House of Payne
Of all the names in the world, at least all the ones he could think of, Chas Payne feels that his is most appropriate. Bending over the toilet in the bathroom of his New York apartment regurgitating stomach acid and the last remnants of Percocet and morphine tablets, the irony alone is killing him. Twisting and retching while the world becomes darker and less defined, he didn’t expect this much pain. Yet, he falls to the cold tile floor jarring his forehead on the porcelain bowl, and still clutching his insides as if they would burst from his front at any moment. And all he can think about is the excruciating, tortuous ache in his gut.
The pain begins to subside. His stomach stops churning and comes to accept its fate. He lets out a small sigh trying to free the stale air from his lungs. His head slides over and into the small pile of roach poison that he had laid out last week.
“Fitting,” he thinks.
His body goes completely numb as he fades in and out of sleep. Chas wonders what lies just on the other side of this dark hallway that he’s wanted to walk through so badly. He thinks that he would smile…if he could feel his face.
* * * *
“Go on ahead, Hun!” Chas shouted over the hustling crowd of tourists, bell hops, and caterers. The luxurious Thornbury Castle was having a grand ball this particular August evening and Chas was beginning to regret staying in what he referred to as Satan’s Torture Hotel of Death. A 15th century castle in Thornbury, England, fully restored and turned into a luxury hotel. Forty-three floors of 15th century suck-ass madness.
“Yeah, there’s room service, but there are no elevators. I mean what kind of a place was this?” he asks.
His wife Trish threw him a stern look over the pink lily suitcase she carrying. He could see the anger in her eyes. And after forty-three of stairs, Chas thought that was the only face she could make anymore.
“The hotel manager said they wanted to keep a natural feel and doesn’t think elevators should ever be placed in a castle. I like it though, I think he may be on to something.”
Chas thought he was a schmuck.
The crowds of dinner guests and service staff were flooding the staircase by the time Chas, Trish, and Ben, their nine year old son, reached the ground floor. The crowd was getting immense and he was losing his family on the staircase when he remembered Trish’s wedding ring sitting on the bedside table. Their faces already disappearing into crowded hotel lobby, he decided it would be better to run back upstairs and grab the ring while he was still here. Most people would have brushed it off, called the hotel and have it sent home. But Chas, is not most people. And he’s regretted it ever since.
He called Trish on the way back up the forty-three flight climb to their room.
The phone rang twice before she picked up.
“Hey! Where are you,” she asked.
“I’m running back upstairs. I didn’t grab your ring after you asked me too.”
He heard her angry sigh on the other line. He knew she was pissed. He knew that he was going to get an earful when she saw him. Trish hated flying. She carried the “Oh-my-God-I’m-going-to die-on-this-plane gene and she was going to absolutely hate him for not being on the flight with her.
“Jesus, Chas! You’re going to miss the plane!”
He said, “Don’t worry about it, sweetie. You’ll be fine. If I don’t get there in time, just board the plane. I’ll catch the next flight out and meet you in Sacramento. I love you. Bye.”
After a long and arduous sprint up the winding stairs of the God Forsaken Castle of Slow Agonizing Death, Chas stopped to catch his breath. He’d only had to stop twice the whole way up and felt a little too proud of himself for it.
Chas collected himself and made for the hallway in search of room 4307.
He passed a door marked BROOM CLOSET and wondered if King Henry used a Swiffer. He reached the door as he dug the key out his pocket. He slipped the key in the lock turning it forcefully, and entered the room. He spotted the ring on the bedside table, snatched it quickly, and placed it on his left pinky next to his own ring.
He checked the gold Rolex that Trish gave him last night for their anniversary. Quarter to four. It was the first time Ben and Trish had flown without him. He had often poked fun at her for her fear of airplanes. He just never understood it.
Now he understands it.
Chas opens his eyes to pulsating light of his apartment bathroom. The fluorescent bulbs are infuriating the already raging pain in his head. He shuts his eyes tight and tries to get his grip.
“Where am I? Am I Dead? No…Goddamnit!”
Chas begins to smell the sharp odor of vomit rising from the bowl above him. He raises a hand and fishes for the handle for a while.
“OK. I’m alive. What now?”
He raises himself off the ground to inspect the damage. He looks fine. He feels fine. He might be dying from the roach poison that may or may not have gotten into his mouth, but he doesn’t think he’s that lucky. God would have to have a pretty sick sense of humor…then again, maybe he does. In either case Chas rinses his mouth out and looks in the mirror.
“What a sorry sack of shit. Look at yourself. You’re pathetic.”
