Floathouse 1001

Han Lao Da

Artwork by Kazunari Negishi


(Lights up on MADAM RED lighting candles on a cake. She sings the birthday song in a mixture of different languages and gibberish. At the start she sounds like an old woman, but her voice gets younger and younger, and she changes into a young girl's outfit. MR BLUE enters the light in his wheelchair. His long white hair and partial paralysis give him an unusual appearance. He watches RED for some time, until she turns and is startled by him.)

RED: You gave me a fright!

BLUE: You'll get the hang of it.

RED: We've been floating about in this thing for god knows how long, I've got the hang of everything – except for the way you creep around scaring people!

BLUE: Just hang on. You'll get the hang of me hanging about.

RED: Have you really had a stroke? You came up behind me without a sound.

BLUE: My top half has had a stroke. My bottom half is striking.

RED: Your bottom half still has the strength to walk? (smiles to herself)

BLUE: Would you like to see for yourself? I'm a hundred-and-ahem this year, but this piece of machinery is still functioning.

RED: What a shame we're here. Even if you were to go back to your youth, this is a demilitarised zone. No weapons here!

BLUE: I quite agree. If I had a beautiful young lady in front of me right now, I would prove that the good sword does not grow blunt with age. So, this year you're a hundred and what, again?

RED: We're not supposed to talk about age here.

BLUE: Right. This place has no calendars, no time. Age has no meaning here. Every day the sun rises and sets, the tides come and go – outside the window is nothing but sea, wind, waves. Look at us. Our hair has grown so long and so white, and we feel nothing.

RED: We never had a chance to feel. White like snow. It makes one think of winter.

BLUE: It actually feels good to lose one's feelings. A day here feels like a year, but a year feels like a day. It doesn't matter if it's yesterday or tomorrow.

RED: That may be true for you. For me, a day is a day.

BLUE: But every day is the same – the same sea, doing the same things.

RED: In my head, I think different thoughts every day.

BLUE: You're still clinging to life on Land. You're not suited to Floathouse.

RED: I feel at home here. No telephone, no television, no fax, no newspaper. No society, so sin loses its breeding ground. The to-and-fro of human life melts away, the clocks stop, and life becomes endless. Day by immeasurably precious day.

BLUE: So each day is immeasurably precious? But tomorrow will be the same as today, I'll be a hundred years old every day.

RED: Of course you will be the same tomorrow, but in your brain will be a whole load of things you didn't think of today.

BLUE: I haven't had a good think for ages.

RED: For example, today is my birthday, so I'm having a little celebration.

BLUE: Do you celebrate your birthday every day?

RED: Not every day, but often.

BLUE: Most people have just the one birthday. What did you do – get born, decide it was too hot, and crawl back inside for a bit?

RED: If a day goes well, I feel like a newborn child – so each good day is like a birthday for me.

BLUE: Birthdays make you think of the past, and we don't talk about the past here. You've forgotten our rule again.

RED: I didn't forget. You made the rules, I don't see why I should have to follow them. Floathouse is beyond the law.

BLUE: The first calm day we get, you should leave Floathouse. Return to Land.

RED: Fine, I won't mention the past, let's talk about the here and now. You see before you a cake. What do you think of it?

BLUE: It looks like a cake.

RED: As long as it looks like one. And this candle?

BLUE: It looks like a candle.

RED: It is a candle.

BLUE: Where did you even get a candle? We haven't seen one of those for ages.

RED: I brought it with me, from Land.

BLUE: Whatever for?

RED: To celebrate birthdays! I knew there wouldn't be any candles here, they'd hardly be including them in the monthly supplies delivery. (pulls a fistful of candles from her pocket) See! So many birthdays worth.

BLUE: Birthdays again. Triple-One hates this kind of talk.

RED: (putting the candles away) That's why I celebrate quietly. You shouldn't be seeing this!

BLUE: (counting the candles) A hundred and three. Are you a hundred and three?

RED: Me? Ninety-three, eighty-three, seventy-three – whatever age you like.

BLUE: Seeing you like this makes me think of Land.

RED: How come?

BLUE: You make me think of a Land woman.

RED: I'm the same as I was yesterday. But today you're thinking of women?

BLUE: I haven't for ages. If I hadn't seen you in that dress, I'd have forgotten you were a woman.

RED: This is a unisex outfit. How can you tell?

BLUE: Do you dance?

RED: Dance? That's something from long ago. Are you thinking about dancing? You seem different today, somehow.

BLUE: Can you dance the waltz?

RED: The waltz. What a beautiful name. (dancing) I danced most beautifully at my graduation ceremony.

BLUE: A pity we have no music.

RED: On my wedding night, I danced the waltz with that lousy bastard. There was no music then either. (lost in their memories, they begin dancing together)

BLUE: You—

RED: What about me?

BLUE: You're bouncy.

RED: Bouncy?

BLUE: Jump. (she does so) Bouncy. (with a leer) Jump a little more.

RED: You old devil. If I keep on jumping, I'll have a stroke like you. Who'd take care of you then, not to mention Triple-One?

BLUE: Bouncy. So beautiful!

RED: Did you call me beautiful?

BLUE: All bouncy things are beautiful. (points at himself)

RED: Things! Your things (his hands, his legs) aren't bouncy, are they? Here (his brain) isn't bouncy – if you want to be elastic, not stiff, you have to stretch all over. You should practice with me every day. Morning, noon, night and at three in the morning. The seven sevens of 'The All-Natural Universal Momentum Circulation of Inner and Outer Qi.'

BLUE: Oh my sainted aunt. Spare me. Never mind these forty-nine rituals, this – what is it, Universe, Momentum.

