New Zebraland

by Josie Ingall, age 13
New Zebraland Josie is an incoming 9th grader at the Institute for Collaborative Education, where she enjoys creative writing, debate, and historiography. She does not enjoy writing about herself in the third person.

“Maya, we’ve been walking for hours, and we don’t know where we’re going, and I think we’ve gone in a circle, or maybe not, ‘cause this whole mountain looks the same, and we have no idea what we’re going to do, and I’m really frustrated and I want Mom and Dad!”

Act One

 

Scene 1

 

Daytime, mid-morning. A picturesque mountainside. An all-white sign reading “GHOSTLY LANDING POINT: NEW ZEALAND” sticks out of the ground, covered in pamphlets for various tourist attractions. LIZZIE is lying unconscious on the floor near the sign. MAYA, her identical twin, is floating around near her. They are ghosts. LIZZIE, rubbing her eyes, sits up and sees MAYA.

 

LIZZIE
Ugh.

 

MAYA (laughing)

You sound so stupid! “Ugh.” “Ugh!”

 

LIZZIE

That’s not how I sound!

 

MAYA
“That’s not how I sound!”

 

LIZZIE

Stop!

 

MAYA

“Stop!”

 

LIZZIE reaches out to punch MAYA, but instead her hand appears to go directly through her. MAYA giggles.

 

LIZZIE

How can you be so immature even when we’re dead? I mean, I think we’re dead. It sure seems like we’re dead. How did we end up dead?

 

MAYA (sing-song)

I know something Lizzie doesn’t, I know something Lizzie doesn’t.

 

LIZZIE

Tell me!

 

MAYA

No.

 

LIZZIE

Yes.

 

MAYA

No.

 

LIZZIE

Yes.

 

MAYA

No.

 

LIZZIE

Yes.

 

MAYA

Fine. Remember that Ferris wheel we were riding on?

 

LIZZIE

Sure.

 

MAYA

Something in the inside-y machine bits got overheated and the whole thing exploded! It was super cool.

 

LIZZIE

The Ferris wheel exploded? Why do you remember and I don’t?

 

MAYA
Well, before everything exploded they did an emergency stop and you banged your head on the wall and passed out. Then the lady’s voice came out of the speaker box, and she was like, ‘Remain calm. The internal whatchamacallit is experiencing complete failure. Remain calm as emergency procedures-’ And then before she could finish, BAM! KABLAM! POW! And that’s all I remember.

 

LIZZIE

Yeah, but that still doesn’t explain how we ended up here.

 

MAYA

Okay, so after the explosion we were at this weird waiting room place, and you were still conked out when the mean guy at the desk told me I had to stop stealing the mints and decide what I wanted to do and (mockingly) “Fill out the paperwork for your journey to the afterlife right now, missy, and do it for your little double over there, too.”

 

LIZZIE

Okay…

 

MAYA

Except for they used all these big words I didn’t get on the form to go to the afterlife, so I just wrote “MAYA AND LIZZIE BEST DEAD PEOPLE” on everything and then I drew some zebras and the guy got mad when I brought it to him and he said, “I guess it’s a life of haunting for you girls,” and I was like, “Okay, fine!” and he was like, “Pick a place, then,” and he brought out this globe and I picked the coolest sounding place and then there was all this crazy light stuff and then we were here!

 

LIZZIE

Why didn’t you wake me up?!

 

MAYA

I dunno. You’re boring. You would have told me to stop stealing mints and fill the paperwork out right.

 

LIZZIE
Yeah, I would’ve! You… stupid.

 

MAYA

You’re stupid!

 

LIZZIE

No, you’re stupid!

 

MAYA

Would a stupid person have picked somewhere very cool for us to go?

 

LIZZIE
Maya, where are we?

 

MAYA
Somewhere cool.

 

LIZZIE
Maya, WHERE ARE WE?!

 

MAYA (proudly)

New Zebraland! It’s in Antarctica.

 

LIZZIE

I don’t think it is… And I don’t think that’s a real place.

 

MAYA

It is, they just spelled it wrong on the globe. They forgot the “b” and the “r.” Silly globe people.

 

LIZZIE

Maya, how do we get home from here?

 

MAYA

I dunno. I think it’d be cooler here anyway. But if you really want to, I guess we can try to get back to Mom and Dad. It’ll be an adventure!

 

LIZZIE

Why aren’t they with us? They were in the car-thingy right in front of us on the Ferris wheel.

 

MAYA

I dunno, maybe there’s another office for the old dead people.

 

LIZZIE

How are we going to find them?

 

MAYA

Who cares about the ‘how?’ It’s about the ‘why!’

 

LIZZIE

Why are you so dumb?

 

MAYA

This is going to be an adventure!

