Tags

, , , , , , ,

all mockery is laughing
all violence is cheap …
O you savage.

— Eurythmics

][][

CHARACTERS:
Lyssk
Ts’ssk
Su Xi Xsu
Tao Jiu-Di
A Boy
Two Guards
Children

SETTING:
A wind-swept desert outside the walls of the city of New Zhanjiang. The year is 2156. The Sino-Anglo Confederacy had brought humanity to the stars nearly a hundred years earlier. Now the newly formed 3rd Divine Chinese Empire is the dominate culture in every star system that humanity has sent pioneers, terraformers, Imperial Marines and missionaries to colonize.

][][

ACT I:

Darkness. Sound of endless, hungry wind. The stage is bare save for two large boulders in center stage. Dusty, dim light slowly rise, never enough to clearly see anything save for uninterrupted, confusing swirls of shadows everywhere. The wind storm reaches its crescendo and fades. Slowly the boulders unfold themselves from the tight balls they were sleeping in, like husky dogs in the Arctic snow. Seven feet tall, naked, profoundly curvy, eyeless, earless, with their oblong skulls and segmented tails, the Lingualandicis (“clitoris-tongues”) of this story are a single gender, a female warrior race. The larger and younger of the two is Lyssk, exiled from her homeland and estranged from her human husband. The smaller and older one is Ts’ssk, Lyssk’s former lover, former nanny, former confidant. Since arriving at New Zhanjiang, Lyssk and Ts’ssk have adopted short skirts to cover “their shame,” as the Preacher-Man calls all nudity, both human and extraterrestrial. As the wind dies the two xenomorphs’ conversation slowly becomes audible. As with all species under Imperial control they speak the official language of the court, Mandarin Chinese.

][][

TS’SSK [TALKING OVER THE FADING WIND]: Or … to do anything else, I suppose?

LYSSK: Don’t joke about it.

TS’SSK: Why not? I joke about everything else.

LYSSK: My throat chokes with all the lies that are trapped inside.

TS’SSK: Here, let me kiss it.

LYSSK: Do you hear that?

TS’SSK: Hear what?

LYSSK: Pleasure. It is prowling out there in the dark.

TS’SSK: My queen is a little dramatic tonight. No, I think that is what these particular humans call singing. Today must be their harvest day.

[SOUND OF A GOSPEL CHOIR OFF-STAGE. THE VOICE OF AN OFF-WORLD PREACHER-MAN TESTIFYING TO HIS FLOCK]

PREACHER-MAN: Praise the Lord! Halleluiah!

CONGREGATION: Praise the Lord! Halleluiah!

PREACHER-MAN: Tonight is the night when a great weight will be lifted!

CONGREGATION: Amen! Yea! Amen!

PREACHER-MAN: And in our hour of darkness a mighty light will descend from the heavens and there shall be a great revelation!

LYSSK: I hate their revelations. I hate their singing. I hate their harvests. I hate how they grow rich and fat each year. I hate what they do for their pleasures.

TS’SSK: It doesn’t really matter. Though, when you think about it, we had our harvests back home, too. I suppose it’d be more accurate to call them, “culls,” but no matter. Our girls painted their faces red with their own blood, and then in the small hours of the morning, after the screaming of the first sacrifice, they’d begin to fight. How beautiful our Lingualandicis girls were when they fought!

LYSSK: Be quiet now. Not another word.

TS’SSK: Words are all I have. I am old and you do not care.

LYSSK: If you find your surroundings boring, please, go home.

TS’SSK: It’s not that simple, child. Why did we leave, Lady Lyssk?

LYSSK [HISSING]: We left because I love Tao Jiu-Di. Because I stole from my mother for him. Because I killed my sister for him. Because I waged war against my own hive. Why do you even ask? You have been with me every step of the way.

TS’SSK: Isn’t love grand? Now I get to squat here like a vagabond in the dust with the once and never queen.

LYSSK: Your words irk.

TS’SSK: Here we go again.

LYSSK: Go see if my children are safe.

TS’SSK: Because you can’t go the twenty feet yourself?

LYSSK: Because your queen commands.

[TS’SSK GETS UP SIGHING LOUDLY AND WALKS AWAY]

LYSSK [HISSINGS]: Listen! [STANDS] Someone is coming.

TS’SSK [LISTENING]: No, I think that is what these particular humans call the wind.

