BANG BANG YOU'RE DEAD

(ABSOLUTE DARKNESS, A voice in the dark. After a moment, a flashlight explores the stage, moves along the bottom length, then up, finding Josh asleep on the jail bed. Josh jumps to his feet.)

JOSH: Who's there? Who is it?

JOSH: Who's there?

(Michael holds the flashlight under his chin illuminating only his face.)

MICHAEL: Why me? What is this?

JOSH: What is this?

MICHAEL: We played ball together. You were awesome on the field. You were unstoppable.

JOSH: Survival of the fittest, baby.

MICHAEL: And you were only a freshman. You could've been team captain in your senior year. Why'd you kill me? I never hurt you.

JOSH: It was more fun than droppin' dudes in a video game.

(Michael's flashlight goes out. flashlight under her chin.)

KATIE: Why me, Josh?

JOSH: Why not?

JOSH: World's overpopulated.

KATIE: You liked me.

JOSH: Once upon a time.

KATIE: Why'd you have to kill me?

JOSH: Felt like it, okay?

JOSH: Happy now?

JOSH: I wanted to do my part.

(Katie's flashlight goes out. Matt holds his flashlight under his chin.)

MATT: Why me? What is this? Why me?

MATT: I don't even know you.

JOSH: You were in the wrong place at the wrong time. (Matt's flashlight goes out. Jessie holds her flashlight under her chin.)

JESSIE: Why me?

JOSH: Why not you? Everybody's gotta die sometime, Might as well get it over with.

(Jessie's flashlight goes out. Josh lies back on the bed. Emily leans over him, holds her flashlight under her chin. Josh springs up, surprised.)

EMILY: Why me, Josh? We live on the same street. We used to make mud pies together when we were little kids. I taught you how to blow bubbles with chewing gum. I came to your birthdays, you came to mine. When we were eleven you let me play war with you and the other boys because you liked how I died.

(Let the five deceased improvise pre-teen kids playing war, using their fingers for guns and making shooting sounds. They run around in the dark, their flashlights sweeping the floor, looking for the enemy, the lights crisscrossing. Let them shout "bam, bam you're dead" pow, pow" and other variants).

(Eventually Emily "kills" Katie and Matt who drop dead, Michael shoots Jessie who falls dead. Michael and Emily shoot each other at the same time. Michael drops dead at once. Emily dies very dramatically with all the appropriate sounds. Beat.)

(EMILY LYING ON FLOOR)

EMILY: Hope I didn't disappoint you in the cafeteria this morning. Hope I died just right for you, Josh.

JOSH: You didn't have to fall on me and get me all bloody.

EMILY: Want to see it again? -Go on Shoot me again.

(Josh pretends to shoot her. She dies again very dramatically.)

JOSH: Love that feeling.

ACTOR 2: Love it.

ACTOR 4: Crave it.

ACTOR 5: Need it.

ACTOR 2: Gotta have a gun grip in your hand.

(Chorus echoes the word "hand.")

JOSH: Always wanted to be an Army Ranger parachuting behind enemy lines, ever since I could hold a- ACTOR 4: Cap gun.

ACTOR 5: Water gun.

ACTOR 2: Air gun.

ACTOR 4: Pop gun.

ACTOR 5: B.B. gun.

JOSH: Twelve gauge.

ACTOR 2: 22.

ACTOR 4: 38.

ACTOR 5: 45.

JOSH: A gun makes you feel alive.

(Chorus echoes "alive.")

ACTOR 2: Respect.

ACTOR 4: Watch out!

ACTOR 5: Move aside!

JOSH: Nobody can touch you.

ACTOR 2: When you have a gun-

JOSH: Nobody mocks you.

ACTOR 4: When you have a gun-

JOSH: You can take on anybody.

ACTOR 5: Anybody.

ACTOR 2: The champ wrestler.

ACTOR 4: The whole wrestling team.

ACTOR 5: The bad dudes.

ACTOR 2: Gang bangers.

JOSH: When you have a gun, people talk nice.

ACTOR 4: When you have a gun-

JOSH: People look at you like a V.I.P.

(Chorus echoes "V.I.P.")

ACTOR 5: Somebody bumps you, they say, Excuse me.

JOSH: You walk different-

ACTOR 2: When you have a gun.

JOSH: You talk different-

ACTOR 4: When you have a gun.

JOSH: You think different-

ACTOR 5: When you have a gun.

JOSH: It's so cool-

ACTOR 2: When you have a gun.

(Chorus loudly echoes "gun.")

ACTOR4: It's an A-plus.

ACTOR5: Slam dunk.

ACTOR2: Touchdown.

ACTOR4: Put down.

ACTOR5: All in one.

(Chorus echoes "one.")

JOSH: Love that military stance!

ACTOR2: You ain't got a chance-

ACTOR4: Respect!

ACTOR5: Watch out!

ACTOR 2: Move aside!

ACTOR 4: You can be whatever you wanna be-

JOSH 'Cause a gun in your hand is a Ph.D.

(Lights on Actor 1 and Actor 3 as Josh's parents, the deceased train their flashlight beams on the parents as they enter.)

(ACTOR3 AS JOSH'S MOM)

ACTOR 3: Josh, there's no way we're buying you a rifle.

JOSH: Mom, will you listen to me?

(ACTOR1 AS JOSH'S DAD)

ACTOR 1: First you had to have a p.c., then every video game ever made, then a laptop-

JOSH: For school, dad.

(ACTOR3 AS JOSH'S MOM)

ACTOR 3: Then a cell phone, a beeper and the newest style Nikes every three months-

(ACTOR1 AS JOSH'S DAD)

ACTOR 1: You have to have every CD you hear on the radio.

(ACTOR3 AS JOSH'S MOM)

ACTOR 3: An expensive mountain bike you rode three times.

(ACTOR1 AS JOSH'S DAD)

ACTOR 1: A snowboard you never used, and now a rifle? Please.

JOSH: Grandpa wants to take me hunting.

(ACTOR3 AS JOSH'S MOM)

ACTOR 3: I'm absolutely against it.

JOSH: Grandpa hunts. JOSH: Are you rejecting what your own father thinks?

(ACTOR1 AS JOSH'S FATHER)

ACTOR1: Of course not.

JOSH: Then I should have the rifle, right?

(ACTOR3 AS JOSH'S MOM)

ACTOR 3: I wish you felt as passionate about your grades as you do about a rifle.

JOSH: You're changing the subject.

(ACTOR1 AS JOSH'S DAD)

ACTOR1: You've got a high I.Q. Your B's and C's could be all A's.

JOSH: Will you get off my back about my I.Q.?

(AS JOSH'S MOM)

ACTOR3: We might feel differently if you were living up to your full potential.

JOSH: Okay, you get me the rifle and I'll bring home all A's on my next report card. Deal?

(AS JOSH'S MOM)

ACTOR3: We'll talk about a rifle when we see all A's.

JOSH: You don't even trust me.

(AS JOSH'S MOM)

ACTOR3: Josh, you know that's not true.

JOSH: If you trust me, then get me the rifle now.

(AS JOSH'S DAD)

ACTOR1: When you get all A's, we'll discuss it.

JOSH: Hunting season will be over before grades come out. Then I have to wait a whole year!

(AS JOSH'S DAD)

ACTOR 1: You have to learn patience.

JOSH: Hunting teaches patience. Grandpa said. But what's he know? He's only your father. All I want is to spend some time with grandpa and hear his stories about when he grew up. Learn some responsibility. Learn respect for firearms. How is all that bad?

(AS JOSH'S DAD)

ACTOR1: It's not bad, Josh. It's just that we're not comfortable with guns.

JOSH: If I wanted to, I could get a gun in school for fifty bucks.

(AS JOSH'S MOM)

ACTOR3: How?

JOSH: Easy. I know a kid who stole a gun from his father. But I wouldn't buy it because that would be wrong. Is this what I get for being honest?

(AS JOSH'S MOM)

ACTOR 3: Maybe his honesty deserves the rifle for a reward.

(AS JOSH'S DAD)

ACTOR1: Maybe you shouldn't cave in every time Josh throws a tantrum.

(AS JOSH'S MOM)

ACTOR 3: What about the electric guitar you got him when he threw himself on the floor?

