Mr. Jon Simms (man in his fifties)
Lou Smith (young man)
Voice from light
Mr. Simms: (Disoriented.) Where am I?
Lou: Don’t worry. I am here with you.
Mr. Simms: Where is here?
Lou: Do you need to sit? I can get you a chair. You seem disoriented.
Mr. Simms: Yes please. I feel so strange. I think I had a blow to my head. My head hurts. (He touches his head and notices blood on his fingers)
Lou: (Stands and walks over to darker part of stage. He comes back with chair.) Here. Sit down.
Mr. Simms: (Sits in chair and loosens his tie, looking relieved.) I don’t know what happened. The last thing I remember, I was sitting in the back seat of my car. My driver was taking me to my office. I was on the phone with my lawyer. Then everything went black. (He pauses.) Can you tell me where I am?
Lou: (Sits back down on the floor.) It looks like a room. Don’t you see the walls?
Mr. Simms: Yes, now that you mention it, I do see walls. But the light in this room is so dim. I can barely see my hand in front of my face. (He lifts his hand to his face and studies it.) I feel much better now. Thanks for the chair.
Lou: No problem. It was the only thing I could find in here.
Mr. Simms: How long have you been here?
Lou: I can’t really say, but I know it’s been a long time.
Mr. Simms: (Feeling his wrist.) Damn; they must have taken my watch. (Stands and starts feeling the walls.) There must be a door here some place.
Lou: I tried that before. You won’t find one.
Mr. Simms: How strange – a room with no doors. We must have gotten in here somehow. (He sits back on chair and sighs.) I really never thought it would happen. I mean, my friends tell stories about it happening but I just never believed it would. It’s always a story about a friend of a friend type thing.
Lou: What are you saying? What do you think has happened?
Mr. Simms: I have obviously been kidnapped. You must have been kidnapped too.
Lou: Why do you think we have been kidnapped?
Mr. Simms: Well, we’re in a dark room. There doesn’t seem to be a way out. Whoever put us here doesn’t want us to get out. I just don’t believe it’s happened.
Lou: Why would someone kidnap us?
Mr. Simms: Well, I don’t know why they would kidnap you but I am Jon Simms. All they would have to do is contact my lawyers and they would get a handsome ransom. I even hired a bodyguard just for this reason. I never really thought it was necessary but my lawyer suggested it. He said that I might have a few enemies. I guess he was right.
Lou: Well, it appears that your bodyguard is not very good at his job.
Mr. Simms: I was just thinking the same thing. What a waste of money. He even came highly recommended. An ex-navy seal. You know the type. When I get home I am firing him.
Lou: Was he with you?
Mr. Simms: Yes, I remember that he was sitting in the front seat of the car.
Lou: Did you say you are Jon Simms? I think I‘ve heard of you. Are you the publishing tycoon? You own the New York Times, don’t you?
Mr. Simms: (Leans back proudly into the chair.) The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune and most of the country’s major papers. (Pauses and leans over his knees.) Say, who are you?
Lou: My name is Lou Smith.
Mr. Simms: I have never heard of you. Are you an important man?
Lou: I am just a student.
Mr. Simms: (Shocked.) A student! Do you know why you would be here?
Lou: No, not really.
Mr. Simms: What do you remember?
Lou: I don’t remember much. I think I was on my way to class. I walking along the path I normally walk on and then I was here. Just like that. (Pause.) You know, at first I thought I was dreaming. This whole place was just some sort of dream. All of this is just a trick of my subconscious and I am really still asleep in my dorm room. I mean, just look at this place! It’s so clichéed. The cold grey stone walls. The dampness in the air. I almost expect to see chains hanging from the walls. Doesn’t it seem like it came out some B-list writer’s imagination? It’s a scene right out one of those hokey horror films I always watch. “The college student gets drugged and placed in a dungeon.” I was just telling myself – as long as a business man doesn’t show up, I’ll be fine. Then you appear with your suit and tie. I just knew I was in for it. (Shaking head.) Damn, why is it always a business man? Then I saw your head bleeding and thought, well, maybe you’re just like me, stuck here. Hey, you’re not here to take out all your pent-up frustration on someone, are you?
Mr. Simms: (Laughs.) Not that I know of. (Pauses.) Well, Mr. Smith, your guess is as good as mine as to why we are here. If one of us is dreaming, I hope we wake up soon.
