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Leila Aboulela

Aboulela is a novelist and playwright. She is a Caine prize winner [2000] and her plays have been broadcast on BBC Radio. Her latest novel is Minaret. Her novel, Translator, was nominated for the Orange Prize in 2002. Her play, The Sea Warrior was first produced for radio and broadcast by BBC Radio 4 on 21st May, 2001. It is published now for the first time. Production enquiries may be directed here in the first instance.

Leila Aboulela    

 The Sea Warrior

Characters: Nafisa - Noma Dumezweni;    Ed - Paul Birchard;     Marden - James Bryce.      Director: Bruce Young.


SC1. EXT. Magical, languid, sounds of the sea but they are slowly and steadily invaded by the harsh screech of seagulls and the rising hum of busy, purpose- full machinery. The hum of machinery resembles the exaggerated hum of refrigerators.

NAFISA: (voice-over) He kept pestering me. Talking about things I had pushed to the margins, things I wanted to forget. He kept pestering me and getting in the way … and I can't be sorry for what happened to him at the end.
  'Do you think', he asked me, 'there's a giant camera filming everything we do and say?' 'You mean here on the rig', I said, 'for safety reasons.' 'No, I mean all the time', he said. At first, I didn't know what he was talking about.

FX: Sounds evocative of the ceaseless activity and machinery of an oilrig.

INT. NAFISA's flat in Aberdeen. A long-distance phone call to Khartoum.

MARYA: ….and so it will be the henna on Wednesday, the wedding on Thursday and…

NAFISA: Marya…

MARYA: …then it won't be until the Sunday that we leave so we'll get to spend time with you and everyone else whose coming from abroad…..
NAFISA: Marya…

MARYA: ...his brother is coming all the way from Australia. He's bringing his children - and it's going to be the first time for them to see the Sudan!

NAFISA: Really.

MARYA: …and his mother's paying for the honeymoon. Isn't she sweet?

NAFISA: She is sweet. Your nice in-laws will be so helpful at the wedding, you won't even need your sister. She can stay in Aberdeen..

MARYA: Nafisa!

NAFISA: I ..I can't come.

MARYA: What do you mean you can't come? You promised.

NAFISA: I can't. I have to go off-shore. It's part of my training.

MARYA: Why does it have to be now Nafisa? Go next month.

NAFISA: It's the first time they've asked me. And I've done my Offshore Survival Course and passed my medical. How can I say no?

MARYA: How many times am I going to get married?

NAFISA: Marya, please. I'll come home later as soon as I get a holiday….

MARYA: Tell me, how many times am I going to get married? And these oilrigs are there all the time…

NAFISA: It's not like that…

MARYA: I can't believe this. I just can't.

NAFISA: I'm so sorry. You don't know what it's like here. Everyone's waiting for me to make a mistake. Just to say she's not up to it. Then I get this chance and you want me to come up with this girlie excuse - My Sister's Wedding!

MARYA: So what am I going to tell everyone? Oh sorry everyone, Nafisa would rather be in the middle of the sea on a rig full of men than ..

NAFISA: That's not true. They are.. there will be women there and…

MARYA: (calling) Mama, Mama! Come and see what your beloved Nafisa has to say.

NAFISA: Please don't do this.

SC2: The Heliport at Aberdeen.
General hubbub of men's voices. Someone laughs. It's seven o'clock on a bright sunny morning. Everyone's refreshed after two weeks holiday on shore.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Passengers for Flight 5 to the Sea Warrior please proceed to Gate A. The flight will board in ten minutes.

DES: Ed, what are they up to on the rig at the moment?

ED: They're saying there's some kind of obstruction down in the well.

DES: Is that what they think is causing the reduced flow rates?

ED: Yeah, they've been trying to get a closer look at it - but so far without success. Now they're talking of bringing out this new video camera to take a look.

DES: (with sarcasm) New fangled technology.

NAFISA: (voice-over) We were all wearing the same thing. Full-length survival suits in gaudy orange. They went over the feet and it was a struggle getting into my trainers again, as if I was wearing two layers of socks.

ED: (in the background) Course I remember him. We were on a job last month in Norway.

NAFISA: (voice-over) I was the only woman there, just my luck, but I told myself we were all cool about this… I imagined that I was acting the veteran, that no one would guess I was new.

ED: So, is this your first time off-shore?


ED: You must be the Trainee PE then? I'm Ed Reid, the Senior Petroleum Engineer.

NAFISA: I'm Nafisa Hassan. Hi.

ANNOUNCEMENT: …….this aircraft has two emergency exits. There are three life rafts onboard. To launch the life raft at the front of the craft ….

DES: Safety..it's never ending. Load of bollocks if you ask me…

ANNOUNCEMENT: Your lifejacket is a Beaufort Mark6. To put the lifejacket on…

ED: She's new, she could do without your cynicism. Nafisa, this is Des Anderson.

DES: New! Let me tell you about life on the rigs - freeze in winter, get boiled in your hard hat all summer.
ED: It has it's ups and downs that's all.

DES: Life ruled by risk assessment. A permit for this and a permit for that. We'll be needing permits to shite next.

