An extract from Annie Krasner, Acid Queen of the Black Circle, a one act coming of age tragedy-comedy-horror.
Dodd Wood, Cumbria. Summer 1982. Night-time.
A black rope tied into a noose hangs centre stage.
Enter ANN (18) stage right, wearing a rucksack. She sees the noose and smiles.
She turns back where she came from and shouts offstage.
ANN This is where it happened. ‘The Black Noose of Dodd Wood’.
She is followed by an uncertain GRACE (20), squinting upwards, searching. Ann places her rucksack on the right of the stage.
ANN You see it?
Grace shakes her head no.
ANN Apparently it was some girl, about my age. They never even found her body. Cool, right?
Grace, still searching in vain for the noose above, jumps back from something at her feet.
ANN You ok?
GRACE Yes. Sorry. I thought there was a – a snake crawling up my skirt.
ANN First for everything. Why would you wear a skirt anyway? Do you actually not have anything else?
GRACE Well, I/
ANN That’s mental. Here, look what trousers can do.
Ann takes a small baggy from her pocket and waves it at Grace.
ANN Drugs! Probably why Moses said we’re not meant to wear them.
Grace nervously attempts to joke:
GRACE Maybe that’s why my ma won’t buy them for me.
Ann gets a little defensive.
ANN What, you think my mum bought me these? That – Nazi? It’s called shoplifting, Gracey.
GRACE Oh, right. My ma says it’s ridiculous the clothes you wear, she says you’re picking up boys by showing them your knees.
Ann stares at Grace, shaking her head. She shakes the baggy.
ANN We should take these now so you’re nice and mellow when the rest of The Black Circle gets here.
GRACE Is that what it does, calms you down?
ANN Acid? Mate, it does whatever you want it to, it’s about mindset.
She passes Grace her tab. Grace looks at it, unconvinced.
GRACE I think mindset might be the problem, Annie, I’m not really sure I want to do this.
ANN Why did you agree to come if you’re just going to be a piss baby?
GRACE I don’t know, I felt like I should trust you.
Ann smugly fishes two tabs from the bag and replaces it in her pocket. She passes one to Grace.
ANN Wise. But there’s some things that are going to happen tonight that you’re not going to want to be sober for. Now, do you remember how I said to take them?
GRACE Just, sort of, swirl it around.
ANN Yeah, a minute or so. Ready?
GRACE You’ve changed, Annie.
ANN Good. Three, two, one –
They put the tabs in their mouths and talk as they swirl them around.
ANN It’ll be ok. Just think calm thoughts.
GRACE When am I allowed to know what the big thing we’re doing is?
ANN When the acid sets in and you won’t freak out. I’m so excited, Grace, tonight is going to change your life. You’ll finally be free. No more – skirts and prayer.
GRACE I like my skirts.
ANN Mmhmm. I think if you put it, sort of, under your tongue, that’s where the blood vessels are. So – are there actually snakes here?
GRACE And grass snakes, so says my ma.
Ann adopts a mocking Northern Irish accent.
ANN And you listen to me, Gracey, so you will, The Devil could be in any one of them, so he could.
Grace doesn’t laugh.
ANN I’m surprised he has time to bother Cumbrian voles with all his commitments in the music industry.
GRACE You shouldn’t joke about that.
GRACE Do you not still believe in The Bible?
Ann thinks for a while.
ANN I don’t want to be that person any more.
Grace nods uncertainly.
ANN That’s kind of why we’re here. The Devil’s definitely real, though, have you met my brother?
Grace laughs, finally.
GRACE Don’t say that, Barry’s lovely.
ANN I think we’re about good to swallow.
The two gulp the acid down.
GRACE What if I don’t like it?
ANN You will.
GRACE I’m scared, Annie.
NICK (17) enters from the right, wearing a rucksack and carrying a jerry can. His line begins as he enters.
NICK As the fire burns and we worship our Lord!
ANN The virgin will fall to the miscreant’s sword!
As Nick reaches Ann they both make the devil horns sign with their hands and awkwardly bump them together.
NICK All hail our Acid Queen!
ANN Nicky Nick! Nick Six! How’s tricks, Nicks?
NICK Tricks is good, tricks is good. Your knees are looking good today.
Ann is a bit weirded out by this.
Immediate uncomfortable silence. Nick distracts himself by putting his bag with the others.
ANN So this is my cousin, Grace. Her and her folks came over from Belfast with me and mine, but they stayed mental, so I’m showing her a good time before I go off and leave her to Jesus. Grace, this is Nick, he’s a penis.
NICK Heh, more like, I’ve got a penis. Hello, Grace. It’s nice to meet you. Really nice.
He puts out his hand for her to shake.
GRACE Oh, no thank you.
ANN I wouldn’t bother, she doesn’t know about boys yet.
Nick retracts his hand.
NICK Understood. So you’re, like, full on Jovie?
