ELISE AND DEATH
THE STAGE IS COMPLETELY DARK.Tell me again how it’s not the answer.
DEATHI’ll show you.
LIGHTS UP ON HALF THE STAGE, ILLUMINATING A HOSPITAL ROOM. ELISE, A TEENAGED GIRL, AND DEATH, A FIGURE IN ROBES AND A HOOD, STAND IN THE CORNER OF THE ROOM. THEY WATCH AS A PREGNANT WOMAN LIES IN A HOSPITAL BED, CLUTCHING HER HUSBAND’S HAND, VISIBLY IN PAIN.
ELISEWhat’s the point of this?
DEATHJeez, be patient. We just got here.
ELISE TURNS AND PEERS INTO DEATH’S HOOD.
ELISEWait. Who are you?
ELISENo, you’re not. Death has a beard and brown eyes. Your eyes are blue. And you’re a woman.
DEATHOh, I’m new on the job. The entity of Death you had before got reassigned to a different region.
ELISEThere’s more than one Death?
DEATHOf course. Death isn’t like Santa, making a stop at every place one by one. Death is happening all the time, everywhere. We need lots of different figures of Death to handle it all. Also, you’re my first person ever.
DEATH RAISES A HAND FOR A HIGH FIVE. ELISE STARES AT IT.
DEATHOkay, my bad, that’s not the vibe.
ELISEI’m sorry, did you just say, “the vibe”?
DEATHYes. Is that not cool in these situations?
ELISEI mean it’s fine, just surprising. Aren’t you supposed to be all old and wise?
DEATHEvery Death is human before they’re a Death. I was 17 when I died. Same age as you.
ELISEOh shit, I’m sorry. (a pause) How?
DEATHSuicide. 2 years ago. I became a Death in order to help people who have attempted suicide, because I know what they’re going through. I want to show them why life is worth living.
ELISEBut your job is to take people to the afterlife. Isn’t that against the rules?
DEATHNot if they’re not technically dead yet.
ELISEWait. Am I still alive?
DEATHYes. You’ve gone into a coma, but there’s still a chance for you to live. And I’m going to give you a choice.
DEATH REACHES INTO HER ROBES AND PULLS OUT A T.V REMOTE. TWO BUTTONS ON IT, ONE GREEN AND ONE RED, ARE GLOWING.
Pretty soon, your heart is going to start failing. It’ll happen at the exact same time this baby is born two floors down from where you currently sleep. You have until the baby is born to decide whether or not you want to give life another shot, using this remote. The green button will bring you back to life. The red one will kill you.
ELISEWhy are you doing this?
DEATHThis was your second suicide attempt in the span of a year, right? Something’s wrong here, and as someone who did die by suicide, I want you to think your situation through.
ELISEI have thought it through. My mind’s made up, I’m ready to die.
THEIR CONVERSATION IS INTERRUPTED AS THE PREGNANT WOMAN STARTS TO SCREAM. DEATH SNAPS HER FINGERS, AND FOR A MOMENT, THE STAGE IS DARK EXCEPT FOR A SPOTLIGHT FOCUSED ON ELISE AND DEATH. THEN DEATH SNAPS HER FINGERS AGAIN, AND THE MIDDLE SECTION OF THE STAGE LIGHTS UP. NOW IT’S A PARK ON A SUNNY DAY.
DEATHSo. How did you get to a suicide attempt?
ELISEDon’t you already know?
DEATHI can’t see the past. I don’t know anything about your life until the moment of your death, when you asked me to tell you again why suicide wasn’t the answer.
ELISEI couldn’t see you, I thought I was talking to the other guy.
DEATHRight. Tell me about how you got to death, so I can convince you to live.
ELISEI’ll convince you to let me die. I was at my mom’s wedding to her new husband. Ever since they started dating, it was like he suddenly mattered to her more than me. No more helping me with my homework, going to the games I did marching band for, anything. It was always just “Jack wants this, Jack wants that. Sorry, honey, I’m busy with Jack tonight. Sorry, dear, Jack has a big presentation tomorrow and he wants my support”. I came second to this guy, and I’m her daughter.
DEATHHave you told your mom you feel this way?
ELISENo, gee, why didn’t I think of that? Of course I’ve told her. She said I was being ridiculous, and selfish, and accused me of having something against Jack.
He stole my mom from me! I kept hoping she’d realize how self-absorbed he is, or see how keeping him around hurts me, and dump him. But she never did. When I was at the wedding, everyone was having fun except for me. I kept getting sad, and distracted, and zoning out. My mom wouldn’t talk to me, because we’d gotten into another fight about Jack yesterday night. I was a burden to everyone there. Every time I wandered off and disappeared for a while, no one noticed. I think they were grateful to have a break from me. And I felt so awful because it was like I was the only person there incapable of being happy for even two seconds. So, I asked my aunt if she could leave early with me, because I was just really, really tired, and I wanted to go to sleep. She’s the one person who always listens to me and is actually sympathetic. But she told me she wouldn’t take me home. She said I really needed to relax and stop overthinking, and asked me why I couldn’t ever let myself be happy. And I realized what the issue was.
ELISEMe. I confirmed all of my worst fears tonight. That I’m just as much of a burden as I think I am, and I really can’t let myself be happy. My mom values Jack more than me, and I managed to exhaust the one person who always has energy to deal with my bullshit. I’ve estranged everyone in my life, and I’ve ruined every relationship I have. And I couldn’t stand being me anymore, I had to escape myself. So, I killed myself.
