Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Fall of the Big N (iii)

[A David Jones style massive department store. A small stage has been erected facing the main entrance. A large crowd of people, mostly in formal dress, stand before as Nigel’s band play. The music is generally being enjoyed and a couple of pre-teens are dancing. Harry is on drums, Nigel, Tegan and Lucy vocals, Jason is playing bass (replacing Jadi) and looking surprisingly badass in a Sid Vicious sort of way.]

Nigel: I’ve seen the pictures, I read the stories now
All the good times in the days of old
You look around you, you see the legacy
Of all the empires that just went all wrong

Lucy: You look around you and what do you find?
Hollow visions that just went all wrong
No angry people? No decent, senseless crimes?
Life was simpler in the days of old!

All: Are these the Golden Years, oh won’t you tell me now?
Are these the Golden Years, oh won’t you tell me now?
Are these the Golden Years, oh won’t you tell me now?
We should be living them!

[The music that starts to die down.]

Nigel: Golden years, golden years, golden years... [louder] Thank you! Thank you very much!

[A little later. More people have arrived. We may not notice that one of them is a nun. The media are around. Nigel is being interviewed by a news reporter while sitting on stage with the others.]

Reporter: So will there be another album?

Nigel: You might think that but I couldn’t possibly comment.

[Nigel laughs. None of the others get it.]

Nigel: Seriously, it’s all up in the air. We’re needing to replace Jadi Morok on bass, but no one knows where he’s got to...

Tegan: Plus of course the anti-Mark-Latham songs we’ve been writing? All useless after that election.

Harry: So, it looks like we’re stuck doing cover versions for the foreseeable.

Reporter: And what about rumors that this is your last ever performance?

Nigel: Eh? Who’s saying that?

Harry: [shrugs] It’s our last performance as high school kids, maybe that’s what they’re on about?

Lucy: Yeah, we’re not going to split up until at least the HSC marks come out.

Reporter: OK. Thanks for that.

Tegan: No worries.

[The reporter and cameramen wander off. Nigel turns to Lucy.]

Nigel: [astonished] Say WHAT now?

Lucy: Come on, Nigella, you didn’t think I was going to be a glorified backing singer all my life, did you? I’m going to be a doctor.

Nigel: [hurt] Oh, well, as long as you wring money out of the sick and feeble, that’s all right is it? What about the rest of you? You all got non musical careers lined up as well?

Harry: [awkwardly] Well...

Nigel: Oh, shut up, Harry. Get ready for the next cover. [bitterly] Something appropriate. Like Stuck In The Middle With You or Tainted Love... [sulks] I bet Sid Vicious never had to put up with crap like this.

[Simone approaches. She makes eye contact with Jason, who nods.]

Nigel: Hey, babe.

Simone: Nige. [sighs] Guess you didn’t believe that postcard then.

Nigel: [indicates the others] That band of ungrateful scum-sucking biological disasters want to split up the band! I had enough trouble trying to replace Jadi, now I need a new keyboardist, bass player, lead singer... and drummer. [shouts] Mind you, a woodpecker in a tin can could hold better time! You make RINGO look talented, you tit.

[Harry flips him the finger.]

Simone: [serious] I think it’s time to say goodbye.

Nigel: Oh? I thought we had another set to play...

Simone: No. I mean, you and me. Us. To say goodbye to each other.

Nigel: [stares at her] You’re leaving.

Simone: Yes.

Nigel: ...and?

Simone: For good, I mean. We’re not going to see each other again.

Nigel: Get real, Simone. This is the age of broadband and social networking sites...

Simone: Look. It’s a big world out there. Sometimes you can just get lost in it and...

Nigel: What in the name of kangaroo buggery are you talking about?

Simone: Just... [trying not to get emotional] Goodbye.

Nigel: Wait a minute...

[But she’s gone. As she passes the nun, she slows down.]

Simone: He’s all yours.

[The nun gives a disturbing grin. At the front, the MC, a bald store manager, is addressing the crowd.]

MC: ...and to round off the evening, celebrating the new renovations, Yellow Fever And How To Cure It will play their final song together.

[The band begin to play. Nigel is a bit put out by Simone’s departure, but in a surprising moment of professionalism, concentrates on his (quite decent) performance. Note: the last word of each line is sung by the whole band.]

Nigel: Most people I know think that I’m CRAZY!
And I know, at times, I act a little HAZY!
But, if that’s my way, and you should KNOW IT
In every way, help me to SHOW IT!

[The nun is fiddling with a shape under a tarpaulin that’s clearly on wheels, inching it closer towards the stage, occasionally bumping past audience members.]

Nigel: For most of my life, I lived a DELUSION
Yes, material gain has caused me CONFUSION!
But, slowly in time, I learnt that my PLACE IS
To tell everyone I meet the glory that GOD IS!!!!

[The other band members stop playing and stare at Nigel in mute horror. A long pause]

Nigel: [shrugs] And that’s why
Most people I know think that I’m CRAZY!
And I know, at times, I act a little HAZY!
But, if that’s my way, and you should KNOW IT
In every way, help me to SHOW IT!

[The music dies down. The audience applaud.]

Nigel: Thank you! I’m Nigel Verkoff, that lot are Lucy Gou, Harry Hill, Jason Kane, Tegan Who’s Last Name Isn’t Jovanka But I Honestly Couldn’t Remember It. We WERE Yellow Fever and How To Cure It and that was our last performance, [shouts at band] YOU BUNCH OF FAT-FACED SNIVELING TRAITORS!

[The audience laughs, assuming this is some comedy routine.]

Nigel: [to audience] You lot aren’t helping!


[Silence falls. Everyone turns to face the Nun, who stands before the shrouded object.]

Nun: Look at me, Nigella!

[Nigel has no idea who she is.]

Nigel: Nope. Sorry. Got nothing. Who are you?

Nun: I’m just the poor bride of Christ whose heart you ripped out! I saw what you were doing with all those underage school girls, and THIS!

[She delves behind the shape and picks up a metal bucket, and then empties the contents over the floor – a heap of dead and smelly fish. The audience start to recoil and are making disgusted noises and jeering at Nigel. “You sicko” is shouted more than once. Jason has taken off his guitar, getting ready to run.]

Nigel: [smiling] Oh, this is one hell of a Chaser prank! Dude! This is good! This gonna be on CNNNNNNN?

Nun: This is no prank, you fucker!

[Everyone looks shocked at that.]

Nun: I swallowed your lies, you pervert! Now YOU can swallow THIS!

[She tears the tarpaulin off to reveal a store mannequin that has a blond wig, sunglasses and tight T-shirt, so it looks rather like Nigel. Except for all the wires and plastic explosives strapped to it. A large flashing digital display is on the front, counting down from 45 seconds. Immediately people are screaming and starting to run as the numbers tick down.]

Nun: [laughs insanely] You’ve got thirty two seconds to remember all the good times!

[The nun turns and runs off into the crowd struggling to flee the store. Nigel stares in shock as the bomb continues to tick to oblivion.]

[In Magnus’ limousine, Magnus is watching an in built television. The chaos can be seen, relaying from the live broadcast of the cameraman. He laughs.]

Magnus: That girl is wasted as a singing telegram, she really is.

[On the screen, the MC grabs the camera and shouts into it.]

MC: [hysterical] I’d just like to make it clear we in no way endorse Nigel Verkoff or his actions...

[In the store, chaos reigns. There are less than fifteen seconds left. The band are fleeing the stage and running for their lives. They are too far from the entrance, which is clogged with people trying to escape and the bomb is between them. Jason runs for the staff entrance to the level, shoves open the doors and ushers the others through. Nigel pauses on the threshold to look at the bomb. Ten seconds.]

Nigel: Man, I lead such an interesting life.

[He bolts through the doors.]

[A service corridor branching off in several directions. Jason and Nigel are at the lead.]

[The bomb ticks. Eight seconds.]

[Service corridor.]

Jason: Look after yourself, Nige.

Nigel: Like I do anything else...

[Jason suddenly stops running. Nigel, not noticing, keeps running down the corridor. Jason rushes back to the others and shoves them down a side corridor.]

Jason: Dead end! This way!

Tegan: What about Nigel?

Lucy: Come on!

[They run out of view down the side corridor, abandoning Nigel.]

[Five seconds.]

[Nigel sprints down a flight of steps. He slows slightly as he registers Jason, Lucy, Tegan and Harry have seemingly disappeared and he’s entirely on his own.]

[Two seconds.]

[Nigel is running down a bare and industrial concrete corridor, totally lost and alone.]

[One second. Zero. Nothing happens. The last few customers struggling to get out the door realize the bomb is a dud and then relax. A few laugh hysterically. Then the mannequin is engulfed in a brilliant white flash. By the time the roar of the explosion is heard, everyone is screaming as a howling tornado of heat and light levels the store and everything inside it. Windows shatter, pillars collapse, the ceiling comes crashing down and everything flares to white...]

[Nigel smashes through two fire doors and emerges into a back alleyway behind the shopping precinct. He staggers to a halt, bent double catching his breath.]

Nigel: Man! I can’t believe I got out of there alive! [sighs] Still, mum said there'd be days as bad as this...

Magnus: [VO] Oh, Nigel. Even if you live, you will see no better days than these.

[Nigel looks up sharply. Magnus emerges from the shadows, wearing a long coat.]

Magnus: Your career just perished live a few moments ago. You think anyone is going to want you now they’ve seen you sexually harass a nun into committing suicide and blowing up a department store?

Nigel: [cautious] Hey, Kyle Sandilands still has a career. Hello, Maggie.

Magnus: Hello, Nigel. You recognize me, then?

Nigel: Took me a moment with the premature baldness.

Magnus: [shrugs] Psychosomatic reaction.

Nigel: And I thought it might have been chemotherapy. What can I do you for? An autograph?

Magnus: Your autograph will only be worth something if it’s on a signed confession, Nigel. Your social standing? Kaput. I’m quietly confident your record company has dropped you like a hot brick, and don’t think any of your friends are coming to rescue you. Not that you had many left to start with.

Nigel: [laughs] This is some kind of revenge conspiracy thing?

Magnus: If you like.

Nigel: Planned for years, a budget of millions, an army of stooges?

Magnus: It’s working out cheaper than I expected, but basically correct.

