TILL WORDS DO US PART, The Theatre of the Dead


Contemplations from the grave

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The place of action is a grave deeply dug within the architectonic of Père Lachaise. Whenever the dead start conversing beneath the soil, it turns simultaneously green and blue. Many burial plots around the world look up to the Père Lachaise grave. It is a black hole, exactly as imagined by one reading the observations of Dante and Petrarch or hearing about the experiences of people who lived through a clinical death; it is like watching death through a kaleidoscope, the way it was lifted by the movie directors from a common, collective consciousness of the living and transplanted onto a movie screen. In the opacity of the grave there is water, and gifts from the deceased one’s kinfolk stand carefully aligned. Close to the sthenic bedstead made of wood upon which the deceased is displayed, there is a lid which each of the departed – once their eyes get used to the darkness, that is – knows how to open. He picked up the gift from his half-brother – the one who stole his wife after he died – lit a stale cigarette with his silver lighter, and inhaled.
JOHN HAYNES (an obscure and in his lifetime unrenowned author) Oh, please… When people die, what do they know about gods and kings and honors? My whole life I suffered from vanity because my manuscripts were rejected. Quite a few times I had jumped off of bridges, like Balzac, but I would always get noticed by some fishermen St. Peter look-alikes – even when I wanted to kill that successful le Simon. He never knew a first thing about writing. I wanted to slay him; to hear him screaming and begging me for mercy. Death, just like birth, is an even line – but it is the ultimate metaphysical censure as well. Between those two even lines, that cardiac arrest, there is life, embodied by the virtue of vanity. It made me suffer, my life was spent on contradictions. Eventually, I turned shard-like: evil to the core. My decline was psychological, not physical. No one knew of the tempest that raged through my body. Deep within, I howled like an idiot. Screeching and spasming, my essence was decomposing; the relentless silence of a fruitless existence my perspective for all eternity. Eternity? Ha ha! Have I had any grasp on eternity then whatsoever? Now, as I writhe and worm on the graveyard floor, I do. This grave is guarded, and the dead men still do dream. We dream, but we cannot get up anymore. And even if they let us open the lid and crawl our way above ground like worms, the mortal air would simply drive us insane. To us, the earthly air is filled with poison. It presses against our nostrils and our mouths and suffocates us, constricting our ossified throats. Granted, it was very much the same when I was alive.
Between each two graves a thin loamy wall stands, easy for the dead to crack open with a single arm. They can crawl through the loam, open the lid and settle comfortably alongside their fellow deceased – the fellow sufferer – provided, that is, that their fellow sufferer allows such a thing in the first place. The very architectonic of the graveyard crypts boasts the so-called Dying rooms of darkness, which can accommodate a number of dead simultaneously. This is where the deceased come to socialize and relieve an eternity of boredom.
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (from his coffin): How pathetic! Such suicidal maudlinism from a vainglorious extraordinarium, contemplating life and scribing butterfingered sentences. Haynes, could it be said that you have managed retain your catchpenny vanity even HERE AND NOW? You say you are possessed of a talent and have been purposely denied rightful glory, but I do not recall ever catching you in an attempt to rectify this grave injustice following your death? When have you written anything, these two hundred years past? And do not use the pretext of not owning a pen! I was inhumed with a hoard of quills and ink infused with the secrets of Da Vinci, who is domiciled in the adjoining painter’s lodge. He diffuses my ink and asks for naught but sexual favors in return which, truly, is hardly an imposition. I am willing to share my ink with you, but never ask for it – all you wish to do is grouse. You put yourself to death in the wake of an unsuccessful story with a poor storyline in which you speak explicitly about a nameless authority mocking the reader by way of a fruitless mystery with nonsensical plot. Hence a misdirected bullet appears in your novel, randomly entering through a window, its origins unknown, assassinating the main character of all people. I will not argue events might have unfolded that way, but this is where your maudlinism shows – because you cannot bear to bid adieu sans the drama, without the whimpering and pathetic scribbling in which you lay the blame on everyone but yourself. I am a playwright, but you truly do not lack in pathos. Nonetheless, you dying is not pathos – it is not a painful event. On the contrary, your killing yourself brought glad tidings to the world. Extolling the sperm of Schiller and Whitman, attempting to annex them with apologetic motives, not to mention penning a novel about a girl having Schiller’s child out of wedlock, is utterly foolish. You are not a fool in Christ, sire – you are a fool in Schiller!
Nacra the Eigth, a heretic poet burnt at the stake slightly before Giordano Bruno was, in the year of 1665, is listening in on their conversation.
NACRA THE EIGHTH: I did not kill myself but rather killed my soul out of sheer cowardice, and I am ashamed of it. Fire had always terrified me, and the thought of my limbs dissolving in it made me write a poem before I died in which I became a woman.
WILLIAM: A woman?

