1.7 Luthier

written by Eli Barraza
directed & produced by Mischa Stanton

-Scene 01-

[[SFX: Peri plays the violin fairly well until she makes a mistake.]]

PERI: Shit.

RUTH: Do it again, from the top.

PERI: This is bullshit, my fingers and eyes keep disagreeing, I hate this garbage.

RUTH: The piece or your playing?

[[SFX: They laugh.]]

PERI: Ouch.

RUTH: I’m just kidding, you’re gonna get it, don’t worry.

PERI: Says the person who’s never even tried to pick up a musical instrument in her life.

RUTH: Yeah, I prefer the harmonies of the heavens, thanks.

PERI: Alright, calm down Kepler.

RUTH: Wow, impressed, I cannot believe you actually remembered his Harmonics Mundi.

PERI: Well, you know that college essay that you wrote about it, you know I read that like five, six, seven, I lost count of how many times.

RUTH: I resent that.

[[SFX: They laugh. Ace pops his head in.]]

ACE: Hey, mom and dad wanted to know-- oh hey Ruth.

PERI: I am practicing, Ace.

ACE: Sounds like you’re talking.

[[SFX: Peri plays the violin aggressively.]]

ACE: Got it, message received.

[[SFX: Ace leaves.]]

RUTH: Okay… clearly you are still not over the--

[[SFX: Peri continues to play the violin.]]

RUTH: Alright, well if you want to focus on the music, I won’t distract you but maybe, I dunno, you should try talking to him?

[[SFX: Peri continues to play.]]

RUTH: Right, I’ll see you later, Peri.

-Scene 02-

[[SFX: Ocean waves crash on the beach. Peri walks beside it. The soft murmur of weekday beach goers. Seagull caws. She walks across the pier. Tourists go about their day. An arcade dings and buzzes. Peri descends the stairs to beneath the pier. The sounds fade the further she goes down. She walks further. She walks into a puddle and stops.]]

PERI: Pier Aquarium. I…

-Scene 03-

[[SFX: Peri and Ace get out of the car. Sounds of beach goers and buskers in the background.]]

PERI: Palm trees don’t smell like anything.

ACE: Smells too much like the beach.

PERI: Not enough like the sea.

ACE: Scratch that, smells like tourists.

PERI: We’re tourists.

ACE: Right. So let’s act like them.

PERI: Okay I really really wanna get some soft service scream

ACE: We could do that or…

[[SFX: Their voices fade.]]

-Scene 04-

[[SFX: Hushed again. Peri walks towards the door of the aquarium beneath the pier]]

PERI: Let’s act like them.

[[SFX: Peri opens the door.]]

-Scene 05-

[[SFX: The sounds of tourism fall silent as soon as the door closes. Her footsteps echo amidst the sound of bubbling tanks.]]

PERI: Hello? Do I have to buy a ticket? Hello?

[[SFX: The bubbling continues. She picks up a pamphlet.]]

PERI: Denizens of the Deep. A Beneath the Pier Aquarium exploration of our deep sea neighbors.

[[SFX: She puts it down and walks deeper into the aquarium.]]

PERI: Hm. No wonder it’s so dark.

[[SFX: She sniffs.]]

PERI: Oof, and cold.

[[SFX: She pauses at a tank.]]

PERI: Stauroteuthis syrtensis is one of the few cephalopods to exhibit bioluminescence. Huh, I wonder where the little guy-HOLY SMOKES.

[[SFX: Movement of water in the tank.]]

PERI: You are both terrifying and beautiful, Stauroteuthis syrtensis.

[[SFX: Footsteps echo behind her. She whirls around]]

PERI: Hello?

[[SFX: Someone writes on a clipboard from another direction, emphatically ends by tapping the pen point. Peri turns and walks a few steps towards the sound.]]

PERI: Is someone there? Hey! You! Do you work he--

[[SFX: Footsteps walk away. More appear near her. She turns.]]

PERI: Oh, hello. I… weren’t you just over...

[[SFX: The footsteps walk away.]]

PERI: Excuse me? Hey, I’m trying to…

[[SFX: The footsteps vanish.]]

PERI: Talk to you.

[[SFX: More scribbling on a clipboard. Peri walks towards the sound but footsteps from another direction cause her to turn. The footsteps and writing multiply, overlapping until…]]

PERI: There’s so many,  I-I-

[[SFX: LUTHER walks into her.]]

LUTHER: Excuse me, I’m so sorry. Are you alright?

PERI: What?

LUTHER: Are you. All. Right.

[[SFX: Peri dusts herself off and Luther takes a step back.]]

PERI: I was just looking for- hang on. I just saw you.

LUTHER: How do you mean.

PERI: A-a second ago, there was a man, men with clipboards. They, you were walking and I tried to follow but then he was, you were over there and I... that’s the same clipboard. Pier Aquarium sticker on the bottom left side. How did you...?

[[SFX: Footsteps from far off.]]

