intensifies, though this time is accompanied by a strange clanging)
Reb: Who’s there? (walks carefully to the end of the row. His walk is slow and hesitant, but he doesn’t once stop) Hello? (He turns quickly, finding that he is–indeed–quite alone. The aisle seems to be deserted. Reb shrugs, though his curiosity doesn’t cease. He walks down the next aisle, out of view of the audience.)
(For a brief moment, all that can be heard is the undeniable, deathly silence that accompanies all libraries, but it is quickly disrupted by a scream so loud that it seems to wake the dead. The stage is immersed in complete darkness, the scream still lingering as the left side of stage is illuminated. Alexis stiffens from her straight position and stands, eyes wide.)
Alexis: Reb? (She maintains her insolent manner, but it is evident that she is startled.) Reb, this is, like, so not funny. (She sets an uneasy hand on the table, and looks uneasily into the library.) Reb, come on, cut this out.
(Behind her, a twelve-year old boy is slowly sneaking up behind her. He is dressed in a patched shirt and pants that look as though they are from the 1800’s. He sits lazily upon a table, kicking his leg back and forth. When he speaks, it is with strong southern accent.)
Huckleberry Finn: Who ya’ lookin’ fer?
Alexis:(jumps back, clutching at the table. Upon eyeing the boy, she seems to loosen up, and smiles sardonically) What are you doing here, kid?
Huckleberry Finn: I’s always here, ev’ry night.
Alexis: Wait. (walks up to the boy, flipping some of her blonde hair behind her shoulder) You mean that you come in here every night?
Huckleberry Finn: Tha’s right.
Alexis: (squeals, clapping her hands together) This is, like, so great! So, kid, how’d you get here?
Huckleberry Finn: Mississippi River.
Alexis: Yeah, I’m sure you did. I mean, how’d you get in the library.
Huckleberry Finn: Dunno. I jist come in here ev’ry night. I mean, one minute I’m with Jim on Jackson’s Island, and then I ain’t there no more, but I’m in this place.
Alexis: You’re cute, Jethro. Now, how did you (points at the kid) get in the library? (She enunciates slowly as thought speaking to a two-year-old, her hands motioning in large circles.)
Huckleberry Finn: Listen, lady. I ain’t got no idea what yer talkin’ ‘bout. And my name ain’t Jethro; it’s Huckleberry.
Alexis: A-huh, right. Listen, kid, you’ve got three seconds to tell me how to get out of here, or else I’m going to–do something really… mean. Got it?
Huckleberry Finn: I ain’t got no idea what yer–
Alexis: (turns suddenly toward stage right) Reb! Get back here, now! Joke’s over! I got us a way out! (turns back to Huck) Now, where do we go, kid? (makes a fist and raises her eyebrows)
Huckleberry Finn: Lady, you ain’t gonna hit nothin’ with that!
Alexis: Kid, just get us outta here, and I’ll get you an ice cream cone, okay? REB!
Huckleberry Finn: If yer lookin’ for your friend, I wouldn’t waste my time.
Alexis: What are you talkin’ about, kid?
Huckleberry Finn: I said my name was Huckleberry!
Alexis: Whatever. (waves him away) What are you talkin’ about?
Huckleberry Finn: I’m just sayin’ that if that there Crazy Ax Lady got to him, there ain’t not a thing you can do.
Alexis: What do you–
(Another scream interrupts her, and this time Alexis turns to the shelves, looking genuinely worried. She doesn’t move to help the victim, however, but stays, shouting “Reb! Reb, are you okay?” again and again, though she doesn’t receive an answer. The lights dim on the scene, the voice of Alexis fading with the darkness.)
(The right side of the stage is lit. We are again with Reb. He is again visible to the audience, in front of the first bookshelf. His eyes are wide, and he is slowly backing down the aisle, his hands raised. He is edging closer and closer to the chair. It is evident what is frightening him: a beast of a woman, tall as a tree and wide as a bulldozer is coming towards him, carrying an ax in her hands. She has a wild look in her eyes, and she walks with a gait so unbelievably confident that it is evident that she is insane.)
Annie Wilkes: (yelling) Well, Mister Man, did I get the right paper for you?
Reb: I didn’t ask for any paper! (collapses in chair)
Annie Wilkes: I see you’ve been getting around. Well, there’s a good way for us to fix that.
