The Stranger Sentence

A man sits at a table in a dark room with only a single lamp overhead. He leans forward with his half-clenched fists raised to his mouth as if biting his nails. He has been here for some time. He taps his heels on the ground. A woman walks in carrying a tape recorder which she sets down on the table. She is a rather typical academic looking type, in particular, a battered old clipboard and a pair of black rimmed glasses. Before she has even made to the table, he speaks...

STRANGER:      I have a problem concerning my immortal soul.

PROFESSOR:    Really?

STRANGER:      Yes.

PROFESSOR:    Go on...

STRANGER:      It appears to be frozen. I would like to melt it.

PROFESSOR:    Right.

STRANGER:      You think I’m insane don’t you?

PROFESSOR:    Well... er... I wouldn’t...

STRANGER:      I am well aware that you are paid very handsomely to always appear accepting of the lunatic things you hear. But let’s be honest, ninety percent of the people you talk to actually are insane and you know it, but like the good human being that you are, you keep on pretending. Charming really.

PROFESSOR:    Well... That’s very... Nice? Of you to say so. I Think. So when did you start to think you’re soul might be frozen?

STRANGER:      Ah, you skipped the need for a rational explanation and went straight for good humour, I’m honoured.

She sits directly opposite him


STRANGER:      You wouldn’t believe me.

PROFESOR:      Ok, we’ll skip that for now. What is a frozen soul?

STRANGER:      It’s not exactly a question you can answer with a word

PROFESSOR:    Try me

STRANGER:      It’s a heart of ice, A tin chest, A hollow shell, A lifeless place, a city for the damned, an empty hole, a lost boy, A place of darkness, a world without heroes or villains, a dead place that lives and a bunch of other cool sounding phrases that mean absolutely nothing. Shall I go on or are you bored?

PROFESSOR:    I’m not going anywhere.

She hits a button on the tape recorder

PROFESSOR:    So when did you decide your soul was frozen?

STRANGER:      When I was twenty four years, twenty four months, twenty four days, twenty four hours and twenty four seconds old.

She takes a moment to calculate this

PROFESSOR:    So Twenty six then?

STRANGER:      Isn’t it great how the facts can be altered to fit the views?

PROFESSOR:    True, but a bit waffley don’t you think?

STRANGER:      Indubitably to the point of a one hundred percent accuracy

She raises an eyebrow, bemused but curious

STRANGER:      Means yes

PROFESSOR:    I know what it means, so then, you’re twenty six. Do carry on.

STRANGER:      I was twenty six

PROFESSOR:    My apologies.

She hits the pause button on the recorder

PROFESSOR:    Before we continue, let me make it abundantly clear that I am not a fool so do not treat me as such.

STRANGER:      That’s from Dr. No

PROFESSOR:    (Containing herself) the point is... Don’t think you can use needlessly florid language in an attempt to confuse and disorientate me or you will get absolutely nothing from this session are we clear?

A beat

STRANGER:      I like you. I think.

PROFESSOR:    Thank you. Please continue

She switches the recorder back on

STRANGER:      have you ever been in a situation where your heart wanted to do something but your head prevented you from acting?

PROFESSOR:    That’s from Back to the Future

STRANGER:      It’s a paraphrase but it makes a point, have you?

PROFESSOR:    I’m sure we all have at some point...

STRANGER:      Exactly! Some point. Imagine if that’s how you were all the time. Always thinking, never acting, well, incapable of acting really

PROFESSOR:    We have those already, they’re called males

STRANGER:      You really didn’t strike me as the female chauvinist type

PROFESSOR:    I’m not. I accept as a fact that there are things that men, generally speaking, are better at than women. Talking about their feelings however, is not one of them.

STRANGER:      Does it bug you?


STRANGER:      I mean really, does it get under your skin


STRANGER:      Really?

The Professor is starting to get agitated

PROFESSOR:    Yes! Where are you going with this?

STRANGER:      Nowhere, just felt like bugging you

PROFESSOR:    any reason

STRANGER:      No just wanted to see what it would look like

PROFESSOR:    May we continue?

STRANGER:      I didn’t realise we’d stopped. (A momentary pause) it’s like I was saying, imagine being that detached from the world

PROFESSOR:    You couldn’t exist

STRANGER:      That was a swift conclusion, why do you think that?

PROFESSOR:    well it’s logical

STRANGER:      Logic only enables one to be wrong with authority. That’s from Doctor Who. How is it logical?

