by Geoff Sebesta
Stop reading right now and make a paper airplane.
this is a story about imaginary monsters
1. EXT. BUS STOP SHELTER IN WINTER, DAY
There’s a valentine lying in a pile of melting snow by the bus stop. It’s the kind that your parents used to buy in a box from the store, and you gave one to everybody in class. It’s from Aaron to Stephanie.
From this we may deduce that today is February the fifteenth.
And, therefore, Wednesday.
Andy thinks of this as he waits for the bus.
His eyes wander over a penny on the road.
But he picks it up anyway.
Some people come to the bus stop.
Andy slithers onto the roof, bringing his backpack with him. He lies on top and four women and a pastor come and sit under him.
Ok, there’s a seventeen year old girl. And she wants to borrow the car. So she asks her dad, Dad, can I have the car tonight?
OK, he says, you can have the car, but first you have to suck my dick.
Eww, DAD! That’s disGUSTing!
Come on, Dad! I really need the car!
And I need a blow job.
That’s my final word.
Well, she says, OK.
So she gets down on her hands and knees, and her dad unzips his pants.
EWW, GROSS! DAD, there’s SHIT all over it!
Oh, I forgot. Your brother has the car.
Andy lies on top the shelter, sunning himself like a lizard.
The bus comes. Everybody gets on. Andy slides off behind them and they don’t notice.
The ladies show bus passes and sit in the back. Andy pays cash and sits directly behind the driver. First Andy tucks his bag under the seat. Then he climbs under the seat too.
The people never saw him, and the bus driver forgot him before he ever took his eyes off him.
The bus rides.
INSIDE> Port Authority> New York City
The bus parks. People debark. While the pastor talks to the driver you see the emergency window silently open and close.
OUTSIDE> Apartment building roof> New York City
Andy built himself a little squat on the roof, in a secluded corner, behind the elevator machine room. The superintendent hasn’t been up here all winter, either. Andy has a lawn chair under a tarp, with some plants and a view of the Empire State Building.
He unzips his backpack and upends it on the roof and a pile of cans of dog food falls out. Andy chisels them open with a Leatherman pocket tool and dumps the goop inside on the roof.
Now, most people don’t know that packs of wild dogs roam the roofs of New York City.
But they do.
They climb the fire stairs, cross the other roofs, and crawl out skylights. Andy feeds a million mutts every night. While they eat he plays the harmonica. Andy plays the “Can’t Help It If I’m Lucky Blues.”
Andy reads the stars on their paws and the notches in their ears, finds his fortune for the next day. They are his friends, his horoscope, his weather.
The dogs bark.
Because that’s what dogs do.
INSIDE> Stadium Warehouse
Where the crowd roars:
RAH! RAH! RAH!
The football field takes up the whole warehouse floor. The officials and announcers stand on the dais in the center, which is sort of like a wedding cake and sort of like a pagoda. The crowd, mostly monkeys and eskimos and sea trolls, dangles above the playing floor from ropes spun through the rafters, and they bleat and hiss and kick each other more than they watch the game. But every kind of audience is here; tuberculoid bird-men that cough blood (and strychnine firewater) on the swamp orcs, who snap their toplocks and drink fermented penguin milk from a tied-off reindeer gut, and the human and hobbit and the occasional blue elf all ask to kiss Lucinda’s pet troll, who has not eaten in three years, and loves to dance.
The rain drums its fingers on the roof.
The announcer, a pink hippopotamus that stands on two feet, pebbly hide swathed in the blackest silk, with a red sash and cummerbund, he sniffs, adjusts his monocle, and whacks his cane against his black leather jackboot. He clears his throat and bellows:
[a mellow roar, echoed by those other three hippopotamuses behind him]
FORor THEe KOBOLDSolds!
BARONar SIRs BOGGERTert THEe REDed!
And the lemurs beat the temple drum.
Sir Boggert slides down a rope like a sailor and falls the last ten feet onto his team, who effortlessly catch him.
Baron Sir Boggert’s a dun little dog man, about yay high, with a scarlet uniform and a spiked helmet made of a turtle’s shell.
The crowd goes insane.
The Baron’s men huddle. There can be only eleven Kobolds on the field at a time and the rest of them, and there’s like two hundred of them, with pads on and ready to go, perched on a jib that’s slung from another jib. Their uniforms have three digit numbers.
FORor THEe ZOMBIESies,
Bargazoul, the voodoo shaman, rattles his seven-foot snake stick. At his command dead hands thrust from the ground, and ten zombies claw from the uneasy earth. Their uniforms are tattered and torn, and they have negative numbers on them.
The dogmen salute the zombies. Then the zombies salute the dogmen. Then the hippos sing the national anthem.
R. BOGGERT, KNIGHT OF THE EAST
Oh, Dame Fortune~ We, the Kirby Tucker Gang, do beseech thee. Help us in this, our game of American Football.
Farewell, my friends. Farewell.
Up on the dais lemurs cast stones and divine the I Ching. They debate, then send the oldest and wisest to tell the hippos:
We are wise monkeys, wise monkey are we. Thus is so and this we see:
45. Ts'ui - Gathering Together [Massing]
above Tui, The Joyous, Lake
below K'un, The Receptive, Earth
Gathering Together. Success.
The king approaches his temple.
It furthers one to see the great man.
This brings success. Perseverance furthers.
To bring great offerings creates good fortune.
It furthers one to undertake something.
The zombies kick off. The kicker, dead skin sewn onto his bony foot, boots the grey leather football high and right. It grazes the audience and carnivorous apes swipe at it, but it dodges them and you see the football is actually an octopus and it wants to get away.
The octopus comes down and Kobold catches it. The octopus catches him and eats his head. Two dogmen grab them and drag the feeding octopus down the field. Dogmen are fast. Zombies are slow. Even though they have to go around the dais the Kobolds get the ball to the Zombie’s forty, but when the teams meet the zombies pull their heads off and eat them. Down on the thirty-eight and the referee, a little kid with a Monster Manual, blows the whistle and play ends.
The ref takes a ruler and folds the octopus back into shape.
Boggert pumps his fist three times.
Three more Kobolds slide down to the field.
They line up for the first down. But before the ball is hiked a zombie grabs a dogman and chews through his ribs.
Offsides, defense! Five yards!
The noseguard gurgles and dies.
Boggert pumps his fist and another dogman slides down.
Ready, hup! They hike the octopus, who wraps more tightly around itself. Boggert hands off to the halfback and they crash left, finds a hole so #706 can dive through. But a zombie tags Boggert’s ankle, almost breaks it, down with a twenty yard gain and only the whistle saves his life.
Next play the dogmen run.
I mean, flee. They scatter.
Baron Sir Boggert backpedals to forty, bends left, and wings it at #513, who’s wide open on the enemy’s twenty but does not see the throw because he’s running for his life. And the toss would miss, but the octopus throws out a tentacle and grabs the dogman’s neck.
The octopus eats #513's face.
Boggert pumps his fist again.
The zombies get pissed.
The dogmen go for the two point conversion. They line up for a pass and get ready, but hup, hey, look at that quarterback sneak! #020 grabs a zombie’s elbow, braces against another zombie’s knee, and arches his back to give Baron Sir Boggert room to slide under him with the struggling ball at the cost of #020's life. Boggert gets one toe in the endzone, throws the octopus in a zombie’s face, ducks through two more, and shimmys straight up the goalpost. The zombies try to shake him down but he holds on for dear life. They eat all the other Kobolds, then go back to their line.
Baron Sir Boggert sighs pumps his fist ten times, and prays for someone who can kick.
INSIDE> Telemarketing Office> Sales Floor
Clint makes a paper airplane.
Hi, Rick! This is Clint McFaul; good evening, sir. I’m calling you on behalf of the New Jersey State Fraternal Order of Police. Now, sir, your F.O.P. wants to wish you, and your family, a safe and happy holiday season, but, sir, this important call today, Rick, is to let you know that the BIG statewide ANTI-DRUNK DRIVING campaign is going on right now. Your F.O.P. wants to remind you to please buckle up for safety, always use seat belts, and most importantly, DON’T LET YOUR FRIENDS or RELATIVES DRINK and DRIVE. It KILLS, Rick, and it takes innocent lives. Now, Rick, to thank you for getting involved, you’re gonna get the brand new 2003 Fraternal Order of Police decal. Please, display it proudly; let people know how you feel about drinking and driving. Now, Rick, I want to tell you; a lot of residents are helping out the program with forty-five, thirty-five, or just twenty-five dollars. Rick, what can the F.O.P. count on YOU for? Can you reach up and grab the gold, Rick, the forty-five? Or would the silver and the bronze be easier for you? It’s just twenty-five. That’s great, Rick, that’s so generous of you, no, believe me; whatever you can give is great, it all helps so much and it’s for such a good cause. Now, I have to transfer you to our records department; they’re the ones who actually send out the pledge kit, so you have to talk to them for just a second, but hold on, and once again, thank you so much, Rick. You have a happy and safe holiday.
Clint hits a key, rests for approximately twenty seconds, and says that again. The office is full of people saying that exact same thing.
OUTSIDE> The Arctic
A fat man walks across a glacier. The glacier is big. The man is small. He climbs cliffs and tracks vast plains and fist-fights polar bears. He walks a ridge to the edge of the ice, where a satellite has fallen into the snow.
He takes out a toolbox and fixes the satellite.
It beams this message into outer space:
The wind whips at him.
He looks up in fear.
And black helicopters come straight out of the sun.
The camera runs away from them.
The camera flies straight out over the ocean. It plunges across the the South Pacific, skates under the African sun and takes a left turn into Carribean rain, t-bones Florida and skims the beach north all the way, so low you can see the night swimmers and sharks, the tired tourists walking home and the bums sleeping on the beach.
Something catches your eye, down on South Daytona Beach.
A glow-in-the-dark plastic star, about as big as a potato chip, half buried in the sand.
And there’s another one.
In fact, there’s a trail.
OUTSIDE> South Daytona Beach> Night
The trail of stars lead across the sandy lot between the Sea Gulf Motel and the Palm Breeze Day-Inn, which is fenced off to the road but open to the beach. Follow the trail down the sand to a bed of rushes under the fence, to the soft grasses beneath a scrawny tree, where at night Kimmi lays down her sleeping bag and sleeps.
The sun rises.
The stars go out.
Daylight rumbles over the dunes. Kimmi wakes of a sudden, as if from a strange dream; the kind where you do things you wouldn’t normally do.
She swims in the ocean every morning. She showers in a beach shower, dresses and puts on her shoes. Then she crosses the road and goes to Denny’s. The waitress is nice to her and Kimmi gives her an orange from her backpack.
Kimmi spends two hours there, sipping water and reading every page of the paper. Then she goes outside and walks north. All day she walks and reads. She rests when she’s tired and she eats when she’s hungry.
She walks so far down the beach, then circles back around, and as the sun sets she comes back to Denny’s from the south. Kimmi takes an apron from her backpack, puts it on, pins a nametag to it, and then she goes inside and clocks in.
She works the night shift. She serves coffee to tourists and drunks, and she remembers the dream from the night before:
Deep down Daytona Beach there’s another big hotel under construction. Thirty stories tall and ten units wide, it’s still only a hotel skeleton, nothing but floor and pillar, without a wall to cut a window in. The ocean’s roar fills it like a living thing, and the waves growl louder when the moon drags them up the shore. The electricians haven’t put in a wire yet, but on the second floor there is one room. Enclosed, hermetic, perfect, this hotel has only one room – the model apartment.
INSIDE> The Model Apartment
On the third floor they built a room to impress prospective customers. A honeymoon suite: walls, water and electricity, a waterbed, a hot tub for four. They have expensive neon tropical fish, deep carpet, mood lighting, scented soap. In the refrigerator, ham sandwiches and infinite booze.
They sneak past the security guard, lost in his lottery tickets, and they jimmy the door with their cancelled credit cards. They fuck, for hours, and tear the sheets. Then they do it again. They leave the balcony open and the ocean’s roar can’t drown them out. They wear cowboy boots. They leave footprints on the wall. She swings from the chandelier. And breaks it. But the next day it’s fixed. Because the construction company thinks the sales team did it. The salesmen throw parties in here all day, and usually it’s half-trashed when Kimmi and Andy get there. And no matter what they do, when the cleaning service comes in the next morning they fix it. And the accountants bury it on an itemized bill.
