Things that can’t be taken away

“Not only had my brother disappeared, but–and bear with me here–a part of my very being had gone with him. Stories about us could, from them on, be told from only one perspective. Memories could be told but not shared.”

It seems like so long ago now, and still it seems like just yesterday that the charismatic and charming Riley V Whitehead graced this world. He committed suicide on March 22, 2011. Riley was my cousin, but the closeness we shared was more akin to siblings. On the day I found out it had seemed impossible, unthinkable, that the world did not grind to a halt at the moment of his death. More than anything I wanted to stop, wait, go back, do something to stop it. Yet the world spun obstinately on – oblivious to the anguished cries of disbelief from myself, my family, and Riley’s incredibly numerous friends. Everyone who knew Riley knew he was special. He was bright, easy to laugh, brilliant, fun, fearless, one of those people that effortlessly became the center of attention. And you’d better believe he knew it.

I think that was part of why we all felt like we had failed him. Riley was always there when you reached out to him, and for whatever reason didn’t feel like he could reach out to any of us.

Over 800 people came to his funeral. It was one of the most mind-boggling and touching things I’d ever experienced. Everyone laughed and cried and shared memories, and from all their stories I learned about dozens of facets of Riley’s life that I’d never known about.

This post has been sitting in my drafts for quite some time now, and I think it’s about time I just put it out there.

I don’t quite know how to wrap it up though. Thinking about it now over three years later I remember bits and pieces and mostly memories that make me smile. I remember how Riley got a bag of dog food for a childhood birthday — an inside joke amongst family because Ri would eat his dog Max’s food. He said “If it’s good enough for Max, it’s good enough for me.” I remember playing tag and swimming in the pool at his house. I remember family reunions and his ridiculousness. I remember how attached he was to his car and his satchel (though some of us teased him about it being a man-purse). I remember making crowns with vines that were growing on the fence by my garage. I remember Riley telling me that he would be the coolest uncle ever once my daughter arrived. He promised to teach her the most creative curses and the best ways to annoy me.

Leonard Cohen sang “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”

That’s how I have chosen deal difficult life situations. One of the most important (and hardest) life lessons you can learn comes on the heels of death and tragedy. You can live without money, you can get by with next to nothing and still manage to wake up every morning happy. People can be resilient. You can be beaten down again and again, and still manage to get up at the end of the day.

It doesn’t matter what you go through, who or what you lose as life goes on. The world spins on, refusing to stop and let you get your bearings back. Use it to make you stronger. There are things that can’t be taken away from you. Memories. Hold them for a while, then index them and pull them out for a dusting now and again. Just don’t spend all your time with them. You have to move on and create more.

Don’t put all your time and effort into making more money, acquiring more things, or being more successful. All that effort is better spent on creating new experiences, cultivating the relationships that are important to you, and doing things that make you happy. None of us gets to know how much time we have, so let’s just make the best of what we have while we have it. The only things you end up truly regretting are the things you didn’t do.

Snow and me: It’s complicated

When I peeked out of my bedroom a week ago I discovered something terrible. It had snowed overnight, leaving a thin blanket of brrrrrr everywhere. How disappointing.

Now I do recognize that I live in a state where snow is a thing every year. There are loads of cool things to do with snow. You can build snowmen; My childhood winters consisted mostly of trying to emulate a lot of Calvin’s famous snow creations. You can build igloos (theoretically, of course. I’ve tried, and apparently I can’t.) You can go sledding, you can have snowball fights, you can build forts, you can do all kinds of things. Winter is a magical time.

So when I awoke to snow what I saw wasn’t a myriad of possibilities. I saw instead; People will be driving stupidly; I will pass several vehicular accidents (actual count: 4 that day); It’s bleedin’ cold out there. I wasn’t wrong.

It hasn’t really gotten better. I’m not very excited about this season.

I have hope, though.

I’m a romantic. Everyone who knows me know this. I try to find joy in the simplest things, I try to always have a positive outlook no matter the situation. Sometimes I fall back into that hole of despair but getting back out has become more like simply picking myself up off the ground – where it used to be like trying to climb out of a mudslide with bloodied hands. Point is, I always smile. I always laugh. I always try to help others up. I always try to be honest with myself and others.

