‘The Chester Fire’ A monologue by Val Fletcher

The Rows in 1278

SISTER CECILIA ENTERS ST MARY’S CONVENT CHAPEL: 

What day is it?

Not that it matters. 
Every day is much the same. 
I get up from my bunk bed made of straw, 
throw water over my face 
and off I go to join the others in the Chapel.

Everything is so grey and damp today.

SHE KNEELS.  SINGS:

Kyrie eleison;
Christe eleison;  
Kyrie eleison. 

(Lord, have mercy
Christ, have mercy;
Lord, have mercy.)

SHE LOOKS AT THE NUN KNEELING NEXT TO HER:

Gosh, she gets on my nerves. 
Why can’t she just mime? 
She can’t sing. 

On and on we croak.

SHE SINGS AGAIN: 

Kyrie eleison;
Christe eleison;  
Kyrie eleison. 

SHE STOPS.  SNIFFS.

What’s that?
Is that… smoke coming in?
Surely not. 

It’s getting thicker 
Someone’s leaving. 

Kyrie eleison…

SHE STOPS AGAIN.

More shuffling! 

I look up. 
What’s going on?
The smoke is getting thicker and foggier. 
Right, 
I’m getting out of here. 
Better help Sister Agnes to her feet, 
drag her out with me.

I can still hear the drone of the Latin as the others sing on.  

SHE SINGS WITH THEM AS SHE DRAGS AGNES TO HER FEET:

Kyrie eleison;
Christe eleison;  
Kyrie eleison. 

SHE LOOKS AROUND.

My God, there’s a fire raging through the Monastery/Convent. 

(TO AGNES:) “Come on, Agnes, hang on tight.” 

Agnes looks grey and frightened. 

“We’ll get you out!: 

Chaos outside. 

All these people shouting, running, panicking. 
Get to the river, 
must get to the river. 

Agnes is choking. 

“Come on. I have you.” 

Bash her back to help her breathe more easily. 

“Let’s get to the river.” 

We are both choking from the smoke now. 
So many people! 
Concentrate, focus, you can do it.

(A WOMAN STOPS HER)
“Have I seen a small boy?” 

“A small boy?  No, sorry.” 
“If you do, tell him his mother is looking for him.” 

Can’t worry about that now. 

“Come on, Agnes, hold on tight,
hang on in there.”

I cling onto her as best I can, 
drag her through  the smog and the smoke, 
spot the tower, 
we’re nearly there, 
and finally –
reach the river. 

Sit Agnes on a bench.

I look back exhausted,
breathe a sigh of relief, 
we are safe, 
away from the fire.

But-. 

All I can see are red and orange flames.

And the smoke, 
so much smoke,
the whole city is on fire. 
The noise. 
Everyone trying to make sense of what’s going on, 
rushing towards us. 

A tugging at my pocket 
“Have you seen my mum?”

Oh thank God, this must be the lost boy. 
He’s safe.

But, (LOOKING AT THE FLAMES) how many others, dear Lord,
how many others,
might not be so lucky,
might lose everything they own,
the people they love.

This looks like the end of our city.