COCKLES (THE DEVIL’S BEACH)

A BEACH OF MUDDY SAND. THE TIDE IS RAPIDLY COMING IN.

A MAN STAGGERS FROM THE RISING SEAS. THE RESCUERS, ALREADY ON THEIR WAY OUT, SPOT HIM AND RUSH OVER.

RESCUER 1: There!

RESCUER 2: Hey! We’re here!

HE TURNS BLINDLY TO THEIR VOICES. THEY RUSH OVER AND DRAG HIM THROUGH THE WAVES TO THE BEACH.

RESCUER 1: I told you I spotted someone.

RESCUER 2: Here, buddy. Put this over you.

THEY THROW AN EMERGENCY BLANKET OVER HIM.

RESCUER 1: We’ve got you.

RESCUER 2: Can you hear us?

RESCUER 1: Listen, were you alone? We’ve got reports of a whole group of you out there.

RESCUER 2: We’ve got to know where we’re going. We’ve got no time to waste. That tide’s coming in.

MAN: (STUNNED) What?

RESCUER 2: What?

MAN: I can’t understand you.

RESCUER 2: I can’t understand you.

MAN: I don’t speak English.

RESCUER 1: Can he speak English?

RESCUER 2: I don’t know, can he?

MAN: I’m [NATIONALITY].

RESCUER 1: He’s [NATIONALITY] isn’t he? Looks [NATIONALITY]. He must be [NATIONALITY]. Not [NATIONALITY] or [NATIONALITY].

MAN: We’re all [NATIONALITY]. Please, help us.

RESCUER 2: Does anyone round these parts speak [NATIONALITY]?

RESCUER 1: Of course they do. Of course bloody not.

MAN: Help us.

RESCUER 2: We’re here to help you. You’re all right now.

MAN: There’s others out there!

RESCUER 1: Are there any others?

MAN: (SNAPS TO) Oh my god. There’s all the others out there. Help us! Help them!

RESCUER 2: I don’t think he understands us.

MAN: You don’t understand me.

RESCUER 1: Well you get the prize don’t you? We’ve got to find out if he was alone or with others. Anyone good at charades?

RESCUER 2: It’s no time to be joking.

RESCUER 1: No mate it’s all we’ve got.

RESCUER 2: Well we’ve not got time.

MAN: (LOOKING OUT TO THE SEA) I can’t see anything, you have to find them!

RESCUER 2: Or linguistic talents.

RESCUER 1: So I’m going to try this. Buddy?

MAN: They’re drowning! I saw them.

RESCUER 1: Buddy… Before we take you somewhere warm, we’ve got to know. Look here.

(TO RESCUER 2) Watch him. (TO MAN) Please.

RESCUER 1 MIMES. POINTS OUT TO SEA. POINTS TO THE MAN. POINTS BACK OUT TO SEA AND COUNTS OFF FINGERS ON HAND WITH A QUESTIONING LOOK.

MAN: Forty, there.

RESCUER 1: Sorry buddy. Is that a yes?

RESCUER 2: He means how many?

MAN: Forty, look! (HE SPLAYS HIS FINGERS FOUR TIMES)

RESCUER 2: Fuck me. Forty!

RESCUER 1: You’re joking, forty of you?

MAN: Please, help us.

RESCUER 2: Forty he says. Go. The more boats out there the better. I’ll sort him.

RESCUER 1: I’ll get the motor going. (RUSHES OFF. OVER HIS SHOULDER) Exactly where? Does he know? Oh bollocks, like “exactly” means anything when the tide’s coming in like this. You tell them we’ve got one here and forty out there, poor buggers. I’m out there already.

MAN: I can’t swim. I don’t even know where I am.

RESCUER 2: Do you know where you are? (GETS A TEXT) They’ve called out the helicopter and the life boat’s launched. Great. Just wait here while I call them and tell them there’s more than we thought. Forty, fuck!

HE WALKS A LITTLE OFF AS HE DIALS AND TALKS URGENTLY.

MAN: The main reason we on this particular night was because of poverty in the [PLACE] province of [COUNTRY]. “There is a constant threat and risk of people being abused like this and dying because they’re being forced to work in dangerous conditions.”

I’ve come here halfway across the world from [PLACE] province. That’s in [COUNTRY]. I came here because of the poverty there. Because I was poor. (THIS SINKS IN) I wanted to help my family. I have education, I’m a computer programmer but there’s nowhere back home for me to work. The snakeheads, they’re everywhere, looking for people like me. To take to… well somewhere. In fact it’s always San Francisco or New York. We’ll take you there, they say, we’ll get you a good job, sort your papers. In a couple of years you’ll have made enough money to come home and set yourself and your family up for life. It’s honestly that easy, there’s so many opportunities over there in America. San Francisco, New York. They didn’t say paved with gold but that was the idea. That was the attraction. And all we had to do was give them money. They’re investing in us after all so we need to put a bit of money their way to show the trust. And they took my money and then they asked for more. And my parents, my mother and father, poor like me, saw the chance for me and sold their house to pay the rest of my way to America. It was all they had. (LETS THIS SINK IN) Actually we weren’t just poor, we were in debt. My father’s farm, my business, we needed the cash. I was going to earn money for them, for me. For the rest of my family. But I also needed to earn money for them, the people we owed. I’m not going to tell you how much we owed. But I think about it every minute of every day. And off I went. And not to bore you with the details, it just got worse. I arrived in a container with 40 other people – the same people out there – in Liverpool. They told us this isn’t America but it might as well be. We’ve been in the one house here, your neighbours, for three months now. But no one seems to notice us, even when we go out to work in the bay. The tide goes out twice a day and we go out to find and pick the cockles. We never seem to earn enough and they dock our pay for our rent and our food. We never eat enough and there’s twenty of us in each house, they’re next to each other. And I’ll admit I’m a little dishonest. I haven’t actually seen a penny and I’ve been here six months. I don’t say that to my parents. I couldn’t. But lying to them doesn’t seem right. It doesn’t seem right to be poor and working hard like this then giving all your money to the people who employ you. It’s not like that for the other people here is it? (BEAT) That’s all you need to know about me, isn’t it? That’s all you want to know about me. And about all those poor souls out there right now. Picking cockles for the gang master, who’s gambling in the casinos over there somewhere else today. (BEAT) None of us can swim. Not one of us. We never needed to. The water came up to us. No one noticed until it was too late. The water was flooding so quickly that some were dragged right away under. I got flipped over by a wave and ended up here on the beach. I don’t know how. I don’t know where the others are. The ones who were dragged under, the ones who weren’t.

RESCUER 2: Do you even know where you are? You really don’t know. You don’t speak the language. You’re not a cockle picker. What are you I wonder? Come on we’ll get you somewhere warm.

THE MAN STOPS AND LOOKS BACK OUT TO THE SEA.

RESCUER 2: They’ll be looking for your mates. Let’s hope for the best. You must be worried but we’ve got to get you in safe before the cold gets to you. Come on. Off this beach.

MAN: My god, they’re still out there. They don’t even know where they are.

RESCUER 2: Do you even know what country you’re in? It’s England mate, this is England, welcome to England.

MAN: England?

RESCUER 2: Yeah, England. You’re safe.

THE MAN TURNS AND RUNS BACK INTO THE SEA.

ENDS