Grand Ghoulish (I-II)

I-II. BEDSHEET CURTAINS

A bedroom by way of a semi-converted garage. Harold types and clicks away at a computer.

NARRATOR: (voice-over) It was maybe sometime in the afternoon when the wholly unfamiliar sound of a phone ringing pulled Harold away from his computer.

A phone rings, Harold searches for it.

He’d spent the last several hours perusing job listings on the internet, and arguably more time avoiding it. So between this, the heavy bedsheet nailed and drawn shut across the one window in the room he rented, and the copious amount of marijuana he’d just smoked, pinning down which pile of clothes contained his phone proved a bit of a challenge.

Harold gets warmer…

But even as he waddled and crawled about that semi-converted garage in his underwear, the possibility of even remote human contact was as good an excuse as any to call off today’s depressing search for paid work.

Harold finds it, looks at the screen, but doesn’t answer.

Unfortunately for Harold, the number on his phone’s screen was from an unknown caller. But fortunately for Harold, they left a voicemail.

Harold plays the voicemail.

SOPHIA: (voicemail) Harold, it’s Sophia. I couldn’t stop thinking about y–

Harold hangs up, attempts to call Sophia back several times, but can’t get through.

HAROLD: (to self) Dude, you just called. Why the Hell do people always call and leave a message, but never pick up when you–

Sofia finally answers the phone.

SOPHIA: (phone) Harold?

HAROLD: (gushing) Sophia… I couldn’t stop thinking about you too.

A beat. Then…

SOPHIA: (phone) What?

HAROLD: I said, “I couldn’t stop–”

SOPHIA: (phone) No. I got that.

HAROLD: Oh.

SOPHIA: (phone) What do you mean, “too”?

HAROLD: Your voicemail. You said–

SOPHIA: (phone) You didn’t finish listening to it, did you?

HAROLD: I did not.

SOPHIA: (phone) Of course.

HAROLD: What?

SOPHIA: (phone) I said, “I couldn’t stop thinking about you…”

HAROLD: Uh-huh.

SOPHIA: (phone) “…and your beautiful photos.”

HAROLD: (nods) Gotcha.

A beat. Then…

Wait. How did you get my number? Your husband slapped my hand when I tried giving him my business card.

SOPHIA: (phone) Yeah. Sorry about that.

HAROLD: I’m still kinda weirded out about that, actually.

SOPHIA: (phone) Harold, focus.

HAROLD: Yes, Ma’am.

SOPHIA: (phone) Look. It wasn’t easy getting your number. Is that awful woman at the gallery always such a pain?

Harold drifts off.

NARRATOR: (voice-over) Harold neither confirmed nor denied this, mostly because he was too busy recalling the way he and Brennifer had hotboxed the utility closet and engaged in some vague approximation of sex after the gallery had closed for the evening. It wasn’t so much that the high had made sex difficult so much as it resulted in them failing to remove the various mops, half-filled buckets, and various harsh smelling cleaning products before sealing themselves up for several sweltering, dizzying minutes. Certainly, this was not Harold’s finest hour. But it was mostly the way Brennifer had thrown several loose dollars and coins at him and refused to cuddle afterward that still left Harold feeling a little cheap.

SOPHIA: (phone) Harold?

Harold snaps out of it.

HAROLD: Sorry. I just realized I make really bad life choices.

SOPHIA: (phone) So, you’ll do it? You’ll take erotic photographs of me in the privacy of my bedroom while my husband is away?

HAROLD: I’m flattered, Sophia. A little creeped out by the weird way you guys keep phrasing it too, I guess. But, mostly flattered.

SOPHIA: (phone) So, what’s the problem?

HAROLD: You’re a married woman, Sophia. And your husband doesn’t seem like he’s onboard with this sorta thing.

SOPHIA: (phone) Oliver said it was a wonderful idea, didn’t he?

HAROLD: Yeah. That was kinda creepy, too. You get that, right?

SOPHIA: (phone) (considers this) There’s five-hundred bucks in it for you.

HAROLD: When do you want me there?

SOPHIA: (phone) How does tomorrow work for you?

A naggingly sweet voice, GRANDMA, calls from somewhere outside Harold’s bedroom by way of a semi-converted garage.

GRANDMA: (off) Harold.

Harold goes still, silent, buries his phone in his hands.

GRANDMA: (off) Harold?

Damn.

HAROLD: (sighs) Yes, Grandma?

GRANDMA: (off) Are you still going to give me a ride to my doctor’s appointment?

HAROLD: Yes, Grandma.

A beat. Then…

GRANDMA: (off) Harold?

HAROLD: (snaps) I said, “Yes, Grandma”!

Harold realizes Sophia is still on the phone and heard everything.

Yeah. Tomorrow works.

Grand Ghoulish (I-I)

I-I. TWO TYPES OF PEOPLE

A small art gallery. A man, HAROLD, stares at a clock hung on the wall between a pair of photos of a sticky motel room. A paltry scattering of LOOKIE-LOOS come and go.

NARRATOR: (voice-over) There are precisely two types of people in this world.

The first are those daring few showcasing tasteful erotic photography on the walls of a small art gallery located in the sort of affluent coastal California “community” where everyone drives the latest model luxury vehicle, grows their own pot, and insists on charging their rocks by moonlight. For the sake of legalities, the name of this particular town escapes me at the moment.