NACRA THE EIGHTH: It is titled “Ovary of an apostate”. Both small lymph spheres in which a child is spawned lanced through the belly in momentum when my organ, melted away by the fire like a burning sausage, crumpled into a pair of fiery red spheres from which the Agnus Dei – the lamb of God – sprung forth. The Inquisitor himself read this poem in his bath, laughing out loud while gnawing on a spicy sausage. No, it did not save me from death; but the Inquisitor suddenly wished to see whether I was as involved in poetry as to become what I could not possibly be – and which could only be verified in the most traditional of ways. As I burned, I felt sorrow for the poems I had never written. I also felt the impotence of a man, seeing as I had had the chance of entering the soul of the High Inquisitor. I have never considered myself incapable of pleasuring a man. But it seemed as if the Inquisitor was enjoying himself; so much so that there was a moment in which I thought the blazing could be avoided. Such a business man! He told me:
“Nacra, this is extraordinary. But the poem is a sorceress of a witchdoctor, and you did not TRANSFIGURE yourself. Your body shall burn, but your creation shall live forever in my heart…”
JOYCE: O mine mister man O’Neil! You grazing on the Irish pastures; your entire life you wanted to be a simple shepherd, and detach yourself from the homeland that made you dedicate a stylized, though dull prose dealing with wandering, wanderers, garbage collectors on an odyssey, Odysseys on the garbage heap of the world, you whose mother wanted you to be a priest, you who…
KAFKA: Raving about his mother again. I have heard some talk about a movie being made about his mother; it’s called “The Braveheart” and his mother is portrayed by Mel Gibson.
JOYCE: You confuse me with the wandering Dutchman again.
THE WANDERING DUTCHMAN: Stop confusing me with Scots and let me sail. Hiccough!
RIMBAULT: Who buried this drunken ship with us?
HAYNES: Quiet! You celebrated nicotine addicts thinking I don’t belong among you, you who had your landed estates, printing presses and titles, oh how outraged you are by my novel which would, had it ever been written, outshine all of those burning thoughts brought to you by a gust of wind, which you fruitlessly call inspiration. None of you had ever hymned their own suicide and then destroyed the manuscript!

SYLVIA PLATH: I did.
HAYNES: Get your head back into the oven and shut your mouth. Women!
KAFKA: It just occurred to me that Haynes might be the only one among us who managed to extol his own self into a myth and be resurrected as one. Certainly the greatest mythologist here is Mr Ulyssus, but…
JOYCE: If a writer manages to resurrect his demon and turn him into a myth, he is saved. This is the reason everyone writes.
Kafka covers himself with a handful of soil and pretends to be asleep.
DOSTOEVSKY: Would anyone care for a game of cards in the Nocturnal Chamber?
He exits the coffin. He enters a seemingly impenetrable wall. Under the soil there are huge underground tunnels and catacombs. Everyone can take a stroll to any of his fellow deceased, to the very end of the Earth and back. The Earth is the Earth. It belongs to the Living more than it belongs to the Dead. Soon all the fellow deceased will traverse to the Nocturnal Chamber where they can talk in peace, their voices freed of the dark tone of cymbals caused by the loamy walls separating the coffins of fellow deceased.
HAYNES: Do not glorify your storylines too much! This Dane of yours, for example: an indecisive flunky playing at insanity. He is rather well known, of course, and you shall remain so as well – even if your idea is a far cry from being original. In the end, you kill. At least I stopped with myself. But people like their heroes to be in two minds; for who still likes determined, brave Odysseys, who writes Iliads still? The philosophy of war drove Achilles to a determined fight with Hector. Imagine if Achilles sat on a stone wondering whether to strike at Hector or not. I have always suffered headaches from your books. Your comedies of ambition, your tragedies of romance, your comicals, crazy priests, poisons and bloody stains. What is it that makes you better than ME?
WILLIAM: Oh, human vanity! Even shouldst thou wish to miss it, thou canst not.
HAYNES: You think I don’t belong here with you. You even dared to declare I was but a grain

