1 – female, 60s+
0.999999 – female, 60s+ (could be the recorded voice of ‘1’)
1=0.999999… is a simple equation, which states that the quantity 0.999, followed by an infinite string of nines, is equivalent to one.
The interior of an elevator, with reflective mirrors on all sides.
A woman (1), bone-tired, steps in at the top floor. She presses a button to go down to the ground floor. The doors shut.
She initially stares at the floor, then a thought makes her raise her glance. She sees herself out of the corner of her eye, and notices that she is surrounded on all sides by her own image, but is never able to fully observe herself, for the moment she turns her head, part of her image is obscured. She considers this, until a voice (0.999999) is heard.
0.999999…(O.S.) You look tired.
The woman looks around, startled.
The woman looks up to the ceiling.
1 I didn’t call for help.
1 I can’t… Where you are speaking from?
0.999999… (O.S.) Here. (it echoes, almost to infinity)
1 Sorry? I…
0.999999…(O.S.) You’re speaking.
The woman rubs her head slowly.
0.999999…(O.S.) Take the medication.
0.999999…(O.S.) In your bag. The pills the doctor gave you with the bottle of water. He gave you the medicine directly – and the bottle of water – because he was concerned that your pain is unbearable, and he’s right, your pain is unbearable. He’s not supposed to do that, you know, give you the medicine directly.
1 I know. He’s a kind man. How do you know?
0.999999…(O.S.) I know.
1 I don’t understand. Are you building security? Were you watching me?
0.999999…(O.S.) Number one, no. Number two, yes. Always. Take your medication.
1 It dulls my senses. I’m supposed to be looking after Grace’s children this afternoon. My daughter —
0.999999…(O.S.) Grace will understand.
1 You know Grace?
0.999999…(O.S.) Grace will understand.
1 How do you know Grace?
0.999999…(O.S.) Grace would prefer it if you were up front with her. Grace doesn’t want to cause you stress, or make you tired, but she doesn’t know —
1 —How do you know Grace?
0.999999…(O.S.) She doesn’t want to broach the subject with you, and feels she needs to keep up this game you have begun. You have been playing it for so long that she doesn’t —
1 I think the doctor must have given me something without me realising. I can’t drive like this. I’ll have to call a cab.
0.999999…(O.S.) Call Grace.
1 I WILL NOT CALL GRACE!
0.999999… (O.S.) Aaron then.
1 He lives three hours away.
0.999999…(O.S.) I know. But he owns a car, and there are, I believe, trains.
1 Are you being sarcastic?
0.999999…(O.S.) (sarcastic) No! Me?
1 Aaron loses money if he takes time off. He’s trying to save up for a house.
0.999999…(O.S.) Call Danielle.
The woman peers at the floor numbers, and rubs her head.
1 Why is this elevator so slow? It’s hot. This must be happening because it’s hot.
0.999999…(O.S.) You are running a temperature. Your body is trying to fight what’s happening. Call Danielle. You have three children, call one of them to help you. Or a friend. You have friends. Good friends who love you and want to help.
1 They have lives.
0.999999…(O.S.) So do you.
1 For now. Danielle is happy, she’s just fallen in love.
0.999999…(O.S.) After a lot of heartache.
1 Yes. (looking around) Am I dying? Is this some kind of moment-of-death hallucination, a lift up into the light? (looking at the floor numbers) Or into the depths?
0.999999…(O.S.) Number one, yes, but you knew that. Number two, no. Not yet.
The woman slumps against the wall, and slides down to sitting.
1 Thank god. I’m not ready.
0.999999…(O.S.) I know.
1 Stop saying that. You don’t.
0.999999…(O.S.) I do.
The way you look at your grandchildren.
The slow intake of breath when you have read a poem, that you both love and know that you are capable of writing yourself. The way you watch planes moving across the sky, then close your eyes and imagine where they are going. That feeling you get when you watch a video of yourself that someone has posted, usually against your wishes, though you don’t mind so much anymore, and you wonder if there is enough room in the cloud to keep all the videos in the world. The fact that you can’t listen to Joni Mitchell singing ‘Woodstock’ without crying.