(AS JOSH'S DAD)

ACTOR 1: At least that showed an interest in music.

(AS JOSH'S MOM)

ACTOR 3: Yeah, and now it's collecting dust in the closet.

(Actors 1 and 3 walk off arguing.)

JOSH: Divide and conquer, Works every time. So don't blame me. Blame my folks, okay? They didn't have to buy me a rifle.

EMILY: You still didn't answer my question. Why did you kill me? Why me?

JOSH: It's simple math. My rifle holds five bullets, five bullets, five people. Perfect.

MICHAEL: The bullet that killed me pierced my parents' hearts, too.

KATIE: Pierced my brothers' and sisters' hearts.

MATT: Pierced my friend's hearts.

JESSIE: Pierced the hearts of parents who send their kids to school.

EMILY: Just five bullets wounded hundreds.

MICHAEL: Thousands.

KATIE: Wounds that bleed.

MATT: Wounds that weep.

JESSIE: Wounds that never heal.

EMILY: Wounds that are very real.

ALL: Thousands!

JOSH: Get lost.

(Josh lies down to sleep again. Emily pulls off his blanket.)

EMILY: That's not a good enough answer, Josh.

MICHAEL: And that's not fair.

KATIE: Not fair.

MATT: Not fair at all.

JESSIE: That our bodies lie in coffins.

EMILY: While you still breathe the air.

JOSH: Look at it this way: you got yourselves a cozy little place, and you can't beat the rent.

MICHAEL: It's not fair.

KATIE: Not fair.

MATT: Not fair at all.

JESSIE: That we're under the earth-

EMILY: And you don't even care.

JOSH: Know what's not fair? Some dude jumped me before I had a chance to reload. I could've dropped a lot more bodies and made history.

MICHAEL: We demand an honest answer, Josh. Why? Why'd you kill us?

(The deceased stand in a circle and push Josh around like a ball.)

JOSH: It was fun.

KATIE: You don't have the proper frame of mind.

MATT: We'll be all over you.

JESSIE: Up one side.

EMILY: Down the other.

MICHAEL: In your face.

KATIE: Under your skin.

MATT: Till you tell us why.

JESSIE: Why?

EMILY: Why'd you kill us?

JOSH: Lay off me.

MICHAEL: We're gonna open you up.

KATIE: Dissect you like a frog.

MATT: Pluck out your heart.

JESSIE: Just for a start.

MICHAEL: Till you tell us why.

EMILY: Why?

MICHAEL: Why me?

KATIE: Why anybody?

MATT: Why?

JESSIE: Why?

EMILY: Why'd you kill us?

JOSH: 'Cause there was nothing good on TV.

MICHAEL: We'll do whatever it takes tonight.

KATIE: Whatever it takes.

MATT: To crack you open.

JESSIE: Till then you'll live in hell.

EMILY: Without love.

MICHAEL: Without decency.

KATIE: Without comfort.

MATT: A kid in a cage.

JESSIE: In a zoo of misfits.

EMILY: Even until your release.

MICHAEL: When you're a

JESSIE: stooped-Broken-

EMILY: Bitter, old man.

KATIE: Full of scars.

MATT: Scars on body and mind.

JESSIE: Friendless.

MICHAEL: Hopeless.

KATIE: Mindless.

MATT: Soul-less.

(LAUGHING)

JOSH: Some lawyer will get me off.

MICHAEL: If you survive.

JOSH: Survive what?

DRUMMER (AS CON)

DRUMMER: Yo, bad boy.

JOSH: You talking to me?

JOSH: My name's Josh. What's yours?

DRUMMER (AS CON)

DRUMMER: You the new dude that offed seven people?

JOSH: If that dude didn't jump me I had enough ammo on me to take out a hundred more. I'd've made history.

DRUMMER: Tomorr' we gonna see just how bad you are.

JOSH: What do you mean?

DRUMMER: You'll see what we mean, bad boy.

(Josh to himself)

JOSH: Whoa.

MICHAEL: Feel your cell start to shrink?

KATIE: Feel the walls closing in?

MATT: Compressing your thoughts?

JESSIE: Cramming your brain?

EMILY: Driving you insane?

MICHAEL: You'll wish you were dead every so often.

KATIE: Your six by eight will be your coffin.

MATT: Nobody will hear.

JESSIE: When you scream and cry.

EMILY: Why? Why? Why'd you kill us?

JOSH: You can't hurt me, you're all dead.

MICHAEL: We need some answers, Josh.

KATIE: We want some answers tonight, Josh.

MATT: We want the truth.

JESSIE: The whole truth.

EMILY: And nothing but the truth.

JOSH: As the cop said, I have the right to remain silent. Anything I say can be held against me in a court of law.

(Quick drum rhythm, the deceased up-end the box converting it to a judge's bench by opening the lid so that it's up vertically. Actor 2 stands behind box and bangs the gavel. [Because the courtroom scene is just a fantasy, it should be played speeded up, without pause, so that Josh's nightmare trial is over in a matter of seconds.])

(ACTOR2 AS JUDGE)

ACTOR2: The court will hear the prosecutor's opening statement.

(ACTOR4 AS PROSECUTOR)

ACTOR 4: Your Honor, ladies and gentlemen of the jury: seven dead bodies, Dozens of witnesses. What's to think about?

ACTOR 2: The court will now hear from the public defender.

(ACTOR1 AS PUBLIC DEFENDER)

ACTOR 1: Josh was a good student, a popular student, a good son. There's only one explanation-temporary insanity.

(ACTOR4 AS PROSECUTOR)

ACTOR4: I call witnesses for the prosecution!

(ACTOR3 AS WITNESS)

ACTOR 3: Josh pulled the wings off a butterfly when he was five and he plagiarized on a paper for English class.

(ACTOR2 AS JUDGE)

ACTOR 2: The court will now hear closing statements.

(ACTOR4 AS PROSECUTOR)

ACTOR 4: As I see it, you the jury have a very difficult choice between the electric chair and lethal injection.

(ACTOR1 AS PUBLIC DEFENDER)

ACTOR 1: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, he's just a child.

KATIE: I urge you to put Josh in a psychiatric ward.

JOSH: I'm not psycho just because my parents forced me to see a shrink. I knew what I was doing!

(ACTOR2 AS JUDGE)

ACTOR 2: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, have you reached a verdict?

EMILY: We have Your Honor, Life imprisonment without possibility.

JOSH: Possibility of what?

(ACTOR5 AS FOREWOMAN)

ACTOR 5: Without possibility of anything good.

(Beat. Lights fade. Remain.) Chorus exits. Deceased and Josh

MICHAEL: You'll never achieve your dreams.

MICHAEL: Never skydive.

MATT: Never scuba off Australia.

JESSIE: Never explore the caldera of a volcano.

KATIE: Never fly a helicopter.

MATT: Never be a sportscaster.

JESSIE: Never ski again.

MICHAEL: Never body surf.

JESSIE Never meet people on the internet.

EMILY Never know what you could've been-

MICHAEL: Done-

JESSIE: Seen-

KATIE: Had-

MATT: Known-

JESSIE: Loved in your lifetime.

MICHAEL: Now you'll never know all the happiness that was yours.

EMILY: But you'll wonder.

MATT: And the wonderment will eat you alive.

KATIE: Eat you for breakfast.

JESSIE: Eat you for lunch.

EMILY: Eat you for dinner.

KATIE: While all your dreams mock you-

MICHAEL: Mock you-

MATT: Mock you-

EMILY: Mock you through the bars.

(The box is restored to a bed. Josh lies down to sleep on the blanket.)

JOSH: Who cares? The whole thing will be off my record when I'm eighteen anyway. Maybe I'll be out of here when I'm twenty-one. You're all just a bad dream.

EMILY: Sometimes bad dreams come true.

(The deceased wrap Josh in the blanket, pick him up, making the box a coffin. They drop him in, close the lid. We hear Josh kicking and screaming inside. They turn the box on its side, open the lid. Josh tumbles out screaming and thrashing around. He begins to look at the deceased with new respect.)

MICHAEL: That's how it is under the earth.

KATIE: In the dark.

MATT: Alone.

JESSIE: In silence.

EMILY: We really need some answers, Josh.

JOSH: Answers to what?

