by Nick Mamatas
THE PERSON WHO WAS FOLLOWED AROUND BY MEN IN PIG MASKS:
Selected randomly from the audience. To avoid racist or sexist or other oppressive subconscious decision-making, selection should be made with a random-number generator.
THE MEN IN PIG MASKS:
There are three. To start. Also in suits.
A woman in her thirties, in a business suit and skirt.
We are in a theatre built to replicate in miniature the theatre in which the play is being presented, including its position in the city in which the theatre is located. The stage may be as plain or as ornately decorated as resources allow, so long as on the stage there is a stage that resembles the stage it is on exactly. The MEN IN PIG MASKS select THE PERSON and lead her* onto the stage, and then onto the stage upon the stage. She is handed several index cards to read. THE INTERROGATOR enters, stage left.
INTERROGATOR: Hello. Thanks for coming today. If you could just start by telling me your name, and it would be great if you could spell it out for me.
PERSON: [confused] My real…?
PIGS: [in unison, reciting, spelling any ambiguous names] [PERSON’s surname], comma, [PERSON’s given name].
INTERROGATOR: Thank you. And what brings you here today?
PERSON: The pigs, the men in pig masks who follow me everywhere. They follow everyone everywhere.
INTERROGATOR: [confused] Are they following me? Right now, I mean. You can see men in pig masks behind me, is that right?
The MEN IN PIG MASKS rush over to stand behind THE INTERROGATOR but at the last moment one of them turns back and moves back to his station behind THE PERSON.
PERSON: [confused at first, but then triumphant after looking at index cards with her lines on them] Yes! I do!
INTERROGATOR: When did you start seeing them?
The posture of THE INTERROGATOR changes: she stands ramrod straight, as if being closely scrutinised and afraid of messing up somehow. The two MEN IN PIG MASKS behind her are not physically touching her but are definitely in her ‘space’.
PERSON: During Spring Break, when two very interesting things happened. For class, I had to read The German Ideology, and I went up to a cabin in the woods with my girlfriend at the time, who was into two things: shrooms and kabbalah.
If THE AUDIENCE laughs at this line, the MEN IN PIG MASKS turn to them and gesture angrily for silence. If THE AUDIENCE does not laugh at this line, the MEN IN PIG MASKS pantomime slapping their knees, grabbing their bellies and throwing back their shoulders, and laughing wildly.
PERSON: [suddenly angry] I didn’t really read The German Ideology that weekend. It was fucking Communist bullshit. I didn’t even know what I wanted to major in, but it wasn’t Communist bullshit.
INTERROGATOR: Communist. Bullshit.
PERSON: I’m already being interrogated. What do I have to lose? I’m already haunted.
PERSON holds up the index card from which she has just read, suggesting that she is just following the orders on it.
INTERROGATOR: The haunting, that started when? That same weekend?
PERSON: No, not that weekend. It took a while. At first, I just had this feeling that I was being watched. This was before the World Spring. Everyone was so paranoid about their cell phones, social media, what men thought of them, what women thought of them. And now, of course, here I am.
THE MEN IN PIG MASKS titter visibly, pointing at one another.
INTERROGATOR: [offended] And what is that supposed to mean? You came here of your own free will to be interrogated, to find out the truth.
PERSON: I wanted to know if you were going to be [holds up hand not holding index card, twitches fingers in air-quotes gesture] ‘honest with the working class’, as you promised. Do you see the men in pig masks or not? Has anyone ever come here to talk about the men in pig masks?
THE INTERROGATOR glances at the MAN IN THE PIG MASK on her left, and then the one on her right.
PERSON: C’mon, this isn’t supposed to be a confessional booth. You should be able to tell me.
THE MEN IN PIG MASKS push THE INTERROGATOR forward two steps.
THE INTERROGATOR: [tentative] I’ll answer your question with a question: why do you think you’re seeing men in pig masks? Why do you think other people might be? You mentioned shrooms, and kabbalah. Do you think that’s a common combination? Tell me about the cabin, about your girlfriend.
PERSON: What’s to tell? We did shrooms. We made out. We wandered around outside the cabin, melting frost in our hands to drink fresh water. When we returned to civilization at the end of the week… it had all happened. No more President, no more Congress. When I went back to work, the meetings were twice as long and I wasn’t getting paid anything, but my rent was also zero and I ate dinner in the park with a thousand other people. Half the food was fucking vegan.
All three MEN IN PIG MASKS pantomime wiping sweat from their brows.
THE INTERROGATOR: And kabbalah? Which is supposed to be studied by married Jewish men over the age of forty?
