Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks
Wednesday, May 21, 2003 Stargazing
Note: I’m going to Hawaii tomorrow (M. Giant's flying? Must be an Orange Alert), and it’ll probably be the middle of next week before I update again. So I leave you with a short play I wrote a couple of years ago and never did anything with. Mahalo.
Setting: a bare stage.
Lighting is dim, to indicate nighttime outdoors. The light will become gradually brighter over the course of the play where indicated.
Two people are sitting on the ground, apparently looking up at the sky. Alex is a boy of about ten; Steve may be anywhere from his mid-twenties to mid-thirties. They are both wearing jackets.
ALEX: What are we doing out here, anyway?
STEVE: We’re looking at the stars.
ALEX: Why? Is something going to happen? Is the space shuttle going to go over?
STEVE: No. It’s not even up now.
ALEX: A meteor shower?
ALEX: A lunar eclipse? Northern Lights? Something?
ALEX: Then what?
STEVE: I told you. We’re looking at the stars.
ALEX: Is that all?
STEVE: That’s all.
ALEX: What’s the point of that?
STEVE: There is no point. That’s the point.
STEVE: Every once in a while you have to do something that has no point. It’s good for you.
ALEX: You always say video games are pointless.
STEVE: That’s different. The point of that is to get a high score, or kill all the monsters, or whatever. We’re out here just ‘cause.
ALEX: Just ‘cause?
ALEX: That’s weird.
STEVE: Just trust me. And promise me something.
STEVE: Promise me that when you grow up, you’ll still have time to sit and look at the stars once in a while.
ALEX: Are we done yet?
ALEX: Well, I’m cold. Why can’t we do this in the summer?.
STEVE: In the summer it gets dark too late and the sky isn’t as clear. For Pete’s sake, Alex, will you try and have some perspective?
ALEX: Tonight I have perspective. Tomorrow I’ll have pneumonia.
STEVE: See that star there?
ALEX: Which one?
STEVE: The one in the middle of Orion’s belt.
STEVE: You see it?
ALEX: Yeah, I see it.
STEVE: Do you know why you see it?
ALEX: ‘Cause I have eyes?
STEVE: Well, yeah, that. But also, because the light from that star has been traveling twenty-six years to reach your eyes.
ALEX: Twenty-six years?
STEVE: Yes. That star is twenty-six light years away. After its light has traveled all this way, you could at least have the courtesy to pretend to be interested.
ALEX: I am now.
STEVE: I thought you might be.
ALEX: What if it went out?
STEVE: Went out?
ALEX: Yeah. What if it went out right now?
STEVE: Well, if it went out right now, we wouldn’t know until twenty-six years from now.
ALEX: But what if it had gone out twenty-six years ago?
STEVE: Then we wouldn’t be able to see it now.
ALEX: But I can’t see it now.
STEVE: Sure you can, see? It’s...hum. A cloud must have covered it.
ALEX: A very small cloud.
STEVE: Stars don’t just go out, Alex.
ALEX: A very small, very still cloud.
STEVE: You know what happens sometimes, instead of stars just going out?
STEVE: They blow up. Yeah, they explode. They do. That’s called a supernova.
ALEX: How come I’ve never seen one?
STEVE: They don’t happen very often, at least not close enough so we can see them with the naked eye. The last visible one was a few centuries ago. You know, some people think the Star of Bethlehem was a supernova.
ALEX: (pointing) If that star blew up, would we be able to see it?
STEVE: Definitely. That one’s only seven light years away. It’s bright now, but it would get a whole lot brighter.
ALEX: That would be cool.
STEVE: Don’t be ridiculous. It would have to have happened seven years ago. Then we’d be able to see it right about—
STEVE: Holy cow.
ALEX: That’s so cool!
STEVE: That did not just happen.
ALEX: No, it happened seven years ago.
STEVE: This doesn’t happen. Barnard’s Star just does not go nova while you’re sitting there and looking at it.
ALEX: What about that star there?
STEVE: Betelgeuse? That’s a red giant. When it goes, it’ll go slow. That one’s got another twenty billion years, easy.
ALEX: Or not.
STEVE: This is impossible.
For the first time, Steve regards Alex with some suspicion, then dismisses the thought.
STEVE: I hope you realize the enormity of what you’re witnessing here. A supernova is the kind of thing that happens maybe once in a millenium. And you’ve seen two! Aren’t you glad I dragged you out here tonight? Think about what you would have missed.
ALEX: There goes another one.
STEVE: What? I missed it!
ALEX: You can still see it.
STEVE: Of course I can still see it! These fireballs last for years, sometimes centuries. Criminy, I think that one was the North Star.
ALEX: It’s the North Nova now.
STEVE: You don’t get it, do you? These are incredibly rare astronomical events. They have been happening over the past century, hundreds of light years distant from each other, yet in intervals that to us, on Earth, make them appear almost simultaneous! There’s no other planet in the universe that sees what we’re seeing right now.
STEVE: “Dude?” All you can say is “Dude?!”
ALEX: What else do you say when the Big Dipper is blowing up?
STEVE: This is impossible! Absolutely impossible! Do you realize the significance of this? I mean, the odds are simply—
STEVE: Stop it.
ALEX: Hey, where’s your perspective?
STEVE: Alex, our galaxy is destroying itself before our eyes. It’s been doing it since years before I was born, before your grandparents were born, and nobody on Earth had any idea! There is no perspective for something like this.
ALEX: There goes Orion.
STEVE: Are you doing this?
ALEX: Don’t be ridiculous.
STEVE: Well, that’s the only explanation.
ALEX: That’s not an explanation. You’re being hysterical.
ALEX: Yes. Just calm down. Look at the stars.
STEVE: Look at the stars?
ALEX: Yes. Sit down and look at the stars.
ALEX: See? It’s stopped.
STEVE: For now.
ALEX: Just enjoy the night.
STEVE: I can’t even see any stars any more. The sky is too bright. It’s all full of supernovas.
ALEX: I believe the plural is “supernovae.”
STEVE: Oh, shut up. I’m going in.
STEVE: Hey, you know what I said about you making time to look at the stars?
STEVE: Never mind.
posted by M. Giant 3:58 PM 0 comments