Nigel: [calm] Magnus. I have but one thing to say to you. [beat] You seriously need to get laid.

[Nigel turns and sprints past Magnus, who makes no move to stop him, running up towards the loading bay. Three MIBs step out of the shadows ahead of him, silently barring his way. Nigel skids to a halt, turns and runs back the other direction, but two MIBs and the Sinister Woman are already waiting. He’s trapped.]

Magnus: [chuckling] No, no, no, Nigel! There’s no escape for you, I’m afraid. You’re going to die tonight and I am looking forward to the pleasure of being the one who kills you.

Nigel: I’m sensing a little hostility here, Maggie.

Magnus: You’re not taking this seriously.

Nigel: [icy] Don’t you remember what I did you the LAST time I took you seriously?

Magnus: Oh yes. Emergency blood transfusions. Anti-radiation treatment. Seven injections every day. Four in my arm, one just above the liver, one in my heart... and one in my throat. Every day. Every. Single. Day.

Nigel: And they all turned out to be a placebo. How you must have laughed.

Magnus: We have many scores to settle, you and I – and now’s the time to settle them.

Nigel: Oh, we’re not going to go through all this again are we? How many times do I have to apologize?

Magnus: You haven’t apologized once!

Nigel: [mock surprised] Haven’t I? Oh, that’ll probably be because I’m not sorry, you fuckwit!

Magnus: Oh, I feel greatly cheered having heard that, Nigel.

Nigel: Does this mean you’re not going to kill me?

[Magnus smiles and shakes his head.]

Nigel: And there you were, threatening to halfway surprise me for once. I guess—

[Suddenly, out of nowhere, Magnus slams his fist into Nigel’s face with a punch that slams him back against the wall, striking the ground hard. As Nigel struggles to get to his feet, Magnus punches him in the stomach, launching him straight back into the wall. As he bounces back a second time, Magnus takes Nigel’s arm and snaps it over his knee. Nigel screams in pain.]

Magnus: That’s good. That’s actually working for me, that is.

[He plucks the glasses off Nigel’s face, examines them, and then snaps them apart with his bare hands and throws them to the ground.]

Nigel: [sobbing in pain] You... you really don’t... don’t have self-control, do you?

Magnus: No. I’m too tired, too sick. All I’ve got the strength for is hating you. But it’s more than enough to do the job. And I’m going to see it through right to the bitter en—

[With his remaining arm, Nigel punches Magnus in the stomach, then again across the jaw. He flings himself over Magnus, driving him to the ground.]

Magnus: Get off me!

Nigel: Ask nicely, or I might take offense at this stupid vendetta of yours!

Magnus: [struggling] You’re dead already! Why not accept it!

Nigel: Oh, dear GOD you are pathetic! That’s all you’ve got left? Hating me? Is that all you want? Me dead? Russian diplomat’s child with an inheritance of millions and diplomatic immunity can’t find anything else to live for? [snorts] Cry me a river, bitch!

[The MIBs rush Nigel. One kicks him in the leg, causing Nigel to buckle and crash to the ground. One grabs his hair, pulls his head back and drives his fist into Nigel’s face. The Sinister Woman watches on as the second MIB slams Nigel’s head down against the ground. Magnus is getting to his feet.]

Magnus: Enough. Get him to the car.

[Magnus’ limo. Nigel lies sprawled on the floor. Magnus sits with his feet propped up on Nigel. The Sinister Woman sits beside him.]

Magnus: Nearly there. Almost over at last. Jadi, Dave, Phoebe, Jason and now for the finale.

[Magnus idly jabs the cigarette lighter in, then releases it. He gives it a critical look as it glows with heat, then absently stabs it into Nigel’s back. He screams, regaining consciousness.]

Nigel: WOW! Cleansing fire! Halleluyah!

[Smoke sizzles from between his shoulder blades.]

Nigel: Bit higher, Gabby! Oh, wait, sorry, I thought I was being tortured by someone I give a tinker’s cuss about! Trying be more unexpectedly cruel, if you can? Hah! There are brothels on Broadway I’d pay more to get this kinky crap – and better quality of service too! Bet you’ve never got a gushy orgasm with weak follow through like that, you sick tosser!

[Magnus angrily slams his feet down on Nigel’s shoulders.]

Nigel: [pained] You really are new at this, aren’t you? You can’t drown someone in pain if they can swim!

[Magnus kicks him repeatedly. Nigel slumps.]

Nigel: Mind you, my freestyle IS a bit rusty...

[He goes limp.]

Sinister Woman: [trying not to sound concerned] Sir, if you keep this up, he might die before we get there.

Magnus: I’m taking no chances.

[A corridor leading to a triangular room. The far wall, the longest, has a single door, closed at present. Magnus strides towards it, follows by his MIBs. Nigel is dazed, bloodied and in clear pain. His arms are tied behind his back with cable ties, as are his ankles. He needs to be carried into the room.]

Magnus: Here we are then, friend Verkoff. Not a cheerful place to die, but death isn’t often cheerful.

Nigel: [weakly] Speak... for yourself... Maggie.

Magnus: Save your breath.

Nigel: Why? You’re going to kill me, aren’t you?

Magnus: Duh. Of course I am. But I’m willing to give you a choice of how your life ends.

Nigel: A choice of how to die? Fine... [inhales deeply] Breathlessly with a naked Delta Goodrem and some whipped cream, please.

Magnus: Not one of the options available, I’m afraid.

Nigel: Heh... and you call yourself civilized...

[Magnus turns to Nigel. He is now carrying a very sharp carving knife.]

Magnus: Civilized? Me? When did I EVER say that?

Nigel: [unafraid] So what... are the options?

[Magnus gently strokes the knife over Nigel’s cheek.]

Magnus: Well, it’s either my way or the booby prize. And no, no actual boobies involved.

Nigel: What’s your way?

Magnus: My way? I’m glad you asked. What I intend to do is give you a teeny, tiny injection. Just a local anesthetic, nothing gratuitous, perfectly safe, clean needles and everything.

Nigel: So far so good.

Magnus: Then I chain your hands together, and loop them over THAT [points] hook so you end up dangling from the ceiling just above the floor. I haven’t done the measurements, but I’m still REASONABLY sure you won’t be more than a few centimeters above the floor. Might get achy after a while, but I’m sure the local anesthetic will take care of that.

Nigel: Then what?

Magnus: I’m SO glad you asked. Then I take THIS knife and cut you open from here...

[He places the tip of the knife at Nigel’s throat and then points it to his groin.]

Magnus: here. You won’t feel a thing, and you’ll be wide awake to see me remove your internal organs one by one, waving them up in your face until you die of blood loss, a hollow, empty shell of cold meat. [sighs happily] It sort of mirrors what you did to me, really.

Nigel: You’re not going to have sex with my corpse or anything, are you?

Magnus: [stares] Don’t be disgusting.

Nigel: Don’t pretend, Maggie. We all know this is frustrated homosexual longing on your part, you should have gone out during the Mardis Gras and got yourself laid by some blonde surfer type.

Magnus: Shut up!

Nigel: You’re not disagreeing with me, though, are you?

Magnus: No, I’m going to kill you! Make your choice!

Nigel: I’ll take the booby prize.

[Magnus grins.]

Magnus: [demonic whisper] Oh, god bless you, Nigel.

[He thrusts the knife at Nigel, then pulls it free – he’s cut the cable tie holding Nigel’s hands together. He does the same with Nigel’s feet.]

Magnus: Let him go.

[The MIB release Nigel, who stumbles and then collapses.]

Nigel: [in pain] So... what’s the booby prize?

Magnus: This is. Can’t you tell where we are, Nigel? [indicates] This is the home of the Jekka Tatvi, well, since it was abandoned after 911 so the funds could be diverted into the war of terror. This is the site of your greatest triumph.

Nigel: [coughs] No, I think you’ll find that was back at high school involving a truly disturbing amount of pubescent girls. I never gave this place a second thought.

[Annoyed, Magnus crouches down to hiss in Nigel’s face.]

Magnus: Then it will just have to remain the site of your ultimate defeat.

[Nigel gives him an odd look.]

Nigel: It’s a bit over-the-top-with-Jim, isn’t it? Talk about melodramatic...

Magnus: Perhaps. [rises] This is the maze level, slightly modified to become the borderland between life and death.

Nigel: Loaded with deadly traps, I suppose?

Magnus: You’ll find out. This is a place where everything is determined and inevitable. You know, I wasn’t quite sure what to call it. Labyrinthian Murder Machine sprung to mind.

Nigel: [rolls eyes] It’s Labyrinthine, not Labyrinthian.

Magnus: Whatever. The “Murder Machine” bit is completely accurate.

Nigel: Meh. I’ve got out of worse.

Magnus: No. You haven’t. And you never will. You know, I am really interested in what you’ll look like when this is over.

Nigel: Your envy of my good looks is entirely understandable.

Magnus: Show him his reflection.

[The Sinister Woman holds a circular mirror, letting Nigel see his battered face.]

Nigel: Ah. Point. I suppose I won’t live long enough for bruises and cuts to heal? This is lame.

Magnus: This is death. Your death. Get him up.

[The MIBs drag Nigel to his feet. The door slides up, and Magnus steps through. The MIBs shove Nigel to the doorway. He stumbles, nearly falls, then with sudden speed and agility, turns and runs for freedom. The Sinister Woman grabs his arm and, grimacing, twists him around. Nigel cries out in pain.]

Nigel: All right! ALL RIGHT!

[The Sinister Woman turns him and shoves him violently through the door. Nigel howls.]

Nigel: AGH! Did you just stab me or something?

[The Sinister Woman doesn’t say anything. Nigel is lying inside the maze, with corridors twisting away in all directions at sharp right angles. Magnus is looking around idly.]

Nigel: What did she just do to me?

Magnus: Oh, nothing, nothing. Compared to what I’m going to do to you.

Nigel: [grins sickly] You SO want to shag me, don’t you?

Magnus: [smiles back] In a few minutes, Nigel Verkoff, having sex with you will not only be necrophilia, it will also be a highly inadvisable health hazard.

Nigel: That’s what all the ugly girls say. So what? [struggles to rise] There a minotaur in here or what?

Magnus: Oh no. The booby prize means I do to you what you did to me. With a few TINY adjustments.