Here is my secret hope I won’t admit aloud: I hope with all my heart that one day soon I look out my window and I see a sparkling, bright, fresh, thick blanket of snow on everything and it pulls out my inner child from wherever she’s been hiding, and it makes me want to go sledding, and make snow angels, and throw snowballs. I hope that when she comes out she’s loud and obnoxious, energetic and blindly cheerful beyond any reasonable quantity. I hope that winter doesn’t get me down.

Nonsense

A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.

— Ronald Dahl

I’m a prominent purveyor of nonsense. Oh yes, that’s me.

Apparently I began this post, oh, a week ago and <forgot><lost interest><overestimated my attention span> suddenly had important other things to do, probably. So I was about to delete it when I realized that if I did so, I would be wasting the dozens of seconds of thought that I initially must have put into it. The above quote by Ronald Dahl and the sentence following it were all that existed when I curiously opened up the draft post NonsenseClearly, I had big plans for this. 

It was a tough decision, requiring even more thoughts, and by that time I felt that I was too fully invested.

“I’m already on a roll,” I thought, as I began this quotation of my thoughts, “Why stop now?”

“I’ll tell you why,” I responded internally. This is becoming a bit of a mess, admittedly. But once I began this internal debate, it was already too late to stop myself. “Because you have no idea what to write.”

But sure I do. I’ll write about nonsense.

<<blank draw, try again>>

Hmmm, I could just write

R~A~N~D~O~M

things as they pop into my head.

That’s what you’re doing right now, lady. You’re having trouble following yourself, how is your readership going to follow this train wreck? Besides, you don’t even have a topic.

Nonsense! See?

Oh for heaven’s sake. That’s not a topic. You don’t even have context. This is a disaster. Look, I’m just going to

-cut-

-you-

-off-

right here before this can go any further.

Oh great, now I’m doing it too. 

—End—

 

The girl and the alien hominoids

The planet was a lush rainforest of continents swaddled by gentle indigo oceans. Enormous pink clouds floated around it like so many puffs of cotton candy.

From a crawling orbit above the atmosphere the strange bipedal hairless hominoids were embroiled in disputes about it, and about the sentients they hoped to find below.

This was the first time the hominoids had ever attempted such a thing. They had been carefully chosen for this mission to properly represent their species as delegates from the third planetary body orbiting the star Sol.

So far from home, only the Navigator recognized that specific star. He checked several times a day (insofar as one could relegate days on the vessel), just to make sure it was still there. He superstitiously believed that if he ever lost track of that star, he might never find it again. A good navigator can always find his way home.

The hominoids bickered about how to land, where to land, what to bring, how to approach the natives (if there were natives), what all that purpley and bluish stuff was, and who would go versus who would stay. The arguments were pointless for the most part, as they had procedures set in place for just this kind of thing. To be fair the landing discussion did have some merit: everyone agreed that it would be difficult to land on top of the thick canopy of trees covering everything. At least what the topography expert believed to be trees. No one knew for sure.  Two things they all agreed on was that all this had seemed much more simple and straightforward on paper, and also that the planet below was more beautiful than they had ever anticipated.

 

Below in her small forest village, a brilliant girl was fiddling with her latest invention. She fine-tuned some metal filaments and what could reasonably pass as an antenna inside of a crude wooden box. This girl, whose mind was far beyond anything her people had ever seen, was at the moment quartered in a treehouse with all her homemade gadgets and paraphernalia. She was both feared and respected by the village, who gasped in wonder at her impossible inventions. A small orb made of fused sand and metal absorbed the sunlight during the day and emitted an illuminating glow during the dark night hours. It didn’t provide the warmth of a night fire, but it was a much safer lighting system. She’d also created a sort of aqueduct system that brought the village fresh water from a nearby river. Her star map – carefully carved into a large piece of stone was something of a novelty to the villagers who didn’t really understand what it was for, but appreciated its complicated beauty.

As she fiddled with the filaments a gentle hum emanated from the box. Jumping back excitedly,  the girl moved her finger to the antenna to ground the device. She felt a small charge and grinned. She was hoping her theory was correct, and this this device might be useful to warn the village of the frequent great electrical storms. What she heard instead from the device was garbled words in a language she did not understand, although it sounded strangely familiar to her.

“…earth. We come in……Captain Walsh….Transmission….Four – Two – Seven……..delegates from the planet………..peace……can…..hear me?……Walsh……Two – Eight – Six….”