Lou: (Shaking head sternly.) Something tells me this isn’t a dream at all. (Stands and starts to pace.) When I first got here, I looked for a door or window – anything – but I didn’t find any. I pounded the walls like a madman. I screamed for help. I screamed so much that my throat started to hurt. Nobody has come yet. No, Mr. Simms, this isn’t a dream. This place is real.
Mr. Simms: I think we have been kidnapped. It’s someone desperate for money, that’s all. They won’t hurt us. They just want money. Whoever is keeping us will come and make their demands known. In any case, someone will notice that I didn’t make it to my office. I am always on time. My assistant will call the police or the FBI. Someone will come.
Lou: (Nervously looks off to the side.) Yes, yes, I am sure they will come soon. (Pauses.) Aren’t you scared, Mr. Simms?
Mr. Simms: Scared? Don’t be ridiculous. (He laughs.) If these bastards think they get away with this, they don’t know who they are dealing with. I always get justice.
Lou: (Calmly sits back on the ground.) You seem very sure of yourself.
Mr. Simms: You don’t get were I got in the world being timid. I will make them wish they were never born.
Mr. Simms: (Annoyed.) Do you think I am funny, sir?
Lou: I didn’t mean to offend you. You don’t feel powerless often, do you, Mr. Simms? I am afraid that it doesn’t matter much who you are right now. We’re in the same boat. We are stuck here and all your money can’t get us out!
Mr. Simms: You don’t know the power money has, son.
Lou: (Upset.) I know the power of money very well, Mr. Simms. I know in the world outside this place you can’t do very much of anything without it. But in here, Mr. Simms, it has no value. Is it going to help us find the door? Is it going to help us get away from whoever is keeping us? No, it can’t do any of those things!
Mr. Simms: Calm down, son. It’s going to be ok. We’re going to get out of here. (Pauses, and tries to distract him.) Say, you said you’re a student. What are you studying?
Mr. Simms: (Laughs.) Son, how are you going to make money studying that?
Lou: (Smiling.) Ya, I know. My parents aren’t thrilled about my major either, but I can teach. Anyway, I love it.
Mr. Simms: I loved something once too. (Pauses.) I remember when I was your age. I was working on a small paper. Just a local paper. The type that they give away. I loved it too. I did everything and anything. I wrote stories. I ran errands. I even cleaned the bathrooms. (Pauses.) I worked for the best boss anyone ever could. He owed the paper. A decent man. (Laughs.) Hell, he must have been my age now. He had the same people working for him for years. I mean, he never fired anyone. As I think back on it now I loved and hated him. (Rubbing his hand in his hair.) I just didn’t understand why he lacked the ambition to make that paper what it could have been. I could not understand it. (Pauses.) I had big ideas. Such Ideas I had. I knew the paper could be better. So I go in his office one day and tell him all my ideas on how to increase circulation. How we could get more advertisers. You know what that bastard said to me?
Lou: What did he say?
Mr. Simms: He said that it wasn’t his purpose. Can you believe that! It wasn’t his purpose. What the hell did that mean? So I quit that day and never looked back. I quit the best job I ever had. If only he had listened to me, too. If he had, he would have died a millionaire. The only asset he had when he died was a paid mortgage on a lousy three-bedroom house. To this day I don’t understand it. (Shaking his head.)
Lou: Small men are often scared of new ideas.
Mr. Simms: Yes, that is what I think.
Lou: (Leaning in closer.) Tell me, did he make you angry by rejecting your ideas?
Mr. Simms: I wasn’t angry. I just knew my ideas would work. And I was right, too. I showed them. In fact, it was the first paper I bought. (Flailing arms.) I bought that paper and fired them all.
Lou: (Looking intently.) Anger is a powerful emotion. So powerful it can change the world. I understand your anger; you were confronted with something you could not accept. Your boss’s satisfaction was a shock to your ambition.
Mr. Simms: (Leans back in chair and breathes deeply.) I told you I wasn’t angry. I was just right.
Lou: Ok, you weren’t angry. (Pauses.) Why did you love that job? You said you loved it, didn’t you?
Mr. Simms: Oh, I don’t know. I guess I loved it because the old man was good to me. He treated me fairly. He thought of me.
Lou: But you hated his kindness. Didn’t you say that hated him, too?
Mr. Simms: I loved him.
