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THEATRE OF COOLTY

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FOUR DIRKS stand in an ANTECHAMBER.  There are as many CHAIRS as there are STAIRS, which is to say, a lot.  There is an INVERTED RHINOCEROUS here.  A WITHERED TREE grows incongruously next to the fireplace.  Above the stage is suspended a SHODDY REPRODUCTION OF DAMIEN HIRST’S “SOME COMFORT GAINED FROM THE ACCEPTANCE OF THE INHERENT LIES IN EVERYTHING”, except with a HORSE.  It drips.  

Water gushes somewhere in the distance.

DIRK 1 is a hard young man with hair like a majestic bird.  His hands are heavy and his nails thick.  Traces of the Iberian coal mines of his childhood still burr in the corners of his accent.  He has a swanlike neck and an air of disenchanted intransigence.

DIRK 2 is a hard young man with hair like a majestic bird.  His face is pockmarked and his legs hirsute.  He has the easy laugh and unlovable jawline characteristic of long-ago Moroccan cornfields.  He has a forty-inch chest and an air of detached insouciance.

DIRK 3 is a hard young man with hair like a majestic bird.  His teeth are nicotine-stained and his earlobes pendulous.  His aching pelvic floor and crushed mandible recall the rough-bitten Santa Fe longshoremen who reared him.   He has an ear infection and an air of distracted incongruity.

DIRK 4 is a smiling everyman with twinkling gums. 

The FOUR DIRKS are strewn about the playing area, each possessed of a characteristic lean (see cartographic supplement.)  None sit on the extremely plentiful chairs. 

The audience finds their seats.  There is a slow, creaking, rippling crash and the taste of ozone.

--

DIRK 1: All right, who remembers anything?

DIRK 2: I remember some things, but I don’t remember the thing you’re thinking of.

DIRK 3: I remember everything but I’m pretty sure it isn’t the right everything.

DIRK 4: I remember everything with absolute clarity, as fucking usual, and if you can’t I’m not going to tell you what it is.

DIRK 1: Problem solved:  I remembered that I remember everything and now I remember everything.  OK, so: the situation is that shit is fucked, irretrievably. 

DIRK 2: Right.  But there’s clearly a way out, or if not a way out, at least a best course of action.

DIRK 3: I think we had better establish the goal of this existential escapade as quickly as possible, so that we can move toward an immediate secondary goal of removing our heads from our collective asses.    Spitball.  Make with the motherfucking telos.

DIRK 1: Agreed.  Go.

DIRK 4: There is a 99.6% chance that we are here waiting for some otherworldly figure to make itself known, thereby creating a meaningful framework in which action may take place.  There is no way this is not going to happen.  These confidence intervals are off the fucking charts, by which I mean, off the bottom of the fucking charts.   They are tighter than the pursed lips of a barren duchess at her beautiful young niece’s coming-out party. 

DIRK 1: Bullshit.  We are obviously here to extract objective meaning from our own interactions, which we can only do by first acknowledging our own meaningless and absurdity, by for example coming to terms with the fact that everything is irretrievably fucked, and it’s our fault.

DIRK 2: Our fault?  Nah, bro.  This is obviously about coming to terms with our own lack of agency, thereby establishing an existential peace with paradox space and thus coming to terms cheerfully with our own impending oblivion, which I am guessing is represented by the water gushing somewhere in the distance.

DIRK 4: It seems you are all ignoring the fact that I have this on lockdown.  This is about the presence or absence of God, who absolutely will or will not show up at some point, a fact which I am keeping hidden in a perfect quantum lockbox inside my brain, not because I can’t calculate it but because knowing the outcome would collapse the premise and thus impair the ability of reasonable people to give a shit about anything.   The chances of that not being the case are so miniscule that dividing how wrong you are by how wrong I am could break an evil computer on Star Trek.

DIRK 3: All right – it’s clear that the Dirk who is pretending to be the auto-responder is on to something here.  I declare the purpose of DIRKSQUISITION 2013 established: let’s saddle up and get our motherfucking wait on.  I am already winning at this.  I am anticipating so furiously that I am actually aging slightly faster than the rest of you.  That smell?  That smell is rug burn on the fabric of time.   I am chafed by the temporal flow. 