He wanders out of the bathroom and down the hallway of the apartment, his head pounding. He thinks if he is about to deal with living through a suicide, the first thing he needs is coffee. He stumbles through the dimly light hallway and into the kitchen. He finds the coffee and tries to think of the ways it might kill him, but doesn’t think there are any.
Chas makes a pot and waits while the coffee boils, staring at the kitchen cabinets. He had given all the china to charity and goodwill. He doesn’t really need dishes or silverware anymore. Chas usually eats fast food now. He doesn’t see the point of spending time on a meal that he wishes he wasn’t around to eat. Besides, they say fast food will kill you these days.
He waits for the coffee to finish and pours himself a cup. He thinks about Trish and Ben. He thinks about dying. He thinks he doesn’t want to have to clean the bathroom that he failed to die in. He thinks maybe the bathroom floor is too cliché of a death place for him anyway. Chas looks over the kitchen bar into the living room.
The whole apartment is empty now, but it once had life to it. The white walls used to beam with pictures of Chas, Trish, and Ben. They gave the room a sense of warmth and welcome, as did the large white leather sofa and the Ecuadorian coffee table, or so Chas always thought. He used to love sitting on the sofa, feeling the cold leather on the back of his neck. He used to set his feet on the antique table just to get a rise out of Trish. She couldn’t stand it when he did that. Something her parents had passed on to her. Now she’s not around to get pissed, so Chas doesn’t put his feet up.
He sits on the floor of this apartment, sipping his coffee and trying not to think. The feelings of warmth and welcome have been traded for cold isolation. The white walls stand naked. There are no pictures, no coffee table, no TV, no bookcases, or end tables. Nothing. Chas sips his coffee with his arms tightly gripped around himself, and stares at the carpet.
Chas strolled out the front doors of Thornbury Castle feeling sorry for his wife and son at having to fly alone, but fairly amused with thought of it. He decided to walk to the airport in lieu of a taxi because his flight wouldn’t be leaving for another hour. He took his time wandering through town conversing with the locals and stopping to have lunch at corner market café. Chas felt guilty that he was having such a good time without Trish and Ben. He thought of them clutching each other for dear life as the plain takes off. He thought of Trish screaming while the other passengers looked on in annoyance. He thought of the frantic panting that would follow a panic attack. He chuckled.
After a two pints of New Castle and club sandwich, Chas walked to the airport. He noticed a large crowd of people hovering around a television monitor out front, but paid it no attention. It was probably some new political scandal or celebrity gossip. These things did not concern Chas. He always thought people’s private lives should never be intruded upon and celebrities and politicians are no different. So he never cared. Moreover, he didn’t want to be late.
Chas entered the airport and walked toward the security gate. No sooner did he reach the checkpoint that he realized that his flight had been delayed. He would be stuck there or another hour. He walked away from the security and into the lobby for a drink. He pulled himself up to the bar and ordered a jack and coke. He turned to face the TV and his heart sank to his feet. The BBC had interrupted the current program for a special announcement.
“Ladies and Gentleman. We bring you live coverage of the Continental Airlines commercial flight that crashed into the Atlantic earlier this evening.
* * * *
Chas glides down 3rd Avenue replaying the events over in head. He’s going nowhere in particular and just wants to find a place to smoke in peace. You can’t walk down the sidewalk smoking nowadays without somebody giving you a monumental piece of their mind. He doesn’t really want to hear anybody else’s shit so he waits for a smoking area. He has enough on his mind.
He stops in front of a Walgreens after noticing a sign for a DESIGNATED SMOKING AREA. He sits on the bench next to an old man wearing an old gray coat and a bucket hat like the one Gilligan wears. Chas notices veins on the man’s hands, raised and blue like oceans pouring over the dry white knuckles.
“How’s it going, sonny?” the old man asks.
“Terrible actually,” Chas replies hoping the conversation would end there.
“Sorry to hear that. But you know even the most terrible days have their upsides.”
Chas couldn’t believe how angry he was getting. The old man was just trying to be nice. He was trying to make Chas’s life just a little bit brighter. But Chas didn’t want his life to be any brighter. He wanted his family back.
“Look Grandpa, I appreciate the words but I’m not really up for proverbs today. I just want to sit and smoke and figure out the rest of my short life. So I would appreciate it, if you would kindly fuck off.”