FX: The ANNOUCEMENT interrupts ED and NAFISA's laughter

ANNOUNCEMENT: Last call for flight 5 to the Sea Warrior. Would all remaining passengers please proceed to Gate A. This flight is now boarding.

FX: They start to walk out of the terminal and into the sound of the waiting helicopter. The sound gets very loud and they have to shout.

NAFISA: How long is the flight?
ED: About an hour and a half.

FX: Inside the helicopter the almost deafening noise makes talking impossible.

NAFISA: (voice-over) All through the flight Ed listened to his Walk-man and Des read a magazine. I was feeling tense and so I made a list of my fears, as if somehow this might calm me down. I was afraid of losing something down the well or misinterpreting the graphs. I was afraid that the shower cubicles wouldn't have any doors. What would I do? Spend two weeks without having a shower? And the worst fear of all that I would do something utterly imbecile, start a fire, jeopardise people's lives.

SC3. INT. The Radio Room of the Sea Warrior. In the background there is the sound of ships talking to each other, static. The room is on the higher level of the rig. ED is speaking to this wife CYNTHIA on the phone.

ED: Honey, what's wrong? I just got here yesterday.

CYNTHIA: A letter came this morning from Duane's school…

ED: And…

CYNTHIA: They want us to come in and meet the headmaster.

ED: What did he get up to this time?

CYNTHIA: The headmaster says he's going to have to report him for shop-lifting.

ED: Look, I'm sure it'll be okay.

CYNTHIA: I can't figure him out anymore..

ED: Where's he now?

CYNTHIA: Basketball. It's Wednesday. Wednesday is basketball, Monday is Judo.

ED: You know I lose track of the days here, Cynthia.

CYNTHIA: I want you to come with me to the school.

ED: I'm not due back for another two weeks.

CYNTHIA: I know but this is urgent.

ED: Honey, it'll blow over.

CYNTHIA: When if ever, are you going to be around for these things?

ED: Do we have to go through this again? I told you I don't want to stop working off-shore.

CYNTHIA: Look, I know they don't like you making personal phone calls but you have to phone Duane tomorrow.

ED: (pause)

CYNTHIA: You need to talk to him.

ED: I will.

CYNTHIA: Bye then. I miss you baby.

ED: Miss you too, Kiddo.

FX: ED walks out of the radio room. There is the sound of his footsteps and the door closing. He is now outdoors with all the outdoor sounds of the rig, the sea and the machinery. He walks down the stairs. We hear an acoustic that from now on will be associated with MARDEN. MARDEN speaks softly and then his voice rises. It is as if ED passes him and then stops, comes back , curious.

MARDEN: They steal things. Not because they need to but for the sheer pleasure of it. You see something on the shelf then make a grab for it, quickly stuff it into your pocket. Do that with a packet of Fruit Gums, not crisps because they rustle and give you away. An ice-lolly instead, cold against your chest. Then strolling to the counter, picking up a packet of gum, paying for it. That paid-for piece of gum is to dampen suspicion.

ED: Are you talking to me?

MARDEN: Yes, Ed. Aren't you lucky? There can't be anything better than being an American, is there?

ED: Do I know you? I can't remember your name.

MARDEN: Marden. My name's Marden.

ED: Marden… Nope, doesn't ring a bell.

MARDEN: What do you think happens to all the forgotten things, Ed? Do you think they are stored somewhere - in a massive pool of collective forgetfulness? A giant cosmic ledger where everything is recorded, waiting to be retrieved?

ED: Look man, I don't know you and I don't know what you're talking about.

FX: ED's footsteps as he walks away

ED: (muttering under his breath)
What a weirdo!

FX: ED's footsteps recede away. The magical, languid sounds of the sea take over until we hear NAFISA.

NAFISA: (Voice-over) My first impressions of the rig were of the noise and everywhere a smell of oil and grease. The smell was nice but the grime got under my finger-nails and it was a hassle keeping them clean. On my first night I had trouble sleeping though I was lucky I got a cabin all to myself. In the morning I saw dolphins down in the water, a school of them and that was a happy surprise. To boost my confidence, I kept reminding myself of my achievements, all the hard work and struggles I had gone through. Then I saw Marden for the first time, in front of the office. I had been walking fast, worried that I was late…

(FX: The sound of NAFISA's quick footsteps. She turns the corner and walks straight into MARDEN)

MARDEN: Careful!

NAFISA: Sorry.

MARDEN: You're in a hurry. What's going on?

NAFISA: I have to be at the computer monitoring the data- they're shutting the well in.

MARDEN: But the flare's still burning which means they haven't yet stopped the oil flowing.

NAFISA: I know but..

MARDEN: Striking isn't it, the flare - all that bright orange against the grey. It's oil they've already measured and want to get rid of so they burn it - but it's a pretty sight.


MARDEN: Marden.

NAFISA: Marden, if you'll excuse me…

MARDEN: You must be very ambitious to be here. Is it a good thing to be ambitious?

NAFISA: Yes… yes it is.

MARDEN: To what extent?

NAFISA: I don't know what you mean.