At night Kimmi and Andy trash the room again.
INSIDE> Telemarketing Office
Clint, stoned, looks at the schedule.
CLINT McFAUL, 5:00 to 9:00.
He looks at the clock.
It says 4:40.
So Clint chills out and watches the other telemarketers. Mike, the guy who sits behind him today, speaks up and says:
Hello. Hello, Winnifred. This is Carlos Pomona calling on behalf of the New Jersey State Fraternal Order of Police and Winnifred, the FOP wants to thank you for your past generosity and say, Winnifred. Winnifred. Are you there? Winnifred. What a stupid name. Hey, James. Did you hear that? Winnifred.
Winnifred. What a stupid name.
OK, folks, heads up! We’re rolling straight back into NJFP16TC. This is a good list, a solid list, but there’re a lot of you who are not disposing of calls correctly. Use BOTH rebuttals on every call. If their husband isn’t home, get the wife for ten dollars. If she doesn’t buy, hit F5; we have a lot of people hitting F3 on calls that should be F5. It clutters up the list.
And remember you’re professionals, people. Be courteous and polite.
Bob knows the rules. Let’s hear it for Bob.
And at that moment Clint takes off his headset and walks the fuck out of there forever.
Clint! Back on the phones!
...back in a minute...
And Clint goes down the stairs and out the door.
INSIDE> Telemarketing Office
Reginald Denny looks down on the street, and watches Clint walk away. Reginald Denny, once a star of silent films, played Algy Longworth in the popular Bulldog Drummond film series. He also had a major role in the Adam West Batman movie, and flew the first remote controlled model airplane in America. Now he has prolonged his life by satanic means and, for his own hellish and inscrutable reasons, exists only to ruin Clint McFaul.
Denny glides across the office, resplendent in a wind-whipped black cape, and gives Mike a crisp new ten-dollar bill.
What’s that for?
Did I win the sales contest?
Mike, that’s just for being you.
OUTSIDE> Streets, night
Clint goes out the door and crosses the street.
Black helicopters follow him in perfect silence.
And now we see as Reginald Denny wrecks Clint’s life most insidiously. First Denny makes the bus late. Because the bus was late Clint misses the train. While Clint has to wait for the next train Denny uses a sophisticated holograph projector to create an image of a Newark cop who stands directly behind Clint and stares at the back of his neck. When Clint looks at the cop, the cop looks away. Then he looks back again.
Clint goes home. Actually Andy’s home, but Clint has a key.
INSIDE> Andy’s Place
Viola, Clint’s girlfriend, is there when Clint comes in.
Hi! Gotta go.
They kiss. Exit Viola.
Clint leaves the lights off. He eats pizza, packs a bowl, and watches wrestling.
Clint smokes and strums his guitar.
The phone rings.
LITTLE KID [on phone]
Did you know your phone number spells 744 - S H I T !!!
Ya ha ha ha ha!
Yes, I did know that.
Clint watches wrestling.
OUTSIDE> On Andy’s roof
Reginald Denny cuts the cable with a ivory-handled bowie knife, a souvenir from his film “Bulldog Drummond’s Peril.”
INSIDE> Andy’s place
The TV goes off. Clint sits for a while, strumming the guitar aimlessly. Then, for lack of anything better to do, he takes a shower.
Reginald Denny sneaks in the window and steals exactly five dollars from his wallet. Denny does that every night.
The doorbell rings.
OUTSIDE> Andy’s door
Clint (in a bathrobe) answers the door.
Good evening, sir! Would the primary cable subscriber for this building be home, please?
That would be me.
Good evening, sir. Did you know...someone is STEALING your cable?
[waves at the wall with clipboard]
Yes, sir. It’s true. Look, sir, here –
[waves at clipboard with pen]
We could cut them off right now, sir. I know how, honest.
[takes off baseball cap]
You cut it off?
We could! You could come with me! And I can give you forms if you want to press charges.
No, I don’t think so. I prefer to resolve this problem internally.
Thank you anyway.
Yeah... thanks too...
Clint closes the door.
The cable guy shakes his head, and then he climbs on the roof to investigate.
There he finds the cables that Reginald Denny sliced.
Reginald Denny leaps from the darkness and sinks his fangs into the cable guy’s throat, like a man biting into an apple.
Andy walks down the sidewalk. He finds his keys. He unlocks the door. He walks into the apartment RIGHT UNDER THE MURDERER.
From inside the apartment you hear Andy yell;
INSIDE> Coffee Shop> Night
Clint, Andy, and Kimmi drink coffee. And a lot of it. A woman reads some kind of awful poetry on stage. Clint and Andy and Kimmi try to pay attention, respect her artistic integrity, stuff like that. But someone giggles.
It’s at times like this, when I’m at this crossroads, that I ask myself this question. I ask myself just four little letters.
W. W. Mr. T. D.?
What Would Mister T Do?
And I know the answer.
He would pity the fools.
So, I pity the fools.
The poet on stage says;
If you look on that table over there you’ll see some nice flowers that I brought, they’re all nicely arranged. And they’re free. You can have one if you want one. There’s also some little sketchbooks, and colored pencils, so if you want to you can write down anything you want to or draw or something, but the catch is I get to keep it. and look at it and read it. Well, not really keep it. If you want it back just write a note in it or something with your address and I’ll find a way to get it back to you. But they’re free...they’re right there...you just have to walk in front of the crowd to get them...and now I’d like to read a poem about a monkey. A-hrmmp. OK. Here I go.
CLINT, KIMMI, and ANDY
THAT FUN-KY MON-KEY
THAT FUN-KY MON-KEY
Well, actually this goes on for a quite a while, actually, things get rowdy, Kimmi and Andy clink their coffee mugs and they refuse to settle down. The poet leaves quickly. The next victims take the stage.
But wait! Those people up there... they’re no poets! They have a fiddle! And, an accordion! And... congas!
Clint, Andy, and Kimmi; their eyes shine.
The band, the Yellow House Players, tune up.
And then there is a miracle.
Because the Yellow House Players can actually play.
Andy, Kimmi, and Clint bang the table in time, stomp their feet, hoot and holler. The Yellow House Players get into it. Kimmi and Andy get up and dance. A conga line forms. And everybody congas around the coffee shop.
Now as this happens, you see things out of the corner of your eye. Someone on the production team has been sneaking little notes into the camera frame. Not many, and not often. But out of the corner of your eye you see them. The actors do not see them. But you see them. The notes repeat themselves, randomly. Here they are, in the order they first appear:
A really loud bar. Clint and Kimmi and Andy play pool and shout at each other, but they can’t hear anything.
Kickers have such shitty jobs.
Predictions of failure.
Yes, elbow bay.
I represent the ego.
I represent the moose.
I listen to Carlos Santana.
They drink. They play. And you can see these little notes that say:
As they go, Reginald Denny, who has been there all along, follows them.
Andy, Kimmi, and Clint stumble down streets, drunk as hell, and wander through the World Trade Center to catch the PATH and the subway.
INSIDE> World Trade Center Path Station> Escalators
They stand at the top of that humongous escalator bank of twenty escalators. The escalators are just sitting around, pointlessly spinning, going up and going down for four stories, and there’s nobody on them at all.
Clintt, Kimmi, and Andy choose their escalators.
Then they race to the bottom.
I don’t know who wins.
It isn’t important.
At the bottom they say goodbye and Kimmi takes the escalator back up to the subway. Clint and Andy take the PATH to Newark.
Reginald Denny follows them onto the train. Andy and Clint are oblivious. There are only those three people on this train and even then they don’t notice him.
Andy pulls drum sticks out of his parka pocket and taps out a trip rhythm on the safety bar.
De da da da...
Reginald Denny draws a silver harmonica from his cape. With a wisp of wicked air he drawls out a wicked blues. Andy and Denny begin this accidental duet, and it impresses the hell out of Clint.
hhHey, man. Nice cummerbund. What is that? That’s a cummerbund. Bet that catches all sorts of food. Hah. Food. I remember food.
Seen it on TV!
Like Mister T!
The T will set you free!
Now that he’s inspired, Clint busts an immediate move. He freestyles ferociously. Andy beatboxes. Reginald Denny plays rhythm harmonica.
Train stops. Clint and Andy debark, the old man stays. Denny hooks Clint’s wallet as he leaves.
The train leaves.
Cut to black.
Where to, honored sir?
59th and 2nd. Pronto!
INSIDE> Subway system
Kimmi rides the subway.
Waits for the subway.
Waits. There’s nobody in the station except for two big fat bald gay guys; Aldo lo Curio and Adolph Delph. The subway comes and they get on. Just as the doors are about to close someone comes running down the stairs.
GUY RUNNING DOWN THE STAIRS
Hey, hold it! Hold it!
But the guy stops short and does not get on the train.
GUY WHO WAS RUNNING DOWN THE STAIRS
[in a curious tone of voice]
Oh. Never mind.
INSIDE> Subway car
Kimmi, Aldo, and Adolph think nothing of it. Nor do they notice the other person on the subway, who is Reginald Denny. The doors close and they pull away.
Denny serenades her with the harmonica.
She pays him no mind.
The sign on the train says, STATEN ISLAND SUBWAY.
OUTSIDE> Outside Andy’s place
Coming down the street they sing;
ANDY and CLINT
No-never, no more!
Though I’ve been a wild ro-ver
OUTSIDE> Stairs to Andy’s place
For many a yeaarr!
And spent all my money
On whis-key, and beerrr!
OUTSIDE> Andy’s door
No-never, no more!
Though I’ve been a wild ro-ver...
Andy unlocks the door. Clint goes inside. Andy goes inside. Andy’s shadow stops, and looks around. The coast is clear. Andy’s shadow steps off the bottom of Andy’s feet and scampers down the stairs.
INSIDE> Andy’s place
Andy turns on all the lights. This place is really nice. Soft light fills the place, keeps it shadow-free. Books and pictures cover the room so thick you could read this apartment like a comic.
Andy devoted one wall to his old dog, Roo. Candles burn on the shrine.
Cable’s still out.
They’re on to us. See you tomorrow.
Andy goes into his room and shuts the door. Clint lies on the futon and falls asleep with a televangelist on TV. The televangelist is the fat man from Antarctica.
J. J. St. JOHN
And lo, Batman shall become Captain Amerrrica.
And thou shalt take the drugs that the Lord hath made for thee.
And thou shalt buy them, and grow them, and forge prescriptions–
OUTSIDE> Night> A nice part of town
Andy’s shadow goes out and robs the homes of the rich. It takes exactly one thing from each house.
INSIDE> Andy’s Basement
The shadow slides through the window and across the floor to its velvet nest, where it curls three times around itself and goes to sleep.
The basement overflows with stolen silver, fine jewelry and paintings by old masters.
OUTSIDE> Eastern Seaboard of the United States
That night it snows.
INSIDE> Andy’s place> Morning
The blizzard hits. First thing Clint and Andy and do is smoke a joint. Then they watch Friday” and wait for it snow some more.
[looks out the window]
Clint cooks twice-baked potatoes for breakfast. He takes some potatoes and rolls them in olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper. Then he spikes ‘em and bakes ‘em to 350̊. At twenty minutes he takes ‘em out, scoops out the insides, and leaves the potato outside whole. Then Clint mooshes the insides up with butter, cheese, milk, and scallions, and fills the potatos back up with their old insides, now delicious, closes them up, and bakes ‘em again until they’re done.
Reality melts around the edges and the movie starts to come apart. Andy takes a spray can of Ubik, a patented reality fixative, from under the sink, and pastes the story down.
Snow piles up.
Clint puts on thermal underwear, three pairs of socks, a wooly scarf, and thick mittens...
[dressed the same]
Good to go.
and OUT INTO THE SNOW>
OUTSIDE > Central Park
Walking in a winter yuppieland.
