The Things We Do For Love
By Curtis Scott Dunn
© 2016 – All rights reserved
Roman White – Late 30’s – early 50’s, very wealthy and well-dressed. He is a loathsome boor who treats people like playthings.
Laura White – Mid 20’s – early 30’s, of undecided background, but needs to adopt several personas
Donald Smith – Late 30’s – a psychiatrist who specializes in behavior modification for the “company”
Nurse – gender and age unspecified, employed by the “company”
Infant – real or doll
(A psychiatrist’s office. There is a computer and a phone on the desk where Dr. Smith is sitting. Laura is sitting in the patient’s chair, facing the doctor. She is in a trance-like state.)
Smith: Tell me about your week. What left you disappointed?
Laura: (conversationally, although she is still in a trance) Well, Doctor, I have been coming to see you for a while, and the relationship I was contracted to provide has been working very well… until lately. This past month or so, I have begun to sense something new in Roman’s personality. It isn’t the same as when we started.
Smith: What do you mean?
Laura: I don’t think he loves me as much anymore. He’s brusque and he doesn’t listen to me. When we are together, I don’t think he wants to be with me. I work so hard to make myself attractive and I’m always available, and he just doesn’t appreciate it. It’s like he’d rather be somewhere else!
Smith: Well, I think we can help that. You know it’s important to be attractive and available, right?
Laura: (brightly) Well, of course! I’m always ready! Always available to him!
Smith: (shakes head, sadly) That’s exactly right, Mrs. White. Exactly right. Which brings up another concern. Mrs. White, you’re aware that your contract with Mr. Smith requires that you produce three children within five years.
Laura: Yes, yes! I do know my duty, Doctor! But, I don’t know why we haven’t gotten pregnant! (showing just a trace of stress now) I’ve… We’ve… been trying!
Smith: Yes, Mrs. White, I believe you. It’s not time for too much concern yet, you do still have time on your contract. Also, if Mr. Smith is satisfied with your performance, he can apply for an extension of time.
Laura: That will not be necessary! I will fulfill my contract as promised! In fact, I expect Mr. White will ask for an extension just because he wants me! Why he might even ask for a permanent contract with me! (long pause) He will… won’t he? (pause) Won’t he? (pause) Could you speak with him, Doctor?
Smith: (seeming defeated) Yes, Mrs. White. I will speak with him. (pause as he considers something) While I do that, why don’t you take a brief rest?
(On those words, Laura changes instantly from a trance-like state to a sleep state, still seated in the chair.)
Smith: (his demeanor changing, he sighs) Oh, Laura! What am I doing here? Can I live through this? Can I help YOU live through this? I must!
(while he speaks, Smith takes a wire from his computer and attaches it to Laura. This could be attached to a sticky pad, like an EKG. He also takes a syringe and injects her with something. Laura stays “asleep” and non-reactive)
If only I could tell you how I feel about you. I knew that you were special the day I met you. I tried to talk you out of taking a contract. Maybe I was too circumspect. Maybe I should have told you what you were actually in for. I thought I did, we talked for hours as I did the evaluation. I feel like I know you. Or, I knew who you were before you came in. Oh, if only I had enough money to take my own contract for you! I would have. I would have stopped you, and took you for myself. And maybe we could have been married the old way. I would have given anything for the chance to make you happy without programming your mind. Maybe we could have loved each other, us really, without all the tech? Without an implanted thought construct designed to make you want me? Maybe we could have been real with each other?
(Smith kneels in front of her, takes her face in his hands and kisses her. Laura stays asleep and does not react. He delivers the next few lines directly to her.)
I didn’t have the money, Laura. I’m so sorry. All this technology, I’ve been working with it and developing it my whole life, and I can’t even afford a relationship. Assholes like Roman White get to buy you and use you, and then throw you away when he gets his child. Or worse. (pause) I can’t let that happen. I couldn’t talk you out of the contract, couldn’t talk you past the glossy marketing that promises a glamourous life – but I won’t let you be lost to what’s on the other side of that glamour.
I’ll get you through this, Laura. It’s going to hurt you, I know. I could make it hurt less, or not at all, I could erase the whole thing from your mind once it’s over – but I don’t know that you would still be whole afterward. So, I’m going to keep you from conceiving, and I’m going to keep you as close to reality as I possibly can. And I’m going to hope… and I’m going to hope… when it’s all done, and that horrible man has rejected you and put you aside… that I’ll be able to find you. And I’ll take you in. And maybe you’ll love me. And I promise… I promise… You’ll know me. The real me. And, I’ll know you.