MARDEN: You're good at bluffing aren't you? It's a useful strategy, 'rather not know' and 'turn a blind eye'. Maybe that's what got you so far.

NAFISA: Look I have to go now….

MARDEN: You're far away from where you should be.

NAFISA: No, here.. there's the office.

MARDEN: You've lost your sense of direction. You shouldn't be here at all.

NAFISA: I work here.

MARDEN: You don't work here. You bluff your way...

NAFISA: What..!

MARDEN: Between you and I, do you think you're cut out for this?

NAFISA: (voice over) I walked away from him. Perhaps if I had stood up to him better he wouldn't have bothered me again. But I was vulnerable and self-conscious of it. I was new, a woman and black. I expected to find hostility.

SC4.INT The Office. A room inside the rig where NAFISA and ED do most of their work. The outdoor sounds of the rig are almost non-existent. In the office there is the sound of the computers humming softly and the printer printing out information (graphs and statistics) about the flow of the well.

ED: What did he look like?

NAFISA: Grey eyes. Didn't look very healthy. Slight.

ED: Short?

NAFISA: My height.

ED: Weird way of talking?


ED: I think I bumped into him too. Just what you need, eh, on your first day off-shore.

NAFISA: (smiling) Second. I've already survived one day.

ED: Yeah. First day's rough.

NAFISA: I kept getting lost even after the induction. And the rig wobbles a bit like it's floating, I'm still not used to that … but I was worried that the shower cubicle wouldn't have any doors and I ended up with my very own bathroom!

ED: Well, the Sea Warrior is a new rig. You do get living quarters suited for women.

NAFISA: That's a bonus… So, when are they going to stop flowing the well and go for a build-up of pressure?

ED: Just about now. They should have just shut in. That graph over there shows the pressure of the well. You should see the pressure increase at the time they shut the well in. You'll soon get to know what to look for.

NAFISA: How many jobs like this have you been on?

ED: After twenty years in the business, you stop counting. I've mainly worked in the Far East, did a stint in Alaska.

NAFISA: Alaska!

ED: Yeah, that was an experience and a half! I was also five years in the Middle East.

NAFISA: Off-shore or in the desert?

ED: Both. It was good in the desert though. Drive to the location and back home to the compound. Best of both worlds. The compounds were like a piece of the US just placed in the middle of the desert. We had swimming pools, squash courts, American food, you name it we had it.. My wife loved it. She did a lot of work there.

NAFISA: Is she also in the oil business?

ED: Cynthia? She's an artist. When we were out there she did a lot of paintings of the desert, Bedouin women, that kind of stuff.

NAFISA: That's cool! I'd like to work in the desert one day. Most of the oil in Sudan is on-shore. Once they start actively producing, I'll go back home. It'll be great. We'll pump our own oil and stop being the poorest country in the world.

ED: Must be quite rare in your part of the world - a woman as a Petroleum Engineer.

NAFISA: I hate it when people say that!

ED: Why?

NAFISA: I don't know I just do….Yes, the pressure has come up quickly since they shut the well in. What do you think?

ED: That looks like it's performing the way the Reservoir boys said it should. Not often the Reservoir Dogs get it right!

SC5.EXT. Sounds of the sea, exaggerated, with the odd, intrusion of machinery. The sounds are disjointed and there is a surreal -like an echo- in the voices of MARDEN and NAFISA. This is like an unpleasant dream- but one that is neither too frightening nor deeply disturbing.

MARDEN: They suddenly stopped talking and turned to stare at you.


MARDEN: Your mother and her friends.

NAFISA: Yes…yes, they did.

MARDEN: And your sister Marya.

NAFISA: Marya likes me.

MARDEN: You shouldn't have come in the sitting room.

NAFISA: I wanted to…

MARDEN: Not like that, with your hair all sticking out and your dress covered in mud. Not in the middle of your mother's party.

NAFISA: I wanted to say something.

MARDEN: You did and it was, as always, very sharp, very wise for your age.

NAFISA: Then I sat down on the floor and listened. I like spying on grownups.

MARDEN Do you know what one these ladies said about you?


MARDEN: You heard her?


MARDEN: She said that Nafisa is so…

NAFISA: so intelligent to the point of being an idiot.(changes her tone of voice) She was jealous of me. She lived next door. Had a daughter called Reeree. Can you believe it?

MARDEN: It was a nickname.

NAFISA: (with contempt) Reeree. It's the name of a baby cereal!

MARDEN: You didn't let her forget that.

NAFISA: She cried so easily.

MARDEN: She was just a little kid, much younger than you.

NAFISA: There was something wrong with her, something missing.

MARDEN: Her father was dead.

NAFISA: Yes that's right. I remember now. He had a stroke.

MARDEN: While he was driving…

NAFISA: And the car crashed into a tree.

(FX: A clang. We are sharply back in the normal, clear
world of cutlery and people in the background)


INT. The rig galley (cafeteria) at a dull time. Low hum of people's voices, faint sounds of cutlery.

DES: Hey Nafisa. Falling asleep?

NAFISA: No…no. Are we going to have the update meeting?

DES: As soon as the others come through. Do you want a coffee?