PROFESSOR:    Well, if a person is completely cold and unemotional then they would never be able to live in the world as we know it, they wouldn’t react to a situation good or bad, they wouldn’t be employed by anyone because they’d have no passion for the job, they couldn’t form relationships with people, they wouldn’t be able to enjoy things, hate things, they’d never get annoyed, they wouldn’t be motivated by anything. They’d go insane.

STRANGER:      That’s a good theory. It’s completely wrong of course, but hats off to you for trying.

PROFESSOR:    Wrong! That’s your opinion. You have a better theory?

STRANGER:      I have the fact. Logically you’re entirely correct.

PROFESSOR:    I’m going to regret asking this...

STRANGER:      No need.

PROFESSOR:    How can you possibly possess any facts for something so subjective?

STRANGER:      I can’t tell you that yet

PROFESSOR:    Well when you feel free to let me know...

STRANGER:      See... you’re getting emotional, wanting the answers immediately even though in your profession you know that quick and easy answers are not always in everyone’s best interest.

She suddenly becomes cold and very professional

PROFESSOR:    I would like to hear your ‘fact’

STRANGER:      Most of what you said is true, but shall I tell you where it falls down flat? (A beat) How exactly does an emotionless person ‘go insane’?

PROFESSOR:    Well... I didn’t mean literally...

STRANGER:      What did you mean?

PROFESSOR:    Well you know...

STRANGER:      No I don’t. Explain. (She does not have an answer) Logically speaking, they couldn’t go insane as they would be unable to experience the kind of trauma that one usually experiences before going mad. You said they couldn’t exist but that isn’t right. They could exist very easily. They just couldn’t live. Let’s just say for the sake of argument that you’re right, how you think they might behave when presented with the circumstances you described.

PROFESSOR:    Well presumably they would just sit there not reacting

STRANGER:      How about if they didn’t? Hypothetically, a child is injured near death, and someone asks our hypothetical man, let’s call him Frank, for help, what does he do?

PROFESSOR:    He doesn’t help

STRANGER:      why not?

PROFESSOR:    He’d have no reason, no compulsion

STRANGER:      He would also have no reason not to.  He’s not in a hurry. He doesn’t want to be anywhere else because want is something he cannot feel. He’s certainly not worried about missing Richard and Judy...

PROFESSOR:    You like Richard and Judy

STRANGER:      If I’m in, so what does he do?

PROFESSOR:    He does what he believes is right...

STRANGER:      Is that the right word? Frank may not be able empathise but he can identify. He realises that upset is not good and does what he can to make it ‘right’.

PROFESSOR:    Aha! How does he do that? How does he comprehend these bad feelings let alone understand if he himself has never felt them?

STRANGER:      He’s not a robot. This is a human being we’re talking about that while not behaving like a human still thinks like one. He has all the knowledge we have but lacks the involvement

PROFESSOR:    So what you’re saying is that someone so cut off would always be objective and always act in the best interest of everyone?

STRANGER:      In a way

PROFESSOR:    But that doesn’t work. It’s like you said, the reverse is also true. Okay, so Frank may not go robbing banks because there is no personal or right reason to do it. But what if Frank was asked very nicely to carry out the actions of a killer?

STRANGER:      He’d have no reason to kill

PROFESSOR:    He’d have no conscience to stop if a very good argument was put to him

STRANGER:      It would have to be pretty darn convincing

PROFESSOR:    What if it was? ‘Kill this person and x-amount of people will live’ for example

STRANGER:      Then he’s acting in the interests of a greater good

PROFESSOR:    Is it not worth looking for another way? One life is still worth saving

STRANGER:      And I daresay that Frank would think about that and act accordingly.

PROFESSOR:    And if there was no other way? (STRANGER says nothing in answer to this) Don’t you think that’s wrong? That someone can kill without remorse?

STRANGER:      Considering that he would only kill if there was no other way to save many other people do we really have the right to torture him for it. He could save those lives and move on without guilt, and its only human nature to want to be guilt free.

PROFESSOR:    Okay, I don’t think its right but I’ll meet you half way on this, so let’s take it down a notch. Say it’s not to save hundreds. Say it’s between just two people. Which one does frank pick?

STRANGER:      What are the circumstances?

PROFESSOR:    How about, a man and a woman, the man is head of a huge corporation and has a wife but no children and the woman works in an office and has plenty of relatives. And she’s pregnant.

