By Janice Kerbel, 2006
NICK SILVER (male)
CEREUS GRAND (female)
Somewhere between the hours of 3 and 5am.
A new moon (very dark).
(No ambient sound.)
NICK SILVER: I dream about you, sometimes. I’m surrounded by the blackest of black and stars are falling everywhere. Up above hangs a big fat invisible moon. It’s hot and it’s summer.
MARVEL: It’s late.
ZED: It’s dark.
RIVER: I’m tired.
NICK SILVER: Sometimes I’m out in a field, all alone. Or I’m down by a lake; I’m a kid again, just blowing where the wind takes me. Other times I’m here, exactly as I am, laying low, just waiting. It’s always late. It’s always dark. I’m always tired.
ZED: Are you there?
ZED: Down here.
RIVER: Move over.
ZED: [PAUSE, EXASPERATED.] I can’t.
NICK SILVER: The dream has the air of smoke and vanilla. It’s perfectly still and there is no sound whatsoever. It usually begins with a feeling, a gentle tug that pulls right along the length of me. It’s hardly noticeable at first. It’s more like a stretch than anything else and while I never resist it – I mean, really, why would I – I’m always aware it might snap me in two.
RIVER: I’ve been here since sundown.
MARVEL: I got here at four.
ZED: I arrived with the rain.
MOONBEAM: I never left.
NICK SILVER: Nothing much happens at first – just a slow, steady approach. I can’t see but I can feel something creeping towards me. It’s quiet and peaceful. It’s persistent. Determined. This vague advance lasts days. Seconds. Thirty-million years. The dream seems to have substance. It’s cool and it’s tough. It has bright green flesh and sharp yellow spines.
MOONBEAM: [AS IF LOOKING FOR THEM.] River? Marvel? Zed?
NICK SILVER: Things quicken, slowly. What was measured and lingering starts to catch speed. It’s as if the whole dream begins to spread, limbs branching out in every direction. It twists around corners and supports itself on whatever it passes, fixing spidery roots every chance that it gets. It hooks onto anything and everything in its path; it races across miles and miles of wide-open space and feeds on nothing but air; it is reckless and careless. It scrambles wildly and scales the most impossible heights. White hairy tufts start appearing. They pop up out of nowhere and get bigger in size as they multiply in number. Before long they are everywhere, billions of them mushrooming in size and filling every inch of the sky. They gyrate and swell almost to bursting and in their delight they begin changing shape, [SPEED UP] getting longer, mutating, transforming, their delicate hair blowing wildly until it starts to part and fall away and then [PAUSE] suddenly [PAUSE] nothing…
MOONBEAM: [STILL LOOKING.] Zed? Marvel? River?
NICK SILVER: Whatever it is, whatever it was, just hangs there, purplish brown, deserted. No smell. No swell. No life.
MARVEL: Are you fading?
NICK SILVER: It keeps getting dark, over and over. A dew of sadness blankets everything. The air is thin and warm and I have trouble breathing. I feel lost and anxious and trapped. Then, without warning and out of the stillness, a single oblong head of dry brownish hair, lifts. It expands. It reaches up and out toward some far-off fixed point and begins, ever so slowly, to rotate.
NICK SILVER: Bats fill the sky. What was a desert becomes a deep valley. The ground beneath me softens. Thunder and lightening. I feel myself sway.
MOONBEAM: Cereus Grand?
NICK SILVER: Only one or two truly extraordinary events ever happen in the life of a single living thing. My name is Nick Silver and I cannot sleep.
MOONBEAM: I knew a tree once named Sorrow. By day, you’d think he was dead – but he wasn’t. I’d climb him each summer, hang there night after night, basking myself in the cold light of moon.
ZED: The story’s as sad as it sounds.
MOONBEAM: That’s where we met – a six-hour tangle on a black night with no moon. She was rare and exotic and a sharp natural mover. Cereus Grand was her name, Queen of the Night. She had a heart of pure gold. It wasn’t open for long. Me they called Moonbeam. I was young and untamed, just doing what I could to get by. In time I moved on as one does. Took to low ground.
RIVER: I’m cold.
ZED: I’m thirsty.
MARVEL: I’m covered in bugs.
MOONBEAM: That was the last time we crossed. I’ve travelled a lot since, covered a fair bit of land. Spent some time underground, stole the odd day in the sun. Took to a mermaid who thought she was a fountain and passed a few years at her side. I’ve scrambled my way through a good many lives, got myself out of some messy encounters, straightened out a few times long the way. The fast pace of wild abandon, a true cosmopolitan climber. I know it all pretty well now. I know more than you think.
NICK SILVER: I cannot think I cannot eat I cannot sleep. Tie me to a stake, shower me with mists of rain, lay me down in dappled-forest light, I cannot sleep. I’m five-foot-two, independent, healthy and self-supporting; I’m hardy, reliable and tolerant. I don’t like change, though I adapt, given time. A few summers back I began to feel crowded, like I’d outgrown my own home. Without much of a plan - it was more of a feeling I responded to naturally - I tried to make a fresh start, thought I’d turn a new leaf. I did some voluntary shape-shifting with a bit of deep-trance hypnosis. I tried to will myself flight by transforming into a bird. When that didn’t work I aimed a bit lower, channelled my energy into the ways of a worm; and when that failed, a vine. I even considered the form of a fence. [PAUSE] Like everyone else, I have ups and downs. I worry a lot. I feel I’m a late bloomer. I hate potatoes, tomatoes don’t agree with me and aubergine makes me wilt. I’m from a large family. My love for them is unruly, but deep. We’re better off with some distance between us. [PAUSE] I’m different from them. [PAUSE] I cannot sleep.