[LYSSK CROUCHES, HER TAIL WHIPPING BACK AND FORTH. THE GOSPEL SINGING IS ONCE MORE HEARD IN THE FAR DISTANCE]

PREACHER-MAN: We have gone to the stars and they are ours!

CONGREGATION: Amen!

PREACHER-MAN: Now, I know! I know that it is hard on your soul to be so far from home!

CONGREGATION: Halleluiah!

PREACHER-MAN: Brothers and sisters, can I get a Halleluiah?

CONGREGATION: Halleluiah!

PREACHER-MAN: I said, can I get a Halleluiah?

CONGREGATION: Halleluiah!

PREACHER-MAN: But you are doing the Lord’s work! You are bringing light to the darkness! For we do not judge a sister by the color of her skin, the shape of her head, the blood in her veins —

CONGREGATION: Amen! Yea! Amen!

PREACHER-MAN: — only if she is saved! ‘For the Lord cast out the dragon in the Garden to the stars’ … [FADES]

LYSSK [STILL CROUCHING, STILL AGITATED]: Missionaries! Soft Flesh with their desire to conquer. The red plague upon them all. Where is Tao Jiu-Di? Where is my husband?

TS’SSK: Do not wait for him any longer, my spitting flame. You are eating your heart out.

LYSSK: If only I could! If only I could reach inside and rip it right out, ribs, breasts and all!

TS’SSK: If this is a harvest day then I am sure your Tao Jiu-Di is dancing even as we speak, dancing with the daughter of General Su Xi Xsu.

LYSSK [FLATLY]: Be quiet, hissing shell.

TS’SSK: I won’t say another word but he’s not coming back tonight.

[PAUSE. THE NIGHT IS FULL OF SOFT ALIEN NOISES. TS’SSK RETURNS TO SIT DOWN NEXT TO LYSSK]

LYSSK [SUDDENLY]: What is that odor?

TS’SSK: What odor?

LYSSK [INHALING DEEPLY]: That! That! Right there, can’t you smell it?

TS’SSK [BEMUSED]: What are you talking about, my little queen-poppet?

LYSSK: Ecstasy! Pleasure! Joy! How it all stinks. Yet the Soft Flesh have confined us out here in the dark! As if they were afraid we would steal their babies during the night. Seduce their females. [SHE STANDS TALL AND HISSES LOUDLY] I’ve waited in the dark, waited and waited and still he doesn’t return to me.

TS’SSK: He is fortunate. His people invited him in. They won’t let one of their own go hungry.

LYSSK: The very people who’ve come to civilize us, leaving us out here to scavenge like dogs.

TS’SSK: We make them nervous. [DREAMILY] Do you remember? How pink the hive looked at the end of the day with cypress trees all around and when we returned from our hunting out in the Sutu marsh you would throw yourself on a divan and have the drones bathe you. You were the Queen’s daughter and nothing was too beautiful for you. Back when you were calm and naked, back when they once rubbed oil into your shell.

LYSSK [FINGERING THE HEM OF HER SKIRT SADLY]: I’m still naked.

TS’SSK: Not as much as you once were.

LYSSK: Why do you always talk so? Do you think I miss living in a hive, hunting, having drones pleasure me?

TS’SSK: Does it matter? We’ve been on the run ever since.

LYSSK: We’re not running now.

TS’SSK: No, that is true. Now we get cheated, beaten, scorned and spat upon.

LYSSK: It’s the way that the Soft Flesh does things.

TS’SSK: It’s the way that you only think about yourself. You just assumed that, old as I am, I would follow you to the Three Hells simply because you fell in love? Meh. If I die, what are you going to do with my body?

LYSSK: I don’t know. Sell your withered carcass to the local butcher? I am told we taste a lot like dog.

TS’SSK [SERIOUSLY]: He is leaving you, Lady Lyssk.

LYSSK [STARTLED]: Silence! [HISSES] Listen.

TS’SSK: It is still the wind. He is out there, somewhere, dancing with his own kind. He will not come back.