STRANGER:      Why is she pregnant?

PROFESSOR:    It’s my Hypothetical, you wanna play or not?

STRANGER:      Ok. What’s the corporation?

PROFESSOR:    does it matter?

STRANGER:      Yes. If it’s an evil corporation then the question is simple

PROFESSOR:    Don’t you mean the answer?

STRANGER:      No the question. If he’s a weapons manufacturer, the question is ‘Do you kill a weapons dealer to save a pregnant office lady?’

PROFESSOR:    And that’s hard?

STRANGER:      We’d like to think the world would be better off if we could get rid of all weapons but we’re wrong. You’ll find that some evils are very necessary

PROFESSOR:    I don’t believe that

STRANGER:      Good for you.  Would you mind if I answered that later?

PROFESSOR:    Not at all

STRANGER:      You’re very lucky you know


STRANGER:      Yes. You believe in something

PROFESSOR:    Actually I said I didn’t believe in something

STRANGER:      But you do believe there’s a better way. You must, otherwise what’s the point in not believing.

PROFESSOR:    Actually I’m an agnostic

STRANGER:      Thank goodness for that I thought you might say you were an atheist

PROFESSOR:    Do atheists offend you?

STRANGER:      Not one bit. I actually admire them.

PROFESSOR:    Really? That’s a sentence I never thought I’d here from a religious man

STRANGER:      I didn’t say I was religious

PROFESSOR:    You implied it

STRANGER:      There’s a difference between believing and knowing

PROFESSOR:    What does that mean?

STRANGER:      What it says

PROFESSOR:    I’ve known you for minutes and already I realise that you don’t say anything without meaning something completely different

STRANGER:      Touché.   I guess I’m just glad of the fact there are at least a few people in the world who are taking credit slash responsibility for their own actions. Let’s face it some of the crappiest things in history have been done in the name of religion...

PROFESSOR:    Touch of anti-Semitism there?

STRANGER:      No. I’m not blaming the religion. I’m blaming the individuals who think they have the right to pervert it into something it should not be. And that’s feared.

PROFESSOR:    Is that what you ‘know’?

STRANGER:      Oh come on. Are you seriously telling me that you don’t tense up – just for a second – every time you’re on the tube, or whatever you travel on, and a Muslim with a bag gets on?

PROFESSOR:    I also tense up when I see a shifty looking white male get on a train with a bag.

STRANGER:      It’s great that you’re not denying it. But in the latter case you’re making the decision based on how the guy looks, in the former your basing it on the man’s faith. (A beat) Terrorists are funny bunch aren’t they?

PROFESSOR:    (Perturbed) Oh yes. Hilarious

STRANGER:      Well quite often they have a very good point

PROFESSOR:    (slightly angry) Care to explain that

STRANGER:      Well usually they are motivated by a desire to stop something unjust and terrible and they figure that the only way they can do this is by making a terrible spectacle to force something good into being.

PROFESSOR:    Yes, but it does not say in the Koran or any other holy book ‘Go fourth and mutilate!’

STRANGER:      (Ignoring this comment) In fact if you think about it, If the world is a parent then terrorist are like the small child throwing a tantrum. Never does anyone actually listen to what they’re shouting about. You ask someone on the street what the London bombings were about and they’ll probably say ‘ooh, something religious I s’pose, bunch o’ Bastards’ all they do is give their religion a bad name and become the very thing that they’re speaking out against. You never see the headline ‘Railway bombed by Atheist separatists!’

A long pause

PROFESSOR:    How do you think ‘Frank’ would react to all this?

STRANGER:      What you’re asking me there is whether or not religion is an emotional experience or one that a person is brought up to accept as fact. May I ask why you’re agnostic?

PROFESSOR:    I don’t see enough evidence on either side.

STRANGER:      Good answer

PROFESSOR:    In a Church of England school R.E. is taught more like history and I’ve grown up in this cynical age where everyone around me, especially my friends and television, have constantly told me its nonsense.

STRANGER:      Not books?


STRANGER:      You said friends and television, but not books

PROFESSOR:    Information from a book can be controlled, Friends and TV can’t.

STRANGER:      You see power in books.

PROFESSOR:    Oh yes.

STRANGER:      And you choose not to read atheist opinion?

PROFESSOR:    Not consciously

STRANGER:      How do you feel about that?