(a beat, then…)

Meanwhile, the other sort aren’t complete idiots. And as a man we’ll call Harold stood there in a mostly empty art gallery, staring up at a clock hung between a pair of before-and-after photos of a sticky motel room, he took solace in the fact that while his idiocy was on full display, at least nobody was around to witness it.

BRENNIFER, a pink faux hawk in horned-rimmed glasses and a pantsuit, approaches Harold.

BRENNIFER: (thundering lilt) Harold?

NARRATOR: (voice-over) Harold turned to the pink faux hawk in horned-rimmed glasses and a pantsuit…

Harold turns to Brennifer.

…started to scream something about phoney capitalist elites sucking on the teat of artistic integrity, but then didn’t.

HAROLD: Hey, Brennifer.

BRENNIFER: You okay?

HAROLD: (lies poorly) Yeah. I think so.

Brennifer looks about the empty gallery, then back to Harold.

BRENNIFER: Wow. Really?

NARRATOR: (voice-over) Harold looked at Brennifer for a moment, wondering if the dead-eyed woman across from him sold either scented oils or pills when she wasn’t failing to sell other people’s artwork for money. Pills, he thought. Definitely pills.

HAROLD: Have we sold anything yet?

She shakes her head, “Nuh-uh.”

BRENNIFER: But if it helps any, I’ve curated worse showings than this.

HAROLD: Really?

BRENNIFER: No. This is probably the worst.

NARRATOR: (voice-over) Harold considered this, then briefly imagined himself running through the gallery’s glass storefront and cackling his way down Main Street until finally succumbing to blood loss.

HAROLD: Thanks, Brennifer–

BRENNIFER: You’re welcome.

HAROLD: I didn’t finish.

BRENNIFER: Oh?

Harold shakes his head, “Nuh-uh.”

HAROLD: I was going to say, “Thanks, Brennifer… (angry, petty pause) …for stomping on the shattered remains of my hopes and dreams.”

BRENNIFER: Oh.

HAROLD: Yup.

BRENNIFER: Sorry.

Harold turns back to the clock.

HAROLD: It’s fine. I didn’t want to have to carry home what little self-respect I had left.

Brennifer leaves to work the door and Lookie-Loos.

The clock begins to spin away, indicating some semblance of the passage of time. People come, people go. Harold doesn’t move from his spot.

NARRATOR: (voice-over) The hours didn’t slip away so much as they shuffled by, fell over, cried that they’d fallen and can’t get back up, waited a moment, and then slowly got back to their feet before finally getting on with it.

During this time, Harold decided his feet hurt and got a chair.

Harold steps away, returns with a chair. He sits awkwardly atop the chair for the remainder of this scene for some reason lost even to him.

From atop his uneven, wholly uncomfortable chair that creaked and clattered every single time he shuffled his weight, Harold’s attention alternated between the clock on the wall and the scattered handful of disinterested locals and disinterested, broke tourists drifting in and out of the gallery.

An older, pleasant MAN with a Romanian accent approaches, speaks with Harold, points to the photographs on the wall. None of this even registers with Harold.

Man gives up, returns to his pleasant, squattish WIFE.

MAN: I would love to buy that photograph, but that angry little man looked like he needed it more.

Man and Wife exit in oddly sincere disappointment.

A small, wrinkly POTATO of a woman with a green visor and bad highlights speaks with Brennifer.

NARRATOR: (voice-over) This continued for much of the afternoon until a wrinkly potato of a woman with a green visor and bad highlights in her hair asked Brennifer why the lady hadn’t put her phone away and asked the shaggy homeless man in the back to leave.

Brennifer approaches Harold.

BRENNIFER: You need to leave.

HAROLD: What, leave? Why? This is my show.

BRENNIFER: You’re scaring everyone away.

HAROLD: (scoffs) “Scaring everyone away”? (gestures) There’s nobody here, Brennifer!

Harold’s eyes meet those of a CONCERNED COUPLE in matching shirts.

A silence. Then…

Couple slowly, quietly back out the door without any sudden movements.

Then…

(to Brennifer) Okay. Maybe you have a point.

SOPHIA, a charming, mature woman in a silk sundress, approaches.

SOPHIA: Excuse me.

Harold and Brennifer turn ever so slightly.

BRENNIFER: Can I help you, Ma’am?

Harold shoos Brennifer away with a wave of his hand, but without so much as a look her way.

HAROLD: Go vlog in the street, or something, will ya?

Brennifer considers this, pretends to care, thinks better of it, then floats away and out the door.

SOPHIA: Is she going to be okay?

Harold shrugs.

HAROLD: How can I help you, Ms…

Sophia eventually puts two-and-two together, extends her hand.

SOPHIA: Sophia.

Harold smiles, takes her hand. 

HAROLD: How can I help you, Ms. Sophia?

Sophia looks at her hand, back to Harold, then… withdraws her hand.

SOPHIA: Aren’t you the janitor?

HAROLD: What? No, I’m the photographer.

SOPHIA: Wait. Really?

HAROLD: Yeah…

Harold gestures to the many photographs hanging on the wall, but specifically to the reasonably sized sign by the door with both Harold’s name and face printed on it.

These are all my–

HAROLD: I’m so sorry…

She sneaks another look at the sign by the door.

Harold.

HAROLD: Did you actually think I was the janitor?

Sophia shrugs.

HAROLD: Huh.

SOPHIA: I mean, you dress so…

She gestures at Harold. All of him.

Harold sighs, shakes head.

HAROLD: No, I totally get it.

