The Time Trials of Jonathon Hood19 min read

A brief overview:

My play is set in a world where some Aspies are born with the ability to move time, to bend it to their will. The past and future are no bar­riers for them. This ability, also referred to as the ‘gift,’ is con­sid­ered a pun­ish­able offense, and the ruling Monarch of Cirridan decreed that anyone found guilty of time manip­u­la­tions were to be sen­tenced to death. A very painful one. In order to deter­mine a per­son’s guilt the Crown assigned Sigils, steam pow­ered robots, to patrol the streets and keep the peace. Everyone is assigned a device which must always be worn and is syn­chro­nised to their time­line and the Sigils’. These devices can be cross ref­er­enced to deter­mine if manip­u­la­tions have taken place. This takes place through an arduous process known as The Time Trials. The devices worn by cit­i­zens are main­tained by Time-Keepers– vetted indi­vid­uals who install the devices and report any abnor­mal­i­ties to the Sigils.

Act 1- scene 1 

char­ac­ters – WATCHPIECE and JAN OPAL — Time-Keeper’s Workshop

[WATCHPIECE is sit­ting in a wicker chair, intently cleaning his boots. The chair is buck­ling under his weight. It was not designed to hold a man of 6′9″ stature. His back is to the window through which a ray of sun­light is stretched across it. His face is shrouded by a cur­tain of blonde hair. JAN OPAL is standing by the window with the sun on her face. Her face is red from crying.]

JAN OPAL: [Looking out the window] “He had to do it.”

WATCHPIECE: [Remains silent and con­tinues to clean his shoes].

JAN OPAL: [She is run­ning her index finger and thumb rhyth­mi­cally over a piece of string she keeps in her left pocket.] “And you knew it had to be done. [Accusingly] You knew he would do it.”

WATCHPIECE: [His cleaning becomes vio­lent, with long, punc­tu­ated strokes.                         He flicks his hair out of his face, smearing grease on his fore­head. He remains silent].

[JAN OPAL sud­denly turns around, storms to the wicker chair and grabs WATCHPIECE roughly by the shoul­ders, forcing him to face her. He does not lose his grip on the rag or the shoe. His face is impas­sive.]

JAN OPAL: [Shaking WATCHPIECE while begin­ning to sob] “Damn you…you let them take him, Watch. You knew, and you let them take him anyway!”

[JAN OPAL stops shaking WATCHPIECE but con­tinues to sob, burying her face in her hands. An enor­mous device, like a bracelet that covers half her right forearm catches the light. There are many dials on the face, intri­cately placed, some ticking, others remaining still. WATCHPIECE has an iden­tical device on his arm. He looks over his shoulder at the sunlit window then slowly brings his arms up to embrace her. His face remains impas­sive. She pushes his arms away and places her hands over her ears, rocking her body side to side. WATCHPIECE drops his arms and looks away from her towards the audi­ence. His face begins to con­tort.

[Scene fades to black]


Act 1, Scene 2

char­ac­ters – KATHLEEN O’DONNELL, VAA, KESTREL, JONATHON HOOD

[Two weeks ear­lier]

[VAA is set­ting the table for four. Her crooked back is trou­bling her. She talks to her­self while she pre­pares for the guests.]

VAA: [Shuffling along the table, placing the cut­lery] “Oh, they are unkind to me, yessir, they are, they are. Make me work all night and all day with nary a drop to ease my weary bones.”

[A bell rings in the dis­tance. VAA con­tinues to set the table as if she had not heard a thing.]

VAA: “Sirs-and-missus-please- and-thank you! Welcome to Castle Crass, home of the whoresons and dog-”

[The bell rings once more, a voice echoing down the halls along with it.]

KESTREL: [Shouting from afar] “Vaa! The door! What do I pay you for, woman?”

VAA: [To her­self] “Whoresons, the lot of them…”

[Voices begin to echo down the hallway and a door slams. VAA shuf­fles off stage left, mum­bling under her breath.]