The device lapsed back into a humming static as she pulled her finger away from the antenna. Eyes wide, she stared at the small wooden machine in front of her. Any other villager would have proclaimed that the box was possessed by evil spirits. This girl was not so superstitious.

She was thrilled. Immediately she began working on another box, similar in design but with key alterations. She would send a message back. She would say in every dialect she knew that she had waited so long for a friend equal in her intelligence. She would ask where her new friend was. She would tell him to come to her little village – she would tell him about her inventions, and ask about his.

She would no longer be alone.

 

Miles and miles above the village that held such an extraordinary girl was the ship. The great metal beast of a ship, filled with hairless hominoids. Hominoids that could not stop arguing with one another about so many tiny details. Details about how and where to land, what to do, how to make contact. They were already sending a pre-recorded radio transmission out into the airwaves – but there was not much hope that it would be answered. So when it was, the bickering stopped cold, and the girl’s message filled the silent ether.

“…R..unn….nno..t…wel..co..mm…….no..land…goback….leave….be..for……..warr……yuuuu…are….nno..t..wel..com……..rrrr….unn……nnowww….”

And the hominoids staring fearfully at one another as the strange gravelly voice intoned such hostilities at them suddenly decided as one that they would listen and obey, no arguments about it. It did not occur to them that the words they heard may have only sounded like their language, but meant something else entirely.

The Navigator searched the sky for Sol and programmed the ship to make a beeline. He was gratified that the rest of the crew suddenly all asked him to point out the comforting star to them, and not a single one forgot how to find it again.

 

Back to basics

Unplugged.

Such an innocuous term. I think that a lot of people believe they can unplug themselves any time they want to. It’s a lovely thought, to turn off ones phone for the day and go “off the radar”. I do think that it’s something everyone should do, from time-to-time.

I actually recently read an article about a CEO deciding to work off an uninhabited island for 40 days or something. The thing about that is, even though the thought is appealing – Robinson Crusoe your way through a scorpion and snake inhabited wilderness and rough it – even he isn’t really unplugging. His intention is to telecommute while he’s on the island. In my mind, that sort of destroys the whole intention.

A few weeks ago the boyfriend and I decided to go to a place in WI called Baxter’s Hollow, which is the Nature Conservancy’s largest preserve in Wisconsin. We were going to take a hike and he was going to shoot for some pictures of the little creek that runs through the preserve.

Here’s the thing about trekking through a place like that – no reception. We were hardly surprised though, and ended up being glad of the walkies, handheld GPS, and hydrapak we brought with us.

First we decided to leave the phones in the truck – no use dragging them around with us, because inside the preserve they were literally no more useful than a snazzy-looking game-boy. After a quick lunch (Pb&J’s, chips, and soda), we threw on our packs and hit the woods. At first, the boyfriend wasn’t having much luck with pictures. We saw some songbirds, but they were flitting around too fast. So were all the honeybees in the meadow, and even a giant green caterpillar slowly crawling across the quartzite trails wasn’t feeling very photogenic. We wandered around a bit more, I became annoyed at myself for not moving efishly-quietly through the woods. (When I’m walking through nature I like to pretend I’m an elf. Don’t judge.)  I kept stepping on sticks and I was trying super hard not to scare off any wildlife, so I decided I needed a walking stick (because in my head this would help me be quiet for some reason). We even found some apple trees, where I picked an apple and tried to get Boyfriend to take the first test-bite, but he wouldn’t, so I did and it was actually pretty good. Take that, sense of adventure.

Then, Boyfriend found a nifty spot at the wood-edge to get a good view of the meadow, and started setting up the tripod to get some shots. I went back into the woods to find a suitable walking stick, and maybe a spot to sit so I could do some reading. I didn’t find a good sitting spot, but I found a walking stick and even remembered to turn on my walkie in case I wandered too far away from him and got lost.

Eventually he got his shots, so we wandered back to the truck to make our way to the creek – which was to be the cherry on our trip.

The first part of the creek was neat, but I broke my walking stick and there were no good shots for the boyfriend, so we headed to another part of the creek. I did see some fish though, and got to prance around on the pebble-banks of the creek and pretend to be a fairy or an elf or something, I don’t know. Boyfriend found me another walking stick. It wasn’t as ideally shaped as the first had been, but it would have to do. It needed work, so I set to surreptitiously shaping it as we walked.

