By Mackhayla

TIME: Afternoon. Right before summer.

PLACE: Near the log cabin near the forest

AT RISE: MO, a mahogany jewelry box, is on the dresser by the window; he’s dreaming, talking in his sleep. FALLEN, a black panther, is outside, about to approach the window by the dresser.

MO: (mumbling in sleep - “No, the walls… My velvet…” wakes up - panicky, crying) I hate dreams! Stuck inside, no place to go - flashes of me and the dresser, and the walls - no light, no sun. My latch rusty; I creaked when I opened my lid, my vermillion velvet faded to musty brown; my mahogany faded to pale nothingness. Chipped corner, I leaned to one side, one of my pegs was missing, I had no chance of going anywhere. (catches himself talking to self - embarrassed and shut down) Shut up before somebody hears you! (looks around to see if anyone heard, hobbles to window - FALLEN pops up at the window - MO upset and embarrassed) Hey Fallen - what’s crackin’ in the woods?

FALLEN: (off balance, confused, shaky, rubbing head with paw) I just ran into a tree. I’m a little shaky.

MO: (stuttering from still waking up) I… I… I’m sorry. Sounds like a rough morning all around. I had a bad dream that I’d never leave this house.

FALLEN: (tilts head to one side) Sounds scary.

MO: (shocked that FALLEN isn’t more interested; condescending and hurt) Yeah. How be it?

FALLEN: (scared, scanning the area) I’m terrified, Mo. I’m alone. I got no other animals to help me out. I fell so far, and now I’m trying to pick myself back up, and - (if I continue with how I’m going)

MO: (cutting him off, rolls his eyes) What is it that you would like?

FALLEN: (hops off window sill, taken aback) I just thought you’d like to know how I felt after running into a tree. My head hurts, I was being chased by a dog, I have no one to protect me, and I need to push myself to talk to more animals. I want to be accepted and less afraid.

MO: (shocked like a slap in the face) Wow. I’m guessing help is what you would like.

FALLEN: (enthusiastically) Yeah!

MO: I’ll get right on that. Look, I’m stuck inside. It’s getting harder to open and close; pretty soon my… thing in the back is gonna fall off. I’m sick of being cooped up inside - I want to be part of the world!

FALLEN: (stares with open mouth) This is a bad day. My head is spinning. (shakes head, looks away, then up at MO with sad eyes) Mo, just come outside.

MO: (exasperated, huffs) Easy peasy. Outside. So simple. (serious) It’s not like I can just wobble off the dresser without getting hurt.

FALLEN: You’re right. I’ve also been hurt so many times in the past. My family was always hurting others, and me. I have scars on my side that hurt like a stick in my spine when I move. They destroyed trees, and fought with other panthers. I was pushed away by other animals, and I took my aggression out on them and hurt them back - clawing them, growling at them.

MO: (with sad eyes) Sorry.

FALLEN: (small smile) I’m tired of being chased by things that I’m scared of. Will you just give me a small kick with one of your pegs when I’m trying to make friends, to tell me I’m doing good? I’m scared. That’s why I need help when I start to back down when approaching.

MO: (nervous, empathetic, but still a little selfish) Well, that’s a lot. I really don’t think I’d want my peg to fall off like it did in my dream…. But you know, I really like the paintings you do, and the colors you use - the blues, and the greens - and I think it would look really good on me, so you should help me out. I’d feel better about myself, so I might be able to give you a little push when you need it.

FALLEN: (scared and nervous) No.

MO: (hurt and upset, like “Is there something you’re not telling me?”) Why not?

FALLEN: I just find the colors. It’s hard to make it all at once. (changing subject, looking away) Tell me again why you can’t just hop off the dresser and go

MO: (anxious, low volume) If I fall over, I’m afraid I’ll lose the diamonds that I hold inside. I want to be part of the world outside, but I can’t. I’m stuck. There’s a window in front of me that I don’t know how to open. (dreamy, rocking back and forth on pegs) I just want to be the color of something in nature: to relax, feel the warmth of the sun on my soft wood, the smell of fresh air and cinnamon. I’d lay open and let my diamonds shine bright. (MO is laying down on all fours listening, empathetic because he wants to be accepted too, and is lost in thought with himself.)