Mark of the Chip: Episode 1, A Recorded Tragedy

Ka-chak. The recorder starts to record.

The whirring sound of the fans fills the postnatal ward, along with the cries of a newly welcomed baby, JODIE. The sniffing of a thankful mother and the boisterous laughter of a happy father. JODIE’s cries eventually settle down, turning into jovial laughter that mirrors her father’s.

Father: We’re recording this now for you later Jodie, so that we can always be here with you, even when we’re gone.

Mother: That’s right dear. You’ll always be our baby.

JODIE begins to wail gibberish words that sound suspiciously like ‘Hello Mummy and Daddy’, with only the ‘Hello’ being somewhat clear. Her parents pay no mind and continue coddling her, saying hello back to her and whispering sweet nothings.

Father: She’ll be our third princess. Isn’t that lovely, Joanne?

Mother: I’m excited to see what she grows up to be.

Father: We love you, Jodie. Very much.


Pause for five seconds.


FATHER grunts, sitting down next to JODIE. JODIE giggles in the background.

Father: Jodie, you’re officially one! How’re you feeling?

Jodie: (slightly gibberish) Happy!

Father: It’s been a year since we made our last recording, and––Jodie, did you just say ‘Happy’?

Young Jodie: (slightly gibberish) Daddy!

Father: Jodie…! You said ‘Daddy’ first!

Mother: Goddamnit Jacob. Why’d she have to say ‘Daddy’ first? Why couldn’t it be ‘Mummy’?

The three laugh their hearts out, JODIE’s baby-like squeal stands out the most. The doors to the room open slightly.

Young Pearl: (in the background) Mummy? Daddy? What are you laughing about?

Mother: Your sister just said her first words!

Young Pearl: Oh. It’s just that? 

Father: Pearl, What do you mean by that?

Young Pearl: I mean, I can speak too. What’s the difference?

Father: Y’know, when you were her age, you couldn’t even eat your food properly, but Jodie can eat using her spoon now!

Young Pearl: Okay. I’ll be in my room.

PEARL closes the door with a click.

Mother: Alright, where were we?

Father: Jodie was about to make a handprint on the paper.

Mother: Right. Here’s the paint, dear.

JODIE giggles again, the sound of sloshing paint in the background as she dips her hand into the paint. 

Mother: Jodie, are you…writing?

Father: But how?

Mother: Maybe she imitated Pearl and Diamond? I heard children like to imitate their siblings.

Father: Oh. I forgot about it.

Mother: Forgot about what?


Mother: (breathes heavily)…Jacob, what did you forget about?

Father: …I did sign something before she was born. It’s a government thing––

Mother: Jacob, I don’t believe in the government. What did you sign off our daughter into?

Father: A chip. I had to do this––

Mother: You could’ve consulted me or at least told me about it––

Father: Joanne listen I––


Father: It was for her good. They said the baby would be defective.

Mother: Who said?

Father: The gynaecologist.

Mother: Didn’t we agree that they were a fraud?


Mother: Please shut your mouth. I don’t want to see you here either. Leave me alone.

JODIE feels her parents arguing, and starts crying.

Mother: No baby, shh, shh, Mummy and Daddy aren’t arguing…

Father: Joanne, listen to me––


Father: But––

Mother: You know what they say about the Mark of the Beast. I can’t believe you! 

Father: Enough with all this Christian nonsense! What good is she if she won’t be able to fit into society?

Mother: I’d still love her all the same.

Father: I would too. But other people won’t. She was defective to the point where her brain was almost unable to function. All of the memories we’ve forged with her were only possible with the chip––



JODIE’s cries continue to fill the background as her parents argue. 

Mother: (breathing heavily) Stop. Let Jodie sleep. We’ll talk about this later.


Pause for five seconds.


Jodie: Ah! Ouch…

DIAMOND and PEARL laugh at JODIE, who is whimpering on the floor.

Pearl: What a loser. She can’t even walk properly.

Diamond: But sis, what if Mummy finds out?

Pearl: Hmm…we’ll just tell her that she fell by herself! She’s still 9 months old anyway, it’s not like she can’t fall by herself.

Diamond: Oh.

