Under the Underground

(SCENE: a coffee shop in Northampton, MA. It’s a hip place with cool music playing and the murmur of patrons blending with hiss of steam wands.)

(CHARLOTTE is a barista. She’s working on the bar, making drinks and calling them out for patrons. It’s a reasonably busy day, but she’s got it under control.)

CHARLOTTE

Double espresso is up! Small soy latte is waiting at the counter!

DAISY

Oh, that’s me! Sorry!

CHARLOTTE

No worries, Daisy. It’s loud in here.

DAISY

Oh, by the way Charlotte, I listened to that album you told me about. Pinned? I loved it!

CHARLOTTE
That’s awesome! Yeah, not a ton of people know that one, so it’s always nice when someone is into it.

DAISY

Well, I mean, if there’s anyone I trust to give me good music recommendations I haven’t heard before, it’s you. I seriously don’t know how you know all this stuff before everyone else.

CHARLOTTE (shrugging)

It’s a passion, I guess. I like digging into underground stuff. You know, finding things no one else knows about.

DAISY

Well, keep at it. I’m getting all my music from you from now on. Have a good day!

CHARLOTTE

You too!

(DAISY leaves and CHARLOTTE puts her last drink on the counter.)

CHARLOTTE (calling out)

Two shots of espresso over ice! 

(She walks back over toward the rest of the team.)

CHARLOTTE

Sia, I’m taking my break.

(She walks out from behind the counter, carrying a glass of water.)

CHARLOTTE
Might as well see if there’s anything good on the community board today.

(The Community Board is a bulletin board the coffee shop provides for anyone in town to hang notices and flyers on.)

CHARLOTTE

Hmm…show at the Iron Horse, show at the Iron Horse, someone selling a horse, church services…oh, what’s this?

(She pulls a flyer off of the board.)

CHARLOTTE (reading)

“See the light and join in the dance. Under the underground we go, where we stop…guess you’ll find out here.” What is this?

(Calling to the counter) Hey, Danny, do you know what this is?

DANNY (faintly)

No idea.

CHARLOTTE

Under the underground…that’s got to be a house show. I don’t recognize the address, but the show is tonight. So I might as well…

(The scene fades out)

(SCENE: night time in Northampton. CHARLOTTE is walking up to the address on the flyer. It’s a little chilly and she’s a little out of breath.)

CHARLOTTE
Eighty-three…eighty-five. Huh, this is an insurance company. Maybe I’ve got the wrong place?

(There’s the sound of unintelligible voices passing her a little ways away.)

CHARLOTTE

Oh! (calling to them) Hey! Are you-

(The door shuts behind them, cutting off the sound entirely.)

CHARLOTTE

Solves that, I guess.

(She walks over to the door the other people entered. It opens into a dark, empty hallway. The door slams shut behind her and CHARLOTTE gasps. Then she starts walking forward. As she walks, the sound of a party starts to grow louder and louder until she finally opens another door and there it is.)

(SCENE: a wild party. There’s music blaring, people talking, and the sound of a keg pouring. It’s like a very hipster rave. CHARLOTTE stares in wonder.)

CHARLOTTE

Holy…shit…

(She steps into the room, bumping into someone)

CHARLOTTE

Oh, sorry! 

(The person doesn’t even notice. CHARLOTTE continues to walk through the crowd.)

HARPER

Charlotte?

(HARPER is a college student. They’re cheerful, outgoing, and were friends with CHARLOTTE in college, though they weren’t extremely close. They’ve also been dead for five years.)

CHARLOTTE (stunned)

W-w-w-

HARPER

Charlotte, it’s me, Harper! Remember? Intro to Geology, Math Applications? Pretty much every single foundation course we both had to take?

CHARLOTTE

Yeah, but-

HARPER

It’s nice to see you!

CHARLOTTE (still stunned, but starting to be able to move again)

But Harper-

HARPER (still cheery)

Hmm?

CHARLOTTE

You…you died five years ago.

(There’s a dramatic pause. Then HARPER speaks.)

HARPER

Oh shit, it’s been five years already? 

CHARLOTTE

What?

HARPER

I mean, I knew time worked differently here, but yiiiikes. I didn’t realize it had been quite that long. So what happened to you?

CHARLOTTE

Me?

HARPER

Yeah, how’d you die? 

CHARLOTTE

What? No, no, there’s something weird going on. I’m not dead.

HARPER (sympathetically)

Yeah, I know how it is in the beginning. It’ll get easier, I promise.

CHARLOTTE

No, I mean it! I’m not dead. This flyer was hanging up at work and thought it was a show or something.

