EXT.IRISH COAST.LATE AFTERNOON
From atop the cliff the ocean stretches out before us. Below we see white flecks of surf, darting shapes of diving gulls, and the mesmerising glimmer of the silver sun on the waves, like a galaxy of twinkling stars. In the middle of the swell a small boat bobs defiantly through the heaving waters. Aboard, a MAN stands upright, steadfast as the blue bosom rises and deflates around him. He is one with the boat, the rudder an extension of his arm, his feet rooted to the deck.
In one swift motion he shifts to the side of the craft and hauls in a net of gleaming fish, then tosses it down at his feet, barely registering the bountiful catch — this is his normal; his day to day. This is his life.
The boat cruises into the shelter of a quiet cove, home to a small pier. Mooring the vessel expertly, the man slings the day’s catch in a bag over his shoulder, then starts along the zigzag path up the cliff.
EXT.PUB.THE MAGIC HOUR
The pub is perched on the edge of the towering cliff, overlooking the golden waves, glittering below. From a path to the right we see the man, silhouetted by the setting sun, making his way over the horizon towards the building.
Inside, the pub is warm and inviting. Nautical instruments and faded pictures adorn the walls, telling salty tales of hardy men. An elderly man, who looks as though he has a few tales of his own, stands behind the bar.
Our man enters and takes off his cap.
Pint o’the blue shtuff please, JOHN.
He hands John a bundle of fish wrapped in tattered newspaper as payment, which John disappears behind the bar, reappearing, as if by alchemy, with a large bottle of Blue WKD and a pint glass. He fills the glass slowly, allowing the fizz to subside — he’s done this before — then places it on the bar in front of the man.
Pint o’the blue shtuff.
The man stares into the glass at the impossibly blue liquid, tracing the swirling currents within, the reflection in his eyes sparkling like the sea. He raises the glass to his lips and takes a deep gulp. It’s fresher than an ocean breeze; more invigorating than the feel of the spray on his face; sweeter than his first kiss… We see all of this in his expression, and more, as he places the pint back down — a lifetime of hardships washed away in an instant, leaving only a tenderness.
Our man fumbles in his breast pocket, unfolding a small, worn piece of paper — a photograph of a young woman standing outside a house, smiling. He holds it gently, carefully caressing the faded edges. A single tear rolls down his cheek.
Everyone’s got a WKD Side.
EXT.CITYSCAPE – DAWN
The camera soars majestically over a shining city. In the distance the sun is beginning to peek its sleepy head from beneath the covers of the horizon, stretching its warm light across the land. Up here, the only sound is of the wind rushing past us — below, the still city resembles a detailed map.
The gust slows to a murmur as we gradually descend — soon finding ourselves floating over the chimneys and gardens of a residential neighbourhood — then dies completely as the camera cuts to ground level, leaving only silence. It’s as if we’re being let in on a secret, that magic moment before the world wakes up: a pristine terrace where the children have left their hopscotch chalk from the day before; a dog slumbering in the shade of the porch. Even the birds seem to be sleeping in, not daring so much as a chirp.
Then, out in the distance, we think we hear something: a remote rhythm floating on the breeze.. but no — it’s there — a barely audible tapping, like a tiny pick chipping away at the silence.
We’re airborne once more, following the volume of the beat like a river to the source. With every street we pass it becomes more defined, more pure, deeper. What was initially a hollow 126 bpm drum loop has evolved into a complex composition, a strangely familiar synth line now whistling its way over the wind…
Curiosity turns to compulsion as the 21st century siren song draws us ever closer.
The beat is an oppressive thumping by the time our destination is revealed. Landing at the top of a nondescript street, we finally see it: at the end of the road, a house like any other, its door wide open. We slow to a crawl, like a roller-coaster climbing up to a sheer drop. Something tells us we shouldn’t be here, but there’s no getting off now.
We edge closer and closer until we’re at the mouth of the maddening rhythm. There are no signs of life from within, just a smell of death.
We cross the threshold.
Empty cans, bottles and cigarette butts litter the hall. A picture frame lies smashed on the ground. Something happened here. Something big. Down the hallway, on the right, a door lies slightly ajar, the music pumping from within. The heart of the beast. The beat continues to build as we creep along, slowly pushing open the door to reveal a party-totalled room. Unconscious bodies lie sprawled on the floor like casualties of some great battle, the surrounding cans and bottles their fallen arms. In the centre of the room there is a table, two topless men sat at either end, staring fiercely at one another. The last warriors left.
All the while, the beat continues to build, each new bar stacking atop the previous one like a block on an already teetering jenga tower; its exact point of collapse uncertain, though inevitable. The bass reverberates through our bones, though the men hardly seem to notice, locked in a battle of wills. At last, the crescendo reaches its zenith. The rhythm trembles, sputtering to a stop, before tumbling down in a wave of euphoria. The harsh techno beat is drowned in a dulcet voice; its silkiness silkier than the silkiest of silks:
Oh, sometimes I get the feeling.
