ACT TEN – CONTINUATION
[Nigel and Danny are sitting outside their classroom. Jason is on all fours, acting as a footrest.]
Nigel: You’re very lucky to get off this lightly, Jason, I hope you realize that?
Jason: [pained] Oh I do, my liege.
Nigel: Even with my sartorial elegance, this [points to hair] is a stumper. Now those few of my family who don’t think I am a complete prick now think I am some kind of fashion pervert.
[Danny slides an arm around Nigel, knowing what’s really bugging him.]
Danny: They’ll forgive you.
Nigel: Will they?
Danny: They’re family. It’s what families do.
Nigel: I have two families and one of them has already completely abandoned me.
Danny: You’ve always got your House.
Nigel: It’s in mum’s name.
Danny: Not your house, your House. Your School House.
[Nigel looks at her, confused.]
Danny: You know? The school clans? You never noticed that whenever there’s an athletics festival or a swimming carnival, you get split up by Houses?
Nigel: Danny, you clearly have never noticed that whenever there’s an athletics festival or a swimming carnival, I chuck a sickie. Jason, do you know what she’s rabbiting on about?
Jason: [pained] Yes, my liege.
Nigel: Well, I’m not wasting my time having you trying to explain it, Jase. [to Danny] What’s it all about then, Danny?
Danny: [sighs] Every kid who comes to this school is listed as being in a House. There are four Houses altogether, and the idea is the House is like a family, and kids from the same House will look out for each other. Whenever a kid wins a race or something, the points go to the House and at the end of the year, the House with the most points, I dunno. Wins a prize or something.
Nigel: Hang on... that’s... that’s eugenics!
Jason: Eugene who?
Nigel: These Houses... they’re setting us all against each other. Those aren’t sports carnivals, they’re war games! [stunned] Bastards! And the teachers always put on those glasses when trying to order us around! I can’t believe I never noticed it before!
Danny: [soothing] Oh, don’t worry about it, Nige. I was trying to cheer you up, not freak you out.
Nigel: “Cheer me up”? I didn’t see any of my Housemates turning up to hospital when I got stabbed!
[Annoyed at the reminder, he kicks his boot down on Jason’s back.]
Jason: ARGH! Sorry about that again, my liege.
Nigel: Good boy. [to Danny] Come to think about it, which House am I in?
Danny: Yeah. You’re the Red House.
Nigel: Is that like the White House?
Danny: No. The Houses are different colour. Hunter – that’s green – well, that’s where all the best kids go. The smart ones, the fast ones, the ones who are going to make the school popular. Then there’s King, the yellow House, that’s pretty much the same. The idea that King and Hunter are always fighting for top dog, so they’ll work harder to be more popular and successful.
Nigel: [disgusted] Go on.
Danny: And Phillip, that’s blue, that’s kind of like the total opposite. That’s for all the disruptive kids, the ones always on time out, who get detention, into fights... if they ever get the school mentioned, it’ll be because they just got arrested, if you see what I mean.
Nigel: And Bligh?
Danny: [shrugs] That’s for everyone else.
Nigel: [furious] ...the B Ark? [leaps upright] I AM IN THE FUCKING B ARK?!?? I am dumped in with the telephone sanitizers and the account executives?!
Danny: You realize I have no idea what you’re talking about?
[Nigel kicks Jason again.]
Jason: [sobs] It’s Douglas Adams.
Danny: [not understanding at all] Riiiiiiiiiiiiiight.
Nigel: The B ARK?! Well, this is ONE Golgafrimchan who ain’t staying in the bath.
[Nigel stands on top of a bench in the middle of the playground, accompanied by Danny and Jason. Children are gathering. Nigel is in full righteous fury hellfire preacher mode.]
Nigel: HOW DARE THEY?! I ask you all, how DARE the teachers do this to us! We are at this school to learn vital knowledge for our grown up lives – we are NOT here to BE CATEGORIZED! We are all human beings. We all matter EQUALLY! This is Australia, people! A place of THE FAIR GO!
[He lowers his voice to bloodcurdling mutter.]
Nigel: But we are not being given a fair go, are we? From the moment we arrive at this school we are split up into four different classes – those that will succeed, those that will fail, and those no one cares about! We haven’t been here a day and they have suddenly decided they know what we will be. They have deemed a QUARTER OF THIS WHOLE SCHOOL TO BE FAILURES! Everyone in Phillip House is going to be the scum of the Earth, useless wastrels draining society!
[Some of the younger kids start to cry.]
Nigel: I know! I know, little ones, I know. But if our teachers are so convinced they know who are the worthwhile kids, why isn’t everyone in Phillip House thrown out? Huh? I’ll tell you, dudes, I’ll tell you. Because they want our money. Money spent on a school where half of us won’t receive all the teaching and support because THEY decide we’re utterly useless.
Phoebe: Nigel, what are you doing now?
Nigel: I am pointing out the shameful hypocrisy of this school, that is what I’m doing!
Phoebe: There are plenty of clever and successful people in Phillip House...
Nigel: Exactly! They just ASSUME you’re all idiots and criminals and they’re wrong!
[Mutters from the crowd. This makes too much sense.]
Phoebe: Nigel, this is...
Nigel: You tell me then, Phoebe! You look me in my beautiful brown eyes and you tell me WHY they arbitrarily split us up! What House are you in, red?
Nigel: Red in blue, people! They can’t even get that right! [more mutters] And what about you, Dave?
Jadi: [confused] Hunter.
Nigel: And aren’t you three the best of friends?!
Dave: [proud] Of course! [less certain] Right?
Nigel: [to the crowd] But these three, good, honest, depressingly gullible people are turned against each other because they’re in different Houses! The Houses force people to compete against their loved ones! WHAT KIND OF MESSAGE IS THAT?! Australia is a society of many cultures! Working together! Not against each other! How many times have teachers told us off for fighting? Or arguing? Told us to “cooperate”? And then they put all this work in SPECIFICALLY to compete against each other!! THEY ARE PLAYING GAMES WITH US AS MONOPOLY PIECES!!
[Some teachers are approaching. Danny tugs on Nigel’s leg as a signal. Nigel speeds up.]
