He-Who-Might-Not-Arrive

A country road. A tree.

Evening.

 

Estragon, sitting on a low mound, is trying to take off his boot. He pulls at it with both hands, panting.

He gives up, exhausted, rests, tries again.

As before.

 

ESTRAGON:

(giving up again). Nothing to be done.

 

(He looks around, as if expecting someone.)

 

(He coughs.)

 

(louder). Nothing to be done.

 

Enter a second man.

 

SECOND MAN:

(advancing quickly, whispering). Sorry I’m late!

 

ESTRAGON:

(whispering, likewise). Who are you? Where’s Vladimir?

 

SECOND MAN:

He’s out sick. Ptomaine poisoning. The agency sent me. My name is Voldemort.

 

ESTRAGON:

Do you know the drill?

 

VOLDEMORT:

I didn’t have time to learn any lines. I got the call very last-minute.

 

ESTRAGON:

We’ll improvise, then. Follow my lead. (In a regular voice.) Nothing to be done. Are you beginning to come around to that opinion? All your life, have you tried to put it from you, saying Vlad—— er, Voldemort, be reasonable, you haven’t yet tried everything? And you resumed the struggle?

 

VOLDEMORT:

Um… yes? (More decisively.) Yes. Exactly that. What you said.

 

ESTRAGON:

And so here I am again?

 

VOLDEMORT:

Right.

 

ESTRAGON:

Am I? And are you glad to see me back? Did you think I was gone forever?

 

VOLDEMORT:

I thought I was gone forever!

 

ESTRAGON:

(uncertain how to proceed). What… what’s that?

 

VOLDEMORT:

(remembering with some difficulty). When the Potter boy finally killed me, I was forced to exist in a stunted infant-like form, unable even to become a ghost. Fortunately, I managed to talk my way out of that hell.

 

ESTRAGON:

(confused and incredulous). You… died?

 

VOLDEMORT:

It’s complicated. I’m sorry; I shouldn’t have brought that up. Different storyline entirely. The good news is that I’m here now.

 

ESTRAGON:

(attempting to take the lead once more). Together again at last, eh? We’ll have to celebrate this. But how? (He reflects.) Shall I get up, ‘til you embrace me?

 

VOLDEMORT:

Oh, that won’t be necessary, really. I’m not a hugger.

 

ESTRAGON:

(coughs). Are you sure? Are you sure I shouldn’t get up ‘til you embrace me?

 

VOLDEMORT:

(understanding). Oh, yes, of course. Get up ‘til I embrace you.

 

ESTRAGON:

(irritably). Not now, not now.

 

VOLDEMORT:

(hurt, coldly). Okay….

 

ESTRAGON:

Would one like to inquire where My Highness spent the night?

 

VOLDEMORT:

(not wishing to be made a fool of again). I really don’t know if one would.

 

ESTRAGON:

Go on. Ask if one may inquire where My Highness spent the night.

 

VOLDEMORT:

May one inquire where His Highness spent the night?

 

ESTRAGON:

In a ditch.

 

VOLDEMORT:

Interesting. Now you ask me.

 

ESTRAGON:

Er, where did you spend the night?

 

VOLDEMORT:

“My lord.”

 

ESTRAGON:

How’s that?

 

VOLDEMORT:

“Where did you spend the night, my lord?” I am Lord Voldemort, as it happens.

 

ESTRAGON:

Are you? Well, then, where did you spend the night, m’lord?

 

VOLDEMORT:

(pensively). In the first place, it can’t have been just a night. It was much longer, although time had no real meaning in this place, this limbo. It looked like King’s Cross, though I know it wasn’t. Not nearly busy enough, for one thing. And rather tidier.

 

ESTRAGON:

(tentatively). May I ask you something? It’s kind of… personal.

 

VOLDEMORT:

Go ahead.

 

ESTRAGON:

Where is your nose?

 

VOLDEMORT:

It’s gone.

 

ESTRAGON:

But you had one? Once?

 

VOLDEMORT:

I was handsome once! I was tall, I had jet black hair and dark eyes. I could charm people with my looks alone….

 

ESTRAGON:

You’re kind of ghoulish now, though. You know this.

 

VOLDEMORT:

I am aware. I consider it a small price… What are you doing?

 

ESTRAGON:

Taking off my boot. It’s stuck. Did that never happen to you?

 

VOLDEMORT:

Did my boots ever get stuck on my feet? Is that what you’re asking? No. Not that I can recall. But I used to have considerable magical powers. Also, I took my boots off every day. Don’t you?

 

ESTRAGON:

(resentfully). We’re not all lords… Your Lordship. (feebly). Help me!

 

VOLDEMORT:

It hurts?

 

ESTRAGON:

(angrily). Hurts! He wants to know if it hurts!

 

VOLDEMORT:

You know what hurts? When the Elder Wand pledges its allegiance to your mortal enemy, so that when you cast the Killing Curse, the spell rebounds onto yourself. And of course all of your Horcruxes have by that point been destroyed…. (He notices that Estragon has managed to remove a boot. He frowns.) Something tells me I’m glad not to have a nose just now.

 

ESTRAGON:

(examining his foot). I’ll air it for a bit.

 

VOLDEMORT:

Can I ask you something? What are we doing here, exactly?

 

ESTRAGON:

(patiently). We’re waiting for Godot.

 

VOLDEMORT:

And if he doesn’t come?

 

ESTRAGON:

We’ll come back tomorrow. And then the day after tomorrow.

 

VOLDEMORT:

Does… Godot know that we’re waiting for him?

 

ESTRAGON:

I… I don’t know.

 

VOLDEMORT:

Can we summon him?

 

ESTRAGON:

Summon?

 

VOLDEMORT:

When I was still in control of my faculties, I placed the Dark Mark brand on my followers’ inner left forearms, both as a sign of their loyalty to me and as a method of summoning them when I desired. I would press my wand to any Death Eater’s Mark, which in turn delivered a burning sensation to any person with the Dark Mark. Feeling the burn, the Death Eaters then Apparated to my side.

 

(Voldemort paces agitatedly to and fro, halting from time to time to gaze into distance off. Estragon falls asleep. Voldemort halts finally before Estragon.)

 

Hello? Hello?

 

ESTRAGON:

Listen, I’m going to take a nap. Wake me when Godot gets here, would you?

 

VOLDEMORT:

A nap? But… well, okay. Before you do, though, one more question: What is that?

 

ESTRAGON:

I don’t know. A willow.

 

VOLDEMORT:

Excellent. Thank you. Go ahead, nap. Sweet dreams.

 

ESTRAGON:

(wary). What will you do?

 

VOLDEMORT:

Me? I might do some whittling. See if I can make myself a wand. Nothing fancy. Just… a simple wand. As a way to kill… time. You sleep. I’ll wake you if anyone shows up. Wizard’s honor.

 

Curtain.