january 2013 - new round
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INT. SMALL SHACK AT TIP OF PLATEAU NEAR SEA - NIGHT
CLOSE ON silvery, uneven lashes of an OLD MAN as he slowly wakes up. The blanket underneath him RUSTLES as he pushes himself to sit and plant his feet on the floor beside his bed. He is alone. The shack is only big enough to fit one person. He sits there for a while to hear the crickets CHIRPING outside his window.
The TIME 2:45 AM shows on the bottom right side of the screen.
CLOSE ON leathery, gnarled fingers of the OLD MAN shaking from arthritis as he gathers three small portraits from the top of his bedside table. The portraits SHUFFLE as he grabs them.
CLOSE ON pencil held by the OLD MAN as it SCRAPES against the back of a portrait. When he is done, we see the numbers 1, 2, and 3 on the back of each portrait. The portraits SHUFFLE again as he grabs the portraits and the pencil, and places them in the pocket of his pants.
The OLD MAN FLICKING a lighter a number of times. A flame finally APPEARS and he slowly walks over to his bed. The flame licks the edge of his blanket and holds on. Fingers sore from the exertion, the OLD MAN drops the lighter immediately and it HITS the ground.
Back hunched, the OLD MAN walks out of his shack, slowly and painfully due to his stiff joints. Behind him the flames spread fast on his bed. Just as he is out the door, he suddenly stops and makes a sound similar to a mix of a GRUNT and a WHIMPER. Annoyed, he walks back into the shack just as smoke begins to exit the windows. He walks a little faster now to his bedside table, JERKS open a drawer, and takes out what looks like a portrait that has been torn before, and haphazardly taped together. Just as the OLD MAN is about to leave, his heel ventures too close to a flame and he GASPS, letting in a large amount of smoke into his lungs. He COLLAPSES to the ground, and as the fire CRACKLES behind him he uses his fingers to grab the floorboards and drag himself out of his shack.
EXT. MUDDY PATH BY PLATEAU - NIGHT
About thirty feet away from the shack, OLD MAN is further away from the fire that has completely enveloped the home he has lived in for many years. Crickets continue to CHIRP loudly and the leaves of the trees surrounding the muddy path RUSTLE from the sea breeze. He lifts himself up with his hands against the path and stands upright. Slowly he starts walking again. Not once does he look back at the shack.
The TIME is 3:10 AM.
EXT. ISOLATED ROCKY BEACH COAST - NIGHT
The OLD MAN arrives at a small, wooden boat near the coast. He shakes as he PUSHES the boat to the tip of the shore. When he climbs in, he steps on something soft and a DOG YELPS. The camera shows a very fat, dark DOG of mixed breed lying on his belly on the bottom of the boat. The OLD MAN places his palms against the DOG’s fur and pushes.
The DOG is too heavy for the OLD MAN to push out the boat, and simply stares back with sleepy eyes.
The DOG responds by licking the OLD MAN’s heel where it had been burnt. The OLD MAN sits down and looks at the DOG. He knows the significance of the decision he is about to make; he grabs an oar, and pushes the boat away from the shore. The sand sharply SCRAPES against the bottom of the boat. The OLD MAN starts to row and talks to the DOG, as if attempting to explain the rationale behind his decision.
You’re too fat. You eat everything.
The OLD MAN starts to sweat, and his muscles strain harder to row the boat. The DOG puts his paws on the edge of the boat and begins to LAP at the water with his tongue.
OLD MAN (cont’d):
You drink anything.
The OLD MAN stops a fair distance away from the coast. He tentatively places the oars back inside the boat. The DOG paws at something, and the moonlight illuminates free-diving gear, and a small metal box. The OLD MAN takes off his pants, and fishes his pocket for the four portraits. On the back of the last portrait, he writes the number 4. He places all four portraits in a tight flap within the DOG’s collar. The DOG tries to scratch at his collar but the OLD MAN brushes his paw away.
OLD MAN putting on the last black fin on his right foot. The boat CREAKS as he FALLS into the water, back first. The DOG follows him to the side of the boat and stares down.
OLD MAN disappears under the water and the DOG lays his belly back on the bottom of the boat to wait.
The TIME is 4:30 AM.
SERIES OF CUTSCENES:
OLD MAN’s arm as he DUMPS a strange metal object onto the boat. He disappears into the water, and resurfaces two more times with two more strange metal objects. It is obvious the OLD MAN is becoming weaker and weaker. On the fourth time he resurfaces, and attempts to climb back onto the boat but falls back onto the water. He holds on to the edge and is silent for some time.
The TIME is 5:00 AM.
As if on cue, the DOG fetches the metal box and hands it over to the hands of the OLD MAN, who takes it. The DOG then looks back over the side at the OLD MAN, who continues to hold on to the boat. They look at each other.
If I don’t do it, they can’t find this place.
The DOG continues to stare at the man as waves SOFTLY LAP against the boat. A long time passes by while the OLD MAN waits to regain his strength. The water, reflecting the coming dawn, becomes a deep vibrant blue.
Everything and everyone I ever loved, I met under the surface. Now I’m the last.
If I could take you with me, I would. It gets lonely down there.
The DOG licks the OLD MAN’s fingers before he lets go of the boat. He takes a DEEP BREATH and descends. The DOG watches as the water consumes him.
EXT. BOAT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SEA - MORNING
EXTREME LONG SHOT of the back of the DOG sitting upright in the boat as he waits, alert this time.
The TIME is 5:20 AM.
