Wednesday, March 13, 2013.
The house lights dim. The audience quiets.
ON THE BIG FLATSCREEN: Jagged yellow lettering on black:
By William Shakespeare
The Fletcher Correctional Players
Onscreen: A hand-printed sign, held up to the camera byAnnouncer,wearing a short purple velvet cloak. In his otherhand, a quill.
Sign: A SUDDEN TEMPEST
Announcer: What you’re gonna see, is a storm at sea:Winds are howlin’, sailors yowlin’,Passengers cursin’ ’em, ’cause it gettin’ worse:Gonna hear screams, just like a ba-a-d dream,But not all here is what it seem,Just sayin’.
Now we gonna start the playin’.He gestures with the quill. Cut to: Thunder and lightning, in funnel cloud, screengrab from the Tornado Channel. Stock shot of ocean waves. Stock shot of rain. Sound of howling wind.Camera zooms in on a bathtub-toy sailboat tossing up and down on a blue plastic shower curtain with fish on it, the waves made by hands underneath.Closeup of Boatswain in a black knitted tuque. Water is thrown on him from offscreen. He is drenched.
BOATSWAIN: Fall to’t yarely, or we run ourselves aground!
Yare! Yare! Beware! Beware!
Let’s just do it,
Better get to it,
Trim the sails,
Fight the gales,
Unless you wantin’ to swim with the whales!
VOICES OFF: We’re all gonna drown!
BOATSWAIN: Get outta tha’ way! No time for play!A bucketful of water hits him in the face.
VOICES OFF: Listen to me! Listen to me!
Don’t you know we’re royalty?
BOATSWAIN: Yare! Yare! The waves don’t care!
The wind is roarin’, the rain is pourin’,
All you do is stand and stare!
VOICES OFF: You’re drunk!
BOATSWAIN: You’re a idiot!
VOICES OFF: We’re doomed!
VOICES OFF: We’re sunk!Closeup of Ariel in a blue bathing cap and iridescent ski goggles, blue makeup on the lower half of his face. He’s wearing a translucent plastic raincoat with ladybugs, bees, and butterflies on it. Behind his left shoulder there’s an odd shadow. He laughs soundlessly, points upward with his right hand, which is encased in a blue rubber glove. Lightning flash, thunderclap.
VOICES OFF: Let’s pray!
BOATSWAIN: What’s that you say?
VOICES OFF: We’re goin’ down! We’re gonna drown!
Ain’t gonna see the King no more!
Jump offa the ship, swim for the shore!Ariel throws his head back and laughs with delight. In each of his blue rubber hands he’s holding a high-powered flashlight, in flicker mode.The screen goes black.
A VOICE FROM THE AUDIENCE: What?
ANOTHER VOICE: Power’s off.
ANOTHER VOICE: Must be the blizzard. A line down somewhere.Total darkness. Confused noise from outside the room. Yelling.Shots are fired.
A VOICE FROM THE AUDIENCE: What’s going on?
VOICES, FROM OUTSIDE THE ROOM: Lockdown! Lockdown!
A VOICE FROM THE AUDIENCE: Who’s in charge here?Three more shots.
A VOICE, FROM INSIDE THE ROOM: Don’t move! Quiet!
Keep your heads down! Stay right where you are.
Copyright © 2016 by Margaret Atwood. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.