[KESTREL, KATHLEEN O’DONNELL and JONATHON HOOD enter stage right with KESTREL leading. KESTREL is a hand­some man with a short, immac­u­lately trimmed beard. HOOD has keen grey eyes and a wiry frame. His left hand is flap­ping against his leg, almost imper­cep­tibly, while his right is wrapped around O’DONNELL’s shoulder. He is wearing an expen­sive suit. O’DONNELL is a short, curved woman with far too much makeup on. KESTREL is talking ener­get­i­cally.]

KESTREL: “It’s the finest in all Cirridan, I tell you.”

O’DONNELL: “Ha! And that is a fact, Sir?”

[KESTREL chucklespulling out a chair at the head of the table as HOOD pulls a chair out for O’DONNELL. The two men remain standing until she is seated.]

KESTREL: “Yes, Lady O’Donnell. As matter of fact I hap­pened to pur­chase it just last week. I was there to exchange my old piece.”

HOOD: [Turning to O’DONNELL] ““Old” is rather under­stating it. It was a horrid piece the last time I saw it. Barely fit for wear. It’s no wonder the Sigils hadn’t fined you on the spot.”

KESTREL: [He ges­tures to HOOD.] “No older than your bloody beard!”

[HOOD smiles at KESTREL’s words and rubs his chin sur­rep­ti­tiously. VAA enters stage left holding a silver carafe.]

VAA: [Leaning towards KESTREL] “Wine, Sah?”

KESTREL: [He ges­tures to his cup in answer.] “Now that I’ve men­tioned it, where’d that beard go? I must say, I never thought I would see the day when Jonathon Hood shaved his whiskers. I would have sworn on half my estate that he was born wearing them.”

[VAA fills his cup and shuf­fles down to O’DONNELL.]

HOOD: [In a bored voice] “Believe me, Sir, I would have taken them to the grave had I stayed in Horth. As it hap­pens…”

O’DONNELL: [Smiling at HOOD] “I like a clean shaved man.”

[HOOD’s smile doesn’t touch his eyes. He waves his left hand slightly next to his leg. He whis­pers some­thing under his breath as VAA pours him some wine. O’DONNELL is beaming at HOOD. She has mis­taken the meaning of his ges­ture and grabs hold of his shaking hand. KESTREL is staring hard at O’DONNELL. VAA remains behind HOOD.]

HOOD: “So who was it, Sir?” [He is fighting the urge to vio­lently extract his hand from O’DONNELL’s.]

KESTREL: [Drawing his gaze back to HOOD] “I beg your pardon?”

HOOD: “[Politely and softer than before] “Who was it that replaced the piece for you?”

[Pause]

KESTREL: “Oh, right. Erm…I had for­gotten you were new to these parts, Hood. I dare say you will learn the names of everyone soon enough though, what with that curious way of yours, eh? Now, funny you should ask me that ques­tion, because the fellow never actu­ally gave me his name. Not his real name, at least I can tell you.”

HOOD: [He perks up at this, giving KESTREL his full atten­tion. He pulls his hands together and arches his fin­gers, obliv­ious to O’DONNELL. She runs her now freed hand through her hair, making a show of it, as if she meant for him to drop her hand.] “But surely he pro­vided some form of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion? Forgive me, Lord Kestrel, but I was under the impres­sion that all Time-Keepers were fully reg­is­tered under the Council, in order to pre­vent any unlawful time mani-”

KESTREL: [Waves a hand impa­tiently.] “Yes, yes, but I am telling you he either made it up on the spot just to irri­tate me, or his par­ents had a very odd sense of humour. I asked to see his papers but he told me to take my piece and leave. [Crossly] Vaa! What are you still doing there, woman?”

[VAA jumps. She had been standing behind HOOD, her pouring arm still raised in shock after his whis­pering, staring at the back of his head. She mut­ters under her breath and exits stage left, a quizzical look on her face.]

KESTREL: “I apol­o­gise for my ser­vant. I will con­fess I have been having a bit of trouble with her lately. Sets the table for the wrong number, as if expecting someone else to just appear. She gets lost in her own thoughts, thinks she’s in her child­hood or some­thing.” [He scratches his beard as he watches VAA leave. HOOD keeps his eyes fixed on KESTREL’s nose.]