Lou: But said you hated him, too. Tell me, Mr. Simms, what did you hate about him? Was it the very reason you loved him too? You don’t see kindness as others do. (Leaning in closer to Mr. Simms.) Do you, Mr. Simms?
Mr. Simms: Is this the philosophy major speaking? Trying to find another meaning in my actions? (Laughs.) Perhaps you’re right. Maybe I don’t see kindness as others might. Perhaps I see it as weakness. Perhaps not. But really it wasn’t about him at all. It was business. Just business! I had an opportunity and I took it.
Lou: Why did you fire them all?
Mr. Simms: (Grins.) You are very smart. Too smart for philosophy. The truth of the matter was, it felt good to rub his nose into my success. Is that what you wanted to hear? I didn’t owe them anything. I suppose you’re the type that thinks making money is pointless. That instead of starting my company, I should have joined a commune somewhere.
Lou: On the contrary, I admire what you did. You left paradise to make your own. It takes guts to do that. You followed your god.
Mr. Simms: (Excited and forceful.) It takes more then guts. It takes an iron will to accept nothing less then success. So many people are content with living ordinary lives. They are not willing to make the commitment to get ahead. (Pauses and thinks carefully.) What did you mean, I “followed my god”?
Lou: I mean we all have our gods. Our passions. Something or someone we want so badly that we are willing to give our very soul to obtain it. These passions are what make humanity so exquisite. The ability to love something so fiercely that nothing else matters. Some say that this is the defect of man and should be overcome, but I say we should relish our defects. People should not fight against their natural inclinations but develop them. If only people could decide exactly what they wanted! I have found that people are so fickle in what they want. It changes with the weather. Even when they are given what they want, they end up hating it. The husband, who is so in love with his wife on their wedding day, ends up hating her just a few years later. The rich man who earns more money than he could possibly spend in one lifetime is consumed by his search for new ideas of how to get more. The men in authority that have reached the highest levels of government will sacrifice the good of the people to acquire additional power. The movie star, who soothes her unhappy life by placing a straw up her nose – all of them! They are never satisfied. They have money; they want power. They have power; they want money. They love someone today; they hate them tomorrow. They want to be famous; they hide from the cameras. Mostly, I find they just want everything. The human race is fallen and depraved. Beautiful, damaged man. (Breathes deeply.) Without these blemishes, humanity would be dreary.
Mr. Simms: (Clapping and looking bored.) Nice speech. Is that what you learn in your philosophy classes? (Laughs.)
Lou: (Calmly.) Sort of. Philosophy could be called a study of humanity, and human race is my obsession.
Mr. Simms: Well, I don’t know if your obsession is going to get you a decent job after college. I do know that there is nothing wrong with having goals or passions. Happiness is feeling. A person must do anything they can to make themselves happy for that moment because moments are all any of us have. Laws, rules and vows, be damned. We aren’t going to live forever, you know.
Lou: I quite agree. I think too many of us are hung up on regulations. Rules are for weak men who need to be led. Men such as yourself do not need to follow anyone’s set of laws. In fact, if more people functioned for only their own happiness, the world would be quite a different place. A life full of obligations is never a happy one.
Mr. Simms: I make a point of having no obligations placed on me. I don’t owe anything to anyone but myself. It amazes me when people place restrictions on their life. For me there are no limits. What ever it takes to get what I want, I am willing to do.
Lou: You’re a rule breaker. All men of genius are rule breakers. It’s delightful when people are willing to break from the constraints placed on them. (Pauses.) I pride myself on being a rule breaker, just like you.
Mr. Simms: (Laughs and stand to stretch legs) You! A rule breaker! You look like the type that would piss in his pants if he broke a rule. (Shaking head.) No, you don’t look like any rule breaker to me.
Lou: Ah, but looks can be deceiving. Often things which are believed good are really not. (Pauses.) Do you know what the devil said to God when he left heaven?
Mr. Simms: (Bored.) I’m sure you’re about to tell me.
Lou: Better to rule in hell then serve in heaven. You can understand that, can’t you, Mr. Simms? You wanted to rule when you were at that first paper and show them all that you could rule. You ruled and became what you wanted.
Mr. Simms: (Angrily.) You mean I do rule! (Pauses. He is getting restless. He starts to walk around the room.) I know your type. You’re the type that likes the sound of your own voice, aren’t you?
Lou: Have I been rambling, Mr. Simms? I do apologize. It calms me to talk. You look nervous, Mr. Simms.
