It Lurks In The Woods
Playwright's notes: This one-act play was written and workshopped in my sophomore year of college. I was having one of the worst medical reactions of my life during this time, and in general consider this part of my life a fever dream and a living hell. I wasn't very proud of it, but my professor, class, and partner thought it was deserving of an audience, and I would like to thank them for giving me confidence in this project. This play is free to be performed anywhere, at any time, at any location. Enjoy the show.
Characters: Chelsea- they/them, college-aged, androgynous, their lack of self-confidence is evident in the way they move.
Ramone- she/her, college-aged, butch, seems sure of herself, carries herself with certainty.
The Beast- A tall cloaked figure with an unnerving mask. Liberties can be taken with it's design, but it must be unnerving, cryptic and imposing.
Setting: The woods. Trees can be represented by anything, but props must be available for characters to lurk around, hide behind, etc.
[When the scene opens, nobody is there. The audience must be left in darkness and silence. After about 10 seconds, The Beast lurks across the stage. The lights are red--though extremely dimmed. It must be barely visible, but the audience must know something is there. It doesn't look at the audience, instead slowly moving to the other side of the stage and exiting. After The Beast has exited the stage lights turn on, and Chelsea and Ramone enter. Ramone is carrying a bookbag. She scans the stage. There is forest ambience: the sound of crickets, frogs and other familiar night time noises fill the set.]
Ramone: This seems like a good spot!
Chelsea: Are you sure? It's not too close to campus?
Ramone: No, no, this is fine. We're actually pretty far out. I didn't want you to get worried.
Chelsea: Oh, that's... very considerate of you, thank you.
[Chelsea's voice is filled with uncertainty. They scratch at their knuckles in a sore attempt to calm themself. Ramone takes the bookbag off her back and unzips it, taking out a blanket, a small speaker, a bottle of water, two joints, and a lighter. She spreads the blanket out and puts the items on top of it, having a little trouble doing so but pulling herself together quickly. She and Chelsea sit down on it together.]
Chelsea: Damn, it's cold!
Ramone: Here, let me warm you up.
[Ramone inches closer to Chelsea and puts her arm around them. Chelsea leans into her for a moment, but pulls away quickly when they hear the sound of a snap.]
Chelsea: What was that?
Ramone: Probably just an animal. We're in the woods, you know? Nothing to be afraid of.
Chelsea: [Their tone is unsure] Okay...
Ramone: Do you want me to put on music?
Chelsea: Yeah… Yeah I think that would help.
Ramone: Y'know, smoking might also help.
Chelsea: That's true.
[Ramone takes her phone out of her pocket and plugs it into her speaker. Punk rock or alternative music is preferable for this moment. However, exact music choice doesn't matter, but rather the chemistry between Chelsea and Ramone in this scene.]
Chelsea: I've loved this song for like... a while.
Ramone: Me too! It's one of my favorites from this album.
Chelsea: I- um, don't know a ton of their other music, just this one.
Ramone: I'll have to show you more of their stuff then.
Chelsea: I'd like that. I need to start listening to new music so I stop just listening to the same three songs on repeat until I get sick of them.
Ramone: God, I feel you there.
[They share a moment of silence. On the part of Chelsea, this feels awkward. They itch their hand as they did before, and a pit falls in their stomach as they are unsure what to do. Ramone rather feels this is a moment of bonding and connection. Ramone takes Chelsea's hand in hers, and a small smile creeps on Chelsea's face. Ramone picks up one of the joints and hands it to Chelsea who puts it in their mouth. Just as she goes to light it for them, the music changes suddenly to loud static.]
Ramone: Huh, that's weird.
Chelsea: Maybe it lost signal?
Ramone: I mean, it shouldn't. We're off campus, but not THAT far off campus. Something must be wrong with my speaker. That's a bummer.
[She unplugs it from her phone, but it does not turn off. She turns it over in her hand, and it grows louder as she does so. Chelsea covers their ears and turns away. Ramone, in a moment of panic, throws the speaker off into the woods/off stage. Once it is gone, there is silence. The previous ambience of the forest is gone as well.]
Ramone: Fuckin' thing! I've never heard of that happening before. Chelsea, are you okay?