SOPHIA: Poor. You dress like a poor–

HAROLD: Yeah. I got it.

She looks at him, “Did you, though?”

A silence. Then…

Somewhere outside. Brennifer is nearly run down in the street by a passing bike messenger while complaining about her crummy day at work to strangers on the internet. She shouts and swears and storms off.

Everyone looks and frowns upon this.

HAROLD: So… Sophia. Did you see something you like?

SOPHIA: Actually, I wanted to inquire about a possible private session.

HAROLD: Seriously?

Sophia turns toward a photograph of a naked woman wistfully looking out across Santiago Canyon at sunset, sighs.

HAROLD: (blinks) Okay.

Sophia drifts from one image to the next, pausing dramatically as necessary as she shares some emotionally charged story about her fading beauty and the men who once painted images of her. Harold – and thus, us – tune in and out.

Sophia pauses just long enough, Harold assumes she’s finished.

HAROLD: I would love to photograph you, Sophia. But, why me?

SOPHIA: (considers this) Do you believe in fate, Harold?

Harold doesn’t consider this at all.

HAROLD: No, not really.

NARRATOR: (voice-over) And then for the sake of dramatic conflict, it was at this time that Sophia’s previously unmentioned husband appeared.

OLIVER, a menacingly attractive, attractively menacing man, enters.

NARRATOR: (voice-over) He was a square jaw in khaki shorts. A head of luscious, perfectly coiffed hair wearing socks with sandals. Broad shoulders and meaty arms with a tiny wristwatch. Not since Charlton Heston descended from that mountain top in his finest robe and slippers has a chiseled work of divine art commanded the attention of all those in attendance.

Oliver approaches Sophia and Harold.

So it didn’t surprise Harold that, even from atop his chair, he was but a boy, in both stature and dress, to the animated slab of beef before him. And all he could think to say was…

HAROLD: Is that a tailored polo shirt?

NARRATOR: (voice-over) It was.

Harold reaches for, but doesn’t quite touch the beefy man’s arms without permission.

SOPHIA: Harold. This is my husband, Oliver.

Harold catches, stops himself.

HAROLD: Husband?

Oliver extends a hand to Harold like a Greek God reaching out to a chimp.

OLIVER: Doctor, actually.

Harold eventually takes, shakes Oliver’s hand.

HAROLD: Of course you are.

OLIVER: Excuse me?

Harold slowly, yet quickly realizes Oliver is crushing his hand.

NARRATOR: (voice-over) But before Harold could even begin to consider constructing a lie to hide this strange and confusing mix of fear, insecurity, and pure animal attraction, he realized that what can only be described as Oliver’s massive paw was crushing his teeny-tiny baby-man hand.

Harold attempts, fails to not curl up in pain and agony.

And as the bones and joints bent and popped in ways they never evolved to do, Harold recalled a date with a petite Vietnamese woman at a Japanese seafood restaurant. He couldn’t remember the woman’s name, or even why this scenario occurred in the first place. But he did remember the way he struggled to crack the shell of a crab with the big metal cracker they’d given him. And the way he felt uncomfortable watching his date rip and tear crab leg after lobster claw with her bare hands.

Harold taps out. Oliver slowly, yet slowly realizes the chimp is attempting to communicate something.

HAROLD: You’re crushing my hand.

Oliver releases what remains of Harold’s hand.

OLIVER: Sorry.

SOPHIA: Oliver’s an experimental surgeon.

HAROLD: Experimental? What, like ripping people open with his bare hands?

Oliver stares deep into Harold’s soul and doesn’t stop.

OLIVER: Wait. What have you heard about my bear hands?

HAROLD: (to Sophia) Is he serious?

SOPHIA: Probably.

OLIVER: (to Sophia) Sweetie?

SOPHIA: Yes, Darling?

OLIVER: Why are you introducing me to the janitor?

HAROLD: Do I really dress that bad?

SOPHIA: He’s a photographer, Oliver.

OLIVER: Always good to have a hobby, I suppose. But why are we speaking with the help?

HAROLD: Rude.

SOPHIA: No. This is his show. These are his photographs on the wall.

Oliver looks about, mildly unimpressed.

HAROLD: My face is on the poster, man.

OLIVER: How quaint.

HAROLD: Thank you?

OLIVER: Bit gratuitous though. All these pictures of naked people and their wobbly bits. Don’t people share this sort of thing on the internet for free these days?

SOPHIA: Oliver–

HAROLD: It’s okay. He’s not wrong.

OLIVER: See?

SOPHIA: (rolls eyes) Yes. Well. I want to book Harold’s services for a private session.

OLIVER: Is that right?

HAROLD: (shrugs) Yeah, I don’t get it either.

OLIVER: You want to take private, erotic photographs my wife?

HAROLD: Yes.

OLIVER: Possibly in some state of undress.

HAROLD: Uh-huh.

OLIVER: And you want to be paid to do such a thing?

HAROLD: Also yes.

A beat. Then…

Brennifer enters.

BRENNIFER: (to all) Anyone own the latest model luxury vehicle parked in the handicap spot across the street?

OLIVER: Yes. Why?

BRENNIFER: Because they’re towing it, Dude.

OLIVER: (groans) Not again. (to Harold) Okay. Look. Henry?

HAROLD & SOPHIA: Harold.

OLIVER: Don’t correct a man when he’s giving you a job, Henry.

HAROLD: Yes, Sir.

OLIVER: I think it’s a wonderful idea to have a total stranger take erotic photos of my naked wife.