[Nigel looks at him, but doesn’t say anything, his bravado starting to falter.]

Magnus: Instead of a shed, it’s a maze. And instead of a blue light bulb, we have some GENUINE plutonium. Oh yeah, Nigel, this is the real deal – as befits the Big N.

[Magnus points to the door.]

Magnus: In precisely one minute after the door closes, the maze will be flooded with a lethal dose of radiation which will alter ionize every drop of water in your body, changing the molecules until it stops being water and turns into.. well, some other chemical. HO, rather than H2O. Hydrogen peroxide I think it’s called.

Nigel: [quiet] Doesn’t sound too bad.

Magnus: You’ll be surprised. Water is the most basic part of life, even at the cellular level. That’s eighty per cent of your entire body ruined like that [snaps fingers]. Your body can’t do its normal thing, it can’t even process some genuine water you might take in later.

Nigel: So I’ll die.

Magnus: More than that, you’ll fall apart – from the inside out – in a massive chemical breakdown.

Nigel: Unless I get out of the maze in time.

Magnus: Which is impossible.

Nigel: Is it?

Magnus: [grins] I’m betting your life on it. Of course, there’s an exit, and, yes, if you clear the maze in time you will escape with your life. But by the time you get there, you’ll probably be microwaved. And we get to watch your rapid and agonizing demise on glorious hi-definition plasma display!

Nigel: So what’s the twist?

Magnus: What makes you think there’s a twist?

Nigel: Unlike you, I have an imagination.

[Magnus shrugs.]

Magnus: There’s a door. But it might be locked. Of course, I could be lying.

Nigel: So you want to see me to die trying to get to a door that I won’t be open?

Magnus: Or I might be wanting to see you lay down and die even though there’s a genuine escape route on offer.

Nigel: You really missed your calling, Maggie. Reality TV creator.

Magnus: [shakes head] You’re still joking and posturing. Don’t you understand this? You are going to die. You do not get to see the sun rise again. You stop. You cease to exist. Your life ends HERE and NOW.

Nigel: Yeah. But at least I have a life to end.

Magnus: What?

Nigel: [shakes head] Honestly, Maggie. Is this all you’ve got in your miserable existence? Revenge? What happens when I’m gone? What the hell are you going to do then? You’ve got nothing else, do you? No friends, no family, nothing. Six years since we last met. And what have you done in them? Me? I only passed the HSC, lost my virginity, had sex a truly impressive amount of times, became a celebrity, got a rock band, oh, hell, I even delivered three babies. From a girl I banged. You can kill me, but you can’t stop my brief life being made of awesome and forged in the fires of Mount Coolio. You wasted your life, Magnus, and that’s a hell of a lot nastier than anything I tried to do to you.

[He pushes himself from the wall.]

Nigel: Go on then. Get out of here. I’ve got an appointment with the afterlife and YOU are not invited.

Magnus: [softly] I’m impressed.

[He turns to leave when suddenly the door slams down over the exit, trapping Nigel and Magnus in the maze. There are hydraulic hisses and servos whirring – the door is closed for good. A regular ticking begins to crackle in the background.]

Magnus: [stunned] No... no, this isn’t how it’s supposed to be... I... I don’t understand!

Nigel: [trying to stay calm] I take it this isn’t part of your plan?

[Magnus runs to the door and thumps his fists against it, shouting angrily.]

Magnus: Gracelands, you fool, let me out of here! Open the door this instant! Instantly, do you hear? The countdown will have started by now!

[Nigel laughs painfully.]

Nigel: I’ll take that as a ‘no’ then.

Magnus: Release me! I am your employer and I command you to OPEN THIS DOOR! LET ME OUT!

[Magnus kicks the door furiously, to no avail.]

Magnus: Cretins! Morons! Idiots! Halfwits! Imbeciles! You do NOT have the WILL to oppose me!

[A long silence.]


[He rounds on Nigel.]

Magnus: YOU! You’ve brought this down upon me!

Nigel: [laughs painfully] You’re far too modest. This was all you, Maggie.

[Suddenly, the ticking stops. The lights start to pulse blood red, on and off. Gradually build up Toto’s “Africa” in the background. Magnus looks around slowly, terrified.]

Magnus: [numbly] It’s started... and we’re finished!

Nigel: Is the other door unlocked?

[He grabs Magnus by the scruff of his neck.]


Magnus: [dazed] Yes... b-but it’s at the other end of the maze... we can’t get there in time!

Nigel: Who’s “we”, pale face?

[Disgusted, Nigel releases Magnus and looks around for which route to take. Magnus is hyperventilating with fear now, as if each red flash is causing him physical pain.]

Magnus: [groans] The radiation will ravage your body long before you get there! It’s stealing our lives right this second! [sobbing laugh] Glorious, isn’t it! We die together, and it ends in a draw... And I always thought you’d win... Any last words, Nigel?

Nigel: [glares] Time’s running out. You think I’m going to waste my breath on you?

[Nigel turns, placing his left hand against the corridor wall. He then runs off, keeping his hand touching the wall as it twists and turns. After a few moments he is out of sight. Bring up the music as, realizing he’s alone, Magnus starts to beat his fists against the door to no avail.]

[Nigel continues his way through the maze, trying to control his frustration as he has to double back over several dead ends, but he dare not break contact with the wall – he has to keep following it until he finally ends up at the exit. He picks up some more speed.]

[Magnus continues to scream and batter the door. He’s starting to sweat with panic.]

[Nigel runs around a corner and heads into a side corridor taking him entirely the wrong direction. He tries to keep his temper, but he’s rapidly tiring and getting slower.]

[Magnus slowly slides to his knees, still sobbing and beating at the door.]

[Nigel is struggling to keep a brisk pace now. The maze opens up a lot. He’s visibly tempted to break the pattern, but nevertheless continues to follow the wall as he lingers, getting nowhere.]

[Magnus struggles to bang on the door, but loses the strength. His arms fall to his sides.]

Magnus: Oh... my head... hurts...

[Nigel is walking with difficulty. His breathing is heavy.]

Nigel: [hoarse] Dying’s bad enough. Do I have to have a stomach ache as well?

[He coughs nastily, as the corridor seems to spin around him. Shaking his head to clear his gaze, he manages to climb around a corner, his vision blurs again. With a groan he falls down. He struggles back to his feet and stumbles on.]

[The hyperventilating Magnus is still slumped by the door, shaking his head as if trying to stay awake.]

Magnus: It’s... not... fair...

[The maze spins around him faster and faster. Eyes peeled back in terror, Magnus’ mouth opens in a silent scream and he noiselessly falls back onto the floor, clutching at his chest, then goes limp. His sightless eyes stare blindly up at the ceiling.]

[Further in the maze, Nigel has fallen to the ground. Dripping with sweat, he painfully crawls forward. Ahead is another doorway, just out of reach. Nigel struggles one last inch, then slumps. His eyelids flutter. Everything is going dark. The music rapidly fades out.]

Nigel: [sighs] Oh well... could’ve... been... worse...

[His eyelids close and he lies still on the floor, right in front of the door. The red lights continue to pulse in the silence. A long pause. Nigel doesn’t move.]


Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Fall of the Big N (ii)

[The door to Benny’s place is slammed open by a knackered-looking Nigel. Gabby follows him in.]

Nigel: [groans] Oh god, what a horrible experience that was. My brain feels like it’s been ripped out, dipped in lemon juice and then jammed back in the wrong way round.

Gabby: Yeah, I get that sometimes.

[They enter the kitchen. It’s a bit messy and deserted.]

Nigel: Oh, just typical. Benny said she’d be back before 3! Is washing up suddenly only my job?

[Gabby idly picks up some discarded clothing off the table and folds it neatly.]

Gabby: No, you make Maddog do it...

Nigel: Not now, Gabby, I’m being filled with righteous indignation and... hang on. [points] That’s her bag. She’s home, so where is she?

Gabby: Maybe she went straight to bed?

Nigel: [concerned] At 2 in the afternoon? I hope she’s not sick.

Gabby: [worried] Well, the first thing she did when she came home was take off all her clothes...

Nigel: [worried] She must have a fever! Cryptosperidium! “Boil the water!” How many times do I have to say it, huh? How many times?

[Nigel hurries into the hallway. Gabby picks up a pair of trousers keen-eyed viewers would recognize as Ari’s. She frowns.]

Gabby: Ari must have caught it off her too...

[There is the sound of a door opening, and very loud, lustful bonking taking place. Then the door closes. Nigel returns, looking more tired and depressed than before.]

Nigel: Well. THAT was over a decade of hard work down the drain.

Gabby: Oh. She and Ari are doing the mummy-and-daddy-dance, are they?

Nigel: [sighs] If you mean “are they screwing like rabbits on Viagra” then, yes, Gabrielle, they are. Honestly. They’ve just had to do an English exam and now they’re banging like dunny doors in cyclones? Did they find that stupid David Malouf some kind of aphrodisiac or something?

Gabby: I dunno. You know how, if you just nearly die, you wanna get lucky?

Nigel: [nods absently] “Glad To Be Alive Sex”.

Gabby: [shrugs] Maybe that’s it.

Nigel: What? “Glad To Have Done An Essay On Sexism In Communist China Sex”?

Gabby: Why not?

Nigel: Why not? They shouldn’t be inserting various body parts into each other, they should be revising, recuperating, focusing their energies for tomorrow which, in case no one else remembers, we all have ANOTHER exam. But no. It’s contemptible, Gabby. UTTERLY CONTEMPTIBLE.

[He folds his arms, huffing. A pause.]

Gabby: You wanna...?

Nigel: [no hesitation] Yeah, might as well.

[They head for Nigel’s room.]

Nigel: Don’t bother with the wig and accent this time, it’ll just be unrealistic...

Gabby: Gotcha.

[Caption: THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW. Outside the school. Dave is babbling.]

Dave: Look, you have absolutely no right to do this to me! I am an Australian citizen, dammit! I have rights!

[We pull out to see Katy, Harry and Tegan are holding him back. Andrew is opening a bottle of VB.]

Andrew: You’ll thank me for this one day, Restal.

Dave: No I damn well won’t! I’ll curse you for all eternity! Your blood will turn to ice and you’ll be dead within the week! DON’T YOU BLOODY DARE...