Thirty people stand on a bridge and throw snowballs at the five people in the courtyard below. Some of them retreat, some return fire, and the smart ones go on top of the bridge and throw snowballs at the fools below.
The fools are Clint and Andy. Snow covers them; it is their insulation, armor, camouflage.
A radio reporter tries to interview them.
Who are you aiming at? Do you know them? What’d they do to you?
OUTSIDE> SLED HILL
They sled with the hundreds of other sledders, on garbage bags filled with snow. Hefty sacks filled with snow work surprisingly well when you get the snow packesd and they catch air on the some jumps. Clint and Andy go down and then up to go down and back up again.
Andy makes a snowball.
MAN WITH SNOWBOARD
[to cell phone]
Well, we’re expecting a huge revenue turnaround-
MAN WITH SNOWBOARD
WHO THREW THAT?
Clint and Andy sled away, laughing.
Steer between them!
OUTSIDE> Central Park
His children build a snowwoman as this guy talks and talks on his cell phone.
Sure it’s pretty now but it’ll stick around for months on months getting browner and brownOW!
[shouts from the hills]
OUTSIDE> Central Park
You’ve got to take little profits, little profiOW!
Clint and Andy run and run and fall over laughing. Clint throws a snowball at Andy. Andy leaps on him and they rumble. Clint scrubs Andy’s hair with ice. Andy shovels brown snow down the back of Clint’s parka. Clint bites Andy. Andy punches Clint.
Clint and Andy drink and do not speak.
Sorry I bit you.
No, that’s weird. I didn’t mean to do that. I don’t even know why I did it.
Brother, ain’t no thing. Didn’t even break the skin.
You’ll need shots.
I’ve got all your best diseases.
Save that shit for Viola, amigo.
Yeah. I get all excited.
There are several theories.
There are ladybugs on the bar, five of them.
It’s winter, right?
The seven-spot variety, I see.
Are they bad for you?
Are they in the beer?
But cute bugs.
Spread cute diseases.
Felix Offman picks one up and drops it in his martini. Drinks it.
They’re like tequila worms. Except good luck.
Time passes. They discuss.
This guy walks into the bar. He’s carrying a toaster oven – a two-slotter. And he goes up to the bartender, and he says;
Bitch, better have my money.
Baby, come back in an hour.
The guy throws the toaster at her. It hits her face and busts her chin wide open. She falls down. The bouncer grabs the toaster oven sniper by shoulder and thigh, lifts him entirely over his head, and carries him out the back door.
Everyone rushes to the bartender. She sits up. The toaster blew her chin open to the bone.
Twisht of lemon.
Tastes like lemon.
Poor thing. She has a concussion.
They help the bartender. The sounds of a vicious beating come from outside. At first the guy tries to play tough, like he doesn’t care. Then he’s quiet for a long time. Then he starts to cry.
When Clint gets back to his seat Reginald Denny’s taken it. He and Andy are talking, thick as thieves.
I love those mad jazzmen.
That’s how serious this dude is. He’ll get in a gunfight over some chord changes.
It seems to me...
That if you were going to get in a gunfight in Paris...
And you ain’t French...
You’d wanna do it late as possible. At night. So fewer Frenchmen would see.
But no, not Sidney Bechet.
Ha ha ha ha
OUTSIDE> Street> Night
CLINT [drunk, walking home alone]
No-never, no more!
Though I’ve been a wild rov-
He finds two tickets to the Coney Island Aquarium in the middle of the street.
INSIDE> Andy’s place
[to answering machine]
He hits the button and passes out.
YEAH! Your telephone number spells shit! Ya ha ha ha ha!
Hey, Andy, hey Clint; it’s Kimmi. It’s kind of a long story where I am, but I didn’t make it tonight, because I’m in this abandoned city under Staten Island. I think it predates Christianity. I can’t talk for long - I’m kind of on the run; just thought I’d call, you know, give you a heads-up. Um. You should see this stuff. Um. Assuming we can find our way out, um, I’ll see you sometime. Maybe tomorrow. OK. See you sometime.
EXTERIOR> California> San Simeon> Daytime
San Simeon, the scenic sumptuous shore palace of William Randolph Hearst, ultrafamous media tycoon of the twentieth century—
The camera tours San Simeon
-is upside down.
The camera flips on its back and dives underground. Turn on the X-ray glasses and you see what the narrator means; San Simeon was built upside down as well as right side up. For every tower there’s a cellar, like a shadow, plugged into the ground.
Currently the home of sinister silent film star Reginald Denny, Anti-Simeon’s construction was overseen by Chief Architect Julia Morgan’s evil twin, Olivia.
The camera slithers through the wall and a lion roars at you. You’re...
INSIDE> the> reverse-hallway
Reginald Denny set pet lions to prowl these hollow halls. Their roars in chorus echo through:
INSIDE> the> Reverse-kitchen
Rats run this place.
INSIDE> Reverse-dining Room
A giant portrait of Reginald Denny hangs over the table, like Big Brother or Stalin or Chairman Mao. Except upside down.
With mirrored floors.
INSIDE> Reverse-swimming Pool
A foul pit, smells like a hamster cage, leaks from the real pool right above it, and sometimes a stray ray of sun smacks your face, carries a ghost of a laugh and an echo of a splash. Denny uses the reverse-pool as a wine cellar and dungeon.
This is where Denny keeps the man from Antarctica.
J. J. St. JOHN
I’m just a bird in a gil-ded cage...
J. J.’s food is dispensed by computer.
The camera dives into the computer, and rides it right out of there.
ABSTRACT SPACE> World Wide Web
Hey, cameraman; bring up this web page here:
DANDY ANDY’S HOUSE OF PUDDIN’
which is the on-line escort service owned and operated by Andy, unbeknownst to anybody. Take your time. Look around. Download some stuff. Hey, those Russian women. And when you’re done with that,
INSIDE> Headquarters of a Major Metropolitan TV Station
A cameraman points her camera at the computer screen.
In the office all about her is bustle. In one room a makeup artist works on Cindy the cub reporter, prepping her to look just exactly like a tart. Over in the next the producer, Gramercy McGreeve, discusses serious things on the phone.
[everywhere at once]
Sign here... initial here... that’s standard... initial there...
Gramercy browses Andy’s site as she talks on the phone.
Then cut to:
Andy’s watching football.
Andy makes a phone call.
Then Andy pays for his drinks and leaves the bar. On the way out he accidentally jars the reality projector with his elbow, and half the people in the place flicker and recalibrate.
Stop reading right now and make a paper airplane.
Go ahead; I’ll wait.
INSIDE> Hotel room
The cops arrest Andy. One cop takes Cindy aside as Cindy yabbers on her cell phone. The other one writes his report. Andy sits on the waterbed, handcuffed, smoking a cigarette.
COP [furious, to Cindy]
This is bullshit and you know it’s bullshit. You should fuckin’ arrest him yourself.
I do not and I do not absolutely do not have to put up with–
See, man, I know how it feels. I’ve been there. I definitely know how it feels.
INSIDE> Police Station> Blurry
But I need my glasses to see.
We give them back. Sign here.
I can’t sign that; I can’t see. I need my glasses to see.
I’ll sign it when I’m done with my shoelaces.
Andy watches the blurs come and go. The sounds of cops surround him. Like the roar of lions. Andy stays cool. He just sits there and rubs the ink off the tips of his fingers.
One blur breaks away from the rest and comes at him.
[waits until the last moment to say]
Hey, man. What’s up.
I was coming in here doing the plumbing, all through eighty-three. I repeatedly and repeatedly told them what the matter was and what did they do? Nothing. Those bathrooms are damp, man. You ever see mold six inches deep?
Nnh. I could use a bathroom so bad.
Well, tell them and they’ll let you go.
Not right yet.
A woman, falling, inside and out, and she’s bound to come look for a legacy, something she left on the world, with an unmistakable mark of her. Hum.
It’s hard to see the big picture. Can’t see no forest cause of all these trees, right? Right, officer?
[offers Andy a stick of gum]
Beats all, watermelon. I’m not. Might litigate, might not. Ai. You know I was at a place like this, in Pikeville; I never have any trouble there.
Hello, Anthony. I’m your lawyer.
INSIDE> Interrogation Room
They gave Andy his glasses back. They talked for a while. They explained the situation. There’s a camera crew here. The cameras are pointed at him. Andy can see himself on their monitors.
So there was a hidden camera, hidden in her luggage.
Cindy, [not her real name], works as a reporter; has a reporting job with us.
You want me on the news?
We’re looking for the seamy underbelly of an internet cathouse.
An exclusive interview.
This goes on the evening...on the news?
If you so choose we can blur your face and process your voice.
‘long as you make it good.
And then you won’t press charges.
[not her real name]
—will not to press charges if you voluntarily cooperate with this production of her story on internet cathouses.
And then she won’t press charges.
Sign these forms and we can have your exclusive interview. Then they’ll release you tomorrow morning.
Would this go on my record?
I don’t know if this goes on your record, but I would hope not.
Are you gonna pay me?
Of course not.
INSIDE> Andy’s place
Clint plays guitar better when he’s drunk. Everybody does. You do, too.
Clint’s that kind of sitting-down drunk where he does not know how drunk he is and will not find out until he tries to stands up. He knows that he is too drunk to handle the remote control. Or the phone. Phone’s ringing.
Clint improvises a melody of a yearning, a tragic longing to answer, to answer the phone, and the impossibility of actually doing it.
—cause I’m too druuunk!
—cause I’m too druunk.
[first the greeting, a goofy soundbite from Amadeus [where the wigmaker goes “It looks so good on you and I love it”]]
744 spells PIG! PIG-SHIT! Ya-ha-ha-ha*klk*
Off-screen a toilet flushes.
Sits down off-camera and strums a guitar. Clint plays along. They are very good, very loud.
[though Clint and his friend do not hear]
Hey, Andy, hey, Clint, it’s Kimmi. I’m still in the Aztec ruins-
[indistinct mumbles, and Kimmi continues:]
My mistake; Adena-Hopewell. Mound builders. Makes sense. Anyhoo, I’m here in all these weird tunnels and I don’t know how this cell phone is working at all. But I’m in a rush, thought I’d call and tell you I’m still OK. I’ll tell you all about it if I get home.
Love you all. Bye.
Clint passes out on the kitchen floor.
INSIDE> Warehouse Stadium> Rafters
Baron Sir Boggert slung like a lump in a hammock between two posts. When he raises his left hand, or left finger, anything at all, his assistant pours grog down his throat. He ignores the game of American Football below him.
Down on the field a dogman counts with his rosary, then kicks off the ball. It spirals grumpily to the zombies.
Bargazoul raises his staff and the octopus catches it in midflight. The shaman draws himself up to his full seven feet and marches on. The armies of the dead shamble before him.
Slavering dogmen tear up the field and meet them on the zombies’ eleven. But when they get there the zombies eat them.
Uncle Nose, the defense coach, sends out six replacements. Zombies eat them too. The undead march inexolerably on. Four dogmen corner one zombie and tear it apart, until even the pieces stop shaking. Bargazoul knocks its forehead with one knuckle it springs back to life.
Uncle Nose pumps his fist four times.
Baron Sir Boggert drinks.
INSIDE> Subway car
They converse; Reginald Denny, Sukie Smith, and Arthur. Arthur faces Reginald and Sukie across the aisle. The train slows down to stop at the station.
“What does Webster’s say about soul?”
They all laugh.
OK, so write down your number too.
INSIDE> on the subway platform
—crushes Clint’s head into the station bars and blood squirts out his ear. The camera spins sick—
INSIDE> Subway car
DID YOU SEE THAT?
Fuck. I mean, fuck. I just saw this guy knock this guy down.
On the other side. Just as we slowed down. I think that’s what I saw. It looked really hard. Maybe they were, I don’t know, kissing passionately or something. Hold on; oh— wait—
He gets up and runs back two cars. But as he does the train moves on and the station’s gone.
I have this feeling I saw something very bad.
I wonder if I imagined that. Did I imagine that?
What did you see?
[utterly at a loss to explain]
INSIDE> Jail> Dawn
I collect pennies.
In this small sick world. Heads up means good luck. Tails means not as good luck, but hey, at least you found a penny.