O’DONNELL: [Quickly, feeling left out of the con­ver­sa­tion.] “That is quite all right, Lord Kestrel.”

HOOD: [Clearing his throat.] “Yes. You were saying, Lord Kestrel?”

KESTREL: “Oh pah! Please, please, just call me Kestrel in here, Hood. And you as well, Lady O’Donnell. I get enough of that ‘Lord’ crap in town. You know, it makes me sick how those peas­ants think they can win me over with a few sweet words — ‘scuse me m’lord, spare a bar m’lord?- and all that rub­bish. As if I would deign to speak to that rabble, let alone give them some­thing of value…”

HOOD: “Certainly, Kestrel.” [Bows his head to hide his scowl, resisting giving KESTREL a reminder that those peas­ants he scorned would be severely beaten if they were to neglect his proper title. He flapped his hand under the table instead.]

KESTREL: [In an amused voice, clearly enjoying his own story.] “As I was saying, the fellow’s par­ents must have been touched in the head to call him what they did. I sup­pose it is no wonder how he came to be in his cur­rent pro­fes­sion. With a name like that it prob­ably gave him a leg up, I dare say.”

HOOD: [Edges his body closer to the table, vis­ibly excited. His voice, how­ever, remains neu­tral, bored even.] “And his unusual name, what was it?”

KESTREL: [Sipping his wine] “It was Watchpiece.”

[Lights down]


Act 1, Scene 3

char­ac­ters – JAN OPAL and WATCHPIECE. Set at WATCHPIECE’s house.

[Present day]

[JAN OPAL pulls off her cloak and hangs it on the wall. WATCHPIECE is standing in the doorway watching her. There is snow piled up out­side.]

JAN OPAL: “They’re charging him.”

WATCHPIECE: [Nods his head, closing the door. He walks slowly to a small wooden table in the centre of the room and pulls out a chair. JAN OPAL takes the seat, kicking snow off her boots while WATCHPIECE walks to the other side of the table and remains standing.]

JAN OPAL: [Prompting him] “Then you know what we have to do.”

WATCHPIECE: [His voice is metallic, as if not used often. His words come out clipped, as though each one caused him dis­com­fort.] “No, you cannot do any­thing. They will know. You must stay out of this.”

JAN OPAL: “They will never find out. Not unless…but you’ve got the Time-Keeper’s job, so they won’t. And I still cannot figure out how they knew about Jon.”

WATCHPIECE: “They did not know.”

JAN OPAL: [Confused] “What?  But then how did they-”

WATCHPIECE: “They sus­pected. He…was not careful. I did nothing to alert them. He was not careful. There is nothing you can do.”

[The two remain silent for a minute. WATCHPIECE places a hand on the table, gently run­ning his hand over the sur­face.]

JAN OPAL: “I know you would never expose us, but don’t you see the danger here? He will be forced to talk. They have…ways… he’ll talk, and when he does he will lead them to us. He will talk, Watch.”

WATCHPIECE: “He will not speak. I can…I will fix this, for you.”

JAN OPAL: [She pushes away from the table and stands vio­lently.] “And how can you fix this? You don’t even have the ability.”

[Pause]

“I’m sorry. Father thought it would be you. He never said it, but I knew he was sur­prised when I started to show the signs. It was sup­posed to be you…”

[WATCHPIECE ceases rub­bing the table and goes to speak, but JAN OPAL raises her voice and speaks over him.]

“And even if it was you, even if you could do it, too…they would lock you up as well! No one can know, Watch!”

WATCHPIECE: [Lifting his hands in the air, palms facing her. His voice is calm.] “He will not speak, Jan. I have a plan. I will get him to take me with him, and we will fix this together.”

JAN OPAL: [Impatiently.] “How can he take you with him? What are you talking about?”

[WATCHPIECE walks around the table and takes JAN OPAL’s hands in his. She is holding her string. She strug­gles, but WATCHPIECE con­tinues to talk, ignoring her.]