Pearl: She’s so weird, it’s like the chip is controlling her or something. Just because she has a chip that makes her better at certain things doesn’t mean she’s better than us. We’re older than you!

Diamond: …Yeah!

Jodie: I never said that…I just said that I’m good at jumping rope, not that I was better than you…

PEARL and DIAMOND huff and walk away, their Mary Janes clopping on the marble floors. JODIE sobs with a hic. The sound of the recorder being picked up by JODIE is magnified, her fingers fumbling with the buttons.

Jodie: What is this… I feel like I’ve seen this recorder before.

Ka-chak. A familiar recording plays out, muffled.

Father: We’re recording this now for you later Jodie, so that we can always be here with you, even when we’re gone.

Mother: That’s right dear. You’ll always be our baby.

Jodie: (voiceover) Was this when I was born?

As JODIE speaks, the rest of the recording plays in the background simultaneously. 

Clacking heels in the background fades in, then stops.

Mother: Yes dear, that was when you were born.

Jodie: Mummy!

Mother: Am I interrupting your playtime, dear?

Jodie: No, not at all. (pause) You and Daddy used to be close?

Mother: …What do you mean? 

Jodie: You argue with Daddy every day.

Mother: No, we don’t.

Jodie: But I––

Mother: Let’s go and eat lunch, dear.

Jodie: Mummy!

Mother: My dear, please don’t talk about it anymore. Let’s go and eat. Now.

Jodie: …Okay.

Jodie grunts as she sits up. Mother gasps suddenly.

Mother: Jodie, why is your knee bleeding?

Jodie: (pause) I fell. It’s nothing.

Mother: Oh, the recording is still playing. Jodie, help me turn it off.


Pause for five seconds.


Diamond: Mama, how do you use this?

Mother: Sorry Dia, I’m busy right now. Ask your sister if she can play with you.

Diamond: But Pearl doesn’t know how to use it either.

Mother: I was talking about Jodie. Just ask her, she’ll know how to. She’s coming back home from school soon.

Diamond: Oh.

The sounds of the house gates and the door closing can be heard in the background. A gleeful JODIE waves a piece of paper in the air.

Jodie: Mummy, I’m back! I got the scholarship!

Mother: That’s great, my dear. Mummy is so proud of you.

Diamond: Mummy?

Mother: Sorry Dia. You can play with Jodie now, I still need to finish cooking dinner.

Father: Joanne, hurry up and cook. I’m starving.

Mother: Y-yes. Sorry.

Father: Diamond, what are you doing with that recorder?

Jodie: She wants me to teach her how to use it, Father.

Father: Don’t waste your younger sister’s time, Diamond. Jodie needs to do work.

Diamond: But––

Father: Diamond, don’t make me repeat myself.

Diamond: Yes, Father.

Father: (mumbling) Don’t call me Father when you can’t even be half as good as Jodie.

Mild shuffling in the background. Sounds of footsteps walking on wood floors. Someone stops DIAMOND.

Jodie: (hushed) Hey.

Diamond: (hushed) What do you want? Here to brag?

Jodie: No, what? I just wanted to tell you not to listen to Dad, I’ll teach you how to use it later.

Diamond: It’s because Father only loves you, isn’t it? You can still afford to do wrong things in front of him because he won’t get mad at you.

Jodie: No, I’m saying this because I know you’ve always wanted to use the recorder. I don’t have any bad intentions.

Diamond: That’s what they all say.

Jodie: Listen to me! I’m willing to forgive your past actions five years ago towards me because I understand that you may feel inferior to me in some way—

Diamond: I’m older, Jodie. I shouldn’t be asking you about something so trivial anyway. I just won’t use it.

JODIE messes around with the recorder.

Jodie: The recorder’s on. You were recording the whole conversation.

Diamond: Oh…uh.

Jodie: No need to thank me. Just return it to Mother after. (mumbling) I can use it later too.

Diamond: Okay.

Jodie: And…be careful.

Diamond: Of?

Jodie: Dad and Pearl. Don’t give her the recorder either.


Pause for five seconds.


The girls are sitting in their room with the ceiling fan on at the lowest speed in the background.