Chelsea: Yeah, I'm fine. What the hell though?
Ramone: I have no idea. I mean… We can just listen to music from my phone I guess.
Chelsea: That's fine. I'm a little worried about drawing attention to ourselves after that.
Ramone: Yeah, that's smart actually.
Chelsea: Let's just smoke and get this over with.
[Ramone lights Chelsea's joint, and then lights her own.]
Ramone: You've never smoked before?
Chelsea: I did once with friends, but I don't think I got high. I think I inhaled wrong.
Ramone: Well, I'll teach you how to do it right. So, when you inhale, take it all into your lungs. It's kind of like… drinking the smoke I guess. Make sure it really gets into your lungs, like...
[Ramone inhales, and then exhales smoke into the air. Chelsea watches her intensely. They itch their hand.]
Chelsea: Okay, I think I got it.
[Chelsea looks at their joint and hesitates, but then mimics Ramone, dramatically taking the smoke into their lungs and then exhaling. As they exhale, they start coughing profusely. Ramone rubs their back as they hunch over.]
Ramone: That was good! That was good!
Chelsea: [Still catching their breath, stuttering] It- It was?
Ramone: For someone that's never smoked before, yeah!
Chelsea: Well, that's good- [They cough again]
Ramone: Hey man, no shame in coughing. It gets you higher.
[Ramone takes another drag off her joint.]
Chelsea: I dunno if I can finish this.
Ramone: If you put it out we can save it for later.
Chelsea: Sounds good.
[Ramone takes the joint from Chelsea and puts it out on the ground. As she puts it out, the lights cut. It is dark. The crunching of leaves can be heard after about 5 seconds.]
Chelsea: What the hell is that?
Ramone: What's what?
Chelsea: I think I hear something... Coming this way...
Ramone: It's just an animal or something.
Chelsea: It sounds like footsteps. Like, human footsteps. Listen.
[They fall silent. The audience still cannot see them.]
Ramone: I mean... Yeah, you're right. It's probably fine, but do you wanna move just in case?
Chelsea: Yeah, I think that would be good.
[Ramone packs and they stand up, and walk off stage. They then enter again from the other side if possible. The lights flicker back on.]
Ramone: Alright, we're far enough now that there shouldn't be anyone here.
Chelsea: Unless we're being followed.
Ramone: Who has a reason to follow us? We're completely alone.
Chelsea: Well, there was that one guy...
Ramone: Wait wait wait- Who, what?
Chelsea: I never told you about what happened first semester?
Ramone: I don't think so. If you did I might have been...
Chelsea: So basically when I first got onto campus I was excited to be, well "liberated", I guess? Helicopter parents, y'know?
[Ramone sits on the ground. She plops her bag down next to her. Chelsea starts to sit, but quickly stands back up again.]
Chelsea: So I started going out with all these different people. Some of them were okay but... When you just jump into things like that you can get mixed in with the wrong sort of people. I was also still in denial about my... well, everything. It took me a while to figure it out. Hell, I'm STILL figuring it out. I didn't even know I liked girls until...
Ramone: Tell me about it.
Chelsea: I wouldn't think you could relate if I'm being honest.
Ramone: How so?
Chelsea: You seem so sure of yourself.
[Ramone scoffs. She digs in her bag and pulls out another joint.]
Chelsea: Jesus Christ, another one?
Ramone: I'm getting nervous, to be quite frank.
Chelsea: You? Nervous? Aren't you nervous the smell will bring whoever's stalking us right to us?
Ramone: It helps me calm down.
[She pulls a lighter out of her pocket, lights up the joint and smokes it.]
Chelsea: Okay I genuinely don't think that's a good-
[The lights dim. A low droning sound starts, beginning very quietly.]
Chelsea: Hey, do you smell that?
Chelsea: It's coming from over there...
[The droning grows a slightly lounder. Chelsea looks to the other side of the stage, and hesitantly begins to walk over. Ramone gets up, still holding her joint, and stumbles over quickly, making it to where Chelsea was gazing before them.]
Ramone: It's fine it... It's just...