RED: The All-Natural Universal Momentum Circulation of Inner and Outer Qi.

BLUE: I could fart and you wouldn't be done saying that title.

RED: Are you making fun of my beliefs? Look at me, so energetic – I could still pass for ninety-eight. And so 'bouncy' your eyes pop out when you look at me. It's all due to The All-Natural Universal Momentum Circulation of Inner and Outer Qi.

BLUE: Forget it. Here on Floathouse, cut off from Land, it doesn't matter if we live or die. We'll float until we sink, and whatever we do will be like a fart – there'll be a sound, or there won't. There'll be a smell, or there won't. Either way, it disperses into nothing. (He does some movements in a deliberately comical way)

RED: Stop that. That does you as much good as a couple of farts.

BLUE: Even if I didn't practice, I'd still be able to fart.

RED: What have you ever done that's worth more than a fart? Mr Blue, how many times have I told you. Fate has placed us on Floathouse, which is now our home. Here is peace, nothing to worry us. By day, watch the sea meet the sky, let your soul open as wide as the sky. At night, the waves sing to you, your small life wrapped in the great ocean. In this endless natural world, in the twilight of our lives, we shine as faintly as the most distant stars in the sky. Before long, we'll turn into shooting stars, lighting up a corner of the inky sky, and then becoming dust, floating forever in the universe.

BLUE: And we float, we float...

RED: Relax a little, forget your age. (dancing with him) We float in the water, float in the air. Forget your own age, forget everything. Do you remember that old song from last century, the nineties – 'A Better Tomorrow'? Such a wordy song. Do you remember? (BLUE prepares to fart) What's wrong with you?

BLUE: You talk like I fart. I've told you, I have no past, stop asking if I remember.

RED: Old fart. You're no fun!

(Thirsty, she presses a button for water. She gives a cup to BLUE and takes one herself)

BLUE: Drinking sea water?

RED: We have this every day. Sea water made plain, it's plain water.

BLUE: I feel like some coffee.

RED: Coffee will make you think of the past.

BLUE: The past is too long ago. I won't think about anything, I just want some coffee.

RED: Fine. Here's your coffee. (Presses another button. Coffee appears)

BLUE: Making coffee from coffee powder. How long ago did we do that?

RED: Don't talk about the past.

BLUE: The scent of coffee has followed me half my life.

RED: Don't talk about the past.

BLUE: It wasn't just the scent of coffee. The smell of vegetables, rice, my wife...

RED: You're remembering your wife now.

BLUE: When my son was little, he dipped dough sticks in coffee like me. How fragrant those dough sticks were!

RED: And now your son.

BLUE: (looking into the next room) He's still asleep. We can talk about the past, he won't hear us.

RED: Are you that scared of him?

BLUE: You can't talk to him about the past, he has no past. And you can't mention the present, he just listens, he never says anything.

RED: Talk about the future, then.

BLUE: He won't do that either. His future is like his present.

RED: Then what do you talk to him about?

BLUE: The unimaginable future. So far away you or I couldn't understand it. A different universe.

RED: Whatever. Forget about him, let's talk about your past. You said... dough sticks. What about dough sticks?

BLUE: (his enthusiasm gone) Dough sticks, gone. Coffee, no longer fragrant. My wife, gone. My pension, gone. And so I came to Floathouse 1001.

RED: We agreed not to talk about the past. Come on, practice. (She does so. Suddenly, the entire structure shakes) Quick, fasten your safety belt!

BLUE: I'm not ready yet! Are my clothes tidy? Is my hair neat?

RED: Aren't we still in the Pacific? The Pacific is never peaceful.

BLUE: I've never felt such big waves. Maybe our time is up.

RED: I know you're ready to die, but I'm not done with life yet.

BLUE: Let's dance a last waltz, we'll be happy as we go.

RED: Let go of me, I'm not going anywhere.

(They struggle. A sad noise comes over the sound of waves. It is Mr GREEN, who now appears – white hair down to his shoulders, keening into the raging wind)

GREEN: Come, good friends, old enemies, come. I have awaited you for many a year. Don't hold back, come with more sound, more fury. Ha!

RED: Is he senile or losing his mind? Laughing in the face of the wind.

BLUE: Old friend, hold on to the railing. Even if you don't tumble into the sea, you'll still break your legs. You might snap your spine! We only have one wheelchair.

GREEN: What a gentleman. The intersection of all the colours. Single yellow line or double yellow line? Straight or curved? Many sided polygons.

RED: Isn't this a rotten ship? They told us it would be steady as a rock.

GREEN: Rock, like iceberg. Journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Three metres of ice is more than a night of frost.

BLUE: Floathouse can't stay afloat. You're lost in dreams! Your dreams will be buried on the ocean floor, old friend.

GREEN: Dreaming! (chanting) Lost souls wander the paths of wine, your gut in dreams will feel so fine. Ten years pass in one night's dream, once again in youth you seem...

RED: What language is that?

BLUE: It's not language, it's poetry. (The boat shakes again)

GREEN: Float and live on mountain roads, a thousand waves on the sea bed. The road is long and distant, walk and walk, with my blood I... connected...Emperor Xuan Yuan.

RED: Is that still poetry?

BLUE: No, that's language. Or gibberish. His brain is disordered.

RED: I feel disordered listening to it.

GREEN: Steady, steady... quiet, quiet... calm, calm...

(The room stops shaking, and the wind quietens)

RED: He may seem mad, but he's still powerful. Look, the waves have stopped.

BLUE: He knew the waves would have to calm down eventually. He's just pretending.

