via-appia-1905

EXT. HOLLOWAY PRISON – DAY

Establishing shot.

INT. PSYCHIATRIST’S OFFICE

This is a utilitarian room, obviously part of an institution. Two small pictures are hung on a gray stone brick wall. A chesterfield sofa and chair sit in the middle of the room. Soft light illuminates the scene from one standing lamp. There is one window with diamond shaped bars visible. Both characters are familiar with each other but not friendly, Chris sits on the sofa slouching, Dr. Adams sits on the chair.

CHRIS

It was a long slow trip, the night before last.

DR.ADAMS

Studies have shown sleeping with recorded, organized sound can effect not just the quality of your sleep but also…

CHRIS

My dreams?

DR.ADAMS

Yes, but also your daily behavior.

CHRIS

“Ah, ha, but this is not a dream, as I explained before I transported myself into what appeared to be a Piranesi drawing using my fiction/reality machine.

DR.ADAMS

Ah ha, sooo. Sound can affect your dream life. A study by a large foreign language teaching company found that when their subjects fell asleep with their headphones on the next day they would start throwing foreign words into regular conversation. Haven’t you noticed how you no longer see these language courses being advertised?

CHRIS

I haven’t noticed because I’ve been locked in here for the last seven years but I hazard a guess that someone sued for dream damage?

DR.ADAMS

Yes. Well something like that.

CHRIS

I’ll remember that when I brush up on my Franglais before a tour of Burgundy and the great wine regions of Eastern France. But as I said this was not a dream, I went on a trip through a portal created by the fiction transducer machine into a Piranesi etching that I fed into it.

DR.ADAMS

Right, the 19th century engraver and fantasy architect of prisons?

Dr. Adams quietly releases a chuckle.

CHRIS

Yes but the world I entered expanded far beyond the confines of the etching which I think was of Via Appia in Rome. The road famous for many things including crucifying 6,000 slaves after Spartacus’s uprising. About the same amount of prisoners kept in British prisons with indeterminate sentences. Just incase you were wondering.

DR.ADAMS

That is fascinating, you’ve obviously been using the internet again….

CHRIS

No. The library. Anyway after the transportation I was dropped into the middle of this etching. All around me were huge empty plinths; family crypts bearing ornate texts in different languages, tombstones, and models of buildings. Under the buildings were catacombs. I don’t know how I knew this, but I did.

Chris pauses as if struggling to remember something important.

Of course Piranesi’s visions were classical fantasies based on real places in Rome but he wanted them to be built. They never were so I was also wondering if it could have been some kind of time travel. Maybe in the future the earth will be destroyed by an alien spaceship then rebuilt but the only book the construction company had was of Piranesi’s etchings. What do you think?”

DR.ADAMS

I think I get the jist.

Dr. Adams scribbles something in his Moleskine.

CHRIS

Then I looked down, the edge of my boot caressed a black puddle corralled in by a circle of broken cobble stones. I’m wearing brown high-healed boots and a tweed hunting dress. I don’t know how I know but its 1913 and I’m in a horrific E.M.Forster Novel. Where Angels Fear to Tread maybe.

DR.ADAMS

Dr. Adams is still playing with his notebook.

Is that something your read recently?

CHRIS

No, I’ve only seen the film a long time ago, as a student I think.

DR.ADAMS

So then what happened? This is most interesting.

Dr. Adams keeps staring at his notebooks he is now drawing ever-decreasing circles.

CHRIS

Then a girl ran up who I immediately assumed was Lilia Herriton, a young English widow who had died in giving birth to a son. She seems to have mistaken me for her sister. The strangest thing happens instead of her speaking words there’s just a rustling. Her mouth is moving but the sound is not emanating from her body. It is a noise on the edge of noise, as if a human voice was played through a ‘wind synthesizer’ as if the sound of wind had been compressed, all the top and bottom frequencies removed. I paused and stared at her.

Her communication was reduced to a slow opening and closing of her mouth. Obviously what she was trying to articulate was of some importance. Then I noticed the noise was coming from the cracks, the spaces between the stones, between the buildings… The space in between things.

Whatever moral dilemma we were going through, whatever eccentric discussion this omni-present E.M.Forster was trying to convey it was being articulated as a hum. It was a sound that described all the space in between the gravestones, the gargoyles and the cracked slabs. A sound not from the heavens but of the empty space here on Earth or at least on Piranesi’s stroke E.M. Forster’s Earth. I thought that maybe this is punishment for either watching bad movies or for spending too much time looking at Piranesi etchings.

The picture had somehow risen up – in revolt.

DR.ADAMS

Ahha, so how long did this err, scene continue for?

CHRIS

It hasn’t finished, it got very noisy so I decided to take a break.

DR.ADAMS

Ok and you you’ll return to it when you reactivate the fiction/reality machine thing.

CHRIS

Yes, the fiction transposer, translating fiction or making fiction real, maybe it should be called a reality ficionator, well anyway I’m going to revisit tomorrow. Although I have a few other new slides I’d like to scan into it. Slides of a holiday in Estonia, photographed by some German tourists was sent to me by my brother. Maybe you should come along?

Dr. Adams continues drawing the circles in his notebook, somewhat oblivious to the question.

Text: Via Appia by Richard Evans.

Image : Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Via Appia and Via Ardeatina, from Le Antichita Romane, 1756

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