LYSSK: But why does the Soft Flesh have to act this way? What ecstasy of theirs is it that stinks even from out here? Their world is rank with it. It is in their sweat, their terrible alcohol, their greasy food. Soft Flesh! Why do you caterwaul and stomp about like beasts? Is it because I, Lady Lyssk, am so choked with grief? Ts’ssk, beloved Ts’ssk … I feel as if I were in labor. I suffer and I am scared as when you helped to pull my first daughter from between my legs. Ts’ssk! Something stirs in me as in the olden days, the hive days. [SHE CLINGS TO TS’SSK, TREMBLING] Ts’ssk, if I scream will you put your tongue in my mouth? If I struggle will you rub me until I purr? Why do I suffer all alone? [HISSING] Hold me, Ts’ssk. Hold me with all your strength. Hold me as you did when I was a child, when I was insane with the pains of childbirth. [PAUSE] I still have something to birth into this world, something more terrible and more violent than I could ever be. Ts’ssk, I am afraid! I am afraid! I am afraid!

[A BOY ENTERS SUDDENLY AND STOPS]

BOY [NERVOUS, SLOWLY APPROACHING]: Are you Lady Lyssk?

LYSSK [HISSES, RISING UP LIKE A DARK GODDESS]: Yes! Speak!

BOY: Lord Tao Jiu-Di sent me.

TS’SSK [WITH A SNORT]: Lord? Did you say Lord Tao Jiu-Di?

LYSSK: What is the matter? Is he in trouble?

BOY: He told me to tell you that you are saved.

LYSSK: Saved? What is there to save? Explain!

BOY [BECOMING MORE AND MORE NERVOUS]: Um, he told me to tell you that he will come, uh, that you shouldn’t go anywhere.

LYSSK: Where is he?

BOY: He is with the generalissimo, Su Xi Xsu, at her palace.

LYSSK: Is he a captive?

BOY: No.

LYSSK: Then … then all this human joy is for him?

BOY: Yes.

LYSSK: What has he done to earn such gratitude? Talk! [SUDDENLY AWARE THAT THE BOY IS CLEARLY TERRIFIED OUT OF HIS MIND. SPEAKS IN A CALM VOICE] Please, forgive me. You had to come all this way in the dark by yourself. Come and sit on your auntie’s lap.

[THE BOY, TOO FRIGHTENED TO ARGUE, SITS IN LYSSK’S LAP, WHO WRAPS HER LONG ARMS AROUND HIM]

LYSSK [SWEETLY]: Please, just tell me, are they dancing for him as we speak?

BOY: Yes.

LYSSK: Do they raise their cups to bless him?

BOY [LOOKS UP ACCIDENTALLY INTO HER GAPING MAW, SQUEAKS]: Yes.

LYSSK: Child, you do not know me. You do not know Lady Lyssk. [FONDLING THE BOY] I’ve never understood the purpose of you Soft Flesh’s second sex. Why evolution spat out males I will never know. O, but I see! Does mv face frighten you? Do you want me to smile? [SMILES, A COMPLETE HORROR SHOW OF TEETH AND HINGED JAW] See? I am smiling. Now tell me. It must be good news since they are casting their blessings into the wind.

BOY [WHISPERS]: He is marrying Su Xi Xsu’s daughter, Lu Kui-Lei. The wedding is tomorrow morning.

LYSSK: Thank you, darling! Go and play now with the girls of missionaries. Dance all night long, as much as you can. When you are old, please, remember that you were the one who informed Lady Lyssk of her fate.

BOY [GETTING UP OFF HER LAP]: What shall I say to him?

LYSSK: To him?

BOY: Lord Tao Jiu-Di.

LYSSK: Tell him that I, too, raise my cup to bless him.

[THE BOY EXITS]

LYSSK [STANDS AND HISSES]: Thank you, husband! Thank you Su Xi Xsu! Thank you, all of you Soft Flesh, who worship an impotent god and came to teach me his holy language! How simple you all are as you spread across the cosmos. Like viruses, like plagues. How little the profit of ever embracing the things that you hold most dear has cost me.

TS’SSK [APPROACHING]: My honored sparrow, my little vulture.

LYSSK: Leave me alone! I no longer need your kisses or your pity. I shall birth my last child tonight by myself. O, new born hatred! How lovely you are! How good you smell. How delicious!

TS’SSK: Stop, dear Lyssk!

LYSSK [STANDS TALL WITH FOLDED ARMS]: Leave me alone, old thing. This tainted, foul human ecstasy is all around me, like a dog sniffing at my cunt.

TS’SSK: Take no notice of that, we can go away for a while. We can go to the foothills of Minia Pakma and chase billy goats. We can steal a boat and go sailing between the islands of Beylix. We can go fishing and stay away until the celebrations are over.