NAFISA: Thanks Des. Lots of sugar!! And a doughnut please.

DES: Shall I put it on your tab then?

NAFISA: Yeah, yeah….

DES: (laughing) You've been warned about that one, then? (fetches the coffee while still talking) Did you hear about the guy who was a new drilling engineer? When he first came aboard he was told ,'I hope you've got enough money with you because when you leave the rig you're going to have to pay for everything except cereal'.

NAFISAH: You're kidding - he fell for it.

DES: (laughs) He spent the two weeks living off cereal.

NAFISA: He must have been mad when he found out that the food was free.

DES: He probably felt pretty stupid as well. People like to play nasty tricks and practical jokes. You can always tell when someone has never been offshore before - they are easy prey!! You have to watch everything and check everything. Like your boots, here's a bit of advice - always check inside your safety boots before you put them on.

NAFISA: I just leave them in the locker room with all the other boots.

DES: People will put all kinds of things in them. Shaving foam for example, or worse, parmesan cheese. And man, if you put them on and wear them for six hours….

NAFISA: Thanks for the warning.

DES: Och..You'll soon get used to the life and being constantly alert.

NAFISA: The food is pretty good though, I can't complain about that!

DES: Aye, it can get even better. Real fancy stuff: prawn cocktail, smoked salmon. But still there's no booze, man, no booze. I make sure that I make up for it when I'm back on- shore, but.

NAFISA: Des, is there anywhere I can buy stuff- toiletries?

DES: There's the Bond. It's as small as a cupboard but everything is Duty Free. So you can get all the basic stuff like toothpaste and shampoo but you can also buy perfumes, fancy chocolates. Sad to say there's no booze but I buy packets of cigarettes - it pleases the folks back in Aberdeen.

NAFISA: You not pulling my leg are you about everything being Duty Free?

DES: Honest. We're off-shore, remember. Off-shore.

SC.6.INT. The recreation room on the rig. Relaxing atmosphere of people reading magazines, chatting, playing billiards, watching TV etc. ED is listening to his walk-man. He is listening to Hotel California and singing along.

ED: ...Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light. My head grew heavy and my sight….

FX: ED stops singing abruptly and the tape continues …'grew dim, I had to stop for the night. There she stood in the doorway, I heard the mission bells'.. before it also clicks into silence.

MARDEN: About your son Duane.

ED: What's wrong with Duane?

MARDEN: He smokes.

ED: Cigarettes?


ED: Is that all?

MARDEN You don't mind then.

ED: Look, just who the hell are you?

MARDEN: You wouldn't remember me, Ed.

ED: I don't.

MARDEN: The accident.

ED: (uncomfortably & suspiciously) Oh.

MARDEN: But you wouldn't want to talk about that, would you?

ED: That was a long time ago.

MARDEN: Sure. And the Far East is far away from here. Do you know where Duane gets the money to buy cigarettes?

ED: He gets regular pocket money.

MARDEN: But he always takes a bit more from his mother's purse.

ED: How do you know all this?

MARDEN: Would you consider it stealing?
If a teenager steals from his mother, is it stealing?

ED: It's wrong but it's not a crime.

MARDEN: I've heard an American say that. I've committed a sin but not a crime. I can't remember who that was. Can you?

ED: No.

MARDEN: Someone famous. A famous American.

ED: I have no idea.

MARDEN: Do you know what I learnt from that accident?

ED: What?

MARDEN: It's so easy for things to go wrong even when you don't mean them to. You turn the wrong valve, you cut corners, miss out steps in a procedure, and then bang..someone dies, another goes blind….

ED: The whole incident was very… unfortunate.

MARDEN: You reckon?

ED: Yes.

MARDEN: Look after your son, Ed. You've only got one child.

FX: ED gets up and starts walking away.

ED: (Fading) You're really pushing your luck.

FX: ED quickly walks out of the room. There is the outdoor sounds of the rig and the whistle of the wind. ED runs up the stairs to the Radio Room. The door opens closes and then we no longer hear the outdoor sounds of the rig. ED addresses the radio operator.

ED: (a little out of breath) I want to make a personal call please.

FX: Sound of a number being dialled. It rings and then the voice of CYHTHIA on the answering machine.
CYNTHIA: Hi! Cynthia, Ed and Duane can't receive your call right now. If you leave your name and number after the beep, we'll get right back to you soon as we can.

ED: Duane, it's me Dad. Are you doing okay? I'm … I'm worried about you. Why aren't you at home? Are you at Judo? Next time Mom phones me, be sure to be there son. Okay. Love you all. Bye.

SC.7 EXT. At the well, on the rig floor. Loud sound of machinery with bangs and clangs. People calling out commands at one another every now and then.

BACKGROUND VOICE: Bring some more hose here…

BACKGROUND VOICE: Hey Fred, pick up a bit…

MARDEN: So this is it then.


MARDEN: The well. The focus. Look at this massive rig. The helicopter deck up there, all the engine rooms. There's a hundred and twelve of us on the Sea Warrior, with all our needs catered for, all the equipment, all the computers,… all of this for one single well!

(FX: MARDEN reaches out and snatches NAFISA's calculator)

NAFISA: Hey! Give me my calculator back.