A rat runs by.
Andy’s in jail without his glasses. He steps to the mirror with a borrowed toothbrush.
A rat runs by.
J. J. St. John’s in jail. He steps to the mirror with a pointed stick.
CUTS BACK AND FORTH BETWEEN>
Andy and J. J. brush their teeth. Cut back and forth between them.
Cuts slow, then fast, then faster, then stop with a clang when Andy’s cell door opens. Because J. J.’s does not.
They release Andy into Reginald Denny’s custody.
INSIDE> Borders Books and Music> Day
A big chain book store in the mall under the World Trade Center.
A little over twenty-one years ago I was introduced into what is laughingly referred to as civilization. This term in itself demonstrates how mankind has managed to maintain a sense of humor throughout all of history’s chaos.
A homeless man studies the art of da Vinci in the next chair.
Enter Viola, with an employee nametag.
Clint puts his book down.
They duck deep into the stacks. He kisses her nose, she nips his chin.
Listen; oh, listen.
I can’t, oh. I can’t.
Can’t that. Oh.
It’s not about work.
Come home with me.
I’ll only go with you—I can’t go with you, I have to work, besides, going with you would be a sin and I’d be lost to God forever.
No, seriously. It’s a serious problem.
You’re artistically insane.
I have my artistic integrity.
Integrity! You kill people for art. If they make bad art. Big flaming bonfires where shit is destroyed.
What kind of enforced suffering art shit is that?
Recognition of valid reality. Art, some art, sucks. And should be destroyed. Sacrificed.
So— “We’ve come to wreck your shit.”
Exactly. Burn bad shit down. Break stuff!
Punk as fuck.
Violently. With ethic and integrity.
Oh, that. Integrity.
Oh? What would you sacrifice to it?
Sacrifice your integrity then.
Sacrifice my integrity to my integrity?
Long kisses. Customers notice.
Somebody else’s integrity.
A sophisticated victim.
What’s that supposed to mean? Or a victim of sophistication? See, I kick ass for aesthetic principles. Like an Amazon.
With a twelve-foot crayon.
And one breast bare.
Or a flying nun. It’s a state of mind. I’d die for art.
But, would you kill?
Would you wound?
We should go to the aquarium tomorrow. We must. Meet me at three o’clock tomorrow, by the Coney Island Cyclone. You should quit your job more often. O bride of bad taste, I will steal you away to the aquarium tomorrow. It’s sinful; you’ll love it. They have sperm whales. One look and you’ll be lost to God forever.
Not fair to God. God needs women.
Mars needs women.
God was here first.
That’s a quandry.
Absolutely. The position my soul fills is essential.
If it ain’t heaven without you, well, you...
What if we got Him a replacement soul? Yeah? Another soul, a difficult soul, one He couldn’t normally get. And send it to Heaven in your place. And then you can stay here in Hell with me.
So we can find somebody aesthetically underdeveloped and sacrifice them to Art.
Thus making them into Art.
Exactly. Human ice sculptures. They’ll melt by three o’clock and then you’ll go to the aquarium with me.
That homeless guy in the green sweater. Let’s do him.
Paint him blue?
I was thinking, more…performance art.
Make him do jumping jacks.
For half an hour.
How would you do that?
I’d pay him $50.
No, he’d get tired and sit down. He’s allowed to take breaks. And he’ll get all sorts of healthy exercise.
How do we record this for posterity?
It’d be on the security tape.
Are we allowed to do this?
I work here. I can do whatever I want.
The homeless guy doing jumping jacks in the art section.
Some customers back away, most ignore him. It’s New York, after all. The employees gather and watch.
MARIA G. [employee]
Please, what is he doing?
They appear to be...some kind of...jumping jacks.
WALT THE HOMELESS GUY
I’m-a gonna do three hunnerd jumpin’ jacks, just you wait an’ see. Two-hunnerd-an-six, two-hunnerd-an-five, two-hunnderd four-
Enter Bill, the manager.
Sir, what are you doing?
I can do three hunnerd jumpin’ jacks, just you sit an’ watch me! I bet I could do ‘em an’ I’m-a gonna do ‘em an’ you cann’ make me change my mind. I feel good! I feel fresh! I can do three hunnerd hunnerd hunnerd! hunnerd fifty-six, fifty-five, fifty-four, three—
[speaks into overhead paging system]
Elwood to the Art Section, please. Elwood to Art.
Bring ‘em on!
A hunnerd forty!
Steve T., assistant manager in charge of loss prevention, comes up all sly because he thinks they’re after a shoplifter, but this stymies him. Little children count along. Security arrives, not because anybody’s worried, but because everybody’s curious.
Walt collapses in a chair.
Please don’t do that again.
No problem, sir.
I could use a cuppa coffee.
INSIDE> on the other side of the bookstore
The crowd breaks up. The sun sets, the customers go home, even Walt leaves. The employees tidy up, the employees go home, and then the store is empty. The lights do not dim.
In the kid’s section there’s a coat tree draped with stuffed monkeys. It shakes, as if in a strong breeze.
Origami cranes flutter their wings.
The finger puppets nestle closer together.
At night, the stuffed animals come to life.
Knee-high rhinoceroses fight. Plush armadillos mate. Grasshopper puppets bow a romantic air on their hind legs. The monkeys chase each other over and around the gardening section. Cranes and flying squirrels sport with real mice in paper airplanes. The Furbies come out to feed.
You can get furbies in any color. Ranging the store, they chirp and grunt and burble around. They roam the carpet in solemn herds of subhuman cute, graze on candy wrappers and waste paper, shit dust bunnies. They ride the escalator to the concourse to spawn.
It’s like the Discovery channel.
A crossbow bolt transfixes a tortoiseshell Furbie buck. It dies without a peep. The herd scatters.
Viola, in war paint and buckskin, levels her crossbow and brings down an orange buck as they flee. She guts her catch of their robot intestines, skins them and cleans the pelt. She cuts their ears off and strings them on a necklace.
OUTSIDE> Afternoon> Outside the Coney Island Aquarium
Actually, Coney Island is a peninsula.
Where Clint waits.
He’s been waiting, and he keeps waiting. He has two tickets in his pocket.
After an hour he gets bored and leaves.
The aquarium is across from the real Coney Island, the amusement park. All the rides are boarded up for the winter. Clint wanders around.
It’s somebody dressed in a bear suit.
The guy in the plush bear suit sits on a bench outside a closed pretzel stand. Clint walks over there.
Andy? Is that Andy?
Andy? This ain’t no jive, turkey. This is the real deal, and I don’t say nothin’ twice. So dry out and listen up, McFaul; you got to–
He stops abruptly, and if a bear suit can go pale, he does. Clint looks where he’s looking.
Twenty feet away stands another bear, dressed exactly like him, holding a chain, attached to which is a real bear.
In blind panic Bear Suit jumps a counter and dives into the Hall of Mirrors. The second bear, with the real bear, follows him.
Clint busts out laughing.
And follows them.
INSIDE> Hall of Mirrors
But Clint stops in the doorway, and does not go into the hall. He just watches. The bears slide over the glass. One bear smokes a cigarette from a long bamboo holder. They chase their reflections around, three bears swimming in the House of Mirrors.
After a while Clint goes back and sits down on the bench, to wait and see who comes out first.
No one does.
Clint relaxes in the sun. The air feels nice. He kind of keeps an eye on the door, but it’s not like the door will go anywhere. With his jacket on he’s warm. After a while he goes and turns on the Ferris Wheel, and goes for a ride by himself. The sun sets.
OUTSIDE> Old York
An American flag waves against a sky. The wind snaps it and it bursts into blue jays, cardinals, and doves. They fight with each other.
The sky seethes with birds. Seabirds, songbirds, carrion birds. Mostly pigeons. Old York was a lost Indian city on the Island of Manhattus (or Manhatti; I forget). It was the grandest city in the world, back before the world was very grand. Old York stanks of people, animals, sweat, shit, and the sea.
Old York; a metropolis of mounds and towers. They build mounds to bury, to have ceremonies, to get a good look at the stars, and for drum circles. They build towers to spot ships, for signal fires, to hunt birds, and play drums. Incredible drums. They carve man-sized parabolic dishes in the Central Park-type boulders lying around and stretch hides over them. Stone drums — petrophones. Between the mounds flow rivers of shit and mud, and Old York people are the ugliest people in the world. They never get taller than five feet, they’re short fingers and toes and eyes, they teem in tens of thousands scarred by plague and age, filthy, potbellied and dull, feverish and famined and in want. Face cancers. Goiters. Gout. Warts no toad would touch. Everybody’s an orphan and you’re old before you’re thirty. Most Old Yorkers are Native American, Adena-Hopewell Mound Builders, but there’s Aztecs and Incas and Egyptians, Chinese traders and lost tribes of Israel. Occasional vikings. They paint their clothes with hieroglyphics and mud.
There are horses and mules everywhere and they stink. Sheep and pigs, cats, dogs, and chickens. Ferrets. Pigeons. They stink. Wagons and rickshaws in the way anywhere you want to go. Cows, too. They shit. Constantly. You wish the rain would come and wash the streets but the mounds run and everything turns to mud. For every hard rain Old York hires street shovellers.
Fishmongers, onionmongers, beekeepers wage open war. The militia cannot stop them. Philosophers lounge on the courthouse steps and talk shit about everybody. Everything, everything, everything’s covered in graffiti, especially trees, rocks, and statues. Fog runs cold fingers through sodden streets.
The greatest building of Old York, one of the eleven Wonders of the Ancient World, is the Hands, the palace of King Minos. And we’ll get to that. But first let’s go to the north side of Manhattan isle, deep in the woods, where nothing interesting is happening at all.
Even the forest has graffiti. When you tag the name of the girl you want to fuck on the side of a half-dead tree it’s called a dendroglyph.
Drummers. Taggers. Bad roads. Beehives.
On the side of a hill, by the balancing rock, a shepherd fucks a sheep. The sheep doesn’t mind. The shepherd’s name is Nie Nunez. When he’s done he puts his robes back on. Then he sits on a rock and rummages through his pack. He takes out his lunch, mutton, and a thing rolled in a beaver’s pelt.
He unwraps it. It’s a conch shell the size of a watermelon, carved in scrimshaw over every inch. He raises the shell to his lips, claps his hands to it just so, and blows a trumpet blast. It’s a musical instrumet. He plays.
And he’s really good, too.
As the sun threatens to set another shepherd comes and talks to Nie, bringing two dogs. They talk. They don’t speak English, though; you don’t know what language this is. Nie slings his horn and says goodbye. The sheep are sad to see him go. They don’t hold a grudge - a shepherd is a god, to them, after all, and anyway they don’t know any better.
So Nie goes through the forest, past trees thick as wagons and past the logger’s camp, and turns left on the turnpike by the dead bandit on the stake. He walks south. It gets dark. Even in the night, though, the stars burn so hot they cast shadows. You can see birds by their shadows against the stars.
Nie Nunez finds the Mabbot street entrance with the fall of night, by rows of flimsy houses with gaping doors, lit by rare lamps with faint rainbow fans. Round Rabaiotti’s halted ice gondola stunted men and women squabble. They gab wafers between which are wedged lumps of coal and copper snow. Sucking, they scatter slowly. Children. The swancomb of the gondola, highreared, forges on through the murk, white and blue under a lighthouse. Whistles call and answer.
A deafmute idiot with goggle eyes, his shapeless mouth dribbling, jerks past, shaken in Saint Vitus’ dance. A pygmy woman swings on a rope slung between the railings, counting. A form sprawled against a dustbin and muffled by its arm and hat moves, groans, grinding growling teeth, and snores again. On a step a gnome crouches to shoulder a sack of rags and bones. A crone standing by with a smoky oil lamp rams the last bottle in the maw of his sack. He heaves his booty, tugs askew his peaked cap and hobbles off mutely. The crone makes back for her lair swaying her lamp. A bandy child, asquat on the doorstep with a papershuttlecock, crawls sidling after her in spurts, clutches her skirt, scrambles up. A drunken navvy grips with both hands the railings of an area, lurching heavily. At a corner two night watch in shoulder capes, their hands upon their staffholsters, loom tall. A plate crashes; a woman screams; a child wails. Oaths of a man roar, mutter, cease. Figures wander, lurk, peer from warrens. In a room lit by a candle stuck in a bottleneck a slut combs out the tatts from the hair of a scrofulous child. A young voice shrills a child’s song from the lane.