PROFESSOR:    Part of me thinks how can they be so damned arrogant, assuming that there is nothing beyond the purely physical, that we are all there is, and then I think believing in something that has remained unproven for 2000 years is as ridiculous as believing in Father Christmas or anything else that over the centuries has been long disproven.

STRANGER:      It isn’t a matter of believing in God you know. I like to equate it to simply believing in what is right.

PROFESSOR:    But how do we define what is ‘right’?

STRANGER:      Take Jesus, A chap who lived 2000 years ago who for saying he was the son of God was subjected the most unbearable torture ever experienced by a human being

PROFESSOR:    We’ve all seen Passion of the Christ

STRANGER:      They didn’t even scratch the surface. If someone claimed what he did today, one of two things would happen one: complete dismissal, or two: Institution. Not one person would listen, even though the message is pure, simple and sound

PROFESSOR:    Which is?

STRANGER:      Don’t be a twat.

PROFESSOR:    You think Jesus went through all that just so people would be less twatty?

STRANGER:      Why not? Ever seen Life of Brian?

PROFESSOR:    Several times

STRANGER:      Well real life is more ridiculous, absurd, unbelievable and far more hilarious then anything the greatest comedy genius could write.

PROFESSOR:    Are you trying to tell me that Monty Python had a better handle on the bible than theologians?

STRANGER:      Not quite, work with me here. You read about actors and musicians in the papers all the time doing stupid things that would get Joe public in prison, and yet they are applauded and idolised for it. And they get away with it because for some reason, we love it, why? And why do they do it? Why do they feel the need when they have everything they want? They do it because they can. They start to believe their own publicity. And they know they can get away with things.  Now imagine Jesus, the biggest celebrity of all time, Imagine that he starts to believe his own publicity. Which basically says he is the messiah who can and should do no wrong, whose basic purpose in life is to tell everyone to not be jerks? Does it really matter why he does it? Does it matter where he came from or what he is? Does it matter if a great lie brings great joy?

PROFESSOR:    But aren’t you rather conveniently forgetting all the crummy things done in his name?

STRANGER:      Well that takes us back to the terrorist doesn’t it?

They both contemplate this for a moment.

STRANGER:      So what else makes you think that maybe the atheists are onto something?

PROFESSOR:    Well, I wouldn’t say ‘onto something’ exactly...

STRANGER:      Put yourself in their place for a moment, what sways you?

PROFESSOR:    Well you can’t deny that the bible is full of contradictions

STRANGER:      That’s true, but why do you think that is?

PROFESSOR:    Well logically speaking the book was written over hundreds of years by lots of different people, all of which, and I’m open to correction, were men.

STRANGER:      Exactly. Pompous, self-opinionated, holier than thou, me man me make fire, men!

PROFESSOR:    Isn’t that rather subjective and pure stereotypical speculation?

STRANGER:      Usually, but there’s a very particular word there that you should really have paid attention too


STRANGER:      Very funny. Now answer properly

PROFESSOR:    Opinionated, I’m with you

STRANGER:      Exactly. They all put their own spin on it; all presumably with the best intentions and look what we got

PROFESSOR:    It’s not that surprising. Ninety percent of histories screw-ups have been caused by people ‘meaning well’

STRANGER:      You believe that don’t you?

PROFESSOR:    We’re getting off topic, they do have a point, it’s full of all these examples of how to live your life and doesn’t stick to any of them

STRANGER:      Of course it doesn’t, because that’s not life, life is change, change is nature

PROFESSOR:    Great now you’re quoting pixar at me!

STRANGER:      Children are the most intelligent audience

PROFESSOR:    Mmm, don’t know that one

STRANGER:      That was me

PROFESSOR:    Like it.

STRANGER:      Thank you but the point is that sitting there in that book is not a set of rules and regulations of how to be good. Are you the same person now you were ten years ago? Are you even the same person you were ten months ago? Of course you’re not. Because your life has been a string of contradictory actions that have lead you to this

PROFESSOR:    Stuck in a room with a man who as each moment passes I become more and more convinced is mad, talking about religion, humanity and terrorism inter-spliced with various, and oh-so-many ‘witty’ pop cultural references?

STRANGER:      You think I’m mad because I can discuss this objectively?

PROFESSOR:    What are you talking about? You haven’t shut up! You haven’t stop spouting your beliefs since I came in.