MICHAEL: What were you thinking?

KATIE: What was in your heart?

MATT: Why'd you smile when you killed us?

JOSH: I'm just a friendly guy.

JESSIE: Didn't you feel badly?

EMILY: Did you think of the buck when you shot me?

(Josh is astonished they know about his hunting experience. The tone changes, Josh is feeling vulnerable that they know his mind.)

JOSH: What buck?

(The deceased pick up the box and move it to another location.)

MICHAEL: You know what buck.

KATIE: Your first time hunting.

MATT: With your grandpa.

JOSH: How do you know that?

JESSIE: We know everything about you.

EMILY: All your thoughts.

MICHAEL: Feelings.

KATIE: Memories.

MATT: Dreams.

JESSIE: We know all your deep, dark secrets.

JOSH: How? How can you know all that?

EMILY: We're all in your head.

JOSH: Psych! Tell me one fact about that day. Tell me one thing grandpa said.

MICHAEL: Just you and grandpa in his old, red truck.

(Actor 1, as Grandpa, sits next to Josh on the box that now becomes a truck.)

(ACTOR1 AS GRANDPA)

ACTOR 1: Respect the animals. Don't take a shot unless you know it's sure. Do it quick and clean. Otherwise the animal suffers.

JOSH: Wow.

KATIE: That old logging road is full of ruts.

JESSIE: You both bounce on the seat. You can't wait to shoot your new rifle.

JOSH: I'm pumped.

Grandpa parks the truck. Waiting for six a.m.

MICHAEL: You both sit there.

KATIE: Waiting to shoot your new rifle.

(ACTOR 1 (AS GRANDPA)

ACTOR1: Let's go, Josh.

MATT: You both get out of the truck. It's cold. You can see your breath.

JESSIE: Grandpa watches you load the rifle's magazine.

EMILY: Five shiny bullets.

MICHAEL: You show him the safety is on.

ACTOR 1 (AS GRANDPA)

ACTOR1: Atta boy. You'll be a man by the end of the day.

KATIE: Grandpa pats your back.

MATT: You both head for the forest.

JESSIE: You see other hunters.

EMILY: All grown men with rifles.

ACTOR 1 (AS GRANDPA)

ACTOR1: Now you wait here. Keep still. I'll drive the game towards you.

MICHAEL: You sit on a log for two hours.

(Josh sits on the floor.)

KATIE: Hours on a cold, wet log covered with moss.

MATT: Wishing you were still in a warm bed.

JESSIE: Wishing you ate the oatmeal your mother begged you to eat.

EMILY: Nose goes numb.

MICHAEL: Fingers go numb.

KATIE: Toes go numb.

MATT: And you have a profound thought:

JOSH: Hunting sucks.

JESSIE: You doze off.

EMILY: Doze for five, ten, fifteen minutes.

MICHAEL: Something wakes you up.

KATIE: Rustling of dry leaves.

MATT: You don't move.

JESSIE: The rustling leaves sound comes closer.

EMILY: And then you see it.

MICHAEL: A buck.

KATIE: eight pointers.

JOSH: Like in a dream, Amazing.

MATT: Magnificent

JESSIE: Strong.

EMILY: Proud.

MICHAEL: Keen.

KATIE: You forget you're hunting.

MATT: You're taken by its beauty.

JESSIE: Utterly taken by its feral beauty.

EMILY: Its hot breath making weird ghosts in the cold air.

MICHAEL: And then you notice the rifle in your hand.

KATIE: You remember why you're there.

MATT: To kill.

JESSIE: Kill the magnificent-

EMILY: Kill the strong-

MICHAEL: Kill the proud-

KATIE: Kill the keen buck.

MATT: The time has come.

JESSIE: Time to be a man.

EMILY: But deep inside you don't know if you can really pull the trigger.

MICHAEL: But you must go home a man by the end of the day.

KATIE: Or stay a boy who plays bang, bang, you're dead.

.JOSH: The buck sees me Freezes.

MATT: You hear your heartbeat.

JESSIE: You raise your rifle.

(Josh mimes a rifle. GUNS OF ANY FORM MUST NEVER BE PART IN THIS PLAY.)

EMILY: Can't find the buck in the scope-

MICHAEL: Because your hands are shaking.

KATIE: Hold your breath.

MATT: Crosshairs under the buck's shoulder.

JESSIE: The moment of truth has come.

EMILY: But this buck's too beautiful to kill.

MICHAEL: So you make your face a mask.

KATIE: A mask that hides your face.

MATT: A face that hides the pain.

JESSIE: A pain that eats your heart.

EMILY: A heart nobody knows.

MICHAEL: You pull the trigger! Nothing happens!

KATIE: The safety's still on!

MATT: You panic!

JESSIE: You click the safety off.

EMILY: The buck turns and runs like the wind.

MICHAEL: You take aim-

ALL DECEASED: Bam!

(On each "Bam," one loud drumbeat.)

KATIE: First shot misses!

ALL DECEASED: Bam!

MATT: Second shot misses.

ALL DECEASED: Bam!

JESSIE: Third shot misses!

ALL DECEASED: Bam!

EMILY: Fourth shot misses!

MICHAEL: Down on one knee.

KATIE: Find the buck in the crosshairs.

MATT: It is so beautiful.

JESSIE: Magnificent.

EMILY: Proud.

MICHAEL: Strong.

KATIE: All you want to be.

MATT: But the buck has to die so you can be a man-

JESSIE: Has to bleed.

MICHAEL: Has to fall.

KATIE: Has to die.

EMILY: So you can be a man.

ALL DECEASED: Bam!

(Final drumbeat.)

MATT: Buck goes down!

JOSH: Cool!

JESSIE: You tear across the field.

EMILY: Your eyes meet the bucks.

MICHAEL: You see who you used to be-

(Slight beat.)

KATIE: Full of fear-

MATT: Helpless.

JESSIE: Its chest heaves as blood pulses out like catsup-

EMILY: Its legs kick as if to run on the air.

MICHAEL: And it makes a pitiful sound that makes you hurt inside-

KATIE: A cry that could be human.

JOSH: Awww, man.

MATT: You wish it was all a game.

JESSIE: A game.

EMILY: A video game.

MICHAEL: Just hit reset.

KATIE: And start again.

MATT: Start again.

JESSIE: Start all over again.

EMILY: Because it hurts to see a-

MICHAEL: Beautiful-

KATIE: Magnificent-

MATT: Proud-

JESSIE: Keen buck dying on the ground.

EMILY: You watch its life run out.

MICHAEL: Blood thick as catsup.

KATIE: And wish you could take it all back.

MATT: Take back the bullet.

JESSIE: Put back the blood.

EMILY: Restore the buck to its majesty

MICHAEL: Give back its pride.

KATIE: Return its strength.

MATT: Make it keen once more.

JESSIE: Let it be what it is and run like the wind.

JOSH: I thought it would be fun. I didn't know it would be like this. Please don't die.

EMILY: Your buck takes its last breath...You almost let yourself weep.

MICHAEL: But you hear boots on dead leaves.

KATIE: Grandpa comes out of breath.

MATT He sees your dying buck.

JESSIE: He looks at you like no one's ever looked at you before.

EMILY: Like a man.

MICHAEL: As promised.

KATIE: man by the end of the day.

MATT: Grandpa takes out a camera. C'mon, Josh.

ACTOR1: Can't you smile in your moment of glory?

JESSIE: You stop your tears.

EMILY: And you pose for the camera.

MICHAEL: You make your face a mask.

KATIE: A mask that hides your face.

MATT: A face that hides the pain.

JESSIE: A pain that eats your heart.

EMILY: A heart nobody knows.

(Actor 1, as Grandpa, takes a Polaroid picture, hands it to Josh.)

MICHAEL: Now you have proof of who you are.

JESSIE: You carry the snapshot everywhere.

(Deceased carry the box back to original place.)

EMILY: You want the world to see you and your buck.

KATIE: You're dying to tell the story.

MATT: The story of how you took it down.

JESSIE: How you took its magnificence.

EMILY: Took its pride.

KATIE: Took its strength.

MATT: Made it part of you.

JESSIE: Part of your mask.

EMILY: The kid that nobody knows.

(Lights on Katie writing in a notebook.)