GRACE We’re Jehovah’s Witnesses, yes.
NICK Cool. And you’re fine with the/
ANN Ah-da-da. She doesn’t know yet. It’s a surprise.
NICK Jesus, are you serious?
The girls nod. Ann confident, Grace not so much.
NICK Oh. It’s alright, Grace, I’ll keep you safe.
GRACE From what?
He lifts up the jerry can.
NICK Look what I got!
ANN Good boy, Nicky.
NICK Yeah, my step-mum won’t even notice it’s gone, the old – the old – she’s old.
ANN Totally. Can I get a sniff?
NICK Yeah, totally.
He unscrews the lid and takes a deep huff himself. ‘Aaaahhhh’.
NICK That’s good shit.
He then points it at Ann, who sniffs deeply.
Her face drops and she takes a few smaller inquisitive sniffs.
NICK You OK?
ANN Grace, have a smell.
GRACE No, I won’t, thank you.
ANN Just – do it.
Grace takes a cautionary sniff.
ANN What does it smell like to you?
GRACE What’s it supposed to be?
GRACE Then petrol. Wait, why?
ANN No, petrol has a distinct – petrolly smell. Which I’m not getting here. Nick, does your mum even drive?
NICK Step-mum, and – aah, no I see what’s happened here.
NICK This is her watering can.
ANN Brilliant, Nick, thanks for that.
NICK It was dark.
ANN So you couldn’t smell?
GRACE I’m really not comfortable with this.
ANN Calm thoughts, Grace, and don’t worry about it, it was just to burn the/
GRACE The woods?
NICK That’s a good point, actually. Thank you, Grace, no, it’d be daft to start a fire here, wouldn’t it?
NICK So really, I did you a favour.
Ann glares at Nick, then concedes defeat and nods.
ANN We’ll need to do something. Can you dig a hole?
NICK Ha! Do you even need to ask? I’m at optimal physical fitness, ladies. I can bench press my own bodyweight. I can run a mile in under eight minutes, ok? I can curl ten/
He is interrupted by PETE (18), who enters stage right with a gym bag over his shoulder. He is carrying a large cardboard box, painted black with a red pentagram.
PETE Whaddup, fuckers!
He puts his bag down with the others and walks to the group.
ANN Hey Pete, you – fucking – shit.
PETE And who is this fine creature?
ANN This is Grace.
PETE Well hello, Grace, how are we doing today?
Pete takes Grace’s hand and kisses it. Nobody except Pete appears too thrilled about this.
GRACE I’m frightened.
PETE Don’t worry yourself, my dear, you’re in safe hands, now that I’m here. We ready to do some evil shit? Raise some hell?
ANN Hell yes, we are! Just waiting for Jill.
PETE Nice. Hey – To you, our Lord, our lives we devote.
ALL The Black Circle closes on the innocent’s throat.
PETE Love it.
Ann stares at Grace, concerned that she just joined in.
PETE Hey, check this out!
Pete proudly raises his box to be admired, then realises himself and gently drops it, trying to appear nonchalant.
PETE Didn’t even try, like at all.
NICK Is that the altar?
PETE Yeah, for the slaughter.
NICK It’s made of cardboard. What if it falters?
PETE Nah. Sturdy as the Rock of Gibraltar.
NICK You should’ve used mortar.
ANN Guys, what?
NICK It’s just going to collapse.
PETE Yeah, like the fucking earth is opening up. What could be more metal than that?
Grace points to the pentagram.
GRACE Is Pete Jewish?
PETE Oh. No, the Star of David has six sides, this has five, it’s a pentagram. Or whatever.
Pete thinks to himself for a moment, and then traces his finger along the pentagram, mouthing the count of the points.
ANN You can’t say things like that around the straights.
NICK Yeah, Grace, I think you’re a well cool person, but it isn’t rad to aggressively ask someone their religion like that. It’s ok, though. I’ll forgive you.
Ann glares at Nick, confused, for a second.
ANN Where’s Jill? She’s an hour late.
As soon as Pete finishes tracing, the group jumps at a sudden crash of thunder and lightning. Nick scoots closer to Grace.
Enter JILL (19) stage left, carrying a large pet cage with a plain black sheet draped over it.
JILL Speak of the devil – you’ll get me. And I’m way worse.
PETE Ayy, here she is.
ANN Jill! this is/
JILL Good to see you Grace.
Grace, fearful, retreats behind Nick.
Jill gestures to the cage.
JILL Sorry I’m late. Our new friend wasn’t a big fan of what I had planned for her.
Jill walks past the others and places the cage in exact centre stage, slightly behind the noose. Ann gestures to it.
ANN Is that – it?
JILL Certainly is. Grace, you’re wondering what’s in here.
SFX of a faint meowing.
JILL It’s your future, my dear.
ANN Jill, just – she’s just dropped her first acid, we’re trying to keep her thoughts calm.
