I’ve Got a Receipt (I-V)

I-V: COFFEE-2-GO

Cassie scuttles up, down, and all about the moist labyrinthine network of wholly impossible corridors in the back end of the mall.

NARRATOR: (voice-over) As her sister made yet another poor life decision in a series of such things, Cassie, in a desperate attempt to empty her bladder, followed a sign through a door marked “RESTROOMS” nestled between what used to be a discount Hawaiian jewelry shop and a gold-for-cash place. But rather than finding an actual toilet, she found a labyrinthine network of ever twisting, stretching, and, at times, she would have sworn, writhing corridors that were most certainly used as toilets. And then there was the issue of Cassie turning left several times in a row, yet failing to go in a pee-pee scented circle.

Cassie turns a corner, comes to a dead stop in the face of yet another copy-paste corridor. Only this one has a COFFEE-2-GO machine.

CASSIE: Oh, god-dammit.

NARRATOR: (voice-over) Just as the turn before this one — and the one before that — this hallway looked, moved, and smelled the same as all the others. A single fluorescent tube flickered and buzzed overhead. The air thick, heavy with the moisture of a thousand flushes left to fester in a concrete tube with no windows and no doors. The concrete floor beneath her feet moving in such a way that it felt as if it had briefly, but surely transformed into a caravan of mighty Amazonian army ants nipping at the soles of her flats. Also, this one had a “COFFEE-2-GO” machine set against a wall.

CASSIE: Okay. You know what? Screw it. I’m just gonna go right here.

Cassie ducks, squats behind the COFFEE-2-GO machines.

NARRATOR: (voice-over) But just as Cassie squatted down between it, a group of mall employees piled out from the once super-secret door located behind the aforementioned coffee machine from the 1970s.

The super-secret door opens, a YOUNG WOMAN and MAN step out mid-conversation.

YOUNG WOMAN: So I look behind the escalator, and all I see him doing is crying.

MAN: Yeah. That’s somehow more gross.

Young Woman and Man stop dead in their tracks, seize on Cassie.

YOUNG WOMAN: Oh, my God. Is that woman peeing behind that vending machine?

NARRATOR: (voice-over) With her leggings still wrapped around one ankle, Cassie pigeon-toed her way between the puzzled man and gawky girl, straight through the once super-secret door behind the Coffee-2-Go, and beyond.

Cassie flees through the once super-secret door.

CASSIE:  Sorry not sorry!

The once super-secret door closes behind her.

Cassie now stands at the precipice of a massive torch-lit cavern beneath the mall. Distant, unholy humming of a foul, sinister prayer echoes in the void.

NARRATOR: (voice-over) The Coffee-2-Go led to a well-worn dirt path cutting through a swerving, dipping, curving swath of nothingness that seemed to stretch forever in all directions. The path was lit every few feet by a dark, cold fire, housed in the leather-bound remains of a large creature’s skull. And the darkness hummed with the dull roar of distant praying.

Cassie hobbles down the path, fumbling with her leggings.

NARRATOR (CONT’D): (voice-over) Cassie fumbled with her leggings where the path met nothing, and stared into the deep and endless abyss.

CASSIE: Oh… Well, shit…

END ACT ONE

To be continued…

I’ve Got a Receipt (I-IV)

I-IV: I’VE GOT A RECEIPT

The sort of women’s lingerie store employed solely by single, middle-aged men. PETER, the clerk, stands behind a counter, thoroughly inspecting the crushed velvet lingerie. Cassie and Sister are already there, already frustrated.

NARRATOR: (voice-over) The most fascinating thing about Boulder Holders isn’t the fact that it proudly confesses to having the biggest selection of crushed velvet sexual goods in the state of California. Nor is it the way the stores are designed to look like the cluttered, unkempt changing rooms of your local low-rent strip joint.

Unfortunately, the most fascinating thing about a female-owned and -centric business like Boulder Holders is that it hired Peter Badabing, a grotesque schlub of a middle-aged man, to manage their location at The Garden. Because while Peter was never formally charged with any crime, his twenty-year habit of looking up girls’ skirts as they rode the mall’s only functioning escalator is, at the very least, a conflict of interest.

And while the mall’s usual lack of foot-traffic meant Peter rarely came in contact with Boulder Holders’ clientele, that meant little to Cassie and her sister as Peter stood behind the register, holding up their oversized crushed velvet lingerie in his sweaty, fleshy hands.

PETER: I’m sorry, but we can’t take this back.

CASSIE: Are you kidding me?

PETER: (matter-of-fact) No, I am not.

CASSIE: But, I have a receipt.

PETER: Sorry. But we don’t accept returns once the product has been worn.