Mr. Simms: (Angry and agitated.) Nervous – don’t be ridiculous. I don’t get nervous.
(Noises of people walking are heard.)
Mr. Simms: (Pressing his ear to the wall. He is excited.) They are coming. I hear them!
Lou: (Calmly.) I don’t hear anything.
Mr. Simms: Don’t worry, my people will pay the ransom and I’ll be free soon.
Lou: How can you be sure? What if they just leave you here to rot?
Mr. Simms: (Agitated.) Why would they do that? Without me they don’t get paid.
Lou: (Laughs.) You are quite right, the world would not be able to go on without you.
Mr. Simms: (Returning to his chair.) Do you think you’re being funny at my expense? You’re really starting to get on my nerves.
Lou: With all the time we will be spending together, it’s unfortunate that you find me so unpleasant – but it can’t be helped.
Mr. Simms: (Distracted, he is not listening. He stands and begins feverishly looking for the door.) Will you get off your ass and start helping me find a way out? We need to get out of here.
Lou: (Stands and wipes dust from pants.) I told you already. You won’t find one.
Mr. Simms: (Upset) Well, we can try again! There must be a way out! (He starts digging into the wall with his fingers.)
Lou: I feel certain that we won’t have to wait much longer.
Mr. Simms: (Turning away from the wall.) Hey, just wait just a minute. Something doesn’t make sense. Why would they kidnap you? How are you important? Why would anyone kidnap a student? You don’t look a bit roughed up. (Pauses and is thoughtful.) You’re one the bastards that has kidnapped me, aren’t you? (Angrily lunges at the Lou and grabs his neck.) You tell your friends if they don’t let me go they will have hell to pay!
Lou: (Timidly trying to pull Simms’s hands away from his neck.) Mr. Simms, I can assure you that I am not one of the people that have kidnapped you. Please, Mr. Simms, you’re hurting me. My family is very wealthy. Maybe that is the reason I am here. Mr. Simms, Mr. Simms, Jon – you don’t want to hurt me.
Mr. Simms: (Calms down and lets Lou go.) Yes, yes… That makes sense. No, I don’t want to hurt you.
Lou: (Rubbing his neck.) I am a prisoner here, just like you. I know how you feel. I was just like you when I got here, but you’ll get used to being here.
Mr. Simms: (Yells.) I don’t want to get used to being here! (Nervously biting his nails.) Why haven’t they come? They should have come by now. It’s been hours, maybe days. I don’t understand why they haven’t come!
Lou: (Walks over to Simms and places arms around him.) It’s alright, Jon. It’s alright. There is nothing to worry about.
Mr. Simms: (Trying to pull himself together.) I am sorry, son. It doesn’t matter; you’re Ok. (Pats Lou on the back.) I didn’t hurt you, did I? It just makes me so damn angry being locked up here. (He walks angrily around.) Let me out of here! (He screams at the darkness and pounds on the wall. Turning around defeated. He is growing more and more upset.) Don’t worry, my people will come soon. I am sure of it. (Trying to reassure himself.)
Lou: (Calmly leaning against a wall.) Yes, I am sure you’re right. In fact, I expect them any minute now.
Mr. Simms: (Agitated.) Why are you so damn calm? Don’t you care if we get out of here?
Lou: (Smirking.) My composure is due to me knowing something you do not. Mr. Simms, you won’t be leaving here.
Mr. Simms: (Nervously.) What are you saying?
(Seven men enter stage. Faces are hidden in the darkness. The men are hunched over and dragging their feet. They are making grunting sounds.)
Mr. Simms: (Agitated and angry.) You bastard! You are the one who is holding me. You have been lying to me all this time!
Lou: (Calmly and proudly.) “Lying” is such a harsh word. I prefer to say that I told you what you wanted to hear.
Mr. Simms: (Backing away from the men and angrily pointing his finger at Lou.) If you think you and your friends are going to get way with this – !
Lou: (Standing straight.) Calm yourself, Mr. Simms. He is coming.
Mr. Simms: (Confused he turns around, looking.) Who is coming?
(The light becomes brighter and a voice speaks.)
Voice from light: Mr. Jon Simms, born July 2nd 1951. Time 2:03 am. Fifty six years, nine months and three days. Give an account of your labour.
Mr. Simms: (Blocks his eyes from the light.) What is this, and who are you?