MARDEN: Is it really yours?

NAFISA: You just snatched it from me!

BACKGROUND VOICE: Are the tongs secure?

MARDEN: I'm going to throw it down the well.

NAFISA: You wouldn't dare. It might break the camera they've just run in there.


MARDEN: Something new?

NAFISA: It's a new camera designed to stand the extreme conditions down there. We'll be able to tell if it is an obstruction that's causing the reduced flow.

BACKGROUND VOICE: Move the chain..

MARDEN: Mmmm. Do you think there's a giant camera, filming us all, all of the time, year after year, recording everything we say and do.

NAFISA: You mean on the rig. For safety reasons.

MARDEN: No I mean all the time.

NAFISA: I don't know what you're talking about.

MARDEN: Would you like to see a film of yourself?

NAFISA: What do you mean? No.

MARDEN: You and poor Reeree the day her father died.

NAFISA: There's no such film.

MARDEN: You liked telling her everything. The two of you in the garden and all the facts coming from clever Nafisa. (he mimics a child's prissy voice) Your father is dead and floppy like a chicken before it's cooked….

NAFISA: Stop it.

MARDEN: (continuing) They're washing him now inside the house. I saw the men carrying towels and a white shroud. But they're not going to put him in the bathtub. They're going to put him on a bed. They'll press his tummy so all the pee and pooh comes out. Then they'll put him under the ground ….

NAFISA: Just stop it. Where do you know all this from?

MARDEN: I was there.

NAFISA: Liar. You can't have been.

FX: NAFISA starts to walk away and MARDEN's voice becomes fainter

MARDEN: …. all the worms will eat him….Then snakes will coil themselves around his bones….

FX: NAFISA opens the door to the cafeteria. The welcoming sounds and warmth of the cafeteria after the harshness of outdoors.

NAFISA: Des, when you were on the rig floor, did you notice a guy wearing a blue balaclava? Grey eyes, my height.

DES: No. Can't say I have.

NAFISA: He took my calculator!
DES: (amused) Aaaaa. Well maybe he needed it.

NAFISA: I told him to give it back but he didn't.

DES: (laughing) It'll turn up.

NAFISA: He said he'd throw it in the well.

DES: He was probably pulling your leg. Look, gotta go…

FX: DES's footsteps going away and the noises of the cafeteria become louder

NAFISA: (voice over) Marya wouldn't have put up with what was happening. Not with Des laughing at her, not with Marden who didn't make sense… Marya would have said, 'An oil rig is no place for a woman'. And I would have given her a lecture on how unambitious she was. All she ever wanted to do was get married! But she was nice to Reeree; Marya had patience for the misery next door. How bored I was with everyone who stayed put in one place, everyone who was stupid in Maths, … I didn't mean to hurt them, not really, but they must have found me cruel.

ED: There you are! Did you by any chance see that weirdo again?

NAFISA: Yes. On the rig floor. I asked Des about him but he doesn't know him

ED: Yeah. I've been asking around myself and no one seems to know anything about him. We're the only ones.

NAFISA: He kept talking about my next door neighbour years ago. He knows things about her.

ED: Yeah, he's been telling me stuff about my son too. Maybe he's met your neighbour and she told him about you.

NAFISA: Maybe, yes. It's unlikely. But then I don't know where she is now. She could very well have left Sudan.

ED: Did he say anything to you about me?


ED: Let me know ,will you, if he bothers you again. We need to keep an eye on him.

NAFISA: I found this in my room.

FX: A rustle of paper as NAFISA takes out a sheet of paper from her pocket.

ED: This should be reported.

NAFISA: (taken aback) It's just a cartoon drawing.

ED: Of a golliwog!

NAFISA: It's just a doll. I had a doll like that when I was young.

ED: That's not the point, you should report this.

NAFISA: No way. No.

(FX: Rustle of paper as NAFISA puts the drawing away)

ED: Listen to me. This shouldn't happen…

NAFISA: But it's him that put it there. He's trying to spook me for some reason. But I'm not going to let him get to me.

ED: It doesn't matter whether it was Marden or not. Racist incidents have to get reported and dealt with.

NAFISA: I'm not upset about a little drawing of a golliwog. Cute, isn't he?

ED: Nafisa, people like that.. if they're not stopped, they just go on. And they get bolder and more of a threat…

NAFISA: The first time off-shore and you want me to draw attention to myself and be a nuisance. I don't want this to get big. I want it to just stay small and to go away.

ED: But this is stupid.

(FX: pause and the sounds of the canteen)

NAFISA: ( very slowly ) Stupid..eh? That hurts more than any golliwog.

FX: The Tannoy comes soft at first but then is repeated louder.

TANOY: Telephone call for Ed Reid. Telephone call for Ed Reid.

ED: Look, I'm sorry but…

NAFISA: Just forget it.