Chas lights his cigarette and likes the way the smoke scratches his chest. Like an itch that desperately needs to be scratched, like the pain in Chas’ gut that he desperately wants to relieve. “You know son, I’ve seen boys like you before. Searchin’ for a piece of sanity, some divine providence that might just prove there’s justice in this world. But I got bad news, Sonny. It ain’t. It never was and it never will be. He that giveth, taketh away.”
“You don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about, old man.”
Chas stares across the street in silence. He watches a family through the windows of a Starbucks. He sees their happy faces and how blissfully they take each other for granted. He knows the pain of living every day without something to live for. He feels the Big Empty that’s been left in his body.
Chas gets up and walks away without looking back at the old man.
* * * *
Chas sat in the airport bar trying to catch his breath. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing on the news. Flight 247 out of Thornbury crashed into the Atlantic just over an hour ago. Time stopped. His heart was pounding faster than it ever had before. He thought it was going jump out his chest and onto the floor. Chas clutched his chest and struggled to comprehend what was happening.
Maybe it wasn’t their flight. Maybe it’s a mistake. He turns and races through the terminal to find a list of passengers. He passes checkpoint after checkpoint and locates one of the monitors he had dismissed earlier. He looked at the screen as the list people rolls down in front of the video coverage. He couldn’t see their names. He figured its ok. He remembered the ticket he still had from the same flight. He frantically searched his bag for the evidence. His fingers found the slim paper rectangle under his planner. He pulled the ticket into the light and read the lines.
Flight 247. Departing Thornbury. 4:00 PM
Chas’s heart stopped as he imagined Trish and Ben holding each other for comfort. He imagined them screaming and crying as the passengers around them cried out in despair. He imagined Trish trying to comfort Ben as the plane nosedived into the ocean. Running her fingers through his hair and telling him it will be OK.
The news said it was a engine failure. An uncommon mistake, but one that happens. Boeing will make an official apology. Chas’s family will still be dead.
Chas died in an airport in Thornbury. Well, he might as well have.
* * * *
Chas sits comfortably in seat forty-seven aboard American Airlines flight number 274, departing Sacramento for London. He thanks the flight attendant as she brings him his drink. He can’t wait for the in flight movie. He hopes there is turbulence during takeoff. He hopes there is mayhem. He prays for a crash. He hates that everyone will have to die. If this one doesn’t go down, the next one will. Or the next one, or the next one. Who knows?
Chas knows. He knows that if you hit a dog enough times it will stop barking. And he also knows that if you ride a plane enough times it will eventually go down, especially if you slashed the fuel hose prior to boarding.
Chas lies back in his seat, swallows three Vicoden, and waits.
Having just lost what feels like a very profound thought, he stares at the endless white of the Page, beckoning for the stroke of a pen that might bring it to life. The white runs deep into his canvas; as deep as nothing should rightly run. A void where no stories are told and memories have yet to happen, surely an unbearable torture for this poor Page, who wants only to be filled. Just one good scribble, a doodle, a grocery list, a poem will do. A little fulfillment isn’t much for a lonely Page to ask for, a chance to matter before the familiar crunch and toss that have bested stronger pages than this one. And yet, the Page waits, surprisingly steadfast, despite the derelict frame of a man who paces across its view.
The Page may sometimes look on at the neurotic author…just on occasion. They have never met before, never known the sweet embrace of the author’s mind, blending with ink, and dancing across the Page’s surface. So the author paces incessantly. He smokes, he scratches his ass, and he paces more; chasing his thoughts as if they were burning from the tip of his cigarette, gone forever with fingers grasping at the wisps of a memory, and never once lifting the pen to the Page. If only his memory could serve them, this madness would end. The author would have his thought; the Page would have his scribble, the inevitable crunch would loom, and the Page would accept this. To be discarded is natural, a part of all things, and the Page accepts this too.
Yet the author refuses to take up the pen. The Page watches as his pacing becomes more and more hurried. The author becomes distraught as the memory slips further away. He falls to his knees and looks to the Page in despair, as if the answer might somehow lie in the blank spiral-bound paper.
He speaks to it. He begins pleading to it, begging forgiveness for his neglect, the selfishness and self-doubt that crunched and crackled countless pages before this one. In the midst of his self-pity, he turns to the Page again, but now he stops, transfixed as his gaze penetrates the Endless White with wonder and intrigue. He pauses just a moment before rushing to his pen. The Page sees this, and prepares for a long awaited finale. At last the Page will have its scribble; then shall it be judged, and subsequently discarded. But most of all, it will have mattered. And to matter….
…Oh, what it would mean to matter.
