Squid Beak - Victor Rees

Characters:

MAN – not too old.


SON – not too young.


I.

Water droplets fall. Heavy footsteps on hard ground. The footsteps stop. MAN calls out behind him.


MAN: Boy.

Lighter footsteps enter. SON replies.


SON: I‘m here.

MAN: I thought I lost you in the dark. SON: I was trying to see.

MAN: What.


Pause.

Your batteries aren’t dead.


SON: No.

MAN: Then turn it on.

SON: I couldn’t see any light from outside. It was so hot. The pigs were fighting for shade.


MAN: Only room for some.

SON: I bet you could have heard them from across the valley. Not here.

Pause.

MAN: Cold.

SON: I’m fine.


MAN: It’ll get colder the deeper we go. And watch your feet. One wrong step in these caves and you’ll shatter your legs.

SON: Why are we here.


Pause.


MAN: We keep moving.


SON: Until when.

MAN: Until I say. We keep moving.


Two sets of footsteps start again and fade out.


II.

Footsteps fade in, echoing as they connect with the ground. No more sounds of water.


SON: Hello.


Pause.


Hello!


A faint echo - Hello!


Helloooooo!


MAN: Stop that.


Another echo - Helloooooo!


SON: The cave’s opened up. I can’t see the ceiling.


MAN: Give me the water.


The footsteps stop. A cap is screwed off a bottle. Man drinks. Boy exhales.


I told you to wrap up. Your mother won’t forgive me if you catch a chill.


SON: You’d have to tell her where we went.


Pause.


MAN: She’s got a lot on her hands. There’s trucks to be loaded. Provisions checked. She doesn’t need you adding to her worries.


Pause.

I thought you’d be glad to have a break from wrapping food parcels.


SON: I guess.

MAN: It’s an adventure. A special place.


SON: Why do we have to leave the valley.


Pause.


MAN: Because we do.

SON: There’s enough water to last us years.

MAN: Not many.

SON: No-one’s dying.

MAN: The path we took to the cave. That used to be a lake bank. Water’s been going down as long as I remember.

SON: You don’t know it’s any better west. You can’t believe all that about green fields and rivers.


Pause.


This is home. Grandad said so. It’s not fair to take it all down and leave like it meant nothing.


MAN: Don’t think it’s been easy for me.


Pause.


SON: You haven’t found it have you.

MAN: Found what.

SON: What you’re looking for.

MAN: What makes you think I’m looking.

SON: The way you move your torch. Stare at the ground. You keep stopping. MAN: I’m getting my bearings.


SON: Are we lost.

MAN: We’re not lost. It’s a straight line. If we wanted to get out we’d turn back the way we came.

SON: It could collapse. And no-one would know where we went because you didn’t tell anyone we’d be walking through stupid tunnels.

MAN: Enough.


Pause.


It’s not a tunnel. Look along the sides of the wall. Tell me what you see.


SON: Stone.

MAN: Closer. See the shape.

SON: Like pillars. Going all the way down.

MAN: On both sides. And what do you notice about them. Look up.

SON: They bend.

MAN: Good.

SON: Like they’re holding the weight of the cave.

MAN: Ribs.

SON: What.

MAN: Ribs. A ribcage.

SON: You mean we’re walking inside something.

MAN: Whatever it was it’s been dead a long time.

SON: It must have been bigger than the lake.

MAN: Your grandfather said there was a time the whole valley was under water. Before it dried up.

SON: How far does this go.


MAN: I never reached the end.

Pause.


SON: There could be water. An underground lake. And this thing knew the valley was drying up and it looked for somewhere to go, it started swimming through the cave because it knew there was a lake but it got stuck and died here. There could still be water.

MAN: Son –

SON: We don’t have to leave. We don’t have to go anywhere if you bring men here and dig, we dig down and look for it.

MAN: The air’s dry. There’s been no moisture for years. SON: Then we go deeper.


Son walks. His footsteps turn into a run.


MAN: Come back! Come back!

Man’s footsteps follow. Both fade out.


III.

Son’s footsteps hit the ground. He breathes heavily. Man’s voice calls out.


MAN: (Distant) Come back! Stop!

Son keeps moving and panting. And then –

SON: Ah!


Son falls to the ground. He groans.


Ah –


Man’s footsteps grow louder. He catches his breath.


MAN: Are you there. Are you alright.


SON: I tripped. The rocks –

MAN: What did I tell you about these caves.

SON: I’m bleeding.

MAN: How bad.

SON: Not much. That stone cut through my trousers.


MAN: What stone.

Pause. Can you stand.


SON: I think so.

MAN: Steady. Help me turn this around. Watch your fingers. They strain, turning the heavy stone.

SON: What is it.

MAN: What I’ve been looking for.


Pause. I was younger than you the first time I came here. Your grandfather showed it to me. Said it was a beak. Belonged to something like a squid. You know what a squid was.


SON: It lived in the sea.

MAN: It was all softness and sinew. Who knows how long ago its body melted away. But the beak remained. It’s hard as metal.

SON: Do you think it was eaten.

Pause.

MAN: I came back after your grandfather died. When I was chosen as leader. I came and sat on the dead monster’s beak and I prayed. I thought some power must have survived in their bones to last this long. When you were young and we thought you weren’t long for the world, I came back.


SON: Is that why we’re here. To pray.

MAN: I’ve come to see it. For the last time.

SON: After all it’s done. After it saved my life.

MAN: Your mother saved your life with roots and water. This thing is a fossil.

Pause.

Whatever water there once was is long gone. What’s left of the lake will follow. Our people need to move on. Even if it means leaving these bones behind.

Pause.

SON: It felt like it helped. Didn’t it. At the time.

MAN: Yes. It helped. Can you walk alright.

SON: I’m fine.

MAN: Let’s go back son. You’ve got to help your mother wrap food parcels. Early start tomorrow if we want to beat the heat.

SON: These will still be here won’t they. If we come back.

Pause.


MAN: We keep moving.

Footsteps. These fade away.