The Devil You Know- a play- Part 1
‘The Devil You Know’
A play by Tony DeLorger © 2011
The play opens in Andy’s flat- a small self-contained bed-sitter. It is rather dreary with only one window and a tiny kitchenette. The front door is at the front of the wall at right stage, a small closet next to that with a bathroom in the right rear corner. His bed is next to that on the back wall with a small wooden table and chairs to its left over by the window in the left rear corner, that looks over the next door’s balcony and the laneway below. The kitchenette is situated on the left stage wall and there is a single reading chair and lamp in the middle of the stage, a portable TV on a stand tucked away against the wall next to his bed. On the floor and under the bed are box after box of books, some stacked against the walls in neat piles. Although dreary and lacking colour, the room is pristine with everything neat and in its place. Andy enters after a hard day’s work.
Andy- (Shutting the door behind him, he places his briefcase on the floor and begins the ritual of closing the door, which has some three locks and four bolts on it. One by one he locks each lock and bolt, mumbling ‘Keep this home safe from harm’ and knocking on the door in between each action. He then picks up his briefcase and turns, taking one step forward before frowning and turning back to the door. He again places the briefcase down and rechecks the locks one by one and rattling the door to make sure it is secure. He then picks up the briefcase again and takes a step away, before looking over his shoulder once again to verify the door has remained locked. He then goes over to the table and places his old briefcase down, takes off his windcheater and places it neatly on the bottom post of his bed, pulling the fabric to make sure that there are no wrinkles. Suddenly he looks around the flat)
Butch? Where are you buddy?
Suddenly Butch, a rather motley looking tabby cat climbs through the small window opening and jumps down to the floor.
You must be hungry? I’m a bit late today. (He heads for the cupboard and retrieves a can of cat food, opens it and empties it onto a plate, then places it on the floor)
There you go!
Andy then goes to the sink and after meticulously rolling up his sleeves he thoroughly washes his hands and then his face, slowly and methodically, exaggerating each task with precision like undertaking, at the same time muttering to himself. After drying his hands several times, he faces the audience and mouths each task that has been completed and what should next be.
Door, Butch, hands, face………Dinner! Of course! (He turns and goes to the kitchen and retrieves a frozen TV dinner from the fridge, which is absolutely filled with them. He reads the packet)
Sounds nutritious. I’m not happy with these numbers though. What’s 621 again Butch? Hm!
He places the box down on the bench and carefully removes the contents, placing it next to the box. Rubbing his hands together first, he bends down and gently finds the corner of the plastic covering wrap and peals it slowly back.
Looks OK Butch. No breaks or tamper marks.
Happy with the meal, he places it in the oven, then turns it on. Butch has now finished his dinner so he goes over and picks him up. Just then a truck pulls up outside and we hear the sounds of voices and moving objects outside through the window. Andy, with Butch in his arms, goes to the window to take a look.
Ah, looks like we’re going to get some new neighbours after all. (Stroking the cat)
His eyes wander from the lane and he gazes over to the next door’s balcony. Suddenly confronted by a strange woman looking straight at him, he ducks back out of sight, his heart thumping in his chest.
It’s a woman Butch, not like old Mrs. Harriot.
He slowly peaks around the curtain and sees the woman is still looking in his direction and springs back. She smiles and goes inside her new flat. Checking again, he sees that she’s gone and relaxes a little, letting Butch go outside through the window.
Not too late now, I can’t be worried about you tonight.
Voices begin to reverberate next door as baggage and large boxes are lugged up the stairs and placed
inside. The voices are a little muffled but Andy begins to understand some of it.
Rita- Darling, for God sake be careful with those, they’re delicate.
Tito- Sorry, Rita.
Rita- Let Moose do it, those other boxes are too heavy.
Véga- Oh, leave him be, he’s stronger than you are.
Tito- (In a big melodramatic voice) It is a far greater thing I do, than I have ever done before!
Tito breaks out into incessant laughter as Moose grabs him and plays with him as if he were a doll. Andy rushes to the back wall, putting his ear to it, trying to hear what’s going on.
Véga- (In his most theatrical and Shakespearian voice)Whence came you, sir? Uninvited in this modest abode, are you honourable? I pray you give me some modest assurance of your intention and I shall welcome your presence. But by the very fangs of malice I swear, should your purpose fall short, I shall cast you aside like the bitter touch of sorrow.
Moose- Fear not my Liege, I beseech you. Innocence shall make false accusations blush, and tyranny tremble at patience..
Rita- (Interrupting) Oh, shut up, we’ve got work to do.
Andy- (With a strange, bewildered look on his face, leans back from the wall) What are they talking about?
The mumble of voices next door continues and Andy, still confused, goes to the oven and retrieves his meal. With his hand in an oven mitt, he carries the meal with a fork over to the table and then goes to his bedside table and grabs the novel he’s been reading. He sits down and opens the book and reads, occasionally taking a mouthful of food. As the darkness falls outside, he immerses himself in his novel.