PERI: I’d say twins but...

LUTHER: I’m not a twin. I’m just Luther.

PERI: Of course you are.

LUTHER: If this keeps happening, every time someone stops by. Hey! You! Go away! See? He went away.

PERI: He just vanished. You just vanished.

LUTHER: I’m not sure if that’s really me. Or maybe it is, I don’t remember writing these notes down but there they are, checking up on the Polyspina piosae. They were next on my list but I hadn’t gotten to them yet. Or maybe I have now. Anyway, apologies again for running into you.

[[SFX: He laughs.]]

LUTHER: Right, so I should probably be carrying on with my work. Enjoy the aquarium.

PERI: There was no one at the front.

LUTHER: Sorry?

PERI: There was no one at the front. I thought I needed to pay for a ticket, but there was no one at the front and I don’t see anyone but you in this gloom. Well, I can barely see you actually.

LUTHER: We keep it dark for the fishes. Sorry.

PERI: You apologize a lot.

LUTHER: Sor- ah, yes I do. And to be frank, I don’t know if we’ve ever had a ticket taker. I don’t even know if these are our normal operating hours as I have no idea what time it is. What I do know is that I should be getting back to work and check on the Idiacanthus atlanticus.

[[SFX: Luther walks away. Peri follows.]]

PERI: It’s day time.

LUTHER: I’ll take your word for it.

PERI: You should get outside more.

LUTHER: I used to go outside a lot.

PERI: What happened?

LUTHER: I moved here. Got this job.

[[SFX: He stops in front of a tank and rifles through the pages on his clipboard.]]

LUTHER: And it seems I’ve already checked up on you, Cathy.

PERI: I saw you over here. Earlier. When you were all over the place.

LUTHER: I remember… no I must have just done it earlier and that’s what happened. Easy to lose track in here.

[[SFX: He continues on to the next tank.]]

LUTHER: Hm.

PERI: What.

LUTHER: The Pandalus borealis. It’s one of our more boring tanks.

PERI: What about it.

LUTHER: The prawns, I don’t see any.

[[SFX: Peri taps on the tank.]]

LUTHER: Don’t do that! Don’t you know it’s bad for the animals?

PERI: Oh sorry, I was just trying to see if those little red lights would move.

LUTHER: Lights? For pete’s sake, how did the Pachystomias microdons get in there. Dragonfish, they have that red bioluminescence to… hunt.

PERI: Guess we know where the prawns went.

LUTHER: I have to check on that tank now.

[[SFX: Someone taps on a tank from a ways off.]]

LUTHER: Excuse me, miss? You shouldn’t be tapping on tanks.

[[SFX: Luther strides towards the person and Peri follows. The person walks away from them.]]

PERI: Wait, wait, wait..

[[SFX: She grabs Luther’s arms. He stops.]]

PERI: I think that’s me.

LUTHER: Well whether it’s you or not, they shouldn’t be tapping on the tanks.

PERI: Sorry. Again.

[[SFX: He walks off while his voice recedes]]

LUTHER: Yeah, well it’s not you that I’m worried about anymore.

PERI: I’m worried about me.

[[SFX: She turns to the tank her doppleganger had been tapping.]]

PERI: Pachystomias microdons. Hm. You know, the lighting for this tank doesn’t make you look any less creepy.

[[SFX: Footsteps behind her.]]

PERI: Hello? Luther?

[[SFX: The footsteps echo down another section of the aquarium.]]

PERI: Oh I think it’s time to go.

[[SFX: She walks down one aisle and another.]]

PERI: Where’s the exit, Peri? Why weren’t you paying attention, oh darnit.

[[SFX: Her breathing becomes more labored as she continues on. More footsteps echo in the quiet. She turns a corner and gasps, throwing herself back behind it.]]

PERI: That’s not me. That’s not me. That’s not me.

[[SFX: The footsteps draw closer. They pause before the corner then round it.]]

PERI: Oh shoot!

[[SFX: Peri punches the doppleganger in the eye. Both let out a cry of pain.]]

PERI: Why did you do that?            PERI: What the?

PERI: Holy, my eye.                PERI: Goddamnit.

[[SFX: More overlapping groans of pain until both calm down enough to stand up straight and look at each other.]]

PERI [overlapping]: What do you want from me?

[[SFX: Running footsteps as Luther enters.]]

LUTHER: I heard a yell.

PERI: I… I was… she was… right there and I…

LUTHER: I think there’s a first aid kit up at the front, c’mon.

[[SFX: Luther and Peri walk away. Music plays.]]

-Scene 06-

[[SFX: Clasps flip as Luther opens the first aid kit.]]

PERI: Unless there are frozen peas in there, I’m not sure what could help a black eye.

LUTHER: I think this was updated about 20 years ago anyway.

PERI: Hm, figures.

LUTHER: Well you can sit here for a while, if you like. Til you’re steady enough to go home.

PERI: Thanks.