HAROLD: I mean, when you put it that way…

OLIVER: I did.

HAROLD: Right. Well. Let me get you a business card, and–

Oliver shakes head, slaps Harold’s hand away from his own pocket.

OLIVER: No. Nope. No business cards.

HAROLD: What the hell?

Oliver wipes his hands clean on the back of Sophia’s dress.

OLIVER: I don’t do business cards.

HAROLD: (puzzles) What?

Oliver dismisses this with a wave of his hand, mutters something about poor people, then takes Sophia by the wrist.

OLIVER: Don’t worry about it, Hank. We’ll find you.

Harold attempts to correct Oliver, but Oliver and Sophia are somehow already out the door.

HAROLD: (to nobody) Did he threaten me? Cuz that sounded like he was threatening me, maybe.

Brennifer speaks, watches from the doorway.

BRENNIFER: A little. But if it helps any, they totally towed his car away. He’s super pissed.

Harold joins her.

HAROLD: (smiles) Yeah. That does kinda help.

D’ja Vu’larian

DR.‌ ‌HOWARD‌ ‌FINE‌ ‌documents‌ ‌his‌ ‌thoughts‌ ‌in‌ ‌the‌ ‌fashion‌ ‌of‌ ‌the‌ ‌time‌ ‌-‌ ‌wherever,‌ ‌whenever,‌ ‌and‌ ‌however‌ ‌that‌ ‌might‌ ‌be‌ ‌at‌ ‌this‌ ‌point.‌

DR. FINE: Feeding exclusively on those threads of time and space intertwined with some poor soul’s untimely, traumatic death, the D’ja Vu’larian’s morbid appetite is seen by some as a cosmic blessing in disguise.

Effectively a wholesale rejection of death itself, these individuals… I hesitate to call them “victims”… regain consciousness sometime in their own past, with only a faint, dreamlike recollection of what transpired.

But much like those affected by a Chronopillar, there is a serious philosophical discussion to be had regarding that lost part of us, devoured moment-by-moment, and now slowly digesting in the belly of some great, trans-dimensional worm.

The Sound That Night (II-III)

II-III. A DEBT PAID

SOUNDSCAPE: THE STILL SILENCE OF A VAST AND ENDLESS DESERT.

SFX: BENNY ABSENTLY TOSSES ROCKS AT THE TRACKS.

BENNY: (bored sigh)

SFX: A COYOTE HOWLS.

BENNY: (looks up, out) Huh?

SFX: THE DISTANT SOUNDS OF AN APPROACHING HORSE.

BENNY: (sees something) Hey… (it clicks, all smiles) Hey! (laughing) He did it!

SFX: STRANGER ARRIVES ON HORSEBACK.

BENNY: You did it! You really did it! It is him, right?

SFX: STRANGER DISMOUNTS.

STRANGER: You tell me.

STRANGER GRABS A HANDFUL OF CLARENCE’S HAIR, PULLS HEAD UP.

CLARENCE: (pained groans) You can’t do this to me…

STRANGER: I can and I am.

BENNY: (looks on at CLARENCE) My God… the sight of him…

STRANGER: This your man?

BENNY: Yeah… Yeah, that’s Clarence.

SFX: STRANGER RELEASES CLARENCE.

Oh. Yeah. Right. (fumbles in pockets) I think this is yours.

SFX: BENNY DROPS TWO COINS IN THE STRANGER’S HAND.

I suppose this makes us even.

STRANGER: (agreeable grunt)

BENNY: (nods) Good. Good… (looks at CLARENCE) I still can’t believe that’s him. (to STRANGER) Ya know, I didn’t think about it till now, but… (emotional) with her folks, and now Clarence… me… Natalie’s all alone now.

STRANGER: Aren’t we all.

A SILENCE, THEN…

SFX: STRANGER TURNS, WALKS AWAY.

BENNY: What happens now? You… you take him to Hell, or somethin’?

STRANGER: My experience? Hell is what you make of it.

SFX: STRANGER MOUNTS HORSE.

BENNY: And me?

STRANGER: Follow the tracks west.

BENNY: (looks west) What’s out there?

STRANGER: (considers this) Maybe we’ll both find out someday.

BENNY: Yeah. I hope so.

SFX: STRANGER RIDES OFF INTO THE EAST.

A SILENCE, THEN…

SFX: BENNY WALKS WEST.

OUT.

THE END

The Sound That Night (II-II)

II-II. THE HUNT

SOUNDSCAPE: THE UNSUSPECTING AMBIENCE OF A CONVENIENTLY QUIET, ISOLATED STRETCH OF ROAD.

STRANGER: (voice-over) I’ve heard it said you never hear the one with your name on it. That’s why I make sure they see me coming first.

SFX: CRUISER DRIVES BY, AWAY.

SOUNDSCAPE: THE UNCOMFORTABLE INTERIOR OF THE POLICE CRUISER.

OFFICER JIMMY: So, uh… How’s Natalie doing?

CLARENCE: Why the sudden interest in my baby sister, Jimmy?

OFFICER JIMMY: No reason, Clarence. Just…making conversation, is all.

CLARENCE: (disapproving growl)

SFX: BANG! THE CRUISER’S TIRE BLOWS OUT.

SFX: CRUISER LOSES CONTROL, CRASHES.

SOUNDSCAPE: THE UNUSUALLY PEACEFUL ATMOSPHERE OF A QUIET, ISOLATED STRETCH OF ROAD AFTER A CRASH.

