by Richard Nathan
A room in the Intensive Care unit of a hospital. DR. LEIBER observes his patient INGA. As the play begins, Inga is stressed out and Leiber is reassuring. As the play progresses, Inga gets calmer and Leiber becomes very stressed out.
I… This… I’m alive.
I should be dead.
No. You’re all right.
I should be dead!
You had a heart attack. But you’re all right.
You’re in the hospital. We’re looking after
My heart stopped. I was dead.
Why don’t you leave the diagnosis to me?
I know my heart stopped! Are you trying to
tell me it didn’t?
Well… All right. Yes, it did stop. But we
started it again. I have to leave now, and
visit some other patients. But don’t worry.
The monitor shows you have a strong, steady
heartbeat. Merry Christmas.
I’m not a Christian.
Oh. Well, actually…neither am I.
I‘m just a scientist. Happy
I’m a pagan. Blessed be.
That’s fine too. We don’t discriminate.
I have to leave now.
I should be dead!
You’ve been through a great deal. It’s to be
expected that you should feel stress.
I shouldn’t feel stress. I shouldn’t feel
anything! I should be dead!
I can give you a mild sedative. Then I
have to go. I have so many other patients...
Doctor, have you ever heard of Midvinterblot?
In ancient Sweden, the priests would
perform human sacrifices at the time
of the winter solstice, so that the
elder gods would bring back the light.
People did lots of terrible things before
they knew better.
It’s not terrible. The way of the world is
that people die. Especially old people. The
old die, and babies are born, and that’s how
the world is renewed. You’re a doctor. You
But that’s not human sacrifice. That’s just
bodies running down . Look, I’m sorry. I
really have to go. I can send in a nurse to
talk to you… or give you a sedative. You’d
be amazed at how many patients….
Sometimes it‘s bodies running down.
Sometimes it‘s something else.
People don’t commit human sacrifice anymore!
We do. Those of my creed. At this time of year.
But we don’t use daggers. We are not savages.
We use spells.
I don’t have time…. Let me get a nurse.
Over the course of my life, I have used
spells to take the lives of over a hundred
people. People who were old and ready.
Now I am old. I’m ready. It’s time for
me to give up my life, for the renewal of the
light. So I cast the spell on myself.
That’s nonsense! It isn’t even the
solstice! That was three or four days ago!
This is the day for the celebration of
the coming of the light.
You mean Christmas?
That’s what the Christians call it. We
call it Midvinterblot.
I absolutely have to go. The hospital is filled
with people who need my help.
Why? Why do so many elderly people die
on December 25th ?
I don’t know! Maybe it just seems that way!
Or, … I don’t know… there’s a lot of excitement
… stress on this day. People overeat…
They die to appease the elder gods, to
bring back the light.
That makes no sense! The change in the
length of daylight is caused by the tilt of
the earth as it goes around the sun. When
the days are short in the northern hemisphere,
they are long in the southern hemisphere.
That’s the way it’s always been and the way
it will always be!
As long as the old continue to die.
That is the way of the world.
No!!! That’s… I’m sorry. I shouldn’t get so
emotional. But what you are saying is
against everything I believe in!
The elder gods need another death.
Well, it won’t be you! You’re hooked up
to monitors! At any sign of an irregular
There is a specific number that must die
It doesn’t work that way!
How can you be so sure?
I’ve been practicing medicine for
Yes! And in all that time…
You don’t look that old.
Thank you. As I said, I’ve been
practicing medicine for forty-five
years, and in all that time, I have
She stares at him. He feels a sudden horrible pain in his chest, as if a great weight were crushing him. His knees bed. He has a heart attack and dies.
© 2005 by Richard Nathan. All rights reserved
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