But as the Page faithfully awaits destiny, the doubt begins, creeping into the spiral binding and onto the Endless White, spilling into the void and filling the Page with fear. A lifetime of waiting only to be discarded…
The Page begins to wonder…
When the author returns, the Page stares stoically into his eyes, ready for the manic flow of thoughts and the scarring jabs of his pen. The Page knows the author will not mourn its demise, no more than the rest. But as the author steps forward, calm falls over them both. The Page does not recognize the eyes of this man. The author looks to his Page as a Lover looks upon their Other. And as he gazes deeply into the Page, into the Endless White, he knows where fleeting thoughts reside, hidden, and waiting to be rediscovered. Though the author wrote nothing, the Page now brims with life, holding the author’s Loss, the abandoned thoughts in their infinite possibility, just beyond the surface of the Endless White.
So the author rips the Page from its spiral prison, and folds it into a perfect miniature triangle. He pulls his favorite brown BIC from his jacket pocket and holds the flame just below the tip of the triangle. The Page burns soft and evenly, its glow warming the author’s palms. He removes a cigarette from his pack, carefully holds it to the Page’s fire, and between every drag, he watches the ghosts of his creations wisp off the ends of his fingertips.
This was a music video script written for Hail The Titans. It never went into production, but I think the story is awesome as well as the song. Here is the song and script so you can listen and follow along with your own vision. Please visit the band’s page and show them some love. This script was the first I had written from a 3 year writing block. I have them to thank for getting me back on my horse. Enjoy! The song is track 2: Natalie Andrea
Open: Fade in B&W Slow intro
Dark room, spot lit in the middle
A ragged, dusty, not old, but weathered Man sits in the middle of the spotlight with two wooden poles on either side of him. Connected at the top of each pole, are chains bolted into the wood trailing down to the Man. He holds the empty shackles with a look of anticipation, waiting patiently for the next unlucky soul to meet their cruel test. He subtly brushes the dust from the shackles as if they were delicate tools. He digs into his pocket and pulls out an old, gold plated pocket watch. At the CU we can see the second hand ticking round and round, but there is no minute or hour hand. There is no concept of time in this prison. All that matters is that it is passing. He smiles. He looks at the chains. Last shot is close up of the man’s eyes.
Fade out quickly
Cut to: distortion intro
Begin with Close up of a new character’s eyes opening wide. This man, who will soon become our Prisoner, sees 3 faceless figures directly in front him, followed closely by a fist. Back shot CU out the back of a van window of a man getting slugged in the face.
Cut to:Interior prison
We see a pitcher of water being poured.
Cut to:Exterior Daylight
3 men proceed beat our prisoner down against the back of a van to the tune of the rock.
Cut to:Interior prison
The man who holds the pocket watch checks the time, and we see the moments ticking.
THE PAUSE: 3 BASS DECLINES
Lights flash in and out with the bass line,
Shot 1. Wes live,
Shot 2. Man losing consciousness/face hitting the window…
Shot 3. Van doors close and drive
FADE TO BLACK QUICKLY
BIG PAUSE BEFORE CRAZY BENDS
Instant CUT TO: Crazy Bends
The prison room: Spotlit
LIGHTS UP MOTHERFUCKER!!!!
Open on our Prisoner from the van wide awake in the prison room, shackled to the two poles and raging against his confines. He is overcome with panic as he sees the chains and the shackles on his wrists. We see him screaming, “WHERE THE FUCK AM I?!” as the camera tracks around him. CU’s of his shackles and chains show a fruitless war between steel and human fingers. He begins to writhe violently on the ground in fear and panic, causing his shackles to whiplash. He brutally subjects his limbs to the torture of his own weight until finally he collapses in a pool of his own tears and saliva. “Why?” he mouths weakly.
Music dies, slow part
Our prisoner lies on the ground in despair. We rack focus through his tears and see his confines. As he gets to his knees, he examines the chains. He feels the cold steel on his skin and knows that he is trapped. He looks to the chains running along the floor as the camera racks the focus in and out to show them in detail.
2 MEASURE OF BASSLINE (no feedback)
In the corner he notices the Man sitting in a small chair. Next to him is a small tray holding nothing but a small glass and a pitcher of water. He takes out his pocket watch and we see a CU of the seconds passing. He gets up and takes the pitcher and glass to our Prisoner and puts the glass to his lips. He nods for him to drink. Our prisoner takes the water gratefully. Our Prisoner looks weakly into the Man’s eyes as if there was answer locked away, but the Prisoner asks nothing and the Man says nothing.