LYSSK: Ts’ssk, can’t you hear? Can’t you hear? [PAUSE] I am listening to the one who is about to arrive: my hatred. Daughter, violence, murder, sweetness! What has he done to me, Ts’ssk? I knew only war and madness. He came with his warm body. Soft Flesh is so warm. He had only to enter my mother’s hive and ruin me before all the others with a single kiss. A kiss! Ten years have gone by and Tao Jiu-Di is no longer mine. Have I been dreaming? Am I still Lady Lyssk? Humans love their dogs. Once he said I was like a bitch in heat. I had no idea what he was talking about. I have spent ten years wanting him, letting him do anything he wanted with my legs wide open. He made my desires twisted. He made loving myself shameful. How can such a pleasurable act be seen as dirty? These words burn, they are not even mine. They’re what is expected by a race that divides its people into slaves and masters. They pervert everything they touch. Like cancer. Like plague. I came to him naked and pleased him; pleasured him. How could I help but give him all of my mother’s secrets when he asked for them? How could I help but kill my little sister for him when she confronted us? How could I stop him from turning me into a pretty cutthroat? A rouge? A fool!

TS’SSK [PAUSE]: Pretty?

LYSSK: [SNAPPING] Petty! [HOPELESSLY] I did all I had to do, that is all.

TS’SSK: Is that all?

LYSSK: Yes, I let love ruin me.

TS’SSK: Ah, my hooked vulture. So now you’re blaming all this on love?

LYSSK [HISSING]: Blame? Ruined! Damaged! Fucked over! Lady Nssk, Guardian of the Hive, we all came from you but you made me the only perverse one! The freak! I was the one to fall in love with a monster, a creature so cruel and violent that he stole my heart.

TS’SSK: Why do you talk as if you still don’t understand what you’re dealing with? You fell in love with an alien organism. You call him human and handsome and husband. I call him a devil. There is something perverse about a species designed only to divide and conquer. Yet you act the part of the wounded lover because the cancer won’t be faithful just to one host? And you call me a hissing shell?

LYSSK: You talk and talk! Have you suddenly become a shaman? Does Lady Nssk whisper in your skull? Then tell me this: why wasn’t I made a human instead? I have breasts and a cunt just like the ones he is dancing with right now, yet I am looked at with loathing. Why make me Lingualandicis when we are a dying race? Would not a human Lyssk been just as beautiful? Then Tao Jiu-Di would not be seeking out other beds; then he could touch me without shame.

TS’SSK [FONDLES HER]: But you weren’t born human, were you? You can blame the Soft Flesh all you like, rage at the Goddesses, stomp your feet, hold your breath. What difference does it make? Humanity is just as deluded about the divine as you are about your heart. And yet you rage on. A spitting flame. A joke cast out into the dark. Shadows.

LYSSK: Hold that tongue of yours. I am still Lady Lyssk. Even on the run I am still a queen’s daughter. For ten years I have been running. Ten years! But tonight it is over, Ts’ssk. Tonight I will be the queen that old Lyssk never could.

TS’SSK: Calm yourself, lady.

LYSSK: I am calm, Ts’ssk. I am the fatal silence. Can you not hear how softly I go about on all fours? I am strangling everything inside this shell softly [HISSING] I am mutating with hate.

TS’SSK: Ai! You frighten me. Let us go and spend our days like we once did a long time ago, as lovers and mothers.

LYSSK: I will not go.

TS’SSK: Why not?

LYSSK: I am waiting for my husband.

TS’SSK [LOSING HER COOL]: This is madness! Humans! What are you expecting The apes never sue for peace. They only see the worlds that they conquer in terms of converting the heathens or total annihilation. There is no symmetry in them.

LYSSK: Nor in us! I am a warrior! I am a war queen! I have seen more conflict than you have and you are twice my age. Peace? Peace. I hate the word.

TS’SSK [CURLING UP BACK INTO A BALL]: Easy talk for one so young. But if your Tao Jiu-Di has abandoned you, if he has taken one of his own as a new bride, then what is the Soft Flesh going to do with us now?

LYSSK: Why worry about that? What you should rather be asking is, ‘name the vengeance that we are going to lay at their doorstep?’ Yes! I am frightened too, but not of their harvests or their absent sky-god or their lust to conquer! I am afraid of myself. Tao Jiu-Di, you put my soul to sleep, but now Lady Lyssk is awakening.

TS’SSK: You are amazingly fickle. When I speak bad about your choice in mates you bite off my head —

LYSSK: As if!