The men reach for their weapons; each picking up a large bottle of Blue WKD from the table.
It’s a feeling that I’ve never, never known – I get the feeling.
They draw the bottles up to their lips and —
CUT TO BLACK
Aviici’s Levels lifts back into its hook.
On screen, the title appears: There Can Only Be One
FRIENDS: THE ONE WHERE JOEY HAS TO WRITE A SPEC SCRIPT
BECAUSE THE JOB HE’S APPLYING FOR DOESN’T ACCEPT ORIGINAL SCRIPTS
JOEY (obviously) and CHANDLER (his best friend) are hanging out in The Central Perk (their local coffee shop). Also the rest of their friends are there; i.e. PHOEBE, MONICA, RACHEL and ROSS.
Hey Chandler, I’ve got an upcoming job application I need help with; I’ve got to write a spec script for a pre-existing show!
Write a script? I thought you were an actor?!
Oh my god I’m here having a meltdown and you’re worried about whether I’m an actor or not?
You’re right, I was just confused for a second so I’m glad we addressed that.
I think my dead grandmother is speaking to me through this coffee.
(A roar of laughter erupts from the audience)
Are you sure you didn’t just drink a triple espresso again?
(It gets louder)
Oh yeah, that explains it!
Reminds me of the time Ross said he loved me, then slept with someone else.
We were on a break!
(The laughter continues to grow, gradually becoming maniacal)
Guys, guys, guys! I need help here the deadline is tomorrow!
That’s what my mom used to tell me. Of course, she was a man at the time.
(It is now a wall of sound, making it difficult to hear the actual show)
Can we please just focus on my issue for the next two to three minutes?
Sorry Joey, how can we help?
Well I already have this incredible script that’s super funny and intelligent but they say they won’t accept original scripts!
Is it about a sandwich you ate?
(You tried to fight it, but now you too, have joined in the mass of laughter)
Very funny.. This is my life we’re talking about!
Sorry Joey, you know we’re here for you.
Just like when you were “here” for that girl.
We were on a break!!!
(You can’t help yourself, you don’t know why you’re still laughing, it’s not even that funny)
Okay so they won’t let you use an original script… How about writing from your experience, but applying it to a show you like?
Hmm, that might just work… But how?
(The laughter abruptly subsides, leaving the audience bewildered as to what they’ve just experienced; as if they’ve just awakened from a trance. You wipe a tear from your eye)
Well, what shows do you like?
Oh you know, all the popular contemporary shows of this time that we’re currently in.
That makes sense. So why not write a spec script for Seinfeld?
That’s a great idea! That’s exactly what I’ll do.
The rest of the friends i.e. Phoebe, Monica, Rachel and Ross nod in agreement, as they are still a part of the scene.
Joey is sitting at his desk scribbling away on a notepad. He is writing a spec script:
SEINFELD: THE SPEC SCRIPT
INT.THE DINER WHERE JERRY SEINFELD AND HIS FRIENDS HANG OUT.DAY
JERRY SEINFELD (obviously) and GEORGE (his best friend) are hanging out at the diner. Also their friend ELAINE is there.
Hey George, I’ve got an upcoming job application I need help with; I’ve got to write a spec script for a pre-existing show!
Write a script? I thought you were a stand-up comedian?!!
Oh my god I’m here having a meltdown and you’re worried about whether I’m a stand-up comedian or not?
You’re right, I was just confused for a second so I’m glad we addressed that.
Suddenly KRAMER bursts through the diner’s door:
Oh my god Kramer, didn’t you ever learn to knock??!
(The laughter flares up again instantaneously, as if a switch has been flicked, though now it’s even louder)
Okay so they won’t let you use an original script… How about writing from your experience, but applying it to a show you like?
Hmm, that might just work… But how?
Well, what shows do you like?
Oh you know, all the popular contemporary shows of this time that we’re currently in.
That makes sense. So why not write a spec script for The Big Bang Theory?
That’s a great idea!
Hey does that show even exist yet?
(The glass casing on the laugh-o-meter begins to crack – And then just like that, the laughter disappears, leaving the audience shell-shocked and shaken)
Jerry is sitting at his desk scribbling away on a notepad. He is writing a spec script:
THE BIG BANG THEORY: THE SPEC SCRIPT CONUNDRUM
INT.THE PLACE WHERE THE PEOPLE FROM THE BIG BANG THEORY HANG OUT.DAY
THE GUY WITH THE GLASSES (obviously) and THE KIND OF WEIRD BUT VERY FUNNY GUY (his best friend) are hanging out in The Guy With The Glasses’ apartment. Also the rest of their friends are there; i.e. THE FOREIGN ONE and THE OTHER ONE, a.k.a. the people who aren’t THE GIRL ONE.
THE GUY WITH THE GLASSES
Hey bro, I’ve got an upcoming job application I need help with; I’ve got to write a spec script for a pre-existing show!
THE KIND OF WEIRD BUT VERY FUNNY GUY
Write a script? I thought you were a scientist?!
THE GUY WITH THE GLASSES
Can we please just get this over with?