[Andrew drains the entire bottle in one go.]

Andrew: Word of advice, Dave. Never dare me. Can never resist a challenge.

[He cracks open another bottle and starts drinking.]

Dave: Hey, those are mine! I paid for those!

[Still drinking, Andrew pulls out a fistful of notes and stuffs them in Dave’s coat pocket.]

Dave:, no, no!

Katy: Dave. Seriously. You’re gonna flunk everything if you keep getting wasted.

Dave: At least I have an excuse! I can pretend I might have passed if I was sober...

Tegan: Well, you are sober. So now you will.

Dave: Oh, don’t give me that.

[Andrew finishes the bottle and drinks another one.]

Dave: No one’s going to pass this! Or if they do, it won’t matter, anyway...

Harry: So if it doesn’t matter, why do you want to be drunk?

[A beat.]

Dave: This is so unfair. About to do 2 Unit Maths and you’re asking deep philosophical conundrums!

Andrew: [opens a new bottle] Good thing you’re not drunk, otherwise you wouldn’t have a chance...

Tegan: [frowns] Um, Maddog...

Andrew: Andrew.

Tegan: Andrew. Are you really going to drink all of those?

Andrew: [finishes bottle] Waste of good beer otherwise.

Katy: But YOU’RE going to be completely drunk and fail the exam.

Andrew: [serenely] Katikins, trust me. I have a plan.

[Gymnasium. Andrew sits slumped at his table, peering blearily at his test, barely conscious. Everyone except him is already working away at their answer booklets, tapping away at their calculators.]

Andrew: [slurred] ...maybe half a plan.

[He stares at the question. It blurs in and out of focus. Andrew grabs his left eyelids with his hands and forces them wide open. It doesn’t help. The question sits before him. And he has absolutely no idea how to solve it. He rolls his head around, looking around the gym for inspiration. There is none. He lets his head hang forward in defeat.]

Andrew: [increasing volume] Hey. Hey! HEY! HEYYY!!!!

[Suddenly Andrew leaps from his seat and sprint for the exit.]


[He wrenches open his bag, pulls out a text book and runs back to his table as everyone watches him in amazement.]


[He starts to check the textbook and starts writing the answers.]


[He stops abruptly.]

Andrew: ...FINGER!!!

[The examiner rushes over as Andrew continues to very blatantly cheat in front of everyone.]

Andrew: [tapping out at calculator] AND IF YOU LISTEN VERY HARD!

[The examiner tries to grab the text book, but Andrew slams his arm down over it, pinning it to the table as he continues to write.]


[The examiner tries to haul it free, but Andrew continues to hold it down, managing to flip over the answer booklet so he can write on the other side.]


[The examiner dives behind Andrew, wraps his arms around the chair and bodily drags him away from the table. Andrew struggles but is finally torn free.]


[Andrew tries to escape the chair and finally manages it with a horrible ripping noise, as his jeans are torn from his legs as the examiner tried to cling onto them. A gasp from the others, as Andrew is now wearing a singlet and his undies. He arches an eyebrow at the others.]

Andrew: Don’t you people have something better to do?

[Later. The bell rings. The students are leaving. On the stage area, Andrew sits, regarding his ruined jeans sadly. The examiner stands before him, a huge stack of answer booklets on the table. Andrew’s answer booklet sits beside the stack.]

Andrew: You ruined my jeans. I demand compensation! Can you sew?

Examiner: You think this is some kind of joke?

Andrew: No way, I’m completely serious. I love these jeans!

Examiner: You have ruined this exam and clearly cheated. You should be disqualified from the HSC altogether!

[Andrew glares at him.]

Andrew: Do you know who I am?

Examiner: What?

Andrew: Seriously. Do you have ANY idea who you’re talking to?

Examiner: [annoyed] No, I don’t! And I don’t care who you are!

Andrew: You don’t even know my name?

Examiner: No!

Andrew: [psycho grin] Oh, GOOOD!

[Andrew suddenly flings out an arm and smacks the pile of answer booklets, and they cascade in a tide across the table and onto the floor. Andrew’s booklet is lost in the heap.]

Andrew: Means you won’t know which is mine, then, doesn’t it?

[Smiling, Andrew gathers his jeans, bounces to his feet and hops away. The examiner stares at the pile of papers, a lost expression on his face.]

[Outside the school. Nigel, Gabby and Jason are heading for the car-park.]

Nigel: Maddog by name, mad dog by nature. Thank god I don’t have any more subjects with that loser. He can’t ruin any more exams for me... Speaking of losers, where were you yesterday Jase?

Jason: Mmm. Oh, nowhere.

Nigel: [frowns] “Nowhere, my liege.”

Jason: [annoyed] No. Where. My. Liege.

Nigel: Better. [takes out mobile] You seen Betty lately?

Jason: No, my liege.

[Nigel unlocks Wynona, dialing a number.]

[Betty’s bedroom. She’s lying on her bed, hands behind her head, glaring up at the ceiling. “Ready to Go” blares from a CD player. Her mobile rings. Seeing “NIGEL V” displayed on the screen, she blocks the call and returns to frowning at the roof.]

[Nigel joins the others inside his car.]

Nigel: She’s screening her calls! The bitch! What’s brought that on?

Gabby: Maybe she wants to concentrate on revising?

Nigel: Betty couldn’t revise her opinion, let alone HSC texts. Why is she blanking me?!

Jason: Well, you WERE really horrible to her the last week of school...

Nigel: Yes, and she plastered 200 offensive images of me all across the front of the school and then poisoned me! Three days I spent throwing up... She’s still bearing a grudge?

Gabby: Why did you want to ring her?

Nigel: Oh, I thought I could get her to join Yellow Fever and How To Cure It. Jadi’s missing and we need a bass player stat.

Gabby: I didn’t know Betty could play bass.

Nigel: She can’t. But then, neither could Jadi...

[Jason gives a creepy smile.]

Jason: I could do it, my liege.

Nigel: You? I thought you hated music, Jase.

Jason: [creepily fawning] But I am always willing to help, my liege. To be your confidante. Your supporter. Your principal betrayer.

[Nigel is fiddling with his phone and not paying him full attention.]

Nigel: Cymbal player? No, Harry’s doing the percussion. But I suppose if I can’t get Bets involved then... [phone is answered] Hello? Simone? Hi, the Big N here. Last exam on Friday, and Yellow Fever has got a gig at that new place off Castlereigh Street for the grand unveiling...

[The boardroom. Simone’s phone is plugged into a speaker. We zoom out to see Simone and Magnus are present, as is the Sinister Woman.]

Nigel: [vo] ... not as epic as I’d like for the last ever day of school, but needs must as the crow flies and all that bollocks. Things are so desperate it looks like Jase will be on base... hey, that rhymes... Anyway. You up for it? There’s going to be rivers of booze and at least one hunky shop assistant you can entwine in your thighs before midnight?

Simone: [quietly] I’ll think about it.

Nigel: [vo] Oh, I’m sure you will, you dirty girl! See you on Friday, babe! Ciao.

[Magnus reaches out and switches off the phone.]

Magnus: Oh Nigel, how relentlessly predictable. And with not one but two of his allies against him, I think we’ll make Friday night Nigel’s... farewell performance.

Simone: From the music industry?

[Magnus stares at her, confused at her lack of understanding.]

Magnus: From life itself.

[Caption: FRIDAY AFTERNOON. The school bell rings. A smaller number of students than before leave the gymnasium, as this is the last exam for specific classes. Nigel heads straight for the carpark without so much as glancing at any of the others. Katy sits on the wall, waiting to get a lift from her mum. She looks up as Nigel passes.]

Katy: Not going to say goodbye to anyone, then?

Nigel: [briskly] Places to go, people to see, things to do. That lot will be fine, get jobs somewhere, live our their boring and tedious lives and no doubt our paths will cross again. Not everyone can live the incredibly exciting and incandescent life I lead, after all.

Katy: Certainly not with the same amount of modesty.

[Nigel unlocks Wynona and climbs inside.]

Nigel: I could lie and say I’ll miss you, Pettanko, but we both know there was never anything to miss.

[Katy self-consciously folds her arms.]

Katy: Nice to know you’re not superficial, Nigel.

Nigel: Be fair, January. I might have looked past that if you had a nice personality, but...

[He laughs cruelly, starts the car and roars off.]

Katy: [mutters] Jerk. I’m not insecure. And if I was it’d take more than him to make me insecure. [sighs] And while I’m in denial I might as well ask for a pony that jump rainbows...

[Simone is driving down a suburban road. She turns left into the street where Benny lives. Andrew is in the park, throwing textbooks like Frisbees for his dog to catch. Simone parks outside Benny’s place, gets out of the car, shoves something into the letter box and then dives into the car and drives off. Andrew watches her go. Then he shrugs and goes back to playing with his dog.]

[Nigel is walking down a different street. He stops at a house and rings the doorbell. A few moments later, the door opens. It’s Betty. She takes one look at Nigel and then slams the door in his face.]

Nigel: Aw, come on!

[Nigel rings the doorbell again.]

Nigel: Betty!

Betty: [vo] Go away!

Nigel: I’m here to apologize!

Betty: [vo] Not interested!

Nigel: In an Aborigine apologizing? Don’t you get the irony?!

Betty: [vo] I don’t want to talk to you!

Nigel: Why not?

[Betty opens the door and peers around the edge.]

Betty: Because you’re a mean, selfish, paranoid tosser who cares about no one except yourself and you’ve been bullying me and Jason since day freaking one!

Nigel: Am I bullying you now?

Betty: You want something.

Nigel: Yeah. To apologize. Come on, Bets, it was the last week of school. I was tense. I didn’t mean to shout at you... OK, I did. But if I’d realized it would upset you like this... Sorry, babe.

Betty: Apology NOT accepted.

Nigel: Why not?!

Betty: It’s just a game you’re playing with me...

Nigel: No game, girl. Look, Betty, you want honesty here? Fine. You’re a naive, gullible, easily-pleased girl who’s just slightly too overweight to look normal and you are, without doubt, the worst shag I have ever had in my entire life. You could convert guys to being gay, simply by your empty-headed animalistic stupidity suggesting your parents are a wombat and an ancient Greek God!

[The door opens and Betty promptly punches Nigel on the jaw, flooring him.]