Diamond: That’s how you turn it on, and then—

Pearl: Yeah yeah, did the loser say anything else?

Diamond: …No.

Pearl: You’re not looking straight at me.

Diamond: (mumbling) She said to be careful.

Pearl: Huh? What was that?

Diamond: She said to be careful!

Pearl: Of who?

Diamond: …Father.

Silence befalls the two. The whirring of the ceiling fan becomes louder despite the same setting, filling the silence.

Pearl: Whatever, the brat’s probably just scaring us.

Diamond: But—

Pearl: Dia. Stop. Her words are irrelevant.

Diamond: (sigh) Okay.

Pearl: Give me that. I wanna play with it.

Diamond: …Mother wants it back.

Pearl: Just give it to me to play with for a few minutes!

The sounds of the recorder being pulled around accompany Pearl’s complaint.

Diamond: No! Mother says she needs it now!

Pearl: Okay, okay! Jesus.


Pause for five seconds.


Diamond: Wait, why are we doing this again?

Jodie: We have to record evidence just in case.

Diamond: How did your fantasies get that wild?

Jodie: It’s not fantasy, it’s happening, and it’s real. Stop denying it.

Diamond: You’re five years younger than me. Even if you’ve been chipped, how are you supposed to know this kind of adult stuff?

Jodie: Because I can read human behaviour better? Mummy’s always trying to avoid conflict with Father. Don’t you hear them arguing in the kitchen already?

Diamond: Don’t parents argue all the time? That’s what I heard from my classmates.

Jodie: You should see it for yourself.

Footsteps trudge down the wooden stairs. Pause. Thunderstorms outside are drowned out by screaming and arguing in the background. The arguing fades in.

Mother: Why are you doing this? Your business is crumbling, and you still want a divorce? What about the kids? What about Jodie?

Father: You can take the twins, I’ll take Jodie. This isn’t about money––

Mother: It IS! Stop lying to yourself and face the truth. If you’re divorcing me I’ll––

Glass breaks in the background. Jodie audibly gasps, and her mother does the same in the background.

Mother: JACOB, STOP! Please…

Father: So are we divorcing?

Mother: A compromise, please, Jacob, the kids––they’re so young, please…

Father: Then quit your job. Give me half your assets, I’ll––

Mother: Okay, okay! Just don’t hurt them…

Jodie: (hushed) See?

Mother: I’m sorry…I’m sorry…

Father: Shut up. I need all of your assets now.

Mother: What about the compromise? You said half!

Father: I just need it.

Mother: I—

Father: You don’t have a say in this. After you transfer everything to my account, we’ll get a divorce and I’ll leave you alone.

DIAMOND gasps, gulping her tears in.

Jodie: (hushed) This recording will help Mummy.


Pause for five seconds.


Pearl: What the hell’s so special about this stupid recorder anyway?

Jodie: Stop! Give it back! It’s important!

Pearl: You’re obsessing over a piece of plastic. 

Jodie: It’s not just a piece of plastic!

Diamond: …Pearl, give it back.

Pearl: Dia? Even you?

Diamond: She said to give it back. Mummy gave it to her after all.

Pearl: Why are you even on her side? Aren’t we twins?

Diamond: I never wanted us to be twins.


Pearl: What does this loser have that I don’t? You’re too good for me now, is that it?

Diamond: Maybe. At least I’m better than you because I don’t bully other people when I feel inferior to them.

PEARL lets out a gasp, huffing before shoving the recorder into JODIE’s hands. 

Jodie: Ow!

Pearl: You two can keep your precious little recorder. It’s not like I liked it anyway.

PEARL stomps off, her footsteps fading away. JODIE and DIAMOND let out a sigh of relief.

Jodie: Aren’t you gonna go after her?

Diamond: No.

Jodie: Okay. All that’s left to do is bring this up during the trial.

Diamond: The trial?

Jodie: Yeah.


Pause for five seconds.


Judge: Jodie Elrod, can you tell us about your parents?

Jodie: Yes, your honour. My father––

Father: Jodie! What are you doing?

Judge: Silence. Please go on, Jodie.

Jodie: My father abuses my mother on an almost weekly basis ever since his company went into shambles. He would break glasses and use the sharp edges to threaten––

Father: JODIE! STOP––

Judge: I said silence. Jodie, please.