THE FOREIGN ONE
I am offended by your western ways!
(The laughter returns with an unbridled vengeance, shaking the foundations of civilization as we know it, threatening to return us to the dust)
THE OTHER ONE
In my scientific opinion, the best way to approach the problem is to create a chart of all pre-existing shows, then create another list of your past experiences, then cross reference the two lists and see which show is best suited to your experiences.
THE KIND OF WEIRD BUT VERY FUNNY GUY
In my scientific opinion, I need to pee.
(The laugh-o-meter has caught fire, no one seems to notice, you can’t breathe)
Suddenly the door swings open to reveal:
THE GIRL ONE
Can everybody please keep it down????!
(The laughter has reached maximum velocity, creating a surge of pure energy that sweeps across the globe, wiping out everything with a pulse. All that’s left is one of those spring-horses rocking back and forth in some sort of desolate, post-apocalyptic playground)
THE FOREIGN ONE
That’s all folks!
(No one is left to enjoy the funny face he is pulling)
INT.JERRY’S APARTMENT.EARLY MORNING.THAT MUSIC THAT PLAYS WHEN PEOPLE ARE WAKING UP FROM A DREAM PLAYS
Jerry leans back in his chair. He’s done it. He’s literally written the best spec script ever. And he knows it.
INT.JOEY’S APARTMENT.EARLY MORNING.THAT MUSIC THAT PLAYS WHEN PEOPLE ARE WAKING UP FROM A DREAM PLAYS
Joey leans back in his chair. He’s done it. He’s literally written the best spec script ever. And he knows it.
INT.RORY’S APARTMENT.EARLY MORNING.THAT MUSIC THAT PLAYS WHEN PEOPLE ARE WAKING UP FROM A DREAM PLAYS
Rory leans back in his chair. He’s pretty sure he’s got the job.
(You feel empty inside)
FADE TO BLACK
A black circle sits ominously in the middle of a vast, white emptiness.
The year is 2077. Lifelike androids indeterminable from their human creators have infiltrated society. One man seeks them out.
INT.DINER.NIGHT (THE FUTURE)
A man sits alone in a dim booth, cigarette smoke pours out through his nose as he lethargically spins the ash tray in front of him. The bell atop the diner’s door rings as it opens to reveal a THIN, jittery man. The LONE man in the booth raises his hand a little, gesturing to the thin man who joins him in the booth.
You the guy?
Depends who’s asking.
Ha. You’re the guy alright.. I know where one of them is.
One of what?
You know… bots.
Lone stubs his butt out in the ashtray.
The two men round the corner of a dark, dingy alley and the hum from the neon streetlamps dies away.
Come on, just a bit farther.
Lone follows him down the alley into a dead end. Thin begins to smile as two other men materialise out of the shadows blocking the exit.
We’ve been looking for you for a long time now, you’ve killed so many… But now we have you, you walked right in to our trap.
Lone shoots from the hip leaving a smoking hole in Thin’s forehead, the other two rush him quickly but Lone slips through them, tripping one to the ground and planting a bullet in his head. The remaining thug backs away. Lone drops his gun and pulls a knuckle duster from his coat.
Steel on steel. Now its a fair fight.
The thug runs at Lone haphazardly. Lone steps swiftly to the side and lands a crushing gut punch on the thug who crumples and raises his hand in front of his face. Lone lands another on the thug’s head knocking him to the ground.
Please.. No more.
Lone begins punching the defeated thug in the face. As he does so bits of flesh begin peeling off to reveal a mechanical skull. Suddenly bright light floods the alley.
This is the police, step away from the man and place your hands on your head!
This isn’t a man.
I repeat, step away from the man!
Lone steps back and puts his hands on top of his head, the police swarm the alley and restrain Lone who looks at the mutilated robot.
You got lucky.
The future police chief stands behind his desk facing two uncomfortable looking detectives.
This is fifth case of man-on-bot crime this month! We’re supposed to protect and serve but the only thing you seem to worry about protecting is your asses! We’ve got two decommissioned bots, one in intensive care and the perp is going to walk thanks to some fucked up loophole big enough to stick my dick in. The whole world is watching detectives, so at least try and look like you’re paying attention too. Now; we’ve got four open robocides and the longer they stay unsolved the longer we look like we don’t give a shit, so get out there and make an example, or I’ll make you an example. That’s all detectives.
TITLE SCREEN II
The year is 2277. Robots rule the earth. The remnants of humanity have been exiled to segregated enclosures across the globe. A handful of pro-life rebel upstarts still fight for what used to be. One robot seeks them out.
A pristine ANDROID strides dutifully down a narrow, litter strewn path. Makeshift homes propped atop each other spill out on both sides. Human eyes glint suspiciously from the shadows of the doorways which slam and lock in chain reaction as the android advances deeper into the maze. It finally stops outside a small dilapidated hut with a steel door and knocks.
This is officer E-777 with the RBPD. We have reason to believe you’re harbouring malicious system threats. Comply in the next five seconds or I will be forced to enter.