WATCHPIECE: “How much do you know about the gift, Jan? What the peas­ants igno­rantly refer to as ‘Bootstrapping’.”

JAN OPAL: [Her eyes widen in shock, and she strug­gles harder.] “Let go of me at once! Do not speak of such things so openly! What is wrong with you? You cannot know who could be lis­tening…”

WATCHPIECE: [Ignoring her out­burst and her strug­gling.] “How much do you know about Bootstrapping? Did Father -”

JAN OPAL: [Her protests die in her throat, and she stops strug­gling. She looks him in the eyes, or rather, just below them. He does not com­ment.  Her voice still car­ries a note of impa­tience.] “I know every­thing. Of course I know every­thing about it. You know I do. Father made sure we both…but Watch…I don’t under­stand. Is there more to the ability than what I know? Did Father tell you some­thing else?”

WATCHPIECE: “There is more to it, Jan, much more to it. More than even Jonathon Hood him­self realises. And before you pull another face, Father told me nothing. I swear it!
I learned of this later, learned every­thing I could about it so that I could help you if it ever came to that. Why do you think I got a job here, in this cesspit? I can fix this if I can con­vince him to take me with him.”

JAN OPAL: “And how do you know so much? [Taking on the tone of a lec­turer with a well-rehearsed speech] All doc­u­men­ta­tion of Bootstrapping was destroyed in 1590, during The Long Night, when the Council had dis­cov­ered our exis­tence, dis­cov­ered what we were capable of. Only those with the ability would have access to that infor­ma­tion; because our par­ents have to teach it to us, Watch. They have to show us how to hide it, how to use it without being sus­pected. The gift we are granted at birth must be hidden for fear of per­se­cu­tion. People do not just openly dis­cuss it!”

[Pause]

“I have never been able to get there, The Long Night. I tried, when Father first told me. It seemed like the obvious thing to do. But no matter what times I try there is always some kind of bar­rier, some lock I can’t pen­e­trate at that exact moment. I’ve tried every­thing.”

[Pause]

“How do you know so much, Watch?” [She stresses the last ques­tion, sud­denly sus­pi­cious.]

WATCHPIECE: “I know what I know. It is of no real con­se­quence. All you have to do is get me an audi­ence with Jonathon, and I can make this right.”

JAN OPAL: “But how will that fix what has hap­pened to him? We cannot change what has already hap­pened. Even you know that, Watch. That was Father’s first lesson.”

[They remain silent for a minute. WATCHPIECE is still holding her hands in his. She finally looks him in the eyes. WATCHPIECE knows how hard that must be for her and so speaks quickly.]

WATCHPIECE: “He has yet to undergo the Time Trials. If I can just con­vince him to take me with him before the end of the Trials I can fix this.”

“I know I can fix this, Jan. It has been done before.” [He slowly lets go of her hands. She shifts her body so that she is facing the table.]

JAN OPAL: [Matter-of-factly] “The Time Trials last for thir­teen days. You know that you have until the tenth day to figure this out. Otherwise, they will come for us both when he talks. And he will talk. They always talk in the end.”

WATCHPIECE: “I know.”

[WATCHPIECE embraces JAN OPAL, who offers no resis­tance. He holds her but his hands never touch her back. She lets him hold her. The lights begin to dim.]

JAN OPAL: “I will try to get you an audi­ence, but it won’t be easy. The Sigils are still looking for Syd Sago of Rosterleigh. They cannot sus­pect it is me they are after, cannot know that women are capable of doing it to. The alias can only buy me so much time… [her voice hitches] Watch, I don’t want to see you die. Not like Father.”

WATCHPIECE: [He wraps his enor­mous arms around her tiny frame, wanting des­per­ately to envelop her anx­iety, to relieve it somehow.] “I won’t, dear sister. I’ll never let the Sigils take me like that. And I will never let them find you. I promise.”

[Scene fades to black]

Act 2, Scene 1

char­ac­ters – JAN OPAL, JONATHON HOOD, SIGILS — The Keep

[Present day]

[JAN OPAL is standing stiffly in front of the guard house trying not to panic. She is rub­bing her string dis­creetly inside her purse as she searches for the cor­rect doc­u­ment. There is a bead of sweat building up beneath her lower lip and she des­per­ately wishes to wipe it.]