ED: (going away) We'll talk later.
(FX: ED's footsteps as he walks away)

NAFISA: (voice-over) For some reason the doll made me think about Marya's wedding, her big day. She'd be wearing her wedding dress and everyone gathering around her for the photographs. I wouldn't be in any of these photos… They'd get passed around the way wedding photos do,and everyone would always remember that I wasn't there. Even Mayra's children would look at them one day and find me missing! I can imagine the wedding - everyone asking, 'Where's Nafisa?' and Marya saying 'Nafisa couldn't come, isn't that disapointing?' And everyone would agree and be sympathetic. Though if they were clever, if they were mean they would say to themselves, 'Nafisa could have come if she really wanted to. She couldn't be bothered that's all. She couldn't be bothered to help out, fetch and carry, smile and offer sweets. She always thought of herself too important for these kind of things.'

FX: The canteen sounds recede and we hear ED's footsteps running up the steps to the Radio Room.

ED: Cynthia, Hi…

MARDEN: Ed. It's me, Marden.

ED: What do you want?

MARDEN: Oh.. just to chat about your blunder that cost lives.

ED: What are you talking about?

MARDEN: Six casualties when that fire broke out on that rig….And you got away with it Ed.

(FX: ED slams the phone down)

ED: (under his breath) Dammit.

SC.8. INT. The office on the rig. Sounds of computer and printers.

NAFISA: (voice -over) After the golliwog incident, my friendship with Ed cooled. We never spoke about Marden. But he was still there and coming closer.

MARDEN: I'm not going to ask you, Ed, if I can come in.

ED: Get out of my office.

MARDEN: What about you Nafisa? You should be more welcoming.

NAFISA: I'm not. I'm working.

ED: Get out of my office, Marden.

MARDEN: Not until I tell Nafisa what I know about you.

NAFISA: I don't want to know.

MARDEN: All you care about is how good that well is flowing… Did you ever wonder how Ed recognised you at the heliport? (laughs) They told him, 'You can't miss the new Trainee, she's as black as the Ace of Spades'.

NAFISA: Go away.

FX: Rustle of paper as MARDEN picks up some of the printouts ED and NAFISA have been working on

ED: Look Marden, what is it that you're after?

MARDEN: Making public the truth about the accident.

NAFISA: What accident?

MARDEN: Well, are you going to tell her or shall I?

ED: A fire broke out once when I was on a rig in the Far East. Some people died.

MARDEN: But who caused that fire? His record isn't so clean, Nafisa. He got away with something he shouldn't have.

ED: I don't know what you're accusing me of or what proof you have.

MARDEN: Oh I have proof.

ED: You're bluffing.

MARDEN: I'm not going to stay quiet. By the way, your mother just spoke to me.

ED: You are bluffing. My mother's been dead for the past two years!

MARDEN: She said you used to steal from her purse. Just like Duane steals from Cynthia. Isn't that a coincidence?

ED: Don't bring my family into this. I'm warning you.

MARDEN: I'll annoy Nafisa instead.

FX: Sound of tearing paper and commotion as MARDEN starts to tear up all their work and NAFISA and ED resist.

NAFISA: Stop it! You're destroying valuable data! It takes a lot of hard work to produce these reports.

ED: Damm you, man.

FX: Sounds of a scuffle as ED struggles with MARDEN to push him out of the room. MARDEN laughs but we can tell he has been badly shaken.

ED: I've had it with you!

MARDEN: (struggling) Stop!

NAFISA: Stop Ed, you'll kill him!

ED: (while shaking MARDEN) Don't mess with me again. Do you hear. Don't mess with me.

FX: Sound of the cabin/ office door opening to the sound of gales outside and ED pushes MARDEN out.

ED: Stay out.

FX: The door closes again and the only sound is ED's breathing.

NAFISA: (voice-over) I picked up bits of paper from the floor, tidied up. Ed sat slumped with his head in his hands. I had looked up to him before, now I felt dull and flat inside. Was Marden telling the truth? I couldn't be sure - but how could Ed stop Marden from speaking?

SC.9.INT. The radio room. A telephone conversation between ED and CYNTHIA. CYNTHIA is distraught and ED can hardly get a word in

CYNTHIA: Ed, Duane's been arrested…

ED: What!

CYNTHIA: I told you he's been stealing stuff from the shop round the corner.

ED: What did he take?

CYNTHIA: Sweets. And he took money from the till. I just can't understand it. We give him pocket money. He had money. And then with the police he was so calm, as if nothing has happened, he's driving me nuts.

ED: Honey, calm down.

CYNTHIA: You have to be here Ed.
ED: I'll be with you in few days, Kiddo. Just hang on…

CYNTHIA: No, you have to come now Ed. I don't care what happens, I don't care if they fire you. You have to be here, I can't cope with this on my own.

ED: Alright, alright…

CYNTHIA: I mean it Ed. This has better be your last time off-shore. Duane needs you and you can't afford to be away from him!

FX: The dialling tone as CYNTHIA slams down the phone. ED slowly puts the phone down and we hear the sound of the door as he leaves the radio room.

EXT. The outdoor sounds of the rig but with severe winds and rain. ED comes down the stairs of the rig and finds MARDEN. They have to raise their voices because of the wind and the rain.

MARDEN: It's all catching up with you now. You can't get away.

ED: Get out of my way Marden!