STRANGER:      I didn’t say I believed any of it. But you thought I did, you believed that I believed in what I was saying, simply because I did it with such clarity

PROFESSOR:    Wait, wait, wait, you don’t believe this?

STRANGER:      Unsettling isn’t it. To think that if it can be that simple then maybe it’s just possible that it’s all true. Or not. Pick one. It’s not easy but it is simple.

PROFESSOR:    Oh God not another one, you’re giving me House now. Christ is there anything you haven’t watched?

STRANGER:      Lord of the Rings.

PROFESSOR:    (Irritated) What?!

STRANGER:      Did not care to see it. Looked rubbish. Overlong, overblown. Could have resolved itself in twelve minutes. Did not like the look of it at all. (For a moment it almost seems like the Professor will explode with rage) I’m just messing, it’s a masterpiece. Or is it? You can’t tell because I claimed both opinions with such definite-ness

PROFESSOR:    That’s not even a word!

STRANGER:      It will be if enough people write it in txt form!

PROFESSOR:    Don’t get me started on text messages. (As the Professor simmers down she actually seems amused by the whole conversation. Stranger sits there as stoned faced as always) Ok. The big question. Does Frank believe in God? Or anything. Let’s not forget that you still haven’t answered my question

STRANGER:      Who would he kill? One thing at a time. I suppose you’d have to decide if faith was a purely emotionally, or if one came to those conclusions through experience alone. And then you have to decide if a decision based purely on fact is any more valid than one based on passion. Does Frank’s objectivity make him more right?

PROFESOR:      You tell me.

For once, Stranger actually seems stumped

STRANGER:      What would Frank say to an atheist?

PROFESSOR:    First he’d ask why they didn’t believe

STRANGER:      Would he

PROFESSOR:    Yes... No! Wait, (She has a moment of crystal clarity, and everything just seems to fall into place) rather than ask why they didn’t believe he would ask why they only believe in the physical

STRANGER:      Why?

PROFESSOR:    Because he wouldn’t need to know why they didn’t believe, but more why they were so certain of the other...

STRANGER:      Because a mind as clear as Frank’s...

PROFESSOR:    ...could figure the rest out for himself

STRANGER:      Right! Someone else’s point of view to him is as clear as glass. And what might they say?

PROFESSOR:    I don’t know

STRANGER:      Because you believe in something. You said that ninety percent of the world’s problems were caused by well-meaners. And you don’t just think that, you really believe it because your humanity won’t allow you to believe anything else, you have to believe that everyone means well otherwise its meaningless, the toil that people go through, is all for a greater good. And you have to believe that. If you think the bible is contradictory take a look at the world outside; Goths, Emos, Gays, Straights, Lesbians, rockers, moshers, poppers, druggers, druggies, beardies, weirdies, goblins and boglins! The only group of people we don’t tolerate these days is Nazis!

PROFESSOR:    Are you saying that after 2000 years we’ve finally reached ‘Enlightenment’?

STRANGER:      World’s not all bad, that’s all I’m saying

PROFESSOR:    So when the atheist tells Frank why they only believe in the physical, what does he say?

STRANGER:      He doesn’t accept it

PROFESSOR:    You didn’t tell me what they said

STRANGER:      I don’t need to

PROFESSOR:    Do you even know?

STRANGER:      I don’t need to

PROFESSOR:    Why not?

STRANGER:      Because what they say doesn’t matter. In response Frank says...

Stranger leans forward, as if he is not just talking to the Professor, but anyone who might be listening.

STRANGER:      You can never be right. If you are, then when we die we become the Earth. There is no soul to speak of, we flitter out of existence as easily as we came into it, and we cease to be. Who can you tell? No one. No one will exist to be told. You achieve the impossible, you prove there are no Gods and no after-life, and there’s no one to tell. But If you’re wrong, and long after death we all live on in our personal heavens or some other form, then at least then it can be proved that there is life after death in one world if not his one. If you’re right, it won’t matter. In any case, who’s to say that our body’s becoming the Earth isn’t exactly what God intended?

PROFESSOR:    But who’s to say it is?

STRANGER:      And the argument goes on. But whichever way you look at it, either the believers win, or no one does.

The Professor takes a moment and composes herself, realising that, amidst all the theorising and pop culture referencing, things have gone drastically off topic. She steers the conversation back to where it began.