1 It’s a beautiful song.
1 I tried to write like that. A long time ago.
But I never managed it.
0.999999…(O.S.) Are you sure?
1 No one ever liked my music.
0.999999…(O.S) Are you sure?
1 I’m no Joni.
0.999999…(O.S.) No one is, except Joni, thank god. Can you imagine a world full of Joni Mitchells? You’re you.
1 I don’t know who that is.
0.999999…(O.S.) (echoing) Take a look.
The woman raises her glance to the mirror for a brief moment, then looks away.
1 I hate my reflection. I don’t recognise it anymore.
She raises her face, almost as if a strong hand is moving her head.
0.999999…(O.S.) Do you remember Danielle tracing the parentheses around your mouth when she lay on your lap, having a bottle? Her fingers could still draw those lines in the dark.
The woman touches the lines around her mouth.
0.999999…(O.S.) Aaron can conjure constellations between the freckles on your face. They’ve faded a bit, but the solar systems of his childhood are still there. Grace could touch the hands of a hundred strangers, and know yours immediately by the particular hills and furrows of your knuckles. Your grandchildren could be led into a room blindfolded and know they were close to you by smell alone.
1 The smell of decay.
0.999999…(O.S.) Never, to them. Years from now, they will walk into someone’s house, and with a particular fragrance mix of lavender-scented laundry and a recently baked ham, they will think of you.
1 I’ll be remembered for laundry and roasted meat. That sums up my life nicely.
0.999999…(O.S.) Don’t disparage. Those sensations belong to them, not you. The moment that sense memory reaches their brains, a connection fires up, a closed pocket opens, and then you are there, beside them, reading a story. And the fact that all of a sudden they can remember all the words to ‘Winkin, Blinkin, and Nod’ brings sorrow and comfort. And they will go home and read it to their own children.
1 My great-grandchildren.
1 I want to see them.
0.999999…(O.S.) They’ll see you.
1 I haven’t done the things I wanted to do. I’ve achieved so little.
0.999999…(O.S.) You’ve told yourself quite a few lies over the years, but that’s the biggest one.
1 I’ve done some… bad shit. See? Swearing.
0.999999…(O.S.) They’ll remember the bad shit, on bad days. But they’ll also remember that you swore.
1 Can’t I just have a bit more time?
0.999999…(O.S.) Yes. You can. I told you, you’re not dead yet. This isn’t the elevator to hell.
1 Am I going to hell?
0.999999…(O.S.) C’mon. We’re not so naive as to believe in that bullshit.
1 Not heaven then either, I guess.
0.999999…(O.S.) Only the most shallow people suddenly develop a defined sense of the afterlife in their final days. Just, you know, use the time that you’ve got left well.
1 Who are you?
0.999999…(O.S.) I told you.
1 No. You deftly avoided the question.
0.999999… Such an annoying trait, isn’t that? Can’t think of anyone else who avoids telling people what they need to know.
1 Hmm. Touché. Are you some kind of an angel?
0.999999…(O.S.) Do you believe in angels?
1 I don’t know.
0.999999…(O.S.) Do you believe in Mathematics?
1 I have a degree in Mathematics.
0.999999…(O.S.) That you do. Angels and Mathematics aren’t that distinct, you know. Your favourite equation. The beautiful one. Show me.
As if in a trance, 1 takes a marker from her bag. On one mirror, she writes ‘1=’ and on the mirror opposite ‘0.999999….’
1 The same number.
0.999999…(O.S.) Yes. Finite and infinite.
1 stands and traces the equation with her fingers. She takes her phone out from her bag and dials a number.
1 Hi. It’s Mum.
I’m… I’m tired. I’m not feeling well. Do you think you could come get me from the doctor’s?
We’ll talk about it when we get home. I promise. Okay. Thanks love. See you soon.
The elevator dings to indicate that she has reached the ground floor. The door opens. 1 turns to her left, then to the back, then to the right, considering her many reflections. She turns to the front and exits the elevator.