(GREEN glares at BLUE and begins chanting. The waves start up again)

RED: We're sorry, he's talking nonsense! (She slaps BLUE. The waves stop again)

BLUE: Rough seas are nothing to get excited about. Even if you couldn't speak or move, they'd still get you in the end. (His words are directed at GREEN)

GREEN: I wish to ride the winds away, to the kingdom in the sky. (exits)

RED: What huge waves. You've been here longer than I have. Does this happen often?

BLUE: An everyday occurrence.

RED: Floathouse Inc. promised an unsinkable craft. But even if we didn't sink, with such big waves, we'd be shaken to death.

BLUE: You should read the small print. It's unsinkable because they take it back before it gets a chance to sink.

RED: Take it back?

BLUE: Withdraw it, refurbish it, and let it out again.

RED: To float on the sea again?

BLUE: You should open the window at night and look out. The sky is full of stars, but isn't the sea also covered in points of light, like a reflection of the sky? Those are other Floathouses.

RED: So many Floathouses?

BLUE: I can't remember how many years I've been on Floathouse. I once heard that eighty thousand new Floathouses register every month. That's almost a million a year. The seas are not as big as the heavens. If they didn't take back Foathouses from time to time but just let them sink, they'd fill up the sea.

RED: That's good for the planet. Otherwise all this scrap metal and rubbish would kill all the fish.

BLUE: No wonder the inventer of Floathouse, Mr Franklin Stanislavik Floathouse himself, was one of the great men of the last century.

RED: A great man?

BLUE: Mr Floathouse decided that there were too many old people refusing to die. Not very long ago, the human lifespan was much shorter. Heart disease, brain haemorrhages, cancer – it was easy to die. Even if you were unlucky enough to be healthy, you could lie to your doctor and get a few days' worth of sleeping pills – take them all at once and sleep forever. Climb to the top of a building and jump, or stay on the ground and hang yourself. Now it's hard to die well. The suicide-prevention mechanisms are too powerful, too many people are stopped. And if they rescue you? You pay ten times the medical fees of anyone else. Who would dare to die? When you're better, they interview you on live television, make a telemovie with you in the lead, showing the agony of your suicide attempt, to frighten people who might think about following suit. If you can't act well enough for that, they send you to drama school. When you've had your star turn, they take you to court and fine you. You might even end up in prison. What for?

RED: Too many people were killing themselves. They had to do something about it.

BLUE: You sound like someone on Land.

RED: I've just come from there. Maybe I still smell of it.

BLUE: We're all in the same boat. Let me tell you, I've tried to kill myself eight times. I failed all eight times, and no one caught me. I wanted to try again, but it never happened. I lost my confidence in death, and so I had to keep living.

RED: If you want to die, why spend so much money to get onto Floathouse?

BLUE: I came here to die, but as soon as I left Land, as we floated away from it, looking at the lively sea, I suddenly realised how small a man is. If I died, I'd be like the white crest of a wave, there and then not there. I might as well live, listen to the waves, feel the sea breeze blow, drifting away from the cares of this world.

RED: It's unseemly for an old person to kill himself. Is it the fault of your children, or society?

BLUE: Children? I have no children. You?

RED: Me? I have no children either. Ha! No children.

BLUE: Childless. Good. Kids treat their parents like dirt now, not like the old days.

(GREEN is heard singing offstage: a sad song with no words.)

RED: Do you know what he's singing about?

BLUE: If you understood his song, you'd be singing it too. The winds won't come again for a while, we can relax now. Oh, and happy birthday.

(RED continues listening to the song with no words.)


(Early morning. RED and BLUE sleeping in different corners. GREEN enters on crutches)

GREEN: Floathouse, floathouse, you epoch-making creation. Come, embrace the sky and earth with me. Be the spirit of the sea. Ocean, I submit myself to your vast embrace, I beat with your pulse, breathe with your breath.

RED: (startled awake) Poet, are you composing more verses?

GREEN: Floathouse, I bid you goodbye. (walks towards the exit)

RED: Are you leaving Floathouse? Are you returning to Land?

GREEN: Woman from Land, I bid you goodbye.

RED: This is the first sentence you've spoken I actually understand. Why goodbye?

GREEN: Ah, woman of a lifetime's confusion, a moment's enlightenment. Have you no feelings left?

RED: I do, my whole body feels.

BLUE: Never mind about your feelings, my feelings haven't disappeared either.

RED: You're awake?

BLUE: I was never asleep.

RED: Can't you tell the difference anymore?

BLUE: Floathouse is like outer space. No sense of time. Awake and asleep merge.

RED: Mr Blue, our friend is bidding us farewell.

GREEN: Goodbye, Floathouse, and souls on board Floathouse, my friends of many years. May we meet again in another time and place – but if we don't, do not be sad.

BLUE: You're speaking plainly today. Let's be clear on one more point – where do you think you're going? You know very well that there are no exits here. If you open that hull door, we're lose our floatation and sink, and Floathouse Inc. will withdraw us. Is that worth it? To lose this peace, this quiet, this simplicity, for some made-up other 'time and place.'

RED: I haven't had many quiet days in my life. When I signed the contract with Floathouse Inc., I knew it was my death warrant, but I had no regrets. I've never had such peace as here. It's enough. My own ocean, my own sky – you ask me to give that up?

GREEN: Even Floathouse must sink one day.

BLUE: Yes, when two of the three of us are dead, and the third can no longer stand the solitude, he'll press a button to sink the craft. Perhaps you forgot. It's in the contract.