Andy’s silent reading voice- ‘As the dagger glistens in the flickering light of the torches, it is raised high above the master’s head and Mary’s eyes bulge with fear. Her heart pounds faster and faster until it feels like it will explode, and then with one almighty blow, the cold steel blade parts her flesh and plunges deep into her heart. (With eyes wide, Andy takes another mouthful of food)
For a moment, Mary’s eyes open even wider with shock, the excruciating pain tearing through her helpless, trembling body. Then, with a short, final exhalation, her eyes glaze over and look vacantly into the air empty now of life.’
Before Andy could turn the page, a loud rapping on his door interrupts him. He jumps to his feet in response, having mentally been elsewhere and looks to the door nervously. After another pounding on the door, he hesitantly approaches and looks apprehensively through the peephole. Then slowly, one by one, he unlocks the locks and bolts, then opens it. There before him, is the woman who is moving in next door.
Andy- (Said sheepishly)Yes?
Rita- Aren’t you going to invite me in? We are neighbours after all. (Pushing her way into the flat, casting Andy aside and making him feel even more nervous. Then, she looks around the room with a look of disdain on her face)
It’s even smaller than ours.
Rita- The flat, silly. It’s tiny, how do you manage?
Andy- (Screwing up his face in confusion) Manage what?
Rita- (Sauntering across the room and opening the side slit in her dress to adjust her stocking and reveal her rather shapely leg)
You don’t get out much, do you?
Andy- I..I.. (Stuttering)
Rita- I’m Rita.(Holding out her hand)
Andy- (Hesitantly taking her hand and gently shaking)
Andy, I’m Andy.
Rita rubs her thumb over Andy’s hand sensually.
Rita- Such soft skin, you must be a poet or a writer?
Andy- (Laughs nervously, trying to relinquish his hand shake, but Rita deliberately prolongs it)
No, not me. (Rita finally lets him go and he turns red with embarrassment)
Rita- (With her hand placed thoughtfully under her chin)
Libran, Mm.. 27th of September, or 9th of October.
Andy- (Looking even more perplexed) Sorry?
Rita- Which is it, your birthday?
Andy- Ah, 27th October, actually.
Rita- Of course, silly me, of course! The 9’s are strong with you. Makes you capable, of all sorts of things. (Moving over and eyeing him seductively)
Ever thought of how you’d like to die?
Andy- (Hardy knowing how to respond to such an odd question) Well.. no. I..I don’t know.
Rita- They say the line between agony and ecstasy is a fine one. Worth experimenting, don’t you think? (Wandering over to the table and leaning back seductively on it, her legs slightly parted. Andy smiles with embarrassment)
I think I’d like to die at the point of orgasm. That would be delicious, wouldn’t it? The pain of death and the ecstasy of life all rolled into one, final experience. (Groaning at the prospect)
Andy is beside himself with embarrassment, unable to make eye contact and fidgeting nervously, unconsciously bringing his knees together.
Andy- (For want of something else to say) It’s nice to meet you then.
Butch suddenly springs through the window opening and lands onto the floor near Rita. She is quite unimpressed and slightly on edge.
Rita- A cat. You have a cat.
Andy- (Said proudly) This is Butch.
Rita- (Moving away from the table and staring worriedly at Butch) It’s time for me to go, Véga will be wondering where I am.
She saunters to the door and looks back at him seductively.
We will meet again.
Rita slips out the door and Andy rushes to attend to the locks, undertaking his closing ritual once, then turning around leaning against the door with his heart still pounding. He quickly goes to the kitchen and retrieves a bottle of disinfectant and a clean cloth, then goes to the table and starts to disinfect where Rita had been leaning.
Andy- (Mumbling) Why me? What could she want with me? (Suddenly dropping the cloth and bottle of disinfectant, he stands bolt upright and looks toward the front door) Check the door. Must check the door.
Andy rushes to the door and checks every lock and bolt one by one, saying ‘keep this home safe from harm’ and knocking on the door in between each check, rattling and pulling on the door, verifying its security. Having whipped himself up into frenzy, he finishes with the door and begins to pace up and down mumbling incoherently to himself, then stops abruptly.
I must calm myself. This is nothing, just a new neighbour that’s all. Take some deep breaths. (Breathing deeply) That’s better. No doctors, everything’s going to be fine, just fine.
Andy slowly calms himself and decides to go to bed early. Surely everything will look different in the morning. He goes to his bathroom and begins his teeth cleaning ritual. The audience sees only his back but hears all of his ritual undertakings. First he brushes his teeth, hard and completely. He then gargles boisterously. After that he cleans his hands and after wiping them thoroughly, begins the whole thing again.
After the third cycle, he closes the bathroom door and you can hear him undress and put on his PJ’s, mumbling each move and step. Moments later the door opens and Andy is in his long PJ’s, carrying his perfectly folded day clothing. He goes over to a laundry hamper against the wall and carefully places the folded clothing into it.