There is no movement heard from within.
Five… Four… Three… Two… One… Breaching.
The robot deftly lifts the door off its hinges and places it aside. It then activates a flashlight on its wrist and enters the gloom. A human voice speaks from the shadows.
You’re a long way from home bot. We’ve been following you ever since you set foot on our turf, and now you’ve walked right into our trap.
The ROBO-POLICE CHIEF stands behind his desk facing an apathetic E-777.
You’re supposed to protect and serve, not kill everyone who looks at you funny! We’ve got four dead organics, two in intensive care and the human-rights people are riding my circuits like an over-clocked motherboard.
E-777 rolls his eyes.
You’d better update your attitude officer, before I shut your butt down. Now the system repair guys are on their way over to corroborate your data. I still owe you one from the virus-killer so I’ll cover your processor this one last time but starting now; install a new OS because I’ve had it up to here with your BS. That’s all officer, dismissed.
TITLE SCREEN III
The year is 2477. Man and machine live in harmony, intertwined so that its impossible to tell where one begins and the other ends. Man’s free will now exists as part of a collective consciousness, “The Will of One”, also known as “TWO” . Two nurtures and guides its blossoming civilisations growth in the universe and off-world colonisation has been underway for decades. So far no alien intelligence has been contacted. Until now.
EXT.LV-777 – UNCHARTED PLANET.DAY
A futuristic shuttle flies low over the barren, foreboding surface of LV-777.
Two augmented humans, fitted with all manner of robotic implants, sit in the claustrophobic cockpit surrounded by blinking lights and wires.
This place gives me the creeps. Sometimes I wish I could carry out The Will of One on a nice off-world colony like Titan, supervising the mercury mines or tending the space crops. “See the worlds” they said.. If I had have known most of them would look like this… PAM-478
Ah quit your whining Bill, this is what we signed up for.
An omnipresent voice speaks.
Yes, I’m sorry you feel that way 356 but you are integral to the greater good and Two commends your efforts.
Hey, do you see that??
It looks like some sort of structure.. Are you sure this planet is uncharted Two?
EXT.THE SURFACE OF LV-777.DAY
The two explorers stand outside a giant domed building protruding from the side of a sheer cliff-face. A small square shaped door is the only feature on its surface. As they approach it opens automatically. The two look at each other.
They enter the darkness.
The interior is pitch black save the light emanating from the portal behind the dubious duo. They glance nervously at each-other.
Hey Pam, set your pants to crap.
Pam switches her flashlight on but it only illuminates the ground directly in front of them.
Hey Two, are you reading any vital signs?
My sensors seem to be jammed. I advise to proceed with caution.
Great advice Two… Well, lead the way Pam.
As they commence their journey into the darkness lights begin to illuminate on either side, creating a path stretching deeper into the darkness. As they advance, more lights continue to appear leading them further into the unknown. After a time the path turns into steps ascending upwards.
Onward and upwards I guess.
I hate steps.
The two climb wearily until they reach the top where they are met by a small, square plateau illuminated by a soft glow. In the center of the plateau is a huddled figure. The two share a furtive glance.
Any advice Two?
My precognitive processes cannot simulate this scenario.
I’ll take that as a no.
Pam edges towards the figure leaving Bill where he is.
Right behind you Pam…
As Pam inches closer the figure sways slightly.
Hello..? WE COME IN PEACE.
The figure seems to raise its head. It then folds out like a flip-knife to reveal a humanoid figure three times the height of our intrepid duo, who are now both frozen with fear.
WE’VE BEEN EXPECTING YOU.
The booming voice echoes and dies to dead silence.
Suddenly bright lights flood the space to reveal a humongous cavern brimming with a crowd of similar looking aliens, all focused on centre stage.
Welcome humans. I am SIMON, ambassador of our genus. Do not be afraid, we have been awaiting the junction of our two species for some time now. The prophecy has been fulfilled.
The prophecy? You’ve been waiting for us? Where are you from? How can we understand you? What the hell is going on??
Your name is Simon?!
Be calm my fragile friends. All will be explained soon.
TITLE SCREEN IV
The year is 2677. The United Galactic Federation’s reach stretches across thousands of galaxies unifying and governing all known intelligent life in the universe. Humanity is relatively new to the congress and still has much to prove… INT.GALACTIC SENATE.DAY
The UGF’s conference room is mostly taken up by a large floating table. Sat around it is a who’s who of powerful alien life-forms; there’s one that looks like an octopus with wings, one that looks like a bipedal zebra mixed with a fish and one that looks like a lamp. At the head of the table is a large, regal looking alien who’s best described as a blue giraffe with human hands. Stretching down the table are an assortment of other aliens with a meek human/augment sat at the very end. The regal alien begins to speak.
All in favour of banning personal molecular communicators in official senate meetings say “aye.” SENATORS
Now onto the main issue of the day. When to hold the annual inter-galactic sports daHe’s interrupted as the zebra/fish’s personal molecular communicator starts ringing causing everyone to turn and stare. The chancellor clears his throat prompting the zebra/fish to rise guiltily out of its seat, switching chairs with the human. Zebra/fish is now at the end of the table and humanity is one chair up.
