Two magnificent stairways have hurried down from above to surround an unlit fireplace from the left and from the right in an old manor house. A man and a woman in medieval attire and another man and another woman in modern attire move around the house without colliding with each other.
Medieval Woman: (Whispering) Are they here yet?
Medieval Man: Why do you whisper, Martha?
Martha: (Ignores the man) They are supposed to be here, Peppy. It’s time.
Peppy: Wouldn’t we hear them if they were here?
Martha: (Relieved) You are right Peppy. May be they have not reached yet.
Peppy: (About to speak but pauses)
Martha: May be they haven’t found the way. They are late, that’s all. But they will come. God knows we are hopeful, Peppy. Aren’t we?
(They start to fuss around the house.)
Modern Woman: (Tentative) Are they here?
Modern Man: Who?
Modern Woman: They are supposed to be here.
Modern Man: (Incredulous) How do you know?
Modern Woman: Don’t you know?
Modern Man: I don’t care, Judith.
Judith: You do, John. It’s that you are not sure.
John: (Annoyed) Not sure of what?
Judith: Of hope, John. You are not sure of hope. Can’t you imagine how new this is?
John: I know how new this is. I just don’t believe they are there, that’s all.
(They start to search around the house.)
Martha: How long should we wait, Peppy?
Peppy: (Coaxing) Don’t lose hope, Martha.
Martha: It’s not that we can’t live without them, Peppy. We did, didn’t we? God knows we did. But it would have been so nice. It would have been so nice, Peppy.
Peppy: Yes, Martha.
Martha: (Imagining) They will reach the front yard, and we will hear their footsteps. You will say, “Hello! There you are. What took you so long? We were worried.” They will say, “Don’t ask. Don’t even ask’, smiling all along, ‘We lost our way. We are sorry, we are late.” I will be tickled but be good to them and say, “It’s not a bother. Not at all. We are happy that you could come.” We will hold each other’s hands and fumble and laugh. We will look into each other’s eyes and be glad. And we will say, “Finally!”
Peppy: They may not like it, Martha.
Martha: Why not Peppy, why not? Are not they like us?
Peppy: They are like us.
Martha: Don’t they speak our language?
Peppy: I think they do.
Martha: Why will not they like us then?
Peppy: I don’t know Martha, may be they are changed.
Martha: (Unwittingly) They are changed?
Peppy: I am not sure, Martha.
Martha: Then why do you say it Peppy? To make me feel bad?
Peppy: I am sorry, Martha.
Martha: If you can’t help it, at least don’t hurt me Peppy.
(They stand in silence.)
John: How long are we going to wait, Judith?
Judith: We will wait, John.
John: That I can see. How long, though?
Judith: I don’t know.
John: This is not the way to go about it, Judith.
Judith: You have an idea?
John: I have a premise.
Judith: And what is that?
John: That they are not there. Just not there. They were never there in the first place. We hoped and hoped and hoped. We imagined our models to fit observations. We read signs that were just our instruments talking. We heard signals that were plain noise. It’s a dead end, Judith.
Judith: I don’t know, John. What took you so long to figure out?
John: You mocking me?
Judith: The arrogance of logic is the worst form of arrogance, John. It seems so secure.
(They stand in silence.)
Martha: May be they are already here.
Judith: May be they are already here.
Martha: May be they can hear us, Peppy.
Judith: May be they can hear us, John.
Martha: Only if you could shout, Peppy.
Judith: Only if we could shout, John.
Martha: Oh, God’s sake, Peppy!
Judith: For my sake, please, please, John!
(They pause. Peppy and John look at their women with affection and dejection, respectively.)
Peppy: (Shouting) Are you there?
John: (Shouting) Are you there?
Peppy: (Shouting) We can’t hear you.
John: (Shouting) We can’t hear you.
Peppy: (Shouting) We were ready and we really wanted to meet you.
John: (Shouting) We could read the signs and we believed in you and we really wanted to meet you.
(They stop and try to hear the answer. No sound comes from anywhere.)
Martha & Peppy: (Shouting) We are right here!
Judith & John: (Shouting) We are waiting for you, right here!
Martha & Peppy: (Dejected) Come back!
Judith & John: (Dejected) We will come back!
(Head down, without hope, they disperse.)