Suddenly there is a noise from next door- it is obviously Rita. Moving a little closer to the wall, he realises she is groaning with pleasure and slowly building in intensity, toward some orgasmic explosion. He steps back from the wall and turns red with embarrassment wondering what to do, when there is a loud knock on his door. He startles with his eyes wide and his heart pounding, wondering whom it could be. He hesitantly moves to the door and looks through the peephole.
Andy- Keep this house safe from harm, keep this house safe from harm, keep this hou..
Another loud knock reverberates through the flat and he jumps back but begins to open the locks, eventually opening the door. There, before him is Véga, Rita’s husband. Andy stares at his hideous form - his hunched back, huge nose and dark distrusting eyes.
Yes? (Rita’s panting and groaning is now at its zenith, sounding something like a freight train)
Véga- I was going to ask if my wife was here, but I can hear that she’s not.
(He looks Andy up and down suspiciously)
I trust you won’t be seeing her much, will you?
Andy- I..I.. I only just..
Véga- I’ll be just next door.
Suddenly Véga is gone and Andy, completely confused, shuts the door and locks everything quickly. He paces the floor for a minute and after consoling himself and convincing himself to just go to bed he goes to his bed and folds the cover down evenly. Then he folds down the sheets and after shedding his slippers perfectly next to each other at the side of his bed, climbs in. After closing his eyes for a silent prayer, he tucks himself in, reaches out and turns off the lamp next to him. The stage is semi lit, with the street light outside his window illuminating the room.
Andy- (Tossing and turning restlessly) Why? Why me? (Groaning and tossing his head around, unable to calm his frantic mind)
Then after a few minutes Andy is still and falls into a deep sleep. In his mind a dream begins to form and is projected onto the wall behind him for the audience to see. (Rear projection)
The scene is set in the flat next door with all the furniture moved aside, the centre of the wooden floor clear and a large circle with symbols scribed upon it in white. Six people are standing at equidistant points around the circle, all dressed in dark hooded capes. Within the circle lay a woman bound at the hands, unconscious and dressed in a sheer white full-length dress. Next to her, a silver chalice containing some potion with a myriad of candles lighting the room, they’re flickering creating an eerie, disturbing presence.
The figures begin to chant over and over-
‘Imarna tellos nos turon démouz’ and as the chanting gains rhythm and intensity, the figures remove their hoods. They are Rita, Véga, Moose, Tito, Gladys and Samuel. Rita is holding an ornate golden dagger in both hands, and with the chant gaining speed she lifts it up over her head and steps into the circle.
The woman laying bound in the circle slowly comes around and looks up to see Rita above her, and screams as Rita savagely stabs her over and over until she is silent.
Andy- (Sitting bolt upright and screaming) Nooo!
With his scream, the image above him disappears and Andy leans over and switches on his lamp, panting with fear and sweating profusely.
My God, what have they done? (Looking totally panic stricken)
Andy is then drawn to the sound of voices next door. He half turns in bed to try and hear through the wall. Rita and Véga are arguing, their muffled voices just discernible.
Véga- After all I’ve done for you!
Rita- God, don’t you think you’ve worn that out. How many times have I got to hear it?
Véga- You obviously haven’t heard it enough, with the amount of respect I get.
Rita- Respect? What would you know about respect? What would know about what I want, my needs?
Véga- Don’t you make a fool out of me, not this time!
So help me Rita, if you start up with that kid next door, I don’t know what I’ll do.
Rita- You’d do what? You haven’t the guts. Whatever man you once were is gone, long gone.
Véga- (Yelled angrily) Get out! Get the hell out!
With those words a crashing sound is heard, like a vase being thrown and shattering against a wall. Then, the front door of the flat is slammed and Rita leaves, and you can hear her racing down the stairs. Andy rushes to the window and sees her leave the building and storm down the lane. The sound of a garbage bin being kicked over and Butch meowing in response to a sharp kick from Rita echoes up from the lane. Butch climbs up to the balcony and suddenly appears on the windowsill.
Andy- You alright Buddy? (Picking him up and giving him a cuddle)
Andy walks over to the fridge and gets a bottle of milk out and pours some in a saucer, then places it on the floor for Butch. He then replaces the milk in the fridge and wipes down everything he has touched. He then goes to his bed and sits cross-legged at its centre, too distraught and frightened to sleep. After drinking the milk, Butch leaves.
The light slowly changes outside, as if the night is passing and then suddenly morning is breaking- the light in the room to simulate daylight, with a few birds chirping in the background. Andy, still sitting crossed-legged, looks toward the window and realises that he’s been up all night. He slowly unfolds his stiff, cramped legs and climbs down from the bed and stretches out.
Andy- Butch? (Whistling loudly, but with no response)
(He goes to the window and looks out) Butch, where are you buddy? (Seeing no sign of him anywhere)
Andy sits down at the table with a confused expression on his face, mumbling to himself-
He’s always here in the morning, what about his breakfast? Where are you Butch?
With Andy leaning forward worriedly, his elbows on his knees, the stage lights begin to fade and the curtain comes down on Act 1, Scene 1.