TS’SSK: — but suddenly you are filled with the need for revenge? They are going to banish us, Lyssk.

LYSSK: Perhaps they will.

TS’SSK: Where shall we go?

LYSSK: Look around yourself. This desert is large. I am sure there is a cave somewhere I can rule over. Lyssk, Queen of a Hive of one … alone.

TS’SSK [MOANING]: Now we shall have to flee again.

LYSSK: Yes, we shall flee again, hissing shell … after we’re done.

TS’SSK: After we’re done with what?

LYSSK: Must you ask me that?

TS’SSK: What do you want to do, my lady?

LYSSK: What I did for him when I betrayed my mother, when I had to kill my sister. What I did to old Pakma Raka when I tried to make Tao Jiu-Di tyrant of his rotten spice city. What I have done for my husband a thousand times over. Not because I was human but because I loved him.

TS’SSK: Even by our own lax standards, that really wasn’t love. Listen to yourself.

LYSSK: That wasn’t love? I am Lady Lyssk, all alone on an alien planet, a traitor of her hive, condemned, detested! But nothing is too much for me to overcome! [THE GOSPEL MUSIC SUDDENLY GROWS STRONGER IN THE FAR DISTANCE. LYSSK’S VOICE OVERPOWERS IT] Let them sing and dance like puppets! Let them sing wedding songs to a god that never listens! I have schemed and plotted before and it shall be a long night before tomorrow’s wedding. Husband! Tao Jiu-Di! You thought that you knew me, calling me a savage beast to frighten children behind my back. You took me as a virgin; the first out of all my ancestors, out of all my race, to let your queer hardness inside. What were you thinking as you penetrated me? Did you think I was going to turn into the same miserable flesh as you? I followed you in blood-hunger because I loved you, and now I need your blood to say goodbye.

TS’SSK [THROWS HERSELF AGAINST HER]: Lyssk! Bite your tongue! Bury your moans in the bottom of your soul! Bury your hatred! We have passed through darker nights. We shall endure this.

LYSSK: Endure? I told you to seal up my screaming mouth with a kiss and all you do is chide me as if I were still a babe sucking from your pap, your tits, nipples, whatever.

TS’SSK [TRYING TO CALM HER]: You will have your revenge, my little oni. You will revenge yourself, my sweet scavenger. One day you will blind them all with your rage. But not today! We are nothing here. We are only two toothless predators living among appalling sheep. We have fallen so low; even the missionaries’ fat and juicy children throw stones at us. I beg you, love, just for tonight; do not let your blood-hunger rule you.

LYSSK: Just for tonight? Never, tiny mother.

TS’SSK: Capricious!

LYSSK: Coward!

TS’SSK: But what can we do in this unsympathetic world? Tao Jiu-Di is leaving us. What do we have left?

LYSSK: As long as I live I will seek revenge. As long as I live … as long as I live …

TS’SSK: Poor child! Su Xi Xsu is in power and it is only because she permitted it that we are even allowed to stay out in the darkness. Were she to say a word, were she to give her permission, her Imperial Marines would be upon us with their pulse rifles and claymores! They’ve called us a spreading virus. They would kill us.

LYSSK [SOFTLY]: They will kill us, too. But they will find that they’ve come too late.

TS’SSK [THROWING HERSELF AT LYSSK’S CLAWED FEET]: Lyssk, I am old and I don’t want to die! I followed you. I gave up everything for you. I tell you, the universe is still full of good things! There is Alpha Grace Jones that will keep us safe for a thousand years. There are other suns that will warm our faces. I can make you the warm soup that we use to sip at midday. Perhaps we’ll find another hive, somewhere, that won’t care where we came from.

LYSSK [PUSHES HER ASIDE WITH CONTEMPT]: Carcass! This morning I too wanted to live in this sand-choking ghost wind, but now it is no longer a matter of living but where is the best place to die.

TS’SSK [CLINGING TO HER LEGS]: But I want to live!

LYSSK: I know. You want to live. The little thing that everybody wants. I truly must be a demon, the embodiment of something foul and vile since Tao Jiu-Di wants to live, too. That is why he left. Why you will leave.

TS’SSK [HURT]: Why would I leave you?

LYSSK [PETULANT]: Everyone leaves me.

