((Setting: PHINEAS and MAN are in a conference room, door to SR. PHINEAS is seated at the table, MAN is standing UL)
Man: Well, looks like you’ve left us with no alternative but to go the hard way, Mr. Galen.
Phineas: So, is this where the rubber hoses and bamboo shoots come out? Or is it drugs and electric shock?
Man: Mr. Galen. I’m a person who believes in the path of least resistance, the shortest distance between two points. A man, such as yourself, who has had a spiritual moment will offer up his own body, resist great amounts of pain in order to justify and preserve that moment,. The pain he endures only solidifies the importance of this singular event to himself and thus only serves to reinforce his resistance. True, eventually, we would reduce you to a gibbering mass of sobs, ready to say anything we want, but people have been known to withdraw their recantation when no longer under “direct influence”.
Phineas: You sound like you are quite experienced in these sorts of matters.
Man: It is my field of expertise. You might think of me as an Academic of the Human Will, as it were. Although, I would never aspire to such lofty titles or position; it is my work that fascinates me, and I find it ultimately rewarding.
Phineas: I pity you.
Man: You have that luxury at the moment, Mr. Galen. Although I am quite convinced that after our little session your attitude towards me will be entirely different. Interesting. What does your theology say about those that strike you on the cheek? Those who would persecute you? Would you find it in your will to forgive me?
Phineas: We’re both here because we have to be.
Man: Very sympathetic of you, Mr. Galen. I’m almost going to regret what I have to do to you.
Phineas: Just get it over with.
Man: Ahhhh. That’s where your mistaken. You would like this to be a singular event. You are prepared for this, for whatever we may inflict upon you, whether mental, emotional, or physical harm.
Phineas: This trial has prepared me.
Man: Which is exactly why we are going to do nothing to you, Mr. Galen. Nothing at all.
Phineas: What do you mean?
Man: You have a martyr complex, Phineas. It would be no surprise to me the lengths to which you were willing to endure punishment to yourself, your person, your position, your social standing. All is on chopping block as far as you are concerned if it will make your brush with the Eternal worth it. After all, aren’t you promised even richer rewards the greater you suffer for your faith?
Phineas: I’m not professing any faith, just the Truth of what I know.
Man: I know, I know. And bravely to the end you go. Very noble, I'm sure.
Phineas: Just get to the point.
Man: Why be in a hurry, Mr. Galen? Time is one thing you are underestimating. If I were you, I’d be stalling for precious time. The horrors in store for you, and yet you run straight into the waiting arms of pain—
Phineas: Do your worst mister and cut out the commentary! This might be entertaining for you but it is tiresome for me! If it’s come to hardball, then let’s play hardball without the flowers and fanfare!
Man: As you wish, Mr. Galen. (Deep breath. Pause.) If you were a man devoid of scruples, of a more selfish ilk, you might be a more difficult nut to crack. But you have that sense of morals, that sense of responsibility, that inherent ability to see outside yourself. And therein lies your downfall, the key to your will, Mr. Galen.
Phineas: I don’t follow.
Man: You are a family man. You accept the responsibility as a father, and as a husband, to provide, nurture, protect. You jeopardize your ability to provide by sacrificing your career, but you are a resourceful man, you will still be able to fulfill those roles. Of course, if you were to simply disappear, you’d be kept from doing those things, but then that would be out of your hands, and couldn’t be helped. You could be excused, and with that knowledge even if you were dead, you could live with yourself, if you’ll pardon the expression.
Phineas: (impatiently) Go on.
Man: But what were a man to do, with such a responsible disposition, if he were to face the consequences of his actions due him to be visited upon his family, instead.
Phineas: You wouldn’t.
Man: Exactly, Mr. Galen. Senseless as it may seem. The inflicting of harm and terror upon your loved ones as a direct result of your actions, or inaction -- in this case, your refusal to cooperate for the good of society -- oh yes, I would.