PROFESSOR:    When we started this, you claimed that your soul was ‘frozen’

STRANGER:      Yes

PROFESSOR:    Well I’ve listened to you, and in this short time I do feel like I’ve gotten to know you quite well, so I want you to tell me, what did you mean?

STRANGER:      What do you think I meant?

PROFESSOR:    No, no, no. You don’t get to do that now. I’ve let you have the upper hand; I’ve let you ‘play me’ if you like. But now it’s my turn.

STRANGER:      This hardly seems like professional behaviour. Can it be that I have touched a nerve?

PROFESSOR:    No comment

STRANGER:      I don’t really care one way or the other. Maybe I did play you. But I couldn’t tell you if I did, because I honestly don’t know.

PROFESOR:      Oh come on, you were lapping it up

STRANGER:      Is that how it looked? That’s interesting, probably. Break it down for me.

PROFESSOR:    Ok. What is a soul?

STRANGER:      The immortal part of us, the part of us that cannot be broken, the part of us that gives us conscience, the part of us that makes us good.

PROFESSOR:    Then how do you explain bad people?

STRANGER:      Because the reverse is also true. In short it makes us who we are.

PROFESSOR:    And how would you describe frozen

STRANGER:      Something forever trapped in one moment. How it was is how it will stay until that moment is allowed to pass

PROFESSOR:    So one presumes that a frozen soul is...

STRANGER:      Someone kept in one single moment for eternity. What they were feeling at that time is how they will remain.

PROFESSOR:    And when you were ‘frozen’ what were you feeling?

STRANGER:      Nothing

PROFESSOR:    That can’t be true, it’s impossible for a human being to literally feel nothing

STRANGER:      For a long period of time yes, but you must remember I was caught in a moment, one second in my entire life when I was completely empty.

PROFESSOR:    Why were you empty?

STRANGER:      I had lost everything and was about to be condemned

PROFESSOR:    Most people would be afraid or sad or angry

STRANGER:      And I was. Except for that moment, that one second when he devised a punishment so perfect for what I had done.

PROFESSOR:    My instinct is to ask you what that was but I really don’t think you’ll answer

STRANGER:      That would be a little too much for today

PROFESSOR:    So let’s stick to the question you still haven’t answered. Who did you kill?

STRANGER:      Both


STRANGER:      Yes. And I did it without conscience, guilt or consequence. The circumstances were a bit different to what you hypothesised but the theory was the same

She is becoming increasingly unnerved

PROFESSOR:    Why did you do it?

STRANGER:      It made sense. I didn’t have to know what they had done or were going to do, I just knew that if they couldn’t convince me otherwise then they had to die

PROFESSOR:    How could you be sure?

STRANGER:      Pure objectivity. They didn’t know of course. They begged me to spare them, and I thought about it, I had to. Being impartial has its advantage but I’m utterly powerless against a good point.

PROFESSOR:    Did they have one?

STRANGER:      Everybody does. It’s just not always good enough

PROFESSOR:    But how did you know for certain

STRANGER:      I can’t lose an argument

PROFESSOR:    So you killed them in the name of pride?!

STRANGER:      I don’t have pride, have you been listening? I can’t lose an argument, I literally can’t. So I ended their lives and the world went on as it always does as did I.

PROFESSOR:    Did you ever find out what they were supposedly going to do?

STRANGER:      It wasn’t what they were going to do, but what they weren’t. I told you the world may not be perfect, but it’s better now than it has been in the past, and I am in it. Coincidence?

PROFESSOR:    Are you really that arrogant?!

STRANGER:      No, I can’t do that either

PROFESSOR:    I’m in it, is the world a better place because of me?

STRANGER:      If you like

PROFESSOR:    But it’s not perfect, is that because of me?

STRANGER:      Course it is

PROFESSOR:    That’s contradictory nonsense!

STRANGER:      That it is, it’s also true. But you know, the world isn’t meant to be perfect, if it were things like this wouldn’t happen... (He jolts forward and holds onto her neck. He never loses his cool, remaining as calm and cold as ever, she is not in pain or even very uncomfortable, but his grip is firm and she cannot break it. She begins to fear as it dawns on her that everything he has said has been the truth and no matter what she says to him, she cannot win) ...right now I can squeeze the breath out of you, choke you or rip out your jugular, and I will, unless you convince me that it’s not a good idea

PROFESSOR:    I’ve done nothing to you

STRANGER:      I wouldn’t care if you did, so come on, convince me

PROFESSOR:    Of what?