Reb: Listen, I think you’re getting me confused with someone else.
Annie Wilkes: It’s a process called hobbling. They used it in the early days at the Kimberly diamond mines–when the workers would steal diamonds.
Reb: (eyes widen) Listen, I think you’re looking for someone else. I–I didn’t do anything–
Annie Wilkes: I promise it’s hurting me more than it’s hurting you–(stops mid-sentence, eyes wide looking beyond Reb) Get out of here, you dirty birdie!
(Reb turns around, eyes wide. His knees begin to shake as though he is tempted to faint, but he restrains himself. Standing directly behind him is a tall man with a long beard. He is dressed in robes and a wizard’s hat.)
Dumbledore: Miss Wilkes, we’ve had this talk about leaving your section, have we not?
Annie Wilkes: Cockadoodie. (waves ax in argument, narrowly missing Reb’s ear)
Dumbledore: I was under the impression that you were intending on having tea with Carrie this evening?
Annie Wilkes: (lowers ax) She’s a complaining dirty birdie!
Dumbledore: But it would be a shame to break that date. And besides, I believe that Paul Sheldon is still somewhere in the horror section.
Annie Wilkes: (eyes going wide) Paul?
Annie Wilkes: (acting very girlishly) You know, I’m his biggest fan. I have all of his Misery books.
Dumbledore: Indeed. Perhaps you should find your way back there. The knights of King Arthur’s table are waiting to escort you.
Annie Wilkes: And Paul’s there?
Dumbledore: Yes, he is, Miss Wilkes.
Annie Wilkes: (turns and walks into another aisle, no longer in sight of the audience)
Dumbledore: (sighs) Well, now that has been taken care of. You see, we like to keep the Stephen King characters together–less havoc that way. The Knights usually contain them, but sometimes….
Reb: (tone is shocked, but even) Oh, I’d imagine. (rises and walks around chair so that he is beside Dumbledore)
Dumbledore: Indeed. (turns) Come, perhaps I should explain. Let us walk.
Reb: (follows, turning into another aisle, out of sight of the audience.)
(The stage dims.)
(Reb is once again seated at the edge of the stage, addressing the audience. He looks slightly more shaken than before, but he appears casual nonetheless. )
Reb: I know what you’re thinking–I must be crazy to actually be telling this story. Well, let me tell you this–I am not lying. This is not fictional; it’s perfectly, one-hundred percent true. Yeah, I really was thrust into the plot of a Stephen King novel, and a Harry Potter character saved my life. Actually, a Harry Potter character explained everything to me. And–once I found out the truth–I realized that I had to do something. I know, it sounds crazy, and maybe I officially have tipped the scales to insanity, but all I know is that it seemed terribly real to me, and–you know what they say–sometimes fact is stranger that fiction.
(The stage dims again. Only the right side of the stage is illuminated. Dumbledore and Reb are standing in front of a shelf of books.)
Reb: I’m sorry, Dumbledore–
Dumbledore: Professor Dumbledore.
Reb: Right, sorry. Professor Dumbledore, I couldn’t help but notice that there are…um… people walking around a deserted library.
Reb: Beg pardon?
Dumbledore: Not people, characters. We are not alive, nor are we dead. We are only as real as the people who read our stories, or–in our case–as long as the curse continues.
Dumbledore: Yes. It’s rather sad actually, but it’s a long story.
Reb: Please, I’m in a library. I love stories.
Dumbledore: Very well, Mr.–
Reb: Well, my last name is Louis, but everyone calls me Reb.
Dumbledore: Very well, Mr. Louis. You see, this story started fifty years ago. There was a librarian–Miss Bailey. (As Dumbledore talks, Annie Wilkes appears in the background, behind the tall desk displaying books. She is sharpening her ax.) When she began working she was young, though never beautiful. She never married, but grew into an old maid. Men were…ah… well–for lack of better term–not very gentlemanly to her.
Reb: You mean they were jerks?
Dumbledore: That was probably the reason why she never married. And the teenagers weren’t any better.
Reb: I’d be willing to bet the teenagers were worse.
Dumbledore: That would be a very safe assumption, Mr. Louis. (A knight approaches Annie Wilkes, leading her behind the bookshelf and out of sight.)