GREEN: (angry) Forget the contract. The contract is a man-eating demon from Land.

BLUE: But this demon is still with us.

GREEN: I told you to destroy your contract, throw it out with your shit where it belongs.

BLUE: I've done as you asked and wiped my bum with it. But demons have many forms. Floathouse Inc. has a soft copy. Our signatures are saved on their hard disk.

RED: I signed too. How else would I have ended up on this pirate ship?

GREEN: Copy...signature... (in agony) You've brought me back to this evil place, back into the power of that evil demon.

BLUE: Not on purpose. You wanted to open the hull door and take us with you.

RED: Didn't even ask for our permission.

GREEN: Take you with me... Ha! (feels dizzy)

RED: (helps him to a chair) Where does it hurt?

BLUE: His blood pressure's gone up again. Pills are in his shirt pocket.

RED: (giving GREEN his medicine, massaging him in a practiced way, taking his blood pressure) 120 over 110. My god, he should be dead. Have I read that wrongly?

GREEN: The roof is getting lower.

RED: It's not the roof that's sinking, it's your blood pressure that's rising.

BLUE: Or are you becoming a dwarf? A hundred years old. People do shrink.

GREEN: The time is here, the sky is clear, the clouds are gone, the gate to heaven lies before us. Goodbye, crowded world. Goodbye, guilty soul. With a smile on my face, the roof perched lightly on my head, my body clothed in deep blue seawater, let me float, let me float, float to the other shore where my spirit will find peace. (strikes some strange poses)

RED: He's not well at all, is he.

BLUE: You could call that illness. When we get to his age, you and I will be like that too. You'll get the hang of it.

RED: Should we ask Land to send a doctor?

BLUE: Stop talking about Land.

RED: Because Land makes him think of the past?

BLUE: If we never mention Land, it will slip from our thoughts. When you talk about it, memories will cling to you like dream-monsters.

RED: But dreams come to you without warning.

BLUE: True. I thought I'd be free of dreams here, but good dreams are hard to come by, and nightmares are constant visitors. Tormenting voices in my ear, never any peace, sounds of traffic, sounds of crowds. Tone-deaf karaoke at midnight, like a stuck pig.

RED: How exquisite is the sound of the sea.

BLUE: Day-long fears of all kinds of crimes. Eighty thousand people are murdered a day, including failed suicides who stab each other, shoot each other in prison. At midnight you often hear people scream as they fling themselves off rooftops, or perhaps those are the cries of women being raped – we tell ourselves it must be next door's television.

RED: How peaceful is the great ocean.

BLUE: A schoolchild is reprimanded in class, so he aims his mail-order laser gun at his teacher's house. A laser gun doesn't go bang, that seems to lack some kind of drama.

RED: How beautiful is the night sky. I'm in love with it.

BLUE: We found a vaccine for AIDS a decade ago and immunised all our children. We thought mankind was fortunate then. But without the threat of AIDS, a second sexual revolution – secondary school students have as many abortions as O-Levels now. Pregnant schoolgirls advice their single teachers about lovemaking techniques.

RED: (taking her medicine) How sweet this medicine is.

BLUE: When I was at school, we got free dental care. Now they give out condoms and contraceptive pills in Fifth Form.

RED: The sea at night is black as pitch, but it's pure, it's good.

BLUE: Now, all the men on Land go whoring. You need a high school diploma to get your prostitute license these days. In high-class brothels, the girls have sociology degrees.

RED: (trying to shut him up) The sea is not always calm.

BLUE: Men can wife-swap every day. If women get tired of that kind of life, they can turn lesbian and have a family that way. The government worries that our birth rate is even lower than our death rate. Too many people waiting to die, too few being born. Before the decade is out, Land will be full of old men and old women. They'll have to turn schools into Old Folks' Concentration Camps. And so the endless restriction orders, forced orders, movement orders, corrective orders, all kinds of orders. It suffocates you.

RED: Oh ocean, do you still breathe?

BLUE: Land itself will sink, whilst we continue to float here, serenely.

RED: Stop talking about Land. Let's enjoy this peace while it lasts! We don't have much time left, let's try to pass it in peace, like the tides, an endless cycle, so restful.

BLUE: When we die we'll join the waves forever, we'll be converted to Ocean.

GREEN: (rising quickly, going to the hull door) Goodbye, my companions. We'll reunite in our next lives. (opens the door. Sounds of the sea. RED hurriedly shuts the door)

RED: Shut the door, the ship will sink!

BLUE: The Land curse of suicide takes place at sea too! Friend, I won't stop you if you really want to die, but why? Life on Floathouse is good. Was your old life ever this peaceful?

GREEN: The roof is plummeting, Floathouse is sinking, it will return to Land. And I belong to Ocean.

BLUE: What? We're being withdrawn? We're still living and breathing, how can they do that? The contract is very clear.

RED: Floathouse is sinking! I can feel it! Has something gone wrong?

GREEN: I belong to Ocean, not to Floathouse.

BLUE: You belong to the ocean and so do we. We'll all go together when the time comes. How about it?

RED: We should try to work out what's wrong with Floathouse.

BLUE: A fault in the machinery. Perhaps we're leaking floatation gas. Quick, grab the life preserver.

RED: Dammit, this is designed for tall people, I can't reach it. Us shorties need help too. I'm going to make an official complaint!

BLUE: I didn't use to be short. (looks at his wheelchair, then at GREEN) Friend, you're tall enough, you do it. (GREEN doesn't move) Stop putting on airs. You're nothing, same as us. Pull the life preserver, the company will send someone to fix Floathouse, and we can live on here for a few more years.