FIRST CYMBAL CRASH
Measure 1 & 2: As our Prisoner sits in despair, we see small, millisecond flash frames of his memories and his life before he was taken prisoner. Mostly flashes of a woman’s face. Our Prisoner also sees a hazy memory of a young manwith his father. But the memories are cloudy, few, and far between.
He looks ahead of him and sees the door to his freedom come into focus, a hand written sign telling him simply to, “WALK.”
He looks to his shackles. And back to the door.
TOM FILLS: *Denial*
1st measure: Our Prisoner is beginning his journey to understand, and so he rises. He takes a small step forward but stops, suddenly overcome with a sense of the familiar. Our prisoner turns his head to see…
2nd Measure: The Woman appears in the prison like a ghost, standing behind him, seductively running her hand along his cheek and jawline. Our Prisoner is overcome by the memory and for a moment, we fall completely into the memory with him.
Cut to: 3rd Measure:Exterior daylight
Memories of our prisoner with The Woman play for us. (ex: Our prisoner and the woman are sitting in a sunlit study drinking coffee surrounded by old books. Everything has an out of focus, slightly distorted, and iris flared feel to it. We show the two standing in front the house he built for them. We show them at a funeral where she grips his shoulder tightly(CU) comforting him with his father’s picture on the casket )these are all beautiful memories for him, and a much needed solace from his entrapment. We fade out.
4th measure: Our Prisoner comes back , and the shackles set into his wrists once again. CU of The Woman’s face as she blows him a kiss and disappears before our eyes. We can see on his face that he is a bit shaken. He shrugs it off and resolves to search his surroundings.
HI HAT FILLS:
Measures 1 & 2: Our Prisoner notices large wooden crates spread about the room. The boxes are easily within his reach so naturally he tries to open it, but to no avail. Our prisoner looks to the man who holds the pocket watch, who returns his stare with only a grim smile. The Man looks down to the watch, then back up. He slides one finger under the lid of the box, and opens it to reveal a jug of water which he uses to refill the pitcher. The water is the only representation of giving life, in a dusty old timeless prison.
The Man looks to our Prisoner and flashes him the familiar grin.
3rd Measure: *Anger*
The two men share a long stare. We can see on his face that our prisoner is growing weary of this game. His frustration with his situation grows stronger. Memories of anger from his former life come to his mind, an argument with the Woman (quick closeups). He antagonizes the Man as if he has been in on some sick joke this whole time. He shows a more dominating or perhaps desperate side of himself.
Suddenly our prisoner begins to furiously question the man who holds the pocketwatch, demanding answers and crying out insults, but the Man will not speak, he only grins and checks his pocket watch. “To hell with him,” our Prisoner thinks as he punches toward him stretching his chains. He punches a time or two more curious about its effect on the pole.
5th Measure (the 1…2’s)He turns and examines the point where his chains are bolted to the wood. Our prisoner pulls the chains and tries to see if the wood would give. Gradually, he tests the strength of the wood eventually giving a driving blow splinters the wood a small amount. The Prisoner understands. Wooden poles can be broken, steel can be bent. He slaps his hand against the wooden pole where one chain is attached. There is only one way out, his only chance is to break free.
Our prisoner looks from his confines to the door. He grips his chains tightly and wraps them around his wrists and forearms slowly. His face determined. He plants his foot, closes his eyes and pleads to The Woman, “Please…”
We see more of the Woman and his adult life through his memories. She is beginning to become clearer in his mind. They embrace themselves in front of the house he built for her.
a bank where he got the loan to get the house. CU of men shaking hands.
We see an CU of letter in a mailbox with the couple and house in the background,.Unknowingly giving him strength, his memories are powerful as they are his only motivation for wanting to be free. The life he has built is his shelter that protects him from the world’s evils, and his own demons. And he will not let that be taken away. Once again, our prisoner braces for the pain as he raises his chain wrapped forearms and we build into the jam.
FLOOR TOM/SNARE BUILD
ROTATING TRACK SHOTS open chorus BIG MONTAGE
Shows passage of time as the man tries again and again to break free. Each pass of the frame goes between the prison and his memories. Each time, the memories become seemingly more distorted but more in focus, and a little bit longer showing more to the story. They are angry in the study room, another letter in the mailbox,shots of him stressed, and at the funeral he looks at the hand on his shoulder with confusion, there is no longer a picture on the casket. Occasionally show the recurring shot of planting the foot, each time with a bigger layer of dust shaping his foot, signifying how many times he has done this. He struggles against the chains over and over. Every so often the Man will look at his watch, and serve our Prisoner the water accordingly.