Reb: (nods) So, what happened?
Dumbledore: She died.
Dumbledore: In this library, not far from this spot.
Reb: (jumps backward)
Dumbledore: Hanged herself, according to official record. But, what is not on the record is the tale of what she did before she took her life.
Reb: And that would be?
Dumbledore: Placing a curse upon this entire library.
Reb: A curse? Those things are just in stories.
Dumbledore: As am I and Miss Wilkes, and yet here we both are–walking and talking no differently than you or your friend.
Reb: Alexis? She’s not my friend, she’s–holy crap! Alexis!
Dumbledore: I wouldn’t worry about her.
Reb: Dumbledore–I mean, Professor–she could have run into anything! I mean, in this library… man, I bet I was lucky to run into Annie!
Dumbledore: Don’t worry. We try to keep other less… sociable…. characters contained. Frankenstein and The Invisible Man tend not to give us many problems, but….
Reb: But what?
Dumbledore: It’s nothing. Hercules himself has been watching this one.
Reb: Which one?
Dumbledore: Well, The Headless Horseman has been giving us some problems, but–
Reb: He’s locked up?
Dumbledore: I would assume.
Reb: Good, I wouldn’t want–
(A scream, undeniably from Alexis, interrupts Reb; he turns, eyes wide.)
Reb: Alexis! (runs back to the table, toward the darkened half of the stage, leaving Dumbledore behind him.)
(The left side of the stage is lit, Alexis is standing on the table, looking scared. Reb runs into the scene, his eyes darting wildly. Huckleberry Finn has left, and the room seems to be completely empty.)
Reb: (stops abruptly in front of the table, eyeing Alexis warily) Alexis? What’s wrong?
Alexis: Ew! Reb, smash it! Smash it!
Reb: What? Where?
Alexis: (jumping up and down and squealing shrilly) Reb! Get it! Ew!
Reb: What! (looks around frantically)
Alexis: Down there! (points to floor) Kill it! Kill it!
Alexis: That freaky rat! Kill it! Kill it!
Stuart Little: (offstage, presumably from floor; cannot be seen by audience) I’m a mouse actually.
Reb: (jumps backward, eyes wide, landing uncomfortably against a table) Whoah!
Alexis: Kill it! Kill it!
Reb: (slowly backs from the table) I can’t kill him, Alexis! That’s Stuart Little!
Alexis: I don’t care if it’s Mickey Mouse! Kill it! Ew, gross, gross, gross!
Reb: He’s a treasured children’s character! I can’t kill him.
Reb: (rolls eyes) Shoo, get out of here.
Stuart Little: I didn’t mean to scare her. (exits stage right)
Reb: I know, I know. Just go on. (continues to watch until Stuart Little has gone.) He’s gone.
Alexis: (moves to floor, shaking hands wildly) OMG, I hate mice!
Reb: Yeah, well, listen. I have to tell you something.
Alexis: I don’t care, Reb! (walks away, toward door, shaking her head.) I don’t care what you have to say, Reb! I don’t care!
Reb: Alexis, where are you going?
Alexis: I’m leaving this freaky place! There is something wrong here!
Reb: Alexis, if you would just listen!
Alexis: (turns sharply) No, you listen, Reb Louis! I was annoyed by this Southern kid, and then I was attacked by a talking mouse. Reb, I don’t care what you have to say! I am out of here!
Reb: And how do you plan on getting out?
Alexis: (approaches so that her nose is inches from Reb’s) I don’t care if have to dig a tunnel using nothing but a spork, I am getting out of here, Reb!
Reb: Alexis, just listen!
Dumbledore:(appearing from stage right) I would listen, young lady. I daresay that by the time you have dug said tunnel, we would have already disappeared.
Alexis: (throws up arms) Great! Now, old men with terrible fashion taste! What’s next?
Reb: (addressing Dumbledore) What do you mean “disappeared”?
Dumbledore: Quite simply that we return to our books at sunrise–midnight to sunrise. That was Miss Bailey’s curse: to make everyone see the world in which she lived–the world of fantasy and fiction. No one could ever again be as lonely as she was if everyone could experience how real books could be.
Alexis: (walks forward, shaking Reb) Reb, what is going on?
Reb: Alexis, it’s a long story.