Phineas: This is good for society?
Man: A clever attempt to change the argument around to societal consequences instead of our little conundrum of your cooperation, but I assure you society's best interest is being served here. Besides, your argument is ineffectual, Mr. Galen, and conveniently ignores the fact that there are people right now with specific instructions to be carried out should this interview go -- unfavorably.
Man: Currently, your wife is filing an extension with her Advocate to be able to enforce her visitation rights. Her Advocate was handpicked by our people and now has instructions as what to do with your charming little family should you choose not to capitulate here.
Phineas: You son of a –
Man: Your wife will be battered, Mr. Galen. Bruised and broken until her pretty face will be beyond recognition. And your daughter, well, she will be violated in a most unpleasant way, Mr. Galen, and in a worse way than your mind could ever imagine. And all your little daughter will know, is that it is because daddy would not do a very simple thing. Your wife will also suffer this unfortunate happenstance.
Phineas: Call it off!
Man: I’m not talking about a singular event, either Mr. Galen. As long as you continue with your non-cooperation in these proceedings, rest assured these horrors will occur daily, Mr. Galen. And, I dare say, with the excellent assistance that we’ve been afforded in this situation, possibly hourly. A life of living hell, Mr. Galen, you will sentence them into a violent captivity with no possibility for reprieve, respite or escape.
Man: No! YOU are the monster, Mr. Galen. To resist in the face of this inevitable fate is the most monstrous, selfish, perverted, twisted insanity imaginable. But there’s more, Mr. Galen. Just in case you think you can shut out your family from your mind and continue on with this madness, you will be afforded a special visit, where you can witness the terrors inflicted upon them, and then you can personally explain to them why they have to continue in their suffering while you, without mar or scar upon yourself, can continue in your self-indulgent madness at their expense.
(MAN closes in upon PHINEAS, speaking in a whisper) And they will have the opportunity, Mr. Galen, to describe their hate for you, for you are the sole cause of this torment. They will be eager to tell you they wish you were dead, or better yet, they would wish these horrors upon you (MAN is now whispering into PHINEAS’ ear) because…they…hate…you…so. Can you bear that, Mr. Galen?
(PHINEAS grabs MAN by his suit lapels)
Phineas: Stop it! Make it stop! Or as God as my witness I will kill you! MAKE IT STOP!
Man (calmly): I anticipated your death threats, Mr. Galen. It’s hard wired into a man when his family is threatened. He becomes the most dangerous of all animals, without regard to life, limb, self or any other poor soul who stands in the way of his mechanism to protect. But rest assured, Mr. Galen, if I personally do not walk out of here alive to give the order to stop, you will have sealed the fate of your family, just as if you had given the order yourself.
Phineas: I won’t kill you, then. I’ll hurt you. I’ll give you such pain until you plead for me to stop.
Man: Mr. Galen, you are a resourceful man, but I doubt that you can achieve that in five minutes, and that’s exactly how long you have before a small squad of associates have orders to come in here and beat you into submission if I am being harmed in any way, and your family’s fate remains the same. Have I made myself quite clear? You can release me now, Mr. Galen.
(PHINEAS lets go of MAN and collapses in a heap in chair)
Phineas: Oh, God no! Not my babies! Don’t hurt my babies! Not my Christine. Oh, God what do I do?
Man: (straightening out suit) You’ll be glad to know I do not hold your assault against you, Mr. Galen. It was predictable, really. I expected nothing less from a man like you. I would have been disappointed otherwise.
Phineas: (sobbing in a heap) Please, please, don’t hurt my family! Call it off. They’ve done nothing. Call it off. They’re innocent.
Man: Yes they are, Mr. Galen. And that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Now, do I have your cooperation?
Phineas: Yes, yes. Whatever you want! Damn your cooperation! Whatever you want. O God! Forgive me.
