Anubian Nights Theatre Co
THE MISSING SCALE
The Fourth Scale - Mercalli’s Scale of Earthquake Intensity
I. Not felt
It is better not to know, not to feel, not to be open to the potentially disturbing.
To live cocooned in a high tower, where servants push dinners through a hatch
Whisked from subterranean kitchens staffed by mute cooks, blind pastry chefs.
A boy, his feet chained to a steel ring embedded in the stone-flagged floor
Turns a roasting spit holding a small lamb. He dreams of green fields and the sky,
He imagines there must be someone out there. Waiting for him on a rocky crag.
II. Felt by persons at rest, on upper floors
Lying on a feather mattress, head on goose-down-filled pillows, covered in velvets
A tiny breeze floats in through an arrow-slit of a very high window, stirring.
There is little light in the tower, it was built to keep people out not to let light in.
There is some light in the kitchen, the light of flames, the light of sifted sugar glinting.
Resting on a Japanese pallet in a basement, a boy wants to stay awake, his heavy eyes
Try to count the individual bricks that comprise his walls. But there are too many.
III. Felt indoors. Hanging objects swing
Ten thousand paper lanterns, each illuminated with a scented candle of its own
Swing back and forth like a censer wielded by a jealous priest who has never loved
Spreading a low light, a night light, a useless light and a cloying smell of bluebells.
Trapped in a nightmare he has read in a story by Edgar Allen Poe, a pendulum
Swings lower and lower. He cannot see the pendulum. He hears it swishing
Smells the tang of the metal it has been so beautifully crafted from. It misses.
IV. Standing cars rock. Windows, dishes rattle. Glasses clink
The passing cars roar fiercely, he stands defiant, thumb up, whipped by the slipstream
Of no-one wanting to stop. To take him home. He is missing his sisters wedding..
It is hard not to cry and there is only an inch of wine left in the bottle he stole.
Drink it now and regret it later? Drink it later and miss the light frisson now?
He did not know he could miss his past so much, regret so many little things.
He did not realise that the clinking song of an ice cube in a glass could cut so badly.
V. Sleepers wakened. Liquids move, spill. Pendulum clocks stop, start
He woke up alone, not knowing how that happened as he went to sleep with dreams,
Holding them tightly, he had thrown himself recklessly into the cold sheets,
Wishing, hoping, straining to see the one he missed and to hold them in a vision.
No-one came. The pendulum on the clock was still, he willed it to move, to budge
He sent out signals, he began to sweat, his head began to ache, his heart ached.
The grandfather clock shook, quivered. He felt his shirt, soaked with sweat and tears.
VI. Many frightened and run outdoors. Small bells ring
A demon wearing ankle bells dances down the High Street waving a glass sword.
Before her adults run in fear, behind her children gleefully join the dance, spinning,
Baby Dervish, dressed in white, too young to understand the danger of spinning.
He stands back as they pass, the sword swishes above his head, ruffling his hair,
Reminding him of soft fingers, gently twisting his locks into horns on a summer day
As they lay by a river, watching the water pour over a weir into a dark, fierce pool.
VII. Difficult to stand. Waves on ponds. Large bells ring
Was it the drink or the drug of the tender kisses that had intoxicated him so much?
He did not know and did not care. He only knew that he missed the idea of intimacy.
For three months no-one had properly kissed him or licked the tips of his fingers.
The wind made him stumble, the rain made him shiver, his past made him cold
A spray of water, rising like a malevolent spectre from the mill-pond smacked him.
All he could hear was a ringing in his ears. All he felt was a gong in place of his heart.
VIII. Changes in flow or temperature of springs and wells. Monuments fall
Ages ago they had built a palace to memory, yet the memory was faded, worn.
The reason for the carving of marble, plumbing of fountains, glazing of tiles
That was once so vital now meant nothing. Large monkeys had invaded the courtyard
Making it a perilous place to wander alone when wearing sparkling trinkets or gold.
She missed the noise of her silver ankle-bells that once tinkled as she danced for him.
She missed his knowing just what she wanted, what she needed. All was missing
IX. General panic. Masonry destroyed. Earthquake fountains, sand craters
Digging a grave in the Northern Deserts they came across the broken statue of a god
Unsure of what to do they covered it back up, quickly, hiding its gracious smile
Starting to dig again a short distance away, they were startled to see the sands move
They watched in horror as the god heaved himself out of his tomb and blew sand
In torrents through his mouth, his nose, his eyes and his ears threatening to bury them.
Fleeing through the dunes they didn’t notice that the flying sand was missing them.
X. Serious damage to dams, dikes, embankments. Rails bent slightly
He felt like a cliché. His emotions ‘flooded’ him. He realised he missed him. Badly.
In ways he hadn’t imagined he could. He ached with missing until his heart twisted.
Yet he was torturing himself. As he was missed too. Perhaps just as intensely.
The sex. The constant chatter, the odd kiss on the neck, the brushing of fingers.
The opening of the second bottle of champagne they said they could not drink.
They both missed these things but he thought his missing was his alone. Unique.
XI. Rails bent greatly. Underground pipelines completely out of service
She has gone off the rails. Lost it in a haze of dark bile, jealousy and self-doubt.
There is no longer a conduit of sense to bleed her tears away, stop them drowning her.
A large, patchwork quilt of many colours, inherited from her seamstress grandmother
Wrapped loosely about her prone form provides no more comfort, no more warmth.
The palace of ice she built for herself is impervious to the past warmth she knew.
She no longer has the capacity to miss sensibly. There is only twisted emptiness.
XII. Damage total. Large rock masses displaced. Objects thrown into the air
She misses her bedroom and wants to go home. She can’t believe what she has done.
A large diamond cuts into her hand where she has twisted her ring around to hide it.
The yellow band of her new ring itches. She craves iced-water to ease her aching.
Confetti flutters about her head. A swarm of hornets darting at her eyes and nose,
She grimaces at their buzzing, all that she can hear, whirring wings drowning her.
She misses her mother. She hurls her bouquet of white roses, the priest catches it.