Alexis: Here’s a newsflash for you: we’re trapped in a library–we have all night.
(Stage dims, with Dumbledore eyeing the teenagers expectantly: Reb is looking slightly defeated, and Alexis is tapping her foot impatiently, arms crossed.)
(The spotlight falls on the edge of stage left, where Reb is standing. He is looking very annoyed and his attitude is now very edgy. His hands are at his side, so that they can easily move, for–the more he talks–the more elaborate his hand gestures will become.)
Reb: Okay, so I told Alexis everything that Dumbledore had told me. And she freaked. I mean she seriously panicked. It wasn’t until she saw Amelia Bedelia running from Captain Hook that she began to take us seriously. And, quite remarkably, she and I were actually on the same page.
(The lights dim, then illuminate the stage once more. Alexis is pounding against the door, and Reb is trying to pull her into a seat. Dumbledore is watching the pair, eyes twinkling with amusement.)
Alexis: I am not staying in this cursed library a minute longer! Help! Please! Someone! HELP!
Reb: Alexis! No one can hear you!
Alexis: I don’t care! Help! Somebody!
Reb: (grabbing Alexis around the middle and pulling her into the library. She still continues to struggle, but–at last–she stops, pouting and breathing heavily once Reb has pushed her onto a chair) You need to calm down. We can get through this.
Alexis: You don’t understand!
Reb: I understand perfectly!
Alexis: I’m trying to retain my sanity here!
Reb: Which you can’t do without me!
Alexis: (stands, crossing her arms) What!
Reb: (breathes slowly through his nose) You said it yourself, Alexis. You don’t read. You “have a life.” Well, guess what? Now, all those books you never read are a part of your life, and you have no idea how to deal with it. (steps forward, head held high) I–on the other hand–read all the time. I know who all these characters are, and I know how to deal with them.
Alexis: What are you saying, Reb?
Reb: I’m saying that–if you plan on living through tonight–you need me.
(There is a long pause between them. They stare at each other for several moments–it is a well-understood test of will.)
Alexis: Fine. But you’d better get us out of here!
Reb: Please, I know how to deal with these characters! It’s not really a matter of how unlike the real world they are, but–instead–how much like the real world they are.
Alexis: What? (places hand on hip)
Reb: Come on! (grabs her hand and begins to lead her towards the shelves) I’ll show you.
Alexis: Where are we going?
Reb: We’re getting out of here!
Alexis: And how do intend to do that, Reb?
Reb:(stops) Alexis, we’re in a building filled with wizards, mad scientists, monsters, and who knows what else! Don’t you see–getting out isn’t the problem? (grabs her and leads her into the library, muttering all the while)
Alexis: Wait, stop! (releases Reb’s grip on her hand) What are you talking about Reb? They’re book characters! In the real world we just can’t wave wands and get what we want! Our problems aren’t solved by turning a page!
Reb: You still don’t get it, do you? This is exactly what our entire book report is about! The literary terms we apply to stories aren’t just work, Alexis! The symbolism and the metaphors and everything else are useless unless a story does one very important thing!
Alexis: And what would that be?
Reb: A message, a point. All of these stories, all of these characters running about–they have a message to tell us. It’s just a matter of seeing if we will listen, and now (grabs her hand again and pulls her toward the shelves ) we’re going to use those messages! We’re actually going to use what we learn from our reading.
Dumbledore: (from the side) So you will no longer require my aid?
Reb: Thanks, Professor, but I think we can take it from here.
Reb: Come on, it’s time to get out of here! (grabs Alexis and pulls her into the aisle between the two bookshelves, out of sight of the audience)
(The spotlight falls on Reb, who is standing center-stage. He has a wildly excited look in his
eyes–a storyteller who has reached the height of his tale. Reb will begin to pace not long into his speech, and the spotlight will follow him. His tone is passionate, his hand motions many.)
Reb: It was–quite literally–every reader’s dream. The question wasn’t if we were going to escape the library, but–instead–how. And there were so many options. It wasn’t until much later that I realized how much we really had learned from the story characters. Just like in so many of my favorite tales, Alexis and I were actually beginning to… well… tolerate each other at least. Not that Alexis was going to give in easily. She was right of course–this was the real world. Harry Potter could use his wand to get us out, and even Frankenstein’s Monster seemed to lack the strength to smash the door. It was odd. The characters were only alive within the context of their books. Frankenstein’s Monster couldn’t smash the door, because he was too busy looking for Dr. Frankenstein, and Harry Potter couldn’t do much, because he was being chased by Voldemort. If we wanted to return to our real lives, we’d have to figure it out ourselves. was the only way we would ever return to our real lives.