of sand from the mind of Mr. Joyce, some sort of a fictive, whoring character more heroic than human. I wrote. Do you understand English? I WROTE! No worse and no better than any of you. Why does one become a writer? Had I known, I would have stabbed myself through the aorta with a pen without delay – had I only known! Oh God, I will not forgive and forget this deception.
WILLIAM: All right, Haynes. Let us say I do believe you a writer – and a live one, too. Demonstrate thine artistry. Namely, the angels had brought for us fresh baskets of modern literature and – among the folios of one Salman Rushdie, Kerouac, Ginsberg and José Saramago – I discovered drafts of a book by a modern poetess who wishes to take a stab at prose and calls herself Eileen Dunne. Allow me to read it for you:
“You, poets, who threaded all the dirty waters of existence, grant me your compassion and an idea. The new literature is spreading its jaws to swallow me, so I drown in illogicalities. Some would say that all of you suffered through it, but I do not trust you. I think I am the only one suffering. Till words did you part, life was but a trench in which you dug for gold smelled and twiddled for you by others, and your sin lies in disappearing and not being able to help me. I want to be like you, even if I were to die. Do not be ruthless; help me finish this novel, because I do not wish to end up like the famous suicide writer John Haynes.
HAYNES: So they heard about me, after all! After all! After all! But how?! I incinerated my novel – or, more precisely, my wife did.
SYLVIA: Keep reading!