Nigel: And this is a crime that is beyond elitism or racism – this is an affront to ALL LIFE IN CREATION! The teachers here have offended the primal cauldron of existence ITSELF! And they have sent here a champion to make restitution! Yes, you all know who I’m talking about.
[They manifestly don’t. Jason is also confused.]
Nigel: MARY WALKER!
[A collective gasp.]
Nigel: I’ll summon her right here, right now if I have to! I’LL DO IT! [to the teachers] Unless I am given an immediate audience with the Principal himself, I will summon her up!
[The teachers are unimpressed.]
Teacher: Step down, Nigel.
Nigel: You’re playing with FIRE, Mrs. Webby! [to the crowd] MARY WALKER!
Nigel: I’ll say it one more time! Unless you lot support me against these knowledge fascists, I’ll summon her forth to do whatever it is she’s going to do to us all! DO YOU WANT TO FIND OUT?
Nigel: Then I’m going to need some total obedience. Stat.
[Nigel turns to look at the teachers. So do all the teachers. Nigel grins. The teachers blanch.]
[Principal’s Office. A rather nondescript room crammed mainly with files and photos. An overworked man sits at the desk, with a nameplate saying “PRINCIPAL SYLVESTER McCOY” Nigel is sprawled in a chair opposite, idly flicking through some paperwork.]
Nigel: [been chatting for a while] ...so as you can imagine, it was a real letdown finding out you’re a completely different person. Real McCoy my arse.
Principal: Nigel, what do you think you’re doing? You nearly caused a riot. People could have been hurt.
Nigel: But they weren’t, sir, they weren’t. [throws papers away] And it got me an interview with you.
Principal: Interview? Nigel, anyone can come to my office. I’m right next to the library.
Nigel: So you are, sir. But now everyone in the school knows I’m here talking to you. Publicity, sir.
Principal: Publicity? [rubs eyes] Nigel, the House system at this school is condoned throughout New South Wales. The choice for different Houses is completely random. Any idea that one House is better than the other is entirely coincidental. There as many athletes and clever students in Phillips as any other House. Surely you understand this... this witch hunt is entirely unnecessary!
Nigel: Oh, isn’t it? You’ve turned the population of this school into four rivals, fighting each other. You promote conflict instead of cooperation, war instead of peace. Brother against sister, friend against friend... And for what? The smooth-running of this school?
Nigel: Exactly. You’re playing games with our lives.
Principal: We are educating you.
Nigel: Then you should be pleased you’ve taught me enough to see right through you.
Principal: I am not going to abandon the Houses. Even if it logistically feasible, I don’t have the authority.
Nigel: [reassuring] I know you don’t.
Principal: So what ARE you after?
[Nigel leans forward.]
Nigel: What have you got?
[A classroom, far grander than what is usual. It is more old-fashioned, with large windows overlooking the playground. Nigel, Dave and countless others are present. Nigel stands inside a kind of “cell”, a raised balcony with bars caging it off, overlooking the classroom. Everyone wears red. A flag with BLIGH BY NAME, BLIGH BY NATURE is being raised.]
Nigel: Greetings my poignant friends! The Bligh House of the Noble Tillman Primary School is now united and organized for the first time since 1977, thanks to the generous donations for the Cult of Kanbo-Ala, a private organization that is VERY sympathetic to the state our school is in. I think you’ll agree that getting our own headquarters against all the other Houses represents an enormous step forward, however, the best is yet to come. Any and all non-Bligh members are barred from this classroom, which has been sadly neglected for years when it could have been used for any number of things – music, art, sex education... Moving on. We have been classed as those who will amount to nothing in the long run. We are expected to be forgotten, ignored, not even worthy of ending up in the gutter. But as we’re not losers or the winners, we have the chance... the right... to choose which group we end up as part of, do we not?
[A huge cheer.]
Nigel: These are dark days as the storm clouds gather around us... but never fear! I pledge that I, the Big N and your humble leader, shall see you safely through to a better human society AND its environment! The millennium dies more every second that passes, and undreamed-of opportunities are lying in wait for us. The field of endeavor is waiting for our ambition, our daring, our genius... We, the Bligh House, WILL GO ON!
[An even bigger cheer.]
Nigel: To symbolize our retaliation against the other Houses, friend Restal here [indicates Dave] will smash through the flimsy wall behind us – a pointless, hollow barrier that totally ruins the symmetry of this building. It is a useless obstacle and the only thing to do with useless obstacles is to smash nine colours of crap out of them, am I right?!
Nigel: [grins] Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii like it!
[Dave hefts up a huge mallet and swings it, slamming it into the aforementioned wall. It crumples under the impact. Another cheer. Dave grins and tries again. Nigel continues to rant.]
Nigel: This is only the glorious beginning, my poignant friends. From this moment, victory over the other Houses will be nothing more than a mere formality. We will rule this school – every room, every student, every teacher. And while I dare say there are those amongst you who are unhappy at the idea, who think it might be some kind of... bullying. Remember. There’s one of us and three of them. And they’ve had the same chances as we have had. If they can’t stand up to us, then why the hell SHOULDN’T we walk all over them?
[Dave smashes a small hole in the wall and struggles to heave the mallet free.]
Nigel: Will they retreat? Will they join forces against us? I don’t know. But it’s time that Bligh, like the racist fascist scumbag it was named after, makes it mark INDELIBLY! FOREVER! Let our new journey begin with a moment that will LIVE IN HISTORY ITSELF!
[Dave hurls himself back, pulling the mallet and tearing the flimsy wall apart... and revealing a mummified group of skeletons inside. They were clearly once decorators who somehow managed to entomb themselves, but such details are lost as Dave screams in horror... and so does everyone else.]
Dave: OMIGOD IT’S MARY WALKER!!!
Nigel: MARY WALKER?!
Crowd: MARRY WALKKKKERRR!!