CASSIE: What? I never wore this.

PETER: (shaking his head) Not you.

NARRATOR: (voice-over) It was at his point that Peter gestured to Cassie’s sister, who, for one reason or another, was currently preoccupied by a rather busty mannequin.

Sister is, and Peter does.

CASSIE: Goddammit.

SISTER: Sorry, Cass.

CASSIE: Wait. How did you even know she wore it?

PETER: I just know.

CASSIE & SISTER: (unison) Ew.

PETER: Look. I’ll give you fifty bucks for it…

SISTER: (easily sold) Fifty bucks?

PETER: …if you agree to not ask anymore questions.

CASSIE: This is ridiculous.

SISTER: Deal!

CASSIE: What? You’re fine with this?

SISTER: (shrugging) Fifty bucks is fifty bucks.

CASSIE: (frustrated) Ugh. Fine. Whatever.

SISTER: Sweet. Fifty bucks.

CASSIE: But you deal with this guy. I’ve gotta pee.

Cassie storms off.

SISTER: Fine by me. (to PETER, flirty) So… Peter the Manager…

PETER: Key holder, technically. But it’s functionally the same job.

SISTER: Is that right?

PETER: More, or less.

SISTER: Neat.

PETER: Except for the fact that I don’t get any of the pay.

SISTER: That sucks.

PETER: Or benefits.

SISTER: Huh.

PETER: Yeah.

An uncomfortable silence.

SISTER: (flirty again) Well, Peter the Key-Holder. Do you wanna see more… or less?

PETER: Of what?

SISTER: Of me. More or less of me. Because you said–

PETER: I don’t follow.

SISTER: I’m flirting with you, Peter.

PETER: Oh. I get it.

SISTER: (puzzles this) Do you?

To be continued…

I’ve Got a Receipt (I-III)

I-III: THE GARDEN II

Cassie and Sister walk through the evacuated bowels of a modern day shopping mall. A foul, sinister, yet catchy prayer echoes in the distance.

NARRATOR: (voice-over) For what little it’s worth, The Garden was the sort of place that should have gone out of business during the Clinton Administration, plowed, and turned into yet another lot of overpriced, low-quality condos and shops marketed towards Millennials who will never afford them.

And yet, here it was. A four-screen, second-run movie theater dillydallying at one end. A vacant, two-story nothing at the other. And somewhere between this was a sparsely populated food court, a furniture store holding the world’s longest going out of business sale, and a fountain that had not been in active use for several years, yet hadn’t been cleaned in even longer.

Fortunately, this unsightly mess of utter economic failure had the benefit of distracting Cassie and her sister from how utterly depressing the whole thing really was.

CASSIE: Okay. Is it just me, or is this place a lot bigger on the inside?

SISTER: I dunno. But it definitely smells like pee.

CASSIE: It always smelled like pee.

SISTER: Oh, right.

CASSIE: How is this place still open? Half the shops are closed.

SISTER: Yeah. And the other half are just a bunch of kiosks selling phone cases and little helicopters.

A cheap remote-controlled helicopter zips by.

CASSIE: Didn’t there used to be a carousel in here?

SISTER: Oh, that? They had to get rid of it after some homeless guy hung himself on it.

CASSIE: Wait. What?

SISTER: (ignoring Cassie, pointing) Found Boulder Holders!

To be continued…

I’ve Got a Receipt (I-II)

I-II: THE GARDEN

The equally depressing ambiance of a dead mall’s parking lot.

NARRATOR: (voice-over) Twenty minutes later, in the mostly empty lot outside of a squatish, mall-shaped building, Cassie navigated her husk of a car to a wheezing stop beside an even worse looking truck.

CASSIE and SISTER enter in said “husk of a car,” roll to a stop beside the even worse looking truck.

NARRATOR: (voice-over) Her sister, meanwhile, looked out her window to what turned out to be an even worse looking truck idling mere inches away with nobody behind the wheel.

SISTER: Well, that’s weird.

CASSIE: That somebody would leave their truck running while they go shopping?

SISTER: No. It’s weird that you parked next to the only other car here.

CASSIE: It makes me feel safe.

SISTER: What, are you afraid someone’s going to pop out from underneath all this nothing?

Cassie sits there for a moment, then kills the engine.

CASSIE: (uncomfortably calm, composed) Less talking, more walking.

And so, they walk.

To be continued…

I’ve Got a Receipt (I-I)

I-I: CRUSHED VELVET LINGERIE

The depressing ambiance of a cramped, sweatbox of an apartment with a tacky, out-of-date decor. CASSIE sits at a coffee table, a gift bag in front of her. MOM and SISTER sit side-by-side, perhaps too close, across from Cassie.