The second part of the creek was much better. No pebble-banks there, just big ol’ quartzite boulders and neat little waterfalls that Boyfriend was really excited about. His excitement turned pretty quickly to disappointment when he realized that the tripod connector thing (let’s get technical with our equipment terminology here) had apparently fallen off his camera somewhere along the walk,  and he had no way to stabilize his camera to get the long-exposure shots he wanted of the little waterfalls. HUGE bummer. I did my duty as supportive girlfriend and tried to find good perches for him to set his camera on instead, and came up with a bunch of bupkis. He did end up being able to set up on his backpack and get a few shots, but not at the angle I think he wanted, although the shots turned out pretty well, so I’ll chalk it up as a “did what we could with what we had” win. After that though, he sort of lost his interest in taking more shots, and we kept going down the creek to see if there was anything interesting further down.

I pranced around some more, and fell on my butt in the creek, which was really funny even though I soaked my jeans and I’m pretty sure it looked like I peed myself (boyfriend said it didn’t look much like I peed myself, which I suspect is nice for “it certainly does, sweetie, but I’m not going to laugh at you about it”).  On the plus side, my fall didn’t destroy any of our equipment, so I didn’t have to beat myself up about that sort of thing on the 2-hour long drive home.

Anyway, after my fall we decided that it was time to skee-daddle and get some dinner (luckily by the time we found a restaurant my pants were mostly dry, except for my socks/shoes/bottom of my jeans area) at a little family restaurant we found on the way home. It was decent, and much appreciated after a day of roughing it, but nothing to write home about.

So we spent the day unplugged, and it was a pretty amazing day, pitfalls included. It was pretty refreshing to be connected in a very human way with no phones. It’s something I would like to do way more often that I currently do.

Maybe this weekend could be time for another adventure!

Run of the witch

The girl ran, her life depended on it. She could hear the hoofbeats behind her getting closer and closer. Her heart pounded in time with the hooves behind her.
They were gaining on her fast, and she couldn’t keep this up for much longer. Her chest was starting to hurt and she was sucking in air so hard it choked her.
She decided the only option was to try and find somewhere in these Dea-forsaken woods where they couldn’t follow her on horseback. The main problem with that though, was the surprising lack of underbrush. She scanned around, toying with the idea of climbing one of the enormous trees but dismissing the thought almost as soon as it came. They’d just wait her out, or cut it down.
She glanced at the thick canopy overhead, cursing it for not letting enough light reach the forest floor to create some underbrush for her, and she didn’t stop running.
Through the steady pounding of hoofbeats and heartbeats in her ears she heard something else – a steady rush of water. Hope leapt up into her throat and she headed towards the sound.
“The witch is headed to the fall, try to cut her off!”

Two of the three men chasing her broke ranks and split in different directions, with the one who shouted still bearing down on her.
I am no witch! the girl thought fiercely, but she didn’t have the extra air to rebuke the man. She was only concerned with survival. Besides, they hadn’t listened to her before, and that was how they had gotten here.
She nearly ran directly into the horse of one of the men who’d split ranks, but at the last second she twisted her feet and slid right underneath the belly of the beast, picking back up her run on the other side.
The water was getting louder now, and her hope was constricting, twisting anxiously inside her.
She finally reached the falls and prepared to make the jump; when as much to her own surprise as anyone else’s, she popped right out of existence.
The horsemen were left to wonder if they’d really just seen her disappear, or if they’d just missed her jump over the craggy falls.

 

On a green grassy knoll, somewhere very far away, the same girl popped back into existence with a muffled thump as she hit the ground.
She got to her feet, wincing at the pain of the fall, still out of breath from running, and looked around herself in bewilderment.
“Huh. I guess they were right.”

The Man with the Time Machine

The Man with the Time Machine arrived at his destination. He was going to make it right, this time.

He stepped out of his machine and looked at the house in front of him. It looked the same as it would eight years in the future. There were small differences; the siding would not look so pristine where he came from; the garden, now lush and beautiful – would be abandoned to wild negligence. The doghouse – this thought stopped him momentarily.