Down by the grove of the sacred trees. Those kids wear blue scarves and those kids wear brown scarves. Are they a gang?
They crowd the river like they crowd the streets. No bridges, but so many boats you could walk across to Brooklynia, or the necropolis on the Isle of Staten. You can take the ferry if you want. A grizzly bear swims by. Barges of official minstrels drift, jamming on the news.
—ey yeb ma hi ‘cha
Koi ui lek ma do no—
Of course the news musicians play an appropriate beat. They have certain instruments they use for certain events — reed pipes in heptatonic scale (C D E-flat E F# G A) for weather, trumpets for official news, drums for human interest, deep drums for war. The news, or at least the mood of the news, goes everywhere.
On Old Church Tower (on the very spot where, someday, Hudson will meet Varick) they play bells gongs and stone wind chimes all day and all night, to illustrate for Old York the pulse of God, and also the direction of the wind.
They erect mounds with cranes. They dig a hole, build a wood and stone skeleton, and pile the dirt back on. Deep shafts let in the air and light. All good mounds have a large central courtyard, and the best have aqueducts.
Nie goes through the fur traders quarter, over the old wall and past the viaduct. He goes to the Hands.
The Hands of King Minos are one of the eleven wonders of the ancient world. Two stone hands reach out of the sea, cup themselves to make an amphitheater and they could seat thousands. On the stage, between the Wrists, an oak tree older than oldest memory grows. Ivy crawls the unclimbable outer walls. They put the King’s apartments, and the king’s servants’, at the top. Let’s peek through a window.
INSIDE> A suite of rooms
Fifteen musicians live in these rooms, and they’re all filthy, and they all leave their doors open.
Cleopatra Daedalee takes a bubble bath. Cleo’s a short woman with a cast eye and red dreds and swirling tattoos. By the bath at her left lies a stack of ostakons, or clay pottery fragments, which she writes on with chalk and charcoal, since paper hasn’t been invented yet. At her right she keeps grapefruit, steak, coffee, brandy, and Jonesy, her servant, whose job is to add warm water and let out cooling water and maintain a constant temperature for Cleopatra.
Cleopatra ticks a mark on an ostrakon and sings:
De day dah do
Da do DAH dey
INSIDE> The next room
Grover rummages through a box of naa (reed pipes), shem (double-pipes), gi-gid (long flute), and finds a flute that suits him. Then he plays “Da da DAH-aa” back to her.
INSIDE> The bathroom
INSIDE> The next room
Grover follows her with a funny little trill.
INSIDE> The next room
A kid called Jenny picks up the melody on her gish al-gar (or lute). A flute joins from another room, and then a rattle and a tap on a copper tambourine find the beat, skip, and toss it back and forth.
INSIDE> The next room
Nie Nunez sits in a windowsill that looks over the amphitheatre cupped in the Hands. He presses his horn to his lips and swings.
INSIDE> Outside Daedalee’s suite
Armed guards stand at the barred door. They tap their feet to the music.
INSIDE> The bathroom
Jonesy changes the water.
Bum da bum dum
Bum ba dum bum
Her window is on the city. Two crows land on the windowsill and converse.
kred’io kh’ei! kredette kh’io!
OUTSIDE> The Palms of the Hands> Night
The Palms is the hottest spot in town. Only the best people can get in the Palms; only the best can even stand on line. Only the brightest and the best and the caterers. And everybody’s drunk. In the past, before your parents were born, everybody was drunk all the time. Because other drugs weren’t invented yet. In the Palm you can have beer, wine, beer, wine, beer, wine. and brandy. Brandy was invented in Old York, by Algonquin pirates with a stolen Greek steam distilling machine. They have every kind of brandy - cherry, blueberry, strawberry, blackberry, raspberry, elderberry, dandelion, and apple. Mixed drinks were invented in Old York.
People talk, but you can’t understand what they say. They chat. On stage Cleopatra Daedalee rattles a copper tambourine. It cuts over the crowd (since there is no clink of silverware, no chiming glass, no squeaky wheels, only shouting and slurping), and it’s supposed to summon the band to the stage. There are eighteen seats on stage, and only four people in them. Counting Cleo. She shakes the tambourine again.
Out on the floor they hob and nob. The rich are as sick and scarred as the poor.
OUTSIDE> Top of the right Thumb of the Hands
On the ivy-scrawled wall looking over the bleak flickering city, a line of leather golf balls squat on hand-carved wooden tees.
Clubfoot King Minos lines up his driver and swings. A ball spins into Old York night. He stumps to the next one, as a slave carries the train of his robe, a slave replaces the ball, and the caddy offers advice. King Minos swings again. Then again.
Irtho, ze Parron.
King Minos swings.
OUTSIDE> Between the Wrists
Where the Wrists of the Hands plunge into the sea they turn into a waste of surf-torn rocks where no one goes. Actually, one guy goes down there, if you could call him a guy. He’s the King’s idiot son, born twisted and scarred, with steel arms and iron legs and a face flat and deformed, furred, like the head of a cow. Tattoos of the royal crest are all across and down his back. The tattoos say, in the language of Old York, that this monster is under My protection. Molest him at your peril.
OUTSIDE> Palms of the Hands
S’vachny bat oth o longo; e muraychyk va berathka; paaaaakl...fljkstad CLEOPATRA DAEDALEE!
The spotlight lights her up and Daedalee beams. Her eyes glitter. There are seventeen men and women in her band and only eight are on stage and it’s time to start the show. Nine
empty seats. So, she beams, but her eyes glitter.
The bands play the anthem of Old York. Everyone stands, hand on heart, and sings. And you don’t understand the words, but you know the song: “God Save The Queen.”
OUTSIDE> Right thumb of the Hands
King Minos swings.
OUTSIDE> Palms of the Hands
Cleopatra stumbles through the anthem and the King’s son assaults a slave girl.
OUTSIDE> Left Wrist
Nie Nunez sits on sea wall and fishes in the harbor with a very long string.
They finish the anthem and get off the stage, mak room for the next act. The emcee comes to tell you, live from Sumeria, tonight you’re gonna see, balag-di! Ub, ub-tur, ub-zabarand, and timbuhttu! That’s a singer’s, or “cricket,” drum. Sinouous Shana, the granddaughter of King Naram-Sin, will sing a hymn to the Moon God, and the Moon God’s temple, with interpretive dance. Then Doc Yarrington will swallow fire! And next are Bacon Jim and the Troubaleers.
Thy’re like Phoenecian Hee-Haw.
Cleo’s band makes for the bar. Armed guards escort Cleo backstage.
The guards lock her in. She’s used to it.
Cleo sort of looks sidelong to make sure nobody’s looking at her.
She grabs all sorts of food off the catering line. A bag of cookies goes in one pocket.
From out of nowhere her personal physician appears and starts waggling his finger at her. She tries to fend him off but he grabs for the cookies. There’s a fight. She runs, and runs right into Nie Nunez.
Vakula. Ipso facto dipshit.
Nie sort of saunters by. Cleo makes an obscene gesture at his back.
She goes into her dressing room, locks the door, and splits the cookies with her daughter.
Someone knocks on the door. Knocks again. Rattles the doorknob. Knocks again.
VOICE THROUGH DOOR
Irip uli oro?
Vek nik! Oro!
Cleo opens a desk drawer and pulls out a rib steak and potatoes au gratin. She writes and eats.
Her daughter looks out the window and sees the starry lights of campfires and ovens burning in the wicked old city. Hogging the light, the flickering swelter of birds. A golf ball hits one and it explodes into a cloud of feathers.
She plays with a candle, pours wax on her wrists. Sticks pigeon feathers in it.
OUTSIDE> In the audience
A sinister sea turtle circulates through the crowd. There’s a minibar strapped to its back. The sea turtle is a hundred and fifty years old and prone to eavesdropping. It has its own plans.
One band sits down and another stands up. A bit of bear-baiting. A stand-up comedian spieling along in a language you don’t know. He points at the king’s idiot son and makes a joke, and everybody laughs, especially the son.
Djad! Trebek nik!
(that means; “Guards! Seize him!”)
They drag him off. Vaudeville is over.
The guards drag Cleo on stage. Eyes kohled like moth wings, hair twined in threads of gold, leaves of gold, Cleo shines, red angel in lavender light. The audience rises to greet her.
Her band joins her, in face-paint and purple toga tuxedos.
Yeb memma Cleopatra Daedalee,
[motioning to band]
au mahwah au hohokus
[and bowing to the King]
Ph’nugli mr’wuagi ia, Rei Minos!
King Minos waves as he weaves back to his booth. His son drools wine down his chest.
Cleo hands out ostrakons. Nie takes one look at his and shits his toga.
The band tunes up and stands up.
Eenie! Meenie! Minie! Moe!
They play. Presto, fortissimo! Though those words have not been invented yet. They lay down the beat in chromatic concrete and take turns spinning out the song. Nie Nunez stands up to solo.
Without warning, they swing. They swing so hard they break your neck. You can’t film this scene. This isn’t the kind of show you can get on demand. The band’s a little tired, a little pissed, they’ve got something to prove and it just so happens that the stars are right. You can’t fake this, or recreate it, or pay somebody to do it again. The closest you can get is to listen to Duke Ellington Newport 1955, when the band played Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue and played so good a riot broke out.
The King’s idiot son jumps on a table and dances to the beat Cleo beats out with her cane. Old Man Bear plays bass by closing his eyes and staggering around, and Nie leaps over it like a construction worker on a skyscraper. Effortlessly he reels the melody away, thick enough to stand on, shake the floor, and bump your feet; everybody dance, and dance now. Cleo’s daughter climbs on top of the kettle drum and jumps up and down, flaps her fat little arms, Cleo’s eyes shine, because this is it, this is as good as it ever gets, and when Nie takes a deep breath and plunges back into the song:
DUSK> Inside> Subway car
Kimmi wakes up.
Gets up. She was sleeping on the subway floor. The other passengers won’t look at her. She’s filthy with sweat and coal dust.
She has puts a mess of newspaper bundled in string on the seat beside her.
Kimmi slumps, a halo of dirt around her. The bundle leans on her leg. She has a bunch of copies of the Voice under her arm. The elevator stops and this little kid gets on, presses his button, and stands as far away as he can.
INSIDE> Kimmi’s Apartment
Kimmi pushes her door open with the inside of her wrist. She takes the Voices and lays down a path to the bathroom. She’s like plutonium. She must not touch the carpet.
INSIDE> Kimmi’s Bathroom
She gets in the shower still dressed. When the water hits her; she near collapses. Kimmi lies down and the shower becomes a bath. Relief. Steam fills the room as the water turns black.
CLINT [outside bathroom]
Hello? Hey, Kimmi! Hi!
Kimmi doesn’t seem to hear. She brushes her teeth.
The sounds of dinner making drift through the door.
She flosses and brushes again.
Then the sound of guitar.
[looks the mirror in the eye:]
INSIDE> Kimmi’s Kitchen
Something cooks on the stove. Clint plays and drinks. You can hear as the bathroom door opens, bedroom door closes, wait awhile, wait, the bedroom door opens; and like a magic trick Kimmi appears.
Your door was open. Where you been? I made pierogies, and beer.
[ignores him, studies the smoke detector on the ceiling for some reason]
She opens the silverware drawer and gets a can opener and a screwdriver. Passes the opener to Clint, and gets a chair so she can reach the smoke detector.
Were you out of town? Crazy shit’s been– What are you doing?
[unscrews the smoke detector]
Good idea. Been meaning to do that.
Everybody’s been gone. I mean, now you’re back, but I never see Viola and Andy’s off in Electric Andyland, or something. Maybe he went to work.
Andy? Would he do that?
Maybe he went insane. Some crazy shit happened. Were you stuck in the blizzard?