Man: I understand he is supposed to be in the business of forgiving, Mr. Galen. But I wouldn’t know about that. That’s something between you and your phantom God, it’s none of my concern. I am concerned, however, with gaining your submission, and it appears as if we’ve come to an equitable understanding. I get your cooperation, and you get your family in tact. I think we’ve both gotten what is most important to each of us, haven’t we?
Phineas: How can you live with yourself?
Man: By keeping perspective, Mr. Galen, by keeping perspective. Before the Scientocracy existed, economics, ideologies and especially religion were all excuses for the most terrible atrocities to be inflicted upon our fellow man. After the Three Great Discoveries in Medicine, Energy, and Agriculture, the Founders offered a utopian world, but only to those who accepted a way of life run by a culture based upon scientific principles.
It was, after all, these scientific principles that led to the ultimate Discoveries that would make mankind’s existence free of hunger, disease and want. An existence no other government, ideology or religion was able to offer, and one that deserves defending, even if the means are by outward appearances barbaric.
In the olden days, when a certain religion would torture people into recanting imagined heresies, the Inquisitors were of a mind that they could justify the most horrible administrations upon the “Inquisitee” by their belief that what was visited upon the mortal body was of no consequence if they could preserve the hapless subject’s eternal soul. I’d like to think I’ve done something akin to that, and helped you see in a healthier perspective.
Phineas: If…I…ever…see you again—
Man: (chuckle) Highly unlikely Mr. Galen. It took extraordinary measures from unseen powes for me to make an appearance here, although I must say this was a rather invigorating exercise. Should the unlikelihood happen that we do meet again, Mr. Galen, remember there is no time that we can’t carry out this threat against your family. We can and would find your family anytime, anyplace. There is nowhere that you can possibly hide. The terms of your cooperation are not a singular event, Mr. Galen, they are ongoing, as long as you live. This is key to rembering, Mr. Galen, have I made myself clear?
Phineas: (pause) Perfectly.
Man: One more thing, Mr. Galen—
Phineas: (angry) What?
Man: And this is purely personal, but I’m dying to know—
Phineas: (impatient) What is it, then?
Man: (Whispers in his ear again) If I asked you to forgive me. Would you? (PHINEAS is shaking with a maelstrom of emotion) Well, it is a tough one, isn’t it? I didn’t expect an answer right away. (Moves toward exit) It’s a shame I’ll never know. I have a certain… professional curiosity about it. (goes to door)
And Mr. Galen – we will be watching. (opens door) Justice McCroskey. I believe our Subject has seen the light (chuckle) as it were. I think you’ll find him a most admirable Subject now. You will report to me the moment he isn’t. And I mean, fully cooperative. I am going now, Mr. Galen to deliver that message on behalf of your family you asked of me. Pray I don’t get hit by a car along the way.
McCroskey: Mr. Galen?
Phineas: Call me Subject, sir. Would that no one knew who I was, or ever heard any madness I may have previously uttered.
McCroskey: You plead a mental imbalance, then?
Phineas: If it so pleases the court, I will plead I am a pink elephant if that is its wish.
McCroskey: Is this more impudence?
Phineas: NO! For God’s sake, no! I was merely describing the depth of my commitment to cooperating with the court, nothing more.
McCroskey: It sounded more like mockery to me, Subject.
Phineas: If it was intended for anyone, Justice, I was mocking myself. At what a farce I’ve become. It’s uh, it’s the beginning of recovery, Justice, to recognize the folly of one’s previous behavior. And in light of its ridiculousness, I ridicule myself.
McCroskey: In my Court, you will keep your ridicules to yourself, Subject.
Phineas: I will keep that in mind, Justice, I assure you with the utmost sincerity.
McCroskey: I will summon your Advocate, and he will draw up a submission for you. One that you will sign. And we can all put this mess behind us. (MCCROSKEY exits)
Phineas: Whatever you say, Justice. (pause) Forgive me.
Read more articles by David Ian or search for articles on the same topic or others.