Jodie: Right. I have evidence in this very recorder of both my father and sister treating me badly.

Judge: Which sister?

Jodie: Pearl Elrod, your honour.

Judge: Is she here today?

Pearl: Your honour, please, hear me––

Judge: Stop. (mumbling) What’s with this family and cutting people off?

Pearl: It’s not me! It’s all because they––

Judge: Do you know how to keep quiet, young lady? Sorry, Jodie. Please go on.

JODIE presses the play button, and the muffled recording starting from the bottle smashing starts to play. As the judge and the witnesses continue to listen to the recording, an increasing amount of gasps can be heard.

Judge: I see. So that’s how it is. How old are you again?

Jodie: Six, sir.

Judge: …Were you chipped?

Jodie: No, your honour.

Judge: Hm. I see. (mumbling) Can’t believe the government would do something like this.

The judge flips his papers once more. The court waits in anticipation.

Judge: Court dismissed. The final verdict will be out tomorrow.

JODIE lets out a huge sigh of relief.

Diamond: (whispering) Why would he ask you that?

Jodie: (whispering) Some people are just overly-Christian, Dia. Pay them no mind.


Pause for five seconds.


The toilet is silent, but the tiny windows allow a chirp to slip in occasionally. The tiny washroom echoes MOTHER’s footsteps, as well as the ‘fwump’ sound her baggy clothes make when she sits on the toilet bowl cover, the recorder in hand. She waits, breathing heavily in and out for a while, before finally speaking.

Mother: This recording is to be heard by my daughters only. Jodie, Dia and Pearl, please listen to what Mummy has to say. Fully play this recording if I fail to manage to get custody over any one of you.

She sucks in a breath before continuing.

Mother: Jodie, Mummy is sorry. Mummy is sorry for all the hate you had to endure, for having your classmates ostracise you and for Pearl to bully you. It’s not your fault you were chipped at birth, it’s not your fault that you learn faster than others, and it’s not your fault for having such a horrible father. I should’ve seen the signs earlier.


Mother: Mummy is sorry, Dia. For not showing you that I care and love you, for you to feel left behind by your sisters. Mummy is sorry for giving you a life you didn’t want, and for you to not feel like you’re part of the family.


Mother: Pearl, Mummy is sorry for not bringing you up to be a woman you can be proud of, for letting you run rampant and for not showing you a better path earlier. I should’ve been a better mother to all of you.

The chirps outside the toilet window are now softer. The wind sways more, wind chimes dangling with each other on the neighbour’s balcony, and the rustling of the leaves on the trees is loud.

Mother: I’m sorry children. Mummy is a big fat coward who doesn’t deserve any of you. I love you all. Please take care without me.

The soundscape fades, and the silence becomes loud.


Pause for seven seconds.


The twins sob and sniff while JODIE is silent. The whirring of the fan in their room feels loud and disturbing, the fan creaking every time it turns.

Jodie: I can’t believe she left us with Father. Stupid recording.

Diamond: After all the evidence we got for her––

Pearl: I’m sorry.


Jodie: It’s okay––

Diamond: Jodie, no.

Jodie: What no?

Diamond: She should be sorry––

Jodie: I’m saying it’s okay, I understand that she––

Diamond: Just because you understand doesn’t mean you’re not hurt. 

Jodie: …I’m okay with it––

Diamond: I’m not. I’m gonna apologise too. I should’ve been a better sister to you. 


Jodie: Thanks. You too Pearl.

Pearl: Wait, who’s gonna take care of us now?

Jodie: Father won custody. He’s our only relative now.

Diamond: Isn’t that bad?

Jodie: He might abuse us every day, or he might not.

Pearl: Where is he now?

Jodie: In another trial for abuse.

Diamond: Wait, if he goes to jail, who’s taking care of us?

Jodie: I don’t know, Dia. I don’t know.

The three are silent as the whirring of the room’s fan fades out.

​​Lee Shean is a casual writer who enjoys writing about her life and the people around her, basing her stories off her own experiences. She also has a strong passion for creating her own book covers, and does graphic design in her free time.