(The stage dims again, then is lit. Reb is pacing in front of a table, Alexis sitting at the table, eyeing Reb.)
Alexis: Any other bright ideas, genius?
Reb: Okay. Um… stories where people have had to escape. Um….
Alexis: Listen, Reb, not that this hasn’t been fascinating, but–
Reb: I’ve got it! (rushes up to Alexis) Listen, in any story where character’s have had to escape, they didn’t do it with brawn. Which, is exactly what we tried with Frankenstein. And, they had to do it on their own–which we didn’t do with Harry Potter.
Alexis: Your point?
Reb: My point is this: in any story where people have been held captive and they’ve escaped, they’ve done it on their own with their own intelligence. Take The Odyssey, for example. Odysseus and his men are held captive by the Cyclops, but–
Alexis: I don’t need a lecture, Reb. I just need to go home, have a nice hot shower, and convince myself that this has been nothing but a bad dream!
Reb: Okay, my point is that we need to come up with our own plan.
Alexis: We tried the phones already. The door is locked. (throws up arms) I’m out of escape routes.
Reb: What we need is… to get someone’s attention!
Alexis: Um, (picks up cell phone and waves it in the air) cell phone still dead. Lines still down.
Reb: Not like that. We need to figure out something else.
Alexis: You’re right! (tone is incredibly sarcastic) Maybe we should make a giant SOS bonfire!
Reb: (sarcastically) Ha, ha, ha, Alexis!
Alexis: Do you have any ideas, though?
Reb: No, I don’t. We’re in a library. I’m not sure how we would–
(From offstage, the sound of horse’s hooves approach Alexis and Reb)
Reb: Did you hear that?
(The sound intensifies, this time accompanied by a horse’s neigh and cruel, high-pitched laughter.)
Alexis: (backs up toward shelves) It could be anything, right? I mean, how many horses are there in these books?
Reb: (nervously) Tons. Tons of stories about horses. Black Beauty, Misty of Chincoteague, and–
Alexis: THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN!
Reb: Yeah, but Dumbledore said that he’s locked up.
Alexis: Not now! (points a shaking finger)
(Standing before them is, indeed, the Headless Horseman. He has an undeniable threat surrounding him. Alexis and Reb both back away until they bump into the bookshelves.)
Alexis: Okay, Reb. Any bright ideas?
Reb: Alexis, there is one thing I’ve learned from all the books I’ve read.
Alexis: And what is that?
Reb: The good guys usually prevail in the end.
Reb: There’s only one problem with that.
Reb: We’re not in a book.
Alexis: So what are you suggesting?
(They both take the cue, and run, as quickly as they can. Reb is the first to dart out of the way; Alexis quickly follows. They dart into an aisle, out of sight of the audience, and the Headless Horseman follows in pursuit, thrashing his sword.)
Alexis: (runs around corner with Reb, back in view of audience) Reb, where are we going!
Reb: Listen, I know what I’m doing! It’s in all sorts of books I read! (comes to end of aisle; the Headless Horseman appears from around the corner that Alexis and Reb have just vacated.)
Alexis: (beside Alexis) You said it yourself, this isn’t a book! It’s real–I mean, I think it is! (runs to stage right and ducks behind table; Reb does the same.
Headless Horseman: (runs toward table)
Reb: (continues talking as Alexis and the Headless Horseman move) That’s exactly it, Alexis! You still don’t get it, do you?
Headless Horseman: (stands on other side of table, thrashing his sword)
Reb: It’s not important whether or not the story is real or not! It’s the message you get when you’ve put the book down that matters!
Alexis: (squeals and, ducking, runs toward the door and bangs against it)
Headless Horseman: (follows Alexis)
Reb: (follows Alexis) Whether you’ve read The Diary of Anne Frank or Number the Stars, you still get the same message about the Holocaust! (pulls Alexis out of the way, right as the Headless Horseman slashes the air where Alexis had previously been standing)
Alexis: (running toward shelves) What’s your point, Reb?