RED: Leave him, I'll climb on you to reach it.

BLUE: I've never had a woman climb on me.

RED: Never? Now's your chance! (climbs onto the wheelchair) Staring death in the face, and still so shy! (She is climbing with difficulty, as the wheelchair moves along with the craft. The effect is comical) Stop moving!

BLUE: I'm not moving, Floathouse is.

GREEN: Pathetic. That's not a rescue ring, it's a noose!

RED: This is no time for jokes! (She leaps up and grabs the ring)

GREEN: The day someone comes here from Land will be the day we die.

BLUE: They'll send someone to fix Floathouse, not to kill us!

GREEN: Floathouse will be withdrawn, and all our benefits. It's not time yet, they're bringing it forward.

BLUE: You mean the company is sending someone to take back Floathouse? I don't believe you, the contract is still in effect. Land people may be bastards, but they still have to be bastardly within the law.

GREEN: Demons are everywhere. Oh, how I envy the Monkey God and his eyes of fiery gold that can see past demonic disguises.

(An announcement in a foreign language comes over the loudspeakers)

RED: What language is that?

BLUE: Wrong channel. Floathouse Inc has a worldwide monopoly. Press the Chinese button on the keyboard. (RED does so. The language changes)

LOUDSPEAKER: Floathouse 1001, Floathouse 1001. We have received your signal. Our cameras have diagnosed your difficulty. Help will arrive within twenty-four hours. Please press button 89 on your computer, and carefully read clause 132 in your contract, regarding Floathouse emergency rescue and repair conditions. Thank you for your attention.

RED: How do they know what's wrong? Can they hear us?

BLUE: Are you surprised? It's part of the Floathouse design.

RED: You mean, Floathouse is monitored by close-circuit cameras?

BLUE: You'll get the hang of it.

RED: Even the bedrooms?

BLUE: It's for your own safety.

RED: What about my right to privacy?

BLUE: Long gone.

RED: Oh my god.

BLUE: You'll get the hang of it.

RED: Wait, are there cameras in the bathrooms?

BLUE: What if there are? Who wants to see you naked?

(RED blushes. BLUE and GREEN are lost in their own thoughts. The sound of the ocean, above which we can hear an aircraft landing)


(Engine sounds continue from previous scene. RED and BLUE look up as a beam of light shoots to the ground, and a slim young lady in an eye-catching spacesuit appears. GREEN sits in a corner, holding his crutches, watching them. Seeing them all silent, the LADY walks around the room, observing their reactions with a practised eye.)

LADY: Good day, all! (silence) I'm from Floathouse Inc Branch Office 99. My name is Martha Sally Alice Candice Felicia Annie.

RED: That's too long to remember. Any nickname?

LADY: Call me by my code number, 808.

RED: 808, are you hear to repair Floathouse?

LADY: We've diagnosed your difficulties from your distress signal and our closed-circuit images. I can be of assistance to you.

BLUE: Distress signal? We just pulled the rescue ring.

LADY: You call that the rescue ring? That's for emergencies. You wouldn't have climbed up there to pull it unless this was an emergency, right?.

BLUE: Why is it so high up? What if we couldn't reach it in an emergency?

LADY: A strong-willed person can scale any heights.

BLUE: So we pulled the strange ring, and you got a distress signal?

LADY: Our computer analysis shows that the Floathouse has no technical problems, but your brainwaves are disrupting its smooth operation.

RED: Brainwaves? I don't know anything about that. This new-fangled technology, I've never understood it. You'd better talk to him.

BLUE: You mean you record our brain activity?

LADY: Floathouse cutting-edge technology has ultra-sensitive responses. At every second Floathouse is picking up your brainwaves to help it adjust its position and decide on the date of withdrawal.

BLUE: You mean, you receive and analyse every thought we have?

LADY: That's right. We provide the most secure old-age facilities, and want to ensure that these facilities are fully utilised. If our clients' brain activity tells us they no longer wish to enjoy Floathouse life, then we will offer them an alternative. In this way we prevent them from damaging Floathouse, and so it can be used by other people in their twilight years.

RED: We all love it here. None of us would dream of damaging Floathouse.

LADY: I know that. But one of you has had thoughts of leaving Floathouse, and these have come to our attention. We've been observing 1001 for a while now. We notice this old gentleman's brain lacks order. Our computer is frequently unable to understand his words, and so the analysis runs into problems—

GREEN: (interrupting) Robot eyes seductive eyes dog eyes, eyes and eyes and eyes. Defend your country, vigilante troops, finely-dressed – bang bang bang!

LADY: I hadn't finished speaking.

GREEN: Unmatched beauty girl of snakes and scorpions so richly dressed oh Professor how the powerful look right through you – no sound, no rest, oh humanity you still think that the weak are meat for the strong to eat.

RED: He talks like he's in a dream. You'll get the hang of it.

GREEN: World War Three went off with a bang, the Statue of Liberty came tumbling down, the great plains of Eastern Europe became a sea of fire, Tiananmen Square was razed to the ground, the Great Wall blasted into little chunks, and the First Emperor has climbed out of Grave Pit Number Four, oh you who made the first grave figures, weep till you have no more tears.

LADY: Are you done? We don't have much time.

GREEN: Hokkaido has sunk beneath the waves, Tokyo has vanished from the face of the earth, the souls of millions of imperial soldiers will not disperse, South-East Asia is drawn into the global battle, newly invented giant battleships pluck entire islands from the sea-bed, openly steal them, little islands bobbing along in the Pacific Island, one of them is prosperous Singapore! Oh humanity, what is it you hunger for? You invent the deadliest weapons to exterminate yourselves. What is this animal called 'man'? Oh sea, can you be calm? You should roar, you should howl. (he approaches the hull door)

RED: Don't open the door!