DEATHIt sounds like this was a breaking point for you. But now you have a chance to start over and move forward. Can you try talking to your family about these things?
ELISEWhat the hell are you talking about? Haven’t you been listening to me?
DEATHI have, I promise. I’m just trying to see if we can sort through this and come to a helpful conclusion.
ELISEThis isn’t something that we can just sort through. I’ve completely ruined things, and I’m done. You know what, how about you just let me get back to my death already?
ELISE MAKES A GRAB FOR THE REMOTE, TRYING TO YANK IT AWAY FROM DEATH, BUT DEATH FIGHTS HER. THEY GRAPPLE FOR CONTROL OF THE REMOTE. THEN, JUST AS ELISE GETS THE UPPER HAND, DEATH YANKS IT BACK, AND BREAKS IT OVER HER OWN KNEE.
ELISEWhy the hell did you do that?
DEATHBecause you deserve a chance to live. It’s a chance that I lost, and I’m trying to make sure no one loses it again.
ELISEI’ve had my chances! Chances do nothing! I have reached so many breaking points and climbed my way back up from rock bottom so many times. And every time, I try my best to change my life, and it works for a little while. I start doing better, getting back on top of my homework, making nicer friends, feeling like maybe this will be the time I fix everything. But then my life crashes down again, some way or another. My happiness isn’t sustainable. And I don’t think life is worth living if it’s going to be like this.
ELISEAbsolutely miserable. What’s the point of living if I just wanna die the whole time?
DEATHI can’t tell you what the point of living is, that’s something you have to decide for yourself. But you’ll never get to find out if you die.
ELISE SITS DOWN. AFTER A MOMENT, DEATH SITS DOWN BESIDE HER. SHE SNAPS HER FINGERS, AND THE PARK DISAPPEARS. THE STAGE IS DARK EXCEPT FOR A SPOTLIGHT ILLUMINATING ELISE AND DEATH.
DEATHWe don’t have much time left.
ELISEI just wish living was easier. I wish I had the fight in me to keep going.
DEATHThere have to be things that make you feel like life is worth living. What are they?
ELISE(quietly) I don’t know. They all just kind of started fading from my life when I started wanting to die. I used to love running. But then I got out of shape because I was sleeping most of the day or hiding in my room all the time, and I started getting an anxiety attack whenever I did try to run. I used to love playing guitar, but every song is basically about love or being miserable, and I got so tired of hearing all of those. And it’s like, neither of those activities are even bad. Nothing about the things I love changed. I changed. It’s my fault I’m like this.
DEATHNo, it’s not. And if you’ve changed before, then it means you can change again.
ELISEYou can’t know that.
DEATHI’m Death, of course I can know that. It gets better.
ELISEGod, I hate that phrase.
DEATHYou know what, so do I. Screw “it gets better”. It may be true, but once you’ve heard it enough times, it really loses its effect. I want you to assume that it gets better. You don’t have to know how. I want you to blindly walk forth into the future, assuming that everything gets better. That you have a right to a better life, and that it’s coming. Even if it doesn’t feel logical.
ELISEWould it have gotten better for you?
DEATHYou know what’s ironic? I started wanting to live again after I died. The moment I reached the afterlife, I knew I’d done something irreversible. As time passed, I kept watching the world of the living and mourning the life I would’ve had if I’d stuck around. I’d do anything to have my life back. And I’d take it even if it meant being miserable the whole time, because life is a take-what-you-can-get situation.
ELISEI still don’t know if it’s worth it to keep trying.
DEATHIf you’re looking for a guarantee that life is worth living, this is it. Now, we need to check on our friends.
DEATH SNAPS HER FINGERS, AND HALF THE STAGE BRIGHTENS TO SHOW THE HOSPITAL ROOM. THE WOMAN IS GIVING BIRTH.
DEATHIt’s time to decide.
DEATH CONJURES A REMOTE CONTROL FROM HER POCKET, EXACTLY LIKE THE ONE SHE’D BROKEN. SHE HANDS IT TO ELISE. ELISE HOLDS IT, STARING AT IT, BUT DOESN’T DO ANYTHING.
ELISEI know you didn’t like it, but…is the afterlife a better place?
DEATHI’ll tell you one thing about the afterlife, Elise. It isn’t worth this.
THE SIDE OF THE STAGE WHERE THE BIRTH TAKES PLACE FALLS TO DARKNESS, AND THE BEEP OF A FLAT HEART RATE MONITOR IS HEARD. AFTER A MOMENT, THE OTHER SIDE ILLUMINATES. ANOTHER HOSPITAL ROOM. ELISE AND DEATH STAND IN THE CORNER, WATCHING AS ANOTHER VERSION OF ELISE LIES IN THE HOSPITAL BED. A DOCTOR IS TRYING TO RESTART HER HEART.
DEATHIt’s not a better place if you have to do this to yourself to get there.
ELISE’S FINGER HOVERS OVER THE GLOWING BUTTONS ON THE REMOTE.
DEATHTell me again how this is the answer.
THE DOCTOR SHOCKS ELISE’S BODY AGAIN. THE HEART RATE MONITOR SHOWS HER HEART START BEATING.