[Some deep shit starts to occur. A painting (showing the full lyrics of the National Anthem) drops to the floor. Crackling noises fill the air. The lights start flickering. Dogs can be heard howling. A window cracks and shatters. Nigel looks around as a heavy slamming noise thuds through the entire classroom like a heartbeat. More windows shatter. The lights strobe. The lino-area with the sinks gurgle as all the taps spontaneously turn on, spraying water everywhere. The Bligh members start to freak out and run. The whole building trembles like an earthquake is happening.]
Dave: SCREW THIS!
[Dave runs for the ‘bars’ and smashes through them, only to crash into other students. The panic gets worse. A strong wind blows out of the gaping hole in the wall. Nigel is knocked over. Papers are sent everywhere. People are screaming. A bell is ringing. Light bulbs are burning out.]
Nigel: ALL FOR ONE! EACH MAN FOR HIMSELF! WOMEN AND ME FIRST!
[Nigel scrambles down the steps to join the throng as doors slam open and shut. The ceiling starts to crack and collapse. The exposed skeletons and mummery spontaneously burst into flames. Nigel casts a look back as fire belches out of the wall.]
Nigel: [idly] And yet... it makes so much more sense than cutting up apples...
[He turns and flees.]
[The playground is in utter chaos, as teachers try to hold back the fleeing students. More alarms are going off. The sound of emergency vehicles can be heard. The Bligh Headquarters are ablaze.]
[The Principal, soot-stained, bleeding and in an ambulance blanket, is being interviewed by a news team.]
Principal: Never in my 25 years as a school principal have I seen such mass hysteria! Three of the teachers have fled school property and refuse to answer the phone! Parents aren’t just pulling their kids out of this school, they’re moving house! The bushfires didn’t cause this much disruption! OH GOD! STOP PUNISHING ME FOR MY HUBRIS YOU OMNISCIENT BASTARD --
[A paramedic calmly chloroforms him unconscious. The reporter turns to face camera.]
Reporter: The total destruction of Noble Tillman Primary School has stunned the entire state. The Secretary for Public Education was on record as “It’s Hell out there,” as he locked himself in his executive washroom with a bottle of tranquilizer pills. Three doomsday cults have been formed within the last 20 hours believing this is a true herald of the apocalypse and dubbing their messiah “Nigel Walker the Antichrist.”
[The picture turns to a Renaissance-style painting of a strange demon monster with what is clearly Nigel’s head growing out of its backside, breathing fire.]
Reporter: Prime Minister John Howard has declared a statewide martial law and set up an inquiry...
[Pull out to see Nigel’s living room. Nigel’s parents, Bernice, Akiro, Kenji and Togi are all glaring at Nigel, who sits on the sofa, slightly awkward. Beside him, Jason is hugging his legs to his chest and gently bashing his head against his knee caps. Danny is strangely fascinated in a loose thread on the arm rest.]
Nigel's Dad: Well, Nigel. Are you satisfied with the result of your endeavors?
[Nigel thinks for a moment and then smoothly stands before them.]
Nigel: Yes, I do believe I am, actually, father. I attempted to reinforce the bond between students, precisely to prevent this kind of carnage from happening and what did I get: teachers all trying to get in the way and stop me at every point. If they had just given me carte blanche, I could have helped organized at least ONE house. But no. They knew better. And now the school is a smoking ruin. [hand on heart] I did my best. And, yeah, maybe that wasn’t good enough.
[He indicates his siblings.]
Nigel: But then, what did you three do to help school spirit? Remind me, exactly how did you help out when catastrophe struck? Or did you just run for your lives like everyone else? We sure as hell didn’t see any of you trying to stop the fire spreading to the central heating systems.
[Kenji and Akiro look slightly guilty. Bernice rolls her eyes.]
Nigel: Yeah, I failed to stop the entire school being destroyed. But at least I tried. I saw it coming and I did my best. Maybe, in some strange dream of history, I got a bit of support from my family, my teachers, my fellow students and there, maybe there, I stopped it all going to hell.
[Nigel’s Dad crosses over to him. He does not look pleased.]
Nigel's Dad: You are correct.
Nigel: [incredulous] Of course I’m correct.
Nigel's Dad: You show uncommon maturity, Nigel. Your reluctance to be truly one with the family has, it seems, been justified. You have been impeccable in your conduct during this crisis, and thus should receive a just reward. [looks at the others] It is clear you will be best served by attending a different high school to the one your brother and sisters will be going to.
Nigel & Bernice: [simultaneously] What?!
Nigel's Dad: It will be impractical to attempt enrolling all four of you into a new primary school for one last year. We shall arrange for your qualification exams to be taken this December and you will skip straight to Year Seven in the new year. Nigel will go a school where his improving schemes will be most needed, where he may truly forge his own identity without his siblings to hold him back.
[Nigel weakly half laughs, trying to say something, but seems to faint and falls back onto the sofa between Jason and Danny. His expression turns from disbelief to outright to confusion to depression to amusement and then he just sighs.]
Nigel: [weakly] Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii like it.
[He sags and slumps his head on Danny’s shoulder. Jason does likewise to Nigel, who shrugs him off.]
[Nigel’s room. Nigel and Danny are lying on the bed in opposite directions, heads level, looking up at the ceiling. Jason sits on the floor beside the bed, reading a newspaper with “MARY WALKER GHOST DECLARES WAR ON PUBLIC SCHOOLS” as a headline.]
Nigel: Well. I managed to totally blackmail the teachers.
Danny: Which is good.
Nigel: And turn the entire Bligh House into my own private army.
Danny: Which is also good.
Nigel: And I used the story of Mary freaking Walker to successfully terrify all the kids at school.
Danny: Which is frankly brilliant.
Nigel: And I also destroyed the school, burnt the rubble, salted the earth and poisoned the wells.
Danny: Freaking fantastic.
Nigel: And we don’t have to go to school for the rest of the year.
Danny: Onto biblical levels now.
Nigel: But now parents want me to skip a year and go to some backwards dump of a high school and as far away from Benny as it is humanly possible to get me.
Danny: I take it that’s not so good then?
Nigel: No. It isn’t.
Danny: We get nearly six months off school though.
Nigel: Which is, by definition, Made of Awesome.
Nigel: What are your parents going to do with you then?
Danny: Me? My sister Haley and her friend Kennedy are taking me for a big holiday. Wanna come with me?