Seconds later, a LARGE EXPLOSION one hundred feet away sends a SURGE of water into the air to RAIN back into the sea. At the same point where the explosion occurred the water starts to turn to red.
The strange metal pieces beside the dog, which start to shift by themselves, as if guided by an errant magnetic field. With a CLASP, they form a metal square. A high frequency sound immediately RENDS the air. The DOG starts to BARK.
An EXTREME LONG SHOT (bird’s eye view) of the sea. The red stain over the water has spread to form the rough shape of a heart. The DOG - stranded and unable to swim - continues to BARK as the high frequency sound INCREASES in intensity.
CUT TO BLACK.
on the surface
«You wanna take this outside?»
«Outside the bedroom? Yeah, it’s getting stuffy in here.»
I hopped out of bed and into some shoes, grabbed the keys off the dresser.
«Let’s head west,» I suggested. Tony nodded and we left.
I drove us away from the Valley, onto the 101, to the 405. The heavy traffic gave me some time to look around at other drivers, and when that got boring, at the houses perched on the brown hills that flanked the freeway. Tony grew up in one of these houses, as he never failed to note when we passed them.
«The old neighborhood,» he said with some nostalgia in his voice. His stories – their repetition – never bothered me. There was something about his family that reminded me of my own. It made me feel safe even though my folks were at the other end of the country.
«You see that up there?» he gestured toward a castle-looking structure about halfway up the hill we were approaching. It was an architectural monstrosity, part gothic, part high 80s modern, like it couldn’t decide on what era it wanted to identify with. «That’s the Holdermans’ place.»
I gazed at it as traffic inched past it.
«Charity Holderman,» he said slowly, as if to summon her memory. «She was that kind of friend who was on the periphery. Part of the group, but aloof to the point that no one ever really knew what was going on with her.»
There was a surprising hint of disgust in Tony’s voice as he spoke.
«So I take it you guys didn’t like her very much?» I asked.
«No no, it’s not that. She was nice enough, could joke around like anyone else. But beyond that, there was a wall, or silence. Like a refusal to engage. It’s just hard to feel anything for someone who won’t share themselves.»
I couldn’t tell if that was aimed partly at me. I wanted to defend her.
«Maybe she’s just a private person. Or maybe she was just really nervous,» I suggested.
«What happened to her?»
Tony hesitated before he spoke, and for a second I thought he’d hold back. But then –
«The summer after high school we had planned this big trip to Brazil, all our friends. I think it might have been Charity’s idea even. She had made all the arrangements cause she was just good at that stuff. You know, cause she’s a woman.»
I shot him a look and clucked my tongue.
«What?» he grinned. «Anyway, her dad also offered his company jet and their condo in Rio. It was all in her hands anyway. So the day comes when we’re supposed to leave, and we roll up to Chateau Holderman to pick her up. Her maid goes up to get her, but she comes back saying Charity’s not there. I told her that was ridiculous, because we’d been planning this trip for weeks. So I decide to go up to her room myself.»
The steering wheel felt moist to my hands. The heat was starting to get to me.
«So I go up to her bedroom. It’s at the top of the house – at that highest turret,» he pointed. «I’m calling her name as I climb the steps, there’s a like a million of them. No answer.»
I shift a little in my seat. Just get to the end of the story, I say to myself.
«I’m pretty pissed because I don’t know why she couldn’t just be downstairs when she knew we were coming, and I had to hike up just to get her,» there’s that disgust in his voice again, mixed with some exasperation. Why is he so angry? «I basically kick open her door. Everything – everything – is gone.»
«Her closets cleaned and everything?»
«Not just closets, but all the damn furniture – her bed, the desk, the dresser,» his hands moved slowly in front of him, as if to feel out the bedroom furniture’s layout. «All gone. The only things left were the curtains hanging at the windows, which were wide open.»
«What about the maid? She must’ve known something, since she’d gone to get her the first time?» I asked, trying to find some hole in this.
«The maid swore that all the stuff was there when she’d gone up ten minutes before,» Tony answered, with a dramatic pause at the end. How was I supposed to respond to this?
«Sounds like a ghost story. Like a really stupid ghost story,» I said skeptically.
«Well… no, not really,» his tone lightened. «Charity’s Benz was gone, and we found out later that so was the jet.»
«So she just skipped town?»
Tony shrugged, a little smile on his face.
I take it back. Castle homes, maids, private jets, ghost teens. His family and childhood were nothing like my own.
From here on, Tony was inaccessible. His hands fidgeted with an old gum wrapper he’d found in the car door. He seemed to be staring intently at an ad on a billboard ahead of us for a sub-prime lender, one that I’d been tempted to use before. It screamed in Spanish; Tony didn’t know Spanish.
«So where we going?» I asked, even though I had set out knowing exactly where I wanted to take us.
I admit I was stuck on Charity Holderman too, or rather the way that Tony narrated. I couldn’t decide if I believed it or not. He wasn’t cunning or in control of his thoughts enough to tell stories. His mind, like mine, wandered, unable to pick out the right parts to share. You could see it in this bit about Charity; the loose ends didn’t make sense.
My head got warm all of a sudden, it must’ve been the fumes of sitting cars in the middle of July. Our lane moved and we pulled up alongside an olive malibu. It vibrated and thumped with slow bass beats. The driver looked stoically ahead, unfazed at the walls of sound that made a fort around him. Our car, my head throbbed too.
I took the next exit and headed west on Santa Monica Boulevard, toward water.