You Must Be Wrong

from MÉLANGE by Erika Ji

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An Arabian Nights tale begins with an ambitious young man fighting his fate to achieve his dream. Based on Ted Chiang’s story, The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate.


AJIB and the BOY stop in front of the hovel.

Here we are. This is Ajib’s house.

(Disbelief. Then laughs uncomfortably.)
Oh, of course. This is where he used to live. But I want to see where he lives now.

If he has moved since yesterday, I do not know where.

Excuse me, boy. You must be wrong.
I’ll hold it not against you,
But Ajib must be a rich man;
I’ve dreamed it, so it must be so.

Opulent, wise, corpulent size,
Adorned in fine silk and things of that ilk.
Mayhap one of the most prosperous folk
On this side of the Bosporus.

Sir, this is truly Ajib’s house. You see, there he comes.

FUTURE AJIB exits the house. Due to a bad back, he limps across the stage.

That… that can’t be!

Turban plain, clothing stained?
Same shack, walls cracked?
Twenty years! What have I achieved?
Nothing at all?? That can’t be!

I’ve dreamed of jeweled turbans and Damascene robes,
A palace fit with furnishings from all around the globe.
But more than all the finest rugs, than all the gold above,
I need to have a blessing to wed the one I love, to wed the one I love.

Taahira! With eyes as dark and beautiful as a gazelle.
Taahira, whose seductive scent of myrrh I sweetly smell.
A simple weaver is not a favorable match,
But surely they’d approve if I came with wealth attached.
So for her family’s blessing, for our passion’s sake,
This cannot be the future, not with our love at stake.

So, little boy! You must be wrong.
I’ll hold it not against you,
But Ajib must be a rich man;
I need it, so it must be so.

AJIB feels inside his own pocket and brings out a key.

I must see this for myself.

AJIB tries the key on the house lock, and it works. He enters the house.

After twenty years, I cannot even afford better pillows?
After twenty years, I still use this old chest for my savings?

AJIB opens the chest. It is filled with gold dinars. He is astounded.

So, future Ajib is rich, but stingy?
Condemning himself to a place so dingy...
While hoarding treasure?
Does he hate pleasure?

If I had this gold, I could marry Taahira.


If I had this gold, I could marry Taahira!

The old man doesn’t seem to care if he’s of gold bereft,
And stealing from my future self shouldn’t count as theft.
Does Allah reward the hoarders, or those who prove their drive?
Does He not wish us to enjoy this world while we’re alive, while we’ve alive?

Future Ajib! You must be wrong.
I’ll hold it not against you,
But this Ajib will be a rich man;
I’ll seize it, so it must be so!

AJIB hauls the wooden chest offstage.


from MÉLANGE, released July 20, 2019
Based on the story The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate by Ted Chiang
Text Adaptation, Additional Lyrics, and Music by Erika Ji
Vocals by Michael Trainer
Piano by Nathan Cheung
Recorded and Mixed by Chris Gilroy at Douglass Recording and Mighty Toad Recording Studio


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Erika Ji New York, New York

Erika creates music that tells stories. With a love for soaring melodies and dramatic emotions, Erika draws inspiration from the lush soundscapes of classical music, the character-driven storytelling of musical theatre, and the authentic heart of indie folk and pop. ... more

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