HARPER

Let me see that?

(Charlotte hands them the flyer and they study it for a second.)

HARPER (groans)

Ugh. Fucking really?

CHARLOTTE

What?

HARPER

There’s some…mischievous spirits who like to pull stunts like this. Lure a living person into our realm. It’s their idea of a prank.

CHARLOTTE (looking around)

What is this place? It’s incredible.

HARPER

It’s a really dangerous place for the living to be. You should go.

CHARLOTTE

What? But I just got here!

HARPER

And now I’m strongly suggesting you leave. You’re still alive, Charlotte. If you get stuck here, that could have very real consequences for you.

CHARLOTTE

But this is literally under the underground. This is everything I’ve been looking for. I just want to stay and explore for a little while.

(There’s another pause as Harper considers. Then sighs.)

HARPER (with an affectionate laugh)

God, I forgot what a fucking hipster you are. Okay, so I’m going on the record saying this is a terrible idea. But you should be safe if you follow two rules. One: don’t eat anything. At all. Especially if it’s offered to you, but just don’t eat or drink anything. Two: Be out of here by sunrise. I can’t stress that enough. You need to be out of this room before a single ray of sunshine comes in that window over there. Preferably much sooner. 

CHARLOTTE

What happens if I’m not?

HARPER

I have no clue. Just don’t do it.

CHARLOTTE

Deal! 

HARPER

Just take it easy and stick with-

(Harper is cut off by the crowd pushing them away from CHARLOTTE.)

CHARLOTTE (over the crowd)

Harper!? 

(HARPER is gone, swept into the crowd. CHARLOTTE turns and joins the party)

(Things get hazy and dreamlike in the party atmosphere. Lots of cheering, various “how you doing?” and other pickup lines. CHARLOTTE is in her glory.)

CHARLOTTE (breathlessly)

This is amazing…

PARTY GUEST

BEERS! EVERYONE DRINK THE FUCK UP!

(They pass CHARLOTTE a beer and not paying attention, she takes a small sip. The party atmosphere screeches to a halt for just a moment as she realizes what she did. Then it picks back up immediately and she drops the glass, which smashes.)

(The scene fades out and then back in to show that hours have passed. CHARLOTTE is still caught up in the party. She gasps as HARPER clamps a hand on her shoulder.)

HARPER

You have to go, Charlotte. The sun is going to be up any minute! You didn’t eat anything, right?

CHARLOTTE

Um, no. No I didn’t. But I’m fine! Just a few more minutes! 

HARPER

No. Listen to me.

(CHARLOTTE is very obviously not listening, enthralled by the party around her.)

CHARLOTTE

Harper, it’s fine, babe! I’m good.

HARPER

You won’t be if you don’t…leave…now!

(As HARPER is talking, they’re dragging CHARLOTTE by the arm through the crowd.)

CHARLOTTE

What are you doing? Harper, no!

HARPER (a little sadly)

Goodbye, Charlotte.

(They toss CHARLOTTE out of the party and slam the door shut. The sounds of the party cut off abruptly.)

CHARLOTTE (yelling and banging on the door)

HARPER! HARPER GOD DAMMIT! LET ME BACK IN!

(She grabs the door and wrenches it open to reveal an empty office.)

CHARLOTTE (shocked)

What? It’s…it’s empty. Just an empty insurance office.

(She stands there for a second, then turns and starts walking down the hall to the exit. She opens the front door and steps out into the rising sun.)

CHARLOTTE (dazed)

What the hell just happened? 

(She starts walking.)

CHARLOTTE

Shit, I must’ve taken something last night. That was one weird ass dream.

(SILVER is standing around the corner, smoking a cigarette. SILVER is a malicious fae creature with a languid, unsettling way of talking.)

SILVER

Heyyy.

CHARLOTTE (startled)

What do you want?

SILVER (walking closer)

Oh, nothing really. Not right now, at least. Maybe a coffee…a blueberry muffin…

CHARLOTTE 

That sounds nice. I’m going to go now.

(She starts to walk away.)

SILVER

You’re going to go with that beer on your breath?

(CHARLOTTE freezes)

SILVER (laughs)

Yeah, you thought no one noticed, didn’t you? Naa, I saw you.

CHARLOTTE (fearful)

What are you going to do to me?

SILVER (takes a drag)

Me? Nothing. I’m just a messenger. 

(SILVER tosses the cigarette on the ground and stubs it out with a foot.)

SILVER

Gonna go get that muffin now. But I think we’ll be seeing each other again, Charlotte. 

(SILVER laughs and walks away.)

END