SIGIL 648: “Notification papers.” [It repeats, its voice a dis­turbing mix­ture of organic and mechan­ical. Every two min­utes a puff of steam escapes a little hatch on each side of its shoul­ders.]

JAN OPAL: [Not looking up from her now frantic search] “It’s here, just please one moment, I know it’s in here some­where…”

SIGIL 648: “Notification papers. Authorised per­sonnel only. No noti­fi­ca­tion, no entry.”

[JAN OPAL did not notice the increasing irri­ta­tion the Sigil was dis­playing. She sud­denly whips out a cream coloured doc­u­ment, causing sev­eral tis­sues and a spring to fly out at the same time.]

JAN OPAL: “Here! Here it is! Ha-ha and I was starting to — ”

[She stops talking sud­denly, shud­dering vis­ibly at the unex­pected touch of a cool metal claw that SIGIL 648 had reached out silently to take the doc­u­ment from her hand. It grasped the paper del­i­cately and drew it closer for exam­i­na­tion, ignoring her com­pletely. JAN OPAL decided now was a good time to wipe the sweat from her lip.]

SIGIL 648: [Reading from the paper] “I hereby do autho­rise, Madam Jan Opal, Keeper of Letters, by order of His Majesty, King Aunvil, our supreme ruler of Cirridan, entry to The Keep for the dura­tion of the Time Trials on this day, 11th of Augustine, 1289 TC. Entry level 3, max­imum secu­rity clear­ance. Authorised indi­vidual. Signed, Lord Kestrel, Royal Ambassador.

JAN OPAL: [Unsure of how to respond] “Erm, yes, that is what the letter says.” [She looks behind her ner­vously, hoping for another human to speak with but there is no-one else present at the guard­house. The sound of steam bil­lowing is all around her.]

SIGIL 648: “All is in order, Madam. Access is granted. Please time in and you may pro­ceed into The Keep. Ensure to time out before departing or you may incur a penalty. Undocumented time spent is not per­mitted to any indi­vidual. Even a Royal employee.”

[JAN OPAL nar­rows her eyes, not entirely sure if the guard had intended to sound sar­castic or even if she had heard it cor­rectly. Instead of answering, she walks con­fi­dently to a large, brass object next to the guards desk. The object strongly resemble a boiler turned on its side. JAN OPAL slides open a small panel on either side of the device on her wrist. As she reaches the “boiler” she stands in from of the struc­ture. She stares at a glass cov­ered panel behind which thou­sands of tiny gears and dials are spin­ning. There are sev­eral coloured wires run­ning at dif­ferent inter­sec­tions between the dials. She grabs a handle to the left of the glass panel and pulls open a chute, revealing a medium sized hole. Quite unaf­fected, she places her right arm inside the hole and the machine begins to chug, emit­ting a pow­erful hum­ming noise. After pre­cisely a minute a high pitched bell sounds and she removes her arm. The machine appears to go dor­mant, all noise ceasing. If we, the audi­ence, were to look at the dials on JAN OPAL’s watch we would see that they directly cor­re­spond with the machines. 

[JAN OPAL, with increasing courage, walks towards the doors of The Keep. As she approaches another bell sounds and the enor­mous steel doors open inwards.]

[Fade to black — interval music. A haunting choir can be heard as the set is rearranged. The sound of foot­steps approaching can be heard. Two people are arguing in the dark­ness.]

WARDEN: “Madam, I under­stand you are an autho­rised vis­itor, but I really must insist -”

JAN OPAL: “Insist all you want, Sir. I will see him alone. It is cus­tomary to take a state­ment prior to the Testing, surely you under­stand. He will speak more freely if I were to go in alone.

WARDEN: [With a hint of des­per­a­tion] “Yes, Madam. I am aware of the Trial pro­to­cols, as much as you must surely be of ours. The boys and I think it would be better if you — ”

JAN OPAL: [Haughtily] “Must you really con­tinue on? I do have other busi­ness to address today and every minute spent arguing is costing our tax­payers their daily bread.”