SFX: CLARENCE EXITS THE WRECKAGE.

CLARENCE: Jimmy? Jimmy! Jimmy, you brain-dead idjit! What the Hell was that all about?

SFX: A COYOTE HOWLS.

STRANGER: Clarence Middleton!

SFX: STRANGER APPEARS, APPROACHES ON HORSEBACK. SLOW, STEADY.

CLARENCE: Deputy Middle–! (wait, back it up) (barking) You! This your doing?!

OFFICER JIMMY: (off) (pained) Clarence?

CLARENCE: I’m here, Jimmy! Some horse-riding son-of-a-whore shot out our tire!

OFFICER JIMMY: (off) (pained) I ain’t doin’ so good, Clarence…

CLARENCE: Look what you did to Jimmy, you damned savage! 

STRANGER: He’ll live.

SFX: CLARENCE STRUGGLES TO HIS FEET.

CLARENCE: That right? And me? You gonna kill me, Cowboy?

STRANGER: Dead or alive, you’re—

CLARENCE: Fuck you!

SFX: BANG! CLARENCE SHOOTS STRANGER.

SFX: STRANGER DROPS DEAD OFF HIS HORSE.

A SILENCE. THEN…

SFX: CLARENCE LAUGHS HYSTERICALLY.

CLARENCE: Take that you stupid summna–

OFFICER JIMMY: (off) (pained) Clarence…

CLARENCE: I heard ya! Don’t you worry. I’ve got this one handled, Jimmy. You radio for–

SFX: BANG! STRANGER SHOOTS CLARENCE IN THE GUT.

CLARENCE: (weak-in-the-knees) Wha-What in the…

SFX: CLARENCE DROPS TO HIS KNEES.

SFX: THE STRANGER RISES TO HIS FEET.

STRANGER: Clarence Middleton.

CLARENCE: God in Heaven…

SFX: STRANGER APPROACHES, THE JANGLING OF SPURS PUNCTUATING EACH STEP. ONE STEP… TWO… THREE…

CLARENCE: No… No, I shot you. I shot you!

STRANGER: I don’t care.

CLARENCE: Who do you work for? Huh? Who sent you?

STRANGER: You’re wanted for the murder of Benicio Sierra.

CLARENCE: What? That filthy wet–?! Did his people send you? Huh? You idiot! I’m the police! You can’t–!

SFX: BANG! STRANGER SHOOTS CLARENCE, POINT BLANK.

SFX: CLARENCE DROPS DEAD.

STRANGER: I can, Deputy Middleton. And I will.

FADE.

To be continued…

The Sound That Night (II-I)

II-I. THE BOUNTY

SOUNDSCAPE: THE UNCOMFORTABLE ATMOSPHERE OF A COZY 1950S HOME OCCUPIED BY A YOUNG WOMAN (NATALIE) AND THE OLDER BROTHER (CLARENCE) WHO MURDERED HER BOYFRIEND IN COLD BLOOD.

SFX: NATALIE CLEANS DISHES IN THE KITCHEN.

CLARENCE: (off) (calm, but dominate) Natalie.

SFX: NATALIE FREEZES. SHE’S TRAPPED IN A ROOM WITH A BEAR.

SFX: CLARENCE ENTERS.

CLARENCE: Is my lunch ready?

NATALIE: It’s on the table.

SFX: CLARENCE INSPECTS THE BAG.

CLARENCE: (warm. ish.) Are these Ma’s persimmon cookies?

NATALIE: Yes.

BEAT.

CLARENCE: You know, I promised her I’d look after you best I could. And I ain’t gonna let any harm come to you. Even when you bring it upon yourself.

NATALIE: Okay.

A BEAT. THEN…

SFX: CLARENCE CLOSES, CRUMPLES BAG.

CLARENCE: I’m all you’ve got left now…

SFX: CLARENCE APPROACHES NATALIE FROM BEHIND, UNCOMFORTABLY CLOSE.

You understand that, don’t you?

NATALIE: Yes, Clarence.

AN UNCOMFORTABLE SILENCE.

SFX: HONK-HONK! THE CRUISER’S HORN, CURBSIDE.

CLARENCE: That’s Jimmy. I gotta go. I’ll be home late.

SFX: CLARENCE GRABS HIS KEYS, LEAVES, AND THEN…

SFX: SLAMS DOOR BEHIND HIM.

SFX: NATALIE FLINCHES, GASPS AT THE SOUND. SHE CAN BREATH AGAIN, FEEL AGAIN. AND THE TEARS WON’T STOP COMING.

FADE.

To be continued…

The Sound That Night (I-II)

I-II. THE STATION

SOUNDSCAPE: THE PEACEFUL AMBIENCE OF A BUSTLING, OTHERWORLDLY TRAIN STATION SURROUNDED BY AN ENDLESS STRETCH OF DESERT.

STATION MANAGER: Sir? Excuse me, Sir. Train’ll be arriving shortly.

BENNY: (stirs) Train?

SFX: DISTANT SHRILL OF A TRAIN WHISTLE.

STRANGER: (voice-over) Like many others before him, Benny finds himself on a bench on the platform of a train station looking out across a vast and endless desert. The wood planks worn smooth. The paint peeling and flaking. And the sky burns in the flames of perpetual sunset.

SFX: BENNY RISES, STEPS FORWARD, AND TAKES IT ALL IN.

BENNY: Where am I?

STATION MANAGER: A long way from home. But I suppose we all are.