“Webster?” His voice almost broke, but he held himself steady. A small ball of fur bounded out of the bushes and hurled itself at the man. He burst into surprised laughter as he picked up the little creature. “You’re still a pup, aren’t you? I’d forgotten. I’ve missed you, buddy.”

The man looked at the house again. She would be in there, right now. She would be crying and packing her bags. His past self would have left a while ago in a huff, and wouldn’t be returning for hours.

This would be his only chance to stop her. He set down the excited dog, took a calming breath, and strode towards the house.

Inside, he could hear the sounds of hurried departure. The muffled swish of clothes being strewn about and packed, the crinkling of newspaper as trinkets were carefully wrapped and placed in boxes.

He faced the stairs with something akin to hope, mixed with paralyzing fear.

Upstairs Sabine was zipping closed a suitcase as he walked through the door behind her. She grabbed a photograph from the nightstand beside her and raised it over her head, pivoting on one heel to face him. At the sight of him, she frowned and the picture frame fell from her hand. The sound of shattering glass was magnified by the tense silence between them.

“Joel? Is that you?” Sabine blinked at him. Her voice was shaking.

“Sabine, you know it is. Please, please don’t go. I’ll do anything, just don’t leave.”

“What happened to you? You’re…different. And your clothes…  Joel, tell me what’s going on.”

“I did it, Sabine. I finally built the time machine. But since this day…” Remember the rules, he reminded himself, she can’t know. “Sabine, since you left, life has been hell. I’ve worked for eight years to come back to today and convince you to stay with me.”

Sabine looked at the sad, scruffy, thin man in front of her. He looked like her Joel, if her Joel hadn’t eaten or slept for months. His eyes, though, were the dark and sunken eyes of a man obsessed. This Joel, though she wouldn’t admit it, terrified her.

She steeled herself before she replied.

“No, Joel. You can’t fix this that way. If we were meant to be, we’d have eventually worked things out. You made some really big mistakes, and you need to live with them for the rest of your life. I’m leaving. If you want me to come back to you, you need to talk to your past self about making that happen, not me.”

With that, she picked up the suitcase and stepped over the broken glass, brushing past him through the door. He heard her descending the stairs, slamming the front door behind her. He heard the car engine start, heard her drive away.

Joel was dumfounded. He’d thought this would work. And now there was nothing he could do. He heaved broken breaths as the sobbing threatened to choke him.

Back inside the time machine, Joel was cradling Webster the puppy and looking at a yellowed newspaper clipping taped to a panel.

Young woman dies in tragic car accident

The date on the machine panel is the same as the date on the paper.

Joel gives a few more sniffles, then gently ushers the pup out the door.

“There you go, bud. No, it’s ok. The guy in there will need you more than I do.”

Joel closed the door and began fiddling with his panels. He couldn’t give up, he wouldn’t give up. He would just have to find another way to do it.

The Man with the Time Machine arrived at his destination. He was going to make it right, this time.

Little Bell’s Challenge

“Get up. Get up, Little Bell, and do it again.”

Little Bell lifted her head from the ground and opened her eyes. The pain that exploded in her temples nearly knocked her out. The Master was still talking, but Bell couldn’t hear it past the ringing in her ears. Her automatic response was to shake her head, and she suppressed it.

Instead she tried to focus. Slowly she pulled the pain inward, siphoning it from her aching head to her chest, where she pushed it down towards her feet and into the ground beneath her. Bell stood and faced the Master.

The Master had a proud smile on her face.

“Again.” She repeated. Little Bell nodded.

Across the sunny field was a large woodpile. Bell looked at it and took a deep breath. She felt deep within herself the spark that was needed and pulled, using all her power to control the searing energy on its way up. Without controlling it properly, it could burn her alive from the inside.

Finally she felt the fire in her throat and expelled it, sending an enormous plume of flame across the field and igniting the piled wood.

“Master! I did it!” Bell exclaimed. She was so excited that she spread her wings and did an exuberant victory lap around the field. When she landed, the Master – teacher of all the young dragons, was beaming at her.

“Good, Little Bell. Again.” She said.

Make Coffee, Work In My Pajamas

Another Daily Prompt, to get me writing. Here is what I see in my future (a hopeful prediction):

You wake up slowly as the sun shines through the bedroom curtains, gently warming your face. You stretch in stages, methodically and deliberately, waking each muscle in turn.