PETE You two dropped?
ANN Sure did.
NICK Drugs are really rad, aren’t they Grace?
JILL Alright, the five corners are here, we can begin. I suspect we’ll be needing this.
She pulls out a kitchen knife from her jean pocket. The group admires it for a second.
Ann’s voice is heard, although her lips don’t move:
Nobody seems to notice. Ann reaches towards the knife.
PETE No, wait!
Despite Pete’s cry, Ann grabs the blade. She cries out in pain and grasps her now bloody hand. The knife falls to the floor.
Jill laughs, the others gasp.
JILL Clumsy wench.
GRACE Lord help us.
PETE Shit, are you ok?
ANN Yeah. I – Yeah.
PETE Come over here a second.
Pete escorts Ann over to the bags and opens his gym bag.
GRACE Is she ok?
Grace tries to follow them, but Nick blocks her way.
NICK She’ll be fine. Come here a second.
Nick escorts the reluctant Grace to the other side of the stage and begins to talk to her inaudibly.
This leaves Jill in centre stage, staring out at the audience. A smile slowly creeps onto her face.
Pete pulls a mini first aid kit out of his bag.
PETE Here we are.
ANN Is that a first aid kit?
He begins inspecting her hand.
PETE I skate. Oh man, this is deep, what were you thinking?
ANN I don’t think I was.
He goes back to his bag and retrieves a medical textbook.
ANN What is that?
He starts flicking through it.
ANN For if you skateboard your leg off?
PETE Could happen.
ANN Ok, Tony Hawk.
Pete raises his eyebrow and ignores her.
Nick puts a hand on Grace’s shoulder. She doesn’t object.
ANN Why do you actually have it?
PETE That’s a – valid question. Alright. It’s not a big deal, but I’m going to university.
Pete returns to the textbook.
ANN Pete’s going to uni? What, to do medicine?
PETE Adult Nursing. Like I say, it isn’t a big deal.
Pete turns to Ann.
PETE To be clear, I don’t actually want to, I just don’t know what else to do and my parents are/
Jill starts waving at us.
ANN I’m doing Adult Nursing, same as you!
PETE What? Where?
A gust of wind. The altar blows across the stage, towards Nick and Grace, who are still talking quietly to each other.
Pete shouts after it:
PETE STOP IT!
GRACE Oh, oh no.
Grace panics and stamps on it, crushing it.
GRACE Oh gosh I’m so sorry.
PETE Use your hands, woman!
NICK Don’t talk to my girlfriend like that!
PETE Nick, you’re ugly mate, nothing’s going to change that, it’s a fact.
They converge back to centre stage. Ann’s hand still bloody.
The cage meows again, slightly louder.
NICK There are no facts, only interpretations. Nietzsche.
PETE I don’t care, lick my hole. Kant. Nietzsche was a fascist, by the way.
ANN Since when are you allowed boyfriends?
GRACE Well – I mean – we’re not properly/
ANN You haven’t had sex, have you?
GRACE Lord, no.
ANN Ok, cool. Phew.
GRACE I wouldn’t even know how.
Nick grabs Grace’s hand and looks into her eyes.
NICK We can work it out.
A second gust blows the flattened altar off stage entirely.
PETE Well that’s great. I’m going to Carlisle in a couple of days, I’ll pick it up on the A6.
Jill turns and nods at Grace, who bellows out:
GRACE THIS WILL NOT STAND!
Ann stares at her in shock.
ANN Hey guys – I think the acid’s kicking in.
PETE Nice. You good?
ANN My leg feels good.
Jill loudly clears her throat, silencing everyone.
JILL We should get on with the ritual. I’d suggest we have a look at what we’re working with. Right Ann?
ANN I agree.
They turn towards the cage.
Another meow, very loud, very pained. Continuous.
ANN Can anyone else hear that?
JILL No, they can’t. Get on with it.
Ann reaches towards the covered cage, then hesitates.
ANN It feels a lot different to when we were just talking about it.
NICK Yeah, I feel a bit sick.
PETE GRID, probably. We should get you home.
NICK Don’t listen to him, Grace, I don’t have GRID.
PETE I’m serious, if you don’t feel well, maybe we should postpone.
ANN I agree.
Jill looks at Ann, Pete, and Nick.
JILL I see how it is.
PETE I’m just worried about Nick’s health. Plus – you know – we don’t have an altar.
Jill mutters to the cage.
JILL Felis pupam fit.
The meowing stops.
ANN Exactly. Yeah, I’m calling it. We can try again some other time, maybe not with a – I mean, we appreciate/
<ANN> Take the sheet off.
Nobody hears this except Ann. She rubs her head a little.
PETE Are you ok?
ANN Yeah. I should –
Ann removes the sheet from the cage, revealing the stuffed Zippy from Rainbow toy sat inside.
The group stare in for a while.
ANN Guys, I think I’m having a bad trip.
End of Extract.