JOSH: Hey, Katie.

KATIE: Hi.

JOSH: Writing your thing for speech class?

(She goes back to her work)

JOSH: Guess what I wrote about.

(Hands her the snapshot)

JOSH: The buck I killed last weekend. Man, it was so cool. What's yours on?

KATIE: How to dump somebody.

JOSH: How's it go?

KATIE: Say for example your boyfriend says he's gonna meet you at the mall and take you to a movie but instead he goes hunting.

JOSH: C'mon, Katie We could go out this coming weekend.

(Enter Josh.)

KATIE: I don't think we should see each other anymore.

JOSH: Can't you give me another chance?

KATIE: I like somebody else now.

JOSH: Who?

KATIE: What's it matter?

JOSH: Just tell me who.

KATIE: Doesn't matter.

JOSH: Matters to me.

KATIE: Believe it or not there are some people who don't take me for granted.

(Enter Michael.)

MICHAEL: Sorry I'm late.

JOSH: Him? It's him?

MICHAEL: Hey, Josh.

JOSH: I thought we're friends?

MICHAEL: We are.

JOSH: Some friend who sneaks around with my girl.

KATIE: I'm not yours.

MICHAEL: Nobody's sneaking around, Josh.

KATIE: Can we just go please?

(Josh pushes Michael who pushes him back and knocks Josh to the ground. HUGE LAUGH FROM THE RUMORS. Exit Katie and Michael hand in hand. Lights on Josh. Voices in the dark. Constant rhythm from the drum under all rumors.)

ACTOR 1/RUMOR: Hear about Josh?

ACTOR 2/RUMOR: No, what about him?

ACTOR 3/RUMOR: Killed a buck.

ACTOR 4/RUMOR: No wonder he walks around all big and bad.

ACTOR 5/RUMOR: Not anymore.

ACTOR 1/RUMOR: What happened?

ACTOR 2/RUMOR: Katie dumped him for Michael.

ACTOR 3/RUMOR: Whoa! How'd Josh take it?

ACTOR 4/RUMOR: Like he doesn't care.

(Let the following rumor lines Actor 5 begins, "I wonder..." Josh..." Cue Actor 2, "What? The line, "What a dork," which overlap in succession: Cue Actor 1 with, "What? The..." And so on till should stick out.)

ACTOR 5/RUMOR: I wonder if he really killed the buck.

ACTOR 4/RUMOR: What?

ACTOR 5/RUMOR: What?

ACTOR 1/RUMOR: Josh didn't shoot the buck?

ACTOR 2/RUMOR: The snapshot's a fake?

ACTOR 3/RUMOR: What's a fake?

ACTOR 1/RUMOR: The snapshot! Josh never shot a buck? I think he shot the bull.

ACTOR 2/RUMOR: What a dork!

(The voices in the dark laugh mockingly.)

JOSH: Every kid in school is laughing at me.

MICHAEL: So you make your face a mask.

KATIE: A mask that hides your face.

MATT: A face that hides the pain.

JESSIE: A pain that eats your heart.

EMILY: A heart nobody knows.

(Voices in the dark laugh.)

JOSH: Someday, somebody's gonna laugh once too many times. (All laugh. Josh mimes loading a rifle, aims at the laughter, fires three times, each shot highlighted with a loud drumbeat outside the rhythm. The laughter stops abruptly after the third shot. Deceased shine flashlights at Josh. Drum out.)

MICHAEL: Who are you killing, Josh? You see anybody bleeding?

KATIE: Who are you killing in your mind?

JOSH: Nobody.

JOSH: Anybody.

JOSH Everybody.

MATT: Are you stuck in the movie again?

JOSH: What movie?

JESSIE: Your favorite movie.

JOSH: How would you know my favorite movie?

EMILY: The movie that makes the pain go away.

JOSH: How's it go?

MICHAEL: The kid goes back to school with a shotgun. And?

KATIE: Blows away all the kids who mocked him the day before.

JOSH: Shut up.

MATT: Blows away the teacher too.

JOSH: Get out of my face

JESSIE: Why are you cutting gym class?

JOSH: Maybe I got something better to do.

EMILY: Like sneak down the empty hallway?

MICHAEL: Like sneak in an empty classroom?

(Josh uses the fourth wall as a blackboard, mimes writing on it with a piece of chalk.)

KATIE: What are you writing on the blackboard?

(Speaking words as he writes them :)

JOSH: "Everybody...in...this...class...is...dead...meat."

MATT: Do you enjoy making everyone afraid?

JOSH: It's just for laughs.

JESSIE: Except nobody's laughing.

JOSH I am! And they're not laughing anymore.

EMILY: You enjoy police coming to investigate?

JOSH: More than I can say!

(Short drum rhythm. A police siren blares as a red flasher sweeps the stage. Josh laughs.)

ACTOR 5 (AS COP) Alright, I want everyone to stand by his or her locker.

JOSH: This your locker? Yes, officer.

ACTOR 5 (AS COP) you know anything about the words on the blackboard?

JOSH: No, officer.

ACTOR 5 (AS COP): You sure?

JOSH: Positive.

ACTOR 5 (AS COP): You see anybody go in or come out of the classroom?

JOSH: No.

ACTOR 5 (AS COP): Where were you when the words were written on the blackboard?

JOSH: I'd have to know when the words were written, wouldn't I, officer?

ACTOR 5 (AS COP): Let us know if you hear anything.

(Lights on Josh laughing, Voices in the dark Drum rhythm under rumors.)

ACTOR 1/RUMOR: The principal's calling an assembly.

ACTOR 2/RUMOR: What for?

ACTOR 3/RUMOR: Maybe they found out who did it.

ACTOR 5/RUMOR: That's what I heard.

ACTOR 1/RUMOR: Don't know-but he's gonna be hauled up on stage in front of the whole school and suspended on the spot. (Laughing)

JOSH: Gotta find him first.

ACTOR 2/RUMOR: They should take away all the guns.

(Lines begin overlapping again.)

ACTOR 3/RUMOR: Ever hear of the Constitution and the right to bear arms?

ACTOR 4/RUMOR: How are we supposed to get an education dodging bullets?

ACTOR 5/RUMOR: It's all a hoax. Ever hear of Paducah?

ACTOR 2/RUMOR: What about Jonesboro and Springfield? It could happen anywhere.

ACTOR 4/RUMOR: There's a killer in every school.

ACTOR 5/RUMOR: Teachers should carry guns.

ACTOR 1/RUMOR: Yeah, and we should all wear bulletproof vests.

(Josh stands amid the actors 1-4 and the deceased who make idle chatter like kids gathering in the auditorium. Deceased shine flashlight on Principal as she enters. New drum rhythm at entrance, then drum out.)

ACTOR 5 (AS PRINCIPAL) (Repeat): Alright people, let's settle down...

ACTOR 1/RUMOR: You're sweating, Josh. It's hot in here, okay?

(Flashlights out.)

ACTOR 5 (AS PRINCIPAL): Someone in this auditorium wrote some very threatening words on the blackboard.

ACTOR 3/RUMOR: Perhaps the blackboard phantom wrote those words in jest, perhaps in anger. Whatever the case...

ACTOR 2: Blackboard phantom!

JOSH: Love that!

JOSH

ACTOR 5 (AS PRINCIPAL)...If the guilty party surrenders in my office sometime today, the punishment will be minimal...

ACTOR 3: Maybe she knows it's you, Josh.

JOSH: If she knew it was me, she wouldn't say it like that.

ACTOR 5 (AS PRINCIPAL): But if we discover who he or she is...The punishment will be severe. If you know who the blackboard phantom is and don't tell us, you will be just as guilty.

ACTOR 4: She's looking at you, Josh.

JOSH: And I poker-face her right back.

MICHAEL: So you make your face a mask.

KATIE: A mask that hides your face.

MATT: A face that hides the pain.

JESSIE: A pain that eats your heart.

EMILY: A heart nobody knows.

(Lights on Josh. Drum rhythm under rumor lines. Voices in the dark. Deceased gather behind Josh.)

ACTOR 1/RUMOR: Who could it be?

ACTOR 2/RUMOR: I think it's Randy.

ACTOR 3/RUMOR: How do you know?