(As Smith finishes, Mr. White enters. Smith stands, and composes himself.)
Roman: (entering, impatient with having been made to wait) Well?
Smith: Mr. White, the problem is that your physical persona is forcing it’s way through the construct I created. Have you been wearing the mask when you interact with her?
Roman: I don’t have time for explanations and excuses. Did you fix her?
Smith: I made some adjustments to her serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin inducers, and I will tweak the construct that filters what she hears and perceives, but you must pay attention to your physical actions and body language!
Roman: Listen to me you white-coated twerp. I’m paying a lot of money. A LOT of money… for a breeding contract.
Smith: A marriage contrac…
Roman: Do NOT interrupt me! (suddenly changing tone to be conciliatory) Let’s just call it what it is, right? Between us men? I have her because I need a son. She has a contract to provide one. Or more. At the end of her contract, she either will have succeeded, or she won’t. I don’t really care, I can get another contract. (more aggressively) And, I presume that you are doing all you can to make that happen for me, per OUR contract?
Smith: Of course, Mr. White. However, I do need to caution that the construct is a cover, a coat of paint, if you will – and you can, through your actions, break through the illusion that we have created for Laura.
Roman: (suspiciously) Laura?
Smith: (chastened) Mrs. White. My apologies.
Roman: Don’t. Now, I will ask you again. Are you doing EVERYTHING possible to help me achieve my goal?
Smith: I am doing everything possible to help you, while preserving the psychological and physical integrity of my patient.
Roman: I don’t care about your patient. I care about the results that I am paying for you and her to give me. Now, do whatever you need to do to make her accommodating until I achieve my goal.
Smith: As I said, Mr. White, there is a limit to how far I can push a mind.
Roman: That’s funny, Smith. I don’t hear such moral caution when I talk with my friends who also have contracts with your company. The girl’s mind is an acceptable casualty, same as her body. (conciliatory again) Besides, at the end of the contract, we’re either going to move her program to parenting duty, or she’ll go to the whorehouses and get reprogrammed for recreational use. Either way, I won’t have to touch her or talk to her anymore – so what does it matter?
Smith: But, she may be the mother of your children.
Roman: (cold again) So what? If she’s sane, she can get reprogrammed and get her jollies out of being a milk jug. If she’s not, then I’ll contract some horse-faced sandbag that no one would touch anyway to act as a parent, and off to recreation duty with dear Laura. Am I right?
Roman: Now, wake her up. I’ve wasted enough of my time today.
Smith: Yes, sir. (goes to computer, then pauses) I gather you require a new mask, Mr. White?
Roman: I suppose I do.
(Smith hands Mr. White a blank white mask, which Mr. White dons. Smith goes to computer, types, then gives a command)
Smith: Mrs. White, join us please.
(Laura awakens and takes a moment to register her surroundings)
Laura: Oh! Hello Doctor! I must have dozed off!
Smith: It’s quite all right Mrs. White.
Roman: (to Smith) Let’s try her out, shall we? (to Mrs. Smith) Get up you cow.
Laura: (brightly) Right away, Darling! Do you have an adventure planned for us today?
Roman: (with a condescending tone) Why yes, Darling! I’m going to take you home and make a baby inside you. (looking right at Smith) And then I’m going to invent things to do to you until I feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of today’s visit.
Laura: (in a sexy-teasing voice) Roman! You shouldn’t be so bold in front of Dr. Smith! (moving her body up against Roman, conspiratorially) But you make me so hot! Take me home, Roman!
Roman: Oh, I will! (Mr. White takes her by the arms roughly, and steers her toward the door. Before they exit, Mr. White turns and raises his mask to speak with Smith. As he does, we see that Laura notices the absence of the mask, and looks confused or upset.) (To Smith) You’re not keeping any secrets. You think about this. I would have given her to you after I was done with her. But I saw you with her, you aren’t fooling anyone, When I finish with her, you’ll never see her again. So, for her sake, I hope you did the best you could do to make her enjoy what she does have… me.
Laura: (confused, as if she doesn’t know him) Roman? What is…
(Mr. White replaces his mask)
Oh, Darling! (acting sultry) Shall we go home now? Goodbye, Doctor!