LADY: Don't worry, as soon as I got here I locked that door.

RED: Old friend, I hope you aren't an oracle, your words are terrifying.

BLUE: What's more frightening is, his predictions are usually accurate!

GREEN: A man dies like a lamp goes out. Why mourn the loss of Earth?

(The LADY is fiddling with a translation machine)

BLUE: Surely these words don't require translation.

LADY: His brain waves are complex. Such a complicated mind isn't suited to life on Floathouse. He should be returned to Land.

BLUE: You want him to return to Land?

RED: You can't, that would be a death sentence for him.

LADY: I'm just saying. According to your contract, you can live on Floathouse 1001 until the expiry date. But you sent the distress signal, and the brain waves are so uneven, I wanted to give you some alternatives.

RED: We choose not to return to Land. What else have you got?

LADY: You can choose to remain here, until there's only one of you left, at which point Floathouse will sink and be withdrawn.

RED: What about the last person?

LADY: At the moment of sinking, he should be most happy.

RED: How could he be happy?

LADY: He will have the satisfaction of surviving the longest. And to the sound of congratulations, as solemn music plays, he slowly enters the embrace of the great ocean. Burial at sea is highly valued these days, but only Floathouse inhabitants have the honour.

RED: That's like the last cigarette before execution! Who wants this kind of honour.

BLUE: I'll go first.

GREEN: For who can live and not die?

LADY: (flipping through documents) Going by your present states of health, the elderly gentleman with the irregular brain waves is in the best condition. He's a hundred and eleven, and he's lost 80% of his functionality, but his cranial nerve is particularly active. This other gentleman is in a wheelchair, but his upper body is in fine condition. This lady has quite a medical history – eighteen operations, leaving her with just half a stomach, a pair of artificial kidneys, twenty-one stents, no duodenum, no liver, no gall bladder—

RED: (proudly) And I'm still here.

LADY: It looks like which of you will go first is down to luck.

RED: I've died more than once. If I go, I go.

BLUE: I'll go first, I don't want to be any trouble.

LADY: I didn't mean to imply you were any trouble.

GREEN: I'd rather be broken jade—

BLUE: Than whole clay? Stop putting on airs. Such flowery language, such dazzling words, so deep you're neither man nor spirit, and other people are just common beasts not worth a second look! You wish to be a god to rule over our souls, am I right?

GREEN: (muttering, stunned at the rare telling-off) A gentleman doesn't find fault.

RED: You're both old but strong. I'm missing all kinds of bits inside, but this pathetic life is mine, and a good death is hard to find. I'd rather die from disease, or drown, or hang, than be the last one about this ship, plunging unwillingly into the sea. That's murder.

LADY: It doesn't matter who it is, the last survivor will be last one to go. It's in the contract you all signed. We have copies on our computer.

RED: The contract we signed doesn't mention being buried at sea!

LADY: The contract doesn't contain those actual words, no, it talks about withdrawing Floathouse. But before this, you understand we'd need to expel all the rubbish on board the craft. We don't usually include this point in our contracts.

BLUE: Are you referring to us as rubbish?

LADY: Under certain conditions, the human body is indistinguishable from rubbish. But you do have another option.

RED: What is it?

LADY: You, for example, can choose to turn back time, be a young woman again.

RED: Turn back time? To regain my youth?

LADY: You can choose to be a young girl, or a newlywed, relive the beautiful old dreams of your younger days.

BLUE: Wishful thinking!

LADY: It's not, we can make it happen. You'd have to sign a contract, of course.

RED: Another contract?

LADY: It's a very simple one. To turn back time costs a hundred thousand per year. A million dollars for one decade.

RED: That's too much.

LADY: Youth is priceless. Yet you can get it back for a million dollars. That would have been unthinkable just seven or eight years ago.

RED: If I go back in time, will I see my old boyfriends, my husband?

LADY: You can, if they undergo the same procedure, and go as far back as you.

RED: And if they're dead?

LADY: You obviously won't be seeing them again if they're dead.

RED: If I see him, can we be as we were before?

LADY: What does that mean? Be as you were before?

RED: Fall in love again, get married...

LADY: Of course you can. But you'd have to purchase enough time to allow you to do all that kind of thing. Love, marriage.

RED: Can we be in love for longer? We were in too much of a hurry, falling in love after two days, getting married after a fortnight together. If I could start again, I'd change my whole life around, and maybe not finish up in Floathouse at the end.

BLUE: If I started again I might not end up in a wheelchair. Can I start again too?

LADY: An important point: you can only revisit the past for a while. You can't actually go back in time. Science can recover bits of you that have failed – but only for three minutes, or three days, or three weeks, three months – depends how much you're prepared to pay.

RED: Back to money.

LADY: Spend a little money, be young again for three minutes, do what comes naturally with your sweetheart – it's a beautiful feeling.

RED: There's no point. You'd become old again when time's up, and it would be more painful than before.

LADY: You've given up. (calculating) The back-in-time plan introduction fee. It's eight hundred dollars, which can be deducted from your Floathouse account.

RED: You didn't mention an introduction fee.

LADY: If I'd said so earlier, you might not have been willing to pay it, and you'd have missed out on a great opportunity.

BLUE: I was eavesdropping. Do I need to pay an introduction fee too?

LADY: I haven't got to you yet. Do you want to hear it?

BLUE: How is my spiel different to hers?