SFX: TRAIN APPROACHES. UP, UNDER.

SFX: CROWD MURMURS IN ANTICIPATION.

STRANGER: (voice-over) The black locomotive trimmed in gold appears in the east, cutting west across the burning desert, toward the station. The gathering crowd marvels as silver plumes of steam and smoke stretch upward forever until they become the clouds and the stars in the sky.

SFX: TRAIN PULLS IN, STOPS.

SFX: PASSENGERS BOARD.

BENNY: Where does it go?

STATION MANAGER: Somewhere else.

BENNY: Will it get me home?

STATION MANAGER: (considers this) Eventually.

BENNY: Am I dead?

STATION MANAGER: (nods) Afraid so.

SFX: A DISTANT GUNSHOT RINGS OUT ACROSS THE DESERT.

BENNY: (it sinks in) He shot me…

STATION MANAGER: Who?

BENNY: A man named Clarence… Will he come here too?

STATION MANAGER: Does it matter?

AN UNCOMFORTABLE SILENCE.

SFX: A COYOTE HOWLS.

BENNY: What…?

SOUNDSCAPE: THE STILL SILENCE OF A VAST AND ENDLESS DESERT.

BENNY: (panicked) No. No-no-no. This isn’t–this is… It’s gone! Where did it all… No, it can’t– Hello? Hello?!

SFX: THE STRANGER APPROACHES ON HORSEBACK, SLOW, STEADY.

STRANGER: They’re gone.

BENNY: Where?

STRANGER: (gestures) West.

BENNY: What’s that way?

STRANGER: Something else.

BENNY: And the other way?

A SILENCE. THEN…

STRANGER: The man you spoke of…

BENNY: Clarence… You heard that?

STRANGER: (nods) The bounty is two coins.

BENNY: Coins? I don’t… (checks pockets) I don’t think I’ve got any… (pulls out TWO COINS) (to STRANGER) What is this?

STRANGER: Every soul must pay The Conductor to ride the Train to Elsewhere.

BENNY: (puzzles this) But if I pay you…

STRANGER: You must walk west, across the desert.

BENNY: (looks westward) (to self) Natalie… (To STRANGER) Will I ever make it?

STRANGER: Someday. But long after those you love.

BENNY: And Clarence?

STRANGER: I will find him.

BENNY: (considers this) Yeah. Yeah, okay. You’ve got a deal.

SFX: THEY SHAKE HANDS.

SFX: A COYOTE HOWLS.

FADE.

END ACT ONE

To be continued…

The Sound That Night (I-I)

I-I. CRY, LITTLE SISTER

SOUNDSCAPE: THE DRAMATICALLY APPROPRIATE SOUNDS OF A LONELY CANYON ROAD AT NIGHT.

STRANGER: (voice-over) The year is 1955. The place, a moonlit stretch of road cutting and weaving through a weed and bramble-choked canyon somewhere in California.

SFX: A CLASSIC ROADSTER APPROACHES, ROARS PAST, AND AWAY.

The car, meanwhile, belongs to the young man behind the wheel — Benny Sierra. But while his eyes are on the road, Benny’s attention and affection both belong to the charming young woman seated beside him.

SOUNDSCAPE: THE ROCK ‘N ROLL INTERIOR OF A 1955 BEL AIR AS IT SPEEDS DOWN A LONELY CANYON ROAD AT NIGHT.

NATALIE: Benny… I had a really nice time tonight.

BENNY: (smiles) Me too, Natalie. (putting on the charm) So, uh… what was your favorite part?

NATALIE: (considers this) Well… I want to say it was the part where I got to share a moonlit picnic by the lake with a dark, handsome stranger.

BENNY: S’that right?

NATALIE: (smiles) Mm-hmm. (teasing) But…

BENNY: (wait. what?) “But”? Wait. What? Why’s there a but?

NATALIE: (bigger smile, pressing on) But… I gotta say, I kinda wish I stayed with that Mutant fellow with the big brain.

BENNY: Laws, that was an awful movie!

NATALIE: (laughs) Did you hear that man sitting behind us?

BENNY: Hear him? I still can’t get his bad jokes out of my head. He was talking through the whole movie!

NATALIE: (snuggles close) I guess it’s a good thing we left early, huh?

BENNY: Yeah. I guess it was.

AND THEN…

SFX: WOOP-WOOP! A POLICE CRUISER FLASHES LIGHTS AND SIREN.

BENNY: Aw, man. What now?

NATALIE: Benny, you better pull over.

SFX: THE BEL AIR PULLS TO THE SIDE OF THE ROAD, STOPS.

SOUNDSCAPE: THE UNCOMFORTABLE AMBIENCE OF AN UNWARRANTED TRAFFIC STOP ON THE SIDE OF A LONELY CANYON ROAD AT NIGHT.

SFX: OFFICER (JIMMY) APPROACHES, TAPS ON GLASS.

SFX: BENNY ROLLS, CRANKS DOWN WINDOW.

OFFICER: Please step out of the car, Sir.

BENNY: Excuse me?

NATALIE: (to OFFICER) Jimmy?

OFFICER: Hey, Nat. This’ll just take a second. (to BENNY) Sir, please. Step out of the car.

NATALIE: Jimmy, what are you doing?

OFFICER: I’m sorry, Nat.

SFX: DEPUTY CLARENCE MIDDLETON EXITS THE CRUISER, APPROACHES THE BEL AIR.

