Stanhope's last stand

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Late evening after the attack. Two hospital beds sit side by side, a spotlight shining dimly on each one. The room is dingy and dark with boxes of equipment littered all around. Through the window the day’s fading light shimmers down onto the beds in which the shadowy forms of two men can be seen. Candles on the table between them burn steadily in the stale and musty air. The two spotlights brighten slightly revealing Mason, sitting bolt upright staring at nothing, and Stanhope lying listless, eyes shut.

Stanhope: [groans]

Mason: [faintly] Sir –

Stanhope: [groans louder]

Mason: [loud and clear] Sir –

Stanhope: [stammering with a hoarse voice] Ma- Ma-Mason?

Mason: Yessir. It’s me.

Stanhope: Wh-where are we?

Mason: Field ‘ospital, sir.

Stanhope: You mean – you mean it’s all over?

Mason: I think so sir.

Stanhope: Oh. I, I …

Mason: I ‘eard we did well, sir.

Stanhope: I can’t remember. I can’t remember what happened …

Mason: I checked the fire, sir, like I said I would.

Stanhope: [shocked] Oh, really?

Mason: Yessir. I always keep my word. It’s ‘ow I ended up in ‘ere. Going down those steps. Feeling the roar of a shell in my ear. The ground swallowing me up.

Stanhope: I was at the top. Somewhere along the line, I… I’m not sure. It was so damn confusing. I didn’t see it coming. The blast knocked me clean off my feet but, but I think I’ve pulled through.

Mason: Sir- [pauses] there’s something you should know.

Stanhope: [worry in his voice] Oh. Well, go ahead Mason.

Mason: You, you ‘aven’t pulled through - unhurt.

Stanhope: Oh I know that! My head has had an awful blow and so have my legs. They’re tingling rather strangely actually, especially my -

Mason: Sir [interrupting desperately] Look! Look under the blanket.

Stanhope: [Slowly the blanket is lifted. The reeking stench of blood and decay makes him reel back slightly. He says nothing. He stares and stares taking in the extent of his injuries. All is quiet and still. He takes a sharp intake of breath, shattering the painful silence and reveals his horror-filled gaze. Suddenly he slumps down onto the bed with a thud.]

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Mason: Sir, Sir! [Gasp of pain - he cannot sit up] Sir! Speak to me Sir! Sir?

[There is silence other than the wheezing breath from Mason’s injured lungs] Sir! Please! [He struggles to climb from the rickety bed. His arms reach desperately across, the pain showing in his staring eyes. The pain is too much and he falls back with a thud clutching his side.]

Stanhope: [muffled, almost silently] No. [Mason turns his head to the left, slowly. Stanhope speaks again, louder with more emotion.] No!

Mason: Sir, I, I …

Stanhope: [shouting desperately] No! No! No! [He ...

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