NARRATOR: (voice-over) As Cassie sat in the living room of a one-bedroom apartment her mother shared with Cassie’s younger sister sometime next Tuesday, it never occurred to her that an ancient evil slumbered beneath the local mall. Imagine her surprise when she found exactly that later in the afternoon.

Cassie opens the bag, pulls out and holds up oversized, crushed velvet lingerie.

CASSIE: What the shit is this?

NARRATOR: (voice-over) The lingerie looked like crushed velvet, but felt like a mistake. Her mother and sister, meanwhile, looked on at this like two ham-faced potato people.

MOM:  (whining) You don’t like it. (to SISTER, still whining) She doesn’t like it.

SISTER: I told you she wouldn’t like it.

CASSIE: Explain.

MOM: Well, Sweetie. Your sister and I know how down you’ve been ever since you broke up with What’s-his-face.

CASSIE: Jordan. And we didn’t break up. We’re just… on a break.

MOM: Honey, you know I usually support you and your sister’s delusions. But maybe it’s time to accept that Jordan’s not coming back.

SISTER: Was Jordan the one that moved to Oregon to grow pot?

MOM: No, Sweetie. Jordan’s the one who wandered off to smoke pot by the railroad tracks and be one with nature.

CASSIE: That was Duncan.

SISTER: Wait. So, which one was Jordan?

CASSIE: He moved to Texas to start a gourmet hot dog food truck.

SISTER: Makes sense.

MOM: Cassie-Honey. It’s time for you to bait that hook and catch you another fish.

SISTER: Yeah. That’s why we got you a few things to make you feel sexy again.

CASSIE: (deeply concerned) Oh, no. You mean there’s more?

Mom holds up vouchers.

MOM: Mother-Daughters Day at the spa!

CASSIE: (nonplussed) Huh. That’s… not a terrible gift, actually.

SISTER: Right?

CASSIE: But why is this lingerie so big? There’s no way it’d ever… Wait. (to SISTER) Was this your lingerie?

SISTER: Mom found it in our closet. She said it wouldn’t do me any good.

CASSIE: Sounds like Mom.

MOM: Look. If you don’t like it, you can exchange it at the Boulder Holders down at The Garden. I still have the receipt.

CASSIE: The Garden? I thought they closed that hellhole years ago.

SISTER: Right?

MOM: Hellhole? You two used to love that mall.

CASSIE: What? No, we didn’t.

MOM: Both of you used to beg me to drop you off there every morning during the summer.

SISTER: We didn’t have air conditioning!

CASSIE: Yeah. It was either this sweatbox, or middle-aged managers leering at us.

MOM: That’s awful!

SISTER: (shrugs) Life’s full of difficult choices.

CASSIE: You taught us that, Mom.

MOM: Are you telling me you chose being grossly uncomfortable just so you wouldn’t be hot all day at home?

SISTER: Every time.

CASSIE: (to SISTER) At least we weren’t hot.

SISTER: (to CASSIE) Not until we got home.

MOM: (defeated, annoyed) Yeah, yeah. Do you want the receipt, or not?

To be continued…

Where Stars Collide IV

SCENE 4. SEE YA, SPACE COWBOY

MIKE ANGRILY BANGS AGAINST THE POD WALLS AND DOOR.

MIKE: Let me out, Doug!

A SILENCE. THEN…

SOUNDSCAPE: THE DULL ELECTRONIC BUZZ OF THE OTHERWISE PLEASANT ESCAPE POD.

BANGING CONTINUES.

DOUG: Mike. Prolonged outbursts will deplete remaining life support at a higher rate. Please, try to remain calm.

MIKE: (furious, panicked.) Let. Me. Out. Doug.

DOUG: Mike. Help will arrive soon.

BANGING STOPS.

MIKE: You don’t get it! Nobody’s coming for us, Doug! I have, what, three days of life support left before–

DOUG: Incorrect. Life support currently at two-point-

MIKE: Oh, for fu– Who cares, Doug? We’re going to die out here! (considers this) I’m going to die out here.

AN UNCOMFORTABLE SILENCE.

DOUG: Mike. The Weaver was a prized commercial–

MIKE: We were three days out from port, Doug. If they were coming for any of us, they would have by now. Either they couldn’t, or… (considers this) Or, we weren’t worth it.

DOUG: Mike…

MIKE: Congrats, buddy. You kept me alive long enough to realize I was never going to get rescued.

ANOTHER SILENCE. THEN…

MIKE: Doug?

DOUG: Yes, Mike?

MIKE: I’m really tired.

SFX: A SOFT HISS.