Voice from the light: Show me your work! Jon Simms!
Lou: (Walks over to Mr. Simms.) Mr. Simms, you must answer him.
Mr. Simms: (Looking very frightened, he answers the voice.) I don’t know what you mean.
Voice from light: Have you nothing to show me?
Lou: He has worked. He has built an empire. He is well known among the people of the world. They would speak well of him.
Mr. Simms: (Increasingly more frightened.) Yes, yes; that’s all true. I am a very wealthy man. If its money you want, you need only to contact my lawyer. He will get it for you. Name your price.
Voice from light: Is there no one else who will speak on your behalf?
Lou: (Angrily.) I speak for him!
Mr. Simms: (Desperately hangs on to Lou.) Yes, speak for me. Tell him all I have done!
Lou: (Pulls from the grip of Mr. Simms and speaks to the light.) He does have work to show. They are here.
Voice from the light: Show them to me!
(The seven men come into the light. Their faces are disfigured and grotesque.)
Voice from the light: Speak! Luxuria, are you here?
Luxuria: I am here. He lusted for all.
Voice from the light: Gula, are you here?
Gula: I am here. He consumed all that came in his path.
Voice from the light: Avaritia, are you here?
Avaritia: I am here. He took all he could!
Voice from the light: Ira, are you here?
Ira: I am here. He destroyed all who angered him!
Voice from the light: Invidia, are you here?
Invidia: I am here. He wanted everything!
Voice from the light: Acedias, are you here?
Acedias: I am here. He did not love.
Voice from light: Superbia, are you here?
Superbia: I am here. He was a god onto himself!
Together: We are here and we speak for the condemned!
Voice from the light: Have you nothing to say to your accusers, Jon Simms?
Mr. Simms: (Covers his face with hands. His hands are shaking. He says nothing.)
Group of seven: (Speaking To Mr. Simms.) We are your offspring. We will never leave you. We will be your companions in Hell.
Lou: (Towards the light. Mockingly.) The judgment is clear! I have suffered nothing for this man! Not one drop of blood have I spilled! He has turned his back on You to become my slave! He will not serve – but all do serve! He is my servant and I justly have claim!
Mr. Simms: (Disoriented.) What does this all mean?
Lou: (Loudly.) He will not serve You, but he does serve me! I am his god.
Voice from light: (Angrily and loudly.) Who is like God! (At these words all fall to ground and cower.) You are a chained dog who can only bark. Only a fool allows himself to be bitten by a chained dog!
Lou: (Still on ground, but looks up towards the light.) My claim is just.
Voice from the light: So be it! Take your servant into your house and do as you wish! Stand!
All stand. They try to block the light from their faces with their hands.
Voice from light: Depart from me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire which was prepared for Lucifer and his angels!
(As words are spoken the light becomes brighter and then disappears. All calms on stage. Smoke begins pouring out on the stage.)
Lou: (Hand beckoning to Simms.) It’s this way Mr. Simms. Follow us.
(The seven men begin walking off into the darkness. They stop and wait for Mr. Simms .)
Mr. Simms: I am dead.
Lou: It appears so.
Mr. Simms: I remember now. There was a car accident. My driver and bodyguard?
Lou: They died too, but they are not here. It is said that the process of the soul’s ripping from the body is so painful that often the soul forgets that it has died. Your appearance, the blood on your head – they are only memories. My own appearance is only how you wish it be. You could say God grants one last mercy for the damned. But the soul forgets only for a time. It always comes back to them.
Mr. Simms: (Regaining his confidence.) So that was it? That’s what everyone is so afraid of? God seems like a wimp. Who needs him? Besides, hell doesn’t seem so bad. It’s a little dark and a little smokey. Nothing I can’t handle. You seem like a decent fellow. You’re not at all the way they describe.
Lou: (Starts to laugh loudly.) You foolish man. This isn’t hell. This is just the gate. You still have to go inside. (Diabolical laughter.) And I promise that I am much worse than their descriptions.
(The gate is now visible and begins to open. Screams come from the gate. Mr. Simms looks into the gate and falls to the ground. He desperately tries to crawl to the other side of stage. The seven men drag Mr. Simms inside. Mr. Simms leaves scratch marks as he is dragged.)
Mr. Simms: No! Please, no!
Lou: (Calmly follows behind.) You said you will have justice, Mr. Simms, and so you shall. (He begins to whistle as he walks off stage.)