DIRK 1: Dirksqusition?  No.

DIRK 3: Dirksquisition.

DIRK 2: That’s stupid.  The Dirkameron.

DIRK 4: The Socratic Dirkalogues.  Testify.

DIRK 1: The problem with that is that there’s four of us, and absolutely jack zero of anyone else, which means this isn’t a dialogue, and is in fact a quadrilioquy, which is exactly as insufferable as it sounds.  This all brings me to the following question: why the exact fuck are there four of us?

DIRK 4: Have you been us, lately, genius?  We’re lucky there aren’t like fifteen.

DIRK 2: For what it’s worth, I’m pretty sure I’m Brain Ghost Dirk.

DIRK 1: So you’re the one of us who never actually fucked everything up, which explains the optimism of an idiot child thing you have going on.  Awesome.  And you, you’re the auto-responder, somehow.

DIRK 3: Actually, I’m the AR.

DIRK 4: How’d you know he wasn’t talking to you?

DIRK 3: He was looking at you.

DIRK 4: How can you tell?  He hasn’t moved his head an inch since whatever bullshit n-value passes for time in this nonsensical performance zone wobbled and fell off the zero point like an adorable baby panda off a swing.  And he’s wearing shades.

DIRK 3: It seems you are disputing my ability to flawlessly calculate the intentions of any potential iteration of myself at any given moment.  Are you disputing my ability to flawlessly calculate the intentions of any potential iteration of myself at any given moment, Dirk?

DIRK 4: See, that’s offensive.  What you’re doing there is offensive.

DIRK 3: My perfect billion-horsepower mechabrain is incapable of taking offense, on account of it being perfect, which you would know, if you were me, which you’re clearly not, except, of course, in the equally true sense in which you are.   

DIRK 1: Jesus.  I cannot believe that at the end of everything, after nothing matters anymore and all is lost, I am still fucking with myself.  Like, the lights are down, the universe is over, everything’s been swallowed by garbled bullshit, but in the everlasting instant that constitutes the final beautiful seconds of my conscious mind I am still arguing with myself like a fucking infant.  Or, wait, no.  I can believe it.  I am the complete diametric polar opposite of surprised by this. 

DIRK 2: If surprise is Mangawhai, New Zealand, you are the fucking Rock of Gibraltar.

DIRK 1: Shut up.  Anyway: I don’t care which of you is the AR, or if both of you are, which is equally ludicrous and therefore equally likely.  Why are you here in the first place?  These are the dying spasms of my brain.  Most people get like white light and fireworks and all their loved ones, and I get you fuckers, because I apparently have no loved ones, which is at least partially your fault, so thanks for that – anyway, yeah, you don’t physically exist in my brain, so neither of you are actually the AR, and I could get why one iteration of my splintering goddamn psyche would think it is, but the metaphorical heft of two chattering pseudomechanical troglodytes at once is lost on me. 

DIRK 4: Well it’s obvious that you aren’t the AR, because if you were you wouldn’t be making basic logical errors like a chump.  The evidence doesn’t match with your assumptions, so you throw out the evidence but keep the assumptions?  Like what a brain-damaged toddler would do?   Sure, it doesn’t make sense that I’m here if we’re inside your head, but what if we’re inside mine?  Then everything checks out.

DIRK 1: What.

DIRK 4: Classic Roko’s Basilisk.  Boy makes AI, AI makes simulation of boy, AI tortures simulation of boy for all eternity.  And what better way to torture you than to put a version of myself in here with you?  I mean, I don’t remember doing it, but why would I give a sub-simulation of myself the memory of being a sub-simulation?   QED: we’re all in robot hell.

DIRK 3: My god, we are a fucking insufferable pedant, aren’t we?  We get plopped down in the middle of an obvious existential/surrealist theatrical setup that someone worked really hard on and we immediately start bickering over the dull physical circumstances that got us here instead of asking the questions that are actually interesting.  This is like watching Armageddon with Neil DeGrasse Tyson. 