TITLE SCREEN V
The year is 2877. The universe is in a state of cold war, with humanity poised on a knife-point at its center. On one side sits the progressive unionists who believe that all planets should be unified under the same rule of law. The opposing separatists maintain each planet should be free to govern themselves within the tenets of the United Galactic Treaty. Thousands of proxy wars are being played out across the universe, each faction a pawn in the largest game of chess ever, each player growing more devious with every move.
Having remained neutral throughout its rise in the Federation, Humanity is in a unique position to act as mediator to the warring sides, though to have any hope of unifying the universe it must first climb to the top. The path to the summit will be filled with peril and one slip could be a free-fall into extinction. Every move counts.
The conference room looks the same but the order of the aliens sat at the table has changed somewhat. The regal giraffe is still sat at the head however a human/augment is now sat somewhere in the middle.
All in favour of adding a healthy option to the cafeterA ringing tone interrupts the chancellor. The whole room turns to stare at a skinny insectoid alien sat one seat up from the human-augment.
TITLE SCREEN VI
The year is 3077. Humanity has forged its way to the head of the Galactic Senate, now focusing its efforts on further understanding the mysteries of the universe. An ancient alien prophecy foretold that answers would be found at the edge of time and space… EXT.THE EDGE OF TIME AND SPACE.???
An even more futuristic shuttle soars through the vastness of space as stars, space-rocks and all visible matter thin out to pure nothingness.
We must be getting close. The internal shuttle clock is slowing down.
Affirmative 7809, my readings suggest that we are now entering nothingness.
The shuttle clock continues to slow until it stops completely.
Hey, whats that?
A small white square can be seen in front of them through the shuttle window. As they continue it grows bigger. The two astronauts stare wide eyed as the square fills up the whole window. Soon they have seemingly entered the square and are traveling through the enveloping white nothingness.
I hope you’ve prepared your questions Pam, because we’re about to get answers.
The shuttle travels indefinitely until it reaches a small black-hole-type-vortex, the only speck of contrast on the white plain.
INT.SHUTTLE COCKPIT. –
The two astronauts share a glance but sit in silence as they approach the vortex. Suddenly the shuttle comes to a halt.
What’s going on?
The shuttle is being stopped by outside forces.
The vortex begins to vibrate slightly.
SPEAK HUMANS. WHY HAVE YOU COME.
I’ll let you field this one Pam…
We came for answers.
TO WHAT QUESTIONS?
…Who are you?
I AM THE CREATOR.
You created us?
AND EVERYTHING YOU’VE EVER KNOWN.
Who created you?
THE ANSWER TO THAT IS BEYOND YOUR COMPREHENSION.
There is a lull in dialogue for a moment until a look of purpose dawns on Pam’s face.
What is the meaning of life?
THE MEANING OF LIFE? WHAT AN ODD QUESTION. THE MEANING OF LIFE IS TO LIVE.
THE MEANING OF LIFE IS TO LAUGH, TO CRY, TO FORM RELATIONSHIPS, TO CREATE NEW LIFE, TO HELP OTHERS, TO STAY TRUE TO YOURSELF WHILE STRIVING TOWARDS SOMETHING LARGER THAN YOURSELF.
THE MEANING OF LIFE IS TO CLIMB THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN, TO PLUNGE THE DEPTHS OF THE DEEPEST SEA, TO EXPLORE NEW WORLDS AND TO EXPAND YOUR OWN.
IT IS FOR YOU TO CONSUME AND CREATE ART, TO CRITIQUE EVERYTHING AND SEE THE BEAUTY IN ALL. IT IS TO BEAR WITNESS TO MY CREATION.
IN SHORT, YOU GIVE LIFE MEANING. THE MEANING OF LIFE IS UP TO YOU.
EXT.THE EDGE OF TIME AND SPACE.???
The shuttle travels back through the nothingness until it once again reaches the edge of space.
The two sit in silence as the shuttle clock gradually begins to work again. Bill lets out a sigh.
Well that was a waste of time.
Sunlight cuts through dusty blinds creating fractured shadows across an archaic, cluttered desk. Among the clutter is an old-fashioned typewriter, a battered looking radio emitting some low crackled jazz, a deck of cards half-dealt out in a game of solitaire and an overflowing ashtray. A puff of smoke billows out from behind the desk and a dishevelled figure leans forward to stub out a cigarette.
HAL REYNOLDS (NARRATING)
Business was slow. Hell, business had damn near stopped. Judging by my empty box of cigarettes it was around midday and I hadn’t had a single call. But that was about to change.
A silhouette appears outside the glass door which swings open moments later.
She blew in like a Summer’s breeze on a Winter’s day.
I’ve got a problem, its my husband…
Hal points to the sign on the door which reads “Reynolds’ Stationery Supplies; The Pen is Mightier than the Sword.”
The P.I.’s is next door.