Nigel: Where you off to?
Jason: [looks up] She sounds hot.
Nigel: [pained] Jason, please, stop trying to be cool. It’s just embarrassing.
[A car drives down a road in the Bush. Nigel, Danny and Jason are in the back. Jason is reading a guidebook to the area with seemingly genuine fascination.]
Nigel: So, why do they call it Hanging Rock, anyway? Did they execute people here or something?
Jason: It’s actually called Mount Diogenes and that was named by a guy called Robert
Hoddle in 1844, and the rock is really a mamelon...
Danny: [mocking] Re-really? A ma-melon y-you s-say?
Jason: A mamelon is when lava builds up into one big blob, which tightened into those pillar things.
Nigel: Big deal. There’s probably dozens of rocks like that.
Jason: There’s the Chamels Hump and Crozier’s Rocks, but they’re made of a kind of rock that can only be found in two or three other places in the whole world.
Danny: Yeah, but do those have a horse race track or a picnic area or a café? Do they have Recreation Reserves?
Jason: I dunno. I only got the guidebook for Hanging Rock.
Nigel: Which was a rip-off too.
Nigel: I mean it. We have to say to wander into a forest during daylight hours – for what? A few possums, wallabies and kookaburras?
Danny: And Hanging Rock.
[In the park, the trio approach a distinctive rock formation, with a boulder balanced on two others, making a kind of gateway.]
Nigel: Hanging rock. I was expecting something in any way interesting.
Nigel: Like a rock hanging from a rope or something similarly nifty – do I have to think of everything? Any other rocks here worth checking out?
Jason: Um, there’s the Colonnade, the Eagle and the UFO.
Danny: UFO? Where’s that?
Jason: Near the top I think.
Nigel: Well, let’s check it out.
Danny: Nige, the top’s a hundred metres straight up!
Danny: That’s like 700 metres above sea level!
Nigel: But we’re already 600 metres above sea level, so what’s the problem?
Jason: Oh, I know this one! [flips through pages] Ah, yeah... “The Wurundjeri nation avoids this plain as spirits are believed to live in such places.”
Nigel: Do you believe in spirits, Jason?
Jason: Uh... do you?
Nigel: Nope. Well, there was that demon babe in the Land of Gloom... but that’s different. She was Japanese. And the Japanese know what the hell they’re on about when it comes to spirits. But do the Aborigines?
[Jason looks at Nigel for a long moment.]
Jason: Well, you should know, Nige.
Nigel: Should I? [twigs] Oh yeah. Totally slipped my mind there. Let’s go.
Jason: I dunno, it looks a bit risky...
Nigel: Jason, did that guide book mention anyone dying here?
Jason: No... But what about that film with the school girls?
Nigel: The film is fiction, Jase. We’ve discussed this before. Fiiiiiiiiction. Besides, WE are not turn-of-the-century school girls.
Danny: I am.
Nigel: Apart from Danny. And she’s a completely different century-turning school girl.
Danny: [blushes] Thanks.
Nigel: Come on.
Danny: We better get the others though.
[Nigel rolls his eyes.]
[Nigel leads the way up the side of the hill, helping Danny who in turn helps out Jason.]
Nigel: [sings] ...into the valley like a bird absurd and I don’t remember what it was the old man said, I know he did it a thousand times before, so we strapped ourselves in and our chances and had a ride with brother who can be a BIRD MAN! Looking for the WASTELAND! Trying to get their FACE TANNED!
Jason: [tuneless] We’re beautiful, it’s beautiful, we’re flying in the valley of the birds...
[They reach a relatively flat area and pause for breath.]
Danny: So uh, what’s that film Jase was on about?
Nigel: Oh, some 1970s snuff flick. Three girls go to Hanging Rock for Valentine’s Day and disappear.
Nigel: That’s it.
Danny: What? But what happened to them?
Nigel: Never find out. Apparently we’re supposed to be more interested in some repressed school teachers freaking out instead.
Danny: Have you seen it?
Nigel: Who needs to see it? Watch enough TV and they show the one clip that’s interesting. Once you see that, the rest of the film is a waste of celluloid.
Danny: What happens in it?
Nigel: A fat little girl running down a hill. [blinks] Not as lame as it sounds. But not very good either. Freaky music though...
Jason: It’s a very important film apparently.
Nigel: ‘Apparently’! Some snobs and teachers decided that you should write essays about it! Doesn’t matter if the film’s any good, just as long as enough boring text books mention it. It’s all rubbish, Danny – a story without an end isn’t clever. If you want your audience to come up with their own twists, it goes to show you’re not clever enough to think up your own. “Ooh, write 600 words on what a torn corset might mean in the film!” And since there’s no answer, they can pass or flunk you at whim. You can’t prove what happened to them, can you?
Danny: So what do you think happened to them?
Nigel: Probably got some royalty payments and did another film.
Danny: The school girls I mean.
Nigel: Oh, the fictional characters? Well, they were a bunch of stupid English sexually-repressed bimbos in impractical clothing suffering heat stroke while climbing a mountain. What do YOU think happened? They fell through a pot hole or got eaten by Tasmanian Devils or something. The world’s better off without them, if you ask me. [sigh] You know, I just bet they make us do this for English at High School.
Jason: Oh, no.
Danny: Least I won’t have to do it.
Jason: Why not?
Danny: [frowns] Not sure. I just... get the sense... I won’t be going to High School.
Jason: You mean not till the year after next?
Nigel: Then what do you mean? You got blackmail on the Board of Education or something, Danny? [crosses to her] Cause, you know, if you are, I’m totally up for it. Jason! Fancy a PHD?
Jason: No thanks, Nige, I went before we started climbing.
[Nigel shakes his head in disgust.]
Nigel: You can hear the brain cells dying, can’t you? How far up are we anyway? Hang on, what’s the time, I want to know we’ve got enough time to get to the top...
Jason: [checks watch] Uh... it’s 2:30.
Nigel: Don’t be stupid, Jase. It was 2:30 when we started climbing.
Danny: My watch says 2:30 too.
Nigel: [checks] And mine.