LADY: What I have in mind for you is an Emperor-style Pleasure Package. It may be a little awkward to say this with a lady present—

BLUE: Aren't you a lady too?

LADY: I'm— All right. As long as you're prepared to pay the fee. (removes her outer clothing, revealing a body to marvel at. GREEN's attention is drawn.)

RED: Why do you need to strip for his spiel?

LADY: Look at me. Am I not attractive? Even the old gentleman who speaks in dreams is paying attention. Mr Blue, this is for you, the prime Floathouse offer: if you choose to be young, eighteen, twenty-eight or thirty-eight years old – whether you're an energetic dragon or a ferocious wolf, I will give myself up to you.

BLUE: Can I lose this wheelchair and run around like a young man?

LADY: The mysterious Floathouse youthening process can achieve anything.

BLUE: There'll be a price to pay.

LADY: Twenty thousand dollars, deductible from your Floathouse account.

BLUE: I may not have that much money.

LADY: That's simple. After three days and nights, you won't need to return here.

BLUE: Only three days and nights?

LADY: Sir, to be decades younger, even for three days and nights, a beautiful woman by your side every waking moment, doing the things you're thinking of right now but don't have the energy for. You'll enter the afterlife with a smile. Aren't you tired of living?

BLUE: You mean, after three days and nights, I'll leave this world.

LADY: This is a special privilege provided by Floathouse Inc. Many of our older clients make this wise choice. Instead of waiting here to die, why not experience happiness, a nostalgic walk back through the pleasures of your whole life. You don't look too bad. I've seen worse than you, men so old their bones have crumbled to powder – and even they can become young again, upright and strong as oxen.

BLUE: Will you be the one providing this service?

LADY: Floathouse Inc. has many ladies just as entrancing as me. (moves closer)

BLUE: (to RED) It is a little awkward with you in the room.

RED: You want me to leave? Will you be able to cope?

BLUE: I'll have to make a decision.

RED: Call me if you need me.

GREEN: (abruptly) Miss.

LADY: Are you talking to me?

GREEN: Come here.

LADY: That's direct. What can I do for you?

GREEN: Come here.

BLUE: Don't shove in. She's mine! I've decided!

LADY: You've made your decision? That's good—

GREEN: I've made my decision too.

LADY: There's no need to fight, I'll service you one at a time. Just let me prepare your contracts.

GREEN: I'm older, I should go first. (He grabs the LADY and runs his hands over her whole body. She shrieks and collapses on the floor, her face bloodless, her body contorted)

BLUE: You old pervert!

RED: What's happened? (looking at the LADY) Her heart. Her heart is transparent.

BLUE: What?

GREEN: I turned off her battery.

RED: Battery?

GREEN: She's a robot.

BLUE: My god.

RED: A robot? I thought robots only looked like real people in films. Seriously, she looks exactly like a human being.

GREEN: Floathouse, Floathouse Inc., Floathouse Manufacturing – the pride of humanity, cutting-edge technology.

BLUE: Heartless. Even if she was a robot, you could still have—

GREEN: What? Would you still have chosen that? Three days and nights, then a playboy ghost?

BLUE: Selfish. Even if you can't do it yourself, you should give others a chance.

GREEN: Nonsense!

BLUE: If I could truly have experienced my youth again, my numb feelings coming to live, alive, that would have been a miracle of science. I don't have much time left, why enjoy this brief moment of happiness?

GREEN: You really think that?

BLUE: I'd rather embrace spring, be a real man once again, and die with a smile.

GREEN: Get real. You were seduced by that woman. She was inflaming you, arousing your appetites. You couldn't stand being alone. You failed the test.

BLUE: Now we're getting to it. My heart was dead. Everything started shutting down as soon as I boarded Floathouse. It's gotten worse and worse. I'm a flickering lamp about to go out, and in my last moments of light I felt a wild desire, all of a sudden. How could you have crushed that? I am still a man!

RED: Completely bewitched. Why is every man I meet the same?

GREEN: Blue, my friend, you're forgetting that it was you who told us the secret, about Floathouse being withdrawn.

BLUE: What if I knew? Once you're on board Floathouse there's no way out. Who could you have told?

GREEN: We would have taken that secret to our graves. Our sea graves, aboard Floathouse 1001.

BLUE: This woman was innocent. She was manufactured by people, given her instructions by people. A machine without a soul. But she could have brought me happiness. Can't I be allowed to live for a while, even in a sex machine?

RED: Don't you blush to speak like this in front of a lady?

BLUE: I'm more than a century old. Blood no longer flows to my face.

GREEN: Mr Blue, I've nothing to say. I should go back to my gibberish. My chanting, my poems. At least they amuse me.

BLUE: Help me turn her on again, wake her up?

GREEN: Heaven helps those who help themselves.

BLUE: If you won't help me, I can do it myself. Avert your eyes.

(GREEN and RED turn their backs. BLUE climbs off the wheelchair with difficulty , and crawls to the LADY's side. RED walks over and pulls the LADY away)

RED: What did you have in mind after you'd woken her? People on Land must already know what's happened. They might well be preparing to punish us now.

GREEN: There's no transmitter here. At most, Land will notice that they've lost her signal. But if you wake her now, she may have a built-in revenge circuit.

RED: We can beat her. She's just a woman.

GREEN: Have you experienced the strength of a robot?

RED: The strength of a robot! What can we do?

GREEN: Let's chuck her out.

BLUE: No! I still want to be young again. (struggles to rise)

GREEN: Get back to your wheelchair.

BLUE: You're bullying a crippled man.

GREEN: I've known you for half a century, and only today have I seen your true colours. Pathetic.

