The Sound That Night (I-II)

I-II. THE STATION

SOUNDSCAPE: THE PEACEFUL AMBIENCE OF A BUSTLING, OTHERWORLDLY TRAIN STATION SURROUNDED BY AN ENDLESS STRETCH OF DESERT.

STATION MANAGER: Sir? Excuse me, Sir. Train’ll be arriving shortly.

BENNY: (stirs) Train?

SFX: DISTANT SHRILL OF A TRAIN WHISTLE.

STRANGER: (voice-over) Like many others before him, Benny finds himself on a bench on the platform of a train station looking out across a vast and endless desert. The wood planks worn smooth. The paint peeling and flaking. And the sky burns in the flames of perpetual sunset.

SFX: BENNY RISES, STEPS FORWARD, AND TAKES IT ALL IN.

BENNY: Where am I?

STATION MANAGER: A long way from home. But I suppose we all are.

SFX: TRAIN APPROACHES. UP, UNDER.

SFX: CROWD MURMURS IN ANTICIPATION.

STRANGER: (voice-over) The black locomotive trimmed in gold appears in the east, cutting west across the burning desert, toward the station. The gathering crowd marvels as silver plumes of steam and smoke stretch upward forever until they become the clouds and the stars in the sky.

SFX: TRAIN PULLS IN, STOPS.

SFX: PASSENGERS BOARD.

BENNY: Where does it go?

STATION MANAGER: Somewhere else.

BENNY: Will it get me home?

STATION MANAGER: (considers this) Eventually.

BENNY: Am I dead?

STATION MANAGER: (nods) Afraid so.

SFX: A DISTANT GUNSHOT RINGS OUT ACROSS THE DESERT.

BENNY: (it sinks in) He shot me…

STATION MANAGER: Who?

BENNY: A man named Clarence… Will he come here too?

STATION MANAGER: Does it matter?

AN UNCOMFORTABLE SILENCE.

SFX: A COYOTE HOWLS.

BENNY: What…?

SOUNDSCAPE: THE STILL SILENCE OF A VAST AND ENDLESS DESERT.

BENNY: (panicked) No. No-no-no. This isn’t–this is… It’s gone! Where did it all… No, it can’t– Hello? Hello?!

SFX: THE STRANGER APPROACHES ON HORSEBACK, SLOW, STEADY.

STRANGER: They’re gone.

BENNY: Where?

STRANGER: (gestures) West.

BENNY: What’s that way?

STRANGER: Something else.

BENNY: And the other way?

A SILENCE. THEN…

STRANGER: The man you spoke of…

BENNY: Clarence… You heard that?

STRANGER: (nods) The bounty is two coins.

BENNY: Coins? I don’t… (checks pockets) I don’t think I’ve got any… (pulls out TWO COINS) (to STRANGER) What is this?

STRANGER: Every soul must pay The Conductor to ride the Train to Elsewhere.

BENNY: (puzzles this) But if I pay you…

STRANGER: You must walk west, across the desert.

BENNY: (looks westward) (to self) Natalie… (To STRANGER) Will I ever make it?

STRANGER: Someday. But long after those you love.

BENNY: And Clarence?

STRANGER: I will find him.

BENNY: (considers this) Yeah. Yeah, okay. You’ve got a deal.

SFX: THEY SHAKE HANDS.

SFX: A COYOTE HOWLS.

FADE.

END ACT ONE

To be continued…