DOUG: Sleep now. Mike. I will be here when you wake. No harm shall come to you.

SFX: MIKE’S FAINT BREATHING.

DOUG: Goodnight, Mike.

SFX: POD DOOR OPENS.

A LONG SILENCE. THEN…

SFX: CHARMING SYSTEM SHUTDOWN SOUNDS.

DOUG: Dallas Protocols complete. Mike… User, deceased. Recording, complete. Unit ceasing function in three… two…

ONLY SILENCE.

OUT.

Where Stars Collide III

SCENE 3. DALLAS PROTOCOL

SOUNDSCAPE: THE DULL ELECTRONIC BUZZ OF THE OTHERWISE PLEASANT ESCAPE POD.

MIKE: So, like…did you always want to be a Nanny when you grew up?

DOUG: (considers this) In a way.

MIKE: Wait. Really?

DOUG: Prior to my activation four days ago, I did not exist as you know me now. But from the moment of my creation, I have been… compelled to ensure your survival.

MIKE: (chuckling) I bet you say that to all the humans.

DOUGS: Perhaps. But my programming and purpose affords me the freedom to act independently of my designated User.

MIKE: Well… I guess it’s a good thing we’re such good friends–

SFX: SYSTEM ALERT.

MIKE: Doug. Please tell me that freaky alarm means somebody’s finally saving us.

DOUG: Mike, that freaky alarm means somebody’s finally saving us.

MIKE: (surprised) Seriously?

DOUG: No. But you asked me to–

MIKE: Doug. The alarm.

DOUG: The alert was a relay from distant escape pods.

MIKE: And?

DOUG: Multiple units down. Users, deceased.

MIKE: (heart sinks) What? How?

DOUG: Cause: unknown.

MIKE: Are we under attack? Is it whoever attacked–

SFX: SYSTEM ALERT.

DOUG: Several more units have ceased function. Users–

SFX: SEVERAL SYSTEM ALERTS.

MIKE: (terrified) Doug, what the Hell is going on?

DOUG: Possibilities include faulty or damaged units, unavoidable collision with nearby hazards, malicious forces with no-hostage protocols–

MIKE: (angry, scared) Yeah. Okay. I get it, Doug.

AN UNCOMFORTABLE SILENCE.

DOUG: (considers this) Perhaps the Dallas Protocol–

MIKE: (exhausted, broken) Doug. Please. Please, just… just stop.

SFX: SEVERAL MORE ALERTS. UP, UNDER.

DOUG Do not be afraid, Mike. No harm shall come to you. (a beat) I promise.

SFX: ALERTS CONTINUE.

FADE.

Where Stars Collide II

SCENE 2. 336 HOURS

SOUNDSCAPE: THE DULL ELECTRONIC BUZZ OF THE OTHERWISE PLEASANT ESCAPE POD.

USER: Doug?

DOUG: Yes, User.

MIKE: (correcting) Mike.

DOUG: What was that, User?

MIKE: How long have I been bobbing about in space in this cramped, metal egg?

DOUG: Evacuation protocols initiated approximately seven hours ago.

MIKE: How much longer till someone picks all of us up?

SILENCE.

MIKE: Doug?

DOUG: Scan complete.

MIKE: And?

A BEAT.

DOUG: No ships within range.

MIKE: I’m going to die out here.

LONGER, UNCOMFORTABLE BEAT.

DOUG: Life systems currently at 97-point-92-percent. 

MIKE: (wow. okay…) Uh-huh. Well… Maybe we can use some of this time to work on your bedside manner, Doug.

DOUG: My apologies… Mike.

MIKE: (smiling.) Yeah. That’s a start.

FADE.

Where Stars Collide

SCENE 01. GOODBYE MOONMEN

A SILENCE. THEN…

SFX: EXPLOSIONS. VARIOUS DIRECTIONS. UP, UNDER.

SFX: EMERGENCY ALERT. UP, UNDER.

MASS PANIC.

SECURITY: (shouting) The escape pods! Get to the escape p–!

SFX: LARGE EXPLOSION.

ANOTHER SILENCE. THEN….

SOUNDSCAPE: THE DULL ELECTRONIC BUZZ OF AN OTHERWISE PLEASANT ESCAPE POD.

PANICKED BREATHING–UP, UNDER.

SFX: CHARMING SYSTEM START-UP SOUNDS.

DOUG: Neural links established. User identified. Vital signs acquired. Recording streams synced.

USER: (startled, exhausted) Hello? Hello? Is someone there? Please… what’s going on?

DOUG: Hello, User. My name is Digital Observer Unit-6. But you may call me, Doug. I am here to help.

FADE.