Danny: They must have stopped.
Nigel: Mine’s digital.
Jason: It’s still stopped though.
Nigel: Yeah. Must be some kind of magnetic field or something.
Jason: So... we don’t know what the time is then?
Danny: Well, it’s not sunset yet. That gives us at least an hour.
Jason: I don’t like this.
Nigel: What do you mean? Jason, if there really WERE spirits on this heap of stone, and they REALLY could spirit people away, do you HONESTLY think there would be a thriving tourist trade here? Come on. Honestly. You two. Was there some great evil at school? No there wasn’t. And there were freaking skeletons in the freaking WALLS! But one hanging rock and suddenly you’re quivering in your Rebox.
[A long sinister pause.]
Nigel: Hang on. Where are you sisters, Danny?
Danny: Kennedy’s not my sister, she’s just a friend.
[They look around.]
Danny: They were right behind us.
Nigel: Yeah, thanks for that, Jase, but where are they NOW?
Jason: Oh man. Oh man, oh, man...
[Danny points past them, further up the mountain.]
Danny: There they are.
Nigel: Gimme strength. “The Great Evil of Hanging Rock”. As if.
[They set off, Nigel whistling a panpipe tune.]
Nigel: We decided one for all and all for one and when I do I really wanna go in style...
[The top of the plateau. A 2001-style monolith stands in the middle of the rocky plain. The trio reach the top and sway dizzily.]
Nigel: Whoa. I didn’t get this dizzy at Centrepoint Tower. And that was much higher. [rubs forehead] Must be the thin air... or... or something similarly easy to explain.
Jason: I feel tired. Do you feel tired? I feel tired.
Danny: I feel tired.
Nigel: Me too. [grins] Hey, check this out. [sings] And so without a sense of reason we exploded, like throwing stone into the GREAT UNKNOWN!
[Nigel picks up a small stone and throws it over the edge of the cliff. The three raise and then lower their heads to watch the stone fall. It stops falling. The rock is hovering in mid-air, frozen. Jason and Danny applaud, impressed.]
Danny: Neat trick, Nige.
Jason: I will never know how you managed that.
[Nigel stares at the frozen rock.]
Nigel: ...no. Nor me.
Danny: It’s like it’s stuck in time.
Nigel: Which is?
Jason: [checks watch] Uh, 2:30.
[Nigel clears his throat and leads the others from the edge.]
Nigel: You know, I hate to get all superstitious but suppose... JUST suppose... that maybe time and space aren’t quite working right here and right now.
Danny: What? Like Computer Flu?
Nigel: Yeah. I mean, the watches don’t work. The rock doesn’t fall. And just what is that thing anyway?
[They approach the monolith.]
Danny: Modern art?
Nigel: Or a lodestone.
Jason: What’s a lodestone?
Nigel: No idea, but I’m pretty certain they look like that. It’s like the Torii.
Jason: Who’s Torri?
Nigel: Never mind that now. And I say “now” fully aware that it’s kind of ironic with all that time space chaos bull-twang that’s going on. We should go back down the path.
Jason: I thought we were looking for the UFO rock.
Nigel: [indicates monolith] Jason, what else would you call that?
[While they are talking, Danny crosses over to the monolith and stares at.]
Jason: That’s not in the guidebook.
Nigel: Yes, which means your guidebook is crap, as I have been saying all day.
Jason: Some holiday this is turning out to be.
Nigel: Was it my choice to come to a lump of solidified magma for a vacation? A clue, Jason: no. It was Danny’s far-less-attractive sisters. Speaking of them, where are there?
[Nigel and Jason look around.]
Nigel: They can’t have gone back down the path. We would have seen them?
Jason: Maybe they fell off?
Nigel: So why can’t we see them? Besides, time’s frozen here, remember? Does no one watch Sapphire & Steel any more? [before Jason can speak] No, watching Absolutely Fabulous twice does NOT balance it out. Where the hell could those two be?
Danny: [distant] They must have gone on ahead.
Jason: Ahead? Ahead where. There’s nowhere to go but...
[Danny touches the monolith. It ripples as if made of liquid, changing into a monolith-shaped square of orange light. There is a sound of digeridoos, birdsong, indigenous chanting. Danny backs away, startled.]
Nigel: Oh great. Another gateway to hell. You can’t move in this country for tripping over them.
[Jason starts flipping through guide frantically.]
Jason: They must mention this thing somewhere!
Danny: They went through here.
Nigel: Who did?
Danny: They went on ahead.
Jason: W-where does that lead exactly?
Nigel: I think the expression “somewhere else” pretty much covers it. And judging what these gateways are like, I doubt they’re going to be back any time soon. [annoyed] Great! We’re going to have to catch a taxi to get home now – and if anyone is going to pay the fare, well it ain’t going to be me.
[Through the orange glow emerges a frill-neck lizard and a snake side by side. They stare up at Danny.]
Nigel: [to himself] Mind you, if time HAS stopped, the fare won’t be very high...
[Danny stares at the frill-neck lizard and the snake.]
Danny: Haley? Kennedy?
[She starts walking forward towards the monolith.]
Nigel: Danny? Danny? Come back! Danielle!
Jason: What’s she doing?
Nigel: A homage to Picnic at Hanging Rock apparently!
[Nigel runs ahead of her.]
Nigel: OK, enough of this time warp ancient Australia bollocks. I don’t expect much from my girlfriends, Danielle, but I DO expect them not to run through a gateway back to the Dream Time to be transformed into a Rainbow Serpent Groupie, all right? So, stop succumbing to natural Aussie magic, accept your sisters are lost forever, symbolically and morally and...
[In a trance, Danny walks past him and into the orange glow. The lizard and snake follow.]
[Nigel charges for the gateway, but it transforms back into a monolith and he slams into it, falling back onto the rock. Meanwhile, the stone in mid air drops. Instantly on his feet, he rushes over to the monolith and tries to beat it with his bare hands.]
Nigel: Danny! DANNNYYY!!!
[He sinks to his knees, beaten.]
Nigel: Oh, I bet Peter Weir is just LOVING this!
