Mad World

Enrique looks shy on the stage. He picks up the microphone. “I want to thank Rain and Skye for helping me with this. This… this is for Simon.” He nods to Tony for playback.

A hollow, echoing guitar line picks out the opening notes. “One song. Glory. One song, before I go. Glory, one song to leave behind.” The beginning is slow and sweet, and if Enrique’s voice lacks for anything in quality, nobody can tell for the emotion he fills it with. “Find one song, one last refrain. Glory, from the pretty boy front man who wasted opportunity.”

The song moves into a faster section, and Rain’s playing is unmistakable in the track. “Find the one song before the virus takes hold. Glory, like a sunset. One song to redeem this empty life. Time flies, and then no need to endure anymore! Time dies…” Enrique looks down as the music fades, and raises a hand to swipe his eyes. “Thank you,” he says to the audience, and returns the mike to its stand.

Francis takes the stage as Miss Demeanor, a new drag queen. The audience is hushed as she reaches plaintively to the heavens, then folds her arms around herself to the words of Madonna: “Life is a mystery. Everyone must stand alone. I hear you call my name, and it feels like home.”

Abner stands up, radiating fury that fills the room. “This is bullshit,” he says. “Our friends are dying, and the doctors are doing nothing, and the government is doing nothing, and this is all bullshit.” He opens his black poetry book, and his anger focuses into a laser beam, awesome and terrifying to behold.

“Jacob,” he snarls. “Which would have another name, were it not covered up in fear, and filth, and cowardice, and shame.” He stalks across the stage, his poetry spit from his lips like drops of acid, and where they land people gasp and cry.

“Once a man wrestled with God
He found a name, founded a nation, fathered a tradition, birthed a religion
But I will birth no children, I will found no tradition
And in one year I have seen my nation wasted
Pus marked, poxed, beauty of youth and dignity of age stolen
Stripped of home, of dignity, and denied their own life’s truth
And when we cry for mercy and give our submission
We are told that what we are is a sin best blotted away.”

When he reaches the final lines, he faces square to the audience, speaking with quiet intensity that builds and builds and builds.

“Every day the clock is still ticking
Every day I am still breathing
Every day our hearts are still beating
And all of the dead and all of the dreaming
Have lost all their meaning
For the truth is, this ends in stacked coffins
My family fled in front of tanks, my father
Ensured his son would know what the start
Of a genocide looks like.”

A long pause, an angry breath.

I refuse.”

He looks down at last, then back out at them with a fallen face. “This poem has no ending.”

Reginald, the dancer, whirls like a half-starved dervish until he collapses, his anorexic body unable to sustain itself any longer. Enrique and Jerrod rush to the stage and carry him behind the curtain, while Lady Verona steps right over his prone form to make her appearance. She is a trainwreck: stumbling and swaying on her heels, eyes half-lidded and dilated, missing half her lip-sync, replacing the words with a vague, drugged-out smile.

Finally the show comes to the closing act. Rain wheels out a keyboard; his guitar is nowhere to be seen. He sets the keyboard, then steps in front of the mike.

“We’re Urban Renaissance.” His tone is flat and hollow, his expression empty. He motions one arm half-heartedly toward the audience. “Move these fucking benches.” He returns to the keyboard and launches into a sparse and simple piano intro.

“All around me are familiar faces, worn out places, worn out faces. Bright and early for their daily races, going nowhere, going nowhere.” Skye gazes into the distance, somewhere beyond the walls, somewhere beyond the heavens.

“Their tears are filling up their glasses. No expression, no expression.” His voice is husky and mournful. “Hide my head, I wanna drown my sorrow. No tomorrow, no tomorrow.”

Only a single extra beat is added to the piano line, a fifth above the root played on two and four, but it’s like a candle lit in a dark room, one point of light to cling to.

“I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad. The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had. I find it hard to tell you, I find it hard to take. When people run in circles it’s a very very… mad world. Mad world.”

Skye steps away from the microphone and Rain’s fingers take up a countermelody, achingly beautiful and complex. His pelvis rocks and thrusts at the keyboard, and there’s no doubt in the audience’s mind that he is making love to Simon’s memory.

“Mad world,” Skye croons into the mike. “Mad world. Mad world. Mad world.” The piano fades out, and only Skye’s voice lingers mournfully in the air.

Rain turns around and walks away.

“One Song Glory” © Jonathan Larson, 1996.
“Like a Prayer” © Madonna and Patrick Leonard, 1989.
“Mad World” © Roland Orzabal, 1982.

All songs used without permission.

Note: I’m pretty sure we used the Tears for Fears version of “Mad World” in the game, but I love the Jasmine Thompson version, so that’s what I’ve described here.

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