ACTOR 4/RUMOR: The look in his eye.

DECEASED: Paducah, Jonesboro, Springfield. (Josh, uneasy, crosses away, but still enjoys the rumors. Deceased follow.)

ACTOR 5/RUMOR: They don't have a clue!

ACTOR 1/RUMOR: Who could it be?

ACTOR 2/RUMOR: Anybody in this school.

ACTOR 3/RUMOR: My parents want me to stay home till the killer's found.

ACTOR 4/RUMOR: What killer? Nobody's dead.

DECEASED: Paducah, Jonesboro, Springfield.

(Josh moves away from them again. Deceased follow again, but not so closely, perhaps upstage.)

ACTOR 5/RUMOR: You lucked out. Wish my parents felt that way.

(Lines begin to overlap again, building in intensity. Josh enjoys them thinking he's finally escaped the deceased.)

ACTOR 1/RUMOR: We're all just waiting for a massacre to happen.

ACTOR 2/RUMOR: We shouldn't talk about it.

ACTOR 3/RUMOR: Why not?

ACTOR 4/RUMOR: Maybe we could make it happen if we keep talking about it.

ACTOR 5/RUMOR: We need some excitement around here.

ACTOR 2/RUMOR: That's stupid for all I know, you're the killer.

ACTOR 1/RUMOR: Yeah, and maybe it's you.

ACTOR 3/RUMOR: Who knows?

ACTOR 4/RUMOR: This could be the last day of my life.

ACTOR 5/RUMOR: I think its Melissa.

ACTOR 1/RUMOR: Why do you say that?

ACTOR 2/RUMOR: Her locker is right next to the classroom.

ACTOR 3/RUMOR: I was with Melissa all day.

ACTOR 4/RUMOR: Then maybe you and Melissa did it together.

DECEASED: Paducah, Jonesboro, Springfield.

(From behind Josh, they startle him.)

JOSH It's killing me not to tell Love to see 'em squirm!

(Deceased, except Katie, step back as area lights go up on Katie reading a book. Josh turns to see her there.)

JOSH: Hey, Katie.

(Katie looks at Josh, beat, goes back to her book.)

JOSH: Can't you say hi?

KATIE: Hi.

JOSH: Wha'cha doin'?

KATIE: Duh.

JOSH: Wanna go for a pizza after school?

KATIE: Michael wouldn't like that.

JOSH: Tell you the truth, I wasn't thinking of bringing him along.

KATIE: Excuse me. I'm busy.

JOSH: Who do you think it is?

KATIE: Who?

JOSH: The blackboard phantom.

KATIE: I have no idea, but he did me a favor.

JOSH: How?

KATIE: Calculus class was cancelled for the assembly. I wasn't ready for the test.

JOSH: I know who it is.

KATIE: Give him my regards.

JOSH: I will.

KATIE: Who is it?

JOSH: Promised I wouldn't tell.

KATIE: You're just a lot of talk.

JOSH: Think so?

KATIE: Know so, who's he mad at? Who's gonna be dead meat?

JOSH: He didn't say but he's like Santa Claus-making a list, checking it twice.

KATIE: List of what?

JOSH: Names to write on the bullets. Every bullet has somebody's name on it.

KATIE: Why would the blackboard phantom confide in you?

JOSH: We're buds.

KATIE: You're full of it.

JOSH: Think so?

KATIE: Know so.

JOSH: You're wrong.

KATIE: Who is it?

JOSH: I promised.

KATIE: You don't know.

JOSH: You won't tell?

KATIE: No.

JOSH: Promise?

KATIE: Yes.

JOSH: Cross your heart and hope to die?

KATIE: Yes.

JOSH: You'll be the only person who knows besides me.

KATIE: Who is it?

JOSH: You're lookin' at him. (Katie laughs and exits. Josh confronts them.) The chorus laughs mockingly.

JOSH: Anybody wanna laugh in my face? That's what I thought. There's a potential killer on the loose! Wonder who he or she is?

(Chorus goes silent)

(Josh turns to find the school principal in his face.)

ACTOR 5 (AS PRINCIPAL): Can I speak with you in my office, Josh? Come in. Have a seat.

JOSH: Thanks.

ACTOR 5 (AS PRINCIPAL): Anything you want to say to me?

JOSH: Not really.

ACTOR 5 (AS PRINCIPAL): You sure?

JOSH: Oh, yeah. Great hair.

ACTOR 5 (AS PRINCIPAL): Anything else?

JOSH: Well, yes, there is something.

ACTOR 5 (AS PRINCIPAL): Good. What's that?

JOSH: We all really hope you catch that nut who wrote on the blackboard.

ACTOR 5 (AS PRINCIPAL): You do?

JOSH: We'll all feel better knowing we're safe.

ACTOR 5 (AS PRINCIPAL): We know for a fact that you're the blackboard phantom, Josh.

(Josh laughs)

ACTOR 5 (AS PRINCIPAL): You want to confess?

JOSH: I was in gym class.

ACTOR 5 (AS PRINCIPAL): The instructor said you took a very long bathroom break.

JOSH: You can't prove a thing.

ACTOR 5 (AS PRINCIPAL): We have a snitch.

JOSH: Who?

ACTOR 5 (AS PRINCIPAL): You.

JOSH: What?

ACTOR 5 (AS PRINCIPAL): We compared the writing on the blackboard to your last essay in English class. It's a perfect match.

JOSH: Katie, right? Wasn't it Katie?

ACTOR 5 (AS PRINCIPAL): Do you want to make it easy and confess?

JOSH: Why confess when I didn't do anything?

ACTOR 5 (AS PRINCIPAL): It's tragic when a gifted young man throws away an education-for what? A childish prank. You know about our zero tolerance policy of violence or even the threat of violence. I have no choice but to expel you for the rest of the year.

JOSH: Because of some stupid words on the blackboard I have to repeat the grade?

ACTOR 5 (AS PRINCIPAL): Not if you make it up in summer school.

(Josh backs away screaming "I won't go" as Chorus laughs mockingly. Lights off Actor 5. Lights on Actor 1 and 3 as Josh's parents.)

JOSH: I won't go! I won't go!

ACTOR 3 (AS JOSH'S MOM): Josh, you will go to summer school no matter what.

JOSH: Sit in hot class all day while other kids can do what they want? And study on summer nights?

ACTOR 1 (AS JOSH'S DAD): You should've thought about that before you wrote on the blackboard.

ACTOR 3 (AS JOSH'S MOM): And you're grounded, Josh.

JOSH: For how long?

ACTOR 3 (AS JOSH'S MOM): All summer.

JOSH: I can't go hunting with grandpa?

ACTOR 3 (AS JOSH'S MOM): You broke your promise.

JOSH: I'd rather be dead!

ACTOR 3 (AS JOSH'S MOM): Oh, Josh, you don't really mean that.

JOSH: You'll see if I mean it! You'll all see! I can take only so much! Expelled! Summer school! Off the football team! Kids laughing at me! No hunting! I'm pushed to my limits!

ACTOR 1 (AS JOSH'S DAD): I think you should calm down.

JOSH: I want my rifle back. You gave it to me.

ACTOR 1 (AS JOSH'S DAD): We've taken your rifle away.

ACTOR 1 (AS JOSH'S DAD): We're sorry. You'll get it back when we see a real change in your attitude.

JOSH: It was a gift. At least you said it was. Guess I can't believe a word you say.

ACTOR 3 (AS JOSH'S MOM): You're in enough trouble, Josh. Don't make it any worse.

JOSH: I hate you both. I wish you would just die so I wouldn't have to look at you anymore.

(Josh mimes a pistol with his hand, shoots them both.)

ACTOR 1 (AS JOSH'S DAD): You can't talk that way to us anymore. Go to your room!

JOSH: No! Why do you have to take away the thing that means the most to me?

ACTOR 1 (AS JOSH'S DAD): Because we've raised you wrong. We tried to give you a good life but all we did was feed your appetites.

JOSH: Where is it? Where's my rifle?

ACTOR 1 (AS JOSH'S DAD): It's locked up. And if your attitude doesn't improve, we'll sell it.

ACTOR 3 (AS JOSH'S MOM): And starting tomorrow morning you have an appointment with a psychotherapist. JOSH: Summer school. No rifle. No friends. No phone. Psycho torture. Dis of dises. It's over. My life is over. It's over.