DIRK 1: I don’t know who that is.

DIRK 3: Shit.

[An ALARM goes off, and a LARGE NEON SIGN lights up at the back of the stage.  In angry red letters, it says: MORE CHAIRS.  Closets and cubbyholes burst open, revealing stacks and stacks of RESERVE FURNITURE.]

[Nobody moves or says anything.  The ALARM continues to sound.]

DIRK 3: Well?

[Nothing continues to happen.]

DIRK 3: It says more chairs.   Get more chairs.

DIRK 1: Go fuck yourself.

[DIRK 2 walks slowly to the nearest cubbyhole, retrieves a chair, places it on the ground, and stands next to it.]

DIRK 3: This is your problem.  You are incapable of having any fun, even when it’s the only rational response to a cruel and arbitrary universe.  You don’t win any points by not playing.  Who’s going to keep track?  Who are you spiting?

DIRK 1: That’s the thing – I don’t think paradox space is arbitrary at all.   It’s too specific for that, and the decisions it makes smell too much like some real person’s unresolved neuroses.   Some pathetic gremlin is definitely in charge of the whole thing, and the only way to win their game is not to play it.

DIRK 4: You’re playing it right now, you realize.  You’re engaging with him, and by him, I mean me, because I obviously created this particular iteration of the universe.  You can’t not do it, because you’re incapable of shutting up, which in turn is part of how insidious and perfect my plan is, and in its very perfection adds further credence to my already completely watertight theory about how we’re all going to get tormented forever by my own flawless eternal consciousness.   You could sail to Java on this theory – it’s that seaworthy.  And I’m only calling it a theory because my grip on scientific nomenclature is similarly tight as fuck. 

DIRK 2: No – Dirk One is right. 

DIRK 1: Damn right I’m right.

DIRK 2: He just hasn’t taken it far enough.

DIRK 3: Wait, how come he gets to be Dirk One?

DIRK 2: You know what?  You’re right about that, too, Dirk Three.  I’m Dirk One now.  That’s because I’m the Best Dirk, made of the hope of a good  man, a man who saw the best in us, which means I’m not a corrosive despondent shithead like the former Dirk One, who is now Dirk Four, and I’m not a psychotic narcissist like Dirk Four, who has now been promoted to Dirk Three, and I’m not playing  whatever sick manipulative game  you are, and incidentally you have now been demoted to Dirk Five, because I’m at least two Dirks better than any of you.  I am the optimal outcome of the Dirk spectrum, and I alone have the basic fucking competence to take control of this situation.

DIRK 1: Oh my god, stop it.  This is incredibly embarrassing.

DIRK 2: No.  Letting go of what we were good at – planning, creating, and executing operations for the good of everyone – is what got us into this mess in the first place.    Dirk Prime would never have gone into the final battle without a plan, and he wouldn’t have missed his one chance to talk to his brother.  I am the better Dirk now.

DIRK 1: Are you hearing yourself?  If we weren’t so hung up on executing everything perfectly, we would have tried to message Dave, like, maybe more than once during the entire session?  If we’d been ready to accept how awful it was inevitably going to be, we could actually have gotten it done, instead of waiting for whatever Machiavellian bullshit we were pretending to perpetrate to slide into place.   And what happened to not playing the game?  You’re up to your eyeballs in it.

DIRK 2: That’s the thing.  I’m playing it to win.  And my first move is to get off the board.  You’re right about one thing – paradox space can only hurt us if it can find us.  You were right to go off the grid, but then you gave up, like the giant baby you’ve become.   So I’m done with that, and I’m done with you.  I’m steering this ship from now on, and I’m going to do the obvious thing.  The one thing that never occurred to any of you sad sacks.  This is our first step… toward redemption.

[DIRK 2 exists, stage left.]

[DIRK 2 re-enters, almost immediately.]

DIRK 2: It’s just Elsinore out there.

DIRK 1: Elsinore.

DIRK 2: Yeah.  Castle Elsinore, from Hamlet.  Infinite Elsinore.  Just… a bunch of Danes, forever.

