Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cerberus Meets Caligula, a play in one scene

Dramatis Personae:

Cerberus - A large and especially vicious looking, three-headed, dog. Each head acts and speaks autonomously. The center head will be referred to as Head 1, the right head as Head 2, and the left head as Head 3.

Caligula – A/K/A Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, 29, Emperor of Rome.

Setting:  The Gates of Hades, the underworld, abode of the dead, January 24, 41 A.D.

(Lights up slowly. Cerberus is alone, at his post, guarding the gates of Hades. Head 1 and Head 2 gaze about intently, on duty. Head 3 is busy licking its crotch furiously. After a moment, Head 2 turns to look reproachfully at Head 3.)

Head 2: Really? You don’t think they’re clean enough already? How long have you been at those things?

Head 3: (speaking between licks) I don’t know. Three minutes, three weeks. I’m a dog. I have trouble conceptualizing time. Plus, we’re here for eternity, so what difference does it make to you?

Head 2: They’re my balls, too, you know. I should have some say in how clean they are.

Head 3: (to Head 1) What do you think?

Head 1: I think our ass itches.

Head 3: I’m on it!

(Head 3 switches the locus of his licking, and somehow manages to increase the intensity of his cleaning efforts.)

Head 2: (to Head 1) Why does he get to do all the fun work? You and me, we stand here guarding the Gate, letting the living pass but keeping the dead at bay…

Head 1: NO! That is exactly wrong! How many times do we have to go over this?

Head 2: I’m sure…

Head 1: You’re not sure of anything, you mongrel! Hey, ass munch!

Head 3: (stopping his licking and chewing for a moment) Yeah?

Head 1: Tell stupid here what our prime directive is.

Head 3: (puzzled at being asked such an elementary question) We guard the gates of Hades, letting the dead pass and preventing the living from getting by.

Head 1: Thank you! Carry on. (Head 3 continues his intense licking.)

Head 2: Isn’t that what I just said?

Head 1: No, idiot, you said the exact opposite! That’s why me and him can never sleep at the same time. Jupiter only knows what you’d do if you were left in charge.

Head 2: (He knows this is true) OK.  (pause) Could I chew on our ass for a while?

Head 1: No! (to Head 3) And you stop, too! (Head 3 stops chewing, looks out intently). Can you smell that?

Head 3: (sniffing, puzzling) What is it? I know that smell, I’ve smelled it before…

Head 2: (sniffing, then confident) It’s a Caesar!

Head 1 and Head 2: (awed) A Caesar!

(Caligula enters. He is a handsome, if strange, man of 29. He wears a toga besmirched with blood stains from a dozen or more stab wounds. He is looking around, amazed, and has not yet seen Cerberus.)

Caligula: (to himself) Those filthy buggers actually stabbed me?! But I live! Ha! Did they not know I am a god as well as an emperor? I cannot die by assassins hands! (He sees Cerberus. He stops his musings, pales.) Hello, doggie. Good doggie.

(Cerberus’ right and left head snarl quietly, but malevolently, at Caligula. Head 1 regards Caligula cooly.)

Head 1: You are a Caesar.

Caligula: (More than a little taken aback) I am Caligula. And you, you’re a talking three-headed doggie.

(All 3 Heads bark, “I am Cerberus” repeatedly, creating a discordant cacophony.)

Caligula: (continued) Yes, yes, Cerberus, of course. I’ve read all about you. Good boy. (ingratiating) Or is it, good boys?

(Head 2 looks pleased at Caligula, who has just praised him. Head 3 continues to snarl quietly. Cerberus’ tail wags uncertainly.)

Head 1: You may pass, and you are most welcome to Hades, Caesar.

Head 2: (happily) I’m a good boy! You can pet me if you want, you know?

Head 3: (quietly furious) Touch him and die!

Caligula: (to Head 3) Oh, no, no, you’re a good boy, too! (Head 3 is somewhat placated). But you say I'll die if I touch him. (Examining the bloody stab wounds in his toga) I don’t understand. I am Caligula! I cannot die. You can no more kill me than those conspirators could. (He laughs) I am a god, and when have you ever seen a dead god? (Head 2 is about to answer, but is silenced by a glare from Head 1)

Head 1: (placating) Yes, yes, you are a god, Caligula. Please, pass.

(Cerberus steps away from the Gate.)

Caligula: Oh no. If I pass through that gate, I will be dead.  Only the dead pass Cerberus.

Head 1: (thinking quickly) We're not Cerberus.

Caligula: You've just been howling that you're Cerberus.

Head 1: We were kidding. I'm covering. Cerberus isn't here right now.

Caligula: You’re Cerberus, the three-headed hellhound who guards the gates of Hades, letting the dead pass and stopping the living.

Head 2: (to Head 1) That’s exactly what I said!

Head 1: You said exactly the opposite! (to Caligula) We’re not Cerberus. Our name is…Bowser…

Caligula: You’re a three-headed talking dog who just happens to be standing by the Gates of Hades and your name is Bowser?

All Heads: Yes, yup, that’s right, Bowser, that’s me.

Caligula: Then where is Cerberus?

Head 1: At the...at the vet. (Head 2 and Head 3 concur.) So go right through, there. Doesn’t mean you’re dead or anything.

Head 3: No, not dead at all, Caesar! You’re a god, like you said, and…

Caligula: Gods can no more pass through the Gates of Hades than can living men!

Head 2: True, unless…(He has no idea what he's going to say)

Caligula: Unless what, Bowser?

Head 1: Unless... there’s going to be a big surprise party…

Head 3: (To Head 1, catching on) Oh, good one, stupid! Now you’ve ruined it!

Caligula: (delighted) A surprise party? For moi?

Head 3: Please don’t tell them we said anything.

Caligula: Who’s here? Who is at my party?!

Head 2: Oh, they’re all here. Mars, Mercury…

Caligula: Drusilla? Is my little sister here? Once we consummated our marriage, I made her a god, too, you know.

Head 1: She’s here.

Caligula: And the horse I made a god, Rusty? He's here too?

Head 1: Drusilla rode him in!

Head 3: Stark naked!

(Excited, Caligula begins to rush through the Gate.)

Head 1: (to the departing Caligula) Act surprised! Don’t say we said anything! (but Caligula is gone)

(Cerberus sits down, drained.)

Head 2: I’m going to dig at our ass for a while, if that’s alright. (He does so)

Head 1: I need a nap. (to Head 3) Make sure you stay awake. You know how he is.

Head 3: I’m on it!

(Cerberus sits at the Gates of Hades. Head 2 determinedly licks their nether regions. Head 1 drifts off to sleep. Head 3 remains vigilant. )

(Slow fade to black.)

© 2009, All Rights Reserved, Rich Sands
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