Yeah. Candy ass blizzard, right? Barely a foot. Ain’t a blizzard yesterday if the street’s clear today. That’s what I say. Andy and I went to Central Park. It was awesome out. [pause] Mostly.
Where the snow came from.
You saw the snow, right? Outside?
I didn’t -
A blizzard. How sad.
Have you been here the whole time? Why don’t you answer the phone?
I haven’t been here once.
I called you; I left messages on the machine.
I don’t mess with that thing.
Well, fuck, Clint. Learn to press a button.
This is hard to explain, right? You’re just not going to believe me.
Oh, no. Jerome?
You’re just not. I-It’s been - think, if my watch worked. It’s been two days for you, right? It’s been forty-eight hours for me. You know?
Heavens yes. Thanks.
They’re yours anyway.
Ah. Make more.
She attacks the food, taking no prisoners. Clint dipped them in olive oil with salt and pepper, good chunky kosher salt, put the onions and the mushrooms in at the same time, then the peppers, tomatoes last.
[chews; * denotes pause to swallow]
But I only * looked at my watch at the * beginning and end, so I don’t remember how long it’s been * since I ate. * [pause] * I was on the Staten Island Subway.
I was underground. I got on the wrong subway; the really wrong subway; I have no idea how it got there. * I was on the Staten Island Subway. Is there a Staten Island Subway?
Exactly. But there I was. It took us to these Adena-Hopewell ruins under Staten Island - did you know Manhattan was settled by the Mound Builders?
It was. Fort Ancient stuff. Me and three other guys who were on the same car, these two big fat gay guys, Adolph and Aldo, and this decrepit blues musician guy, Denny. Played a mean harmonica. We got on the Staten Island Subway, somehow.
Yeah. What? Do you know this?
About what? What? What the hell happened?
You know Reginald Denny?
Yeah, Andy’s friend. I think he used to be a movie star. He rode the PATH with us, Monday, after we left you off at the escalators. He and Andy hang out.
That’s not right. He rode the subway back with me.
Not that night.
Is he twins?
Maybe he’s a family.
That thought sincerely frightens me.
We got on the train without looking at the sign - I saw people who didn’t get on the train, and talking about the sign, and I didn’t think anything of it. It actually did say Staten Island on the sign, but it was on the uptown side, and me and Adolph and Aldo got on. Reginald Denny was already on. We rode a long time without stopping, on the express track. I was hyped after the open mike and all; I drank a lot at Odega’s, so I lay down but I didn’t close my eyes. I didn’t. Reginald Denny plays a mean harmonica.
Yeah. He’s real good.
Yeah. This waltz. Adolph and Aldo got up and danced. It was hilarious. Five hundred and fifty pounds waltzing on a subway.
She picks up a guitar and plucks out a minor waltz while she tells the story.
Eventually we noticed, the subway never stopped. We would pass stations, and they were definitely the wrong stations. The doors between cars were locked, but they’re usually locked, right? Usually, I mean. There were other people in the next car. They looked all nervous. And then we looked at the sign, and we saw we were on the Staten Island Subway. Since then I’ve been in the ancient Indian ruins under Staten Island.
[accompanies her on guitar]
Yeah. There’s a lot they aren’t telling us in school. I tried to call you from down there - once we found a payphone at the bottom of an eight hundred foot well, no lie. You know those grates in the sidewalk? You know?
One of those goes down eight hundred feet.
I watched people walk over it.
One this woman in high heels.
Eight hundred feet?
I had binoculars. The Mole People have very sophisticated imaging equipment.
Is that so.
Their guitars noodle around each other. No hurry.
So what all happened?
Oh, God. Let me show you.
Kimmi gets the bundle. She tries to untie it, but it’s hopeless, so she slices it open with an x-acto blade.
Wait. Just. Wait. You’re gonna shit when I tell you whose horn this is.
The paper falls away and, there’s a saxophone.
No shit. Dude pawned it back in ’51. Alvin bought it.
And gave it to you.
Hey. OK. Let’s play.
She holds the reed up to the light, tries to remember how to put it in right.
Yardbird, Yardbird Parker? Saxophone? Wow. Really? Bird? Are you serious?
God, I haven’t played in years.
I know you’re serious. I know you’re not full of shit.
I have never been less full of shit than I am today.
She puts the reed to her mouth and plays a fast run. Then another. Another. Clint kicks the amp in and they BLAST and then. Stop suddenly.
Someone bangs on the ceiling, someone else on the floor. Dogs bark, everywhere. Car alarms go off.
Shit. We woke up Queens.
[they listen to the car alarms]
Well, obviously not here. Is that your portable amp?
Yes. Yes it is.
I know a place.
They shrug their jackets on, sling their gear, and head down the stairs and out the door. They were last seen walking towards the Queensboro Bridge.
OUTSIDE> Streets> Night
Square piles of snow lie on the sides of the sidewalk, neat and out of the way. Rats and cats and dogs left tracks in them, the rats’ like the handprints of a thousand tiny babies.
It’s hard to talk about it, you know? I’m still in it.
Yeah, me too.
Has Denny been with you this whole time?
I saw him around. Was he with you?
He was, for a while.
The last time I saw him he was with Andy. And now I can’t find Andy. Unless he was wearing a bear suit.
A bear suit. You know. A bear. You know. Don’t look at me like that, woman.
OUTSIDE> Queensboro Bridge
All the snow’s been shoveled, all the snow melted off the trestles. It’s like the blizzard never happened.
How can he be so sinister and yet so goofy?
I don’t know. I wish I knew.
As they discuss this they walk about a third of the way onto the bridge, check that the coast is clear, sling their instruments on their backs, and climb onto the bridge frame -
The bridge frame has supports spaced like ladder rungs which you can climb. It isn’t dangerous in the least. You go up one level and then you climb this ladder all the way to the top of the Queensboro Bridge. There’s no fence or anything to stop you. On top of the bridge there’s an iron platform. No wind, no moon, it isn’t even cold.
You can see the whole city. It’s beautiful, in a way you will never know unless you climb on top of the Queensboro Bridge. Or watch this movie.
And now they play. Goddamn. They play so hard, if there was snow it would catch fire. They play like wild.
They play and play.
Wouldja look at all them stars.
We do. We follow the music up into them, out of the atmosphere, around this planet that the moon hides behind. We slide around Venus, past Mercury and the sun, to Saturn on the other side. It would take a while if we couldn’t go faster than light, but we can. Saturn crosses us, bound in stately rings, as he passes through the sun’s light and his infinite shadow stretches behind him, one by one devouring his moons.
Saturn lies in Taurus tonight, a skein of stars reaching in every direction, encompassing the thought and lives entire of solar systems undreamt of, and gravity, a sea of gravity that tugs every atom unimaginable nothingiths every direction, and, even in deepest space, where we have never been, we swim in an ocean of gravity that we cannot sense or see, like a fish don’t know about water.
From one direction Taurus is a bull. From another, a great hunter, or an imaginary beast; the Lovers, the Panther, Justice, the Typewriter, the Whale. It’s bigger than you. You, and everything in your whole life, plus the lives of anyone else who ever lived, are part of it.
Saturn eats another moon.
Somehow you still hear a saxophone play.
This scene needs no music.
They’ve been drinking.
Are you in trouble?
Well, I don’t want to take the subway any time soon.
A rat scurries across their path.
They hear a soft “bee! bee! bee!”
Why are you beeping?
She takes the smoke detector out of her pocket.
I thought you got rid of that.
Every smoke detector on the block goes off.
She takes a step back and stumbles on a rat. It squeaks and she slips and she falls down the subway stairs.
INSIDE> Subway station, uptown side
She caught herself on the rail right before the bottom of the stairs. She stopped her head inches from the floor.
That woulda hurt.
Clint rushes to her. The smoke detector fell and it broke, but the saxophone is OK.
I SWEAR to GOD, RATS are out to GET me.
A subway pulls in on the opposite track.
A giant man-shaped thing in a trench coat and a slouch hat stumbles down the stairs. It smells of honey and shit. We can see nothing of its face. The rats give it wide berth. Distracted, Clint and Kimmi do not see it.
Grammatica the Golem.
On the subway we can see the backs of Sukie and Reginald Denny’s heads. Arthur, sitting across the aisle, watches Kimmi and Clint without interest. Rats scatter.
Jesus, are you sure you’re OK?
Whereupon the thing in the trench coat, Grammatica the Golem, grabs Clint’s head. He simply folds Clint’s head it into his giant hands, and pushes Clint’s face into the the gate. Blood squirts out Clint’s ear and he falls. He does not move again.
The train pulls away – Arthur jumps to his feet in horror.
Kimmi donkeypunches Grammatica in the neck. It leaves a dent but does not hurt the golem. It reaches out to grab her and she shrugs away so it catches her jacket but she slides out of it and jumps the turnstile.
The booth attendant yells at Kimmi, then Grammatica, who jumps the turnstile, and then he sees Clint crumpled up in his own blood.
When Grammatica leaps the turnstile Kimmi swings her - no - stops with the sax ready like an axe, about to chop, and remembers who it used to belong to.
Grammatica has no such compunctions. It grabs her arm and twists viciously. Her arm should snap. But she does a crazy aikido breakfall and only gets thrown. The saxophone falls, and hits a rat. She lands on a rat. Why are there rats everywhere? Who cares? She grabs one by its grotty pink tail and flings it at Grammatica.
The rat lands on the blank spot where Grammatica’s face should be and sticks. Not with its claws, but like it landed in tar - the rat wants to run, and it can’t, and it screams. Grammatica raises a gloved hand and pushes it, not into its mouth, but into its face.
The rat is absorbed.
Clint’s blood runs off the platform.
Grammatica runs at her like a freight train.
Kimmi ducks low and trips it. It flies over her and skids, leaving a trail of slime, honey, and shit.
It gets up and runs at her again. She turns to run and slips in Clint’s blood. Something in her ankle pops.
As its grasping hands reach her she scuttles under the turnstile. It jumps over. She scuttles back under. It jumps back over.
The rails pop and snap, which means a train is coming.
It rushes her.
She grabs it by the arm and flips it over her back, off the platform, and it lands on the rails with a wet smack. Rats run.
Curiously, Grammatica’s arm came off in Kimmi’s hand, still in glove and trenchcoat sleeve.
The train hits the brakes and sirens blare.
Grammatica tries to leap off the tracks and she clubs it down with its own arm. It tries to leap up and she kicks it in the face. Then the train hits it.
Then the police come.
Paramedics wrap Clint up.
Who are you? What’s your birthday?
A man in an orange vest sprays the platform down. Rats gather, and roaches. And more rats.
The camera moves into the tunnel, towards Manhattan. It’s dark. Sounds of rats, sounds of roaches. And, faintly, running water.
DAWN> New York City> East Flatbush> Street
Rhonda walks out of her apartment and down the street..
Tall Tom buys a pint of General Tso’s Chicken and a big can of beans. He pops the beans open with his pocketknife and dumps them out, then he wipes the can out with a napkin and pours the chicken in. Then he sits on the corner with his dog Tenegae, and pulls his hat way down over his eyes. One bite for him, one bite for the dog. He chews. One bite for him, one bite for the dog.
That man’s eating dog food!
Mom comes over and tries to give Tom $10. Doesn’t want it. Looks away, won’t make eye contact.
The woman says
Here, for god’s sake.
throws down $20 and drags the kid away.
Tom tucks the money away. Rhonda passes this on the way to the subway.
EXTERIOR> Sutter-Rutland Station
The 2 train comes. She gets on and sits down.
THE GUY WHO SITS BESIDE HER
There’s a RAT on the train. The guy freaks so bad he actually jumps over the rat so now he’s off the train and the rat is on. They both take a step back.
And then the doors close.
This is the Bronx-bound 2 train, next stop Utica.
The guy outside runs along the train yelling and banging on the door. Rhonda and the rat eye each other. Neither one makes the first move.
Then the rat loses it, jumps all over the car. People hop on benches and hang from straps to get away, throw boxes at the poor rat and hit the people trying to stomp on it. The little fella ends up right back where he started, three feet from Rhonda (but missing an inch of tail now), and the train comes to Utica Avenue.
