Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Dramatic Prologue

It's not as hot in this desert as is imagined, but the heat is still overwhelming. At least the humidity is lower than it is in North Carolina, so shade here is marginally more valuable. Of course, it doesn't make much difference in the staging area, with everyone laid out, weighted down by hundreds of pounds of weapons, equipment, and parachute. The sun is as unfriendly as it's ever been, and someone's joke of blasting Wagner's "The Ride of the Valkyries" over the loudspeakers isn't making anything more comfortable.

As the sun sets, a call goes out and signals are passed. Dozing soldiers wake from their slumbers and 500 paratroopers attempt to stand on legs too tired. Chalk lines are formed, segregating combat teams into easily assembled groups, or so the theory goes. Sweat quickly begins to pour down the brows and faces of veteran and boot alike, washing away already worthless blotches of camouflage makeup. The Air Force crew chiefs give a thumbs up, and the lines lumber toward the awaiting C-17 aircraft. Great Birnam Wood on the march.

The cast and crew find their marks and take their positions, heavily-armed actors strapping into flimsy cargo seats, the stagehands checking and double-checking gauges and equipment. Miles away, safely behind friendly lines, congratulatory playwrights verify new intelligence to ensure last-minute rewrites remain unnecessary. The overheads go dark, replaced by the candlelight of an apron inviting only in its emptiness. Many suddenly realize that Faustus had made a better deal with the Devil.

Engines roar to life, and a small formation lifts gracefully off the ground, the skin of artificial birds reflecting the irony of a phantom moonlight. Deadly silhouettes filled with deadly shadows. The flight is rough, pilots forced to follow the contours of hostile terrain in an attempt to hide from the masked and watchful eyes of the enemy. A command to ready jars the passengers. Time flies strangely on the wings of angels. Those wearing watches remain unconvinced of the hour passed. Some hesitate, but eventually all hook their static lines, their lifelines, onto awaiting cables. Nervous soldiers, wishing they were somehow home again, attempt to masquerade emotions as they approach the point of no return.

The doors open. Landscape 800 feet below whips by deceptively slow. Narrow prosceniums revealing distant, potentially lethal backdrops. The airflow inside the C-17 increases an unnaturally small amount, aided in part by the aircraft's efficient wind-deflectors and a cabin that was unpressurized to begin with. The door jumper makes eye contact with the jumpmaster, and each nods a silent acknowledgment. Eyes shift to the red light. Patience begins to lose its patience, waiting for Godot.

Green light; the curtains rise. All the world's a stage. It's time to kill the audience.


  1. Great piece, Jeff. I can feel the dread and fear.

    Very nice.

  2. Wonderfully evocative. Congratulations.

  3. I loved the references you have on great plays in your piece! Great TT post!


  4. wow. what a ride. you took us there and back. like marianna love the references through out, adds texture.

  5. Wonderful take on TT. I especially like the line "Many suddenly realize that Faustus had made a better deal with the Devil."

  6. That's one heck of a stage! Nice take on the theme :)

  7. Made me shiver,
    made me quake
    An interesting
    Theme Thursday take

  8. Fantastic description and a great take on the theme. I've never had the courage to try skydiving, apparently it's quite a rush.

  9. Wonderful post, incredibly dramatic and love the play references as well.

  10. I like this. How many playwrights would like to kill the audience?

  11. Caleb Landry at 4:17pm July 17
    The last line took me by surprise!

  12. William Ivy CowanJuly 17, 2009 at 4:23 PM

    Nice work Jeff.