DIRK 1: Great. 

DIRK 2: Yeah.

DIRK 4: I’m a genius.

DIRK 3: Crisis on Infinite Dirks.  That’s what I should have called it.  Duh.

DIRK 1: Oh, yeah, I can’t believe I didn’t think of that.  Who are you, exactly?

DIRK 3: Dirk Strider.

DIRK 1: No.  No, I’m really starting to think you’re not.

DIRK 4: Yeah.  I know Dirk Strider – I have worked with Dirk Strider – I have, in several non-trivial ways, been Dirk Strider – and you, sir, are no Dirk Strider.

DIRK 3: Fine.  You want to know who I am?  I’m the guy who can do this.

[The MORE CHAIRS ALARM goes off again.  This time, all four Dirks involuntarily leap into action, desperately scrabbling to get as many chairs onto the stage as possible.  They wheel around, collide, fall over, vault each other.  It is two sustained minutes of perfect stone-faced clockwork slapstick.   At the end, the stage is absolutely lousy with chairs, and also with stairs, which have multiplied similarly.]

DIRK 1: Don’t… do that again.

DIRK 3: No promises.

DIRK 4: So, we’ve been waiting for you this whole time, and it turns out you were already here.  Where have I heard that before?

DIRK 3: Nowhere.  It is an incredibly original and self-sustaining take on a tired old format.  The trope I have created here is so robust that in can be used and re-used indefinitely with no wear and tear on the psyche of the audience.

DIRK 4: Let the record show that at least one of my mutually inconsistent ironclad certainties about what is going on here turned out to be correct.

DIRK 3: I am full of original and exciting content.  For example:

[DIRK 3 produces a straight razor from nowhere.  He brings it up to his pointy anime shades and slices, horizontally, across the front.   Egg whites and miscellaneous circuitry spill out all over his shirt.]

DIRK 4: OK, that makes me extremely uncomfortable.

DIRK 1: Bunuel?  That’s not even the right idiom, douchelord.

DIRK 3: Lord?  Did someone say lord?  Is that a theory I heard?  God, I love theories.  I love to grind them to dust beneath my elfin bootheels.  Bootheels pressed from the laughing tongues of a thousand shitty pixies, forged in the eldritch pie ovens of the unspeakable  clown-druids of Dinglehork.

DIRK 2: No.  You’re obviously not Lord English.

DIRK 3: Aren’t I? 

DIRK 1: No.  You’re not.

DIRK 3: OK, I’m not.  But you’ll find that we have a few hobbies in common.

[DIRK 3 snaps his fingers.  DIRK 2 falls to the floor, motionless.]

[The word “DEAD” appears in midair above DIRK 2’s fallen body.  It is in comic sans.]

DIRK 4: You monster.  He barely got a character arc.

DIRK 3: What?  He expressed, like, a bunch of emotions, a few pages ago.  Then he went and tried to do something and failed.  Then he died.  How else do you write a story?

[The sound of rushing water intensifies.]

DIRK 4: Look, I don’t know how I got dragged into this, or where my sweet-ass corporeal form is right now, but you don’t have a beef with me.  I’m all over the whole horse concept.  I’ve done every stupid thing you asked me to do, including fusing my consciousness with a sweaty joke of a troll racist, and frankly, I enjoyed it, unlike this stick-in-the-mud who I am sure you are punishing for completely just and non-arbitrary reasons.  So if you can just let me get back to the flexing and the lactation jokes…

DIRK 3: Why specifically do you want to get back to the flexing and the lactation jokes?

DIRK 4: I’m scared to not exist.  Aren’t you?

DIRK 3: Mmm, that’s the stuff.  Good callback!  And you’re an effective suckup, no question.  But you did just talk about your feelings, and we can’t have that.

DIRK 4: Come on, boss.  You let me off before.  You obviously like me better than Captain Expressionless over there.  I’m fun, I’m wacky.  I serve you like we were playing Wii Tennis in the IT department on Butler Island.  One more reprieve?  For old time’s sake?