RIVER: It’s been three long nights.
MARVEL: It’s been over two months.
ZED: It’s been on and off for ten years.
NICK SILVER: Night after night. Month after month. Year after year. I stick to routine, I avoid water past nightfall, I have a warm raised comfortable bed. Blame it on the stars, kill all the crickets. Full moon new moon planets aligned. I cannot sleep. And if I cannot sleep I cannot sleep. And if I cannot sleep I cannot dream. And if I cannot dream [PAUSE] I cannot dream of you.
MOONBEAM: Warm air. Occasional rain. Plenty of light. The odd phosphorus rock. There may be four things I need [PAUSE] but there’s still one thing I want.
ZED: What’s the smell, is it - ?
NICK SILVER: You.
You, my seven-ribbed double-jointed long-legged wonder.
You, my radiating golden-tipped vespertine queen.
Tell me, who are you, you heart-boosting vessel-popping unforgettable dream?
MOONBEAM: One Cereus. Two Cereus. Three Cereus.
NICK SILVER: You sedate me.
MOONBEAM: Four Cereus. Five Cereus. Six Cereus.
NICK SILVER: You wake me.
MOONBEAM: Seven Cereus. Eight Cereus. Nine Cereus.
NICK SILVER: You drive me wild.
RIVER: I feel the earth move - !
MOONBEAM: Crack the foundations and tear up the pavement. It must really be true. It must really be you.
NICK SILVER: I want to blow a smoke ring around your long skinny neck. I want to knock you out with my scent; cut loose to the woods where no one can find us. You could clamour around me, take hold and strangle me, tackle me down to the ground. I’d never fight it - I wouldn’t know how. I want to lose myself to you. I want to be yours. Please, just one night. Like my own private planet – orbit round me tonight.
ZED: I’ve never had an afternoon.
MARVEL: I’ve never tasted coffee.
RIVER: I’ve never felt the salt-sea air or been touched by freshwater fish.
NICK SILVER: Do you like deserts or forests? Do you prefer full sun or the shade?
MOONBEAM: Settle in and breathe deeply, release every limb.
NICK SILVER: Where do you come from? What’s the longest you’ll stay?
MOONBEAM: Stretch out – now - inch closer -
NICK SILVER: Do you have many companions? Do you hate dogs?
MOONBEAM: Go deeper, reach further – dig down to your roots!
NICK SILVER: Could it be possible you’re afraid of the dark?!?
MARVEL: I want to get to Mexico.
RIVER: I want to survive the winter.
ZED: I want to stand in the rain on a cliff and grow old on my own on the prairies.
NICK SILVER: I’m as dumb as a moth. All summer long I’ve been falling for you when I could have been falling asleep. I should slam my weedy green self into the first-passing bright light, but I could never do that - I cannot even move. Cut off my head, deprive me of love – I only live longer. I can fight constipation and water retention; strangulated hernia, hysteric convulsion. Give me scabs give me flees give me mildew and foot rot. But from this spiked crushing weight I need some relief. Someone anyone – please - bring me a drink!
MOONBEAM: Pomegranate chamomile valerian milk. Saffron lilyturf goat-willow stock.
NICK SILVER: I try to call out but I don’t make a sound. I go for a wave but there’s not the gentlest breeze. I’m heavy and nodding; I’m wilting and stumped; I’m alone and forgotten. I’m waiting for a miracle.
MOONBEAM: You are getting limp and heavy.
NICK SILVER: I’m waiting for a meteor.
MOONBEAM: You are growing slow and steady.
NICK SILVER: I’m waiting for you.
MOONBEAM: It must be near. You must be here. Tonight is the night. Tonight is the night.
NICK SILVER: Tonight is the night. It’s always tonight. It’s always the night. Sun six degrees down and burglaries get judged with more mercy. Sun twelve degrees down and ground operations grind to a halt. Eighteen and all colour abandons the scene. Sun falls. Night falls. I fall -
MOONBEAM: Conjure a scene of unthinkable beauty to relax you.
ZED: Three long mountains and a wood.
NICK SILVER: I imagine you, the rest of you, the you I’ve never seen. Alone in a most luxurious forest, spread out on a black-red blanket of the world’s richest earth, you float a halo of white a centre of gold. You are swathed in a 12-layered cream-coloured skirt, crowned by fifty spears of pure-deep maroon. Behind folds a diffuse glowing curtain of multi-coloured night; above bound four-legged creatures that fly with their tails. The air is cool and damp and autumnal. You unfurl before me. You reach out, a stretch deep and long...
RIVER: It’s late.
ZED: It’s dark.
MARVEL: I’m tired.
NICK SILVER: [SLOWLY.] You are as big as the moon. You are a queen of the night. [SLOWER STILL; FALLING ASLEEP.] You are serious. You are grand. [SLOWER STILL.] You are [PAUSE] Cereus Grand.
[LONGER, SILENT PAUSE.]
CEREUS GRAND: [LANGUIDLY. SLOWLY. QUIETLY] Wake up. [PAUSE] Wake up, Nick. [PAUSE] Wake up. [PAUSE] I can’t sleep.