PERSON: I don’t know anything about that… honestly, we broke up two days later. But she did say something. The word is…
PERSON looks down at an index card. Her MAN IN A PIG MASK snatches it away from her, and proffers her another which he withdraws from an interior pocket of his suit jacket.
PERSON: [reading from the card] … ‘egregore’.
THE INTERROGATOR: Do you know what it means?
PERSON: Do you?
THE INTERROGATOR: Of course I do. It’s a collective work of imagination made real through ritual. The Roman Catholic Church is an egregore. The limited liability corporation is an egregore… or was. The Fourth International… well, you need a critical mass, you see, if you want people to believe as they do at Mass. An egregore is an occult concept that some Surrealists used to use as an excuse not to build the party. Capitalism was this amorphous, totalising thing, so the only way to destroy it was to disrupt its ritual by running through the streets in dumb costumes. [sneers] Surrealists were so fucking playful.
PERSON: ‘Were’? What happened to the Surrealists?
THE INTERROGATOR: [with a shrug] They lost, that’s what happened to them.
THE MEN IN PIG MASKS lower their heads, perform the sign of the cross and other prayerful gestures.
PERSON: You think you won everything? There’s no need for anything other than you and the party?
THE INTERROGATOR: I wouldn’t say that, not at all. But I’ll say one thing, and then it’s back to questions: you could have talked to a therapist, or even a rabbi if you knew where to find one. Hell, you could have talked to the people down at the shroom dispensary, if you really wanted to. But you came to me, because you want to be asked the questions that will lead to accurate answers. Final answers.
PERSON: Fine. What do the men in pig masks mean?
THE MEN IN PIG MASKS frantically point at THE PERSON, then at THE INTERROGATOR, obviously upset that THE PERSON has asked a question instead of THE INTERROGATOR.
INTERROGATOR: I ask the questions here. I—
THE PERSON: You’re just going to ask me, ‘What do the men in pig masks mean?’, I know that!
THE MEN IN PIG MASKS get more frantic, tugging on the ears and snouts of their masks, kicking their legs and running in small circles.
THE INTERROGATOR: No. I’m going to ask you…
THE MEN IN PIG MASKS freeze, stock-still.
THE INTERROGATOR: Why do you think they mean anything?
THE PERSON: [frantically shuffling through index cards; she looks at her MEN IN PIG MASKS, but they are still paralyzed] Everything means something, doesn’t it? Isn’t everything explained now? After the revolution?
THE INTERROGATOR: Everything has a cause. A sunset has meaning because we look at it and think, ‘The end of civilisation’ or ‘Heteronormative fantasy’, but it would still have a cause – the revolution of the planet –
THE MEN IN PIG MASKS raise their fists in the air but otherwise re- main in the positions they were in when first paralysed.
THE INTERROGATOR: – whether we apes were around to contrive meaning for it or not. Why do you want the pigs to have meaning? Do you think that would solve the problem of seeing them everywhere?
THE PERSON: Not of me seeing them everywhere? So they are an egregore. We’ve made them. You see them too.
THE MEN IN PIG MASKS rush to stand behind THE PERSON, peering at her closely, pointing to her index cards, taking some of them out of her hands, and shuffling and dealing them like cards before returning to her a new ‘hand’.
THE INTERROGATOR: What did it mean to be a pig in the before-times, when people were cruelly unfair to pigs? Cops, the greedy and gluttonous, the nasty and objectifying.
THE PERSON: Nothing like actual pigs.
THE INTERROGATOR: Remember the old days, before our ‘Communist Bullshit’ took over, little comrade?
THE MEN IN PIG MASKS brush off their suits, straighten their neckties.
THE INTERROGATOR: Ever try to do something – anything? Volunteer work? A fucking deadline at your job? A little neighbourhood project?
THE MEN IN PIG MASKS nod enthusiastically, while THE PERSON just looks stunned.
THE INTERROGATOR: And wasn’t there always a pig standing right over your shoulder? Someone whose every action and comment hid, just barely, a single question?
THE PERSON: The question…
THE MEN IN PIG MASKS start oinking loudly.
THE INTERROGATOR: [raises her hands into a shrug, adopts a deep, snorting voice] ‘What’s in it for me?’ You stuff the envelopes, I’ll talk to the media. You cook the food for the dinner party, I’ll make sure to sit next to the mayor. Can’t we arrange everything so the benefits accrue to me while the work goes to you?
THE MEN IN PIG MASKS want to know and gesture accordingly.
THE INTERROGATOR: They infested the world, once.
PERSON: [snorting] Once! Is that what hashtag-full-communism is? Getting rid of minor-league assholes?
THE INTERROGATOR: [pointedly] You think we got rid of all of them? You think we even can?
THE MEN IN PIG MASKS snort in glee.
