26/10/2011

On the Eve of All Hallow's Eve: A Parafactual Ghost Tour of Aberdeen




[cowritten with Paul Crowe for Childreach International]



Scene 1. St Machar Power Plant (St Machar Cathedral, Seaton).

Night. One figure stands bolt upright atwixt the churchyard gates. Another, hunched and demented, flits between the tombstones, prodding the earth at each grave with a technical device of some sort. He minces over to the crowd and grants them all a trinket, mumbling "Talismans! Talismans!"

[incredibly long beat]

G: Welcome, friends! Do you believe I have brought you to a place of the past?

[beat] - You are then mistaken, friends! You stand in the very heart of modern, postmodern, metamodern, patamodern Aberdeen! A power plant supplying the whole of Aberdeen with carbon-free electricity, all year round! The largest green power facility in Europe - the very soul of modernity! How, you ask? How?

Oh, I do so love your questions. A mere nine years ago I would have had to demur a true answer - we were so maligned, so grey market in those days - thanks to the moralists(!) But now, ascendent on the wings of Mr Salmond's imprimatur, I can tell you loudly, broadly and with upheld head.


Merely the brilliant - and patented - conjunction of two elementary phenomena! First; a law of electromagnetism - that is, that a wire moved through a magnetic field creates electrical current. Secondly; that other well-known law of nature, that when one severely irritates the dead, they turn in their grave. We simply wrap the corpse in copper - the coffin in magnets - stimulate their anathema, and - Presto! Free energy in limitless proportion to the incidence above of their antithesis below!

  • Take Mr Alexander Gatto. Died in 1926, dear me. But for the last nine years, he has been supplying in death what he never could in life; excitement and social utility! Mr Gatto, bless him, hated women. In 1978 we encouraged a certain lady to seize Britain, and Scotland, by the throat. Gatto has not yet stopped spinning from the shock of this; we project his momentum to run out sometime in 2030. We at Dynamic Desecration Ltd stop at nothing to give you the cheap, green, noiseless - and spiteful - energy you deserve. Our motto? Gradii et Contemptus: "Nuance and Contempt".


You can see one of our staff, Igor Stravinsky here testing levels. Igor was recently suspended from his Hate Team post for malpractice and excessive frottage, but we hope to reform him in time.


  • Sometimes the trends of world history provide more than enough - almost too much - hate juice. Take the case of Mr James Esslemont here, who abhorred knowledge in plebeians.


  • And Robert Beattie; a local novelist once called the Proust of the North! A fantastically conceited man, he gave a decent yield through the century merely from his prominence declining to nearly nil - but since just last year he's had a true Renaissance. Our dedicated Hate Team in California fixed a deal with no less a director than Michael Bay to produce two - and only two - films of Beattie's six-volume psychological realist opus, Whit's Adae Wi Malkie? Since the news broke, he alone can power the university campus.


We are by this stage so efficient that we require manned operation only once a week, on Sundays. You might have noted that our facility staff are somewhat old and dottled; I can only assure you that the mechanisms contained therein are well within even their understanding. This staffing decision has left the very most brilliant sadists to serve in our Hate Teams.

  • William Lawson; a man who hated... himself. In our early, penurious days we had to settle with buying up billboard space and flyering posters of his face - which produced, as you might imagine, a sparse yield indeed. But with the advent of the craze for Green energy, we have been able to afford cloning! Igor is the earliest viable clone of Mr Lawson, and given his freakish and disagreeable countenance and personality, we can well understand what it was that Lawson despised in himself. What is Daddy reading at the moment, Igor?

[Igor begins to hassle the Director, tugging at his sleeve and being hissed at in return]

  • [briskly] Samuel Broadbent hated fun;


  • [coming to an eroded, illegible stone] This gentleman... hated the neglect of churchyards;


  • Robert Westland - who as you can see, is buried here in wonderful fraternal company, with no fewer than five to the grave - hated his family.