TS’SSK [FINALLY FED UP]: Brat! You no longer love him. You have not loved him for a long time now. You act like no one in all of recorded time has ever suffered like you! You were infatuated with him because he was warm and fit snuggly in your arms as you slept. I’ve seen rag dolls with more dignity. He was the first to tell you that he was unhappy. You know the night I speak of, back when we were on the run and living in caves and he said that he wanted to sleep outside. Not in the cave. Not in your arms. Outside. So why did you let him go when you knew the fickle nature of the Soft Flesh’s heart? Yes, you’ve seen more war than I have but it has brought you no wisdom. Yes, I still call you lady and little queen, but nobody else does. I accepted it was your heart talking when you said you had fallen in love with something so … unnatural! The things you did to your own people all because of that love! One kills for a mate who still desires you, not for a beast you let out of your bed at night. You have thrown away your love on a beast, nothing more!

LYSSK [TAKES HER BY THE SHOULDERS AND LIFTS HER OFF THE GROUND. HISSING]: Take care, dearest Ts’ssk! You know too much. You say too much. I sucked at your nipple all right, and I have put up with your cantankerous moaning for ten years. But it is not from milk that Lyssk has grown. I owe no more to you than I would to the goat I might have suckled from if I had not been born to rule.

TS’SSK: But you do not rule.

LYSSK: You do not listen! You have said too much, you and your carcass. The game that we are playing is not for the likes of you, old and wormy. We both shall die far from home … hated … alone.

[LYSSK THROWS THE TS’SSK TO THE GROUND AND TURNS ON HER HEEL]

TS’SSK [MOANING]: Lady, someone is coming.

[LYSSK TURNS AROUND. SU XI XSU IS BEFORE HER, ACCOMPANIED BY TWO SOLDIERS. SHE CALLS HERSELF A GENERAL BUT SHE IS MORE OF A MINOR WAR LORD ON A MINOR PLANET. IN HER EARLY 60S, GRAY HAIRED, SHE IS HAUNTED BY A LIFE TIME OF KILLING]

SU XI XSU: Are you Lady Lyssk of the Lingualandicis?

LYSSK: I am.

SU XI XSU: I am General Su Xi Xsu of the Imperial Marines, president elect of New Zhanjiang.

LYSSK [IN NO MOOD FOR DIPLOMACY GIVES A MOCK BOW]: Halloo.

SU XI XSU [RAISING AN EYEBROW]: I have heard of your crimes. They say a blood-hungry dragon lives out in the shadows. Mothers tell that to their children to frighten them. I have put up with you for several weeks but now you will go.

LYSSK [TURNING]: Go? Just like that? Like a bad dream?

SU XI XSU: A nightmare? Yes, that would be a good way of describing you. We have no need of nightmares.

LYSSK: General, be careful, my mother is a queen.

SU XI XSU: I have been told all about your mother. Go to her and complain. Somehow I doubt you find too many sympathetic ears.

TS’SSK: Ears?

LYSSK [ARROGANTLY, TAIL WHIPPING BACK AND FORTH]: Fine, I shall leave here because it pleases me. The savage thing in the dark shall not scare anymore of your whelps. I shall return to my mother, but let the one who left me here by the walls of your city take me back.

SU XI XSU: What do you mean?

LYSSK: Give Tao Jiu-Di back to me.

SU XI XSU: What? Lord Tao Jiu-Di is my guest, the son of a king who was my friend when I was young.

LYSSK: My husband was never the child of royalty, if that is what he told you. I should know.

SU XI XSU: He is my guest and he is free to do as he chooses. Do not call him ‘husband’, that is a sacred title used only among the Lord’s children. He might have lain with you, as disgusting as that image is, since you are more like a beast in the field than a woman, but I do not recognize that you are man and wife any more than if he had brought a goat and asked for a wedding blessing.

LYSSK [INDICATING THE DISTANT SOUNDS OF CELEBRATION]: Is that what are they singing and dancing about?

SU XI XSU: Indeed. Tonight they are celebrating my daughter’s betrothal. Tao Jiu-Di will marry Lu Kui-Lei tomorrow.

LYSSK: Long life and long happiness to them both.

SU XI XSU: They have no need of your blessings.

LYSSK: O, why refuse them, General Su Xi Xsu of the Imperial Marines? Invite me to the wedding. Introduce me to Lu Kui-Lei. I can be useful to her. For ten years now I have been Tao Jiu-Di’s mate. I know all of his perverse tastes. I have quite a lot to teach your daughter, who has only known him for ten days and I doubt he has gotten a chance to break her in yet.