LUTHER: So I guess I should get back to work.

PERI: Do you mind? Just sitting here for a while? I mean, you’re probably working already.

LUTHER: Hm, okay.

[[SFX: He takes a seat next to her.]]

PERI: Do you ever… do you ever get caught off guard by a memory? Like, one day you’re walking along and then your brain decides to shove it into your mental landscape and all of a sudden all thought of picking up groceries goes out of your head.

[[SFX: Quiet.]]

PERI: Right, sorry. That was a dumb question.

LUTHER: No, I. It’s just like you read my mind, that’s all.

PERI: Oh?

LUTHER: You just reminded me of something that happened a long time ago.

PERI: What was it.

LUTHER: It’s not really mine to talk about. It was something I saw.

PERI: Oh.

LUTHER: It happened before I moved here, back in the forest that was near my hometown. I- it’s a memory that doesn’t belong to me. I only have it because I saw what happened but I wasn’t a part of what happened. It was an accident.

PERI: What, did you see someone get murdered or something?

LUTHER: No, no nothing like that. It was… I saw fireflies. I used to go hiking a lot at night because of the fireflies. I was more at home on the wharf but those flying stars on earth beneath the ones in the sky drew me into the trees from time to time.

PERI: My hometown had woods like that. I used to go with a… friend. In high school.

LUTHER: Then you know what it’s like. The darkness swallows up humanity, amplifying every little crack and snap of a twig.

[[SFX: Violin plays, the same song from earlier]]

LUTHER: When I heard the Music, I thought I was hallucinating. It started softly at first, a little wobbly. I came closer and it grew louder, turning into the score for someone’s Perfect Evening.

[[SFX: Violin fades out.]]

LUTHER: I didn’t mean to see it. It wasn’t my Perfect Evening to be apart of, that’s what I mean by this memory not really belonging to me. I’m embarrassed to even talk about it.

PERI: What did you see?

[SFX: Violin plays.]]

LUTHER: I was like a moth to the flame. I couldn’t help myself. I saw the camplight ahead and moved quietly. So quietly so as not to interrupt it. It was… it felt like music like that, the ability to play should have been long forgotten. Left to the era of wooden porches and pipes and oral histories that seemed to begin before there were stars in the sky.

PERI: Could you see who was playing it?

LUTHER: A little. She was young and playing for someone else. I could hear the blush creeping up her cheeks as she dragged the bow across the strings. She wasn’t sure if she was doing it right but the person she played for, they knew it was.

[[SFX: Violin stops.]]

LUTHER: They knew it fit and that it was perfect. I wanted to stay and listen, I didn’t want the music to end but it wasn’t mine to listen to. And it’s not really mine to remember or tell, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have--

PERI: No, no it’s fine. Really. I’m just… surprised that a science person such as yourself has all of that in your head. You were so clipped earlier.

LUTHER: I think everyone does, just most people don’t go looking for it. I certainly hadn’t for quite sometime until you mentioned memories. I’m usually pretty absorbed in the present.

PERI: Yeah, I’m usually down the rabbit hole of future possibilities.

LUTHER: Is that why you punched yourself?

PERI: What do you mean?

LUTHER: You were afraid of what would happen if you met yourself.

PERI: I don’t know.

LUTHER: I think you do but you don’t want to talk about it.

PERI: Isn’t science supposed to be about hard facts?

LUTHER: Nah, just quality observation and logical conclusions. All of which I’ve drawn here.

PERI: Right.

LUTHER: Well, then. I should be getting back to work. There are a few things that need wrapping up and I do need to check to make sure other specimens haven’t been eaten.

PERI: Right, right. Yeah. I’ll be heading out then. It was nice to… well it wasn’t actually all that nice but you know what I mean.

[[SFX: Peri makes for the door but pauses.]]

PERI: Luther?

LUTHER: Yeah?

PERI:  I think that they’d be okay. With sharing that memory. The two girls with the fireflies and the Perfect Evening.

LUTHER: How did you-

[[SFX: Peri opens the door to escape.]]

-Scene 07-

[[SFX: Peri locks the front door behind her. She heads upstairs, walks over to a cabinet, opens it and rummages around, extracting her violin case. She opens it and takes out the instrument. She checks to see if it’s in tune then sits a moment. She picks up the violin and plays. She reaches the troublesome part and plays through it, finally ending the piece.]]

-The End-

The Far Meridian

Created and written by Eli Barraza, directed and produced by Mischa Stanton.

Performed by Eli Barraza as Peri, Noah Gildermaster as Ace, Danielle Shemaiah as Ruth, and L Jeffrey Moore as Luther. Music by The Album Leaf, violin composition by Juliana Parker.

For more information and transcripts, visit TheFarMeridian.com, or find us on social media @TheFarMeridian. You can also help support us on Patreon, Patreon.com/TheFarMeridian.

We’re gonna go on a small break, we’ll be back on September 25th. In the meantime, may you always find your way.