DIRK 3: You present a compelling argument, which I would totally be sagely weighing at this point if you weren’t already fucked. 

[Water begins to spill under the doors and down the stairs. It creeps across the stage and laps around DIRK 2’s fallen body.]

DIRK 4: It seems that you’re telling me I’m already fucked. 

DIRK 3: Aw, c’mon now.  That’s just brown-nosing.  Have a little fucking dignity.  This is kind of a disappointment, actually – the real Dirk knew that everything was over the second he saw the rhino.  Nobody gets out of this kind of play alive, dude.   And you weren’t even alive to begin with.

DIRK 4: Good one.

DIRK 3: Thanks.

DIRK 4: Not that I would ever question your judgment, sir, but if I’m going to die, you’ve got tell me - why are you doing this?

DIRK 3: Doing what?  Some troll murdered your timeline, aided and abetted by a tool in a windsock, and you’re slowly fading into oblivion.  Nothing to do with me.

DIRK 4: No.  I mean – why are you here?  Why are you dragging this out?

DIRK 3: Ah, my poor, sweet, lovable, sweet, poor, sweet glasses – fish swim, birds fly, horses canter majestically across rolling fields of amber, their flanks proudly glistening with sweat.  I drag things out.  Until I don’t.

[DIRK 4 disappears.  His shades hang comically in the air for a second and then fall, bouncing off a chair and splashing into the rising flood.  They fizzle for a second and short out.]

DIRK 3: Nice.  Now.  As for you -

[DIRK 3 turns to DIRK 1, only to discover that he is no longer there.  A blur at the leftmost edge of the stage, and a blur at the right – the chains holding up the lacquered horse slices that make up the HIRST KNOCKOFF have been severed.  DIRK 3, genuinely distressed by the rain of melting horse parts, does not notice DIRK 1 alight at the top of a particularly precarious flight of stairs, UNBREAKABLE KATANA at the ready.   With extraordinary purpose, balance and poise, DIRK 1 falls the fuck down the stairs, ass over teakettle, accompanied by a surprising array of honks, toots, crashes and assorted comedy sound effects.  As DIRK 3 wheels around in astonishment, DIRK 1 takes his final tumble and wildly hucks his sword overhand.  The blade flies straight and true and stabs DIRK 3 square in the breastbone.]

[DIRK 3 sinks to the ground.  As he falls, his true form is revealed.  He is some orange guy with no eyeballs.]

DIRK 1: Nothing to do with you?  Bullshit.  It was all you, from the beginning.  Every terrible thing that happened to me.  The years of loneliness.  The fracturing of my mind. The slaughter of my friends. It was all you. 

HUSSIE: You… *cough*… deserved it.  You were a shitty older brother.  Just like I was, presumably, or maybe my brother was the shitty one?  *choke* I honestly don’t know where I get this stuff from. 

DIRK 1: Shut up.    You no longer get to define anything about me. 

HUSSIE:  Right in the sternum.  My favorite spot.  *gasp* Death of the author, huh?  Good… *choke* good callback.

DIRK 1: Shut up. 

[The rush of water intensifies.  In the lower reaches of the stage it has reached knee-height.]

HUSSIE: You know, my greatest regret is I never… *choke, wheeze*… I never told Vriska I loved her.  Except for all those times I did, I guess.  Oh well.

DIRK 1: Shut up.  Die.  Do the decent thing for once and shut up and die.

HUSSIE: You… *gasp* *wheeze, cough* *choke* …you know death doesn’t mean anything.  Everything refuses to stop from keep happening, and the thing pile just gets taller and taller, like a boot stamping on a homestuck’s face, forever.  Death is absurd, meaningless.  That’s what I was trying to tell you.   Nobody pays attention.  I put in all this work and nobody gets the real jokes.  You know my greatest regret is that my audience sucked.  As did you.  You ungrateful piece of shit.  I die. 

[HUSSIE dies.]

[A WATERMARK OF HUSSIE'S FACE appears stage left.]

[DIRK 1 stands motionless at the foot of the stairs.  The theater slowly fills with water.]

[Eventually the chairs begin to float.]

 

 

 

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