I need not brag when recounting our research method, for it speaks for itself - a unique blend of arts and engineering, I think it fair to say! We scour local records, diaries and survivora looking for that special something in everyone's life that one will do anything to avoid. Recently we have begun to enlist the family of the recently deceased, who often tell me how therapeutic and cathartic it is to recount all the bigotries and neuroses of their dearly passed ones.


  • John Ross - oho! - a special pet project of ours. Mr Ross was the chief horticulturalist and architect of Union Terrace Gardens. Sir Ian Wood is head of our Hate Division.


  • Finally - WHAT IS IT IGOR!? AAH, GET AWAY - FREAK, YOU RUNT, YOU INORGANIC EXCRETA! [beating] Ahem; finally: one William Gatto, a Quaker and a rabid fool, who hated violence.


What of stability, you may ask? Is there any risk of "melt" "down"? Hardly! Even in the unlikely case that all our Hate Teams fail simultaneously, risking a critical loss of disdain - well, all these men hated gays.




Scene 2. The Battles, Mauled Piskies and Malt Whisky. (Tillydrone Road down to Wallace Tower).

[Group is overtaken and led by a newly upright authoritative Paul and sword.]

P: The Scot! A proud history of industriousness, academic zeal, and respect for the letter of the law - no? Yet - it wasn’t always like this. Before the modern Scot came, an ancestral Scotland was populated entirely by drunken, violent natives who cared nothing for their neighbours, the fundamental elements of civilisation or indeed theirselves. Unthinkable, I know. In this wild, raving age clans were in constant war. Hungry, hairy, sweaty-bollocked men would frequently set to offing one another. Some of the earliest recorded, which caused the greatest loss of life, were the Whisky Wars of 1203. The Glengarry Clan had begun selling whisky, claiming to have invented it. They were challenged by the O'Campbells, a clan of extremely Irish origin who counterclaimed its invention. The two groups set to a bitter war, in what might have been hisotry's first copyright settlement - had not a third clan, the Lamonts, passed through the sixteenth skirmish blind drunk. You see [motioning] in the days when every man had a sword on the hip, a dirk on the shin and a nasty hatpin inventory, a drunk could kill six men merely carelessly bending down.

[another]

We are passing on our right the new commemorative plaque to the Meat Cleaver Fuck Massacre of Tillie Dron Road... but let's not talk about that.


The most significant war of all took place in 1555 between the McMalcolms and the McDougals. Or, should I say, almost took place...

[P ducks behind a wall. G takes sword.]

G: WAAAAAAAAAAAGH! Dougal McDougal! Rise to the hour of your death!

[long beat. tries again]
G: McDougal! In the sight of god and in the name of the Queen -

Clansman: -King.

G: What? Och it hardly matters I can never keep up with the buggers- AND IN THE NAME OF THE MONARCH OF SCOTLAND, I am come to serve thee as thy bane!

[McDougal appears in his dressing gown, puts on his glasses, blinks blearily.]

P: ...McMalcolm? Uh [yawn] what're ya doing howling at 6am?

G: As promised, McDougal, I and my mighty men are here to war.

P: To war?

G: To war! (It's an intransitive verb.)

P: Oh. Well, I'm sorry min, but there's a protocol to these sorts of things-

G: I KNOW THE BLOODY RULES OF ENGAGEMENT AWRIGHT! I sent the envoy last week. He had a crude drawing of you which he tore up in front of you and pissed on.

P: [pained sympathy] ...I never got it, min.

G: But...look [pulls out phone] ...Sent Lackeys folder...look! there!

P: [shaking head] I didna get it min. What network you on?

G: [crestfallen, petulant] House of Orange.

P: Ah. Their free envoys are often a bit shit, you know - gettin drunk, fallin in ditches and so on.

G: [sulking, highpitched] Nuh! Fuck this! Nuh! It's nae fair! I've got all my men ready and everything!

P: [conciliatory] How's about you go fuck up the McDonalds? They're just down the road...

G: WHAT KINDAE A WARLIKE CHIEFTAIN DYOU THINK I AM LIKE? Just picking fights for no reason? You and I are linked by oath of vengeance, son.