[The droning grows louder. She hesitantly reaches off stage, and slowly she pulls back a tattered shirt. It is covered in dirt and grime, and what can possibly be perceived as blood.]
Ramone: Okay, that's weird, I'll admit. But it's not like there's a body or anything-
[The droning still grows louder. The dimmed lights brighten, and as they do so it can be seen that an arm is also poking out from behind the edge of the stage, close to where Ramone is standing and has just pulled out the shirt.]
Ramone: Oh shit.
[The droning not only grows louder, but starts beating as well, similar to a heartbeat. The lights fall in and out with this beating. Chelsea keels over and starts to gag. Ramone pulls them behind one of the trees.]
Ramone: Chelsea! Chelsea!
Chelsea: I'm gonna throw up.
Ramone: Keep it together Chelsea!
Chelsea: I'm gonna fucking throw up.
[Ramone puts her hand on Chelsea's back, and quickly guides them off stage in the opposite direction. The arm, in three motions, is dragged back behind the stage. The stage falls completely black. The beating and droning continue for about ten seconds, and then stop. If possible, in the dark, Chelsea and Ramone run back through the audience/in between rows, and back onto the stage. The lights come on, but they are dim. The set is silent.]
Ramone: Okay dude, calm the hell down, freaking out isn't going to help anybody.
Chelsea: We just saw a fucking DEAD BODY! I knew we shouldn't have gone out in these fucking woods. I've heard of this happening on this campus. Especially to people like us.
Ramone: You don't know they were "like us". You didn't even see their face!
Chelsea: I didn't have to. I know exactly how this goes.
Chelsea: Fuck. I never should've done this. I never should've cut my hair. Fuck, I never shouldn've gone to this fucking college!
[The lights on set turn to a deep red, and the audience, if possible, is completely cloaked in darkness.]
Ramone: Holy fuck, I'm freaking out too you know! I'm just trying to keep it together so we can get out of the woods safely! Why are you making this so difficult?
Chelsea: Because we're not going to get out of the woods safely!
Ramone: Not with how you're acting!
[Chelsea falls on their knees, their arms drape at their sides.]
Chelsea: The worst part is, I knew this would happen. Deep in my gut, I knew...
[Ramone reaches to put her hand on Chelsea's back, but they flinch away. They put their hands over their eyes.]
Chelsea: Don't touch me! You're one of the reasons we're in this mess!
Ramone: You- You're gonna place the blame on me?
Chelsea: I never would've… No, I'm sorry. I can't do this.
[Chelsea begins to weep. Ramone once again tries to reach out, but Chelsea retaliates. As they sob, Ramone can do nothing but just stand there. They've been holding the joint in their hand the entire time, letting it burn. If possible, the Beast comes through the audience/aisles and onto stage. It stands in front of Chelsea. They look up at it slowly.]
Ramone: [Panic begins to fill her voice] What the fuck is that...
[Chelsea continues to look up at The Beast, speechless, as if in awe. The red lights begin to pulsate. A heartbeat can be heard once again.]
Ramone: Chelsea, get up! What the fuck are you doing man?!
[She backs up slowly, and hides behind the tree prop furthest away from The Beast and Chelsea. The Beast then creeps around Chelsea, and circles them three times. It then stands directly behind them. It rears up, and in one quick motion, it encases them in their cloak. Here, it may also unhinge it's maw, unfurl it's tendrils, expose it's many limbs depending on it's design, but what matters is that it is clear The Beast has won and claimed Chelsea as one of it's victims. The heartbeat stops. The entire time, Ramone watches in horror.]
Ramone: [whispered] Jesus Christ.
[The Beast opens it's cloak, and Chelsea falls out and hits the ground with a hard thud (sfx can be used if needed). It then slowly turns it's gaze towards Ramone. She looks it up and down, and then gazes into it's face for a few moments, and then runs off the left side of the stage. She drops her joint, which sets the forest ablaze. This can be signified by whatever means necessary, as long as it is clear that the forest is on fire. The Beast stares where she stood for a moment, and then scans the audience. It walks around the edge of the stage, perhaps an aisle or two if possible. Then, it exits through one of the aisles, via one of the audience exit doors.]