(Smith waves feebly as the lights dim)
(Spot light up on Smith, standing alone)
Smith: I didn’t see Laura after that. Roman White complained to the company, and they switched Mrs. White… Laura… to a different behavioral programmer. Despite what Mr. White implied, the company mission does not include treating its subjects minds as expendable, so his threats didn’t get me dismissed.
I spent the next five years hoping two things. First, that Laura was assigned to a good programmer who wouldn’t screw up her mind; and second, that no one would discover that I had chemically sterilized her to save her from a lifetime of abuse from Roman White. As for me, I couldn’t bring myself to program people anymore, and a couple years after the incident, I stepped into management at the behavior mod division, and stopped programming contracts directly. I’m not much better off than I used to be, but I can sleep at night.
I started looking for Laura in the recreational units when I thought her contract would be over. It was insane – so many people reduced to… well, it’s hard to say. They seem happy, but that’s mostly the illusions set up in their minds by the programmers. And it’s not just women. There’s men. Kids too. My God. They get implants and drugs, and illegal bootleg programs, and a mask. They give the mask to whoever hires them, and if their program says so, for a set period of time the person in the mask can do no wrong. Lots of people get hurt, but can’t remember how it happened or who did it to them. The world is fucked up.
(Lights come up on a bar scene. Laura is seated at the bar with a mask set down on the bar near her, and a man is chatting her up. The man looks at her mask, rubs his fingers together to indicate money, and shakes his head. The man walks off.)
I got word the other day that someone who looks like Laura is working out of a recreation bar way downtown. I decided to go check it out. Unfortunately during most of our conversations back in the lab, she was in trance. I don’t even know if she will remember me.
Smith: (entering bar) Laura? (she doesn’t react) Excuse me, is your name Laura?
Laura: (turning to him, this is a very different Laura than earlier, she is coarse and jaded) If you like.
Smith: I’m Donald Smith, Dr. Smith. I think I may have met you before.
Laura: Haven’t been to a doctor in a long time. Are you a repeat client? I have trouble remembering sometimes.
Smith: No, no. This would have been years ago. Before you started working in recreation.
Laura: Don’t recall.
Smith: Are you sure? You don’t remember me?
Laura: Nope. But look, if you want, the mask fixes everything for a hour or two. Or three, depending on your cash flow. I got the standard programs loaded, and a couple that make me want more “exotic” pursuits, but you gotta be ready to pay good for those.
Smith: Oh. (pauses, nervous) What if I brought a program with me?
Laura: (getting nervous) Umm, look. It’s not like I haven’t done that, but I’d need to have the program scanned first, make sure it’s not too extreme, you know? And you can’t install it. I have someone to help me with that.
Smith: Oh, of course not!
Laura: And that privilege is probably more money than someone like you has.
Smith: Well, let me look in my wallet. While I do that, why don’t you take a brief rest?
(Laura falls immediately to sleep. Smith is surprised it worked.)
Smith: Holy crap! They never de-installed my programs, they just added on! (looking about, furtively) Mrs. White, progress to trance and follow me.
(Smith and Laura exit the bar. Smith takes Laura’s mask. They cross stage to the office where lights come up, and dim on the bar. Laura sits in the patient chair where we first met her. She is in trance.)
Smith: Laura, can you hear me? (no response) Can you hear me?
Smith: I want to help you.
Laura: Of course you do, Doctor! You help me to be attractive and available to my husband!
Smith: No, no, Mrs. White. Time has passed. Your contract expired.
Laura: Yes, that’s true. Was I a good wife? Did I have a baby?
Smith: No. I’m sorry, you didn’t conceive.
Laura: Oh. (upset by this) I wanted a baby.
Smith: Did you? (aside) I can’t remember if that was in your program or something you already wanted.
Laura: Yes, very much! My husband wanted a son, but I would have loved any child I was given. Was it my fault?
Smith: No, Laura. It was my fault.
Smith: Laura, I want to help you.
Laura: Thank you Doctor. You always help me. You help me to be attractive and availabl…
Smith: No, Laura. I want to remove your programs.
Laura: I don’t understand?
Smith: I want to remove your programs. Clear your mind. What you think you know.
Laura: Oh. (inquisitively) Who will I be then?
Smith: You will be you. You will be who you were before you took your contract.
Laura: Oh. I can only remember me before the programs when I am asleep. I was a good person. I wasn’t happy though.
Smith: I knew you, a little. You were a good person. But you didn’t have any way to support yourself, and you took a contract for five years.