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Vincent Price reads to Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, and Basil Rathbone
HAYNES (reads):
“To gladden Haynes, the manuscript his wife used as kindling was found ten years ago with an old man, a bibliophile, who claimed to have found it in the Library of Babylon. I’m kind of springing this on you, I know; but your wife was just joking, Mister Haynes. Rejoice! And help me. I will be waiting outside for the book cart, on the night of the full moon. Don’t ask me how I know about YOU. As a matter of fact, everyone does. You, my good sirs, are an inspiration to the world. The writers of today are merely aping you, and the everyday word is no more than a paramecium. Humans are just salt in the world’s wound. Soon the Mutants will come. Mutant literature appeared. They have infernal genitals, diabolical mouths and smiles the shapes of the clouds; they have tails, horns and goat ears! The synopsis is on page 144. Read it!
HAYNES: My dear child, they don’t want to help you but I… (is writing back)
WILLIAM (tearing the paper out of his hands): Desist! The child is naïve if she envisages us penning her work, only to be omitted in the critique. ‘Tis a vanity of all vanities. Leastwise she could have entered and regaled us some. Although the air might not have agreed with her.
SYLVIA: Gentlemen, we don’t always have to wait for the gong. Rattle your old bones, and let us creak over to the Nocturnal Chamber and read the page 144.
KAFKA (allegedly waking up): Let’s!
RIMBAULT: Let’s!
THE WANDERING DUTCHMAN: I shall sail right after you.
So he said and splashed straight into the graveyard water, while the skeletons of the authors ground towards the Nocturnal Chamber in which the deceased killed their eternity, gambled and played cards. Somewhere in the distance, over a throng of underground hallways, secret passages and catacombs – one branch of which leads into the Purgatory, the other into the Painter’s Assembly and the third into the Department of Music&Theatre – a heavy, piercing strike of a gong is heard. Reverberations lag behind the initial stroke, rippling through the stagnant air in the vast cave of the famous dead’s burning thoughts. Hordes of extras are shouting at the gong from the darkness; murmurs, muttering, coughing and disapprovals are heard, mixing with hysterical laughter coming from the Department of Music&Theatre.
HAYNES: Mozart is laughing again. Those drunken, talented German brats have always caused trouble in Artist’s Hell. And he’s yet to finish the Requiem.
The gongs produce outlandish sounds which are yet to inundate each other and, in the end, every vibration forms a single steely blow making the bony lobes of the skeletons’ former ears bleed for a moment. A spectral voice speaking a human tongue booms anon exhibiting adjacency, unlike the remote effects of the gong. The voice is an authoritative and shadowy bass.
“TO THE GAMBLING HALL!”
A throng of skeletons moves towards the Chamber of Darkness, entering the Catacomb Number One.
NACRA THE EIGHTH: I hope I will not meet with the early Christians. I fear them rather a lot. They have red crystal balls in place of orifices. It is fire!
The gambling hall. Dozens of tables covered in green cloth are overflowing with plastic buttons; the deceased use them in place of tokens, ripping them off the items of clothing they were buried in. Dostoevsky had plucked his prison uniform completely bare, followed by the uniform from his Cadet School days, managing to amass roughly twenty buttons which he placed on the table to his right. Across from him sits Pushkin, waving the Queen of spades; the dead from the Department of Music&Theatre around them are singing. The sound of piano is heard from the Gambling Hall. A tiny skeleton is plucking at the keys, making the atmosphere more agreeable, while Pushkin is fervently arguing with Dostoevsky that he had indeed won that round and the man should not try to hide the money pretending not to have committed the robbery owing to the pangs of conscience nor pretend to be unable to recall the stone under which he “hid some small change”, but rather tell him where he hid the cash so that he, Pushkin, can turn the stone over. He, Pushkin, does not believe the story batjushka Fyodor had tried to sell them, because Fyodorchik is a crook and a thief, and the fact that he had never been caught is on the head and the conscience of the police. And if he fails to pay up for the lost round, he would challenge him to a duel. A duel! The remaining skeletons walk in obediently, taking their places at the table. In that spookily grotesque music salon with two Russians at odds, the famous deceased are carrying the page No. 144, papers and pens, and the solemn silence is ruined by Sylvia. She is insisting on seeing Ted so she could crush his skull and complaining about the lack of refreshments, stating that she had baked the man cookies her entire life whereas nowadays she is not allowed to do anything and is barely refraining from making bone-filled mud pies; she keeps arguing and staring into nothingness, asking for a phone as she has to consult her doctor.
KAFKA: Lady and gentlemen, let us begin. Then we can by all means ask for a counter favor from Eileen Dunn, since literature demands sacrifice. And this Eileen Dunn can be our link to the world, seeing as she keeps circumambulating our grave and like every fanatical, fervent authoress is unlikely to desist. She is the demiurge in the new; from her we can learn whether and how grand we remained in the eyes of the futurism which, mixed with the outside wind, awakens a sense of solitude in me which I would not experience were I so honored as to read some contemporary piece or another; and we do know, lady and gentlemen, that materialized things are all that makes us alive. I view the synopsis 144 as out ticket to the outside world, how about you? Will you begin, Sylvia? Will you read the synopsis?
