Meet two characters: Pessimism and Optimism. Pessimism is a disjointed voice. Optimism, a white man, quite thin.

We’re in a square, white room, with no windows or doors. Exactly in the centre of the room there is a high stainless steel chair with a young white man sitting in it. His name is Optimism. His arms are handcuffed at the wrists to the legs of the chair, as are his feet. There is one electrical wire leading to the chair, but it does not appear to be connected to anything, its form fading away.

We circle Optimism several times. Then we stop, facing him. A blinding light switches on behind us. Optimism scrunches up his eyes to avoid the light. He struggles slightly in the chair but then settles down. The light seems to fade. As it does we move around the man, in a clockwise direction, to Optimism’s right. We stop at an angle behind him. A voice fills the room, but there are no speakers.

Pessimism: “Why are you here?”

Optimism does not respond. Silence.

Pessimism: “I’ll ask you again. Why are you here?”

Still no response.

Pessimism: “You may have noticed a wire leading to your chair. If you continue to ignore me, I will press this little shiny red button. It is not something I would like to do, I hate the smell of burning flesh. But then that won’t bother you will it?”

Again: “Why are you here?”

Optimism: “You brought me here.”

Pessimism: “Wrong answer. Why are you in this country?”

Optimism: “I live here.”

Pessimism: “Wrong answer. Why are you here?”

Optimism: “I was born here.”

Pessimism: “Wrong answer. Why are you here?”

Optimism: “I was born here. My name is Timothy…”

Pessimism: “You do not exist.”

Optimism: “My name is Tim…”

Pessimism: “You do not exist. There is no evidence of your existence.”

Optimism: “My family…”

Pessimism: “You do not exist.”

Optimism: “I have friends. They will tell you.”

Pessimism: “You do not exist.”

Optimism: “My best friend… he’ll tell you. He knows I exist.”

Pessimism: “Your best friend? When was the last time you saw him?”

Optimism looks at the floor and does not respond.

Pessimism: “Your mind is playing tricks on you. Was there really a best friend? You told everyone he had gone away. But he hadn’t. Had he? He never existed. You don’t exist.”

Optimism: “I exist. I have enemies. They will tell you I exist. They will tell you bad things about me, but it will prove I exist.”

Pessimism: “Enemies like X? Only she wasn’t really your enemy was she? You loved her didn’t you?” 

Optimism: “I never told anyone that.” 

Pessimism: “She messed you about. You thought the way you felt was just a crush. But it wasn’t. You loved her.”

Optimism: “I didn’t love her. I didn’t even know her. You can’t love someone you don’t know.”

Pessimism: “You loved her.”

Optimism: “She hated me. How could I love her?”

Pessimism: “You don’t know what love is. I know what your feelings were.”

Optimism: “I never told anyone how I felt.”

Pessimism: “Oh, but you didn’t need to. You don’t exist. She doesn’t exist.” 

An image is projected onto the wall, like a cinema image, but there is no sign of a projector. It shows a similar room. On the chair in the middle is a young Asian man. His name is Shafat.

Shafat: “He asked me if she was Muslim.”

Pessimism: “Why?”

Shafat: “He knew that he wouldn’t be able to meet with her if she was.”

Pessimism: “Why?”

Shafat: “We have rules.”

Pessimism: “What did you tell him?”

Shafat: “I knew she wasn’t Muslim. I said I would find out for him. I spoke to someone about it.” 

Pessimism: “If you knew, why did you have to find out?”

Shafat: “I had to check, make sure. He was going to speak to her on Wednesday.”

Pessimism: “Was going to?”

Shafat: “He was just about to when I saw him. I told him that it wasn’t possible for him to be friends with her.”

Pessimism: “Why?”

Shafat: “I found out that her brother would break his back.”

Pessimism: “Was this a serious threat?”

Shafat: “Yes.”

Pessimism: “Did he tell anyone else his feelings?”

Shafat: “No. His best friend had gone away. Nobody else knew the girl.”

A second projection hits the wall, next to the last. It flicks through a series of photographs. Pessimism starts up again. The pictures show X lying on the ground. There is a pool of blood by her head and a wound on the side of her face.

Pessimism: “She’s dead.”

Optimism: “No she’s not.”

Pessimism: “It’s true.” 