BLUE: (angry) Don't think I can't touch you just because I'm in a wheelchair! (prepares to ram GREEN with his chair)

GREEN: (evading him) Are you trying to start World War Four? (as BLUE attacks again) You're a war criminal. History will judge you!

(As the two men fight, RED drags the woman to the next room. A bang. They stop fighting)

RED: What are you fighting about? She's trash. She's in the sea.

BLUE: (enraged, throwing a bit of his wheelchair at her) How dare you listen to him!

RED: You're attacking an old woman!

BLUE: You should both die. I'll be last. In the end we'll all be fishfood.

RED: I haven't lived enough yet. You don't need to be looked after. I'll go.

GREEN: Where will you go?

RED: Back to Land. I haven't heard a voice like that for such a long time.

GREEN: You're turning back? Why did you come here in the first place?

RED: I wanted to find a transcendent peace. But even if there were only three of us left in the world, there would still be no peace. I see that now.

(BLUE pushes his wheelchair into a corner)

GREEN: We were only—

RED: I've seen it all, a lifetime's worth. I'm going to the dirtiest, most hopeless city. Maybe there I'll find the humanity I've missed.

GREEN: You're past retirement age. What will you do for a living?

RED: Volunteer work. Taking care of the old and sick. I don't need money, as long as they feed and house me. I'll call an air-taxi. Take care of yourselves. Floathouse Inc. will be sending someone to investigate that woman's disappearance.

GREEN: I'll pray for you, on Land. I hope this ends well.

RED: Good is its own reward. I was good all my life. What good did it ever do me?

(She packs a few things and climbs onto the roof. The other two watch her go, blankly)


(BLUE and GREEN are lonelier than they've ever been. They stare at the sky, then the sea. Silence. BLUE's wheelchair jams. Instead of asking for help, he mutters to himself)

BLUE: Why can't you behave, you little... I'm taking you into the sea with me!

(GREEN walks over and nudges the wheelchair. It moves again)

BLUE: Useless thing. Why can't you work without help!

GREEN: (looking at the sky, chanting) Water is stronger than the heart full of hatred. Waves arising on the level flatlands...

BLUE: Think you're so clever. (he loses control of the wheelchair and falls over)

GREEN: You fell down. You can get up.

BLUE: (tries to get up and falls again. GREEN goes to help him) Useless thing! (grabs GREEN's hand, but only succeeds in pulling him down to the floor as well. GREEN is obviously in pain. He has broken a bone)

BLUE: Old friend!

GREEN: (long pause, tries to get up) My old bone has given way. It's about time.

BLUE: I broke your bone. I'll pay you back. (tries to hurt himself)

GREEN: (not believing he will do it) You're scared of pain.

BLUE: (not moving) You know me better than I know myself. I'm like that, growing older and stranger.

GREEN: I'm much stranger than you.

BLUE: I'm used to you.

GREEN: As long as you've got the hang of it.

BLUE: Old friend, we cripples can take care of each other, can't we?

GREEN: Those who can't die must go on living. Those who can, slip away quietly. Dying is like a light going out. If I have a regret, it's that our secrets will be carried to the bottom of the ocean along with Floathouse.

BLUE: Old friend, I'm going to sleep. Maybe this is it for me.

GREEN: Before you go, do you blame me?

BLUE: For what?

GREEN: Destroying that woman, the one who made your flesh itch with longing.

BLUE: That was well done.

GREEN: Truly. Can you really still do it?

BLUE: Truly. No. But I felt a jolt of energy, a moment of strength.

GREEN: You wanted to see if you could still feel anything down there?

BLUE: Not a single thing.

GREEN: Holding that woman was like hugging a leg of ham.

BLUE: Back in the day...

GREEN: Don't talk about the past!

BLUE: I've never talked like this with anyone this before.

GREEN: Aren't you leaving it a little late?

BLUE: Too late... (Sound of an engine)

GREEN: Someone's coming!

BLUE: Floathouse Inc. coming to sort us out.

GREEN: All we did was destroy a robot. That's not like murder.

BLUE: Come on. We'll go down together.

GREEN: It's time.

(But it is Madam RED who appears before them)

BLUE: You?

GREEN: A rare visitor.

RED: Which one of you is Mr Green? Which is Mr Blue?

BLUE: Don't you know us any more?

RED: (to BLUE) Are you Mr Green? (to GREEN) Are you Mr Blue? It's like this. You need help, you need compassion. I come from the Society for the Assistance of the Elderly. We aid those in their twilight years on board Floathouse.

BLUE: Who are you?

RED: Don't you recognise me?

GREEN: I seem to know you.

RED: Fuck it, let's stop playing games. I've been back to Land and done great things.

BLUE: You can still do things?

RED: Those who can, do. Why sit waiting for death? I told the newspapers what was really going on with Floathouse.

BLUE: You told them Floathouse's secrets?

RED: One reporter couldn't take it. He went mad.

GREEN: What a shame.

RED: A writer heard my story and wanted to turn it into a novel. He was attacked on his way home. He didn't die, but he was paralysed. So he used all his savings to buy a place on Floathouse, to experience it himself.

BLUE: That's what happened to me!

RED: I chose to come to 1001, because I knew I had nowhere else to go. Floathouse Inc could wipe me out any time they like. I came back to tell you the outcome. Floathouse 1001 is being withdrawn.

BLUE: Listen. They're getting closer.

(A piercing sound. And then....)

GREEN: The story is just beginning...


translated from the Chinese by Jeremy Tiang

Used by permission of 航速出版社.

For performance rights, please contact Jeremy Tiang.