You look at him, slumbering deeply next to you and smile. You always wake up before he does. His late-night terrible movie addiction keeps him up most of the night. You’ve tried to stay awake with him, but you always fall asleep on his chest, lulled by his heartbeat and steady breathing.

Pulling on a set of pajamas, you tiptoe out of the bedroom and gently close the door behind you. The stairs are maneuvered carefully, as you’ve slipped onto your rear one too many times to be caught off-guard again.

Once you’ve safely reached the first floor, you move almost instinctively, switching on the coffee machine and grabbing your tablet on your way to the porch, where you enjoy the cool and quiet morning air with a cigarette while doing some light reading. It looks to be a beautiful day.

Back inside, you make your coffee and settle into the couch with your laptop, starting the workday. You love being able to work from home. You love your job. You love going to work in your pajamas.

You check the latest reviews from the movie you’ve written, which has just been made into a big-budget blockbuster film. They are glowing, praising reviews. You smile again.

A passing thought strikes you; you can’t remember the last time you actually frowned. You try to frown, just for posterity. It feels wrong, and you’re not quite sure that you’ve succeeded. The thought makes you smile again.

You check your emails, check your blog, your social media. You putter about a little. You jot down notes and ideas. You do some reading, some editing, some story-arc building. You write a few more pages in your novel, which is coming along nicely, by the way.

You attempt to take a sip of your coffee, and discover that the cup is already empty. Ah, that’s what a frown feels like. Ok, make more coffee.

With that done, you decide to go sit on the porch again. That morning air is just wonderful. The sun hovers, still relatively low in the sky, bathing you in orange and pink light.

He joins you on the porch after he wakes, greeting you by brushing his lips against your lips, your cheek, your jaw line, and telling you good morning beautiful. You roll your eyes at the compliment, but inside you’re beaming. You lean into him and breathe him in.

When the two of you go in, you make him a cup of coffee while he fetches his laptop from his office.

Both of you sit on the couch, and continue co-writing your next masterpiece.

Before the day is out you’ve cranked out some wonderful material together, taken an invigorating bike ride, showered, and spent some “quality time” that’s probably best left unwritten here.

You finish the day by falling asleep with your head nestled on his chest while he watches a terrible movie, and you try to stay awake with him, but you both know you’ll be asleep in five minutes, tops.

Everyday is like this, except the ones that aren’t. You love what you do, you make a living off of it, you spend every day in slow-paced bliss with a partner who adores you. Not every day is as perfect as this one, and sometimes you spend nearly the whole day frowning. But not often.

Most days are like this one, and you smile all the time, and you have someone to share your wonderful life with, and most days, the only time you frown is when you run out of coffee.

A Noir/Horror Short Story in screenplay form.

This story is in response to the Daily Prompt today. Let me preface this by saying that I’ve always secretly wanted to write a Noir/Horror style story, because it sounds fun. To add to that fun, since I’ve been writing mostly screenplay stuff for the past year-ish, I’m going to put it in screenplay form. Here goes nothin, boys and girls:

EXT. STREET CORNER – NIGHT

A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN and a SHARPLY-DRESSED MAN stand close together under a street lamp, huddled together in quiet conversation.

BEAUTIFUL WOMAN

I feel like we’re being watched. Are you sure you weren’t followed?

SHARPLY-DRESSED MAN

I’ve been at this game a long time, darlin. There’s no way I could have been followed without my knowin’ it.

The woman looks around slowly, pulling her fur coat close.

BEAUTIFUL WOMAN

Well, do you have it? I don’t want to stand out here all night anyhow, even if you’re right.

SHARPLY-DRESSED MAN

Here it is.

The man hands an ENVELOPE to the woman. She begins to peek inside, but is stopped by the man.

SHARPLY-DRESSED MAN (CONT’D)

Not here! Jeezus. You’ll get us both killed.

Leaving hurriedly, the man pulls the collar of his duster high to shield his face as he walks away.

Taking one last look around herself, the woman tucks the envelope into her coat and starts off in the opposite direction. Her silhouette fades into the darkness.

Underneath the street drainage grate near where they were standing, a pair of bloodshot eyes blinks and disappears.

