Quiet Please: The Living Death
LEOPOLD - Leopold Evanson, the narrator. (Me)
OFFICER - A prison officer working on a lethal injection. (Virginia?)
CORRECTIONS SECRETARY - Calm, solemn, no nonsense professional who reads out some formalities of the execution. (Brian Hunt?)
PROSECUTOR - Prosecuting case against Leopold Evanson. (Virginia?)
DEFENSE - Leopold's defense attourney. (?)
WITNESS - A witness to the apparent murder. (Lindsay)
MOTHER - Leopold's mother. (Virginia?)
FATHER - Leopold's father. (Gary?)
BOY - Random kid on school playground. (?)
LEOPOLD: Quiet, please.
SFX: few seconds silence
LEOPOLD: Quiet, please.
SFX: MUSIC...THEME...FADE FOR
LEOPOLD: QuietPlease dot org presents "Quiet, Please!" which is written and features Paul Knierim. Your "Quiet, Please!" story for tonight is called "The Living Death."
SFX: room background noise of slight air conditioning
OFFICER: You may open the blinds.
SFX: footsteps, blinds opened
CORRECTIONS SECRETARY: We have contacted the governor, the chief justice, and the attorney general’s office. No appeals are pending, and no motions have been filed to set aside the warrant of death sentence and execution in the matter of the State vs. Leopold Evanson. You may therefore proceed to carry out the order of the court.
OFFICER: Leopold Evanson, you have been convicted of the crime of first-degree murder. You have been sentenced to death by lethal injection for your crime. This is the time and place for the execution of that sentence. If you have any last words, now is the time.
LEOPOLD: [solemly but wryly] The only person I could be argued to have murdered is myself, and I plead involuntary manslaughter on that count.
SFX: general light shuffling
OFFICER: [calmly] Hold his arm.
SFX: Momentary grunt of needle insertion. Metal chair creak.
OFFICER: We will return in a half hour to confirm the completion of the sentence.
SFX: everybody shuffles out and they close the door.
SFX: some slow depressing eerie music to set the mood of waiting to die
SFX: clock begins ticking in background continuing under the narration along with room noise
LEOPOLD: You've never been alone. You've been in empty rooms, empty homes, you've been rejected, but you've never been alone like this. Alone after all your appeals have fallen on deaf ears, alone after a jury of your peers and soicety as a whole has rejected you, and as embodied by officers of the state they've calmly injected a coctail of poisons into your arm, and walked out to wait for you to die. Alone as you look through the opened blinds and realize you have no loved ones watching you, and not even any enemies who care enough to see you off. Alone like a stray dog being euthanized after going unclaimed at the shelter.
Why did they leave? Don't they have the courage to watch what they're doing to me? Or is it just one final snub, their way of saying I don't matter enough to even watch die? My final convulsions will be as solitary and futile as the rest of my life. By denying me any connection with my fellow man, they deny my life any chance at meaning.
SFX: music grows and changes. perhaps clock has faded out.
LEOPOLD: But are they the ones who've done this, or am I? I can't remember.
SFX: figure out right music to run behind following paragraph
LEOPOLD: I should be feeling something by now. My limbs should be heavy. I should be falling asleep. But I feel perhaps better now than I've ever felt -- a low bar to be sure. Maybe it's the lifting of a great burden, the relief of suddenly having no future to worry about. I don't have to worry about bills, I don't have to worry about retirement or losing weight or whether my team wins tomorrow or what I'm going to have for dinner or absolutely anything beyond the next few minutes. Best of all, I don't have to worry about dealing with people and all the awkward humilation that comes with that. There are no more people in the remainder of my life.
I should be feeling something by now.
SFX: metal chair creek
LEOPOLD: Something's gone wrong. Wrong for them, right for me. I feel stronger than I ever have, as if the coctail of poisons were adrenaline.
SFX: sound of pulling straps off and getting out chair and stumbling about and opening door and running at same time narration says it
LEOPOLD: I pull the IV out of my arm, sit up and push my way through the carelessly loose straps I'd been bound to the chair with. And then on pure instict I run for the door and fling it open and barrel down the empty hallway like a startled deer.
SFX: musical bridge that evokes running or flight
SFX: fade in to nighttime forest noises which continue under whole scene
LEOPOLD: It's impossible. It's absurd. I'm alive. I'm free.
Well, no, not free. Never free. Always on the run, always hiding myself. Always have been, even when I didn't know what I was running from or why. That's been the story my life: always running, never finding the courage to make myself vulnerable enough to forge connections and set down roots. It's a prison of sorts, a prison of the mind that masquerades as freedom at a cursory glance.
SFX: lone wolf howls
LEOPOLD: I hear you, brother. You're lonely too. We're pack animals without a pack. But we'll never meet, because neither of us has the courage. If we did meet, we'd turn away from each other.
SFX: wistful music bridge
SFX: dripping water
LEOPOLD: That sound. That sound. It takes me back to that other time.
SFX: musical bridge
SFX: slowly dripping blood in background under whole scene
LEOPOLD: [calling out to body] You can't sleep in the storage room!
SFX: footsteps approach, perhaps under dialogue
LEOPOLD: Did you hear me? Let me get a light on in here...
SFX: shuffling and sound of light turning on
SFX: courtroom sounds
PROSECUTOR: And what did you see the defendant do as he stood over the body?
WITNESS: He stood over her, and he just stared into her eyes at first. For minutes.
LEOPOLD: [on the stand] Upon realizing she was dead, I grew calmer. There was no longer any threat of confrontation. I walked over and stood over the body. I looked into her wide open eyes, and I marveled at how easy it was. Never before had I looked into someone's eyes without feeling my stomach lurch. Never before had I maintained eye contact for so long.