(Josh throws a tantrum pounding on the floor shouting "It's over." Lights on Actor 4 as Psychotherapist.)

ACTOR 4 (AS PSYCHOTHERAPIST): How are you, Josh?

JOSH: How good could I be if I'm forced to see a psychotherapist?

ACTOR 4 (AS PSYCHOTHERAPIST): Don't you want to get to the bottom of your problems?

JOSH: I have nothing to say to you.

ACTOR 4 (AS PSYCHOTHERAPIST): Why not?

JOSH: If I told you then I would have something to say, wouldn't I? Duh.

ACTOR 4 (AS PSYCHOTHERAPIST): I've talked to some people at your school.

JOSH: Talked to who?

ACTOR 4 (AS PSYCHOTHERAPIST): Your football coach praised your team spirit. Despite your need to be the class clown, your teachers say you're very bright and pleasant. You have had amazing grades in the past. There's a rumor that you're a big hit with the girls.

JOSH: I broke a few hearts.

ACTOR 4 (AS PSYCHOTHERAPIST): With all of that going for you, why did you make a threat on the blackboard?

JOSH: Why'd the chicken cross the road?

ACTOR 4 (AS PSYCHOTHERAPIST: I give up.

JOSH: To prove it wasn't chicken.

ACTOR 4 (AS PSYCHOTHERAPIST): Why'd the monkey fall out of the tree?

JOSH: Don't know? It died.

ACTOR 4 (AS PSYCHOTHERAPIST): Why'd the second monkey fall out of the tree?

JOSH: Don't know. It died. It died

ACTOR 4 (AS PSYCHOTHERAPIST): Peer pressure

JOSH: Ha, ha, ha.

ACTOR 4 (AS PSYCHOTHERAPIST): Why did you write on the blackboard, Josh?

JOSH: Maybe it's my childhood. Maybe it's my genes. Maybe it's my zodiac. Maybe the Devil made me do it.

ACTOR 4 (AS PSYCHOTHERAPIST): Why'd the third monkey fall out of the tree?

ACTOR 4 (AS PSYCHOTHERAPIST): Maybe you just chose to do it and it's nobody's fault but your own.

JOSH: I don't like you.

ACTOR 4 (AS PSYCHOTHERAPIST): That's not required. But it is required you tell the truth. Did you mean what you wrote on the blackboard? Is there somebody you want to turn into dead meat?

JOSH: Why'd the chicken cross the road?

ACTOR 4 (AS PSYCHOTHERAPIST): To avoid answering questions.

JOSH: I'm outta here.

ACTOR 4 (AS PSYCHOTHERAPIST): You need psychotherapy sessions to get back into school.

JOSH: Maybe I'm not going back to school.

ACTOR 4 (AS PSYCHOTHERAPIST): Oh? What will you do?

JOSH: Maybe I'll join a gang.

ACTOR 4 (AS PSYCHOTHERAPIST): Don't you think that's self-destructive?

JOSH: So what. My life is junk. Maybe I'll just kill myself. Boom.

ACTOR 2 (VOICE IN THE DARK): No more pain.

ACTOR 5 (VOICE IN THE DARK): Hear about Josh?

ACTOR 2 (VOICE IN THE DARK): No, what now?

ACTOR 5 (VOICE IN THE DARK): Blew out his brains.

ACTOR 2 (VOICE IN THE DARK): What a loser.

ACTOR 5 (VOICE IN THE DARK): Always was a weenie.

ACTOR 4 (AS PSYCHOTHERAPIST): You think about suicide, Josh?

JOSH: Sometimes.

ACTOR 4 (AS PSYCHOTHERAPIST): Like when?

JOSH: When I hear the voices.

ACTOR 4 (AS PSYCHOTHERAPIST): What voices?

JOSH: Voices. I can just imagine what they must be saying about me.

ACTOR 4 (AS PSYCHOTHERAPIST): Voices in the air or voices in your head?

JOSH: In my head.

ACTOR 4 (AS PSYCHOTHERAPIST): Whose voices?

JOSH: Kids.

ACTOR 4 (AS PSYCHOTHERAPIST): Kids you know?

JOSH Kids, kids, all the kids at school.

ACTOR 4 (AS PSYCHOTHERAPIST): Why does that bother you?

JOSH: It just does, okay?

ACTOR 2 (VOICE IN THE DARK): Hear about Josh?

ACTOR 5 (VOICE IN THE DARK): No, what?

ACTOR 2 (VOICE IN THE DARK) Principal made 'em see a shrink

ACTOR 5 (VOICE IN THE DARK): Blackboard phantom's doin' summer school.

ACTOR 2 (VOICE IN THE DARK): The great hunter's gotta repeat the grade.

(All laugh.)

ACTOR 4 (AS PSYCHOTHERAPIST): Josh, I'd really like to run some medical tests to see if we can relieve your pain with medication. You'll have to stay overnight in the hospital.

JOSH: The Looney bin? You know how much face I'll lose with kids at school when they find out I'm a nut case? My life sucks.

(All laugh.)

ACTOR 4 (AS PSYCHOTHERAPIST): Why'd the monkey fall out of the tree?

JOSH: Because I shot it dead!

(Lights off Actor 4.)

JOSH: Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!

(Voices laugh mockingly)

JOSH: Wish somebody would put me out of my misery!

(After a moment of absolute silence-)

ACTOR 2 (VOICE IN THE DARK): Boom.

JOSH: Who's there?

ACTOR 4 (VOICE IN THE DARK): Boom.

ACTOR 2 (VOICE IN THE DARK): No more pain...

JOSH: Who said that?

ACTOR 4 (VOICE IN THE DARK): You.

ACTOR 2 (VOICE IN THE DARK): Your life is over, Josh.

ACTOR 4 (VOICE IN THE DARK): Over.

ACTOR 2 (VOICE IN THE DARK: Over.

ACTOR 4 (VOICE IN THE DARK): Over.

JOSH: Who's there?

ACTOR 4 (VOICE IN THE DARK): You.

ACTOR 2 (VOICE IN THE DARK): You.

ACTOR 4 (VOICE IN THE DARK): You.

ACTOR 2 (VOICE IN THE DARK): Do it in the living room for your parents to see.

(Drum returns softly.)

JOSH: What do you mean?

ACTOR 4 (VOICE IN THE DARK): Leave your brains on the wall.

ACTOR 2 (VOICE IN THE DARK): Make 'em feel bad.

ACTOR 4 (VOICE IN THE DARK): The rifle's locked in the closet.

ACTOR 2 (VOICE IN THE DARK): Break the lock.

ACTOR 4 (VOICE IN THE DARK): Boom.

ACTOR 2 (VOICE IN THE DARK): No more pain.

JOSH: That's dumb.

ACTOR 4 (VOICE IN THE DARK): Josh the joke will be a year behind all his friends.

(Voices laugh mockingly.))

ACTOR 2 (VOICE IN THE DARK): While everybody's having fun in the sun, Josh is reading gobble-de-gook in a book!

(Voices laugh mockingly.)

JOSH: Shut up! Stop it!

ACTOR 4 (VOICE IN THE DARK): Only you can make them stop, Josh.

JOSH: How?

ACTOR 2 (VOICE IN THE DARK): You know.

JOSH: What do you mean?

ACTOR 4 (VOICE IN THE DARK): Boom.

JOSH: Whoa. ACTOR 2 (VOICE IN THE DARK) One bullet would quiet them forever.

(Voices laugh mockingly. Drum returns.)

ACTOR 4 (VOICE IN THE DARK): You'd end your pain and stop the voices in your head.

JOSH: I don't want to be thinking this!

(Voices laugh mockingly.)

ACTOR 2 (VOICE IN THE DARK): Show 'em who you are. The whole school would stand in awe of you. You'd be a legend for years to come.

ACTOR 4 (VOICE IN THE DARK): Kill the voices, Josh.

JOSH: Does it hurt?

ACTOR 2 (VOICE IN THE DARK): Bullet in the head? You'll never feel a thing.

JOSH: I'm scared.

(Voices laugh mockingly.)

JOSH: How do I do this?

(Drum out.)