FX: ED hits MARDEN hard and MARDEN gasps and punches ED back. MARDEN, by far the weaker of the two, is
the one whose speech is most affected by the fight.

MARDEN: You pompous bastard, lives were ruined because of you..

ED: It was a mistake. I didn't want anyone to get hurt. I didn't do it on purpose.

MARDEN: You could have owned up to it. That accident could have been avoided and you knew it.

ED: What good would it have done? I would have just ruined my career...

MARDEN: And when someone else takes the rap…

ED: That was up to the investigation committee. It wasn't up to me.

FX: MARDEN hits ED hard and ED gasps but quickly punches MARDEN back.

MARDEN: You got away with it, you bastard, but not forever.

FX: ED shakes MARDEN. MARDEN can no longer feel the left side of his body. It has gone numb and he slumps onto the floor of the rig.

MARDEN: My arm….it's gone numb…

FX: ED's footsteps swiftly walking away. The outdoor night sounds of the rig. The wind blows cruelly and the rain is endless

SC 10. INT. The voices come one after the other, fading in and out.

DES: They found him dead near the Radio Room. Stone cold. The poor bloke had a stroke, would you believe it? We're all supposed to have passed medicals to get here!

NAFISA: (voice-over) Death here, so close, while we worked round the clock, pumping six thousand barrels a day at thirty dollars a barrel. Didn't I hate Marden? Didn't he make me feel small and guilty? But there was no feeling of relief. I turned and looked at Ed and heard him say…

ED: I don't know who he is.

DES: That's the problem, no one does. He hasn't got an ID on him or anything.

ED: No, I haven't seen anyone suspicious around.

DES: All hell's broken lose. The Safety folk go berserk if so much as one finger gets broken… let alone a death.

ED: No, he wasn't someone that I knew. Did you know him Nafisa?

DES: Had you seen him around, Nafisa?

NAFISA: No…. No, I didn't know him.

FX: We hear the sounds of the wind and rain at the time of MARDEN's death

DES He must have shouted for help but no one heard him. A stroke and he can't have been more than forty!

FX: For a long time we hear the sounds of the wind and the rain. Space and time to absorb Marden's death.

SC.11 INT. The office on the rig. Sounds of computer and printers.

NAFISA: Hi Ed, sorry I'm late.

ED: You alright?


ED: Sure?

NAFISA: Sure. And you?

ED: Sort of. You upset about what happened?


ED: You did the right thing when Des asked you if you knew Marden.

NAFISA: I was just following your line.

ED: It would just complicate things if you and I start saying he was harassing us.


ED: Everyone's very sensitive when something like that happens. A careless word from either of us, could be traumatic for his family and friends.

NAFISA: Did he have a family?

ED: I don't know. I don't want to know.

NAFISA: Right.

ED: I've been very impressed with your work, Nafisa. It's a shame something like that had to happen on your first trip off-shore.

NAFISA: There's two more days to go.

ED: That's right. Day after tomorrow, chopper back to Aberdeen, off-shore experience under your belt. You won't be a Trainee for long.

ED: I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but I'm going to be leaving the company soon.

NAFISA: Oh, that's a shame..

ED: Yeah, but I've been doing the same thing for ages, it's time to move on.

NAFISA: (voice-over) Maybe because I was so tired, maybe because I was confused. I looked at Ed. He was shaken and trying hard not to show it. I guessed how Marden had died. Then I felt cold and queasy. I looked away so I would always be suspicious but never sure. I didn't want the responsibility of being sure. If I was sure then it would mean that Ed had twice caused death without meaning to, then lied, not owning up like he should… so much faith in his own innocence.

FX: Fade to the sound of a helicopter arriving at Aberdeen Heliport.

SC12. INT. Restaurant sounds with light background music - the best restaurant in Aberdeen. A business dinner/party for a group of about fifty.It's Ed's farewell dinner.

DES: (Background voice - in a speech to everyone) Throughout your career, Ed, you've been a champion of team work and attention to detail. Someone who's always shown strong concern for his fellow collegues so………we're really all glad to see you go!

FX: The sound of general laughter.

NAFISA: (voice-over) I thought to myself I could ruin this farewell dinner. All I had to do was stand up and say, 'You left him lying there, Ed , that night on the rig. Marden was shouting for help and you just walked away.' That would wipe the smile off everyone's face. And if I went on and repeated everything Marden had said about Ed and that accident, I'd ruin this fancy dinner for sure. Just thinking of speaking out made me feel sick. I put my napkin on the table and walked through the swinging doors to the LADIES. Afterwards when I washed my face I saw in the mirror that my eyes were red- guilty and red. Marya would have liked the dress I was wearing. She would have approved. I'd gone and bought her the most expensive wedding present- a camcorder. I could afford it with all the bonus I'd made working off-shore.

FX: Swinging door of the LADIES and footsteps as NAFISA walks back to the party.

ED: (Background voice - in a speech to everyone) Thank you all for this great dinner and the set of golf clubs! I never expected this…I'm very touched. I value all the colleagues and friends I've made over the years and the times we've spent together. We had a good team here. I'm gonna miss all of you - some more than others of course…

FX: A bit of individual laughter from the audience.