SU XI XSU: I am well aware of your crude and lascivious nature and it is to avoid corrupting her that I have decided that you should leave tonight. You and your companion have one hour to cross the border. These men will show you the way.

LYSSK: If I should refuse?

SU XI XSU: The princes of the late Pakma Raka, the man that you murdered in a failed coup d’état, have asked all the governments in the system for your queer, oblong head. If you remain, I will deliver you into their hands.

LYSSK: Pakma Raka commanded a great spice empire. I am told he was a good neighbor. Why would you wait to turn me in?

SU XI XSU [PAUSE]: Lord Tao Jiu-Di asked me to let you go.

LYSSK [GENUINELY SURPRISED]: Generous Tao Jiu-Di! I ought to thank him, don’t you think? Can you imagine those princes torturing me on the very day of your daughter’s wedding? Can you see me bound to a mechanical-ruling singularity, telling everyone who would listen whom I killed their beloved Pakma Raka for? ‘It was for the honored son-in-law of your humble neighbor — the great generalissimo — Lady Su Xi Sxu!’ You take the role of a tyrant very lightly, my dear Soft Flesh. At my mother’s hive I had time to learn that one does not govern by sending away their enemies. Have me killed me at once.

SU XI XSU [HEAVILY]: Yes, I know I should. But I promised to let you go.

LYSSK [RISING TO HER FULL GLORIOUS HEIGHT IN FRONT OF SU XI XSU]: General, lady, female human … you are old. You have been running your wars for a long time. You have seen enough blood-shed and slaughter to curdle any mud and clay soul. You have played enough filthy tricks so that even your missionaries, those pious souls, turn away in disgust. Now look at me and recognize who I am. I am Lyssk. Lady Lyssk, the daughter of Queen Nachkt. My mother had plenty of innocents slaughtered when it was necessary as well. But I tell you my name because we are more similar than you realize, dear bloody sister Su Xi Xsu.

SU XI XSU [LOOKING LYSSK UP AND DOWN, SNIFFS]: Sorry, no. I don’t see it.

LYSSK: We both have the blood of those who judge and who condemn running through us. We are the ones who never have to speculate how all the terrible decisions we make will change everyone around us for generations to come. You are no more a general than I am a queen, Su Xi Xsu. If you want to give Tao Jiu-Di to your daughter, Lu Kui-Lei, for whatever misguided, foolish reason, then have me killed at once. But you also must kill my companion, dear old Ts’ssk, and the children of Tao Jiu-Di as well.

SU XI XSU [ASTONISHED]: You were able to birth human children? Is that even possible?

LYSSK [SNAPPISH]: If you were able to understand my biology then you’d know my children are more like … what is the word that you apes use? Hybrid? Meh. Regardless, the answer is a simple yes. But I am not interested in filling in the holes to your faulty education. What I do want, however, is that you and your raggedy little soldiers kill everything that Lyssk has ever loved.

SU XI XSU: Why do you wish to die so badly?

LYSSK: Why do I want to live? Neither you nor Tao Jiu-Di have anything to gain in having me living and plotting against your blood. You know it as well as I.

SU XI XSU [GESTURES VAGUELY, SAYS IN A DEAD VOICE]: War has drained me of blood. I just wish to do something respectable before I get too old.

LYSSK [HISSING OMINOUSLY]: Then you are too old now! Keep me alive? Letting me go? Let your daughter reign instead, let her do the dirty work as it ought to be done. You can go fuck off, or wank off, or … whatever it is you tyrants do in your free time.

SU XI XSU [STRIDING ANGRILY OVER TO GLARE UP AT LYSSK]: Alien pride! Wretched insult! Watch that clit-tongue of yours. Did you think that I came here to seek your advice?

LYSSK: Why else would you be here? Gloating? My cheery personality? You can try to silence me if you have the balls for it.

SU XI XSU: Why would you even use that metaphor? I thought all Lingualandicis were female.

LYSSK: From your screwy gender-bender way of thinking, I suppose. After all this time I still find the whole concept of ‘masculinity’ bizarrely abominable. But, then again, I’ve always been a sucker for a cute abomination.

SU XI XSU: Be that as it may, I promised Tao Jiu-Di that you would leave unhurt.