Optimism: “I don’t exist. She doesn’t exist, remember? If she’s dead, I exist.”

The room goes silent. The images on the wall start to break up, then go fuzzy and finally cut off. Optimism remains isolated in the room.

We cut to a beautiful forest. Pessimism sits looking into a small pool of water, stirring it with his hand. We move in, through the trees and towards Pessimism. We pass behind him, focussing down on the pool. The reflection in the pool shows Optimism still bound in the white room. Pessimism shouts down into the pool.

Pessimism: “You’re weak!”

Pessimism looks up into the canopy of the trees and smiles, then glances back into the pool.

Pessimism: “I rule you. I can shut you down. I will shut you down.”

Optimism looks up to Pessimism, shouting: “So I do exist then?”

Pessimism: “Can you call it existence? I wouldn’t. I am you, but you can never be me. I see the truth. You don’t exist.”

We cut back to the white room. The voice of Pessimism booms into the room again.

Pessimism: “You don’t exist.”

The voice echoes and, as it fades out, the room falls into darkness. Pitch black. Only for a second. Now we’re bathed in a very bright, white light. We’re back within the white room again. The voice of Pessimism booms out.

Pessimism: “Why are you here?”

Optimism: “Why are you treating me like this?”

Pessimism, angrily: “Why are you here?”

Optimism, shouting as loud as he can: “Why must you treat me this way? I am better than this. Can’t you bear to hear his confidence? Why must you lock me away? Why must you always win? Who are you protecting?”

Pessimism: “Why are you here?”

Optimism: “You lock me up inside for no reason. Why must he be protected from confidence? You lock me away, just to keep Pessimism strong.”

Pessimism: “Why are you here?”

Optimism, quietly: “I know the truth.” Shouting: “I know the truth. Why’s it so important that he must live in your world? People are happy when they see his other side. I bring out the best in him.”

Pessimism: “You don’t exist.”

Optimism: “You’re mad. I exist, but you deny me. If I could kill you, I would. Tim doesn’t need you.”

Pessimism: “He needs me. I protect him from the bad world. You’re blind. You would let him fall into another trap. He needs me. You don’t exist.”

Optimism: “How can you be so sure? You have never let him take any risks. I exist, but you tie me down so I am weak.”

Pessimism: “You’re nothing!”

Optimism: “I’m nothing because you make me that way. Release me, and I would be strong. I would show him the way.”

Pessimism: “You’re kidding yourself. Tim needs me, not you. You can dream, and I will show you the truth. Wait, and I’ll show you.”

The white room falls into darkness again. We cut back to the forest. Pessimism gets up and takes a small, tear shaped, glass bottle out of a pocket on his belt. He holds it up in front of his eyes and shakes it. There is a purple liquid in it.

Cutting back to the white room, Pessimism reappears with the bottle and walks across to Optimism. He holds Optimism’s head and tilts it back. He drips the purple liquid into Optimism’s mouth.

Pessimism: “You must trust me. You form the dreams. I form the nightmares. Your dreams are just dreams. My nightmares are warnings. Drink this, and you will see the truth.” 

Optimism falls into a state of unconsciousness.

Pessimism: “Goodbye.”

Optimism: “What is this place?”

Girl: “Existence.”

Everywhere is light. We’re zooming back from it, until we can see the edge of the sun in a clear blue sky. We’re outside, circling Optimism, standing in the middle of a field. He is free. There are other people around him, just standing still. Optimism walks over to a girl who looks like X.

Darkness falls momentarily, only for a hazy fog to emerge. Optimism is standing on a clifftop looking out to sea. There are other people standing in the background.

Optimism: “Don’t dream your life.”

The girl walks up behind Optimism.

Girl: “Live your dreams.”

Briefly, she seems to smile kindly, but suddenly the hazy, dreaminess clears and everything becomes sharp and bold. X is on her own in the college canteen. She stares straight back, her face all serious. She gives a look that tells Tim that she is not interested in him at all, turning her gaze away from him one final time.

Truth. Pessimism rules this soul.

Six Confessions of a Tortured Soul

  1. Nightmares
  2. Rejection
  3. Guilt
  4. Mistrust
  5. Loneliness
  6. Regret

Part one, 9 October 1995.

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