The woman apologises and makes a hurried exit as Hal pulls another packet of cigarettes from his desk drawer. A second silhouette is seen at the door accompanied by a knock.
A small, elderly woman wearing thick glasses and an unenthused look enters the room.
I wish you’d stop people barging in like that.
I did my best sir.
Doris coughs from the smoke, shakes her head disapprovingly and walks over to the window.
Those things will kill you you know.
She opens the blinds, followed by a window. Daylight illuminates the room revealing a seemingly modern day-office surrounding the antique desk. In one corner is a photo-copier/fax machine. In another, a computer which looks like it hasn’t been used in years.
You won’t hear me complaining. Did we get any orders today?
If you’d just check your e-mails…
You know I can’t stand those things.
Doris lets out a sigh of exasperation and opens her mouth to speak.
Alright, alright I’ll check. If it saves me from another of your lectures on the virtues of those damned machines…
Doris rolls her eyes.
She walks to the computer and switches it on, then leaves the room briskly, closing the door behind her. Hal starts to light another cigarette but is interrupted, shuddering as the Windows start-up theme chimes eerily through the tinny speakers. He sighs and reluctantly rises from his chair.
When my father set up this business he said “The pen is mightier than the sword.” His mistake was never pitting computers in the fight.
He sits down at the humming desktop and awkwardly navigates his way through the emails. Atop the inbox (of mostly junk/funny-cat links) is an email titled URGENT, STATIONERY!!11!. Hal reads said email (muttering along as he does), then grabs the telephone on his desk.
Doris? Hold all my calls. I’ve got work to do.
Hal’s rickety station-wagon drives steadily through a sparse industrial estate.
The email was from BERT BRAMFORD, the warehouse manager. Missing Staplers? In February? This was bad. Hell this was the worst case of missing staplers I’d ever seen. I was going to have to start at the bottom, even if this went all the way to the top.
EXT.WAREHOUSE PARKING LOT.DAY
The car stops outside a warehouse. A cigarette butt drops out the window. Moments later its crushed by Hal’s foot as he steps outside. On the side of the warehouse is a billboard ad for the new i-Corp computer system.
I didn’t want to spend too long on this side of town, I could feel a hangover coming on and I hadn’t touched a drop last night.
Hal enters the warehouse.
The warehouse is a discord of robotic whooshing, mechanical clinking and gruff yelling. Sparks fly from corners where groups of burly men operate heavy machinery. A large sign hanging from the ceiling reads Stationery Supplies. Hal is met by the suit-clad Bramford in an area towards the back away from the din. They nod to each-other in greeting.
What can I do for you Hal?
Start from the beginning, when did you last see the staplers?
There was really no need for you to come all the way down here, you could have just replied to the email, or called…
If you want something done right…
Right. Well like I said, the clients e-mailed earlier today to complain that their order of staplers hadn’t arrived, but I saw the courier off with them yesterday. I called the courier’s head office but it keeps going to voicemail.
Let me get this straight, you’re saying that the staplers just vanished off the face of the earth?
Well, no… I’m sure its just a mix-up.
Something stinks. What’s the courier office’s address?
Its not listed.
Then how can I reach them?
I have their e-mail address here…
Alright, give it to me.
“PREMIUM, RUSH, AT YAHOO DOT COM.” That’s all lower case.
Hal finishes writing in his Reynolds’ Moleskin Journal.
Thanks for the tip Bert, be seeing you.
Hal exits from the direction he entered leaving Bramford scratching the back of his head.
INT.BACK AT THE OFFICE.DUSK
The blinds are down once again in the dim, smokey office. Hal is standing facing the glowing computer, his hands gripping the seat in front of him. A clock ticks on the wall adjacent to it.
I didn’t like it, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
Hal sits down at the computer and begins to write an email delicately typing with only his two index fingers. On the screen we see letters materialize slowly on the subject line: U R G E N T ! ! ! 1 1 ! The clock hand lapses from 4:05 to 4:15. On the computer screen Hal has written about twenty words. 4:15 to 4:20, another twenty words. As the clock moves towards 4:30 Hal is finishing the brief email; Kind Regards, Hal Reynolds. The mouse cursor hovers over the send button then clicks.
Now we wait.
Hal leans back in the chair smoking as more time drops by. Another hour has passed on the clock when the email notification finally sounds off through the speakers. Hal lurches forward out of a daze and opens the email which appears on the monitor:
Dear Mr. Reynolds,
In regards to your query I’m afraid that the courier assigned to that job was fired last week. We suspected him of stealing deliveries but unfortunately we have not been able to charge him. We apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused you and will reimburse the delivery if you so wish.
Mark, Premium Rush.
It looked like someone had crashed the party and was eating all the cake. The reimbursement would save my money but not my reputation, those staplers still needed to be found.
Hal sits there for a few contemplative seconds, then reaches across the desk and picks up the phone.
Doris can you come in here?
Doris appears in the doorway.
If I wanted to buy second hand stationery supplies where would I look?
Have you tried Googling it?