INT. NEWSPAPER OFFICE – DAY

The beautiful woman is poring over the contents of the envelope. She has several papers scattered across her desk, along with some odd trinkets: an OLD KEY, PHOTOGRAPHS of what appears to be a scientific laboratory, and a MINI CASSETTE TAPE – the kind used by small voice recorders. She is so engrossed in her work that she does not hear SAM, a nerdy reporter, come up behind her.

SAM

Hey Lydia, are you going to avoid me all day, or are you going to tell me why you stood me up last…

Sam spies the stuff on her desk.

SAM (CONT’D)

What is all this?

Lydia turns to look at him, leaning to the side in an obvious attempt to block his view.

LYDIA

Sam, I am so sorry. I got a call from a source for this story, and I had to take it. I can’t tell you anything about it right now though. I don’t have all the facts, and this is something big. Like career-making big.

Sam cranes his neck to see the files. He frowns.

SAM

That looks like information about the murders. Lydia, shouldn’t you bring that stuff to the police?

LYDIA

My source tried to, and they laughed him off. I’m inclined to take him seriously though.

She gives Sam a measuring look.

LYDIA (CONT’D)

Ok, I’ll tell you what I know, but not here. Maybe you can help me decipher some of this stuff. Maybe we could reschedule that date I missed and get together tonight. Your place, 6 o’clock?

SAM (Beaming)

Sure thing, doll. See you then!

Sam leaves with a big smile, and Lydia stuffs the files and trinkets back into the envelope.

EXT. CITY STREET – DAY

Lydia walks along the sidewalk distractedly. She continually looks around suspiciously, exuding an air of intense nervousness. Suddenly, an arm reached out from a shadowed alleyway and pulls her into the darkness. She does not even have time to scream before disappearing off the street.

INT SAM’S APARTMENT – NIGHT

Sitting on his couch, Sam waits for Lydia to arrive. He checks the clock and frowns.

SAM

Stood me up again, it seems.

INT. NEWSPAPER OFFICE – DAY

Lydia is not at her desk. Sam walks past, frowning.

MONTAGE – LYDIA IS MISSING

A) NEWSPAPER OFFICE – Sam walks around the office, asking people if they know where Lydia is. Everyone shakes their heads or shrugs.

B) INSERT NEWSPAPER HEADLINE – “Reporter goes missing!”

C) INSERT NEWSPAPER HEADLINE – “Rash of murders leaves public uneasy”

D) INSERT NEWSPAPER HEADLINE – “Murder spree has police eyeing DR. FREAKISH’S laboratory”

E) INSERT NEWSPAPER HEADLINE – “Reporter still missing, sources say she was investigating recent murders”

F) NEWSPAPER OFFICE – Sam sits at his desk, head in hands, several papers related to the murders scattered across the desk. He looks defeated.

END OF MONTAGE

INT. DARK ROOM

Lydia is sitting at a small table with a HOODED FIGURE who has a rasping voice. She appears tired, but otherwise unhurt.

LYDIA

Can you tell me what you plan to do now?

HOODED FIGURE

Well, like I said, after I saw myself in the mirror, and all those mangled bodies, I guessed what had happened. He put a very smart brain in me, I suspect so that my intelligence would match his. WHo wants a dull companion? But even knowing what I am, I couldn’t abide what I’d seen. It was just monstrous, what he’d done to all those people.

The hooded figure pauses for breath, opening up his hands in supplication.

HOODED FIGURE (CONT’D)

No one will never accept me. I’m a creature born of murder and malice, I’m a science experiment. I guess I don’t really have a plan. I just wanted to tell my story to someone. I know I sort of forced you into this, but thank you for listening.

Lydia looks at the figure with pity.

LYDIA

I’m not sure society will ever accept you, but you must help bring Freakish to justice. You’re the only one who knows the whole story. I’ll help you, please let me help you. There may even be a way for you to lead a semi-normal life after this. Please.

Lydia pauses for a moment. Then, gently –

LYDIA (CONT’D)

May I see your face, sir? I know it’s impolite of me to ask, but..

She trails off, unsure. The hooded figure is silent while Lydia begins to fidget uncomfortably.

HOODED FIGURE

Very well. I will help you. It’s the very least I can do for all those poor people.

There is a pregnant pause while the hooded figure considers Lydia’s other question. Finally, the figure reaches up revealing a bone-white, surprisingly delicate hand. The hood is pulled down, revealing the stitched-together face not of a man, but a woman.

FADE TO BLACK