THE INTERROGATOR: That’s what an egregore is. Resentment lubricates all machines. We have to ask ourselves What’s in it for us? Just as much as any capitalist pig does.
INTERROGATOR: [makes air quotes] ‘Communist bullshit’, that’s why. People like you. Nascent counter-revolutionaries. Wreckers. Occultist weirdos.
THE MEN IN PIG MASKS move to the stage upon the stage and begin taking it apart, dismantling it with tools from their jacket pockets if necessary.
PERSON: You’re the fucking wrecker! You did this to me! Do you know what it’s like? I catch glimpses of them in any reflective surface. I can’t even make toast without jumping out of my skin. When I fall asleep at night, I hear someone else breathing next to me, inhaling through a rumbling snout. I rehearse con- versations in my head, and see them peering at me like they can hear my thoughts. When I read an email, there’s an undercurrent of oinking and squealing. It never fucking stops.
THE INTERROGATOR: It’s an atavism. An artifact of capitalism.
THE MEN IN PIG MASKS exit the stage.
THE INTERROGATOR: If you’re seeing them now, it has more to do with the counter-revolutionaries… the fear of the gains of April being rolled back. What were you thinking and feeling in the old days, before your little trip to a cabin in the woods?
THE PERSON: I’ve always been anxious –
THE INTERROGATOR: [interrupting] You mean you’ve always had anxiety.
THE MEN IN PIG MASKS appear in the aisles, holding large plastic trash bags. In the bags are PIG MASKS which they hand out to members of the AUDIENCE. If AUDIENCE MEMBERS do not comply with the placing of PIG MASKS on their heads, two of the MEN IN PIG MASKS will draw real, working, and loaded handguns to impel cooperation. There should be sufficient PIG MASKS for ten per cent of the paid audience, not including comps, press, and radio-station giveaways.
THE PERSON: But they didn’t become real until after the revolution. It has to be because of the revolution! All that old stuff’s bogeymen now… ghost stories designed to keep kids from messing around with capital accumulation. The revolution’s an egregore too.
THE INTERROGATOR: Only when it fails. To the barricades, then back to lick our wounds. But we won. The revolution’s no longer a process: it was a single act, now complete.
LOUD NOISES erupt from the AISLES as the MEN IN PIG MASKS hoist AXES and start taking down the walls and seats of the theatre in the same order that they disassembled the model theatre on the stage.
THE INTERROGATOR: And the men in pig masks. Why are you the only one who can see them…?
THE PERSON: I can’t be the only person who can see them!
THE INTERROGATOR: Other people may or may not see them; they’ve never been recorded, never been picked up on audio. Everyone still has smartphones, even if Apple and Google have been collectivised. [pause for a beat] Fuck, we have better smartphones: no more withholding features for two years to keep prices high; no more cancer clusters in the workspaces… except for in the clean rooms the dispossessed former shareholders work in. If anyone’s dreaming of men in pig masks, it’s them.
The TEN PERCENTERS join in the destruction of the theatre, though to keep them from COUNTER-REVOLUTIONARY ACTIVITY, they are not outfitted with any hatchets and are instead encouraged to use their hands and feet to smash apart the chairs in which they sit. BLUNT OBJECTS such as potted plants, folding chairs, velvet rope posts, lighting equipment, and other HEAVY ITEMS not nailed down are to be repurposed as IMPROMPTU BLUDGEONS AND RAMS.
THE INTERROGATOR: As nostalgia. As liberators. As avenging angels. So my question to you is why are you seeing them?
THE PERSON: [down to her last index card] …I’m fucking looking for them!
THE EXTERIOR WALL of THE THEATRE collapses and the MEN IN PIG MASKS lead the TEN PERCENTERS out into the STREETS. There the TEN PERCENTERS scatter and follow any PEDESTRIAN TRAFFIC they find interesting for a length of time. When the TEN PERCENTERS tire of the role, they individually remove their new PIG MASKS. Some of them will find inside an EMAIL ADDRESS and PHONE NUMBER with which they can contact a WORLDWIDE SUPPORT NETWORK which exists to provide further training and BESPOKE BUSINESS SUITS should they wish to continue volunteer efforts as MEN IN PIG MASKS.
One of the TEN PERCENTERS decides to go home and explain his or her experiences on SOCIAL MEDIA in whatever form it exists dur- ing the era of the play’s performance. Some weeks later, THE PERSON reads the report and truthfully claims via whatever mechanism makes the MEDIUM SOCIAL, to have been a major part of the particular performance being described.
She fields a number of questions about what it is like to experience visions of THE MEN IN PIG MASKS, but of course she does not really know. Except in such cases as she does.
* This is not to be taken as a dramaturgical suggestion that a woman-identified person should be selected for the role.