ED: …but as you know, it's a small world and I'm sure we'll bump into each other. Again I have to say I really enjoyed working with you. I've watched many of you progress from raw recruits to where you are now……

NAFISA: (voice-over) I didn't speak out and ruin the evening after all. I told myself I didn't have any proof. It was all just my suspicions. I told myself that sometimes it's better to look away. 

SC.13 INT. A month later. The kitchen in ED and CYNTHIA's house in Aberdeen. In the background Hotel California is playing on the CD. There are the sounds of cooking.

CD player: …In the master's chamber they gathered for the feast. They stabbed it with their steely knives but they just can't kill the beast

ED: Soup..again?

CYNTHIA: I've got all these squishy tomatoes I need to get rid of. Look at them!

ED: Where did you get them from?

CYNTHIA: Where else?

ED: Well..we have to keep shopping there as a good will gesture…

CYNTHIA: You mean grovelling thanks..

ED: For dropping the charges against Duane, it's a small price to pay, Kiddo.

CYNTHIA: Wait till you see the bill from his therapist.

ED: He needs help. We can't cut corners on that.

CYNTHIA: You had one of these nightmares again yesterday?

ED: Did I? I don't remember.

CYNTHIA: You scared the life out of me, moaning and….

ED: Leave it.

CYNTHIA: Tell me what's wrong. Do you miss going off-shore?

ED: No comment.

CYNTHIA: Do you?

ED: You're the one who wanted me to stop!

CYNTHIA: But I'm not the only reason that you stopped, am I?

CD PLAYER: The last lines of Hotel California followed by the music. You can check out any time you like but you can never leave.

SC.14 INT. In another country on another continent. MARYA's house in Khartoum. NAFISA and MARYA and watching the video of MARYA's wedding. The music and ululation of the wedding can be heard in the background.

NAFISA: (voice-over) I kept my promise to Marya. The first holiday I got, I flew home. I found her changed in a way that was hard to place. Or maybe I was the one who had changed.

NAFISA: So that's the brother who came all the way from Australia.
MARYA: Yes and that's his wife in the blue dress. The band was a disaster, just look at them.

NAFISA: (laughs) I'm going to take a copy of this video back with me to Aberdeen. You must get me a copy.

MARYA: Sure.

NAFISA: You looked lovely Marya. I knew you would. Smiling…

MARYA: I was nervous.

NAFISA: And who's this in the nauseous yellow?

MARYA: You didn't recognise her? You loved teasing her when she lived next door.

NAFISA: No. Don't tell me.

MARYA: It's her, Reeree.

NAFISA: Reeree. Oh no. Wait, I've got to rewind this.

FX: Sound of tape being rewound.

MARYA: There she is. My mother-in-law invited her. They work in the same office.

NAFISA: Yes, she's still so weak-looking.

MARYA: They had it rough with the dad dying and all that.

NAFISA: I was mean to that girl. Before her dad died, after her dad died. I remember going over to her house a lot - playing on her swing. She had that nice swing made from a car's tyre.

FX: MARYA switches the video tape off.

MARYA: You pushed her off that swing so many times.

NAFISA: I don't know why I did that.

MARYA: She got on your nerves for some reason.

NAFISA: Her name. Her baby cereal name just got to me. Reeree.

MARYA: It was a nick- name.

NAFISA: I know. She'd come over and you and Mama would fuss all over her…

MARYA: They were neighbours Nafisa, and when the dad died they lost their income and got into debt. Reeree's mother had to start sewing clothes for people.

NAFISA: Now I remember. We had to wear these awful dresses she made for us, didn't we?

MARYA: laughs a little) I know. Mama had to just go and become her best customer. And the poor woman wasn't such a great dress-maker. But Mama said it's better that way - getting her to make our clothes instead of giving her charity and hurting her feeling.

NAFISA: How did you know all this Marya -you're younger than me? How did you understand all this?

MARYA: I don't know. It was all clear and obvious.

NAFISA: But I was there with you, all this was going on around me and it wasn't obvious to me.

MARYA: That's just the way you are, Nafisa.

NAFISA: Heartless?

MARYA: (teasing her)Hmmm

NAFISA: Was I ever horrible to you?

MARYA: Apart from not coming to my wedding… NAFISA: Apart from that - when we were kids?

MARYA: You were okay Nafisa, you weren't horrible to me. You used to punch all the boys who bullied me and you called them names. They were scared of you.

NAFISA: (with regret) Do you know what I used to say to Reeree after her father died? I used to go over to her house and say 'Where's your dad, hasn't he come back yet?' Sometimes she cried.

FX: A clang and the aura of MARDEN.
NAFISA: (voice-over) We never found out who Marden was or what he was doing on the rig. In the end, the matter was dropped …there was oil waiting to be pumped. And how had he known all these things about us? I could only guess… I couldn't be sure. After a while I began to question if he was real… (pause) At the end of my holiday, I lowered my pride and told Marya that I'd made a mistake in not attending her wedding. But somehow that didn't change anything. There was still the guilt. Ed's guilt, my guilt. Guilt coating me like the grime on the rig. Who can make it go away?

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