CLARENCE: The man asked you to step out of the car twice now. Don’t make him ask you a third time.

NATALIE: (furious) Clarence!

BENNY: Aw, shit.

SFX: NATALIE STORMS OUT OF THE CAR, AT CLARENCE.

CLARENCE: Natalie. You get back in there. This ain’t got nothing to do with you.

NATALIE: Like Hell!

SFX: SLAP! CLARENCE STRIKES NATALIE ACROSS THE FACE.

NATLIE: (pained scream)

BENNY: Natalie!

CLARENCE: See what you’ve made me go and do, Mr. Sierra? Think you want to step out of that car now?

SFX: BENNY STEPS OUT OF THE CAR.

CLARENCE: That’s a good boy. (to NATALIE) See? Was that too hard? All I wanted was a little pow-wow with our mutual friend.

BENNY: What do you want, Clarence–

CLARENCE: Deputy Middleton. (To OFFICER) Jimmy. Escort my baby sister back home.

OFFICER: Come along, Nat.

NATALIE: (pulls away) What? No!

BENNY: What do we have to talk about? Was I speeding? You gonna give me a ticket?

CLARENCE: No. We’re past that, Mr. Sierra.

SFX: CLARENCE UNHOLSTERS HIS SIDEARM, PISTOLWHIPS BENNY.

SFX: BENNY DROPS LIKE A ROCK WITH A BROKEN JAW.

BENNY: (pained, broken grunts)

NATALIE: Benny!

CLARENCE: Yeah. I bet that smarts.

OFFICER: Clarence…

CLARENCE: Jimmy. Wouldn’t you agree that there is a God-given order to the world? A purpose. A plan. A place for everything, and everything in its place.

OFFICER: Yeah. Yeah, I guess so. But, uh… Clarence, I don’t think–

CLARENCE: Nor should you. Didn’t I order you to take Natalie home?

OFFICER: Yeah. But…

CLARENCE: Then I suggest you mind your place and do your job.

OFFICER: Yes, Sir.

CLARENCE: And you, Mr. Sierra. We’re going to see if we can sort out exactly where you belong.

SFX: CLARENCE KICKS BENNY IN THE RIBS.

BENNY: (pained grunts)

NATALIE: (sobs) Benny!

OFFICER: Clarence! Stop this!

CLARENCE: Jimmy, I told you–!

SFX: BENNY TACKLES CLARENCE TO THE GROUND.

OFFICER: Clarence!

SFX: BENNY AND CLARENCE WRESTLE, STRUGGLE OVER GUN.

NATALIE: Both of you! Cut this out right this instant!

SFX: BENNY PINS, PUNCHES CLARENCE. ONCE, TWICE…

SFX: BANG! A SINGLE GUNSHOT ECHOES THROUGH THE CANYON.

NATALIE: (frightened gasp)

SFX: BENNY DROPS DEAD.

AN UNCOMFORTABLE SILENCE.

NATALIE: (broken) Oh, God…

OFFICER: Clarence… Clarence, what did you do?

SFX: CLARENCE RISES, DUSTS HIMSELF OFF.

CLARENCE: Eliminated the threat.

OFFICER: You shot him, Clarence. He’s dead. He ain’t supposed to be dead. But you shot him, and now he’s dead.

CLARENCE: Then I guess he knows his place now, don’t he?

OFFICER: (shakes head) This is wrong. This is all wrong.

CLARENCE: The only thing wrong, Officer, is that you’re disobeying a director order. Get Natalie home. Now.

OFFICER: What are you going to do?

CLARENCE: It’s like I said: a place for everything, and everything in its place. And someone’s gotta take out the trash.

SFX: OFFICER ESCORTS A BROKEN NATALIE INTO THE CRUISER, DRIVES AWAY.

FADE.

TO BE CONTINUED…

I’ve Got a Receipt (II-V)

II-V: THE GARDEN III

The lonely aesthetic of a dead mall’s parking lot.

NARRATOR: (voice-over) Some forty-five minutes after witnessing her sister and several others devoured by the ancient evil lurking in a trippy cosmic void several miles below her local mall, Cassie was escorted out by mall security.

A lone SECURITY GUARD on a segway escorts Cassie out of the mall.

SECURITY GUARD: (tired, don’t care) Thank you for shopping at The Garden. You are now banned from The Garden for eighteen months. Please vacate the premises immediately.

CASSIE: Wait. So, that’s it?

SECURITY GUARD: What, were you expecting a big chase scene and more ritual sacrifice?

CASSIE: (shrugs) Maybe.

Security Guard’s radio SQUAWKS and a VOICE speaks from the other side.

VOICE: (radio) Frank?

SECURITY GUARD: (to VOICE) Yeah. Go ahead.

Another SQUAWK of the radio.

VOICE: (radio) Peter’s under the escalator again.

SECURITY GUARD: (sigh) Goddammit. (to VOICE) I’ll be right there. (to self) They don’t pay me enough for this shit.

Security Guard turns around, disappears into the mall.

CASSIE: Huh.

Cassie’s phone RINGS, she answers.

CASSIE: Mom?

MOM: (phone) (drunk) Hiya, Sweetie. I’ve been trying to get a hold of your sister, but she’s not answering.

CASSIE: Mom…

MOM: (phone) (drunk) She left me an awful voicemail – all this shouting and screaming.

CASSIE: (emotional) Mom. Brennifer’s dead!

An uncomfortable silence. Then…

CASSIE: Mom? Mom are you–

MOM: (phone) (drunk) Hello? Sweetie?