WITNESS: [a bit disgusted by the recollection] Then he grabbed one of her hands, just belowing the still-dripping cut, and just held it for a while while the blood dripped onto him.
LEOPOLD: [on the stand] There was no doubt in my mind that the woman was dead, but formalities must be observed, so I extended two fingers to her throat to check for a pulse. I found none, but I found a curious sensation in myself when I made contact with her skin. Following a compulsion within, I reached out to gently touch one of her hands. There was no recoil, no look of disgust, no scream. I held her dead hand, and for the first time in my life I felt unconditionally accepted.
PROSECUTOR: Would you say the defendent showed any signs of distress or concern?
WITNESS: No. He was calmer than any other time I've seen him. He was acting like everything was going according to plan.
PROSECUTOR: At any point, did the accused call for help or make any motion for help?
WITNESS: No, he did not.
LEOPOLD: [on the stand] It was a profound experience. In those short minutes, seeing the end to which we all come, life began to make sense for me. I felt the life blood of what had been a fellow human being drip onto my hand as it held hers, and it bonded us as nothing in life could. Death was a great equalizer, the one thing that brought her to a level I could relate to. Whoever she was in life, however intimidating she would've been, now she was an equal. That's why I behaved as the witness describes.
DEFENSE: [with exhasperation knowing the case was just lost] No further questions.
PROSECUTOR: [with satisfaction] No further questions.
SFX: Leopold walks back to defense attourney
DEFENSE: [slightly angry] You couldn't have made a stronger case *against* yourself, Leopold. I should've known it was a mistake to let you testify.
SFX: judge's gavel
SFX: court fades out
LEOPOLD: So I was condemned, so I was taken to my place of execution. Yet somehow I find myself in this forest.
SFX: forest night fades back in
SFX: drip drip, drip drip
LEOPOLD: No, not blood. Just water. It's beginning to rain.
There was another rainy day, so long ago. It was the first school day of the new year, and I'd made a resolution over the break to start talking to the other kids, to reach out in the new year and let them in.
It was all so simple in my head. I would take it slowly, step by step. Speaking one word would suffice the first day, then ten, then maybe thirty words a day, and before long I'd have friends to justify the efforts.
It lasted until recess. I was walking a loop around the school grounds, in the open despite a light rain. I was trying to look like I was going somewhere, as always. A boy I'd never seen before approached.
SFX: forest sounds have faded out behind last paragraph, while school playing noises have faded in. light rain remains constant.
SFX: sloshy footsteps of boy approaching and narrator slowing and stopping.
BOY: [innocently] Do you know what time it is?
LEOPOLD: [croaking] Ten twenty-five.
SFX: boy runs away
BOY: [sfx: from increasing distance] Did you hear that? I made Leo talk! Told you I could!
LEOPOLD: And every gaze on the playground turned to me and bored through me as if with x-ray vision. I could feel myself turning beet red and shrinking to a point. I can still feel it.
Then I made a new resolution, a resolution to grow a thicker shell and never be exposed again. I would grow a shell so thick that even I could never break through it.
SFX: sorrowful but determined musical bridge
SFX: fade back in to forest night, rain is steadier now and maybe a rumble of thunder
SFX: police dogs barking in distance
LEOPOLD: [drawn out first word] Dogs. At least the rain will mask my scent.
I'm almost glad for the dogs. The dogs are an acknowledgement. They've noticed my absence, and it makes a difference to them. I matter. Now I have something to do again, a purpose: to run from the dogs.
SFX: fleeing through bushes
LEOPOLD: I like dogs, when they're not chasing me with intent to bring me to my death. They love without reason, they bond with the unworthy. I've always admired that. I remember when I was little, around four years old I think, I saw a litter of free puppies advertised on the corner. I begged my parents to let me take one home.
MOTHER: No, Leo, a puppy would make such a mess!
FATHER: [trying to sound profound] Leo, you can't be responsible for a life. We each must master ourselves before we can take on another.
LEOPOLD: I never mastered myself, so I never took on another.
I've become quite tired, my legs have grown heavy. Death row doesn't get you in shape to run for your life.
SFX: stumbling and splating into puddle as the line below is read
LEOPOLD: Stumbling, I trip over a log and plant my face into a muddy puddle. It doesn't hurt. It feels rather good. I lie there and feel the mud envelop me like a womb.
SFX: womb noises of sloshing and muffled beating heart
LEOPOLD: Like a womb -- the one place in this universe where there's a sense of complete security and peace, where the view every day is the same and all material needs are met without effort. Right now I feel like I can remember being there, being content that I had surveyed and understood the entirety of the very small universe. I could hear the muffled beating of a heart. I could feel connected to something beyond myself, to everything beyond myself.
And then I'm forcibly expelled, pushed from that comfort into a bizarre, overwhelming world of lights and sounds and the clamor of so many people. Never to return. And for the first of many times, I scream.
SFX: screaming baby in noisy hospital room
SFX: cresting crash of people noise
SFX: maybe a musical bridge
SFX: the air conditioning same as at start, under final scene
SFX: footsteps and pause
CORRECTIONS SECRETARY: [calmly] The time of pronouncement is 12:37. Thank you.
OFFICER: You may now close the blinds.
SFX: footsteps, blinds close
SFX: MUSIC...THEME...FADE FOR
ANNOUNCER: The title of tonight's "Quiet, Please!" story was "The Living Death". It was written and directed by Paul Knierim, and the man who spoke to you was Paul Knierim.
LEOPOLD: cast list here.
Sound effects courtesy of free sound dot org. Music courtesy free sound dot org and free pd dot com. This program is licensed for free reuse and redistribution.
SFX: MUSIC ... THEME ... END