ACT ONE / SCENE ONE

A prayer room. A low altar situated back-stage. A framed photograph of a woman in a white nun’s attire sits center on the altar, surrounded by flowers and candles.

Kneeling beside the altar is CAI (20), the daughter of the woman pictured. Her long braid of dark hair peaks out from beneath the hood of her white cape; beneath the cape, she is dressed in a white spandex bodysuit. Her feet are bare.*

*Note: All characters are barefoot throughout the entirety of the play.

Cai’s hands are clasped in front of her face. Eyes closed, she is praying.
CAI
Mother, what is my purpose? I have always looked to you, to your life, for the answer to that. But I’m starting to think that maybe I don’t know who you are or what your life was. I see you in my features, I see you in the photograph. But can you know your own mother from the DNA in you and from pictures of moments that no longer exist? You’re dead and I’m told, I’m told you were a nun. Your sacred duty evolved to become impregnated with me, and I wonder - I know you knew that I was God’s child, not your child, that you were simply carrying me to be born into this world for His purpose. But I wonder if, if, at any point you wanted to run away? And keep me? I wonder if, if, when you were pregnant with me, if you thought about the fact that you were giving birth to someone who would be trained to kill for God. I wonder if you didn’t want that, sometimes? I enjoy what I do, I do, I don’t mean to say that I don’t because I love Him. And I suppose that is my purpose, isn’t it?
Beat.
CAI
But, I wonder if, when you were giving birth to me, and you saw me - they tell me you lived for three hours after my birth - I wonder if you thought that there was more to your purpose here than to serve Him. If I don’t know you, really know you, through pictures and words and my DNA, how can I know God? I have even less of him in me than I have of you. I know that my purpose is God, but that purpose sometimes… sometimes, it seems empty.
CAPTAIN WRATH (24), a young man dressed in black slacks and a black long-sleeve, enters stage-left. He is carrying a small parcel wrapped in plain brown paper.
WRATH
Happy birthday.
Without looking up or opening her eyes, Cai speaks.
CAI
Don’t say that.

WRATH
Cai, you’ve done this every year, twenty years now. Isn’t that enough?

CAI
It’s a kind of Hell, Wrath, to celebrate your birth and your mother’s death on the same day.

WRATH
Still. This is the last year you can celebrate your birthday with your family.

CAI
Don’t talk to me about family. Family’s supposed to love you unconditionally.

WRATH
We love you even though you were born a woman.

CAI
I just want a friend, Wrath.

WRATH
I care about you very much.

CAI
A real friend, not you or Temperance or the father who is my father but is also everybody’s father so he isn’t really my father at all.

WRATH
Women out there, they’re not just slaves. They’re treated like slaves. I’ve always been there for you, haven’t I?

CAI
Of course
Wrath approaches Cai, hugging her.
WRATH
Then let me be there for you
Cai doesn’t hug him back, her hands hanging limp at her sides.
CAI
I’d like it if someone liked me for who I am

WRATH
Don’t I?
Cai pushes Wrath away. Wrath holds out the parcel to Cai.
WRATH
At least take this

CAI
What is it?

WRATH
It was your mother’s
Cai rips open the parcel without hesitation. Within, she finds a small, worn book.
CAI
Books are forbidden

WRATH
Yes
ATTENDANT TEMPERANCE (25) walks on stage. She is dressed in a white nun’s habit; she walks with a delicate grace, she is elfine pretty (Audrey Hephburn in A Nun’s Story).

She is shepherding along a bound and blindfolded girl, PRISONER 9461Q (18). The prisoner is small for her age; she has short hair and is dressed in a bloodied nightgown.

Frantic, Cai drops the book and kicks it beneath the altar, obscuring it from view.
TEMPERANCE
Cai, were you praying again?

CAI
I was before Wrath interrupted me

TEMPERANCE
You know how upset The Voice gets when you do stuff like this

CAI
I wouldn’t know, no, do you see him?

TEMPERANCE
He’s our leader first, your father second

WRATH
Who’s that?

TEMPERANCE
Cai’s birthday present

CAI
What’s her name?

WRATH
Who ordered this?

TEMPERANCE
The Voice, of course, everything goes through him.

WRATH
Why her? Why a prisoner?

CAI
Because she’s like me.

WRATH
No

TEMPERANCE
She is a woman, but she isn’t like you Cai

CAI
She has to kill, like me. She’s born a slave, like me.

TEMPERANCE
Yes, that is what The Voice said as well. I don’t understand it. This desire to surround yourself with people “like you” for companionship. Aren’t we enough? (pause) Still, here she is.
WRATH
A prisoner. Straight from the prisons. You weren’t born or ever kept in an iron cell, Cai.
Cai approaches Prisoner 9461Q. She takes off the prisoner’s blindfold and tugs at the fabric tying back the prisoner’s hands.
CAI
She’s perfect

TEMPERANCE
The Voice will be pleased, then.

CAI
And I don’t mean to - Temperance, I don’t mean to offend you. You know you are like a sister to me.
Cai and Temperance hold hands.
TEMPERANCE
And you to me. You know I was there

CAI
(finishing Temperance’s words)
When my mother gave birth to me, yes yes I know. Anyways, (towards the prisoner) you -- you’re awfully silent, aren’t you?

TEMPERANCE
She doesn’t speak much.

WRATH
She probably speaks plenty. At least the cells taught her one good thing.

CAI
(to the prisoner)
The cells weren’t kind to you, were they?

TEMPERANCE
They’re not that bad. She was only there for a couple of days, anyways.

CAI
Are you hungry?

WRATH
The better question is when is the last time she bathed?

CAI
Wrath, you’re not endearing yourself to anyone right now.

TEMPERANCE
The baths have already been set up in the bathing quarters. Her first kill is tomorrow anyway, and you both need to be cleansed before the execution.
END OF ACT ONE / SCENE ONE

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