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...
ACT TEN – I NEVER LIKED YOU...
[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.]
Magnus: [crying] I DEMAND YOU COME BACK HERE! RIGHT NOW! YOU CAN’T DO THIS! IT’S NOT FAIR! IT’S INHUMAN! [suddenly furious] I HAVEN’T DONE ANYTHING WRONG! I HAVE DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY!!
[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.]
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] ...no 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.]
Magnus: THEY’RE COMING BACK!!
[He screams and dives under a table.]
Psychiatrist: Only relatively recently, then?
[Caption: THREE YEARS AGO.]
[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’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.
[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: 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.]
Nigel: JESUS! THAT HURTS!
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.
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...