MICHAEL: Make your face a mask.

KATIE: A mask that hides your face.

MATT: A face that hides the pain.

JESSIE: A pain that eats your heart.

EMILY: A heart nobody knows.

JOSH: Here goes...But suppose I botch it?

(Voices laugh mockingly.)

ACTOR 4 (VOICE IN THE DARK): You'll be a joke.

ACTOR 1 (VOICE IN THE DARK): Hear about Josh? Tried to off himself but he blew it!

(Voices laugh mockingly.)

ACTOR 3 (VOICE IN THE DARK): Now he's a pathetic wannabe forever!

ACTOR 4 (VOICE IN THE DARK): Josh the joke!

(Voices laugh mockingly.)

JOSH: I can't do this! I'll be Josh the joke forever!

ACTOR 2 (VOICE IN THE DARK): Then you have to stop the voices another way, Josh.

JOSH: How?

ACTOR 4 (VOICE IN THE DARK): Two boxes of bullets should do it. It's almost lunchtime.

JOSH: Whoa...They'll all be in the cafeteria now.

ACTOR 2 (VOICE IN THE DARK): Imagine their faces when the hunter walks in. They see you in cameo holding your rifle. Instant respect. Judgment day.

JOSH: Like the movie.

ACTOR 1 (VOICE IN THE DARK): Paducah.

ACTOR 3 (VOICE IN THE DARK): Jonesboro.

ACTOR 5 (VOICE IN THE DARK): Springfield.

ACTOR 4 (VOICE IN THE DARK): Take 'em with you.

ACTOR 2 (VOICE IN THE DARK): With you.

ACTOR 5 (VOICE IN THE DARK): With you.

JOSH: Whoa. Nobody could top that.

ACTOR 4 (VOICE IN THE DARK): You don't hear the voices laughing anymore, do you, Josh?

ACTOR 1 (AS JOSH'S DAD, VOICE IN DARK): Josh? You home?

(Drum returns. Voices laugh mockingly in a rising crescendo with the drum.)

JOSH: Who's that?

ACTOR 2 (AS JOSH'S DAD, VOICE IN DARK): Josh? You home?

ACTOR 1 (VOICE IN THE DARK): They'll take you to the Looney bin!

(Lights on Actor 1 as Josh's dad.)

ACTOR 1 (AS JOSH'S DAD): Josh, the doctor called me at work and asked your mother and I to drive you to the hospital...How'd you get the rifle?

ACTOR 2 (VOICE IN THE DARK): Don't chicken out now!

ACTOR 4 (VOICE IN THE DARK): Unless you wanna be Josh the joke.

ACTOR 1 (AS JOSH'S DAD): Put that down!

(Actor 1 advances. He turns back to the audience the drum rises to a crescendo.)

DECEASED AND CHORUS: DEAD! DEAD! DEAD!

(Lights out on Actor 1. and stands still.)

JOSH: What did I do?

ACTOR 3 (AS JOSH'S MOM, VOICE IN DARK): Josh? What was that noise?

JOSH: Mom?

(Lights on Actor 3 as Josh's mom.)

ACTOR 3 (AS JOSH'S MOM): Josh, what have you done?

MICHAEL: Make your face a mask.

KATIE: A mask that hides your face.

MATT: A face that hides the pain.

(Actor 3 as Josh's mom kneels and gestures to the body we can't see.)

JESSIE: A pain that eats your heart.

EMILY: A heart nobody knows.

JOSH: I love you, mom.

(Josh flicks the flashlight twice.)

DECEASED AND CHORUS: DEAD! DEAD!

(Actor 3 turns her back to the audience. All lights off. Josh holds the flashlight under his chin as he speaks to the turned backs of his parents.)

JOSH: Mom?

(A female voice in the dark starts to hum and then sing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" under the monologue)

JOSH: Dad? You made me do this. I wanted to kill you but I didn't want you dead. How else could I tell you what's on my mind without you interrupting? Mom? How are you singing now if you're dead? Stop it. You used to sing that to me when I couldn't sleep. Stop it, please? Don't I have enough pain? Isn't it hard enough being nobody? Isn't it tough enough that everybody looks at me like I'm a broken trashbag? Where do I fit in? Where can I go and not have anybody on my back? At school the teachers are giving this test and that paper and don't do this and don't do that. Then I come home and you always find something that I didn't do and I'm never good enough. I guess I'm just sick of you being disappointed in me all the time. Remember when you taught me the outfielder's glove, dad, and I caught a high-fly in the Little League championship game and you carried me off the field? Why can't it be like that? Why's it so easy to talk to you now? Anyway, thanks for listening.

(Chorus exits. The five deceased enter one by one, now each wearing white; Matt in a white dress shirt, Katie in a white blouse, Jessie in a white t-shirt, Michael in a white sweatshirt and white baseball cap turned backwards, Emily in a white sweatshirt. Matt enters first, carries a bottle of catsup, sits, pours some on some imaginary fries, begins to eat, then starts on some homework. Katie enters, sits next to Matt and asks to borrow a homework assignment, Matt agrees, but asks her to wait till he finishes the problem he's working on. Michael enters asking Katie to go with him to get some food; Jessie rushes in to tell Matt she's been accepted to college. Emily stops by to tell Katie she'll be late, etc. Improvise casual dialogue but don't allow anything to affect plot or character. As the dialogue builds to a crescendo, Matt, desperately trying to concentrate on his homework, finally raises his voice and asks them to be quiet so he can do his work. Silence, then together everyone continues at the same volume and pace. Matt slumps in defeat.)

(Lights up on Josh only, in a military stance. Silence.)

(Beat. Katie takes her flashlight, turns it on under her chin.)

KATIE: Why me? You liked me.

JOSH: You snitched on me.

KATIE: Why do you have to shoot me through the heart?

(Michael squeezes catsup into Katie's hand. She smears it on her heart.)

JOSH: Where do you think you shot me? Why do you pretend I'm not there? My parents don't see me. Kids in school don't see me. You don't see me. I'm invisible sometimes.

(Michael steps forward, flashlight under chin.)

MICHAEL: Why me? I had a football scholarship.

JOSH: You were everything I wanted to be.

(Jessie squeezes catsup into Michael's hand. on his hat, on the side of his head.)

MICHAEL: Why do you have to shoot me through the head?

JOSH: You should have figured that when you pushed me.

(Jessie steps forward, flashlight under her chin.)

JESSIE: Why me? I don't even know you.

(Matt squeezes catsup into her hand)

JESSIE: I never even spoke to you. Why me? What right do you have to take all the life I could've lived?

(She slaps it slaps catsup on her abdomen)

JESSIE: Feel like a man when you shot me in the stomach?

(Matt and Emily squeeze catsup in their own hands during Jessie's line.)

JOSH: You have no idea what it's like to be somebody one day, and nobody the next.

(Matt steps forward, flashlight under his chin.)

MATT: Why me? I had my whole life before me.

JOSH: So did I.

MATT (Matt squeezes catsup on his shirt collar): How'd it feel to shoot me through the neck?

JOSH: Don't know.

(Emily steps forward, flashlight under her chin.)

EMILY: All my life I've been taught to forgive. That forgiveness is for the forgiver. But I just can't. Not until I know what's really in your heart. I need to know, Josh. Why me? (Slaps it on her chest) Why me?

JOSH: If you know all my thoughts, why don't you know that? EMILY: We want to hear you say it to yourself...Why, Josh?

MICHAEL: Why her?

KATIE: Why him?

MATT: Why them?

JESSIE: Why me?

EMILY: Why anybody, Josh?

JOSH Sometimes I hate being alive, but I'm afraid to be dead.

KATIE: Know what I hate about being dead? You can't call up and order a pizza.

(Deceased gather around the box casually.)

MICHAEL: Pepperoni.

JESSIE: Extra cheese.

EMILY: Garlic.

ALL: Hold the anchovies!

MICHAEL: Cheeseburgers.

KATIE: With bacon.

MATT: And fries.

JESSIE: Drenched in ranch dressing.

EMILY: Triple chocolate milkshakes.

MATT: Chocolate chip cookies.

KATIE: With milk.

MATT: Cold milk.

JESSIE: So many things to miss.

EMILY: You could never name them all.