Nigel: [spits blood] Because I like you. You’re my friend. And it doesn’t matter if your IQ isn’t in triple figures, or if pandas master foreplay better than you. You’re a good person. I’ve been alive for sixteen years, give or take. I haven’t met many good people. Even fewer were my friends.

[He gets to his feet.]

Nigel: So, when my one friend who is a good person is upset, I HAVE to apologize. So agendas, Bets. I’m not after anything from you except being mates. And if you don’t want to, then, well... my bad.

[A pause.]

Betty: [quiet] We had some good times, didn’t we, Nige?

Nigel: Of course we did. Do you need to be reminded of them or something? Yellow Fever are doing a concert tonight. You don’t HAVE to turn up. But I’d like you to.

Betty: Kinda busy.

Nigel: OK.

Betty: You believe me, then?

Nigel: [sighs] It’s so long since I trusted someone.

Betty: I do it all the time.

Nigel: I don’t recommend it.

Betty: But you trust me?

Nigel: Never said I was perfect. Just EXTRAORDINARILY close to it.

[They laugh.]

Nigel: You’re definitely not coming?

Betty: Is that an invitation?

Nigel: Actually, it was a question.

Betty: No. I think you’ll be all right without me.

Nigel: Full of possibilities?

Betty: [smiles] Full of something. See you round.

Nigel: Bye, Elizabeth.

[He kisses her gently on the cheek, then turns and walks off. Betty watches him go.]

Betty: [calls after him] Hey, I didn’t say I accepted the apology.

Nigel: [over his shoulder] How many times do I have to say sorry?

Betty: I’ll let you know!

[He laughs, waves goodbye, and climbs into Wynona.]

[Boardroom. Magnus is watching a clock on the wall.]

Magnus: Not long now. Not long...

[Nigel parks Wynona outside Benny’s place. He enters the house.]

[Benny’s kitchen. A pop as Ari opens a bottle of champagne and pours it into some glasses. The kitchen is full of his friends, and some girlfriends of Benny, who is talking animatedly on the house phone. Gabby leans against the fridge, frowning and reading Simone’s postcard.]

Benny: [into phone] I know! Mum, I... well, surely you can come back before Christmas? But we can’t do it without you! And we’ve got to get everyone together...

[Nigel enters, mildly surprised at all the people and the party atmosphere. He takes a glass of champagne and turns to Gabby, while smiling and nodding at a few of the guests.]

Nigel: Bit formal for a post-HSC party, isn’t it?

Gabby: [worried] It isn’t about the HSC, it’s an engagement party.

Nigel: Engagement? But who...?

[He sees that Ari is getting a pat on the back from a couple of his mates. And then the expensive-looking ring around Benny’s finger as she talks on the phone. The life seems to drain out of Nigel quietly.]

Nigel: Benny.

[Ari approaches.]

Ari: Hey, it’s the future-brother-in-law! How was your exam for Business Studies?

Nigel: [absently] Pure bliss in comparison. [stares at him] You’re marrying Beriniko?

Ari: [grins] I have that IMMENSE honor, Nigel. Hey [sotto] you want to be the best man?

Nigel: [offended] WANT to be the Best Man? I’m a better man than YOU, ya gonad...

Ari: [laughs] Best man at the wedding, Nigel. I mean, I’ve got offers piling up but I think it’d mean a lot to Benny if you were the one who...

[Nigel crosses to Benny who’s still on the phone.]

Benny: [to phone] Hang on, mum. [to Nigel] Guess you know then, huh?

[For a moment Nigel looks almost broken, then he smiles.]

Nigel: Congrats, big sis. You got enough nerve to wear white?

[She playfully belts him.]

Benny: Mum’s on the phone. You wanna say hi?

Nigel: [thinks] Bit busy. Send her my love.

Benny: Will do.

[She goes back to the phone. Nigel heads for the exit, then pauses and zeros in on Ari.]

Nigel: You hurt her in any way shape or form that I arbitrarily decide fits MY definition of “hurt”, and it doesn’t matter where you go – what I do to you will be the stuff of internet fan-fiction.

Ari: Ah, you too, huh? Your mum already said if I break her heart, I will be declared a sex offender in every country on the planet, and her sisters said they’ll break my face if I break her heart. Oh, Kenji settled just for breaking my legs, and your brothers threatened to beat me to death with a shovel.

Nigel: That would just hurt you physically. What I would do to you would make Hieronymous Bosch shit himself with terror and... [sighs] you don’t know who Hieronymous Bosch is, do you?

Ari: No.

Nigel: [sighs] Later.

[Gabby rushes over to him.]

Gabby: Nigel, this came for you in the mail. This is serious...

[Nigel takes the postcard. It is of a city department store. On the back has been typed out IF YOU ATTEND THE CONCERT TONIGHT YOU WILL DIE.]

Nigel: Meh. Like I’m suddenly going to become immortal if I stay at home?

[He throws it away.]

Gabby: It’s a death threat, Nige!

Nigel: I’ve been dead before. Briefly. And possibly in hell. Look, Gabby, I need a bite of fresh air. Tomorrow we’ll be laughing uncontrollably about this as we prepare for Schoolies’ Week.

[Nigel strides out. Gabby looks in no way reassured.]

[Nigel storms out of the house. Andrew is leaning against the fence, smoking and looking down at the suburbs they live in.]

Andrew: You look cheerful.

[Nigel kicks the fence furiously.]

Nigel: I can’t believe it! Beriniko Yang and that, that failed result of forced intercourse with farm animals are actually going to get married!

Andrew: So? Didn’t she let you be the bridesmaid or something?

[Nigel turns to face Andrew, clenching his fists and clearly torn between punching the hobo or shouting at him. Finally he settles for ripping the cigarette from his mouth, hurling it to the ground and stamping on it. A pause as they both look at the stub for a moment. Then Andrew shrugs, plucks a fresh cigarette from behind his ear and lights up.]

Nigel: After all I’ve done for her. All I’ve endured. And she goes and...

Andrew: ...finds someone who makes her happy in every possible way and gives her life meaning. [shakes head in disgust] Selfish cow.

Nigel: She’s just hormonal and overwrought. She’s still in puberty, damn it! She can’t be trusted to make life decisions like that!

Andrew: And yet, somehow, she does...

Nigel: I can’t believe this. She and that vacuous youth are already knocking each other off, you know.

Andrew: [rolls eyes] Know about it? Nige, I’ve started needing ear-plugs.

Nigel: Mmm?

Andrew: For my dog. He thought there was a pack of wild dingoes having a fight in your place.

Nigel: [chuckles] I think you’ll find that that was actually ME and Gabby. [wistful] Damn it, we are so good in bed that even the neighbors have a cigarette.

[Andrew starts to reply, notices the cigarette in his hand, sighs, and stomps it out.]

Andrew: So, you still going to be in this little commune once they’re man and wife?

Nigel: Not bloody likely, you hirsute spastic. I mean, having to put up with their permanent lovie-duvvie sickeningly sweet excess... constantly rubbing my faces in the fact that that, that, that Philippino WARTHOG gets to bury his face in my big sister whenever he damn wants?!

Andrew: [grimaces] Eww. Dude, too much info.

Nigel: [still ranting] That he can caress her perfect bosom ON DEMAND?!

Andrew: You ever worry about Akiro’s love life to this degree?

Nigel: [not listening] If they think I’m going to hang around to be humiliated like that...

Andrew: exactly the way you have been for the last two years...

[Nigel gives Andrew a wistful “I So Wish To Beat You To Death” look.]

Nigel: ...then they’ve got another thing coming. I don’t have to put up with this.

Andrew: Ah. I always knew our gentle bonhomie would end one day. You’re going to move out then?

Nigel: If it gets me away from you once and for all, I’ll be glad of it.

Andrew: [nods] Yeah, it is strange how our destinies continually collide amidst the pattern of infinity.


Nigel: Yeah. Strange. Whatever. I’ll start packing my stuff after the concert. By morning I will be out of here.

Andrew: [shrugs] Good for you. [looks at him] You’ll be back in a week.

Nigel: Don’t bet your life on it.

[Nigel starts to walk away.]

Andrew: Oh, before you go...

Nigel: [calls over shoulder] What?

Andrew: Little present for you.

[Andrew chucks Nigel a small parcel in newspaper. Nigel neatly catches it and tears it open.]

Nigel: [disgusted] What is this?!

Andrew: It’s a lucky rabbit’s foot.

Nigel: [nauseous] You sure this didn’t drop off that mongrel leper dog of yours?

Andrew: Oi! That’s a hundred per cent pure rabbit, that is!

Nigel: What the hell is this for?

Andrew: Oh, I dunno. What do you think a lucky rabbit foot is for? [rolls eyes] Luck, maybe?!

Nigel: As far as totally useless objects go, I wouldn’t even deem this worthy of being a paper weight! So it will be the perfect comparison to you, if nothing else!

[He turns and hurls the rabbit foot into the air. It drops out of sight behind a fence and there is a shout of pain. Nigel, worried, legs it. Andrew just sighs.]

Andrew: Such a child. [shouts] Hey, mister, can I have me paperweight back?

- to be concluded...

The Fall of the Big N (i)

I hate it when my work reflects my inner neuroses and all sorts of unintended subtext occur. Rember my rewrite of Revelation of the Daleks, The End of the Road? The one where the Doctor is resigned to confront a horrible and inevitable destiny despite all Peri's attempts to cheer him up? Where Lytton has to slum it as a hired assassin for coporate bastards he'd dearly love to waste instead? The one featuring Davros having all his individuality and genius removed and reduced to an anonymous number cruncher in the Dalek Empire?

All written in the week before I had to start work at Law & Finance?

Subtext? What subtext?

So, it's probably not much of a surpise after the recent soul-crushing weeks that The Rise of the Big N started featuring far more angst and misery than hardcore comedy, including Dave's suicide attempt where I was struggling to find a reason for him NOT to kill himself, bar of course him needing to survive the story to be in The Youth of Australia proper.

And then I went the whole hog and killed off Nigel.

Yes, the Big N is dead.

Was it some exorcistic expression of despair on my part? A moralistic statement that violence always rebounds back on itself and Nigel could never get away with the shit he'd pulled earlier in his life? Frustration at constantly trying to synch up Nigel's high school years with the first episode Here's To The Future, Losers leading to abandoning all continuity forever? Was it just a blatant cliffhanger that got entirely out of control?