 

LIZZIE

You are the dumbest person ever. I can’t believe we are twins.

 

MAYA

Identical twins, even.

 

LIZZIE
Except for I’m much prettier.

 

MAYA

Nuh-uh!

 

LIZZIE

Ya-huh!

 

MAYA

Nuh-uh!

 

LIZZIE

Ya-huh!

 

MAYA

Nuh-uh!

 

LIZZIE

Ya-huh!

 

MAYA

Nuh-uh!

 

LIZZIE

Whatever. I know I’m the smart one, at least.

 

MAYA

Whatever. Let’s find Mom and Dad.

 

LIZZIE (starting to walk offstage)

Okay, whatever.

 

MAYA (whispered)

But I’m still the pretty one.

 

LIZZIE (turning)

What?

 

MAYA

Nothing. Let’s go!

 

Exit MAYA and LIZZIE. End scene.
Scene 2

A pristine white waiting room. In the back, plush armchairs contain 5-10 ghostssleeping, filling out paperwork, or sitting in the corner, shell-shocked, staring at the wall. A bowl of mints and a computer are on the desk. The RECEPTIONIST, sitting behind the desk, looks exhausted. In front of the desk, puzzling over a globe, are MOM and DAD.

 

MOM

Zimbabwe, maybe? Maya always did have a weakness for “z” names.

 

DAD

You know that Lizzie is much too sensible to let Maya pick someplace like Zimbabwe. In fact, with Liz in charge, all of Africa’s probably off the table. Cross out the whole continent.

 

MOM pulls a Sharpie out of her purse and scribbles out the continent of Africa on the globe.

 

RECEPTIONIST (sleepily)

Hey, other people have to, like, use that.

 

MOM (shoving over the bowl of mints)

Shh, sweetie. People are working. Have a mint.

 

DAD

Do you think they could’ve gone to Pluto or some other planet?

 

RECEPTIONIST

Earthly destinations only.

 

MOM

Have another mint, sweetie.

 

MOM shoves the mint into the RECEPTIONIST’s mouth.

 

DAD

Hey, there’s a place in Denmark called Middelfart. (laughs hysterically) Middelfart!

 

MOM

Hmm, circle it. They’ve always had a weakness for fart humor. Maya’s the exact kind of kid who’d choose a place with a funny name, just because it has a funny name.

 

DAD

That’s exactly what I was thinking.

 

MOM

Hmm. What about (she spins the globe and points at a spot in the Midwest United States) Pardeeville, Wisconsin?

 

DAD

There’s so many possibilities for weirdly named places. And with that being our only lead as to what places, there’s a lot to look through. You see anywhere else that looks promising?

 

MOM (to RECEPTIONIST)

Could we possibly see the paperwork our girls filled out?

 

DAD

That’s genius! Yeah, let’s see the paperwork.

 

RECEPTIONIST (sounding slightly annoyed)

What’re the names, again?

 

MOM

Maya and Elizabeth Carson.

 

RECEPTIONIST (opening and looking through file cabinet)

C, C, C-A, Carson. Carson, Laura, Carson, Arthur, Carson, Maya. Here we go.

 

The RECEPTIONIST removes the form from the file and slides it across the desk.

 

RECEPTIONIST

This is everything either of them filled out.

 

RECEPTIONIST takes out an emory board and begins filing her nails.

 

DAD

It just says MAYA AND LIZZIE BEST DEAD PEOPLE on it.

 

MOM (leaning over to see the paper)

And has doodles of weird looking tigers on it.

 

DAD

I’m not sure those are tigers.

 

MOM

Okay, whatever. The real question, where they are, still isn’t anywhere closer to being answered.

 

DAD (folds the paper and pockets it)

I know. But we’ll figure it out.

 

MOM (spinning globe)

Let’s just keep looking. (to RECEPTIONIST) You can help us!

 

RECEPTIONIST (to MOM)

Uh, yeah, sure. (to audience) Thank God my shift is nearly over.

 

MOM and DAD

Shhhhhhhhhhh.

 

RECEPTIONIST rolls her eyes, drops her head into her hands, and promptly falls asleep.

 

MOM

Poor baby.

 

(MOM walks over to the chairs and pulls a pillow away from a chair in the waiting area containing a sleeping ghost. Walking back to the desk, she puts the RECEPTIONIST’s head on the pillow. While she does this, DAD continues to examine the globe. Lights dim and scene ends as RECEPTIONIST sleeps, and parents continue to look at globe, occasionally scribbling on it or speaking with each other inaudibly.)

Scene 3

 

The scenery is identical to that in Scene 1, the New Zealand mountainside, but the lighting is far darker and the sign is gone. It is evening now. MAYA and LIZZIE come onstage, LIZZIE looking tired, but MAYA as bright and happy as ever.