CASSIE: Yes, Mom. I’m trying to–

MOM: (phone) (drunk) Stupid phones never have any–

CASSIE: Brennifer’s dead, Mom!

Another silence. Then…

MOM: (phone) (drunk) Cassie? Hello? Cassie, are you there?

CASSIE: Yes. Mom. I’m–

MOM: (phone) (drunk) Hello?

CASSIE: Mom! I’m trying to tell you about Brenn–

MOM: (phone) (drunk) Nevermind your sister.

CASSIE: (puzzles this) Are you drinking?

MOM: (phone) (drunk) Does boxed wine count?

Yet another uncomfortable silence. Then…

CASSIE: (sighs) Yes, Mom. Boxed wine–

MOM: (phone) (drunk) Anyway!

CASSIE: (repressed rage)

MOM: (phone) (drunk) You’re not gonna believe this, but I gave you the wrong receipt! (cackling) I feel like such a doofus!

THE END

I’ve Got a Receipt (II-IV)

II-IV: The M’na-ger

An impressively modern, if rather unimpressively modern temple of evil worshiping in the style of a hockey arena. The muffled roar of a large, rowdy AUDIENCE. A foul, sinister prayer playing on a loop over the PA system that is, in fact, a foul, sinister rendition of Piero Umiliani’s “Mah Na Mah Na.”

NARRATOR: (voice-over) If you were to remove the top portion of your typical professional hockey arena, replaced the chill, dry air with something similar to that of burning plastic – though, only inside out and with the lights off – and filled it to the nosebleeds with robed figures – in addition to colorful jerseys and painted, furry bellies of grown men bellowing a foul and wholly sinister rendition of Piero Umiliani’s classic hit “Mah Na Mah Na,” of course – you’d have a fairly poor image that vaguely resembles what Cassie witnessed upon stepping through what she was sure was a bed sheet covering the entrance to the amphitheater.

Cassie and Bobert enter, watch from the stands and among the crowd.

CASSIE: (drinks it in and hates it) Yeah. Something tells me I don’t want to be.

The audience suddenly and immediately go dead silent.

CASSIE: Aw, crap. (to Bobert) They heard me, didn’t they?

BOBERT: (shushes) It’s starting!

DOUG, a man in corduroys, enters and PHHHT-PHHHTS across center ice to a podium.

CASSIE: Who’s the dork in the polo and corduroys?

BOBERT: That’s Doug, the M’na M’na Manager.

CASSIE: Wow. That’s quite a M’na-outhful.

BOBERT: I know, right? Personally, I always thought he should be called the M’na-ger.

Doug the M’na-ger speaks in a dry, lifeless voice into a microphone and through the PA system.

DOUG: (PA system) Good afternoon, everyone.

MOSTLY EVERYONE: (equally dry and lifeless) Good afternoon, Doug.

DOUG: (PA system) Now. I know things haven’t been looking too good for us, numbers-wise. But I’m happy to announce that we have not one, but three–

Doug’s phone RINGS.

DOUG: (PA system) Sorry. Just give me…

Doug answers the phone, attempts and fails to not be heard over the PA system.

Hello? Yeah. No, this isn’t a good… Uh-huh…. Uh-huh… Okay, I will. But I have to… Yes, I’m at work. Okay. Okay. Okay, Ma. I gotta go. Wait. How many again? Okay, got it. Yes. I got it. Okay. I love you, too.

Doug hangs up.

(PA system) (to AUDIENCE) Right. As I was saying. We have not one, but three offerings scheduled for this afternoon!

The audience pitties Doug with a light smatter of applause.

(PA system) So please, help me give a warm Garden welcome to today’s Sacrificial Lambs!

BANG! The amphitheater goes dark. Colorful spotlights and music blast through the PA system. The crowd ROARS to life with pure, wholesome bloodlust. And the one-hundred square foot, super-high resolution video screen provides all in attendance with a crystal clear image of everything.

DOUG: (PA system) Skating out first to center ice, he’s a middle-aged Hispanic man with great hair 

A middle-aged Hispanic man with GREAT HAIR holding a pair of slacks, a sweet, older FILIPINA WOMAN, and Cassie’s ham-faced potato of a SISTER all skate out to center ice.

SISTER: (squawking) I want to speak to the manager!

Cassie recognizes Sister on the big screen.

CASSIE: (mild surprise) Oh, hey. I know that potato!

BOBERT: You do?

CASSIE: Yeah, it’s my sister. What’s she doing down there?

BOBERT: (ruh-roh) Uh…

Meanwhile, at center ice…

GREAT HAIR: (to SISTER) Excuse me. Do you mind if I go first? I just need to exchange these pants, and I think I left my truck running in the parking lot.

FILIPINA WOMAN: Well, you can go ahead of me. I’m not even sure why I’m here.

A large TENDRIL made of nothing suddenly and swiftly picks up, tosses all three into a gaping maw of teeth and really icky stuff that wasn’t there a moment ago at all. Then… BELCHES and SPITS their bones back onto the ice one, like pulpy, bloody watermelon seeds.

An uncomfortable silence.

CASSIE: (scared, pissed, confused.) What. The. Shit.

Everyone and everything turns to Cassie.

Another silence. Then…

CASSIE: (puzzles this) Uh… (sings. poorly.) Mah Na Mah na! Doo, doo…

The audience ain’t buying what she’s selling.

(hangs head, sighs) Goddammit.

To be continued…