The Pit

Maxwell Starcevich


The Voice



Boy’s Father


The Arbiter

Act I

It is twilight. Constellations dot the night sky. A blood-stained Man is kneeling in a field of poppies. He looks over the edge of an empty well, down into a deep pit. A Voice cries from the well.

The Voice: My friend, lift me up! 

Man: I cannot reach you, friend. Have you tried climbing?

The Voice: The walls are muddy, and I cannot climb. Lift me up!

Man: Try climbing, friend. 

A pause. Then, a cry of frustration.

The Voice: It is impossible! Lift me up, you fool!

Man: I have nothing. I cannot release you from your prison. 

The Voice: Oh you worthless fool! Save me! I grow hungry.

Man: I have nothing to reach you with, and there is no food. All that is here are flowers, and wilted ones at that.

The Voice: Throw me some, that I may eat. 

The Man picks some wilted poppies and drops them into the pit. 

The Voice: These disgust me! What are they? I want more.

Man: I must get help. I should not have done that.

The Voice: No! Do not leave me, throw me more flowers and we can think of a plan.

Man: I must leave, I hear doors closing and time is beginning to shrivel. We are not that different, you and I, and that is the problem. I will be with you until the end, my friend.

The Voice: No! Do not leave me here. Give me flowers. Oh how I want flowers. I wish I had time to think. Give me flowers and time. Scents and clocks, fragrant chronology, ecstasy ordered…

The Man steps into the constellations as The Voice continues to murmur and eventually fades away.


Act I Scene II

The inside of a train car. It is full of people, all have visible wounds. The Man sits across from a little boy and the boy’s father. 


Beyond the chaos flow I seek

quiet shores and friendly streets.

stolen by an endless thief,

buried by the waves.

Boy’s Father: 

Touch my eyes to open them,

my hands to hold me fast.

Though fields of smoke may billow me,

your grip will stay my mast.

Watch me as I slip away,

to knock on dying’s door.

You guard me as I tie the ropes,

and keep me as I moor.

Man: Oh! What am I? You die while I live. 

Boy: (To his father). I don’t want to be scared anymore.

Boy’s Father: We are almost there, son. (The train horn sounds). See? We have arrived at last. You have done well on this journey.

Boy: Finally! 

The two get up to leave. The boy pauses and addresses the Man. 

Boy: Remember us when you reach your destination.

Man: I will.

The boy and his father leave the train. The horn sounds and the train continues. The Man falls asleep.


Act II Scene I

We are in the Man’s dream. He lies on a pile of decaying flowers. A prophet stands at the edge of the pile, a torch is in his hand. 

Prophet: Do you know who you are?

Man: I thought I did, but I do not know anymore.

Prophet: Many people ride the train, but only some of them end up on my burn pile!

Man: I got on the train to help a friend. He is waiting for me to bring help.

Prophet: (At this the Prophet becomes angry). You still have not understood?

Man: Understood what?


You are the voice calling from the pit!

A flower eating flowers in the gloom,

fouling the Followers of the light,

a closed-eyed coward in the darkness,

a patient awaiting bloom.

Man: I am the voice? I am in the pit?

Prophet: Yes. Yours is the voice of one starving. It is time to leave your wilted bed.

The Prophet touches his torch to the pile of decaying flowers. The Man leaps to his feet and weeps as the flowers burn. 

Man: You fool! Those were all I had to eat!


Do you have any fear? 

There’s one in His bed,

His flowers aren’t wilted,

but you lit the fuse.

Vermillion stars are in His head,

a million dreams of billions of people,

each one a defendant of reality,

each one put to the test.

He is the Arbiter dreaming,

giving sleep and taking it.

Upon the mists of ink

are shattered spires—

like moisture on a leaf,

they dry up in the blaze of day.

Eternity is the bedroom,

and Earth is one night.

He is the Arbiter dreaming,

endlessly dreaming.

Man: (Weeping because of his guilt). What am I? Take me to the Arbiter that I may plead. I must be on my way.

Prophet: (Smiling). You already are, my friend. 

Act II Scene II

The Man is on the train again. He awakes with a start. The train is now only half full. The Man stands from his seat and addresses the wounded.

Man: I am on my way! Light shone through an open door and smoke came creeping in. Poppies burned, my hunger left, and now I am on my way!

The train car shakes suddenly and its walls fall apart. The passengers are in a beautiful prairie. The wounded cry aloud as they crawl from the rubble and onto the tracks. Murmurs rise.

Man: Does anyone know what we are to do? How are we to reach our destination?

No one answers the Man, as they all continue to wail and cry out. Seeing this, the Man joins them.



You deadly vapor,

You shatter dreams.

In shards they fall into water,

Twirl under the waves.


You vicious doorway,

You destroy sorrows.

In steps they falter into wind

Twist under the willows.

The Prophet enters into the midst of their suffering. 

Prophet: Welcome.

Man: (Angrily). You said I was on my way to see the Arbiter! We all were.

Prophet: You have arrived. This was the last stop. 

Man: (Bewildered, looking around). Where are we?

Prophet: In the Arbiter’s back yard. 

Man: (He notices that the passengers are no longer wounded). May I talk to the Arbiter? I have to say thank you for rescuing my friend—for rescuing me I mean.

Prophet: Of course. Everyone can speak with the Arbiter. (With a small smile) In fact, you spoke to Him already.

Man: When?

Prophet: When you conversed with yourself at the pit, the Arbiter spoke through you. 

Man: So that is why I said that I would always be with him—I mean, me?

Prophet: Yes, the Arbiter took you on a journey to find Himself.

The Prophet turns from the Man and gestures to the distance. The passengers now see little huts in the distance and they run to see them. 



The inside of a hut. The Man sits crosslegged across from the Arbiter. A small fire burns between them.

The Arbiter: I brought you here.

Man: I’m so sorry for—

The Arbiter: I know. You cried out from the pit so I brought you here. You wanted to eat those rotten flowers, but they were poisoning you. That is why I sent my Prophet to burn them.

Man: (Weeping). Thank you.

The Arbiter: You are bloody. But your wounds are healed. Let me give you something to wear.

The Arbiter reaches into the fire and retrieves a robe. He gives it to the Man. 

Man: Thank you. There was a boy. A boy and his father, on the train. Are they here?

The Arbiter: Yes, they arrived awhile ago by ship. They are in the village with everyone else.

Man: (About to leave the hut). By the way, in all the confusion I seem to have forgotten my name.

The Arbiter: Your name is David. You waited patiently for me, David, and I heard your cry. I brought you up out of the miry clay, and I set your feet on firm ground. 

Sounds of singing filter into the hut.

The Arbiter: Go, join them.

David leaves the hut, and his voice can be heard joining in with the rest.



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