From The Inkwell – “Tormenting Tantalus”: An Introduction

So, I changed it from my theatre standard “Breaking the Leg” to my creative writing standard, “From the Inkwell.” Why? Because I want to.

Anyway, today has been one of those days filled with lots of work and not much rest… I’m running on about three hours of sleep, which certainly doesn’t help matters… Being as such, I’m not in much of a mood to think too keenly or critically on things. So, instead, I ask my readers to do so for me.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m writing yet another play. This one isn’t about me trying to make a statement… it’s not one I plan to ever see performed, either. I’m sure, if I become famous enough and it gets published, that it could be… but it’s definitely not in the same bailiwick as “Camp Gethsemane.” “Tormenting Tantalus” could be considered a horror/thriller type play, if one desired to call it such…

…or so I’m hoping. I’m trying to create a certain vibe… my style of writing has completely shifted for this play and resembles almost nothing of “Camp Gethsemane.” But I’m worried that I might be being too vivid in my mind and not enough on the page. So I’ve decided to ask my readers to read the introductory part to the story and tell me what vibe they get from it. Tell me your reactions and criticisms please. Meanwhile, I’m off to pretend to try to sleep.


The stage is dark, silent, empty but for one lonely podium tucked away in the back corner. In the background, behind the podium, stands the tall, resolute, grotesque and twisted gateway to Hell. Its doors are open wide, and why should they not be? There are always so many entering this dark land, and so few ever able to leave. As dim, white swirling lights rise upon the scene, so do soft, muted moans of pain and torture. These are not fresh moans of a new pain. These are cries of anguish and acceptance, of a lengthened torture. The BOOKKEEPER comes onto the stage, walking in from the open gates, clasping a large, aged book to himself, heading directly for the podium. He is a proper man, if man he is, old and wizened, but he stands strong and tall. Well dressed, presentable, cut clean. A man of decorum who knows his purpose. He places the book and opens it to a passage in the middle, but immediately looks up. He knows the words. He is the BOOKKEEPER. He has memorized the texts of these pages long ago.

BOOKKEEPER: Tartarus. A place of eternal torment and punishment. In the ancient religion of the Greeks, upon death, the souls of the dead were judged. Those found to be especially vile, especially corrupt, found their path into Tartarus. There, they were bound to a hellish torment, twisted, strange.

The moans increase in volume at this moment. The BOOKKEEPER ignores them. He is accustomed to their languishing presence. Even the strongest presences eventually succumb and whither.

BOOKKEEPER: These are creatures that would dare spit in the faces of gods. Pitiful. Pathetic. What could have driven them to such disrespect? Such foul action? They knew of the afterlife. They knew the possibilities. To spit in the face of gods yet ignore their potential retaliation in eternity seems but madness.

The BOOKKEEPER looks back down to his tome. He turns the pages once more. He has a sense of decorum about these things. This is the proper way. He again looks up.

BOOKKEEPER: But what is it that drives men to madness? They are not born mad. Madness is created. Created by man, by mortality, by experiencing life. Those who fall to madness in life must continue in death.

A pause. Contemplative.

BOOKKEEPER: Perhaps, by example, madness can be avoided.

A MAN walks onto the stage. As he walks onto the stage, the moans slowly diminish into nothingness. He is dressed in a suit, as though dressed to go to work, but lacks a tie. He is happy, smiling, youthful and full of life. A WOMAN and a YOUNG BOY, maybe five years old, come onto the stage, too. The WOMAN goes to one side of the man, smiling, kissing him on the cheek. The BOY comes to the MAN’s other side, grabbing onto his hand. Laughing, the MAN bends down and lifts the young boy, holding him with one arm against his body, grabbing the WOMAN around the waist with his other arm. They all look happy, joyous, young, vibrant. The BOOKKEEPER watches on, impartial. He makes no judgment. He knows their future, as he knows all things in the book. It is not his place to react, only to tell the tales.

BOOKKEEPER: Beware, you who observe, and know this: Happiness is the birth of madness. Kindness is the beginning of evil. From love springs eternal the source of hate.

The MAN sets the BOY down, and the WOMAN takes the BOY with her as they retreat back offstage, still smiling. The MAN stands there alone, still happy, vibrant.

BOOKKEEPER: Observe and know.

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One thought on “From The Inkwell – “Tormenting Tantalus”: An Introduction

  1. […] I talked about the play at least once before, but I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it since its completion. Part of a planned […]

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