The doors open. Someone throws a high heeled shoe at the rat and it gets off in a hurry. Then the doors close.
Shit! I lost my shoe!
And the spindly guy left his backpack on the train. Rhonda goes through it.
Two CDs. Half a bottle of Yellowjackets. Disposable camera, spool of thread, and a single rock the size of a pillbottle. A computer disc, a condom and a band-aid, broke-open pack of wood matches, spare change, another two rocks, a bag of weed...
Rhonda looks all around real fast.
That was my WORK shoe!
This doesn’t seem like a trap. Rhonda just plain lucked out. She continues the search.
Red aluminum pipe, pencil sharpener, book of matches, pens (uniball, sharpie, ballpoint), half a flier from the Boston chapter of the Lesbian Avengers with Kara and Ben’s email addresses scrawled on it, a penny, another rock, roll-on deoderant, the collected plays of Peter Shaefer, scrap paper, a folded-up wallet picture of a white girl with red hair. She has a crimson turtleneck and a class ring and no other identification, and the back of the picture has nothing written on it. A flashlight, and another disposable camera (all the pictures are already taken, who knows of what), two diner knives and a fork, more uniball pens, a marble, an AA battery, another rock, a clothespin, a golf ball. A business card for a house painter in Normal, Illinois. A spool of wire and a dead lighter and a duraflame fire lighter that still works (she tests it under her jacket). An American Camper swiss army knife, more pens, one pencil, one mechanical pencil, one binder clip, two q-tips, a book; “Discoveries of the Human Brain,” and another book, a history of the MOVE bombing. And a popsicle wrapper and two more rocks.
The subway comes to the next stop.
The subways go slow because of rats on the tracks.
People go to work, or try to. Too many rats.
NOON> New York City
INSIDE> Public bathroom
A wet rat climbs out of the toilet.
INSIDE> Subway System
The train stopped two hundred feet shy of the platform, unable to get up a slight incline with the tracks slick with rat blood and the rats cooking themselves against the third rail. The passengers huddle in the corners of the cars, shirts over their mouths. They keep the kids quiet, and sorry if a kid gets slapped but we have to keep cool. And women dump perfume out, empty entire bottles of perfume on the floor, anything to fight the smell. And fights don’t break out – fights have already broken out and burned out. There are makeshift bandages on some people. Each car is a separate world, because there are cockroaches coming in the air vents and if you open the door, even for a second, you let in the rats. Someone strums a guitar and sings Beatles songs over the intercom, and people hum and clap along. And keep calm. And kill roaches. And sit. And wait.
All around them they hear the shrieks of the rats.
In the distance, the pop of guns.
The lights flicker and go out.
The cars scream.
At the station, cops shoot rats with their service revolvers. Constructions workers clear a path with torches and shovels. They hear this sound.
What the hell?
The people in the subway cars scream.
All over the MTA, transit cops in goofy orange vests evacuate New Yorkers, who all wear black. Then men and women in yellow spacesuits go down the tunnels with big cans of extremely poisonous poison.
If there’s anyone down there, come out fast, because we’re gonna spray some highly deadly shit. Anyone? 10. 9. 8. 7. 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. One and a half. 1.
Alright, guys; roll it.
The gas is green and heavier than air. Rats die horribly, skin splitting and blood boiling out, and they tear at each other as they die. The dogs and the cats and even the roaches die.
INSIDE> Borders Books and Music, a big chain bookstore under the World Trade Center
There are more employees than customers. Customers: stranded businesspersons, tourists, old men, the homeless, children, and students from Pace University and New York Law. The employees look like customers with name badges.
Two rats drop out of the ceiling.
Augusta the security guard grunts and squishes one.
INSIDE> the lower mall level of Borders, also known as the concourse
The travel books, and the overstock. The doors open on the mall under the World Trade Center, which connects to the PATH and the subway.
There are three customers; Lee Boone, a graphic designer, and two street kids, Mushroom and Calico, who act real sketchy. Izzy (short for Isidore) Murphy and Maria G. work the counter. Ignacio, the security guard, chats them up.
Dinosaurs roamed the Earth for millions of years.
Here? Right here?
Even this spot right here.
Sea dinosaurs. This spot was probably under an ocean.
Oh, so this was during the Flood.
Or before the Flood?
Oh, absolutely, long before the Flood.
Before human beings.
What did dinosaurs look like?
Unobserved, two street kids named Calico and Mushroom wave their friend Opie in. Opie was lurking in the mall outside, with a suspicious bundle under his arm, until the coast was clear. As they hustle him in the bundle barks, once, and is silenced. The employees notice nothing.
The tracks are poison rivers clogged with the bodies of rats. And roaches and dogs and alligators. You even see a turtle.
INSIDE> World Trade Center Mall> WTC Precinct House
They put up a wall. No one comes in or out.
INSIDE> Borders Books and Music> World Trade Center Mall> concourse bathroom
Attention Borders customers. Due to circumstances beyond our control we will close early today. We ask at this time that you bring your purchases to the registers on our main floor. The concourse level is already closed.
Izzy pours a pint of Drano straight down the toilet, flushes, and shits fast as she can. Then she flushes again and chases it with Drano, finishing the bottle.
Look out; cops put up a wall.
That doesn’t seem good.
Is that normal?
I don’t think this is normal.
Ignacio closes the doors and locks them. By the way, the doors are glass.
Humm. We should put down the gate.
[into walkie talkie]
[from walkie talkie]
Out in the mall a construction crew goes by, running as fast as they can.
OVERHEAD PAGE [continued]
If you have no purchases, please make your way to our main entrance on the street level. The mall and the World Trade Center are closed, and all Manhattan subway service is suspended.
We apologise for the inconvenience.
Thank you for...shopping...
Out in the mall a calm hum, a strong hum, comes up the stairs from the subway.
Mushroom and Calico and Opie went up the escalators to the main floor. The only other people down here are Ignacio and Lee Boone.
We’re closed down here, sir.
I know, I know.
[to someone outside the door]
We’re closed, sir!
Lars, Fernando, and LeAnne try to convince the customers to leave. The customers don’t want to go.
No wonder why, when you look outside.
The street’s gone mad.
Never seen anything like this here. It’s like Calcutta, or a riot. So many people. Every skyscraper in the financial district shat its customers on the street. And it looks like it snowed dead rats and shoes. Poisoned rats run this way and that, biting at ankles.
Cops, firemen, everybody, try to get inside. Get inside and get off the first floor. Everyone who has a car or a bike went to Long Island, but they closed all the tunnels. Had to.
There’s a soft, airy thrumm outside. Like a thousand owls taking off all at once. Everyone on the street looks up to see the Flight of the Black Helicopters.
Twenty, thirty, fifty black helicopters, converge from every point. They hover over the riot of Tribeca, like sinister dolphins watching clams fight crabs. Then they shoot straight up, into the clouds, and and are gone.
Rats and people both try to swim across the East River.
It starts to rain.
As soon as the customers leave we can go.
I live in Queens, man.
I ain’t goin’.
We’re closed, ma’am.
A rat falls from the ceiling. Felix steps on its neck.
SOLUKA WU [customer]
I am not, either.
Her three children in tow, she goes back upstairs.
From downstairs on the concourse you hear:
We’re closed down here, sir.
LEE BOONE [off-screen]
I know, I know.
We’re closed, sir! Closed!
IZZY and MARIA G. and IGNACIO
Lars and Leanne and Fernando rush down.
It killed Ignacio. It has a knife. It was human, once, maybe a big man, but wretched thin, bleeding from the eyes and under the nails. Moans like it’s broken. It digs the edge of the knife in Maria G.’s side and drags her back into the mall. Two things much like it watch from the door. Tendrils of tear gas curl across the mall floor.
LeAnne and Fernando and Lars rush them.
LEANNE and FERNANDO and LARS
[Lars into the store phone]
Fernando clotheslines a zombie and Lars kicks it in the head. LeAnne leaps on one and they go down in an angry tangle.
Let her go.
Let her go.
She advances and the zombie retreats, holding Maria. It walks backwards, step by step, into the misty mall.
Lars and Fernando dogpile a zombie. LeAnne and the other zombie knock a bookshelf down on themselves and she punches it in the kidneys.. It sinks his teeth deep into her upper thigh. LeAnne screams and yanks his head back by its ears and and it tears a chunk of flesh off with it. She howls and pulls off an ear. Then Fernando drops a cash register on its head.
Wherez Izzy an’ Maria?
Security arrives; Augusta and Sabrina.
Board this up.
We be right back.
They run into the mall.
Fernando and Amy Chang push a bookcase in front of the door.
O Goddess. I have rabies.
LARS [overhead page]
Jesus! Get the first aid kit!
Fernando looks into the mall and
Damn, you should see the barricade the cops have up. They’ve got tear gas and everything. We got to build us something like that.
Augusta and Sabrina come back.
Board that shit up now.
We don’t know.
They weren’t anywhere. Go get Greg. Board up the upstairs too.
LARS [overhead page]
Greg to the concourse, please. Greg to the concourse.
They wall themselves in with books and bookshelves.
Greg comes down.
I’m going out to look for them.
No, you two stay here. You have to…
Oh, who am I kidding. Let’s go.
Back in a minute.
Give me your cell phone.
Greg grins, they heft their makeshift weapons (microphone stands and a tensabarrier pole Augusta swings like an axe), turn on their flashlights and go.
[calls after them]
When you want to come back in, remember the secret knock!
[to Fernando, Josiah, and Gemma]
Board that up.
When they go out you can hear the sounds coming from the subway. Sounds like a war down there. Screams, shots, howls, things falling, and loud, barely human moans. And louder and louder the sound of rushing water.
The streets are empty, empty except for sirens, and broken glass, and furtive gunfire, and a few brave taggers. Someone got busy with spray paint and it says:
INSIDE> Main Floor
They walled off the windows with book shelves and books piled on top. The sales floor’s been plucked like a chicken, empty except for paperbacks lying ankle deep.
Pooka, Opie’s dog, runs the floor, killing rats. She’s never been so happy.
Good Pooka! Good girl. Go get that one!
Felix sits on the floor in the science fiction quality paperbacks. He has ten books by Lovecraft open in a circle around him, which he reads fiendishly.
It’s all coming true...
INSIDE> Music Section
Amanda and Joanne board up the service entrance and stack crates of CDs in front of it.
INSIDE> Astrology Section
LeAnne lies on the floor by the tarot cards, legs wrapped in bandages. Liz and Soluka Wu come over with Bibles.
Miss, are you–
Get away! Vultures!
UPSTAIRS> Employee Break Room
Terry and Quiana eat old Chinese food from the fridge. Who knows how long it’s been there. The garbage overflows with overused coffee filters and now they’re using nylon stockings. Nina takes a Centrum, then another, then ten more.
Anybody want some?
Nina eats the whole bottle, like thirty vitamins.
Josiah and Fernando play cards on top of the barricade. Josiah flips his butterfly knife back and forth in his hand. Rushing water growls louder in the mall.
Employees to the main entrance, please. Employees to the main entrance.
INSIDE> Main Entrance
They assemble. There are seventeen employees and sixteen customers:
(Josiah watches the door downstairs. Augusta, Sabrina, and Greg went out to look for Izzy and Maria G. Ignacio died)
Sing Wan Song
Suzy Suzanne Amanda Cross
Mushroom sits on the down escalator and strums his guitar.
On an average Wednesday
On a fleabite afternoon
Your dog sinks her teeth into her own leg
To stop herself
Howling at the moon
And that perfect white ball
Of perfect white light
Where you think your soul might be
Well, that isn’t quite right
It’s dark underground tonight
It’s dark inside your head
Your eyes let in a little light
And this is what they said
Everything I see, I see
And that means that it’s light
But I read a book that took a look
And inside me there is night
There are stars up in heaven
There are no stars underground
And you can pray to any god you name
But they won’t turn it round.
And you can see stars when you want to
‘Less you’re inside or it rains
But the underground’s inside you
That’s what your eyes are saying
They raise their voices against the roar of the subway.