The montage continues and we see the effects of confinement on our Prisoner, his hair and beard grow long, his body becomes overcome by the sweat, scars, and dirt, he tries over and over again and again only to fail and be fed the water by the man who holds the pocketwatch.
Last run of 2: Our prisoner, once more resolved, plants his foot, and takes to his chains with deadly force. We see blood trickling down his wrists as the shackles cut in. As he struggles we see the wood begin to tear/bend only a little, giving us hope, but no resolution. It could have been the one, but alas he falls to the floor.
We fade out.
Fade in: *Depression*
Long darkness before we fade in on our prisoner, his forehead to the floor. Quick racks in and out show the despair of our prisoner as he wrestles with the idea of succumbing to his fate.
We see the prisoner sitting on a bed looking very sad. He closes his eyes and we see small shots of the Woman again. He smiles a sad grin. We show the mailbox again, the look of the shot seems darker, and there is a lot of mail left in the mailbox. Yet our prisoner at that time, just kept that sad grin.
He looks at his shackles and back to the man who hold the pocket watch. The seconds tick by as our prisoner waits for him to bring him the water, which he does, and our prisoner accepts.
WE see quick cuts of his life and memories and him wrestling with his prison position. He slams his head to the floor, CU;s of a single tear shed for a life he left behind and a life yet to be lived. Intimate CU memories of the woman and shots of the prison transition in and out as our Prisoner, almost defeated begins to resolve once more. Build it.
SNARE BUILDS *Acceptance*
CU’s flash in and out and we can see the look of understanding on our prisoners face. He sees Her in his mind and he knows that he is not being held captive, no…Somehow this prison is one he has designed for himself. Not only can he escape, there was never another option. His life and his memories give him the strength to persevere, but he has to earn it. He wraps the chains around his wrist. He furrows his brow. He plants his foot. Fade shot as the bass drum brings us in.
Our prisoner once more takes to his chains. He struggles harder, grits his teeth, as the chains dig deeper into his wrists, which have become scabbed and scarred throughout his stay. His eyes wide and heart racing, he screams for victory, but the chains do not budge. Yet neither does our prisoner, instead of falling to his knees, for the first time he remains standing, pacing, and undeterred.
Our Prisoner is frustrated, restless, and desperate. He lashes out. He shouts at the man who holds the pocketwatch. Pacing, throwing his arms (as far as is possible) through the air, exclaiming the ludicrousness of his predicament. The man who holds the pocket watch simply watches on, grins, and checks the time. The Man takes our Prisoner a glass of water, but he violently knocks it to the ground, then turns to the water crates.
Our prisoner begins to grab every crate within reach and throw them to the ground. Any reachable part of his environment must be destroyed. If he can’t destroy his confines he’ll destroy everything else. Slow motion shots of water dispersing as he breaks a crate onto one of the poles he is chained to. He screams to the heavens in agony and futility as the water rushes over him.
Our Prisoner is now soaked. His sweat is no longer discernible, the water has washed away the dirt and he is reborn. His long matted hair shakes down to his sides and we see closeups of water dripping down his face. He breathes heavily. He sees the destruction he has wrought, but also sees that he is still confined. The man who holds the pocket watch smiles and checks the time. We don’t know if it is an ominous smile or an encouraging one. Regardless, our prisoner’s eyes look more harrowed and dedicated than ever.
Our Prisoner begins to stand. The hardcore jam in the background seems to give him a strength we have not seen before. His memories flash in and out faster. Shots over his back as the screen flashes in and out. Close ups of his eyes and brow furrowing. He wraps the chains around his wrists. He plants his foot in its familiar imprint, only this time, the cracking brick caves beneath his toes a bit, displaying his determination (and giving him good leverage lol J )
Chorus/build to crazy bends.
The man is struggling harder than ever. We can see the wood beginning to crack. The chains are beginning to stretch. The look on his face more determined than before. He struggles with every fiber of his being. His memories play on the screen for us to see, his motivation. He slips on the second measure as he feels the bolts of steel begin to move. He’s on his knees, and we see him cast his last farewell to his prison. (CU) He clenches his fist dragging the dust underneath his fingers nails and leaving a message for the next poor soul. He launches himself from the floor and rages one last battle cry. Take to the chains…
Quick snare 1,2’s build
The shots fade in and out with the music as our Prisoner continues the flight. Memories flash in and out giving him strength, reminding him of why he lives, why he must escape. The shots and light fade in and out with the background guitar. CU’s of his eyes show a beastly determination as beads of water run down. The bolts begin to give way, the wood is cracking. One last struggle before…
The poles explode sending splinters flying through the air in slow motion. The debris falls around our prisoner, completing his mastery of the prison and illustrating the relief that comes with every struggle. The man who holds the pocket watch drops the glass and pitcher. We see it shatter on the floor in slow motion. Our Prisoner falls to the floor as the debris falls around him.