...well, obviously it was the last one.

But ultimately I left the sod dead on the grounds that, out of the TINY handful of people across the entire planet who even know of Nigel's existence, FEWER would actually read this to find out I'd killed him and NO ONE would care enough to want him saved. And yes, my cunning brain worked out a way to reverse this without clones, paradox machines, or Nigel waking up and finding out it's a dream.

Though it's very unlikely anyone bar myself will ever know what that brilliant scheme was, maybe it should be left hanging. Does anyone even READ this shit any more? If you do, see if you can spot the blatant clues as to how it would all have been fixed...


I've skipped to the end of the saga so...

The Story So Far: It is 2002 and Nigel Verkoff has moved out of home and is sharing an apartment with his sister Benny. One problem: he's also sharing it with Benny's boyfriend Ari. And living next door to a mad hermit known as Maddog (Andrew). The only things keeping Nigel going are his incredibly prodigious sex life - currently working through the Karma Sutra with his girlfriend Gabby - and his reasonably successful rock group Yellow Fever And How To Cure It. High School has ended - or, to put it another way, the first episode of YOA has happened - and the time has come for the survivors of that conflict to finally do the exams. Nigel thinks he's got enough problems. But he has no idea that his past is about to come back to not only bite him in the arse, but Kill Him Off For Real...


[Caption: SIX YEARS AGO. A younger Nigel is mocking a young Magnus in the electric blue glow of a fake plutonium rod.]

Magnus: It’s not real!

Nigel: Maggie, baby, do you really think, seriously, that if I got my hands on raw plutonium, I WOULDN’T use it to destroy you utterly? Does that even sound remotely credible? Oh well, see ya later, Magnus. When your hair’s fallen out and your guts have rotted from the inside out, you can look back on this and laugh.

[Nigel waves and leaves.]


[The brilliant blue glare turns a searing white.]

[A jagged nightmare clipshow. Things randomly go dark from scene to scene.]

[Magnus is running through the school at dawn, a caretaker shouting after him.]

[Magnus is lying, sobbing in the gutter by the pavement.]

Magnus: ...need a doctor... need doctor...

[Magnus stumbles to his front door.]

[Concerned faces.]

Magnus: Radiation! He gave me cancer! Please!

[Magnus is tied to a trolley being hurried along a corridor.]

Magnus: Do something...

Surgeon: The first symptoms of radiation poisoning are virtually undetectable until...

[Magnus being loaded onto a plane.]

[Magnus being loaded off a plane and into a van.]

Magnus: Please... don’t wanna die... please...

[The van hurtles through a tunnel. Blackness.]

Surgeon: [VO] sign of any carcinomas or tissue damage anywhere. No suspicious moles, warts, ulcers, urinary tract problems, clear of any Hepatitis, the cardiovascular system’s fine. The lungs are clear, veins are steady, the skin’s in perfect condition.

[Magnus opens his eyes. He’s in bed linked up to all sorts of life support monitoring equipment. The surgeon is speaking to two displeased looking adults.]

Surgeon: In fact, I’d say your son was in perfect health.

[Magnus frowns. The room shimmers around him, growing dark. Suddenly the room is a glass box hovering in pitch darkness, a void on all sides. A huge (but very familiar) Demon Babe peers through the blackness into the room. She grins and winks at Magnus. Who screams in terror.]

Surgeon: [completely calm] Except, of course, that he’s gone completely insane.

[Magnus, in hospital clothes, sits at a table. A spectacled psychiatrist stands as far as away from him as possible. Magnus’s hair is turning white. He looks crazy. The scary type of crazy.]

Magnus: See? See, see, see! No one can see the things except me. But what does that mean, huh? I mean, think about it. Think. Think think think. We see things with our eyes, we taste things with our eyes, smell things with our ears, hear things with our noses. And tongues. That’s just five ways we know anything of the world around us. Just five ways. But there’s more than that, surely? If you don’t have a nose, you can’t smell things. Doesn’t mean there aren’t smells out there, does it? Does it?

Psychiatrist: No... So what you’re saying is, Brian, that you can perceive things normal people can’t, things that are always there?

[Magnus grins stupidly. He’s shivering now.]

Magnus: Yes. Yes, yes, yes. I am saying that. Yes. That. Yes. It’s like we’re in this crowded room but we’re blindfolded and we’ve got earplugs in, so we don’t hear them or see them, so we think we’re alone. That’s what the blue light did. It let me see more, hear more, it broke down the barriers.

[A long pause. The psychiatrist suddenly smiles.]

Psychiatrist: [WAY too cheerful] Oh-kay doh-kay! So what are these things you see?

Magnus: Well, they’re like jellyfish. But incredibly hard, badass jellyfish. They hunt and eat and dissolve floating and flopping around in the empty air and the clear skies. They’re... they’re horrible. You just can’t believe how horrible they are! You know why dogs howl at night? Cause they see these things. Why cats are always hearing things. I can see them all. I can see everything. [quietly] I can peer into the bottom of creation itself, beyond the bounds of the infinite...

Psychiatrist: Hmm. So, all this unnatural prying into the unthinkable... is it because you weren’t breastfed as a child?

Magnus: No! It was because I was exposed to ultraviolet radiation that woke a thousand sleeping senses in my brain and allowed me to see the truth!

Psychiatrist: ...but you WEREN’T breastfed?

Magnus: [sighs] No.

Psychiatrist: Ah, now we’re getting somewhere.

Magnus: But you don’t understand. These things, now I can see them, THEY can see ME! That’s why we have to keep still! They’re like Tyrannosaurus Rexes in Jurassic Park! Thank God they’re not they’re raptors or they’d see us even if we didn’t move...

[The psychiatrist nods sagely.]

Psychiatrist: Indeed. Tell me, Brian, at what age did you stop wetting the bed?

[A very long pause.]


[He screams and dives under a table.]

Psychiatrist: Only relatively recently, then?


[Magnus emerges from a hospital in drab pajamas. The psychiatrist accompanies him.]

Psychiatrist: [has been talking for a while] ...and, yes, I know that, technically speaking, you’re not sane. But as a non-violent inmate with no suicidal tendencies, you do qualify as low-risk and can be released back into the community. Cut backs.

[Magnus wordlessly gets into a limousine and drives off, leaving the psychiatrist still talking.]

Psychiatrist: When will Australia wake up and take mental health seriously? Anyway, I know your family could probably fund this entire institute, but I think this might be best. I think your parents were getting a bit impatient for you to be completely cured.

[She finally notices she’s alone.]

Psychiatrist: Oh. Right. [walks off] Bloody nutter.

[The boardroom. Magnus is talking to someone we cannot see, pacing back and forth, studying a large laminated photograph in his hand.]

Magnus: I thought I’d seen it all. But there is ALWAYS more to see. Things that swim in the air. [sighs] And things from beyond hell itself.

[Magnus looks with unblinking intensity at a school photo of Nigel, back when he was an ordinary kid without blond hair or sunglasses, standing unsmiling amongst the other kids.]

Magnus: Ah. Passion. It takes root like a caner, uninvited, unwelcome, unwanted. It festers and thrives until it consumes everything. Some, it drives to distraction. Others, to despair. Yet more to madness. But to me, it drives me to vengeance. To murder.

[He smiles happily.]

Magnus: [an afterthought] Though probably madness too.

[We see he’s talking to Simone. He hands her the photograph to her.]

Magnus: Find him for me.

[Caption: ONE YEAR AGO.]

[Caption: NOW. Magnus sits at the back of the boardroom. The Sinister Woman is present, along with several MIBS, looking at the plasma screen. The PowerPoint presentation shows floating mug shots of Phoebe Richards, David Restal, Danielle Goodaker, Johan-Disreali Morok, Jason Kane.]

Sinister Woman: None of our teams have found a single mention of Goodaker since the destruction of the school. She’s currently listed a missing person, presumed dead along with her sister and her sister’s girlfriend.

[A red X appears over Danny’s image.]

Magnus: And what of the others?

Sinister Woman: All located, sir. As per your instructions all targets have been located and monitored.

[Flashback: Phoebe wanders into a chemist. She crosses to the Family Planning Section and grabs a packet of contraceptive pills. She pays for them, looking completely calm and adult about it. The moment she’s out of the chemist, she sags with emotional exhaustion and blushes furiously.]

Sinister Woman: Richards was dealt with first. Since she was sexually active it was a relative simple operation.

[A MIB walks past “accidentally” bumps into Phoebe, dropping her parcel from the Chemist. Apologizing, the MIB effortlessly snatches up the parcel and hands her an identical (but different) parcel she collects without realizing it. She thanks the MIB and leaves.]

Sinister Woman: The birth control prescription was changed with experimental fertility tablets.

Magnus: [dryly] And?

Sinister Woman: She gave birth to triplets last month, sir. Stitches still haven’t healed it seems. Needless to say she wasn’t deemed medically fit to take part in the HSC. We also ensured her GP didn’t let her know about the extra babies, so she’s been taken by complete surprise financially and emotionally.

Magnus: Good. Five lives ruined for the price of one. I like it. It’s good.

[A red X appears over Phoebe’s image.]

Sinister Woman: I should point out, sir, that she’s actually going to move to...

Magnus: You are boring me. What of the others?

Sinister Woman: [sighs] Sir. Morok was the next target. His parents are staunch capitalists of America and during the recent War on Terror, Morok’s mother has been prone to suffering paranoid fits. Like Richards, we tampered with her medication slightly... just enough to make her malleable. Then we started sending messages to her.

[A highly-strung looking woman collects some post. One is a postcard from Afghanistan beginning with the words “TO COMRADE JADI” and ending “YOUR OLD PAL OSAMA”. The woman’s eyes widen in horror. Another letter is addressed to her. She tears it open. It says simply “YOUR SON IS IN MORTAL DANGER. TRUST NOTHING HE SAYS.” It is signed “ONE WHO KNOWS”.]

Magnus: And did any of this go anywhere?

Sinister Woman: Oh yes.

[The Cosi Van Tutte Psychological Clinic For The Terminally Bewildered. A car drives into the carpark. The woman steps out, along with Jadi, looking a bit confused. She however is very forced and cheerful.]