 

LIZZIE

Maya, we’ve been walking for hours, and we don’t know where we’re going, and I think we’ve gone in a circle, or maybe not, ‘cause this whole mountain looks the same, and we have no idea what we’re going to do, and I’m really frustrated and I want Mom and Dad! (takes a deep breath)

 

MAYA

Be positive!

 

LIZZIE

There is nothing to be positive about.

 

MAYA

It’s pretty here! Be positive about that.

 

LIZZIE

No.

 

MAYA

Yes.

 

LIZZIE

No.

 

MAYA

Yes! Why can’t you ever try to have fun? I mean, we’re in a place called New Zebraland, which is probably the capital of fun!

 

LIZZIE

It’s not called New Zebraland, Maya! It’s not anywhere exciting. We’re in the middle of nowhere, and it’s awful and I hate it.

 

(MAYA, looking slightly hurt, stares at LIZZIE. Undeterred, LIZZIE continues.)

 

LIZZIE

I want to go home. I don’t want to be here, I never wanted to be here, but I didn’t get a choice about any of it, because you do everything! You talk for me, and you act like nothing really matters because you think it’ll all turn out okay, but look around. This is not okay.

 

(MAYA looks horrified. She looks around at the scenery, and then back at her sister. As LIZZIE speaks, MAYA appears more and more upset.)

 

MAYA

I just wanted to do something fun!

 

LIZZIE

You just what? What? You just ruin everything! You never think the things you do might affect anyone else, because you only care about yourself. I don’t want to be here, and (venomously) I especially don’t want to be here with you.

 

MAYA

… Fine.

 

LIZZIE (taken aback)

Fine?

 

MAYA

Yeah. Fine. I’ll go.

 

LIZZIE

Go?

 

(Without answering or acknowledging her sister, MAYA turns and walks offstage, LIZZIE calling her name. LIZZIE stands alone on stage, looking miserable, as the lights dim and scene ends.)

Scene 4

 

The waiting room. MOM and DAD are now sleeping. MOM’s head is on the desk, while DAD is awkwardly draped over the scribbled-on globe. The activity behind them, with other ghosts speaking inaudibly with each other or filling out paperwork, remains. However, a different receptionist, RECEPTIONIST 2, now sits behind the desk, looking sulky and annoyed by his job as he appears to be working on a computer. A GHOST timidly approaches the desk.

 

GHOST (shyly, to RECEPTIONIST 2)

Hello, I passed away last night and I’m interested in choosing a place to haunt?

 

RECEPTIONIST 2

Is that a question?

 

GHOST

… No?

 

RECEPTIONIST 2 (rolling his eyes)

Alright then. Just let me get out the globe for you.

 

GHOST (softly)

Um, I think maybe it’s already out? (points to DAD, lying on top of globe)

 

(Not seeing or listening, RECEPTIONIST 2 ducks down and disappears under the desk, apparently searching for the globe.)

 

RECEPTIONIST 2 (muffled)

Where the-(crashing sound)-is that-(crashing sound)-ing globe?

 

GHOST

Sir, I, uh, think it’s right over here?

 

RECEPTIONIST 2

Stupid, useless piece of-

 

GHOST (shouting)

DUDE!

 

(RECEPTIONIST 2 stands abruptly, looking angrily at the GHOST. MOM and DAD also jerk awake, lifting their heads in surprise. The other ghosts waiting all look shocked, now watching the scene unfold.)

 

GHOST (suddenly shy again)

I think the globe is, um, right there? (points to DAD, who is gingerly lifting himself of the globe.)

 

RECEPTIONIST 2 (to GHOST)

Why didn’t you say anything!?

 

GHOST
Um…

 

(RECEPTIONIST 2 sees the scribbles on the globe and starts turning bright red, looking apoplectic. He balls his hands into fists and glares.)

 

DAD

Uh, sorry.

 

RECEPTIONIST 2

What do you think you’re doing?!?!

 

MOM

Uh, we’re trying to guess where our daughters are.

 

DAD (reaching in his pocket, picking up the paper, and handing it to RECEPTIONIST 2)

This is the only clue we have.

 

(RECEPTIONIST 2 picks up the piece of paper and looks it over.)

 

RECEPTIONIST 2

Are your daughters by any chance… identical twins? Curly blonde hair, brown eyes, probably about 10 years old, round faces, button noses, died about a day ago?

 

MOM

Yes! Yes, exactly! So you’ve seen them!?

 

RECEPTIONIST 2

No.

 

DAD

Clearly you have. Why won’t you tell us about what you’ve seen?

 

RECEPTIONIST 2

Because THEY ARE THE WORST! THE! WORST! CHILDREN! EVER!

