“I See Dead Dot-Coms”
Act I, Scene I
|Read ACT TWO.|
|Read ACT THREE.|
Interior of a home in suburban San Jose. Dr. Malcolm Willis, a psychologist who runs the online therapy site ShrinksOnCall.com, has just returned from the Webby awards with his wife, Anna. She is clutching Malcolm’s Webby. They go upstairs, and notice a naked man is standing in their bathroom. The stranger glares at Malcolm.
NAKED MAN (trembling): Do you know why you’re scared when you go online? I do.
MALCOLM (nervous): Do I know you?
NAKED MAN: Let’s all celebrate Dr. Malcolm Willis. Winner of the Webby Award. Dr. Malcolm Willis, his therapy site has helped so many. And he doesn’t even remember my name?
Malcolm’s eyes race for answers.
NAKED MAN: Last year? At ShrinksOnCall.com? The “Hallucination Station” message boards? You said you didn’t need to see me, that you could analyze me online. You were wrong.
MALCOLM (visibly shaken): You’re… email@example.com? firstname.lastname@example.org?
NAKED MAN: Some people call me Freak.
MALCOLM: Freak… oh God… email@example.com? I do remember you freakmeister. You said you could see dead retail bookshops; shops that couldn’t compete with the Internet. You were an intelligent kid. A fast typer.
FREAKMEISTER: You forgot cursed. (begins to cry). You failed me.
MALCOLM: I’m sorry I didn’t help you. I can try to help you now…
Freakmeister reaches for something out of view. He turns, raises a floppy disk, points it at Malcolm.
FREAKMEISTER: This is my Instant Messenger buddy list! I’m telling everyone I know you’re a fraud!
Freakmeister throws the disk at Malcolm, who collapses on the bed. His wife, Anna, screams.
Act I, Scene II
Two Months Later. Inside his house, Malcolm stands outside the door to his basement office. The door is locked. Then, without explanation because it would give away too much, Malcolm is in the basement office. Two windows are open on his computer. One is a ShinksOnCall chat session screen. The chat room is empty. The other is a Word document that reads: “firstname.lastname@example.org. Acute anxiety. Socially isolated. Possible mood disorder.”
MALCOLM (muttering): Sounds like everybody on the Web.
Cole08@pacbell.net logs on to the chat room and begins to type Ego… nolo… Malcolm logs on too. Cole08 sees the other name pop up on his screen.
COLE08: Ah! I’m frightened!
DRMALCOLM: It’s okay, cole08. I’m Dr. Malcolm. I was supposed to meet with you here. What is it you were typing?
COLE08: Ego nolo online esse. Web est fabula. It’s Latin.
DRMALCOLM: I’m looking impressed, but I’ll say nothing.
COLE08: You’re a doctor? What kind?
DRMALCOLM: A psychologist. I work with young people who might be afraid.
COLE08: I am skeptically brushing my mousy brown hair off my too-large glasses. Are you a good doctor?
DRMALCOLM: My site won a Webby award once. It’s been slow lately. You’re my first unique visitor in a while.
COLE08: I have a secret to tell you, but can we wait until Act II, Scene I?
DRMALCOLM: If you want.
Act I, Scene III
Still in his office, Malcolm logs on to a Latin dictionary Web site. He looks up the words Ego nolo online esse. Web est fabula. One by one he writes down the meanings and stares at the final translation: “I don’t want to go online. The Web is over.”
Malcolm (whispering): The mass for the dead dot-com.
The words seem to hang in the air forever.
Act I, Scene IV
Interior of a cramped apartment. Cole’s mother walks into their computer room, which seems unnaturally chilly. She turns up the thermostat, then looks at the computer. All the applications are open. One by one, she closes them as Cole walks in.
MOM (trying not to appear nervous): Were you looking for something, honey?
Mother clicks on the Myst icon. The program launches.
MOM: It’s right here, baby.
COLE: What were you thinking Momma? Bad thoughts about me?
MOM: Look at my face. I was not thinking bad thoughts about you.
Suddenly, the mother looks back at the computer. All the applications are again open. She screams.
COLE: Now are you thinking bad thoughts about me?
MOM: Big time.
Act I, Scene V
Interior of Cole’s apartment. He is on the computer, in the chat room on ShrinksOnCall.com. Malcolm is also logged on.
DRMALCOLM: You want to sit?
COLE08: I am sitting.
DRMALCOLM: How about we play a mind-reading game? I’ll read your mind. If I’m right, you type . If I’m wrong, you type . If I’m wrong twice, you can log off. Deal?
COLE08: I’m nodding yes, but too wary to type ‘Yes.’
DRMALCOLM: OK, I’m pressing my fingers to my temples and my eyes are shut, just like a mind reader. Now…
COLE08: How can you type with your fingers on your temples and your eyes shut?
DRMALCOLM: Wow, you are scaring me with your prescience, but I am smiling benignly. OK, now, just before your mom and dad divorced, she went to a shrink like me and it didn’t help her. And so you think I’m not going to help you.
DRMALCOLM: You have a secret. But you don’t want to tell me.
DRMALCOLM: You’re a good student in school, and never get in trouble.
COLE08: We were supposed to draw a picture in school. I drew a man whose Internet revenue model was fatally flawed. The company folded. Nobody liked my picture. Now I only draw happy Internet pictures. Lots of pretty bubbles.
DRMALCOLM: Let’s pause here to build tension.
COLE08: What am I thinking now?
DRMALCOLM: I… I don’t know.
COLE08: I was thinking, you’re nice. But you can’t help me until Act II Scene VI.
Act I, Scene VI
Dimly lit restaurant, evening. Malcolm rushes in to find Anna sitting alone at a table, finishing her meal.
MALCOLM: I’m sorry. I didn’t forget our anniversary. I just lost track of time.
Anna, very coldly, says nothing.
MALCOLM: I have this new client, Cole08. He’s like email@example.com. I think I can help this one.
Anna asks the waiter for the check.
MALCOLM: I know business has been bad for a while and you resent it. I know it’s put some distance between us.
Anna grabs check, signs it, leaves.
MALCOLM: That’s it, Anna. You keep this up and I’m checking out the porn sites!
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