LYSSK [GIVES A PURRING LAUGH, FIRST WE’VE HEARD]: Please! Unhurt? How can you even promise me that? Am I a shadow? A memory? An unfortunate mistake? All that Tao Jiu-Di wished for I brought to life! He may think he is conjuring me away so that he can hide himself among your toy soldiers in your toy palace, bury himself in your daughter’s cunt and become an even worse asshole than you when you die. But you and he and she are undone. My husband knows his soul and mine are bound together forever. You don’t possess the dark science to severe that. Drive me away? Why not. Kill me? Please! It will all be the same. In marrying him to your daughter, old woman, you are also making your daughter mine, whether you like it or not. [HISSES] Su Xi Xsu, do what must be done. Exile Tao Jiu-Di as well. You talk about my crimes, but for ten years he has been my coconspirator, my accomplice, my collaborator. His hands are soaked in the same blood as mine, hands which are going to violate your daughter. We are both mothers. You know that I do not speak lightly about such things. Give me Tao Jiu-Di.

SU XI XSU: No. I will see that you go alone.

LYSSK [SOFTLY]: Su Xi Xsu. I do not want to beg you. I cannot. My knees cannot bend, my voice cannot be humble. But you are weak since you could not bring yourself to have me killed. I was not alone when I came to this world. It was for Tao Jiu-Di that I killed Pakma Raka, betrayed my mother, and slaughtered my innocent sister. I did all that I up to be Tao Jiu-Di’s woman.

SU XI XSU: You can’t be his woman, you’re not human! You said that we were similar, sisters in blood. But no, you are wrong. It is true that we both have split more blood than even Hell can endure … but I did it for my people, for my city, for trying to make a better life for my family. You did for a man and now all you do is bad-mouth the very man you say you cannot live without. Pathetic.

LYSSK: If I bad mouth him it is because you and he leave me no other way to state my case. He belongs to me and my crimes belong to him.

SU XI XSU: No! You’re just twisting the truth up in that alien head of yours. Tao Jiu-Di certainly isn’t an innocent in this world, but parted from you and he can be saved. You alone have stained yourself. Tao Jiu-Di is one of us, the son of one of us. He is like any other men, a wild child, perhaps, but now he is a man who thinks as we do. You alone are inhuman, a monstrosity, a stranger here with your stupid head and hatred. Go back to your mother’s hive. I say again, we have no need of nightmares here.

LYSSK [SOFTLY]: What about my daughters? What are they? Lingualandicis? Human?

SU XI XSU: I do not know, and frankly, I don’t care. You will leave them with us. They will grow up in my palace. I promise you they will have my protection.

LYSSK [SOFTLY]: Generosity does not suit very well, Soft Flesh.

SU XI XSU: Enough! Your hour head start has begun. When three rabbit moons are high in the sky nothing will protect you here any longer. My orders have been given.

LYSSK: An hour. [PAUSE] In an hour I will never see my daughters again. I will not be able to raise them properly, not to be able to feed and bathe them. Their mother shall always be a stranger to them. What should I say to them? How can I do this? Exile is nothing compared to this. Su Xi Xsu, you are a mother. How can I do what you ask? Give me until tomorrow. I will stay awake all night watching my girls dream. I will awaken them in the morning as I always do and I will send them to you.

SU XI XSU [LOOKS AT HER FOR A MOMENT IN SILENCE]: Yes. [PAUSE] Yes. [CHUCKLES] You see, I am getting old. I should deny your request. But, Lady Lyssk, I have laid whole planets to waste. I have annihilated entire races with my army. Perhaps, in exchange for a peaceful night for your daughters, the Lord will be kind when it my turn to stand before him.

[SU XI XSU EXITS, FOLLOWED BY HER SOLDIERS]

LYSSK: Perhaps. [WAITS UNTIL THE HUMANS ARE OUT OF SIGHT THEN SPITS ON THE GROUND, HISSING SOFTLY AS THE SOUND OF THE WIND INCREASES] I am laughing at you, Su Xi Xsu! You want to let my daughters sleep because something stirs inside your heart when alone at night? You are old and vain and you have lost your claws. You are a fool if you think making supplications and amends to all the souls of the children that you have murdered, to all the races that you exterminated, to everyone who did not bow down before you and your missionaries and your horrible god will ever help! I am Lyssk! Daughter of Queen Nachkt of the Blue Hive. [SHE HISSES TO THE TS’SSK] Hurry, hissing shell. We shall be gone in an hour.

[CURTAIN, END OF ACT I]