With the opening note we see the chains hit the floor back in regular speed. The man looks at his hands and realizes he has earned his freedom. He looks to the man who holds the pocket watch, who returns his gaze with a simple smile.
Our prisoner, now free, reaches for the handle of the door he has walked all this way to. A blinding light is cast over him as he steps outside…
The light fades revealing Our Prisoner, now free, dressed in black walking through a sun-lit cemetery toward an unmarked grave. The shadows of willow branches draped across his face, slowly recede into light as he approaches the headstone. (Denial) We see the memories play back, but this time they are extended.(Anger) The sunlight study scene is now a full-fledged fight in their home. (Bargaining). The mailbox is overflowing with bills. The house he built for them brought only stress, debt, and exasperation. and he seen sitting at the bank with his head down, just spaced out, while the banker just rambles on.
(Depression) As he comes upon the grave, he feels the comfort of a small hand squeeze his shoulder, he looks back to the see the Woman’s beautiful face there to greet him. We see a flashback shot of a different hand on the same shoulder. Our Prisoner looks up to see his father’s face. As we realize the funeral we thought was his fathers. Is actually The Woman’s funeral with his father’s arm on his shoulder and her picture on the casket. The Woman appears before him on the grave. They look into each other’s eyes and we can see the pain that always sat behind his eyes melts away. The Woman gives our Free Man, a quirky smile of reassurance as she fades out of frame along with his grief. He puts a rose on the grave and walks away. (Acceptance)
I made a set of constraints before writing this piece.
Sometimes limitation breeds inspiration.
- Every sentence must begin with a form of the word “you,” telling the story in the 2nd person.
- Every paragraph must be exactly 5 sentences long.
- Every paragraph must be exactly 50 words.
- 1,500 word minimum (1,650 actual)
The Diner –
You walk into a diner one night, feeling lonely, desperate and broke. You’re searching for the connection that will make the night just a little more worth it. You sit down at a table for two expecting no one to sit. You wait. You know she will be here tonight.
You think maybe she’ll be too busy to see you. You think maybe she won’t. You realize that maybe this was the worst idea you’ve ever had. You think maybe not. You pretend that for a moment that this might actually work. You get up and walk out the door.
You make it half way through the parking lot before stopping. You turn your head back towards the diner and reconsider. You know she’s in there so what are you waiting for? You pause for a moment longer before turning around and continuing to walk away. You’re not ready yet.
Your stomach is growling at you. You need to listen to it. You think of how many days you’ve spent walking the town with nothing in your belly. You’re only a few days away from getting it together. You tell yourself it can’t be that much longer until you die.
You are the epitome of revolting. You have hair that mats to your face because you haven’t washed in a week. You smell like the old garbage you ate last Tuesday. You’re a fool for ever thinking that she would help you. You can barely help yourself. You’re a waste.
You realize now that there is no God. You don’t know who you’re going to pray to every night from now on. You used to blame yourself for choices you made. You used to ask for help because you thought you could be helped. You now know you can’t be.
You’ve spent most your time walking the street corners and wondering where the fix is. You’ve spent the rest looking through a diner window trying to find salvation. You’ve burned holes in the clothes that you wear. You’ve burned bridges with everyone you knew. Your hope has burned with it.
You are scared. You’re scared that you might die and there won’t be anyone waiting for you at the end of the tunnel. You’re scared that there won’t be a tunnel. You’re afraid of being alone at your own funeral. You know that there probably won’t even be a funeral.
You reach the bridge where you have decided to sleep. You lay among the cardboard and the trash to keep warm in the winter night. You click your heels together. You say there’s no place like home if there was only one to go to. You’re fighting a fruitless war.
You awake the next day to a grinding trench of a tightening stomach. You lay still and wincing until you have relief. You’re caught between the tightening rope and the wobbling chair. You wish it would just fall and be done. You wish that someone, anyone, would cut or kick.
Your pain is the resin in the pipe of your existence. You’ve been used up and left behind for strangers to scrape and use again. You can’t shake the notion that some lives aren’t worth living. You’re begging for strength amidst dire circumstance. You are so fucking tired of begging.