SYLVIA: Which synopsis? There is nothing here! You, Mister Kafka, are as grueling as the Alzheimer’s. On and on you go about the synopsis. Well, there is nothing here; an empty piece of paper. Do you see any letters there? I see no letters. Maybe I went blind from the suffocation, but I do not see. Someone show me, so I can see the letters, because this is a hoax. If we are dead, we are not blind. Senses, truthfully, we have not; but through this darkness and deadness we look and we see a speck of white, especially if it is a blank piece of paper we are dealing with.
HAYNES: It’s true, there’s nothing written on it. It’s all up to us. Do you hear that? Someone’s coming? Someone who does not belong here.
While the dead argue about the empty piece of paper disintegrating on the table, blackened by the mud dribbling from their bones, another gong strikes and a tall black shape wearing a cape and a gas mask appears in the gambling hall. The shape approaches, lifts its arms, and then falls to its knees. Mozart starts playing a variation of Salieri’s motifs and giggles.
MOZZART: Papa!
The form places its hands on its knees and, still kneeling, begins speaking with a sigh. The voice is strong, human and female. While the cape rises, two flash-filled arms twist their hands, dripping blood, towards them. Upon noticing a living being, the dead start protesting in one voice.
THE FORM IN BLACK: I am Eileen Dunn. There is no literature left on Earth, and the writers became hardly better than the garbage collectors as they both deal in waste recycling; granted, the former recycle their own souls, but at least the garbage collectors get paid for their work. We have guts, blood, eardrums, spleens and other intestines; they have bottles, glasses, broken and crumpled cans, old paper and other waste.
SYLVIA: Quo vadis, waste! To some extent, it does make sense: so much waste and no one to recycle it.
WILLIAM: No, do not! We also have our old papers; I myself have kept a parchment from a king next to my heart to this very day. Who allowed you entry?
EILEEN DUNN: God did. I am, to a certain extent, an Apollonian reincarnation; a Vestal witch of Literature, a Muse… whichever you prefer.
WILLIAM: Do thou still livest?
EILEEN DUNN: I live.
WILLIAM: Bless you!
EILEEN: Thank you. But I bring dark tidings about the imminent disappearance of the written word, because the people are busy with machines which consumed their souls. They write quickly, and as short as possible; they even buy audio books and would sell their own mothers for a hard cover, as a hard cover will sell a book more quickly than the contents thereof. I was sent as a Muse, to get some different words from you; the words to make a book that would save us all, as it would bear the lightness of bygone poets and times devoured by those petty, money hungry merchants of canvassing tables. And thus, I get to mix dulce cum utili. Namely, it’s been a while since I laid my hands on a book which I wanted to read, so I decided to write it. You, undoubtedly, understand me?
HAYNES: I’ll never drop my accusations of these gentlemen, who only pretend to want to write for you. Eileen, they can’t write a single thing for you; we’re talking archaic vermin here, they who love archaism above all (and archaism in plotting, at that) and Mrs. Sylvia…
SYLVIA: Miss..
HAYNES: …is too preoccupied with herself. On this solemn occasion of our meeting, I have an idea on designing a space for your living flesh to inhabit. Look how beautiful your hands are, how very flushed and bloodied. Write, for example, “The Vampyrics” dear Eileen; or perhaps “The Daemonics”. After that, simply kill yourself.
SYLVIA: Actually, that would be my advice too.
HAYNES: People are hankering for mutilated flesh. They wish to flirt with immortality and will not complain if you stuff their mouths full of broken limbs. They like gnawing on the bones of others – we’re talking animals here. Your hands beckon even me to sink my tooth in (if only I had one). Would you mind if I brushed my cold bones against the warmth of your being? Let Herr Mozart play a quadrille so we may dance! We want laughter; we want shades to go dancing with us so that, akin to the stars, we may walk this dark purgatory of cadavers. Start up the lights, antagonists! Let there be MUSIC!
The Dance of Death commenced to the sound of a cacophonous piano brilliantly commingling variations to Salieri. As the tempo accelerated unwaveringly, Mozart kept flooring the piano pedals as if they belonged on a priceless car. His diminutive skull and compact hands alternately rising and falling, he guzzled from an empty bottle, cackling, basking in the luminescence of lanterns supplied by the archangels, spilling over the entire gambling hall. Mr. Haynes’ skeleton lodged the fleshy body of Miss Eileen Dunn and the two of them slow-danced their way across the clay stage while the rest snapped their bones and teeth, clapping their metacarpals and phalanges (of which, it is well known, there are many). This crepitation lent rhythm to the eerie waltz, while Eileen Dunn – led by the firm bones of the acclaimed Mr. Haynes – danced and laughed under her gas mask as it moved steadily upwards so that her smile, like a cloud, could swell her living cheeks and fiery blood.