ALL: Never.

(With background music. The tone is sad joy-sad that it's gone, joyful in remembrance. Sometimes they are oblivious of Josh; other times they direct the lines at him. At the director's discretion, cut one or two of the following sections (5 or 10 lines) and let the Actors improvise. Let each actor personalize things they now have that they miss. Let each line begin with, "I miss-". Let none of it interfere with plot, character or tone.)

MICHAEL: I miss cruising, windows down, radio up.

KATIE: I miss lying on my bed in the dark falling asleep to a CD.

MATT: I miss getting shot down by girls.

JESSIE: I miss when a guy gets that look in his eye! And you know he's gonna ask you out!

EMILY: And then he says, Can I borrow your math book?

(These lines begin to overlap.)

MICHAEL: I miss when she answers before you even finish asking-

JESSIE: I'd love to!

MATT: I miss when you go in for the kiss and then it happens and it's much, much better than you dreamed it would be.

KATIE: I miss bowling.

EMILY: I miss seeing Jody when she has that look on her face that she's got another stupid joke to tell me.

MICHAEL: I miss mom's rock-hard brownies.

KATIE: I miss my dog when I come home from school.

MATT: I miss how my dog jumps all over me and barks for a treat.

JESSIE: I miss caffeine.

EMILY: I miss when you take a new pair of jeans in the dressing room and put them on and they fit perfect.

MICHAEL: I miss cheese puffs.

KATIE: I miss soda fizz tickling my nose.

MICHAEL: I miss loving someone.

(Emily gets everyone's attention. They listen.)

JESSIE: I miss fixing my hair in the morning.

EMILY: I miss going to the mailbox and getting a letter that I didn't expect.

MATT: A hand written letter.

(Katie moves DC. The others follow one by one on their lines. This is addressed to the audience.)

KATIE: I miss jumping into a cool pool on a hot day.

MATT: I miss sneezing.

JESSIE: I miss sleeping.

EMILY: I miss good times in Louisiana.

MICHAEL: I miss rollerblading.

KATIE: I miss when you start the school year and you open a book for the first time and the spine cracks.

MATT: I miss going into the cafeteria and deciding who I want to sit with.

JESSIE: I miss laughing so hard I start to cry.

EMILY: I miss waterskiing in Georgia.

MICHAEL: I miss being home alone with a microwave bag of popcorn and the remote in my hand channel surfing.

KATIE: I miss giving my dog a bath and she shakes and gives me a shower.

MATT: I miss mom's cooking.

JESSIE: I miss mom's cooking wafting through the house and trying to guess what it is.

EMILY: I miss picking a college.

MICHAEL: I miss talking with friends on the phone after midnight.

KATIE: I miss going in a grocery store and being able to buy anything I want.

MATT: I miss hanging out.

JESSIE: I miss the end of a race when I'm out of breath and I feel so good about myself.

EMILY: I miss screaming at the football games.

MICHAEL: I miss the end of the day school bell, the feeling in the air when you can go home.

(Katie crosses to a new position to look at Josh. The others follow on their lines.)

KATIE: I miss my bed.

MATT: I miss singing in the shower.

JESSIE: I miss getting into a fight with my brother and acting like nothing happened five minutes later.

EMILY: I miss making mom laugh so hard she can't hardly breathe.

MICHAEL: I miss watching the sky go from light to dark.

KATIE: And dark to light.

JOSH: I never thought I was taking away all that!

(Music fades out. Josh interrupts.)

MICHAEL: Never? What do you know about never? I'll never do all I wanted to do.

ALL: Never!

MATT: I miss, even at my age, not being able to sleep on Christmas Eve.

JESSIE: I miss learning new songs on the piano.

EMILY (TO DECEASED): I miss singing to the radio in front of the mirror.

KATIE AND MICHAEL (JOINING IN): And pretending I'm in concert.

SRO! I miss Sunday brunch.

(DECEASED, XC, LINES OVERLAP)

JESSIE: I miss Krispy Kreme donuts.

EMILY: I miss opening a door on a winter's day and feeling the cool rush of cold air on my face.

MATT: I miss hitting on girls.

KATIE: I miss jumping on the trampoline with six people at a time.

MATT: I miss swimming in the fountain at midnight.

MICHAEL: I miss people watching.

EMILY: I miss the look in my brother's eye just before he pulls his newest wrestling move on me.

ALL: Never.

KATIE: I'll never achieve my dreams.

ALL: Never.

MATT: I'll never see all I wanted to see.

ALL: Never.

JESSIE: I'll never know all I wanted to know.

ALL: Never.

EMILY: Not ever.

(At the director's discretion, cut one or two of the following sections (5 or 10 lines) and let the actors improvise. Let the actors personalize those things they never had. Let each line begin with, "I'll never-". Let none of it interfere with plot, character, or tone.) (Music continues. Characters listen respectfully to each other.)

KATIE: I'll never be an aunt.

MICHAEL: I'll never know what it is to live on my own and be independent.

MATT: I'll never have the chance to be a better person.

JESSIE: I'll never go to college and have a double major.

EMILY: I'll never find the right person to spend my life with.

MICHAEL: And make a marriage work.

(Josh, on the outside, moves in, hoping for an invitation. They ignore him.)

JOSH: I miss-

(They drown him out.)

KATIE: And give love.

MATT: And get love.

JESSIE: I'll never meet a beautiful, intelligent, caring fraternity boy who will look at me and see perfection.

EMILY: I'll never be married in a white dress and have a huge wedding.

MICHAEL: I'll never make new friends.

KATIE: I'll never be a psychologist.

MATT: I'll never play catch with my son.

JESSIE: I'll never have long talks at a candle lit table in the corner of a little restaurant.

EMILY: I'll never be nineteen the way I always dreamed about.

MICHAEL: I'll never know what it is to come home from work and open the door and all my kids run to me and pull me down on the floor and smother me with hugs and kisses.

KATIE: I'll never find out if the psychic was right-will I get what I want or sell used cars?

MATT: I'll never know what it is to own my own car.

(Moving DC, One by one to the audience. the rest join him.)

JESSIE: I'll never have my beautiful frat boy hold my hand in the delivery room of the maternity ward telling me to push, push, push while I tell him to shut up.

EMILY: I'll never own a red convertible.

KATIE: I'll never fly a plane.

MATT: Or sail a boat.

MICHAEL: Or see the Dead Sea.

JESSIE: I'll never have three children who look just like my frat boy so that when I kiss them I'm kissing him.

KATIE: I'll never see my limits.

MATT: Or really know myself.

KATIE I'll never learn all mom's recipes.

MATT: I'll never have a chance to make dad proud of me.

JESSIE: I'll never cry at my children's graduation.

EMILY: I'll never see Paris.

(One by one, each turn on their own lines, turning to Josh.)

MICHAEL: Or Tokyo.

EMILY: Or learn to fly fish.

MICHAEL: Or get washboard abs.

JESSIE: I'll never have an epitaph that reads "Beloved mother, grandmother, and wife. Died at 17."

JOSH: What do you want from me? I can't bring you back to life! If I could, I would! Don't you see that? It's over! It's over!

MICHAEL: Over for us, Josh.

KATIE: But it's just beginning for you.

MATT: For the rest of your life.

JESSIE: You'll have us in your head until you're dead.

EMILY: And you'll see us over-

MICHAEL: And over-

KATIE: And over-

MATT: Again and-

JESSIE: Again-

EMILY: As you saw us yesterday in the school cafeteria.

CHORUS: DEAD! DEAD! DEAD! DEAD! DEAD!

(Emily throws her arms around Josh, drops. Josh touches her blood and cries out.)

(more One light on Josh.)

JOSH: I didn't know it would be forever. I thought it was "bang bang you're dead" again. I thought I could just hit the reset button and start over. Why can't I have another chance? When I killed you I killed all my possibilities, too.

(Matt drops)

(Jessie drops)

(Michael drops)

(Katie drops dead)

JOSH: (cont'd) I'll never have anything to look forward to. Never.

(One by one the deceased rise dream-like and begin to exit slowly turning out their lights.)

JOSH: Is this the rest of my life?

(Josh goes to his knees, devastated)

JOSH: Oh God.

(Emily turns out her light on Josh. END Darkness.)