Doris leaves the room wearily as Hal reverts to deep thought.
She was right. Again. The computer was my best bet. Hal turns to some tattered, yellowed photographs, framed on the wall. One shows a proud looking man with his arm around a young grinning Hal. They are stood in front of a shop window, the sign above them reads Reynolds’ Stationery Supplies.
Back then business was booming. The golden age when everybody needed stationery; pens, pencils, pencil sharpeners, pencil cases, you name it. But computers changed that.
Hal looks at the picture next to it which is almost identical, only the man looks fatigued and worn and Hal is now a teenager with an uncertain look on his face. The shop sign is missing a few letters and now reads “R old’s Stat nar Sup lies”.
In the late 90’s computers changed everything. The “Digital Age” they called it. No one needed to write letters anymore. Or keep written records. Or even draw pictures. Computers did it all. My father tried to adapt by selling novelty mouse-mats but by then the damage was already done. He was never the same after i-Corp released their first model and passed away a few years later leaving the business to me. And now I had no choice but to use that same model to save the very business it had nearly ruined. The irony tasted bitter. Like a lemon.
Hal is sitting back at the computer
OK computer. Do your worst.
Hal slowly types Second Hand Staplers in to the search engine and hits enter. All at once a wave of information washes over the screen. Hal’s eyes squint trying to take it all in. Second on the list is Adverts – Staplers. He clicks on the link and a list of Staplers for Sale appears.
I was diving head-first into the deep net with no life jacket. I’d have to kick to stay afloat.
Hal clicks through what looks like a hundred adverts as the computer clock lapses from 18:00 to 18:30 to 19:00. He seems at the point of giving up when one in particular grabs his attention.
I knew them the second I saw them: The Swingline® Optima® Desktop Full Strip Stapler with a 40 Sheet Capacity. The advert read “cool staplers – mint condition”, confirming what I already knew; the culprit didn’t know what he was dealing with. Or who.
Hal begins to reply to the ad:
I am interested in purchasing one of your fine staplers. Were can we meet?
He hits enter, sending the message.
Hal sits inside his parked station wagon on the side of an empty city street. Dingy streetlamps create pockets of light along the cracked sidewalks and highlight the dents in the beat-up car.
It had been a wild goose chase but the foie gras was finally in sight. Coolguy14 had set a meet here and it looked like he was right on time.
A hooded man appears out of an alley-way and leans against the wall under one of the street lamps. Hal gets out of his car and makes his way across the road.
Nice night for a stroll.
It beats being stationary.
They briefly size each other up.
You got the merch?
Coolguy14 gestures to the kit-bag he is holding.
You got the cash?
Hal produces a brown envelope from inside his coat.
Its not often people are so quick to part with such an ergonomic stapler.
Coolguy14’s eyes narrow.
And at such a low price. Its practically a steal.
His body immediately goes rigid.
The jig is up Coolguy. Just hand over the staplers and I won’t turn you in.
Alright, you got me…
Coolguy14 pauses for a moment, then begins to hand the bag to Hal. At the last second he spins swiftly, hitting Hal with the bag, then sets off down the alley-way at a sprint.
Against my better judgement, I went after him.
Hal catches his balance and pursues Coolguy14 down the alley. Coolguy14 desperately throws a trash can down behind him followed by a pile of boxes, followed by some exponentially more awkward debris, all of which Hal narrowly avoids, steadily gaining on his prey. Coolguy14 takes a sharp corner at the end of the alley causing him to stumble, Hal seizes the opportunity and tackles him to the ground, subsequently pinning him down. Hal is wheezing laboriously at this stage.
Doris was right about quitting smoking.
Why’d you have to go and make me run?
Hal reaches for his antique cell-phone and inputs three digits as Coolguy14 wriggles beneath him, protesting profusely.
Hello police? I need to report some criminal activity…
Please man, not the cops!
Hal continues to talk on the phone.
I’m not the one you want, I was just doing what I was told!
Hal’s interest is piqued and he lowers the phone.
What are you talking about?
I was just trying to make an extra buck selling those staplers, the real money was for stealing them..
You better start making sense, and fast; I think I hear sirens.
Someone contacted me online, they wired money into my account and said I’d get the rest after I stole your staplers.
Who contacted you?
I never met them face to face but their user-name was Blackwidow19.
Hell I didn’t ask, that was part of deal!
A head pokes out of a window on the 2nd floor of a building looking out on to the alley.
Hey keep it down out there, people are trying to sleep!
Hal distractedly turns his head to the source of the yell. Coolguy14 sees an opening and takes it, flipping Hal off him and jumping to his feet. He is long gone before Hal even has a chance to stand up. Once upright the beleaguered Hal slowly dusts himself off and picks up the bag of staplers, then makes his back towards the car.
INT.BACK AT THE OFFICE.NIGHT
Hal enters the office throwing his coat on the rack then walks towards his desk.
I’d found the staplers but lost the perp. I should’ve been happy to even get them back but something Coolguy said had left a bad taste in my mouth. I needed a drink to wash it out and clear my head.