P: [beat. flailing] ...We need time to prepare!

G: Right. Ok: I'll count to a hundred. [turns back, counts]

P: [panic; idea] Wait! Wait wait wait! Wait: Why are you invading, again?

G: Ehhhhhhh...

Clansman in crowd: To distract your unruly clansmen from your incompetent rule!

G: [pensive] Oh. Aye, that's a good one. [riled] But no; not primarily that!

C: Cuz your castle's nicer'n oors!

C: Cuz we're Scots - the natural enemies of the Scots!

C: Cuz yoor sheep bully oor sheep!

C: Cuz we'll use yer blood tae wash the blood off oor swords!

C: Cuz we secretly fancy yous but canna express ony ither way!

G: [at this last] Fuck's sake speak for yourself, Calum! NO! We war with you...

[awkward beat]

G: ...Because the time for talk is over!

[Paul flees, G pursues, sword raised. They run around a bench, taunting.]

P: You crazy fuck! I mind you in school - ayeways were a loony cunt.

G: And you? You were the only bastard who wis a high-heid scoob and a loony cunt!

P: You ken what everybody said about you back then? That you were a psycho just like yer da.

G: Graaaaaaaaaaargh!!!

[McDougal runs on to Wallace Tower. McDougal hops the foot-high fence and preens, 'safe']

P: Ha! No one has ever scaled Castle McDougal!
G: Oh, you mean in the six whole years since you paid off the mortgage? Fucken dauntless!
P: At least some of us didna do oor whole thing on payday loans and dumbass credit cards!

G: CLASSISM? RIGHT! THAT'S IT! YOU DIE!

[throws sword point-first into grass. absurd slap fight over 'wall' ensues. Foiled.]

G: I MIND NOW! I know why you must die!

[a minute or so of inarticulate noises, subsiding to a loaded silence, each looking into middle distance in different directions.]

P: [quietly] ...dyou, uh...want to come back to mine, then?

[beat]

G: [as quietly] Yeah, awright.

[They walk, shyly arm in arm, around the side and away.]



Scene 3. Wallace Library (Wallace Tower).

[We return immediately, in media res of a Four Minute Warning siren as simulated by G's falsetto. Paul is his historian again.]

P: It is 1954. Stalin had had indigestion all day. Understandably, the Foreign Office, like the Premier's intestines, was distressed. Reports from Moscow: a jagged bowel movement that led firstly to the execution of three world-class Russian poets, and secondly, for the only time in its history, the Four Minute Warning of an imminent nuclear attack went out over Britain. Here, in the then Wallace Library, a terrible decision was made.

[P picks up stack of books, runs around, darting between shelves, frantic and whimpering].

P2: COMMIES! FIRE! COMMIE FIRE! Which books? This? These? Should we be...representative? Or...save the greats?!

[continues until]

G: [accosting him with gravitas] STOP. This is yet a library, is it not?

P2: Head librarian! Head, I've been looking all over! The bunker is small, m'lord, too small for even half the reference section! What'll we do!? WHAT'LL-

[Head clubs assistant.]

G: Even as we begin to char, we will not forsake the lessons instilled in us by the Librariate and Informatory Service - or will we? Now go. I feel a soliloquoy coming on.

[Exit P. long beat]

G: What's in a name? Would a classic not-so-titled smell as Great? ...I think not. You lot have always worshipped power rather than beauty. What about their being "the best that has ever been thought and said"? Hardly. All the libraries in all the world contain little of what we have been, and we are bad enough at seeing quality that the most of it has no doubt eluded history, and us. The canon are merely the lucky masterpieces. For every Balzac and every Burns there are 70 men, their equals, left in the dust; the back-shop if they are lucky.

And given these books' failure to civilise us - given that the world will soon catch fire because our artists and idealists failed to persuade us, were not powerful enough, were not universal and true enough - well. These have had their chance. The only reason to keep them would be to remember which symbols did not work last time, and to remind us of who we wanted to be.

Assistant Librarian Grant!