You stand against the cold wind and wrap yourself with tattered rags. Your gloves are torn from fingernails cutting and piercing cheap woolen stitches. Your hands are the portraits of fires extinguished too late. You are the dark that is the darkest before the dawn. You are a fucking cliché.
You begin to walk with the wind at your back. You have nowhere to go. It’s best not to be cold while getting there. You glance back at your life and decide its best left where it is, in the past. You can’t go back no matter hard you try.
You head towards the diner not sure of what to do. You know that when you get there, you’ll only stare in wishing to stare out. You long to be inside. You know that nothing is stopping you, nothing but your shame. You still have your dignity, but not enough.
You pass the regulars, the routiners, you call them. You see them getting gas at the station across the street. You see them drive away in cars that you’ll never own. You see them pour their pity on you from behind their safe rolled up windows. You don’t want it.
You wouldn’t know what to do if someone were to rescue you. You can only be rescued for so long before you have to stand up again. You’ve had a long time to think about it. You don’t really want another life. You only want to look into the diner.
You see her serving a table of men. You could be them. Your regret is swallowing the hunger that keeps driving at you until you can’t feel it anymore. Your hands rest on the window sill of your salvation. You feel the cold hard brick that blocks you from it.
You ask a man entering for a cigarette. You hate yourself for it. You take the cancer with dirty portrait hands as he hurries himself inside. You know that you would be scared of you too. You’d think of all the things that you could have that you wouldn’t want.
Your sickness is one that cannot be healed. You knew that before you became the self that you are now. You are the immaculate conception of disease and misfortune. You are the ninth wonder of a world that’s forgotten humility. You’re already dead in all the ways that still count.
You see your reflection in the window of the diner, but you don’t see yourself. You see the ghost who haunts ditches of the living. You see the bodies of the dead that you have stolen from. You see the carcasses of others like you. You will soon become them.
You look down and see bare feet on bare pavement. You know you should feel it, but your feet grew numb long ago. You look back to the diner to see the men being served staring out of your window. You stare back. You imagine them dead at your feet.
You’ve felt this before. You see the blood filling your eyes in your reflection. You feel your hands gripping into fists, digging into the red brick window sill. You know that soon those men will get up and come out into the lot. You know that you can’t control it.
You wait at the window until dark. You see the men still sitting at the table. You see the fear in their eyes as they watch you watch them. You see one slipping bills to the waitress the longer they sit. You know that soon, the bills will run out.
You have something that they don’t. You have nothing. You have no place to go or reason for doing so, and so you wait. You see them getting nervous as the diner begins to close. You see the scales holding your life and theirs tipping slowly into an equal measure.
Your self-loathing gives way to their loathing as you heave a sigh and walk away. You feign defeat and tip your invisible hat toward the victors of this petty game. You know the best part is their insecurity. You smile your first smile in weeks. Your anticipation is almost overwhelming.
You feel them get up. You feel them walk out. You feel the men looking around and over their shoulders for the danger that could be you. You’re glad they are the only ones still in the diner. You’re in the back of the big red pickup they drove in.
You imagine their surprise. You jumping in from the back window and ripping their tonsils through their necks. You, taking their wallets with their credit cards and petty ones and fives. You, finding their homes with their licenses and taking the rest. You in their showers stealing their very foundations.
You open your eyes to starry skies as you rush along in the truck bed. You’re waiting for your opportunity. You turn onto your stomach and feel the cool metal through holes in your shirt. You’d feel bad for them if you still had the capacity. You, however, do not.
You poise for the moment you strike. You feel the weight of the truck urging you forward as it lunges toward destiny. You can feel the blood pulsing through your eyes and your veins. Your adrenaline is racing through your brain. You’re going to lose it if you don’t hurry.
You’re so close to providence you can hear the angels whispering in your ear. You can almost feel the warmth of pickled skin and blood on your hands. You’re drunk on the endorphins flooding your head. You reach for the glass and find the latch. You are almost there now.
You wake up in the diner sitting at a table for two. You’re not sure if anyone will sit. You’re wearing a black suit with your hair cut short. You recognize the room, but can’t remember where from. You look at your hands and see blood under neatly cut fingernails.
You look for the waitress that you don’t know why you know. You find her counting tips by the register. You wave her over and ask her how long you have been here. You tell her you must have fallen asleep. You’ve said it a lot over the past year.
You hear her tell you that you’ve only been here five minutes. You look outside and see a big red pickup parked by the window. You stare at your reflection. You recognize the man you see all too well. You get up to walk out and leave the diner behind.