HAYNES: Fellow artists, write! Compose an ode to this lovely lady, dancing to the rhythm with such skill! Get your bones clapping and your pens scraping, smear the ink across your cranial bones! Here we are, performing for you the Dance of Death – perform for us the story of a life! Bring out your musty quills, lady and gentlemen and with those marvelous brains of yours – laden with letters, quills, brushes and paints as they all undoubtedly are – highlight the wax figures’ tragedies. Grant them minuscule lampion houses to cram their meek lives into, dress them in patchwork quilts or golden harem pants; make them heroes or cowards, thieves, traitors, moralists and/or decent folk. Let your quills glide as we, borne by this eerie waltz, glide and lend rhythm. We entertain you, resembling those models who, weary of posing, start pitching apples at each other in order to keep their spirits awake; and thus, seduced by the lyres and the naked bodies wrapped in rugs covered in Persian patterns, those beauties maintain their perfect comeliness devoid of boredom!
The rest are gathered at the table, except Dostoevsky and Pushkin (who is pointing a gun at him). Each with their own piece of paper, they are busy inscribing, scribbling, squiggling and scrawling.
JOYCE: My heroine is a dame who wishes to murder her brother – a priest terrorizing an entire village. She antagonizes him and, eventually, sets all the churches on fire. The priest has an entourage of freaks; they wear horse faces and the bodies of snakes.
A courteous clap of bones creaks around the room.
SYLVIA: My heroine is a sweet and ambitious lady who happens to be a housewife. Detached from the world she dresses in secret, in front of a mirror, pulling on circus rags and hiding from a husband who wears female clothing and cheats on her with a man simultaneously.
A barely-there applause vibrates through the Gambling Hall.
KAFKA: My hero is a happy lunatic whose skills of mimicry grow stronger by the day, until he transforms into a monstrous bug with two hundred feet. After a failed attempt at surviving the world as a bug he chooses the form of a tomcat, sneaking through the courtyards, alleys, brothels and cubbyholes like a thief. The tomcat is satisfied with this body so he starts purring and, like a bouncing ball, jumps onto the lap of the damsel incidentally driving by on a barouche. She strokes him until the tomcat is completely ensnared by her petticoats; sensing the clear, fresh breath of the lady, he puffs, nuzzles, and becomes the pet of the aforementioned Frau.
A clap of bones grates around the room. An applause!
EDGAR ALLAN POE: My heroes are a band of people fleeing from their landlords, having previously failed to pay the rent due. Jostling, they pursue each other along narrow gothic streets, until they arrive at a lonely castle with steeples resembling the spiked and jagged cones of doom. They heaved a sigh of relief upon realizing they can temporarily hide from their landlords, who kept drooling so much they eventually transformed into rabid dogs. They run into the castle, trailed by the sound of barking…
SYLVIA: Oh, you’re here as well.
A few more giants join them at the table. Sylvia handed each a copy of the synopsis 144. Only Dostoevsky and Pushkin are still counting buttons on their officers’ uniforms: Pushkin with a gun on his right, Dostoevsky with vodka to his left. They have no wish to join the bevy of giants at the table; in turn, their faces focus on the vodka, then on the gun, and then on the buttons.
DOSTOEVSKY: There! Three hundred buttons. Past tense. Now there is nothing. How do you plan on collecting the debt?
PUSHKIN: The Queen of spades is an advantage here, not an illusion. I am rich and you, you lost. I want my three hundred buttons before this time tomorrow, or else…
Through all of this, the dance is still flowing smoothly. Oh, if Eileen could just take her cap off; but the god of Death, God the Divider, will not allow her face to turn into stone. She is a demigoddess, and she watches the giants of the written word keep pass notes to each other through the fog of music: suggestions and corrections and complaints.
WILLIAM: Hark the two ribalds! ‘Tis no dance, but a mass that accompanies our toils. We crafted this synopsis, filling the empty pages. Yet we still dawdle, gentlemen, notice you not? Thou, fledgling scribe, dost not perceive this; thou hast accompanied us but a short time. The gift of life is yet to desert thee; thou feelst the pain still and the passions, and the love. In the end, thou wilt be burned with the tedium and the boredom of the infinity in Purgatory. As for us? We squirm like the fish out of water, having forgotten our human nature in all things. That is, we quit it. Which of us remembers pain anymore? And when the pain is gone, so is incursion into the human psyche. Consequently, so is the literature. We are lessened, estranged from everything human and thus incapable; we have been robbed of greatness and are slowly being overtaken by the writing dementia. What do we feel? This story line that we wrought is but an unwieldy slab of literary meat, abhorred by our Eileen. Our words spawn not gold, but sausages – minuscule meaty monsters. We have lost the gift of existence and with it the gift of words. They have abandoned us. Our story is discordant. Mozart is out of tune, the dead and the living dance. Grotesque are our faces painted in white rouge. Tiny caskets collecting the lymph undulate in our bones, insensitive to touch, to music, to love. We are finished!
Haynes is done waltzing with Eileen Dunn and, subsequently, his bones start creaking. He doesn‘t resemble a living man anymore, but rather a dead one: he moves with the ease and the skill which, with no body to perform the actual movement, can be achieved only by the full of heart. He places two bones over his eye sockets and looks about to cry. The music is winding down. It is only occasionally interrupted by Mozart’s frenetic giggles. Eileen Dunn places a gentle, fleshy hand on Mr. Hayne’s skull. She is a living doll made of flesh, whose deep inhales and exhales can be heard from under the cape; they are making her body swell.
