Spring has finally come, and this is the time for the earth to be reborn again. This essence of rebirth is masterfully portrayed in Alexandria Torres’s “The Cleansing,” a ten-minute play included in Obscura’s 5th Volume (2014). Torres is able to flesh out a death, an existential revelation, and a reincarnation all within a frame of ten pages.
“Cleansing” features Scott Reid, a young man who finds himself in a room of pure white after a fatal confrontation during his venture for a pack of cigarettes. In the white room, Scott encounters Barnabas, a divine figure who is charged with the task of erasing Scott’s memories in preparation for rebirth. Scott is completely clueless about his situation, but Barnabas is happy to answer any questions—hell, he even uses the white room to “to tip people off to the fact they are dead” and in purgatory—except whether or not there is a heaven. Worried about his regrets with his girlfriend, Scott is struggling to comprehend his demise, but Torres kicks her story up a notch with a unique perspective on death:
People believe in Heaven, Hell, reincarnation, nirvana, what have you, but they need explanations. They need to know life is worthwhile, that the bad will be ultimately punished and the good will receive the highest reward. But see, what people don’t get is that they are being punished already…Matter is, there is a Hell, and you walked it every day you lived. Small hope to make you think there will eventually be something better, but there never is. You suffer until the day you die. And then you come to someone like me. (Torres76)
Heavy stuff, right? Such a dark thought is a reminder of the origin of Obscura’s nature—a sliver of charm in the face of the twisted. After this line, Scott’s memories are wiped, and he is sent off to live another life while Barnabas waits for his next client.
Although this is a work of drama, Torres highlights how death is unfathomable to the living, and no one really knows what happens in the afterlife. “Cleansing” is sad and witty, but oddly enough, it offers a spark of hope with the possibility of being freed from the necessity of purpose or having free reign to define that purpose. Readers of her short play will be entertained as they walk down that room with Scott, burdened with regret, to wake up rejuvenated—a tabula rasa. Sometimes we are cleansed only to start our lives over. This is a terrifying yet relieving idea. A blank slate is a canvas of opportunities. If you got to wake up and had the chance to start over, who would you be?
To access “Cleansing,” click here to view the 2014 issue.
(Obscura Volume 5, 2014, 69-78)