 

(RECEPTIONIST 2 crumples up the paper and throws it as far away as he can.)

 

MOM

Excuse me?

 

RECEPTIONIST 2

They made an absolute mess of my waiting room, refused to correctly fill out the necessary paperwork, took about half of my mints, yelled about zebras, and getting spirits to a place they’ve never been in their lives is that much more difficult, let me tell you!

 

DAD

Aren’t the mints meant for taking?

 

MOM

That’s the part of the story you’re fixating on?

 

(MOM picks up the balled-up piece of paper and looks at it.)

 

MOM

They’re not tigers that Maya drew, they’re zebras!

 

DAD

We figured it out!

 

MOM

Yes! Let’s go to New Zebraland!

 

DAD

… What exactly is New Zebraland?

 

(Both parents look expectantly at RECEPTIONIST 2.)

 

RECEPTIONIST 2

It’s how the annoying one was convinced you say New Zealand. So, nice job parenting that one.

 

MOM

Can it and send us to New Zebraland!

 

RECEPTIONIST

Whatever gets you out of my office faster. (sliding over a piece of paper) Just sign this and walk through that door.

 

(MOM and DAD sign the paper and run through the exit on one side of the stage.)

 

RECEPTIONIST 2 (sarcastically)

Byeeeeee!

 

While the parents are offstage, the lighting on-stage becomes blindingly bright and flashing. Set is changed while lights blink and flicker wildly to the original mountainside scene, with “GHOSTLY LANDING POINT: NEW ZEALAND” sign now in place. MOM and DAD re-enter.

 

MOM

Whoa! Well, that was… something.

 

DAD (doing a happy dance)

Uh-huh, oh yeah, uh-huh, oh yeah.

 

MOM

What are you doing?

 

DAD

Celebrating. Uh-huh, oh yeah, uh-huh, oh yeah.

 

While DAD dances, LIZZIE runs onstage. and, seeing her father, throws herself at him for a hug.

LIZZIE

Dad! Mom!

 

LIZZIE turns and hugs her mother.

 

MOM

Liz! Sweetie, we’ve missed you!

 

LIZZIE
I’ve missed you too, Mom!

 

DAD

How’d you find us?

 

LIZZIE

Your dancing and Mom’s yelling haven’t gotten any less recognizable since we’ve died.

 

MOM

I WAS NOT YELLING!

 

LIZZIE

Sure.

 

DAD

Wait, where’s your sister?

 

LIZZIE (sullenly)

I dunno.

 

MOM

What do you mean, you don’t know?!

 

LIZZIE

I got really mad at her for bringing us here and I yelled at her and I was mean and then she ran away and I dunno where she is and I feel so bad!

 

LIZZIE wipes a tear away from her face.

 

DAD

We’ll find her!

 

MOM

How? We don’t have any way to tell where she is, do we?

 

LIZZIE

No, but we’ve already gotten into the way Maya’s head works.

 

MOM
What do you mean?

 

LIZZIE

Are there any zebras around here?

 

MOM

I don’t think they’re native to the mountainside.

 

LIZZIE

Then where’s the nearest zoo? That’s where Maya will be, wherever the zebras are.

 

MOM pulls a pamphlet advertising a zoo off the sign and peers through it.

 

MOM

This looks like our most likely bet for where the zebras would be. I just hope you’re right about her being there.

 

LIZZIE

I know my sister too well. This (taking and brandishing the pamphlet) is where she is. I’m positive.

 

DAD

Then let’s go!

 

MOM, DAD, and LIZZIE exit.

Scene 5

 

A crowded zoo. Alive humans wander around throughout the scene, admiring the zebras in their habitat, which is meant to resemble Savannah plains. MAYA sits at the very edge of the stage, looking pensive and staring at the zebras. MOM, DAD, and LIZZIE run onstage, looking around for MAYA. LIZZIE spots her first and runs over, throwing her arms around her sister.

 

LIZZIE

I’m sorry I was mean to you.

 

MAYA
Good. You should be.

 

LIZZIE stares expectantly at MAYA.

 

MAYA

Fiiiiine. I’m sorry too. I should’ve asked you before bringing us here.

 

LIZZIE

Yeah. You should’ve. You stupid.

 

MAYA

You’re stupid.

 

LIZZIE

No, you’re stupid!

 

MAYA (laughing)

No, I’m stupid!

 

LIZZIE

No, I’m stupid!

 

MAYA

Exactly! I’m stupid!

 

LIZZIE

Wait, what?

 

LIZZIE joins in on MAYA’s laughter. MOM and DAD spot them and hurry over. Without speaking, MAYA hugs both of them at once. LIZZIE promptly joins the group hug.

 

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