The cops aren’t coming. They aren’t leaving, that is. I guess they’re already here, but they aren’t doing anything for anyone except for them.
Bill, are the dead coming to life?
I don’t know. That’s Shell’s department
Shell’s off today. Shell would be off the day zombies attack.
Give ‘im a break; he has a kid on the way.
That’s not what I’m saying. I’m just saying he’ll be sorry he missed it.
Maybe he’ll get lucky and the zombies will attack Long Island next.
A river rushes through the tracks.
The floor crumbles away and falls. There’s another river beneath it.
The floor shudders. Josiah throws a dictionary at a rat.
Gemma creeps down the stairs behind him and goes into the back stockroom.
Terry follows her. He closes the door behind him. Josiah doesn’t notice, or if he notices, doesn’t care.
He listens to the mall. To screams, and crashes, and the river that will not shut up.
And where were you when Ignacio died?
Where were you? What did you do?
What? I came up here and got help! What did you want?
Came up and got help. Yeah. Got your HEAD up your ASS!
Lee Boone leaps at him. Suzanne and Sam hold him back, and Walt and Felix restrain Fernando.
Stop it! Stop it now!!!
[to Lee Boone]
You! Go sit with the other customers.
You don’t gotta make such a big thing out of this. Greg’ll bring her back.
Now. If you don’t mind. How are we for food? How much food do we have? Café?
Can you make more?
We don’t make food. We reheat it.
You don’t have ingredients?
You kidding? We buy the bagels across the street and sell them here.
For fifty cents more.
Yeah, it’s fucked up.
Fill buckets. Fill buckets while the water works.
Good, Felix, you do that. Quiana, go help him. You…
Goddamn it, Fernando, I’m fucking sick of it! We don’t have time for this ridiculous shit, and you bring this-
Lars’s phone rings.
How are you?
Are you OK?
Greg’s dead. We should get ready.
Josiah hears something upstairs.
What up, up there?
The zombies break the glass walls and climb over the barricades and try to kill them. Augusta swings the tensabarrier pole into a zombies ribs with a happy crunch. Amy Chang kicks ass with a fire extinguisher. Lee Boone has a knife, as do Thomas and Mushroom, Opie, Calico, and JoAnne. And Jairo - who knows from where, but Jairo has a sword.
Josiah waits, knife out.
[From top of stairs]
You OK down there?
Man, we just kicked some zombie ass.
Major zombie incursion, man, lemme tell ya...
Were they ugly like your mom?
Yo, fuck you!
Fuck you off with zombies, bitch! I got mutant alligators to contend with down heah!
[calling after him]
Yo, Fernando! Get me a sandwich!
Gemma and Terry fuck.
They fix the barricades.
Monsters monsters monsters monsters.
Well, today turned out nothing like I planned.
I just drove out here from San Francisco in this rented car to look for my husband, but not stalk him or anything.
God, what if the National Guard doesn’t come?
They can’t! They won’t!
Keep calm, Lars. You’re a manager. Shut up!
SHUT UP! CALM DOWN! Calm the fuck down!
Everyone! When we fight, nobody wins. Think about this. Think about your legacy. A legacy! What do you do here, in this place, that lives on after you? This place will stand until we die.What we do today is how, is who how holds it. How can you fight? Fight humans? Save your fight for the zombies outdoors, friends! Friends! Fight the outdoors!
No, he’s right.
He’s an idiot.
The ventilation clots up and everything smells like wet subway.
One of the zombies, a giant wreck of a man, wore a suit and a black leather overcoat. Felix takes the coat off and puts it on. He feels like the first man on a dark new planet. A dark new world. Everybody’s trapped on this planet but Felix knows why.
There’s no guarantee these guys are zombies, right?
Release the soul from the body.
Yeah, sure. I mean, who says?
This one has a driver’s license.
Let me see.
James L. Person. 35-42 28th Street, Queens USA.
Hey. That’s like three blocks from my place.
I don’t want to know.
We might be zombies too.
Shut up right now.
You really must shut up.
And on the other side of the store, a zombie moans. Her arms and legs are broken, which is why she moans.
Nobody hears but Amy Chang. She comes over to investigate, with a duct-taped tensabarrier pole held like a hammer.
Nobody else looks.
Your filth must end.
And she brings the hammer down.
Gemma and Terry fuck.
LARS (off muttering by himself)
Bad shit! Bad shit!
They rebuild the barricades.
Actually, I kind of like that fire extinguisher smell.
Really. Tell me more.
UPSTAIRS> Ladies’ Room
The lights have not gone out. The lights never go out. But the heaters went haywire and it’s hot. Drano and bleach lie in puddles on the floor. The sinks work, though, and everyone’s in there scrubbing off blood and sweat, and cutting off the chunks in their hair.
Rhonda lights up and they smoke out. Some guys drift in too and some bring their own weed.
This weed is good to smoke. This animal is good to eat. This wine goes well with it. We already know everything we need to know. We need a moratorium on learning more.
Are you saying this?
Am I saying this? No, I’m not saying this.
What makes him say this?
It’s hot. We’re monkeys. I’m taking my shirt off.
Why do we have to be at work today? Why not Shell? Shell likes this shit!
OUTSIDE> Franklin Avenue Station
A flock of vile things clamber up from some unknown catacomb through a crack in the floor of the Franklin Avenue subway and attack a crowd of people on the platform.
INSIDE> Outside the bathroom.
In the café Amanda and Joanne pour milk rations into plastic cups.
Save the imitation chicken for the salad.
The infirmary’s where the art section used to be. Liz and Walt tend to the wounded as best they can, with a first aid kit and some gauze and hot water from the café. They drink green tea.
Quiana has a hole through her stomach and Felix’s ribs crumpled. They broke Sam’s arm. Sabrina, Fernando, and Opie lost teeth. Suzanne lost an eye. Lee Boone, Thomas, and Greg died. Bill got cut near in half. A bookshelf fell on Nina’s head and smashed her cheek. Lars went insane.
Jairo cleans his sword.
The cops aren’t coming.
So what if the cops didn’t come? What they do we didn’t do?
I quit! I don’t want to work here anymore!
Hey, hire me.
And and get that GET THAT GODDAMN DOG OUT OF HERE!
Hey, shut up!
MUSHROOM and RHONDA
You’re scaring the dog!
[jumps on top of the grand piano]
Listen to me.
Jairo, get off the piano.
We have to face this! We are at war!
Jairo! Do not fuck with our very expensive stuff!
What, are you in charge?
The zombies will be back!
[holding book by Lovecraft]
Oh, they’ll be back. Says right here.
...and we know it.
The police will not lift a finger to save us. The National Guard might be coming and they will not be here in time. We must be alive when they get here. We must stay alive until they do. If they do.
Oh, shut up, Jairo! How can you ignore something like this?
Felix, my friend, now is not the time for theory.
[reads from book]
‘The rats, the rats, the rats in the walls!’
Huh? How’s that, Jairo?
Yeah, what about that?
Jairo draws his sword. A hush falls over the crowd. And they hear the rats scrabbling inside the overhead panels. There’s a soft thud, which is a rat falling through, followed by a sharp thwack, which is Sabrina or Augusta crushing it with a tensabarrier pole. Most of the rats are poisoned and dying when they fall through anyway, which makes them easy to catch. They cross the fluorescents and cast shadows.
New York has gone mad.
We must save ourselves. This is our place; our store. We work here! We can save it! It’s ours!
What about the customers?
This is our place.
We’re all hungry.
There isn’t enough food for all of us.
Shut up. The only one of you who did shit was Lee Boone and he’s dead and so’s Bill while you hid upstairs and we fought for your weak white asses. You don’t work here.
Yes. This is not your place. This is our place. That is our food.
Food? Food! Food?
We’ll be with them soon enough. We’ll be food. You’ll see.
[points sword at Felix]
One more word. One more word.
From down the stairs they hear Josiah scream.
And zombies moan.
War for the FAMILY.
The customer’s wives and children can stay, but the customer must go and fight!
Go! Go fight!
They fight the zombies. They might be winning. Hard to tell.
Mighty Mouse, the homeless man who has been hiding under the escalator this whole time, creeps upstairs where it’s a bit safer.
It’s quieter up here. Everyone’s already dead or sleeping. LeAnne’s the only one awake.
LeAnne sits by the tarot display amongst the barren and broken shelves. Fever burns her. Her leg will have to be amputated. She reads the tarot by laying the cards in no order at all. She gnaws toothpicks to flinders. She says to Mighty Mouse;
I was reading this book.
Full fathom five my chances lie. Oh, look. Look at that.
She sticks her finger in the hole in her leg and wiggles it around. It comes out green.
My name is LeAnne, as in The Anne. On the isle of Crete I greet the story; great story. Sex scenes and fight scenes and us, me, we all used to be, now we lie here on the Meditteranean Sea. We lived to King Minos one. King Minos, his wife was a wife. Like wives. Conceived of lust for the sacred white bull. Who was Zeus, of course. She saw things in him we normally do not see. And she persuaded an artist friend, Daedalus, to construct unto her a cow suit. The cow. With cows. In a cow. In a cow suit. She fucked cows. Was it just one special cow, or all sorts...
They did things different then...
So she had this kid, or calf, a child with the head of a bull. They called it the Minotaur. He was famous. A rock star. She died.
Rage; ring Minos, flew to, red rage. Put on a cowboy hat and made everybody kiss his ass. Then he built a maze. He stuck the minotaur in it. He made Daedalus build it. The minotaur could get out but he didn’t want to. Because it was fascinating. Involving. Absorbing. Why get away? To where? He didn’t want away. He wasn’t in jail, because he couldn’t be, he was the son of the king. God, the king. Cannot be imprisoned, and cannot escape. Or would not. Why would I want to? If I stay home they feed me virgins.
To thank Daedalus, to keep the maze safe, to the Minotaur not escape. To this end. King Minos locked Daedalus in a tower. No labyrinth, no maze. Just a very small room. So she could not escape.
A body decomposes.
EXTERIOR> Staten Island Ferry> the prow> going to Staten Island> night
Geoff and a firefighter watch Governor’s Island slide across the waves past them.
You in that, back there?
Can you tell me anything about it?
Not much to tell.
Can I tell you something about it?
I worked there. I wrote a disaster movie about it.
I guess that’s not much...much worth talking about.
But I did.
Silence falls, and dead awkwardness. The ferry rides the half-moon’s finger to the dock on Staten Island.
Behind them all the lights in all the towers in all of New York burn. But the streets, and the stores, and all the first floors of all the buildings, are dark. The rats ate the roots of our buildings of lights. They gnawed off the skyscrapers at the knees.
Manhattan floats in this air, cut off from the reflection. A black sea fell between there and here.
These days you can’t get there from here.
INSIDE> Hospital Room> Dark> Quarter moon
Clint wakes up in a room surrounded by wilted flowers. He has an IV in his hand. He has bandages on his head. They feel thick.
He talks like his tongue is dead. He tries to feel his head but there are all sorts of bandages in the way.
VOICE FROM CLOSET
Clint startles. The closet opens, and guess who’s inside.
Your friendsss were here, Clint McFaul.
He grins and shows Clint his vampire fangs.
Those things’re cheaper’n shit. Break easy, too. Watch this.
And he bites the door.
[through a mouthful of door]
The hall door rattles. Denny pulls the closet door shut with his teeth.
The nurse comes in.
Hello? Who’s in here?
McFaul? What did you say?
Clint looks at her.
She claps her hands to her mouth and runs out of the room.
Clint’s head feels heavy and numb. His fingers explore the bandages. They are thick. He looks at his IV. Looks like there’s serious stuff pumping into him.
Clint moves a hand over to his left, a little above his head, to find his chart, and pick it up, maybe push it over where he can see it. Nothing hurts. His fingers are miles away. Oh. That’s odd.
There are two pieces of paper clipped to the front of his chart, over all his medical stuff. They are character sheets for Vampire, the Role-Playing Game. There’s one for Reginald Denny, and one for Grammatica the Golem.
Mister McFaul! Are you awake?
He’s awake! He is!
He looks at the closet door. It stays quiet and closed.
He can’t decide if he should open it or not.