[A corner pub in the CBD called ‘The Mermaid & The Forge’ in the early evening. Nigel is sitting at the bar, knocking back a schooner of VB.]
Nigel: So. My first proper girlfriend... gone. And it wasn’t irreconcilable differences, it wasn’t cause she had to move, it wasn’t because she’d got dull and fat and ugly, cause... cause that would just be ridiculous. No, I had to lose the love of my love life, because of the freaking Dream Time! My girlfriend has gone on a permanent vacation to the creation myths of the Indigenous People of Australia!
[We see the barman is a Japanese teenage girl.]
Nigel: Riyoshi, would I make up crap like that?
Riyoshi: You’re the one who got Noble Tillman razed to the ground for a ghost story, right?
Nigel: Are you insinuininuating that this is somehow my fault?
Riyoshi: Nige, me? Never. I’m off shift in an hour. You wanna go for a ride with me, Owen and Jose?
Nigel: [sighs thoughtfully] I thought Jose was spending all his time at that law firm?
Riyoshi: Yeah, but things are getting thin on the ground, so he’s decided to drum up business.
Nigel: Oh? How?
[We see a scrawny Latino man in a white suit trying to force a coat hanger through the window of a locked car. A fat English guy in a sweater and jeans is leaning against the car, helping cover up the Latino’s activities from passers-by.]
Owen: Get on with it Jose.
Jose: I’m doing it as fast as I can!
Owen: You sure this is going to get you a promotion at Wolfram and Welcher?
Jose: Course I’m sure! Steal enough cars, we can get the owners to sue the police force for negligence. Slow but sure, this will build up into something epic. You mark my words, Owen, this will be...
[Jose manages to jerk the car door open and the alarm goes off.]
Owen: [tuts] Amateur.
[He holds up a car alarm beeper that has clearly been pulled apart and then put back together several times and then wrapped in duck tape. Part of the dashboard explodes and the alarm cuts out.]
Owen: Shall I drive?
Jose: Are you suggesting I don’t know how to drive?
Owen: Would you like the police to do that when they find your driver’s license doesn’t exist?
Jose: Sometimes I think I should hire Kenji to help me for this.
[Owen climbs into the car and starts to hotwire it.]
Owen: That kind of stupidity sums you up, Jose. Get in.
[Pub. Nigel sits in a corner, cradling a half-empty schooner. Numerous empty glasses litter the table in front of him. Bernice enters the pub and hurries over to him.]
Bernice: Nigel! There you are! Ryoshi rang home and told us you were here and, yeah, I know, I was the only one who came to check on you, but... what happened? One minute you’re off with Danielle to Victoria, then two days later you’re back in Sydney, in a pub, getting pissed out of your skull! You know, just because your step sister is the barmaid doesn’t mean you should allowed free drinks. You’re underage!
[Nigel nods slightly, as if agreeing with her, but still doesn’t speak.]
Bernice: Look... I know we haven’t been talking lately but... you’re still my brother. I still, you know, love you and everything. And maybe dad’s right about going to different schools. We haven’t been very good brothers and sisters, I guess. You got left alone for years. And then we let you get stabbed. And beaten up. And then we give you aggravation for fighting back.
[Nigel nods now and then, but remains silent.]
Bernice: I was just thinking... if it had been you that got pushed down by Magnus, I probably would’ve reacted like you did. Except worse. Remember when Uncle Satsuma had his nervous breakdown and tried to kill you? They said I managed to break his spine in three places. I mean, I did that to stop him hurting you. And he hadn’t even hurt you yet. I can’t imagine what I’d have done if he’d put YOU in hospital. So... I understand. OK? I really do. I don’t like it, but it’s one of those times when I’m stumped at what else anyone could have done. If there was another way, I sure as hell can’t see what it was. We cool?
[She reaches out and touches his arm. Nigel flinches.]
Nigel: What the... Benny?!
Bernice: [confused] Nigel?
[Nigel tugs a near-invisible ear piece from his other ear and peers over his shades.]
Nigel: Where did you spring from? I was just listening to Ryoshi’s new Jog-Person.
[A tinny version of Africa’s “Toto” can be heard.]
Nigel: Were you saying something?
Bernice: [sighs] Nothing important. [frowns] How much have you been drinking?
Nigel: This is only my third glass.
[Bernice looks at him.]
[Bernice continues to stare.]
Nigel: OK, this is only my third... since I decided I was only going to have one more.
Bernice: And how many did you have before you decided to “only have one more”?
[Nigel begins to answer, stops, frowns, thinks, then shrugs. Ryoshi approaches with her boyfriend, a hunky surfer type called Gav(in).]
Nigel: Hey! My second-favorite elder sister! Another one?
[She hands him a fresh glass which he drinks.]
Ryoshi: Bernice, it’s not real alcohol. It doesn’t matter how much he drinks, he’ll be sober in two hours.
[Nigel manages to down the entire glass in one go and then shudders.]
Bernice: It’s the two hours till then that I’m worried about.
[Jose and Owen enter.]
Owen: My, my, it seems something of a family reunion tonight.
Jose: [cheerful] Hey, Little B!
[He grabs Bernice and flings her onto his shoulder. She laughs.]
Bernice: Jose! Don’t!
Jose: You know you love it!
Owen: Let him play, Benny, it won’t be long before you leave him far behind in terms of intellect. [to Ryoshi] And just what are the Next Generation of the Yang Dynasty doing in a pub?
[Jose is making motorbike noises as he ‘rides’ around the pub. Bernice tries and fails not to love it.]
Bernice: The school burnt down!
Owen: This is hardly going to be an adequate replacement.
Ryoshi: I dunno. I’ve learned a lot here.
Owen: YOU are legal.
[Gav encircles his arms around Ryoshi’s waist.]
Gav: Only just – and that’s the way I like them.
Ryoshi: [affectionate] You disgust me.
Gav: In all the right ways.
Owen: [to Ryoshi] You haven’t answered my question.
Ryoshi: Look, Nigel dropped by. As far as I can make out, his girlfriend slipped him some LSD and then dumped him – in the middle of Victoria.
Owen: [taken aback] For your first relationship, Nigel, you have certainly ended it memorably.