EILEEN DUNN: What a gentleman of the past, Mr. Haynes. The world used to bring out nothing but the best in you, and you forgot none of your skills. But you are crying. Whatever for?
HAYNES: Miss, you still believe THEY (pointing to the bony giants) would have tackled your writing even without me standing up for you. You are a naive, faddish poetess – as you yourself stated in the synopsis 144. But you underestimate yourself! As soon as we began dancing your words came to me, somewhere, in the depths of my heart; for it is still alive and ticking, incredible though it may seem. If only, if only I could hold… Only once.
EILEEN: Whom? The loved one you lost while alive? You had a true love?
HAYNES: My love? Such gibberish! The book! My book. That is my loved one, my one and only. In eternity I am tormented by the images of a great opus which used to swarm in my head, torn as it was out of my hands on a witch’s whim and burnt in a fireplace. I sang my suicide and then committed it. But no one could read it. What was it all for? If no one could ever read it. And then you… You’ve made me happy.
During that time the giants around the cloth-covered table were arguing.
JOYCE: The grand playwright! Those are stage directions, yes, yes! You are foisting your genre on us, mister. You think I’m not able to follow your stage directions; that’s what you think. Description – you despise it! Redundant representations? My prose, boring? So be it, lady and gentlemen. Let’s once and for all settle whether we are writing a novel, a story, or a play.
SYLVIA: I do have some experience in radio dramas.
JOYCE: Novelists, let’s leave this table. To hell with you all!
WILLIAM: You claim youself all-knowing, all-powerful. Pray then, exclude me from this. You keep complaining about me. You, with your heaps of text and footnotes, which do little more but disturb the action and bore the reader to insanity. You are impossible. You and your stylistic bacchanalias with no real effect.
JOYCE: Oh, you and your conflicts and potently effective parts! He can’t decide on a duel like a man, like Mr. Pushkin here, but rather enacts insanity and brings the actors in, making it a comedy. The curtain stirs, and he goes PUFF! This Danish prince of yours checks nothing, he just stabs. This makes it a comedy, not a tragedy.
SYLVIA: Gentlemen, let’s not argue. Let us use the capacity for story lines from the genre of which William here is the unsurpassed master, and then we can easily write a novel based on the motifs from his drama.
WILLIAM: I was just explaining that all of your so-called novels can in truth be dramatized, if we dispose of all superfluous characters such as thine mother.
SYLVIA: My mother a superfluous character!
POE: Peace, lady and gentlemen. I used to write plays myself. Let us vote. All in favour of Shakespeare?
A variation of Salieri is heard again, supplemented by Mozart’s hysterical laughter. With a creak of bones the giants raise their skeletal fingers; almost every one of them except for Joyce, who leaves the table in protest. The tables are illuminated by lanterns. The torches lining grave walls throw fire-red glimmers at the giants’ bones. Joyce retreats into his burial casket, covering himself with the lid and preparing to sulk for the next fifty earthly years or so. That means he will be back in the Gambling Hall within the next couple of minutes.
WILLIAM: For our Eileen we shall write a play worthy of the giants; she may do with it whatever pleases her. But ere I expose myself to any further criticism I say unto you – with all the conviction of my erstwhile glory – that the books in print today, the modern books, the never more poorly scribed books with which the archangels strive to amuse us, pushing them around in cartloads from coffin to coffin in order to kill the boredom. Each phrase of mine tore at my flesh while this – and I present to you as an example the fashionable author Le Simon – would not pass muster even with Le Simon himself. Willie (he used to say), I know exactly what I am doing and what the hoi polloi wants to read. The landlady wants her rent and I have hungry children to feed. I broke into the human psyche wielding a knife, not a quill.. People still write today, asking the same questions. But this, lady and gentlemen, is utterly unheard of! Drooling and rabid dogs, prepared to sell anything for money. They cut and they grind and they carve every half-decent phrase. Hark, I bring you an octavo of the story “The Sataness”. It is a family drama about the satanlets spawned by the Sataness in cohabitation with the Satan… A few gags, a couple of antics, and no differentiated dialogues. A subpar plot and a barely average subject: a married man takes a mistress, and then leaves her. She wishes to avenge herself. In the end the two divorce, but the lover renounces the Sataness believing her to have ruined his life. Scenery: a market place. She is a commoner, while he is a gentleman of renown.
MAUPASSANT: I had a similar story.
WILLIAM: You see? They hardly moved from us. We have been dead for two hundred years; three hundred, in my case. Yet they hardly moved from us. On the contrary, we are lampooned. So lady and gentlemen, the stage directions. Pay attention to the parentheses. They contain…
SYLVIA: Let us commence, gentlemen. And do not halt for the characters’ states too often. The movie audience cannot see it, just like the readership cannot see, for example, “The Theatre of the Dead”.
WILLIAM: A marvelous title, Miss.

