March 2 & 3: CPR Quartet, Part Four
CPR Quartet, Part Four: The Railroad Magnate
In a tiny, well-lit space at the edge of the stage, the Historian sits in a bubble, and traces patterns with her hands. Behind the tracks, bent & misshapen, the Morlock shuffles along, dragging pots and a few pitiful planks into a childish arrangement.
Historian: And for the counter, let’s bring up fragment EC70.
A shadow of Eloise appears on the tracks. She should seem lighter somehow. Insubstantial. A train whistles in the distance.
Eloise Fragment: Uh- Hello? Where am I?
Historian: Antagonistic dynamic research simulation iteration 13376892.
Eloise Fragment: Am I supposed to know what that means?
Historian: We’re exploring the potential outcomes of early twenty-first century environmental conflict to determine if they have any bearing on the present situation.
Eloise Fragment: And what, exactly, is the present situation?
Historian: Massive die off of existing stock. 100% external mortality rate for the unmodified. Food and resource dependency.
Eloise Fragment: So that doesn’t sound good. It also doesn’t sound… accurate.
Historian: We are 2256.
Eloise Fragment: But that isn’t– I can’t even be–
Historian: Your initial incarnation ceased in 2042. To reduce discomfort, your simulation will be contextualized mid-twentieth century ambiguous.
Eloise Fragment: So if I… ceased in 2042– how am I here? What am I now?
Historian: A fragment. Extrapolated from historical record. Government documents. News Media. Digital self-report and tracking.
Eloise Fragment: I’m who you think I was.
Historian: You’re who our extrapolating algorithm thinks you were. Give or take a few percentage points.
Eloise Fragment: And what are you going to learn from making an idea of me–
Historian: an extrapolation–
Eloise Fragment: do… what?
Historian: You’ll be engaged in a simulation of an antagonistic, value and privilege divergent conflict over resource and infrastructure distribution. In your case, the reactivation of a stretch of locomotive track.
Eloise Fragment: You mean a railroad. I’m going to fight someone over a railroad? (Beat.) You know I was just a girl who had a slot in a community garden, right?
Historian: Our records indicate you were the pre-eminent anti-locomotive activist of your era. You died protesting the expansion of coal routes.
Eloise Fragment: Oh. Wow. Too bad for me, I guess. Who am I going to fight?
Historian: The locomotive magnate, Dagny Taggart.
Eloise Fragment: What?
Historian: The locomotive magnate, Dagny Tagg–
Eloise Fragment: She’s fictional!
Eloise Fragment: As in fictional. As in not real. As in– have you seriously dragged a copy of me from the dead to have an argument with Dagny Taggart?
The Historian moves her hands. And Dagny Taggart appears on the railroad track, slick and stylish. Like Eloise, there is something insubstantial about her.
Dagny Taggart: Clearly, he’s dragged you from the dead to lose an argument with Dagny Taggart. (Again, in the distance, Eloise hears the whistle of the train.)
Eloise Fragment: Oh good god. This is really what you’re doing with the future?
Dagny Taggart: Look at this devastation. This desolation. Without the railroad, humanity will go slinking into the dark, using old engine casings to house their candles, until those flicker out, into the endless night.
Eloise Fragment: Yeah we went with that idea. The whole neoliberal “the desire for profit drives ingenuity” argument. Turns out the desire for profit mostly just drives a bunch of suffering. All that ingenuity stuff you’re talking about tends to happen with democratization of education and a higher level of general prosperity.
Dagny Taggart: Which titans of industry create by selling their products.
Eloise Fragment: Yeah. Turns out titans of industry were mostly so interested in profits that they crushed most of the rest of the population into unfathomable poverty, and then used their money to buy enclaves when there was no one left who could afford their products. You think engine based candle holders & gardens growing over railroad tracks are depressing? Wait ’til you see mile-long bridges collapsing, and deserts filled with defunct airplanes.
Dagny Taggart: Oh god.
Eloise Fragment: Sorry about that.
Dagny Taggart: But maybe we’re out there. Waiting. Just waiting in our secret enclave for the world to be ready to respect our genius. To value it appropriately.
Eloise Fragment: (To the historian:) Is that what you’re doing?
Historian: There are 89 remaining enclaves. Most built in the late twenty-first century. Most will eventually collapse due to the failure of air filtration systems. We must rely upon modifications for the minerals to filter the air, more and more, they have decided not to provide them.
Dagny Taggart: Modifications?
Historian: Mutations adapted to the external. They lead simple lives.
Dagny Taggart: That- shambling thing? Building a shack?
Eloise Fragment: Morlocks. Basically, they’ve got Morlocks. And that isn’t a shack. She’s building a garden. I wonder if anything will grow out there?
Dagny Taggart: That is- extremely disappointing.
Eloise Fragment: I’ll say. Who knows. Maybe it would have worked out if you’d been an actual person, instead of, y’know, a character in a way overwritten book. Or if I hadn’t been run down by a coal train.
Dagny Taggart: I had a vision. A dream of how the world was supposed to be. It was supposed to grow good. I would give it every bit of my mind and my strength and the world was supposed to grow- good.
Eloise Fragment: (To the Historian:) How does the simulation end?
Historian: 98% of the time you get run down by one of Ms. Taggart’s trains.
Eloise Fragment: Let’s skip to that. I don’t really feel like knowing about all this anymore.
The historian nods. The whistle of the train grows closer. Louder.
Dagny Taggart: I think I’d like to go with you. I don’t think I want to exist if this is what we come to. (The train is getting louder and louder. The light is getting brighter and brighter. Dagny has to yell to be heard.) I’m sorry they bulldozed your gardens!
Dagny holds out her hand and Eloise takes it.
Eloise Fragment: Me too! I’m sorry about your dream!
The light and the noise and whatever else can be used to insinuate a train crashing across the stage takes them away.