P: [appearing] Yes!

G: Select every eightieth book at random from each shelf. Take those to the bunker.

P: Sir?!

G: Maybe next time they'll stop all this from getting this far.

[solemn beats. Process away from Wallace Tower. Long beat.]

P: Wait; wait, sir! It's going to be ok!

[beat]

P: I've got all the classics on my Kindle anyway!

[jazzhands, to fourth wall]




Scene 4. The wrong side of the Don. (Seaton Park).

[down the leafy slope to the Don.]

G: [toxically sweet]...Paul?
[beat]
G: Didn't we have some material written for this bit?

P: Oh! Right yeah. We have led you to a place drenched in tragedy to tell the tale of Annie Larkin and her infidelious lover, Lonnie Firkin. It went a little something like this:

G: That's not the story at all! It was a political assassination!

P: Jesus. Not this! You promised you wouldn't-

G: Oh, so the fact she was a Rosicrucian had nothing to do with it, eh?

P: [turning to audience, blocking G] Annie had known no iota of human warmth in her brief life. Born an orphan into a nunnery known even among nunneries to be overdoing it a bit-

G: I do not deny she was an orphan - but to which absent parents, PAUL?

P: To wolves.

G: Annie Larkin was the first daughter of the Queen of France!

[escalation]

...

P: SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP

G: Observez, mon freres! The victors writing over all other histories! The truth-seeker denied, as ever!

P: IT'S A FUCKING GHOST TOUR NOT A LECTURE. BY DAVID ICKE.

G: You think that little of our audience?! You think they can't be both challenged and entertained?

P: [standing on the jetty by the river] Look! For FUCK'S SAKE LOOK - I'm Annie Larkin, right? Broken heart and fulsome belly; I will die by my own hand, because this life has lacked even promise of warmth.

G: [raging] Oo! Roleplay! I spose that makes me 'Lonnie Firkin' - "lacking heart and beery-bellied". And I'll kill you before you kill yourself because that's the kind! of guy! I am!

[On "am", G boots P into the Don, and turns immediately to address his audience.]

G: Lonnie Firkin was a fall guy, the Lee Harvey Oswald of the 18th Century.

[The water is two foot deep. P howls his dissent]

G: Annie Larkin was heiress to the thrones of Scotland, France, Nederlands and Germany (which admittedly existed only in secret at this point). She was killed.

[howling]

G: Nay: 'Annie Larkin' is a metaphor, Aesopian language for those of us in the Know. The Larkinians were a sect, the head of which's line stretches back to Christ and forward to L Ron Hubbard! it was here, in Seaton, that They tried to sever her holy line. I've personally excavated 400 bodies from the north bank.

P: [more howling from the water] They were the 400 noblemen who drowned trying to save her!

G: And the other 400 on the south?

P: They were the sentimental commoners who drowned themselves in hysterical grief!

G: 400 men an hour died for seventy days in the suppressed Battle of Holy Dark Seaton Fuck. The records show that the ghosts of Machiavelli and Grotius manifested over the battle and had a go at each other.

P: Scotland ran dry of sentimental noble Christian men! More imported themselves from Normandy to solve the supply issue!

G: The Don choked with coagulating blood all the way along its length. They failed; a baby survived and crawled off along the congealing river.

P: [crawling onto land, bellowing] The Don, choked from source to mouth with bodies, the bodies of every noble Christian man in Britain - 170,000 willingly throwing themselves on to the crush, the last of them drowning not in water but in human tweed; the crush washing ohsoslowly out to sea - a tumbling grotesque such has never been seen! AND GOD HIMSELF COMMITTED SUICIDE AT THE SIGHT OF IT!

[beat. End.]

Unused scenes

- The Cathedral of Birch. Or, the genuinely unsettling path out of Hillhead into Seaton.
- The path circling clockwise around Hillhead. Lover's loup genuinely does mean "suicidal heartbroken spot".
- The Train playpark in Seaton. Celebrating the death by train of Aberdeen 1861's least favourite little boy.
- The Brig of Balgownie.

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