Headless Horseman: (runs down aisle, out of sight of audience)
Reb: (running as he drags Alexis in front of bookshelf number one) It’s not real! Even though it seems like it’s real, it’s not!
Alexis: So what we need is–
Reb: Something that is real! And a lot scarier!
Headless Horseman: (as Alexis and Reb reach the end of the bookshelf, he jumps out in front of the pair)
Alexis: (Reb grabs her arm and pulls her back toward stage left) What!
Reb: Alexis, don’t you see? What we need is nonfiction!
(Scene opens on Reb, who is standing center-stage, looking confident. The spotlight is on him. He is still pacing, evidently at his own ingenuity.)
Reb: It was perfect–if there’s one thing that is scarier than characters in books, it’s the people of real life: people in nonfiction books. Which meant only one thing in this library–they were alive. Let me just say that it was lucky that the nonfiction books were kept in a separate section of the library–in a locked room. It was rather convenient, however, that our good friend Professor Dumbledore happened to “accidentally” have the keys sitting on the handle to that door. (smiles and shrugs) Just like Dumbledore to help some troubled teenagers out of a jam.
(The stage darkens again. When the stage is lit, Alexis and Reb closing the center-stage The pounding from the other side is deafening, and it is coupled with loud shouts. They have to push with a great deal of force so that it will close. At last, the door shuts, and they both fall to the ground, back against the door, keys held tightly in Alexis’ hand.)
Alexis: (panting) Learn that from a book, did you?
Reb: No, I learned that from real life. (pauses) I did learn this from a book, however.
Reb:(stands) “All’s well that ends well.”
Alexis: (stands) Well? How can it be well? We’re still trapped inside this cursed library!
Reb: Ah, Alexis, that is the second thing I’ve learned from books.
Alexis: And what would that be?
Reb: That the hero is always incredibly lucky.
Alexis: How do you figure?
Reb: Quite simply. (points to window)
Alexis: Sunrise? We’ve been here all night! It has to be five in the morning!
Reb: Don’t you remember what Dumbledore said? The characters only come to life until sunrise, then….
Alexis: They disappear!
Reb: (nods) Back into their own stories.
Alexis: Reb! This is fantastic! (takes keys and unlocks the door behind them) He’s gone! Reb, he’s gone!
Reb: (looks into room) Yep, no more Headless Horseman for us to worry about! (closes door)
Alexis: Oh, Reb! (hugs Reb, then releases him awkwardly) Er… sorry.
Reb: No…it’s…uh… okay. You were just excited, that’s all.
(A long silence fills the room)
Alexis: What about all those other characters? Huck Finn and Dumbledore?
Reb: I guess they’re gone, too.
Alexis: Well, that’s kinda sad. I mean, they were helpful–in a really weird sort of way.
Reb: Yeah, books are helpful in a weird sort of way. Besides, the librarian should be around soon to let us out.
Alexis: (walks over to the pile of books still on the table from when the play began) You know, I’d kind of like to read some of these stories.
Reb: You, Alexis-“I-Have-A-Life,” wants to read a real book?
Alexis: Well, sometimes these books have a lot to do with life. Which one did you want to read?
Reb: This one. (picks up book)
Alexis: Of Mice and Men?
Reb: It’s short, so you could still have plenty of time for… uh… cheerleading practice.
Alexis: Cheerleading doesn’t take up much time.
Reb: Would you like to read something longer? We could go with–
Alexis: No, Reb. What I need extra time for is our next meeting.
Alexis: Yeah, the next time we meet up with Dumbledore and all of them!
Reb: You mean, after tonight, you want to come back?
Alexis: A little adventure never hurt anyone, and besides, I still need to meet Tom Sawyer!
(Stage darkens, then the spotlight falls stage left, where Reb is once again standing.)
Reb: There you have it. Alexis and I–two of the world’s most opposite people–sneaking into the library every night to bring our reading to life–literally. I don’t know where this story started, but I know exactly were it ended–
Alexis: (walks onto stage) Reb, are you ready to go? We have to sneak in before the librarian locks up.
Reb: Coming. (turns back to the audience) And I think you can tell how this story ends, too. (winks and follows Alexis as they exit stage right.)
Copyright Sarah Davidson 2020