Jose: Whoa! Nige, you should be careful. Last time a girl tried that, I lost a kidney!
Ryoshi: And Bernice dropped by to check on him.
Owen: Yes, well, much as I sympathize, my plans for a Friday Night didn’t include baby sitting lovelorn siblings. Jose, get them a taxi or something to take them home.
Nigel: I don’t wanna go home! Father’s giving me all sorts of aggro.
Jose: [finally putting Bernice down] About what?
Bernice: Nigel changed his name by deed poll.
Ryoshi, Jose & Owen: WHAT?
Nigel: [hiccups] To ‘Nigella J Verkoff’.
Ryoshi, Jose & Owen: DOUBLE WHAT?!
Owen: Well now. As ways to cut that pompous arrogant drongo down to size, I can think of none finer than his own tax dodge throwing off chains of emotional blackmail.
Bernice: You never changed YOUR name, Owen.
Owen: No. But it doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate true rebellion when I see it. You may be Aboriginal, Nigel, and you may be Japanese. But you are definitely an Australian. I think this calls for a celebration.
Bernice: What celebration?
Owen: A token gesture of support from his older brothers and sister.
Jose: You know what you need?
Nigel: [nods] A time machine, a butterfly net and a phrase book for Dream-Time Indigenous Chat-Up lines.
Jose: I was thinking about a drive.
Gav: Come on! The night is young! And so are we!
Owen: Your standards in boyfriends have not improved, Ryoshi.
Ryoshi: Neither have yours, Owen. Come on, Nige. You’re too young to get this maudlin.
Bernice: Nigel, I don’t think...
Owen: Benny, you are not invited. This is for adoptee Yangs only.
Bernice: Ryoshi isn’t adopted!
Ryoshi: But my boyfriend isn’t a Yang and I’m his plus one.
[Owen looks at Gav with distaste.]
Owen: We need a designated driver, I suppose.
Bernice: But how is a drive going to fix things?
Nigel: Yeah. How IS a drive going to fix things?
[Jose slams his hands on either side of Nigel’s face, drawing his head close.]
Jose: Truuuuuuuuuuust me.
[A long pause.]
Nigel: Ah, what the hell?
[A stolen car hurtles down a main street as it starts to rain. Gav is at the wheel, Owen is in the passenger seat, knocking back a can of beer. In the back, the now sleepy-drunk Nigel is squeezed between Ryoshi and Jose, who are drinking from beer bottles. More are at their feet. Nigel is the only one in a seat-belt – fastened by the others in a drunken haze, so his arms are pinned to his sides.]
Ryoshi: WE ARE ON FIRE!
Jose: Come on, Gavin, you’re driving like a Liberal backbencher!
Gav: [confused] Eh?
Owen: Slow, predictable and not worth the effort of watching!
[The others laugh. Nigel mumbles into Jose’s armpit.]
Nigel: I’ve worked out my new... plan for my life. You wanna hear it?
Jose: Oh, yeah, Nige, you lay it on your bros, man, lay it on! [louder] Oi! Nigel’s got a theory on life!
Owen: [amused] Doesn’t everyone? What is it?
Nigel: Life SUCKS!
[A ragged cheer.]
Nigel: NOTHING matters!
Nigel: Fuck it all! Let’s just PARTY!
Ryoshi: I am SO there!
Jose: Me too!
Owen: Enjoy it while it lasts, Nigella!
Ryoshi: [laughs] Hey, hey, slow down...
[Gav does so. Nigel peers at Ryoshi as she unzips her pants.]
[Outside, a stern-looking well-built man is heading for a TAB office. He notices the stolen car pull to a halt on the pavement beside him and the window lowers to show a naked arse being offered. Owen, Gav, Jose and Nigel can be heard laughing, but Ryoshi is laughing the loudest.]
Ryoshi: [sings] Gambling’s for fools but that’s the way I like it baby!
Owen: I don’t wanna live forever!
[The man stares at them in mute disgust for a moment.]
Psycho: And don’t forget the joker.
[Suddenly he pulls a gun from his coat. Even drunk, the hoons realize this is serious.]
Gav: Fair dinkum...
[Gav floors the accelerator and the car shrieks away as the man opens fire. The car hurtles around the corner and out of sight. In the back, Ryoshi falls over, pulling up her pants.]
Ryoshi: Who the hell was that guy?
Gav: And why’d he have a gun?
Nigel: [lost] Gun?
[Owen frowns and looks at his shoulder. Blood spreads through his clothes.]
Owen: [surprised] Shit! I’m bleeding!
[His eyes roll up in his head and he slumps. Gav screams like a girl. Thunder rumbles. The rain is really pouring down now.]
Gav: What the hell do we do now?
Jose: Ask Owen, he’s always got a plan!
Ryoshi: That’ll be the Owen who’s passed out? Wake up, Jose!
Gav: I repeat: WHAT THE HELL DO WE DO NOW?
Ryoshi: KEEP DRIVING!
[The car hurtles out of the city into the suburbs in the heavier rain. Soon two police cars are following it, sirens flashing and howling. Inside the stolen car, Ryoshi (still with her pants around her knees), manages to slam the passenger seat backwards, making Owen horizontal instead of vertical. He slams down on Jose, who cries out in agony.]
Ryoshi: One thing at a time!
[Nigel looks around blearily.]
Nigel: Mann.... this is just like... that Red Dwarf episode...
Jose: Owen’s losing a lot of blood!
Nigel: Which one’s...
Gav: We can’t go to a hospital, the cops are onto us!
Nigel: ...Duane Dibbley? [giggles] Duane Dibbley.
Ryoshi: Don’t panic, Jose!
Jose: I’M – NOT – PANICKING!!!
[Gav suddenly swerves the car. The change hurls Nigel against the belt, and he loses consciousness as the other three scream over the sound of shattering glass and silence.]
[Nigel’s eyes snap open and he looks around. The car has been dumped on the side of the road near a railway line, the engine still running. The others are gone, and there is blood everywhere. Rain pours in through the open windows. Nigel looks around in wild panic at the abrupt change.]