Jadi: What are we doing here? I wanted to say goodbye to Dave and the others...

Jadi’s Mum: We’ll only be ten minutes, Jadi. Your friend and her babies won’t even be in the ambulance yet.

Jadi: OK, mum.

[He follows her into the building.]

Jadi: So, where are we going to dinner then?

Jadi’s Mum: Well, that rather depends on your father, of course.

Jadi: I thought he won that contract?

[They enter the foyer. Jadi’s mum goes to the admissions desk to speak with a nurse. Jadi looks around, hands in his pockets, bored.]

Jadi’s Mum: Jadi? Go and wait in that room, will you?

Jadi: Why can’t I wait out here?

Jadi’s Mum: [shrugs] Security, you know how it is nowadays...

Jadi: OK.

Jadi’s Mum: [quietly] See you in a few minutes, Jadi.

Jadi: [smiles] Sure thing.

[Jadi steps through the doorway into darkness. Suddenly the lights explode on around him, dazzling him completely. Two burly orderlies behind the doors charge him and force him into a straightjacket. A surgeon jabs him with a hypodermic, and instantly Jadi slumps onto the padded floor.]

Orderly: Take him to room 9. I’ll go tell Mrs. Morok that everything went smoothly.

[Back in the boardroom.]

Sinister Woman: Morok is convinced her son is a dangerous schizophrenic quite capable of self-harm. We’ve made a substantial payment to the asylum. Jadi Morok is tranquilized twenty four seven, especially at visits so it appears he’s sullen and uncommunicative. The head specialist is to ensure no unauthorized persons speak with him and find out why he’s there, and since we’ve paid them so much they’re quite happy to keep him there in a permanent vegetative state.

[A red X appears over Jadi’s image.]

Sinister Woman: The sudden complete disappearance of both Morok and Richards should be all we need to do to Restal. He is psychologically rather unstable following an accident with his mother and a combine harvester, and has sudden violent mood swings, long periods of depression and has attempted to take his own life more than once. I’m not a betting woman but we can expect a successful suicide inside two years.

[A long pause.]

Magnus: Good enough, I suppose. Can we get him to fail the HSC as well?

Sinister Woman: [making a note] Yes. I doubt it will be necessary, but yes.

Magnus: That’ll do for the moment.

[A red X appears over Dave’s image.]

Magnus: Now, Jason Kane.

Sinister Woman: Not an easy task, sir. His IQ is in single figures, he has a reasonably wealthy family but no close relatives, useful vices and his girlfriend takes care of all the contraception so infecting him with a terminal STD would be difficult to guarantee. There’s little to no chance he’d even notice us turning his life into a living hell. Frankly, the only reason we simply haven’t put a bullet into his brain is none of our marksmen feel confident on hitting such a small target.

Magnus: Mmmm.

[He puts his hands behind his head and smiles smugly.]

Magnus: Ms. Gracelands? Send a telegram!

[An impressive pause.]

Sinister Woman: [confused] A what?

[Magnus sighs.]

Magnus: Never mind. What’s the target’s current status?

Sinister Woman: [flicks through papers] The first part of the English exams start tomorrow. Last reports suggest that Verkoff was heading in his car towards the outskirts of Broadway.

[Fade to a narrow back street of two-storey terraced houses. It is dusk, made darker from all the tall buildings. Wynona slows to a halt, and Nigel steps out, wearing a long coat and an Acubra hat – and as such looks almost anonymous by his standards.]

Sinister Woman: [VO] There’s a major exhibition at a minor unconventional art gallery in the area, plenty of media attention.

[Nigel walks unhurriedly down the street. Ahead is a large crowd gathered around a small one-story shop that’s been converted into an ugly white gallery full of paintings. People are taking photographs, chatting on mobiles and knocking back champagne. A small news team are reporting on the action.]

Sinister Woman: [VO] He’s probably going to gatecrash it for publicity and, of course, the free champagne and nibbles.

[Nigel passes the crowd completely, heading past the gallery altogether to the far end of the street. He ducks into the tiny front porch of one house and rings the doorbell. A few moments later, the door opens and a large, friendly old Greek woman answers the bell.]

Old Lady: Yasu, Nigel! You’re a bit early, my darling. You’re not going to the big art thing down the street.

Nigel: No thanks, Mrs. Thascoles, the big exams are on tomorrow. I just want one last night off. Plus, those pasty things of yours? Awesome.

[She laughs happily and welcomes him inside.]

Old Lady: Gabrielle, she is not coming here today?

Nigel: No. Revision, revision, revision. At this rate she might spell it.

[They laugh good naturedly.]

Old Lady: You go up stairs, I’ll start making you something good to eat. You too thin, boy!

Nigel: Cheers, Mrs. T.

[Nigel heads up the stairs. He pauses as he sees the doors on the second level. He shrugs and picks one at random. It is a neat, somewhat spartan bedroom all done in pink. A very cute blonde teenager in a nightie is lying on the bed, reading a psychology text book about depression. She looks up at him.]

Blondie: Hey. You my five o’clock?

Nigel: [charmingly] Please. Call me Jason.

[He takes off his coat. She puts aside her textbook.]

Blondie: You’re here for some last minute revision on Legal Studies then?

Nigel: [grins] Any port in a storm. [takes off T-shirt] Still having some trouble with this act of precedent business. I mean, why can’t people just steal anything not nailed down and use the precedent of the Stolen Generation to get away with kidnapping in court?

[As he speaks, the girl rises and takes a bamboo cane from under her bed. She approaches him from behind, holding the cane up ready to strike.]

Blondie: I guess I’m going to have to help you with your retention of knowledge.

Nigel: [undoing his trousers] Is that as fun as it s—?

[Before he can finish his sentence, she whacks him VERY HARD. The force slams him to the ground and he shouts in very surprised agony. He has no idea what’s going on.]

Nigel: Ah! Stop it!

[She whips him again.]


Blondie: [rolls her eyes] It’s meant to hurt, you stupid child.

Nigel: [crawling away from her] No it’s not! I’m not a masochist! I didn’t come here to be beaten up!

Blondie: You’re my five o’clock?

Nigel: No! I’m here early for some Legal Studies tuition!

Blondie: [confused] But... you were taking your clothes off?

Nigel: I revise best after making love! I wouldn’t have thought that was such a strange idea for you, I mean, this IS a brothel, isn’t it?

Blondie: [crestfallen] Yeah... I’m sorry. It’s my first day. You want Rebecca, two doors along.

[Nigel huffily drags his pants up and shuffles for the door.]

Nigel: Don’t expect a tip for this, though.

[The next morning. Sun rises over this terraced house of ill-repute. In a bedroom that’s green rather than pink, and Nigel lies on his stomach in the bed, surrounded by textbooks clearly not read. A Korean girl is sleeping beside him, one arm draped over him. The clock radio snaps on at 8:45.]

Radio 1: ...denied visiting any such shop. And it’s a quarter to nine here on Radio Anarchy, with just fifteen minutes to the first exam of the Higher School Certificate all across Australia. It’s double English to start off, isn’t it, Asshole?

Radio 2: Oh yes, Norman. And it’s a good thing most of the students have got there early, because there was that three-lane pile-up on the main freeway last night from all those drunken intellectuals partying at that new gallery. The roads are still blocked and traffic is at a standstill.

Radio 1: You think they’ll delay the exam to allow the kids to get to the school?

[Nigel is starting to wake up around this point.]

Radio 2: Not at all, Norman. Think about it, if only a fraction of the kids actually turn up for the exams, it’s less work for all the markers and far easier to sort out that new grade curve the government has introduced.

Radio 1: So, basically, there are countless HSC students out there who have been completely screwed over through no fault of their own? Well, that’s hardly a new development, is it, Asshole?


Radio 2: Has anyone told you you’re a creep, Norman?

Radio 1: [cheerful] All the time! And for those who have managed to get to the exam halls you have another twelve minutes to suddenly understand all the stuff you’ve been learning for the last thirteen years...

[Nigel snaps wide awake.]

Nigel: Oh... shit... [to Korean girl] Can I pay you tomorrow?

Korean Girl: [sleepy] Sure. We’ll put it on your tab, “Jason”.

[Frantically Nigel bursts out onto the landing. He’s got his pants on and one shoe, holding the other and his sock. He looks around wildly for the rest of his things.]

Nigel: God damn it, Gabby’d never let me sleep in like this... [sighs] All right, she would, but she wouldn’t be so damn blaze about it...

[He barges into the pink bedroom. A different girl is lying asleep on the bed, alone. Nigel doesn’t spare her a look, snatching up his T-shirt. He looks around wildly.]

Nigel: Where’s my bloody coat?!

[He runs over to the wardrobe and flings the doors open. The girl in the nightie falls out – tied up, gagged and with a black eye. Nigel, amazed, frees her from the gag.]

Nigel: What the hell?

Blondie: [coughs] I got "sadist" mixed up with "masochist"... she took offense...

Nigel: So that hot Anglo over there beat you up, tied you up and threw you in the closet for her own sexual gratification? AND I MISSED THAT? [sighs] Today is turning out to be total crap. Ciao!

[Kissing her on the lips, he snatches his coat from the wardrobe and sprints out of the room.]

[Nigel stumbles down the steps, struggling to get his clothes on properly as he heads for the door.]

[Nigel bursts out of the deceptively un-brothel-like bordello and sprints for Wynona. He has somehow managed to get all his clothes on and tidied his hair, so he simply looks amazingly flustered. He unlocks the car, wrenches the wing-door up and dives into the driver’s seat. A pause. He sobs in pain – the beating he got is still VERY tender. Gritting his teeth, he pulls the door down, closes it and starts the engine.]

[Wynona hurtles down a backstreet, then does a three-point turn and up a narrow alleyway into a different backstreet, and promptly changes direction yet again. Nigel glares at an early SatNav device built into the dashboard as it plots out a ridiculously convoluted path on its screen.]

Nigel: This flight computer better be worth the cash. [shouts at it] Get me there on time you transistorized bastard!

[As he performs another seemingly pointless change of direction, he frantically punches a control. The radio tunes in effortlessly.]

Radio 1: ...hole, with less than ten minutes, any last advice to those students out there who have drawn a complete blank after over a decade of preparation? Any words of wisdom?