STRANGER:      That the world is a better place with you in it

PROFESSOR:    What does it matter to you if it is?

STRANGER:      Because I know what should be

PROFESSOR:    Yes, but why does it matter?

STRANGER:      I don’t know. I know how things should be, I know how humans behave and I can emulate it. I know what they expect of each other and I know right and wrong and I know that people would rather be happy than miserable. On the surface I’m just like every other person. I just don’t feel it. So come on convince.

PROFESSOR:    I have a family

STRANGER:      They’ll grieve and get over it

PROFESSOR:    I have hundreds of patients

STRANGER:      They’ll get another doctor

PROFESSOR:    I always do my best to lead a good and full life!

STRANGER:      But is it good enough, or are you just dragging everyone else down?

She thinks for a moment about this. And a thought occurs to her


STRANGER:      I hold your life and that’s all you can say?

PROFESSOR:    What’s the point? You’re the one that’s objective, you’re the one who sees what should be. If you decide that I have to die to make the world better then I must trust your judgement

STRANGER:      I could kill you

PROFESSOR:    I really believe you could. But you can’t kill senselessly you need a reason, if you can’t let me live for good reason, then you can’t let me die either. Your only power over me is the information I choose to give you. You don’t know enough about me to know that I should die. So kill me if you can.

He loosens his grip

STRANGER:      Well done. That was a good answer. But you’re dead wrong

He tightens it once more

STRANGER:      I know you. I know you so well.

PROFESSOR:    I had never met you before today

STRANGER:      Do you know what they called my punishment? They called it The Stranger Sentence.

PROFESSOR:    That a legal term?

STRANGER:      One of the worst. If you bump into someone in the street and say a quick sorry, or ask for directions or the time, or ask a co-worker what time a meeting is, that’s probably me. People remember each other by the tiny or large emotional connections they make throughout their lives. I walk on the world but I am not in it.

PROFESSOR:    You’re making a connection with me now, a very strange one, but a connection none the less. Forgive me if I’m prying but if that was done to you then you can’t be all good.

STRANGER:      I was just a man who acted in his nature; it’s not my fault that that nature really upset the wrong person. But I can tell you this. I’ve seen what you are. What you do. You make a lot of lives richer and the world actually is better with you in it

He loosens his grip, and put his hand back on the table

STRANGER:      It’s just an awful pity that you have no idea.

PROFESSOR:    I am certain that we have never met before today

STRANGER:      Are you really going to argue with me on this one?

She does not react, she believes him

STRANGER:      On and on I go, because I have no choice. Nothing to do but observe.

PROFESSOR:    And what is it that makes you do that? You have no motivation.

STRANGER:      I do it because I am still human and I have a physical need to do something otherwise I’d never move. I still feel discomfort, I can feel pain and I can feel comfort and I can be sexually satisfied. I just don’t feel it the same way that you would.

PROFESSOR:    How do you feel physical sensations?

STRANGER:      Well, we can discuss that next time can’t we?

PROFESSOR:    Are you booked in for another time?

STRANGER:      Yes, same time as always

He stands and starts to leave

STRANGER:      Maybe I won’t do so many pop culture references again, your reaction to them didn’t teach me anything at all. Maybe I’ll go for rock and roll

PROFESSOR:    I don’t know much about rock and roll

STRANGER:      Oh that’s right; you’re more of pop kind of girl

PROFESSOR:    That’s right.

As he walks to the door, the Professor becomes less interested in his actions, as if he has only been in to deliver a message

PROFESSOR:    Was there anything else?

STRANGER:      Yes. For the record, I really don’t like Lord of The Rings

As he walks out of the room, she turns back to the desk and scribbles on some forms. She switches the recorder off, stands and freshens herself up a bit. She sorts out the papers and her phone rings

PROFESSOR:    (Answering) Professor Harnell speaking... my two o’clock? Send him in please

She sits back down. Stranger enters. He is dressed entirely differently, but it is undoubtedly him. He walks over and sits back down in the exact same place. The Professor does not react; she just carries on as if this were any other appointment.

PROFESSOR:    Good morning Mr?

STRANGER:      Julius

They shake hands

PROFESSOR:    Mr Julius

STRANGER:      No, just Julius

PROFESSOR:    Just Julius, Ok. What seems to be the problem?

Stone face he leans forward as if he is about to say something momentous.

And then...

STRANGER:      Do you like rock and roll?

The End

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