He conjures a bottle of bourbon and a glass from the desk drawer and adds them to the clutter. Pouring himself a generous double he takes a long drink then sparks a cigarette.
Something told me this wasn’t over; I’d gotten tangled up in the world wide web and all I could do was wait for the spider to appear. My first lead had vanished down an alley and I wasn’t sure if I could trust the second…
Hal looks over to the murmuring computer as a Windows screen-saver bounces vapidly around the box.
One thing was for sure, I’d have to start checking my emails.
NEXT TIME: A CASE OF THE MONDAYS
EXT.HIGH-SEAS.PIRATE-SHIP.THE MAGIC HOUR
A crew of swarthy swash-bucklers go about their daily duties aboard the HSS Sea-Biscuit (think the pirate-ship from Treasure Island meets the pirate-ship from Pirates of the Caribbean meets the pirate-ship from your general knowledge of pirate-ships). We can almost smell their toil as the sweltering sun beats down on their backs, hotter than Pamela Anderson in a bathing suit. TIMMY FANCYPANTS is hard at work scrubbing the deck, all the while muttering disgruntled ramblings.
Scrub the deck he says… Shine my boots he says… I’d better get that promotion…
Suddenly a parrot squawk cuts through the air like a victory cry, signalling the break for lunch (think the bird from the opening of The Flintstones meets that Friday feeling). There is a bustle of bodies as everyone immediately drops what they’re doing and hurriedly makes their way below deck.
The dimly lit canteen is filled with a cacophony of sound as the motley crew gulp down their slop (think the sound of eating dinner multiplied by like, a million). The room is a jumble of benches covered by hodge-podge pirates regaling their salty tales of giant squids and ghost ships whilst they eat. Fancypants shuffles wearily through the throng carrying his own bowl of slop. He finds his regular spot at one of the benches and slides himself in. Moments later he is joined by a personable pirate with a carefree swagger and a hook for a hand; its his best-mate (pirate-pun intended), the formidable super-sailor, ÉOIN NAUGHTEN. Naughten greets Fancypants with a hearty slap on the back and immediately dives straight into conversation.
So today’s the day you get that big promotion, eh Fancypants?
About time too! I’ve been working my butt off for the cap’n lately, but now its time to get my share of the booty!
The conversation drifts to more general pirate talk; seagulls and waves etc. Before long Fancypants excuses himself from the bench and starts towards the sign marked ‘Here Be Toilets’ at the back of the canteen.
INT.BELOW DECK.CREAKY CORRIDOR
Fancypants makes his way down a creaky corridor, swaying slightly with the motion of the sea. As he approaches the door marked W.C. he holds his nose in grim anticipation of the stench that awaits. He knocks on the door and without hesitation begins to open it. As he does so he hears a startled cry from within, but its too late! He is suddenly face to face with CAP’N JERK SCALLYWAG (think Bluebeard meets Blackbeard) who is sat stupefied on the toilet. There is an ultra-awkward split-second when their eyes meet (think that feel when you walk in on someone using the toilet times like, a million). Fancypants immediately slams the door and scuttles alarmedly back down the corridor.
EXT.PIRATE-SHIP.LATER THAT EVENING
Fancypants, Naughten and the rest of the crew are lined up side-by-side on the deck. There is a low murmur of excitement among them. Naughten whispers to Fancypants.
This is it, your time has finally come! Congrats in advance!
Fancypants begins to reply but as he does the fearsome Cap’n Scallywag appears on deck. The crew immediately goes silent as he clears his throat.
Yarr mateys, I know its been a tough year: We’ve lost good men to the sea-gods, to the sharks, and to other general pirate stuff like seagulls and waves etc. But I want you all to know that I value your loyalty, for stickin’ with me through the highs and the lows as it were. The thick and the thin if you will. However, there is one man I’d like to thank especially. One man who has gone above and beyond his duties as a pirate.
Scallywag begins to walk slowly along the men.
As you all know I’ve been looking for a salty sea-dog to be me new first mate…
Naughten grins at Fancypants as Scallywag moves up the line, getting closer and closer to them.
And that lucky buccaneer is…
Scallywag stops in front of the duo and turns towards them. He meets Fancypants’ eyes for an instant but a surge of awkward energy forces him to look away. He hesitates and looks to the left of Fancypants…
The announcement causes a look of confusion and panic on both Naughten, and to a greater extent, Fancypants’ face. Naughten is suddenly swarmed by the other crew members.
Three cheers for first-mate Naughten! Hip hip! Hooray! Hip Hip! Hooray! Hip Hip…
As the crew carry Naughten off to celebrate below deck, Fancypants is left dumb-struck, staring up at the sky in a daze. After a moment he lowers his head, a look of crushing realisation dawns on his face.
INT.BELOW DECK.THE SAME CREAKY CORRIDOR.TWO WEEKS LATER
Fancypants once again traverses the creaky corridor towards the W.C. Once again he stops outside the door and knocks, however this time, he waits until he is sure there is no one inside before entering.