WARDEN: [Apolo­get­i­cally] “We was only thinking of your safety, Madam. Please, I meant no offence. My sin­cerest apolo­gies for holding you up. Here, I’ll just unlock the door for you, one moment.

[The sound of a keys jin­gling and a lock clicking.]

WARDEN: “Just bang on this here door when you’re fin­ished with ‘im. And holler if he gives you any trouble. I’ll be waiting just out­side, see that chair? Don’t you worry. Ah, there’s no use looking at me like that! I ain’t one for lis­tening in, so no fear miss. Ah there it is, all right, in you go then.”

[A door creaks open.]

[Lights up.]

[JONATHON HOOD, lying on a bed of straw, is almost unrecog­nis­able. His beard has grown out and there is an ugly bruise on his left cheek. His left eye is also par­tially swollen, making him appear to be squinting. His fine clothes have been replaced with the reg­u­la­tion uni­form of The Keep, a blood red tunic that offers little in the way of com­fort or pro­tec­tion. He sits up gin­gerly, nursing his side as JAN OPAL enters stage right].

JAN OPAL: “Jon…I am sorry it took me so long to come.”

HOOD: [with a wry smile] “Are you kid­ding, Jan? You’re just in time.”

JAN OPAL: “Jon…your face…they didn’t -?” [She makes a ges­ture with her hand, as if to reach out to him but reaches for her string instead.]

HOOD: “I haven’t revealed any­thing. Not yet, anyway…but I prob­ably will. Their methods…I believe they really want to know how we do it. They want the others just as much as they want me. I can’t let that happen.”

JAN OPAL: “Jon, Watchpiece told me he could help. He’s not part of the offi­cial inves­ti­ga­tion so there’s no reason for him to be present during the Trials. But he could be called in as a wit­ness. That is, if I rec­om­mend it. Do you know what I’m talking about? What Watch is plan­ning?”

HOOD: “Yes, I sus­pect I know what he has planned. We can’t tell you any­thing about this Jan, you realise that? You’re a smart woman. You know how these things can work. The less you know the easier the out­comes will be. For everyone.” [HOOD stands up, holding his side and approaches the bars. He is flicking his right fin­gers absently.]

JAN OPAL: [she is vis­ibly upset but her voice remains calm, almost expres­sion­less.] “If I can find another way to clear your name, without resorting to…changing things, then I want us to go with that. Please, Jon. I couldn’t stand to see more of us just dis­ap­pear.”

HOOD: “On my honour as a gen­tleman you have my word that it will be so. But we are run­ning out of time. The Third Trial is always the hardest. It’ll be dif­fi­cult not to talk by then.”

JAN OPAL: “We were always out of time, Jon. Or maybe it was that time was out of us. You cannot assume the two are mutu­ally exclu­sive of each other.”

HOOD: “Sometimes I think you are the only one who under­stands it all.”

JAN OPAL: “It’s what Watch and I have been trying to teach you so that you can under­stand. Our brothers and sis­ters, they want to show you that there is more than us in here and now. We are infi­nite. We are for­ever and always. This life you lead you will live again and again. The road between worlds is open to those who walk the path.”

HOOD: [Shaking his head.] “Same old Jan. Still talking in rid­dles. And this path you speak of…is that metaphor­ical or meta­phys­ical? Hmm. I can hear the Guardsman coming back.”

[They both turn to the cell door. In their silence the audi­ence can hear the heavy foot­falls of the Guardsman. JAN OPAL tucks her string back into her pocket and JONATHAN HOOD sits back on his pathetic bed.]

HOOD: “Out of time, Jan. Out of time.”

JAN OPAL: “Time is never set. Please just wait a little longer. I will send word if the wit­ness list is approved. Watch will tes­tify in your defence and you both won’t have to resort to any­thing drastic.”

HOOD: [repeating her words.] “This life you lead you will live again and again. You will live again and again…”

[lights down]


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