The scribbling continues for hours, until a gong resounds. Eileen Dunn, visibly agitated, approaches the cloth-covered table; Haynes is attempting to stop her with his bones.
HAYNES: You’re not going anywhere without me. I have to see it, I just have to.
EILEEN DUNN: Gentlemen, lady, it is time. She flings her fleshy arms onto the manuscripts.

The skeletons grumble. Who is the author? We have to sign the author.
WILLIAM: I am the author.
SYLVIA: You are just boring. Of course you are not the author. You never moved any further than The Scottish Play. You keep repeating yourself. There is no beauty in your works.
EILEEN DUNN: Is this supposed to be a drama? Gentlemen, lady, nobody reads drama today – just short stories and parables. The less sentences there are, the more literature there is.
SYLVIA: We tried really hard, but it wasn’t good enough. We have no words, because we don’t feel. Everything we wrote is boring. Now we are truly dead and Eileen Dunn is going to declare this to the entire world.

KAFKA: She can’t say anything if we stop her and turn her into one of us…
The skeletons reach towards Eileen Dunn; they wish to grab her, to suffocate her with the maggoty air of the grave.
EVERYONE IN UNISON: One of us. One of us.
HAYNES: I will help you escape, providing that you help me in return. I have to see it, at least once. My book. I have to see it, touch it, smell it. You will not be returning here in any case. I know all the corridors which lead to the outside world. I can trick the guard. And if you see the early Christians in the corridors, do not be afraid. They are all just shadows. Just immortal, drooling shadows and besides, their faith prohibits them from committing violence.
Haynes and Eileen Dunn escape, the skeletons chasing after them with widespread arms.
THE SKELETONS: Don’t let her escape with our manuscript!
Haynes and Eileen Dunn enter the Catacomb One and run down the hallway to the very end of the World of the Living and the Dead. A guard is standing there, sword in hand. It is THE Guard.
HAYNES: I can pass through him.
The Guard sticks out his tongue and his gorgon hair starts undulating, creating wind.
THE GUARD: A fugitive! Get him!
The Guard’s sword passes right through Haynes’ bones. The howling skeletons are swarming through the catacombs. Eileen Dunn throws a torch at them, setting their eyes on fire. The skeletons recoil. They both run towards the exit, passing through a throng of guards frantically swinging their swords at Haynes and ignoring Eileen Dunn completely.
HAYNES (shedding invisible tears): Just a bit more. A bit more. Until the meeting.
Here comes the pit, and the ladders up which one climbs towards the sun, towards the earth and the living. Eileen lifts the lid and exits the grave. She pulls Haynes outside at the very moment the sun bursts through the clouds, dousing his skull with its golden blades, like a knife. His bones momentarily turn to dust. Eileen Dunn is not surprised by Haynes’ doom; nevertheless, she reproaches herself for not bringing his book the usual way. Even the Purgatory has its rules. She failed to obey them, denying a giant the assurance that his life, in the end, was actually worth the effort. Manuscript in hand, she walks slowly towards the sun-burnt horizon, singing with the nightingales of morning, remembering the nightingale of the darkest night.

A wondering soul poem, Leila Samarrai


A wassail around the grave
Of the Russian mystic
Lunacy crucified in his eye

I knit a wreath for the vixen
Who was suffocating next to the shaft,
Tearing the grid with her teeth,
Who was breaking the joists,
Eating sonnets,
She rode the Lion’s gate
In a dress with a décolletage
Cut with her sword and enflamed with her pyre

The heads of the five Mycenaean bulls.

My blindness,
Put me away into wilted flowers
So I repose there
Already my corpse reeks strongly
The one that never dies
Whose wounds were played in the darkness

While unease ripens in the fog
Lulled inside the years
A bloodied sun comes out in the west