#29PlaysLater Brief 4 | The Department

man wearing brown suit jacket mocking on white telephone
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A bare, utilitarian room with a desk and an ageing computer. The receptionists sits at the desk.

 

Alan enters.

 

Alan: Excuse me, is this room 573?

Receptionist: Who are you looking for?

Alan: Character assignation and reassignments.

Receptionist: That’s room 375.

Alan: But it says here-

Receptionist: Only kidding 375 in the national institute of obfuscation.

Alan: So you’re-

Receptionist: The department for character assignation and reassignments? Yes.

Alan: Great.

Receptionist: So how can I help today?

Alan: I don’t like my character.

Receptionist: Well, Mr-

Alan: Alan.

Receptionist: Well, Alan, as you know we’re each assigned a role at birth. Parents have a standard 28 days to query that role. Did your parents query that role.

Alan: No. But they were both assigned meek and fearful of reproach so-

Receptionist: I see. And have you at any point in the past…

Alan: I’m 36.

Receptionist: In the past 36 years raised a query regarding your role?

Alan: No.

Receptionist: No?

Alan: Well, I’ve been dancing. A lot.

Receptionist: And that’s your assigned role?

Alan: Yes.

Receptionist: Well that’s nice-

Alan: It’s exhausting. Always dancing.

Receptionist: Always?

Alan: Most of the time.

Receptionist: Ok. Well, let’s pull up your file. Do you have your character code?

Alan: 65-97-09-82-13-1

Receptionist: 65-97-09-82-13-1. Bare with me. Here we go. So, Alan, what have we got here. You’re tall. That’s nice.

Alan: I hate it.

Receptionist: Sorry?

Alan: I hate being tall.

Receptionist: Why?

Alan: I don’t know. It’s in my character.

Receptionist: Oh yes, so it is. That’s a shame. What else. You’re a virgin-

Alan: Virgo-

Receptionist: No, it says here virgin.

Alan: It’s a typo. It was corrected in 1998.

Receptionist: Oh, yes. There’s a note at the bottom of your file. What else? You have seven pets, you’re an anthropology graduate and you drink 8 cups of coffee a day. That’s not good for you.

Alan: I know, but I can’t stop, can I?

Receptionist: No. Good point. What else; You’re Receptionist: a polyglot – there’s a cream for that; adopted child; about to get married – congrats; you like building things; you volunteer locally every day; you once killed a cat-

Alan: It was an accident.

Receptionist: Was it?

 

Silence.

 

Receptionist: I see. Well, looking over your file you look pretty deep to me.

Alan: But I don’t want it. My character. It’s just not me.

Receptionist: You see, Alan, that’s just where you’re wrong. You’re exactly who you should be. It’s all in your file.

Alan: But who decides that?

Receptionist: Sorry?

Alan: Who decides that? How do you know that’s who I’m meant to be.

Receptionist: Well, you see, it’s all about balance. There’s an algorithm, you see, a giant computer if you like and it knows everything. So it decides who you, me, everyone is going to be.

Alan: So it’s a kind of anthropologist? It looks at the structure of society-

Receptionist: Yes, and the it makes adjustments for the good of society in the future.

Alan: So, what if I want out of it?

Receptionist: Anthropology?

Alan: Society.

Receptionist: Ah. Well, there is a reason why we are the department of Character Assassination and reassignment.

Alan: You can give me a new character?

Receptionist: No. Only if you were a new born. As I said, it’s all about balance.

Alan: So-

Receptionist: Well, the only option is the character assassination.

Alan: But what does that means?

Receptionist: Well, death.

Alan: Death.

Receptionist: Yes, at the hand of a hired killer. I hear it’s practically painless.

Alan: From who?

Receptionist: Pardon.

Alan: Who said it’s painless? Do the dead fill out a post murder survey.

Receptionist: We, at the department of character assassination and assignment take pride in our humane approach to our work.

 

Pause.

 

Alan: I’ve offended you.

Receptionist: I’m easily offended. That’s how I am written.

Alan: Sorry.

Receptionist: No offence taken-

Alan: Really?

Receptionist: No. I was being polite.

 

Silence.

 

Alan: So, if I chose character assassination, what would happen?

Receptionist: To you? That’s a big question-

Alan: No, to my character?

Receptionist: It would be redistributed. Divided up between a new batch of citizens for the-

Alan: Good of society.

Receptionist: Quite.

 

Pause.

 

Alan: And what would happen if I just rejected it all?

Receptionist: What do you mean?

Alan: Just said fuck it and became an antisocial plumber who liked being tall, or a right wing LGBT advocate who only ate out of peoples hands and burped Pachelbel’s Cannon?

Receptionist: You can’t. You know you can’t.

Alan: I can try.

Receptionist: Alan. You can’t. You know you can’t. It’s not in your character.

 

Silence.

 

Receptionist: So, what would you like to do?

Alan: Do I get a choice? I mean, it’s not in my character is it.

Receptionist: Oh, Alan, of course you have a choice. We’re not monsters after all.

 

Silence.

 

Alan: I’d like to see your manager.

Receptionist: Are you sure?

Alan: Yes.

 

The receptionist presses a buzzer.

 

Receptionist: Sorry. Can you come out please?

 

Pause.

 

A large man enters the room.

 

Man: Yes.

Receptionist: This is Alan. He doesn’t like his character.

Man: Yes.

Alan: I’m not going to be my character anymore.

Receptionist: He’s going to be a gay Nazi.

Man: Yes.

Alan: I demand a reassignment.

 

Pause.

 

Man: And what if you don’t like the character you are assigned?

Alan: I’ll try another.

Man: And then what?

Alan: I’ll keep going until I find one that fits.

Man: Is he stupid?

Receptionist: It’s not in his character.

Man: We must all play our roles. It’s all about-

Alan: Balance! Society!

Man: Yes.

Alan: And what if I don’t give two hoots for society?

Man: Is that true?

Alan: Yes, it’s true.

Man: Is that true?

Receptionist: No. It’s a lie. Alan is very conformist.

Alan: I am not. Stop telling me what I am. It’s all very well on paper but-

Man: That’s not how people work. We’ve heard it all before.

Alan: This is ridiculous. Who is your manager? I want to take this to the top.

Man: Are you sure?

Alan: Yes.

 

The man pulls a gun from a holster. There is a loud bang.

 

Pause.

 

Alan looks down at his chest. There is blood flowering on his t-shirt. He falls slowly to his knees, gurgling.

 

Man: Say hello to the boss for me. Oh, and before you go, on a scale of one to ten, how painless would you describe your experience? One being not at all; ten being absolute agony.

 

Alan gives one final gasp and falls to the floor. The Man and the receptionist watch as blood oozes across the floor.

 

Man: I’ll put that down as a one. Another satisfied customer.

 

Blackout.

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