Nigel: Wha... Ryoshi? Owen? Ryoshi’s boyfriend? Hey? Way Jose? Anyone?
[Nigel is half afraid, half upset at being abandoned.]
Nigel: Jason? ANYONE?
[He manages to tear free and stumble out of the car into the rain. The sheer weight of it slams him down into the grass. He sobs and coughs and beats his head as if trying to get it to work. He sets off the discman in his pocket and his head is suddenly filled with music so loud he can barely think – Toto’s “Africa” skipping and jerking backwards. He can barely hear the approaching police siren.
Nigel scrambles through the grass and suddenly is falling into the gutter. Ahead, a large grating has been smashed loose, exposing the tunnel below. Water is trickling into it from all the rain. In blind desperation, Nigel crawls towards the hole and falls into it with a splash. The water and his discman react in sparks that leave him wide awake and in terrible pain, but the music has stopped. Rain and gutter water flows in through the hole above, pouring down on Nigel. Blinking and gasping, he crawls into the darkness and out of the shower. Dimly ahead, natural light can be seen – an outflow tunnel open to the air, the only way out.
Nigel, exhausted, struggles to move forward when this tunnel meets up with the outflow one. The rumble of water gets louder and louder as something hurtles down the outflow behind him. Nigel turns as a massive tide slams him against the tunnel wall. He opens his mouth in pain and gets a lung full of rain water as he’s dragged under the surface...]
[Fade to white. Nigel is floating in a white void. Ahead is one of the wharves at Circular Quay. Nigel ‘walks’ through the void to the wharf as a church bell rings in the distance. He looks at the departure sign “EXPRESS TO HELL: A GUARANTEED PLEASURE CRUISE”. Nigel arches an eyebrow at this. “DEPARTS: 12:00”. Nigel notices the ringing bell.
A Sydney ferry floats through the white void towards the wharf. The ramp is lowered. With a shrug, Nigel skips aboard. The ramp raises and the ferry hurtles off into the void, which rapidly turns black. On the brow, Nigel grips the rails, thoroughly exhilarated and looking happier than ever. He laughs.
The ferry is now hurtling through an underground cave system, and through arches of rock flames a burning. The Demon Babe waves at the ferry as it passes. Grinning, Nigel waves back. The ferry arrives at another wharf where Marilyn Monroe (smoking a cigarette) is looking sexy. She leads Nigel off the ferry and down the wharf to the narrow door to some speakeasy. A flashing neon sign says “ABANDON HOPE ALL YE WHO ENTER”. “Dancing In The Dark” can be heard playing within.
Nigel skips through. He is in a large night club. In one corner is JFK (with a headwound) chatting with the Goons. Nigel passes Mahatma Ghandi arm-wrestling Robert Kennedy and is offered a goblet from an Italian woman whose name tag reads “LUCRETIA BORGIA” with “MISS” written on it in texta. Nigel thanks her and sips the drink, grimaces, and drops it onto a pot-plant. The plant withers brown instantly. Nigel crosses to the bar where Jim Jones is handing out glasses filled from a tank marked Raspberry Fizz. Nigel knocks it back happily and moves onto the dance floor.
The band consists of Elvis, Roy Orbison, John Lennon and River Phoenix, with Mozart trying to snog one of the backing singers – Janis Joplin. Nigel mingles with the crowd, when he notices a staircase leading up to scaffolding over the band area. As if drawn, Nigel hurries up the steps and onto the gantry. He moves around, as if looking for something. Half-way across the gantry, he finds a free-standing door hovering in mid-air next to the gantry. With a shrug, Nigel climbs over the safety rail.
The crowd below cheer him on as he grabs the floating door and manages to open the door and climb inside, coming very close to falling on more than one occasion. Inside the door is a bedroom, with a grand bed facing the door. Sprawled across it in a pose is none other than Danielle in a slinky dress. Nigel is taken aback and cautiously approaches her. He leans in for a kiss. A pleasant flute tune begins.]
Andrew: [vo] Happy and I’m smiling! Walk a mile to drink your water!
[Nigel whirls around, hearing the noise and frowning. The dream-scape is broken. Nigel’s expression show he feels really weird.]
Andrew: [vo] You know that I love to love you and above you, there’s no other!
[Nigel looks at his hands as he fades away, evaporating. Danielle reaches for him, but he’s vanished before she can reach him. She stands up, looking mightily pissed off, hands on her hips. Fade to white.]
Andrew: [vo] Once I used to join in! Every boy and girl was my friend!
[Nigel’s head explodes out of the water, coughing and retching. He has emerged from the tunnel and somehow on the ground above is hauling him out of the water, while singing.]
Andrew: [vo] But now there’s revolution but they don’t know what they’re fighting!
Let’s close our eyes while outside the lies go on much faster...
[Nigel’s rescuer dumps him on the grass. It is Theo, but much older, dirtier and hairer. And quite possible even more insane. He is barely recognizable. He blows out his cheeks in relief and slumps down the gasping and retching Nigel.]
Andrew: Oh no, don’t give in, we’ll keep living in the past!
Nigel: [trying to breathe] You... bastard... I was enjoying that!
Andrew: Sorry, mate. It was an accident.
Nigel: [coughs] Accident?!
Andrew: It’s a reflex. I see someone drowning in an outflow tunnel and I try to save them. Can’t help myself. You really picked a stupid place to kill yourself. Just ANYONE could be wandering past with an irrational desire to save your life.
[Nigel manages to sit up.]
Nigel: Oh, shut up, will you? [burps] Oh god. I swallowed half of that... I think I need my stomach pumped! And worse I’m freaking SOBER now!
[Three figures with torches approach the duo.]
Nigel: How the hell could things POSSIBLY get any worse?
Andrew: [thoughtfully] Well... if I were to hazard a guess...
[Nigel finally looks up. They are surrounded by police officers.]
[A police cell. Nigel and Andrew are sitting next to each other in a cell, both looking filthy and miserable. Andrew is quietly humming the song to himself.]
Nigel: [sighs] And I suppose you’re going to blame ME for all this?
[Andrew slowly turns to look at him, then looks away again.]
Andrew: [after a long pause] Yes.