by Emilie Collyer
Many years from now, it
could be a hundred, it could be a thousand, a warm autumn wind blows through an
empty parliament chamber.
A cleaner enters.
The cleaner sweeps the
floor of errant leaves, runs a cloth over the benches and seats.
The cleaner is startled –
but not terrified, this has happened before – by a stranger, a stranger, who
perhaps has been sleeping there, a stranger who doesn’t particularly look they
would belong in a parliamentary chamber.
CLEANER: All right?
STRANGER: Just needed a place to crash.
CLEANER: Yep. Beat. Travelling through?
STRANGER: Yeah. Don’t know where to.
CLEANER: Coffee in the kitchen if you need it.
Bread too. If you’re hungry.
STRANGER: What is this place?
CLEANER: It’s a … it’s a memory, I guess.
STRANGER: Pretty grand memory.
All these seats used to be
filled. People who were voted in to make decisions, make the rules, form a government.
STRANGER: Small group like this?
CLEANER: On behalf of everyone.
STRANGER: And they’d … talk, get things done?
CLEANER: More or less.
CLEANER: More or less.
The stranger whistles as if this is quite something.
STRANGER: Long time ago.
CLEANER: Long time ago.
STRANGER: And what do you do?
CLEANER: I clean. Keep a bit of food, a few
supplies for any needing them who might pass by.
STRANGER: Risky. Beat.
See much trouble?
CLEANER: Oh, plenty. Beat. But most folks are decent. Just need a moment’s rest,
somewhere safe to lay their head. A chat with a stranger. Then back out into
STRANGER: Had some weird dreams. Shouting. Bad
jokes. Taunting. Slurs.
STRANGER: Some of the seats, it’s almost like
they’ve still got imprints of the people. Beat.
What happened to them?
CLEANER: Nobody knows for sure. Best guess is
that it was a kind of rapture. All who sat in here or were eligible to sit in
here just … disappeared. Some say they were eaten by the ghosts of their own
pasts. Others that they uploaded into virtual versions of themselves but
couldn’t hold human form any more. Whatever it was, there weren’t enough of
them left to form any kind of governing body, so the whole thing just …
STRANGER: Shit, hey.
STRANGER: And you?
CLEANER: Oh I’ve been here a long time. Like
you, travelling through, stopped here, someone was kind enough to look after me
for a night or two. I never left.
STRANGER: Kindness of strangers, hey.
CLEANER: Yep. Beat. Long enough for me now, I think. Long enough. Beat. Now, let’s see to that coffee.
The cleaner leaves.
The stranger waits.
Time passes and we might assume the cleaner is not
Eventually the stranger picks
up the broom, or the cloth, and starts tending to the chamber.