Laura: And when I was awake, the man I was matched with made me happy. We were going to have children.
Smith: I know you don’t understand this, but he didn’t love you. He wasn’t kind to you. The program I gave you made you think that he was.
Laura: (this passage is a self-revelation to Laura) I used to dream that he didn’t love me, but the program made the dreams go away when I was awake. Now, when I’m asleep, I dream about what happens to me in the recreation places, but those dreams also go away when I wake up. (long pause as she starts to realize) The programs are lies? The dreams are real? You gave me lies in my mind? (long pause, then inquisitively) Why did you give me lies?
Smith: To protect you. To help you.
Laura: (unemotionally, and very matter-of-fact, like she is working out a logic problem) You say you want to help me, but you lie to me. To give me a better life, you took away who I was, and gave me a lie to protect me. And, who I think I am when I’m awake, I am not? Now, you wish to take that away and give me back what I dream because that is who I am?
Smith: (beginning to cry, a little) Yes. Maybe?
Laura: I don’t think you don’t want to help me. You don’t want to protect me. I don’t think you know…
Smith: No, I want to undo what I’ve done. I want to give you back to yourself.
Laura: (still working it out) But, who am I? Do you even know?
Smith: (crying now) Mrs. White… Laura… I do know you. I… while I do that, why don’t you take a brief rest?
(Laura falls asleep. Smith attaches the programming wire and types on his computer.)
Smith: Delete all programs except core.
(He caresses her face a moment, and she begins to awaken)
Laura: (regaining herself) Hello, Don.
Smith: You remember me? How do you feel? Are you ok? What do you remember?
Laura: (long pause while she recollects) I remember. I remember when I was a girl, and I remember when I met you. I remember taking the contract… and (repulsed a little) I remember Roman and the things he did. I remember that you programmed me to like him – but what he was and the way he behaved kept interfering with that, even when I was awake. After he changed my doctor to someone else, he lost interest in me and took another contract. I spent years alone until I was programmed to willingly accept reassignment to recreation. Did you know that, Don? Did you know that most of the people in recreation are there because they signed new contracts while still under the influence of a program? Do you know that when we are asleep, we remember?
I know you think that you loved me, Don. Perhaps you did. You wanted to save me from a permanent contract with Roman. (pause) But to do that, you took away an important part of me. Did you know the reason I took the contract was so that I could have a baby in a good well-off family? I wouldn’t have to worry that one day my baby would be in a position to take a contract in order to escape being poor? (pause) And, though I didn’t have to live out a permanent contract, I was still programmed to be accepting of whatever Roman asked in his mask, even when he presented me with a contract in recreation. Do you understand that I signed it because that is what you do when you are programmed to trust someone.
Smith: I didn’t do that to you. I want to start over.
Laura: But you were the start of it. You are still responsible. I will not forgive you for that. (Laura begins to reach for the wire still attaching her to the computer. Smith stops her, but very gently. This is the most painful moment for him.)
Smith: I’m so sorry. (hits key on keyboard as he gives command) Core reboot.
(Laura convulses, then goes to her trance state)
Smith: (types on keyboard, then speaks command aloud to Laura) Load program “Don Loves Me”. Parameter. Erase resident memory seven years. Parameter. Maximize hormone stimulus for intense bonding at program startup.
Laura: (robotically) Confirm parameter. Erase resident memory?
Smith: Confirm erase.
Laura: Erase confirmed. Memory is untested, vestigial thoughts may remain. Confirm overwrite?
Smith: Negative. Do not overwrite.
Laura: Confirm bonding target as mask, program “Don Loves Me”.
Smith: Negative. New parameter. Set bonding target as first visualized face, delete mask.
Laura: Confirm bond to first face. Mask will not be recognized.
(Smith takes a pause and a deep breath, composes himself, then picks up a phone on his desk.)
Smith: Harris, I have a new subject ready for contract. Parental. Permanent contract. (pause) Yes, an orphan will be fine. Preferable. Oh, and when you come in, wear a mask, please? New protocol.
(A few beats as Smith dons a mask. A nurse enters, masked, holding a swaddled infant.)
Smith: Laura, join us please?
(Laura awakens. The nurse hands the baby to her. For a moment, Laura only looks at the two people in masks, bewildered by them. Then, she looks down at the baby she is holding.)
Laura: Oh! Hello there! (pause, then tenderly) I’m your mommy…