Radio 2: Well, Norman, if I was sum up advice in one word...

Radio 1: ...which is, of course, your privilege...

Radio 2: ...then that word would be “mindless hedonism”.

Radio 1: Asshole, I am afraid that that’s two words.

Radio 2: One word would be insufficient, Norman.

Radio 1: So, you’re suggesting that our students abandon any pretence of studying and come together in one massive swollen-genitaled orgy of sexual ecstasy without rhyme or reason?

[Nigel looks up, interested.]

Radio 2: [creeped out] Um. No.

[Nigel rolls his eyes.]

Radio 1: So what were you suggesting?

Radio 2: Well, given they’ve wasted their entire lives so far and destroyed any possible chances of any kind of meaningful career, they might as well accept their miserable existence on this planet is now completely worthless. And they might as well relax as best as possible through the pointless exams celebrating their insignificant ignorance, surely?

Radio 1: Is this where the hedonism comes in?

Radio 2: Oh yes. The best thing to do for all students CONVINCED they’re going to fail is to get completely pissed out of their skulls and off their faces before they actually go into the exams. That way they’ll be so drunk an hour’s worth of silently doing absolutely nothing will be very relaxing and, in the short term, they’ll have the perfect excuse for their abysmal performance.

Nigel: [tuts] Like anyone’s that pathetic.

[Outside the gymnasium hall at the high school, Dave stands, sculling the contents of a bottle of VB as fast as he can. Nearby are a scattering of students: Harry, Lucy, Andrew, Katy, Simone, Maurice and Aileen, all glumly looking over text books (bar Andrew, who is reading a newspaper without a care in the world).]

Simone: This is so unfair. I can’t believe I have to do this exam.

Lucy: Last-minute denial’s not going to help.

Simone: Why do I have to do it? Blessed virgin mother Phoebe Styles doesn’t have to! She’s not even in Australia any more, just off to Prague with her boytoy and litter, living off that fortune he makes doing children’s parties and business conventions! She should be here, like us, facing this horror.

Harry: She got let off on medical grounds.

Simone: Medical grounds?

Katy: Simone, she gave birth to overdue triplets without anesthetic. Give her a break.

Simone: She’s got a break already! She’s a rich trophy wife overseas! I deserve that, not her.

[Maurice glances at Dave as he finishes off another bottle.]

Maurice: You think you’ve got it bad.

Lucy: Oh, more self-pity. What a surprise.

Katy: [calls] Come on, Dave, that’s not going to help.

Dave: [clearly drunk] Prove it.

Harry: Jadi’s gonna kill you if he sees you like that.

Dave: Well, he’s not going to, is he? Cause he’s, he’s disappeared, hasn’t he? Poof! No more! Gone!

Aileen: You’re overreacting. He’s just held up in traffic like everyone else.

Dave: He’s been gone for three weeks now! Huh? Answer me that!

[Dave cracks open another bottle as Nigel runs into view.]

Nigel: Thank god! It hasn’t started yet? Brilliant! I knew that GPS system was worth every cent! [looks around] Where is everyone, anyway?

Katy: Traffic pile-up, all the school busses are in a gridlock.

Nigel: [stunned] Are they going to hold back the exams until the others get here?

Simone: [shrugs] Probably.

Nigel: Selfish bastards! I could still be enjoying a nice lie-in, wrapped in the arms of a beautiful Korean goddess with a truly disgusting obsession with ping pong balls...

Lucy: Too much information! Look, just do some last minute revision or something....

Nigel: But Jason’s got all my text books. Where IS Jason, anyway?

[Boardroom. Jason sits alone at the far end of the table. Only the Sinister Woman is present.]

Jason: Yeah, where am I anyway? I’ve got exams to go to.

Sinister Woman: You don’t need exams, Mr. Kane. The people I represent are willing to give you a brand new career with job security guaranteed, a salary of $617 000 per annum. You’ve already passed the school certificate, you don’t need high qualifications.

Jason: What sort of job is it?

Sinister Woman: One I am confident you will be able to both enjoy and flourish in.

Jason: [awed] The adult movie business?

Sinister Woman: The very same, Jason. Your vital statistics are perfect for the job required, and the fact you’ve managed to keep one girlfriend satisfied strongly suggests you’ll be able to cope with the profession. So, Jason. Interested in a job where you get paid vast amounts of money to repeatedly have sex with stunningly attractive teenage girls?

Jason: [frowns] Is that supposed to be a serious question? When can I start?

Sinister Woman: Next financial quarter as the lead in our blockbuster, The First Cunt Is the Deepest.

Jason: Ooh. Sounds classy. But... what do I do in the meantime?

Sinister Woman: We’d like some information on your good friend Nigel Verkoff. An inside source of info.

Jason: You want ME to betray HIM? Nigel? My best friend?

Sinister Woman: The man who’s been emotionally blackmailing you and treating you like dirt for the last seven years, yes.

[Jason stares at her, as if disgusted at the very suggestion.]

Jason: ...where do I sign up?

[Back at the high school, Nigel shrugs dismissively to the others.]

Nigel: Pah, I don’t need him anyway. I’ve already arranged my own little moral support squad.

Aileen: [looks around] Where?

[Smiling, Nigel points up into the sky. Everyone looks up. The words “NIGEL V 4EVER” are scrawled in white against the morning sky, as a tiny sky-writer plane touches up the letters already dispersing.]

Nigel: [confidently] Oh, I’ll walk this. I’m totally psyched. Go on, ask me a question. Any question!

[Before any of the others can do so, Andrew speaks in his hellfire preacher voice.]

Andrew: Who is the greatest enemy? Always near you, sometimes at your shoulder, on the edge of your vision? No matter what happens, each man must face it eventually.

[The atmosphere has turned decidedly spooky.]

Nigel: [unsettled] What’s that supposed to be revision for?

Andrew: Hmm? Revision? [shrugs] I was just trying to do the cryptic crossword in today’s paper...

[Nigel scowls and crosses to Dave, holding an empty bottle, but seemingly calmed down.]

Nigel: You nervous, Restal?

Dave: [shakes his head] I lost my shirt, I’ve pawned my rings. I’ve done all the dumb things.

Nigel: Eh?

Dave: Caught the fever, heard the tune, thought I loved her, hung my heart on the moon... Started howling, made no sense, [bitterly] THOUGHT MY FRIENDS WOULD RUSH TO MY DEFENSE!

[Nigel rolls his eyes and walks off. Dave throws the bottle at a garbage bin and misses.]

Dave: Yeah, I threw my hat into the ring, I’ve done all the dumb things...

[A large group of students arrive. Jadi is not amongst them.]

Aileen: Hey, looks like we’re ready to go in.

[Everyone congregates around the doors. Andrew is still focused on the paper.]

Andrew: D something A something H. Now, if that one is “Message” then it’s D-E-A-something-H. Death. [writes it down] Oooh. That sounds ominous...

Dave: [confidentially] I thought that I just had to sing, so I melted wax to fix my wings!

Andrew: [not listening] Mmmm.

[Everyone starts to enter the hall. Build up Paul Kelly’s “Dumb Things”.]

[The exams are predictable. A blackboard is arranged at the front with the words 2 UNIT ENGLISH and then 2:00, 1:45, 1:30 etc down to zero. Two teachers are present. Most of the room is filled with desks and chairs, one person at each with a pile of answer bootlets to write in and a quiz booklet. Schoolbags are dumped in a pile near the door. The students take their seats, a grave air about them – particularly Nigel who almost cries out, forced to sit on a sore arse.

The students begin to work. Many stick to reading the quiz booklet, but others get stuck in. There is simply not enough time. Harry desperately grabs every answer booklet and scribbles in his student number in the boxes so he doesn’t have to worry later. Katy, not as calm as she’d like, takes some spare paper and starts to rough out her answers. Maurice takes some care to draw the Illuminati symbol on the front of his answer book, confident this will get him a pass. Smugly he looks at the others then starts to write. Simone glares at the questions, then looks at the answer booklet – she knows what to do, just isn’t interested in the large volume of physical labor required. Nigel is writing away without any apparent difficulty.

There is now only half an hour left. Everyone is now writing furiously, desperately. Dave looks particularly unwell and, the moment a teacher isn’t looking, delves into his coat pocket, takes out a bottle of VB, swigs from it and continues writing. Simone is clearly finding it agony writing, but continues. Harry stares at the answers he has written as if he suddenly has forgotten how to read English. Katy is using the latest in a very long line of pens, all the others having died on her irritatingly. Nigel looks bored as he continues to write, with an air of contempt around him.

At his own table, however, Andrew is... still doing the crossword. He bobs his head alone with a tune only he can hear, Journey of the Sorcerer by the Eagles, AKA the theme to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Which we can now hear to. He looks up, and seems to realize for the first time he’s practically out of time. Unconcerned, he quickly glances at the question and then starts writing. A lot. In time with the music. Soon the whole booklet is full. He gets a new one and we see for the first time that he’s still answering the FIRST question, albeit in incredible detail.

Fifteen minutes left. A lot have finished and are grimly rechecking their work. Nigel is idly doodling the image of Gabby naked on some spare paper. Dave, looking very worse for wear, is still struggling on the questions. Andrew has filled over a dozen answer booklets, speeding up in time with the music. He checks with the quiz book – only two more questions. He checks the clock. Ten minutes. Undaunted, he starts writing. Then stops.

The page is blank. He flips back the last page. Blank too. The page before? Partially filled – Andrew’s pen has run out of ink and he’s only just noticed it. Showing the first signs of worry, Andrew delves into his armpit and produces a block of charcoal and hastily rubs it over the pages, highlighting the imprint his pen made and illuminating what he wrote. He grabs the pen and licks the tip, trying to get the ink flowing again. It doesn’t work. He snatches his newspaper and scribbles all over it, but no ink emerges. He tries again. He glances at the clock. Less than a minute...

He presses the pen deeply into his tongue in one, last, desperate bid. Then he retches – he’s pierced his tongue and he’s bleeding. Clutching a handkerchief into his mouth with one hand, he looks at his pen, now dripping with his blood. Seconds left. He shrugs and scrawls a pentagram on the front of the answer book in the blood and then scratches HELP ME JESUS underneath. The bell rings. It’s over.]

- to be continued...